The move by the BBC to start to use chat apps – particularly Viber and Whatsapp – to distribute content is a fine example of how the telemedia world is changing. While not exactly a new idea – The Huffington Post trialled Whatsapp in the UK last year and ESPN and CNN both tried the messaging side of Snapchat too – it marks the start of a real shift in how media and messaging are perceived: not least by a younger audience.
The BBC move, as our story outlines, is aimed at using Vider in Mexico and Whatsapp in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to tease out content in new ways to a new audience.
Both these BBC trials are clearly aimed at reaching out to young people who are ‘newly connected’ to the world with mobile, but the ramifications of what this could herald are huge.
We all know that young people are increasingly turning away from email and text as means of communicating and embracing social media and chat apps to talk to each other. They are also increasingly engaging – as far as they do – with the wider world through these channels too. And the media needs to be where the viewers are.
Broadcast TV here in the developed world still commands pretty hefty audiences, but engaging kids is increasingly something that needs to be done elsewhere. Chat apps are the ideal way to leverage this.
This is all well and good – and something for the advertising and broadcasting industry to get very excited about (see this excellent piece in The Drum), but what does it mean for telemedia?
For the network operators I would suggest its time to get even more worried about how they make money offering services. OTT – which is what these messaging apps are – are already vexing MNOs, but most have decided that they are not so much of a threat that they can’t do the decent thing and embrace them.
However, with media companies likely to start to use chat apps and app push in-app messaging, and eventually move wholly away from text altogether, MNOs could well find themselves without the massive cash cow that is text.
As media interest and use of messaging apps grows, so too will novel new ways to monetise this: something that the telemedia industry is ripe to do and the kind of challenge that many in the sector usually rise to.
While MNOs scratch their heads and wonder where all the text money went, some telemedia players may yet discover ways to billing through chat apps for content or even help resurrect carrier billing for paywalls – if the MNOs play along.
It is after all a lightly regulated space – hence why PPP is looking to change its name, so that it can have a say over how this plays out – so ripe for exploitation by those with the cojones to do so.
Everything here is up for grabs. OTT messaging threatens more than ever to turn networks in dumb pipes and the rise of these services as a media channel only hastens this. Can the networks live with that? We will have to wait and see, but while we wait it will be interesting to see who in the telemedia community starts to find ways to monetise chat apps.