Why are the Digital NewFronts starting to look more and more like the UpFronts?

Screen Shot 2014-05-05 at 5.53.22 PMThis week will wrap up the iab’s Digital Content NewFronts in NY for 2014. The digital marketplace, originally founded by Digitas and a core group of digital networks in order to connect media buyers with original digital video content marketing opportunities is now attended by every media luminary in the business. As the digital content powerhouses (full list below) preside over presentations for their upcoming slate of programming, advertisers contemplate the ROI differences between the broader reach, fixed formats and finite opportunities of traditional broadcast vs. the more targeted, flexible format and infinite landscape of digital.

Since its beginning 3 years ago, both the marketplace and the digital medium have greatly matured. So much so, that we can now clearly see how the medium will soon rival programming from the traditional networks. Maybe not today, but in the coming year or two for sure. As companies like Nielsen take digital program ratings much more seriously and the major studios start to snap up the MCN’s, something more concerning is happening…why are we simply replicating the media walls of television online? So much so, that the event is starting to look more and more like the UpFronts.

The irony is that as the digital marketplace convinces advertisers of the power of digital in order to shift dollars from traditional media (seriously, is anyone watching commercials anymore), the digital marketplace is simply replicating the same old TV model all over again albeit in a different medium.

Did we forget about the democratization and disruption that this brings us?

Anyone can be a channel. Publishing companies finally see the opportunity to be niche networks. Having written about this for many years, it is terrific to see large publishers such as Conde Naste finally turning their Brands into what will fast become the Next Networks serving specific interests.

Brand as publishers and owners of their own content. Just like publishing companies, Brands know their verticals and audiences better than any network. This can help them deliver powerfully targeted content and programming that brings value and builds relationships with these consumers. Different from advertising, this type of content gives brands the opportunity of becoming destination networks and leaders in their vertical. Partner in the right way with the entertainment industry and the result will be much more powerful than any thirty second spot. Think Red Bull, Dove & Chipotle.

Digital Stars. The next generation of stars will come from digital. This is why the MCN’s have made agent representation a part of their business as traditional agents scramble to catch up.

Re-invent Advertising and the Funding of Content.  Aside from Brands becoming content owners with a little help from their network and entertainment friends, we need to use this opportunity to re-invent advertising…why?…because nobody wants an interrupted experience online and we can no more force this upon a digital audience than we can stop folks from using DVRs with TV. It’s the elephant in the room no one is talking about. Do any of you know anyone under the age of 35 who are even watching TV and even if they do, without a DVR?

The model is broken. The networks risk capitol to create shows that they hope to monetize by selling advertising that no one is watching. The sooner we admit this the better. We did not spend all these years disrupting television with a digital video ecosystem simply so that we could repeat the same experience as traditional broadcast.

We need to go beyond disruptive pre-rolls, overlays, sponsorship, product placement and mistrusted native advertising. In some ways we are in a stalemate. Digital needs to show revenue and the only thing they can sell to most marketers is what they are used to. We need to expect more from the NewFronts and from each other.

Push to Put Brands in Video Content

Does YouTube Want a Bigger Cut of Branded Entertainment Ad Revenue?

Digital NewFront Participants 2014

New York Times
Hulu
Time Inc
Glam Media
Project M
Buzzfeed
Time Warner Cable
Sony
Crackle
DigitasLBi
Microsoft
Conde Nast
Scripps Network
Yahoo!
AOL
Google
YouTube
POPSUGAR
Dow Jones
Wall Street Journal
National Geographic
Vevo
Maker Studios
Vice

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