Levvel Blog - Video Series: The Future of Digital Media—Tools and Trends Shaping the Industry

Video Series: The Future of Digital Media—Tools and Trends Shaping the Industry

Introduction

This video blog series is lead by our team of Digital Media and Publishing experts. Throughout this series, they will cover the future of the digital media industry, common challenges brands and companies are facing today, the future of content, how brands can increase engagement and retention, modern content creation practices, and the tools that are powering the industry. We will answer some of the toughest questions brands and companies are asking themselves as the digital media industry continues to evolve at a rapid pace.

Table of Contents

Episode 1: What are the Challenges Brands and Companies Face?

Episode 1 Transcription

Christoph Khouri: The main challenge that I see brands and companies face when it comes to digital media is keeping up with the ever-changing landscape and the constant innovation behind the supply and demand of content. We’re all trying to keep up with new types of content being introduced, to different ways content is being consumed, and then volatile revenue models powering the industry.

On top of that, we don’t want content to become a commodity because of aggregators like Facebook, Apple News, and YouTube. Brands need to stay top of mind to their consumers. They used to market directly to customers, B2C or to businesses, B2B, but now we need to think about a new form of marketing—B2A—how to rank within the algorithms and AI behind the next wave of aggregators and publishers. It’s a whole new level of SEO. And speaking of revenue, for many publishers and content creators, advertising doesn’t always work. Brands and companies need to continue to think about how to diversify their revenue between not only advertising, but also subscriptions, and other areas such as licensing, syndication deals, events, e-commerce, or even affiliate programs.

Considering a headless CMS? Here are five benefits to a decoupled architecture.

Ralph Khattar: I think one of the challenges from a technology perspective for brands and businesses in the digital media space is simply keeping up with the pace of innovation and that deals with content creation tools all the way to services on the front-end consumption side. Web technology specifically right now is going through a lot of changes, and the historic lines between a native application and web application are starting to blur. And at the same time, non-web, non-classical platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, even podcasts, those have started to emerge as new ways for consumers to consume content.

From a technology perspective, a lot of times it’s not clear whether a business should leverage open-source libraries, CMS tools, or even build custom-made solutions. And even more difficult is how to tie all these components together in a cohesive platform that works and can be evolved easily. I think one of the most important things for a brand is to ensure you have a platform where you can iterate, test new ideas, and do that in-tandem with production.

Read our revenue diversification checklist to see eights ways your digital media brand can diversify revenue.

Having a more malleable platform allows a brand to stand out by building different kinds of experiences that would classically require a lot of upfront investment, understanding different patterns around publishing platform pipelines, and developing an architecture that embraces change can help lower those kinds of investments and make development of new features and taking advantage of new formats easier.

Trey Harb: You know, first, there’s so much new content coming from so many directions. How do you stand out? That’s a tough challenge, and making this even more difficult is the fact that your content is now aggregated and it comes to you in a curated format based either on your preferences or a recommendation. What does it mean to be a brand? How do you get credit for your content? More so, how do you monetize your content?

Lastly, from a technology perspective, your content should be responsive to whatever device is used to view it. There are so many new places content is available and in so many formats. Brands have to figure out a way to utilize their publishing platform to adapt to what’s here and what’s next.

Episode 2: What Does Content Look Like in the Future?

Episode 2 Transcription

Christoph Khouri: The only thing we know for sure about the future of content is that it’s always changing. The change from analog to digital was just as big as the change we’re currently going through with the advent of voice, interactive video, social media, and VR. Another thing that’s changing is the way that content is being consumed.

Consumers want to get their content from websites, voice assistance, chat bots, podcasts, social media, and streaming video. They also want to be able to watch your videos on their phone, on a long Uber ride, or read your content on the fridge in the kitchen while waiting for the microwave, or get real-time notifications of breaking news on their watch while waiting in the checkout line. Just like you want to diversify your revenue, you also want to diversify the types of content that you create in order to maximize your reach.

Considering a headless CMS? Here are five benefits to a decoupled architecture.

As an example, you could explore a mix of short-form versus long-form content to give your consumers options to fit into their schedules based on intentional or interstitial consumption. Contents creators need to have tools and services in place that allow them to create and distribute their message in multiple formats to multiple devices—no matter what comes next. No one has solved this puzzle yet, and to make it worse, the puzzle pieces are always changing, but we’re all on this journey together.

Ralph Khattar: One of the things to consider when looking at the changing landscape of content is how your architecture is set up to handle the introduction of different content formats and distribution channels. That could be anything from the way content is stored and normalized to how you use processes to distribute it. A platform that embraces flexible content types can more easily evolve over time. And no one really knows what content is going to look like in the future.

