Recently, I finished up an internship at one of Brisbane’s top radio stations. I went into this experience believing that ‘video killed the radio star’. For years, I have been under the impression that new media (digital content) is replacing traditional media (print, television and radio). The truth is, I was wrong. I was surprised by how profitable traditional media still is. Yet, the common belief that traditional media will soon waste away to nothing still exists. It’s not as simple as new media vs traditional media. I don’t really believe that new media will totally replace traditional media. Despite many naysayers choosing to view the Internet as a disruptive technology, it can actually be used as a tool that helps traditional media evolve. As the media progresses, so too do the tactics they use for profit making.
The (Media’s) Circle of Life
While yes, radio is technically a form of traditional media; the media landscape is changing. It’s not ‘dying off’ like you might think it is. Every time a new technology comes along, radio is at the centre of public panic. It happened with the availability of commercial television in the 1950s, and more recently with the release of the iPod. It’s been 60 years since this moral panic began, and the radio industry is thriving. How is this possible? Well, the industry has made the most of technology, using it to expand and grow their reach. Podcasting is the perfect example of this. Fun fact: the word podcast is made up from the words ‘iPod’ and ‘broadcast’.
But this doesn’t just apply to radio; television is also changing. The number of people using online streaming services is on the rise (I’m sure you’re already well aware of that though). Fewer people are watching free-to-air television, opting for Netflix, Stan and Presto instead. This doesn’t mean television is being lost. Instead, it simply shows a change in consumer habits that are influencing in the industry. As a result of this change, networks are giving viewers access to their content online (and for free) through platforms like TenPlay, 9Now and Plus7.
Poor old print media has become the go-to example of how traditional media is dying. While it’s true, newspaper circulation has decreased the past few years, publishers who are willing to adapt to the changing media landscape have done so. The shift to online publications has been a tough, but the only other option for publishers would be to accept the declines in sales. While some of the news articles you view online are free, many news websites now offer online subscriptions to their publications. With a subscription, readers are able to access a wider variety of content.
Some academics believe that new media is too tough of an obstacle for traditional media to overcome. While I do recognise that there is some truth to this, I think most traditional media outlets understand that if you can’t beat them, join them. I’m not saying that there aren’t any issues in the industry. The biggest issue for these companies is that as viewer, reader and listener numbers dwindle, so do their profits. This is largely our fault as consumers, as we find any means possible to avoid the advertising that keeps the industry going. On top of that, we are becoming immune to traditional advertising techniques, and media companies are realising this and finding new tactics to gain advertising dollars. This is how:
While many podcasts are free, there are still ways for broadcasters to make money. Most of the time, this happens through sponsorships. It’s estimated that advertisers in the US spent between US$34 million and US$50 million on podcast sponsorships last year alone. With more than 75 million podcast listeners each month, it’s no surprise advertisers are just about throwing their money at podcast sponsorships.
- Brand Integration
This tactic has been around for years (especially in the film industry), brand integration is making a comeback. You may have heard about it before, referred to as product placement. As consumers become less responsive to traditional advertisements, more indirect methods of advertising are becoming more popular. Brand integration is happening everywhere, but you may not have noticed it.
TV writers and advertisers strike up huge deals to have a product or brand featured in tv shows. Did you ever see that episode of Modern Family where Claire does whatever she can to buy Phil the new iPad for his birthday? This is a perfect example of brand integration in action. You may sit through the half-hour of the episode without realising the entire thing is actually advertising the new Apple product (which, not surprisingly, was released two days after the episode aired).
It’s not just happening in TV. Print media has also jumped onboard the brand integration train. Ever read an article and seen something like this (usually at the beginning or end)?
If you haven’t yet, keep an eye out for it next time you’re flicking through a news website. This is a telltale sign that an advertiser has paid thousands of dollars to subtly include their product or service in the article. It’s really interesting to see media companies (who sell advertising space) acquiring online publication websites. In June of this year, oOh! Media purchased online publication, Junkee. It’s likely that Junkee’s content will now feature heavy brand integration as a result of this. This is already happening, two of Junkee’s publications, The Cusp and AWOL, are fully aligned with Westpac and Qantas respectively. So, just like radio and television, there’s no reason for ‘print’ media to die off either, it can still be a profitable industry.
So, where does this leave traditional media? Well, we shouldn’t dwell in the past. Instead, the media should look to the future. The trick is to stay ahead of the crowd. To constantly innovate, evolve and keep up with technology. This is the only way any media producers can stay relevant and profitable in the constantly changing media landscape.
Also published on Medium.