Mark Sherman: Media, get functional

The future of media and advertising is all about the ability of the legacy media to embrace and adapt to the changing digital landscape. Or not.

By Mark Sherman, founder and CEO of Media Experts and founder and executive chairman of etc.tv

The future of media and advertising is all about the ability of the legacy media to embrace and adapt to the changing digital landscape. Or not.

Mass media advertising is the engine of our economy and of popular culture, and as legacy mass media becomes less effective, we jeopardize the balance sheet of every company that relies on marcom to drive sales.

While the legacy business models crack, digital media struggles to find a model that sustains it. Google’s AdWords, the most successful and most rapidly growing business model in media history, was an accident – not the product of Page and Surin’s algorithmic genius, but of their fear of advertising and how that would ‘corrupt’ their user experience.

While Page and Surin’s ‘accident’ is getting an overabundance of credit in our naive, one-dimensional analytics, we are too often neglecting the important role of legacy media in bringing the consumer to the search box. Moving all our media investments online is not the solution, and while a great negotiating tactic (P&G), it is irresponsible. Our future may well lie in the ability of TV, newspaper, magazine, radio and OOH to adapt, by becoming ‘countable’ at the census level. Countability brings metrics, metrics bring analytics.

TV networks are morphing into content providers, moving to alternative channels like ’70s real estate investors flocking to the suburbs while the downtown crumbles. The cable and satellite operators don’t seem to realize that without renovating their infrastructure to accommodate advanced advertising functionality (the fuel that feeds the content, that feeds them subscribers), content will move (and is moving) to places that do allow advanced functionality and countability (the Internet). As that happens, these operators stand by watching the transformation of two subscription revenue streams, TV and Internet, into only one: Internet. They are unintentionally unbundling their own bundles!

Ironically, Google seems more interested in evolving the TV ecosystem to a data-driven, countable model than the stakeholders are. The operators are busy expanding the width of their Internet pipes to encourage the video over Internet experience (with no increase in revenue). This increased bandwidth makes TV viewable and countable online, but it also cannibalizes their legacy TV subscription revenue. Google’s interest is not in preserving the ecosystem but in conquering it. Google understands that TV needs to adapt. Those that should, don’t.

Mark’s pick: countable media

Google hears, and in its success has witnessed first-hand that business wants countability, craves data. Now Microsoft has followed its lead and bought interactive TV pioneer Navic, setting its sights firmly on advanced TV advertising functionality.

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