Are publishing companies poised to be the next networks? I think so…

A little background first. For those of you not familiar with the online video discussion…

The consensus is that in the near future consumers will use one pipe – their internet connection – not only for web surfing & telephony, but also for film & video entertainment. Consumers will then choose (via their wireless network) which screen in the house to watch the content on. Long form will be viewed on a larger screens in a traditional ‘lean back’ approach. Short form content will be viewed either on a PC or downloaded for viewing on a portable device such as a PDA, iPod or Playstation. This more engaged approach is called a ‘lean in’ experience. Then there is also the cell phone – with all carriers racing to upgrade their digital networks in order to be able to stream video content anywhere, anytime.

In the ‘old’ world, access to content was limited by FCC regulated networks via cable or satellite distribution. It was expensive to start a network. As a result the networks had to have a broad appeal. With the internet, anyone can start a channel. It is fairly inexpensive, and the technology is available to everyone. This means there will soon be as much video content out there as there are websites now. And like websites, most of it will not be good. So, who will rise to the top?

I believe traditional publishing companies have the potential to be sleeping giants in this new arena. The web is all about choice. Finding what we want. What we want is all different. We all put up with what the networks had to offer because we had no choice. We only watched the shows we liked. Now we will be able to watch whatever show we want, whenever we want. The scale of the internet will allow for what traditional mediums did not – giant, niche markets. Who knows these niche markets better than those publications that have been covering them forever? No one. It is what publications have always been about. We will go to whomever is serving up the best content within our areas of interest.

Think about it. Even with something as broad as the news. Who would we trust to deliver it? CBS, NBC, ABC or a specialized news channel like CNN, New York Times or the BBC? My bet is with the news agencies. This new arena also involves social networking in a big way. Magazines and publications understand this a lot better than the traditional networks, as they have engaged their readers in a two way conversations for years. When it comes to news, the large news agencies also know that much of their content will come from consumers, posing as the new reporters in the field. Read this article from Online Media Daily: Newspapers To Migrate Online.

I am willing to bet that the publications we subscribe to now, we would be happy to read and watch at some point in the future. But big changes are going to have to take place first. In fact, they will have to realize that their survival is not about simply placing an online version of their printed publication online. To begin with, they are going to have to stop thinking of themselves as publications, but channels. They are going to have to recognize that fewer and fewer of the younger demographic read, while more and more of them will want to watch video online. They will probably have to have 2/3 video to 1/3 written content. They will have to build social networks.

The opportunity is there for them. If they don’t stake a claim within their respective areas NOW, someone else will, and they will learn the fatal mistake others have made in the past; such as MSN did with Google & search, the music industry did with Apple & iTunes, the telecom companies are realizing with VOIP.

There is no question that it will be about individual tastes, just as marketers have discovered it is all about one to one marketing. So, ask yourselves who is best suited to serve that up with the best quality & understanding…

…and what will happen to the networks, and why is this a huge opportunity for brands? I have a few opinions about all of that too. Stay tuned.

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