Traditional Brands Are Winning The Race Online

Remember back in the old days, when we were idealistic about the Web and how it would change our perception of brands forever? I do. I can recall a time when everyone was all high and mighty, talking about how new media was going to be the death of old media and how the old brands were going to fall by the wayside as the new economy brands led the march into the digital future.

Boy, did we have it wrong.

For a little while, though, we had it right. For a little while, the progressive leaders of the digital economy were brands like Yahoo, AOL and MSN. For an even littler while, we rallied behind such companies as Excite, Pathfinder, Lycos, Infoseek and Alta Vista (remember those guys?).

Now that the dust has settled and the Web has gone mainstream, some of the most innovative work is being led by traditional brands like NBC, Fox and CBS. These were old-world brands that were not expected to be successful because they weren't investing in the infrastructure to build the new economy, but as the Web has evolved from static page content to a dynamic, video-based platform, those old TV brands are finding they do have a home online, albeit with some new paint. They're discovering that sometimes the best strategy is to let your competitors make the mistakes while you learn from them. I guess maybe, just maybe, slow and steady does win the race!



Hulu and are definitely becoming core destinations online because they feature mainstream video content in a simple and content-rich environment. NBC, Fox and CBS are the stories behind the story because they've found a way to be relevant online. They may be hiding behind a newfangled, Webified brand name, but the content is the same and the checks are still being written by the same people. Of course we can't overlook the fact that Google is the 800-pound gorilla in the online world, but even that gorilla can't monetize video properly. No, the old-school brands are winning in the world of video, and that may bode well for them as the Web continues to evolve.

As content gets syndicated to other platforms, such as mobile and through social media, video will still lead the charge. The original issues blocking video syndication have been addressed with tools such as Freewheel (a video monetization solution), so the content owners can properly monetize their content no matter where it gets displayed. It seems that video has learned what print media could never figure out: how to manage the distribution of its content.

The newspaper and magazine worlds have not fared so well. They continue to lose traction, and many are starting to close down, simply because the loss of a dollar in revenue from a print vehicle is not being made up by a dollar in digital. The TV networks are doing a much better job of this, translating their lost offline revenue into relatively comparable online revenue. The ratio may not be one-to-one, but it's closer to a valued relationship. What TV understands better than anyone is that the digital world is a true support vehicle for content, not a competitor. TV strategists have come to terms with the idea they can premiere content in one vehicle and extend or support it with another.

Now our idealism has morphed into practicality. The first places for brand advertising consideration are the extensions of offline brands with video, rather than the almighty Web portals. In fact, the old "portal strategy" no longer seems to be the first place to start when putting together online plans. That doesn't mean that the upstart brands cannot be successful, it just means they have to fight to be in the top tier of consideration. It also means that the upstart brands have more than a fighter's chance vs. AOL, Yahoo and MSN. Think about when you try to target kids online; you start with Disney and Nickelodeon first, right? These brands have continued to be successful online, and the next best places are up for grabs!

I guess the old-world brands are winning the race. Don't you agree? Tell me what you think on our message boards.

3 comments about "Traditional Brands Are Winning The Race Online ".
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  1. Richard Monihan, March 11, 2009 at 11:12 a.m.

    It was inevitable that the old brands would catch up...but winning? I think part of the problem of the new brands was their inability to think "outside" the realm of the internet. I spent 4 years at AOL and I remember being told consistently that I was a "dinosaur". Why? Because my background in TV was not considered complementary with this "new media we invented". It's been 6 years since I left and I'd say that psychology hasn't morphed much at AOL, and it seems to have infected other pure internet brands.

    Today, in selling both digital and TV, I keep reiterating to people who look for reach online that online is NOT a reach vehicle. You get reach on TV, and use online for awareness and direct contact with consumers. It seems to me that the brands that are "getting" this best are the ones who come from OLD media, particularly TV.

    Will AOL, Yahoo and MSN go away? Unlikely. As TV expanded into Cable we constantly heard about the impending doom of the 3 broadcast networks. However, today there are 5 broadcast nets. So the portal strategy and scheme will survive, but it will have to adapt, change, and improve.

    I foresee more partnerships/mergers/takeovers in the online world as consolidation takes place between the new media brands.

  2. Stephen Shearin from ionBurst Media, March 11, 2009 at 3:27 p.m.

    I would stop short of referring to old and new media companies as 'brands' as it pertains to 'winning the race online.' Through branded and unbranded networks traditional brands are advertised, discussed, accessed, and so on. For a time 'new media' seemed like it would replace old media as the delivery system, but in the end huge budgets and copious content will always win. Still, hard work, good timing and adequate smoke and mirrors will always find a way to gain success and notoriety in the egalitarian potential of the Internet.

    With that said, I don't see 'Old World Brands' doing anything ground-breaking. In part because of their own trepidation, and in part due to agency's fear of pushing the envelope, and especially because there is still so much that is unknown. Ironically it will remain unknown until someone pushes said envelope.

  3. Chris Young from Digital Broadcasting Group, March 11, 2009 at 7:52 p.m.

    Couldn't agree more. Interesting how things have morphed.

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