Skyscrapers in City of London, London, UK.

Despite the hype of record digital media spend, Michael Wolff argues in his recent book Television is the new Television (2015), that digital has not bested good old fashioned TV. Instead digital media is becoming all about video – produced to TV standards. In this article we examine the business case and what it means for content marketing.

Even if millions now watch television on their phones via Netflix, Hulu and HBO, that doesn’t change the balance of power. Television by any other name is the game everybody is trying to win – including outlets like the Wall Street Journal that never used to play that game at all.

There is no doubt that digital has massively disrupted formats like print and music.  But high quality television content with its proven focus on entertainment and narrative remains king. Indeed as we see moves from the likes of Facebook and Twitter to focus on video, it looks like Digital content will effectively converge with video, rather than disrupting it.

“In five years, most of [Facebook] will be video,” CEO Mark Zuckerberg.

So why is this important for corporates who are not in the TV business?

Going beyond “corporate video” to “proper” Television

As the fusion of video and digital continues, your business audience will increasingly expect video content on social, on the web, on their smartphones.

The line between advertising and content is also increasingly blurred. Either way it needs to be great content if people are going to invest the time to watch.

The impact of digital tech on production costs has now opened the door for corporates to go beyond “corporate video” and make “proper” Television to share with their known, high value audiences.

But those audiences won’t be interested in non engaging, homemade, poorly scripted content.

TV audiences are mature and sophisticated, and expect properly crafted TV content.

So even for business, it can be argued that video is primarily an entertainment format – seeking to engage the viewer in a narrative, develop key characters, stir emotions, or spark an intellectual response.

Digital has now created a digital video space in which businesses will be expected to excel.

Video requires a television skill and story telling skill set.

As Wollf explains:

Here’s a giddy projection: Digital advertising will surpass television advertising in 2019, according to PriceWaterhouseCoopers in a new study.

This is one of those lines in the sand meant to confirm the central thesis of the digital medium: that it will one day be bigger than traditional media, and, most of all, the killer medium, television. Now that has come to pass.

Except it hasn’t.

Wolff argues strongly that television content remains the king of formats despite the predictions of it’s demise.

As the Super Bowl, Manchester United or Game of Thrones prove, the content business hasn’t really changed.

You need to create high quality, engaging, meaningful content and distribute it to a known valuable audience.

Digital has become a low cost mode of production and delivery.

Of course digital has also changed some the rules.

Delivery is changing (Mobile, Social, iTunes, Netflix) and new players are entering the market as content producers or media distributors.

And digital also allows custom audience aggregation at relatively low prices on platforms like Google, YouTube and Facebook, or indeed any of the digital properties selling media space.

In simplest terms, advertisers no longer had to pay The New York Times to reach a New York Times-reading audience. Rather, audiences were assembled by technology middlemen who repackaged and sold them — at a steep discount. 

So at the same time businesses can deliver high quality programming to existing audiences at marginal cost new audiences can be acquired essentially via a media buying function.

You can assemble the audience you want to engage on the web, google or social (i.e. Facebook, Linkedin etc), cheaper than ever before.

Documenting your business stories.

The content side of the business requires investment – the same as it always did.

You are up against all the competition for your audience’s attention.

The time poor business person or on the move consumer isn’t going to spend time watching boring, old hat, predictable content.

So content marketing is indeed a commitment to engaging your audience over time with the kind of shows they prefer to watch.

Shows with genuine storytelling.

Inspirational characters.

Challenging, entertaining, worrying or surprising twists.

Ideas that grab them and make them think.

The stuff that they personally care about.

Sharing & Collaborating

So the opportunity is big.

Namely to build your own content channels and create your own audiences for the first time.

All the while leveraging digital efficiencies like lower production costs and data driven insights.

But there is a final aspect you can also leverage.

In today’s networked economy, ecosystems, sharing and collaborating are fast becoming the key dynamics as opposed to the old top down methods.

That is why we recommend companies share the burden and collaborate with aligned companies within their industry.

Collaborate on content. Share audiences.

Build richer networks.