Wetpaint CEO Ben Elowitz on the Future of Digital Media
Paid vs. Earned Media is the third and final video of our Rebooting Media think-tank series. This time we asked:
What are the implications (and opportunities) of social web distribution eclipsing paid impressions?
See our thought leaders tackle this question and read conversation highlights below.
You pay for earned media, too.
There is no earned media without paid media. Social network distribution hinges on quality content at the outset, which means that investing in your content before you publish it in the social feed is crucial.
“People loved the Old Spice ads. They were great and funny and they blew up on YouTube, and there was a lot of earned media behind that. And none of it would have existed if there wasn’t a TV spot that was made and bought and placed and that was very, very good.” —Greg Clayman, The Daily
“A lot of the ‘earned’ arguments came from viral sensations wearing as a badge of honor: ‘we spent no money on traditional marketing.’ People forget the impact that print, radio, and television have on online traffic. When I was at MTV Networks, I used to joke that the channels were only there to promote the websites.” —Jason Hirschhorn, Media ReDEFined
Social is better than search for brand building.
Search advertising lacks the brand-building potential of TV and print. Social, on the other hand, is ideal for brand-building. Advertisers have been slow to embrace this, and we need to provide them with a compelling return story before they’ll be willing to make the leap.
“On the advertising side, there’s an argument that social has the potential to be a vehicle for brand advertising in a way that search can’t be. But what should be the metric for brand? Brand impressions are so much further up the funnel before you have an action. I think people are trying to find some metric between CPM and CPA.” —Erick Schonfeld, TechCrunch
It’s time to find the magic metric.
Even though social has been around for a while, most people don’t know how to measure success. At Wetpaint we’ve made huge strides in this area, and other people in the room were clearly ready to make this a priority.
“There’s a tremendous amount of money being spent by the film studios specifically on television advertising, and it’s a very inefficient spend; it’s carpet bombing. Virality and targeted advertising are a much more efficient spend, but so far digital media hasn’t been able to show the lift those properties need; they don’t see the payback. They know it’s happening, but they don’t know how to quantify it.” —Jason Hirschhorn, Media ReDEFined
“We don’t have a choice. We’re either going to figure this out, or we’re going to live another ridiculous couple of decades without understanding why money is spent. Have I seen a magic metric? Not yet.” —Wenda Harris Millard, Media Link
THAT’S ALL, FOLKS
I hope you enjoyed our Rebooting Media think-tank series, and most importantly I hope it pushes you to join the conversation.
What does the next decade look like? One thing is for sure: it will look nothing like the last one.
Search vs. social, curated vs. created, owned vs. earned – these are not binary outcomes. How do we combine them in a way that meets the needs of the audience?
These are early days still, and there’s a huge opportunity for media players with the imagination, the brains and the courage to get there first.
Want more? Download a PDF of the full published collection of perspectives prepared by these participants and others at Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.
And if you missed part 1 or part 2, you can find them here:
This is the second chapter of our Rebooting Media think-tank series. In this video, our thought leaders address the question:
Do curators bring value to content creators, or are they just stealing content?
Hear media industry executives debate the pros and cons of web curation in the video and read the most salient comments below.
Curators are the new editors.
As we’re overwhelmed by an increasing number of voices and information channels, we look to curators to sort through the clutter and tell us what’s important.
“I’m one of those people who reads or watches or listens a little more than the average person. If a person wants to stay up to date on certain topics but they have a family or a job or a life, curation services can help break through and deliver.” —Jason Hirschhorn, Media ReDEFined
“A curator is an editor, essentially. You become a trusted source by doing the hard work for your audience and telling them what’s important, whether you’ve written it or not. Traditionally that’s been the role of great newspapers; now that function is being spread across the web.” —Erick Schonfeld, TechCrunch
Publishers have a love / hate relationship with curators.
Curators help to expand a publisher’s reach, but the publisher risks losing credit (and traffic). Curators who link back and republish only enough to pique interest will keep publishers happy.
“A lot of money goes into making a piece of content, and then it shows up on somebody else’s website where they are ‘curating.’ That’s one word for it, and ‘stealing’ would be another. That’s a difficult balance: we want them to put our content out there but, ultimately, if you don’t come back to us, then we’re not capturing the full value.” — Jeff Berman, NFL Digital
How does curation become a real business? Just add creation.
Curators provide a valuable service to consumers and publishers. But can you charge for someone else’s content? The most compelling model going forward will be a curation / creation mix from trusted voices.
“I’m interested in content curators that are getting into the creation game. Buzzfeed, for example, was a driver of viral content. Then they shocked people by hiring editors and journalists and breaking a story. They took content that they owned and used the tools and algorithms they had to publish it into the social feed.” —Greg Clayman, The Daily
Part 3: Paid vs. Earned Media
For more from these thought leaders and others, download a PDF of the full publication Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web.
In the last several years, “social” has gone from a college fad to become the fabric that connects the internet. And yet, even as it has taken over the wiring of the web, there is no established blueprint for what media companies should do with it. When my company Wetpaint began reinventing media for the social web last year, I went looking for the people who had all the answers. And I found out there aren’t any.
