Digital Media

Rebecca Lieb's picture

The Deeper Meaning of Bezos Buying "The Washington Post"

When the email from The Washington Post landed in my inbox announcing Jeff Bezos’ acquisition of the venerable institution, my first instinct was to examine it for signs of spam. It’s that unusual to be that surprised by news these days.

The acquisition makes a great deal of sense for many reasons that have been discussed at length elsewhere. Bezos has expertise in digital content, paywalls, delivery, mobile, local, advertising – all the problems and conundrums that face The Washington Post, as well as every other legacy print newspaper. He’ll innovate and hopefully help the paper find its way to solvency.

What few have pointed out is that Bezos’ acquisition of the Post is very much a case of history repeating itself. The paper came into the hands of the Graham family in 1933 when Eugene Meyer, the family patriarch and former Federal Reserve chairman, acquired the paper in a bankruptcy auction. Meyer spent millions of his personal fortune keeping the paper in business. Like Bezos, who will be under continual pressure to demonstrate he’s not using the paper as a pulpit to further Amazon’s many interests on issues such as sales taxes, competitive pricing, hiring practices and a litany of other issues, Meyer too was pressured to distance himself from the appearance of using his ownership of the paper to further Republican agendas.

Like Meyer before him, Bezos is in a long, long line of wealthy, successful businessmen who buy themselves a newspaper.  Just a few days before Bezos snapped up the Washington Post, John Henry, principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, acquired the Boston Globe. Last year, Aaron Kushner’s 2100 Trust acquired the Orange County Register. A group of local businessmen including former New Jersey Nets owner Lewis Katz bought the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News. Billionaire Philip Anschutz picked up the Gazette in Colorado Springs, and real estate developer Doug Manchester bought the San Diego Union-Tribune. Then there’s Sam Zell and the Tribune Company (which includes the Los Angeles Times) and Warren Buffet, who has acquired over 30 dailies in recent years.

Rich, successful businessmen buy newspapers. But Bezos is the first instance of a rich, successful technology businessman buying a newspaper. Not a banker, sports team owner, private equity investor or real estate tycoon, but someone who made his fortune in digital.

The acquisition of a prestigious media property is high profile. There’s a philanthropic aspect to keeping a venerable institution like WaPo afloat, but it’s a trophy acquisition, too, something that can’t possibly be lost on Bezos. That a Bezos can buy a WaPo means that a similar acquisition by, say, a Schmidt or a Gates or a Brin or an Ellison is hypothetically not far behind. We may be entering an era of the technology media mogul – a new era of digital maturity in which the equation wouldn’t be AOL buying Time Warner, as was the case in 2000, but Steve Case buying Time Warner had this marriage occurred today.

Please read the rest of this post on iMediaConnection, where it originally published.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Content: The Right Tools For The Job

Digital content doesn’t just happen. Marketers require tools to get it done.

The range of software and tools serving content marketers has mushroomed in the past couple of years. As researchers and analysts at the Altimeter Group, we started looking at the space informally back in April, building a list of software vendors.

Currently, we’ve compiled a list of 75 vendors offering a range of content marketing software solutions. (It’s a list I plan to share officially in the fall, once it’s been through some winnowing.)

Content Software Landscape Research

In fact, we plan to go one better and conduct deep research into the content software marketplace, beginning next month.

Before we can begin that project in earnest, however, it’s critical to evaluate the actual content use cases marketers face in their day-to-day lives. There’s no realistic way we can evaluate the vendors in a very disparate landscape without knowing what marketers actually want and need out of content marketing solutions.

Let’s assume (and hope and pray!) the marketers in question are beginning with a content strategy. Let’s discount/disqualify related solutions such as social media management software, CMS, DAM and basic Web analytics packages.

