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Time To Drive Complexity Out of Digital Media

Dave Morgan
Dave Morgan  |  Executive Chairman
Published: May. 22, 2014

Originally posted on MediaPost

I spent a good chunk of yesterday at LUMA Partners 6th annual Digital Media Summit. LUMA is made up of investment bankers focused on digital media -- and its founder, Terry Kawaja, well-known for his LUMAscape market maps, always puts on a good show.

The DMS events not only tend to attract one of the largest and most notable collections of senior executives of any event in the year -- but also, since Kawaja is a frustrated comic in a banker's world, you can always be certain of an entertaining show. This year was no exception.

As Kawaja was announcing the launch of the newest (the 11th) LUMAscape -- for content marketing -- it really struck me that our industry is only getting more complex. What the LUMAscape maps communicate, more than anything else, is how crowded and confusing the digital media ecosystem is. Viewing 11 of them at once shows its only getting worse. This needs to change.

Complexity prevents scale. Google was not the first search engine -- far from it. In the mid-1990s, there were many search engines and indexing services, from Yahoo to Infoseek to Lycos, among others. Google separated itself from the pack through its simplicity for the user: nothing but a search box that led to a self-evidently better result.

Google's interface (and brand message) was simple. I'm sure that its technology was quite complex, but you didn't have to worry about that. It was all hidden. Simplicity was all you saw.

So many in the digital media world wonder aloud about the challenges of building more scale in our industry. Search has a lot of scale. It's simple, from interface to results for advertising and direct marketing.

Display is not simple. Digital video is not simple. Ad technology is not simple. Native advertising is not simple.

I think we need to start thinking and acting more like Google, putting the complexity of our industry behind the interfaces of our solutions. We desperately need to simplify things.

Why has the TV ad business achieved so much scale, and protected itself from the growth of digital and mobile? It's a pretty simple business. Annual deals, phone calls, handshakes, a few faxes, 30-second spots, overnight ratings, and make-goods. It's much simpler than digital, and much more scaled.