Thursday, March 8, 2012

Media Consumption In A Digital Age: It's One Big Experiment

In the past, there was a silver screen, a few broadcasters, and a lot of paper.  If you wanted to watch something, you sat in front of someone's television or a theater screen.  If you wanted to listen to music, it was on a stereo - home or portable.  If you wanted to read something, or take something with you, it was most likely printed on paper.  You were in your home, in a movie theater, picked up the mail, or you went to a store to purchase your entertainment.

A few large companies controlled the publishing and availability of the media you chose to consume.  Prices were pretty much the same everywhere you went.  Competition was non-existent.  That's the way it was.  Then this "thing" called the personal computer appeared.  Then the internet appeared.  Everything changed, and it still is.

Last year Time, Inc. hoped to take advantage of it's multiple consumption and distribution publishing model. Time Inc. was attempting to bundle "digital" media with a traditional print subscription under an "All Access" strategy - which would have eliminated print-only subscriptions in the process - and would have allowed Sports Illustrated to raise its price to $48 from $39. Sports Illustrated reversed course in January.  Said Steve Sachs, Executive VP of Consumer Marketing and Sales, "That price, we found, was higher than the market commanded.  Monica Ray, the Executive Vice President of Conde Nast, commented, "The whole industry has the opportunity to redefine what a subscription is."

What kind of subscriptions do consumers want?  Is a "subscription" model appropriate anymore?  How do I find out?  The only way you can find out is by collecting data.  Without data, you're making decisions in the dark, you are walking around blind.  Since the way consumers consume media is changing, we need to be collecting data and study how our customers are using our media products.  If we don't adapt, if we aren't willing to constantly evolve our model of media delivery, we will forever be stuck in our traditions, and more media institutions will perish.

There are no longer a few ways to consume media.  Now there are many publishers, many screens, and the vast majority of them are portable.  Oh ... there still is some paper too.  Because traditional publishing methods have changed drastically from decades of old, traditional media publishers are walking around blindfolded, feeling their way around a media consumption environment that they no longer control.  Today publishing in a digitally dominated ecosystem has become one big experiment, and understanding what will work for you is all about knowing your customer ... and that requires data.


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