Lessons from Media Giants: Customer Demand, Content, Alliances and Product Extinction

A recent business breakfast in Philadelphia with leaders of two local media Goliaths  provided interesting insights on meeting customers’ demands for content, forming meaningful alliances and preparing for the extinction of your product.

The event featured a panel discussion with David L. Cohen, executive vice president of Comcast Corp, and Gregory J. Osberg, publisher and chief executive officer of Philadelphia Media Network, Inc., publishers of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.  The session, hosted by the Greater Philadelphia Senior Executives Group, was moderated by Larry Kane, a veteran Philadelphia TV news reporter and anchor.  Here are some key take-aways from the session:

Customers’ Insatiable Demand for Content

Cohen explained that “customers want to watch the content they want when and where they want it on the device they want to watch it on.  There is no more, or very little, appointment television.”  Comcast has kept up with this requirement by offering programming content on demand so customers can access programming at any time.

Osberg admitted this is a challenging environment for traditional newspapers that want to have in-depth information before releasing a story.  He called it “speed versus substance” and pointed to some online news sources that will send an alert about a story, but when you click the link there is no story there.  Philadelphia Media launched Philly.com a number of years ago to cover breaking news in this hyperactive media environment.

Question:  How can you make your branded content available to customers in an easy-to-use format when they want?

Alliances Are Key to Success

Recent years have seen a number of alliances between news organizations that would seem to be competitors.  Cohen explained that alliances are important because they “keep you from reinventing the wheel.”  He explained “we are beyond the point of one media company thinking they can corner the market.  No one has a monopoly of brand.”  He said the winner in well-designed alliances is the consumer.  One example of this type of alliance is CSNPhilly.com, Comcast’s local sports web property, providing coverage of Philadelphia’s major league sports teams to a local suburban newspaper group’s website (phillyburbs.com).  In return, phillyburbs.com provides local high school sports coverage to CSNPhilly.com

Osberg concurred and advised participants to “keep focused on customers, not your corporate agenda.”  Philadelphia Media Network struck a number of deals this year to share content with city and suburban news outlets in print and online, including an agreement with Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on content sharing and working jointly on some projects to expand statewide coverage.

Questions:  What alliances make sense for your organization to better serve customers?  What impact will these have on your brand?

Be Ready for Your Product’s Demise

It is no secret that newspapers continue to lose subscribers and advertisers.  Osberg explained that he tells the staff at his newspapers that the papers will cease to exist.  “I do not care.  I do not know when (it will happen), but we need to be prepared to provide content on the platform the consumer wants,” he said.  In a move in that direction, The Inquirer announced a special offer selling a tablet computer for $99 and a $9.99 monthly online subscription to the newspaper.  The newspaper page fits perfectly on the tablet screen and is more similar to reading a newspaper than reading news on a website.

Questions: What plans are you making for the day when your product or service needs to move to a different platform?  How will you maintain your brand on the new platform?

Content is King

Cohen said he is not afraid of Apple TV, Google TV and other new competitors gaining market share.  “These are distributors of content, not producers of content,” he said.  He criticized the newspaper and music industries for giving away their content on their websites and now trying to “get the genie back in the bottle” by charging for their online content.  “It is all about ownership of content,” Cohen said.  “We are not going to give content away for free.”

Question:  Is your company being compensated for original branded content on a fee basis, with advertising or as a lead generator?

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