How Do Content Creators Cut Through The Noise Of The Media Today?
Justin Montanino, New York Media’s Senior Director of Branded Content, discusses the key challenges, shifts and trends that are on the horizon in the entertainment industry this year
If Gutenberg and Zuckerberg were in a fist fight over the accolade “industry disruptor”, pretty sure my money would be on Zuck. Although the era of modern education started with the printing press, it has reached its pinnacle in the Age of the Internet or as some like to call, the second renaissance. With information being distributed, curated and created at supersonic speed, our latest Entertainment Debrief explores this vast ecosystem of omnipresent media, where content can now be found anywhere in any form. In this new age of media and entertainment, developers need to create malleable platforms that can adapt to peoples’ changing preferences, while providing the tools to turn viewers into creative collaborators and casual users into curators.
Who better to help us navigate the noise of VR headsets and AI robots than the creative director behind the number one rated on-demand network, Justin Montanino. As New York Media’s Senior Director of Branded Content, he’s worked at ABC, PBS, Comedy Central, FX, Cartoon Network, Spike TV, MC Networks and Fusion and has created original series with artists such as Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Dave Grohl and Lady Gaga. I picked his brain about what he sees as the key shifts and trends that will come into play in the media/entertainment space in 2017 and beyond.
What are some of the biggest challenges the industry currently faces?
One key challenge for media organizations is the continuing fragmentation and competition for audience. There is simply SO. MUCH. CONTENT. The question then becomes “how do content creators, whether it’s a publisher or a brand or an individual vlogger, cut through?” At New York Media, we do that by putting out a consistently great content, every day. And that’s hard, damn hard.
Another challenge is the need for constant reinvention. Over the past few years, we’ve seen many publishers became video studios, creative agencies, marketing agencies, and so on. With the changes in technology come changes in business models. That’s a lot to ask. Some companies will flounder while others flourish. Nothing lasts forever.
What are the top trends that will come into fruition in 2017?
We’ll see today’s nascent formats mature in ways we can’t yet imagine. I personally hope VR and Augmented Reality live up to the sci-fi dream. VR’s hype bubble has burst for now, and rightfully so. VR will take time to find its reason-for-being, and in the meantime we’ll endure many instances of things being in VR just for the sake of being in VR. But the technology’s potential is genuinely amazing.
With the rise of content marketing, brands need to be publishers and influencers as well as being brands. Which companies are doing a good job of this balancing act?
The brands that are doing the best job of being content creators are those that are comfortable telling stories in lieu of pushing product. And that’s a lot easier said than done. Brands have to understand that they aren’t the story, but they can tell stories and reap the rewards of being a good storyteller. Who doesn’t love a good storyteller?
AI and machine learning techniques are developing rapidly and are more viable than ever, meaning huge reductions in the cost of content processing and tagging, along with changes in how content is created and delivered. What are your predictions on where AI is heading and how it will affect the media industry?
AI has potential to provide greater insights into user behavior, which will ultimately impact content creation. “Cognitive computing,” for one, isn’t just about crunching numbers. It’s about deriving insights from data in ways that are simply beyond human capabilities. It’s looking where we wouldn’t think to look, so to speak. What does that mean in practice? Well, it’s one thing to know how many times a story was viewed or shared, or how the audience found it. It’s another thing entirely to know why a story performed well, who it appealed to most, and what can be done to provide more value to the audience next time.
There is a new era of brand transparency with the tech and social media revolutions and consumers more than ever expect brands to be socially conscious and drivers of social change. In your option, which brands are doing a good job of being ‘social change drivers’?
It would be a conflict of interest to name specific brands, but I’ll say that if a brand chooses to position itself as a driver of social change, it should come from a genuine place. If it feels calculated, if it feels like “marketing,” then the brand risks coming across as opportunistic.
What makes a brand campaign successful in your eyes? What pitfalls should be avoided?
Beyond the usual metrics of performance (views, brand lift studies), I look to see if a campaign stays with me. Will I recall it in a month, and will I remember the brand behind it?
For pitfalls, I encourage brands to think story first, format second. Too often, content marketing plans read like a grocery shopping list. “We need 4 articles and 2 influencers and 5 Instagram posts…” Figure out what you want to say first. Then the ‘how’ will reveal itself.
Marketers today are especially focusing on the millennial generation who have shown a sharp shift away from the previous generations’ brand of consumerism and exhibit a focus on a ‘purpose-driven’ life and experiential lifestyle over possessions. Which brands are doing a good job of marketing to this purpose-driven generation?
Again, I wouldn’t focus on specific brands, but we see this idea permeate every type of brand campaign. You don’t buy a car, you buy the freedom of the open road. You don’t buy a watch, you buy what that watch expresses about your personality.
The takeaway from recent political events is that the real role of media organizations has never been more important. Any words of wisdom for those in the media industry today?
Talent endures. Good reporting endures. Good storytelling endures. Everything else is noise.
PSFK’s Entertainment Debrief examines the vast ecosystem of omnipresent media, where content can be found anywhere in any form. Download the full report here, request a presentation at your office and join the conversation on Twitter with #entertainmentdebrief. For full access to all of PSFK’s reports, debriefs, articles and archives, become a PSFK member today.