Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz on the Future of Digital Media
This piece from Erik Flannigan is the fifth in a series of 10 posts about the future of the media industry contained in a report titled: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.
Facebook is a platform, not just a Web site, and it has created a public sentiment meter. In fact, sometimes there seems to be wild over-reactions to the sentiment expressed by the “Like” button. And many people might suggest that “Like” has created a currency of some kind. Whether it’s actually worth something or not remains to be seen, however. It may end up being the lowest possible of all audience benchmarks of interest. We don’t know yet. Some of our properties get modest traffic through Facebook; others get 75-80 percent of their traffic through Facebook. From my perspective, though, it offers a measure of sentiment, a measure of what is most socially relevant.
Q: What’s changed fundamentally about media with the rise of the social Web, and what do publishers need to do to adapt?
On some level, the social Web breaks down the walls for those who want to go there. Real people tell us how they feel in an unvarnished way, in an unfiltered way. There is a fan base that’s active on social media platforms that wants more, and that is looking for relationships with shows and personalities. That means we have to create more and more digital content, and it has to be content that can stand alone. If you want to build a fan base, you have to do this with content. And this has probably made us at MTV think more about marketing our shows all year long, not just at premiere.
Q: We’ve gone from SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to SMO (Social Media Optimization), so how will search change as the Web becomes more social?
Search is like fixing your tire. There are times when you have to do it. So, it will continue. That said, the idea that search is the end all and be all is definitely changing. We saw this in focus groups we did with young men. They said if something is important enough, it will find me. All I need is Twitter and a newsfeed. Also, I think more and more people understand that search is a game, that the search system is gamed. And so, search has become less satisfying, and consumers are moving away from their reliance on search. Social filters are better and more timely, especially because you can run out of things to search for. We’re moving to a future where we’ll have some version of tracking, managing and increasing prominence of the super-influencers. And I believe that parsing out the most influential of your social followers will become big, and become a business.
Q: How do you build a brand in publishing when, with greater frequency, media is distributed through social channels?
It’s tough. And it’s easy to disassociate brands and content. That’s why we need to do more when it comes to thinking things through to the end experience. This is important, and you can see that consumers are giving publishers credit when there’s an open dialogue. Instagram is a good example here. They have thought about the end-to-end experience. It’s much more than a name. Its identity is tied to an experience, to sharing. And they didn’t allow themselves to just be a platform. They are aspiring to become a noun, not just a brand.
Q: What are the critical success factors in publishing as we look to 2020; and who will be the winners?
We must fix the issue of monetization in digital space. There is a horrible battle brewing between the growth of the audience and the lack of currency to monetize. And there’s nothing – no real answers – on the horizon. TV has been online for five years, for example, and the problem hasn’t been solved. There’s big growth and big innovation, and yet we haven’t figured this out.
Erik Flannigan joined MTV Networks from AOL, where he was vice president of programming. Before that, he was at Buena Vista Datacasting / The Walt Disney Company as vice president of programming. And prior to that, he served as vice president of music services and programming at RealNetworks. Earlier, Flannigan was senior vice president, Entertainment Verticals, for the Walt Disney Internet Group.
To download the complete report, please click here: “Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web”
This is the first in a series of 10 posts about the future of the media industry contained in a report titled: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.
As Don Graham, Chairman and CEO of The Washington Post Company, recently remarked on-stage at a conference of leading CEO’s, the media industry as we have known it for the last 100 years is collapsing. The basic structure of our industry – content creation, packaging, distribution, and monetization – have shifted so substantially that the rug has literally been pulled out from underneath media’s business model.
A new model must be created – and the DNA of the medium itself has been irreversibly altered so that it is now innately social.
And yet, in the midst of this upheaval, I’ve found that even the brightest and most well informed strategies are able to tap only part of media’s new nature and capture just a slice of the industry’s remaking.
At a time like this, to get a complete picture of the territory ahead, there is nothing wiser than integrating perspective from the best and brightest people in the publishing world. And, over the course of the last several years, I’ve been immensely grateful for those leaders’ intelligence and vision.
So, I thought it was only fitting to help create the ultimate social network – one that will enable our industry to share the smartest ideas as it remakes digital media.
That’s what this compendium is all about.
Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web brings together eight of the most thoughtful influencers and offers their most cogent assessment of the new online relationship-building that is helping to connect people in absolutely unprecedented ways.
Together, these eight contributors reinforce three dominant themes:
Building a media brand on the new social Web means that publishers have to meet consumers where, when and how they want. It’s all about user-driven pull, and publishers need to offer experiences and establish relationships that may not be on their own terms.
Facebook is a transformative platform driving new personalization and connectivity across the upstart social Web. We are still waiting to see all of what Facebook ultimately becomes, but we know it represents a once-in-a-generation paradigm shift.
Any way you look at it, search (as we know it) is declining. The open sharing of social networks, and the power of social endorsement, are seriously altering what consumers look for on the Web, and how we’re engaging with content. The search algorithm has lost out – big time – to the will of the audience.
But the most powerful insights are in the essays that follow from each of our eight contributors.
Wenda Harris Millard, President of Media Link LLC, advances the notion of a new personal recommendation engine on today’s Web.
I have already learned a lot from each of these people and their pieces, and I hope you do, too – not only to build your own ideas, but to help our industry move forward. To that end, I invite further conversation with me, and with our contributors.
The digital dialogue is so essential as we all work to re- invent publishing for 21st century audiences.
To download the complete report, please click here: Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web