Media fragmentation: 10 things you can do right now

The World Wide Web as we know it began close to 25 years ago with the introduction of the Mosaic web browser in 1993. Back then, planning and executing a comprehensive marketing campaign was relatively simple. The typical agency was much more like the world of Mad Men than what it is today – a world dominated by data and digital. Today, the choices facing strategic marketing planners, creatives and media planners have exploded. (Media planning? We don’t even call it that now…in a world where everything is media, we call it channel planning.)

The following represents the typical options under consideration when creating a campaign in 1992 versus 2018. It’s a gross understatement to say that a lot has changed in 25 years.

1993 2018
Broadcast Broadcast & cable TV, broadcast radio Broadcast TV, cable TV, addressable TV, broadcast radio, satellite radio, podcasts, streaming video and audio (e.g., Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube, Pandora, Twitch and hundreds of other streaming video/audio services), digital cinema ads, music sharing (e.g., Spotify), 360-degree video, augmented reality video, virtual reality video, Facebook LIVE, Periscope, Meerkat, Apple Music “Beats One” Station
Print Newspapers, magazines Newspapers, magazines, iPad, Kindle, Nook and many other e-readers, RSS feeds, social bookmarks (e.g., Digg, Reddit), online editions of print publications, online aggregators of digital pubs (e.g., Flipboard, Pocket)
Direct Direct mail, telephone, fax Direct mail, telephone, fax, email, pURLS, SMS/MMS instant messaging, mobile apps (push notifications), WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, marketing automation (e.g., Marketo, Hubspot)
Outdoor Billboards, transit posters Billboards, transit posters, digital outdoor signs, projections on sides of buildings, outdoor installations, digital banners at sporting and entertainment events
PR Press releases, media events Press releases, media events, social media influencer outreach (e.g., bloggers, Instagram celebrities, YouTube stars), digital content distribution, online livecast/streaming, online events, Guerilla marketing, flashmobs promoted on YouTube and other social outlets (see Social Media for more “PR” tactics)
In-Store Printed or handwritten POS signs Printed or hand-written POS signs, digital POS signs, motion-activated coupon dispensers, touch-screen POS kiosks, mobile shopping apps, location-based/GPS-enable apps/devices, Apple Pay, Samsung Pay, Google Pay, 2-D barcodes, NFC
Digital Devices Walkman CD and tape players TiVo/DVRs, iPod/MP3 players, game consoles, portable gaming devices, laptops/PCs (and see the Artificial Intelligence entry for more digital devices)
World Wide Web Didn’t exist Websites, e-commerce, mobile web, smartphone and tablet apps/games, banner ads, native advertising, rich media ads, video ads, website takeovers, streaming video and audio (e.g., Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon), live public discussions, webinars, native advertising)
Search Engines Didn’t exist SEO, authority/inbound linking, PPC/paid search (e.g., Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Yahoo! Ads), content marketing
Social Media Didn’t exist Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Linkedin, Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, Tumblr, Foursquare and hundreds of other social networks, forums, discussion boards, more than one hundred million active blogs/vlogs, video and audio podcasts, online gaming
Mobile Didn’t exist Smartphones, tablets, e-readers, smart watches (e.g., Apple Watch), location-based technologies, apps
Marketing Tech Didn’t exist Thousands of software platforms and SaaS systems to plan, manage and measure marketing programs
Internet of Things Didn’t exist Amazon Dash, smart home devices (e.g., connected appliances, security systems, lighting, thermostats, video doorbells), smart apparel, smart speakers
Artificial Intelligence Didn’t exist Facebook Chatbots, Apple Siri, Alexa/Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, Microsoft Cortana, IBM Watson

How marketers can be successful in a fragmented media environment

As marketers, we are all too aware of the media revolution. But what to do about it is another story. If we don’t step back and take a careful look at what’s happening, it becomes very easy to become reactive and put our marketing efforts in the wrong places – or miss opportunities to put time, energy and budgets where we should.


Download this worksheet which guides you through a self-assessment and an action plan for each of the 10 media fragmentation topics covered in this article.


Here are 10 things to consider, to help keep your bearings and set a strategically steady course in today’s fragmented media environment.

1 Inventory your owned and earned assets

Connecting with your audience means placing engaging content at every relevant touchpoint. To be smart about it, you must employ (and deploy) every possible owned and earned communication vehicle (as a side benefit, you may be able to reduce the amount of media spend allocated to paid channels if you’re strategic with your owned and earned media). This provides more benefit than just shifting the emphasis to “free” media (which is a misnomer—see number 3). People typically engage with and trust paid advertising much less than other vehicles that rely on user-generated content, so by engaging in and with UGC, you actually create more credibility. Earned vehicles like social media and product reviews are the new word-of-mouth—the perennial number-one source of new customers since the dawn of marketing.

