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The Trials of a Chief Integration Officer

I'd like to add two new terms to our "digital" vocabulary — "Integrated Media" and "Chief Integration Officer." The concept and the person are necessary in order to maximize opportunity management and reach audiences where they are living — where the demographic meets the technographic.

An integrated media strategy will enable you to maximize the return on your brand, your service and on the content you own by leveraging your assets in a cost effective way into a customer proposition that is actually based on lifestyle. The challenge is to take what you have, master the economies of scale and deliver a truly viable revenue-generating cross-media package to viewers no matter how they are accessing your content.

In order to exploit the opportunities brought about by two-way technology, everyone from business affairs, business planning and rights management, production, writers, producers, technologists and sales and marketing must be talking. Any media proposition now requires that attention be paid to technology, distribution and content. Someone has to pull all this together, and a chief integration officer would be responsible for the strategy and its implementation.

This CIO would take charge of the vision and the organization of matters. Ideally, the position would be filled by an individual who not only understood the new world of distribution and content, but also possessed a deep understanding of the company's businesses. Let's take a futuristic and hypothetical look at the role a CIO would play within a company.

CONFESSIONS OF A CIO

Let's imagine I'm the CIO of a large Spanish media company called Musa. We own television channels, we produce original content and we have an Internet business and a news division. It also happens that we are 35-percent owned by ElTel, a large telco that also has a majority stake in a global Internet search portal called Luna. After much evaluation, management has decided that our opportunity and our future rest in Musa taking the lead as the first global cross-media Spanish-language brand.

It is a logical step, but one that has to be taken carefully. It is now my job to leverage what we already have in the area of content, technology and relationships into a fully-branded Musa package. This is not only about our audience; it is about our perception in the marketplace and in the eyes of analysts and, of course, managing for shareholder value. Ideally, I must minimize the investment and maximize the return.

I have decided that our news division is where I will begin.

I base my decision on the fact that it already has a strong brand and great reputation, a large footprint via satellite with 45 percent of the homes reached already enabled for interactive television; it also has radio and an existing new-media business. All of the elements are there but they have not yet been pulled together into a unified, all-access enterprise.

My tasks now fall into five areas — brand, portfolio, content, technology and implementation.

BRAND

Our news brand, MusaN, is strong and number one in Spain. We have exported our flagship news program and several news-magazine shows to 16 other countries. Given the new proposition, we will revisit the brand's vision, mission and positioning. During this stage we'll do a market analysis, a competitive analysis and come up with a truly unique and compelling brand.

Our brand and our message must be clear as we are speaking not only to audiences in 16 countries, but to our partners, investors, advertisers and distributors as well.

Next, a cross-media strategy will articulate how the brand and the proposition will "live" across platforms and territories. The technologies, aside from television and radio, will be at different stages of development in different countries. However, using the demographic plus technographic equation we can decide what relevant content, applications and services to put on selected platforms.

The design of our brand must also live across these devices, so the use of images, sound and persistent navigation will be critical. The bottom line is to create and secure an emotional relationship with our audience across platforms by maintaining the brand's look, tone and feel while exploiting the best each platform has to offer and presenting relevant and compelling content, applications and services.

PORTFOLIO

I must look at our investments, alliances and business and revenue models in the context of our market opportunity and our defined proposition. Musa already has a relationship with ElTel and they have a lot at stake in Musa's success. ElTel has operations in Spain and Latin America, as well as ownership in other telco's and Internet-service providers. ElTel Mobile is the number one provider of mobile services in Spain, and is number two in three Latin American countries. Their majority share in the Luna Internet portal not only gives me global access to Spanish-language surfers, but I can use their Internet protocol infrastructure around the world.

My challenge here is to gain a consensus on what MusaN is about to do and build profitable business models for all parties. If there are gaps to fill, then I must look to establishing other alliances, partnerships or possible acquisitions.

CONTENT

I must examine what has come to be known as our "rights segmentation" situation. Which specific rights do we own? What is jointly owned? How about our vast news library and archives? How can they be exploited? Should they be exploited? And, Should I develop virtual news channels as part of my proposition? All these questions must be answered.

I also must ask myself if technologically my digital asset management system will be able to handle this new proposition, because if I can't monitor the clearances, or manage the content across platforms, I have no proposition.

TECHNOLOGY

I may be Musa's CIO, but I know very little of what it will take technologically to deliver on the proposition. The chief technical officer at Musa On-Line knows enough to bring in good consultants. There is so much to handle from porting content to different devices and streaming media, to data mining and e-commerce. It is also fortunate for us that both ElTel and Luna have approved vendors and partners in these areas, but we need to decide if they are right for us and if the network infrastructure used by ElTel and Luna will support our proposition.

I will also want to integrate the production process. We are shooting in digital now, so that will make the management of the assets easier. But having great software to do this is a challenge.

IMPLEMENTATION

Our brand is set, our proposition is set, our rights are handled, our technology for delivery is in place and now we must build it. We have done a full "content mapping." This tells us what content will appear where and with what features.

We have selected the following platforms: television, interactive television, broadband and mobile. We'll do some inexpensive handheld applications but are deferring streaming to those devices. We've also decided to leave the MusaN Web site as is and use its navigation model. However, we will update the look and feel with the revitalized MusaN branding.

We cannot possibly do the whole thing in house, so we have outsourced the project to three companies: one for technical and backend implementation and data warehousing, one for digital asset management and one that has cross-platform design and build capabilities. We have decided that for the first year all three companies will do maintenance. During that time we will evaluate the feasibility of bringing maintenance in house.

As you can see, new opportunities create new management positions. I believe the CIO will be key to the successful future of media, content and distribution companies.

Brian Seth Hurst is CEO of Los Angeles-based applied media strategies firm MediaXi.