5 Tips for Media Companies Looking to Survive in the Age of Digital Disruption

From mind-set to user experience

Choose a niche and diversify your revenue stream. Getty Images

It’s hard to be a media company in an age of digital disruption. Here are some survival tips.

Adopt a digital mind-set

The move-fast-and-break-things ethos of Silicon Valley hasn’t quite made its way to Madison Avenue. For example: Traditional audience measurements like CPM and Nielsen don’t transfer to the digital age, says Omnicom Media Group’s Catherine Sullivan; the industry needs to iterate faster on the changes necessary to compete in a digital environment.

“It’s not just media companies, it’s all of us,” she says. “We’re all trying to be more like digital, but the reality is that it’s taking too long. We need to collectively rip the Band-Aid off, and we all need to be in this together.”

Pick your niche and dive deep

General-interest media companies are becoming an endangered species. Homing in on a specific audience and identifying its needs is the path to survival, says PMX Agency vp Jesse Math.

“The number of companies that can be all things to all consumers is probably limited to the likes of Netflix and NBC,” Math says. “So brands need to decide who they are and where they want to play. What do your consumers want from you, and how do you best service their needs from an entertainment or information standpoint?”

Diversify your revenue stream

The old world where media companies made all their money from subscriptions and advertising is rapidly disappearing. Successful media companies develop multiple products and services, often in partnership with brand advertisers, to insulate themselves from economic uncertainty, says Raju Narisetti, professor of journalism at Columbia.

“Even if the economy isn’t doing well and there’s a slowdown in advertising, your ecommerce business may not be affected,” he says. “That’s the way to grow the business going forward, rather than relying on the duality of advertising and reader revenue.”

Make data your rocket fuel

Traditional media companies seeking to create direct connections with consumers need to leverage the trove of data they already have, says Stan Pavlovsky, president of Meredith Digital.

“Media companies need to invest in technology and partnerships that enable rich first-party data as fuel for the entire business,” he says. “Engaged audiences will continue to be key to differentiation, and publishers should invest in solidifying direct relationships with consumers.”

Create a great user experience

Even the best writing and most compelling video won’t be worth much if they’re delivered in a way that annoys or repels consumers, says Barry Lowenthal, CEO of The Media Kitchen.

“Publishers need to invest in great journalism, but they also need to invest in a great user experience,” says Lowenthal. “That determines whether you’re a premium company. Netflix is a better user experience than NBC. Interruption is friction. Why would I want to be bothered by friction?”

This story first appeared in the November 12, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.