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And the future is...Katie Couric on the Internet?

Katie Couric
Robin Marchant | Getty Images
Katie Couric

There's a huge shift going on in the media world, and it's hit a fever pitch in the past few days. The future of a media universe where content is completely separated from delivery appears closer than ever.

Gaming and entertainment hardware (or phone and tablet for that matter) are increasingly the gateway to the content users consume. It's no longer a cable box leased from your carrier tied to a regimented channeling of content.

Meanwhile, cable providers have already moved on: They're increasingly preparing themselves to be broadband providers. They are now looking to consolidate to maintain prices and leverage network scale in a world where consumers just need data/Internet access and get the content they want directly from the studios and new entrants like Netflix and Amazon. Not to mention a range of independents (like BuzzFeed) that will deliver via YouTube.

And there's a migration of traditional media talent to some of these new content providers,such as Yahoo's addition of Katie Couric from ABC (where she'll keep her talk show) and David Pogue from the New York Times.

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So the cable companies are now broadband companies, Microsoft, Google (withChromecast) and Apple (with Apple TV) are now the hardware or new cable-box companies, and Yahoo is competing as a media company with the likes of ABC, CBS, and NBC.

Amid all this upheaval, the key will be to figure out how to build media and content brand loyalty in an on-demand world and grow an increasingly mobile and social audience.

Yahoo made news snagging Couric, but this choice strikes me as somewhat surprising: The median age of Yahoo readers is 43 (according to the latest Comscore stats), and she is not someone who is likely to draw in a new and young audience that will provide the next 10 to 20 years of Yahoo viewership.

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Yahoo's home page can send tons of traffic to just about any piece of content. But the question becomes: Will readers like it? Will they share it on social media?

Social is increasingly how media companies are getting their traffic. Social is the front page for content, be it family pictures or breaking news. To judge the true success of content, media players need to look at "social lift" — the proportion of their traffic to content that comes from social sources like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Reddit and emerging players like WhatsApp.

So, while Couric was a good "get" for Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer that will likely translate to exclusive and high profile segments and interviews, it raises some questions about return on investment when you consider that she isn't likely to be a big social, mobile, and youth-consumption driver.

Stay tuned: We are seeing so much movement in how we get news and entertainment now that I think the next 18 to 24 months should be dramatic.

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—By Jon Steinberg

Jon Steinberg is the president & chief operating officer of BuzzFeed and is responsible for all business management, company operations, finance, and social advertising operations. Follow him on Twitter @jonsteinberg.

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