Links – 22nd February 2009

Some of the things I’ve read over the past week and would recommend:

  • A thought-provoking article in the Atlantic on the future of TV. It argues that TV’s USP is immediacy. While there are still cultural reference points via TV, scripted shows will increasingly see TV as just another distribution pattern. TV will therefore move to concentrate on news, current affairs, live reality shows and sport. This makes sense to me given my research – TV excels at events which are essentially DTR-proof, and the most popular shows online are dramas and comedies that can be viewed at leisure and shared/discussed asynchronously. However, I would argue that successful scripted shows still need TV as that anchor point for mainstream cultural crossover.
  • Ana Andjelic has a great post on our general failure to accurately predict the future. Not only does she argue that a lot of campaigns will fail, but also that our limited perspective means we will often follow the same patterns (potentially of failure)

sk

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Online video working with TV

Far from being a replacement to the traditional broadcast model, online video acts as a strong complement. Online video can be used to increase both reach and frequency, and the highly immersive environment offers multiple benefits.

2008 was a watershed year for online video. Ever faster and more reliable broadband connections are improving the online experience, with people now more likely to view the internet as a source of entertainment as well as information. This has helped fuel massive growth in video consumption across the year, both in long form and short form video.

As online video consumption becomes more common, we are seeing an increase in diversity among those viewing. Online video is no longer the sole preserve of tech-savvy students – two thirds of the online audience aged 55 or older have ever watched a video clip, while a third have ever watched a full length TV programme.

The distinction between clips and full length content is an important one to make, as each offers a different proposition. People watching TV shows online are catching up on content that they have missed. This is not replacing TV viewing – the online experience still has some way to go before it can match the widescreen, surround sound, HD offering of the living room. It is instead about taking control of the schedule. People catch-up on content they missed – either because they were away from their TV or watching something else. This suits some content better than others. Sport and reality entertainment are about the live experience; while the frequency and habitual nature of soaps are also best suited to TV. However, entertainment and drama flourish. Particularly shows that have a strong word of mouth following or ones that are aimed at an active segment difficult to pin down to a TV schedule. Ultimately, catch-up is about improving reach.

Short-form content, such as clips of outtakes or interviews, is about increasing engagement. Those that watch additional content online are likely to be the biggest fans of a TV show and heavily invested in the plot and characters. Short clips, with instant gratification, can be enjoyed multiple times and are very social, with people sharing links and commenting on them. This level of social recommendation adds further interest for the viewer.

Online video is a different platform to broadcast television, and thus the effects of advertising change. TV benefits from the powers of event broadcasting – shared experiences among masses of people at the same point in time, creating watercooler moments. Online viewing is just as social, but it is asynchronous. With closer proximity to the screen and people actively choosing to interact with certain content, levels of attention are generally high.

Preliminary lab tests indicate that advertising around short-form clips perform stronger than long-form content in traditional advertising metrics such as awareness, affinity and purchase propensity. Furthermore, advertising around identical long-form content performed stronger when broadcast online than when broadcast on TV. This doesn’t mean that online video is better than broadcast TV. It simply means it is different. It also highlights their complementary nature. TV excels at mass reach and watercooler moments; online video has a smaller but highly engaged audience eager to share content and information asynchronously. The next step involves quantifying these complementary benefits.

sk

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

Keeping up with catch-up

I don’t own a DTR (it is a heritage from working with Digital UK in the past that I persist with that name, even though most people I speak to use PVR) or DVD Recorder, and my VCR only works when the TV is turned on (it is a combo). I also happen to spend more evenings out than I do at home.

In the past, this made watching TV series difficult. Particularly with the trend towards series narratives rather than standalone episodes (am I correct in thinking that X Files was a major influence on this move?). There would be little point even attempting to watch a series.

I would end up waiting for the DVD. With a show such as Spooks, that was risky. The DVD would come out a fortnight before the new series started on TV. I would be in a race to finish the DVD before the new promo shows were published. “Who’s that person”? “Where has that character gone?”. Very frustrating.

However, that was in the past. I now have online video to catch up.

This means that, for the first time ever, I was able to keep up to date with Spooks. Indeed, I was even home last Monday night and so got to watch the final episode on TV.

And I can also look forward to watching Demons next year without worrying about whether I am home when it is broadcast.

Demons is a new drama series, and this highlights two other benefit of catch-up. Series stacking and wait-and-see.

My prior reliance on DVDs has influenced my viewing behaviour. Particularly with cliffhanger shows such as 24 or Lost, I have to watch several episodes at once.

SIDENOTE: This may be the reason why I didn’t think Series 2 and 3 of Lost were as bad as other people say. Watching 4 or 5 episodes at once dulls the effects of the odd terrible episode.

And given that I am out quite a lot, I have limited time to watch TV shows and am wary in investing in a show that turns out to be terrible.

