Commentary: Media Companies Need To Become Marketing Companies

The following is an excerpt from an online post authored by Andrew Heyward and Jeffrey F. Rayport in a recent edition of Harvard Business Review:     

                                                                                                                                                                         These consumers, people we like to call “Customers 3.0,” live in a blur of mash-ups, blogs, RSS feeds, links, text messages, tweets, and “life-casting” on social networks like Facebook and MySpace. For Customers 3.0, the very idea of content includes everything, embracing all media formats as well as advertising. And they collect, collate, and customize such content according to their individual tastes in personalized online environments (like MySpace or Facebook “pages”). This is what we call “user-generated context.”        

In this environment, it’s increasingly difficult for either publishers OR advertisers to stand out. The long-standing value proposition of publishers to brands – we create compelling content that attracts a desirable audience and then sell you the privilege of placing your commercial messages adjacent to it – is becoming a tougher sell.         

That’s because marketers don’t get much value out of seeing their messages appear in anodyne ad units (like banners ads). They need rich integration of their brands with content users are seeking or creating on their own. That leaves publishers in a sticky position: either they stand by and watch marketers build compelling online experiences without them, or they put their editorial and creative capabilities to use to help their clients – the big brands – cut through the clutter.         

In our practice, we like to say that “every company is a media company.” Increasingly, every media company must also become a marketing company. For online publishers, the challenge is to achieve that goal without damaging the very reputation for credibility and integrity on which their market positions rest. If online publishers can’t manage that balancing act before it’s too late, they’ll have more than mud on their faces.          

Here is my take:  As brands/national advertisers transform in part, to media, publishers have an opportunity to seek new partnerships by redefining their roles. For one, extending the value proposition means that publishers can be purveyors of a paid subscription base that is made available to brands as participants in making the message. Media and message become united. Message and media finally merge in a way that makes business and cultural sense.    

What this may mean, by necessity, is the redefinition of how the paid print advertising model is architected as ‘earned media’ become currency. This is not to advocate a ‘freemium model’ – after all, you still only get what you pay for – rather a model that attributes a business value to user-generated content reflecting the effort and subsequent return of the medium.     

Those that see the opportunity will find the right tools for the job. New cloud applications are about to come out of the gate in such as way that makes the cost of entry low and the opens the door to test this new media paradigm.      

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia      

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