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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Build your future competitive advantage: strategic resilience

September 14, 2020 | By Bruce Brandfon, Chief Media Officer – Duration Media @DurationMedia

Let’s all pause for a moment and contemplate the future of our businesses and the competitive landscape that lies ahead. There is no doubt that these past several months and the uncertainty we are facing have rocked everyone’s world. It’s radically reorganized our expectations and plans, as well as many of our hopes and dreams. And the interconnectedness of our personal and professional lives has never before been so challenging or consequential. How we respond and adapt to this once in a lifetime set of circumstances, as individuals, businesses, cultures, and nations, will irrevocably determine our collective successes or failures.

Rishad Tobaccowala considers this and more in his provocative new series: The Future Does Not Fit in the Containers of the Past. The most recent post, Episode 4, is entitled Strategy. Frame. Light. and Time. In it, Rishad contemplates how we might be able not only to survive but thrive within the new normal that we now inhabit.

What is strategy?

One of the observations that most stands out to me in this series is his definition of Strategy. For Rishad, this is a “future competitive advantage”:

“Amidst these new expectations and changing competitive dynamics what advantage will your company offer? A differentiated or better product? A competitive moat of network effects, scale or some other dynamic? A better experience? Speed and value?”

It is a worthwhile exercise for us to all to contemplate how we view our own company’s strategy. We need to examine our preparedness and define our individual future competitive advantage. If we cannot do this for our businesses and ourselves, then we must be prepared for the disruption that will be inevitable from others who have identified and made a commitment to their future competitive advantage(s). 

Future proof

Companies and individuals who do this and make it a part of their DNA will have become future-proofed. This is not simply because they’ve anticipated what comes next. (Really: Did any of us have a plan for continuing our businesses during a global pandemic. For our children at home, learning remotely. Or for experiencing a national reckoning with social justice?) Rather, it is because they have prepared for uncertainly by creating strategic resiliency enabling them automatically to adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

What is extraordinarily astute about Rishad’s commentary is his choice of words to describe what is often an over-complicated and impenetrable concept. By untangling strategic complexity (the state or quality of being intricate or complicated) he has brought this within our reach and made it accessible to each of us.

Rendering complex subjects into their comprehensible elements is after all the essence of effective communication. And who among us has not experienced the misunderstandings (and the glazed looks that follow) from the increasingly mystifying language used to describe our businesses and what makes our bright, shiny object more brilliant than the previous ones?

The audience knows

If we have learned anything at all from these past months about the digital media ecosystem it may be this: Our audience knows what it wants and needs and will devote more time and attention to the content that provides the most value. This seems a self-evident concept. Yet all too often we’ve seen some in our industry gaming the system via click bait and other lowest common denominator shortcuts. This is not what the doctor ordered during a global pandemic.

The fact is that premium publishers have experienced dramatic growth in the scale of their audiences and engagement in their content. Audience Activated Engagement has emerged as a highly productive monetization model. And increased time and attention on websites has unlocked the hidden value of previously undervalued below the fold ad units.

Duration Media didn’t predict the future when it was launched in mid-2018. However, we understood that our success was going to be predicated on building a future competitive advantage. And given the way 2020 is unfolding, I’d say that this — along with strategic resilience — is something every business needs to double down on.

About the author

Bruce Brandfon is Chief Media Officer of Duration Media. Prior to that he was Executive Vice President of WebSpectator. He was Vice President and Managing Director at Publicitas. Prior to joining Publicitas, Bruce was Vice President of Sales for the Philadelphia Media Network. He has also held leadership positions at Scientific American, Newsweek, and Time Inc. Brandfon is Director of the Board of Advisors at Planet Forward. And he’s an Adjunct Professor of Media Studies at Westchester Community College. He contributes frequently to industry publications.

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