Mass media used to be a thing. The thing in fact. If you hit Saturday night TV with your brand, you were reaching a vast audience – and within that large scope you would aim to reach your demographic by creating appropriate content.

 

Now, massively fragmented media is the thing. Advertisers use data to reach the appropriate audience, and because less people watch one channel on Saturday night, it might well be the case that your brand isn’t well served by paying the premium rates to get those spots. Because it doesn’t matter how appropriate the content is if the right people aren’t watching.

 

Large audience aggregation (few TV channels, large audiences for newspapers etc) has effectively disappeared as media has entered a process of endless fragmentation.

 

(Here, as a rough indication of just how fragmented, is what things looked like twenty years ago compared with today.)

 

Twenty years ago, there was scarce distribution, with (vast) audiences aggregated in a few places. Today, that model has neatly flipped. Audiences are smaller and fragmented and distribution is vast.

 

All of the above has led to an increased focus (and budget) on the audience, rather than, as was previously the case, on the content. When media distribution was scarce, content was what differentiated your brand and helped it reach the right audience. Today, audience attention is scarce – so being able to be precise about whose attention you are getting helps to reduce wastage and reach the right audience at the right time.

 

In this fragmented world, the foundation of media planning and buying is increasingly based on finding, targeting, aggregating and communicating with specific audiences.

 

Does all of this mean that content no longer matters as much?

 

No! First, effective content will always help to differentiate the brand. Second, fragmented media has led to more competition for media space owners – they have a great need to differentiate their services too – so they have a lot riding on helping deliver quality content.

 

Content still needs to be a priority for brands – but the audience demands at least equal consideration. The future of media is going to be defined by both.

 

By Oliver Brown