How Digital is changing the Media (Jonathan Taplin)

The media is being revolutionised by digital media

tv-smallIs the media world being reinvented by digital media? That sort of question has definitely escaped the realm of geeks in order to be debated by media experts themselves. So when I was invited by HAVAS‘ Dominique Delport to attend a conference with Jonathan Taplin, I couldn’t resist the urge of listening to his points of view on how the media industry has evolved, where it’s headed to and how and why the world is really changing. Taplin is director of Annenberg innovation lab, he was the producer of Bob Dylan in the 60s and also that of Martin Scorsese. USC Annenberg is a school for communications and journalism and is at the centre of these deep changes that we – as a Society, not ‘we’ as digital media experts are witnessing in this day and age.
“Big data and digital content dissemination will change everything related to the media industry in a fundamental fashion”, Dominique Delport said in his introduction. This  is why we also have to adapt to such changes and deeply transform the way that businesses, but also the Society at large, are governed. our challenge is to reinvent ourselves because we are at the he heart of this revolution. Delport, working in one of the world’s largest advertising agencies, knows more than a little about these things, and HAVAS, he added, has already partnered with universities and other players in the innovation industry, in order to take the bull by the horns. Let us see how Jonathan Taplin sees these deep transformations that we are going through:
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Taplin: “a tumultuous world” … but there are opportunities too
Annenberg Lab been in existence for 4 years, Taplin explained, and it can “boast having many supporters including HAVAS”.
“We are entering a very tumultuous world and one should be prepared for this” he predicted in his preamble. “Last summer, around the end of June I started getting calls from Warner bros telling me that not only what I had told them is happening, but that ‘it is happening way too fast'” he said. Yet, there are many opportunities in this world, however tumultuous it may be:

  • This should be the greatest time for the business of entertainment because the middle class is exploding, not in the west but in Asia. They market could jump from 5 billion to 32+ billion dollars by 2030 ;
  • There used to be no international standard fro TV (Pal, Secam…) now the Internet has changed the game. This is  a positive sign;
  • There will be in the regions of 5 billion smartphones by end of 2016, and “this will change the world of micro transactions” Taplin said. “Universal music could sell songs worth .20$ and for one song only you it could still make 100 million dollars!”

What’s wrong with the “long tail world”
The problem there is with the long tail world, Taplin added, is that it bears the promise that “little small niches will end up amounting more than the hits … But this is not true. 80% of buys in iTunes go to 1% of the content” he said, and there aren’t probably any signs of improvement in that direction. “This is not a good situation, because media companies like Disney and Vivendi have large libraries of content. If the current audience is only interested in the latest hits these libraries (valued at 10bn $ each) are grossly overvalued” he concluded. The long tail maybe good value for retailers and distributors like Amazon or Apple’s iTunes, but it certainly is more complex for those who actually produce the content … Not to mention artists themselves, at the end of the day, the myth of the solo artist who gets famous via the Web hasn’t happened much if we except justin Bieber.
Spielberg predicted a crash but had been too optimistic
Media companies are only growing at 5% p.a.” Taplin said,”that’s if they are lucky!” Steven Spielberg had predicted in June 2013 that in the next 5 years “there will be a change of paradigm, but it happened barely a few months later. There’s going to be an implosion” Jonathan Taplin predicted.
As to television, the audience fell 15% because “the younger generations of kids are more interested in having broadband than TV networks” he added. Young people are moving in their own apartments and they are not getting cable because “all they want is a broadband connection”. Almost 70% oft the bandwidth is video (Netflix, 32%, YouTube 20% ..) this could come to France and Europe he assumed, even though we are falling way behind in terms of usage, mostly on the continent which is still very much old world.
The problem with TV networks
“ESPN gets paid for being in 100 million homes. If it fell to 90 million, there would be 50m$ less revenue per month!” He said. They would be forced to issue a subscription service (like Netflix that is to say). But if they decide to go that route, according to Taplin, “they could fall to 15 million homes with cable and still make money”. But if it did happen, he warned, “the 400 cable channels would dissolve. All small channels would go away, content would sit on a server. And content would all be paid by subscription.” Talk about upheaval!
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The new media and entertainment ecosystem

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Music: physical music sales decline

More trouble ahead
There is yet more trouble ahead though, and the next target is advertising, one of the traditional money earners for the media … not to mention HAVAS.

