Ever been to Las Vegas’ renown buffets? The piles of crab legs, the omelette station that can make you a 6-lb. omelette, endless waffles, the potential for at-your-table flambés? That my friends is a great analogy of today’s media landscape.
I come from “traditional”/linear media: television. One in which most programs are paid for by a network, produced by a company, ads sold by an ad sales group, and watched by those with cable service. On our buffet think of this as the traditional American eggs, bacon, hash browns and toast section – it’s filling, it’s known and thus easy to navigate, and it’s delicious! But in a world of gluten-free, organic, vegan, Atkins, world cuisine – this “traditional” section is losing its top spot in the media world. Why?
The world is shifting to a “snackable menu” mentality.
My son is a perfect example. He hasn’t watched cable-based TV in a long time. The OTT outlets (Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.) are 40% of his diet – places he gets the specific shows he can binge on. Another 40% are MCN’s (YouTube) – sites that let him deep dive into areas of passion, where one clip opens up a trove of other options. And 20% are social media sites (Snapchat, Periscope, Vine, etc.) – where he goes for some “easy fun” and entertainment in very short bursts. His snackable menu has diversified his palate, and it’s lessened his willingness to sit through commercials and the standard 22- or 44-minute television programming schedule.
Let me be clear: we still eat from the “traditional” section. Our family still loves the eggs and bacon, when it makes sense. That section is the basis for our industry and isn’t going away. But as you see above, it’s not the ONLY thing in the media diet.
What’s the future of our media buffet?
More choices, smaller portions. People want to taste and sample, but don’t want to have a massive pile of one-size-fits-all programming that they have to wait in line to get when the network wants us to see it (aka: a Thursday night, etc.). And people want to have shorter investment in programs. So menu items that allow for 5- or 10-minute snacks will continue to grow. This diversification is not a fad, just like seafood section of the buffet isn’t going away. Programmers have to look at how to make items that are tasty and easy to digest.
Brand-based menu. Critically, we all need to create a menu that has value for brands – because brands will continue to pay for the bulk of the buffet regardless of platform. Advertising therefore needs to shift into more organic, integrated medium so that value isn’t in the 30-second spot, but in the organic DNA of what we produce. How do you create food that benefits brands? THAT is the crux of the current media debate. [I’m going to talk about the brand-centric potential of the new media landscape in another post.]
Food for all diets. If the “riches are in the niches” then we in media have to continue to provide unique programming and distribution that fits each person’s diet. What happened in the last few years in the traditional area of the buffet is that everyone seemed to be focusing on cooking the same formats. Everyone wanted their “Duck Dynasty”. Everyone currently wants a family like the Gaines in “Fixer Upper”. And this same/same menu means the audience began to decline because the got tired. But what you are seeing now is that networks are going back to their core – back to what they were initially built on. They are seeing that it makes sense to go back to their unique/original POV and diversify! And digital platforms are doing that all day long. That is the future of our buffet.
Healthy options. The days of media that appeals to everyone are waining. What you are seeing today is that “lowest common denominator” programming (in our analogy the desserts and fattening food choices) are being pushed to side tables, replaced by an ever diversifying array of healthy options: programming that feeds the mind and the soul – ones that give people a sense of purpose – these are gaining popularity. This is proven out across linear, OTT, digital platforms. And healthy choices are not a fad. I encourage us to feast on the positive and beneficial.
New menu items added daily. The future of media? We are seeing new platforms developed at a rapid pace – ones that give brands and programmers, large media corporations and the kid in his dorm room new ways to reach audience. We are also seeing areas of focus that have never been looked at as “media” being redefined as media. Information is not static. Entertainment is subjective. The true future is figuring out what audiences are not being served and going after them with force.
I’m excited that my company is helping to invent this new menu. My background in television, my experience in marketing, brand, PR and innovation are allowing my team to be part of this buffet in amazing ways. We are working with several clients focused on how they can exploit the 3.0 media buffet. We are also developing a large hybrid media outlet with partners to serve a community that isn’t well represented on the buffet. This new media outlet has the potential to reach hundreds of millions of people who’d like to have their food represented on the buffet. And they have brands that will pay to cook that food. Truthfully, that figure is far from an exaggeration. And if this section of the buffet needs to be filled, imagine how many others are out there? Where can you bring something new, or revise the ingredients of the dishes to bring the future of media to life?
The next time you are in Vegas don’t skip the buffet. Go in. Partake in a smorgasbord of offerings – remembering that each dish is but one facet of media. Are you going to to for the “traditional” section? Are you on a seafood-only diet? Do you crave fresh fruit? More of a dessert or Continental breakfast kind of person? Well… HAVE IT ALL! The future of media encourages – no, demands – that we be able to meet ever expanding palates and you have a part to play.
Love to hear your thoughts and what areas of this buffet you feel are most lacking. [email protected]. Happy Eating!
Patrick Jager is the CEO of CORE Innovation Group – expert strategy and implementation in media, communications and business development.
This article was originally written as part of LinkedIn’s #MyIndustry series, in which professionals debate the state – and future – of their industry. Read more here, then write your own #MyIndustry post).