The qualities we’re seeing across the content-specific software vendors that remain are (in no particular order) the following:

  • Targeting/Audience Identification (Segmentation/Personas): Tools to help you identify who the target audience(s) is/are, where they are online, and the types of content that would attract them.
  • Curation: Gathering, organizing and presenting existing content in a meaningful, attractive manner.
  • Aggregation: Compiling and publishing syndicated Web content — generally more automated and less specific than curation (above).
  • Workflow/Editorial Management: Tools that aid in processes associated with content strategy including creating governance documentation (style, editing and brand guidelines), content audits, production, review, approval and publishing processes, etc.
  • Editorial Calendar: Sometimes included in workflow tools, sometimes a standalone feature.
  • Discovery: Algorithmic suggestions for content readers might appreciate based on usage or social patterns.
  • Syndication/Distribution: Tools that help content publishers find audiences via, for example, suggested headlines or stories across publisher sites or social networks.
  • Recommendation: Services that use data such as usage patterns, social connections and browsing history to recommend content to users.
  • Branded Content Creation: Generally offered by agencies and publishers, custom content for brands, products and/or services.
  • Production: A wide range of increasingly complex services. As content moves into increasingly multimedia formats, as well as into new channels such as mobile, content production has moved far beyond “just blogging.”
  • Content Generation: A small but growing set of tools are being developed to help marketers generate creative ideas for content by feeding them multimedia material that is on-brand and relevant to campaign goals.
  • Collaboration Tools: Related to workflow and editorial management, these toolsets help disparate teams collaborate on different aspects of content creation, production and publishing, often from remote locations and with cloud-based assets.
  • Tracking (Content Across Web): A handful of companies have developed tools that help marketers track both images and text across the Web no matter where they appear, and to dynamically update them.
  • Analytics (Content-Specific): Independent of basic Web analytics packages, content tools often contain their own specific analytics and dashboards. These can be wide-ranging and are, of course, closely aligned with tool functionality.
  • Real-Time Capabilities: An increasingly news and social media driven world drives demand for real- and near real-time information, a capabilities being built into an increasing number of tools in varying capacities.
  • Push Notifications: You’ve got… content. Beyond email, some tools do enable alerts when new content is available.
  • Talent Sourcing & Management: Writers, designers, photographers, videographers – tools exist to find them, have them submit their work and manage their billings.
  • Templates/Layout/Design: From websites to infographics, design doesn’t just happen. There are, of course, plenty of standalone templates available. So, too, do content tool sets incorporate templates and design solutions.
  • SEO: Written word content tools, in particular, sometimes incorporate search optimization features around keywords and phrases, metadata, headline optimization, etc.
  • Predictive Analytics: Distinct from performance analytics, these tools predict how content will perform in specific channels or with certain audience segments. Currently aimed more at publishers than marketers, it will be interesting to see if this market shifts with broader adoption of content marketing.
  • Influencer Identification: Brands such as Intel have proven owned content can achieve paid media reach when spread by the right influencers in a given field. Tools that identify influencers who can help spread messages in social channels are, therefore, growing in popularity with content marketers as well as with PR practitioners.

You can help get this first research project on the content software landscape off the ground by helping us to define what real use cases really exist. Are these accurate? What’s missing? What’s not necessary, redundant, or superfluous? What would your dream content solution do — or not do? Do you prefer working with a suite of à la carte solutions, or with a “stack” of seamlessly integrated software?

Please read the rest of this post on Marketingland, where it originally published.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Going Native

Native advertising.

Everyone’s talking about it, but what is it, exactly? It has something to do with ads that don’t look like ads, but rather provide a degree of value in terms of being content. In that sense, native advertising is certainly a form of converged media as it combines paid media (advertising) with owned media (content) – often with the goal of generating earned media (social interaction, UGC, etc.).

Yet brands have been paying publishers to run their own content since forever. Does that mean “native advertising” simply a neologism for what we used to call advertorial? Or branded content? Maybe it’s sponsored content?

If native advertising somehow differs from older models of advertorial, sponsored or branded content, where are the lines drawn? Does “native” necessitate some sort of technological framework to carry and/or distribute the content in question (à la products offered by The New York Times, or tech start-ups such as OneSpot or inPowered)? Does it mean a publisher’s in-house agency (think Buzzfeed, Gawker Media) was commissioned to come up with the creative?

Bottom line: The term “native advertising” raises more questions than it does answers.

The value proposition of native advertising is, however, clear in a digital environment of banner blindness and plunging clickthrough rates. Pre-roll ads are skipped or ignored, email subscriber rates are eroding. Given any kind of choice, consumers are saying a clear “no” to interruptive advertising.

