A Future for Media: Content, Community and Commerce

Seems to me there are two schools of thought doing the rounds in media companies boardrooms today. The first school laments the fact that digital dimes will never be turned into print dollars and sees a future of cost cutting, editorial decay and are desperately coming to terms with the fact they no longer have the skill sets to compete. The other more positive school see this as the most exciting time to be in a media business. I concur with the latter. I believe silicon valley’s Marc Andreessen had it exactly right when he said , referring to the digital and social revolution which has disrupted any media company’s power of distribution and format,

“Right now everyone is obsessed with slumping prices, but ultimately, the most important dynamic is… increasing volume. Here’s why: Market size equals destiny. The big opportunity for the news industry in the next five to 10 years is to increase its market size 100x AND drop prices 10X. Become larger and much more important in the process”.

I also believe his observations regarding business models were on the money too. A media company future proofed for a long existence would have to combine a mixture of advertising, subscription, premium content, physical events, cross-media, crowd funding, micro-payments and philanthropy in order to see a profitable future. Another very smart technology investor inspired me recently with her take on reimagining an industry vertical and that was one Mary Meeker. On slide 55 of her extensive 2014 Internet Trends presentation she offered what I believe is a recipe for success for all Vertical B2B media brands. The three vital elements are combining content, community and commerce.

[slideshare id=35210772&doc= internettrends2014-052814-pdf-140528064345-phpapp02]


1. Content

Provided by Consumers and Pros

Content has has will always remain king in media. We can worry about the funding and business models that will support quality journalism going forward but one thing is for sure demand for this will be increasing. Particularly as we are fed increasing click-bait headlines and listicles from the likes of Buzzfeed, Upworthy  and their new media peers. B2B media has always been driven by a thirst for knowledge on a particular industry vertical or just plain and simple industry gossip. This demand will only increase. However I believe we need to see content in a new context. It does not have to be our own content that we create but those who have the ability to curate relevant content and put it into context using the best design and UX will be the winners at this game. Meeker used the example of Houzz, the media for home decoration whose content efforts include curating over 3 million inspirational photos of home design as well as over 10,000 articles and guides which aim to become the wikipedia of home decoration. A new less egotistic and owned view of content will be needed to survive but quality journalism will still be appreciated as ever it was. Importantly I feel the editors or subject matter experts will still provide the driving force in any team which will now need to be combined with design/UX, technology and commercial skills to ensure that content reaches its potential.

2. Community

Context and Connectivity created by and for Users

Ever since B2B media has existed it has classified its audiences into two groups, subscribers and advertisers. That needs to change and media owners need to see the customers that they are serving as a community of buyers and sellers who need each other the survive. How can the media outlet showcase industry and individual services through either portfolios or reviews and how can they provide support and advice through initiating discussions on their platform. Copying the Facebook or Linkedin playbook would be one way to succeed. Niche social networks are the next wave of social. Just look at the likes of Fishbrain for keen fishermen or Vivino for wine drinkers. The question for media companies will be do they create or buy a niche social network. There is bound to be one out there in your space and the community you already have in your paper, site, newsletter or app are just waiting to be unleashed.

3. Commerce

Products Tagged and Ingested for Seamless Purchase

The final piece of the game will be to introduce commerce into the equation. Now for the consumer media plays this is quite simple. Offer a place to discover and purchase great products, plugin the E-Commerce channel and simply track the user journey to purchase. In the B2B world this will be a little more challenging but with the advent of marketing automation and content marketing to drive qualified and engaged leads, together with the opportunities that sponsored content / native advertising gives todays B2B marketer those media that get this right will no longer be selling demographics and distribution but a real value add on the purchase journey – something that will be bring the customers back time and time again.

Before we leave Meeker’s findings there is just one final slide I want to share with you and that focuses on the importance of the visual/video led web and the impact of mobile. For those B2B media owners that thought they needed a digital first strategy, forget it…you are too late. Now it’s time for the mobile and image/video first strategy in order to survive.

Screen Shot 2014-06-08 at 22.19.12

So the effective mix of content, community and commerce in a mobile and image/video led environment will be the secret of success of todays and tomorrow B2B media. And of course technology will be the asset that needs to be developed to unleash the potential of all three elements so todays media company better have as many developers and UX experts as they have had journalists and advertising sales people in the past. This is the change that I fear will take the longest. For years at media companies technology has been seen as a cost to be minimised instead of an asset to be exploited.  For those that manage to transition the talent base their in their existing organisations or create the right team in a new organisation there has never been a more exciting time  or more opportunities to be in the media game.

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