Posts tagged ‘content’

generational differences

When I was young, it seemed that life was so wonderful,
A miracle, oh it was beautiful, magical.

I grew up in Australia, in a small town about 100 miles north west of Sydney. In the famous Hunter Valley, home of some of the most earthy, luscious reds produced on the planet.

We had access to two TV channels – the local commercial station and the national government one. Boy were we lucky! But not as lucky as my friend. He had the local channels plus a big antenna that enabled him to get the extra three channels from Sydney, even though they were a bit snowy. I used to enjoy going over to his house, where, in between the normalcy of riding bikes, playing with the hose and doing what kids did in the 60s, we’d come inside to watch the Munsters, the Three Stooges or other fare that the local commercial channel didn’t have.

Then the shows would be over. A quick snack and back outside.

Social networking for us was hassling the gang down the street, or avoiding the bully on the next block or forging teams to create the next cricket challenge at the local park. TV wasn’t that important. It was special. The programs were really pretty bland, but sufficiently exciting because they seemed rare, even exotic.

Growing up interested in electronics, I got involved in amateur radio, got a degree in computer engineering, got a masters and embarked upon the lonely, untrodden path of digiterati who were at the intersection of media and computers.  The rest as they say is history.

Fast forward 20 odd years…

Imagine my delight when I started my iTunes collection. All of this content! It brought me back to the days of my youth. That same excitement of experiencing not two, but five TV channels! Choice at any instant! As I proceeded to digitize my entire CD collection the paradox of choice suddenly struck me. There was too much to choose.

So, play a little of everything.

Before long that got pretty boring.

I still love music, but my selections of regularly played material do not span the entire library.

Over the years this has really bugged me and I noticed a few behavioral changes:

  1. My attention span has reduced somewhat. The constant drive for more, sometimes overcomes the need for depth and/or detail.
  2. I can thread more than one thought process at once quite easily, without significant diminished comprehension. Multitasking is a learned skill.
  3. Finding stuff is frustrating, but it forces me to think about different ways of searching until I get what I want. Thinking differently becomes a survival imperative in the pursuit of brain food.

Now. I submit, that this is behavior learned, probably due to my proximity to, and engineering curiosity of, technology. Learning has always been my main modus. But consider if I had been born later when all of this was as familiar to me as an analog B&W TV set without a remote control was back when I was a kid. Growing up with this multifaceted technological landscape would be stimulating beyond! Or, not knowing any better, it would be simply the way things are, and I’d just use it as it directed me… technology with user interfaces in control.

There are generational differences in the way we think, act and consequently behave. The following chart would clearly have been sci-fi when I was rolling around on the lounge room floor in front of the B&W TV many years ago. But it does illustrate the emerging status quo.

Multitasking is now a normal part of watching TV?

Multitasking is now a normal part of watching TV?

I believe that in spite of what we think, humanity is getting smarter. Access to information, both raw and processed is far greater. If we were to draw an analogy to food, humanity has benefited from food production and processing technologies. Even though I am not a fan of monkeying around with food, it did on average increase life expectancies from the baseline of old. So it is with information. Let us just hope that we’ll be smart enough to not allow information to become too fast, over processed and too preserved. Imagine suffering information obesity in the coming days!

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

July 23, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

the emperor has no clothes

Connection, I just can’t make no connection.
But all I want to do is to get back to you.
Connection, I just can’t make it, connection
But all I want to do is to get back to you.

Content is King? Where did this expression come from? Look for the original quotation on the web. If you find it tell me. And why did it achieve such prominence only since the dawn of the internet? Content did not start with the web, and yet somehow it has become the mantra of the digerati and digital media.

Back in November, 2007 Sumner Redstone enhanced this to, ‘If Content Is King, Copyright Is Its Castle’. As a content owner and producer, this was a perfectly understandable extension that sought to protect the accumulated value of his corporation’s content library.

Don’t worry, I’m not here to do one better. I’m not here to create a new quote that will etch me into posterity.  I believe that this meme has long outlived it’s former glory of being a tired, overused cliche.

Andrew Odlyzko in his seminal post “Content is Not King” plumbs the depth of this concept more than I intend in this article. His work is a great must read. I buy into his counter-cultural philosophy. The most compelling setup of his work centres on the following business observation:

What content does not have is money. This might seem absurd. After all, the media trumpet the hundred million dollar opening weekends of blockbuster movies, and leading actors such as Julia Roberts or Jim Carrey earn $20 million (plus a share of the gross) per film. That is true, and it is definitely possible to become rich and famous in Hollywood. Yet the revenues and profits from movies pale next to those for providing the much denigrated “pipes.” The annual movie theater ticket sales in the U.S. are well under $10 billion. The telephone industry collects that much money every two weeks! Those “commodity pipelines” attract much more spending than the glamorous “content.”

