Friday, May 7, 2010

MEDIAPOST: The Battle of The Big Three

Remember the good old days of TV, when the world was dominated by three big networks; CBS, NBC and ABC? Remember what it was like when you could spend the majority of your ad budget in just three simple meetings with three power players and those three power players could provide you as much as 75% of your target audience? Well get ready to revisit those days because we might just be getting ready to see them again.

This time the world of media is quickly becoming dominated by three “primarily” digital players; Google, Apple and Facebook. These three companies are making moves that separate them dramatically from the rest of the pack and their respective spheres of influence are no longer constrained by the parameters of the computer.

Google’s quest to organize the world’s information makes them a formidable player to deal with, but especially with their rapid growth via development of mobile platforms and desktop operating systems (see Android). The Android platform has the potential to extend even further, powering your TV, the dashboard of your car, even the organization of your kitchen and the appliances that fit inside.

Apple is known for the development of elegant, easy to use devices and their focus has shifted far beyond the desktop, becoming the dominant player in mobile (iPhone), in the music industry (iTunes), the application space (App Store) and now into publishing (the iBooks and the iPad). Of special importance are their successes in the app space, literally redefining the way the average user interfaces with programs, creating a simple, effective interface powered by stand-alone programs rather than a sophisticated, learning-curve-driven operating system.

Facebook is the latest move and shaker, creating literal waves with their development and procreation of the social internet, or as they now refer to it “the open graph”. By aggregating the wealth of data that is fast becoming available to them, they are proving a new vision for the web that may require their competition to revisit how they integrate with the world at large.

Oh – and did I mention that these three players are big?

What I find most intriguing is that each of these companies understands one simple idea; that the future is based on cross-platform capability and not a single platform. ABC, NBC and CBS had their chance but lost their footing with the growth of cable and their lack of speed online has put them at a disadvantage. They put all their eggs in one basket and they didn’t think towards the future. They used to own the eyeballs, but they hesitated and he who hesitates loses ground. Google, Apple and Facebook are not so much technology or Internet companies as they are service and experience based companies. They focus on providing users with a consistently reliable, easy-to-use set of services across a variety of platforms and they understand that if they make these services reliable then the user won’t mind some marketing mixed in. Consumers don’t hate advertising the way they pretend to hate it; they just tend to notice the ads that are untargeted and ineffective the most. They never complain about the messages that resonated and worked because, let’s face it; they may not have even realized they were being advertised to. In those cases, the advertising was so good that the consumer may’ve forgotten they were supposed to be acting cynical!

But I digress.

These three companies are expanding their influence in ways that you wouldn’t have imagined, and though there may indeed be other strong players in the marketplace (hello Microsoft), they’re all playing catch-up at this point. Microsoft does not innovate, that is simply not their strength. They identify markets that others have done well in and they try to take them over. Of course, the Microsoft alignment with Facebook makes them formidable on their very own, but still second fiddle to the innovators.

These kinds of situations excite me because they demonstrate maturity for the business that we’ve not seen before. You should be too! What do you think – let me know on the Spin Board!

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