OPINION: Who ate all the eyeballs?

By Nick Keenan | 3 April 2012

Before I answer my view on the above headline I have a confession to make. One which I think a lot of us in media have been guilty of in recent times, as many of us unwittingly behaved liked a pack of apple-polishers and gleefully presented 'Fragmentation' as the single biggest driver of change in media since … err ummm, well since media was invented right? Well to begin with there is a great quote on technology which says: “Technology does not drive change, it enables it”.

Nevertheless I and many others shouted “Technology, technology” in chorus as we lamented the fragmenting world of media and the splitting of the audience across so many different pieces of content that we were never going to see them again, at least not in the numbers of old. These were factually fun and easy presentations to put together given the reams of data to pick and choose from when constructing a landscape document, and we could back it up with a multiple choice of new content platforms to prove the point.

Furthermore there was the vast and growing list of technological “content innovations” from blue tooth, to hover tech, and QR coding; the list goes on, and new ones are launched almost daily (slight exaggeration but you get the idea).

Yep! We were so sure of it. The definition of a mass audience had forever changed and like some modern counter trend of 'digital de-urbanisation' tribes began spreading out across the web reverting us back to caveman-like, niched populations. It felt that unless you had worked out how to speak the new hybrid tongue of 'Tradigital' (my invented language of combined consumers) being spoken across new 'BIG' consolidated/integrated networks you as an advertiser were now hopelessly lost and would never see a mass audience again. We were told and believed we now must grapple with using multiple platforms within traditional media to reach the large numbers we once accessed in single channel environments, and technically when referring to traditional media this was factually correct.

I think after about the 10th or maybe 50th presentation (call me slow or quick you be the judge) I started having my very own Jerry McGuire moment, they wouldn’t sign my chewing gum fan card, and I started noticing the little things. The Facebook I was logging on to at night, the Google searches, the music, games plus apps from iTunes, and the books I was buying on Amazon. Fragmentation at home didn’t feel right and I was “showing my money” and time to other media. What became glaringly obvious was a Jerry-like truth that needed to be written down.

That truth was that media was not fragmenting, in fact in direct contradiction a mass audience had gathered on a scale not seen since the beginning of media when there was just a newspaper and then later the radio, or perhaps it was the other way around. In any case the whole population had two choices in media and the Mad Men ruled the day trading huge mass congregations of people in one space.

Which brings me back to the truth that contradicts the claim of fragmentation. Take Facebook and Google as two examples. Facebook has over 80% of all people 25-54 (the all-conquering demo) in Australia which no one network or even combined set of leading networks in traditional TV or print could ever bring to market and offer an advertiser that kind of scale. Even more impressive, Google has 96% of all Australians online which Nielsen has listed as an active universe of 15.9 million. Put simply these examples along with others such as Amazon, YouTube, and eBay have enormous mass audiences, the likes of which we have never seen.

This is hardly what you could call a fragmenting media landscape, as quite clearly it is the opposite. By comparison the old media heavyweights like TV are beginning to lose their mass appeal. In 2005 there were 21 shows (outside of sport and event TV) that reached an audience of 2m, and in 2011 that has dropped to just 7 (a decline of 65%). So with one side up and one side down perhaps what is really happening is just a change in ownership.

When you consider the facts, fragmentation is starting to look no more complicated than a stampede of customers running to content on what is now technologically and socially new, and they have been eagerly gobbled up by the digital brands listed above. I guess the more things change the more they stay the same right? So in 2012 we should put an end to labeling media as a fragmenting world, and call it for what it is: “Consumers aided by technology switching landlords”.

Nick Keenan
Head of Implementation, Planning and Investment

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