Notes from The Future of Media Panel

The panel on The Future of Media was a collection of brilliant minds all looking at the media landscape from different historical backgrounds, different working positions, and different needs for the future. All of this lead to a dynamic conversation that leveraged the broad opinions across the panel to come to some vague truths, but more importantly some important learnings about how to continually approach the future of business in general. Overall it was a 2 hours we worth spent listening to a rare group of people that respected each other, respected the challenge of the discussion, and will likely be some of the key drivers in the developing future media landscape.

In no specific order, here are some of the key topics and ideas that I thought were interesting:
  • Yahoo and AOL are examples of great companies with valuable products thcat face the weighty challenge of unwieldy expectations; if a new company reached their traffic and income levels, they'd be the darling of Wall Street

  • A challenge that websites face: web browsing is fragmented, and so all of a single website's audience is able to be reached somewhere else. This is why YouTube has millions of users but nobody really needs to chance advertising with them

  • When Google's revenue growth slows, investors will start to start asking why it is subsidizing the internet's video streaming with no profitability; businesses need to start thinking about what's practical versus what's possible

  • The future of brands in media is uncertain
    • proponents of brands as significant believe that brands organize perception and author trust, which is all the more important in this 'everyone has a voice' landscape
    • proponents of brands as outdated believe that brands are overvalued premium prices on content that's readily available from countless sources and that millions of people are ready to produce for free

  • The opportunity with social networks is the massive information layer that's being formed. The true value for Facebook won't be within Facebook itself, but leveraging the data that's been collected as an information platform that can enhance targeting outside of the individual web property. This will be the power of Facebook Connect - allowing brands to leverage the detailed personal data that Facebook has collected about its users to enhance product relevance and advertising matching on partner sites

  • Data is a currency and a commodity - how you leverage data is a key question. Project Canoe is broadcast television's attempt to add a data layer to their product in order to provide both a better product and a better value to advertisers, and it's a key to broadcast television's continued profitability

  • Right now behavioral data is a currency but is that a generational thing? If it becomes apparent that the sale of behavioral data is a trojan horse, then future generations will value privacy more
    • On the other hand, is there even a possibility of privacy in the future? This may have died the second camera phones became ubiquitous
    • Andy Warhol "We're all famous, now how long"
    • The electronic footprint - will it enable transparency (in the '08 presidential election we learned of Edward's affairs for example) or will it force us to shut down in order to preserve what little privacy we have left

  • The future of media is imagination and courage; the courage to brave new approaches and reinvent yourself time and time again, the imagination to think of how to do so
    • One example of a brand with imagination is Uniqlo - a creative idea spurred it from a small Japan retail chain to a global phenomenon through the development of Uniqlock http://www.uniqlo.jp/uniqlock/

  • Users will want to pay for services on the internet when they see the value of a superior product that can only come through funding; right now, services are surviving without revenue due to relatively low cost structures, but soon the millions of websites and start-ups will need to show profit, and we will lose the services we treasure that were offered for free because advertising can't support everything

  • We are the point of devaluation of content - we're seeing this quickly with music, the music itself is being pushed to zero, and the music industry has to find value around the music (around the content)

  • "Music will never again change the world because of how it's passed around now" - Neil Young
    • We have lost the ability to experience awe in the way that single instances of content creation could once jump start a nation
    • To be on the cover of Time used to mean you had reached the pinnacle - there is no single powerhouse left that can create such a stir
    • Is the internet in this way actually destroying community in its quest to unite everyone on one level?

  • Technology enables the path of least resistance - expect that the internet and computing as we think of it now will die as technology enables more robust mobile consumption and rich interactive television enables us to consume content on the big screen (this is Mark Cuban's bet)

  • One investing truth: when everybody is looking in one direction, then the opportunity to create value is in a whole different direction
    • This may be true for Mark Cuban, but plenty of firms are successful investing in emerging web trends. It may be that the degree of return is correlated to the degree of which you can step farther in front of the wave

  • There are interesting opportunities to find value and reinvent in this landscape because everyone is focused on one specific landscape - the internet. This is why Rupert Murdock was able to buy the Wall Street Journal - it's loss of valuation despite its profitability and it's significant brand value. Murdock buying WSJ is an example of opportunity in chaos

Moderator: Ken Auletta, The New Yorker
Cathie Black, President of Hearst Magazines
Mark Cuban, Chairman of HDNet & Owner of Dallas Mavericks
Randy Falco, CEO of AOL LLC
Jeff Goodby, Co-Founder of Goodby, Silverstein, & Partners
Bob Guccione Jr., Guest Editor of MediaPost
Nigel Morris, CEO of Isobar
Joe Uva, CEO of Univision
Susan Whiting, EVP of Nielsen Company
Michael Wolff, Editor & Columnist of Vanity Fair
Paul Woolmington, Founding Partner of Naked Communications