Monday, November 16, 2009

From Macro Media To Micro Media

What’s the association between these three macro trends – the decline in newspaper revenue, the increase in journalism school enrollment, and the decline in ratings for mass market advertising channels like broadcast television?

We’re seeing a huge downturn in newspaper revenue and readership - and at the same time a big increase in journalism school enrollment. Even given the expected increase in post-graduate school enrollment that comes with a recession, why choose journalism when the historic career path out of journalism programs is being decimated?

The answer is in the flow of advertising dollars, and, related, in shifting behavior by viewers and consumers. It is getting more and more difficult for large advertisers to make big media buys and reach a mass audience with a single message – and segmenting buys and tailoring messages by demo, behavior, intent will be a competitive advantage going forward.

So twenty years ago, I could spend 5 million dollars for 100 thirty second spots on prime-time, and be confident that I was reaching ten to twenty million people. Or I could buy a full page ad in the local metro paper and be confident that I was reaching a significant percentage of the local population.

Now, I still need to spend that marketing and advertising budget, and I still need to reach those people. But even if people are watching prime-time network shows, they’re on their laptops, or they’re fast-forwarding through commercials. Even if people are still getting the local paper, they’re spending less time with it.

The reality is that people are self-segmenting into smaller addressable groups. They’re finding the news they want, the entertainment they want, and the information they want – and because of the explosion of content and sources, they’re finding the voices and presentation that they’re most comfortable with.

So how do I spend that 5 million dollars in this new media landscape? Who will tailor my message and present it effectively to hundreds or thousands of addressable groups, all self-segmented by interest or voice? Yes, automation has a place, but ultimately marketing and advertising are communication, and communication happens between people.

The market for people able to bridge that gap will be a growth industry for years to come. It is certainly not traditional journalism, but it’s not traditional marketing either.

Advertisers will spend money here because they must. And as in everything in life, quality matters – good content, consistent voice, engaged viewers/readers/consumers – these will be the markers that advertisers will look for. So getting trained to provide this certainly makes sense.

Bottom line – brand advertisers still need to make large media buys to compete effectively, and as audiences fragment and self-segment, we will need many more media properties that serve both audiences and advertisers. Going through a graduate journalism program is not a bad way to acquire some skills and contacts that will be required to manage and create content for these media properties.

Interesting times!

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