How Brands Can Fix the Relationship Between Platforms, Audiences, and Media Companies (Hint: It’s Not a Boycott)
(Second of a series. The first post reviews the media and platform ecosystem, and laments the role brand marketers have played in its demise.)
In my first post of this series, I laid out a fundamental problem with how digital media works today. Large digital platforms like Facebook and Google have cornered the market on audience attention, often with devastating impact on our national dialog. Along the way these platforms have developed sophisticated prediction and targeting engines which give marketers the ability to buy audiences with precision and scale. While this has been a boon for marketers’ businesses and the platforms’ profits, it’s also drained resources from independent, high-quality editorial outlets and stripped our national dialog of much-needed context.
The loss of that context is at the core of an ever-growing #StopHateForProfit social media boycott, which now includes huge brands like Unilever, Coca Cola, Verizon, and Honda. I’ll be writing about that next, but today I want to focus on how we got here, and what we can do about it.
Over the past ten years, media companies have responded to their loss of audience by creating “viral” editorial that performs well inside the platform’s engagement-at-all-costs ecosystem. Predictably, however, quality editorial – the context journalists create for a living – rarely qualifies as viral. Besides flooding the platforms with videos of slippers which double as mops and two-second beer bongs, media companies have embraced Facebook and Google in other ways – selling them programming that never seems to gain audience or get renewed, building expensive and often unprofitable versions of themselves on each platform, or becoming platform advertisers themselves, a practice I call arbitrage in which media companies buy audience impressions wholesale and then mark them…