When is media not media? When it’s marketing. Confused? Let me explain.
Remember the days when flying was seen as something glamorous and romantic, rather than the “I’d rather have a root canal” endurance that it is today?
When you get on a plane to travel to some far-off land, at some point during the flight you usually get a tray of food. The tray is divided up into sections. This corner here is for the salad, below is the main course, while over there is the desert. In whatever space is left you’ll probably find a bread roll, and a cup that will later be filled with tepid brown water euphemistically described as coffee (or maybe tea – it’s often difficult to tell).
Even though everything arrives at the same time, you know that the desert is supposed to come after the main course. That the butter is supposed to be spread on the bread roll, and not smeared on the salad. Every part of the meal lives together – but separately – in harmony. (Sure, you’re free to eat your meal in whatever order you choose – in which case you’re probably an anarchist and not to be trusted anyway).
The tray doesn’t come with an instruction manual, or any marketing fluff. Nor will the flight crew spend time explaining what you’re supposed to do with the tray, even if they do feel it necessary to show you how to fasten your seat belt.
When Media Was Media & Marketing Was Marketing
In a similar vein, a few years ago it wasn’t difficult to know a TV ad from a TV show. We knew when we were reading a magazine or newspaper article and when we were looking at a print ad. It was an easier time. Life was simple.
Then things started getting weird. The way that we consumed media changed. Companies that created content – any content – began to fall into four distinct camps:
- Traditional. The ones that you and I remember from old, and are probably still the most familiar with. Organizations running business models and legacy businesses in pretty much the same way as they’ve always done. Newspapers that still put ink on paper, for example.
- Online. A media company that exists purely in the digital space. These can be young and trendy upstarts such as The Verge, BuzzFeed or Mashable, or long-established companies that have evolved into digital-native business models (such as NewsWeek).
- Owned. This is where any company gets to play being a publisher or media company. It’s marketing content that’s everything from a white paper or customer testimonial video at one end, all the way up to something like the American Express Open Forum at the other end.
- Social. Hopefully this one needs little introduction. It’s the Facebooks, Twitters, Google+’s and whatever else is around the corner waiting for us to complete a sign-up form.
Today it’s harder and harder to know what’s editorial and what’s advertising. Everything’s jumbled up together. Social media channels such as Twitter now give me Promoted Tweets. Magazines run something that they call Native Advertising (which I used to think was just a fancy-schmancy name for an advertorial, but now I’m not so sure).
What did I just see? Was it an ad, an advertorial, an editorial or a piece of owned media? We can no longer tell where social ends and where media begins. Not only is there social in media, but there’s media in social. The business models are intertwined.
It’s as though someone’s mixed my Blueberry Cheesecake into my Waldorf Salad. My coffee’s been poured over my Thai-Spiced Chicken. And you really don’t want to know where that bread roll has gone…
That’s the state of play with media right now: Everything’s shmushed together. Marketing is media…is marketing.
The Inevitable Meeting Of Media And Marketing
Why does that matter? Because the business models required to support such evolution haven’t emerged in the same way.
The business models that we have – and are currently working with – are still based upon the salad never touching the cheesecake. But today’s content consumption is everything blended together. Distinctions between what’s media and what’s marketing are in a state of flux, if not eroding altogether. The inevitable result is a convergence and integration of the two.
But what does that mean?
We’re seeing the implications already. It’s when non-media brands hire journalists to create content and make their website look like a magazine. It’s when you, as a media company, look at how you could help your advertisers create content on your platform.
While the lines of delineation seem set to continue to blur, the end-game seems to be a constant: the challenge to create compelling stories in multiple formats that not only find their audience, but are worth finding in their own right.