Turbo-Charging the Web’s New Personal Recommendation Engine

This piece from Wenda Harris Millard is the seventh 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?

I’m not sure that Facebook is media. But Facebook has changed everything. I see it as a platform for connection. The challenge for marketers is in connecting effectively with audiences in these kinds of social environments. I think advertising by its very nature is often intrusive, but it tends currently to cross the line and be disruptive in social media. It may violate trust with audiences. So, how are advertisers going to reach people most efficiently and effectively in a social environment? Advertising or commercial messaging is going to be like nothing we know today.


Q: What’s changed fundamentally about media with the rise of the social Web, and what do publishers need to do to adapt?

If you’re a brand marketer, you can no longer interrupt the discussion. You have to be part of the discussion. This has a lot of implications. And you have to ask yourself whether people come to you, or do you look at social platforms as a way to build and distribute content and your own messaging. The economic models have changed. In the past, in a siloed world, you had your own site, and you went about the business of attracting an audience and monetizing that site. That’s a simple formula, and it’s not nearly as relevant anymore. We are now living in a world where you have to find your audience where it aggregates. You have to find the audience on someone else’s platform, and then figure out how to make money. This throws everything we’ve known in traditional marketing on its head.


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?

We’ve learned so much about the value of recommendations from friends and colleagues. Now, with the continued advance of the Web as a social environment, what’s going to happen is that, instead of typing certain things into the search box, there will be an increasing tendency to go to your social circle for input.  If you need an address, you’ll go to the search engine; but if you need a great back doctor, you’ll ask friends or colleagues. This is the personal recommendation engine, and it will be part of our lives. Think of it as personal optimizations  – how do you get the best information from your social circle?


Q:  How do you build a brand in publishing when, with greater frequency, media is distributed through social channels?

Publishers are worried about the abundance of user-generated content in the whole social media experience right now. The plethora of choice for consumers is almost overwhelming. Yet I believe that consumers are still looking for a trustmark. Of course, you’ll be able to read your friends’ recommendations, and you’ll share on whatever platform you’re using, but when you’re looking for information, I still believe that brands represent a level of trust or a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. That said, when you’re growing a brand today, you can no longer just build it and expect that they will come. Building and enhancing your brand as a .com online is only one element in all this. You need to be where people are – that’s the Facebook phenomenon.


Q: What are the critical success factors in publishing as we look to 2020; and who will be the winners?

New media, digital media and social media – it will all be called media. And the winners will be those who find a way not to define themselves by their tried-and-true or historical practices, or by their distribution channels. You can’t define yourself as a magazine publisher; you’re a content provider. You need to step out of the channel you live in and understand how each of the pieces fits together. How does TV fit with Facebook, for example? Or search engines or print with anything in social media? The key is knowing where commerce is – online and offline. What is the relationship among all media channels? The winners will grasp these interrelationships.


Wenda Harris Millard is President & COO of Media Link LLC, a leading advisory firm that provides critical counsel to clients in the marketing, media, entertainment, and technology industries. Prior to this, Millard was Co-Chief Executive Officer and President of Media, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and Chief Sales Officer of Yahoo. She has also served as the Chief Internet Officer at Ziff Davis Media, President at Ziff Davis Internet, and Executive Vice President at DoubleClick.

To download the complete report, please click here:  Rebooting Media: The Digital Publishing Revolution for a Fully Social Web