Is Big Media Dying...or Is It Reinventing?
By: Daniel Burrus, CEO of Burrus Research
It seems that almost daily we hear another report that big media is dying thanks to the Internet. Radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and even local television stations are struggling, and many are predicting their demise. If you were to look at the balance sheets of these companies, you might even agree.
But before we order the tombstone, let’s consider something: Perhaps it’s not time for media to die, but rather to reinvent itself.Realize that in the twenty-first century, the one and only thing any industry can depend on is transformation. This means you can’t go backward, and you can’t stand still; you can’t keep doing what you’ve always done, even if you do your best to keep doing it better. The only way to survive, let alone thrive, is to continuously reinvent and redefine.
What should media reinvent and redefine? Three key things.
1. Reinvent Media Itself
In this world of smart phones and tablets becoming our primary computer, are mainframe computers dead? The answer is no. We’re still using mainframes. Of course, we’re not using them the same way that we did in the 1980s or even in early 2000. The mainframes of today are more like super-servers. But they certainly didn’t go away.
The point is that when new technology emerges, we tend to think that the old technology is completely dead, but that usually isn’t the case. Rather, the old technology gets repurposed and integrated to add value to the future.
Let’s look at radio as an example. Many people call radio "old media,” but I would challenge that and say it’s timeless media. Today, a radio station can have a website, which allows them to have video, interactivity, contests, and all sorts of things they couldn’t have done in the past.
Not only that, but in the past you needed to buy a radio. Not so anymore. Your TV, computer, and even smart phone can be a radio. It’s no longer a physical device; rather, it’s audio-sponsored content that can be delivered anywhere, at any time.
So is radio dead? No. It’s simply being reinvented. One of the keys to reinventing—whether it’s radio, print, television, or local news—is to not deny where the future is going, but to embrace it. At the same time, you need to look at how to bring the best of the past forward.
Therefore, a good question big media needs to ask is, "What are the elements of the past that are vital for us to bring into the future?” But remember, you can’t take everything—just the things that are essential for success. Then it’s about looking at how you can take those essential elements from the past and leverage them in new ways.
2. Reinvent Media Marketing
For media to thrive in the future, it’s imperative that it have an integrated approach. That is true for media marketing, as well. One of the reasons ad dollars are falling for newspapers, as well as traditional media, is that they don’t fully understand the new realities of marketing. Two key shifts are taking place that media companies can no longer ignore.
First, media and marketing have always been about storytelling. Advertisers have a story to tell, and the media is there to help tell it. Today, however, media and marketing go beyond mere storytelling; now it’s about storytelling and dialogue. That’s why social media’s so popular. It’s not about the word "media”; it’s about the word "social.”
Unfortunately, we have community newspapers, television, radio, and news programs that are failing to build community through activity, engagement, and dialogue. Yes, they have a website, but for the most part they are static sites that are not engaging.
So in order to move forward, big media needs to focus not just on the story, but also on the dialogue. When you add dialogue, you’re moving from the information age (where so many media companies started) to the communication age (where the audience is now).
Second, when we look at our traditional media players that are trying to sell advertising, they are still using the old model of media-specific ads: Radio ads just for radio, TV ads just for TV, and print ads just for print. But if you want to serve your customers well these days, you need to think in terms of a media neutral ad. Why? Because it’s not about siloed media anymore; it’s about the integrated use of media. The sooner media salespeople embrace this concept, the sooner their sales will rise.
For example, someone selling newspaper ads can no longer just focus on making that print ad sale. A better approach is to say to the customer, "I’m suggesting you take an integrated approach to your advertising. I’m here today not as a newspaper ad salesperson, but as your trusted advisor. And I’m going to help you to see how integrating newspaper, web, mobility, social, and radio advertising will give you better results.”
This approach works because we’re shifting from a transaction to a relationship. It used to be about "how many transactions can I get?” Today it’s about developing long-term relationships that span price, time, and the competition. Building this kind of relationship requires a high level of trust.
To get higher levels of trust, focusing on the customer and educating them on the integrated approach to advertising is key. This is how media salespeople can get away from being transaction-centric to becoming the trusted advisor.
When sales reps become trusted advisors who truly serve customers and think in terms of an integrated approach, they’ll see there’s more opportunity to serve customers than ever before. Old media will no longer be seen as old media, but rather as more relevant media because salespeople are using new ways to create value.
3. Reinvent Media Results
Finally, marketing used to be about consumer reach—about how many people you could get to see or hear your ad. As such, many companies would do national ads so they could reach more people, knowing that a certain percent will be interested in the product or service.
Today, I don’t just want consumer reach. What I want, and what is even more important, is consumer engagement. In other words, it’s about getting people to take immediate action. How can I get them to take part in the ad? How can I get them to become the ad? We saw this done with Super Bowl ads, where companies got customers to create the ad they aired during the Super Bowl. That’s just one way to get engagement. Engagement can happen in many different ways, over and over again.
Additionally, companies used to have unknown customers. Advertisers would place multiple ads with the hopes of increasing sales. But today we can actually know who is clicking on our ads, buying our products, and even talking about us online.
Because we have more ways of knowing who’s responding and engaging with us, tracking results is easier. We used to have hard-to-measure results, and much of it was based on averages. But now, thanks to the digital world, it’s easy to measure exact results and get them in real time.
This engagement factor is ushering in another shift in advertising. Whereas we used to pay for services (pay for someone to run the ad), we’re now able to pay for results (pay for the number of people who take action on the ad). Unfortunately, many media companies are reluctant to embrace this new model. But those who do will certainly cause a revolution.
The Reinvention Imperative
Ultimately, this is about reinventing how various media outlets work at all levels. After all, the old doesn’t always go away; often, it gets repurposed into the new. So let’s forget the concept of big media versus the Internet. It’s really big media and the Internet. It’s not an either/or world; it’s a both/and world. It’s about taking the best of our past and leveraging it in new ways into the future. Remember, if it can be done, it will be done. And if you don’t do it, someone else will.
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