The opportunity called media

Traditional media are dead. Well at least according to plenty of opinion makers they are, and have been so for many years already. And while it’s fair to say that some of them are in trouble, or at least facing a whole new series of challenges it’s clear traditional media are far from dead. I actually believe some of the biggest opportunities in communications today are in media, but it is about time to see some action.

Here’s where I believe the biggest opportunities are today in media and why I believe I think there isn’t enough focus on them today. At least not where I live – and it would be dumb to believe that what happens in Belgium is unique in the world so here we go…

Invent new ways of monetization

Instead of using old ways of making money on new media approaches. Guillaume – one of the founders of the agency I work for – once said that banner advertising is what happens when you bring the worst of traditional advertising into digital media and it’s hard to disagree with that. You don’t have to throw away old rules that proved to be working fine with traditional media and their advertising methods, but they just don’t automatically apply to everything new either. When interactive television was announced (‘click the red button’) I had high hopes for the possibilities that it would give me as a consumer… just to find out after a couple of months that tv channels were charging the exact same price of an SMS to every single interaction possible. It became clear very quickly that they had a business going that they didn’t want to lose and that their innovative development was driven by the protection of that business rather than by re-thinking the user experience in this new context. Second screen, DVR, … with every new evolution the drive to protect the old seems to be focus number 1. That’s not how it should be, no innovation will come out of that. Think first about what how you could maximize the consumer experience given a new technology, and then think of (new) ways of making money with that.

Understanding second, third, … screen

Second screen is most of all linked to the television experience. Which is logical, although I wouldn’t make it something exclusive to television either. But that’s not the point I want to make here. There are plenty of second screen experiences available for television stations all over the world as we speak, and yet most of them seem to resolve around taking some kind of advantage of the Twitter activity around the show, possibly combined with some additional content. Other kinds of interaction? Not so much. I find that amazing, especially because there are examples out there of really cool ideas on how to use the second, third,… screen(s) available.

I’ve written about this before, but Kevin Slavin has probably said some of the smartest things I’ve ever heard about this second screen experience. (He has said some of the smartest thing I have ever heard full stop.) Knowing that he is responsible for some of the coolest second screen (avant la lettre) cases ever, it’s silly no to listen to what he has to say. When he gave is presentation “Laughter from nowhere” some 18 months ago at the IAB Congress, he created a bit of a theoretic frame of what it is consumers are looking for concerning the ‘second screen’. People’s main focus is in the main screen, and you need to think about what additional info/activity you can provide that makes the first screen experience better, without asking for too much focus so it doesn’t stand in the way of the main experience. The Twitter chatter about a tv show is only one – and a really tiny – example of what that could be. Check out the case above, it’s 6 years old and still one of the most remarkable I’ve seen so far.

New ways of distribution

Newspapers are print, and have a website, and a mobile site. You tune in on a radio station with your radio, or via the website. You watch tv on your television or snippets via their website. That’s about it. The traditional way of consumption for all of these channels remains the most important, that’s where the money is made but it’s in decline. So we have to think about new ways of distribution. Again especially with television, opportunities are huge I think.

Why especially for television? Because we have only started to figure out how we can get content to consumers via other means. Today the cable provider (or similar) own most of that distribution and it is a bit of a love/hate relationship between tv channels and the distribution company in many countries. What I don’t get is why media aren’t looking at all these possibilities to bypass those distributors. Think about it: Xbox, Apple tv, Connected TV’s, … there are so many devices in people’s homes that you can use to distribute your content that I really don’t understand why none of the media I have access to are using these.

And it’s not alone for television. I can get the national newspapers on my iPad… and they are updated every day around midnight. For realtime updates I have to go the newspaper’s website. Makes sense to you? Not to me it doesn’t.

Build brands instead of channels

Almost every brand I have ever worked for dreams of using lots of traditional media to build its brand. It still seems the best way to get in front of a lot of people’s faces, the get a lot of attention at the same time. And maybe rightfully so, if used in the right way. Is it then such a big jump to say that this would mean that media brands should actually be the biggest brands then? They can use traditional media all the time, as much as they want, they are the media!

But we know they’re not. Could it be that that’s so because they are building channels more then they are building brands? I think that’s what’s going in. They all have a channel that works/worked really well, and some new ones that are still improving. So they keep the channel that works best, while investing little in the new ones. If they were building brands, and people would really choose for a strong media brand, wouldn’t you think the channel becomes less important? People would look for it and consume it the best way possible? I do think so.

Do you agree? Or maybe not? Or do you want to add an opportunity that you think I missed? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to open up the discussion around the topic.

The future belongs to the geeks…

Nobody else wants it.

This is without a doubt one (of many) personal favorites out of all the cartoons Hugh MacLeod has created in the past x years.

I think there’s a lot of simple truth in this one. Every day/week/month I see innovation that impacts the business I am in and which found its origin in technology, software development or something like it. And then I’m not only talking about pure technology innovation but also about innovation of business processes, creative thinking, etc.

An obvious one is about how technology is driving change in the media landscape. And then especially when you think about how long existing ‘traditional’ media are transforming, not just the new media that gets added. Particularly the interactive tv experience is something that fascinates me a lot recently. In this domain several big players are active – television manufacturers, service providers, content networks, … – and yet somehow I believe the main innovation will come from outside, from a few geeks in the corner that will really create a richer tv experience using a tablet device or whatever. They can think without bounderies of current business processes, revenue management, … no old business models to try to protect. There’s a lot of cool stuff out there already.

