Tectonic Shifts in Digital Media

By Eleanor Haas

“Tectonic” – pertaining to changes in the earth’s
crust.  “Tectonic shift” was something
George Kliavkoff said at least three times in the course of his NYMIEG
interview on December 17th.  Probably
not surprising from the Chief Digital Officer at NBC Universal at this moment
in media history.  And those three were
only a few of many implied. 

The first shift he mentioned was the shift of media and
advertising to digital platforms as ROI becomes increasingly important to marketers.  At the moment, he commented, some pockets of
advertising will slow but overall, we can expect to see a flight to quality –
to premium content, such as NBC’s www.hulu.com. 

But Hulu itself seems to me to be a tectonic shift in
business models.  A joint venture between
NBC and FOX, the site delivers free streaming video content of hit television
shows to online viewers.  Doesn’t this run
the risk of cannibalizing the television shows and their revenue streams, he
was asked?  No way.  To the contrary, NBC has found this drives
incremental TV viewership later.  “Prime
time television viewers use mobile devices and online to catch up,” he

The magic sauce in the new world of content is making things
convenient and easy for customers.  It’s
all about making a great customer experience accessible to customers when and
where they want it and giving them choice. 
This is a tectonic shift Kliavkoff and others now take for granted, the
shift in power from seller to buyer.

Hulu’s ad model gives viewers an amazing choice.  Viewers choose between three to five
15-second interstitials and a pre-roll of a full movie trailer.  About half choose each.  Interesting.

To distribute its great shows widely enough to make them readily
accessible, Hulu made yet another radical decision:  be sure its content is where the viewers
are.  Give it to Yahoo, MSN and other
distribution partners but require that it be on the Hulu player with Hulu
advertising, straight off the Hulu server to maintain the integrity of the
business model and to protect the site from piracy.

Consistent with these shifts is the coming personalization
of local online programming.  A study I
conducted 12 years ago found that “everything points to personalization as
probably the single most important interactive marketing trend today.”  Forrester Research at the time was alerting
us to the expectation that personalization would redefine the web and was
something every site must prepare for. 

Kliavkoff predicts a wave of technology soon to come that
will enable web sites to personalize content quickly, making every visit more
relevant because viewers no longer have to contend with 90 percent to 95
percent of irrelevant pixels.  For this,
sites will have to share data and information while being polite about privacy,
he explained.  Behavioral targeting and
social networking are both part of this.

The iPhone, App store and Adroid represent
another tectonic shift with far-reaching implications.  These break through carrier control over
mobile content for the first time ever. 
As phones become an open platform and marketplace for premium content,
they become candidates for significant new mobile e-business models as well.  Lots more coming down the pike on this one;
it’s still early days

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