Media cartographer, producer, analyst - and iconoclast - Evan Shapiro has been spending the summer in Europe and calls the season “a time of great change”, reports Michael Burns.
“I think 2023 is the end of the last era and the start of the new,” he told IBC365 prior to his keynote session opening the IBC2023 Conference ‘Plotting the Effects of Disruption: Charting the new media ecosystem’.
“The Hollywood shutdown is really crushing everyone, but the whole industry has screeched to a halt. No one should be living in this house. It’s condemned,” he stated.
“The companies who are sitting in a boardroom in Hollywood yelling at each other because none of them can agree on how to end a strike that’s debilitating their industry, is a demonstration that the traditional media players that the world has [hitherto] looked to are rudderless.
“We are without question at a real crisis”, he continued. “But you should never let a good crisis go to waste. The idea that you have to do things because you’ve always done them, or that the only step you can take is an incremental step from the last step, is really dangerous.”
Mapping the media landscape
Shapiro has adopted the media cartographer moniker since the Media Universe Map he created for his students at NYU and Fordham University was published by Deadline in 2020. This graphical representation of the media ecosystem, updated more than 55 times over the last three years, is a fascinating study for anyone interested in where the real power lies within this industry.
Among the facts you can extract from his newly updated map of the Global Media Ecosystem is that half of all mobile usage is video, and half of all video content on mobile is YouTube.
“Now that’s not time spent,” said Shapiro. “It’s bandwidth. It’s data specific.”
The map also illustrates the huge draw that gaming possesses, with half of that being users on mobile. It shows that brands make $94bn of in-game revenue from consumers a year. “That’s way more than AVOD and FAST advertising,” he stated.
“I’m [waiting] to see everybody’s answer to this,” he continued.
“How they respond to this landscape. What piece of this pie are they not going to be a part of? What platform are they not going to play on? I don’t think people understand that the five billion social media users are strewn across [so] many different services. Yes, there’s a lot of overlap, but then there’s a lot of uniqueness as well.”
However, not everyone is on the back foot. “Sony plays across that ecosystem incredibly well,” he said. “They’re in gaming. They’re in TV. They have a huge audio business. They have one of the best niche subscriber products in the world in Crunchyroll and Funimation. They’re in hardware that touches all of these things. It’s a multifaceted company.
“The New York Times has a strategy for this entire map,” he continued. “It does gaming, social, audio, news cooking and sports and all these different things. It’s a model for transformation for traditional media in this new age. They took the oldest of old-school family newspaper businesses and turned it into the best digital content bundle I think exists other than perhaps Amazon.
“Amazon [also] has a model. This fall, [Prime Video is hosting] a live shopping event at the halftime of the Jets-Dolphins game on Black Friday in the United States.
“This is the major point I’m making: it’s not next, it’s now. Not coming, it’s here,” he added.
Taking on the Death Star
Shapiro said the greatest pressure that most media have right now is that they feel like they’re competing with Netflix when they’re really competing with Google. “At the same time, I don’t think people understand how much Google needs them,” he added. “And that paradigm shift is where we’re at. Google understands how much they need the publishers.
“When most media that isn’t a ‘Death Star’ [major conglomerates], especially public service media, thinks about them, they think, “Oh, they’re going to crush us”. No! Without the Public Service Broadcasters and the local content creators, YouTube would be a wasteland, no one would ever go there. Yes, it has to have MrBeast, but it also has to have local creators and news. Increasingly that’s where people are going. YouTube is the biggest channel on television, in the UK, in Italy, and Germany. Why? Because you can get stuff from all around the world but also you can get news from around the corner.
“The other big pressure that most of traditional media and the people who run these companies face right now is they still believe that it’s the last era ending. They’re still stuck there. They’re not looking at the Amazon model or the New York Times model.
“Whether it’s video, music, gaming or social media, you really do have to reorient yourself around who your competition is, and frankly, who your partners are, who your frenemies are, and what leverage you have,” he continued.
“You have to ask who your consumers are and what different ways you can serve them in their lifestyles on an ongoing basis. Do different things for your consumer. Superserve them on an ongoing basis and change your business models to suit how they behave.”
Shapiro pointed out that the top 20 fastest-growing economies on the planet earth are in Asia, Latin America and Africa. “A third are in Africa,” he said. “The market there is enormous, and I think the market there for content that people make in Europe and the United States could be enormous.”
Storming the Ivory towers
Media companies should take this moment of crisis to “completely retool”, said Shapiro.
“What does that mean? You must pry inside the workings of your company, where there is without question – because we know this about the whole ecosystem – tonnes of inefficiencies, tonnes of legacy BS everywhere, slowing things down, making things cost more money,” he said. “A lot of bosses are going to say, I have to run the business I have, not just build a new one. You’ve got to do both.
“It’s about tearing down the walls around the ivory towers,” he said. “It’s about bringing in people of different economic classes and backgrounds – and ages. [Forget] the idea that you can’t have a 25-year-old in the room where big decisions are made because they don’t have enough experience in what you do. Instead, you end up making decisions that the average 25-year-old is going to [ignore]. They’re all your consumers. 50% of the population of Africa is under 20. That’s the fastest-growing economic region on the planet Earth. Do you want to serve them, or do you not want to serve them? And if you want to serve them, you must have them in the room when you’re making a call.
“The lack of diversity of thought at the top of the organisations that run media across planet Earth is gobsmacking,” he added. “They keep hiring little versions of themselves and then they wonder why they don’t have any new fresh ideas.”
Instead, companies need a genuinely new point of view. “The fastest way to get there is age and class and race and gender,” he stated. “But you can find old white dudes like Mark Thompson (ex-BBC DG, ex-New York Times CEO, and now CEO of CNN) who think differently, you just have to know where to look for them.”
Shapiro makes a good argument and is sure to captivate the IBC audience at both his Friday keynote and his ‘Fireside Chat – The Bundle Wars’ on Saturday at IBC2023. There might be outrage and angry mobs of media bosses, but if his words strike true, then his message to you is to speak out.
“Say something. It’s too late to care about what they think about you. Say what you think, then be able to defend it.”
Join Evan Shapiro at the IBC2023 opening keynote session ‘Plotting the Effects of Disruption: Charting the new media ecosystem’.