The 2013 Media Growth Report explores how media and related technology companies are responding to market changes, leveraging technology and developing new products.

Produced in partnership with JEGI, the report is built around a survey of over 225 senior executives (83% C-level) in addition to a number of interviews to provide context around the numbers. 

To say that media companies have been through a period of upheaval is an understatement and to hope that it’s over is naive. Those with offline businesses have seen steep drops in readership, falling ad values and the rise of online competitors with lower cost structures.

Even digital-first businesses have had to contend with changing media consumption habits and a proliferation of channels and technologies that are as much challenge as promise.

In response to these forces, many media companies have evolved. They’ve restructured management, changed their financial bases, redirected resources around innovation and made investments in technology to support their goals.

They have also come to the realization that there’s no plateau in site, and that constant change and aggressive innovation has become a way of life.

It’s in this context that the 2013 Media Growth Report looks at the key question facing media companies; how do we grow?

Now in its third year, the report offers a view of the industry over time, and from a highly senior perspective. Most of the respondents and interviewees who participated in the research are CEOs, CMOs or Chairmen for their organizations (83%).

Top of mind and top priority is new product development. That’s the top path to growth foreseen by study respondents (61%), outpacing expansion within existing markets (58%) and growing through acquiring (37%). Those new products lean heavily on existing data that’s processed and packaged in new ways.

Top Growth Drivers Next 12-24 Months

Among the most essential shifts that has taken place is the way in which media companies sell to and relate with their customers.

The move toward customization is a difficult one, but by asking “what do you need” instead of “will you buy what I’m selling,” media companies have found one of their richest sources of innovation. Many of the new products cited in executive interviews originated as custom projects.

Of course with aggressive product development comes widespread competition, and respondents cited “new competitors” as the top systemic challenge. This pressure has made media companies far more agile in their approach to emerging and existing offerings; they are more willing than ever before to shift resources away from products that are profitable but easily commoditized.

Internally, attracting talent is a perennial issue. In this year’s report, there’s a spike in those saying that it’s especially difficult to find senior talent (from 20% last year to 34% in 2013).

This phenomenon can be traced to the mobility of senior talent with digital experience and to the availability of start-up capital in the sectors within and adjacent to digital media and technology.

In response to the talent shortage, many companies are accelerating their use of acqui-hiring, or purchasing companies for their senior and technical talent. In those organizations that have excelled in this practice, it’s typical to see long-term, uncapped earn-outs designed to reward continued growth and innovation. Larger companies often find it a challenge to balance their need for forecasting with the desire to give these “internal start-ups” the freedom to be agile.

But acqui-hiring is just one aspect of a general boom in acquisition. Companies at every revenue level raised their expectations of making one or more acquisitions from 2012 levels.

Nearly 78% of those with revenues in excess of $250M anticipate making an acquisition. Not surprisingly, companies related to emerging media, mobile and data technologies are at the top of the target list for acquirers.

The Media Growth Report also explores the challenges media companies face in leveraging their data. While they see their abilities to store, normalize and manipulate data as having increased significantly, executives are still concerned with the most essential question of how to extract valuable insights.

Various respondents are approaching this in different ways, but many are looking outside the organization for help, from their agencies and consultants as well as from the providers of third party data themselves.

For more information, including how media organizations are structuring their capital budgets, their perception of the role of social media and the challenges they see to their acquisition plans, the full 2013 Media Growth Report is available to Econsultancy Subscribers.