John Seely Brown and John Hagel of Deloitte have pub­lished research indi­cat­ing the top­ple rate – the rate at which big com­pa­nies lose their lead­er­ship posi­tions – has more than dou­bled over the past 40 years. Today’s “win­ners” are in pre­car­i­ous posi­tions. Inabil­ity to adapt to relent­less change and the fast pace of today’s soci­ety mean that mar­ket lead­ers hold an ever shrink­ing win­dow of dom­i­nance. Inno­vate or die has never been more appropriate.

The dig­i­tal media indus­try is no excep­tion, despite the per­cep­tion that some ele­ments of the indus­try have stag­nated. What are the changes we can expect this year in media? I have high­lighted the six shifts that I think will have the biggest con­se­quences for the next twelve to eigh­teen months. Under­stand­ing these trends is impor­tant so that you can know how to take advan­tage of this change and help your com­pany be ahead of the curve.

1. Big Data Has Arrived
Already, big data is the talk of the dig­i­tal world. Web ana­lyt­ics is right­fully seen as a planet that’s part of a big­ger data solar sys­tem. Every­one is look­ing for that next great advan­tage from lever­ag­ing mas­sive and/or dis­parate data sets to have a holis­tic view of cus­tomers, of trans­ac­tions, and of ever richer adver­tis­ing seg­ments. We can show you the amaz­ing ben­e­fits of doing so and under­stand how to take a thought­ful approach.. How­ever, don’t auto­mat­i­cally run off and tell every­one in your orga­ni­za­tion that you need big data or else. Con­sider this very thought­ful arti­cle writ­ten by Cari­bou Honig that empha­sizes BUSINESS strat­egy over data strategy.

2. Lever­ag­ing Advanced Sta­tis­tics & Pre­dic­tive Ana­lyt­ics
While big data cubes with mashed-up data from var­i­ous sources is all the rage, we have already helped sev­eral media cus­tomers over­come bar­ri­ers to expen­sive data inte­gra­tions by com­bin­ing and run­ning sta­tis­ti­cal ana­lyt­ics sce­nar­ios against their dis­parate data sets. This can take the form off bet­ter defin­ingdefin­ing user seg­ments and ad sales pro­files, opti­miz­ing your mar­ket­ing chan­nel spend, and efforts to drive sub­scrip­tions, or bet­ter pre­dict­ing your avails and inven­tory. You can read more about it here and here.

3. Man­ag­ing the Hur­ri­cane of Dig­i­tal Infor­ma­tion
Five to six years ago, dig­i­tal data and ana­lyt­ics infor­ma­tion was con­sid­ered so valu­able, any data was good data. Peo­ple begged to know “every­thing” and wanted to track, mea­sure, and report on lit­er­ally every­thing. It started to rain data. Those rains turned into hur­ri­canes and floods fol­lowed. Despite our evolved approaches to data usage that flood has never receded. Many orga­ni­za­tional deci­sion mak­ers are suf­fer­ing from a mas­sive data hang­over. I have per­son­ally seen this play out over and over in the client orga­ni­za­tions we work with. One client in par­tic­u­lar held a weekly met­rics call that was inef­fec­tive for two rea­sons. First, every poten­tial stake­holder or deci­sion maker was on the call and the size of the audi­ence alone was impos­si­ble to cater to, much less cap­ture any active atten­tion from the audi­ence. Sec­ond, the data owner pre­sented 100+ slide decks with far too much irrel­e­vant infor­ma­tion. He wasted his time putting the mate­r­ial together and the audi­ence wasted their time dial­ing in. What was needed instead was a more selec­tive, tar­geted audi­ence with more selec­tive, rel­e­vant data. For exam­ple, this per­son could have held a sep­a­rate call with ad sales and only shown data that was rel­e­vant to sales cus­tomer prospects.

With all the con­tin­ued talk today of big data, some under­stand­ably cringe. But big data can co-exist with crisp informed deci­sions by con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing that data. That means feed­ing the right data to the right role at the right time. If you are a dig­i­tal ad sales per­son, impres­sion data and seg­ment per­sonas don’t need to be inter­mixed with detailed data such as test­ing roadmaps, con­tent per­for­mance, mar­ket­ing plans, and site uptime statistics.

