Introduced as the man who brought baseball into the digital age, Major League Baseball Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman had a message to drive home to the audience at the IAB’s Innovation Days conference about how this era is evolving: content publishing will get more portable, and If you think desktops are here to stay, you’re just wrong. His second big point was that as paywalls and meters become more accepted, MLBAM will have to change its pricing methods. “I don’t think an a la carte model is going to work, because it will confuse fans and customers,” he said. “People will wonder, ‘What did I pay for and what didn’t I pay for?’ Finding a way to charge customers that is fair and not confusing will be the big challenge for the next two years.”
Bowman began by alluding to the conference’s previous speaker AOL (NYSE: AOL) CEO Tim Armstrong, who offered a defense of the power of “brands.” Bowman said The biggest problem brands face is finding a way to work through the battles between plaforms — Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) vs. Adobe (NSDQ: ADBE) is the latest example — and be able to work across all systems.
Bowman also talked about the changes coming to way the content is accessed. While mobile is still small compared to online ad dollars on the PC web, mobile is clearly where MLBAM’s viewers are. About 25 percent of MLB.com’s traffic will be wireless next year and it will top 50 percent within two years. Much of that traffic is devoted to video views of games. So far, for April, into the baseball season, MLBAM served 3 billion minutes of video across all its platforms — 2 billion were live minutes and 1 billion was on-demand.
“You may have one large screen, but we’re all going to have five screens and content will go personal,” Bowman said. “Our view is that desktops will go into freefall.”
Bowman also held forth on the problems online has had in closing the gap between offline ad spending and the problems of measurement. Bowman has railed against measurement before, even asking Nielsen Online to stop measuring MLB.com two years ago. “Whoever thought that measuring unique visitors was the best way to determine audience size should be shot,” Bowman said, looking around the room to see if the culprit — “maybe it was someone at the IAB” — could be found. (IAB head Randall Rothenberg, sitting in audience, answered it wasn’t them.) “In terms of measuring engagement, time-share, I don’t care what it is, it has to change if we’re going to try to improve the scale of our ad sales,” Bowman said.
While Bowman has mobile figured out, he readily admitted that he can’t grasp what’s driving the way people use social media. “I’m honestly perplexed by social media. I couldn’t care less where my ‘friends,’ who have never been my friends, are having lunch. I don’t understand sharing this information. But it’s only going to get more private, more personal and I think the younger generation will be able to figure it out.”