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The Future of Media: Microchunks or Brands?


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January 12, 2006

The Future of Media: Microchunks or Brands?

Rob Hof

VC Fred Wilson and serial entrepreneur Mark Pincus are debating what the next era of media will be. Fred think it's RSS-style microchunks of content that carry ads and are deliberately scattered to the Net winds to reach as many people as possible:

Here is the future of media:

1 - Microchunk it - Reduce the content to its simplest form. Thanks Umair.

2 - Free it - Put it out there without walls around it or strings on it. Thanks Stewart.

3 - Syndicate it - Let anyone take it and run with it. Thanks Dave.

4 - Monetize it - Put the monetization and tracking systems into the microchunk. Thanks Feedburner.

Mark think it still comes down to brand:

... In a world of 500 channels all you can hope for is a brand. that's why we [at TCI in the early '90s] tried launching channels around branded mags and topics like auto channel, outdoor life, golf. in a world of 500,000 channels the importance of brand will be total.

Actually, I don't think those visions are necessarily exclusive. I like Fred's idea that content be allowed to move wherever readers want it, though it's hardly obvious what kind of revenue-producing ads could be irrevocably attached to it. Also, as some of Fred's commenters note, a lot of people want bundles of content because they don't have time to put it all together themselves. Thus the rise of memeorandum, Digg, and no doubt many others to come.

At the same time, I think, as Jeff Bezos often says, brand must be earned by providing the right customer experience, not manufactured through advertising. That means doing something different than just trying to suck every reader back into one's Web site.

As for my employer? On the one hand, it's clearly betting on the power of brand, which is a word we hear all the time in internal meetings. But I can tell you that BusinessWeek is also intensely interested in new ways to atomize what we do in and deliver it the way readers want--and that seems to vary widely depending on both the reader and the particular content. (Suggestions welcomed!)

But for now, at least, old and new media can't afford to choose sides. Because the former audience isn't.

Update: Fred agrees: It's not either-or.

: So does Bubblegeneration's Umair Haque.

06:51 PM

Power of Us, Social Media, Web 2.0, blogs, digital media

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? Media Should Start With Conversation, Then Synthesis from Publishing 2.0

The problem with the current debate over Old Media vs. New Media is that most people see it in binary terms — either Old Media dies and the web becomes a completely open marketplace of commoditized content (as Jeff Jarvis and countless others of ... [Read More]

Tracked on January 15, 2006 11:51 AM

The future of media is not difficult, but it can be scary from My Name is Kate

I love/hate it when someone else puts something I've been thinking into an incredibly simple and elegant mantra. Fred Wilson over at A VC has summarized the future of media.1 - Microchunk it - Reduce the content to its simplest [Read More]

Tracked on March 28, 2006 12:31 PM

I've been so busy in the 3-d world lately, that I haven't even opened my RSS reader in three weeks or so. I've been reading local papers and following links printed there to see local sites.

Oddly, the absence of the latest and greatest via my RSS feeds has been enlightening. Too easy to forget the micro world it is.

As far as BW -- it's one of only two news sites I visit these days (SF Gate the other). Must be doing something right in delivering to this reader.

Posted by: dg at January 13, 2006 01:55 PM

It is not old media versus new media. You're right. It is transparency versus hidden biases and the confusion over this question happens because an increasing number of readers see the old media as the established leader of hidden bias in its reporting. Bloggers have a viewpoint and it's out there, like it or not. Old media has a viewpoint but its wrapped it in the JO101 flag of 'objectivity.' New media, old media? Not the question. Transparently biased, or driven by a secret agenda... that's the question.

Posted by: sterling at January 13, 2006 04:17 PM

I don't believe it is old vs. new, microchunk vs. long form, it is about how the user wants to consume the information. One is not better, they all have a place. Media is changing/morphing - take Tivo, RSS and Podcasting for example. They all give me control. I think that trend will continue.

In the "old" world, branding, direct response, PR, advertising were all part of a marketer's mix and they all lived happily together. How we execute PR (Blogs) or direct response (Adsense) or advertising (product placement in TV shows) in the future will change. We may microchunk content and put an ad with it or we may brand content in unique ways (something we are doing at Pheedo). In the end, it is still PR or Direct Response or Advertising.

Marketers will need to adopt to consumer's controlling media consumption.

Posted by: Bill Flitter at January 13, 2006 08:42 PM

I think companies are realizing that the future of brands will lie in finding new ways to syndicate brand value. Two levels are involved: between companies and their customers, and (critically) between customers themselves, where the brand serves as catalyst. Web 2.0 will play a vital role in this process.

What's certain is that brands of the future will not be top-down monoliths. They'll be loosely coupled, rich in customer texture, often sparked by customers themselves.

Posted by: Brian Phipps at January 16, 2006 03:04 AM


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