What Would Don Draper Do?


The Web, email, podcasts and streamable/rippable online video combines a new search-and-aggregation culture with sheer infiniteness. Couple that with the now-ubiquitous use of DVR, and content has not only been disaggregated from its branded source, but also has had its old bonds to advertising severely weakened. Keep throwing circumventable ads at the audience, and they’ll just keep fast forwarding or clicking past them. Make ads technologically unavoidable, and the audience will likely go somewhere else because content consumers surfing the infinite Internet are no longer physically captive to a confined set of old-media conduits — they can and will find compelling content that has fewer ads.

Considering all that, unless media outlets are fusing unavoidable ads to truly unique products, those outlets will likely suffer if they stick to the old advertising-content formulas.

[Another] model is subscription, which substitutes user fees for ad revenue. That’s the Wall Street Journal/New York Times pay wall, XM/Sirius, independent podcasts, Netflix and iTunes. The former three are having trouble, in part, because much of their content remains similar to what other free outlets are offering. The latter three, on the other hand, are proving viable because much of their programming is, indeed, unique and not replicable.

For content to survive, there has to be innovation on how to marry content with advertising.

Something new. Something different. Something Google and Facebook aren’t pushing, because everything isn’t about pay per click.

The paywall isn’t going to work (or is priced too high, because I’d pay for a lower price point — like one that was cheaper than receiving the physical paper version). Other experiments are failing. Only in extreme cases where the content has a high enough value (Wall Street Journal, for example) can there be existence of a pure subscription play.

I don’t know the answers. I don’t know if anyone does.

The question really is: What would  William Randolph Hearst do?