Catch up gives me time to measure up a show through listening to reactions of critics and views. The iPlayer has enabled full series stacking for some shows (including Spooks) and the 30 day window on ITV.com and 4oD means that I can wait until 4 episodes in to decide if a show is worth watching.

I lose the “watercooler” chat the following day (for the interim period), and some spoilers may be revealed, but this is a trade-off I’m happy to make for some types of programme. Liveblogging and office banter may make Event TV shows like X Factor even more interesting, and to some extent these shows are “VOD proof”. But other shows benefit from their exposure to catch up.

For me, using VOD to catch up on a drama or comedy either that week or that series has actually led to me watching more TV. I may not be the most representative viewer out there, but this isn’t something that should be overlooked.

sk

Image credit: Me (I rent – the curtains aren’t my choice)

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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

The four types of Online Video – which is best to advertise around?

This has been something I’ve been pondering for some time. It is still a work in progress, and feedback or suggestions are welcome.

I believe that online video can be categorised into four broad categories:

Reference – Largely, this is the how-to guides such as Videojug which relay advice and practical tips. They will have a steady, but most likely small, stream of visitors looking for specific content. For how-to, specific content is related to the genre or topic but not necessarily the producer.  I am also grouping the long tail of video on demand into this category. Arguably it could be a fifth type as the content producer is now key, but I believe the specific nature of the search is enough to group it within this category. People that watch Buffy on the WB (US only) will go there specifically looking for Buffy – few viewers will arrive there via another method with another show in mind

Scheduled – Web series and TV catch-up fall into this category. The Secret World of Sam King had a new video every weekday; the latest episode of Spooks (UK only) arrives on the iPlayer shortly after it is aired on BBC1. Similar to reference videos, people will seek out scheduled videos with the specific content in mind. The key difference is that time is now as important as a mindset, and viewers are more likely to visit after an external prompt – such as a TV guide for catch-up, or email reminder for a web series – rather than a simple desire to view.

TopicalThis differs from reference videos because they represent the long tail, whereas topical videos are the short head. TMZ will get a spike in traffic whenever a celebrity has a “moment” (such as Mel Gibson or Michael Richards), and the news sites will see growth whenever there is a major story such as an election (NB: the link refers to unique users, but the trend holds for video). Topical videos continue to get small levels of traffic in the long-term, but nowhere near the levels of when the story is breaking. Portals and news sites will be the primary vehicles for this type of video as their superior resources will ensure the fullest coverage.

Viral – Youtube’s bread and butter. A viral video can be attempted by anyone, but success is far from guaranteed. They may be corporate (Nike has a good track record at viral videos), user generated or a combination. If you ignore the fact that Youtube is now the primary mechanism to consume music for free, the top videos on the site include a stand-up show (Evolution of Dance) and a home video of a newborn and his toddler brother (Charlie Bit My Finger). Not content people would necessarily have predicted to have enjoyed the success they have done. Virals don’t seem to have many rules – they can break instantly or after bubbling under a surface; they can come and go or they can hang around.

But like Creative Commons licences, these categories aren’t mutually exclusive. Examples where content can straddle multiple categories include:

Scheduled/topical – Liam’s death in Coronation Street had three alternative endings uploaded to ITV.com after the episode showing the chosen fate aired. It received 650,000 views over that weekend

Reference/viral – the Japanese art of T-shirt folding has circled the Internet on more than one occasion

Viral/topical – political out-takes such as the Sarah Palin/Katie Couric interview or John Prescott punching a protester.

Viral/scheduled – Web series such as Kate Modern that encourage interactivity

Viral/scheduled/topicalTina Fey-lin got the short head, but the long tail shows no sign of abating

Of these four broad types, which would be the best for video advertisers to target? The best choice will be campaign dependent but each format has its advantages and disadvantages

NB: A previous post of mine details the advertising options available around online video. Given the swift evolution of the medium, I may need to write an updated version soon.

Viral – these tend to have the biggest numbers but success or failure cannot be legislated for nor accurately planned. It would therefore be best for open-ended campaigns, but even then the quality or content of the viral video needs to be carefully moderated

Topical – these will be short-term so the campaign needs to be perfectly timed with an immediate call to action

Reference – likely to be special interest and so the audience will be more targeted and efficient. Good for niche brands, but the numbers may not be there for those with a more mass appeal

Scheduled – using the traditional TV model, these can be planned in advance to a greater degree of accuracy. But TV flops show that predicted audiences are an art rather than a science, and the large growth in online gives an extra degree of uncertainty compared to the gentle fragmentation of TV audiences. Scheduled content means quality can largely be vetted in advance and so the advertiser has reassurances of their investment, but this sort of model may come at a premium.

However, this premium can be justified. When asked to choose, the vast majority prefer professionally produced content to amateur work, and people are also more accepting of advertising around this content.

