The following is a transcript of the keynote address presented by Tribune Company President and CEO, Eddy Hartenstein, to the Mobile Marketing Association Forum in New York on June 16, 2011.
Embracing the Changing Face of Publishing and Consumer Engagement – Don’t Get Left Behind
Thank you and good morning.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before… “The dream of one-to-one marketing is just around the corner.” Well, as I stand here in front of a room full of mobile marketers, I’m proud to say that it will be a so-called “traditional media company” that delivers this technology to the local communities we serve.
The challenge for the media industry is to invest now in new platforms that continue to deliver increasingly relevant and compelling stories that engage our audiences and create new advertising environments that seek to evolve advertising beyond simply producing merely rectangular ads slapped onto a page.
So, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I’m here to tell you that “reports of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.” We’re very much alive.
In fact, I believe that media companies like Tribune, with strong, trustworthy, well-established news organizations and multiple platforms for reaching customers and delivering audiences for advertisers, will play a very big role in the mobile space for years to come.
In others words, for traditional media companies, the current landscape is ripe with opportunity.
Why? Because of our content, our people and our credibility. Those are a few of the key things I want to focus on today and I believe it will serve us all to spend a little bit of time talking about the important role all three play in the rapidly evolving mobile space.
Let’s begin with the obvious…during the last several years the face of news has dramatically changed, and it continues to rapidly evolve. It’s changed, at least in part, because of who produces the content being consumed and because of major advances in digital and mobile technology.
You don’t have to look any farther than the CNN iReport “man on the street” approach to see the appeal. Where editors used to control the flow of information, the Web has made the equation more democratic and allows all to join in the dialogue.
And what’s deemed important has changed dramatically as the so-called news’ gatekeepers share space with the populace at large. With the vastly accelerating demand for mobile access to news and information and with algorithms and social network-sharing driving relevancy…consumers are often left in the tough role of determining what’s of consequence, what demands attention, and what doesn’t.
That’s the role of a live, human news organization of reporters, editors, researchers, analysts, photographers and videographers—to make sense of it all, to provide analysis of “What this all means” and “Why should I care?” Be it uprisings across the Middle East or a scarcity of auto parts caused by earthquakes in Japan, the addition of journalistic expertise is critical to personalization, which serves the needs of readers.
That necessary element of human creativity cannot be overlooked in crafting the right solutions for our audiences, rather than surrendering control to some sterile SEO, scraping, crawling algorithm.
Adding journalistic ethics as a layer to the flow of mobile information creates not only ease-of-use, but ensures the propagation of noble notions like a better-functioning democracy and increasing the level of discourse in our communities. The quality of content is key to the overall experience and we can’t underestimate the importance of reliability that vetted, 2nd-sourced content ensures.
It is an exciting proposition to marry mobile’s reach with one of our goals as a media company—that of challenging and broadening the worldview of our audiences by bringing relevant, important, and yes, sometimes uncomfortable points of view to light.
The Los Angeles Times reporting on government financial corruption in the city of Bell, California, is an excellent example of the kind of impact quality journalism can have when the public is better informed—laws change, local officials are held accountable for their actions, and the ripple effect felt at the state or national level is profound.
We know the world isn’t linear and neither is the way people want to consume media. What does that mean? It means someone reading a story about the Lakers’ Lamar Odom one minute, may well want to browse a photo gallery of Khloe Kardashian, or catch Anthony Weiner’s latest tweets the next. As the technology evolves and algorithms replace editors, what’s lost is the experienced human editorial element that relates the seemingly un-relatable. Not that sports stars and glamorous women aren’t often drawn together.
People today are looking for something to help them make sense of the floods of content available. Invisible filtering like what we’re seeing on Facebook and on Google searches can’t provide that, nor can it replicate the sheer joy of discovering a story so well reported and written that it draws you in and swallows you whole—even though you previously had no interest in the topic.
But let’s be honest: Consumers haven’t always been happy with the experience that traditional media have used to engage them in emerging platforms. Shame on us.
Consumers are demanding more relevance, demanding the ability to access news, information and entertainment whenever and wherever they want and, increasingly, only the content they’re interested in. And they expect to be able to share it with their friends, family and co-workers – and have a dialogue with those who are reporting the stories that have piqued their interest.
For us to succeed then, we MUST become more flexible in our approaches. Regardless of some of the wishful thinking among brand strategists and marketers, the platform race is far from over and there will be more developments in the marathon ahead.
