Connections are Greater than Content in the New Media Economy

Each year, we see various trends monopolize conversations at industry events.
The 2019 New Fronts were no different—with new, original content as the trendy answer to revenue struggles facing media companies and content providers. But making more content to monetize is not the answer. In fact, pushing out more content will add to the problem.

There is now more content than ever before competing for viewers’ attention: FX Networks Research showed that 495 scripted series premiered in 2018. In parallel, it has been reported that viewers watched 1 billion hours of content on YouTube daily in 2017, and 100 million hours of content was consumed daily on Facebook in 2018. The answer to digital monetization woes isn't to add to the clutter. Rather, it's acknowledging that few media brands are making a connection with audiences. The secret to success is winning viewers’ hearts, minds, attention, and eyeballs.

Publishers don't need to "win the internet" to thrive in the connection economy. They need to build a loyal bond with the audience. As research from Bain & Company and others have shown us, it’s relationships that drive loyalty, and loyalty leads to revenue. Building a relationship with viewers is accomplished by creating emotional or informative content that adds value to viewers’ lives and creating the best user experience possible in your owned properties to nurture and grow that bond.

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Coexisting in the Netflix + era

Publishers are not competing with Netflix. The company's CEO, Reed Hastings, does not consider other content brands to be competition. Instead, he sees his only competition as "sleep and Fortnite." Luckily, we live in a Netflix+ world. According to eMarketer, consumers will spend 3 hours and 43 minutes interacting with media on mobile devices each day in 2019. So use Netflix as a discovery vehicle and take its licensing revenue while creating a valuable user experience on your owned platforms that viewers seek out. Win viewers' loyalty with a brand+ experiences they can't get anywhere else. Your owned platforms are perfect for aggregating assets from your holistic media strategy, including video, podcasts, articles, social feeds, and images. Netflix can’t offer this diverse format mix, so steer viewers toward your app with something over and above the Netflix experience.

Connection is your new currency

We live in an era of brand bypass. Amazon's Echo drives users to buy Amazon products, while Prime membership supports free shipping and access to a video platform filled with Amazon originals (which has 26 million viewers). Brand bypass has now come to video—the background video on the main menu of the new and improved Apple TV experience announced at WWDC shows Apple is now using its platform to drive viewers to its TV app (over yours).

Connection with your audience is key. If people don’t ask for your media brand by name, content will be surfaced based on biased algorithms, star ratings, and user reviews. If a publisher doubles its content but no one cares enough to watch it, did a tree really fall in the forest?

Insight-driven content decisions

Investing in your audience and the analytics tracked from your owned properties will improve your ability to invest in content and distribution vehicles that perform. Netflix pioneered and mastered using data from video views to greenlight new series. Depending on how they build apps, integrate various analytics providers, and gather data, other media providers can better understand audiences and top performing content for digital and primary media. Before throwing spaghetti at the wall to churn out new content, learn what content to make and why—then lather, rinse, and repeat all the good stuff.

Your owned digital properties have a leg up on the aggregators like Netflix, YouTube, and Facebook because you have a true feedback loop. Talk with your viewers, ask them questions, learn what they love and reward them for loving you. While you’re honing in on these metrics, aggregators like Netflix, YouTube, and Facebook are only looking at surface-level analytics, such as views, time spent, and impressions. Take advantage of the additional tools at your disposal and use them strategically.

While the hot topic of 2019 has been fresh content, as seen by the conversations at this year’s newfronts and upfronts, executives should devote time to developing strategies to build even stronger relationships with viewers. As the content aggregators like Netflix and Hulu continue to drive new subscriptions and have deployed methods of retaining viewers, content providers must work even harder to drive audiences to their owned properties and remain top-of-mind and top-of-heart with viewers.

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