Another recent example of technology driving change, and this time in business thinking is Agile Strategic Planning, really interesting stuff if you ask me. This whole idea is an answer to changing consumer/brand needs but is based on a concept that has been used (by some) in software development for almost 10 years now. Neil Perkin used the following quote in a recent post while trying to explain the need for this agile thinking:

“Our structures need to be more speedy. Speed used to kill now lack of speed kills. Lets have organizations that can iterate quickly and empower its folks to make decisions. Percolating decisions up and down an organization makes little sense”

Agile strategic development, adaptive marketing, lean planning, … all terms that highlight more or less the same thing. We have to start thinking in ways that allow for much more iterations and changes while the process is ongoing. A new kind of strategic planning that is heavily influenced by concepts developed in software development.

Just 2 examples in my area of interest that came to mind when I saw this cartoon again. But yeah, the future belongs to the geeks, I’m sure of that.

The promise of interactive television (Cont’d)

Via Brandflakes for Breakfast I learned about Yap.tv which seems to be another interesting view on what interactive could be like. Other than the My Generation app from abc which I mentioned earlier this week, the Yap.tv app is useful for all channels and all interactivity is added without collaboration from the channels themselves.

If this is the direction we’re going – and it sure looks like it – interactive tv will be re-invented by people and companies outside the tv business and not by the networks or content owners.  I suppose that’s what happens when you try to protect an outdated business model. That’s kinda sad in a sense but also very exciting. Wanna bet that is exactly what is going to happen? I do ;)

In the meantime check out Yap.tv if you’re living in the US, I can tell you it’s pretty useless in Europe. It’s the idea that counts.

The promise of interactive television (part 2)

There are 3 reasons I once decided to get a digital television at home:

  1. Better quality. Especially with one of those fancy new full HD screens that’s a much better experience.
  2. Comfort features. Think about the EPG, easier recording, movie rental, …
  3. Interactivity. Push the red/blue/whatever-color button and you will get a richer experience

The end score, 2 out of 3. I don’t know how it is in the rest of the world, but in Belgium interactive part is pretty nonexistent. I’ve used the red button less than 5 times in the 3 years I’ve got digital tv at home. It was always a disappointment. Useless information, bad experience, ugly, … Content makers nor advertisers seem to show any interest in it. Too bad because I had really high hopes for this. It’s pretty easy to imagine how this could be used in many really cool ways. Didn’t happen.

When I read about the My Generation iPad app from abc it sounded like they built an app to do what interactive tv couldn’t. The same promise all over again, but you’ll need another device to experience it. And only with My Generation on abc.

Don’t get me wrong, I think these are cool evolutions. I’m just wondering why none of the richer tv experiences have ever really succeeded without the help of peripheral devices. Sounds like a missed opportunity to me for television makers.

Anyway, good stuff from abc. Curious to see how this will evolve further. What do you think?

Online advertising in 2009

We’re only a few weeks short from the annual predictions that will pop up in the blogosphere. Which will be the key trends for 2009 in technology, advertising, … etc. One prediction that will stand out in many of these overviews relates to online advertising trends for 2009, at least that’s what I believe. It’s not so hard to foresee this happening though as much discussion around the topic is already going on right now.

dontjump

Gotta love this Careerbuilder ad they used on Silicon Alley Insider btw ;) In another post on Alley Insider they foresee a 10% decline in online advertising next year and slightly more in 2010, comparing today’s situation to the dotcom crash when the market fell up to 25% (see graphs below).

QuarterlyOnlineAdSpend

This year is not over yet though and predictions for 2008 are that yet with the slowing economy, the online advertising market is expected to grow 23%. So even if you believe that advertising will take a hit in 2009 (which I think most agree it will), it’ll be interesting to see if it’s just going to slow down growth (like only 14,5% as eMarketer predicts) or whether it will indeed declines as the Alley Insider and others predict. Also interesting to see is which parts of the advertising industry will be most affected by the slowing economy. Television advertising only grew by 8% in 2008 and a lot of people think that mainly traditional advertising will get a hit (where the biggest budgets are still today) and that some of that money will be diverted to online ad spend.

I believe that is what’s going to happen anyway. Online advertising will still grow in 2009, although it will slow down versus the 2008 or 2007, and the slower economy and lowered budgets will force people to rethink their plans in which digital might finally be looked at as good alternatives. There’s something about bad times that make people more open to embraces changes, so online advertising might suffer less than traditional advertising. Last but not least it’s also worth noting that the online advertising industry is much more mature than it was in 2001-2002. Curious to see what predictions will be once they start coming in December.

Bonus – 10 Ways Digital can help you thrive in a recession (David Armano)

The human camera

Fascinating stuff on television yesterday (yes that happens on occasion). It was a documentary of a guy called Stephen Wiltshire and I thought it was just stunning. Now I know some of you might have seen this already, the guy’s story isn’t really new, but it was the first I had heard/seen of him. From Wikipedia:

“Stephen Wiltshire is an architectural artist who has been diagnosed with autism. Wiltshire was born in London, England, to West Indian parents. He is known for being able to draw an entire landscape just by seeing it once.”

The clip below was part of the documentary and shows Stephen draw a panorama of London (which will take him 4-5 days) on a 4 meters wide canvas… after only flying over the city for 15 minutes with an helicopter! How’s that for a visual memory!

Here’s a link to the end result. London was the first city he did on that scale, but in the meantime many others have followed such as Rome and Tokyo for instance. I think I’m gonna stop by his shop next time I’m in London.