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    EDITORIAL Content: time to mix it up and start again?

    A look at the most popular streaming services in the UK in 2023 reveals an interesting development in what consumers want. Paul Skeldon takes a look at how the content market needs to be about more than just, well, content

    Content is indeed king, but as consumers demand more and more of it, content alone is no longer enough. A study by Digital Climax out this week has shown that Amazon was the most popular streaming site in the UK in 2023. Netflix was third.

    No surprises there – but the report does contain something quite telling. Fourth and fifth in the rankings were The Daily Express, a newspaper, and Radio Times, a listings magazine.

    So, the top five most popular streaming sites in the UK in 2023 contains two ‘old media’ players and a retailer and shows that, increasingly, the content market isn’t just about the kinds of content that streams.

    What the report tells us, I believe, is that consumers are looking for a multimedia experience. While that may all sound a bit ‘90s (and it does, I was there), it marks an evolution in the content market, certainly in the UK, away from just dedicated TV-like streaming content to something richer and more holistic. While Netflix is a pure streamer – as is number two in the UK, Sky – Amazon isn’t and nor are The Express and Radio Times. All have other strings to their bows.

    Amazon originally used the lure of free delivery through Amazon Prime to tempt users into its streaming business. Today it uses each to temp users to pay a yearly subscription, guaranteeing a massive and steady income from millions of users. The fact that you only get some content for free is testament to how powerful the lure of Amazon is.

    Netflix, conversely, has been a focussed subscriptions-based content streaming service and, while it still attracts the users in large numbers, it is having to consider selling advertising and creating a premium level of service to help balance the books.

    Much of this has been because it has spent a large sum creating excellent content. Amazon, which has done the same, augments that cost with subscriptions and pay-per-view.

    The Daily Express and Radio Times, however, come at this from a very different place. Both are old school media companies – inky publishers, at least originally – and rely on display advertising, banners, sponsored copy, subscriptions to news services and sales of physical publications to bank roll what it does. Its streaming content sits around this and is used to pull people into the site to watch, thus putting them in front of all those adverts and sponsor opportunities.

    And this old-fashioned way of doing things seems to be working. The Daily Express had around 103.8 million visits throughout 2023. It had the most hits in January 2023, with 11.1 million visits, and receives an average of 8.6 million web visits per month. The digital platform of the Daily Express and Sunday Express, has online access to global news stories and additional entertainment like puzzles and games.

    Similarly, Radio Times ranked fifth with approximately 73.4 million visits in 2023. Known for its television and radio programme schedules, the website had the most visits in January 2023, with 6.9 million total visits, and receives an average of 6.1 million visits per month. Radio Times also provides film, TV, and entertainment news and interviews with many of the biggest stars.

    So, what does this mean for the content market? As Julia Dimambro, CEO of Seriously Fresh Media attests, the content market is shifting and creating the right content to satisfy what is becoming an increasingly diverse consumer demand is now a big challenge for telemedia companies. There is so much demand, but while many are pursuing just TV and movie quality long-form content, or pushing deeper into shorts, perhaps what is really needed is a more mixed bag of media types, as well as content formats?

    With the increasing use of AI, there are increasing ways to create a cornucopia of content, but as Dimambro points out, you still need the human touch. And I think this means looking not just at creating video content, but looking at the whole range of things people consume. Pictures, text, memes and GIFs to create services that encourage visitors and engagement.

    This has the added advantage of being able to also leverage messaging tech – especially RCS and WhatsApp – to drive traffic, and for carrier billing to micro bill for additional content and access.

    The idea, I believe, is to look at how to mix things up. Content is not just video, it is everything and everything is interesting to somebody – and what better business model could there be than that?

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