The internet makes it easy for anyone to become a publisher of traditional-style media content at virtually no cost, which puts more pressure on media owners.
But it also makes it easy for brands to bypass traditional content vehicles altogether, and interact directly with consumers.
In the Gap’s case, this does mean still using existing channels – cinema, print and outdoor ads – to drive consumers to a Facebook page. But that ad spend will be shrinking. And even if brands still need to reach consumers via advertising – whether online or offline – that advertising won’t necessarily be going to newspapers or newspaper web sites.
Instead, brands can place ads into games, social media sites and Twitter streams, and reach their target audience through a whole range of niche interest web sites (some of which they might set up themselves).
And don’t forget the increasing importance of live events in this. The effect of digital reproduction of music on the music industry has been to reduce the importance of the music track and increase the importance of the live relationship between music act and audience.
This effect will also play out in newspapers and magazines. People will stop seeing printed magazines as being as culturally important as they have been. Instead, I predict, they will respond better to brands that interact with them in the real world.
So look for brands doing more live sponsorship and field marketing activity at the expense of plain old visual advertising.
A lot of the debate about whether or not newspapers will survive hinges on getting readers to pay for content – whether online or off.
But actually, single copy purchases and subscriptions have never been the core of newspaper revenues – that honour goes to advertising. And it’s the fact that advertisers are deserting newspapers in droves that has pushed the industry on to its knees.
Unless we can find a way to key advertisers paying for newspapers (and magazines, and television), there’s really no escape from the decline of printed news media. And it means that the traditional, resource-hungry newspaper web site is also in trouble.