The shattered landscape of media fragmentation

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The world of media is changing at an unprecedented rate as technology disrupts the established business models for publishing and advertising, and as consumers change the ways in which they consume information, services and entertainment. Perhaps the most significant change that we are seeing is the fragmentation of the media landscape and its audience, compared to the mass market paradigm that held sway throughout most of the 20th century.

Advertisers, marketers and media planners 20 years ago had only a few clearly defined channels to choose from – most of them mass media in nature to choose from – whereas digital technologies have splintered media into numerous niches, channels and segments today.

Consider the diagram below.

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Source: http://www.callahancreek.com/media-fragmentation-ten-things-you-can-do-right-now-1

We see media fragmentation taking place at several levels in today’s landscape:

Fragmentation of channels and media outlets

In the past, we used mass media such as print and broadcast to reach the audience. The costing models were simple and we communicated one-to-many with our audience. Now, however, the market has fragmented and we can no longer assume that we are simply broadcasting messages to a largely passive, mass audience.

This is especially apparent on digital channels – especially social media – where conversation and personalisation of content are becoming increasingly important and where audiences are scattered across numerous social media services and niche portals. But even broadcast and print channels are breaking into niche markets and form part of the social conversation on the Web.

A Twitter account and a Web site can be nearly as important for a radio broadcaster or advertiser as its on-air broadcast. The audience might be talking about and viewing its content on channels it doesn’t even own such as YouTube or Facebook. Fragmentation means some loss of control and visibility for traditional publishers.

Fragmentation of audience attention

The audience’s attention is fragmented across multiple channels and outlets. People watch television with one eye while they are reading a news story on their tablet computers; they browse the Web at work with the radio playing in the background; and they hop between different social media apps on their smartphones. Even when we talk about social media, the audience is fragmented across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and whatever the next flavour of the month might be.

Consumers now choose exactly how and when they interact with a brand – be it internet, TV, radio, mobile, print.  They need to be reached with consistent messaging across all of these points and with messages that take into account how different audience segments interact with content across different media. It is important yet difficult to understand how a consumer’s perceptions of a brand are shaped and reinforced by the interactions he or she has with it through different media.

Fragmentation of agencies and marketing departments

Today, there are very few people in the average company with a complete view of the brand’s advertising and marketing strategy across multiple channels. Many companies still run ‘digital’ and ‘traditional’ marketing and advertising in separate silos.

And a large number outsource different aspects of their marketing strategies to a number of digital, PR, brand, advertising and consulting agencies with little interaction and information sharing between these different service providers. Such is the level of fragmentation that different aspects of digital – SEO, social, display advertising, paid search and mobile – may be outsourced to different agencies.

This means that it is difficult for the marketing director to get a clear view of how these channels interact with each other to shape customer behaviour and perception. The result is that companies lack the ability to holistically plan, execute and optimise their marketing campaigns and strategies.

Media fragmentation has created a range of new challenges and opportunities for brands and agencies. Though managing a fragmented audience and a daunting range of channels can be expensive and complex, it also opens up opportunities to build more meaningful and personalised relationships between brands and consumers.

Tony Sousa is CEO of Acceleration Media.

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