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Facebook, Mobile And Convergence are subjects that dominate FT Digital Media Conference

Convergence.  This was one of the keywords that came of out of this year’s 2011 Financial Times Digital Media & Broadcast Conference.  It’s taking me some time to pen this, but I wanted to share some of the key points that were discussed.

Last year the conference coincided with the BBC unveiling the results of it’s Strategy Review.  This year gathering started on the same time as Apple unveiled its much-anticipated iPad 2, Facebook announced the rollout of its Comments plug-in and the all-important decision from the Department for Culture Media and Sport Minister Jeremy Hunt MP to allow News International’s full take-over of BSkyB.

Chief executives and senior board members gathered in London to outline their thoughts on an industry that is changing at breakneck speed.  It’s an industry that is no longer operating by itself, but a sector that is being driven by the technology that their own consumers are engaging with.  And the speed of adoption is forcing many boards to re-evaluate how they engage with their audiences.

Mobile and social networking are the two platforms, the two elephants in the room, that media and broadcast organisations are still struggling to grapple with.  They are also the platforms that public relations professionals must fully grasp for themselves and their clients.

BBC Director General Mark Thompson highlighted this year how ‘new media’ and the consumer have shaped how it offers content.  The corporation accepted that consumers want the BBC’s content on every platform.  Its iPlayer is today available on the iPhone and iPad, with Thompson confirming that people even watch BBC content on their mobiles in bed.

Thompson understands simplicity and highlighted that the iPlayer works because it is straightforward.  In January of this year 162 million downloads were made through the iPlayer, this in a country of 25 million households.

Thompson confirmed that 2011 is the year of convergence, stating that strength is with those that have a strong presence online and understand the value of simplicity.

One of the areas that the BBC Director General is looking at is the power and influence of social recommendations and how this will shape how we all watch television.  Indeed Thompson confirmed that the BBC and Facebook are having conversations.

Speaking at the conference Facebook’s EMEA Managing Director Joanna Shield confirmed that the company now has 30 million active users in the UK, accounting for 1 in 2 of the population.  Talking about how it ‘supports‘ UK media Shields highlighted that 10% of the Daily Mail’s web traffic now comes from Facebook and that the sites plugins have helped The Independent gain up to a 700% increase in traffic.

Talking of Facebook, Sales and Marketing Director for mobile provider 3 Marc Allera in a separate session said that a staggering 75% of their data traffic is directed to Facebook – an incredible statistic.  Allera also said that 90% of 3’s sales are Smartphone’s.

Facebook is the platform of choice for the consumer.  For business it is the ‘frenemy’, a business that delivers eyeballs to those with an online presence, but a business that can quickly cannibalise those that work with it.  Take Groupon and Livingsocial for example.  Both living in the hype, but both under the knife of Facebook, who a few days ago announced ‘a new service that will sell discounts deals to consumers.’ Sound familiar?

So, Facebook is becoming an entity in itself.  The stats show it, but for the time being, it is a fact that business needs to learn to live with it.  Equally, it needs to retain control of the data that makes it’s business a business.

I was going to ask, remember when clients used to ask about needing a Facebook Strategy?  Something that made PRs and Strategists cringe?  Well, there is a need to have a Facebook Strategy, but a strategy to manage them and avoid each business being cannibalised by this growing entity.  The data that companies share with the social giant make the same businesses vulnerable.

Convergence and Facebook, and of course all the other offerings.  The tables have turned and consumers are showing businesses how and where they want their content.

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