But there are a lot of bright, inquisitive people who have been running their own experiments and trying to find the way forward. Wouldn’t it be great to get them all together to make a new think tank for the social web?
In conjunction with the release of our new series Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web, Wetpaint and Digitas convened a group of leaders and journalists with a live audience to attack the question: “How do you retool media for a social world?”
The conversation featured five leading executives:
And who better to prompt the tough questions than three leading digital media journalists? Our conversation included Jeff Bercovici (Mixed Media writer for Forbes); Jessi Hempel (Senior Writer covering tech at Fortune); and Erick Schonfeld (Editor of TechCrunch).
The conversation, hosted by Digitas SVP Entertainment and Content John McCarus and me, covered three themes. We will be releasing the videos in three parts, listed below. I also encourage everyone to download the full published collection of perspectives prepared by these participants and others, available via PDF at wetpaint.com/page/thought-leadership.
Event videos are available at:
This piece from Jason Hirschhorn is the sixth 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.
Q: How does the rise of Facebook change the relationship between media and its audience?
Facebook is obviously a transformative platform. It’s a disruption in the distribution of content. The social endorsement in “sharing” or “liking” a piece of content on a platform like Facebook is almost as important as the content itself. And while they like the digital “word of mouth” I think this scares the film, TV and publishing industries. Why? Because, unlike in the past, they are not controlling the distribution and conversation the way they used to. The “feed” is taking on search, too, because users are ultimately using it as a discovery platform. You may go to Google to find what you already knew you wanted but now the content streams deliver you content you had no idea you wanted, and with an endorsement from someone you know or follow. This social endorsement changes the way you discover and consume content.
Q: What’s changed fundamentally about media with the rise of the social Web, and what do publishers need to do to adapt?
It’s clear that media is becoming unbundled. It’s also multi-platform as the access points are fragmented. It’s real time or archived and it’s on-demand. This sets the trend for what and where people consume. In today’s new and evolving social environment, the packaging and distribution are under less control. Again, the social endorsement of content is just as important as who created the content or what it’s about. Our interests widen on Facebook or Twitter, and we’re able to see the tastes and interests of people we respect or know. We used to turn to TV, radio and print for all our cues, but we’re now going to Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr… to our friends and the people we follow. Traditional media seems slightly hindered because it holds on to its traditional standards. Whether it is scheduling in television, definitions of journalism, and creators as curators or controlling the entirety of your brand. But things are slowly changing. New forms of media bring spontaneity, serendipity and personalization. There are always surprises within your content stream. I realize now I only know a little about the things I like. The fun is in discovering those things you never knew you’d be interested in. That’s what I like about it.
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?
My personal view is that search is falling down. People are now using it more for navigation than discovery. “Where is the thing that I want?” Maybe search isn’t about real discovery. I use search less today because of Facebook and Twitter, which are becoming significant parts of my content decision-making process. I’m interested in seeing the news that my friends are reading today. That would keep me on Facebook even longer, and add to the discovery element. Despite its huge impact, though, Facebook and Twitter haven’t even begun to really take advantage of content discovery experiences. They will. It’s going to be a great evolution to watch and positively disruptive.
Those changes will be a perfect match between gathering or discovery technologies and a truly human filter. Ultimately, content discovery needs to have human layers. Without them, it has no “life”, no context. This is where Google has fallen down as a product company. Algorithms vs. Humans. When it comes to content, which always has an emotional bent, humans always beat the computer. Clearly Google+ is trying to address some of that, but they have a ways to go.
Going forward, I believe we need to see more influencer targeting and noise-level targeting. How do you help people or companies find those who are moving the social media mountain? How do you find these influencers and deliver highly relevant and personalized content without infringing on their privacy or conversation and then let them run with it? That will be a key part of the new optimization. These changes will revolutionize advertising and make media spends way more efficient. What it takes to get “lift” will be far different and mediums like television will need to fall in line and adapt.
Q: How do you build a brand in publishing when, with greater frequency, media is distributed through social channels?
From my point of view, curation is the next great layer of value on the Internet. In a world where everything is available, Curating content helps users sift through everything. Trusted sources are coming back. The New York Times is curating when it decides what it will cover. But they don’t seem to curate other’s work. And yet the journalists at The Times pass around links and stories on Twitter that are written by other sources. Those journalists are trusted sources and now curators. I think publications should be establishing relationships with curators; and then they can re-package and re- bundle content into new and important layers. You can build big and important brands with curation today. I know I’m going to try.
Q: What are the critical success factors in publishing as we look to 2020; and who will be the winners?
There are five areas I’d touch on here:
1. Curation, for the reasons I’ve explained above.
2. Form factors. Content should be allowed to shape shift.
3. How you distribute. Your site to RSS to email to Flipboard to Twitter and beyond.
4. How you allow social media inside your content.
5. How smart your paywall strategy is. The New York Times has done the best in this area.
Allowing for social media linkages while continuing to build a pay-model.
Jason Hirschhorn, a media and technology entrepreneur, is the curator of Media ReDEFined (@MediaReDEF), a free daily news feed covering the changing world of media, communications, entertainment, marketing and technology. The former President of MySpace, Hirschhorn has also served as President of Sling Media, Chief Digital Officer at MTV Networks and is on the Board of Directors of MGM Studios.
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