Media companies that want to “future proof” their business must focus on creating a better experience – for readers and advertisers alike. This was the core of Mark Challinor’s keynote at Lineup’s 5th Annual User Conference last week. Challinor, CEO of Media Futures Consultancy and Executive Producer of INMA, knows what he’s talking about, having worked with global media companies during periods of intense change. 

With thought-provoking questions and illustrative video clips throughout, Challinor challenged the Lineup conference audience to think about the future of the media industry.

View the video or read the transcript below:

Video Transcript

Mark Challinor, September 26th 2019, London — Thank you very much to Lineup for inviting me here today. Before we start, I just want to begin with a little video. I want to take you to the south of France and a little restaurant, in the middle of a forest, which struggled to cope and it struggled to get people in because of its remote location. And it was almost closing down. And then they employed some new technology. In this case, it was some projection mapping techniques. So the experience was what you’re about to see. Imagine you’ve placed your order. It’s a set menu. That’s all you get. There is a set menu. So this is just before the main course. You know you’re going to get a steak meal with vegetables, potatoes etc. And while you’re waiting for it to be cooked this is what happens.

[Video Clip]

And so it goes and of course, just after this, that’s exactly the meal you get presented to you. And if we had time today I’d show you what happened at the start, of course, where he fishes in the sea for prawns for your fish soup.

Then when it comes to dessert, it arrives on a snowmobile. Complete with a cannon which sprays the cream across your chocolate cake. Anyway, the point of this of course is it’s all about creating a better experience and how we can use technology to do so. And what I’ve been asked to do today really, is to look at what I see as the media landscape: what we need to focus on going forward, and therefore lead with – important word, “lead” – and what we should all do to succeed ultimately.

Perhaps today, to start things off is my own equation for what I see as the future media industry and it’s all about technology plus creativity (something we forget about sometimes and we just take it as a for granted) plus data and AI gives this better experience.

Tweet: #Technology + #Creativity + #Data ='' Better Experience, for readers and advertisers. @challinor @lineupsystems #LineupUC19 https://lineup.com/the-future-of-media-lies-in-a-better-experience  Technology + Creativity + Data = Better experience, for readers and advertisers. 

And largely, well I’ll leave that for another day, but all that ultimately will become mobile. I’m attached to this thing here called INMA which is the International News Media Association. I’ve been in touch for many years and I encourage you to have a look at this website. Some points you may get are some really good nuggets which will be useful for your business and an idea-sharing network for news media across the world where over 65 countries are all participating in this idea sharing network. And, I’m going to share with you today some of the findings that we’ve got from the global news industry. See, we’ve all been there. We’ve seen this. We’ve had that “scream moment”. We’ve seen a decline in print. We find it difficult to align the skills of staff-wide across the spectrum. Big gap in traditional and digital revenue still, a lot of education needed. We need to turn to smartphones. We struggle to monetize our industry issues from ad blocks and native ads, to Internet of Things, new technologies, whether to buy or rent.

It’s all very complicated and will only get more so. We’ve struggled with trusted engagement in this area of fake news especially. And how do we measure? Are we measuring devices? Are we measuring people? Is there a clarity? And paywalls- so far- I’ve not proved the panacea once thought. It will probably change that, I believe. But so far it’s been difficult to find the right fit for everyone.

And we find it difficult, therefore, to encourage loyalty and sharing, and building this better experience- because that is what we need to do. The guys on the screen here you may or may not recognize. They are two Vegas magicians called Penn and Teller when they first started their career (they’re very successful TV personalities now). And when they started their career the magical fraternity around the world was up in arms because what they did was they’d show an illusion or a trick on stage (something like this where you’ve seen this happen: where a box and full boxes are on top of each other. The lady goes in, and one takes the boxes apart. Next thing, a head’s on the floor and the legs are up here etc.) and they perform this and everyone would applaud. They go “No, No don’t applaud us. That’s how everybody else does it. But here’s how we do it.” And they bring on another set of four boxes which are clear prospects so the lady gets in and they perform the trick again so everyone can see how it’s done. I’m going to tell you I was stunned. You can find it yourself. You can Google it. But the point was, they said “The reason why we’re doing it, because the magical fraternity said ‘we’ve been doing this 150 years you can’t expose this’. And they said, “That’s exactly why we are. You’ve done it for a hundred and fifty years” – it’s a definition of madness thing-” we need to raise the bar.” Our readers’ expectations are changing now with all the things that open to them if everything is moving omnichannel.

Whether it’s business or consumer eco structures, advertisers are looking for eyeballs, customers wherever they are moving to. Whereas print or desktop, smartphone platforms or whatever.

