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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

The Big Four: Challenges We Must Face as an Industry

January 29, 2015 | By Jason Kint, CEO – DCN @jason_kint

I could not be more thrilled at the enthusiasm for great content across the media industry— whether in the advertising, press, investment or journalism communities. That enthusiasm was never more apparent than at the 13th Annual Digital Content Next Summit last week, which gathered senior executives from across our membership to explore opportunities and innovation. We also came together to tackle challenges. And, in my opening remarks for the Summit, I captured four common themes that challenge content companies as they strive to reach their full potential in the digital transformation:

1. Pressures on display advertising.
The flat to declining ad prices, which have resulted from abundant supply, have triggered a downward spiral that can only be slowed by the quality dimension. The transition to viewability will help, but the viewability conversation is mired in a malaise of too many inconsistent ad solutions and buyers taking advantage of the transition.

Fraud in the digital display chain is also massive problem: It tops the list of marketer concerns. And let’s not forget about the shift to mobile, which continues to accelerate. This shift is a good thing because it provides opportunities for personalized, useful content experiences. But we need to keep in mind that ad pricing on mobile is 30% of that on tablets and desktop.

The result, which I wrote about in The Trust Principle, is a marketplace that is mostly bought and sold on direct response without value for environments and brands. Google, Facebook and countless intermediaries have swallowed up the roughly 65% growth in digital advertising that has taken place in the past three years, while content companies’ revenues have remained flat overall.

2. The Attention Economy.
It’s in full swing. We now have the opportunity to consume media 24/7 on countless devices, unleashing significant opportunities for content companies.

Here’s the rub: Anyone can be a media company. Individuals now compete with century-old institutions. Non-profits go head to head with for-profits. The competition is fierce whether the company is pre-revenue, or raking in billions.

I would argue the goal of capturing a consumer with 30 minutes of entertainment once a week is dead. Capturing 30 minutes each more morning with a newspaper is dead. Now we’re all trying to get a consumer to come by for a few minutes each day. We must provide a service to them—whether it is entertaining or informing and make sure to use their time well.

3. Business model innovation.
The days of brainstorming non-advertising revenues as an opportunity are gone. It’s now a requirement to innovate your business model. Companies can’t simply compete by attracting mass audiences and serving ads against them. Being a great media brand is not enough. Today, organizations of any size or longevity need to think like start-ups and continuously experiment and innovate.

Yes, brands must own the relationship with individuals and monetize that relationship through advertising, but also in countless other ways to bring value back to their business—by delivering value to their user.

4. Protect our art.
Data is all the rage, but it is art that defines us. Whether it be the journalism and free speech we fight so hard to protect, or copyright and content piracy, this so-called “content” is precious stuff. It is why consumers rely on us, and trust us and it is how we get to know them in the process. So yes, protecting our first party data (which comes out of customer relationships, as well as those with marketers) is also essential. But we build our businesses on this art and we need to protect it to make sure we can continue to fund and pay for it in the future.

Big challenges: Hell yes. But we are facing them as an industry, together.

Hit me up on Twitter (@jason_kint) if you want to dive deeper into any of these challenges or if there are others that you think we need to focus on.

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