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Reaching Audiences Through Branded Digital Networks #FFWDadweek

Guest Post:  Lisa Gervais has 14 years experience in Digital Marketing, over the course of her career, she has lead online campaigns for IBM Canada, Rogers Communications and Fidelity Investments Canada as well as project managed campaigns on behalf of Warner Bros, Dyson, Mattel and Spin Master to name but a few. You can connect with Lisa on Linkedin or Twitter.
According to Jamie Byrne, Director, Content Strategy, YouTube, we are entering a pivotal point in history for digital distribution networks. This evolution is not unlike what occurred in the 1980’s when new players entered the broadcast field to rival the big four networks – ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. There are some key factors leading the way for a new era in the digital content creation and distribution ecosystem.

Historically, the large networks owned 100% of viewership. The advent of cable changed the distribution model, opening up the market for new channels. These channels were narrow in Jamie_Byrnetheir content focus, targeting viewers based on personal interests. For example, ESPN enabled fans to access sports content 24/7. In 2012 there are now 100’s of channels that capture 75% of viewers with the remaining 25% being shared by the big four networks. By 2020, Byrne and his colleagues predict exponential growth with the real possibility of the availability of 1000’s of channels.

As a result, brands are going to need to re-think how they find their audiences. “For Marketers, the big challenge over the next few years is increased audience fragmentation.” Not only are there more digital delivery channels available but there are more devices upon which consumers are accessing the content. Of the 4 billion YouTube videos viewed per month, 1 billion of them are viewed on a mobile device. Viewer behaviour is changing and Byrne believe that this trend will continue.

Another factor to consider is that, traditionally, networks have been geographically based. However, this is not the case for YouTube. Their audience is comprised of content creators and viewers from all parts of the globe. What this means is that, over time, there may be an emergence of global networks.

Furthermore, the focus of these emerging networks is very niche in terms of content strategy. The opportunity for marketers is that they can directly interact with their desired audience in a very personal and meaningful way based on viewing interests. The best way to develop a relationship with those audiences, according to Byrne, is by building branded channels and owning the audience.

“Marketers need to move from a campaign-based mentality to an ‘Always On’ strategy.” This is a departure from how consumer campaigns have traditionally been executed. Byrne gave two examples of how this content strategy is paying dividends. YouTube worked with both Red Bull and Gillette to develop branded channels that connected emotionally with their key audiences and provided value-added content and entertainment. Red Bull has been testing video since 2005 and now has a dedicated content strategy team in place as a result of the success they’ve enjoyed.

Byrne highlights a final factor that is democratising the digital landscape – the shift of the economics of content production and distribution. As the means to create and distribute digital content becomes more accessible, it paves the way for new contributors. “There is a shifting from a cable distribution model to an Internet distribution model” says Byrne. Brands need to make the commitment today to create homes and hubs that will pay off over time. As a beacon of hope, he shares some initial success stories of these new channels, citing that twenty-five of them are enjoying an engaged and loyal audience, generating a million views per week.