Native advertising lies somewhere in bridging the divide between content marketing – a pull strategy – and plain, old fashioned advertising, which is interruptive. Somewhere in its definition is probably the fact of paying for space or time (the “advertising” part) is a fashion that’s “native,” i.e. organic, conducive to the user experience, non-salesy, and offers some sort of value in and of itself as an ad (entertainment, education, utility, for example).

Native advertising’s promise, therefore, is better performing ads – but only if metrics are defined that are “native” to “native.” DM goals likely don’t apply in this case. Highly customized ad solutions mean more revenue for publishers (and boy, can they use it now). Also, deeper creative engagements for agencies, and hopefully, a better user experience for consumers.

The fly in the ointment is that without a real definition of native advertising, it means anything you want it to mean. Or anything whoever’s trying to sell it to you wants it to mean. Confusion in the marketplace is not a good thing (though it can benefit certain constituents).

This is why, as a research analyst, my next project will be to define native advertising, as well as to map the landscape of products and technologies related to the practice. (I’m also part of an IAB taskforce that will work to define the term – it’s therefore important to note the research will be my own work, not that of a committee.)

As this project is just kicking off, I’d love to invite your input. What do you believe native advertising is? Isn’t? What are the important companies in the space? Please let me know, either via email or in the comments section.

I’ll report back soon. Watch this space!

A version of this post originally published on iMedia Connection

Image creditwww.bydewey.com

Rebecca Lieb's picture

New Research: Organize for Content

More than a handful of brands publish more content now than a major media property such as Time Magazine did 25 years ago.

Despite the overwhelming and ever-increasing trend toward content marketing, and the need to continually feed an ever-increasing portfolio of content channels and formats, most organizations haven’t yet addressed content on either a strategic or tactical level.

It’s high time they did, and hopefully my new research report, Organizing for Content, will help. It provides both frameworks for coping with enterprise content marketing demands and a checklist of recommendations for organizational readiness.

Consider: The average organization is responsible for the continual content demands of an average 178 social media properties, to say nothing of a myriad of other owned media properties, from websites and blogs to live events.

Those few large enterprises not yet active in social media can easily serve five million email subscribers, as well as multiple millions of monthly unique visitors per month to their sites.

Yet the overwhelming majority of organizations don’t have content divisions in their org charts. Only nine of the brands we interviewed for this report (out of 78 stakeholders, also including content service providers and domain experts) have made explicit content hires, i.e. people with titles such as “editor” or those that contain the word “content.”

Who, or what, governs content internally? Responsibilities and oversight tend to be reactive, highly fragmented and distressingly ad hoc, as illustrated below. This highly typical diagram portrays how one major retail brand divides content responsibilities between divisions that are not necessarily interconnected or in regular communication with one another. This fragmented approach leads to inconsistent messaging, huge variations in voice, tone, and brand, and an uneven customer experience. Channel divisions themselves tend to be ad hoc, assigned more on the basis of hand-raising than any overarching strategic mandate.
Where Does Content Live Inside the Enterprise?
 It’s high time that organizations got organized for content. It’s only going to become more demanding – and harder – in the future.

Native advertising, advertorial, paid influencer, and sponsored content are just a few examples of the paid/owned media hybrids brands are exploring. Content must also be created for an ever-expanding spectrum of media, screens, and devices, ranging from smartphones and tablets to emerging platforms, such as augmented reality, Google Glass, and quite possibly devices like smart watches.

These new channels and platforms, coupled with a trend that de-emphasizes the written word in favor of visual and audio-visual content,  create new skill demands. “Hire a journalist,” a tactic many organizations adopted with the rise of blogging, now is in no way sufficient to address more technical requirements involving deeper knowledge of technology, production, design, and user experience. Requiring overtaxed and untrained staff to “do content” in their spare time is obviously hardly a solution.

Our research identifies six organizational models companies are using to address complex, cross-departmental content needs, and also contains a recommendations checklist for content preparedness. Please download the report (at no cost, we just ask that you share it if you like it), and let me know your reactions in the comments.

I’ll also deliver my findings in a webinar on Wed., May 29 at 1:00 EST. Please register and join us! 

