Faculty members across disciplines have developed cases based on their expertise and research in the media and technology industries. Below are excerpts of recent media and technology cases written for courses at Columbia Business School. A number of these cases are available through the Columbia CaseWorks program.
Measuring ROI on Sponsored Search Ads
Summer 2017 — Kinshuk Jerath
This case scenario is based on a real company (with name disguised and artificial but representative data) that uses search engine advertising, running paid search ads on the two major search engines, Google and Bing. Students are presented with weekly traffic data for both Google and Bing and are asked to perform an ROI analysis for the company. Solution Notes are available for both student and instructor use for this case.
A Primer on Programmatic Advertising
Spring 2017 — Kinshuk Jerath / Miklos Sarvary
By 2016 the explosion of digital advertising was a global phenomenon. And many industry observers believed that programmatic advertising, that is digital advertising allocated through automated marketing systems, was the future of digital advertising. In a programmatic advertising environment, buyers and sellers of online (digital) advertising connected over an exchange buying and selling available inventory. For advertisers, programmatic marketing offered the promise of less costly and more targeted and effective placements. This Primer discusses the programmatic advertising eco-system and the challenges inherent in negotiating this system (e.g., the persistence of ad blocking and the threat of fraud)—as well as future growth opportunities for programmatic advertising.
AT&T Bids for Time Warner
Winter 2017 — Kathryn Rudie Harrigan / Christof Spaeth
In October 2016 AT&T announced its intention to merge with Time Warner, considered to be a reflection of how US media dynamics were changing within market that both firms served. This case explores the components and evolving dynamics of content creation and distribution in the media industry and the role played by both companies in the industry. This case also asks students to consider how the diverse lines of business of the combined company would be integrated should the merger consummate.
Disruptive Forces in the Media Industry
Winter 2017 — Kathryn Rudie Harrigan / Christof Spaeth
After a “honeymoon” period 1998-2005 when media industry profits benefited from advances in digital technology, the following decade threatened to erode these gains.This note describes the media industry’s structure and key players to shed light on how this technological progress has created fewer barriers to entry along the industry’s value chain, ultimately shrinking media companies’ profit margins.
Tinder: From Swiping Right to Scaling Up
Winter 2017 — Dan J. Wang
Founded in 2012, Tinder has commanded the attention of investors and entrepreneurs alike. Dating site users had long valued and were willing to pay subscription fees for traditional dating websites that filter a small selection matches from a large population of potential partners with the promise of more meaningful interactions. Tinder, on the other hand, initially offered a free service that extended the range of people users could access, with little attention to the quality of potential matches. In 2016, Tinder was poised to transition from a free access model to a monetizing platform. This case outlines the company’s history, its monetization strategy, and the industry’s competitive landscape—and asks students to consider Tinder’s prospects for continued growth.
Uber: New Roads Ahead
Fall 2016 — Evan Rawley / Dan J. Wang
In only five years Uber had moved from start-up to transportation behemoth, its very name synonymous with on-demand ride-hailing. By 2016, the company was seeking to expand its services to other categories far beyond its basic ride-related offerings, such as UberEATS. This case recaps Uber’s meteoric rise and asks students to consider whether the company can utilize its advantage in ride hailing to challenge established players in other logistics markets.
The Washington Post and NY Times “Are a-Changin’”: Incumbent Media Leaders Fight Back
Spring 2016 — Todd Jick
After steep industry declines through 2012, two of the most venerable American newspapers, the New York Times and the Washington Post, accelerated their efforts to combat the challenge posed by the steady development of the Internet. This case asks students to consider whether the repositioning of the organizations under new leadership--Mark Thompson at the Times and Jeff Bezos at the Post—will provide a foundation for long-term success.
Netflix: Continuous Innovation or Self Destruction?
Summer 2015 — Jerry Kim
Netflix had achieved tremendous success through continuous innovation and disruption—even if it meant the cannibalization of its existing businesses. But questions remained as to whether Netflix’s monthly subscription model could continue to sustain the high costs of developing original content in multiple countries. To what degree did original content help Netflix attract and retain subscribers? Could Netflix charge high enough rates and acquire and retain enough subscribers and to justify its content investments? Should Netflix’s strategic focus be third-party content aggregation, or should the company continue to develop itself as a premium brand? This case asks students to address these questions in order to determine Netflix’s best strategy going forward.
Native Advertising: Innovation or Trendy Trap?
Summer 2014 — Ava Seave
When a negotiator of digital investments at a global advertising firm is given the task of developing an innovative media strategy for a car insurance product targeting young urban drivers, she looks to native advertising as a possible option. This case considers the genesis of native advertising, the associated costs, and the challenges to providing meaningful metrics as she weighs the pros and cons of this option for the firm’s client.
Bloomberg LP – More Than the Box?
Spring 2014 — Jonathan Knee / Miklos Sarvary
In late 2013, Bloomberg LP, the financial information powerhouse, was challenged by a competing messaging service owned by a consortium of banks, many of whom were Bloomberg’s customers. This development came when growth was slowing and news was emerging that Bloomberg’s business practices may have compromised the privacy of its customers. Did these events serve to open fissures in the company’s ability to maintain industry dominance?
Contently: Evolution of a Media Start-Up
Spring 2014 — Ava Seave
At the time of its launch, Contently was a digital marketplace, where small businesses, agencies, and corporations could search for writers. But recent financial results showed that Contently earned substantially more profit from its Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business than from its writers’ commissions. This case--which includes background on the evolution of content marketing, information on the SaaS industry, as well as data on Contently's financial performance--asks students to evaluate Contently's best path to profitable growth.
Pandora Internet Radio
Fall 2013 — Omar Besbes / Mark Broadie / Garrett van Ryzin
A one-time struggling musician himself, Pandora Internet Radio CEO Tim Westergren believed the algorithm behind his Music Genome Project could expand the musical horizons of Pandora users—beyond the limited playlist of most radio stations.
Fall 2013 — Bruce Greenwald
This case tracks the events leading to the 2001 reorganization of Reuters PLC, a financial news and information company that had enjoyed continuous growth since its beginnings in 1851. CEO Tom Glocer was charged with the task of developing a new strategy for Reuters in light of the March 2000 crash of the Internet bubble and the post 9/11 uncertainty surrounding financial markets. Would this new reorganization secure Reuters’ success?
The Walt Disney Company: If You Give this Mouse a Focus
Summer 2013 — Jerry Kim / Stephen Meier
In December 2012, Walt Disney Company Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Robert A. Iger announced the completion of his company’s $4 billion acquisition of Lucasfilm Ltd., further expanding the company’s footprint in its Studio Entertainment segment. Was Iger navigating the company on a solid strategic course or was he engaged in the same “empire building” that ultimately forced his predecessor Michael Eisner to resign?Previously released cases on media and technology