As smartphones continue to become a centerpiece of our daily lives, it’s no surprise that content studios have joined the fight for a piece of our mobile entertainment. 2018 was a year of evolution where we saw the formation of mobile powerhouses, the demise of others, and traditional media companies acquiring their way into the brawl. As digital media companies developed unique approaches to engage today’s distracted audiences, 2019 is shaping up to be the beginning of the golden era of mobile content.
In order to get to this world of premium, mobile-first content, here are a few trends I foresee for the industry:
Investment around mobile specific content will continue to increase
This will likely be reflected in two primary forms: increased development spending on original mobile programming; and improved monetization options as brands continue to look for safe environments to target and engage audiences.
Today, brands and studios develop platform-specific content that is distributed on mobile rather than content for mobile. Creating mobile-first content is inherently different than editing a trailer or reformatting an ad because it’s not just a small TV. There is competition with everything else on the phone – push notifications, text messages, emails, games – so it’s not enough to simply expect the audience’s attention. The secret is to develop mobile-first content from the get-go.
Audiences that have only known the mobile era, like Gen Z, easily bypass traditional media to new platforms that speak to them specifically. This makes them hard to reach and even harder to engage in a brand-safe environment that traditional conglomerates would be comfortable spending ad dollars. In 2019, better monetization options will allow brands to get in front of an estimated 86 million Gen Zers in the U.S., who command more than $44 billion in spending power and influence an additional $600 billion in family spending.
More studios will leverage data and metrics to create better content
With so many platforms leaning into video content, simply having a great idea is no longer a guarantee for success. Instead, data-driven experimentation and iteration needs to shape ideas into engaging formats that can succeed on each platform. And while each platform has its challenges and algorithms that impact how content is discovered and consumed, content studios and brands will need to embrace those nuances of discoverability and consumption patterns, rather than resist.
As content studios and brands track performance, are they paying attention to the right things? The question goes beyond should it be short form or long form, or snackable vs premium. To optimize the quality of the content, measuring elements such as optimum length, thumbnails, visual density and narrative structure will help learn from past performances and pour these learnings into new iterations. Companies that build for this environment have a strategic advantage to adapt, learn quickly, and have disproportionate success.
Media brands need to further diversify
Companies no longer have the luxury to build long-term value on third-party platforms for reliable revenue or audience connection, regardless of platform. Due to the rapid changing distribution channels, single platform dependency is a major risk. Audiences have disappeared or diminished over night when platforms change algorithms, resulting in layoffs and in some cases company shutdowns, causing turmoil in the digital media industry.
Additionally, the value of social audience is changing. While scale still matters, brands and content studios don’t have control over the platform directly and continually have to pivot strategies. Media brands need to build out ecosystems across platforms to strengthen the residual value derived from their social audience, beyond the latest post to have gone viral.
So, what’s next?
In order to for the industry to truly enter the golden era of mobile content, 2019 will be a pivotal year for both content studios and brands to establish themselves as “getting it.” If there’s anything we’ve learned in 2018 it’s that traditional media approaches don’t work with a mobile-first generation. With changing consumption trends, ever-shifting content distribution and discoverability options in platforms, younger audiences will continue to grow into being the most coveted marketing demographic while at the same time being harder to reach. Those playing for the future with nimble data-driven organizations will lead the pack. By this time next year, we will be able to assess who is reaching the coveted Gen Z audience and who will be left saying…” Well, there is always 2020.”