Are we allowing for the fact that they are the media now?

It’s a two-way conversation to dialogue, not a monologue. They read our content at different points of the day in different mindsets on different devices.

And this whole digitization and automation and virtualization and mobilization- and it’s just the beginning and what seems to me looking at global media it seems to me all about caviar and peanuts. See, peanuts you can get for free. Caviar you can put a high price on it. And wherever I look there’s too many media companies still like this. We expect people to pay for this? They won’t. They get it for free elsewhere. Why would you pay for it? And of course the caviar, I think, is still traditional for many media companies. But increasingly over time, it’s going to be a lot more multimedia, more interactive (I’ll come back to the second) more social, more creative, more mobile, more tech-focused, and much more of an experience. I thought it was interesting looking at Apple news plus platform. What’s interesting to see- there’s a little wider in their “tease and see”- which you may have spotted says, “unless you do something really crazy with your content, we’ll turn it all into a PDF,” which of course nobody really wants and ultimately won’t want. Much interest and Apple will have quite happily turned into such unless you use that content wisely, in their words.

 

Tweet: “Looking at global media, it seems to me all about caviar and peanuts. See, peanuts you can get for free. Caviar you can put a high price on – media companies need to understand the difference.”

So the future, I think, is all about creating this better experience through our websites, our apps, our subscription drives our retail ad sales services, and right the way through to our internal relations across disciplines, our approaches to advertisers and clients.

But why is it still such an issue? Why do we still struggle to get there? Well in a survey we did in our association we looked at the pitfalls of digital transformation. What people said- and you can see on the screen there- large amount saying, “Because we underestimated the size of the task. We’ve done a bad thing to try to bolt on things. We’ve got bad tools to work with. We’re employing the wrong people or even a case of we’re not investing in people.” And what came out as well, which wasn’t specifically asked, was the complexity issue. The communication is how do we talk to people around us in our building, not just in tech-speak for example. How do we get people to understand and buy into what we’re trying to achieve? To which Richard Branson said “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It’s hard to keep things simple.” Isn’t that so true? What we don’t want is to get a situation like this.

[Video Clip]

You get the picture. It was Einstein that said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you really don’t understand it well enough.” But you know, to understand clearly today’s environment and what’s demanded there is help at hand. That’s what I would call “The Magnificent Seven”. The seven things which I think I’ve picked up in world media which we need to focus on.

And these are perhaps sometimes tough things. But if you take the time to understand them they can certainly help us. One: the omnichannel customers here. 87 percent of customers think brands need to put more effort into providing a seamless experience. So if the customer starts on one channel, doesn’t get the issue resolved and then they go to another medium, they’re going to get increasingly frustrated and they have to start the conversation again, is a complete fail on our part.

And what are we going to do is integrate everything more in a concise more consistent manner.

And don’t miss the opportunity to exceed your customers’ expectations. Number two: as we’ve just said, it needs investment in terms of the experience. If you went for dinner with the Ritz and it was a bad experience, would you go back? 62 percent of organizations view customer experience provided via or with backup contact comes contact centers as a competitive differentiator, according to Deloitte. And 83 percent of online customers require some degree of support to complete a purchase, and that will remain, I think, relevant for years to come.

Don’t forget humans and live chat facilities as well.

And we need to win over, not just call “sensible” our sales staff, our customers with our aftercare campaign, and campaign care reporting tools.

Make the whole thing a seamless experience.

Of course a mobile-first customer experience (which is a presentation itself). With over two and a half billion smartphones in existence in use right now. 5 billion phones, there’s only 7 billion on the planet- of people. We’ve seen over 100 percent penetration in many countries now and 84 percent, according into the mobile marketing association, of CIOs are customer-centered companies focused on the mobile customer experience. But there’s a but. At the bottom now, 90 percent of customers said they had poor user experience support on mobile.

And again adding to that, the user experience in terms of its engagement interaction is also key. If you look, for example, its a quite interesting chart. If we look at this, the blue line is the performance video performance on the mobile of ads and red is what people are spending their money on. So for example, on 40-seconds ads, 2 percent only are spending money on 40 percent ads for mobile- which is a good thing.

However, it’s still the highest thing is still around: 30 seconds. And why is that? It’s because of what I would call “the lazy agency scenario”.

They take a TV ad for 30 seconds and just think “we can repurpose it for mobile.” It’s rubbish. People do not want this. There’s been a huge amount of work done especially in Scandinavia. And do you know where the sweet spot is? It’s the seven seconds maximum impact seven-second ads. You can do a lot in seven seconds.

