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Content Biz Fights to Keep Its Balance as Marketplace Shifts

Digital Media Companies Broaden Tactics to Reach Distracted Consumers

In today’s utterly media-saturated world, content publishers are being forced to test new, innovative ways to get in front of consumers, who are just an app-click away from finding something else to do.

Premium content producers are employing new advertising and content formats including podcasts, shoppable videos and smart speakers, while also boosting their branded-content output as they try to break through the clutter.

The shifts reach across print, linear television and even long-established digital content companies.

About two dozen companies will highlight their content slates and strategies at the Digital Content NewFronts West marketing event, Oct. 9-10 in L.A. 

The old-school interruptive model of advertising is on its way out, says Scott Donaton, global chief creative and content officer for Publicis Groupe’s Digitas ad agency. For proof, he says, look no further than this year’s Emmy Awards: HBO and Netflix, which don’t sell or run advertising, were the top winners with 23 trophies apiece. 

Viewers are fleeing ad-supported channels, in part because they no longer want to tolerate commercial interruptions — not even 30-seconds of pre-roll. 

“The traditional model is continuing to decline in effectiveness and efficiency,” says Donaton. “If you’re an advertiser and you’re not worried about that, you’re out of your mind.” 

Meredith Corp., which owns more than 40 lifestyle and entertainment brands, is constantly experimenting with new platforms in a “purposeful way” to engage new audiences, says Jon Werther, president of the company’s national media group. That includes e-commerce-enabled videos and branded storefronts for clients, along with Amazon Alexa skills and content distributed to connected appliances and even autos.

“These are things that go beyond the traditional magazine experience,” he says.

For Viacom, whose roots are in cable TV and film, the need to reach consumers on digital platforms led it to create another division. Viacom Digital Studios, formed in late 2017, is investing in new programming franchises (and creating ad inventory) for MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and BET.

Over the summer, VDS also acquired Awesomeness, helping it reach viewers in the 13-24 age range, says Kelly Day, president of Viacom Digital Studios. 

“The traditional model is continuing to decline in effectiveness and efficiency. If you’re an advertiser and you’re not worried about that, you’re out of your mind.”
Scott Donaton, global chief creative and content officer, Digitas

“You can’t really just dip a toe in the water,” she says. “You’re competing with a landscape of digital pure-plays who are all-in and well-funded, so you have to operate like them. It takes focus. It’s hard to be really successful programming for platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Snapchat when your primary job is programming a linear television channel.”

Ellen Digital Network, a joint venture between Ellen DeGeneres and Warner Bros. Digital Networks, has been cultivating platform-specific extensions to the one-hour syndicated talk show for years. But as Ellen Digital Ventures general manager Michael Riley explains, the “seismic changes” in the media landscape push Ellen Digital to continually find new ways to reach fans of DeGeneres and her show.

In September, Ellen Digital launched a behind-the-scenes podcast hosted by the executive producers of the show. It also has had a hit with short-form content series “#Momsplaining With Kristen Bell,” whose first season drew more than 100 million views. Season two, which also debuted in September, is exclusively sponsored by Johnson & Johnson.

“What new technology allows us to do is touch consumers in different ways,” Riley says.

Pictured: Ellen Digital is adapting to market changes by launching digital series including “#Momsplaining With Kristen Bell.”

Tipsheet

What: IAB Newfronts West, inaugural edition 

When: Oct. 9-10

Where: NeueHouse Hollywood

Web: www.iab.com/newfronts-west

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