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The Top 5 Disruptions In Digital Media

May 29, 2013

Reposted from LinkedIn – Tim Cadogan

Earlier this week, at John Battelle’s CM Summit during Internet Week in New York, I had the chance to lead a conversation about the most significant disruptive shifts currently taking place across the digital media landscape.

We are all simultaneously creating, being disrupted by and exploiting an incredible array of changes in the way our digital world works. While these shifts can sometimes seem overwhelming because they are proliferating and accelerating so fast, their broad themes can be simplified to help us understand their underlying meaning.

As I outlined this week, here are five of the most significant shifts currently taking place in the industry. As is the nature of disruptive innovation, each of these shifts simultaneously generates major challenges as well as massive opportunities:

1. Multi-Screen Proliferation

In many ways, 2012 was the year of mobile. Mobile reached a tipping point in terms of time spent, its connection to commerce, its redefinition of content consumption and entertainment and many other foundational applications.

Now that reality has already begun accelerating beyond just mobile to multi-screen. As consumers, we have become both sequential and simultaneous users of all the devices we own. The notion of one unified device is waning because we are beginning to understand that different devices work well in different situations: high-speed utility tasks vs. entertainment, geo-specific vs. not, productivity at work vs. social engagement. These situations in turn create flow across screens. For example, two thirds of us now start shopping on one device and finish on another.

This new reality and its incredible pace is forcing every sector of the digital economy – ecommerce, publishing, entertainment, gaming and advertising – to rethink how it provides the right environment and screen-specific experiences to its customers while retaining continuity of overall user and brand experiences across those screens.

2. Advertising Precision

During most of the history of advertising, companies have primarily focused on marketing to larger, more general audiences. The biggest exception had been direct mail, but nearly all the other large scale mediums – print, radio, TV and much of digital advertising – have been focused on addressing larger scale groups of people. But now we are able to advertise to increasingly specific audiences, based on a myriad factors relating to user behavior and intent. To give a specific example of the extent of the shift, print magazine publishers were typically able to give advertisers only a handful of targeting parameters – their readers would live here, earn this much, and be from this demographic. Today, magazines’ digital divisions can provide advertisers with thousands of targeting parameters to apply to their digital campaigns.

These changes are driving a sea change in how digital businesses shape, cultivate and package their audiences and how advertisers and agencies craft and execute their marketing campaigns.

3. Accelerating Automation

Writing in WIRED, Kevin Kelly estimated that by the end of this century 70% of today’s occupations will be replaced by automation. While the end of the century is still a good way off, we are seeing automation accelerating in the underpinnings of how the digital world operates. Much of this is driven by necessity, for example there is obviously no way to process Big Data manually. But it’s also caused by a drive towards efficiency that creates more economic value. Almost every industry passes through successive waves of automation as the lower value, more mechanistic activities are identified, standardized and then ultimately automated so people can focus their time on higher value activities. The shift to automated trading in the stock market or the transition of booking travel to automated systems are great examples. Similarly, we’re seeing the world of digital media and advertising become increasingly automated and while there’s still a surprising amount of manual labor involved, we should expect the rate of automation to accelerate.

4. Interruptive to Native

If we step back, we realize that most advertising tries to command our attention: the TV program stops and the ad takes over the screen. But with so much more control and choice over media consumption moving into the hands of consumers, it is becoming more important for advertising to earn our attentionNow while the word “native” is relatively new in this context, the central idea that marketing messages could be much more in-tune with digital content is not. Within digital it started first in paid search where the ads are in-stream and are visually represented in a very integrated, consistent way with the content (search results in this case). What is newer is that consumer choice and power is now driving an even broader shift towards a less disruptive, more integrated or “native” experience, that digital media businesses have to masterA topical case in point is how Yahoo! is planning to tackle monetizing Tumblr in a sustainable way that makes sense and is acceptable to the Tumblr community of users.

5. Static to Real-Time

Finally, we’re seeing a pronounced shift to a real-time world within digital – and increasingly beyond pure digital. Within the world of display advertising, the RTB (Real-Time Bidding) exchange space has grown as fast as paid search did in its first few years, catapulting from zero in 2009 to an estimated $14 billion industry worldwide in 2016. And real-time is just getting started as it fuses with Big Data and automation to extend into an array of the foundational technologies that underpin the digital ecosystem, including areas like analytics, instantaneous CRM and ecommerce.

What do you see as the most important disruptions right now? Do you think I’m under-estimating or over-stating?

Hope everyone’s had a productive and happy Internet Week!

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