Read and/or download the report below:
[slideshare id=19795236&doc=orgcontentv4-130423141546-phpapp01&type=d]

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Six Emerging Content Marketing Trends

Three related, clustered events constitute a trend. So, what have we here?

  • February 25: Mindshare appoints a content chief
  • February 27: Edelman names (a new, digital-focused) chief content officer
  • February 27: Facebook announces a content strategy fellowship
  • March 25: Sequoia Capital appoints a head of content
  • March 26: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt names its first chief content officer
  • March 27: Weber Shandwick launches a content marketing unit with 100 staffers
  • April 1: Havas signs a global chief content officer

Chief content officers have been de rigeur in media companies for years. Editorial web sites, magazines, newspapers, and broadcasters have them. Even Netflix boasts a chief content officer.

What’s staggering now is the alacrity with which agencies are now piling into the white-hot content marketing space. Not all of this is new, of course. Content divisions and/or practices have existed for some time at major players such as Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, and OMD. Digital shops, too, have content heads, as do (of course) the small cohort of content-only agencies.

The appointments above reveal these interesting takeaways:

Agencies that don’t have content practices are scrambling to get into the game

From the appointment of an executive with “content” in his/her title to blowing out an entire new division, both ad and PR agencies realize content can no longer be ignored. Clients expect content-related services and advisory. While mileage on the revenue models varies radically, there’s also heated competition on the PR and ad sides for a piece of the content pie. “We’re in a dogfight with the ad agencies,” is how one PR executive put it to me in a private meeting.

Content’s meaning is increasingly (if not almost exclusively) digital

It’s not as if Edelman didn’t have a content officer before appointing Steve Rubel to the role. His predecessor, Richard Sambrook, a former BBC editor, focused on editorial development. Rubel’s purview will be much broader, focusing on relationships both with digital media properties and technology vendors.

PR shops are in the media buying business

Historically, PR firms never, ever bought media. They earned it. In announcing their new content initiatives, both Weber Shandwick and Edelman have stressed that media buying and other forms of brokering will be very much part of what they do going forward. Media convergence and native advertising models make this evolution imperative.

Content is essential for startups

When one of the leading venture capital firms appoints a content head to help its portfolio companies develop and improve their blogs, social media, and video, it underscores just how essential a well-executed content strategy is to success — or failure — in business.

Hire-a-journalist: Will it suffice?

For the past several years, “hire a reporter” has been the mantra of companies eager to get a leg up in blogging or on social media channels. Now that content strategies are more technologically complex and digitally convoluted (converged media, native advertising, video, mobile) than “just writing,” it will be interesting to see what skillsets the next crop of content hires possess.

“Global” appended to content titles

This trend will become increasingly important with holding companies and larger agencies. Brands, too, are beginning to make content hires and shuffle the org chart to accommodate content strategy and execution. One of the biggest content challenges is the one facing large, multinational enterprises that must create content for a wide range of countries, languages, territories, audiences, and products. If any single cohort relies on outside content support, it’s multinationals. Holding companies possess on-the-ground global support and know that coordinated efforts can be a boon to this important new line of business.

This post originally published on iMedia Connection

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Eight Ways Brands Are Screwing Up Content Aggregation

What’s the biggest problem marketers say they face when it comes to content marketing? Producing original content is No. 1, followed closely by the challenge of finding the time to actually produce content, according to the findings of a 2011 survey conducted by Curata.

Content aggregation is a highly proactive and selective approach to finding, collecting, organizing, presenting, sharing, and displaying digital content around predefined sets of criteria and subject matter to appeal to a target audience. It’s become integral not only to marketing and branding, but also to journalism, reporting, and social media.

Content curation and aggregation can take many forms, including feeds or channels such as on YouTube. It can appear on blogs or even be something as simple as the links you upload to social media sites such as Facebook. It can be an online newsroom, a collection of links, an assortment of RSS feeds, or a Twitter list. Whatever form it does take, it’s around a topic, or a subject, or even a sensibility that speaks to the knowledge, expertise, taste, refinement, brand message, or persona of the person, brand, or company that has created the particular content channel.

That said, there is, unsurprisingly, a dark side of content aggregation. In this article, we’ll look at the eight worst practices that are upsettingly common among brands.

