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If you can't beat 'em, buy 'em

In what they may consider a bold initiative, major media companies are increasingly fighting audience erosion by trying to out-do what their on line competitors are doing. Proof positive comes in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

Driven by fear of losing advertisers and audience to the Internet, large media conglomerates are spending billions in a spate of acquisitions and aggressive Internet initiatives, and are likely to keep on spending.

Companies like Viacom Inc., News Corp. and Time Warner Inc. worry that they will miss the rapid expansion of Internet advertising while their own, more-traditional sources of revenue growth are slowing. Some hope to directly challenge the giant portals like Yahoo Inc. and Google Inc. -- Web sites that serve as gateways to the Internet. Others are transferring some of their most valuable content to online sites, even though that risks alienating their traditional distribution partners.

"Traditional distribution partners." Like a cross-country runner in cement sneakers, legacy players can see the finish line but can't seem to get their feet moving that way. Going through the motions and trying to "buy" the channel screams out of old-line thinking isn't going to get it done. When rules change, your game has to change.

Are you doing the same thing? Remember push vs. pull. (see: They Just Don't Get It) Denying this shift is akin to lamenting the halcyon days of 50¢ gasoline; it's a new world. Dig deep, pay up and keep driving.

Consumers are like water--taking the path of least resistance to get where they're going. So, what's really happening here? Net providers are giving consumers what they want better and legacy media companies are working to figure out how to navigate new waters.

Effective marketing has to look the consumer square in the eye and say: "I get it. I see what you want. I'll give it to you, baloney-free. Honest."  Involve customers. Provide choices. Allow them to shape their experience.

Instead of promoting huuuuge selection, give details of selected popular items and offer to "special shop" for something specific if it isn't in your normal line. Specific and relevant, this seemingly minor effort brands you responsive and head-and-shoulders above your customers other choices.

It's not magic. It's listening and responding. It's about being authentic and creating a personal experience for every customer who comes in contact with your business.


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