It’s a familiar scene: friends and family are meeting up for brunch. The coffee is hot, the avocado is smashed and at least one brunch-goer is reaching for the Panadol while avoiding questions about where they ended up last night. And when the food arrives? Everyone waits; not eating until the moment has been captured and posted to Instagram.

Founded in 2010, Instagram has 800 million monthly users worldwide. In the past eight years more than 270 million pictures of food have been posted to Instagram. The influence that Instagram has had on the restaurant industry has been immense. We’re now in an age where food and beverages can go viral, not just tweets and videos. Instagram is a visual medium, and this focus on aesthetics has changed the way we eat when we’re dining out. Photogenic foods have spiked in popularity, and the food that we eat has become brighter and more decorative. At breakfast time, muesli is out and smoothie bowls are in, and the toast has to be topped with avocado.

Its commonplace for menus to now include at least one Instagrammable dish but the food itself is just one part of making a #foodstagram pop. The lighting, the crockery and the tabletop also need to be on point. Social media isn’t just changing the way we eat – it’s also influencing interior design trends. Take it from Teddy Robinson, a creative director for London café-bar chain Grind. “Last year we replaced every table in the company with white marble, just because it looks good on Instagram,” he said. This might seem extreme if you think of this phenomenon as just pictures of food, but Instagram is more than that – it’s become the way that people (particularly millennials) choose where they eat. How Instagrammable a restaurant is can flow directly to the restaurant’s bottom line.

Not every successful restaurant or café needs to be doing Instagram well – but the ones that are have something in common. Emily Arden Wells, the Co-Owner of New York architecture firm Move Matter, often works on the fit out of new restaurants in Manhattan noting that Instagrammability is now being considered from a new restaurant’s blueprint stage. Venues that are succeeding on Instagram have moved mobile and social into the very heart of their supply chain – and they’re taking their millennial customers seriously. Their customers and their devices are considered before the tables are bought, before the menus are designed and before we tell the veggie shop how many avocados we need for Saturday morning.  If successful restaurants have social and millennials at the heart of their supply chain, what does that mean for news outlets?

Devices are already changing the way that we access news. Data from the Pew Research Center in 2017 shows that 85% of adults in the United States access news on their mobile device, at least some of the time. Not surprisingly, this is a trend that is growing – this is an increase on 72% from 2016 and 54% in 2013. Social media usage is also changing the way that news is distributed, with sites like Facebook and Twitter acting as the new gateways to news channels. Analysis of online news traffic backs this up, with Australian outlet ABC News Online sharing figures that compare visits to the homepage, and visits to news articles. Traffic to the homepage is on the decline but eyeballs on articles are increasing, as people discover news content on their Facebook timeline.

Some news outlets are already using devices and social to their advantage. When you log on to the Snapchat Discover page you’ll see outlets like the Daily Mail, Cosmopolitan and Buzzfeed talking direct to millennials. (At the time of writing, I almost got distracted by a Buzzfeed quiz titled “Pick a donut and we’ll tell u what your friends love + hate about u”). As you scroll down the Discover page you’ll notice more highbrow content – the power of the Snapchat Discover page is not to be underestimated. The Economist received more traffic in its first month on Snapchat Discover than it received in the preceding 12 months to economist.com.

The future isn’t just mobile – there are other, more modern utilities and methods of news delivery already available. If mobile technology can revolutionise the food industry, there’s immense potential for wearable and hearable technology to disrupt the media landscape. Hearable technology and Conversational UI is already delivering news information via Alexa and Google Home – as our virtual personal assistants get to know us better, does this mean they can deliver us even more relevant, timely information? Spotify and Netflix have already acclimatised us to the micropayment economy and people are increasingly happy to pay small amounts more frequently for quality and convenience. Rather than paywalls and digital subscriptions, would I pay for an alert on a traffic incident that meant I wouldn’t be late to birthday party?

There’s a lot of buzz around ideas like Spotify for News, News-flix and ideas that tie to the end of ownership and to micro-payments. The most buzz has been around a Dutch service called Blendle which claims half a million registered users in Europe and is now looking at the US. Most items on Blendle, which come from lots of different outlets, cost between 10 cents and 90 cents and come with a money-back guarantee: you only pay for stories you actually read – and if you then don’t like them, you can ask for your money back.

I don’t have all the answers but it’s important that we’re thinking about this. How can we prepare for continuous change in the news and content industries? The future is already here, we just need to harness it.

 
Ally Garrett, CX Director at Isentia