Media and Publishing Challenges in a Digital World
The media and publishing industry is still undergoing a fundamental transformation, one that started more than a decade ago when the rise of digital streaming services and digital-only publishers sent ripples through the sector. The distinctions between different types of media are blurring, technology is redefining the competitive playing field and new entrants are becoming more eager to get in on the action. Media and publishing’s challenges are high — and so are the stakes.
In the US alone, people are spending almost half (44%) of every day interacting with media while nearly seven out of ten homes now have a device capable of streaming content. On the consumer side, last year was the first time that more US households subscribed to a video streaming service than to a traditional pay-TV package (69% versus 65%). Competition is fierce but the industry is exhibiting continued growth, with global media and entertainment revenues forecast to reach $2.4 trillion in 2022, up from $1.9 trillion in 2017.
Building a successful brand in this dynamic ecosystem is not without challenges. In an effort to compete in an overly fragmented marketplace, media and publishing companies are creating more content and introducing or partnering with more distribution platforms. But this is leading to even more fragmentation and significant levels of frustration among once-loyal audiences as they try to assemble a coherent media experience across multiple platforms and devices.
The New Media Experience Problem
Readers and viewers believe that the search and discovery experience is sub-par, ads are intrusive and the whole experience is disjointed and not tailored to their individual interests and needs. They are increasingly demanding a better overall media experience, high-quality content options, easier and more flexible ways to search, discover and access content, and more relevant ads that feel organic rather than intrusive. But are media and publishing organizations primed to address the operational challenges of today, while planning for a future where individuals will have even more control?
Companies operating in this sector have traditionally competed on two dimensions only: content and distribution. The continued shift in power to audiences provides the impetus to focus on a third dimension: creating a seamless, personalized customer experience. Organizations need to do more than react to trends; they need to be agile, anticipate change and adopt a customer-first approach in everything they do.
Create engaging, personalized experiences using a blend of content and data
The media and publishing industry has witnessed firsthand how technology has been changing the way content is accessed and consumed. The captive audiences of the past have taken control over their media experience, demanding maximum flexibility in terms of how, when and where they access their chosen content.
While today’s media consumers have a high appetite for high-quality content and enjoy having access to a wide range of choices (the average video consumer subscribes to three paid streaming services), they are increasingly perplexed about the abundance of options. Their media experience is fragmented across multiple platforms and devices, but they still expect it to be frictionless. Subscription fatigue is slowly setting in: nearly half (47%) of US adults are frustrated by the burgeoning number of subscriptions and services they need to piece together to access their preferred content. Additionally, 48% say it’s harder to find the content they want to watch when it’s spread across multiple services.
Content discovery optimization is more important than ever as over two-fifths (43 %) claim they give up on their search for content if they can’t find it in a few minutes. The challenge for media and publishing companies is twofold: cutting through the clutter and vying for attention while maintaining or even increasing content quality. They need to create a seamless experience, making viewers feel it’s been tailored specifically for them, and present it in the right context, at the right time.
The opportunities of a seamless media experience
While meeting individuals in that exact moment of need during their search and discovery experience seems like an onerous task, the rewards are considerable. Experience-driven media and entertainment organizations are 1.3x more likely than their less mature peers to increase customer lifetime value. They also boast 3x year-over-year growth in repeat visitor rates compared to others and are 1.5x more likely to significantly exceed customer experience expectations.
Media bundling, one of the industry’s solutions to subscription fatigue, has been gaining momentum as content providers and media distribution platforms take a leaf out of Amazon’s book and increasingly join forces to offer services at a discounted price. However, not all companies welcome this development with open arms as they see many risks down the line, such as losing control over relationships with customers and having access to minimal insights, if any, into how their content is consumed.
The launch of Apple News+ has been particularly controversial as some premium and business publishers believe it sets a dangerous precedent. According to an executive working for a publisher that decided against joining the new subscription service, “it totally commoditizes news and undermines publisher pricing, Bundles always dilute the brand visibility and brand narrative of a publisher by dint of being thrown together with everyone else. It will not be a ‘sticky’ read for any one publisher.”
What’s Next for Media and Publishing
While the industry is still experimenting with ways to tackle subscription fatigue and compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace, media and publishing organizations shouldn’t lose sight of the most important differentiator: creating customer-centric experiences around great content, delivered at the right time and in the right context. There’s no substitute for flawless experiences tailored to individual preferences and interests, and success will depend heavily on gaining insights into customers’ likes, dislikes and behaviors, and putting that first-party data to good use.
Or, as Karen Benson, EVP, Director of Media Planning at Deutsch New York, contended: “Consumers are going to flock to the content that they want to receive, when they want to receive it, how they want to receive it. That’s the most important thing.”
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