Wednesday, September 17, 2008

So what is a media company?

I was looking for some guidance on a defintion for a presentation I am preparing ... and came across this article that is even more interesting reading 2+ years on

It's by The Economist and focuses on former Yahoo! CEO, Terry Semel. Semel was brought on board to turn Yahoo! into a “21st-century media company” ... however things didn't quite turn out as expected. Semel resigned in August of 2007.

Semel went heavy on original content before taking a bit of a U-Turn in 2006 when content aggregation was all the rage. This article was written almost at the very moment things went south for Yahoo!

Semel talks about three key changes - content/programming on demand and how the net has democratised information by allowing the user to be the programmer.

Secondly, that small audiences and many of them are as good if not better than large scale broadcast mass audiences and that Yahoo! wanted to mix professional and amateur content to create these small, niche audiences and monetise them accordingly.

Thirdly, "Where does all this lead? “It will look more and more like a stock exchange,” says Mr Semel. An exchange, that is, for users who “offer” (create) and “bid” for (search, navigate, share, enjoy) content. And a stock exchange for advertisers, who bid against one another to have their sponsored links placed in front of these users."

I feel the first 2 are still relevant, and point 3 was where it went a little awry. For the record, 2006 was when the stock price of Yahoo! plummeted (from $43 in January to $25 in December) and I think this cloudy vision was the straw that broke the camels back.

The idea of point 3 would never have made sense for Yahoo! - or MOST businesses aside Google - funnily enough the idea of an exchange (ie a market exchange) is still a live one.

Still, it's getting close to the end of 2008 and there is more debate than ever on what makes a media company. Is Google a media company? I'd say yes ... ask them and they say no. How do old media companies define what they are now?

The weird thing is - Semel was definitely onto something ... and right now his original vision is probably more relevant than ever. Semel's talk about user programming and the importance of the small audience is bang on in my opinion and still largely left unfulfilled (especially the large point) by large scale players.

So, what does the term 'media company' mean in 2008?


denise said...

What is a media company? The lines are becoming more blurry.

From large non traditional media brands creating online platforms an online platform, attracting traffic and monetising this through advertising and other revenue models, (perhaps this can be equated to custom published magazines) - to sole business owners running their own site and generating traffic and advertising dollars.

It is all further fragmenting the eyeballs and ad money which was previously seen as a given for traditional media.

Will these ad dollars continue to flow to this non traditional part of the market while 'traditionals' operate under their generalist sales structure and greatly underplay one of their key strengths - their individual brands?

I agree with point 3 - a segment of online traffic will be monetised this way. There may be some daytraders with relevant skills in the job market soon!

Ben Shepherd said...

great points denise! absolutely with you.

re point 3 - i think definitely there will be a role for this sort of exchange/arbitrage setup - i thought though for Yahoo and where they were at in 06 (premium web brand in the US with great relations with advertisers and consumers) it was a little off directionally.