When content aggregation goes wrong

Perhaps unsurprisingly, half of the worst practices in content aggregation touch on potential unethical, immoral, and even downright criminal practices that can — willfully or otherwise — be associated with content aggregation. You must understand what they are before launching a content aggregation program of your own.

Ethics

Plagiarism. Stealing ideas (or passages or quotes) and passing them off as your own is not “aggregation.” It’s theft. And fraud. Understand what plagiarism is and don’t do it. It’s that simple.

Lack of attribution. Give credit where credit is due, right? It’s important to clearly indicate your sources for a variety of reasons, ranging from transparency to credibility (both yours and theirs).

Un-fair use. Aggregating content comes with a set of obligations — ethical and moral, as well as legal. Respect copyright. Most editorial sites have published guidelines regarding reuse of their content. In most (but not all) cases, this can be summarized as allowing third parties to link to the full story or item with a headline and brief descriptive blurb or a quote of reasonable length. Most publishers are happy for the link. It increases both their traffic and their search engine visibility.

Other sites have more liberal or more restrictive policies. When in doubt, ask. Shoot over an email explaining what you’d like to use and why. With most websites getting the bulk of their traffic these days from social media, publishers understand the value of such referrals, and linking to content legally is much easier than it was in the days when many publishers though proprietary was the way to go.

The missing links. Aggregated content is valuable to you, just as traffic and search engine visibility is worth something to the site on which the content originally appeared. Be nice, as well as transparent. Link to the content source. Links are how the web works, after all.

Read the rest of this post on iMedia Connection, where it originally published.

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The End of “Digital” & “Social” Media

“Digital media” will soon be a redundant term. Increasingly, all media are digital. Once a term reserved for the internet only, “digital” now embraces your phone, television, more and more “print” media (ereaders and tablets), radio, and out-of-home channels such as in-store kiosks and digital signage.

“Social media” is another term that is rapidly approaching the tautological.  The more media are digital the more they’re social, either inherently or increasingly, linked into a myriad of social networks and social applications that facilitate sharing, commentary and discovery.

Media is driving social, and social is driving media. This is as true offline as it is on the web. Consider, for example, Twitter’s recent acquisition of social TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs. Then there’s the recently launched UK channel, 4Seven that only broadcasts the programming that has proven to be the most socially popular with viewers (http://adage.com/article/global-news/u-k-channel-air-shows-social-media-...). Each program is introduced by a broadcast of viewer comments about the show, positive and negative.

Brands and media organizations must adapt to meet consumers anywhere they might be – at any given moment – on the dynamic customer journey. Consumers flit between screens, devices and channels like so many hummingbirds.  Messaging will slip between the cracks if it doesn’t have hooks into social, into real (or near-real) time, and if it isn’t as multichannel as its intended audience.

Read the rest of this post on iMedia, where it originally published as a column.

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First Media Disruption of the Year: Samsung + AP + Twitter

Even when you know what’s coming, you never know exactly what’s coming.

Paid, owned and earned media are converging, sure. As a result, workflow and roles are changing radically. But even when you’ve been watching this space microscopically for many months, the next manifestation to come down the pike is almost always a surprise.

The first surprise of this year is a stunning example of how quickly media convergence is moving, and how rapidly roles and workflow are changing. Last week, during CES, Samsung paid the Associated Press to run sponsored tweets in the AP’s Twitter feed.

And the “media buy” was brokered not by a media buying (advertising/paid media) agency, but by Edelman, Samsung’s PR agency (earned media – or make that paid/earned media?).

[Disclosure: Edelman is a client of my employer, Altimeter Group]

By definition, PR agencies don’t buy media, right? Just a couple of weeks ago I was talking with the New York Times about Ricochet. Many of the initial campaign results are truly impressive, but since the product involves “buying” New York Times content (not just ad units), the market is confused. Media buyers are calling it a PR product. PR is saying if it’s a buy, then it’s a media buy.

Digital silos, a new twist on that classic waiter’s line, “Sorry, but this isn’t my table.”

