The Digital Future of Traditional Media

Ashley Terpstra
June 14, 2018
When thinking about the cycle of innovation, it’s often a “chicken and egg” situation as to which factor drives change. Is it the development of technology that comes first and then ignites a shift in consumer behavior? Or is it consumers who drive change by demanding new technology to support their evolving needs? Consumer behavior […]

Watching TV

When thinking about the cycle of innovation, it’s often a “chicken and egg” situation as to which factor drives change. Is it the development of technology that comes first and then ignites a shift in consumer behavior? Or is it consumers who drive change by demanding new technology to support their evolving needs?

Consumer behavior often leads, which was the case several years ago with local search: the influx of searches for things “near me” led Google to develop new search result types for local queries, including the local three pack.

Technology can also lead change, although as innovations like Google Glass and QR Codes have shown, consumers don’t always latch on. But when technology leads and does get it right, it can create an entirely new movement or norm. Amazon is a perfect example: their personalized consumer experience and quick shipping paved the way for dominance in ecommerce shopping, reportedly accounting for 43% of all online sales in 2017.

No matter what the catalyst is, one thing is abundantly clear: there is clear a relationship between technology, consumer behavior, and marketing opportunities.

stay AHEAD OF changes by leading with data

As marketers, we need to look at the innovation cycle from both directions – how is the technology changing and inspiring consumers to change, and vice versa. There are many facets to consider within those two factors – things like device, consumer journey stage, media channel, and in-store experience – but the reality is they all matter more to brands and marketers than they do to consumers. At the end of the day, consumers don’t care what your approach was – their only concern is that their need is being met.

Data tells us that media channels are changing. It’s probably not surprising that 61% of millennials get their TV content from online streaming services (Pew 2017) while only 10% of those ages 50–64 are doing the same. Media must acknowledge and evolve alongside that behavioral shift. Another well-reported fact is how the growth in digital media spend is eroding the share of other channels. eMarketer predicts digital ad spending will make up half of all US ad spend by 2021.


As the world embraces a digital reality, both consumers and marketers expect immediacy of results and precision in targeting across channels. But that doesn’t mean the benefits of traditional media channels should be ignored: things like the storytelling and reach capabilities of TV, the engaged audience of print, and the loyalty of radio listeners are still incredibly important considerations.

The key is to combine the best of digital and the best of traditional to maximize success. Remember when we said consumers don’t care how you do it as long as their needs are met? A huge part of this is meeting them where they are, wherever that may be. In their minds, separate digital, traditional, and physical worlds no longer exist, so they are looking for the same seamless experience from start to finish. As a result, integration and the ability to optimize within and across channels is key.

Big names in our industry – Oracle and Moat, Nielsen Total Ratings, Comscore and Rentrack – are committing lots of time and money (and making strides and acquisitions) to create technology that makes integration possible. The industry is closing the gap between traditional and digital to include robust targeting, channels that work together seamlessly, and the ability to tie online exposure to offline activity.

Advances in Traditional Media channels

Technology is allowing marketers to reach consumers in different ways.

TV is perhaps one of the most talked about traditional channels when it comes to recent advancements. Marketers can now buy linear programming in a programmatic fashion. Addressable TV can pinpoint ads to specific households, and OTT (over the top) reaches people who don’t subscribe to traditional cable services, known as cord-cutters and cord-nevers.

Out of home (OOH) is another channel that has greatly expanded its targeting and measurement capabilities. And interestingly, in a world of over-saturation, ad blocking and ad skipping, it’s one medium that can’t be tuned out quite as easily. OOH used to be measured by daily traffic counts (DEC); then it advanced to include GeoPath data, a score given that includes census data, traffic patterns, and the actual placement of each ad space. Now, technology is available at limited scale that allows digital ad spaces to only show ads when a person within a targeted audience is driving or walking by, made possible by the one device we always have with us – our phone.

eMarketer reports that 70% of US adults watch TV while simultaneously engaging with a second screen.

Now there are technologies that can be used to determine which ad is being shown on television, and if there is a call for a digital ad on a device in that same household, marketers can bid on that placement. If you’re running TV alongside display banners, the combination enforces your message. Likewise, by optimizing search campaigns when TV ads run, brands can secure top positions for a better defense against competition. Or, if you don’t have a TV campaign, bid on your competitors’ ads, or even complementary products.

Cross-channel cohesion is especially important if you’re using channels that are notoriously hard to measure, like print. Despite the decline in circulation of print magazines and newspapers, certain industries in both B2B and B2C worlds still rely heavily on print. It is crucial, therefore, to know your audience and have other ways to capture increases in awareness from those readers when they are ready to investigate further.

Even direct mail is getting revamped, with technology in place to send customized mail pieces to people who have been searching your website, eliminating waste and adding a measurable component to a once hard-to-measure channel. A true case of merging online and offline worlds.


With all of these changes taking place, there are a few key takeaways for brands and marketers:

  • Consumer behavior and technology are evolving together
  • Traditional media is alive and well because of its evolution in the digital world
  • Some inventory for these advanced technologies doesn’t exist at scale yet, so innovative brands are getting in early
  • To consumers, digital, traditional, and physical worlds are no longer separate; for marketers, technology is allowing the dots to be connected
  • Lean into innovation with your media dollars – if the technology doesn’t yet exist, it’s probably coming sooner and more measurably than you think


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