IAC’s Horan: ‘Intent-Driven’ Media Challenges Brands

LA QUINTA, CALIF. The changes to the media business in the last five years are greater than the previous 500 years, according to IAC’s media and advertising CEO, Peter Horan.

Speaking at the iMedia Agency Summit here, Horan predicted both media companies and advertisers could no longer rely on strong brands. Instead, they must find ways to meaningfully participate in what he calls “intent-driven media.”

“Brand assists the process, but it does not drive the process,” said Horan, whose unit includes Ask, shopping comparison service Pronto, Citysearch and over 50 other digital media properties.

Like much else in the digital world, Google stands at the center of this shift, Horan said. The ability to use search engines to find information means a more meritocratic media world, where a smaller advertiser or publisher can compete with larger companies on the basis of relevance. A car shopper, for instance, uses search to find information and considers a variety of sources rather than turn to a single trusted brand, he said.

Intent-driven media also means a blurrier distinction among content, commerce and community, he said. As an example, Horan pointed to Nike+, the running system and social network that blend product, branding and service.

“Nike is not just selling shoes,” he said. “Where do you draw the lines there?”

Traditional media will struggle to adapt to these new conditions, he said, mostly because they have structural impediments, such as unionized work forces at local newspapers. That means newspapers will see declining revenue without the ability to cut costs, a potentially fatal combination, Horan predicted.

“We will see major metropolitan areas without a newspaper in two years,” he said.