Links – 30th November 2008

This list is both later and longer than recent posts, but the quality of thought and writing is extremely high

Changing industries

Seth Godin on things the New York Times could have done to stay ahead in the digital environment. While hindsight is a wonderful thing, and while every successful online venture is greeted by many more failures, the post does indicate the benefits of being a forward thinking organisation that is willing to adapt. Ultimately, it is not about running a newspaper but building ideas.

I also liked Mitch Joel‘s post on “Trading analog dollars for digital pennies”, which lists six reasons why traditional companies are struggling. It is a painful adjustment as industries with high barriers to entry are opened up to anyone with a domain name and some spare time, but it is an adjustment that is vital to survival.

On a sidenote, as marketing budgets get cut, it will be interesting to note whether there will be a shift in distribution between traditional and digital. In times of uncertainty, people tend to fall back on tried and trusted methods, so the online world may temporarily retreat.

I enjoyed this interview with Bethany Klein on the subject of music and advertising. She is writing a book on the subject and, in her view, advertising is replacing the record label as middleman between artist and fan.

And to sum up this section, the Satir model of system change argues that a transforming idea at the moment of chaos can push organisations onward to the next level

Social media innovations

“This Book Will Be Famous” – passed around from famous person to famous person, before being auctioned off for charity. A great idea taking social media properties into the real world.

Zeus Jones has a gift selection site, that can be filtered on elements such as price and gender.

The New York Times has a fascinating article on how crowdsourcing is being harnessed to improve the Netflix rating/recommendation system. There is a prize for the first group to improve the system by 10% yet competitors are collaborating with one another to get closer to the goal. The biggest challenge to overcome is the Napoleon Dynamite problem – a cult film that is particularly divisive.

It has been delayed due to technical issues, but it is worth bookmarking the European equivalent to Google Book SearchEuropeana

Online video

Fox’s take on moving content online (Newteevee). To my mind, the move from single to multiple distribution models is one of the biggest challenges of online video.

Roo Reynolds has written a fairly comprehensive list detailing ways in which one can enjoy online video socially (from backchannels to blogs)

Advertising

A fascinating conversation with a couple of advertising guys, who riff on ideas to take traditional properties into the digital sphere. Facebook overalls and Katie Couric will never be the same again. (New York Times)

Three youth marketing strategies on mobile phones that actually work – creation, communication and customer service are key

Other blog-related posts of interest

Guy Kawasaki on the art of bootstrapping

Bruce Schneier has a thought-provoking post on ephemeral conversation. Today’s children are growing up in an environment where every action and interaction is recorded – very little is now being lost in the ether (which is both good and bad)

From the archives, a New Yorker profile on Shopsin’s General Store – a restaurant with hundreds of choices and a unique attitude to growth and customer service

Miscellaneous posts of interest

A profile on Jason Rohrer – a video-game artist (Esquire)

The database of a music fan that has been to 5,000 gigs over the past 35 years

Fimoculous is starting the aggregation of all lists of 2008 – well worth bookmarking

20 pieces of trivia from Listverse

For the more time-pressed, I would recommend: Seth Godin on the New York Times, Netflix and crowdsourcing, Digital advertising riffs, and Ephemeral conversation

sk

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Why original video content doesn’t perform as well as TV show webisodes

uglybettyNewteevee have reported that ABC are finding that their original online video content does not perform nearly as well as webisodes of shows such as Ugly Betty.

This isn’t a fair comparison. Ugly Betty is one of the biggest shows on ABC; how does traffic for smaller programmes compare to original web content?

A clear distinction should also be drawn between original content and additional content. Additional content has a clear advantage in having a ready-made audience.

The article concentrates on short-form content. It is worth pointing out that long-form catch-up content behaves differently – Ugly Betty’s catch-up performance may not be as strong. This makes sense as not all shows necessarily have repeat value – if lots of people are viewing it on TV then there will be fewer wanting to watch it online.

