New Media Predictions

Last Thursday my Media Solutions Lab was held in Scottsdale and I have never been more proud of the radio, music and new media businesses as I was that day.

An impressive mix of executives and entrepreneurs attended and for the better part of seven hours worked actively with me on tracking the digital future.

We had fun. Taught each other and worked in small groups. On issues, strategies and skill sets.

I thought you would be interested in a few of my 15 predictions about where the media industry is headed:
  1. Advertisers will increasingly go directly to the consumer and bypass radio, television and publishing. We see signs of it happening right now with some local radio advertisers in Grand Rapids using podcasting to deliver the message. The podcasting campaigns are coming out of radio budgets. Not major yet, but a trend. On a national level, Pepsi is doing a multi-million dollar program to be based on their website and using viral social networking to do a local community outreach, once the exclusive domain of local radio. Pepsi is giving away millions in grants each month to fund “great ideas”. See more here. Smart.
  2. Apps – such as Apple apps – will increasingly act like traditional media by driving commerce. Daryl Lee, president of global communications planning at Interpublic's Universal McCann, predicts mobile marketing will find a purpose: helping consumers find what they are looking for at local stores, probably in the form of apps, gadgets and widgets, not regular ads.
  3. The new talk radio is texting. Gen Y does not have the need for traditional radio talk shows. They want to be part of the programming. Texting connects them in ways radio cannot. And they don’t suffer fools lightly. Today’s older talk radio listeners found their way to express opinions on AM talk stations in the 1960’s. While most remain happy with radio talk formats, younger listeners who have eluded today’s talk radio don’t appear to need a local talk station to communicate on vital issues. For them, it’s social networking.
  4. Radio has 5 to 10 years left at best as an audio-only medium. Gen Y has been been raised on iPods, the Internet and mobile devices. You will want to make the transition to a medium that also includes text and video – that is, radio as a medium may decline but the content may easily adapt to shorter attention spans and new means of delivery. The secret is to keep the brand healthy not debase it by cutting it back at a time of great change. Over 230 million people listen to radio each week even in the age of the mobile Internet although for steadily declining periods of time but it is supported by largely older listeners. Recent research reveals that teens listen to 28 minutes of radio a day. Is that all?
  5. Traditional broadcasting will someday no longer be needed. No one would invent broadcasting one signal to everyone to be consumed at the time of the broadcast in this digital on-demand world. Broadcasters – especially good ones – will be needed to port brands consumers appreciate to a digital format. On-demand is now a prerequisite and not an option – one-third of all Nielsen households have DVRs or TiVos and attempts by advertisers to prevent as zapping will meet with failure because it in and of itself fails to abide by the most important rule – cooperate with the inevitable.
  6. The Mobile Internet will be the next "broadcasting". Before the end of the decade, the mobile Internet will be the new delivery system for media. We see how it is evolving in automobiles. Entertainment centers are being planned for cars that go way beyond AM/FM or even satellite radio. WiFi will be everywhere. The Apple tablet and devices of that genre will deliver virtually every form of news and entertainment for mobile consumption. By the end of last year, there was 19% smart phone penetration according to Nielsen and more than 50% likely in two more years.
  7. We are transitioning from the free to paid Internet. Rupert Murdoch is leading the way against Chris Anderson’s concept of free. Consumers are showing they won’t pay for music but they will pay for apps. Before this decade is over content providers will shut the door on giving away all their content in return for charging micropayments so the new paradigm no longer will be “if you build it they will come” but “if they come, then they will pay for it”. This is a big growth business open to entrepreneurs and big businesses alike.
If consolidators who control the lion's share of radio properties get their way, radio will become a national platform of cheap repeater programming sold at unbelievably low ad rates. Their policies of repeater radio and diminished local footprint is the direct route to radio's demise.

The music business will accede to Apple which will offer streaming of music on monthly subscription plans that will render the labels helpless. Apple is likely to carry it off.

And, refresh my memory, what do record labels do again?

Television will become the next radio – cutting its way into fewer losses as TV audiences migrates to watching shows for mobile Internet delivery. They can't see it or don't want to, but the only reason for a network to exist is to create content. Affiliates? You know that train left when the networks stopped paying compensation.

Newspapers, ironically enough, could once again become growth businesses because they are local and because they will be forced to redesign their content for mobile devices like the iPad and for paid subscriptions. This redesign will seamlessly integrate audio and video with text making the old “paper” come alive while readers can communicate in real time to publishers, editors and writers.

But first, kick out the management.

The future requires these things:

1. Ability to understand how consumers use their content -- the sociology of programming.

2. Platforms that allow consumers to click when they want to hear, click when they want to see video and click when they want to read text -- all in the same place at the same time.

3. The replacement of P1 mentality and replacing it with the study of fans with names, faces and social networks.

4. Building social networking into everything and keeping in mind that social networking is really not Twitter and Facebook. They are just conduits to a fan-based relationship.

5. The integration of new means of montization beyond commercials (video, audio or text). That would be events, micropayments for content and solution-based marketing.

6. A totally new package of skill sets are mandatory if existing media companies plan to enter the digital green zone.

The future is evolving in front of us but we are now beginning to get a glimpse of the great growth potential ahead for content delivered by radio people even if their employers can't see the road not taken.

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