One of the most significant forces driving change in the Advertising and Media industry is the empowerment of the individual to broadcast message to a mass audience. It used to be a real privilege to be “published”. Being a “published author” carried a certain clout signifying that you had been deemed worthy to influence others by presenting your ideas on a mass stage. Over the past ten years, piece by piece, the barriers that stood in between “the individual” and “the masses” have deteriorated. Blogs, Twitter, YouTube, Craigslist, Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace (etc…) are all tools that give the individual the power to reach a limitless audience (for free). This has been extremely positive and empowering for individuals who can now share their talent with the world by posting videos on YouTube or keeping a blog. However, this has been somewhat bad news for advertisers. Because there are so many more people broadcasting messages through social media, and advertiser, who used to only have a few choices for how to reach consumers (a handful of popular magazines and 3 television networks), now has to deal with a much more fragmented media landscape.

When Elvis went on the Ed Sullivan show for the first time in 1956, 82.6% of US households tuned in to watch the show – there just weren’t that many choices, everyone was watching and advertisers only had to be in one place to reach a mass audience. Now, even the most popular TV broadcast (the Super Bowl) only draws around 40% of US households. Technology, and the proliferation of advanced ways for individuals to communicate has made life better for individuals, but much more challenging for advertisers who now have to use a larger quantity and greater variety of media vehicles to reach their desired audience.

Empowerment of the individual
  • Mark Melly

    To look at this issue with a broader historical perspective in mind; is the immergence of social networking based sites truly a deterioration of a once structured media landscape, or are we still waiting to see which companies can capitalize on technological innovation? Commerce based models, coupled with free market forces, have in the past taken seemingly expansive arenas (i.e. radio), contain an initial plethora of competitors, and effectively create a delimited group of very powerful players.

    Once the sn sites have evolved to such a stage whereas they can successfully generate profit, who’s to say they won’t be able to harness economies of scale?

    Great Blog Eif!

  • Andrew Eifler

    Mark – great comment!

    I agree that a consolidation is probable (especially when venture capital dollars are not so easily attained). Right now I see the challenge to social networking sites as a race against time – will they find a way to make money before their seed capital gets burned up. The irony of the situation is the more “successful” they are (the more users sign up) the faster they burn their capital (because they have to pay for more bandwidth). Thanks for commenting!