  • “I’m sceptical that the Publicis-Omnicom merger makes sense for they don’t have data. Big data is critical but merging companies for that sake is specious” Taplin said. “Besides, all big data collection is based on the fact that young people have no interest for keeping their data private. Programmatic advertising is similar to high speed trading but consumers aren’t getting an advantage from that. Other firms in the US are providing black boxes for users to hide their data from companies. Europe is a lot tougher on this”;
  • Online : “the Internet has an unlimited number of ad space and supply never meets demand hence revenues fall because CPMs fall 5 or 7% year on year” according to Taplin;
  • Social media: “I believe in the power of Social media. Beyoncé released an album with just one post on Instagram and sales were massive on iTunes. 890000 records sold in one week with just one social media announcement” he went on. “Yet, 62% of traffic is made by robots” he pointed out: fan buying, twitter traffic buying too… We know the drill. “During the presidential race, mitt Romney won 180000 followers on one day but most of it was click fraud. This is a scam. 2012 was 51%bots and now it’s up to 62% but Twitter have to clean up their act now that they have gone public. Buying fans is a problem” Taplin accused and I cannot agree more with him on this;
  • Home entertainment : “the move from DVD to VOD is a problem because revenue moves from 20$ to dimes ! This is serious.” He added;
  • Video games: people think this is the one industry not to be disrupted but this is not true either. “The peak was 2008, and console sales are going down. Same as the film industry, he said, 80% of sales for 1% of titles”. Definitely no long tail for media moguls;
  • Music : music was the first business to be hit. Not only has it moved to digital but curves are rising again, “this is a good sign” Taplin remarked showing that not everything is grim in that picture;
  • Newspapers: we witness a sharp decline there, the advertising business model being the issue;
  • Collective actions problem: too many channels competing on the same content and consumers are pulling away from that;
  • The result is that return on media sales is falling and certain people, “like Johnny Depp get paid insane amounts like 25m$ for bad movies” he accused while adding that this won’t go on for ever.

The new model: more is spent on digital than TV!
“The new studios want to deliver content to consumers when they want where they want and these platforms are prolifering: YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, … There are 70 of them!” Taplin said. And they are making new content with new ways of producing (low cost) like ‘house of cards’. We have come to the point of the digital crossover : more is spent on digital than TV
We now enter a new “immersive World” pioneered by Google glass twin added and “the old media isn’t working anymore. The current distribution system isn’t working either. We are working on it Taplin concluded: “This is going to be a 3 year transition with our partners at the lab”. A lot of work on their plate indeed for a very disrupted and broken market.
Jonathan Taplin is a Professor at the Annenberg School with areas of specialization in international communication management and the field of digital media entertainment. Taplin began his entertainment career in 1969 as Tour Manager for Bob Dylan and The Band. In 1973 he produced Martin Scorsese’s first feature film, Mean Streets, which was selected for the Cannes Film Festival. Between 1974 and 1996, Taplin produced 26 hours of television documentaries and 12 feature films. His films were nominated for Oscar and Golden Globe awards and chosen for The Cannes Film Festival seven times.
 


Bonus: Questions and answers (rough iPad notes, no editing)

  • How many players will still be around in 3 years?
    • First, there will be panic for middle jobs at Sony and Paramount …. There will be major layoffs. That’s the wrong way to do it but …
    • The problem is that if you think about Asia and Africa, phones can be bought cheap in these places but you can’t get a $60 data plan over there.
    • In music most spotify users just pay by reading ads.
    • The business model is also an issue. Daft punk only won €12000 each from get lucky.
    • Lady gaga crashed a few weeks ago. Just the opposite of Beyoncé.
  • Nobody will ever pay Johnny Depp $25 m for appearing any more. But this is not bad, There has been too much excess. Big media conglomerates are going to be more reasonable and also when paying their execs $ 1 million
  • One needs to understand how to use the new tools so that they can help sell content : 75% of viewing time on Netflix is done through suggestions by the suggestions engine. Netflix said they used their algorithm to target their investment in house of cards. The general idea is that the attention span is very short but there is binge viewing. 54% of netflix users view whole seasons in a week.
  • What is happening in entertainment is redefining the rules for for all brands and all industries (the audience – content spreadability)
  • Great content works but … Who will subsidise it and is it all going to be American?
    • If we could create a digital discovery kit … The vision of the long tail was a vision of a world in which anybody could do well
Yann Gourvennec
suivez moi !