Continuing the theme of the impact of Distributed Media, there's still a strong 'play' that the traditional media owners have, "brand
It's my feeling that the signifcance of a strong brand in the digital space is under-played by most industry pundits and the wider media. A brand is what we understand a product or service to be, it's the sum of all parts and it's built from every single interaction we have and have had with a company.
Like an 'old friend', brands run deep in people's consciousness. People know instinctively from experience what to expect and what their getting in to. Easyjet and RyanAir are 'no-frills' airlines, Heinz baked-beans taste the same each time, Amazon get you the books on-time at good prices, New York Times gives us only news it is willing to vouch for, everyday.
Jeff Bezos rolled the Amazon dice heavily toward this all encompassing 'brand'. And they deserve to sit alongside other huge names. But they did so in a new, young emerging space. So at the time there was territory and time to establish such a fresh brand.
As time goes by there is less space in the big categories for fresh new players. When the 'old brands' play the ace-card in the digital they are carrying with them an unfair (unfair for pure plays) amount of history, heritage and positive (they hope) feeling from consumers.
So the question becomes, "In consumers minds, how much importance is there on the digital interface versus the actual content and brand behind it?"
MSN, Google and Yahoo! better believe we love their interface to content so much we're willing to drop the brand sites we visit.
Taking that thought into the real world context, when Walmart (hello USA) or Tesco push their own-label products do you stop buying the branded products? No, but maybe you substitute a couple of less important brand items in your shopping trolley for own-label.
The same will probably be true online. The brands still hold the Ace Card, if they can learn how and when to play it.