Free Content Is Killing Media (And Advertising)

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If people (this includes you) don’t start paying for content, we will see a lot of key media outlets go away… and this includes the digital ones.

That was the message yesterday delivered in the Newsweek article, Save The Media! The article was an interview with Sir Martin Sorrell (the Chief Executive Officer of WPP). Whether we’re talking about iPads, websites, Blogs or the future of newspapers and television, Sorrell knows and understands the landscape like few others. As the head of the largest advertising network in the world (over $72 billion per year), Sorrell and his team can quickly assess how the economy is rolling along and which media channels are performing best simply by looking at the production coming out of the many different types of advertising and communications agencies that they have within their portfolio.

By the sounds of this interview, things are going to have to change.

“The problem with the Internet is there’s so much of it. It’s highly fragmented, and most of it’s for free… Consumers must pay for content if they value it…Advertising-only models don’t work. There isn’t enough advertising to go around. Period,” says Sorrell in the Newsweek. What’s his recommended solution for this? It’s a three-pronged approach:

  1. Charge for content.
  2. Merge or close legacy media companies that can’t adapt.
  3. Give government subsidies to make up the rest.

The Huffington Post is not the future of media.

Ultimately, Sorrell feels like AOL overpaid for this property – especially considering that it’s just "an aggregator of other people’s content," and that if the general public has an appetite for quality journalism, it may well have to look towards the government to fund it. But, there’s something bigger happening here. Everything that Sorrell talks about is true in the traditional advertising and media model. The challenge is that we have to be ready (as an industry) to move beyond it. We have to be ready to accept that the marketing platforms are changing at a rapid pace and that the old ways of clunking media and advertising along may well be reaching its end in terms of captivating the digital channels (Web, mobile and touch).

It’s our traditional view of advertising that is holding us back… not the availability of free content.

What will truly move marketing, communications, advertising and media forward is rapid innovation (err… media hacking). We have to look for new revenue models that not only support the publishers but that add real value (and assets) to the brand advertisers. The truth is that we have not even begun to scratch the surface. Google AdWords has been a great start, but there has not been much in terms of new business models and innovation beyond that (AdWords launched in 2000 – eleven years ago). Most of the "cutting edge" online advertising we’re still seeing online, mobile and on tablets are very traditional, interruption-driven mechanisms that advertisers call "cute" and "interesting" at advertising conferences, but the consumers are simply annoyed, confused and bothered by (and yes, there are always exceptions to that rule).

There is value in paying for content.

People will pay for content (more on that here: Content Pays – December 2010), but it has to be more than valuable to them. Content in a digital world has to be something much more than a cursory piece of information that is consumed and discarded. Beyond that, media must innovate a whole lot more. We need more start-ups experimenting with newer advertising and revenue models and we need some of the more traditional media companies to stand-up to their own investors and plead for the flexibility to figure out a new world where content is primarily a zeroes and ones game. Subscribing to the notion that digital simply means copying and pasting traditional forms of content online (or reformatting it for a smartphone) is a huge mistake. Publishing in the digital world looks nothing like publishing in the traditional world.

Free content isn’t killing media. Traditional media mind–sets are killing media.


  1. You make some great points Mitch. I’m curious as to WHY traditional media isn’t already using new ways of using new media. Is it greed? Lack of innovative thinkers? Or just a case of head in the sand ostrich-itis?
    If I were a betting man, I would put my money on paid archives, paid high quality video and writing, and paid access to the best content creators, with free stuff still accounting for 80% of the information available.

  2. I certainly think that there is a case for paying for quality content, and would be prepared to do so for a fee that is correct. I pay for netflix, it’s an easy way to get good quality content.
    What I’m not prepared to do is pay $5 to the NYTimes, another $5 to the London Times and another to the Globe and Mail. That is not a fee model that will work.
    At the end of the day there will need to be different tiers of content. Premium content that is purchased either on a one-off or subscription model; sponsored content and free content. The quality will vary, but people will be free to choose what they are willing to pay for which kind of content.

