MediaTech 1.0 was about disruption; MediaTech 2.0 must be about the consumer

Duncan Bell
By , - Reshaping BusinessMedia

Forget FinTech, HealthTech and InsurTech – MediaTech preceded them all. The seeds of disruption for broadcasters and publishers were sown in the mid to late 1990s. It wasn’t given a handy label because most didn’t see it happen with the clarity with which we can view it today. But it happened nonetheless and its lineage takes us directly to the challenges of today – competitive pressures, struggling legacy infrastructure, a business model that’s stuck in the last century and ignores the consumer.

Can media learn the lessons of MediaTech 1.0 and in doing so blaze a trail with MediaTech 2.0?

Learning the lessons of the media industry’s past

First, a little context about what we can call with hindsight MediaTech 1.0. Old media was mistakenly confident in the late 1990s. It treated digital with a mixture of curiosity and disdain. They were reluctant to loosen the control of the publication schedule and left an open field for
disruptors to empower the consumer to take charge of scheduling and consumption. As corporate history demonstrates, disrupting your own business is never as simple as creating a new one.

When the internet emerged as a commercial concern in the 1990s, it democratised the means of distribution and made many-to-many communication possible for the first time. Then through off-the-shelf websites, blogging platforms, YouTube and podcasts it democratised the means of production, a trend amplified by the emergence of social media, smart devices and apps.

Meanwhile, disintermediation of the process was accompanied by the unbundling of the product and the denuding of the commercial model. Classified advertising, once the publisher’s cash cow, was usurped by Craigslist, job boards and others. According to one estimate for the US
newspaper industry, for every dollar of revenue, 80 cents once came from classified and display ads, the remainder from subscriptions and newsstand sales. No longer.

For publishers and broadcasters with expensive legacy infrastructures, this was a shock to the system that they first ignored and then hoped they could solve with a small technically minded team, physically and strategically dislocated from the rest of the business.

By the time they realised the true impact it was too late. From Vice, Netflix and Amazon Prime – lean and agile challengers grabbed eye-balls, subscribers and market share.

Harnessing the power of technology to look to the future

So after MediaTech 1.0, where are we now? Today, as the influential media analyst Frédéric Filloux points out, most business models are confused. “Publishers of legacy media often like to play on both sides of the game,” he writes. “They want to imitate pure players natively designed
to collect ads while preserving their legacy paid-for model.”

Filloux is the ex-managing director of digital operations for Groupe Les Echos, France’s main business publisher and has seen the effects of MediaTech 1.0 at first hand. “Compromise breeds weakness, no choice is often the worst choice,” he cautions.

Media needs to revisit the effects of MediaTech 1.0. It needs a 2.0 shake-up, this time to put it on a sustainable footing with the consumer at its heart.

Media needs a new workable commercial model for itself and the consumer– or, more likely, a series of workable models.

Perhaps one of these 2.0 emerging models will blend the multidimensional interactivity of gaming and traditional broadcast. Rather than passively watch Lewis Hamilton racing in Formula 1, with MediaTech 2.0 you’ll be able to board your own car and with VR, pay to race live against the world’s greatest drivers – in real time.

Perhaps that sounds far-fetched, but rewind to the start of MediaTech 1.0 and you’ll have heard the same comment. History is repeating itself and MediaTech 2.0 is closer than most people think.

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