For media orgs, revenue diversification is a leadership challenge

The concept of sponsored content (also called native advertising, indigenous advertising or content marketing) is being bandied about as a game changer for media orgs.

Sponsored content, which has been compared to the advertorials of Old Media, yokes business interests, content considerations and technology expertise into an integrated core revenue generation model. In traditional media houses, the practical outworking of this concept is that managers, editors and IT staff must cohere around a single essential, money-making enterprise, while maintaining their diversity of operational scope.

To seasoned old media practitioners, it may sound unreal. Any scenario in which many disparate parts of a media org coalesce around one central profitable mission contrasts sharply with the on-the-ground workflow at many media companies, where there remains a deliberate Separation of Powers dividing the operations of administrative, editorial and technical staff.

Unifying these three historically disparate tribes will not happen overnight. It will necessarily be a process. And such a process is not likely to simply flow from a philosophical agreement that an alternative business model is needed.

Therefore, the obstacle now facing media orgs is best understood not as simply editorial, or merely technological, or even as a business problem. It is, at its core, a leadership challenge.

Owners and top executives of Old Media who discern the global shift in the industry must now invest deeply in refreshing the central vision of their organisations, from the top down. If Big Media is to remain viable in the digital landscape, it will not do so by accident.

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