As canna reform begins to become more than a much-whispered reality in Europe, there are those who are obviously exploring new business ideas around it. One of the easiest, non-plant touching models to begin exploring, of course, has been media.
For the past several years, mainstream media has begun to cover the industry in a way that is not hopelessly biased. For the most part, the image of the stoned underachiever has as a result also slowly begun to recede into the rear view mirror. Social media itself, and not only in the United States, has helped the politics of reform move forward in fact, particularly over the last decade.
That is also, of course, true in Europe. However, canna media is now falling into a different kind of vertical than it used to. It is morphing in a way that is affected by reform of all kinds. But it is also being affected by other forces shaping media in general.
In Europe, what this ultimately means is that cannabis-themed media is looking at a revenue base that will be very differently focussed than its patient base. Why? Doctors and pharma companies cannot advertise. There will be no specialist pharmacies. And for now, there is no “state reform” to support anything other than the flotsam and jetsam kinds of activities that have so far supported the media that exists here. Head and grow shops, accessory distributors and a growing number of hemp-based food and supplement manufacturers so far, have tended not to go in for national advertisement of the kind necessary to support either traditional or online media efforts focussed on this space.
What this means in the short term, particularly in Europe, is that cannabis media will be looking for another way to support itself. And right now, the options are rather slim.
The Role of Vape and Seed Companies
To date, and there is very little change in this equation so far, certainly until the business media sector gets up and running here, there are two large and reliable supporters of cannabis media. These are the vape and seed companies – headquartered in the Netherlands and elsewhere – who are taking to the internet to promote their wares. In the meantime, what they are producing is a level of cannabis media coverage that is not only sustainable but already covering the same topics that ostensibly “cannabis only” media tends to follow and focus on.
Having a media following in social media takes not only good writers but a staff who can insert this content into the right venues and streams to get it noticed in multiple markets. “Cannabis media” in other words, has yet to make a revenue stream work on the strength of the content alone, particularly if it is a stand-alone entity and even more particularly if it is operating in Europe.
The one exception to the same is marketing created by (in particular) Dutch seed companies in the last few years. Online shops have increasingly solicited writers to help their patients understand the distinctions on the market as well as the shape and speed of legalization.
This pattern has largely been followed (although not always as successfully) by vape manufacturers.
What will Change this?
In the United States, obviously, the role of advertising in this medium is already changing. This is caused by changes in state markets where medical reform, at a minimum, has now finally come. It is still difficult to advertise, however, online sites and networks are beginning to carve a place for themselves. Further, recreational shops and operators can now begin to create and advertise brands that are starting to carve out national presence, albeit state by state. In Canada, the entire equation is also very different simply because this is a medical market with a target start for adult use next year.
In Europe, however, with different laws and a market that is just now slowly coming out of the shadows, the future of canna media is set to take a far different path. Just how it will bloom and where is still very unsure. However, it is a market that is underserved by existing publications who have to date focused on the grey nature of legalization. Efforts that are supporting themselves by other revenue streams than the traditional advertising model (which is already under attack more generally by the trends in online advertising that remit most of the global revenue stream for such efforts to Google and Facebook) are the only ones in other words that stand a long term chance of success.
How cannabis media negotiates this challenge will be interesting to watch, particularly on the content side, because they are competing with other efforts, both supported by commercial endeavours and amateur efforts along with the ongoing legalization effort overall.