The rise of the storytailer
Fergus Stoddart
This is a post by Fergus Stoddart

It used to be Seven, Nine, ACP, News and Pacific, all battling away for the hearts and minds of Australian media consumers. For decades, they found ways to infiltrate our daily lives in as many media forms as possible in a bid to engage us and sell that engagement to willing advertisers. Do you remember the days when each year welcomed the launch of another swag of large-scale magazines? The recent launch of ELLE in Australia is a blip on the media landscape.

The tides are changing. The digital disruption to traditional media has softened the teeth of the media players. Their reach and influence are waning.

On the one hand, the global media players are stepping in. Facebook and Google are providing more cost-effective, targeted opportunities and eating into the once-dominant media pockets.

And on the other hand, digital distribution and data have paved the way for brands to rise up and connect directly with their audiences. Brands have realised the benefits of creating their own engagement and creating their own media, rather than spending all their money with their traditional media friends.

Nowhere is it more obvious and more likely to accelerate than retail. Mark my words: there will be an accelerating convergence of media and retailing. The large retailers have always sought to control their own destiny by dominating their sectors across marketing, the supply chain and retail footprint. It’s only a matter of time before they own their own media.

As they all step up their understanding of their customers through investments and continued focus on data, the glue that will unlock the relationship is relevant, meaningful, interesting and entertaining content.

The media giants’ transition to digital has been dogged by challenging margins and increased competition from nimble digital players. As consumers pivot to mobile, the challenge for media operators becomes even more challenging as the ability to provide valuable display advertising disappears.

Added to that, unlike new online publishers such as BuzzFeed, traditional media have failed to manage the conflict between advertorial and editorial, clinging on to one of the last supposedly unique attributes of independent media – integrity (although many may contend this does not exist among Australia’s agenda-filled media).

Meanwhile, retailers have a clear and realisable monetisation strategy – they can upsell their customers through engagement, building loyalty and increasing the weekly basket spend through education and engagement.

With supplier funds and the right data, it takes a relatively small amount of content (if targeted well) to unlock the value in that growing relationship. They have the ability to work with their partners and suppliers to co-create enriching experiences, offers, discounts, competitions and advertising. They have an unassailable argument to advertisers that marketing funds will go further if coupled with a retailer’s media proposition. Building awareness and influence with consumers at the pointy end of the customer-buying cycle will provide a higher return on investment than above-the-line advertising.

Think about how this plays out as social media, mobile and tablets take over at the retail point of purchase. The retail apps will take you from dreaming to planning, browsing and buying – and then sharing and recommending those purchases to your friends.

Traditional media can only dream of inserting themselves at all the relevant touch-points on the journey to purchase.

What’s more, readers are not confused between what’s editorial and what’s advertising. As long as the brand adheres to the rules that engagement (through providing valuable and relevant content) must be sacrosanct and the sales objective secondary, then consumers are comfortable with being provided free entertainment and information. Who does not want advice on what to eat, watch, buy, drink? Especially now they don’t have to pay for that information. It’s all branded content in one form or other – and there’s no hidden agenda.

And they are starting to win on the ‘reach’ argument. Data-hungry retailers have amassed huge databases and are touching millions of people weekly, allowing their suppliers to get integrated advertising messages across.

Many brands will move more and more of their marketing budgets to content marketing. It’s happening now and it will only accelerate. But few industries have the ability to completely dominate their media landscape.

Watch out for the rise of the ‘storytailer’.