Though, Ugly Betty has two characteristics that make it more likely to be viewed in catch-up. The first is demography – younger people are likely to be more active and more in need of a catch-up service. Hence shows targeted at 16-34s will find they have a greater percentage of their total audience viewing after the event. The second is genre. Comedies aren’t as critical to be viewed live as sport or reality content (and personally, I prefer to “series-stack”).

But, ultimately, live viewing has the lure of being able to watch new content immediately, and being able to participate in watercooler chat the other day. This is why we find there is a skew in top shows online compared to top shows on TV – check out these stats for single episodes views from the BBC and ITV. They are quite different to top TV episodes.

Short-form content, on the other hand, is additional content. Viewers of this are therefore going to be very closely tied with programme viewers. Passionate advocates of a programme are going to be those that watch live and those that consume the additional content. Using the Coronation Street example (as I repeatedly do), the viewing figures for alternative versions of a character’s death were huge.

I’ve already posted on how TV and online video are complementary rather than contradictory. But it is worth repeating that web traffic to TV channel websites (at least in the UK) is closely correlated to viewing audiences. Big event shows bring in mass audiences viewing live. In pure scale, there are going to be more advocates who want to consume additional content. But these types of show also have very high levels of engagement. If people are talking about a show, they will want additional content to fuel their chat.

This isn’t meant to do original broadband content a disservice. I am a big fan of made for broadband shows – as this list of twelve web series to check out should indicate. They have many benefits, particularly to brands that can explore ways to interact with consumers in a creative and entertaining manner. This article from Broadcast magazine explores this concept, and includes some of the great research done by the people at Futurescape.

Merely, it is simply to highlight the unfair comparison. People visit the websites of TV channels with specific content in mind – they rarely go to browse. TV programmes have much greater visibility and consumption than web-only shows, and it is only natural that they contribute the majority of traffic

sk

Changes to the blog

This blog is now 9 months old. It has lasted a good 8 months longer than I expected it to, and I am keen to continue. I don’t think I have found my “voice” yet but I have truly benefited from posting – both in terms of the process that goes into formalising my thoughts, and from the feedback and comments I have received. Every day I write or read another blog post, I learn something new.

Anyway, I’ve introduced a few changes to the blog. Briefly, these are:

  • A new WordPress template. I’ve switched to the Digg 3 column template by Small Potato. Reading some of Chris Brogan’s posts on personal branding, I felt it was important to have a customised header in order to distinguish myself. At the moment, I have uploaded a photo I took from the Coney Island Ferris Wheel in July 2008, but I may replace it as I’m not convinced by its congruence.
  • Still on the personal branding front, I’ve pulled in some of the content from my outposts onto the blog through RSS feeds. The format isn’t the prettiest (in fact, it is quite ugly) but I now have my recent activity on Twitter (comments and observations), Tumblr (reblogging random or bizarre content I consume elsewhere), Flickr (photos) and Last.fm (music I listen to) brought in, as well as my favourites in delicious (links to all posts) and Slideshare (presentations I like) – incidentally all of these are already syndicated on my Friendfeed. I tend to use these forums to broadcast rather than converse due to time constraints, but I hope to get more involved as I get accustomed to the intricacies and build up more contacts.
  • I’ve refreshed my blog roll. I’ve removed a couple of inactive links and introduced a whole lot more (if I removed your link, frequency was the only consideration – it wasn’t personal)
  • A Zemanta logo may appear in the bottom right corner of some posts giving the option to reblog the post. Zemanta is a tool that suggests photos, links and tags for your posts based on the content. I don’t find the picture suggest helpful, but the link and tag buttons are both very useful.
  • When I remember, I will link to the post in my signature – that way I can stay abreast of any reblogs – from real people (good) and splogs (bad)

Thanks to everyone that has contributed in any way to this blog, and I look forward to continuing my education into matters of all kinds in the coming weeks, months and years.

sk

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Links – 21st November 2008

My top 10 reads of the past week:

1. The Times published an absolutely fantastic article looking at neuroscience and how we can improve our brain performance. The writer pays short shrift to the DS Brain Training activities, for the sensible reason that this rewards recognition and repetition over learning. While we do not yet know a lot about our brain, the author exhorts us to work on improving oneself through a simple mantra: Pay Attention

2. On a neuroscience theme, Martin Lindstrom – author of Buyology – has an article on Advertising Age explaining why sponsorship of American Idol works for Coke but not Ford. Essentially, Ford has had trouble justifying its existence.

