The rise of social media has accelerated it to the point where it cannot be ignored. In fact, we’re at the place where it’s safe to say that for traditional media companies, online distribution is referral-driven. Broadcasters’ online strategies and tactics, therefore, need to be centered on this reality.
This paradigm shift is the scalpel with which mass media — broadcasting, newspapers, and the institution of journalism — is administering its own death by a thousand cuts. Our very future depends on how we respond, so let’s begin at the beginning and ask ourselves, what problem does media solve? The answer is communications between humans. Media companies of all stripes must continue their efforts to find profit and relevancy in what is by now an evolved space.
Nearly half of all local advertising dollars are going to Internet pureplays. And while big national companies such as Google, Yahoo, Reach Local, Groupon, Autotrader and Zillow might help local businesses target customers, most of that ad money is leaving the market and doing nothing to boost the local economy. By spending with local media — companies that pay taxes and employ local residents — businesses can help flow more cash into their local markets.
Mobile is unlike anything media companies have seen before, not just because of the new opportunities that portability brings, but because it levels the playing field between consumer and media professional. Because their is no “audience” for mobile Web, only participants, media companies need to devise a new approach. Terry Heaton: “Mobile news demands its own model, because mobile is its own form of media. It’s not an extension of the way we currently do things; it’s entirely new, because the consumers of news have exactly the same gear we in media have, and that creates a paradigm never seen before in the history of newsgathering or news making.”
The Web has made media’s simple business model — making content and selling advertising — very complex. Now, technology has made it possible for audiences to consume media content at their will, undermining the value of mass marketing. “In the network, it’s just not natural for the individual infrastructures of individual media companies to exist as they do offline. The net would rather go from author to reader directly, and that is something media companies just cannot abide,” Terry Heaton says.
Local media companies need to decentralize their digital ad efforts and put the control and technology in the hands of their local people, rather than rely on the “Industrial Age” practice of centralization, says Terry Heaton. “Centralized command-and-control groups amount to third-party ad networks, and what’s good for the network isn’t necessarily good for the local property. It doesn’t matter if such a structure is considered ‘best practices’ within the industry; it’s headed down a very long highway to inadequacy,” he says.
While broadcasting’s place in the marketing world is likely to be with us for a very long time, there’s no way it can sustain its current business for long. But most industry leaders are turning a blind eye to caution signs on the road ahead. Local broadcasters had an all-time record revenue year in 2012, and when one lives by the quarterly report, everything looks just fine. The newspaper collapse began with a record year, however, so that’s hardly a bellwether of comfort and joy.
Online, we live and breathe as part of a vast network, and the rules for everything here are different than they are for life outside. We lose both in terms of innovation and potential when we force the Web into the shrinking universe of analog living. Here are six concepts that should at least get you thinking about the wisdom of releasing control of our employees in a social media environment.
We’ve seen examples where stations have completely disconnected their marketing from their network’s because research revealed the connection to be poison to their local news credibility. Stations should be careful not to have their credibility dragged down by the national media.
Terry Heaton: “While I’ve always been a fan of community portals, I’ve been outspoken about letting the TV station keep its own brand-extension site, for the reasons Albritton is now stating. Local media companies need sites to which they can refer and have those sites associated with their brands. Community portals should be stand alone businesses, and it’s sad to see something as far along as TBD.com lose its hard-fought footing in trying to accomplish something it never should have been expected to accomplish in the first place.”