2017: The Year Traditional & Digital Media Converge

It’s hard to argue that 2017 will be anything short of a historic year for the media industry. The definitive lines that once separated traditional and digital media have blurred as publishers continue to meet the growing demand for “mixed-media” opportunities from clients and agencies. So when do the blurry lines disappear entirely, converting the phrase “mixed-media” to simply “media”? All signs are pointing towards this year.

Sign #1: The Social “Live Streaming” Revolution

Since their inception, social networks have been the digital leaders for “what’s next” in the media industry. Rewind 10 years and you see newspapers moving text online to compete with the first independent social network journalists who were stealing audience.

Next, social networks started catering to digital photography. The invention of the iPhone then jet-propelled the amount of social network users and user-generated content by combining digital photo technology with the ability for direct posting via social apps at any time, anywhere. Consumers became independent “breaking news” outlets, posting quality digital photos with captioned text on their social feeds. Once again, traditional media outlets followed with dedicated resources for social media reporting.

The last traditional media crossover to digital happened with recorded video content. HOWEVER, unlike text or photo content, the majority of audiences who consume video still rely on traditional cable television outlets where live events are concerned (News, Sports, Awards Shows, etc.).

Fast forward to 2017. Facebook Live, Instagram Stories, Snapchat Live Feeds, Twitter’s “Go Live” Video (powered with Periscope), and YouTube “Live Streams” all support live video so there’s no form of traditional content left for digital media outlets to adopt. Facebook has already gone so far as to start supporting mid-ad roll capabilities in their live streams (e.g. commercials) and some television networks are starting to produce live shows exclusively available on social networking platforms (e.g. BBC’s Planet Earth II mini series on Snapchat).

Original content produced exclusively for a social video platform, enormous global audience already established, so how far are we from the first social network “cable provider”?

Sign #2. We’re Finally Talking Media Industry Convergence, Not Conversion.

As live streaming grows for tv networks and every other form of traditional content is being offered digitally, should publishers convert audiences to digital or should they continue to embrace both?

A decade ago, companies were chasing digital. Everything was “going digital”. Everyone thought that traditional newspapers were going to convert to digital-only publications. Content distribution was a “digital or non-digital” conversation. However, many people (including myself) still prefer to unplug from the digital world and get content from a physical book, newspaper or magazine. Many people still watch cable television as well.

This has led companies to adopt a unified content distribution approach that’s no longer “traditional marketing or digital marketing”, it’s just “marketing”. To fulfill this demand for a unified marketing approach, major publishers have created mixed-media packages. However, the road to combining a decade of differentiated digital channels with traditional media channels has been understandably challenging.

The proof in publishers delivering a mixed-media buy and the ability to say that the delivery met all engagement goals comes down to the need for an accurate, widely accepted, unified system of media measurement and reporting. Enter Nielsen.

Sign #3. Nielsen’s TCR Product Launch: The Convergence Of Video Measurement

The latest in Ad Age suggests a slow roll out of Nielsen’s much-anticipated TCR (Total Content Ratings) product, which aims to solve reporting issues with video. It’s been reported that Nielsen is working with publisher and agency feedback to help eliminate any bugs. That’s a necessary approach to this product’s delivery as there will clearly be skepticism over such a massive endeavor being accomplished and in a time where fraud and accuracy are in question with the Methbot hacks amongst others.

TCR’s success will encompass the challenges of tracking mobile versus desktop and the necessity of integrating new video technologies as they become widely relevant such as live programming in social media, anticipation of AR/VR ad tech, and Facebook’s mid-ad roll capabilities. Nielsen’s purchase of Gracenote has everyone salivating over TCR’s future inclusion of that technology’s engagement data as well.

While TCR may not be perfected by March launch, it’s clear that the media industry will have a working product this year and that could be the last big step for media convergence. Equally as important, the iab (Interactive Advertising Bureau) has been tirelessly working to create unified advertising standards for the global media industry that will become crucial towards the success of this convergence.