The COVID-19 pandemic has sent shockwaves across the business landscape, forcing organizations and people to reinvent themselves and adopt new ways of communicating, working and socializing. It is painfully apparent that our new day-to-day perspectives and habits have accelerated the digital revolution and pulled us even further away from physical interactions. Even as we rebuild our daily lives with new hybrid routines, consumers’ new expectations and penchant for digital behaviors have ossified. Now facing long-term and permanent disruption, the mass adoption of digital is transforming every sector. But its effects are perhaps even more acutely felt in the media industry.
The year 2021 will be remembered for years to come as a metamorphosis for media, marked by exorbitant deal volume and unprecedented industry revolution. On a macro level, it is estimated the industry witnessed an estimated 410 M&A transactions during the year, hitting a milestone of $83 billion.
These eye-popping stats indicate the bold moves companies are making in building new capabilities that raise value propositions so they can attract consumers in 2022 and beyond. As media executives increasingly accept that evolution is required to enter the next generation of media, a burning question emerges: what does it take to successfully launch in this new territory?
I recently had the opportunity to sit down with friends, colleagues, and clients in the industry and discuss this question. And, it’s clear that executives will need to prioritize three vital processes in order to take their brands to the next level, including constant consumer evaluation, technological capabilities, and maintenance of content infrastructure at scale.
The consumer was, is, and will always be in charge
There is only one boss when it comes to winning in media: the customer. While this may sound a cliché, it doesn’t detract from the fundamental idea and its importance. Undoubtedly, media companies hoping to thrive in the next-generation brand universe must ensure they are continuously listening to, offering visibility to, and recognizing their audiences.
How does one start? First, go back to basics and dust off those demographic and psychographic studies: Who are they? Where do they come from? What do they desire? How do they feel about “X” or “Y” type of content? Let’s also remember generations evolve in waves as large-scale, ubiquitous events unfold, such as a global pandemic or climate crisis. These experiences impact how audiences perceive corporate values and align themselves with certain brands in their consumption of media.
The recent change in how content is delivered to the consumer is a great example of this evolution at play. Streaming has undoubtedly been a trending topic during the last decade but is it the right channel for everyone? For the long term, the short answer is yes. But, nevertheless, companies must be painstakingly careful with this transition because acceleration may not always be the right choice for your customers. After all, there are still key audiences and revenue streams tied to a linear network, which means the shift will have to be less accelerated and more incremental for some companies.
Tell me what technology you use and I’ll tell you who you are
When we talk about technology – not only in the media industry but in general – we know there is a wide range of possibilities. However, it is not always clear what technology is ideal for a specific brand or business.
Luckily, media executives and brand leaders can vet technology by listening to their target audiences. Let’s go back to streaming as an example. While all media companies are heading in a direction where digital streaming is the end goal, a brand’s life point will determine the pace of adoption and the elements needed.
For example, artificial intelligence is a tremendous resource and practical starting point for digital transformation, regardless of stage. Significantly, the media industry is committed to delivering the right content to the right person at the right time. AI helps us do that by generating customizable profiles and personalized experiences for each of our customers.
If you don’t do it, someone else will
We’ve all been inundated by an array of OTT platforms, with even cable and linear companies making big strides in this space. As a result, there is no shortage of options. New media executives are aware of the massive volume of competition and understand the pressure for reinvention at both the company level as well themselves as leaders.
When we talk about the new media executive, we are not only referring to a fresh-faced professional with out-of-the-box ideas. The new executive could very well be an industry vet. It’s more about the executive’s ideas and vision for the media industry that qualifies them as a new media leader.
Those executives just starting out should commit to understanding more about traditional structures and evaluate what will and will not persist. On the other hand, the professional with more time in the business will benefit from recognizing what worked five or 10 years ago is no longer relevant in 2022. In all cases, new media executives will continuously need to explore and embrace alternatives for the years ahead.
Once the need for constant reinvention is understood, the next step is to identify content infrastructures at a scale viable and resilient so companies can endure forthcoming disruptions to the industry. For instance, it is no longer enough to create a static two-year roadmap. Rather, the new media executive strives to build a next-generation brand and has the GPS set for 2032 and beyond. No matter what comes next, this strategy is flexible enough to navigate the twists and turns of consumer volatility.
The above is not written in stone, but it’s already a high-profile strategy in the shapeshifting media industry. Last year, Verizon sold AOL and Yahoo to Apollo for $5 billion. Similarly, Amazon contributed to M&A volume with its acquisition of MGM. Finally, IAC acquired Scripts for $2.7 billion. This movement underscores the importance of content infrastructure at scale and technological advantages – all driven by new expectations and behavioral changes in the way people receive, consume and share content.
In other words, the traditional notion of what a media company should be is being challenged, leaving one last important question hanging in the balance: Are you ready to take on the challenges in store for 2022 and beyond?