[Editor’s Note: This is a continuation of a piece I wrote about a week ago on unbundled media. Unbundled media is a trend we will increasingly see where people consume media in bite-sized chunks rather than the 30-minute show or album that once supported big media companies.]
The effect of unbundling is being felt far and wide, both inside advertising and out. With the help of blogs, the fundamental unit of the web has officially moved to the article/entry, passing both “the individual page” as well as “the site” in terms of importance. The permalinks of blogs have created an atmosphere where it’s completely possible to bypass homepages all together, connecting directly with the desired content. Throw in RSS feeds and the whole idea of a website changes from destination to synidcation.
In the olden days, the only aggregators were the media networks. They put together the programming lineup. They syndicated their content across the country and they reaped the rewards in the form of commercials. All that is changing. As Joshua Porter eloquently put in a Digital Web Magazine article from last year:
Aggregators are promoting a shift in the control of content. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re challenging the idea . . . that users must view things in the way we prescribe, and that our hierarchy is best to present our content. This change is also suggesting that we need the help of others to market our own ideas. It is plausible that anotherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s approach to our information may be working better than our own.
Now that there are so many aggregators out there, from sites like IFILM to the million of blogs around the world and increasingly to individual bookmarkers on sites like del.icio.us, publishers can no longer trust that consumers are receiving their content just how they planned it. Whether it’s newspaper articles republished on blogs or television shows downloaded with BitTorrent, the perfect little bundle is being unraveled and it’s going to have big effects on media companies and the advertisers that pay their bills.
But, as Yoda would have said if he were an account planner, “with great change, comes great opportunity.” Digital technology changes the economic model we’ve grown accustomed to. The long tail is in full effect on sites like Amazon, where the bottom 80 reaps great rewards. By building in feedback mechanisms, Amazon has turned what was once a valley of niches into a mountain of money. As Umair Haque explains on Bubblegeneration, “It’s about the fact that consumption is connected – in a networked world, when you consume something, your consumption has an externality: I generally know how much satisfaction you got. As enough of this info is aggregated, demand within the niche increases for high-quality goods (and decreases correspondingly for low-quality goods).” The better the quality, the more people are exposed to your product, the more people buy your product, the more people are exposed to your product, and so on and so forth.
In a situation like that it’s not the mass media driving your product, it’s the individuals. In essence, with the help of distributors you’ve allowed people to become both active and inactive co-marketers. They can add reviews and blog about your product on the active side, while on the inactive, collaborative filtering does most of the heavy lifting. Essentially, it’s all about ceding control. Things like APIs allow you to extend your brand beyond its normal boundaries, exposing it to individuals who might not otherwise be exposed. Of course, that doesn’t come without a catch, because you have no control of the look and feel of that content those people are seeing.
However, big risks can reap big rewards, just ask Google who entered a marketplace saturated by Mapquest and garnered the admiration of the developer community by opening up their map API. At this point, who hasn’t heard of a Google Map Mashup? Or ask the Washington Post who opened up a blog recently that highlights Washington Post mashups. Rather than sending cease and desist letters, they’re sending traffic. What do they get in return? Good geek cred and a better liklihood that people will use their content rather than the New York Times’ in their next web application.
After that semi-tangent, let me get back to the larger point at hand. What all of this shows is that unbundled media is here to stay and marketers will need to embrace this fact as well as publishers. Technology like Tivo is only accelerating a trend we’ve been seeing over the last thirty years away from blockbusters. As Terry Heaton writes, we need to unbundle our mass media products and send the pieces on their merry way. As marketers we need to look at these unbundled pieces and see where they can add value to our clients.
It’s going to be about working directly with the creators and attaching advertising directly to video content, rather than running it as a pre-roll on a website. It’s going to be about finding the connectors (maybe with the help of AttentionTrust) and getting the products in their hands for them to blog about. It’s going to be about providing a destination site that adds value to customers by acting as an aggregator of news and content (even if it comes from your competitor). It’s going to be about getting a voice into the community that speaks their language and can be trusted. It’s going to be about being inventive, innovative, exciting and most of all, fast.
Like Yoda said, “with great change, comes great opportunity.”