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As the economic crisis forces digital media and content creators to accelerate changes to their business models, many are contemplating how to keep up with viewer demand amidst the new economic realities. But it’s important to understand the history of the ecosystem, how various platforms have evolved through shifting conditions, and what ultimately got us here.

Ten years ago the digital media space was a very different environment. Most video consumption was happening on desktop computers not on mobile, “influencers” was a new marketing term, YouTube was by far the largest video content platform in terms of market share, and Netflix hadn’t nearly become the streaming giant it is today.

The dynamic among content producers back then was quite different too. Some large production studios were trying to resist the rise of “online video platforms” while many others decided to join and embrace the trend early on. And then everything started to shift, video technology and mobile devices went mainstream, giving rise to new platforms that catered to the diverse content tastes and consumption habits of up-and-coming millennials and Gen Z-ers.

Companies like Twitch were born out of this era, opening the door for professional content producers across YouTube and other networks to develop organic content built for younger “cord-cutter” audiences. Adapting to the new environment was key, as many of these emerging businesses and creators embraced the basis of digital-first content production at the core of their principles: flexibility, rapid execution, and a focus on engagement.

Content producers at the time also realized that quality was not synonymous with cost, which led to engagement and authenticity becoming much more important than expensive production. There were hiccups though, including distribution models that proved to be challenging and an infinite amount of content serving a finite audience. Just a few years ago, sudden algorithm changes to these social platforms disrupted the entire industry, pushed some content production companies to the brink of bankruptcy, and forced many into rethinking how to innovate their approach and business models.

Fast forward ten years, and what has changed across the digital media spectrum? First of all, the growing popularity and reach of YouTube have given rise to many more video platforms and networks that are looking to get a piece of the pie. And social media platforms like Facebook Video (long considered the only real threat to YouTube supremacy), Twitch (still very gaming focused but it’s changing), IGTV, and Snapchat have all entered the arena. And more recently TikTok has emerged as a strong competitor, serving content to different niches and various needs of video entertainment.

While YouTube still dominates the online video market, there are now plenty of other options creating more competition and more choice for video producers. As those new platforms continue to build their content offerings, what they’re really looking for are content creators and studios that can bring valuable content and attract global brands that resonate with younger audiences.

But disruption has returned to digital media yet again, and with the reduction in ad spend taking a massive toll on the industry, many companies are struggling to keep up with audience demand while trying to keep operations afloat. In today’s climate, the priority is in recognizing how to pivot and innovate their platform offerings on the fly. Failing to do so will limit their ability to stay relevant to their audience. It’s becoming increasingly important for them to maintain lean and efficient content production processes that can quickly adapt to new platforms, formats, and audiences.

Adapting production capabilities during times of crisis can be challenging for any business, and while larger studios have had to pause their new productions as the pandemic arose, other companies with smaller production scales have been able to maintain existing content programs and ensure continuity. These companies are finding ways to drive new growth through strong cross-platform experiences including their owned channels, and efficient use of their production and distribution resources.

By getting creative with audience targeting, content production, and structuring the business around efficient workflow processes, TheSoul Publishing has been able to prove that digital media companies are capable of innovating quickly within the confines of the new environment. This shows that content creators need to quickly adapt content creation that meets shifting viewership habits and trends. And as things move closer towards getting back to normal, other businesses should start to embrace a future with faster and simpler production processes.

In this new multi-platform world where viewers have more choices than ever, digital content creation needs to be flexible, highly resilient, and be able to be distributed across multiple platforms and outlets. Implementing new content models will help them survive and attract new brands who are looking for proven platforms and destinations that can effectively deliver their messages.

Even the savviest and most successful digital media companies in the world are hurting right now, and many are facing an uncertain future in this new landscape. Companies that are able to adapt will ultimately thrive, and as we enter a new decade this current moment is a glimpse into a resilient industry that has always been able to quickly evolve.

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