3. How intelligence can overcomplicate: Students trying to predict the stockmarket perform worse than a rat finding a piece of cheese. It is the conflict between striving for perfection (through modelling) or accepting a reasonable chance of success (Science Blogs)

4. Chris Anderson has conceded that the Long Tail argument is flawed, in that the number of aggregators providing the long tail of product options conform to powerlaws (think Google, Amazon or Netflix)

5. ETH Zurich have studied Youtube videos to try and work out what constitutes a successful upload. Their typology consists of viral, quality and junk videos – a more nuanced approach to my 4-video typology where viral constituted a single element (against reference, scheduled and topical) (Newteevee)

6. Engage Research and Global Market Insite have published a report saying that online surveys bore respondents. Quite. Unlike telephone or face to face interviews, online is restricted to the narrower range of those that opt-in. Therefore things need to be mixed up regularly in order to avoid a) burn-out and b) recognition of formats and patterns. (Brand Republic)

7. Fast Company has a profile of Sam Ewan – whom some people may refer to as a guerrilla marketing. I don’t particularly like the label, but I think the concept is fantastic – the levels of creativity in constructing a unique experience are limitless

8. A NY Times article looks at how industries change to survive e.g. one might predict the extinction of the bicycle with the advent of the automobile but that evidently wasn’t the case

9. Lifehacker tells us how to burn any type of video file to a playable video DVD

10. And finally, a triumvirate of brilliant little websites (OK I’m cheating in order to get a nice round figure of 10). Tag galaxy transposes Flickr searches to a galaxy of interrelated search items, the Charlian is a Charlie Brooker themed Guardian that came out of their hack day, and Let me Google that for you gives a visual display of searching to colleagues lazily shouting out a question when the answer is in front of them

sk

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Twitter and Mad Men

dondraper_twitterPaul Isakson has revealed himself to be the brains behind the Don Draper profile on Twitter (for those unaware, Don is the central character in the AMC drama Mad Men – set at an advertising agency on Madison Avenue in 1960). Its popularity inspired others, and before long virtually the entire roster of characters (if not all) were Tweeting away.

Paul has said that he will be transferring control of the account over to AMC for them to use it as they wish.

Will AMC make use of it? Should they?

Back in the Summer, AMC asked Twitter to shut down these user accounts due to copyright violation – although after a groundswell (another buzz word du jour) the profiles were reinstated.

I can understand their reasoning behind it, even if I don’t agree with it. Traditionally, branding was about central planning and pushing a clear and coherent message to current and potential users.

But the nature of a brand is in the eye of the beholder. Faris has a great post where he riffs on Paul Feldwick and socially constructed reality to postulate that

A brand is a collective perception in the minds of consumers

This is why UGC and social media is so scary to some people – they can’t control how the message gets reformulated and reconstituted as it passes from person to person and perception to perception – each new thought predicated and built upon the previous.

And as Heinz found out when they asked consumers to submit videos of Ketchup to be used in an advert, people don’t always say or think what you would like them to.

If a brand is to be successful on Twitter or within social media in general, they have to accept this and roll with the punches.

Will AMC? They would obviously prefer it if they could control all Mad Men Twitter accounts. But if they can’t? That depends on how far they are willing to engage with their fans and perpetuate the mythology. With long-running scripted shows, this can be a difficult prospect.

