OPINION: Owned media descends from the stratosphere

Craig Hodges
By Craig Hodges | 6 November 2012
Craig Hodges CEO at King Content

I was sitting there a few weeks ago watching Felix Baumgartner plummet to Earth from 128,000 feet, struck by the sheer enormity of the effort, when I was distracted by the thought that Red Bull had nailed another astonishing promotion.

In fact, the only thing coming close to the enormity of the stunt was the record-breaking number of views on YouTube – seven million live views and the highest concurrent audience ever. Add to this the fact that the footage was streamed by 130 digital outlets and the real-time views would have been monumental.

Does Red Bull’s marketing team ever mess up? Here’s a brand with its own production house that spends very little on paid advertising (if any at all), yet still seems to be everywhere. They are absolutely the poster child of "owned media". While they still spend money in earned and paid media, as well as shared (or social) media, they have taken their owned media to a very new level.

Red Bull Media House was launched in 2007 and now owns one of the highest circulating magazines in the world, operates a TV station, produces documentaries, music and movies, and operates 900 domains in 36 languages under the redbull.com website.

Red Bull are obviously benefiting from their growing reliance on owned media, and they certainly aren't the only ones. American Express has Open Forum for small business in the US and recently launched The Business Room in Australia. The AFL are also spending increasingly more time on developing the content and product they own, recently hiring a senior journalist as their head of content.
So why is there a growing focus on owned media? I suspect a couple of things have changed.

When the phrase “earned, owned and paid media” was coined by Forrester Research in 2009, the focus was well and truly on paid. The multinational media networks loved paid media because the gold was flowing to their coffers as well as the rebates flowing back to the media agencies, who also had a similar love of all things ‘paid’.

So what’s happened? Firstly, there was the tidal wave of readers, viewers and listeners becoming eyeballs and users. Mainstream media will never leave us, but their best days are certainly in the rear-view mirror. Secondly, Google started to get a stranglehold on all things online and began driving those users and eyeballs back to websites – that’s right, those ‘owned’ assets.

With all this traffic flowing back to those websites, have brands started to think that a user on their site might be a little cheaper to acquire than going through a media company and paying for it via a third party? More importantly, who owns the data on the user who comes to that brand’s owned asset? The brand does, not the media.

So if you think about it, the brand invests in its own asset, uses the biggest marketing tool known to mankind to drive them back to that owned asset, and then through the data has an intimate knowledge of what that user has done and what they are likely to do.

We're starting to see a pattern here. While brands will never ignore mainstream media, the shift to social and owned assets is gaining significant momentum, and there are real reasons why a media company like Disney buys LucasFilm – they own the asset and they own the content.

When Felix Baumgarter was heading towards Earth at 1342 km/h, it was being filmed by Red Bull Media, who then distributed that content to the media networks. Not only does Red Bull own the content, but that same content is now becoming the news. Brands are making the news. Oh, how times have changed.

At the epicentre of the owned media asset is the content, which comes in many different forms and is the very thing our friends at Google love the most. With Google continuing to reward brands that develop engaging and shareable content, the rise of the owned asset will continue to grow. I have no doubt that when the NBN finally arrives, the growth will explode as more brands go down the path of producing their own media assets.

In fact, it raises some very interesting questions. If owned media continues on its merry way, where does that leave the media agencies that are reliant on spending their clients’ paid media budgets and receiving rebates from the very spots they place that media? Does this mean that owned assets will soon dominate most marketing budgets? And surely this pushes someone out of the loop?

It may not only be Felix Baumgartner that’s plummeting down at a rate of knots.

Craig Hodges
King Content

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