The Effect of ‘Media Variation’

For those who are engaged in new media, they are unanimous about the one thing that is considered a turning point in the history of media. That is the emergence of the iPad. It’s no surprise if a 7-year old child asks for an iPad for Christmas. The popularity of this plaything is beyond doubt.

This technological plaything has entertained us with endless creative ideas and interesting functions. Meanwhile, we are also facing a big challenge: what will traditional media become when they are run on a platform like the iPad? The iPad is known as “the saviour of the publishing industry”. So what kind of impact will it bring to all of us working in the media business? Although traditional media planning and digital media planning have been getting closer with each other, there is still a clear distinction. The emergence of the iPad raises some new questions: if a traditional media issues an iPad version, is advertising still traditional or digital? Shall we use print ads for the iPad or adopt new communication solutions such as APP downloads, video broadcasting, and gaming?

China is a big laboratory. You can feel that when you look at the new buildings and architecture around you. You are in a very large lab with a great variety of choices and possibilities. Same case with media. We are experiencing a revolution of ‘media variation’. The rapid development of digital technology not only brings more new media formats, but also changes consumers’ media behaviour in China. More and more consumers are engaged in digital activities like social networking and blogging. Meanwhile, more brands are increasing their use of digital channels. However, in this variation, digital media is not alone. To keep pace with the market, many traditional print media have created digital versions on the iPad, including business magazines like “CBN Weekly”, fashion magazines like “Modern Weekly” and “The Bund”, and even newspapers like “People’s Daily”.

We can no longer draw a strict line between digital and traditional. Advertising is being transformed from ‘visual’ to ‘interactive’. Steve Jobs really puts a big challenge in front of us with his simple device.

How to make optimal use of a media like the iPad?

Audience. Analysts say in 2011, sales of the iPad in China may reach millions, which means there will be millions of people who will read newspapers and magazines on the iPad. Who are they? Where are they? What are they doing? What kind of advertising will attract their interests? Will a different advertising format arouse their curiosity or rub them the wrong way? Can we try a new communication mode like inserting an APP download ad into the iPad magazine? How will it influence brands? I am a subscriber of iPad magazines. I must say it’s cheaper and more convenient. I can read different magazines any time I want. Imagine if you take along a pile of print magazines, some of which you might want to read, but some you might not, how awkward will it be? As a reader, I’d be happy to interact if the advertising on the iPad is interesting enough. Will it be a piece of useful information for your advertisers, research companies, and media agencies?

Content. Traditional print media is limited to the size and format of the paper, although we might have seen some 3D cartoon books and musical books. However, can we think of a print ad with video broadcasting inserted, with simple interactions or with links to download? Imagine what impact it will have if an in-depth report is illustrated with a video or with link references? When you want to let the audience know about the highly advanced techniques of your luxury product, rather than to describe it using a full page of plain words, why not assist with a video of your craftsman? Maybe you will ask: “If we follow this way, is the print media still the media we know from before?” But why not? Give free rein to your imagination and you will be granted with boundless opportunities.

Accountability. There are many ways to evaluate digital media. But what criteria can be applied? Circulation, click, or what? Should we buy full page/double page spread, or buy using CPM/CPC, or even buy seconds (15”/30”)? For example, there’s an article talking about food revolution. If a brand wants to sponsor the video inserted in the article, how to set the price and how to evaluate the effect? The situation will be totally different from our past experiences and we need to rethink all our logic and criteria. It sounds a little confusing and difficult to imagine. But it is definitely the trend.

Challenges. Who should take the initiative? In the past, there’s a clear division of work among creative agencies, media agencies, PR agencies, and digital agencies. Although they work together, they have their own field of expertise. However, the emergence of new media is going to blur the lines of differences. A lot of questions will be raised: Who should shoot the video in print ad? Who should shoot the video in press release? Are the digital agencies the only technology supplier or should they also be involved in graphic design (since there are functions like clicking the link and downloading)?

It’s lucky that up till now there are no clear answers to the above questions. But it is also a pity. When we notice that various e-books are now in our lives, we can foresee the irresistible challenges facing us advertisers, media agencies, and media owners. So, let’s get prepared and think in advance.

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