  3. I couldn’t agree more. Customers DO pay for content when it’s truly valuable to them, as in it can create a measurable improvement in some area of their life. If they weren’t willing to do that, I’d be out of business like a lot of other people. What they don’t pay for is, shall we say, interesting content. Content that’s thought provoking and insightful but ultimately not game, or life, changing.
    When was the last time a news story or magazine feature truly gave you enough value to warrant the price you paid? When was the last time every bit of content in that publication warranted buying the whole thing?
    If people don’t value your content enough to pay for it, the problem is in your content, not their valuation. Expecting the consumer to adapt around you or the government to subsidize (seriously?) your failure to deliver value is a ridiculous statement out of anyone’s mouth, much less the CEO of WPP.
    What’s killing media isn’t free media, it’s bad media.

  4. 1. “The problem with the Internet is there’s so much of it”, says Sorell. I this is an outdated, old-media notion that asserts you create value by creating scarcity. New-media must create value by producing content that stands head-and-shoulders above the (free) crowd. If free content on the web is “just as good” as your content, you can’t justify charging a fee.
    2. The New York Times recently started charging for some of its digital content.
    NY Times chairman says, “The challenge now is to put a price on our work without walling ourselves off from the global network, to make sure we continue to engage with the widest possible audience.” My prediction is they’ll be successful charging for online content, though it may take a few tweaks to the formula.
    3. Canadian culture loves gov’t subsidies, ’nuff said.

  5. Traditional media is built around the concept of a copy and restricting distribution, but now media is built around the concept of access. The old media companies have to break their mindset, and stop protecting their limited, expensive, and last-century methods of distribution. Once they, and advertisers, start thinking in terms of providing better access to content appropriate models should emerge. As access becomes simpler (in no way meaning free or cheap), audiences gather, and content can find its value.

  6. The trouble with traditional media outlets is that there is too much bureaucracy. The bigger the company, the more decision makers are involved in the process of getting an idea approved.

  7. One of the world’s richest men, asking for government handouts so that his empire of ad agencies can compete with those pesky little bloggers. Priceless.
    I have another idea, Sir Martin: Why don’t the traditional media just raise their ad rates? Sure, you might have to downgrade your Bentley to a Camry, but well worth it, don’t you think?

  8. May opinion will be unpopular with most social media peoples. Free is killing not only media as we know it but creating a culture of let me see if I think your worth it before I pay you. Too often you hear people saying “if there was something worth paying for, I would pay”. I think there’s a bit of cart before the horse going on here and while it might feel like finally we’re in control not the corporations – we’re not. There are amazingly talented people working and contributing there talents to the web for free and they shouldn’t have to. It seems that the minute someone starts talking about making money for there content it begins; the ” if it’s worth it I’d pay.” I think it’s getting harder and harder for people to decide what’s worth it and what’s not. We’ve become so use to great free content that someone has to basically be able to give us the next Hamelt, explain the meaning of life, give us that million dollar idea and the plans to execute it, and or be told by a respected authority(bestseller list), before we are willing to even consider paying them for there time, art and craft. We’ve become a bit like the sleazy club owner who provides the venue for the talented and then after they kill themselves doing there thing we’re like “your great but theres a thousand of you out there so if you ain’t doing it for FREE you ain’t working here no more”. (Insert Huffington Post business model here)
    We’ve become a culture of something for nothing and are bar has been set so unrealistically high. While it may be true that some success stories may have started out doing things for free, ultimately this is not the norm nor will it ever be. Most of the free contributors will end up getting a “real job” so they can work for FREE – like most that live with the arts.
    What is great or good content and who decides? 
    While traditional Media might be missing the boat, so are we who profit and entertain are selves on a daily basses on someone elses dime. It’s a strange time we are living in and someone has to figure out how FREE can become paid before governments and big business throw there greedy legislating hats into the ring. Let’s not kid ourselves we humans have our nature and nothing in life worth have comes at no cost. 
    Just my 2 cents… oh and yes I do tend to ramble on lol
    Another great post Mitch.

