Media's brightest minds discussed video, industry newcomers, and emerging platforms at IGNITION 2017

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Henry Blodget IGNITION 2017Getty/Monica SchipperHenry Blodget, cofounder, CEO, and editor-in-chief of Business Insider.

The future of media looks like it's going to be a fascinating place, as new technologies keep disrupting traditional storytelling and publishers and editors grow nimbler in their efforts to keep up. At IGNITION 2017, data and marketing company Sailthru sponsored talks with some of the leaders of the media world to get their insights. Here are just a few of the highlights:

Claudia Grimaldi Marks, senior art director and content producer at Getty Images, sat down with Piera Gelardi, cofounder and executive creative director at Refinery29; Denise Bidot, model and founder of the No Wrong Way Movement; and Sarah Sophie Flicker, national organizer of the Women's March, all to discuss the past year in women's issues, and how each is evolving a platform to reach audiences.

Flicker, a moving force behind this year's record-breaking Women's March, discussed the power of social media to communicate with audiences. "Social media has been amazing at creating an inclusive place and platform for people who didn't normally have a voice," she said.

Much of the organizing for the Women's March happened on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Flicker said many of the discussions that took place there would've been impossible in another setting.

Plus-size women make up 67% of the population but are represented in 2% of images in mainstream media. Refinery29 worked with Getty Images on the "67% Project" to rectify that disparity, producing over 800 photos featuring plus-size models of all body types, races, and backgrounds, and made the collection available to publishers everywhere. "You can't be what you can't see," Marks said.

For Bidot, being a plus-size model means being an activist. "There's no wrong way to be a woman" is the root of the inclusivity movement she's building, which now includes men, too.

The new front porch

Nirav Tolia, founder and CEO of Nextdoor, spoke with Business Insider's Pete Spande about building another kind of grassroots community. Nextdoor is a private social network used by 90% of neighborhoods in the US and has expanded to the UK, the Netherlands, and Germany.

A different take on social media, the value proposition of Nextdoor is all about utility. Neighbors share recommendations and intel, including local services, job and housing opportunities, lost pets, and crime concerns. They use the platform to help one another during crises like this year's hurricanes, floods, and fires. And public agencies such as police and fire departments have leveraged Nextdoor for more efficient, targeted crisis communication.

Since the network is private, there's no marketing or SEO, and yet Nextdoor has achieved an astonishing 100% growth rate each of the past six years since its founding by word of mouth and neighbors inviting neighbors.

Surviving the Media Apocalypse

Troy Young, global president of Hearst Digital Media, and Kate Lewis, senior vice president and editorial director of Hearst Digital Media, discussed the challenges and excitement of taking the magazine business digital.

"New rising out of the old" is part of Hearst's DNA, and Young said the Hearst team has evolved to be nimble at producing content across multiple endpoints while keeping the brand's core values and message intact.

Lewis' editorial team, on the other hand, is enjoying the fast-paced change. The concern for many editors was the constant talk of pivoting to video, but Lewis said she has found success training traditional editorial staff to create their own videos and that it's made everyone more engaged and excited about their jobs.

The data-science imperative: practical applications for 2018

Jason Grunberg, vice president of marketing at Sailthru, walked us through some great examples of how leading content companies are using data and data science to drive product innovation, including adopting personalization as a core strategy and seamlessly embedding commerce into content environments.

For example, if you want to optimize the engagement of your users, the email, web, and mobile experiences should be connected so that any one user should not be served the same content across those three platforms, making for a better, personalized user experience and enhanced monetization opportunities.

The second Golden Age of Audio

Alex Blumberg, CEO and cofounder of podcasting company Gimlet Media, left public radio to start Gimlet three years ago. In a meta move, Gimlet's first podcast, "StartUp," chronicled the process of starting the company. Blumberg recorded everything from conversations with his wife (typically about how bad an idea starting Gimlet was) to every investor meeting. "StartUp" struck a nerve and led to Gimlet's first funding round, as well as an ABC series based on the podcast starring Zach Braff as Blumberg.

Another Gimlet podcast Homecoming will be an Amazon Studios series next summer starring Julia Roberts. And Richard Linklater is directing a movie starring Robert Downey Jr. based on an episode of "Reply All." According to Blumberg, podcasts are like comic books in their ability to spawn valuable intellectual property beyond the initial platform.

Image is everything

Great imagery and storytelling start with the lens and the artistry of the cinematographer.

According to Canon's Larry Thorpe, TV is experiencing a renaissance, and the sheer volume of high-end programming and fierce competition between networks like FX, HBO, NBC, and OTT services like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu foster a creative environment where imaging and production values are ever more important. Netflix's "The Crown" - shot and streamed in 4K - and HBO's "Young Pope" are good examples of the race for spectacular visual quality.

Another frontier of innovation is enabled by new camera technology that allows you to shoot and broadcast images that you couldn't see in person, such as nocturnal animals captured in total darkness with zero lighting.

Making Reality Great Again: The future of virtual, augmented, and mixed

Dave Meeker, vice president of Isobar, and Rob Ruffler, vice president of Viacom NEXT, presented an overview of virtual-, augmented-, and mixed-reality technologies and explained the differences between them. They talked about the future hardware and platforms that promise to make VR and AR more accessible and therefore more mainstream.

That said, the uptake of these technologies is dependent on killer content. They showed a music video they collaborated on with Billy Corgan, of Smashing Pumpkins fame, for his single "Aeronaut," the first video ever shot inside of virtual reality.

IGNITION 2018 will be here before you know it! Stay tuned for exciting announcements and updates.

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