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Digital Hollywood Panel Discusses Media in an Economic Downturn

By Chris Tribbey | Posted: 27 Oct 2008

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — A Digital Hollywood panel on the current and future value of digital media took a political turn Oct. 27 when a member of the audience asked how the industry would be affected should America become a “spread the wealth” country next year.

After the panelists looked at each other, unsure how to respond to the reference to presidential candidate Barack Obama, Peter Daley, VP of tech advisory firm Union Square Advisors, finally said: “Hopefully, that means there’s gonna be some wealth to share.”

Like most every segment of American business, media and entertainment companies are being affected by the downturn in the economy, the panelists said. Investments into new online ventures are slowing and advertisers are being more careful where they spend their money. On the flipside: As in past difficult economic times, home entertainment fares well, simply because people spend more time at home.

“People stop going out to movies and instead watch a DVD or [video on demand],” Daley said, adding that the bar for content aggregators has become low. “If you’re around four or five years from now, that’s good. Flat is the new up.”

Lori Schwartz, SVP and director of emerging media for the Interpublic Emerging Media Lab, said the successful digital delivery companies are ones that have acknowledged, “The consumer is the new editor.

“Talk to anyone under 30 at my office and they don’t subscribe to cable or satellite,” she said. “They utilize broadband, watching YouTube or Hulu. Older demographics are much more niche in their activity.”

Seth Shapiro, principal of consulting firm New Amsterdam Media, argued that while younger, tech-savvy people may be the key demo targeted by advertisers, “small boutique players still have a life because they can offer niche product.” He added that the home entertainment industry should be praised for embracing new digital delivery venues, instead of fighting them.

“The worst mistake the music industry ever made was [to] kick Napster, instead of embracing it,” he said.

Shapiro was also intrigued with new advertising and marketing opportunities available to content owners via BD Live and Blu-ray Disc, suggesting that consumer tie-ins could be used when new material is available for a movie or TV show.

But Daley cautioned that advertisers are still trying to get a bead on how much online advertising, in its varying forms, is actually worth.

“What everyone wants to do is land the plane on social media and find out what is the [return on investment]?” he said. “People who use Facebook aren’t stupid and they don’t want irrelevant content. … Companies that have a purpose, that have an audience … will do well.”

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