Disruption Across the Board

A PR agency functioning as media buyer isn’t the only radical shift in this bold experiment. For as long as there’s been publishing, it’s been pretty much the rule that the publisher sells advertising on his own media property. Now, while Twitter can arguably be defined as owned media because AP controls what’s on their feed, with this campaign they are selling sponsorships on Twitter – and Twitter doesn’t get a cut of the revenue.

Precedent? And how. As Carree Syrek of Kinetic-Social put it to Adweek, “What if Target or Walmart want to start charging CPGs like Procter & Gamble for Foursquare ads? Will the social media platforms allow brands to leverage those properties twice without having to [pay]? Will they let them essentially double dip?”

Twitter’s letting this one go, for now, despite the fact it pulls a U-turn around Twitter’s own ad product. All parties were quick to point out the sponsored tweets weren’t automated and otherwise complied with Twitter’s sponsored tweet guidelines.

Pushback? Some, which is to be expected. Criticism came both from users (a handful) and a few media observers, who worried the move blurred the lines between breaking news and pay-to-play content.

But very much to Samsung’s credit, the sponsored tweets, limited to a very modest two per day for the five-day duration of CES (so 10 tweets in total) were very clearly marked “SPONSORED TWEET.”

Edelman’s EVP/Global Strategy and Insights Steve Rubel has blogged articulately about how his firm reached the bold decision to venture into paid media, where few, if any, PR firms have gone before. The post is worth a read.

Steve and I carried on a conversation (on Twitter, over DM of course) about the campaign. No word from him on the specific goals of the undertaking, the applied metrics or results (in his defense, it was ongoing when I asked).

Like him, I believe this type of campaign is a glimpse into the future in which brands partner with the media companies they formerly ‘just’ advertised with. There are opportunities for native advertising, curation, sponsorship, creation and more.

Is there a revenue model behind this that can sustain media companies, particularly as their traditional ad revenues continue to erode? That’s the question.

In the meantime, it’s important to note Samsung’s sponsored tweets in AP’s Twitter feed very thoroughly satisfied one campaign goal that’s very squarely in Edelman’s wheelhouse: it drove a ton of (earned) media coverage.

This post first published as a column on iMedia

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Why the Future of Mobile Advertising is Native Advertising

One reason it’s so hard to pin down mobile advertising is due to the fact that “mobile” is quite possibly the most imprecise term there is when it comes to adverting and media. Tablet? Yes. Phone? Indeed. E-reader? Laptop? Phablet? Sure. Also, that must-have thing that’s coming down the pike next.

The sizes, functions and purposes of a multiplicity of mobile devices vary greatly, meaning there literally cannot be a one-size-fits-all solution to mobile advertising. However is there is one universal truth about mobile, that will hold as true in the future as it does today, it’s that real estate is limited on mobile screens – much more so than on other digital devices. And that’s what’s limiting mobile advertising.

Mary Meeker’s most recent state of the internet presentation proffered the much-cited statistic that ten percent of media consumption now occurs on mobile devices, yet mobile commands a scant one percent of digital revenues. Yes, this is where internet display advertising once languished, back in the day. Eventually things evened out.

Will mobile advertising repeat the pattern? Don’t be so certain that straight display advertising will ever gain the traction on mobile devices that it enjoys on devices connected to monitors and other, larger screens.

Disparate as the world of mobile hardware is, all mobile devices are linked by a common factor: real estate is scarce. Display advertising on mobile screens is proportionately more intrusive, annoying and unwelcome.

The “year of mobile” we’ve been talking about for more than a decade has surely arrived already (heck, an estimated 17.4 million iOS and Android devices were activated this past Christmas day alone). But the year of mobile advertising? It’s still a ways away.

What we’re waiting for is the rapidly growing trend of native advertising to spread more effectively to mobile devices and platforms, and we’re not there yet. Currently, most forms of branded content as advertising occur on publisher sites that help to create them (think Buzzfeed, New York Times, Boston Globe, Gawker Media). Technology from companies such as OneSpot and InPowered that pushes relevant, branded content into ad units are pretty nascent on the internet and don’t yet have mobile strategies. Facebook (as everyone knows) is working on the issue. Some have posited large-scale mobile players such as Samsung and Yahoo may tackle mobile native advertising this year.

In other words, hurry up and wait.

