Age of Convergence: Media, Technology and Talent

One of the most exciting opportunities we face as marketers over the coming years is the getting to grips with media convergence. Although this idea has been around for a couple of years now thanks to Rebecca Lieb and Jeremiah Owyang and has been endlessly talked about by all in digital media circles it is only now that the mainstream is able to take advantage of it due to the fact that now two other important elements of converging for the future – technology and talent. However in some organisations this will be no easy ride and I predict many ownership struggles as we navigate this new world.

Media Convergence

It’s been 18 months since Altimeter’s first first report on Converged Media. The identification and explanation of the 3 types of media – Paid, Owned and Earned and the opportunities for their convergence.

At the time it seemed to me to be quite logical that due to technological innovation providing us with the social web and the business imperatives of survival for many of the mainstream media that the idea of converged media would rapidly be realised. However in reality, although many thought leadership pieces have been penned and presented on the topic many organisations on both the brand and media side have spent the last eighteen months thinking about what this development will mean for them and are only now beginning to change their organisational structures and product offerings to reflect this reality.

I believe in 2014 we will see converged media go mainstream. More than just a handful of leading global brands will see the opportunity in owned and sponsored media and will follow the leaders like, Coca Cola, American Express, Dell, RedBull and Ford in this area and take control of their owned properties and produce compelling content witch will inform, educate and entertain their stakeholder audiences. They will also become experts at not only producing this content but also promoting and amplifying this content to reach a relevant audience.

On the media side the native advertising opportunity will also go mainstream beyond the innovations of Forbes Brand Voice, Buzzfeed, Business Insider, The Atlantic. This is one of the developments I am most keen to follow in 2014 to see how the mainstream media like the New York Times and Washington Post go about rising to the challenge of declining print and traditional online banner advertising revenues with their own native advertising products. Every media organisation wants their own Forbes Brand voice, and why not when you look at the numbers that its Chief product officer Lewis Dvorkin released a few months ago. It now makes up 20% of all ad revenues at Forbes. The question for me will be will native advertising be democratised so that every organisation can take advantage of it or will it remain an option for only the super brands prepared to pay between $50,000 to $100,000 per month for access to the editorial CMS?

Technology Convergence

Technology is in convergence mode to meet this emerging need of organisations and marketers. 2013 saw significant activity with perhaps the biggest deal being Salesforce.com’s $2.5 billion acquisition of the email and marketing automation company Exact Target. This has created the Salesforce’s marketing cloud offering by combing the offerings of previous acquisitions such as social media management company Buddy Media and monitoring and analytics company Radian 6. Other significant deals have taken place such as Oracles acquisition of the marketing Automation provider Eloqua for $810 million and their smaller but no less significant acquisition of the content marketing vendor Compendium. I believe this is just the start of significant consolidation in the content marketing arena. The big software players will continue their aggressive M&A path whilst innovative companies like the content syndicators  Outbrain and Taboola and content marketing players like Contently and Newscred among many others continue to gain attention and thrive. Aside from the software giants I predict the content management players will get in on this party either through M&A or significant organic development in this area.

 Talent Convergence

As with all things business it doesn’t really matter how a market context or technology landscape changes, if the people and talent change does not support this then it is doomed to fail. The area of talent convergence is one of the most exciting and challenging areas of those in media, marketing and technology. For the media, the age old difficulty of finding equilibrium between the editorial and commercial will be ever more intense as the native advertising development continues and the church and state argument rages. Those not open to the new opportunities of sponsored or branded content, done in the right way will fail. Those who get the possibilities of this new era but want to rightly protect editorial quality for the benefit of their readers will succeed.

From a marketing perspective the battle will continue to be fought on both the agency and in house side. Earlier in 2013 Richard Edelman talked about the window of opportunity and ethical dilemas that PR agencies had in the sponsored content market. He outlined how Edeleman were recruiting media buyers and introduced an ethical framework for sponsored content.

Although Edeleman and a few others continue to do great things the entire PR industry has not fully embraced the native advertising opportunity. Most of the content and commentary I see has been from advertising agencies and their industry press and much of it has been less than inspiring, according to a recent research report by Sharethrough.

I believe if the story tellers of the PR industry adapt more to the native advertising opportunity then we will see more success in this area.

On the in-house side teams will continue to ask themselves the question do I have the right people on my bus. The need for talent in editorial content production, photo and video content, an understanding of marketing automation, data and analytics as well as a truly creative spirit will be continue to dominate. Those that will succeed will be the team that combine all of these but they are very rarely found in any one person. The biggest talent developments I see in 2014 is the creation of many more content positions with companies and an increasing partnership with journalists to provide branded content which is entertaining, informative and educational to all.

As media, technology and talent converge there is opportunity for all but in reality the old rules still apply. A good story, is still a good story, a headline and image is still what catches attention and relationships either between brand and consumer or more importantly generated by word of mouth via peer to peer conversations is what drives trust…and that has not changed in marketing since it was first born.

(Image via Adam L212 http://www.flickr.com/photos/lautenbach/492094946/)

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