New York—Media platforms are struggling to adapt to rapidly changing marketing channels, advertising practices and customer preferences, according to roundtable keynote panelists who kicked off the 2013 Media Summit New York.
The common challenge: The shift to digital.
“The issue isn't "Why digital?' but more about "How?' ” said Colleen Soriano, senior VP-U.S. integrated investment and digital innovation at Universal McCann. “The question we're asking ourselves is how to define value—getting smart about metrics that matter and translating that back on how to go to market.”
Jon Steinberg, president-COO of BuzzFeed, said the type of ad units must change to match with customer online behaviors.
“The issue now is that the banner ad is a terrible product,” Steinberg said. “People don't acknowledge that because lots of people use banner ads. But it hasn't evolved after 15 years. A welcome-screen ad that you have to click through to get to content? That's a terrible thing.”
The panelists focused on how to deliver better ad experiences, which for most included the use of native ads—sponsored content that extends the scope of particular topics in a manner similar to traditional advertorials.
“The publisher can no longer be in a passive position,” said Marty Moe, COO-group publisher at Vox Media. “If we're going to do what the Web and digital promises—that is, becoming the ultimate storytelling medium—we have to collaborate with clients and agencies to create stories that connect with the audiences we know best.”
A concern was raised that brands that develop and distribute their own content pose a threat to traditional publishing platforms. But Moe said the two are complementary.
“There will be lots of experimentation with brands that want to produce their own content and that also work with publishers to collaborate on where the audience is,” he said. “The tricky part is building that audience and creating an environment that can credibly tell the story. The role of the publisher in creating audiences and environments in which brands want to tell their stories will never go away.”
Moe said the rise of social media is helping improve the quality of brand-produced content, matching the high standards that traditional publishers have long held to.
“Social is increasing quality because nobody wants to share things that aren't any good,” Moe said. “Social is putting more horsepower behind creative, intelligent and authoritative content, and that's a good thing for all of us in the digital business.”