And also the bear with the agency’s lead lazy agency snow here too. This is some work done.

By Ipsos and they looked to agencies and ask them what social platform do you use on a day to day basis.

Because most media planners and I’ve had lots of run-ins with agencies over the years on this.

A lot of agencies will think media planners and buyers usually first jobs out of university will think I am just like the customer I am the customer. Everybody acts like me. This is their experience and this is what they do. And then this is News Works in Australia. This to find out what the actual customer is doing. Look at the difference. Again it’s the agency lazy and we need accurate data to make things work better.

Anyway. Number four self-service tools will be a must-have. 70 percent expect the company’s website to include the self-service application. So you know we’re all responsible for understanding acknowledging the needs of customers and we want their interaction with our brand to be as smooth as possible we need to strive to get this flawless customer experience by 2020 next year the end of Next year the customer will manage 85 percent of the relationship with any enterprise.

When I was interacting with a human But we still need the human bit at the end of it.

And of course, then we also listen to what they tell us. Are we listening to customer feedback? Are we interpreting the resulting data? Are we reacting to improve the experience and all be monitoring the results? We need to know what our customers want. And what we do to supply that in the form that they want it on. Personalization Number Six is becoming more ubiquitous a lot more sophisticated that’s for sure.

Web visitors now expect it as long it’s not intrusive. USA Today doing a really good job of this. They’ve taken the data they’ve got on their customers who are logging into their home page and they’ve taken off the stuff they know that you don’t want anymore. Even down to the advertising it knows I don’t want a new car that won’t send me a car ad it’ll send me a holiday ad instead.

Because I like my holidays and they’ve found that the click-through rate has gone up by 55 0 percent of the algorithmically curated version as opposed to the editorially created version. And finally data and AI.

You know we are perfectly positioned to action big and small data the same way Amazon does to understand audiences to promote relevant content and products to deliver targeted advertising and increase ultimately our subscriptions. That’s why it will become increasingly important and what we need to do with data is extract it manipulate it and commercialize it. It’s amazing how many people just missed the last bit.

Tweet: “We are perfectly positioned to action big and small data the same way #Amazon does – to understand #audiences, to promote relevant #content, to deliver targeted advertising.”

Just determine what information holds actual business value to your organization and curse away. And it’s the important bit and again I’ve seen this happen around the world. People don’t do the last bit here. They don’t curse away the data which holds it all back and it all gets confused and one big mess. What you need to practice is something called infanticide. You may or may not know what this word is it’s a terrible word.

What it actually means is this. When you look in the diction you’ll find it means as in practice the practice in some societies of killing unwanted children soon after birth. It’s a terrible thing. It happened during the famine that the girl was actually being killed by families because they didn’t want the population to explode ultimately because of the famine with no food to feed people. The terrible thing. Thankful that doesn’t happen anymore. It does still happen in certain worlds what happens in the world of rats.

It’s hard to believe to tell the gruesome thing this but the mother rat will have three litters every year.

And she’ll have about six pops in that letter and what she’ll do she’ll seek out two or three which are the weakest and she’ll kill them so she can feed the stronger ones. Sounds disgusting, doesn’t it.

I’ve got a video to show this in practice. No no I haven’t. No I haven’t. I haven’t. It’s just a joke. Anyway, you get the point I’m sure. Anyway.

So what does a future media company look like this committed to innovation? It’s got examples of innovation both big and small. Just think about Henry Ford when he brought the car out of course he said you know you got to lead the innovation. Don’t ask people. If you would have asked them when he brought the car out “what do you want” they would’ve said “faster horses.” Make investments and try new stuff.

It’s storytelling programs ad offerings. They’ve got rewards for the innovators even when the effort fails. We still see so many people looking for scapegoats and organizations. We need the Silicon Valley attitude really, of fail, fail fast and move on. We need to partner with the right ad tech companies and experiments with good metrics.

Though a fast follow of innovation of others. Steal ideas. Don’t be afraid. That’s what my association is all about. It’s about sharing ideas or stealing them whichever way you look at it. And invest in the right people. And that’s how that’s how Lego developed Star Wars. By asking people they put on their Web site. One of the most successful products is Star Wars, Lego Star Wars. How it started was they put on their Web site. Let us know if you have an idea for Lego. And people someone put this up, A Lego Star War.s and they said: “if we get 10000 likes we’ll commit to doing a demo of it and put it into production.” And that’s how it all started.

Some people here may know a guy called John Hegarty and John was the founding partner of the big media agency bottle Bogle Hegarty. He was the H on them case of a technical way of explaining his character. He has a very technical way of explaining how do we mix with and get the right people. And he put it like this I hope you understand it, its a bit technical and I know you are very technical guys.

