Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
I’ve written about this topic a lot recently, but it’s so relevant and important, I can’t touch on it often enough. Media companies and agencies are struggling to keep up with the fast pace of digital media, fearing that their legacies will not live on and that new startups will find better ways to address and service consumers.Many traditional media companies have not fully embraced technology or invested in the new skills required to evolve their businesses to truly compete in the digital landscape. There are a few who have successfully evolved by either totally shedding their analogue past or expanding their product line with digital counterparts. Those that come to mind are Ziff Davis and NYTimes.
These companies recognised early on that it was “evolve or die”, that bold moves were necessary to survive. Ziff sold off all their print assets and reinvested those funds into new digital products, including Buyer Base, their audience platform for reaching engaged, technology buyers and influencers. By selling off their analogue properties, they drastically reduced their cost base and focused entirely on the growth engine of their business. NYTimes made different but equally effective bold changes; they invested in start-ups like appsavvy and QuadrantOne, built out their own R&D team and aligned their digital and print products for consumers behind a united pay wall, which protects their core assets, therefore increasing their audience value and creating differentiation.
However, there are plenty of companies that believed if they just jumped in head first a digital presence would be enough. They lead the way into digital, but they refused to continue to evolve and are now stuck trying to catch up. It’s amazing to me that these natives have been left so far behind. Now I know changes are happening at rapid speed, but companies like AOL and Tribune had major advantages to start off with, including leadership positions in the analogue world and large cash stores. Apparently, however, they lacked the ability at the top to make the correct investment decisions or, more likely, they became paralysed by all of the options and feared cannibalising their past business successes. Unfortunately, by stalling out they allowed other much smaller, more inferior companies to storm the gates, take their audiences and build their brands on their backs.
I am intrigued to see what the future holds. Can these cruise-ship sized behemoths right the ship in time? They certainly still have many advantages, especially in the monetary sense, but can they be nimble enough to drive ahead in the race. And, are there new obstacles that they have yet to see. Are they fighting the old enemy and ignoring the new one?
Can these companies right their digital presence, combat past and present competitors and, most importantly, come back from the dead?
The views expressed here reflect the views of the author alone, and do not necessarily reflect the views of 24/7 Media, its affiliates, subsidiaries or its parent company, WPP plc.
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