Instead of dying, TV is headed for another golden age. That was the pivot of a conversation between Wenda Harris Millard and Dave Morgan at an event sponsored by paidContent’s parent ContentNext, as part of NYC Entrepreneurs Week. The two, who have made news this past month, mostly stuck to the broad issues of tech vs. media and what is the best business model.
Millard, who this week announced her departure from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia (NYSE: MSO) to become president of advisory firm Media Link, mostly played the interviewee this morning, touching on a subject that she’s often been heard on, the question that many online media companies face: are we a tech company or a media company? Millard: “When we started DoubleClick, we went through that. Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) is still going through that. Will we be able to bring these industries together?”
Morgan: “It’s going to take a while. It’s a generational thing. Engineering and ad offices are divided geographically, and that’s part of the challenge.”
Millard: “What true media person wants to live in Silicon Valley? But that’s where you’ll find the best engineers.”
— TV’s next Golden Age: Millard then turned to Morgan’s latest venture, Simulmedia, which closed a $4 million round last month and is focused on TV program promotion. On starting this business, Morgan explained, “I tried to look for where markets might be in the next four- to seven years. It depends on your focus. My view is to make a bet and build a business. Search is going to continue to grow, but I don’t know that there are that many PC-based ad businesses that will be robust, so I’m more focused on TV. This isn’t just US, but TV will undergo an important golden age. Even with the growth of mobile. You’re looking at a $125-, $150 billion business. When distribution becomes plentiful, attention becomes scarce. The hardest problem will not be how do I deliver a rifle shot ad at viewers. It will be how do I deliver eyeballs to a screen. Look at TVGuide, it once had commanded the attention of viewers; last year, it was sold for a dollar.” More after the jump.
— The future of paid content: Morgan said he was not optimistic about what Millard described as the current mania among medi companies to “recapture an opportunity that was lost 15 years ago,” when publishers started on the path to ad-supposed content, instead of building solid pay walls. Morgan: “A lot of this thinking is built on World War II era mindsets. A lot of media have U-shaped pricing curve, which involves massive distribution. That model wiped out niche competitors. Paid content models have generally been based on token payments — such as newspapers. Now that most content is digital, it can delivered for free.” He later alluded to the exceptions about financial media companies, like Bloomberg, The Economist and WSJ.
— A golden age of journalism: Morgan described himself as being part of the “Jeff Jarvis school” — newspapers are in trouble, but journalism is not. There will be difficulty in supporting investigative journalism, but that will be worked out. I don’t hear consumers saying that I can’t wait to give someone $500 a year for some content. I use my corporate credit card to pay for my subscriptions.
— The CraigsList model: The classifieds site has is regularly cited as being one of the primary forces killing newspapers. But Morgan finds that model also offers a clue about where media business can look to, at least the ones who survive. Morgan: “That’s an amazing business model, but people look at a hobby. Jeff Zucker says he won’t trade analog dollars for digital pennies. Well, what choice do you have? CraigsList is worth a billion dollars or two. That’s a profitable business.”
— Same time, same place, model: Getting people in one place at one time has worked and will continue to work, Morgan said. For example, YouTube just announced a new feature that you can instant message people and watch something together. Morgan: “Simultaneous media consumption is the strongest model, and it has put pressure on advertising. The broadcast model, which is based on same time, different place, is suffering because of that. Most viewing online is on-demand and that puts more pressure on advertising.”
This morning’s event was part of the Executive Breakfast series hosted by ContentNext that brought together some of of the big names in media including John Suhler, Larry Kramer of MarketWatch fame, Alan Patricof, AP CEO Tom Curley and many more.