Well this is very technical and he says “Surround yourself with shit, you’ll think shit, and you create shit.” I think that sums it up, doesn’t it. So we don’t want people like this in other words. Tell us about a time you had to thinking your feet. Well, some bloke was winding me up so threw a chair at him.

And also what we need to do is be of course now agile and moving quicker than we ever have. And John my friend John back again. I won’t do this. We did this at a conference once he said to everyone. Hands up those people who have a five-year business plan. And a lot of hands went up and he said shame on you all. You should have what he described as a five-minute one because the world’s is moving so fast. We’ve got to be reactive. Now that may be an extreme example but again I think you get the picture and it’s all about what I see around the industry. Is this culture change issue it’s a key tension because the role of the CEO and an organization is to align all the skill sets and experiences and a willingness to learn. Going back to Helsing and Sonoma. This willingness, it seems to me there are far too many print people touching digital and not enough digital people touch in print. And what we’ve constantly need as you well know is new mindsets new CPD re reinventing I.T. and ad sales processes and workflows. We’ve got to lead the innovation.

Don’t wait to be asked to lead is the main message. You know Pete media comes screaming out for people who can just take the bull by the horns and do something and get on with it.

I see it everywhere and surround yourself with people who can influence you Well. People in the organization who can change things for you and give you the good, better experience. Because if we get that culture change right, That gives you the foundation for what is a true multi-media company. And we find new ways of things we find new ways of identifying value. It could be social media we view or integrated ad sales editorial commercial adoption. That’s why The Telegraph have an editor emeritus. New ways of defining success. That might be traffic. It might be storytelling mechanics it may be platforms or roadmap progression new ways of rewarding success. Maybe it’s interactive additions new experiences bespoke solutions for advertisers and new perceptions by the market not just profits. Maybe it’s about what the community or the readers or advertise or industry buyers are saying about us if we get all that technology and process and people write.

And we apply we all like a bit of TLC in our lives. But in this case it is time, location, context. If we get those three things working well that is the foundation for a true multimedia company for the future. How do we know if winning. Cuz It’s not just about clicks. It’s about amplification, sharing, it’s about engagement. How long are they spending time with us and on what platforms. It’s about loyalty what you know. What does it take to get them back to us. Jeff Bezos says “what good are reports and analytical tools If nobody looks at them.” Well there are lots of things out there now. Where we can start to put values and responsibility and measurement on things. Real time insights on content with the highest RPMs to understand what formats are working best. You know for example here where someone how much of an audience has come from mobile and how many people click through to another story. What the story meant in terms of where people came from originally. And then we started put values on things in terms of monitoring the amount of registrations or stories or ads have generated in subscriptions in real-time. And it starts to put values on what we do and everything is measured. So conclusions some of some of this is that all we’ve spoken of does create new problems to solve. We want readers to engage with our own or our clients work but we have to profitably. Because their habits are really diverse and they are changing rapidly. How do we if an ad or story is gonna get clicked and read and shared. How do we attract advertisers and readers and how do you gain their attention and cut through this noise. And Using data and I ha I, ah and visual storytelling being one such thing and the BBC are very good at this visual storytelling.

I love this as a really good example. I’m not a big animal rights fan of me I’m not at all. But this really touched me actually genuinely if you know what this is.

This is an aerial map of SeaWorld in Florida. The yellow is the car park. The red is the adults and kids’ paddling pool and the blue is where the giant killer whales spend all their life. That’s quite shocking isn’t when you see it that way. That picture tells a thousand words better than the story’d ever can. Good storytelling though is still what matters. But we have to be open to new approaches. Culture change. Lead it. Look for the right people.

We need to develop or license a new creative toolkit that can be increasingly mobile over time and the tech allows to do much more than just you know an ad article with an image and some links. What we need to lead innovation.

No one will do it for us and where it seems to me in media companies on this year we’re looking to see how mobile can help the revenue holes left by traditional outlets were working out how to manage more demanding advertisers who want things like pure reach from purely to quality reach they want target-rich environment they want content with high engagement they want a substantial purchase intent they want relevant data and they want actionable audiences and we’re trying to decide how much time effort to invest in this digital range of formats especially around mobile calls.

We’re trying to decide with data and AI to collect and develop and how to use our to manipulate and how to exploit it.

As I said whether through storytelling through data through visual journalism and advertising opportunities alongside. And what about the Internet of Things or about voice connectivity on the move and nothing for another day what are we doing about it. Because what we need to do is build a better experience and engaging in commercializing the storytelling opportunity they do go hand in hand.

