The Future of Media

The future of media may well be in your hands.  I’m talking, of course, about mobile devices.

For a variety of reasons, consumers and businesses alike appreciate the new opportunities mobile either offers, or will offer, distributors and consumers of media content.

Mobile devices offer users personalization, portability and constant connectivity, the ability to socialize and share content, interactivity, participation, and engagement.  Mobile devices offer media distributors the ability to provide these features to users, but also the potential to provide unique, geo-targeted, local, community-focused, monetizable content for all of its clients (readers/viewers/listeners and advertisers).

With mobile devices poised to be a “game changer” for news and entertainment industries in the near future, there was little surprise that “mobile” was a focal point of discussions at the National Association of Broadcasters’ annual convention and the Broadcast Education Association conference, both held last week in Las Vegas, Nevada.

I attended many sessions where mobile was front and center.  Mobile offers exciting new areas for entertainment (Mobile DTV, smartphone apps), as well as newspapers, radio and television news, and for advertisers.

I’ll report a few highlights from some of the managerial-oriented sessions, where business models, monetization and strategy were key themes.

“The mobile device has the opportunity to reset the revenue models because the ability to do the transactions on a mobile device is very seamless, it’s very easy,” said Greg Philpott, president and founder of mDialog, which has built an ad platform to monetize HTML-5 videos.

Mobile gives individuals the ability to have their own screen wherever they are, Philpott said.

Mobile devices will allow content owners to charge advertisers a higher CPM that’s trackable, actionable and measurable, Philpott predicted.

Bob Hildeman, CEO of Streambox, said that said media outlets still face a challenge getting consumers willing to pay for content.

Media outlets are still grappling with how to do so, but many believe consumers are better conditioned to pay for content on their phone, than they are online.

“We’re growing this audience but we’re not monetizing it,” said Lance Richard, Entercom Communications’ vice president of digital sales for over 110 radio stations and their Web sites in 23 media markets. “We’ve got to figure that piece out… A lot of our focus is figuring out how to monetize that stream.”

Advertising revenue should grow on mobile devices, said Tom Kenney, president of Verve Wireless, which designs mobile news applications for many leading news agencies.

“Mobile advertising now is starting to take off,” Kenney said. ” The thesis behind Verve is that the mobile Web is a new medium and could potentially be the most important medium in a few years and ultimately it’s a local (emphasis mine) medium.”

The idea of consuming digital media with your hands is such a transformation from the norm that providing similar experiences on multiple platforms is going to be key for media outlets going forward, said Kinsey Wilson, senior vice president and general manager of digital media for the not-for-profit NPR.

NPR’s Web site won a  prestigious Peabody Award (housed at my University I might add!)  for general excellence this year and their app for the iPhone and iPad are constantly ranked by users as being one of the best smartphone apps for news.  Mobile devices allow for media outlets to strategically shift their offerings from platform to platform.  While NPR does offer live streams of their radio programs on the apps, written breaking news headlines are the most popular feature, Wilson said.

Overall, media outlets face a shifting environment in which smartphones will outpace the sales of desktops by 2011, according to IT firm Gartner.

Futurist Tomi Ahonen posits that mobile is the 7th medium following print, recordings, cinema, radio, TV, and Internet.

At the end of 2009, two thirds of the world’s population were using mobile phones, according to the European Information Technology Observatory.

There are now more mobile devices in the world than there are TVs, radios, and computers.

While there are many remaining questions about the mobile strategies media outlets will choose to implement, one thing is clear.  The future of media is one you can hold onto.

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