December 2-5, 2007  |  La Quinta, California
Published: December 05, 2007
Horan tells marketers to tear down walls
 

With the media business changing more in the last five years than in the prior 500, the IAC's Peter Horan explains how to stay ahead of the curve.

The old walls that divided marketers from publishers have been torn down by consumers on a mission for the information that matters most to them, IAC CEO Peter Horan told attendees at the iMedia Agency Summit at La Quinta, Calif.


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"The media business has changed more in the last five years than it's changed in the last 500 years before that," Horan said in a speech he called "From Gutenberg to Google and beyond."

Giving a nod to IAC competitor and industry giant Google, Horan credited the search maestro with cracking open a new media consumption model driven not by brands but by user intent.

"The real change happened with Google and the evolution of functional search," Horan said. "A reader looking for information used to have to make a brand decision about where they were most likely to get a certain type of information. But today, you type your query into a search box and you get what you're looking for."

While Horan said readers may still turn to the same branded publishers in some instances -- filtered through a search query -- the shift highlights something of a media revolution. Horan illustrated his point by dissecting some of The Los Angeles Times coverage of the recent wildfires.

Pulling up a slide of a Google Map that showed the fires that ravaged Southern California in October, Horan praised the paper for integrating multiple information streams into its reporting. On the Google Map pages, users could find everything from the changing fire lines to evacuation centers. But they also could click on links to traditional reporting of the fires as well as user-generated content in the form of photos. While the event wasn't a marketing opportunity, Horan said it did demonstrate that the old notion of church and state -- where advertising was compartmentalized away from content -- no longer applies.

"The challenge is how do you work with consumers on a mission," Horan said. "In this world, brands no longer drive the process, they assist the process. The very best sites online are ones where the walls have come down."

One site where the walls haven't truly come down is Evite, an IAC property for party and event planning. In a moment of candor, Horan told the gathering that his 19-year-old son chided him for using Evite to send out party invitations.

"The ultimate application for breaking down walls is Facebook," Horan said, acknowledging that his son preferred the social network as his point of entry to the rest of the web.

In what Horan called a "many-to-many" communication model, Horan said marketers will have to create ways to organize information around users' interests while developing new models for monetizing those experiences.

One IAC solution that has Horan particularly excited is Ask City, a local listing service that drives a user from question to solution with a minimum of clicks. Using the example of searching for a restaurant, Horan hypothesized that a consumer might go to Ask City to search for dining options in their area. For Horan, the mission only begins there; marketers who leave the consumer with only a name of an eatery have missed the boat entirely. The next step, Horan said, is to give them peer reviews, make their reservations, map out their route and send it all to their phone.

"We all need to figure out how to get ahead of the curve," Horan said. "That means looking for what comes next and streamlining the process for the consumer. You can't just sit there and look back at the business you used to be in, because it might not be there in the future."  

Michael Estrin is associate editor at iMediaConnection. Read full bio.