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Todd Harrison: The Ever-Changing Media Landscape

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Digesting what is and what will be.

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There's been a lot of chatter in the Twittersphere (NYSE:TWTR) about Felix Salmon leaving Reuters to join Fusion. A few things jumped out at me regarding his article explaining the move. 

First, he's correct that "1,500-word blocks of content" are not the wave of the future; as devices and media consumption evolve, the obstacles and opportunities have shifted in kind. Chasing CPMs lower and fighting for subscribers is a tough business to be in, particularly with the portals, which have traditionally driven the lion's share of traffic, becoming increasingly algorithmic in how they choose content.  One of the items I've been feverishly working on behind the scenes addresses these very issues, and I look forward to bringing that in for a landing. 

Second, Felix featured Marc Andreesen's "most obvious 8 business models for news now & in the future."  They were (1) advertising, and (2) subscriptions; he continued with (3) premium content (that is, "a paid tier on top of a free, ad-supported one"); (4) conferences and events; (5) cross-media (meaning that your news operation also generates books, movies, and the like); (6) crowdfunding; (7) micropayments, using Bitcoin; and (8) philanthropy.  It was interesting, at least to me, to see that Minyanville, save Bitcoin micropayments, has tapped into all of the above, often as a first mover.

Finally, take me at my word when I say that the financial universe is extremely focused on how to capture millennial-generation mindshare.  We cast an eye on this demographic a few years ago when we were getting social in Palo Alto, and it continues to be one of the more profound conundrums in the marketplace.  Suffice to say that the method of communication will be as important, if not more important, than the message itself.  I feel like we've got a place to go with this, but as always, the proof will be in the pudding.

The seismic shifts in the financial industry have been astounding; the evolution of media has kept apace.  Once upon a time, three television networks existed as an oligopoly that lasted 50-odd years.  That evolved into online networks such as Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), AOL (NYSE:AOL) and MSN (NASDAQ:MSFT) that controlled the space for, let's call it 15 years, and turned the networks into channels.  In the last five years or so, consumers have built their own networks, further fragmenting content and experience.

We can debate the merits and shortfalls of the various technological iterations -- or how social media has paradoxically created a more insulated, nose-in-your-phone isolationism -- but that's a conversation for another time.  The business of media, and the landscape for investors, is exciting, scary, disruptive, and moving at a breakneck pace. Pay attention to what is happening around us; the future is now.

R.P.

Twitter: @todd_harrison

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