Glum and Glummer at Future of Media Forum: Quotable Quips but No Answers on Monetizing Media

Today I sat in on the Future of Media summit from MediaPost held during Advertising Week.

  • Mark Cuban, Chairman & Co-Founder, HDNet / Dallas Mavericks owner
  • Vivian Schiller, President & CEO, NPR
  • Bob Garfield, Columnist, Advertising Age
  • Martha Stewart, Founder, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia
  • Reid Hoffman, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder,LinkedIn
  • Susan Whiting, Vice Chair, Nielsen Company
  • Rob Norman, CEO, GroupM Interaction Worldwide
  • Judy McGrath, Chairman & CEO, MTV Networks
  • Milton Glaser, Founder, New York Magazine / Milton Glaser Inc
  • Moderator: Chris Anderson, Editor in Chief, Wired Magazine

They say pictures don’t lie. If that’s the case, the panelists looked agonized. It felt somewhat more upbeat, but all in all, it sounded like a lot of banter with no answers to big issues like where media’s going and how these companies are tackling monetization. You can also find all my photos from the event on Flickr; they’re under the Creative Commons license so feel free to share and use them if you like.

Rob Norman GroupM 
All of this pontificating about the future of media gave GroupM CEO Rob Norman a migraine.

 
Mark Cuban, Bob Garfield, Martha Stewart: all brilliant, but none too bubbly 

Mark Cuban, Bob Garfield, Martha Stewart: all brilliant, but none too bubbly

IMG_0280 

On to the panel coverage…

Chris: “We don’t have to disagree about what’s happening anymore… It’s clear what people want, so now the question is, ‘What are we going to do about it?’” He took issue with the word “media” and wonders what it even means anymore. To Vivian – NPR: “I believe this is the golden age of the spoken word because we have so many ways to receive it.” He sees NPR as the “atomization of content.”

Vivian: “It’s destroying the original business model of public radio and NPR.” NPR didn’t used to go directly to consumers. Stations “need to become increasingly relevant to their local market.” She doesn’t care where people listen as long as they do. She sees a future not too far off where listening to her content on the iPhone far surpasses the audience of 28 million who listen on the radio.

Milton Glaser and Chris Anderson
Milton Glaser and Chris Anderson

Chris: To Judy, MTVN – What are you doing differently?

Judy: “We have atomized content, we have the advantage of brands…, relevance has always been the name of our game… the advent of social media is an opportunity, the proliferation of mobile is an opportunity…” She sees music once being a defining preference, and now comedy is taking much of that role.

Chris: This economic crisis has revealed the limits of advertising and the need for alternative revenue streams. To Martha: How does this crisis change how you run the business?

Martha: “Our business plan is still a good business plan.” The Omnimedia model “still works” and “at the center of the model is content.” Monetization is still a challenge. “The consumer is all-important to us, whether he or she is a reader or viewer or Internet user.” They develop programs for advertisers – she notes they’re effective and loved, but monetization is the challenge. [I’m not sure how she says the model works and they figured it out, but monetization is still a challenge.] Merchandising is also important for their consumers, as a way to satisfy their dreams and help them “become the doer.”

Chris Anderson
Chris Anderson

Chris: To Rob: “Do you see the limits of media?”

Rob: “We know now that addressable media, social media are of equal influence [to broadcast].” The question becomes how much more than advertising media companies can do.

Chris: To Reid: “You represent the competition… “ If he ran a major media company, what would he do?

Reid: He [not surprisingly] sees social and Web 2.0 as a bi“A business model is not just something you slap on top of content production… those ecosystems are changing.” As Chris elaborated, Reid doesn’t want their jobs.

Mark Cuban and Vivian Schiller
Mark Cuban and Vivian Schiller

Mark: “Free as a form of sampling is very valid… it’s been used by drug dealers for years and years.” “In the analog world, we’ve assigned value to things that have become free.” It’s that “legacy perceived value.” “The Internet IS becoming stale… What’s next?…” At the Giants-Cowboys game, everyone was talking about the screen. It cost $40 million – what will it cost in five years?" It used to be “smaller, cheaper, faster.” Now it’s “bigger, better, and cheaper.” The focus on the Internet means “you’re missing all the good stuff.” He’s looking at mobile, screen, laptop… He notes the Internet is mature. “Once it gets so mature, the business models aren’t there.” … “How do you get to ubiquity? Through maturity?”

Susan: “That idea of best screen possible enabled by content – it still matters.”

Mark: “What’s premium today is going to be ubiquitous tomorrow.” Today it’s Twitter, social networks, etc…. six years ago it was something else. “How do you get ahead of the curve?”

Mark Cuban and Bob Garfield
Mark Cuban and Bob Garfield

Bob: “I know how to get ahead of the curve.” If Dallas has a 7-story screen, the future is 8 stories tall… “In the very near future, everyone in this room will be curled up in the fetal position whimpering.” Nobody will be paying for content. Fragmentation and the glut of supply is destroying the critical miss. Craigslist obliterated the newspaper industry and DVRs and the Internet are destroying cable. “CBS and NBC are talking about becoming cable networks.” Cable has much better prospects.

Milton: “The combination of words that most scares me is ‘targeted consumers.’”

Martha: They’ve been watching the erosion of church and state between advertising and editorial.

Chris: “It is paradoxical.” They assumed advertising and content needed to be separated. “The consumers clearly like it because they click on it.” “Either we were wrong… and we were just suffering from self-importance” or it’s different online.

Martha: I think there’s a relaxation online. “It doesn’t bother me anymore.”

Bob: “There’s a big difference between relevance… and corruption…” “Now it’s becoming like Plato’s retreat.”

Martha: “Look it up on Wikipedia.”

Vivian: In legitimate newsrooms this isn’t happening.

Judy McGrath and Milton Glaser Judy McGrath and Milton Glaser
Judy McGrath and Milton Glaser

Judy: “Fake news has been very, very good to me… The consumer is more discerning than we give them credit for.”

Chris: “Are you happy about paying more and more for smaller and smaller audiences on broadcast?” Also, how does he reconcile that with online video?

Rob: “The value judgment I make is the exchange of money for effectiveness… We believe there is still a premium to be paid… for the volume and reach… we are trying to blend the costs of that with all the alternative forms of distribution that we have.” Advertisers feel pressure from many areas: television, Wal-Mart, distribution and logistics costs, Amazon, etc – “their margins are being stripped away.” … They must strip away waste.

Chris: To Judy, after she mentioned the success and viral nature of the Video Music Awards: “How did you monetize this?”

Judy: “We prepared in advance for this.” “We’re probably creating 50 pieces of content across multiple brands…” “These are the most marketed to generations in the history of time.” “I’m not saying we have the answers figured out, but we’re in the process of figuring out how to make great experiences happen and get compensated for it.” [Note: she still didn’t say anything about how it was monetized.]

Chris and Judy debated this – he still wanted to know how it was monetized and she said he was taking it too literally, as the audience grew.

Judy: “It isn’t the apocalypse. It’s quite the contrary.”

Reid: “It’s a failure of imagination not to believe that innovation will happen.”

Mark: There are “imitators, innovators, and idiots.” You need to recognize where you are on that scale.

I’m still wondering what I learned from this. But with Bob, Mark, Martha, Judy, and Chris sharing the stage, it made for a fun couple hours.