David Armano: The future of digital media

The Executive Vice President of Edelman Digital shares thoughts on Facebook's game changer and more.

CHICAGO, May 16, 2012 David Armano is one of the most respected voices in digital media. Six months ago, he listed the “Six Social Media Trends for 2012” in Harvard Business Review. All six are becoming increasingly more relevant. 

Airing honest feedback in advertising, more awareness of our own digital influence, gamification, social sharing, increased social integration into television and crowdsourcing are all trends that are becoming more prevalent. 

David has worked with global brands for years. Currently, he is Executive Vice President, Global Innovation & Integration for Edelman Digital. It’s a long title so you know it’s good. 

Yet, David is not sitting in a room with many leather bound books and cabinets that smell of rich mahogany. No. He’s out there developing digital business for the world’s largest PR firm. His blog, Logic+Emotion, is regarded as one of the top 30 marketing blogs by AdAge.  

The interview below adds even more detail and the latest insight on what’s next, what’s coming and how other forms of media will adapt. 

1. What is the future of digital media? What will we be talking about 12 months from now?

At a macro trend level, digital keeps creeping into our lives. It’s increasingly mobile and social. At a micro level, I believe we will be talking about things like “social entertainment” in the not so distant future. We’ve been seeing how social is becoming connected to how we watch TV for example. In fact, “buzz” on social networks generated via programs is essentially a more pure form of ratings. If a program isn’t getting a lot of chatter which can be measured via social, it’s likely not doing all that well. In fact, we might even have to look at the whole ratings system based upon the potential to measure social data. Nielsen should look out. On that note, it’s not just television. Sports and live entertainment events are tied to social media and as people “watch”—they also participate. Social is not a spectator sport, and entertainment will finally reflect this. 

2. What trend do you watch more closely? The evolution of different tools or how people interact?

Most definitely how people interact. Tools are indicators but the good ones are a reflection on how people behave. Not too long ago, people in general thought that “blogging” was for a select few highly opinionated people—but now we all have Facebook status updates which essentially lets everyone “blog”. What happened in between blogging and Facebook? Lots of people started doing things like Tweeting. Not just bloggers. Facebook understood this behavior and based on what people were doing—introduced the status update. But the core insight was this: people (not just bloggers) wanted to share. They were ready. Understanding how people interact now and taking educated guesses as to how they will behave in the future is the key to building any platform or tool. 

3a. Is there a specific tool we should pay attention to more? Why?

Not sure I would classify these as tools—but there are two I would look out for. A social network called Path limits your friend count to no more than 150 connections. It’s gaining momentum partially as the result of “social overload” from large networks where our friends have begun to over promote themselves. It’s adding some intimacy back into social networking and it combines an exceptional mobile interface which does neat things like including song recognition software so you can share what you are listening to. Another social platform called “Pair” is also mobile centric, but limits interactions between you and only one other person. In an overly connected world, both these platforms act as an oasis or refuge for highly active digital types who crave connectivity but value quality and intimacy. 

3b. How will our interactions on social media change/evolve? 

As previously mentioned, we’ll seek more signal and less noise. We will learn to filter and everyone will do it differently. Not unlike how we learned to manage e-mail, dealing with spammers etc. we will use whatever tools and techniques it takes to manage social noise. For a high end user like myself, it could be a Path or Pair, and for a more average user, it could be using mute features or functionality which selectively limits updates from connections. In short, we will develop the critical skills needed to navigate our newly hyper connected worlds. 

4. We keep adding social channels that we check, update.  Will it eventually condense or continue to grow larger?

Depends. Some might continue to add while others consolidate. We will spend time where we see value. To some degree, social platforms are like nightclubs: some get really hot while others fade away and eventually close up shop. We’re all “ADD” now to some degree and much in the same way advertising convinced us to buy things which would make our lives better, it is our social connections who use peer pressure to get us to join (or try) a new network. Logically, this seems unsustainable—but it’s worth noting that human beings are far from predictable. 

5. What is the next big thing, biggest upcoming shift in digital media?

I think Facebook’s “reach generator” self service advertising model will be a game changer. I truly believe that companies will shift their advertising dollars over to Facebook over time due to how targeted ads will become. Also, Facebook is increasingly blurring the line between what was traditionally known as “paid” and “earned” media as it allows companies to promote select posts. And If the targeting data isn’t great now—just wait because it will probably get better as the Facebook empire grows. Companies will still only be able to support so much budget when it comes to advertising and I think more if it is going to go through Facebook and the companies who work as part of their ecosystem. 

6. What role does broadcast media play in effective social media strategy? Will that change?

Broadcast is still significant, but increasingly less so. If we are all spending more time on mobile and computer screens—then how much do we have left for broadcast media? I’ve seen studies show that as people watch TV for example, they are using it as background noise while they text, e-mail and tweet away via their mobile devices. The broadcast industry like any media needs to understand this behavior and make every communication and integration “digital friendly”. One concrete way to do this is to make content “searchable & shareable”. These are the two digital behaviors we see as driving digital media specifically—people share the things they like and search for the information they want. Expect these behaviors to define media consumption (and participation) in the future. 





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Jeff Barrett

Jeff Barrett is an experienced columnist and business leader. He has been named Business Insider’s #1 Ad Executive on Twitter, a Forbes Top 50 Influencer In Social Media and has previously written for Mashable and The Detroit Free Press. 



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