Selena Gomez, Taylor Swift, Yahoo, AOL & The Value Of Brands & Content

Media and celebrity go hand-in-hand these days, and there’s so much conjecture about the value of all these various celebrities with their tours and posts, and then the recent sales of both AOL and Yahoo! All of the talk about the values of various celebrities and media companies can become a blur, so I decided to focus in on two women and two media companies to compare their monetary and marketing values.

Here’s a quick snapshot:

It’s interesting when you look at the total size of the audience between these four brands–we’ll think about them as brands just so we have a level playing field for discussion.

Yahoo – reports that over 1 billion people visit at least 1x/month
Taylor Swift – 220 million followers (across FB, Twitter and Instagram)
Selena Gomez – 182 million followers (across FB, Twitter and Instagram)
AOL – reports that 53 million millennials and 81 million women visit at least 1x/month

For Taylor Swift to have more followers than a 20+ year old media brand has, and to be at 20% of the volume of a brand that just sold for $4.2 billion, is staggering. Likewise, when a Selena Gomez can command $550,000 for a single post, which puts her in league—price-wise at least—with an event like the SuperBowl. These are 20-something women with audiences that rival media giants. We’ve been seeing this trend toward celebrities for some time now, but looking at these numbers side-by-side is staggering.

No, these are not apples-to-apples comparisons, but even still. The challenge for brands trying to build in this day and age are many. You are now seeing the media landscape transition from the hands of media conglomerates who have aggregated all of the eyeballs to a combination of platform owners—like cable channels and cellular providers—and celebrity superstars who have amassed huge followings. Remember when we were talking about Oprah getting 1 million Twitter followers? That seems quaint now.

If I am a brand today, then I am faced with the prospect of continuing to subsidize a broken media machine, or dealing with the ups and downs of celebrity lives  and their increasing influence over the millennial audience. This is just the reality of modern marketing, and it is continuing to put brands in tougher and tougher spots. If a brand is positioned well enough to fit with a celebrity—and perhaps even boost the celebrity’s status—then all they need to do is negotiate. But, if my brand is not positioned well, or worse, if my brand is seen as a drag on a celebrity’s status, then I’m not going to be able to participate.

We are slowly migrating to this era of audiences aggregating around the individual versus around a media property, and these new celebrity-brands-as-media do not have advertising inventory in their lives. They have agents and managers looking to monetize their fame AND burnish the brand of their client at the same time. A media organization has a group dedicated to selling inventory to a group of advertisers, and both sides are (for the most part) not that picky about who shows up where. Yes, there are instances where an advertiser will be rejected, but these are the exception, not the rule. For celebrity media, it is all about fit and negotiation.

Right now, there are only a few celebrities who can command the attention of brands, but this is changing rapidly, and we are seeing new platforms come onto the market quickly that are up-ending this entire dynamic and allowing brands to access tens of thousands of micro-celebrities at scale. As this begins to scale, it is going to get even harder for new brands to build awareness.

All of this means that the time is now for a brand to start building its audience. Building an audience of your own is a game-changer for a brand, and it’s going to be an imperative for brands in the future for the very reason that aggregating any kind of eyeballs at scale is going to require you to work with dozens and dozens of media companies and influencers. This means more middlemen in the form of agencies and sales folks, which means more non-working marketing dollars in the system, which means higher prices for consumers.

It is in the best interest of your consumers for you to begin to pull them together into a database so you can more cost effectively communicate with them. There’s just an entire media complex dedicated to keeping you from doing this.

Ignore them. Get to know your audience. Start making content they love. Send it to them regularly. Listen when they talk to you. It’s never too late. Until it is.