Traditional media companies are in a bit of an odd position these days. They have cash. And, despite the geek revolution that is Web 2.0, they are not exactly strapped for audiences – yet. Things are changing and they know it.
Print businesses aren’t doing so hot. Television audiences aren’t exactly loyal anymore. As a result, media companies are investing more dollars in their digital publications, hoping to replace lost advertising revenue. Sounds like that will solve all of their problems, right? Maybe not.
Let’s take a closer look. A good number of publishers do not own content. They license it from 3rd party vendors. Editorial staffs then take that content and pick what they feel is suitable for publication. Publishers that DO own content are getting it ripped off at ever increasing rates. Believe it, or not, this model has actually been fairly successful – until now.
The new model is media served a la carte. Video, text, audio, images, and even applications are being exposed via web services and widgets. People are no longer are satisfied with the “go-to” content model, instead demanding a “come to me” web. Where do people want their content to show up? Well they are spending more and more time with personalized aggregation sites like social networks, startpages, and blogs. To make matters more difficult, as production costs decrease more and more content is user generated.
Netvibes is a fantastic example of this new paradigm. With this hosted service, people can quickly assemble their favorite content from across the web using simple drag-and-drop tools Much of this content is user generated. I can grab photos from flickr, news from blogs, and articles from Wikipedia. Every morning in grad school, my buddy checked his sports news on ESPN, his mail on Yahoo, and news on CNN. Is it so crazy to think that, instead of visiting these three pages everyday, he might rather have all of his stuff on a single page.
This has some pretty serious implications for media companies banking on monetizing web sites subject to editorial processes. This model made sense when it was difficult to aggregate and filter content online. But, how long can this last with better tools like Netvibes, emerging that enable users to personalize best-of-breed content from around the web?
The good news for media companies is that all is not lost. Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft have now officially moved into the media game. Maybe it is time that the old guard strikes back. Just las Fox has managed to become a digital powerhouse through acquisition and investment over the last 14 months, other media companies can also invest in capabilities to fight the next generation platform wars like:
1. Tools for users to create content (slideshows, blogging)
2. Tools for users to share/assemble content (startpages)
3. Core web services (video, events, music, dating, games)
4. Cross platform distribution (mobile, web, television, desktop)
5. Open up to developers (yhoo, sourceforge)
So here is my quick takeaway for media companies. Snap out of the broadcast mentality. If you want to make it, think platform. Don’t deliver people canned content. Empower them to create, consume, and share media across the web. Good luck!