- Business

The Future of Media…

The Future is…..about to unfold…..

In these uncertain times, many of us in the media industry are asking what does the future hold for media in this country?

Not just for the companies involved in each discipline but also consumers, investors, pr people, journalists, students, clients and the various media agencies.

The Ireland France Chamber of Commerce hosted a breakfast briefing, with some of the leading figures from various media industry sectors – media buying, radio, print and digital – to discuss this very topic.

Kindly hosted by the Irish Times and with the MD of Pembroke Communications, Mick O’Keeffe, master of ceremonies, it made for a lively and very informative morning.

Setting the Scene….the facts and figures…who is up and who is down….

Michael Clancy, deputy managing director of MediaVest kicked things off and had the room thinking of holidays of France as he shared a picture of his favourite French ski resort.

The focus was quickly brought back to the more pressing issues as he highlighted the disproportionate drop in ad spend in Ireland compared to the United States and Europe since 2007. Decreasing ad spend is not the wisest decision in a recession which has often been proven in the past.

Michael displayed viewership patterns for the X-Factor which showed dips in numbers around the time of ad breaks. Nothing ground breaking here, he said, as it is well known that people tune out or fast forward if they recorded the programme. However he put forward the question – how do people know when the programme is restarting to stop fast forwarding? When they see the Domino’s sponsorship! Making the sponsorship of programmes so important as people continue to skip ads.

On the subject of print media he felt mobile devices offer publishers a lifeline but they are also still figuring out how people want to consume media – digital versus traditional – given there was 22% drop in readership figures in the 18-24 year old audience between 2010 and 2011 and this pattern is set to continue. Michael concluded by saying the marketplace is still nervous in terms of spending and the traditional media that embrace technology will be most successful.

Cutting down trees and E-Papers

This led nicely into Eamon Fitzpatrick’s talk. Eamon is formerly of Today FM fame but is now advertising director at the Irish Times and offered a refreshingly honest and interesting insight into how the paper operates as a business and his opinions on the future of print media. He pointed out that the newspaper business needs to build for the future in relation to how people are consuming media.

It was interesting to hear him say that the paper now “behaves like a media agency” and becoming a “one-stop-shop for everything is important” when it comes to services such as digital advertising and digital on demand.

He suggested that in the future the paper, and indeed all papers, may only be published three to four times a week. Papers will be smaller, more niche and be more readily available across all platforms. The big question was also of content in terms of what content goes where. A paper couldn’t publish the same thing everywhere. Online needs to offer something different or offer what is in the paper plus something additional, he said.

When asked why keep printing a daily newspaper and not just go digital, Eamon quite rightly pointed out they couldn’t just turn their back on a €75million turnover and go down the digital route. Currently it is all about changing processes and legacies. It is a very viable business and as he sees it, it is all about moving more nimbly into the future.

He added that no one knows what the saviour of print media is and the likes of tablets and ipads are just another place to serve the news. Continuing investment in quality content and journalism is vital. Knowing when to charge and how much is vital.

Radio remains buoyant but must behave better

Incoming TodayFM CEO Peter McPartlin provided some strong opinions on the current state of the Irish radioindustry, or ‘rants’ as he said himself. He did point out that radio kept on top of digital trends pointing to examples such as live streaming and podcasts as it gave people access anywhere.

However he went on to warn that the current radio model is “broken”, especially the sales model of the radio industry hasn’t changed in 30 years. Advertising is still sold on packages, he said, not on the value of personalities. He blamed everyone involved.

The radio industry for being in a dark place in terms of creativity and drowning in a sea of mediocrity, the clients for being bland and trying to condense a press ad into 30 seconds and the agencies for poor attention to scripts. He felt radio advertising was a case of stack ‘em high and sell ‘em cheap.

He added that mobile is important as it provides opportunities for radio advertising. He went on to say radio stations are a trusted curator of content but they need to start generating new content, if they continue to churn out the same old stuff they will be on the road to ruin. He concluded by saying the future of Irish radio is strong but it shouldn’t be complacent. The industry shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of content as it moves to digital and monetizing.

Facebook, Twitter, digital growth and making mistakes…

The glory slot fell as always to those in the online and digital space.
Justin Cullen of digital agency Radical started by pointing out that there has been massive change in the digital sector over the last five years, not just in the media sector. A good example to highlight this was the increase in ad spend on digital. In 2005 digital ad spend only accounted for 3% of total ad expenditure, five years later and 20% of ad budgets are being set aside for digital.

The development of digital services is opening more and more opportunities for advertisers as ad solutions are becoming more intuitive with the advent of location based services. While mass media channels like TV are beginning the move from ‘aired’ towards being ‘served’ which will allow advertisers to target viewers by demographics and location.

His other key points were that digital is all about disruption of the existing ways to doing business and it is also a “laboratory” in that people are still experimenting with it in order to find the right formula. He encouraged businesses to embrace mistakes in order to learn and to brave this new medium.

Those companies that are brave and do so will be an integral part of the future.

Where to now?

No one was 100% sure what the future holds for any sector of the media, however it was clear from the four speakers that common themes kept appearing.

A continuing commitment to quality content along with embracing, and experimenting with, new technologies will determine the future success of media companies. Those that won’t will certainly have no future to look forward to.

The debate was only warming up when we had to stop. Each speaker was asked to predict a major trend for 2012 but none could. It is too simplistic to say papers are dying and the future is digital.

How we consume media, pay for content, pass it on is an evolution not a revolution.

All channels must adapt but the growth of digital does not have to come at the expense of something else and media channels must learn to exist side by side and work together and embrace the current needs of consumers.

It is our view in MediaWatch Towers that respect for the consumer and quality content will always sell.

Those who do not move with times will be left behind.

Those who are bold and embrace mistakes will succeed.

We in Pembroke believe that looking for winners and losers is a mistake.

So what does the future hold? No idea, but see you next year.