Dissecting the New Media Life Cycle
In June of 2009 Dell Computers revealed that their marketing team had harnessed the power of Twitter to drive $3 million in revenue. As word spread across the more traditional media channels (like newspapers and magazines) senior-level executives around the world poked their heads into marketing and sales meetings and said something like this:
"Did you hear that Dell is driving millions of dollars in revenue on that Twitter thing? Are we using Twitter? And, if we are, why aren't we doing what Dell does? I want you to start driving revenue on Twitter. You know, like Dell does it."
Suddenly, marketers, publishers, sales teams, and consultants flocked to Twitter in hopes of uncovering the secrets to Dell's Twitter success.
Here's the problem: By the time your average senior executive catches wind of any specific technology solution, new media channel, or buzz-worthy tech trend, it is far too late to start the research. If you're going to be successful in the fast-paced digital world in which we compete, you must take a proactive and strategic approach to discovering, understanding, evaluating, and eventually investing in the right solutions.
Become a Tech Scout
You and your team must investigate new technology long before everyone else starts talking about it. By the time you start reallocating your team's resources to focus on "big data," "social commerce," or "real-time bidding" you must be able to demonstrate credible domain expertise, showcase a few completed experiments, and articulate the next steps needed to continue the exploration.
We need a diversified tech portfolio based on the evolution of the technology, not a schizophrenic agenda tracking the hot trend of the month.
Understanding the New Media Life Cycle
Every new media technology evolves through six phases during its life cycle. The key to successfully comprehending and investing in the right technology at the right time begins with understanding these phases:
- Experimentation Phase A new technology platform is launched and shared narrowly (generally between a relatively small group of close ties.) Beta invites characterize this phase.
- Adoption Phase As the technology becomes more stable, and feedback from the initial invitees is positive, the Adoption Phase is characterized by a wider user base. Growth spikes initially as early adopters flock to try the new technology and the beta invitation process is lifted.
- Gestation Phase During the Gestation Phase, content produced on the platform evolves along with the slowly growing user base. The end of the Gestation Phase is characterized by a "celebrity hit" (a high-profile and exciting use-case that sparks explosive growth.)
- Escalation Phase Sparked by the celebrity hit in the Gestation Phase, the platform grows exponentially. It's at the top of this growth curve when more traditional media starts touting the platform's success. (This is when most publishers start chasing the "new" opportunity.)
- Monetization Phase While growth slows, attention turns to the longevity, business model, and revenue potential for the platform itself. During the Monetization Phase, users struggle to determine the return on investment for the technology itself.
- Maintain Phase If the platform proves valuable to its user base during the Monetization Phase, the platform moves into the Maintain Phase. Here adoption of the technology equals attrition (the platform's user base stabilizes) and the value of the platform is proven for a specific set of use cases.
With even a basic understanding of the new media life cycle, you're ready to build a Diversified Technology Portfolio.
The Diversified Technology Portfolio
You and your team can stay ahead of the market if you dedicate a small amount of resources to a simple technology diversification strategy. By spreading your resources across a wide variety of technologies as they move through the new media life cycle you minimize the risk of being left behind by the competition, increase the chances of success, and eliminate the likelihood of being blind-sided by a technology you've never heard of.
Here's a simple way to get started: List all the technologies you are interested in or already investigating by estimating which phase each is currently in. (You don't have to be exact-just make a guess.) Now, use the Diversified Technology Portfolio to dedicate the appropriate percentage of your resources to tracking, experimenting, and evaluating all of your technology targets by phase.
Here is the key to your success: Instead of being distracted by unproven technology in the Escalation Phase, you'll be armed with the right information and insight to turn your attention to proven platforms that drive real returns for you and your publication.
Related story: Media Schizophrenia in the Time of Great Realignment