Digiday magazine’s latest issue looks at the shifting role of intermediaries in digital media

This article appears in the latest issue of Digiday magazine, a quarterly publication that is part of Digiday+. Members of Digiday+ get access to exclusive content, original research and member events throughout the year. Learn more here.

Our first issue of the year focuses on the shifting role of intermediaries. If there’s one rule of the modernization of media and marketing, it’s that the role of intermediaries is changing, in some cases becoming all-encompassing and in others (agencies) waning.

One of the biggest trends in both media and retail is going direct-to-consumer. Sahil Patel looks at the DTC movement when it comes to the proliferation of over-the-top streaming services. The promise of the end of the cable oligopoly is a flowering of direct relationships with consumers. After all, this seems to have worked out OK for Netflix. But what Sahil found is that — surprise! — in many cases these Johnny-Come-Latelys of the streaming wars — think Disney+ — are most likely to not be true DTC plays, instead relying on tech bundlers like Apple, Amazon, Hulu and Roku.

Hilary Milnes examines the Stitch Fix Effect, the rise of new bundlers that are starting to have an impact on fashion brands. Stitch Fix promises to do styling-as-a-service, delivering new looks to customers’ doors each month. But the effect of this for those actually making the clothing is a new intermediary between them and their customers — and a big loss of data. Hilary also has a reality check of the DTC brand movement overall. Thousands of new brands have sprung up and shaken off the chains of the wholesale model. Well, not so fast. Many of these “digitally native” brands end up needing wholesale as they grow and mature their businesses.

In marketing, Shareen Pathak takes a look at the challenged agency holding company model by examining how David Jones, a Havas veteran, is trying to build a new type of advertising holding company — just don’t call it an agency. What’s clear from Jones is the old ways agencies approached their businesses are dead and gone. Something new will need to replace it, particularly as clients continue to do more marketing functions on their own. Don’t take my word for it, ask Martin Sorrell. The architect of the world’s largest ad holding company, WPP, is now betting on a new model that caters to clients need for control. The mantra he tells Tim Peterson is one that should send shivers down the spines of ad agencies: “Better, faster, cheaper.”

We’ve interspersed all these stories about the role of intermediaries with profiles of interesting people and features delving deeper into key issues. For our cover piece, I try to take an optimistic view of the recent turbulence in media. All hope is not lost.

This is our 13th issue of Digiday Magazine, part of our membership program, Digiday+. Our own mini-pivot to print is not without its workflow challenges, but it has allowed us to try our hand at new types of stories and design. We hope you enjoy this issue. For those of you reading this who are Digiday+ members, thank you. For those of you who are not yet members, please join.


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