Blog Post

The proliferation of Digital Channels – what are YOU doing about it?

An ongoing study by the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, charts the convergence between journalism and platform companies, you know . . Facebook, Snapchat, Google, Twitter, etc.

In March, 2017, the Tow Center published a fascinating report called “The Platform Press: How Silicon Valley reengineered journalism”. The report is over 100 pages long, but is well worth reading not just by publishers, but also for brand marketers and even advertisers.

The report identifies how, during the past 20 years, journalism has experienced three significant changes in business and distribution models: the switch from analog to digital, the rise of the social web, and now the dominance of mobile. 

This last phase, the phase we are currently in, has forced publishers to rethink their very core existence – Should they continue the costly business of maintaining their own publishing infrastructure, with smaller audiences but complete control over revenue, brand, and audience data? Or, should they cede control over user data and advertising in exchange for the significant audience growth offered by Facebook or other platforms?

The report then continues by looking into how some of these publishers (including The New York Times, CNN and Huffington Post) are managing these trade-offs.

For example, the sheer number of CNN’s publishing destinations is considerable, as the following diagram shows. It illustrates how CNN’s own channels represent only a small number of actual destinations. Clearly an explosion of channels and destinations compared to “the good old days”.

Typical Multi-Channel distribution for news publishers

The logistical implications of this is, of course, enormous and it will not come as a surprise that the digital team at CNN has grown to more than 50 staff.

There are also implications for brand managers and advertisers here. For the very same reasons as publishers want their brand to be “seen”, so would corporate marketers. What platform to pick has become a huge issue, not to mention the fact that each of these platforms demands a different ad type or file format. Does the average publisher or corporate marketing department have the clout, or in-house skills. to manage such a proliferation of formats and destinations? While a company like CNN might be large enough to stand a chance, a small, local publisher, will not. The same applies to corporate brands.

To really understand how much of an impact this represents, the Tow Center study looked into how many channels other news organizations typically published into and concluded that the average numbers of platforms used by these major publishers (see grid below) was as high as 21!

Even for the average enterprise that number was as high as 8!

Average number of platforms that news publishers distribute to

The main issue here is one of cost. It takes real effort to produce content for all of this. Consider also that producing quality video is both more difficult and more expensive to produce than text. Consequently, news organizational structures, their workflows and resource allocation are increasingly dictated by these platforms. Where publishers once had social media man-

agers, today, we see more and more staff dedicated to managing specific platforms, creating specific content for those platforms. Again, this is simply not achievable for small, local publishers nor is it feasible for corporate marketing departments that have a vested interest in their own brand management.

Like it or not, the publishing market has changed dramatically and corporate brands and publishers need to really come to grips with this. Holding on to a hope that “one day, real soon” things will change is not realistic. Smart publishers and corporate brands know that and are doing something about it. They batten down the hatches and start to look into things like outsourcing production or other parts of their business, they sell their downtown offices and move to the outskirts of town where land is cheaper and, of course, reduce staffing levels.  These are logical actions, but problematic as there is only so much cost cutting an organization can do before it starts to have a serious impact on the ability to perform.

Other companies are more pro-active. Those are the ones that actually hire new staff to add new skills to the company. They also purchase new technology to assist in their new digital efforts, but, unfortunately, this can quickly lead to technology silos. Islands of technology that often duplicate functions already in place elsewhere.

At Miles 33, we see this happen all the time. That is why we do what we do, produce technology that can transcend these silos, if not eliminate them altogether.

Take the function of CRM for example. A great example of such a silo’d function. Sometimes there are multiple CRM systems in place, sometimes a single system, but rarely integrated with the various advertising systems in place. With our new Gemstone advertising system, that CRM function is built-in enabling an enterprise-wide ability to track audience behavior across all channels, be it digital, mobile or print.

Another example is the Easybuild system. Technology originally designed by Wave 2, it takes care of automating the production of advertising and video content – and does so for many different platforms. Easybuld is in use by publishers, where it is used in-house to reduce ad makeup, at production agencies who build multi-media campaigns for their clients. Even corporate marketing departments benefit from Easybuild to manage their brands while creating opportunities to create content for an increasing number of channels.

If you want to learn more about how these (and other) solutions can help, contact us at info@miles33.com and arrange a demo.

The publishing scene will never be the same again, but even if you do nothing else this month, make sure you read the Tow Center’s report. It really is worth a read.

You can find the report here.