The Guardian Changing Media Summit 2015

The Guardian Changing Media Summit 2015 took place in London, UK on March 18-19. The event gathered together a few hundred media professionals from various sectors to debate the hottest issues in the media business. This year CMS celebrated its 10th birthday. In this report I present some of the highlights of the event.

 

Pangaea Alliance challenges Google and Facebook

The most important announcement of the event was the launching of Pangaea Alliance. It combines the forces of The Guardian, Financial Times, Reuters, CNN, and The Economist to offer a single platform by offering advertisers the ability to access inventory across the group of the fore mentioned publishers.

Pangaea will offer display solutions both as a standalone product and alongside existing publisher initiatives including native advertising programmes and publisher trading desks. In the debate the initiative got positive response as it was seen as a welcome counterforce in the market dominated by Google and Facebook.

 

Programmatic advertising – blessing or curse?

Entrepeneur and video blogger Gay Vaynerchuk opened the event with a passionate keynote speech and started the two-day debate on programmatic advertising. According to him the biggest problem and risk in programmatic advertising is its current inability to recognise correct contexts. One might be able to hit the right target group, but if the hit takes place in wrong context, it might cause more damage than good.

It became evident that programmatic divides opinions, and the various stakeholders of media business recognise its opportunities and threats. Nevertheless, programmatic advertising keeps on growing. It is expected that within the next few years as much as 80 % of online advertising will be programmatic.

The evangelists of programmatic advertising emphasised that it is a great tool, which helps to make decisions on a more factual and solid basis than ever before. This brings up the even larger issue, which is the new kind of challenge of combining human intellect and automated data collection, analysis and implementation in an optimal way. Everything, which can be automatised will be automatised, and the rest, which only human being can do, will remain to us.

 

Native advertising – saviour of publishers or fools gold?

Native advertising was another key issue debated during the event. The discussion misses often the target, as each speaker seems to have his or her own definition of the term.

At its worse, native advertising is seen as commercial content of poor quality. Native advertising is at its best if it offers good entertainment or useful information to consumers. Compared to the traditional advertorials, native advertising is more nuanced and the content is produced by the publishers, not by the advertisers.

However, publishers have to be careful with native advertising, as they cannot risk their own reliability among their readers. At its best, combining the right media and a trusted consumer brands produce excellent results: for example, native advertising can produce even 50% better engagement than regular advertising.

 

Content personalisation: from buzzword to real results

Content personalisation is nowadays important part of most publishers’ strategies. In newspaper business it means offering right kind of content at right time, at right platform, and to right device.

So far the typical method has been using customer segmentation and optimisation combined with information about readers’ location. According to Jeff Moriarty of Johnston Press, the way, which has worked for them best and creates best engagement, is to have a balanced mixture of some editorial material and dynamic content based on individual reader’s preferences. Mobile phones require special attention as the content, which works best for them is different than for tablets.

The biggest hurdle on the way is the complexity of the issue. We are still living the early days, and there are few success stories and publishers lack skilled labour and tools. Furthermore, real personalisation of content and its monetisation requires a strategy, which is supported by the whole organisation.

 

Survey: What trends will dominate the media landscape in the next 10 years?

The organisers closed the event by announcing the results of an online survey concerning the media trends in the next 10 years. The results of the survey were gathered online in February 2015 from two groups: the attendees of the summit and from more than 2,500 consumers from various parts of the world. The top 10 list looks like this:

  1. No easy option for revenue (don’t expect people to pay). There is no consensus about source of revenue. For example, 29 % believes in online advertising and 28 % in paywalls.
  2. Greater focus on organisational capacity. The biggest challenge is that media is slow to adapt.
  3. Hung up on mobile. Barely half of the publishers are currently creating content specifically designed for mobile.
  4. Social media overtakes TV as an ad platform. 72 % of the consumers say this will happen in 10 years. But toady, when asked to think about the last advertisement they had seen, nearly 60 % say it was on TV.
  5. Privacy matters: 70 % of publishers support government regulation of third-party data sharing agreements. 56 % of consumers are very concerned about websites selling their browsing data or using history.
  6. A productive blend of consumer data and creativity. 68 % of publishers say access to more data will help creativity in media; only 17 % say it will hurt.
  7. Technology governs but creativity reigns. 69 % of publishers say creativity will be more important to a successful media business than technology.
  8. Wearable tech is not expected to affect media business soon. 80 % of UK consumers say they are not planning on consuming news of a wearable anytime soon.
  9. Continued decline for banner ads. Only a third of publishers think online banner ads will be a major part of the media business in 10 years.
  10. Standby for even more disruption. 76 % of publishers see more challenges ahead for the industry as a whole.


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