There will always be new different types of content. For example, apple news or Google amp stories and articles and there may be in the future even standardized content types for AR, VR, or audio. From a technical perspective, the best approach is to employ a structured data philosophy where content is stored in a normalized state. This makes things easier to massage and transform so you can take that content and turn it into different formats.

Read our revenue diversification checklist to see eights ways your digital media brand can diversify revenue.

From an architecture evaluation perspective, it’s important to look at the entire pipeline from creation to storage to distribution and make sure each one of those steps is optimized to allow the business to quickly adapt to new technologies. One of the benefits to thinking of content in a structured way is that for each one of your distribution channels, you can easily optimize the experience.

So as an example, storing entity-based tags as data can improve the experience with results on Google or your SEO because it can more easily provide that rich set of information needed to rank highly for those searches. It also makes displaying the content on different interfaces easier, whether it’s on a mobile app or in a web context with react, angular, or another front-end framework.

Trey Harb: First, the consumer’s in control. The consumer will determine when, where, and how they consume content, whether it’s a snackable audio or video clip to a longer format. Consumers will embrace what they’re comfortable with in terms of that format, whether it’s a mobile device or watch, desktop, tablet, et cetera. So a key moving forward is normalizing how content is stored so that it can be retrieved by any device, at any time, both now and, you know, in the future.

Considering a headless CMS? Here are five benefits to a decoupled architecture.

Second, data is going to play a much larger role. First, how content created, we can now use data to figure out stories, patterns, then create content to describe what we see. Second, how you store content in the metadata associated with that storage. Again, pointing to a normalized architecture I mentioned earlier.

Lastly, good design is really, really important. When content is consumed on a specific device, consumers want to see a design and a presentation that makes sense for that content and that device. So although we don’t know what content will specifically look like in the future, we know that consumer control, data, and design are going to be really important.

Episode 3: How to Better Understand Your Audience to Increase Engagement

Episode 3 Transcription

Christoph Khouri: Understanding not only what your audience consumes, but how, when, and where can help drive how new content is created. In order to get the data you need to make informed decisions, you need the ability to try new formats, explore new distribution channels, and experiment with new approaches. Having a flexible platform that includes the integration of things like multivariate testing, real-time analytics, machine learning, or AI to help identify trends is critical to knowing the pulse of your audience.

That said, there is also a gut feeling that should be taken into consideration. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new things. Either way, your platform should enable—it should empower you to try new things, not restrict you. Brands also need to be active where their consumers are active. It’s no longer a one-way street where your consumer always comes to you. Thinking about your audience as a community allows you and others to engage at a completely different level.

Social media should be top of mind in all phases of this process. Interact with your customers, reply to their tweets, engage with their content, and even bring them back into the main conversation if they add a different or unique view on the topic. When consumers feel like they’re part of the story, they’re more likely to share their experiences with their friends and their followers, increasing engagement beyond even your reach.

Read our revenue diversification checklist to see eights ways your digital media brand can diversify revenue.

Ralph Khattar: One of the best ways to increase engagement for a brand or business is to start by measuring all user interactions on the consumer side. So, on a web context, for example, this could be page views, clicks or touches, maybe even dwell time. Streaming this real-time data into analytics tools will give the business a more holistic view into the content and the performance of that content on different platforms.

Those analytics can then be used to influence content creation decision making in a feedback loop that keeps the experience in tune with the customer. Another way for the brand to be more in tune with the consumer is to really understand and cater to their audience. This can be done through consumer personalization where the consumer either explicitly or implicitly informs the brand of their interests, which can drive their experience.

Another very underrated way to improve engagement is to improve performance. Users are universally more engaged with products that respond quickly and avoid slower, laggy transitions. Performance can sometimes be complicated in systems with large code bases, and for that reason, it’s important to ensure systems go through some kind of load testing and performance testing and to maintain these tests to ensure performance doesn’t degrade over time.

Considering a headless CMS? Here are five benefits to a decoupled architecture.

Trey Harb: The beauty of digital is that you can have a two-way communication platform so that we can understand what people are doing, what they’re consuming, how long, why, and what that means.

It also enables us to figure out how to better present it, what not to present, and other ways to go about reaching folks. And you know, we talk about what does content in the future look like? Well, watching how people are consuming the things we enabled today will help guide us to that place and to try to figure it out.

So, how do we better understand our audience? Well, we watch them, and we work with our clients to figure out, okay, what are they doing? Why? What’s resonating? What’s not? And so as we go through the process of creating and building these platforms, we help our customers through that so that they can then better understand and engage with their ultimate end user, whoever that is.

Read our revenue diversification checklist to see eights ways your digital media brand can diversify revenue.

