Flipboard’s acquisition of Zite from CNN represents more than just the exciting times we live in for M&A.
It speaks to a much deeper and more challenging trend in content publishing and consumption, with consequences across media and advertising.
For me, it’s a confirmation that for consumers, the medium is now the message – or at least equally important to the message. We’ve reached the point where the preferences we have in how we consume content, whether it’s by search, by device, or by social network, is now a more important aspect to our media behavior than the actual content. For example, if you love Flipboard, or Facebook, or whatever, you’re going to read whatever you find on there naturally, and so providers of news, finance, sports etc are now largely subject to consumers’ platform choices.
Much of this is driven by force of habit – the app-ification of life has led us to repeat, almost compulsively, screen-pressing behaviors, and to simply absorb whatever then appears through the interface we grow to know and love. Flipboard is clearly a text-book example of physical habit development. This makes device homepage real estate more and more critical in the ongoing war between publishers and the tech channels that distribute them.
The rapid and well-funded development of players such as Flipboard into content owners demonstrates an incredible vulnerability in the marketplace, and shows how a lack of innovation from content creators can lead to rapid shifts in power in the content arena.
For some it’s too late to fight back, but savvy media brands are already delivering products that wrap their content in a premium next-gen interface. For example, we recently built the Comedy Central app, which helps you find awesome new content through a truly enjoyable discovery interface.
Content creators appear to have two choices:
1) Allow your content to disappear unmonetized into the social web
2) Seize hold of your users and align to their desires for slick, sleek and useful ways to consume, and do it quickly.