Monday, November 24, 2008

Interactive Local Media...TakeAways from the KelseyGroup ILM '08 Conference

I just returned from the Kelsey Group’s Interactive Local Media Conference (ILM) in Santa Clara. The event attracted over 450 local media professionals to a series of compelling discussions on the rapid changes occurring in the local media landscape.

Here are five broad take-aways from the 3-day event:

Tracking & Accountability

During the pre-conference sales workshop sessions, a reoccurring theme was the value of analytics and that it has the power to transform a media sales rep into a media consultant that brings deeper value to the small business.

Accountability has become critical in the local space. Solutions providers like Geoffrey Infield from CallSource, were quick to point out that call tracking has come from a nice to have to a must have when competing for budgets from SMBs.

To further support this point, according to the Kelsey Group report, 31% of SMBs site media performance as the key way to make decisions on media purchases. When it comes to print, an alarming 17% of SMBs had no idea if they were getting any value from print Yellow Pages.

Call tracking came up a number of times throughout the presentations as it really holds the key to measuring hard to track media. It was also made clear that calls were at the heart of the small business owners’ expectations when it comes to measuring any media’s success.

In discussing the economic situation and the media budgets that would most likely be cut in 2009, Russ Fradin, CEO of Adify said that Mobile and Social Media budgets would probably take the biggest hit because they are difficult to measure.

Bumbling Bundles

Historically, publishers who started with traditional media properties got into an early game of bundling their products to capture market share and provide their customers with added value. This product bundling has led to serious issues in correcting the valuations of stand alone products for these publishers especially while pure play internet products have launched and been sold at prices that were based on more aggressive revenue generating business plans.

Olivier Vincent, CEO of CanPages voiced his discomfort with bundling strategies as he felt that wherever there is bundling, there is a perceived and actual devaluation of all products involved. This view was supported during the Ad Network panel on day three where it was suggested that there has not been enough effort placed in selling through individual products’ value propositions. Instead, there’s been a rush to bundle for the sake of bundling that ultimately, appears to have hurt the industry.

Ubiquitous Solutions

It seemed there were a lot of slides that started with “360˚...”. I thought one of the most riveting presentations on this subject was from Mike Liebhold, Senior Researcher at the Institute for the Future. Liebhold described new modes of interaction that consumers will have with local data based on the capabilities that will be made available through handheld devices.

His view was that maps would be replaced with much richer experiences that might be tied into the real-time location and user profile of the consumer. Liebhold had the crowd visualize a world that had media wrappers around physical objects and stories attached to merchandise bringing a whole new type of experience. Users would be able to by-pass manufacturer’s messages and skip straight to the messages that are relevant to the individual (ingredients that are unacceptable, unethical production, community user reviews etc.) instantaneously.

GeoRSS was the hot buzzword throughout the conference. It seemed that Geo-tagging content or at least planning to do so, was an urgent marching order given to the audience.

Taking the 360˚ concept to the physical level was the digital Out of Home panel that showed how consumers could be reached throughout the day as they are going about their daily rituals. SeeSaw, Danoo and Ripple gave some great presentations on this growing medium and its power to create ubiquitous messaging. SeeSaw’s term for the media is “Life Pattern Marketing” which refreshingly fills a gap that online media misses. As most attendees were somehow connected to the online media environment it was nice to see a panel that reminded us all about life outside the web or iPhone. It was also clear that there is no shortage for rich digital local media opportunities on the horizon.

Click “9” to Convert…

It says “Phone Calls are the next PageViews” on Voodoovox’s site and after hearing Greg Wester, Vice President of Product Strategy talk about in-call media, I’m warming up to the thought.

Voodoovox has developed a network of publishers that distribute audio messages on their hold buttons or IVR channels. The company serves relevant ads across the network and is able to monitor and report on all activity.

The local application for this type of media is enormous. With radio stations being among the largest client category, the company is laying a footprint that will undoubtedly appeal to advertisers at the local level.

I truly felt that this presentation represented a type of breakthrough this landscape has been looking for. It has national appeal across virtually all industries and its an attractive way for publishers to generate new revenue.

Symbiotically speaking... users don’t want “sticky”

I’ve left one of my favourite Keynotes for last. Mark Canon, President of New Media, Yell UK gave an engaging talk on where the industry was going and offered some intelligent suggestions for adapting to the many shifts in consumer behavior.

Canon started by telling everyone to get used to paying the taxman. By taxman he meant search engines that have clearly developed jurisdiction over the audiences that once belonged to the individual properties. By taxes he meant whatever amount of time or money it takes to get to the top of the rankings, just do it.

For a few years now, I've been trying to erase the word "sticky" from the vocabulary of professionals that use the word to define successful media strategies. Canon did this in 30 seconds when he advised the audience to get used to the fact that ownership of the user is no longer a likely scenario and that the objective should be shifted to renting as an alternative.

As content has become atomized, the focus needs to shift to context. Understanding context and using it to intersect with as many users as often as possible is the new game. To participate in the game, publishers need to format their content for easy distribution to the properties that are now representing the "federations of content" like Google and Kosmix.

Canon drove home the point that we must all learn to become good “symbiots” and that we can’t own everything so we should take the best of what we’ve got to market and rent the rest.

Other topics of interest at ILM included:
  • Local Display Ads
  • Video and its Impact on Local Media
  • iPhone Applications
  • NBC's Local Approach
I’ll be writing up more details about these and other interesting topics from the event over the next few days.


Anonymous said...

Nice insights on the conference and I agree with your thoughts.


Rick Rochon said...

I totally agree. Not only does one need to measure everything, run it against your plan and contrast and compare results for all your marketing and its true ROI. Are your free Craigslist ads delivering more value than your Yellow Page ads? Try new things, measure them and see if they work, then throw more resources at them if they do.