Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Disintermediation of PAID MEDIA: The Third-Wheel

In our continuing analogy of customers as the walled cities the paid media is analogous to the feudal lords. The media conglomerates get a stipend for the privilege of speaking to their audience like when a price was paid to the lord for the privilege of using, and working, his land. The lord did not work the land (produce the goods) nor was he the primary purchaser of said goods. The lord’s value, and consequent wealth, came in that without him one did not have access to the land needed. The paid media exists on the premise that they still have the ownership to these cities, this land, and our livelihoods as small business depend on leasing this all valuable resource. But what happens when this isn’t the case anymore? What happens when we no longer need the feudal lord?

In some ways the demise of paid media is equivalent to the disintermediation that is occurring through all business sectors from a consumer perspective. In the consumer sector there has been a mass disintermediation (removal of the middle man) as now the consumer can buy direct. Consumers, as purchasers, no longer require a retail outlet in order to make a purchase. In days of yore whole businesses were created as simply resellers. The business’ whole function was to have access to the products, or information, and act as an intermediary or channel for the consumer to purchase them. Now consumers can use a myriad of channels (web platforms, apps, browsers) to purchase directly from the manufacturers or, in the case of information, access information directly themselves- hence the disintermediation.

The demise of paid media is the disintermediation of the mass media outlets between the businesses and consumers from the business perspective. Just as the consumer can purchase direct the business likewise can sell direct. We, as small business owners, no longer have to lease the land from the feudal lord. We no longer have to talk to (or rather more aptly at) consumers through the paid media channels. You no longer have to advertize through TV, newspapers, radio or even internet banners to get the word out about your product/brand/service. In fact advertising through those channels has become less and less effective. As the paid media has been taken out of the conversation interactions have become more a conversation between customer/consumer and a business. Like going out on a date paid media has become the awkward third-wheel. The person who is not really involved the conversation but rather keeps trying to interject and interrupt. Paid media is person in the conversation trying terribly hard to be relevant, exciting and engaging but succeeding in being mediocre at best.   

For the moment paid media is still ever present but we are almost to the point on our date that the third-wheel is recognized as such both by themselves and others, and politely excuses themselves from the evening’s activities. So that will leave just us and the customer. Herein lays the questions of this new wave of business. How do we keep the date going? In other words for those customers we have garnered using the paid media of old how do we keep them engaged? How do we keep the conversation going and our business relevant? When a place in the city isn’t determined by allegiance to a feudal lord, when indeed any farmer can be in the city, will your farm still be chosen by the cities inhabitants? This is the crux of the reintermediation, having your business add value back into the interaction. Leveraging consumer input, innovation and intelligence to make the interaction fulfilling and engaging for them as well as you. Businesses are created to fill a need. However, now the consideration is not just the generalized need of a society of a whole but the customized specific need of the individual consumer themselves. To thrive in the new wave of business we need to keep the date going with all of our customers. We need to be chosen on our own accord by the cities inhabitants as providing a valuable service or product.

For the new customers we are looking for an invitation into the walled cities. We are looking to be introduced for that first date. We are looking to start the conversation. The interest and benefits must be mutual, not one sided. With out the gloss and focus of the intermediary businesses, and consumers, must stand on their own. So where does that leave us?

There are three types of media- paid media, owned media and earned media. With the disintermediation of paid media the importance lies with leveraging our owned media to get earned media. Owned media is, for all intents and purposes, your business. It is you- the plot of land, the shop, the snazzy outfit you chose for the date. It is the channel of communication you generate, you control, you upkeep. The earned media is, as the name implies, the word of mouth media. The media you earned because of how cool you are. It is neighboring city who recommended your farm and the friend who set you up on a blind date because she thought you would be a good match.

Coming next, how do we use our owned media to get earned media? What can we do immediately to optimize our owned media to account for the move of the business interaction to a business conversation? Once we are in the conversation what do we say? How do we listen?

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