4. Revis­it­ing the Valid­ity of Dig­i­tal Met­rics: One Step Back Two Steps For­ward
De Beers had it fig­ured out. They took what was essen­tially a com­mod­ity in dia­monds and cre­ated such demand through the bril­liant mar­ket­ing of the 4’C (Cut, Color, Clar­ity, Carat). Pub­lish­ers and oth­ers stew­ards in the indus­try are attempt­ing to work the same magic with dig­i­tal ads. Both 3MS and Adobe are work­ing to cre­ate a more com­mon lan­guage for ad inven­tory & met­rics across var­i­ous dig­i­tal media to make ads eas­ier to com­pare and thus eas­ier to buy.  Google even announced a recent ini­tia­tive related to a dig­i­tal GRP.  3MS in par­tic­u­lar wants to cre­ate a Dig­i­tal GRP or aggre­gate audience-based com­par­i­son met­ric rather than rely­ing on gross ad impres­sions. You can read more about the ini­tia­tive here. The move appears to some to be a step back from the rich capa­bil­i­ties that dig­i­tal offers to pro­vide bet­ter or more gran­u­lar met­rics. But beyond unique vis­i­tors and page/video views, no other dig­i­tal met­ric has claimed sta­tus equiv­a­lent to a dig­i­tal GRP. Will that finally open the door to uni­ver­sally embrac­ing other metrics?

5. Increas­ing Inter­est from Adver­tis­ers for Profile-Based Inven­tory
Adver­tis­ers demand value and want to reach their tar­get audi­ence. For this rea­son, media pub­lish­ers are attempt­ing to cre­ate met­rics that demon­strate value in the process. But descrip­tive and rel­e­vant user pro­files and seg­ments will be increas­ingly impor­tant to the dig­i­tal buy. I real­ize that some media com­pa­nies hes­i­tate to break out their inven­tory by audi­ence type. Invari­ably they will run short on the pop­u­lar inven­tory and be run­ning rem­nant on the less pop­u­lar cat­e­gories. But dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion has ben­e­fits as well: It can also drive oppor­tu­ni­ties for increased CPM on high demand areas and help your orga­ni­za­tion really under­stand where it needs to invest in larger quan­ti­ties of dif­fer­en­ti­ated con­tent. Finally, media com­pa­nies can exper­i­ment or fur­ther imple­ment inte­grated pack­ages in new and attrac­tive areas such as social or sec­ond screen.

6. Ad Rev­enue, Pay­walls and Mon­e­ti­za­tion –Yes it’s Still a Prob­lem
How effec­tive are your dif­fer­ent con­tent cat­e­gories or offer­ings at dri­ving ad rev­enue? You still might not have a crys­tal clear answer to that ques­tion. And despite the recent news that dig­i­tal ad rev­enues hit $31 Bil­lion in 2011, for dig­i­tal news orga­ni­za­tions, an even big­ger issue is loom­ing on the hori­zon: pay­walls. Many orga­ni­za­tions such as the Wall Street Jour­nal and New York Times have used pay­walls for some time. But oth­ers have elected to take the plunge this year and erect a straight or mod­i­fied pay­wall. Oth­ers still, such as Gan­nett, are look­ing to expand the prac­tice. There are numer­ous con­se­quences to con­sider. For exam­ple, if you are using a mod­i­fied pay­wall (a model that allows a set num­ber of arti­cles for free before a pay­wall), do you relax the rules for social vis­i­tors because you want to enlarge the pres­ence of that user pro­file on your site? Sec­ondly, there are very real con­se­quences from an ad mon­e­ti­za­tion per­spec­tive and from a cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion per­spec­tive. Can sub­scrip­tion rev­enue make up for the poten­tial lost ad rev­enue that a pay­wall intro­duces? With sub­scrip­tion suc­cess rates in the sin­gle dig­its, how many qual­ity ad impres­sions will your orga­ni­za­tion be chas­ing away?

These rep­re­sent a few of the most crit­i­cal issues we can expect to see and hear more about in com­ing months. We will dis­cuss these in more depth but I’d love to hear your thoughts as well.