The Future of Media: Co-ops, PMP, Subscription & More

I recently shared my views about the future of media with The Drum, a global marketing trade magazine and the biggest marketing website in Europe, and part of it has been published in its May 2019 issue. Below is the full version of my takes.

1. We have seen new ownership models arising around both legacy and new media companies in the Asia Pacific, from SCMP being bought by Alibaba, to publishers forming co-ops/PMPs to thrive without the duopoly. Is this what the future of publishing/media looks like?

Serm: Alibaba’s acquisition of SCMP follows the acquisition of The Washington Post by Jeff Bezos back in 2013. Interestingly, when digital-born companies become so prominent, they naturally expand their touchpoints beyond digital, and ironically, back to traditional media brands. They gravitate toward highly trustworthy brands to have as a channel for their voices and influences, be it for business, politics or other reasons.

Digital has disrupted all media and the only way for media companies to survive is to change and evolve. That’s why we’re seeing new ownership models emerge, it is all part of the process of figuring out what works in this new digital paradigm. The industry has to go through trial and error – to fail fast and fix fast.

For legacy media companies, the transformation journey has to go beyond just embracing technology and knowing how to use it. Technology needs to be part of the organisation’s DNA.

The key is mindset. Changing the mindset to one of selling information and news via multiple consumer touch points and channels. 

In short, a newspaper company can’t see themselves as a newspaper company anymore. You’re selling the news – not the newspaper.

2. Many publishers have also gravitated towards the subscription model by asking readers to pay for content to make up for decreasing ad revenue. Will this new business model be successful and how will it change the industry?

Serm: Firstly, subscription models are not a new business model and have been a fixture of the media industry almost since its inception. Within the digital context, media companies such has the Wall Street Journal have embraced this model for many years with

The emergence of digital content services like Netflix and Spotify, and their subsequent success with subscriptions have only help prove that this model works, and can indeed be used to build a very successful business.

The key question is, what is the uniqueness of your content? The crux of this question is why customers would want to pay for this content. For example, I personally subscribe to New York Times Digital because of the calibre of journalism offered, with very detailed and quality content. 

3. The emphasis on forming co-ops is on forming partnerships. Is this an example of “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’?

Serm: It’s all about the scale. The duopoly can take a big chunk of digital adex because of their reach, scale and technology. By forming co-ops, publishers are aggregating inventory and data, thereby creating a third option in the market for advertisers looking for trustworthy media for their campaigns. This push to give advertisers choice is a mission we believe strongly in and what drove CtrlShift to launch AMP, our own private premium marketplace almost 2 years ago.

4. As advertising gravitates towards programmatic, collecting data and understanding audiences will be important. What kind of role will co-ops/PMPs play in this?

Serm: Most of the co-ops are formed among leading publishers in a specific country or region. Such co-ops offer quality inventory with high value data, and they are appreciated by advertisers as they enrich the offerings available in the market and expand the overall programmatic mix.

Many programmatic solutions and inventory sources available in the market operate on a “race to the bottom” model. Which means advertisers have to be very careful in ensuring their messages are delivered in a brand-safe environment that their target audiences actually visit. 

Co-ops and PMPs offers such an environment thanks to the availability of premium ad inventory coupled with quality content and high value audience data. Yes, there is a higher price tag attached, but it is a worthwhile investment that carries the added assurance of dealing with trusted publishers.

5. Publishers have also invested in events and e-commerce to allow readers to experience its brands in a live environment creating new revenue streams through ticket sales and event sponsorships from brands. What are other revenue streams?

Serm: In addition to events and e-commerce, publishers need to be innovative in creating new products to tackle the new demands. There are many opportunities that can be explored thanks to the proliferation of new technologies and content formats.

How about creating customised video packages covering multiple platforms that combines text, web, mobile, social and video? How about adding a layer of augmented reality (AR) if such technology is suitable for a specific client? 

What is the publisher’s big data strategy, and how they add value to clients from analytics standpoint? If social is where the audience go, can you (the publisher) create a new product on top of social? What is the programmatic strategy for all inventories, and how does that interlink with your premium sponsorship packages? If data is the most powerful asset for media companies, apart from content, should they set up a publisher trading desk to provide an audience extension service for clients? 

Digital has decentralised the power of media companies, giving consumers consumption choice and the means to not only create their own content but build their own audiences. Longevity and profitability for media organisations now depends on being innovative enough to think out of the box, and deliver something great to win back audience attention, which will ultimately convert into revenue. 

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