We moved the print experience to the desktop web, and we didn’t do this particularly well. So, our challenge is to be better at this with the mobile web, apps, and text. How do we do it?
As we know from a majority of top tech trends, all are dependent on the creation of a unique mobile experience. Those experiences are created by people.
So, it’s more important now than ever that we invest in our people. The explosion in developer conferences and attention being paid to developers is because it’s tough to find highly-talented individuals. There’s a shortage of them.
And within our current organizational structures we must recognize the need to shift resources and understand that the cost of creating excellent mobile experience must become a larger piece of overall business strategy.
In sum, developments will be driven by imaginative marketers, content creators and audience demands, and will need to be inventively programmed by smart developers and editors across platforms.
For media companies—indeed for anyone who generates content—the future is very closely tied to how well we engage customers—be they our readers, viewers, listeners or our advertisers—on emerging mobile platforms. While we can’t predict the next technological breakthrough or what the next “hot” device will be, we can predict that the media marketplace is going to continue to evolve—with new entrants and exits, more channels and platforms, and different sources of news, information and entertainment all competing for eyeballs and dollars.
Our challenge is not only to be ready to adapt the delivery of our content, whatever the device and whatever the platform…it’s also to better anticipate what’s around the next bend, while remaining true to our core mission. It’s imperative we reach consumers of our content with credible, trustworthy, news, information and entertainment targeted specifically to them in a fully captivating, rich media environment.
To be honest, in a world awash with rumor, gossip, innuendo and unsubstantiated allegation, this mission is not just the key to our success, but an obligation we have to consumers.
Trust me—we are ready.
We also have an obligation to our advertisers to deliver audiences in the kind of premium environments that will maximize their opportunity to engage with consumers.
But it’s a two-way street. Advertisers also have an obligation—to deliver mobile advertising that matches the quality of the journalism and takes full advantage of the mobile experience and technology available.
The good news is that we’re seeing more and more brands embrace mobile advertising and marketing, certainly more than we saw in the early days of the desktop web. It’s clear that brands and ad networks want new means by which to engage users and drive integrated strategies across mobile apps, SMS, QR codes, mobile sites, alongside the more traditional forms of advertising such as print, TV, and web.
However, while the mobile platform presents amazing creative possibilities—too few are taking advantage. Too many are stuck on banner ads, video pre-rolls and the like—eliciting a collective yawn from consumers. This is mobile—and it is where the sophisticated, connected, geo-targeted future is headed.
In order to be successful, mobile advertising must be highly creative and engrossing, much in the same way the ante’s upped each year by Super Bowl TV spots. Now is NOT the time to be boring. It is an interactive medium—so interact!!
Now, since we’re talking about creativity, let me also touch on the topic of measurement, because the two are closely related and share important places in this near-term future we’re designing. We all know the inventiveness or ingenuity of an ad campaign can be debated, but we need to fully grasp the need for agreement on some metrics for determining what is successful and what isn’t.
Measurement has traditionally been the proverbial “third rail” of advertising. But, here again, mobile is the future. While mass media such as newspapers and television continue to perform well, mobile provides us with the unique ability to determine exactly who’s looking at an ad, how many are looking, where they are when they’re looking…even what time of day and how often that’s being done and, most important, how the audience is reacting to an ad.
Conversations centered on “What’s my CPM? How many downloads have you gotten for that app? Where do the circ figures stand? and, “How many unique visitors visited?” will continue to have their place. But we don’t measure the speed of sound with a ruler and we must not limit our opportunities by failing to recognize that mobile demands and deserves its own unique measurement parameters.
We’re connecting with the original vision of our media company founders to provide access to information that’s been refined to help consumers make decisions about the issues impacting their lives.
We don’t have to look any farther than the corruption uncovered in the City of Bell, or in the global financial markets to remind ourselves what’s at stake.
We also have a commitment to our audiences to create “WOW” experiences.
We have to use the creativity of our platforms and our people to help our audiences face the future. By informing and shaping, entertaining, and challenging thought, our task is to make our communities thrive. These are the communities in which we live and work every day.
And we have to use that same creativity to forge new business models and to continue delivering marketing solutions for advertisers.
Tribune is investing in testing new platforms, new ways of reporting, new ways of delivering the news, information, and entertainment our consumers want – and, the advertising environments that both big brands deserve and the solutions local businesses need.
Thank you very much.