AKQA’s Tom Bedecarré: In 2020, Apple Will Be The World’s Most Powerful Media Company

This afternoon’s media-focused discussion at the Techonomy conference concluded with moderator Dave Morgan of Simulmedia asking panelists to predict the world’s most powerful media company in 2020. Two of the four speakers came up with the same answer — Apple.

The company was barely mentioned in the preceding discussion, but Tom Bedecarré, chairman of digital agency AKQA (which was acquired by advertising conglomerate WPP earlier this year) named Apple because of its “multiple platforms” for delivering media. Frank Speiser, co-founder and CEO of social ad company SocialFlow, echoed Bedecarré’s point, then added that if someone like Facebook or Twitter “teams up with Apple” to improve discovery, they could become major players in the media landscape, as well.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft’s chief economist Susan Athey (an academic who’s also moving from Harvard to Stanford) didn’t appear to be on-board with that prediction. But since the panel was wrapping up, she didn’t argue, instead laughing and saying, “We’ll just close it on that.” Morgan, meanwhile, chimed in with a vote for Amazon.

The larger focus of the panel was the way that advertising is changing and how that might affect existing media companies. Bedecarré suggested that the ad industry isn’t ready for “the next tidal wave of change” that’s coming, namely mobile and social. As an example of how things are changing, Bedecarré pointed to AKQA client Nike, which he said is “not in the business of supporting dying media companies.” Instead, it’s focused on finding “deeper engagement with Nike consumers,” even if that doesn’t involve traditional advertising. For that reason, he said, “We’re more frequently working on apps than ads.”

Morgan noted that as traditional advertising dollars decline, many existing media companies seem to be propped up by subsidiaries that weren’t initially part of their core business, such as The Washington Post and its subsidiary Kaplan. So he asked the panelists if they saw further developments on that front. Bedecarré’s answer: With the way that television viewing is changing (“The idea that you have to be sitting in front of a television set to watch television is going out the window.”), traditional media companies might want to consider buying Netflix.

And in the traditional news industry, Athey made the (pretty safe) prediction that there will be more consolidation and cuts, saying, “We are going to see an inability to support the cost structures that were there in the past.”