The future of media isn’t about technology or channels, it’s about delivering an experience.As I was sitting eating a couple of slices of authentically good mushroom pizza in New York, and reflecting on the panel discussion I heard earlier that morning at Ad Week on the “The Future of Media” (thanks for the invite Jon @Mediapost) I realized that content and technology are the wrong things to pay attention to – the future of media isn't technology or advertising, it's bringing exceptional experiences closer to normal people.
It wasn’t just the endorphins released by the pizza, but the things going on at the same time. In my quest for good Italian pizza, I just happened to wander past Grand Central to 3rd Avenue where there was a throng of cops, FBI agents and other protectors of the commonwealth ensuring stability, as the UN and Obama met to hash out the same old things. I wandering into a throng of Iranian demonstrators on the side sidewalk chanting “Hey, Ho, Ahmadinejad has to go!” and a small collection of Tibetans holding polite signs telling China to leave their country. They were eating pizza, too.
But it was actually seeing a picture of Neda, the woman who was shot and killed while peacefully protesting in Tehran, on one of their signs that jolted me – the media, including new technologies and crowd reporting, brought these people around a central topic of interest and made them closer to it - almost part of it. And when I say media, its TV, radio, print, Twitter, YouTube and every other technology and distribution channel.
The disruption that’s happening to ‘big media’ isn’t on content, it’s on speed of delivery. It’s not about print v. video, it's about personal experiences. It's not about any one technology, it's about how technology is becoming immersive and personal and connects people directly. It's still broadcast, but it's not mass market. Monetizing a special experience will continue to drive media, just as it's driven entertainment.
On the prestigious panel were Mark Cuban, Martha Stewart, Reid Hoffman and Judy McGrath the CEO of MTV. McGrath explained how they leveraged technology the MTV video music awards this year to actually increase their audience size as the program went on, due to the now famous Kanye incident. She saw people in the audience like Pink start Tweeting as soon as it happened. Videos were posted to YouTube immediately. New technologies have enabled the speed of the message (experiences happen in real time), and provided the appearance one-to-one personalization (individuals are now empowered to be their own broadcasters every media - text, video and audio).
Separately, Mark Cuban spoke about how the Internet and social media are mature from a platform perspective and there is nothing new going on. While that’s true technically, the adoption of technology across the mass market is different. He's kind of right, the Internet and social media were here a long time ago, but it's not connecting to the masses yet. But what he actually focused on is how cool the new Dallas Cowboys stadium's massive video screen is, and how that is the next platform that media companies should be looking at to deliver their content. That's super for the 10 $40M screens in the next 10 years, but isn't the near future. What he didn’t say explicitly, but described nonetheless, is that the immersive experience that the display creates / provides is a huge differentiator.
People want to be a part of experiences that don’t directly involve or even pertain to them. In another great presentation I saw at the IAB / MIXX conference by MeVIO, its founder Adam Curry, former MTV vee-jay, described the growth and success of MTV as bringing people closer to icons and rock stars (and brands). Commentary and interviews and simply video of stars performing, rather than just audio, was a new experience that fundamentally changed music. This is a diferent spin on the same thing - immersion and connection through media. You could even argue that the Beatles and Elvis on Ed Sullivan was the start of this connection, but MTV brought it to the masses 24 hour as day.
Not to say that the paparazzi and glamorization of celebrities is a ubiquitous goal, but sharing an experience in a way that enables us to have a deeper understanding and deeper comprehension of what it's like to be there is the key. Entertainment understands this, the challenge is for non-entertainment media to provide deep connections while being neutral, and monetizing their unique, special experience.
The more senses we immerse, the more we feel like we know it. It’s escapism just as much as it’s realism. We can’t be everywhere, we can’t be part of everything, but media will continue to get us closer and closer. If media can embrace this and deliver it better than individuals, people will pay for it. Bring them into a conflict, be part of a demonstration, eat lunch with a movie star. And that, delivered in an easy-to-consume format, is worth paying for, regardless of the technology or platform.
The Future of Media?
Maybe the world timeline of media looks like this, where media is both the creation / editing / delivery of content, entertainment, rumors, and news. Taking a look at the world, you can see different groups aspiring to move from one level to the next, and the historic events that shaped each step like the 1st amendment and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
- No information
- Word of mouth information
- Single source “official” information
- Multiple source “official” information
- Approved information
- Multi source, multi-channel information
- Too much information!
- Information I want to see only
- Recommended information
- Becoming part of the events that drive the information