Interview with Jeff Jarvis about challenges in 2020

American journalist Jeff Jarvis at the 2008 Wo...Image via Wikipedi

As professor at the CUNY in New York, Jeff Jarvis is teaching entrepreneurial journalism while writing his new book after the success with “WWGD?” and his blog buzzmachine.com.

Nearly anyone in this business does know that Jeff Jarvis’ essential message is to prepare the news industry for the shift from the content economy to the link economy. This is the reason why the first sentence of this story here contains five links. According to Jeff Jarvis, links are the real currency in the age of the Internet. Some people discuss or reject his point of view. Here comes more to have an argument about: an interview with Jeff Jarvis on the future of news.

Merging of the value chains of the telecommunications, technology and media sectors: how will the end game (in 2020) look like?

Unknown. The device business is never a good one, long-term. The technology cloud (including Google, Amazon, etc.) will have ongoing value but not terribly rich, I think.

I hope for all our sakes that telecommunications will become competitive — with new technology such as “wifi on steriods” using broadcast white spaces — and so the stranglehold that industry has on us — consumer and media company — will loosen.

As long as the advertising business continues — and I think it will change radically with more opportunities to have direct relationships detouring around marketing and with abundance economics replacing scarcity economics — then I think those with data and relationships are poised to succeed better than media: that is, Google and Facebook and their successors.

So I believe the challenge for media is to get out of the distribution business and even the content business and find a way to be in the relationship and/or platform businesses.

Which group of players will cover which chain link?

Having interviewed Mark Zuckerberg for my next book on publicness, I am struck more than ever by the value of the social graph. I argued to him that he was creating a data-for-data economy. He disagreed and said he is working in an economy where interaction (read: relationship) is valued. I think he’s right.

I believe there will be three layers to the future structure of ecosystems that supplant industries:

  • The platform layer (see: Google).
  • An entrepreneurial layer (where many companies can start on cheap and free platforms).
  • The network layer (to bring those many disparate ventures into critical mass).

That is where I think the value lies, not in a company as presently structured but in a role in the ecosystem.

As a publisher, I would ask how to be a platform for value creation and entrepreneurship and how to create networks to build critical mass; that’s where I think your opportunity lies.

I would not get tied to any device maker or delivery company.

How far will the integration of different media classes go?

Very far. Once the last meter problem to the TV set is broken, and when our children bring their habits to the media business, then we will not differentiate at all among text, broadcast TV, online video, and so on. From the creation perspective, we train our students to make everything.

Which consequences need to be considered from a media house point of view?

Find where your true value lies. It isn’t in producing hard products and even content. It isn’t going to be in distribution, which will be free. I think it will be in relationships and data. How can you position yourself to maximum value there?

Which types of cross-sector co-operation are relevant and / or necessary in this context?

I think you need to establish a culture of working in an ecosystem with many players operating under many models: create and help sustain networks of independent content creators, for example, to reduce your cost and risk and expand your reach; make your content embeddable to go to where the readers are; create advertising sales networks.

Which media products will be paid for by end consumers?

Only unique and highly valued entertainment, in my view. Business consumers will continue to pay for media that can be justified by helping them make money. Arianna Huffington’s wrong in what she said to Dr. Döpfner at Monaco: not even porn will be paid.

Which payment models and processes will make the market?

Apple will make it easy to buy but take a huge share of revenue. Subscriptions will beat micropayments but they will bring a high subscriber acquisition and churn management cost.

Will paid and free content be able coexist?
Yes. Free will dominate. There will always be another competitor who can operate for less or nothing. Creating false scarcity will not work. In information especially, the ability to hold onto value will diminish in seconds. Hiding behind the skirts of government will be no help. So one must accept the reality of the new media economics and find the opportunities there — especially in finding new efficiencies and greater targeting. If you don’t, entrepreneurial competitors will.

Will there be sustainable business models that successfully link paid content with traditional advertising?

Perhaps in business and entertainment content, not in news and information or service content; again, there will simply be too many competitors taking readers and advertisers and once one falls below a critical mass size, thanks to a wall, advertisers will not bother any more.

Infrastructure and distribution of electronic content: Who will have the contractual relationship with the end consumer?

The telco may force the consumer into contractual relationships but even this could be disrupted with “wifi on steroids.” The more valuable relationship is not contractual but social.

Will electronic content need to be distributed via dedicated (third party) market places?

I think it is better distributed by the audience itself. Look at the value of links from people — via Facebook, Twitter — vs. Branded traffic and search.

Will open or closed market places dominate the distribution of electronic content?

Open, clearly.

Are there technical, regulatory or sociological barriers to the diffusion of electronic content?

We in media need network neutrality so we are not charged on both ends of transactions. We should fight for ubiquitous, high-quality, open, inexpensive broadband, for that will spur our business and growth. Beware running to government for regulatory protection of legacy businesses today, for that invites in regulation in the future, which you will come to regret.

How will the way that media products are consumed change in the years to come?

Much of it won’t be seen as media or content. Much of it will be seen as interaction, whether as games or as collaboration or as communication with friends that yields information and media (e.g., Foursquare or Facebook automated, social restaurant recommendations). So we’d best not tie ourselves into old and limited definitions of media.

How will typical media consumption look like in 2020 for consumers 35 years and younger, 35 to 50 years and 50 years and older?

Much of it won’t be seen as consumption. It will, again, be interaction. Think of the changes in the last ten years and the rate of change accelerating; the difference in 2020 will be greater yet. So we can’t foresee how vast that change will be. But young people will not be tied to schedules and brands; things will come to them and they will create as much as consume. People 35-50 grew up with Google and Facebook and new media realities. Older people will have adjusted better than the elderly today. So throw out the idea of maintaining old models for comfort.

We will be ubiquitously, constantly connected via devices that are aware of our location, identity, experience, and needs, giving them permission to help us do what we want to do — to anticipate our intent, as Google plans to do — and media will not be a separate experience except in the case of pure entertainment. When I need to know something — traffic, weather, top news, restaurant recommendations, sales — I will get that information in many forms from many sources, especially peers. That will be true across all these ages; they are all being trained in these new models.

How do you generally view the future of display advertising until 2020?

Direct relationships with customers will begin to replace advertising spending on a real basis — not fully, but creating the first real decline in the history of shifting media types. Transparent pricing of goods and services will reduce the ability to profit on opaque pricing and to build that opacity with brand advertising. To be competitive, companies will have to shift marketing dollars into (a) customer service, (b) product quality, and (c) lower prices, putting more downward pressure on advertising. Meanwhile, greater value will be put on relevance and consent, putting those with data and relationships, again, in a better position. Messaging will be seen, more and more, as spam.

Will the CPT model be sustainable in the future in the context of electronic media?

If by that you mean cost-per-transaction, I think, yes — even more so. See how the Telegraph today launched a store selling fashion goods directly to consumers. See how retailers are getting into media. The lines between media and retail will blur and blend.

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