Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Future of Media – And Lessons for Business

I had the pleasure of attending a Regional Business Outlook in Philadelphia put together by the Greater Philadelphia Senior Executives Group (GPSEG). The seminar was hosted by great Philadelphia news personality, Larry Kane, featured Executive Vice President of Comcast Corporation, David Cohen, and Gregory Osberg, Publisher and CEO of Philadelphia Media Network, which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer, the region’s top newspaper. The seminar’s discussion topic was ‘the future of media’. Gregory Osberg
Comcast is the top cable, internet, and voice carrier in many parts of the country, headquartered in Philadelphia, and the new owner of NBC Universal. The Philadelphia Inquirer, a superb local newspaper, is caught deep in the throws of the changing digital landscape and trying to hold on to a paying subscriber base.



I came away this great discussion with three big implications of the future of Media.
    1. The future of media is all about content - Content (the stories, shows, movies, news) is more important than the medium on which it is received. Developing strong and differentiated programming has challenged both these companies as the migration to newer delivery in digital formats has seemed to overshadow the need for compelling content. The acceleration of change in delivery options has led many content providers to lose focus.
      • For newspaper, this means staying close to local news, and never losing focus on in-depth investigative reporting on issues that matter to local consumers. Newspapers deliver the most in-depth stories possible and offer it in a mostly unbiased way. Greg Osberg finally led the Philadelphia Inquirer to dial back on national news, increasing emphasis on hard-hitting regional stories. While the newspaper “printing and distribution” model (unchanged since Ben Franklin’s days) has become less relevant now that breaking news is available around the clock, their strong writing and depth of local coverage cannot be found in any other way.
      • For cable companies, the TV subscription model is moving to internet delivered video content on newer devices like tablets and phones. Comcast struggles with declining cable subscriptions but has growing internet and phone services. Their huge investment to buy NBC allows them to migrate from, not only, owning the airwaves (and cables), to providing some of the biggest shows on TV.
    1. Consumers will continue to receive content in new ways. – Tablets, phones and interactivity continue to evolve at lightning speed. The ways in which the consumer gets their daily news and updates will continue to evolve. Mr. Cohen marveled at how everyone, including himself, thought that TV would be replaced by internet, but this never happened. We all know that while the number of devices we use to gain content increased, TV viewership never declined (confirmed by Nielson studies). As newspapers chased what appeared to be the explosion of new digital consumers, they gave the content away free, hoping the climbing advertising revenue would offset the decline in paid subscriptions. This never happened, and newspapers are having trouble getting subscribers back into a pay model. Mr. Osberg likened it to putting the “toothpaste back in the tube”. The Philadelphia Inquirer is now selling an Android-based tablet for $99 already loaded with the Web edition of the Inquirer – a great, innovative idea
    2. The Digital Gap is Leaving Some BehindThe transition to digital information and media is leaving portions of the population behind. Comcast has taken great strides in offering significantly discounted services to poorer families who are far less connected digitally. This initiative is now being taken up by the Federal Government. The future competitiveness of America is at stake.
    Implications for Marketers? Clearly, there are analogies to businesses that must reach out to consumers and customers by way of advertising. Content remains king – businesses need to stay focused on creating compelling stories that connect with their target. There has been a departure, over the past several years, from “compelling brand stories” to “facilitating conversations” -- making the idea of traditional brand differentiation and messaging seem old and tired. But tactics should not drive strategy. Just as The Philadelphia Inquirer lost its differentiation by jumping on the bandwagon to be just like New York Times, the company came to its senses with smarter leadership and a return to its core target. So, watch out – the latest gadget, channel, or social widget is no replacement for your core message and good old-fashioned selling throughout your organization. Make sure your message is accessible everywhere your consumer wants to see it, but never stop being different.

1 comment:

Jim Matorin said...


Thank you for sharing the key takeaways from your seminar. I would take #2 and add #2A: Yes, people will receive content in new ways via tablets, mobile, etc. and format (e.g., visual vs. printed word - Twitter), but receiving to me also means processing. We live in a world of clutter, a world of multi-tasking, consequently we all receive information differently. Some people skim and only go for the sound bytes. Others read and go deep. The end result is how much do we retain? That to me this is the ultimate measure of receiving.