|Media : The World is calling. Where are you?|
The 'Crow on a Cow' Metaphor
Since long conventional media houses and traditional ad agencies enjoyed a strong relationship as to the analogy of a cow and a crow. The cow allows the crow to sit on its back and peck the insects from its skin. Cow pacifies its itches and the crow scours out a free meal.
Mainstream dailies and its agencies used to dictate the terms. Visual media was not so prominent and it meant 'movie theatre' or 'motion picture' back in the days.
1990's Ad Salesperson
Then came the golden era of field sales. Publication companies started recruiting smart young people to canvass advertisement from SMB's and professionals. Eventually, print and outdoor media sales flourished as the market was relatively huge and very fewer players to compete.
A few years later came the advent of visual media where private TV channels took over the domain. Regional channels with localized content were the newfound turfs. Entertainment, Sports, and News genre were favorite among the viewers and advertisers. The industry soon was buoyed with ad sales professionals mantling the role of selling airtime on national and private satellite channels.
Fast forward 2000, online media started posing a serious threat to the established media houses in 'print' and 'visual'. Advertisers were lured by web marketers with inflated and hollow promises.
Not many understood the concept of 'digital' at the beginning. Some tried to comprehend but failed. Print and visual media celebrated the moment and some of them went to the extent of publishing articles and ads in their own dailies, magazines, and channels to show how miserable the online media were for the advertisers. However, the propaganda didn't last long as the power of online and digital was way beyond their imagination.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the town, the print has almost become part of a sunset industry. The rise of tech companies on the video landscape has hastened the need for consolidation among traditional brands. Admen and mainstream publishers across the world deliberately acted as if nothing adversely happened.
Rise & Slip of Visual Media
Again, fast forward 2010 - the crown was dispelled and the visual media empire stands dethroned.
Google became God for the worshipers in a newly found world of SME (search, media & entertainment). It started selling advertisements with Adwords program in 2000. Many such programs followed.
A long fought 10-year war intended to dethrone the visual and print finally ended with a near victory for Google. Other online and digital platforms got their share of the pie too.
Slow Death of Print?
What went wrong? Actually nothing. I guess it was a more of suicidal than a natural death.
Back in the days, I was fortunate to have worked as an ad salesperson. I fondly recall telling my manager, who was in charge of our website, to develop an effective transition plan for our ad products from print to online. I even shot an email with an idea urging him to include a lineage in the print ads given by the customer with "Also see our listing/ad in www.[ourwebsite].com". He gave it a damn! "Who the heck are you giving me ideas?" he might have whispered. The management thought it would cannibalize their existing print revenue if they promote ads on the website. What they couldn't see was the benefit side which's huge had it been implemented. I doubt if anyone has heard about the Opportunity Cost and its implication on the business.
Again, when QR code became prominent I urged my management to include it in the print ads so that a customer's customer can know more about a product or service from the website after scanning the code. I found no backers. Today all that suggestions might sound trivial but it was a strong piece of advice at that point in time. What the publishing houses across the globe couldn't digest was that it's already in an ocean trench and desperately need a life support. To make the matter worse there was no one around to offer any help.
Fast forward today, even the mainstream television media is struggling with low revenues, viewership, and acceptance. Most of the media houses and ad agencies are now on a major consolidation drive. Digital media revenues have contracted beyond one's imagination. The print is no more a priority for most advertisers.
Corporate biggies are drastically cutting their advertising budgets including digital spends. Unilever and P&G is a case in point. Various media offerings are being integrated with the hope of finding new business and buyers. Social Media advertising was sort of a light in the tunnel. But now that's also faded away. We live and work in a scary media-eat-media world.
How is a survival possible?
Let's agree for now that this situation is here to stay for some more time and until new consensus emerge.
News Papers, Magazines, and other Print Products: They were part of our daily lives in some way or the other ever since the newsprint came into existence. The advertisements were their major earning avenue. When media houses flourished many had a living out of it.
When the visual media started upping their ante, print media initially refused to buddy. Soon they realized each one has its own space - 'readers' and 'viewers' are two different categories to target. The anomaly was that instead of the pie getting enlarged it shrunk dramatically. This had severely impacted the profitability of print media houses. To counter it some of them have even started their own TV channels and Web sites at point blank. Many of them tasted defeat. Few emerged unscathed though. What they couldn't fathom was that the print can survive the ordeal but only if it's taken care well - digitally.
In future Newspapers will be mostly read by 'class' than a 'mass'. The editorial team will be tasked with creating separate content for print and online. Though topics could remain the same in 'print' and 'digital', it's content will differ in the 'details' and 'analysis' side. Advertisements will be placed alongside the content. Algorithms shall be set separately to predict the topics for the next day and the ads will be placed based on its relative relevance. Most of the advertisers will opt for the 'occurrence of an event' for approving and releasing their ad. The process will be completely automated without any human intervention for a seamless experience.
Advertising department will be solely tasked with creating ad inventories to use up later for the clients. There will be active bidding for finding the placement and position of the ad. Payments will be effected in real-time. Agencies will don a different hat as a facilitator than a buyer or decision maker. The reach and ROI of the advertisement will be analyzed and measured based on the 'views' generated from the content. The ad appeared alongside the content on a page shall be deemed as seen or read.