And one thing to note is just depressed me when I see this still get rid of all pop-ups and splash screens and static bands and so many media companies in national media companies in this country that still do it and I fight with them constantly throughout of this.

It’s just one comes to mind I won’t mention who they are but seeing the same ad a 30-second ad every time I try and click on a story on Facebook. Same ad 30-second ad like nobody wants this.

You won’t put up with it going forward much longer. In fact and in fact I’m gonna do this quickly this is from Digiday you’ll be aware of this very week talked about less ads being more effective. It’s not rocket science but they said “the best ads are those that respect the audience’s interest time and attention they do not resort to gratuitous tactics to attempt to attract attention despite the ability use first and first and third-party data to create meaningful and productive experiences for their target audiences. All too often customers are being bombarded with messages that are too frequent aren’t of interest or no longer relevant. Often the better and more attractive approach is to focus on common-sense solutions such as simplification.” Back to that again “an effective and elegant method is to reduce the number of ad units on websites and increase overall of your ability of the ads being presented to readers. Other sites, not rocket science, is it?

But take your most popular products and make them easier to buy scrap or infanticide.

The non-profit ones measure and compare know what’s working what’s not. And create this development. The ad Develop this creative presence where your audience frequents and if it’s on an app you’d better hope that’s a good one because most people only use between four and six apps regular on a monthly basis. And finally partner with the right tech companies those who can streamline the processes for you.

So the one-stop-shop would be like those were thought leaders can tell you where the future’s going to be and how it affects you can offer you value-added services.

You know programmatic for example it’s not going to go away. Can eliminate what you haven’t to invest in the technology yourself and provide cost savings along the way. And they tell you they haven’t told me to say this I promise you but it seems to me Lineup can do most of this so you’re probably in good hands. And finally just one caution. This is a Japanese football match which is set up specifically with three professional footballers only to the three professional footballers in blue here are playing against a hundred kids. You’ll see the 10 goalkeepers in a minute and a hundred kids. And just with three professionals who know what they are doing here all the kids running to the ball. With three professionals. They still can manage to score the goal as you’ll see here now.

And it’s just the point is just simply this don’t do decisions by committee. Don’t just bring the relevant people we’re going to make the decision. Make it happen quickly. You don’t need a hundred people in the meeting to try and get a consensus on thing because you won’t get it.

Just bring the right people to the right platform. For me, I think the future is all about peace to ease. So if you’re a marketer you’ll note that traditional for peace is a marketing product price place promotion. I think that’s going to be moving and is moving to the product becomes an experience. The price might be an exchange it could be data in emulation to let you in somewhere. Gaming companies do a good job of this. Every place being marked everywhere. The wealth of choice available to us these days if we get that right we create ambassadors who will share our stuff and evangelize.

And don’t forget creativity matters in digital. The expectations some customers are now sky high things on mobile, for example, touchscreen interface team of five.

They make mobile advertising much more intimate and personal engaging all the stuff. What we’ve got to do is exceed the expectation. The CEO of The New York Times had this a great growth. “If the thing the marketer wants to say is so dull then it misses the moment of engagement. The consumer will click it into oblivion in one heartless thumb swipe.” What a great quote that is and so true.

You know that the saying was that where are the eyeballs go. That’s where the money goes too. Well just to add to that I think to who those eyeballs belong to how they receive your information plus the TLC and the justification around it will all become much more increasingly important. It’s going to get more complex as I say but it is I think all about this equation for the future.

So you to end with this is um this is I think a summary of where we are today. So we’re going to still a little bit of a foundational period in life I’d say where we got Net and we got mobile we got cloud and big data and we’re sort of moving into this area now in acceleration mode which is all about 3D printing and the Internet of Things and all the sort of VR and AR and haptic technology comes in etc..

But you know well we’re then going to move into this whole world the unknown we know nothing about next general generation automation smart cities connected car smart homes et cetera. What are you doing about that? Are you leading the innovation in your company?

Are you. Only you know what the clock’s ticking. There’s a sense of urgency need. We need to do it now. We need to adjust to these exponential times. Take the lead especially when deciding which tech we should use. I’m going to leave you with a little one minute clip of my favorite comedian called Eddie Izzard and he talks about his the world of technology and he has two people in life. Ones that have techno fear and those of techno Joy. Listen to what he says. And so on it’s an exciting time to be in media. I would say in closing. Don’t be scared. There’s never been a better time. You just need the right technology to aid it all. And I’m sure my little friend would agree. Oh, well thanks for listening.