Survival of the fittest

Updated: Dec 30 2008, 09:06am hrs
Whether we openly accept it or not, it is a fact that the entire media scenario will undergo a substantial change accelerated perhaps by the impending slowdown. As we move out of the total denial stage of India wont be affected by the slowdown to the second stage where most advertising and media agencies seem to be saying there will be a slowdown but we wont be affected, it is very clear to me that the overall media landscape will start to change.

This metamorphosis may be gradual and unnoticeable at any one given time, but its residual effect will be substantial and when we are through with it, the landscape will look very different from what it is today.

Let me share my views on few key media and how I see them evolve over the next two-three years. Of course, there will be players who will be exceptions, but I will comment about the medium as a whole and not on the individual players in it. Some of these views are based on worldwide studies done by Carat, the worlds leading media buying and planning agency, Posterscope, the worlds leading OOH agency and Isobar, the worlds largest digital marketing agency. I have freely used their studies to form my views.

Television: Overall, this medium will see the most drastic of the changes. The maximum number of mergers, collapses, shakeouts, ownership and control changes will be seen in the this medium. Everything, from its delivery mechanism, with the CAS national roll out likely after the elections, to its measurement system, as seen in the current TAM/aMap debate, will change.

Every genre, like general entertainment, which has 25-30 channels, will have no more than three to four winners and a few other survivors. The rest will perish or merge. Regional television will get more and more important. The only thing that wont change, as long as a remote control exists, is that content will continue to be the king, because the consumer will continue to remain the king.

Print: Contrary to popular belief, I think print as a medium will thrive and prosper, aided by increasing literacy and the artificially suppressed cover price of newspapers. Again, regional press will become stronger but the national English dailies will also thrive. Magazines will see a shake out but strong niche titles will proliferate. These will be special interest titles, aimed at a specific group of readers. The general interest magazines will, by and large, find the going tough, due to the TV onslaught.

Radio: A true renaissance of this medium is on the anvil and one can see signs of it all around us. FM will cease to be a metro- based phenomenon and the proliferation of stations will only keep increasing for quite some time to come. It is hard to predict if AIR will be able to capitalise on this renaissance, but if they do, it could do miracles for the medium.

Out-of-home: Outdoor will start to get more standardised, better researched and a bit more professional, though till governmental bodies and authorities control the licensing, a completely professional OOH (out-of-home) industry will remain a dream.

The entry of large multinational agencies, including Posterscope from my group, will accelerate and force this process. The better and more adaptable media owners will do well, while the fly-by-night types will hopefully start perishing, along with some so called outdoor agencies, some even from large agency parentage, that are disguised vendors. (Whats worse is that some of them have openly declared tie-ups with local vendors or site-owners!)

Digital: This area will see the maximum change. On one hand, mobiles will continue to grow and emerge as a full fledged medium and on the other, rapid improvement in broadband and overall connectivity will drive this.

Volumes have already been written on this topic, so I neednt say more and I base on Isobars worldwide studies, that the landscape even two-three years from now will not even vaguely resemble where we are today.

The media environment is set for the next three years of change, where only the fittest will survive and many around you today will be confined to history forever. Change will be the only constant, as far as the media is concerned.

The author is chairman, India, and CEO, South East Asia, Aegis Media