The Sixth Annual Media Forum was held on April 6th, 2010 in the Feldberg space of Warren Hall. The afternoon began with an update on the state of the economy from Chris Mayer, Senior Vice Dean and Paul Milstein Professor of Real Estate. After severe price declines, stability is starting to return to the housing market which has seen a decline in delinquencies for the first time in several years. Mayer was optimistic that the economy would experience slow growth, but acknowledged the risk of downside potential and the government’s lack of resources for another bailout.
David Rogers, Executive Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership, then shared media themes that came out of the annual BRITE conference. Bernd Schmitt, Robert D. Calkins Professor of International Business & Faculty Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership, followed with a conversation with Sir Martin Sorrell, Chief Executive of WPP, on the impact of the digital revolution on communications and branding: Sir Martin talked about his focus on how geography and technology impact his client needs. He shared his perspective on how globalization has affected spending on marketing in that we are moving away from “the Americanization of the world” and U.S. domination of ad dollars, citing the emergence of valuable non-US brands in China and India. Bernd quizzed him on a variety of technologies, and he conveyed a relatively bullish view on blogging, video sharing, satellite television, and new media, and a relatively bearish view on twitter, newspapers, free television, and traditional U.S. ad agencies. The group thoroughly enjoyed listening to Sorrell’s thoughts on these and other topics including pay for content, advertising, trends and Google’s position in the industry.
After a break, the topic shifted to the challenges and opportunities for media companies in China. Shang-Jin Wei, N.T.Wang Professor of Chinese Business and Economy and Director of the Chazen Institute of International Business, led this session with a discussion of China’s recent growth and his theory on how the sex ration imbalance (too many men than women) is a driver of high growth due to the fact that men are inspired to accumulate wealth in the population in order to marry well. He also covered the question of censorship in China and how it will not necessarily harm growth, depending on how it is managed. He cited Singapore as an example of a high growth economy with limits on speech.
Robert Thomson, Editor-in-Chief of Dow Jones and Managing Editor of The Wall Street Journal, then shared his experiences as Beijing correspondent for the Financial Times during the ‘80s as well as overseeing the WSJ’s operations in China. The WSJ operates independently in China rather than as part of a joint venture and currently does not use a subscription model. While content is blocked occasionally, the Chinese government appears to support the idea of the professional class having access to the WSJ. To operate successfully (if not necessarily profitably, which Forum members agreed was extremely difficult), Thomson stressed the importance of understanding Chinese partners’ objectives, which continue to change over time.
The afternoon wrapped up with a cocktail reception attended by members of the Media Management Association.