Media Perspective: The recession has ushered in an age of media discovery

This must be a great time to be a media planner. Sure, it's not a time of great job security, but, boy, is it interesting.

In my day, thousands of years ago, it was all pretty straightforward. We divided the money into piles marked TV (the biggest pile, obviously), print, radio and posters. I was in charge of the magazines - I had to decide how many insertions we'd run in Company and how many in Car. To be honest, it wasn't that difficult.

I mention this because, in the past few weeks, we've had an England match available only on the internet, operas broadcast to cinemas, the London Evening Standard go free in the real world and Murdoch go not-free online. These are incredibly interesting times, particularly because we're finally seeing genuine change and innovation. We're out of the slow decline and panicky wailing, and we're into drastic change and brave experiments.

Business models that limped along for a while have had their legs chopped off by the recession, which is obviously horribly regrettable for some but very exciting for others. Famous media brands are being killed off. More will follow. But everyone who is left standing has stopped crying foul and started trying harder. That's what's so stimulating right now. Along with the doom, we're seeing all sorts of experiments; people trying something, anything, to see what might work instead.

Murdoch's going to try to charge people online. That might work. Let's see. It's normally stupid to bet against him. On the other hand, Clay Shirky suggests that serious investigative journalism will need to find a non-profit model to support it - as National Public Radio does in the States. He makes a great case too. Consumer magazines are experimenting with conferences, radio stations are doing more and more video, and, every day, new technologies arrive to let ordinary people get into the media business.

MagCloud, for instance, has been around for a while, but came of age when it helped someone produce and distribute a special single-issue title about the recent dust-storm in Sydney - within a day of it happening. All these blurred boundaries and noble experiments are confusing enough if you're a player in a single industry. But if you're the average media planner, thinking across all these channels, all of which are mutating under your gaze, it must be thrilling and terrifying.

It's not like your clients know any better - this is just as unsettling for them, or your bosses, or your colleagues. All this opportunity for brands to play in new ways, to offer new relationships in new places. And all this unknown territory, where no-one knows anything, so the best bet is just to try something. What a brilliant time to be a planner.


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