The first step in putting owned and earned assets to work is taking stock of what you have. Make an inventory of all your organization’s owned and earned communication channels so that whenever you start a new effort you are prepared to consider how it may compliment, or even replace, paid media. Keep the inventory list handy and refer to it for each new campaign or program you undertake.

Image portraying Paid, Owned and Earned types of media

2 Know your target audience

This goes hand-in-hand with number 1. Target audiences are no longer definable in simple demographic terms – they must be understood on psychographic and behavioral levels. Sophisticated segmentation models may be beyond the reach of some marketers, but there are other relatively affordable tools to gain a deep understanding of target audiences.

Some of those tools include MRI, Nielsen, Iconoculture and comScore. Monitor what people are saying about your brand in social media with tools like Hootsuite, Social Mention or others. Read what people are saying about your brand on Facebook, Twitter and in Amazon reviews. These research tools, however, are not a replacement for getting out from behind your desk and talking to or observing your audiences firsthand.

Know their interests, hobbies and work and play activities; learn how they like to consume and engage with content; see what digital devices and social networks they use; and find out how and where they shop or otherwise make decisions about buying products or services in your category. Knowing the channels they are most likely to use will help you engage them where they are, rather than hoping they will come to you or pay attention to your pushed marketing messages.

3 Shift budget from paid media to owned and earned content

This is a hard pill for many marketers to swallow. The traditional thinking is to minimize production costs and maximize paid media expenditure (sometimes called “working dollars”). Remember that, generally speaking, people are not consuming less traditional media, they are consuming much more media in many more forms – often simultaneously. The best answer would be to spend just as much as always on traditional (paid) media, and add owned and earned channels on top of that. Unfortunately, most marketing budgets are not increasing at a rate to make that possible.

Image showing comparison of working dollars versus content creation

The alternative to spending more is borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. If you need to spend more time and money to do an effective job in more places and to produce a more diverse range of communication elements, the resources must come from somewhere. If you need to pay your agency or hire staff to produce more content for more channels, it may mean spending less on paid media.

As media options continue to grow exponentially, advertisers can expect to see the percentage of their total budgets spent on working dollars to shrink while the percent paid to agencies or marketing staff for content development to rise. This is a 30-year trend, but it has been greatly accelerated by the continued explosion of media options. It should be obvious that producing 10 elements for a campaign is less expensive than producing 100 elements. But that’s only the beginning.

4 Move away from “one-to-many” and toward “one-to-one”

Image portraying Global Ad Block Adoption

With consumers employing more ad-blocking technology by the day and distrust of traditional advertising on the rise, brands must move toward making more personalized, one-to-one connections with audiences, and use that kind of strategy to make decisions about which marketing tactics to employ.

Tactics that lean more toward personalization include:

  • Email (by understanding the recipient’s communication preferences as well as your relationship with the individual and crafting messages accordingly)
  • Retargeting (by understanding what people did on your website and serving up appropriate ads elsewhere)
  • Paid search marketing (by dynamically placing people’s search terms in ad headlines)
  • Marketing automation (by building a relationship based on previous activity).

5 Be social in the virtual world the way you are social IRL

How social media fits into the equation of marketing engagement is a much lengthier subject than this post will allow. But let’s hit the essentials, starting with the fact that social media must play a critical role in your marketing program (apologies for stating the obvious). You must develop a playbook for appropriate involvement in at least the channels most relevant to your audience, most likely including: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram (add LinkedIn if you have a B2B brand).

Image of social icons

If you are not already immersed in using social channels in a comprehensive way, then here’s one small nugget of advice on where to begin. Think about social media the same way you would approach in-person socializing: enter quietly, listen to the conversation for a while, then engage in the conversation IF you have something valuable to add. For social media, engagement is king – talking AT people is taboo. Fostering conversations and participating in a way that adds value to people’s lives is the key.

6 Provide useful, beautiful or entertaining content

Now that you are shifting your resources from paid vehicles to owned and earned channels, what do you do with that space, time and effort? Engagement is the key to success. Attracting people who want to engage with your brand is achieved by delivering useful and valuable content, compellingly beautiful content or entertaining content. People want quality, credible, relevant content in every form imaginable, from “snackable” forms that are consumed in ever-smaller bites and ever-shorter timeframes (Tweets and Facebook posts, for example) to more “filling” menu items (blogs, videos, articles, apps, games).