  9. There’s a persistent myth that media companies used to charge for content and somehow got hoodwinked into “giving it away” on the net. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    Broadcast companies certainly have a long history of being advertising supported and print companies, while seemingly charging for “content” actually greatly subsidize print and distribution. In reality, “free” is a huge step up for them (especially magazines)because advertising is supporting their huge cover price deficits. Free Newspapers, of course, have been one of the big media success stories of the last decade.
    Why? Because consumers are worth more to advertisers than content is worth to consumers (in most cases). Anybody who ignores that fact will be undercut by someone else.
    Of course people would be willing to pay for content that they enjoy and is valuable, but why should they? It is both supply and demand that determine price, you can’t just look at one side of the equation.
    Is advertising a sustainable business model? Well, it’s done pretty well for the last 100 years or so and there seems to be no shortage content in sight.
    – Greg

  10. If Newsweek or the New York Times or any other outlet was clearly offering something no one else had then they could continue to monetize their model of scarcity. We would line up.
    The abundance of free does not equal a profusion of top quality but most people will take no charge good enough over fee based better than average. And with the battle for eyeballs and wallets increasing daily, offering the same thing the other guy offers won’t give you much leverage when trying to nail the Proctor & Gamble account.

  11. There are too many people out there offering free content for the media to charge a price and they know it. I think it is not only the advertising models that need re-invigorating (have we really not had a new good idea for 11 years?) but also the formatting. I think if using the internet became as easy as changing channels on the television, perhaps there could be a “bundling” model such as the cable providers. Or – some other model that we have never thought of, that would be simpler than searching, and safer for our kids.

  12. The problem with traditional media is two-fold: fear, and as Mitch pointed out, a lack of adaptation to a new mindset. That mindset makes them want to monetize in the same old ways. Think back to the early days of Internet radio. The big radio companies wouldn’t stream because they couldn’t figure out how to monetize, and they fell behind the smaller groups and stations who were willing to put their stream online for a wider audience.
    And then there’s fear. Fear of new things that might hurt them. They figure that if they ignore them and do business as usual, the Internet will go away. Well, they were wrong, and now they have to adapt or die.
    We need to look for creative ways of providing free content that is good enough to be backed up with ways of doing business. I’m not overly concerned about advertising dying. I’m not a big fan. We don’t want to be sold to, hence DVR, Satellite radio, pop up blockers, no call lists, and a decline in print subscriptions. We need to find new ways to sell that are more social and less ad driven.

  13. I can’t bring myself to point the finger at Sorrel for lobbying for government subsidies. He’s earned (or possibly usurped) his position of influence, and he’s using that influence to get the governmentt — any government — to give him billions of dollars for free. Who among us, if put in that position, wouldn’t do the same thing?
    That being said, I think any rational and unbiased person would agree that it’s innovation that’s lacking here, and government subsidies would inhibit innovation, not promote it. Creativity is borne out of constraints and boundaries, and in business, there’s nothing more constraining than money.
    It’s not that we aren’t trying to come up with creative solutions, it’s that this is a really difficult problem, and it’s taking time to wade through it. We don’t have historical models or tried-and-true methods to work with, so we’re making hypotheses, testing them, and adapting. Earth-shattering discoveries never happen overnight, but over the past decade we’ve seen a lot of trials, a lot of errors, and a lot of progress.
    I expect it’ll be a few years until enough of the unsustainable businesses give up and make room for the creative thinkers, but every dollar that the government gives to keep the old models afloat delays the new paradigm. And judging by the way the governments (Republican and Democrat, U.S. and E.U. alike) have handled crumbling paradigms lately, one can expect we’ll be waiting a long time for this particular Renaissance.

  14. I love it when someone with supposed knowledge of what has to happen is called out by someone that I feel has the real goods… i.e. Mitch. Thanks for another great post. I’m not smart enough to know all the answers but I know what I like and may have a propensity to pay for in the online world. I haven’t done print in over 5 years. I don’t mind a few ads, just ask me what I want to receive. Doesn’t seem that difficult.

  15. I agree with you, if you want to push people into paying for content you have to offer more than just a repurposed experience. It has to be something unique.
    You talk about Adwords, when I read about Google’s +1 affecting even Adwords I thought this could be the first attempt to renovate something that, as you mention, is way too old to be still innovative. Google understands that in 2011 advertising has to keep a social element, otherwise it will just get very old very soon.

  16. My research tells me that it’s a near-impossible shift. Why? Because they simply don’t create or sell the new form of media. As an example: a newspaper does not have the capabilities to build a Huffington Post. They don’t have the infrastructure to do so, and they don’t have a sales team that has sold the same products. In effect, it’s a completely new business… and not something they have “in their back pocket.”

