I recently attended the Digital Leaders Summit on December 3-4, 2013, in San Francisco. The conference consisted of presentations from a number of digital leaders and innovators from some of the world’s most well known companies and brands. Not surprisingly, no matter the size or industry vertical of the company, all were dealing with relatively the same problems:
- Monetization of digital content
- The increasingly connected mobile, “always on” mobile landscape
- The increasingly fragmented digital space
There were many speakers with lots of interesting case studies and good insights. Here are my main takeaways:
1. Content curation is becoming more and more important. Nick Blunden, SVP of Global Digital and Content Strategy for the Economist, talked about how, with the advent of mobile devices and the increasing pace of our lives, our consumption of digital media has increased, but has also gotten much more fragmented. We no longer dedicate hours of time to browse the web. Instead, we consume digital media in small chunks whenever we can (e.g. waiting in line to check out, on public transit, while waiting on hold, etc.). We have a lot less time to search for what we need. So content curation for sites like StumbleUpon and 5by, which recently purchased by Stumbleupon, is becoming more desirable.
However, we don’t need to look very far to see this shifting toward a more search- and brand-focused view. All of our favorite sites and online services are personalizing and curating content for us. Google is making things easier and easier to find with every new release of its algorithm. We can now find content directly in our mobile apps. YouTube recommends videos to us based on our browsing history. Netflix recommends content based on ratings. All this duration and personalization is centered around making content search easier for us to keep us coming back more often.
2. Stop thinking of mobile as a separate channel. Instead, think of mobile as the connective tissue of the multichannel world. Yes, there are activities that are much more prevalent on mobile (e.g., local search); however, people are using more and more information sources to make decisions. Let’s take the local search example: if I’m searching for a local restaurant, the local optimization is very important, but so is the brand awareness that needs to be present before that restaurant is able to be in my consideration set.
3. Video is the great equalizer. There are plenty of studies out there describing how video content increases engagement, and we have seen the popularity of video sites like YouTube and Vimeo skyrocket over the past several years. YouTube has also proven to us that you don’t need to be a large brand to play, and be successful, in the video space. We see content from small start-ups like The Dollar Shave Club go viral and bring an unknown brand into the forefront. Greg Isenberg, CEO/Founder of 5by, said that on YouTube, “Media is free, but attention is not.” It’s a reverse from the traditional commercial advertising model, where you pay a premium for placement but have a somewhat guaranteed audience.
4. If content is king, distribution is queen. We can develop the best, most creative and sharable content in the world; however, if we don’t have the appropriate distribution strategy and connections, it will not matter because we will not be able to get it in front of our audience. Along those lines, Troy Young, President of Digital at Hearst Magazines, said, “Distribution is no longer owned; it is earned.”
5. Technology infrastructure needs to be developed to support all the multichannel experiences that brands and companies are trying to provide to their customers. Bryan House, VP of product marketing for Acquia, talked about how Drupal allows for the integration with of content, community, and commerce at scale. And, Ryan Mannion, CTO at Politico, talked about how every technology decision needs to layer up to company goals/objectives and needs to be prioritized.