In future, an eveninger will find more acceptance to readers and advertisers. The reading habit of households - individuals and family, will change eventually as times goes by and many would opt to read an evening daily than a morning newspaper. If this move leaves any vacuum or gap in the mind or readers or viewers, it will be filled by the mobile and computer-generated platform in the morning time band. It is already happening now whether you notice it or not. The purpose of delivering Morning News & Breaking News is already being taken over by digital and online media. Not even the television media is spared from this onslaught.
Events like award functions, conferences, seminars, and product launches will continue to contribute a major chunk of revenue to the publication group through sponsorships and advertisements. Native content soon will be exposed and wiped out with genuine contents. Publishers soon will document in their policy statement that they won't accept any paid content or native ads in order to gain the credibility of readers. However, paid content shall continue to appear in the publication if it adopts an FTA (free to all) model instead of a subscription model. In the long run, subscription revenue will supersede the advertising revenue. Readers will be the ultimate decision-maker. They will emerge as the main stakeholder. The stockholders top line objective would change accordingly.
Magazines will be compelled to adopt online/digital versions. It is already there now. Hard copies will be distributed free but with fewer pages as part of the promotion activities. It will have a brief write up of the content or pictures with QR codes to scan and read later on its website or other digital platforms. Readers shall opt for a pay-per-article model. However, subscribers will continue with their annual/monthly one-time fee to access content on the website. Subjects like technology, politics, legal, innovation, and management shall continue to generate the attention of viewers, readers, and advertisers.
Outdoor / OOH: They will survive the ordeal with the introduction of innovative ideas and breathtaking images providing a visual treat for the riders and onlookers. In future, the content and design will be displayed real-time over the air. Huge LED screens will replace the flex and lit billboards.The occurrence of festivals, events, tourism specials etc will continue to define the success of OOH. The only notable difference will be that the content will be integrated over digital and online mediums.
Television and other Visual Media: TV broadcasting has boasted of its visual appeal and acceptance of the public and advertisers alike over many years. There is no other medium which can command the market with its potential strength to earn billions of dollars. Probably not anymore. Digital and online are becoming their spoilers.
Broadcasters countered it by launching their own digital and online offerings. As a standalone property, they might succeed in their respective categories. But that doesn't mean that they could make significant profits for the entire organization in the near-term and come out of woods. FT reported recently in its European edition - "The strategic pressures on the financials of traditional TV business are accelerating. Advertising competition is increasing. Content costs in TV and film are increasing. And alternatives to pay-TV are increasing".
News Channels stand a chance to succeed in the near term for the content it generates over real-time. A relatively less production cost is an advantage for them. But they will struggle with the overheads as more resources are needed to go live from different parts of the world/nation. With the cut-throat competition in place, they can't compromise doing the job with the help of freelancers or citizen reporters. Live streaming platforms are licking their lips for a possible take over.
GEC channels with the current format of broadcasting will find its cruise tougher. Television is no more an exclusive platform for consuming entertainment. Traditional and mainstream 'GEC' channels are already witnessing shrinking revenues. Many are already in red. Digital, Mobile & Online shall be the preferred sources for consuming entertainment for the 'individuals' in future. Chances are that the television will be a mere hardware to pair content from a mobile or computer device. However, the GEC platform still continues to be the king of all media channels.
OTT(Over the Top) will be the preferred choice for the family. OTT players like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple TV delivers the program over the internet without the involvement of any multiple system operators who are in control or distribution of the content. Interestingly, there are others which mirrors the programs of their own satellite channels. They conveniently allow the viewers to watch the programs on the web and merely acts as a storage site for its own TV programs. To qualify for an OTT it should produce own content and gains viewers with a subscription or pay per view model. Of late there were few initiatives in this direction from some of these companies which is good in the long term.
Sports Channels in future will be outplayed by live streaming platforms like Facebook, Twitter or similar. Facebook's recent bidding for the rights of 'digital broadcasting' of the IPL cricket is a case in point. Star TV grabbed the rights for an all-format broadcasting for a whopping $2.55 billion.
Unless Sports TV companies overhaul its existing business models and find new ways to automate the ad buying process the profitability will continue to be an uphill task. Not to forget in the next five years the mode and means of viewing a sports match could change dramatically. Viewership is highly unpredictable especially when the technology changes/improves at the wink of an eye.
Local fiber channels: These channels will continue to survive as they cater only to the local community or region. However, this kind of 'channel number' model will not create a market on its own. They always rely on an external network for beaming the content. They will struggle to create an identity on its own. Small time businesses and few professionals may advertise with them. Corporate will stay away as the TVR is not conclusive and authentic. Overheads will eat up the revenue unless strict measures are adopted. Tying up with associations, chamber of commerce, & other local bodies will help them to carry on with the business model. However, a strong leadership at the top can positively impact their business. 'Make' or 'Break' signs will often appear and disappear in front of them.
