It has been a rough winter. Even Atlanta has had snow, shutting the city down on two occasions. And that groundhog was no friend of ours this year.

But pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training, which marks the beginning of the American baseball season.

Spring is right around the corner.

In my last post, I talked about the need for media organisations to scrap their silly strategic monikers and shift focus to the customer, effectively becoming customer-first. That is the only clear way to survive and manage your business for the future.

There is a balance that will need to be created between the platforms and products you offer today with the services you will offer tomorrow. What that tomorrow looks like is really the key thing I have been thinking about over the winter months.

While we all are fighting for relevance in the local marketplace today, the scope of what we offer those businesses, at the core, is what we should be thinking about for tomorrow.

So let’s dive in, fast-forward three years from now, and see how the future impacts both media companies and the local landscape.

In this future, we will look at six key platforms: print, Web, mobile, social, video, and digital services.

Print: Print products are still here in 2017, although with a reduction in frequency. Regardless of what pundits say today, it is clear print still has a relevant place in the market in the future.

Sunday inserts remain one of the only channels consumers are willing to pay for to receive advertising, and, in 2017, these inserts still remain a key traffic driver for retailers.

I remember industry experts predicting in 2010 how there would be no more inserts in newspapers in three to five years. So development began on digital shopping channels.

In 2014, most of those channels have dissolved yet inserts are still strong. Not what they were, but still strong.

Web: Web display, however, is not strong at all in 2017. In fact, it reached its peak in 2016 and has since been on a dramatic decline. Programmatic automation, while making it extremely easy to place Web display ads, has led to a dramatic drop in cost per thousand views (CPMs). 

Local businesses have moved on to other avenues, leaving placement to national and remnant providers. While targeting and automation capabilities have only improved, consumers just don’t click on the ads.

In addition, the propensity of most to move to paywalls and meters reduced the traffic and uniques from their Web sites, thus helping this shift to occur.

Mobile: Mobile is where it’s at in 2017. 

Consumers are adopting phablets (phones and tablets combined) more and more. A small device that pins to your shirt, coat, or lapel, or fits in your ear, acts as your phone. Wearable technology has allowed users to really customise their mobile experience, with the phablet serving as the brain.

But this is not a technology blog, so I won’t delve into the growing smartwatch market. It will, nonetheless, play a factor in advertising services in the future.

Advertisers have moved a large amount of their budgets to mobile. The targeting capabilities on the device, in general, through apps and messaging services, has created a medium where return on investment (ROI) is significant. Small businesses can control messaging distribution to a tightly refined area, maximising return.

Information is accessed quickly, and local media companies have become experts at delivering mobile advertising programmatically … because they had to. The smart ones got ahead of this in 2014, developing services and partnering with the right technology providers.

Social: Equally important in this future advertising landscape is social marketing. Social has grown well beyond the core we saw in 2014 of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, and LinkedIn.

These services are rampant in our culture in 2017, with niche social sites based on core interests having replaced most Web usage.

And again, targeted marketing via these sites is a crucial part of what local advertisers are looking for.

Content and marketing messages are easily shared and directed to the audience that advertisers want to reach, with access predominantly occurring via mobile devices. Messages are gathered and shared, providing a social shopping experience.

Video: Expanding a bit further to other platforms, video and digital services are both core service offerings in 2017.

Consumers still love watching video, and local businesses continue to push search engine optimisation (SEO)-rich video content into the market. Pre-roll ads are still relevant, but video overlay and drop down/expandable options are very much in play. Vine has exploded as well, combining the power of video with the power of social.

Cord-cutting has taken over the mainstream, allowing advertisers to target messages through video service providers (Netflix, Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime) as a replacement to local TV and cable advertising.

Digital services: Digital services (Web site/mobile site development, social management, reputation monitoring, etc.) are still very relevant in the marketplace. Technology and self-service tools have finally rounded into form to become a useful resource for local businesses.

Media companies have now shifted their focus to building everything out as a service, but management is mostly done by the business itself moving forward via these new tools.

Automation has taken over the template Web site-building market, but local businesses have moved to custom site solutions with integrated phablet features, easy e-commerce shopping solutions, and technically sound animation.

And media companies that have prioritised this area have moved right along with them to provide a relevant service.

Along with these core digital services, content creation is highly desired by local business — a need media companies are quite adept at meeting.

To summarise: In 2017, media companies are helping local businesses by creating a strong Web and mobile presence as the foundation of their marketing strategy. Direct marketing efforts are focused on mobile and social channels, with support from print and video.

Admittedly, this is a quick snapshot with minimal details, but directionally, this is my opinion of where the market is shifting. If I were running a media company, this is where I would be looking toward investing.

Finally, underlying all of this is data. To be able to execute across the platforms and services mentioned, data is the key. The better data you have, the better you will be at meeting the needs of the marketplace. Yes, data is a general term, but make no mistake — it will be the differentiator.

In short, the future remains bright for local media companies. Those in the print business will continue to be in that business. 

Beyond print, however, a good chunk of your revenue will come from media you do not necessarily own or operate. That reality, to some, will conflict with current beliefs. But it’s why you need to become experts on the services today. Other than data and relationships, little will differentiate you in the market.

Until next time…