  17. I’ll throw caution at being “a market of one.” My guess is that there are many people who would pay a fee to get content like The New York Times anywhere and everywhere they want it.

  18. THANK YOU for making this point! I agree 100%. It’s kind of like how the small towns are hating Walmart and wanting the government to not let Walmart come in to put the smaller businesses “out” of business. I too feel bad for the mom and pop shops, but people forget that Sam Walton and his empire were once a mom and pop shop too. He just got it right and figured out what people want. In my mind, he should (still) be rewarded for it until someone else figures out another model that outserves Walmart. The same goes for marketing and the internet. New models that SERVE people need to be created to replace the old ways of thinking.
    Very fresh. Thanks Joel.

  19. Part of the new business model failure is trying to create scarcity in a media platform that is driven by abundance. Figuring out a revenue model for abundance… that’s much more challenging.

  20. This is an interesting post Mitch. The internet has been lauded as a place we can all come together and share free content, free information. Open Source has been extremely popular and successful because of this. But now the tables are seemingly turning a bit. Is it because the ad industry is struggling to find a viable revenue model on the web, so they want to go the “traditional” route of charging for content on the web? Will that be acceptable to a generation of web users who are used to getting stuff for free, even if it’s valuable content? Not sure if this is the model.
    But I love the fact you brought up start-ups. They are lean and creative enough (not handcuffed by processes) to come up with a solution for creating a successful advertising model.
    Great post Mitch.

  21. They also have to move beyond the model of copying their content and pasting it online. A move towards more original digital publishing might help them shed some light on newer business models.

  22. One could also argue the opposite. Look at the many opportunities people now have to create content and then define both how big the true audience is and what they’re willing to pay for. Look no further the Apple app economy. While free is the teaser to get people to sample it, there are many fortunes to be made if the app finds its audience.

  23. Great post Mitch
    and another demonstration that it’s going to be difficult to switch from the Industrial Age – broadcasting type mindset to the new Collaborative Age mindset.
    Guys – the value of broadcasting intermediation is now close to zero. Don’t try to make a living there. Focus on where the value is. It’s not content. So many people create content for free today. It is how to search content, relate to content emotionally.
    Too bad for the dinosaurs of the previous Age!

  24. I’ll take this further and argue that advertising in the traditional spaces adds value and matches the media more than digital. What do we get online? Flashing, blinking, multiple messages, take-overs, pop-unders, layers… all things to get you away from the content instead of engaging you with it. Traditional advertising simply doesn’t disrupt as much as digital advertising does. The sad fact is, it doesn’t have to. Brands have done this well… it just means that others have to up their game.

  25. We pay to read the great authors and journalists: Malcolm Gladwell, Clay Shirky, etc… leveraging the online channels to compliment and supplement this type of content is a sure way to drive more value. The problem is that they made a choice to do the old “copy and paste”.
    You’ll note that this model works. Look at how Seth Godin, Tom Peters and Jeffrey Gitomer leverage digital to drive purchase in the more traditional media channels.

  26. Again, we should also agree that these are very different business models as well. These new business models often run in a different direction than the business is used to working with.

  27. What about a world where there are many types of media? What’s so wrong with that? Maybe newspapers simply do what they do (on a smaller scale due to more media choices) and the newer media choices do what they do? Just because newspapers made a ton of money in the past does not give them any rights to make that kind of money going forward. It’s incumbent on them to either decide to innovate or choose their lot in life.

  28. … or maybe not… we’re not sure yet. Maybe advertising needs to drive a message and the supporting marketing/experience has to be social? Let’s not all jump to the point where everything has to be social. Sometimes a message is perfectly suited if all it does is deliver a valued message.

  29. I often wonder if the content we get will change as we move more and more towards paywalls (which seems to be the case). Time will tell if people truly do have an appetite to pay for the content they truly want.

