Who moved the Media Cheese?

Monday, 6 August 2018


BOOK REVIEW: By S Narendra

Who moved the Media Cheese?
Who engineered the demise independent media ?
Often, we all hold technology, the Internet and the ipads responsible. A new book by the senior editor of the New Yorker magazine Ken Auletta has traced the real culprit-that is you and me, the media audience, who gained control over what they want to hear or see. And also, we prefer content without payment. That’s available aplenty online thanks to Google, Facebook and multitude of other cyber platform. Combined,  they are the ‘frenemies’, meaning most of us who want content without payment and free content providers on digital platforms who working against the survival of  free and independent  media.
The TV remote control with its fast forward button, DVR began  the trend of  enabling audiences to skip advertising. As such, they broke a key link in free market capitalism.The author of the book under review, KenAuletta closely studied media and communication and wrote a regular magazine column under the title; ‘ Annals of Communication .According to him, advertising is a short- hand for marketing and consumption  that  connects supply and demand, the invisible hand  that  is supposed under pin the free market capitalist economy. The media (newspapers, TV, Radio, entertainment, quality news Journalism, information industry) vitally dependent upon advertising thrived when they served as channels connecting audiences and consumers.
According to credible guesstimates, at present advertising globally (that is total marketing and selling activity including formal advertising) is worth $2 Trillion. A  London based 2015 study of advertising showed that in US each dollar spent on advertising created19dollar in sales and supported 67 jobs in many sectors. It predicted that by 2019 advertising would kindle 16 percent of all economic output. It is estimated that advertising directly employs about a million people worldwide. Such a vital sector was set on a new course initially by TV remote control  that  grew into an irreversible  consumer habit in the digital age that equipped audiences with ad-blocking software.
Another tectonic shift was occurring in the advertising agency business itself. The firms marketing products and services and their advertising agencies traditionally worked in close collaboration in furthering businesses. It was a relationship based on transparency and trust. When the digital media came to dominate and d people’s information consuming and buying habits, the media fragmented as never before. This had a profound impact on ad agency- client relationship. Uncertain of the outcome from advertising expenditure, clients began to squeeze agency fees and profits and enforce greater accountability for ad expenditure ;on the other hand, agencies started  bulk buying of media space  across media at one price and reselling them to clients at a higher price. Such practices further eroded the agency-client trust. As profits came down, advertising agencies were unable attract talent and  adequately service the clients.
Giant digital platforms like Google, Facebook, Snapchat and many others transformed themselves into both advertising platforms and gained access to humongous amounts of consumer data and insights. This enormous advantage put to greater advantage by offering advertising services directly  to clients where in they were able to customize message to individual consumers.  Another development was that the agencies were walled off from gaining access to audience data garnered by  Google and the  rest. No doubt big advertising conglomerates have developed their own data bases and deployed big data analytics to compete and serve clients, but they could never hope to match the levels attained by digital platforms.
The revolutionary shifts in media scene and audience’s habits impacted entertainment, information and news media, especially independent and quality Journalism in many ways. Traditionally, independent news media and content was principally supported by advertising. As audiences moved to other platforms, advertising also moved. As if that blow was not enough, the digital platforms like Google, Yahoo and Facebook offered content free in exchange  of the users sharing their personal information with them. Google is in a position to offer content ‘free’ because 87 percent of its $ 80 billion revenue, for example, came from advertising. Facebook’s  $ 27 billion was also from advertising.
The power of digital media is increased in an unprecedented way by the spread of mobile phones, now estimated to number about six billion. Nearly half of them or more are smart phones with enormous computing power, tracking their users every move and capable of situational marketing. The mobile embedded artificial intelligence tools like digital assistants have machine learning  capabilities that have capabilities for filtering messages. On the one side, such capabilities empower both marketers and consumers, while on the other they work against competition and choice , of content and consumption of products and services.
Quoting from the book Attention Merchants, the author draws attention to another serious issue. The people’s eyes are riveted to electronic screens connected to the Internet. By demanding  free content accessed through the Internet, consumers without realizing it invitee more intrusive ads and receive inferior journalism (including fake news).The digital platforms  like Google, or Amazon are converting themselves as all purpose platforms like China’s Tancent. This Chinese platform connects 800 million users, who spend  daily at least one hour on its site including We Chat. The company offers multiple services with one app, enabling people to chat, shop, pay. It handles daily 500 transactions, employing 300 million credit cards that link 300,000 stores.  Tancent’s one app,  combines the varied functions of PayPal, Facebook, Uber,  Amazon, Netflix, Expedia and countless others.
The reviewer: Ex-Spokesperson
Govt of India & adviser to ex-PMs
Where is advertising headed now and in the future? 
Here is some idea. In the most advertised US market, in 2016 the total advertising spend was more than $200 billion. The digital advertising showed double digit growth, soaring from $83 billion in 2017 to $129 billion in 2021.Digital advertising spending surpassed TV for the first time in 2016, and this gap is likely to widen by $10 billion every year. Mobile will be the main driver of this growth, comprising over 73 percent of digital growth.












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