A Boulder Is About To Drop On The Media World

Have any of the readers ever tossed a rock into the water? I remember doing it as a kid.

I also remember my father doing it and then sharing with me what he called the “ripple effect.”

My father was the CEO of a number of companies. He told me stories and often referenced his businesses in the what he shared.

If any readers of this blog know, the “ripple effect” is a term that I have referenced multiple times in the blog posts.

In the tracking I do every morning with COVID-19 cases, I reference the “ripple effect” and how that is at play in the way the States post changes and fluctuations in their numbers.

Right now, the “ripple effect” is evening out cases levels in a direct relationship with the percentage each State represents of the overall U.S. population.

But this Blog post is not about COVID-19.

The next phase of the “ripple effect” is finally taking place in the media world.

This morning the Wall Street Journal ran an article about AT&T and its placing DirecTV up for bids and the offers coming in above its initial $15 billion value.

Hard to believe, DirecTV was launched more than 30 years ago in 1990. Back then, the Internet existed essentially only via dial-up. The digital world of media had not launched yet.

Even back then, the Media World and rating groups like Nielsen and Arbitron were already clamoring about just how ratings were going to be impacted.

I worked for Time-Warner back in those days. The battlefield was all about the equity of broadcast cable buys vs. network television buys.

Shoot… if they could have put the 2020 media headset on back in those days and align cable with what is known today as “fencing,” the cable media might have evolved a bit differently.

Yesterday, there was another news story that ran in many of the major newspapers I track. I do not remember hearing anything about in the broadcast news nets… and then maybe those nets failure to report it was intentional.

The title of the article… “Nielsen Plans Ratings Overhaul.” The article reports right up front that the overhaul is targeted to hit by 2024.

Reading further, the article cites that the what Nielsen is doing “will require the approval of TV networks, walled-off tech giants and advertisers.”

Wow.

Readers must be thinking that what Nielsen is doing is revolutionary.

No… what the media world is doing is the “ripple effect” of the splicing and dicing of media channels.

Think about it.

You can access a specific television show via cable, satellite dish, direct streaming onto your television set, digital access on your smart pad or smart phone… or directly off your laptop or desktop from the Internet at-large. .

You could be Hulu, Spotify, Netflix, Disney+, Discovery Direct, Prime Video or YouTube airing… or should I say streaming… entertainment content.

I could care less what form of digital technology that some tech geek in Silicon Valley engineered, if you are one of those brands, you have two avenues of revenue… (1) subscription payments end users pay to reach your audience group … or (2) advertising / sponsorship / digital link payment by another party that wants to reach the end audience group viewing the content.

“Rifle-targeting” is not something high tech or unique.

In the early days, ABC, NBC and CBS attempted to market unique brand audience groups. As programming content became more diverse, the three mega-nets talked about audience group variance by program genre — news vs. soaps vs. game shows vs. sitcoms vs. crime-drama.

Cable claimed it with even more punch with actual networks with niche personality and content.

Broadcast attempted to do what drove magazine revenue.

The more unique, the large the splash from the rock dropping into the water.

Unfortunately, the media operational and financial leadership perceived the marketplace through their niche set of glasses… the more the competitive market gets sliced and diced, the smaller the ratings and share.

The glitch is simple… the industry got itself obsessed with the overall brand it created with the vision being that the brand would consume other brands that became a threat. In some ways, the industry became obsessed with the mass of mass media.

NBC got into bed with Bravo, CNBC and SYFY. Discovery got into bed with HGTV and Food Network. Google bought YouTube. Facebook purchased Instagram and WhatsApp.

Right now, HGTV is airing a show nearly identical to a competitive cooking show on Food Network where competitors build miniature houses and furnish them.

They say that incest breeds odd children.

The print media sees the world through a different pair of lens. It’s the audience group that is of value and the print media has not hang ups on price of access to the niche audience group.

Just as the reader of Architectural Digest is different from the reader of HGTV or even Southern Living, the content of those three publications does not vary and each provides brand aligned content no matter the genre of access… digital, print, broadcast or mobile.

What Nielsen is doing is truly not that unique in many marketing circles, but what Nielsen is doing is unique in many ways in the broadcast industry … and that includes the digital arm of the industry too.

Nielsen is focusing the brand deliverable more around the content vs. the channel / network / service of access.

When an advertiser purchases the audience group watching Law & Order SVU, it purchases that audience group independent of the channel as well as form of access to the program content.

To this day, when EXPERIENCE works with clients, we specifically adjust their mindset to re-engineer what has become the conventional definition of “reach.” What matters is the ability to engage the very specific audience group that pursues the experience that a client / brand provides. It’s the content that drives the engagement, not the channel of access.

The sale of DirecTV is a great illustration of where the channel of access represents limited revenue generation. Consumers might have paid more for it 30 years ago because there were very limited alternative options. Today, there are many.

Nielsen’s announcement is truly dropping a large boulder into the water. While the role out of the new Nielsen model is still about three years away from premiering… the ripples will materialize in 2021.

It will rattle the foundations of the ad agencies, digital engineers and media buying groups.

When I started EXPERIENCE back in 2003, I brought to the table a perspective that the “reach and frequency” model was essentially dead. Trust me, there were some conventional camps that thought I was a nut case… and a fair share that still do.

But after working for the world’s largest holding company of ad agencies and run the brand insight teams for one of the large cable networks, my viewpoint is not just from a random formed opinion.

CEO & Discovery Chief at EXPERIENCE Insight Group, Inc. In the business to discover and craft brand experiences that humans seek out and engage in.