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Q&A: TheMediaBriefing GM Defines The “Big Four” Issues for the Digital Media Industry

June 8, 2015 | By DCN

We sat down with TheMediaBriefing General Manager Daniel Williamson to get his take on the major issues he sees for digital media companies today and how his team plans to tackle them at the London-based company’s first stateside event Digital Media Strategies USA, which will be held September 8-10th in New York.

Daniel, please describe the issues and opportunities that you think are foremost on the digital media landscape:

Not surprisingly, the continued development of sustainable business models remains top of mind. VC-fueled new media businesses have led the charge in growing huge audiences and investing in technology, branded content and digital video to monetize that growth. In a digital environment in constant flux, questions remain around whether and how these businesses are building business models fit for long-term sustainable profitability.

At DMS USA, we’ve invited three “new media” CEOs—Jim Bankoff from Vox Media; Pete Cashmore from Mashable; and Chris Altchek from Mic—to participate in a fireside discussion, moderated by Mathew Ingram. We are looking forward to a truly candid discussion about the challenges facing their businesses. I know Matt plans to cover issues that include how to work with platforms, how to use technology to create competitive advantage and how to unlock new revenue opportunities for your brand. We’ll also be hosting a discussion with Rafat Ali, CEO and Founder of Skift, and Kevin Delaney, Co-President & Editor-in-Chief of Quartz, looking at how media organizations can create value today.

The second big one I see is changing consumption habits. Of course, smartphones are now well-established as a dominant platform for media consumption, but both packaging and monetization present huge challenges for media businesses. Media brands are still figuring out how to create the right experience for users, advertising demand is still lagging far behind consumption, and there is no consensus on what works. Digital subscriptions are even harder to win on mobile than on the desktop and the number of devices and new behaviors continues to grow.

At DMS USA, I think we’ll hit on some of the big issues and opportunities with a range of content: Robert Thompson, Chief Executive of News Corp will present a keynote on how he is transforming the structure and culture of News Corp to crack the mobile opportunity. Benedict Evans, Partner at Andreessen-Horowitz will discuss his most recent findings on the evolving device market and changing consumption habits. And Kinsey Wilson, EVP Product & Technology at the New York Times is presenting a keynote on, among other things, how the New York Times is attempting to bridge the mobile monetization gap for both subscriptions and advertising.

Of course everyone is excited about digital video, which offers a big growth opportunity given the incredible growth of consumption—whether through Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube or directly on media properties. Advertiser demand for quality inventory is high and looks likely to continue growing. Video has never been cheaper to make and is popular on mobile devices. Given this growth opportunity, it seems that practically everyone is investing in video. But really, with everyone getting in the game, it is important to focus on things like: How do you stand out? What should you produce? How produce it cost-effectively and still get scale?

At DMS USA, we’ve invited Alex Wellen, Chief Product Officer at CNN to share his insights from CNN’s journey into digital video. I know he plans to look at how CNN has had to change its approach to content for different audiences, platforms and devices. And, importantly, Alex will talk about what he’s learned about how to effectively monetize digital video and how to meet audience and advertiser demand for quality and accountability.

And while online advertising is a topic that we hear about everywhere, we can’t ignore its significance and the ways in which it is constantly evolving. Programmatic continues to grow, but its promise is yet to be realized, particularly given marketers desires for both efficiencies and quality audiences. Native advertising has opened up new revenue opportunities, but it is becoming harder to differentiate your offering. Viewability, ad blocking and non-human traffic each present a huge threat to digital advertising revenues, but there are no clear-cut solutions. The relationship between brands, agencies and media companies continues to change dramatically.

These issues are front of mind as digital media companies seek to maximize the quality of advertising experiences for marketers and end users. At DMS USA, Peter Spande, Chief Revenue Officer of Business Insider will present best-in-class case study of how he has developed the programmatic strategy and culture at the business. Robert plans to look at talent, culture, partnerships, optimal packaging and intelligent partnerships. We’re also looking forward to offering brand and agency perspectives. For example, Linda Boff from GE, Amanda Rubin from Goldman Sachs and Sarah.Hofstetter from 360i will speak frankly in a panel moderated by Adweek’s Lisa Granatstein about what they really want from media companies. We will also have leading executives from Medium and The Economist discussing what to do about viewability, ad blocking and non-human traffic.

I can’t say that these topics suffice to reflect the many different challenges and opportunities that color the digital media landscape. But from my perspective working with the terrific team here at TheMediaBriefing, I believe these four are among the primary issues we face today and offer an excellent basis for lively debate and actionable insights at Digital Media Strategies USA.

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