  30. Completely agree with that: copy and paste won’t work. There’s a very telling post by James Allworth on “Big Content” Is Strangling American Innovation The legacy media companies have little ,or no, incentive to develop a new business model. Instead they find it easier, and more lucrative, to defend the old model; using anachronistic copyright laws as their shield. Pandora’s CEO pointed it out in this post on paidContent: “The statutory damages clause (of copyright law) creates a moral hazard… It’s too attractive to sue. It’s a better business model than saying, I’ll partner with you and build a business”

  31. You bring up a great point Art. There is a huge amount of content and information available. One way to provide value, and earn revenue, is to be a highly regarded curator. And this is a key skill of editors and programmers that has not yet been fully tapped into. Curating, intelligent filtering, matches relevant content with the right audience at the right time. Of great worth not only to readers/viewers/listeners, but also to advertisers.

  32. True, but there is the need to adapt. Thankfully I’m seeing a bit more from a few newspaper sites, yet I’m still not sure they have learned how to monetize it.
    I certainly don’t think bailouts are the answer. Let’s move forward and see how it shakes out on its own!

  33. Perhaps if traditional media had not lost sight of the primary objective-the delivery of information and entertainment- they would not find it so hard to adapt. In support of the Brands-and profit-they have driven our consumer habits through limited choice and availability, inundated us with advertising and made us pay for it too. We have entered the age of the consumer. Right On Brother! The bar has been raised. Quality content is worth paying for-always has been and indeed is being paid for right now through one means or another-permission for example. What that looks like and how successful any given provider proves to be will continue to evolve driven by consumer choice. The model has changed but the primary objective has not. The tables have turned. As a consolation may I offer my extensive music collection-on vinyl, 8 track, cassette and CD.

  34. We’re glad to pay for new knowledge or insight, but we aren’t willing to pay for information that we can just as easily learn through our social channels.
    I wouldn’t pay to find out there was an earthquake somewhere in the world, but I might pay to find out how to earthquake proof my house or protect myself during an earthquake or even which insurance company has the best earthquake coverage.
    I also might happily pay for columnists that provide deeper insight and educate me on a topic that I’m interested in.

  35. A familiar revenue model for abundance is helping users navigate through the vast ocean of content to find what they want, … but that’s a technology business (Google) rather than a publishing business.

  36. Agreed… but adapting is something very different from a complete reinvention and I think this is where these publishers are really stuck. It’s not about adapting the business model… its about starting over.

  37. Unique by itself isn’t enough. Content has to be relevant and provide value beyond uniqueness. The market does a pretty good job of filtering what has value and what doesn’t. But the content creator also has some responsibility – to find their market, as you’re doing, Mitch, and Jeffrey and Seth and countless others. (I’m glad you do — I dutifully repost you blog at every chance!)
    It serves no interest other than the status quo (ie, Martin Sorrell’s empire) to have the government deciding which media provides value. To suggest that the government make these choices for us, through subsidies, is self-serving, insulting and I believe destructive.

  38. If Mr. Sorrell wasn’t the CEO of a company with over 2,400 offices valued at $72B, what else do you think he would say about the value of content? Do you think his stakeholders are asking him to promote traditional models until the consumer gives in?

  39. It is hard not to smirk at the idea that the Internet has too much “free content” and that there is not enough advertising out there to support it. Many of us (perhaps not as well as you, Mitch) provide content that is free not only out of a sense of community but for obvious business reasons. Advertising is not part of the equation beyond our own brand building. Of course, not all of our content is free and our tendency to give it away is only a problem if we starve as a consequence.
    A cynical person would still point out, I guess, that if one person gives it away for free other people will have a hard time monetizing similar information. That is ultimately the bind that newspapers got into when they copied their offline paper onto the new media. But the reality is that most newspapers are “local” aggregators so moving them online was always at odds with this original function. The NY Times is one of a small number of papers that can, perhaps, claim to do more.
    Ultimately, Sorrell is raising the fear that if content can’t be monetized, by which he really means news, that somehow our society and perhaps even our democracy are threatened. I understand the concern but I think what we are witnessing is a change or decline of the medium not a decline in the availability of ideas. We should not confuse one with the other.

  40. People will go where the content is regardless if it is free or paid, but it must be relevant, accessible and good quality. Much of new media is about collaboration, education, to inform and share. Would you use those words to describe traditional media? Which one would you rather be a part of? I think it’s clear the people have made their choice. Many traditional and familiar business models have changed or no longer work for numerous reasons. All empires eventually adapt or fall/fail, maybe it is WPP’s time.

