29 Jan

Three Learnings from the Oath Write Down

By Jon Jackson, CEO

There’s a unique and massive media and advertising opportunity for Verizon and other carriers.  Sure, that may sound hyperbolic and somewhat off base after Verizon wrote down Oath as the result of “competitive pressures in the digital ad business”, as Business Insider reported. However, Verizon was wise to recognize the market opportunity for operators to meaningfully participate in the mobile advertising space. And in 2019, this market opportunity remains as achievable for carriers as ever before.

As Verizon documented when reporting their “comprehensive 5-year strategic planning review of Oath’s prospects” the media/tech landscape is evolving. Quickly. The pace of change and innovation makes competing with Facebook and Google the “traditional way” very tough. Carriers need to look forward, play to core strengths, and focus on lower risk, near-term media battles they can win.

 With that, here are 3 lessons Verizon and other carriers can take away:

 1) Build the Media Empire of Tomorrow . . . Not Yesterday

 Verizon aspired to be a media giant. To become one, they invested $9.1 billion in AOL and Yahoo – two of yesterday’s leaders in media, as recently visualized by Visual Capitalist, the challenges of this strategy was three-fold:

 1) Integrating two companies the size of AOL and Yahoo is difficult.

 2.) On the advertising side, the massive lead Facebook and Google has in reach and share makes it even more difficult to compete against, and

 3) Tomorrow’s technology disrupts.

The original idea was that under Verizon’s ownership, the ad and content businesses from these assets would blossom especially under a united data structure powering unique audience insights and segments.  But today, content is almost ubiquitous, and data and privacy are increasingly under the microscope of regulators. It’s almost irrelevant where a headline comes from – people will click on something interesting when it is presented to them seamlessly and easily. One initial strategy of preloading legacy Yahoo! and AOL apps on Samsung devices likely had inconsequential impact  — another app with content stories had limited impact on building and sustaining an audience. The tech that’s increasingly defining tomorrow’s media winners is “content discovery.”  By simplifying how subscribers find and access content, carriers can create a similar industry disruption.

 2) Focus on Your Core Strengths

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg has reiterated that the company remains strongly focused on 5G networks. Along with the 5G initiative, Vestberg has also indicated the company will also focus on another core asset they own – the smartphone. This is EXACTLY where they should be focusing. Verizon has ownership over 2 things – their network and the device. While they are building robust 5G networks, the ace in the hole for their 5G media strategy is the device itself.

As mentioned, people want media at their fingertips. Verizon can give it to them through new content discovery interfaces that give simple, convenient, and low touch access to content. Innovate content discovery on the device that’s already in millions of subscribers hands, and you’ll have a media play that Facebook and others cannot emulate.

 3) Win Smaller Empires Immediately, . . .  and Draft Your Team

Hundreds of millions of subscribers unlocking and looking for content on devices that carriers can influence is a home field advantage like no other. And engaging their base through new interfaces is a battle they can win – and win immediately with relative ease. They have the ability to understand the content their subscribers like and give it to them through convenient discovery BEFORE users go to their Facebook app or open a Google browser.

The best bet for carriers in 2019 is to hedge their investments in 5G and content/ad assets by innovating content discovery on the device. It’s a low cost solution that will allow them to start pleasing their subscribers and enter the media game right away. If they can do this, 2019 will be the launching pad that sends Verizon and other carriers towards their first real leadership position in mobile media. Not as big as Facebook and Google, but still holding the number one spot in a critical and growing billion dollar market.

To do this, however, they’ll need to partner. The lessons of Go90 speak to the challenges of going it alone and building internally. Carriers rolling out new interfaces to capture this opportunity will need to move fast. This requires real tech savvy, and a dedicated team with deep expertise and code base. Thankfully, innovative solutions like this are popping up all over the market – meaning nimble carriers will be able to move on this opportunity immediately.  I think I know a company that provides a solution like this…