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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Media "North Star" Indicator

I receive a great deal of mail from Media Realism readers. Almost all write to me directly at doncolemedia@gmail.com as most do not want the world to know their comments. Some say they do not want their boss to know that they agree with me and bosses say that often they do not want their staff to know the same. Also, my subscription list generally has personal rather than business e-mails on it.

Recently, I received an e-mail from someone whom I have never met but he has written to me with some regularity over the last five years. His question to me was “How do you stay focused on what is going on in the business? Is there one thing that you go by as a gold standard? I would appreciate an answer but I realize that my question is very, very hard?”

Actually, it is not difficult at all! A week does not go by when I do not refer to my Media North Star. Early navigators had a hard time determining which way was north as the first compasses were not always accurate. Often, they would hug the coastline as they explored, which was safe but prohibited the discovery of new islands and even continents. If there were no cloud cover, they would look for the North Star knowing that it was always located directly above the North Pole. Such simplicity saved many an explorer until technology improved the game.

Well, I have a North Star which helps me through the noise surrounding today’s media and advertising world. It is not brain surgery. I simply monitor COMMERCIAL AVOIDANCE every chance that I get.

A recent report from Experian suggested a firm link between using some streaming service and cutting the cable cord. In 2013, they reported that 18.1% of households with either a Netflix or Hulu account had cut the cord from a mainstream provider. Three years earlier in 2010, the percentage was merely 12.7%. So, total cord-cutting households now stand at a level of at least 6.6% while three years earlier it was 4.5% of the total household frame. And Aereo (facing a big court case soon), allows you to watch TV without a cable or satellite subscription.

The second screen has really taken hold. Some say that 40% of viewers to TV programming use either a laptop, Smartphone or tablet while they are “watching” programming. Among young adults, various studies peg it as much, much higher. Allow me a rare personal example. This past Sunday I was catching part of the telecast for the Players Golf Championship. As I often do, I had my laptop handy and looked up various statistics on several golfers in the competition. Suddenly, I had four e-mails and one text message from four mature gentlemen in four different states. One even suggested that I toggle back and forth between the NBC telecast and The Golf Channel to catch non-stop action and avoid commercials! Something is happening out there when old men are becoming commercial avoiders instead of coach potatoes who simply pop open another beer and obediently watch the tube.

For years, I have told people that you need more media weight (rating points) than you have in previous days to move the sales needle for a brand. I still get e-mails from marketers saying I am merely a shill for agencies wanting more money. And, a few creative directors blast me by saying that if you make a great spot people will stop and watch it. Well, if 47% have DVR’s, 6.6% have cut the cord, and the second screen distracts only God knows how many from commercial breaks, even the greatest commercial has a difficult time breaking through.

TV is in a very disruptive phase. Why do you think Comcast formed an alliance recently with Netflix and is trying to be the dominant player in broadband with the Time Warner deal? It is very simple. They are smart. Things are changing and faster than ever.

So, may I suggest that you do what I do? Read and discuss all that is happening across the many new media platforms. Yet, remember that TV still gets a huge share of the advertising revenue pie even though their sales results are weakening. You cannot simply “hug the coastline” and hope for the best. Find a North Star as I have and you can avoid being overwhelmed by all the noise going on around us.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com or post a comment on the blog.

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