Episode 4: The Content Creation Process and Tooling

Episode 4 Transcription

Christoph Khouri: Every company, every brand, every person has a story to tell. No matter the type of content, the primary goal of the platform is to empower the creator to be able to tell their story. That said, every story is unique and every creator has a unique approach. Having a solution that can be customized to the particular workflows of the editor or brand is critical to their success.

This also goes back to the idea behind connecting and understanding your audience. Content creation for any medium is a flywheel of ideation, creation, distribution, analytics, and back to ideation. It may seem obvious, but the more you know about your audience, their interests, their consumption habits, the more thought you can put into creating tailored content that speaks directly to them. There’s also the concept of native real-time, a term I’ve been using for a while to help drive home the fact that everything in the platform should be real-time from the display of analytics of your video views to the audience, interaction, and engagement.

Considering a headless CMS? Here are five benefits to a decoupled architecture.

Social media replies to the ability to update content on your site as it happens, character-by-character if you want. There are many off the shelf tools and services that can support common workflows, but as the brand grows and creates more tailored experiences, custom plugins, or even custom platforms with purpose-built tooling can allow brands to iterate quickly and give them the edge to stand out from the crowd.

Ralph Khattar: The content creation process and tooling is very important, especially for medium to large size brands and companies. Having dedicated, purpose-built content creation tools allows a brand to set themselves apart with different experiences. It also gives a brand the ability to get content out quickly and easily.

From a technology perspective, it’s important to think about how these tools are integrated into a platform, whether it’s a separate application leveraging common authentication or the plugins and modules to a CMS such as Drupal or WordPress, businesses should aim to automate where it makes sense and where the biggest slowdowns in the process occur.

Read our revenue diversification checklist to see eights ways your digital media brand can diversify revenue.

Some approaches that can help with this are tying data sources and systems together through API integration and introducing features that smooth any bumps in a content creation workflow. As an example, having tools suggest metadata tags on content based on text or audio analysis is one way to automate a large chunk of work and allow the brand to get content out quicker.

Trey Harb: The interesting thing about this is it’s an emphasis on process because once you understand the process and how you want to go about creating content, whether that’s talking to people, whether that’s actually synthesizing information that you take in and then communicating to people, that process and what you’re intending to communicate to others, that then informs the tools.

And so that’s where a lot of the magic happens and it is, okay, hey Levvel guys, what does it look like for us to do this in this way? Great, why and how do you want to go about doing that? And from there, we can help you select the proper tools. So it really is, I hate to use the word, it depends, but it does depend on what somebody is trying to do and how we can most efficiently go about helping them do that.

See more from our Digital Media team:

Christoph Khouri

Christoph Khouri

VP, Practice Lead, Publishing and Digital Media

Christoph Khouri is a pioneer in the digital media industry with deep knowledge of both the product and technical sides of digital entertainment. Christoph currently leads Levvel’s Digital Media and Publishing Practice. He has been in the Digital Media and Publishing space for over 15 years, helping brands and product companies build platforms to connect with their audiences. Prior to joining Levvel, Christoph served as Chief Architect and Head of Strategy and Architecture at AOL, managing the publishing platform for all of their digital media brands including Huffington Post, Engadget, and AOL.com. Christoph also held leadership roles at several successful startups including ThreeDeep, a Diageo new business venture, and Blogsmith, an innovator of web publishing which was acquired by AOL. Christoph founded and served as the CTO of Castfire, (now part of WideOrbit) a cutting edge digital streaming media platform with clients ranging from NFL, MLS, to ESPN and AOL. Christoph brings a wealth of knowledge and an extensive track record of building successful teams, products, and technical architectures.

Ralph Khattar

Ralph Khattar

Director of Solution Engineering

Ralph Khattar is Levvel’s Director of Solution Engineering in the Digital Media vertical. Before joining Levvel, Ralph worked at large digital media companies as a technology leader and oversaw the architecture of the content platform for multiple large media brands, delivering billions of page views per month. Ralph brings experience in building large, sophisticated systems that can scale to handle the demands of businesses of any size.

Trey Harb

Trey Harb

Digital Media Insider

Trey Harb connects people and concepts to solve business problems in the digital media vertical. He’s a 20-year veteran of media and technology, having spent time with Hearst (WYFF-TV), Cox (WSOC-TV), and Time Warner Cable Media. Trey was part of the national team that launched Ads Everywhere, TWC’s entry into the OTT space.

Trey holds a BSBA in economics and banking from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC, and earned an MBA from the University of Georgia. His travels have taken him to rival football programs throughout the SEC, skiing and hiking mountains across the US, and all the way to Spain where he ran with the bulls. He enjoys traveling with his wife Sara and two children, Miles and Meredith, who know that a body of salt water with sand and fish make for a great family vacation.

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