Emerging Convergence- New and old media work best when they work together (The HUB Magazine)

Emerging media. Traditional media. They’re both relative terms, right? There was a time when those refrigerator-sized televisions were considered “emerging” relative to the just slightly smaller radios sitting next to them on the orange shag carpet. No threat … they eventually learned to co-exist in an integrated marketing world along with the newspaper.

I remember being the guy from “the web shop” sitting in the back row at client meetings watching brand agencies scoff at all things digital … and that was only four years ago! Today, above-the-line and below-the-line offerings are more blurred than ever before. And there’s an equally respected presence at the table between digital and traditional disciplines. As a result, the chins of all of the emerging-tech folks are now at least parallel to the floor ... and sometimes slightly north.

Why? Not because some diabolical plot for world media domination is finally taking shape. It’s because so-called emerging media are not only being respected and understood by some of the “old-school folks,” they are also acting as catalysts to evolve the so-called traditional media that’s been around since before World War II, helping to maintain its relevance amid rapidly changing consumer behavior.

You can’t have a marketing conversation these days without some sardonic pundit claiming the death of traditional media. There was a time when I believed that too. But then I stepped back, grew up a bit, and realized that “traditional” isn’t dying … it’s maturing, thanks to emerging-media opportunities and marketers who dared.

Savvy marketers are realizing that emerging isn’t a threat and that traditional isn’t on its deathbed. Emerging and traditional can hold hands, sing “Kumbaya” and co-exist in peaceful ROI-generating harmony. We can shed the passionate and territorial stance we have as marketers and embrace the new opportunities for integration and evolution.

Let’s look at four of the most common forms of traditional media and how some really sharp marketers married them with emerging media to engage, sustain, revitalize and maintain relevance in a rapidly evolving marketing world in which attention spans are divvied up between multiple screens.

Television & Social. The average American home has 2.86 television sets for every 2.5 people in the household. You’d think that traditional broadcast marketers would find total comfort in that kind of penetration. Some have. They’ve perished. Or soon will. The really smart ones have finally accepted that consumers are using another screen while they’re watching television — whether it be their laptops, tablets, or phones, they’re obeying their natural desire to socialize and be heard at any given moment.

Television has evolved significantly over recent years from traditional scripted shows to the “hot-seven-years-ago” reality shows to shows that now drive an “influential co-viewing experience.” Huh?

Let’s look at one of the most popular shows in the US in 2011: “The Voice.” The Voice was adapted from a relatively successful television show in Holland. When it was slated for US arrival, NBC knew that it needed to push the boundaries of traditional American television to make a significant impact. The solution was grounded in a social media and digital integration strategy that essentially took the show from simply being a weekly television episode to an always-on entertainment story online, complemented by a weekly television show.

Other television shows have used social media; however, most have used it for awareness, not true engagement. The Voice was created to have significant social integration points between digital and broadcast to ensure a critical level of consumer engagement. The show’s producers knew they could engage and sustain a sizable audience by giving the public access to the show’s top stars, such as Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green, including initiating dialogue with them via Twitter.

The result was a rating of 5.7 in the coveted 18–49-age range — the greatest ratings surge the network has seen in a decade. Not coincidentally, The Voice recorded upwards of 3,000 tweets per minute about the show during airtime.

Billboards & Biometrics. Both indoor and outdoor billboards have been a staple in advertising as they try to generate awareness from unsuspecting passers-by. Rather than just being content with an “in-your-face” approach, they’ve been quietly evolving over recent years by integrating webcams, upgrading to rotating digital displays, and even changing on-the-fly based on time-of-day, weather, and current music via local radio stations.

But how do you take such a broad medium that typically drives awareness and make it absolutely personalized and activating? Imagine a billboard with gender recognition. Foursquare integration. Real-time analytics. Web-style cookies. Environmental-factor recognition. The result would be an extremely powerful, personalized experience that wouldn’t just drive engagement, but also measure that engagement.

Such a billboard would be intelligent enough to serve a young woman an ad for cosmetics rather than men’s shaving cream. Or an ad that is generated dynamically based on Foursquare and Twitter data about a local event that people are checking into or tweeting about.

A test by Immersive Labs in a Prana store in Boulder, Colorado, changed ads based on such factors, and resulted in a 60 percent improvement in engagement as measured by the amount of time unsuspecting folks looked at the ads.

