Liquid Consumers: A Guest Blog by Channing L. Dawson

The following guest blog is by Channing L. Dawson, MediaWorks Mentor, Senior Advisor to Scripps Networks Interactive and President, Channing Media.  Enjoy! – joy

One of the tenets of successful start-ups – in particular disruptively innovative start-ups — is that they will likely have to pivot their strategy several times – or several dozen times – to find the exact right consumers of their products or services. Sometimes young companies have to pivot completely away from their first intended audience; but sometimes, finding that perfect consumer is only a few small pivots away. Though some business gurus think the pivot is just an excuse for bad strategy, bad implementation or bad data, many others think it’s an inevitable consequence of searching for – and finding — the “right” mix of consumers at the right time for their products.

It’s highly likely, in fact, that most of the start-ups in the 2015 KEC MediaWorks program have already pivoted their strategies in reaction to their conversations with their would-be consumers. A refinement of the concept here, a tweak to the strategy there, and a pivot towards a slightly different but more likely consumer has taken place. Doubtless most companies will continue to adjust their business vectors as they gain experience in the marketplace.

That’s one of the myriad discussions we’re having with Fadi Saleh, founder of baracksdubs.com, as we (the mentors and he) ponder the future of his company. Do we need to pivot our business strategy away from the online YouTube video channel where he’s been posting his infectiously funny videos for the last three years? What are the platforms where his future consumers will want to see his videos? Where and with whom can we optimize his revenue?

“The money will always move to where the users are,” said Frank Sinton, CEO of Beachfront Media, earlier this month at the Videonuze Ad Summit. Beachfront is one of the up-and-coming all-platform video tech companies distributing and monetizing video across smart TVs, desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile devices. Sinton sits in a kind of media “cat-bird seat,” overlooking the rapid shifting of production and advertising dollars from TV to these other platforms. “We completely revamped our technology in the last two years to be mobile-first,” said Stinton. “It’s the first screen people pick up today.”

Should Baracksdubs become a mobile-first video provider? Are we prepared to do that? Is the revenue potential bigger or smaller than online? How much will it cost to become a mobile-first content creator?

With such radical shifts in viewer behavior rocking the media world, a new way to describe the new media consumer has emerged: the “liquid consumer.” Liquid consumers are viewers who do not have one specific home base (metaphorically speaking) to consume their media. Their media consumption is not static; it’s fluid, over time, over product, over platform.

Who among us isn’t such a liquid media consumer? Think about it: We may wake up in the morning, read emails and view a short weather video on our smart phone, take in 10 minutes of news on TV while we eat breakfast, listen to radio or a podcast on our way to work, get online to do our work (and check out Wimbledon matches on the live TV feed in the upper right corner of our laptop screen), watch a Baracksdubs video on our smartphone during lunch, and after work, binge on episodes of Orange is The New Black streamed to our Smart TV, while we simultaneously check out on our tablet the last three nights’ of The Daily Show, which is just before we put our Apple Watch on its charger for the night, which we do, but not before we consume the last texts of the day on our soon-to-be sleeping Apple Watch.

The idea of the liquid consumer is fleshed out in Digital Advertising Audiences: The New Liquid Consumer Paradigm”, a report announced at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity held last month. The partnership of The Interactive Bureau of Advertising (IAB), its Agency Advisory Board and the ad tech company YuMe, explored “how technologies, and the platforms they operate on, have catalyzed how consumers find and follow their content.” The takeaway: the new liquid consumer is constantly creating his or her own liquid-like paths of media consumption and content, producers, marketers, and advertising creatives need to create, distribute, and monetize “liquid creative” that can be consumed on the paths their liquid consumers are traveling.

As IAB CEO Randal Rothenberg recently wrote, regarding this new consumer paradigm, “The consumer is no longer grounded in one spot, one medium or one homepage—but has become a “liquid consumer” that demands “liquid creativity” from marketers, publishers, agencies or anyone who wants to find them. This means the goal for publishers (and other content creators) is no longer so simple as bringing consumers to a centralized ‘home.’ It’s about reaching audiences anywhere, anytime, anyplace in anyone’s domain.”

He goes on to cite some of those companies that are pushing content to third-party platforms in order to “find new eyeballs and new revenue streams: Apple News (a service that streams news from dozens of publishers), Facebook’s Instant Articles, Snapchat’s Discover newsfeed with offerings from 12 media companies, and Flipboard.

So, to those of you who are pitching at KEC’s upcoming Mediaworks Demo Day on August 11, 2015, the media world is changing at warp speed, driven by liquid consumers who are responding to ever-changing technologies by demanding that content creators, marketers and advertisers adapt to and embrace their increasingly fluid behavior.

Are you prepared to liquefy?

– Channing L. Dawson, 2015 KEC MediaWorks Mentor