Apps Are Media

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This might take some time for brands to wrap their heads around.

Content is media.” This may feel like a turn of phrase, at this point. We have seen such a proliferation of content that the vast majority of brand created (and brand sponsored) content isn’t much more that an ad vaguely disguised as content (a wolf in sheep’s clothing, as it were). But, when I started writing about this idea that content is media (around 2004), it was taken with a massive dose of skepticism. Many industry luminaries thought it was way off. Advertising was paid placement, while content was the stuff that had to be earned. Their reasoning was quite simple: blogging is a powerful publishing platform, but most brands won’t take to it, and the value may not be there in a world of GRPs and massive paid advertising channels. Social media changed a lot of things. The early days (and success) of Facebook – as it broke free from the college crowd – was a massive indicator of what was to come for brands, building direct relationships with consumers, and the power of creating something more than a call-to-action in a space where real people were building real connections. While Facebook’s revenue from brands proved staggeringly impressive, it came at a cost. Facebook would no longer allow brands to connect with everyone who liked a brand page, they would now make brands pay to reach them. The logic (simplified) was two-fold:

  1. Facebook could turn a much more impressive profit (good for Facebook). 
  2. Brands may spend more time thinking about what they’re creating, instead of flooding the feeds with nonsense that might turn off people from the platform (good for users). 

As a business, Facebook made a shrewd move, and a profitable one. It also further validated that content is media.

Now, this is commonplace. Native advertising, brands building their own YouTube channels, and more. Content is media. With that, advertising still thrives. There is a new duality to marketing that brands are still adjusting to. It’s amazing to see brands create a compelling piece of video content, post it to YouTube and then allocate advertising dollars to that video, in the hopes that consumers will see it, and then shop the brand. If you think about that for a second, it’s staggering. Brands have – literally – added in a very complex and costly media component to an otherwise simple advertising structure. They’re doing so much more than “watch this ad, remember us, and buy our stuff.” 

Why apps are the new media.

There is no denying that mobile devices have become the consumer’s primary screen (as the PC has been relegated to an accessory device). We have all seen the stats on mobile traffic, mobile advertising, and where consumer’s time is now spent. The hottest platforms now (Snapchat, Instagram, etc…) are all mobile-first (meaning, the experience is fundamentally better on a mobile device than on the Web browser). Plus, these hottest platforms of the day were developed for mobile first (another huge, fascinating and powerful change). Marketing is a game of real estate (a topic I dug deep into while writing my second business book, CTRL ALT Delete, which was published in 2013). So, where is the real estate now? The home screen of our smartphones and tablets. For consumers, it’s becoming less about search and social media and much more about their apps. Especially the messaging apps (more on that here: The Many Ways Of WeChat: How Messaging Is Eating The World). Messaging apps are going to shift the attention away from social media, as apps within these apps will thrive (think about being able to grab an Uber or buy on Amazon in your messaging app). With that, brands are going to have to get better at creating engaging and utilitarian programs that thrive in a world where apps dominate over the Web browser, a search box and social media.

Brands are (not yet) up for this challenge.

Consumers have shifted. The “buy button” continues to be uncoupled from e-commerce sites, and is becoming embedded into everything from social media to messaging apps. Brands are still fumbling through responsive design initiatives, instead of building that mobile-first infrastructure, while everyone grapples to understand what advertising should really be on these smartphone and tablet screens (hint: display advertising is not the answer). So… and once again… here we are. Brands are faced with this challenge. One, where content is not just media, but the app is media as well. A huge opportunity has unfolded for brands.

Now, I am left wondering if you have any examples of brands who are getting this… and pushing things forward?