As the comic book world shows, the problems with multiple storylines, continuity problems, canon vs. non-canon, retcons and so on are legion. At the moment, these Twitter accounts are a bit of fun but if AMC get involved, they are given the aura of legitimacy.

Personally, I think that AMC should take the plunge. People are invested in the show and immersed with the storylines – social media offers fantastic options to deepen that engagement further. This in turn creates loyal advocates who will religiously watch the show and expound the benefits to their peers. A few nitpickers aside, this will be a positive step for fans.

But problems can be caused as social media encourages an insider-outsider effect. I have felt first-hand the issues of being an outsider.

A while back, I tweeted that Mad Men makes me want to drink whisky. Presumably through a Twitter search, two of the fake characters promptly added me as contacts. I am only halfway through the first series and by browsing their feeds I quickly saw things I wish I hadn’t.

Social media activities tend to be run on the premise that people are au fait with all the characters and their developments.

If you are not – BEWARE OF SPOILERS

sk

Scheduling online video is a good move

TV Week reports that online video providers are increasingly looking to their TV counterparts for best practice. This is a sensible approach – while the two platforms are different (and should be treated as such) there are plenty of lessons to be learned.

Find that advertisers wait for audiences before committing isn’t a major discovery, but one of the moves announced is very savvy.

Regularly scheduling transmissions is a very good move.

Benefits of online video include the asynchronous nature, letting people choose what to watch when and where they please. But unless people are aware of what is available at any given time, how will they know to consume it?

Video consumption may be impulsive (as Tania mentions in the comments to my previous post), but that impulse is prompted. It will either be driven by an external notification such as a comment or an advert, or a memory.

I’ve found that people tend to visit TV-related sites with specific content in mind. Their visit may not have been planned, but their journey is determined by the content they know is available. Few visit to generally browse – going back to a point in my previous post; it is content driven. People’s first visit to Hulu will be prompted by word of mouth, a search or a publicised piece of content (e.g. Tina Feylin). They then become aware of the variety of content on offer (living in the UK, I am very jealous), and this memory gives another reason for subsequent visits.

TV, to an extent, follows the same path. Channel-flicking is more prevalent but people do plan in advance to watch specific shows. Push factors include

  • TV Guide – people looking at a schedule to see what is on at a point where they plan to view
  • Rituals – they know their favourite shows or strands are on at the same time on a given day
  • Conversation – personal, word of mouth recommendation is a major factor
  • Adverts/Trailers/Bumpers – giving a teaser of what to expect

TV has that live, event feel to it that online video doesn’t. The mass viewing with watercooler chat is an important element of TV. Online doesn’t scale as well, but among niche groups (or tribes, as the buzz word du jour would have it) there may well be a hunger to immediately consume and deconstruct new content. And the opportunity should be provided.

rss-feed-iconTherefore, as well as a regular schedule, prompts should also be incorporated. These could be email reminders, an RSS feed, text updates or an online TV guide that incorporates web series/online video on demand. Forums may be asynchronous but they do operate to the rules of time and as proved by many commenters, there is that urge to be “first”.

This is definitely a move in the right direction. From an advertiser perspective, will it make it easier to plan? Partially, since the timings of availability are known. But there will still be the long tail of consumption well after this, as people find out about the show and catch up. (Though people will presumably watch the show in order, and so the campaign can still be progressed over time in the intended manner.)

The key is the call to action. A schedule isn’t enough – a specific prompt is vital to driving consumption. We see it with TV driving people online, and this will be no different.

sk

SIDENOTE: I see that Yahoo!’s record video views were driven by a combination of topical and viral videos. This is unlikely to be consistent as topical videos are event driven and virals are inherently unpredictable (see my work in progress typology), but it means that when a perfect storm hits, the spikes will be dramatic. Congratulations to them for a great month.