Will 2013 finally be the year of mobile advertising? I don’t think so, but that long-awaited era may be on the horizon. The solution to ads on mobile devices that consumers accept and value (as opposed to the 50 percent of clicks on mobile ads purely attributable to “oops“) will be content, not advertising driven.

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Digital Marketing & Media: What to Watch in 2013

Predictions can be fascinating, but let’s face it. No one I know is in possession of a working crystal ball, and digital marketing and technology move way too quickly and too erratically to do much more than keep us guessing (not that that isn’t half the fun).

I’m an analyst, not a psychic. So rather than play the “what’s next?” guessing game, let’s instead focus on “what’s important?”

These are the areas I plan to keep a close eye on in 2013. What would you add — or subtract — from this list?

1. Media Convergence The blending of paid, owned and earned media will continue and intensify in 2013 spawning new technological solutions, necessitating new skills, new workflow systems and new partnerships. As the lines continue to blur between what’s paid, owned and earned in digital (and soon, traditional) media, this will be the trend that governs nearly all other major change in the digital marketing and media landscape.

2. Native advertising Between banner blindness and the fact that display, search and social advertising has largely moved toward programmatic buys that are much less profitable for publishers, we’re seeing a number of technologies and solutions emerge to facilitate native advertising, one of many terms for plonking content (often, unbranded content) into ad units (a manifestation of media convergence). Products and solutions in this area will continue to emerge, more publishers will accommodate it, and no doubt we’ll see some interesting, large-scale media partnerships emerge as a result.

3. Demand for broader skills and tighter workflows will intensify intensifies Looping back again to media convergence, the increasing overlap between paid, owned and earned channels is creating a demand to bring in new skills and more closely integrate workflows within disciplines. Take PR, for example. Traditionally, public relations has specialized in owned (content) and earned (in the sense of traditional) media. Throw in native advertising and suddenly PR agencies are faced with the prospect of media buying, a skill that’s always been the exclusive domain of advertising agencies.

And with media buying come other skills such as media optimization and analysis. Put otherwise, digital, which has become increasingly siloed and Balkanized in recent years, will no longer be able to pull the “that’s not my table” routine. All players must develop an understanding of related digital channels (search, social, email, analytics), as well as come together around a table and really, truly play as a team.

4. Real-time marketing & listening platforms Real-time marketing demonstrably works — not just in social channels, but across the marketing spectrum. A recent GolinHarris study finds real-time not only positively impacts standard marketing goals — word-of-mouth, attention, preference, likelihood to try or buy — but it also turbocharges other marketing initiatives, including paid and owned media effectiveness. Event- and news-driven marketing will become increasingly vital as brands work to become more relevant. This requires sophisticated listening and monitoring platforms, and often 24/7 staffing. Teams require tools, and training to respond in accordance with social media policies and in the brand’s voice. They must also be permitted to work in an agile environment, free of the chain-of-approval strictures that are antithetical to real-time marketing.

5. Organizing for content marketing & content strategy As brands recognize the necessity of adding content to the marketing mix, they quickly realize something else. Precious few organizations have a Content Division. In 2013 brands will begin to address this deficiency in earnest. They will hire, reorganize and make room on the org chart for effective content marketing operations that work in concert with existing marketing functions from social to communications to brand, creative and advertising.

6. Visual information takes precedence Research I published in early 2012 demonstrates that when marketers are asked what kind of content they’ll be investing in going forward, anything visual takes precedence over the written word. The unfettered growth of Pinterest, infographics, Instagram, and Tumblr, not to mention the always-growing popularity on online video, bears this out. Visuals capture attention. In a world in which brand messages clamor for consumer attention across screens, devices and channels, a picture is worth the proverbial thousand words. Keep your eyes open in 2013. It’s going to be a colorful and visually arresting year.

7. Online/offline channels converge, i.e. everything becomes more digital As media become more digital, we’re seeing digital messages appear in new places: out-of-home channels such as billboards and digital signage, as well as TV screens, are hosting streaming and social media.

The above are my top seven, but I’ll be keeping an eye on some other trends next year. Mobile is always changing rapidly, gamification is developing and interesting, so is wrangling and making sense of big data.

The single most interesting trend in 2013? Easy. It’s the one we don’t even know about yet.

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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