Traditional Media Goes to School on New Media

The traditional content companies (NBC, CBS, FOX, ABC, etc) have used the research, development and “trial and error” investments of many new media, web and mobile oriented companies to learn what networks4works in digital content, commerce and advertising.   They have transitioned from fighting the term “new media”, to adapting it, and in many cases becoming dominate players.

I was a witness to the first stages of this schooling in the early days of the dot.com explosion.

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Jay Chiat

In April of 2000, I had just joined the quintessential Silicon Alley content company, ScreamingMedia. Our well-funded company, had h the superstar and Ad icon Jay Chiat as Chairmen and a hard driving entrepreneur founder, Al Ellman.    Jay Chiat was famous for such ads as the 1984 Apple Superbowl commecial and the still-going  Energizer bunny.  

The company  hosted  its own new media content conference at the Chelsea Piers.   This was called the “Malcontent” conference.   The conference was organized to be a debate of new (web oriented) vs. old (TV, Radio, Newspaper) media.

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ScreamingMedia Founder, Al Ellman

We had luminaries from both sides of the assumed divide, including Dan Rather.   As a new executive at ScreamingMedia, I gave the case for mobile and its role in this new media landscape.   The one thing I was sure of, any media or content on a phone would have to be “new media”.

The value of ScreamingMedia was grounded in content syndication.   At the timeit  was technically and legally difficult to syndicate content on the Web.   ScreamingMedia (aka Pinnacor) was eventually acquired for about $150M.

Of course, this was pre-RSS days.  By today’s standards the media giant of syndication would certainly look old.

The debate (new vs. traditional) lasted well beyond this 3-hour event.  The crash of the dot.com industry in 2000-2001 took this off the techno blogs and webmags for a while, only to emerge again and again throughout the last 8 years.

Initially “new media” – which is loosely defined as anything related to the Internet started to make inroads against old media in digital ad spending.  Viewership, commerce and piracy flourished in Internet land.  My observation was the traditional media sources were slow and ineffectual in their digital  efforts.  

This had had the appearance of the classic innovators dilemma.  Traditional media profited from their “traditional” revenue sources.  Any admission that the model was changing threatened the status quo, or more likely the careers of those who made their fortunes in the pre-Internet era.

For the media giants, innovation was largely a content and storyline effort. Distribution was the means to theater tickets (movies), CD sales (music), and Ad dollars (TV and radio).  Innovation in distribution was in cable television, DVDs, and some simple web sites. The new media models were the domain of those who wished to destroy this traditional model.

Over the past couple of years I have met with many in the media industry on this topic.  I have to admit trad1that I have been perplexed that it took them so long to come around and really capitalize on the new distribution models.  My advice back then, and now, is that the big media companies still have the best, most wanted content.

The strategies and techniques that were pioneered by the new media innovators, such as ScreamingMedia have been adapted and extended by the general media industry.

With all due respect to a dancing baby on YouTube, a Tina Fey SNL skit on Sarah Palin will get more viewers, on the NBC website, then watched the actual Katie Couric interview.

All the TV networks have embraced online video of their shows, big time.  The online video versions of their lineups are ad supported and provide a much better experience than the pirated versions that float around the Web.  By embracing the model, they do it better than the previous amateur attempts by others.

So now what was “old” is “new”, and what was “new media”, is just another distribution channel for creative content, most of which comes from the media giants, with a secondary node to the entire world of user generated content.

We have now come full circle.  Good media companies observed what worked in the digital domain.  They capitalized on the considerable investment made in companies that originally were designed to compete with them.  In today’s market some of the most compelling digital content and applications are coming from the “traditional” media outlets.

Good Content is Good Content- From the days when the distribution model was cave drawings, to biblical stories, to the art and literature of the Renaissance, Shakespeare, Novels, Radio, TV, Movies, Internet and yes, mobile.

screamingmediavig

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