The media world is in an acrobatic state of rearrangement. Salesforce's co-founder has acquired TIME, Disney beat out Comcast to acquire Fox, Verizon has interest in CBS, Apple has interest in Snap and Google and Facebook still control more than half of the online advertising market.
This consolidation of media and content may force Netflix to seriously consider becoming its own Internet provider.
There are a lot of moving parts in the next year. Marvel shows getting pulled from Netflix, as Disney looks to launch Marvel content on its own streaming service Disney+, is just the beginning. When the dust settles, none of this will matter unless audiences watch the content. All these powerful corporate maneuvers are vying for one simple thing: your attention. So what are people paying attention to and what does it mean for brands? Here's what you need to know.
Adapt to shifting audience preferences
"What's interesting about the consolidation [of media brands] is that it's a reflection of demand. Audiences are becoming more tribal, so these corporations have had to double-down on aggregating content," says Justin R. Ching, Supervising Producer on Amazon's Ritual and the founder of production company j-school.
"Before, the approach to content by networks was to use a handful of movies and shows to try to universally appeal to everyone. Now, with streaming video on demand (SVOD), content is laser-guided and highly specialized, and we're getting better at figuring out how to grow targeted programming," Ching says.
Ching has worked first-hand to create dialogue over the issue of National Anthem protests while covering the NFL for Fox Sports and Amazon, commenting recently on the effectiveness of the Nike-Kaepernick campaign.
"Audiences are braver about their beliefs than ever before," says Ching. "We're no longer in a place where the safe middle-of-the-aisle-approved narrative is good enough."
The bottom line? You need to know your audience intimately, and make bold decisions that appeal to them.
Middle-of-the-road is the worst place to be
An industry report by Variety Co-Editor-in-Chief Andrew Wallenstein says that content ownership should be a high priority for SVOD providers this year. Netflix, who has never seen a drop in subscriber numbers, has gotten where they are largely by producing original content, and competitors like Hulu and Amazon Video have stepped up their game as major competitors.
So, what does this mean for brands? Tell stories that aren't currently out there right now. Seek out underrepresented markets. Tap your audience for untold stories, and use it in your messaging.
With so much content-and way more to come-what will truly stand out for your business is something authentic and direct to an audience. Middle-of-the-road doesn't work anymore when the content market is flooded. Take risks.
Make niche bets
While it might seem like a risk to reflect the stories niche audiences in your brand messaging, we don't have to look far past the success of "Black Panther" to learn that niche content is having a moment.
Ching notes that both "Black Panther" and "Get Out" are highly targeted movies, with mass appeal. "As an audience we've become more complex in terms of our interests. But we're also not one-dimensional, and we should avoid putting people in niche silos, trusting that targeted content that tells a personal story can also have universal impact.
And this is perhaps the most important concept in reaching an audience today. Niche does not mean narrow. In fact, think of it as a now inverse relationship for branded content. Niche content is the only content that can stand out now. If we've seen it before, we're less likely to pay attention.
In the search for creating something new that will stand out and get attention for your brand don't focus on being the funniest or most compelling--start with the who and the why. Who will want to view it and why is all you ever need to solve in the equation. Because it's asking too much to be the funniest or most compelling. That's a high bar.
If you are confident in who will want to view your content and why, what your content should look and feel like will practically write itself.
Always start with the audience and work back to the content.