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Editor’s Note: Sky Gellatly currently works as the Director of Strategy for the PR and Marketing firm, Team Epiphany, and is the manager for 13thWitness and DJ Neil Armstrong. Most recently, he and Lupe Fiasco have joined forces as a DJ / “sound clash” duo. Sky has spent the last nine years in media and marketing, having held positions at Details magazine, Flight Club, MTV.com and Complex Magazine.
Disclaimer: The opinions seen here reflect those of the author and are not necessarily representative of the beliefs and interests of this site.
The face of digital media has shifted considerably in the last two years. Facebook is now our time-tested platform of news and voyeurism; every cell phone has a camera, and every step in a day is now a landscape for a mobile upload, Tumblr post or a Twitpic. Twitter and Klout.com have actualized the web influence of a celebrity, media entity or small-town digital guru—and have made this digital com score and follower amalgam all-too-public knowledge. Traditional media, both print and TV, has been leapfrogged, as the gap between consumer and celebrity/designer/artist is now but a tweet away. As television has lost viewers to YouTube, networks, albeit far too slowly, have mirrored their higher-performing shows on Hulu, iTunes, and have produced on-demand publishes through conventional DVR, as they have through integrated cable-to-web, and then web-to-mobile, set-top box solutions such as SlingBox. TV has since collided with independently-produced video, as Hulu embeds battle for the same blog space as an independently-produced Vimeo video within the news feeds of blogs, social media hubs and weighted content aggregation sites like Digg.
Outside of the rapid acceleration of PDAs-turned-to-mobile-desktops, DSLR camera technology has afforded individual content authors the ability to produce video content with the quality of blue-chip cinema. When merged with happenstance celebrity inclusion, these indie videos have engendered the same magnetism in the blogosphere as “official” creative outputs from CAA and Willaim-Morris-represented artists—with studio or music-label-backed budgets.
At the end of the day, content is either both viral and impactful, or it isn’t. Terry Richardson and Hedi Slimane, for example, don’t need a glossy magazine to publish “professional images,” or to wrangle Pete Doherty or Pharrell for a shoot. These photographers and designers are also, after all, “talent” in their own right. That said, they should, and have in some cases already, graced magazine covers. And they now have their own platforms to create their own spreads—albeit, for now, on a WordPress-enabled blog.
Sucked into this vortex of hyper-consumed multimedia are all of the niche blogs that spawned, exponentially, as the most intelligent print media minds couldn’t move quickly enough to staff up their digital news bureaus, say, from 2005 to today. Blogs captured all of the traffic that sites such as GQ.com or Vogue.com “deserved” (and no, not just the “style” content). Likewise, advertising networks were quickly created within these amorphous independent blog communities (read: monetization came raining/reigning in). The aggregated traffic reach of these networks allow advertisers to buy media, and speak to huge niche audiences, at CPMs, often times, 1/5th the price of a CondeNet CPM.
As a result, “the independents” got very rich, very fast, and had no need to actually get a job at a magazine as they might have done eight years prior. And of course there’s the new converged model of retail and editorial: Gilt Groupe, and of course, now, the Gilt MANual.
In most cases at these independently-owned blogs/magazines, the most senior bloggers are also the “publishers.” As such, consumers are now, more than ever, accustomed to advertising and marketing co-mingling with editorial, perhaps in even all-too-grey ways because blogs will blur the lines that perhaps magazines would not—or will not.
Ask any digital ad executive, and they will tell you that the need for “sponsorable” web video is the rage; it is the new hot medium in monetization. And whereas blogs learned how to translate their blogging, essentially into vlogging, all that our favorite magazines could produce in the last few years were: lack-luster “how to tie a tie” videos, and “behind the scenes outtakes from our cover shoot.” Moreover, these videos, almost understandably so, were produced with cameras that shot horribly, and were uploaded to media players that played video at 360p; as a long-term reality, the content is, perhaps, not even of a resolution that is good enough to evolve with advances in mobile device screens, let alone an LED television powered by Apple TV.
At this point, let’s discuss the new generation of consumer, Todd Selby in this example, and his rapid penetration into all verticals of the media business.
From a mere blog, then to a book, and eventually as an advertising creative director darling, Todd’s evolution (read: his meteoric rise) in becoming an advertising creative service mastermind for Louis Vuitton is really not that surprising. Is it? Todd was a consumer, who evolved into an independent content creator, making exactly what he knew the world’s fashion intelligentsia wanted to consume; in this way, the success of his eventual campaigns were already written in the HTML that hinged underneath his posts (his posts, ironically, looked like the very sketchpads of traditional print media editors).
And Todd’s not the only one, by any means. Videographers 13thWitness, Jake Davis and Levi Maestro, all with three very different ways of communicating “feature articles” and “non-traditional advertising” through video, are also providing services for the likes of Nike, adidas, Timberland, Sperry, John Mayer, Drake and Usher (as they also just do, for free, and for fun, just for the readers/viewers of their regular blog content).
Todd’s genesis is the result of the realities of media and advertising in 2011: editorial content is brand messaging and advertising. GQ‘s, or Esquire‘s, or Monocle‘s communication in the digital space is persistent marketing for its evolution as a brand/news bureau/content network, and is the bait for a generation of new subscribers: both on the iPad and for the venerated print version.
2010, of course, saw the advent of the iPad. And now, as CES has shown, we’re upon a new year with 60+ tablets in production.
And this week, we welcomed the second-generation iPad.
Print media has, of course, begun to translate its fixed linear form to a poly-directional digital version. But do these versions offer any exclusive content? Can they serve video while framed around editorial-grade photos and award-winning text? How are these “tablet editions” evolving the fixed form of print to its next full evolution? How can this new, exciting version be more than an old dog (blog), with a few new tricks?
As for today’s youth, aptly referred to as being of the “Millennial” or “Verge Culture” generation, they want to consume content with the immediacy of five minutes ago. The blogosphere, the instant gratification nature of video gaming and fast food, and the exclusivity complex of weekly tabloid culture (from Us Weekly to Bossip), has engendered an almost insatiable consumption threshold with print media’s assumed next generation of subscriber.
Today, the 25 minutes that it takes to read a cover story has been trumped by a three-minute video that can show, tell and make the same cover story content far more gripping than, well, picking up a huge September issue (that’s likely five times heavier than an iPad, and that you can’t read, well, when the lights are off, or also use to access Facebook and Twitter…).
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