The Future of Media Summit

Content marketing is the futureGordon and I headed down to Sydney yesterday for the Future of Media Summit 2008 hosted by Ross Dawson and his Future Exploration Network. Firstly, congratulations to Ross and his hard-working team for putting on such a professional and informative event. It went off without a a hitch and everyone was extremely accommodating.

Officially the #FOM08 event was held in two parts: the conference session with live simulcast between Sydney and Silicon Valley, and the “Unconference” sessions allowing for debate and open forum conversation on various topics.

However, like last month’s PubCamp events in Sydney and Melbourne, there was a third aspect to the event that only half the attendees were aware of – the Twitter back channel and live commentary being conducted by many of the audience. For me, this was at least as informative and stimulating as the conference itself.

On stage, and in Silicon Valley, a series of insightful panels discussed various aspects around the future of media, including:

Mark Antonitis, President and General Manager, KRON-TV

Angelos Frangopoulos, CEO, Australian News Channel

Mark Goldman, COO, Current Media

Wendy Hogan, Vice President & Managing Director, CNET Networks Australia

Stephen Hollings, CEO, News Digital Careers

Loic Le Meur, CEO, Seesmic

Willie Pang, Head of Yahoo! Search Marketing, Australia and New Zealand

Mark Pesce, Founder, FutureSt Consulting

Chris Saad, Chair, and CEO, Faraday Media

Robert Scoble, Managing Director,

Mark Scott, Managing Director, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Jenny Williams, Director, Ideagarden

While, from the floor a spirited dialogue was being delivered via Twitter, Summize and on several blogs. Gavin Heaton was providing a live commentary straight onto his Servant of Chaos blog and Stilgherrian was broadcasting the event from his laptop. Seriously, the technology and clever use of apps was just as impressive at our table as it was for the entire summit. I probably learned more from this than the whole event.

Meanwhile, the new v traditional media chestnut roared into life as soon as Jane Schulze from The Australian opened her mouth with the Twitter back channel going into overdrive in response to Jane’s obviously limited understanding of blogging and new media. The debate continued in the Unconference sessions too.

To be perfectly honest, I am tiring quickly of this debate. Both sides have valid points. Traditional media isn’t about to drop of the twig tomorrow, nor are bloggers about to rule the Universe but there is clearly a transition phase underway and all parties should be aware of it and be working on how to optimise their potential utilising all available media.

I attended two “workshops” during the event, both were around New Business Models. In both cases the discussion veered toward old/new debate, then to advertising models, which in turn seemed to be mired in old/new philosophies. What was interesting to me was the fact that no-one could really offer a better suggestion for business models besides advertising driven sites. Subscription models, recommendation models and bundling models were thrown around but it all eventually came back to advertising continuing to lubricate the digital world in much the same way it funds traditional media.

That leads me to the one remaining philosophical debate of #FOM08: content. It seems that there are two schools of thought surrounding content.

The first one, which is largely propagated by the traditional media players, is that they must create content. Mark Antonitis went as far as to say that his company aimed to rule the world and would be doing so through the creation on online content. I am sure that Mark was being at least somewhat humorous in his remarks, but the sentiment was echoed by others including ABC, SBS and Australia News Channel.

These comments were regularly howled down on the Twitter back channel with a comments like: yes its about content, just not your content.

The second school of thought appears to be around the idea that there is an abundance of content being produced already, quite independent from the traditional channels, and the challenge is to find an effective way of utilising and delivering this content. Much of this content is more immediate, cheaper to produce, and more independent. My earlier observation regarding the third tier of the summit being broadcast live online, via Twitter and Summize, live blog coverage etc is proof of this abundance of content.

Harnessing this is a key to the Future of Media.

An interesting aside: I was surprised by the lack of Hunter representation at the Future of Media summit. Sticky Advertising was the only Newcastle agency at the event. Matt Freedman from Redback Solutions was there, although apparently representing his other business Sticky Tickets (no relationship), and Tony Surtees from iPrime attended, but both of these gentlemen are based in Sydney. Where was the Newcastle advertising and media community?