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/smb_flickr/

Moving TV content online complements; it doesn’t cannibalise

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/28481088@N00/

My opinion is not as dogmatic as the title of this post might suggest, but on balance – for most shows, most of the time, at this point in time – the benefits of moving content online (both the original broadcast and additional material) outweigh the drawbacks.

1. Is there a link between the two platforms?

Firstly, to be able to complement or cannibalise, traffic for the two platforms needs to be dependent on one another.

This is plainly the case in the UK, where growth in online performance mirrors TV ratings.

Over the past year, according to Comscore, Channel4.com saw traffic spikes in January and June – when Celebrity Big Brother and Big Brother respectively were broadcast. ITV.com saw spikes in November and May. X-Factor and I’m a Celebrity… are shown in November, and the May schedules contain Britain’s Got Talent.

In addition, when asked, most people on TV websites are there for a specific reason. Some people are just browsing, or have been redirected from somewhere else, but mostly people are looking for information or content around a particular show, series or genre.

2. Won’t moving TV shows online reduce the audience that watch it on TV?

Maybe. Probably. But not certainly.

There are three main reasons for my belief that benefits of fragmentation outweigh drawbacks.

i. The Internet has a different core audience and user experience to TV. The overlap between TV and online is smaller than that between terrestrial and multichannel TV (particularly as digital switchover gets closer).

If one is worried about fragmentation, the proliferation of repeats on the same channel, the +1 channel and the digital family must surely be of greater concern.

ii. Watching TV online is about catching up; not replacement. By far the most popular reasons for watching TV shows online are that the original broadcast was missed, either because the viewer was away from the TV or because they were watching something else. Few choose online at the expense of TV.

The research that Thinkbox and the IAB carried out earlier in the year back this argument up, although their findings have to be caveated with the audience (16-54 heavy/medium Internet users with multichannel TV).

Similarly, research from the IMMI (link is a pdf that directs straight to the report) in the US indicates that few people start watching a TV series via catch-up. They initially watch via TV but move online at a later date – possibly because they missed the broadcast or because they happened to be online when they wanted to watch it.

immi-research(Click through to see a larger version of the chart)

iii. At this stage, the majority prefer watching content on TV.

The Thinkbox/IAB work found that 3 in 5 say that screen size limits their enjoyment of watching TV online. Until people figure out how to plug their Internet connection into their television, the experience isn’t going to be the same. And as TV moves ahead with high definition broadcasting, it will be interesting to see whether the online network providers can cope with matching that data quality.

Furthermore, simulcast still isn’t universal and for some shows the live experience is integral to the enjoyment of the programme.

In summary, people will continue to watch TV shows via TV if they can. But if they are unable to, moving the content online offers them a convenient opportunity to catch up at their leisure.

3. Do viewers care about additional content online?

My answer to this is an emphatic yes. One of the great things about the Internet is the low cost of experimentation, so sceptics can run mini-trials without any great outlay.

Initial wisdom suggested that this would only work for some shows. The Heroes 360 experience has been phenomenally successful, but the Heroes audience is primarily young and tech savvy. Similarly, the BBC has provided additional online content for shows such as Spooks and Doctor Who, where people can play games and find out additional plot points.

When done well, this content may be very powerful. In The Truth About Marika, the conspiracy theory was so convincing that a quarter of the show’s audience actually believed it was real.

But engaging with TV content online is becoming a mass activity. The growth of laptops has enabled people to consume TV and Online content simultaneously, as this chart from Thinkbox/IAB suggest (again clickthrough for a larger version).

If people enjoy a show, they will go online immediately to find out more about the storyline. Not just for Heroes, but for other shows. In the weekend after a major character’s death in Coronation Street, alternative versions of the death were viewed 650,000 times.

This approach has twin benefits. It rewards the biggest fans with additional information on their favourite characters and storylines. But it also creates new advocates. Casual fans consuming this content online, either by accident or design, may be won over, increasing the chances of them not only watching the TV broadcast themselves but also promoting it to their friends.

And word of mouth isn’t a bad thing to be able to harness…

sk

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