It was 2010 and the iPad had just debuted. Marketers knew the world was changing and it was our job, as their ad agency, to educate them about the disruption going on in the media world.

At the time, the most popular word in media was “fragmentation”.

Looking back, it was probably my specialty. I still remember the talking points today:

  • The emergence of digital media is causing consumer attention to fragment
  • Smart phones are becoming the “third screen” (alongside the TV and Computer)
  • People are now using multiple screens at once (e.g. watching TV while using a laptop computer)
  • New websites are popping up every day and gaining popularity
  • Consumer attention is rapidly moving toward the web – away from print and TV

We had a 50-slide deck. It was filled with stock photography and catchy talking points. I think I must have given the presentation a dozen times.

This was actually a very good time for digital media agencies. The relevance of location and content adjacency became very important in the mind of marketers. In most cases media was even more important than the creative message.

There were now hundreds of new digital media vendors to test. Complete lack of standards meant each media buy had to be handled manually – with each new digital media vendor requiring a slightly different process. The billable hours added up and media agencies capitalized on this new profitable (and inefficient) revenue stream. For a few years, life was very good in the agency world and I rode the title wave.

However, having been on the wave – I now see something new happening. Digital media has stopped fragmenting. The rapid period of digital media innovation (marked by the invention of the iPhone in 2007 and iPad in 2009) has slowed down and consumer attention – once shooting every which way, is starting to reconsolidate.

A landscape that was once occupied by thousands of upstart websites, is now dominated by only a few, namely:

Facebook, Pinterest, Google and Twitter (and all of their various incarnations). Each of these companies has been hard at work, building up their competitive moat and the barriers to entry have reemerged. At this point, any promising startup is sure to be swallowed up by a dominant incumbent, in the same fashion as Whatsapp or Instagram.

Additionally, the rest of the digital media landscape – the long tail of the web – once marked by inconsistent standards and labor intense trafficking process is starting to quickly standardize on the OpenRTB spec. Publishers are universally installing header-bidding, making once siloed pools of inventory accessible programmatically through any DSP.

The disruption is over and the universe is contracting.

It’s a good time to ask: what does this mean for my business today?

The Reconsolidation of Consumer Attention
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