  41. The link between advertising, paid content, and good information is interesting.
    But I wonder if what people really want is just going back to the basics: read and pay for interesting in depth features, and stop being fed with pointless unverified badly written opinion pieces.
    What about a media (paper, magazine, etc) that is traditional (paper) with a hint of digital (blog version of the media), ad free (the blog and the magazine are totally free of ad), offers long investigations (good quality journalism), and pays journalists very well. sounds impossible? well there is actually one successful example in france.
    The newspapers there are all suffering big time – journalists retrenchments, failure of new model of paid contents, etc. But there is one example that has wowed a lot of people. There is this magazine called XXI, it’s 200 pages of long investigations, reportages, etc (some run on 5 pages), it’s totally ad free, it costs 15 euros (12 dollars), it’s released every three months, it has a blog version with some different stories from the magazine. It’s distributed through a bookshops network. and it pays its freelance journalists very well. The model works so well (35000 copies per new issue), that every three months they have to reprint the magazine.
    Readers say they buy it because they are tired of boring free information you find on the internet. They say they’d rather pay for high quality work, even if it’s 15 euros, because they dont want to read website like the huffington post that are only news agregators. They want substance and old fashioned journalism, where the journalist actually goes further than the coffee machine of his office. They want real field work, colourful and thoroughly investigated topics. They are basically happy to pay for high quality stories.
    Maybe that what lack in the newspaper industry. Maybe they should stop hiring marketing people and agencies who are the one to make big bucks, and redirect budgets to their journalists who would be given good conditions to run long investigations that would satisfy readers and make them wanna pay for it, whether it’s online or on a hard copy.
    Who would pay for bad journalism? and unfortunately most newspapers, even the most famous, provide lots of rubbish.

  42. Great point Daniel! (And great post Mitch)
    The problem I see with “traditional media” is the whole idea that content is just articles, information & shows, etc. What we need to do is change the idea/perception of what content is & broaden it.
    I would argue that games like Zynga’s Farmville & Cityville are content & consumers have clearly shown that they are willing to pay for THAT content.

  43. I completely agree that the past financial success of newspapers et al doesn’t entitle them to anything… but in this culture of bailouts, I don’t blame them for trying!
    I used a lot of silly buzzwords like “paradigm” and “Renaissance” because these companies are in the midst of a very difficult transition, but really nothing has changed about their consumers’ needs. People pay for products and services they can’t (or lack the time to) do or make themselves. Newspapers used to have something the average person couldn’t get on his/her own, but that’s no longer the case.
    So free content can’t be killing media because free content IS media (one form of it), and news and ad agencies are as welcome as anyone else to use it. Likewise, free content isn’t killing advertising — it’s superseding traditional advertising because it’s cheaper and more targeted. Media and advertising are thriving, they just look different than they used to.

  44. So there are a million comments on this post already and I’m pushed to the basement but there are are so many things wrong with this thinking Mitch I’m kind of shocked you wrote it and dismayed there hasn’t been more critical thinking applied here. by the other commenters.
    You suggest that we just need to get more creative with revenue models. Well, since people have been in this free content mode for 15 years now, don’t you think SOMETHING other than Google Adwords would have surfaced by now? The system is broken — painfully, chronically broken — and it’s not a matter of out-innovating somebody else.
    It is impossible to create a scaricity of content because abundance is foisted upon us through illict sharing. We need to take a much broader view of content here. Not just news, but music, art … anything that is published. When a musician can have their works brodacast for free at will, how is scarcity possible, even if that musician is the nex Mozart? Even in the case of the New York Times, it is imporssible to “privatize” their content when so many people are set on disrupting the model and breaking the system. The content will always be free and abundant for those willing to look for it.
    You are over-simplifying a very complicated topic by simply suggesting we need creative new revenue models. What model is robust enough to survive de facto abundance?
    A huge topic. Thanks for the thgouht-provoking post.

