my turn


Beyond Channel Planning: The New Frontier

What separates the media? Many of us are used to media categories that are defined by channel. NPR is a radio brand. CNN is a television brand. The Huffington Post is a Web brand. Time is a magazine brand. The New York Times is a newspaper brand. Right?

When you take another look, the classification of brands by their legacy (or home) media channel doesn't seem to make quite so much sense anymore. The above brands are all news brands that distribute content across multiple channels/platforms. Does The New York Times compete with other newspapers? Or does it fight for share of audience among other highly regarded news organizations? In an era of media convergence, a media brand's toughest competitor may not come from its legacy media channel.

The media are starting to define themselves more so by content experience than by platform. ESPN is a true pioneer by defining itself as the brand "to serve sports fans wherever sports is watched, listened to, discussed, debated, read about or played." And other media brands are following suit. Hulu's mission statement is "to help people find and enjoy the world's premium video content when, where, and how they want it." Hulu makes a point of keeping the platform out of the conversation.



Yet in marketing, we still establish priorities and plans by channel. This worked during a time when each channel truly provided a unique user experience. But in a new world that is influenced by the effects of media convergence, media brand experiences are more similar than dissimilar. Think about it: most media brands now offer some form of video content, social network engagements, mobile applications, podcasts, destination Web sites, Twitter feeds, etc. Frankly, the only distinguishing characteristic among the media is whether they come in a paper form (that's a conversation for a different day).

We need to think about the media more in terms of the content experiences they provide and less in terms of the legacy platforms from which they launched. Content -- whether it is news, information, or entertainment -- lends contextual relevance to brand messaging. We've known this for a long time. We have long understood the role/ power of content in magazines (the coveted editorial adjacency) but we tend to forget this lesson when we look more broadly at our options.

Let's revisit the news example. If news content lends contextual relevance to a particular brand experience, marketers should establish multiplatform sponsor relationships with those news media brands that are important and meaningful to its customers and prospects. Unfortunately, cross-platform investments in media brands are still the exception rather than the rule. Too many media plans are still grounded in channel first and content relevance second.

As media brands continue to evolve into cross-platform content providers, marketers should reconsider the current channel-based approach to media planning. Marketers already understand the power of brands. It's their business. Now is the time to reconsider the media: from what was once a functional distribution system to what is now a collection of transmedia brands.

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