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Media companies have long realised that they have an interactive relationship with their audience. Now the technology is there to make this not only a truth, but also a business opportunity. But how is telemedia helping this? Paul Skeldon reports

The backbone of telemedia services has for many years been interaction. It is a no brainer: telemedia brings together communications channels, billing and services. This is why media companies have long been using it to great effect.

But over the years, the technology available – both to the consumers and the media companies – has changed and the demands on media companies to monetise these interactive channels has grown. Let’s face it, its tough these days trying to make money out of media: I know, I am trying to.

In the print media this has become imperative. Print revenues from sales and advertising are declining. Revenues from digital are on the up. But digital hasn’t yet replaced the revenue lost from sales and advertising. What is the industry to do?

“The trick though is how to monetise this new world,” says Mark Challinor, Vice President, International News Media Association and CEO, Media Futures (Consulting) – and formerly head of mobile at Telegraph Group. “As print revenges decline, digital monies are not replacing them fully yet. Mobile, for example, is seen by many as an ‘add on’ and not the premium channel it deserves to be. You, see, news media companies reach more people today than ever, through a print and digital offering/portfolio.”

But creativity abounds within the fertile ground where telemedia and print media share common land. And it is here that the potential lies. As Challinor explains: “News media – and other publishers for that matter – are focused on developing mobile products more than anything else. But a whole range of technology companies, such as app stores, operators and payment companies such as Barclaycard and Visa, are going to have a big impact on how publishers make money.

“For instance,” says Challinor, “would giving readers to option to pay for media content through their mobile phone operator give a big boost to ‘circulation’ sales? If someone goes into a shop and buys a bar of chocolate it feels wrong to put it on your card. The same could be said of picking up a daily newspaper.”

This is an area of great potential for telemedia companies. There are more people with mobile phones than credit cards, so mobile billing could be a way to increase sales. The potential is there. App stores are already doing a decent job of taking much of the pain and hassle out of paying for content on mobiles it could be argued.

“But for “non-app” sales, or for reaching consumers without a credit card, it could be a good way of tapping into users who don’t yet pay for things with a mobile,” says Challinor. “What’s needed is an education exercise to iron out the trust and fear factors from there telemedia industry to publishers. Assure them there is no risk and of the benefits.”

The issue is the same in Television. “ There are now more interactive touch-points available than ever before and users’ attitude to telephony, mobile, digital and social interactivity has significantly advanced,” says Rob Weisz, CEO of Fonix, which has recently signed a deal with Channel 5 to help it interact with its audiences. “Traditional TV companies are evolving and competing for audiences with new, non-traditional players – challenging the boundaries of ‘free versus paid for’ and ensuring that interactive services remain relevant and appealing to audiences.”

What this means, says Weisz, is that data is now the key to delivering interactive services and should be the key part of any telemedia play looking to help monetize the media. “Data and information is so pivotal to the commercial, technical and operational provision of services. Five years ago, most interactive mobile companies weren’t looking to use data in the same way as they do now. The requirements are now to identify trends quickly and act upon those trends in a timely and appropriate manner.”

Challinor agrees. “And then there is data: the new oil! The future winners – say Enders Analysis among others – are those who have a time grip on their audiences and where they are going. That’s why many news media companies are capturing, manipulating and exploiting their data. When adding first party data via competitions, subscriptions and so on to market and advertising data that’s available freely, a powerful picture can emerge that’s attractive to advertisers.”

To true, says Weisz. “Data driven marketing is hot on the agenda for most of the media companies closely followed by collaborative partnerships with service and content owners. TV and Media companies are looking for engaging services that generate revenue, adds value to their audiences’ experience and to be contextually relevant. We are seeing between 20% to 30% engagement uplift from targeted data driven marketing.”

Aside from data, the print industry is also looking to ditch its glacial approach to embracing technology and is looking closely at some of the most cutting edge technology out there to gain an edge.

Interactive media such as augmented reality (AR) are playing their part too in this resurgence. The Daily Telegraph recently ran a special edition just for agencies and advertisers, where when scanning the print ads, they all came alive to reveal the same ad in digital format. Helping the education of what new techs can bring. This AR edition brought in more than £1/2m of new money on the back of that one exercise alone.

All it takes is to educate the industry as to what is available. Education brings more creativity, which brings more bespoke advertising solutions, which brings higher revenue opportunities.

“Simple isn’t it?” Challinor teases. “Well, not quite, but news media is getting there.”

In short, believes Challinor, “The future is not print. The future is not digital. The future is print plus digital plus “something extra”. That something extra is things like e-commerce, adjacent business tie-ins, data exploitations and so on. Over to you telemedia…”

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