Five questions about media in the future

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

I’m not a media expert at all. So there will be no answers here, just questions about where I might be confused about the future or where I might see an impact on my media thinking. I come at everything through the lens of the Brand Leader. My questions are more about the impact on consumer behavior and how the brand can win through media in the future. If you’re a media expert, feel free to add solutions. When I wrote this back in 2012, I had many questions!

1. Will people watch even more TV in the future? 

I love asking this question because it usually confuses people, because of the expected downward trend of TV viewership over the last 10 years. At first, this question might sound crazy, but with more tablets and instant internet access everywhere, we should expect a shift to watching more TV, not less. This year, books are up 13% due to increased readership via tablets. Will we see that impact on TV? More access means more use. If you’re on the subway, an airplane, waiting to pick up your kids or on your lunch hour, wouldn’t it be great just to catch an episode of Modern Family?  Now you can. And while this is at the early stages with early adopters, we’ll quickly see it going mass over the next few years. But the TV model will have to change. Consumers won’t want to be watching 8 minutes of TV ads. It seems people see their computer as their personal space and they find intrusive advertising even more annoying on their computer than they do their TV.   We need a new model for TV advertising–I haven’t seen it yet.

As a Brand Leader, I recommend that you don’t give up on TV just yet. Maybe it will be on a tablet or a phone. Just be a bit more creative. Maybe you need to make your spots more interesting to take advantage of viral shares. Make sure your spots are more engaging so people want to watch rather than just tolerate. Be open to integrating your brand right into the shows, or maybe go back to the past when  brand sponsorship kicked off every 1950s TV show.

2. How can advertisers capture internet babies (12-22 years old) as they move into adulthood?

As someone said, this segment never “goes on-line” because they are “always on-line”. They are never “off-line”. Last year, my 14-year-old daughter had 3 friends over and when teens visit, you have to expect a bit of excess noise. All of a sudden, there was silence for 20 minutes. I thought they must have left but then I see four teenagers all sitting at the kitchen table texting away, not a word being said. Complete silence. This generation lives on-line and puts their lives on-line. It remains confusing as to their true view of privacy–do they want more or do they just figure their lives are an open book.

This group has their priorities shaped by the age of instant access. They want everything now–sports scores, rumors, or videos of what they just saw on TV. They are multi-tasking so much it’s arguable they never give anything complete focus.  When they watch TV, they have the laptop up, their cell phone in hand–navigating Facebook, Twitter, texting, Instagram and Skype all at once. No wonder ADD is growing. They choose Apps over software, expecting an App solution for any problem they have. They see advertising as completely ubiquitous and are more open to brands than other generations. But how they consume media is completely different. E-Commerce is an expectation, as they buy songs, games, and movies or a new phone case at a whim.

As a Brand Leader, we need help to figure out how to win with this group when they turn 25?  I know as a parent of this age group, I have no wisdom I can pass on. Maybe someone in this age group can help us out because I’m utterly confused.

3. Can Newspapers even survive? 

So far, newspapers haven’t figured out the profit model between the traditional broadsheet and the on-line versions. Making it free was likely a mistake, and makes it hard to turn back. If your newspaper has been free on-line since 1997, I’ll be pissed off if you now expect me to pay for it.  If I’m interested in the topic, I’ll just Google the same headline and find a free version.  As long as newspaper publishers see a direct link between the actual broadsheet and the newspaper they run the risk of extinction. If you think a newspaper is a collection of amazing journalists, you’re off to a good start.  But if you think it has to be a broadsheet, then you’re completely lost.

News now is instant, ubiquitous and more casual/social. The tweeting that went on during the US presidential debate (e.g. Big Bird) is evidence of how social media drives the story.  I don’t need to read journalists’ take on it.  I already know.  By the time the broadsheet version of the newspaper is ready, this story is now old news and even has had 12-18 more hours to evolve into a completely new storyline. The broadsheet can’t keep up. I love the business model for the Huffington Post.  What started as on-line political opinion is becoming a source for broader news–entertainment, sports and lifestyle stories.  With more publishers going without a printed version (e.g. Newsweek just announced they’re canceling their printed version), this has to be the future.

As a Brand Leader, I’d recommend moving your Newspaper to spend online or even choose other mainstream media options. You’ve put up with the bad production quality for 100 years–is there really anyone under 50 still reading.

4. Can advertisers figure out how to win in the new world?  

The commodity brands that have funded mainstream media remain completely confused. 

Traditional media has always been funded by advertisers whether that means TV ads for 8-12 minutes per hour, newspapers and magazines with 25-40% of the space for ads and radio with ads every second song. Traditional Media has been free as long as you were willing to put up with advertising interrupting your usage of the media.  That ability to interrupt consumers allowed the Commodity Brands (dish soap, diapers, toothpaste, razor blades, and batteries) to break through to consumers, as they sat captive and watching their favorite TV show.

But New Media is free, unbridled and fairly commercial-free. In general, a lot of the advertising still just sits there along the sidelines where we don’t click.  While the high interest and high involvement brands have started to figure out how to use the New Media, the Commodities remain in a state of confusion. If you want to see what confusion looks like, go see Head and Shoulder’s twitter page with 320 followers or Bounce’s Facebook page “where they talk about fresh laundry” (their words, not mine)

These commodity brands need to either get people more involved, which Dove is the best in class brand, or they need to dial-up the potential importance for a core target which Tide has done a good job. As we see many of the new media companies (Facebook) struggling to figure out how to make more money from Advertisers, there needs to be a step up in creativity to find new solutions. Banner ads that just sit along the side aren’t going to do much for the advertiser or the media owner. If social media sites want to win over these commodity brands, they need to find the right balance of interrupting consumers without annoying their membership.

5.  Are there too many social media options?

I know there are still new social media options every month, but most of these feel fairly niche. In the mainstream social media sites, we are seeing that winners have emerged and they are turning into leaders like Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Linked In and Wikipedia all now dominant in their given area. It looks impossible for a new entrant to really challenge them. If a new entrant were to try for a leap-frog strategy, these leaders would just duplicate the innovation and kill the challenger. Every industry has gone through a similar pattern: early innovation, the divergence of brand options, then a few power brands emerge, and then a power-play where the strong squeeze out the weak through mergers and acquisitions until there are a handful of brand owners remaining.

As these Social Media sites look to turn their power into wealth, we will see a shift from fighting for members to fighting for advertiser dollars. This will likely force a convergence of social media options where the strongest brands try to squeeze out the smaller sites. There are already small signs in Google’s strategy they are thinking this way–trying to be the one-stop-shop. Mergers always tend to surprise us, almost unimaginable. Can you imagine Facebook buying LinkedIn? Who knows, maybe we’ll even see a merger between social media brands and mainstream networks. AOL already tried it with Time-Warner. But can you imagine Google buying CNN, Facebook buying MTV or NBC buying the Huffington Post? If you’re an Advertiser, expect some uncertainty in the next few years and expect a few mergers.

If you have any solutions to these questions or if you have other questions, I’d love to hear your thoughts.  

For a Media Overview that can help Brand Leaders get better media plans by learning more about both traditional and digital options, read the following presentation: