It’s no surprise that photos of sunshine, swaying palm trees and shots of the shoes-optional networking on the beach were highlights of the tweet stream from this year’s Digital Content Next (DCN) Summit, held January 21-23 at the Mandarin Oriental in Miami.
However, in addition to lovely weather and networking, this year’s members-only DCN Summit generated non-stop discussion of the event theme: The Attention Economy. From the kick off by OKCupid Founder (and author of Dataclysm) Christian Rudder, who looked at the relationship between data and dating, to the closing session in which EVP Rick Allessandri showed how deeply Univision understands and connects to its customers —speakers, DCN Members and special guests alike, remained engaged and attentive, despite the lure of the sandy beaches.
In case you missed this year’s Summit, here are three key takeaways:
1. Relationships Matter. When seeking to attract and engage audiences, understanding them and catering to their interests and needs is a top priority.
Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, set the tone for the importance of trust in the age of data, pointing out that, given the ever-increasing competition for user attention online, trusted sources will move to the front of the line. That trust requires building a personal relationship with audiences; data allows us to do so, when ethically collected and skillfully applied.
Ray Wang, author of the forthcoming Harvard Business Review Press book Disrupting Digital Business urged attendees to strive for “mass, personalized scale for segments of one.”
Editor-in-chief John Avlon demonstrated his understanding of The Daily Beast’s millennial-dominated audience: “Don’t bottom feed to attract millennials… offer a high-low mix that doesn’t taste like medicine.”
Vice President of eCommerce Rhonda Crawford spoke about Delta’s content strategy, which strives to optimize content for different “stress-levels” of the traveling experience (from planning to boarding passes). “When balancing content and functionality, ask yourself if are you enriching the experience or getting in the way?”
Rick Allessandri discussed Univision’s customer-centric philosophy, which has led to a successful series of brand extensions all arising from its close audience relationship and a desire to maintain their trust by serving their needs.
2. The Need for Speed. Throughout the event, speakers emphasized the need for continuous experimentation and innovation without fearing the fast-failure.
Julie Fleischer, Director of Media and Consumer Engagement at Kraft, may have summed it up best when she said, “The pace of change will never be slower than it is today.” She discussed Kraft’s agile approach to marketing, which emphasizes creativity and fresh thinking over tried-and-true.
Kendall Aliment Ostrow, Digital Agent at UTA, offered a Hollywood’s-eye view of the transformation that’s taking place in the entertainment industry and, in particular, the pace at which younger consumers adopt and drop social media and technology tools. Keeping up, according to Ostrow, is essential in order to identify the best channels and formats to reach audience younger audience and also to identify talent, suggesting “…find a 14-year-old to follow—one that won’t make you feel creepy for doing so.”
Noble Ackerson, co-founder and CEO, LynxFit, shared that
while wearables ”launched” in 1780 with the first pedometer, the pace of development has ramped up exponentially of late. Rather than chasing the next thing, Noble encourages companies to focus on creating useful wearable content experiences.
DCN CEO Jason Kint echoed the “need for speed” mantra when he spoke about DCN’s focus on the business issues of today and the future for digital content companies noting the change in its board structure voted in at the event which will better reflect this evolution and surface creative ideas from the breadth of its members.
3. Quality, not Quantity. Another recurring theme of the Summit was that, in an Attention Economy, it is important to make the most of customers’ valuable time through excellent content experiences.
Edward Felsenthal, Managing Editor of Time.com pointed out that the tension between content we want to consume and the limited time we have to consume it is not new: He kicked off his talk with a Henry Luce quote from the 1923 prospectus for TIME: “No publication has adapted itself to the time which busy men are able to spend on simply keeping informed.” And while his publication continues to attract and engage audiences almost a hundred years later, TIME’s continued focus is on high-quality journalism that respects the value of its reader’s time.
Brendan Spain, US Commercial Director of the Financial Times and Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat, offered a candid look at what it’s like to transact ad-sales based on time. As Haile pointed out all ad views are not created equal: “impressions are not a commodity. There is a difference between one that gets a lot of attention and one that doesn’t.” Spain spoke about the FT editorial team’s focus on writing deeply-engaging content to support the time-spent monetization model. Their paying subscribers spend 10 or sometimes 100 times more minutes with content and that, in their beta tests, “the shift to attention over impressions yields more engagement and more value.”
Frank Igrec, Brand Director of Dick’s Sporting Goods pointed out that engaging content can be branded, yet as interesting to the viewer as editorial. He played some of Dick’s Hell Week series to hammer home the point that native advertising can add value to a publisher’s site when well-executed.
Ray Wang, author of the forthcoming Harvard Business Review Press book Disrupting Digital Business, summed it up when he said that “We’re moving from selling products and services to selling brand experiences….You are competing for time and attention; focus on delivering experiences and outcomes to succeed.”