Lessons from Retail — Why the Digital Media Sector Needs to Refocus, and How a Retail Omni-channel Distribution Model Can Help.

I’ve been in this industry long enough to recognize when something’s got to change. Working for over a decade with some of the biggest names in marketing, technology, and media in Canada has given me a broad perspective on the path our industry has taken to get to our current position, as well as the major challenges and unique opportunities that we face moving forward.

Now, at a time when we’re seeing significant upheaval in Canada’s media sector [with whole teams being laid off by major players like Bell, Post Media, Metroland(owned by Torstar), and Rogers, and long-standing ad agencies merging or shutting their doors outright] and behemoths like Google and Facebook taking the lion’s share of global ad revenues, it’s never been more important for our industry leaders to recognize that we’re not adapting quickly enough to keep up with the evolving digital media marketplace. Business strategies from ten and even five years ago won’t cut it. Instead, we need a new lens with which to view how we do business. And I believe that lens is the retail omni-channel media distribution model.

Why apply a retail view to the media publishing industry? Retailers of every sector have multiple, often overlapping, opportunities to connect with consumers. As digital channels have evolved over the past decade, every retailer — no matter the size or the sector — has had to make tough decisions around how to reach target audiences that are, on the one hand, hyper-connected and always on-the-go, and on the other hand, increasingly disenchanted with brands and unsubscribing from messaging programs at a frightening rate. There’s a corollary here that can’t be overlooked any longer.

Similar situations, different sectors. In 2015, I spearheaded the publication of TC Media’s eBook on digital media distribution in the retail spaceas a means to educate retail organizations on the “dos and don’ts” of media distribution in a volatile marketing sector that’s rife with economic instability, consolidation, and disruption from local and international players alike.

Through the years, I’ve been successful by focusing on three fundamental elements : traffic + revenue + people:

  1. Aligning tactics and resources to build traffic and elevate our users’ experiences;
  2. Developing channels for growth that bring more profitable revenue opportunities; and,
  3. Keeping our people motivated, happy, and organized in order to consistently and continuously deliver on 1+2 above.

Thriving in our ecosystem requires a back-to-basics approach that focuses on optimizing traffic, revenues, and people. In the current state of the media industry, all three of these elements are at risk. Looking at these areas through the lens of the retail omni-channel distribution model can help us get a handle on the strategies at the base of our industry that need to change and the business processes that need to shift in order to accommodate the disrupting factors encroaching from all sides of the media sector.

In Part 2, we’ll focus on how media distribution has evolved in the face of global third-party syndication by the likes of Facebook, Google, Snapchat and Apple. Part 3 looks further into the contradictions inherent in the monetization of content in today’s syndication models. Finally, Part 4 rethinks team structure under the current omni-channel media distribution model.