Media Platform Stability: Sorry, That Bus Ain't Coming Back

The scions of the publishing, content delivery and advertising industries are among those convening this week at the Bloomberg's Media Summit New York. With loss of control of much of the technology upon which they depend, what is their strategy in the disruptive media landscape? A bit of my take, after the jump.

The scions of the publishing, content delivery and advertising industries are among those convening this week at Bloomberg’s Media Summit New York.

Until just a few years ago, print, broadcast, cable, satellite and telco were the primary drivers of the technology platforms upon which advertiser-supported content was consumed. Now, quantification of consumer preferences is a moving target, due to the plethora of new devices – such as smart phones and iPads – and the multi-threaded conversations of social media.

With loss of control of much of the technology upon which they depend, what’s the strategy of “legacy media” in this disruptive landscape?

Yesterday’s sessions were roughly organized around three threads – devices, advertising and transmedia. I spent most of my time at the advertising seasons, where the conversations were a continuation of last fall’s Advertising Week.

Magazines in the age of the iPad

In his keynote conversation, David Carey, President, Hearst Magazines, expressed one of the sentiments I heard on all panels – the last few years have not been great for the legacy media companies, but they are gearing up to face their challenges head on:

All of our business models in the magazine area were functioning great until September 15, 2008, and then the decline of revenue was breathtaking, 20 to 30 percent across the industry. So that defined the end of eight, most of nine, the beginning of ten. Ten was a good period of stability in our company. Our ad pages grew by almost 10 percent.

This year, they continue to grow, but it was less than a year ago that the iPad moment arrived. Fifteen million sales in just the end of the year, predictions of 40 to 50 million or more this year, and so it’s all opportunity. We’re watching changing consumer behavior in front of us, and I think our company… but I think most of the major magazine companies are smartly making big early investments in their tablet strategies, the thought that this next wave of technology is our friend. If maybe we had trouble adapting our brands to the computer screen, because in the magazine form our magazine measurement is in tens of minutes. People read our magazines for more than an hour, but on the web, we know the way we all operate, it tends to be a lot of kind of short bits of consumption, and you move on.

What we like about the tablet business is the reading experience is much closer to our magazines. For “Popular Mechanics” we saw some stats this week, 35 minutes on average that people spend with the tablet edition, and so we know how to take our content and to move it into that area, and so our company and others have made big early moves, and I think it’s been really good.

Advertising in context

With increasing amounts of consumer data available and subject to dissection, advertisers can make their pitches more relevant to individuals and more effective for their brands. Chris Pyne of MediaCom spoke of tracking tens of billions of decision streams, across personal characteristics and relevancy. UberMedia‘s Jon Kraft cited research that, for each additional metric – age, gender, ethnic background, etc. – the effectiveness of targeted advertising doubles.

Context for an ad can be related to the content being consumed, consumer demographics, even factors such as that day’s weather. If you can’t get the context right, suggests Doug Stevenson of Vibrant, at least give the users a choice. Old style ads interrupt; now advertising can be by invitation, which is very strong.

Privacy issues abound, with the panelists agreeing that trust was the path to acceptance of industry self-regulation by relevant government agencies and Congress. Right now, few people are opting out of contextual advertising using the various options available. Kraft suggested that trust can be built by delivering advertising that the consumer sees as relevant content. Dan Taylor of Google reinforced the importance of privacy and offered a URL where consumers can find out who Google thinks they are.

Chris Actis of MediaVest said that Facebook has allowed individuals to become broadcasters. Brands need to find new ways to ignite individuals and communities of interest. Marketers efforts to create relevance are primitive right now, as they have yet to tap into the contextual relevance that can be mined from what can be learned from Facebook and Twitter.

Disruption is the new stasis

During a panel discussion about the transition of global media and advertising, it was suggested that the industry needs to find ways to address the current uncertainty until matters sort themselves out. To my surprise, that comment was left standing. Those who are engaged in every of media must recognize that the decades-long, mostly predictable evolution of media is over.

The present belongs to the disrupters and those who have the agility to thrive on the uncertain. Uncertain consumer passions. Uncertain means by which content is consumed. Uncertain content-delivery technology overlay. Uncertain structure of the media/agency relationship.

Tidbits

  • Am I being unreasonable asking a conference geared towards orienting the industry to today’s media environment and offering a compass to find its way forward to provide Twitter handles for the panelists?
  • Am I being unreasonable expecting those on panels about “new media” to have Twitter handles?
  • May I laugh at the notion that the social media stream that parallels a TV show be recorded on a DVR-like device so that viewers can follow the social media conversation should they watch the show at a later time?

My observations on Bloomberg’s Media Summit continue here.