Between the surplus of original content, new forms of distribution and the reliance on time shifting, it is evident that last year's business models are no longer working. Every day new Web sites are being launched. Native content is last year's "hot" form. Viewers and readers are now receiving content across a myriad of platforms that neither Nielsen nor MRI can adequately measure.
Time pressured consumers have so many media options today that it is impossible for many to even be aware of everything that's out there. How does any media company become a true "change agent" and break through the clutter and maintain its franchise or create a new one? One way is to rethink nearly every aspect of the way a media company does business. The challenge is to create and ensure success in the changing world by transforming key elements of the existing business model. Knowing the problem does not solve it!
The only thing any company can do is to do better at the things it can control. This means taking a look at what's worked before and realizing what's changed to make it no longer work. That means working together across different media brands and rethinking the way content has been created and marketed -- and making ongoing experimentation a priority.
The biggest risk any media company faces today is avoiding risk and experimentation. Silos need to come down because, in a silo atmosphere, it's too easy for people to say "No, that's not my job."
As Cathy Black used to say at Hearst Magazines, "There's no such thing as a bad idea." Experimentation is one answer. Another is looking for new profit centers that offer real potential. For example, over 50 billion dollars a year is allocated for co-op advertising by virtually every major advertiser. Most of this never gets spent due to a lack of new co-op programs. Media companies should aggressively go after this 25 billion plus in co-op dollars that never gets spent.
Reducing operating costs is another opportunity. Most media companies have sales and support staffs that are siloed in structure. If a media company owns several cable channels or dozens of magazines, why not offer corporate packages to major clients who sell a multitude of different products and services to various age groups? Do you still need dedicated sales staffs for each and every magazine, TV and cable channel? Especially when advertisers do not have the time to see so many different media executives? It is far more effective to come in with big programs that can better fulfill a client's total marketing needs.
Another big challenge is how to integrate/connect different media platforms. Why can't my magazine article have a Web site connection to allow me to obtain further information? TV currently and very effectively does this. Why can't the Web site for any TV station or magazine get me interested in actually reading the magazine or watching the show?
Perhaps the biggest challenge is in deciding who the new content creators should be. Does a 40- or 50-year-old magazine editor have the "gut feel" to create content for today's new consumer market? As Joe Ripp recently said, "Time magazine should have created Politico." The reason it didn't is that it lacked content creators who think like that. Here's another question: Why didn't Cosmo create a version of Match.com, which is now a multi-billion-dollar business?
Magazines tend to stick with supposed tried and true formulas and wait far too long to fold non-profitable magazines that are no longer relevant. Conversely, TV and cable channels are quick to drop new shows or existing ones that no longer have consumer appeal. Perhaps the answer is to take publications that no longer have strong consumer appeal -- i.e. Esquire -- and move the franchise to other platforms as Hearst is doing with Esquire TV.
Lastly and most importantly, along with experimentation comes the need for more ongoing consumer research. The research needs to be done on a daily or at the very least weekly basis to be able to effectively track changing consumer media behavior.
There is no guarantee that all of the above will provide the answers. But as Albert Einstein once said, "You can't expect the people who created the problems to solve them." Drastic and immediate change is needed to survive and prosper.
Steve Blacker's book You Can't Fall Off The Floor - The Insiders' Guide to Re-Inventing Yourself and Your Career chronicles his 50 year career working for over 25 different companies with 189 lessons learned. Blacker is still going strong today as a partner in Frankfurt & Blacker Solutions, LLC. His web site is blacker-reinventions.com and e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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