Friday, August 7, 2009

Marketers Who Master Distribution Channels Will Win

Last week, Hugh MacLeod, author of the recently published Ignore Everybody, tweeted that “One thing I've noticed since the book came out. Different media makes people value the same content differently. So much for RSS....”

I noticed the impact of delivery on message, too, when a well-known blogger suggested to a colleague that her digital press release was spam, simply because she hadn’t spend 44 cents sending it. Same info, different channel.

So is that the new deal? Does “information” mean more, say more, talk better, and have gravitas only if it’s in print? Right answer, wrong question.

I keep coming back to the widely reported story of Matthew Robson, a 15-year-old kid who interned at Morgan Stanley. In a report (download the full Morgan Stanley pdf here), Robson said his friends never read newspapers, don’t Tweet, and rarely use their cell phones to actually talk. I wasn’t surprised, since my 19-year old nephew told me the same thing two years ago. According to Brian, teens don’t use email, either – which you know is true if you’ve ever tried to reach an under-22 via email.

So, yes, what any given market segment will embrace or use depends more than ever on the distribution channel.

Back in December 2007, Scott Karp blogged about “The Future of Print Publishing and Paid Content." What this insightful piece boils down to is the dramatic effect of the distribution channel on whether or not a given consumer will use the content. In writing about consumer abandonment of newspapers, Karp notes, “People are willing to pay for certain digital content, but they aren't willing to pay for the distribution — specifically, not the analogue distribution premium.”

Therefore, if Karp is right – and I think he is – a portion of teen attitudes about whether or not information is “useful” has to do with how much it costs. If it's free, it's better. By contrast, in the case of Hugh MacLeod’s readers – a sophisticated, creative, professional, affluent group – the print distribution channel, which costs more, adds value.

I did notice that Matthew Robson’s friends embrace “viral marketing,” which I think means they buy whatever their friends are buying … which also tells me that the nature of humanity hasn’t changed much, even if the distribution channels have. If so, the jury is out on what will happen when these kids grow up. Most certainly, though, their current full-out-digital preferences will influence, if not dominate, distribution channels.

Conclusion: Expect hybrid, hydra-headed distribution systems going forward and look for market opportunities therein. But chop-chop; it’s going to be a multi-rock and media-roll ride.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

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