Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL, CNET on 'What will tomorrow bring?'

What is in the cards for the interactive future? No crystal ball was onstage this morning at the MIXX conference in New York City, but a stellar panel of digital trendsetters did provide real-world insight into how interactive properties are striving to enhance creativity, user engagement and accountability to, in the words of Shelby Bonnie, CEO, CNET Networks (parent of ZDNet), build brands that “stand for something to both users and advertisers.

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What is in the cards for the interactive future? No crystal ball was onstage this morning at the MIXX conference in New York City, but a stellar panel of digital trendsetters did provide real-world insight into how interactive properties are striving to enhance creativity, user engagement and accountability to, in the words of Shelby Bonnie, CEO, CNET Networks (parent of ZDNet), build brands that “stand for something to both users and advertisers.”

Jack Myers, Editor & Publisher, Jack Myers Report, Moderator

Panelists:

Greg Coleman, Executive Vice President, Global Media Sales, Yahoo
Joanne Bradford, Corporate Vice President , Chief Media Revenue Officer, Microsoft
Michael Kelly, President, AOL Media Networks
Shelby Bonnie, CEO, CNET Networks
Tim Armstrong, VP Advertising Sales, Google
Jim Spanfeller, CEO, Forbes.com

In the 1990’s, Web properties “felt like online magazines” while today online content is more akin to “cable channels,” Bonnie said. Spanfeller characterized online content as “entwined media.”

Coleman underscored the need to drive content through partnerships while signaling the difficulty in finding “common ground to get a deal done.” Bradford echoed that "lines are blurring" when it comes to negotiating content plays: "Is it distribution? PR?" For Armstrong, content is no longer a "zero sum" game.

The networked nature of today’s Web experience was reflected in both the panel composition and panelists’ commentary. From content distribution to equity ownership, collaborative competition abounds on the Internet.

Given the pervasive cross fertilization among Web properties, how does an online brand stand out as a must go-to destination? “Build an authentic environment” and “give value to users,” according to Bonnie.

Bradford and Spanfeller believe there is great untapped opportunity in making “navigation easier”; Bradford indicated that 50% of search queries result in unsatisfactory results for users.

Algorithmic filtering and machine ranking of content has its limitations, panelists concurred. Bonnie indicated the importance of editorial assistance in identifying and prioritizing content. He referenced Google News saying a listing of dozens of versions of the “same AP story” is not helpful; He wants to see the handful of stories that “people are actually doing the work on.” Armstrong echoed that there is much room “for improvement” in search.

In a subtle nod to Yahoo, Myers asked "what is in the cards for Facebook"? Coleman, however, is interested in what the major traditional media companies are contemplating.

Kelly seemed to speak for the panel when he seconded, “it’s all about scale.”