  45. I’m fine starting with the over-simplification. The drive to ideation came from the three thoughts that Sir Martin brought forward – all of which didn’t really strike me as being all that innovative.
    It’s hard to find the words to clearly bring this thought out, but I often wonder why media companies feel that innovation comes from simply digitizing and monetizing their existing model? I also wonder why – if they are truly media or publishing companies – they are never the ones to develop platforms like YouTube, Craigslist or Twitter? Isn’t that really the new publishing? Shouldn’t they have a grasp on how their industry is changing and evolving?
    The only way we create new revenue models is by creating new business models. I think that’s the biggest challenge… and, if we had the answer to that, we’d be the next biggest VC company or the next Facebook.

  46. Simply put the prevalence of digital media will force the content to evolve. The consumer needs to see more value in what they pay for than what they are currently consuming for free. If a 10 year old can produce better content on YouTube than what can be found on primetime is that the kid’s fault? Do we subsidize networks so they can compete with youtube?
    I think what people are grappling with is the fact that technology has put the ability
    to create media into the hands of everyone and it’s now up to the pros to differentiate themselves from the free content creators. Doesn’t matter the media. If it’s excellent content written on a rock… I’d likely buy the rock.

  47. Advertising is content too.
    I have worked at a newspaper in the advertising dept for over 20 years. I seen us go from type-writers and pasted ads to computers and digital ads. We’re adapting by using some of the new social medias to help our clients advertise, though we have a lot of baggage. From our declining print revenues, to declining print readership, to increased print production costs and grandfathered human resources costs, we have redefined our success by our slowing of failure. In advertising, we are advocating ways for our clients to moneytize their online ventures by promoting them through our mass media and our online sites. What we are finding is that our clients aren’t sure how to use these new digital vehicles. Everyone is trying to sell them on the benefits of their social media tool. It just makes them want to go back to the old medias that they are familiar with. At my newspaper, we are trying to get them to try something, a QR code, blogging, streaming video, social networks, business networks, video, wikis, livecasting, social commerce, social streaming, etc and advertise these in their ads as well as their featured offer. Anything to get them to connect with their prosumer and consumer. Some are doing it, though few and far between. There are less an less people walking into their stores and with more and more buying online with free delivery.

  48. agreed it is up to media to create some thing of value that people are willing to pay for.They could take some great examples from the gaming industry It obviously remains to be seen if Huffington post is the way of the future BUT media companies like the UK Times newspaper are not doing themselves any favors as since they have begun charing their online visits have significantly reduced.Maybe there’s a lesson to be learnt there.

  49. I’ve got a fundamental question. The starting point of this conversation is that Sir Martin Sorrell says media industries are in financial trouble. Well, Sir Martin is in te media industry… is HE in financial trouble? Has he missed a few house payments? Had to take a second job so he can keep working at WPP?
    I would guess not. I would guess that by real-people standards, Sir Martin is what most of us would regard as stinking rich.
    And while there certainly may be other problems with media-industry revenue models, we can’t overlook the fact that this is one of them. It’s not that there isn’t a lot of money flowing through the industry. It’s that, as is the case in many modern enterprises, a disproportionate share of that revenue is being siphoned off by a handful of people in the C-suite, leaving those who actually do the work of generating the content with a shrinking standard of living.

  50. Sorrell, the man with too many consonants, has in his life never written a headline, done a layout, invented a campaign, made a concept, he’s not even been a client handler, he was Saatchi brothers book keeper. One of the few economically important persons who looks like he is: stupid. In fact what difference do 40 mio $ make at the Times ?

  51. “…if they are truly media or publishing companies – they are never the ones to develop platforms like YouTube, Craigslist or Twitter? Isn’t that really the new publishing? Shouldn’t they have a grasp on how their industry is changing and evolving?”
    Guy Kawasaki talks about how the ice harvesters of the late 1800’s failed to become the modern refrigeration companies of the 20th century. The same could be said about how personal computers didn’t evolve from mainframes. Every new technology has been “poo poo’d” by the ones who are being replaced.
    It also reminds me of the industry I’m currently in, the Yellow Page industry. Search – especially Google search – is in a position to topple print Yellow pages as the preferred medium that consumers use to search for local business information. Google started out in a garage in Menlo Park, CA, with a measly $100,000 of investment capital. With all of the capital and resources at their disposal, the AT&Ts and Verizions should have been Google.
    I was a web designer and my business partner was a web developer. I could have been Mark Zuckerberg. When it comes to new technology, “innovate or die” seems to be the reality we all face.

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