It’s certainly an interesting proposition that may likely be validated by other locations now being piloted at Rams Stadium in St. Louis and John F. Kennedy International Airport. These brilliant billboards should be available in a marketing plan near you some time in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Newspapers & Digital. For the past few years, we’ve all heard tales of newspaper readership declining and financial hardships for even the most established newspapers in America. The 180-year-old Philadelphia Inquirer has changed owners twice in six years, filed Chapter 11, and was sold at a significant discount. But like Rocky, it’s not going down without a fight — if it goes down at all. It stands slightly hunched over and tired, fondly remembering some of its less fortunate peers that cease to exist, while it stays up late at night trying to innovate new monetization and distribution strategies to maintain its relevance. Millions of blogs are no match for the paper’s online operations. Traffic to Philly.com (the Inquirer’s site) trounces one of the most popular Philly news blogs, Philebrity.com, four-to-one, according to Compete.com.

To their credit, many newspapers have been trying for a couple of years to identify an appropriate distribution and monetization strategy. They’ve toyed with experiments including advertising price increases, paid subscriptions to their websites, and even developing iPad-only magazines. Somehow, not one paper has found the right formula just yet. Sardonic pundits again claim that the death of the newspaper is inevitable, but there’s a lot more to the newspaper than just the paper. There’s credibility in their journalistic approach (most of the time), there’s community involvement, and there’s an established process that takes a story to a mass population, thanks to proven syndication channels.

According to The Pew Project’s 2011 report on mobile devices’ effect on media, the web has finally overtaken newspapers as a news source, and nearly half of that total web consumption is occurring on mobile devices. This decline has nothing to do with readership, media consumption, or 19-year-olds blogging out of their parents’ basements. It has everything to do with economics, convenience, and America’s demand for an updated distribution model. Just as the emerging technology of the printing
press led to the success of newspapers, so too can the emerging technology of always-on connectivity and tablets.

Enter the Inquirer’s latest experiment. The paper plans on enticing its readers with deeply discounted Android tablets, pre-loaded with content apps. All in, the combined price of the tablets and a one- or two-year daily subscription will be half that of the retail price of the tablets. The jury is out as to whether this will work, but the use of emerging media as a way to evolve the 180-year-old newspaper is interesting, to say the least.

Magazines & Social Commerce. Like newspapers, magazines have also suffered a significant decline in readership and advertising revenue. The biggest catalyst for this is their publication frequency. By the time a magazine is printed every 30 days or so, the news is so aged in this information-hungry time that it’s often no longer newsworthy or relevant. Additionally, the ability to track the efficiency of advertising in any printed piece isn’t as sophisticated as it is for digital counterparts.

Publishing giant Hearst Magazines is leveraging the like-mindedness of magazine subscribers to change its monetization strategy and to show value to its advertisers and readers. Hearst is piloting a social-commerce offering with its Car & Driver and Road & Track publications. They are doing so with the help of Group Commerce, which was founded by entrepreneurial veterans of Google and DoubleClick and offers a group-buying model for publications, as opposed to Groupon’s local-business approach.

By leveraging the natural affinities of magazine subscribers, Group Commerce and Hearst will offer discounts on products directly related to magazine content. A pilot will offer a 65 percent discount on Meguiars Total Automotive Care products, which is absolutely relevant to the subscriber base of these magazines. The offer is made to subscribers by way of email, social media and print-to-web. Readers will be able to “socialize” these deals, of course, ensuring even greater ad effectiveness.

This über-relevant and multi-channel approach to advertising should be the trifecta that publishers, advertisers and consumers are looking for. It arouses a consumer, enables a transaction, starts a relationship and closes the loop with the merchant by knowing exactly how many sales resulted from the advertising spend. If the pilot proves successful, Hearst has plans of rolling this out to other lead publications, including Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, and Esquire.

Using the past few years as a gauge, it’s clear that the only way to remain relevant is through smart experimentation with integration. As the lines below and above continue to be blurred, those who specialize and fragment will likely suffer the most due to myopic viewpoints. Brand marketers will find it impossible to create a unified brand experience by cramming their communications into separate, small boxes.

One day soon, brand experiences will truly be seamless. User experience and engagement will be paramount. And emerging media will soon be referred to simply as media, without the “emerging” qualifier.

Rules to Adapt:

Set aside experimentation budgets. Set aside time and budget for experimentation with emerging media and the possibilities to marry it with traditional.

Look to other industries for inspiration. Different industries evolve at various paces. The only way to stay on top of media is to look outside of your own industry for inspiration.

TTI — Total Team Immersion. The moment a new opportunity arises, invite team members from every discipline to the brainstorm … and be sure to invite some of the junior folks to the table. They’ll surprise you!

Don’t wait for the case study. Remain eternally curious and courageous. You’ll learn more through experimentation and gain a natural public-relations advantage for blazing the path where no marketer has been before. Create the case study and use the PR as an organic awareness vehicle.

Kevin French is executive director and general manger of the Philadelphia office of G2 USA.

Read more from The Hub Magazine: http://hubmagazine.com/html/2011/hub_44/sep_oct/237230944/g2-media/index.html.

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