This Enlightened Age.

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I write this post after spending two days at the iMedia Agency Summit in Phoenix and – while I could be imagining things – I can’t help but feel the gathering force of a powerful new idea forming.  Time Inc’s Kirk McDonald keynoted on “the age of enlightenment” for publishers, media owners and content companies, and I couldn’t agree with him more wholeheartedly.  In fact, just an hour before, I’d gathered with 150 digital sales leaders and challenged them to imagine that this might indeed be their moment.  If.

My good friend and collaborator Charlie Thomas of Step Ahead Strategies describes the period ahead as the third distinct phase in the life of our business.  From 1994 to 2000 we saw the Website Era, a land rush to build websites and secure anchors for traffic;  2001-2009 was the Advertising Era, marked the build out of a ridiculously sophisticated ad delivery system.  But now that construction is largely finished; the improvements to come will be incremental, not transformative.  Now comes the Marketing Era.

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While the Advertising Era was about division and subtraction – targeting and cost saving – the Marketing Era will be about multiplication and addition – creating new value for the marketer and amplifying that value through the relationships we have with consumers.  For publishers, media owners and aggregators who live close to the consumer, this IS your moment.

But in order to seize this moment and truly shift the balance of power and influence in our world, publishers and their sellers will have to undergo a major shift in orientation.  We will have to begin aligning our work with the true business goals and outcomes of the marketer.  We will have to organize and staff our teams around marketing, not around media planning.  For far too long, sales strategy and behavior have been completely centered around the digital agency planning team, and we’ve missed seeing the strategic forest for all the tactical trees.

There’s always a lag in behavior when a new era dawns.  As William Gibson famously wrote, “the future is already here;  it’s just unevenly distributed.”  This is the seller’s moment, and we are indeed the ones we’ve been waiting for.  If we have the will and the courage to walk briskly into the fog.

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