Eric Blais’ Rethinking Media: Re-Channeling

Eric Blais
Eric Blais

Before jumping into today’s topic, I must confess: In the month since the last Rethinking Media article, I’ve barely made a dent in my content stack, and have neutralized that progress by adding more content to be consumed when I get to it. (How’ve you done getting through your stack?)

Now, to today’s cut into our continuing exploration into the diffusion of innovation: Channels.

Recently, I read Derek Thompson’s Hit Makers: The Science of Popularity in an Age of Distraction. Thompson debunks the idea that content goes viral. Content, he writes, does not spread by contagion from one individual to the next. Rather, it spreads from one entity with a large network, a.k.a. a large audience, which it reaches through one or more channels.

Last month, I demonstrated that the volume of quality content has grown significantly. Today, I remind you that the number of broadcast channels has also exploded. Thanks to this dramatic increase in communication channels available to storytellers, audiences and marketers, the rules of diffusion have changed. A broadcaster of content in this mediatic age must choose among old standards like the printed word, billboards, radio and television, and among the World Wide Web, Mobile Applications, digital displays, and who-knows-what new platforms that emerge tomorrow, next year and next decade.

The Competitive Environment

So how do Canadian advertisers choose? What well-designed business model and media plan are they following to increasingly attract and sell audiences? Note that I refrained from using the word “retain” in that question. To rip a page out of Byron Sharp’s book, How Brands Grow, companies now need to actively attract audiences whether or not they’ve consumed the brand in the past.

How well are Canadian broadcast and media companies building and selling audiences in this mediatic environment? I ask because what has changed far too little during the content and channel explosions is the industry’s business model. Applying old business models, processes and sales methods in this new environment and expecting that to bear fruit is madness. Yet an industry professional recently said to me, “Yes, but we don’t sell that way.” Yes, but that’s my point. How many of our companies have lost audiences and advertising dollars to Facebook and Google? Let’s walk the question of media’s competitive environment through Porters Five Forces framework:

  • Competitive Rivalry – Very high. Coming from all platforms and channels, with cross-over into each other’s traditional territories. Case in point, Facebook recently got its first daytime Emmy nomination for Jada Pinkett Smith’s Red Table Talk.
  • Supplier Power – Low. Quality content is abundant, often even acquired in large quantities from consumers themselves at no cost to the company. That drives the cost of all content down.
  • Buyer Power – High. While the vast number of buyers means no single buyer or bloc of buyers holds sway, collectively, media consumers can affect business decisions and drive prices down. For example, Apple’s announcement of a price point for its streaming service that undercuts Disney, Netflix and others handed Disney’s and Netflix’s buyers power over pricing unlike any they ever had.
  • Threat of Substitution – Perilously high. People can easily switch platforms and channels, and have grown accustomed to shorter demands for their attention. Some platforms, like Netflix, even allow consumers to jump seamlessly from one device to another, seamlessly continuing to consume their content. No channel or platform can assume loyal retention as they might have in the past – not even for an hour.
  • Threat of New Entry – High. New channels are popping up every day, many of which have the advantage of being completely unregulated. Plus, we are nowhere near a plateau of platform development, and each new platform will sprout that many more channels.

Let’s agree to get clear about where our industry stands currently and to make that clarity a habit going forward. It’s the necessary foundation for designing an advantageous future for Canadian broadcasters. Only by strengthening its ability to design futures in which innovative ideas spread will the Canadian media industry thrive.

Contextual Solutions

I’ve established the role of quality content in media now that it’s abundant, and the value, when choosing content, of focusing on the audience. The same holds true for channels. With no scarcity of broadcast channels, a balanced plan of which to employ, and how, must begin with focusing on the consumers we strive to reach, the audience we seek to build.

Canadian media entities must find personalized contextual solutions for challenging environments, not one-size-fits all solutions, in order to successfully compete on this new landscape. For example, audiences – and therefore advertising needs – of a car dealership in Medicine Hat are very different from those of a flagship car dealership in Toronto. Additionally, internet access and over-the-air and cable broadcast choices vary greatly between those locales, so the platform and channel options also differ.

In search of contextual solutions, use design thinking to focus first on your audience. Predicated on empathy – walking around a bit in your neighbours’ proverbial shoes – a plan grounded in design thinking will value strong interview and conversational skills to unearth the needs of your customers. It will insist that you hone and use certain skills to glean key insights from what you’ve learned. It will offer methods and processes for adapting your decisions and products to meet the needs of your consumers.

Questions

How well do you know both the behaviour of your existing audience and the behaviour of your potential audience? How well do you know the business challenges of your existing clients and those of your potential clients? What communication channels do they use, why, when and how? Start by listening to learn about them. Once detailed answers to those questions emerge, then ask: How do we match our content, product and communication channels to reach our current and potential audiences and to meet their needs?

Have I channeled (sorry!) some of your own thoughts here? Has the article raised a topic of particular interest to you, or made an assertion with which you take issue? Let’s learn from each other and keep this discussion going. Connect with me at eblais@statsradio.com.


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