With increasing media fragmentation, marketers have to find better ways to push online advertising without intruding on the user experience, according to a panel that gathered Thursday at the 2008 Jordan Edmiston Group (JEGI) Growth Conference.

“It all comes down to context and what customers are interested in,” said Thomas Evans, president-COO of Bankrate, an online aggregator of financial rate information, who spoke at a panel titled, ‘Business Models Revolutionizing Media.’ “Media companies have to figure out how to integrate information for consumers without shoving” it to them. The panel was moderated by Gordon Crovitz, former publisher of The Wall Street Journal.

The conference, which drew more than 200 media executives and media bankers, focused on how marketers can weather the current financial storm and what to do in a world in which consumer are increasingly tuning out commercial messages altogether (both online and off).

As Larry Weber, chairman of Racepoint Group and Digital Influence Group, put it: “My teenagers never saw a commercial until I forced them to watch one.”

In the current climate, marketers can hunker down or use the downward cycle to create a new paradigm in marketing communications. “In tough times you can be conservative because of the pain or change corporate communications departments, create heads of content and make structural changes,” Weber said. The consensus on the panel seemed to be that because of the velocity of change in media markets, the latter is the better route.

So what are the new business models revolutionizing media? Well, considering the revolution is, for now, in retreat it’s probably going to take some time for new models to emerge. “We’re still in the first inning of new models but trying to force old models is a huge mistake,” Weber said, adding that marketers need to understand that we’re in a “dialogue era.”

Search is one way marketers, particularly those in the b-to-b space, can create new business models, according to the panelists. Call it an opportunity to create “edited search” tools that can provide more ganular information than Google.

“Brands have real value, the paradox is that generally they’re not the first item to show up on a Google page,” said Shawn Colo, co-founder and head of M&A for Demand Media, which publishes, produces, syndicates online content and social media. “You have to figure out in a search-driven world how to compete with start-ups, understand algorithm and program content to fit your audience.”

Weber said as the next generation on the Web approaches, marketers have an opportunity to make search on their own sites more social and contextual. “Don’t make me go to Google,” he said. “There’s always an evolution of a category and the one who leads first often doesn’t lead second.”

Weber also stressed that “people should watch sites like Amazon.com.” He said people tend to stay on the site for a good while because of how rich the links are. “You can get entertained at the same time you’re buying stuff.”

(A search on Amazon.com’s Movies & TV link found an offer for the DVD version of the classic film, “The Graduate.” That link, in turn, led to a short video on how the movie impacted cinema, which led one to search for similar links. Next thing you know, it’s 20 minutes later.)

Asked about online-subscription models, Dave Morgan, former chairman-CEO of online ad network Tacoda and current chairman of The Tennis Company, was dubious. “There’s no scarcity of distribution, so why should people pay?”

Here is a link to Jordan, Edmiston’s “State of the Media Industry,” which is chock-full of tables, charts, graphs and analysis on media trends. JEGI expects a market recovery in 2009 and a rebound in the broader economy by 2010.

We’ll soon provide some video interviews from the conference.