Adapt or Die: Time To Face Media’s New Normal

Adapt or Die: Time To Face Media’s New Normal

Tyler Greer, head of strategy APAC, Exponential, argues that no matter what media you’re in, if it’s not an adaptable one then it could soon be a dead one.

Karen Terranova
Posted by Karen Terranova

Darwinism, contrary to popular misunderstanding, is not survival of the fittest. It is survival of the adaptable. Species that can adjust to changing environments carry on living, while those that fail to do so, that remain stubbornly, intractably unable to adjust, do not. Right now in media, the fight is on to stay alive.

The prevailing environmental change agent is digital, and it is impacting every media channel, not only in the way in which it speaks with its audience but in how it is assessed, reported on and judged. Digital itself is often the harbinger of this new world. The arrival and dominance of programmatic buying, fuelled by an infrastructural revolution in trading desks, has had a massive impact on digital businesses. Some have managed to pivot towards this new paradigm, others have either been slow to, been unwilling to, or have simply been unable to.

The same story is coming to TV, and with every step the medium takes towards a digital structure, the closer a programmatic buying model becomes. Regardless of the collateral damage for sales teams and the technologies that underpin current ratings systems, networks need to be planning for this new system, and doing so rapidly. The idea that a major network could never cease to exist is exactly the kind of attitude which will ultimately see them disappear.

Newspapers are a good example of this. Watching what has at times appeared to be the slow motion death throes of certain mastheads has been a painful experience for many. For others, it’s their own fault for not adapting to a new world in which they had ample opportunity to play a substantial role. True, print was always going to struggle in a system in which immediacy is the most valuable currency, but the ability to embrace digital, and to create a revenue model that supports it, has been too slow. Perhaps local mastheads were always going to struggle to hold on to audience when news can come from a variety of sources at such pace, but their failure to leverage the value of their classifieds has accelerated their decline.

Radio is now experiencing its own problems from disruptive digital players like Pandora and Spotify. Budgets that would have naturally gone to radio are now being divided, in at least some part, to these digital channels. This is critical for radio networks because it is now their money that is being culled, not digital dollars. How they adapt to this new normal is yet to be established, other than throwing ever increasing dollars at personalities and re-branding. And, like their counterparts above, buying models are likely to shift to a programmatic model in the near future.

Programmatic buying of outdoor inventory is being trialed, but the ability to take a tech-based interactive approach to outdoor will also change the game and the attribution model. How these connect to phones, cars and other devices will further impact those not ready to adapt.

What does this all means for brands, relying on their media agencies to help chart a route through this changing world? Many have adapted to new media buying technology by bringing the work in-house, building trading desks and sourcing media themselves. But others will struggle to survive in a landscape which increasingly social, connected and constantly fractured by disruptive competitors.

And all this while we try to get a grip on audience data and shifting behaviour.

Change, they say, is the only constant. But rarely has change come so fast and so dramatically to an industry; for anyone working in media and advertising this is both a time filled with promise and terror.  Leaders who are able to integrate these seismic shifts will be of great value to companies. This is often the preserve of the young, who are more comfortable with change than their older counterparts, though this often elevates people into positions of responsibility who are not yet ready for management roles. It’s a tricky balance.

But it will only be those that get this balance right that will prevail.