Get ready for the Amazonification of media


Troy Young DIS 2018 ()


In media, the “retching changes” that hit the newspaper business more than ten years ago are cascading across all media and it’s fundamentally changing the way publishing companies look to develop and capitalise on new revenue opportunities. Fundamental to this is how the digital world has changed the distribution of content, said Troy Young, Global President, Hearst Digital Media, USA, during his opening address at the Digital Innovation Summit in Berlin.

Young explained that a solid understanding of the forces at the heart of digital disruption provides answers to the challenges of the future. “We need to ask ourselves: what are the real forces beneath disruption? The answer is pretty simple. The internet has undermined proprietary distribution networks as well as the stability and profits that come along with it. At the same time it democratised content creation opening competition for attention from anyone with a mobile device. Global platforms, which enable communication across these networks, have upended advertising markets with granular data sets and global consistency.” 

While opportunities to reach larger audiences increased, such as with Facebook’s Newsfeed, which “provides an extraordinary way to market content”, Young warned that “partners like these” (Facebook) remain unreliable for building a real media businesses. More importantly, “fighting for air in the Facebook feed has eroded our differences. In the feed we are starting to look more and more alike. This is the death nail for media.”

Troy Young DIS 2018 slide ()

Where, in the pre-digital system of distribution, it was possible for titles to co-exist – even when they were very similar – it is not possible anymore. Today media brands need to differentiate if they want to survive. “Voice, trust and point of view differentiates. Deep deep expertise differentiates. Great service content differentiates. Local content differentiates. The best media brands stand alone in the minds of the consumer: The New Yorker, Cosmopolitan, The New York Times, even the Daily Mail. These are brands that understand how to feed a need with distinction.”

In the process publishers are forced to really deeply understand their consumers. “The internet forced (successful) brands to be much sharper in how they create content in a unique voice.“

As for advertising, Young predicts that we are witnessing the death of industrial marketing. “Everything is faster now.” He references the fact that products can get delivered to your office or home at the press of a button – or that endless entertainment options are available on mobile devices. 

In this world of immediacy the complexities of industrial marketing – even with programmatic advertising – are time consuming, cumbersome, ineffective and excludes the most important thing: optimisation and fine-tuning. “The complexity (of industrial marketing) was OK in the world of proprietary supply chains of tightly controlled distribution environments and TV advertising. But it’s not going to work anymore… Consumer categories are shifting to brands built on direct customer relationships and agile supply chains, flexible enough to serve consumer needs as they evolve.”

To perform well within this sphere publishers need to understand the art of creating desire, and linking it directly to selling. Ultimately publishers need to help clients sell, said Young. “We need to help them understand what sells, who buys and why. The difference between context and audience, and brand and performance, is disappearing. We can either embrace this or die, and more than anyone in this ecosystem Amazon is accelerating this change.” 

Young said Amazon means one thing to him: Close loops. “Never before in media have we been able to clearly see the connection between inspiration and action.” This should be an inspiration for media and “a rally cry for change. Lifestyle media has always been relevant to marketers because it provides inspiration – and buying advice. Amazon is forcing us to close these loops. This is the Amazonification of media.

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