E-sports (Gaming) & Live streaming: e-sports will overtake the revenue of traditional sports in the long run. Advertisers will not spend hefty sums as like in the past for any sports event, be it IPL or World Cup. Live streaming platforms developed by Facebook can develop a bidding platform to choose advertisers based on each session of the game. For example, if India is batting first in a cricket match, the program can select which ad to be displayed first. When Virat Kohli is batting it can also decide which ad should run and so on based on the bidding amount. It's a pay-as-you-consume model but only the top bidders clinch the spots. Sponsorship and on-field advertisements shall continue to exist but go with a combo along with TV ads. With Augmented Reality (AR) the ads can be overlayed on a TV screen while being broadcasted and the viewers could witness a unique viewing experience of the match without any intrusion.
The television industry is already experiencing a new phenomenon called Geotargeting. With this, it can package its content and target to a specific audience in a particular area or region.
Concerted studies and efforts are going on globally so that a channel could simultaneously air different ads created for different target segments, areas or regions while broadcasting a particular program live or recorded.
The ads and the content will be catered and targeted to a specific audience with a demography in mind which was agreed earlier by the advertiser.
Similarly, Interactive Television is already making waves in the industry. You can interact over the channel with your content while a program is being aired and your views or input will significantly influence towards broadcasting the desired the channel. Bloomberg TV has been credited with a first mover advantage. Others soon will follow the suit.
Google is working in the backyard of television advertising without their explicit knowledge. In the recently concluded Partner Leadership Summit Google announced several new TV ad products in DoubleClick for Publishers (DFP) like TV content explorer, smarter TV ad breaks with dynamic ad insertion and video placements. Research is progressing well at Google to dominate the TV broadcasting & advertising. In no time it can outlast existing players.
Distribution front is already struggling with the cord cutting phenomenon as prevalent in the west and slowly catching up in other regions including Asia and the Middle East. Once OTT gains momentum all fiber channels will either disappear or migrate to the new platform. Satellite channels are not an exception. Don't forget that licensing revenue will now incline more to the OTT and similar platforms.
Laughing Radio: A long time neglected medium is now witnessing a turnaround and is now at the pinnacle. It was truly magical. If you commute to work or elsewhere in a car the radio comes handy. It is a pet of SMB's and professionals alike. Though the 'ad recall' is still a challenge for the advertiser they are happy. Radio is having its last say and it will laugh up all the way top.
Digital & Online: A minnow according to the conventional media guys, digital & online has caught up the attention of users and advertisers alike. Analytics is the 'ace' here as the advertiser can now measure the reach of his ad and analyze its return in dollar terms. That's a cherry on the cake for being digital.
Though the digital and online had a fantastic launch and recognition across industries, it faltered and went out of direction for a brief period of time until got corrected by the biggies of the industry. However, the biggest advantage of digital is that it can act as a transition agent for both Print and Visual Media. It serves as a hub for transitioning the content from one media to another.
Print media initially thought that 'online' is just a continuing platform to reproduce the content which they have already published. That was a terrible mistake. To cover up this failure they began to treat the digital as a stand-alone platform. Mistake repeated for the second time.
Magic of co-existence
What they failed to understand was that to survive both print and online should co-exist. In simpler terms - a reader may stumble upon a topic in print and read it briefly but later or sooner encounter with a detailed analysis of the same article on the website or vice verse. That's the magic of co-existence. In every such situation, an advertisement alongside the main content stands a chance to get unique views and clicks which may eventually turn into conversion or a sale.
If you are in the media business, have your pitch modeled on a 'new normal' than the conventional stereotypes.
- Change your sales approach from a media superstar to the role of an enabler. Human intervention is minimal these days in media buying as the software programs are capable of identifying the optimal ad inventories and potential slots. Remember you are a facilitator in the buying process initiated by you or your customer.
- Be a number cruncher and carry every piece of information and analysis of the ad program you plan to pitch. Numbers always speak better than you. For your customer, it will sound more credible than anything else.
- Digital is the new normal. Don't waste time arguing against it. See how the digital media can co-exist with yours and find better ways to close the sale.
- Print may be a dying product, but it has more life than we all think. If you position it right it may survive another decade or probably more. It still has some tremendous value to unlock. It's the 'perspective' which is trying to be a spoiler.
- You may be an old school, but it is time to change for better. Don't bang on with your age-old conventional model. Keep paying attention to the famous catchphrase"The world is calling. Where are you?" Courtesy - Smirnoff.
- To agree is more powerful than to disagree. Don't argue to agree or disagree with your client. Try to do it with minimal intrusion. He is more powerful than you think.
- Involve your clients in the decision-making process. Learn how to own up in the event of a success or failure and train your client, if needed.
- Always believe that the technology, new or futuristic, can do wonders. Try to be a proponent than an opponent. Embrace it with your full heart and spread out hands.
- Every media has its own good and bad corners. Find ways to co-exists and survive.
- Clients commitments have more value than the money expensed or dispensed near term. His 'lifetime value' should matter most to you.
When the world is calling, be at the top of the curve to see a digital tomorrow.
(Views are personal)