I attended Digital Media Conference yesterday in Tyson’s Corner, Va. It’s a great networking event of the digital media industry. A recurring theme that I heard throughout the sessions (I’m obviously paraphrasing) was, watch out – we’ve only begun to walk down the digital media path. Whether its video content, music, mobile web, or online advertising, the current experience is in its infancy. Digital media is impacted by a slew of entrepreneurs, old line media, corporate brands, advertisers, and consumers themselves, all of whom (among others) are driving the distribution and consumption of media. And if anyone tells you they have it figured out – run for the door, because they’re either lying or out of touch with reality. Here is a list of observations I’ve come up with. Tell me whether you agree or disagree by using the comment tool at the end of the post:

  • Advertising is in flux. Figuring out the optimal spend for advertising across multiple digital platforms is mind boggling. If there were anything that aspiring entrepreneurs should focus on, it’s how to measure advertising’s effectiveness across digital platforms, in real time, and minus the marketing speak.
  • The demise of traditional media has been overblown. Old line media companies are not dinosaurs. Many of them are adapting quite well.
  • Hyper focus on quality may be overblown. It’s important now, but its importance will decline. Today’s kids will accept an experience that many of us old fogies would consider inferior. Companies that get to too hung up on quality may miss other more important trends.
  • There is no winner take all scenario. Online video is not going to kill traditional television. Companies that learn how to adapt and play in multiple arenas will be just fine.
  • Mobile web is the second coming of the Internet. Today’s mobile web is very analogous to the early days of the Internet, with difficult interfaces and less than optimal performance. Just as the Internet matured, so too will the mobile web and it will become the main way that people interact with the Internet, surpassing the computer.
  • Advertising with social media won’t work. People don’t want to be marketed to while engaging with friends and colleagues. Companies that learn how to become “friends” with potential consumers will win. Companies that create marketing clutter on social media will lose.
  • The Internet is the most measured medium, yet the most misunderstood.
  • The danger with social networks is there are too many, demanding too much time and attention from people. It could result in a real shakeout or worse, rejection of the concept.

Probably the best “a ha” moment for me about digital media is that despite its complexity, it’s really quite simple. It’s really about embracing and empowering consumers. Companies that will prosper the most in the digital media landscape are the ones that figure out how to embrace the consumer and are comfortable with conceding control to them. In effect, the consumer is becoming the gatekeeper of digital media and now have the tools to control and customize their own experience. That’s a hard concept for the traditional producers and distributors of media to grasp and embrace. Those that do, will win.

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