You may need to shift your spending from paid media to provide a continuous, comprehensive, coherent and coordinated flow of fresh, relevant information. (See number 3.) This is the concept of inbound marketing rather than outbound messaging: to be found by tribes of voracious content consumers—to give people what they are searching for—you must keep pumping out a supply of content into the feeding trough, but it must taste good or they will find another source. Use this as a filter: ask yourself, “Is what I am putting out useful, beautiful, entertaining or all three?”

When you’re publishing content, the secret weapon is video. People are consuming video online at a record pace. No matter how much video content you are currently sharing, you would likely do well to produce much more.

Next to its parent, Google, there are more searches performed on YouTube than on any other website. Think about that for a minute. Some organizations are getting thousands or even millions of video views for a media expenditure of $0. Put quality video content on your website, hosted and optimized on a branded YouTube channel for added search and social sharing power. And post a continuous supply of native video on your Facebook and Instagram pages. Is there something you can show or explain or teach in a video that you want people to find when they search on YouTube? The answer is surely yes, so get going. But don’t forget number 4—move to one-to-one.

7 With paid, earned and owned media, think more online, more social and more mobile

Image portraying time spent with different medias

Based on consumers’ media consumption, most marketers spend a higher proportion of their paid media budgets than they should in traditional media, relative to the time consumers are spending with various media options. And don’t forget that more and more, online means social and mobile – so you probably should be emphasizing those channels.

8 Often, the smartest online marketing activity is search

For most brands, the smartest online tactic is SEM (search engine marketing), but SEO (search engine optimization, or organic search) and PPC (pay per click, or paid search) both have key roles to play. In our consumer-controlled environment, you need your brand to show up when people are looking for what you do. People turn to Google for answers about what to buy (and they trust Google more than they trust advertising or the news media). Optimizing content to rank high in organic search results—and supplementing that with paid search—is the key to being found. Google’s research shows that the best results are achieved by both SEO and PPC at the same time.

9 Think mobile

According to a Time Inc. study, consumers who grew up with mobile technology subconsciously move between devices and platforms 27 times per hour.

According to a Time Inc. study, consumers who grew up with mobile technology subconsciously move between devices and platforms 27 times per hour.

How does your website look when viewed on a smartphone or tablet? If your website is not optimized for viewing on mobile devices, that should be near the top of your to-do list. More people now access the internet via mobile devices than from desktop computers. Your mobile user experience will make a significant brand impression – either positive or negative. It’s absolutely flabbergasting to me that in 2017, there are so many websites that are not mobile-friendly. Consumers spend a matter of seconds on a website before they abandon it if the experience is not good.

A mobile-optimized website is just the first step. Be sure you provide a seamless experience across all devices, from smartphone to desktop to tablet, as your audience moves from one device to the next throughout their day. Once your site is mobile-optimized, think about how to push traffic via mobile channels (number 7).

10 Analytics: before, during and after

Data is the new black. Marketers are drowning in data but starved for insights. Where to begin? Establish KPIs (key performance indicators) by which you will measure marketing success and ROI across all your tactics. That’s easy to say, but it can be very hard to do. After defining what you need to measure, you must put the necessary technical pieces in place to capture and analyze relevant data. Employ at least some basic data analysis system (start with Google Analytics and move into more robust analytics platforms as possible) and be sure you are tagging every link in every online touchpoint to enable measurement and optimization.

Real-time campaign metrics now require immediate response and course correction: website landing-page optimization based on Google Analytics, various email versions based on A/B testing, daily optimization of PPC campaigns and continual direct interaction with consumers in numerous social media outlets. Now there’s even real-time digital campaign optimization performed by AI (artificial intelligence). In some ways, the launch of a campaign now is truly that – just the beginning of a voyage of activity.

Need help prioritizing marketing activities for the best results?

At Callahan, we recognize the challenges marketers face deciding where to spend their marketing dollars to make the most impact. The old adage, “I know that half of my marketing is wasted, I just don’t know which half,” is even more true today in our fragmented media environment than it was when it was first uttered many years ago.

If you want to take business outcomes to the next level, we can help. Unlike other agencies, at Callahan, we use front-end data analysis to drive strategy, not just back-end analytics to measure marketing KPIs. That approach lets us uncover surprising untapped business opportunities. Please contact us to learn more.

This post was originally published June 1, 2012. Updated June 8, 2018.

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