Funnel
Funnel (source: PublicDomainPictures.net)

First-year business students are taught that marketing consists of four Ps: product, place (or channel), price, and promotion. But this thinking is dated. In an era of information saturation, simply creating another piece of information in the form of a spec sheet, white paper, or press release compounds the problem.

I’ve been using a newer definition of marketing in recent years: generating attention you can turn into profitable demand. This underscores the “long funnel” of conversion from initial consumer awareness and engagement, to desirable outcomes like sales, word-of-mouth referral, and the retention of loyal customers.

At the start of the long funnel is media. Traditionally, media was a one-to-many model, in which a few organizations—armed with printing presses and broadcast studios—sent a single message out to the masses. They made money through purchases, subscriptions, and in many cases, advertising.

Much has changed. Today’s communication is bidirectional, flowing from the audience back to the publisher. It’s individualized, with each of us experiencing a tailored feed of information. The cost of publishing is vanishingly small, with anyone able to share a video with the world for practically nothing. And most importantly, we expect media to be free.

This expectation stems from two simple facts: there’s too much content out there, and users create most of it.

The abundance of content is a consequence of how easy it is to publish. Anyone can become an expert; we consume tailored news. I might read 10 publications’ technology sections, but ignore all sports news. Gone are the days of reading a single publication cover to cover. I choose podcasts to suit my interests, seldom exploring.

And the world of user-generated content has birthed a second kind of media. Facebook, Medium, Twitter, Reddit, and their ilk don’t employ writers, but we consume most of our words there. Traditional media outlets with paid reporting and editorial calendars are being squeezed out.

Jeff Jarvis has said that advertising is failure. It means you haven’t sold an issue, or a subscription. It’s a bad outcome. And yet, it’s the basis for most of what we consume today. Craigslist decimated newspapers partly because the classified ads were the only thing keeping them alive.

The nature of media has shifted, too. It’s gaming, and betting, and theme parks, and blogs, and Youtube channels, and streaming subscriptions. Omnichannel analytics means tracking a customer’s engagement with a brand or some content across many platforms and devices.

With a sprawl of media, and an increased reliance on advertising despite razor-thin margins, media creators of all stripes take analytics very seriously. Data is the difference between dominance and obsolescence, whether you’re keeping a player engaged, trying to get a subscriber to stick around, recommending the next best song, serving a tailored ad, or satisfying a die-hard sports fan.

So, we’re going to dig deep into the media and advertising technology industry at the Strata Data Conference in San Jose this March. With the help of David Boyle—one of the world’s great media analysts, whose career spans record labels, print publishers, broadcasters, and online learning—we’re assembling a lineup of experts and practitioners from every facet of media. We’ll hear case studies, never-before-shared insights, and projections. We’re even running an Oxford-style debate, where we’ll challenge the statement: “Machines have better taste than humans.” (Check out our lineup of talks.)

Modern business starts with attention. The risk is seldom “can you build it?” but rather, “will anyone care?” To understand how media businesses are changing—and how the journey from audience to customer begins—we hope you’ll join us next month.

Article image: Funnel (source: PublicDomainPictures.net).