A continuing debate rages on about the future of media and what it will look like. While at first it might appear this debate is only germane to people who work in the business, understanding trends in the industry and the shape of things to come is vital to anyone looking to proactively market their practice.
At the recently concluded Advertising Week festivities in New York, a number of well-known business executives were assembled to, among other things, discuss the media's future and how companies that want to capitalize on the trends will need to react. Executives included HDNet and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, National Public Radio's Vivian Schiller, Bob Garfield of Ad Age, LinkedIn chief Reid Hoffman, Susan Whiting of AC Nielsen, Rob Norman of the Group M Agency and publishing industry luminary Milton Glaser who, among other things, co-founded New York Magazine in 1968 -- widely considered to be the nation's first lifestyle publication.
Hoffman had one of the most keen insights of the entire panel, in my opinion, when he addressed the question of business models. In bringing up the fact that a business model isn't something that can be "slapped on" at the end of an idea, but rather has to be part of what he termed an "ecosystem" that encompasses development, distribution and other phases, be mentioned something most are scared to bring up. In essence, he's saying that we're too scared to reinvent something, no matter how much the word is tossed around in board rooms and business schools. Instead, what ends up happening is something from the "old world" gets slapped on top of the new, which more often than not creates dysfunction rather than viability.
A classic case is playing out right now in regard to the media. With each new media evolution, we're essentially depending on the same revenue model to pay for things rather than searching out new ways to match content, personal preferences and a new way to market it. Hoffman believes what really needs to happen is a more comprehensive look at how the entire system will function and pay for itself -- much like a new business does when founders create a business plan.
The overriding philosophy that came from the discussion is, at the end of the day, content still matters. No matter how fragmented the media audience becomes, no one is likely to tune in for marketing messages alone. Given that, it's imperative that both media outlets and the marketing industry embark on a new age of exploration. Without taking that step, the increasing fragmentation happening across the media landscape will only continue to destroy the critical mass necessary to produce -- and pay for -- quality content.