Blog: Terry Oprea

Terrence Oprea is the President and CEO of Mort Crim Communications and a 30-year veteran of broadcast television and radio programming. Along with his numerous awards (including local Emmy's and the National Headliner Awards), he’s presided over New Media content initiatives for online corporate communications in a variety of fields. Terry will be writing about the changes and challenges traditional media faces as technology and the Internet rewrite many of the rules.

Post No. 4

Everyone’s talking about content these days. Very few really understand that the one thing that is least valued in the advertising community is the most priceless commodity to the consumers who are moving to digital communication in droves.

So with that in mind, here are Unlucky Reasons for Media Freakout numbers 4 and 5:

#4. Traditional advertising creative messages don't pass the authenticity smell test because they consist of mostly made up content or redundant cloned messages - not "found" real-world content.

#5. Traditional media only "presents" a small menu of homogenized content because it’s structurally and economically impossible to do otherwise.

The word "content" has been severely bastardized because it has been put in a box and limited. If you have a 30 second commercial that an advertising writer made up out of the clear blue in order to be imaginative and unique, that would be called “rich content” by writers, producers and agency chiefs hawking their wares.

But that is far from the kind of content that attracts the new kinds of readers, watchers and users on an ongoing basis. Why? Because 30 seconds of one message or a singular ad becomes useless very, very quickly, and for a number of reasons. Let me list them:

1.      Our capacity to absorb volumes of content in a multitask environment is much, much deeper and broader than it was 20years, ten years, five years, and even one year ago. Think about how it feels to be going 75 on the freeway and then being forced to go 5mph for even a small period of time. You get frustrated and even surly. Same deal with limited, uni-dimensional content.

2.       Same holds true with print advertising. Though print advertising can still be very effective in some venues, the print venue has even more severe challenges. First, the so-called "read-through" rate in print publications has been a huge problem. In some daily publication there's a 30% to 40% drop in readership when you go from Page One to Page Three. And that's not even talking about advertising messages - that read-through drop-off even includes editorial content in most places.

3.      The second print problem goes back to that pesky "filtering" issue. Many readers easily and seamlessly scan through newspapers, focusing only on the headlines that are most important to them. These days many are not only ignoring ads, but are not even consciously aware of their existence in many cases. That's how sophisticated the filtering instinct has become among readers.

4.      The advertising world today thinks of itself as sort of a miniature Hollywood culture. Movies. Movie Stars. Celebrities. High-priced commercials. Or “creative” ideas pulled right out of someone’s…er….imagination.

The problem is that consumers know the difference between Hollywood made up stuff and commercial made up stuff. More and more consumers just aren’t buying it when you’re trying to sell them something.

That doesn’t mean that commercial messaging is dead. Far from it. It’s just that it will eventually be dead if advertisers don’t get on the content bandwagon. The problem is that most Ad Agencies are ill-equipped to find authentic content spontaneously, while having that authenticity regularly interact with their brands.

A number of firms have tried it with entertainment programming – and with few exceptions, they’ve failed miserably, while spending a ridiculous amount of money. Some of the automakers have done it. Go ahead and ask them how it all turned out.

The key is REAL, not contrived. Spontaneous reality, not manipulated like the mind-numbing reality shows that are pandemic today. Low production values – not Hollywood. Stuff that really IS the way it really is, while spontaneously reacting to and interacting with the retailer or product or what-have-you. It takes a journalistic sensibility to do that – not an Ad Agency sensibility.

You have to produce or create lots and lots of that kind of content, using primarily rich media (audio and video) in a digital distribution environment. Instead of a bunch of 30 minute episodes of reality, consumers like boatloads of 90 second to 2-minute episodes of serialized content.

So that brings me to a fundamental weakness traditional TV and Print publications have (Freakout Reason #5):

5. Traditional media only "presents" a small menu of homogenized content because it’s structurally and economically impossible to do otherwise.

Local TV only has 24 hours of programming, in real-time. Though you can easily Tivo any of the programs you want, the stations only acquire and produce enough programming to fill 24 hours. And most of that is off the shelf syndicated stuff, network material, and infomercials. News and special events occupy the rest. Never mind that today there is maybe 4 times the amount of news on a given local channel with a new reporting and producing staff that is generally 40% smaller than it was 20 years ago.

The fact is that the demands for increased profitability from TV’s mostly publicly held conglomerate owners as well as prohibitive labor agreements make it extremely difficult to meet the local demands for more and more and more content. Much of it on the air is simply repeated, which again fails the smell test for new information consumers.

Newspapers have even more obvious problems. It costs money to print papers. It costs money for ink. The bigger the paper, the more it costs to publish. Newspaper size is driven by ad revenue, period. No ads to fill those pages, and suddenly the amount of news content permitted in the paper shrinks dramatically. Limited content, again, smells bad.

But there is hope amid the challenges! Stay tuned for my last two Media Freakout Reasons in my next and last blog…