As an employee of a TV owner making forays into online video, I am biased but I do believe that for the most part advertising around scheduled content is the best method to use. There is nothing preventing multiple video formats being utilised (after all, each has unique advantages) but in most situations, I believe scheduled content should be the primary focus.

Viral clips may provide mass reach, but scheduled content has the advantages of

  • Easy incorporation into a media plan
  • Assurances over the quality of content
  • Acceptance from viewers willing to sit through ads in exchange for free, premium content

A “best practice” ad model is yet to emerge, but there are interesting experiments going on, and it will be fascinating to see how this develops.

sk

Image credits: http://www.flickr.com/photos/atencion/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley/

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TV networks selling out-of-home advertising space

Advertising Age reports that “in recent months, the three oldest [networks] — Walt Disney’s ABC, General Electric’s NBC Universal and CBS Corp.’s flagship operation — have set up ventures to place ads on screens that consumers might watch as they fill up at the gas station, hunt for produce in the supermarket or shop at the mall.”

The article states that the outlets are used to both promote shows and sell traditional TV advertising. I can see the logic – traditional TV revenues are being hit as both media and TV channel fragmentation take effect, so networks should widen their distribution – but I can’t help thinking that this isn’t the right place to be concentrating resources (the article quotes an analyst as saying “At most this could be 2% to 4% of their base business”)

Online video is the area of growth. With so many questions over the best way to approach it, I believe this is where attention to be focused. It “may not hurt” to work on incremental revenues in different areas, but wasn’t that the rationale in the AOL Time Warner merger?

A few issues I see this venture facing

  • Metrics for measuring outdoor impacts will have to be different to measuring TV, restricting the ability for the two sales teams to coordinate and cost save
  • TV companies may be able to buy small out-of-home specialists, but surely the expertise and knowledge lies with the Viacoms and JC Decauxs of the world?
  • The TV networks’ core proposition is mass engagement. They will need new advertisers or new arguments to convince companies to invest in incremental, targeted eyeballs
  • Will the diversification damage the core brand?
  • If one of the benefits is the promote the network shows, would they not be better off just buying the advertising space?

The venture may well succeed. I can see many benefits of showing additional TV content – whether “podbusters”, made-for-broadband content or behind the scenes extras – to captive audiences, such as those in a gym or on a train or airplane.

But I’m not convinced that this is the best method to overcome fragmentation for TV networks.

sk

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

Links – 3rd August 2008

Since getting back from holiday, I’ve bookmarked a lot of stuff to read. Over the weekend, I finally caught up. At least until the next interruption to my finely honed grazing schedule.

Further link posts to appear over the coming days but today

Marketing and Media

Old media deathrace 5000 (Mashable) – very interesting analysis on the future of old media. My opinion is that TV will remain the central point of the media experience, but that it may be “web powered”

Should TV be margins or ratings? (Huffington Post)

Overview of the long tail debate between Chris Anderson and Anita Elberse (Slate)

Nielsen data shows people still prefer the TV set to the computer (Marketing Charts)

New IMMI survey data says that half of online TV viewers are using it as a replacement for traditional viewing (I’m yet to read the full report, but I assume it is an “ever” rather than “always” answer)

Tess Alps of Thinkbox responds to accusations of declining advertising audiences (Guardian) – a tough crowd but you can’t really find fault in her argument. Audiences are fragmenting, which is an issue, but total viewing does appear to be increasing

Bob Garfield predicts chaos for the TV industry (Advertising Age)

How the dip sits between the head and the long tail (Seth Godin)

Ever increasing levels of product placement (New York Times) – with Fox News taking it to the next level

Sega’s Game Gear adverts in Viz from the early 1990s (UK Resistance) – I like these; it shows the brand addressing the media it is advertising in

ANA Marketing Insights May 08 (Slideshare presentation) – a very useful resource

The power of FREE! (Neuroscience Marketing)

Notes on the 40 years of planning event (Brand Republic)

Dealing with analysts – funny Slideshare from RedMonk

A very engaging slideshare presentation on Content Marketing from Helge Tenno

Lucy Barrett on dying brands (Guardian) – I suppose this is the stage before they come back zombified

24 unforgettable advertisements (Toxel) – funny mix of outdoor and experiential

The six laws of customer experience e-book (Experience Matters)

Songs about brands (Guardian)

Some very high quality posts in there, but the three I would recommend most highly are Old media deathrace 5000Bob Garfield predicts chaos for the TV industry and A very engaging slideshare presentation on Content Marketing

The forthcoming link posts will be:

Monday – Internet and Business

Tuesday – Useful and Interesting (to me, at least)

Wednesday – Miscellaneous

Thursday/Friday – back to the regular schedule

I’ll even try and fit a “content post” into the mix

sk