Media Industry Should Not Stay Ahead of Consumer: NBC Digital's Comstock

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NEW YORK - Marketers may have gone to this year's Online Media, Marketing & Advertising Conference and Expo at the Marriott Marquis, New York, for tips and strategies on how to predict consumer behavior and prepare for the growing shift to interactive advertising.

However, in an afternoon keynote that asked the question, "Is creating content that stays ahead of the consumer possible?" Beth Comstock, president of digital media and market development at NBC Universal, answered with a resounding "No."

"The media industry should not stay ahead of the consumer," Ms. Comstock said. "And even if we could why would we want to?"

Noting the shift to user generated content, Ms. Comstock pointed to what she called a "pronoun revolution" with the rise of sites like YouTube and MySpace. She outlined four major areas for content providers to shift their attention.

First the stories and content provided should be rich and participatory events. She suggested building content with consumer participation in mind from the beginning.

"Just about anyone can create and deliver content today," Ms. Comstock said.

She also spoke to tapping into the power of a community of viewers and understanding the context in which users are interacting and using the content that is being provided.

Most central to her talk was the idea that traditional control over mass media was being usurped and content providers and marketers alike must relinquish part or all of that control in order to keep consumers engaged and interested. Ms. Comstock likened the shift to a media revolution.

"You can fight it," she said. "Or you can use it to your advantage."

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