Certain people are paid a lot of money to prognosticate on the next big thing. I’m not one of those (in either payment, or size of payment). Many factors influence, but one I’m particularly interested in is media buzz. In my opinion, traditional media is important in moving new technology products and services from early adopters towards the mainstream.
Important, but not necessary – and certainly not sufficient. Not all of the media hype cycles have come to pass – Second Life being an oft-cited example.
However, the likes of Myspace, Facebook and Twitter have seen mass media exposure prior to mass adoption. Twitter in particular has seen a big discrepancy between media coverage and actual usage. But while it remains in the minority, it continues to grow and I think it is safe to say it is part of the mainstream.
What differs between Second Life and the successful social networks? In addition to the profile among influencers (and I do think traditional media is an influencer), I’d argue that they are aspirational in that they can connect you to people you admire – whether your near friends or favourite celebrities or bands – with whom you can exchange social currency. It might be clouded by hindsight, but I recall the coverage of Second Life being more aloof, treating it more like a curio than a natural development of the internet.
In terms of social currency, TV remains central (e.g. one third of all tweets are about TV), and therefore developments with TV are always going to be treated with interest. Shazam is getting some good coverage at the moment, but nothing to the extent of Netflix. Netflix is still a relatively new proposition in the UK, but it’s original content strategy has meant that it has already pushed past Lovefilm in the media consciousness (I’m not sure about subscriptions). Could mainstream media coverage push Netflix into widespread adoption?
Now, traditional media will be covering Netflix with a note of caution, given concern of existing business models and the now infamous quote from Reed Hastings that “the goal is to become HBO faster than HBO can become us”. And there is no guarantee that future releases such as the upcoming Ricky Gervais project will receive the same volume of coverage as House of Cards. In fact that is probably likely, though I was surprised by the sheer scale of the coverage this time given a) their previous release Lilyhammer didn’t b) the model of pre-paying for and filming an entire series is – unlike in the US, where shows such as 30 Rock have reacted to response to the early episodes – well-established in the UK and c) it’s not as if series-stacking is a new phenomenon.
Unlike the social sites that can receive continuous coverage bolstered by specific events, Netflix is relying on several big bang launches scheduled across the year. This might make it more difficult to replicate, but a few early successes can set the template for subsequent releases, in the manner that Apple’s iLaunches do.
Without taking into account the other factors (audience benefit, price point etc), the volume of media coverage does put Netflix in a solid position to challenge the existing TV landscape, and break into the mainstream.
Now I’m not on Netflix yet, but could I be? Well, it would be a more cost-efficient process than building upon my DVD collection and given that I’m a big fan of Arrested Development (Netflix’s next release), then my reaction to any forthcoming trial offers would be “Come on!“.