A 2010 Prediction – All companies will become media companies

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As the year and decade come to a close we enter prognostication season.

Google’s Mike Shmidt kicked things off nicely a few weeks back in a Gartner interview where he stated, amongst other things that Chinese (presumably Mandarin) would dominate the web in  five years. Wow – that’s a doozy. Of course, what he didn’t provide was the context around that comment – it’s a numbers game, there will be more Chinese people on the internet in five years. What was unsaid is that this is likely Google’s single largest impediment to global domination in the near future – Microsoft being a fait accompli. (done deal)

I thought I would add to the 2010 prediction chatter by suggesting one of my own – 2010 will be the year that all companies become media companies. ( By ‘all’ I mean quite a few… trending to many…) Here’s why:

1. New rules – content is more effective when it is shared. Companies have to begin creating content that is intended to be shared and consumed by many people in many different ways. (i.e. your website isn’t that important anymore)

2. You have to own and influence your own story. You can’t rely on traditional media outlets to communicate your story effectively – they have their own challenges and priorities and they don’t care about your company. Other (non media) people are now starting to re-write your story and you have to engage them wherever they are. That means you have to begin creating the content to influence that story.

3. The authority of traditional marketing and communication channels is greatly diminished. How important is a press release today? Who do you trust more, someone you know/follow or a reporter for a magazine that carries ads for the same products they are reporting on.

4. The disruptive advertising model doesn’t work as well when there are alternatives. I want to program my own entertainment and I am now tuning everything out that is not laser-focused to my current interests… because I can.

5. Some traditional marketing activities are becoming less effective. Newspapers are disappearing, magazines are seeing their revenues challenged, broadcast television (networks) are hugely concerned with having to trade ‘analog dollars with digital cents’ and other traditional marketing methods (i.e. direct mail, call centers ) do not provide the same returns they used to.

6. Trust is the single most important key to success on the web. Authenticity, a genuine voice and real engagement matters.  You can’t hide behind a tag-line or a brand image any more – you have to create real value for your prospects before they engage you and then you have to continue to communicate with them in new, more engaging ways when they become your customers.

7. Everyone now expects immediate access to information. If I need to know something, anything, I Google (or Bing…) it. I expect to find a good answer to my problem and I usually do. If you don’t provide that information for the things that matter most to all of your constituents, someone else will.

8. Contextual relevance is everything. The web allows you to target your customers wherever they happen to be on the buying cycle. You can’t create just one micro site, or one video or one piece of product literature and hope it will capture all of your various constituent’s needs. You have to understand where your customer happens to be in the buying cycle and what specific issues need to be addressed at that moment and then you need to create  content that specifically targets those business issues.

9. Content Marketing will emerge as the most effective lead generation option. Creating content that does not contain an overt sales pitch, but instead helps your prospects solve their business issues will become one of the most effective ways to build trust and interest and ultimately engagement with your company.

10. The cost of media production continues to drop. Many of the media creation and distribution tools are free and the ones that are not continue to drop in price. Google continues to happily underwrite much of this forcing every other technology company to follow the same path.

11. It’s not about you or your company any more. Sure, the guys who wrote the Cluetrain Manifesto told us this ten years ago but a decade later we’re finally starting to believe it. The customer engagement focus means that you have to develop content / media that speaks directly to your customers concerns. That means you have to create a lot of content and engage in a lot of conversations if you want to stay in the game.

12. New media channels are being created every day. Niche services, industry portals, groups, blogs, social media sites and many other channels are being created each day and each has it’s own unique rules and priorities. One type of content will not address all of these channels and one engagement strategy will not suffice.

13. The nature of media consumption is changing. Read the 2010 predictions. Social Media, specifically video is going to be very important. The need to create engaging content that is relevant to your audience will be one of your biggest communications challenges in the new year.

14. Content will become the new currency of the web. The web used to be about design, then the focus changed to technology. Now great  content is what matters.  Having a website today is table stakes. Pouring money into annual redesigns and ever more complicated content management systems has kept you busy but it’s never really moved the needle. You will be judged by the content (or lack thereof) that you create for your various audiences, wherever they happen to be.

So what do you think? Will all companies necessarily become media companies in the near future?

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