Five trends with big impact on digital jobs: Interview with Duke McKenzie

Anna Starasts

April 19, 2012

This post appears as part of our Leaders Series, conversations with tech and media leaders about influential trends and topics in their field.

What is driving change in the media industry today and how can professionals anticipate these changes?

We had this question in mind when we recently sat down with digital media expert Duke McKenzie. Duke is SVP of Mediative, one of Canada’s leading digital marketing agencies. In 2011, he was named one of Canada’s Top 40 Under 40 for his role in shaping the landscape of internet advertising.

Here are some of the top takeaways from our discussion.

Trend #1: The merging of screen media

The move away from device-focused consumers to content-focused ones is a central trend for the industry.  The most obvious example of this shift for Duke is looking at how younger consumers use technology.  “You realize that the distinction that we have in the media community – the division of how we plan and buy differently for TV, mobile and digital – is a false distinction because the consumer doesn’t look at it that way. When you look at someone that’s going to be a prime target in about 10 or 12 years, the device they are using to consume their favorite content is practically irrelevant.”

Research is also pointing in this direction.  A study commissioned by Time Inc. and released this month found that consumers in their twenties (digital natives) switch between media platforms (like TVs, magazines, tablets, smartphones or channels within platforms) 27 times per hour, or every two minutes. And it seems the longer you’ve been exposed to the internet-age the more you switch. The study also found that individuals who grew up pre-internet (digital immigrants) switch only 17 times per hour.

Trend #2: The concept of scheduled programming is over

Not only are consumers moving towards being less device-focused, the paradigm of scheduled programming is also increasingly irrelevant. More and more consumers want their favorite content on their terms. For example, According to the Television Board of Canada, in 2011 30% of Canadian households with TVs are subscribed to PVR, and this figure is growing. In the U.S. this number already reaches 41%.

These first two trends alone are likely to bring about huge changes to the industry. The biggest shift, Duke suggests, is an eventual move towards selling all screen media the same way digital media is: on-demand and based on conversations. On a technology level, this means a shift away from broadcast and towards IP based media. It’s not hard to imagine all media one day being delivered to homes through a single IP connection.

Trend #3: Demographics as we know it are increasingly obsolete

Building on these first two trends of how consumers access content, a third trend is a rethinking of demographics. The media industry tends to reach consumers based on the classic demographics, like sex, age or income. But now we actually have the technology to target specific individuals or profiles to sell them specific products.

This changes how media is traditionally sold.  The huge amount of data available means that the media industry can sell products targeted to lifestyles – and it would benefit greatly from doing it. Duke gives the example of his latest read: cult teen novel The Hunger Games. While this book is clearly marketed to teenage girls, Duke couldn’t put it down (on his iPad, naturally). The point: the classic demographic-based approach missed him by a long shot.

Of course, lifestyle-based targeting can be tricky, since most people won’t just fit into one category in all aspects of their lives. But the technology is there to do it, which means that the industry has the ability to rethink what the concept of a demographic means and how it applies to their campaign.

Trend #4: Media will be increasingly commoditized

The increasing availability of detailed data on consumer profiles has also increased the number of players in targeted online advertising, with an intensifying downward pressure on the price of media.

The digital media industry is already feeling the squeeze. With the arrival of real time ad exchanges, at least theoretically, you can reach your target audience and get the most efficient price for doing so. While the effectiveness or quality of these exchanges is debatable, their impact on the price of advertising online has been undeniable.

This downward pressure isn’t just limited to digital media. “In a world where screen media is merging and content is moving towards being delivered in the same way as digital, all forms of media will likely experience this downward pressure too,” says Duke.

While the price of digital ads might be dropping, their popularity sure isn’t. This year, for the first time ever, advertisers will throw more money behind online ads than print.

Trend #5: Higher demand for measurable performance

Performance metrics aren’t just for direct marketers anymore. Duke looks at CMOs and media buyers and sees a demand for more in-depth, tangible metrics that go beyond factors like “brand lift.” The problem is, no one is entirely sure what these metrics look like yet.

This trend could very well signal an emerging demand for more professionals with quantitative and analytical backgrounds to enter the industry. If you have a math degree, for example, working in media metrics might soon be a viable career path.

What do these trends mean for media professionals?

“Media is a very volatile industry at the moment,” Duke says. “But I believe what we’re learning in digital media today is going to power all screen media. There’s a lot of opportunity out there. If you embrace that as a job seeker you can have a great career.”

First, these trends give even more importance to the professionals who produce content. Why? A good example is with the commoditization trend. With real time ad servers lowering the price of online advertising, the quality of a site’s content becomes increasingly crucial to an advertiser’s choice of where to advertise.  This week’s study about device-switching also points to the importance of creativity as a way to tap into the short attention span of digital natives.

Second, the profile of the digital media sales professional is becoming more creative. More than ever, sales people need to be problem-solvers who know how to attract attention to their product, and sell ideas and solutions to their clients.

One way to differentiate your company against competitors is by focusing on the one area where technology is deficient: customer service. In this new media landscape, sales professionals need to add value at every step of the equation.

Third, Ad Ops professionals will greatly benefit from staying on top of rules and regulations for how advertisers can target consumers, like research generated by the IAB. Staying on top of the latest news and trends as they emerge helps make them more valuable to their organization as they move through it.

Linked to this, the role of Ad Traffickers in particular is likely to become more important.  “If we’re moving towards the merging of screens, and everything’s going to be run like digital, traffickers are going to become the most important people in all of media, not just in digital media,” Duke notes. While the role doesn’t require a solid quantitative background today, the rising demand for metrics suggests that having one might soon be a huge asset.

 All ideas expressed here are Duke McKenzie’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Mediative.

We want to hear from you. Are these trends already impacting your role in media today? How? Are there any other media trends out there that are impacting your job?

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