Web Summit: Media companies need to go where the social platforms are

The opportunity lies in ‘finding new ways of finding new audiences’

The Marketing Stage during Day 3 of the Web Summit Photograph: Sportsfile

The Marketing Stage during Day 3 of the Web Summit Photograph: Sportsfile


The impact of technology on the media has been a staple part of the Web Summit conversation for years now, and this year the rise of adblocking has added to the sense of anxiety evident in some of the media panels.

In an illuminating conversation on the Marketing Stage, Paul Berry of Rebelmouse, Jonathan Hunt of Vox, and Stephen Hills of The Washington Post discussed the state of the media equation, and the consensus was that this period of flux marks a watershed, in terms of content creation and advertising.

Asked by moderator Aine Kerr whether the rise of other platforms such as Facebook or Twitter represents a threat to the traditional publishing models, Mr Hills said: “The past year has seen the strongest growth in the history of The Washington Post, we are at 59 million uniques and in October we’re going to blow through that. The truth is platforms generate discovery - we believe that the platforms are going to exist and thrive anyway, so it makes sense to go to where the puck is going to be.”

Listen: Pamela Newenham reports from the Web Summit

Adding to that sentiment, Mr Hunt said “I’m baffled that this is still part of our conversation. If you told people five years ago that half your traffic was going to come from mobile, people would have dunked you to see if you were a witch. But it’s better to be proactive and get in front of it, rather than take a wait and see approach.”

That approach was echoed by Mr Berry of digital marketing firm Rebelmouse. “I think it’s the most exciting time in media and marketing. It’s the end of advertising and a new era for marketing.”

Mr Hunt indicated further optimism: “The opportunity to me is exactly about finding new ways of finding new audiences. There’s a misconception that by distributing content to Facebook or Snapchat, you’re somehow compromising the quality of your voice. It’s up to you to maintain that quality while finding new audiences in different ways.”