If Content Is King, Mobile Devices Are Queen

ABC 15 in Phoenix spends practically the entire time it devotes to news promoting its website.

That’s when they are not running promo after promo for their website, the show you are currently watching, pet stories, weight loss stories and uncool stories about pop culture from which they seriously seem to be detached.

No wonder I was surprised to find a MediaPost article recently substantiating that the median age of a television viewer is 51 years old.

I knew the median age was getting older, but surprised to find it that old.

That means half of all TV viewers are over 51 and the other half younger.

And it's not just news but all television viewing including prime time.

There is nothing wrong with viewers older than 51 but advertisers want to reach younger money demos and broadcast TV is increasingly not the way.

Best indicator that this was happening is to see how network prime time programming turned to cheap reality shows and other unremarkable programming that made television viewing suddenly not required.

Kind of reminds you of radio where consolidators opted for cheap instead of live and local.

Young people may like Lost or Greys Anatomy but they also don’t have to – and increasing do not – watch their favorite shows on a traditional television. Ask a young person how they watch Lost and they’ll tell you on their laptop.

Soon it will be their iPad.

Personally, I think Apple is going to fix its Apple TV and get into the new aged "television" business next.

Hulu is prepping a paid subscription service to deliver traditional TV shows directly to your iPad. So much for that big screen hanging on the wall in your family room. I'm not optimistic about Hulu's paid service but it does indicate that an audience migration away from traditional television is underway.

It wouldn't surprise me if Apple TV offered a paid service similar to cable with consumers cherry picking the channels. Let's see if I'm seeing this one clearly in the next year or so.

Back to the graying of traditional media.

The shift in median age of prime time TV viewers has, according to MediaPost, increased every year since 2005 or as they noted:

“This means that the rate at which young people are turning away from TV is greater than the rate at which old people are dying. Think about that one for just a second”.

Look to radio and you see the same thing.

Observe a young person taking the bus to school, driving to work or just wandering around and you’ll see that they are not listening to the radio. Sorry, don’t shoot me. Look to your kids and you already know.

Radio is not growing a youthful audience fast enough to replace a decreasing number of 18-49 year olds for demanding advertisers.

Some observations:

1. Consumers have switched to new delivery systems and radio and television content providers will have to follow them to remain viable.

2. The form of content must change with new delivery systems. A half hour TV show with fewer than 20 minutes of content may have to be delivered as 20 minutes of content to iPads, laptops or wherever either in subscription or paid advertising models (where possible).

3. Radio operators will have to break the traditional thinking of 24/7 broadcasting and even three or four hour shows to create content for shorter attention spans and different electronic devices being embraced by audiences everywhere.

4. It is important to understand if the media is the message in the McLuhan world, that today the delivery system dictates that message. Only a fool would try to cram a 24-hour a day radio station onto the Internet knowing that Internet users listen differently. This is also why fighting for a “radio” chip on an iPhone, iPad or mobile device is a waste of time. Making short content and making it easy to access on-demand each day is a better use of time.

5. Apple is being the default transmitter, tower, cable system, record company, printing press and book store all wrapped into one. Apple doesn’t have to absorb the cost of producing the content. Since in a sense it owns the radios, “TVs”, “newspapers” and book stores, all Apple has to do is charge 30% to content providers for access to their market. Hey, 100 million credit cards on file at the iTunes store is very powerful.

6. Content providers have it all wrong – they still create content in a mono dimensional way for say, radio, or a CD player when they have to create content now for all the ways technology serves up programming to new markets.

I am not sure I believe this but Cisco says by 2013 90% of all web traffic will be generated by video spelling doom for television broadcasters.

In People a few weeks ago, there was a double page ad by Lays Potato chips that had to do with a social project rather than the virtue of their chips (which I can happily attest to). That means advertisers are actively looking away from traditional media.

Pepsi side-stepped the Super Bowl early this year for an online initiative where local groups could vie for millions in seed funds to help their projects. Online visitors did the voting.

Coke did a commercial that never aired on radio and TV that was a pop hit but only online attracting millions and millions of viewers for only the cost of the mini-episode.

No reason to panic.

Opportunity abounds.

But one thing is certain – now is the time to rethink creation of content and how it is distributed.

Consider sociology as well as technology.

I’m smelling money in growth markets that content providers have yet to explore.

If content is king then mobile devices that consumers prefer are queen -- and they are telling us loud and clear what they want from content providers if we will but listen.

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