This blog post in response to a recent Ad Age Article echos the sentiment from within the media industry:

“I wonder if this is part of a larger cultural trend. It seems like we are continuing, as a society, to de-value content. Writing, music, reporting, books, etc…we seem to expect all that information for free while we are willing to pay for access. So, we want the cheapest cell phone plan, the cheapest TV subscription service, the cheapest internet access so we can get all this free content. Businesses are being built on free content (think HuffPo, Google, etc.). It’s the same with agencies…clients want the cheapest access to agency services, and the content the agencies produce should be free. It’s very disheartening”

Pop over to Wired and in Future of Open Source: Collaborative Culture you’ll find:

Not long ago mass media was about the only kind of culture there was. The lucky few creative works that made it into general circulation were what copyright law was supposed to cultivate and protect. In the words of Harvard Law School intellectual law professor William Fisher, copyright “provides incentives for creative activities that otherwise would not occur.”

The dirty secret of mass media, though, was — and still is — that a great deal of it belongs to the companies that distribute it, rather than to the people who make it. That’s begun to change as the internet rewrites the rules about who can put creative work into the public sphere as well as who can take it out. Mass culture has traditionally required corporate middlemen to operate the machinery of publishing and broadcasting; without them, no one’s creation had any hope of reaching a broad audience. In the age of Flickr, Blogger, YouTube and Twitter, that’s simply not true anymore.

So, where am I going with this…?

A few points:

  • Professional content is not the only form relevant to the human condition – everyone has a story, some better than others, but overall, interaction with content is a human expectation. It is becoming less valuable because everyone can now create and distribute it – quickly.
  • Access to content is important – not only access, but the ability to share your story with those that care, or at least casually interested.
  • The internet has enabled the best self-organizing* means of distribution we have yet invented – it is a scale-free network and as such it breaks traditional business paradigms, and we’re just adjusting to change.
  • Finding an audience is most important – maybe distribution is king? Being connected to paying customers is better than havng the ‘potential’ of being great. Without links (read relevance), the emperor has no clothes.

The last point is most important. Just about every hollywood movie has the ‘potential’ to be a blockbuster, at least they are promoted that way. Every owner and creator of creative product believes in their work, as they should. But potential does not always translate into reality. What makes a block buster is the distribution… no-one sees it – not a blockbuster, everyone sees it – could be a blockbuster, everyone wants to see it = blockbuster.

In the end, it comes down to this simple equation content + distribution = media. Always has been, always will be. So it’s not “content is king” or “the medium is the message”, it is really having a great accessible products at a good price. Sound familiar?

Media monopoly over – time to start learning how to sell again.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

*Linked, Albert-Laslo Barabasi, 2002 Pengiun ISBN 0-7382-0667-9

July 2, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

$0 media

I want to break free
I want to break free
I want to break free from your lies
You’re so self satisfied I don’t need you
I’ve got to break free
God knows God knows I want to break free

Just over 25 years ago at the first Hackers’ Conference, Stewart Brand the pioneering publisher of the legendary Whole Earth Catalog*, delivered his “Information wants to be free” manifesto. He then continued, “Information also wants to be expensive. Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute, copy and recombine — too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go away. It leads to endless, wrenching debate about price, copyright, intellectual property, the moral rightness of casual distribution, because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better.”

A quarter century later and devices are approaching $0. Smartphones and netbooks are being subsidized by carriers, Kindles are being promoted as a low cost alternative to paper pulp and bulk, and the tension is starting to concentrate on the distribution and the content. In relative terms, devices and bandwidth are approaching assymptotically approaching $0.

So has content won?

No, it is still being copied. At a much faster clip than photocopiers, audio cassettes and VHS tapes.

How is this tension going to be resolved?

Monetization. I hear it all the time. ‘Monetization’. Thrown freely about without meaning, used as a verb, adjective and noun as, when and how convenient.

But what does that mean? In reality, it means that somehow, somewhere a deal needs to be struck. A deal between between the content owner, the publisher and the technology ecosystem. Somewhere, someone has to pay. We have a ton of experts saying that the system is broken. Yes, the past is broken, but the future is yet to be invented.  It is just that the way everyone gets paid is changing. And the way they get paid may mean that traditional business models cannot sustain their current cost base and/or modus operandi.

This is a time of change. But it ain’t going to be ‘free’ folks. As I have already said. Somewhere, somehow, someone has to pay.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

*The Whole Earth Catalog was an American counterculture catalog that granted “Access to Tools” published by Stewart Brand between 1968 and 1972, and occasionally thereafter, until 1998. Apple Inc. founder and entrepreneur Steve Jobs has described the Catalog as the conceptual forerunner of the World Wide Web.

June 18, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

wither thy ad agency

Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio

In Adage April 29, there was an article about the 4A’s rebranding – “No More Remembering What All Those A’s Stand For”. For years known as the American Association of Advertising Agencies, it has officially traded its name for its more commonly used acronym, the 4A’s.

Tom Carroll, president-CEO of TBWA Worldwide and outgoing chairman of the 4A’s, said this morning that the ad business has become too splintered, and media agencies and creative agencies must reconvene at the same table.

“We should all be in the same place, in the same room, because it’s all the same issue,” he said. Mr. Carroll added that consolidation of industry conferences and seminars is a must, given the economic pressures agencies face today, as sheer volume isn’t sustainable anymore from a cost perspective.

Ms. Hill criticized the group’s former name, saying aside from being a mouthful, it reflected the organization’s history of focusing solely on the business of American ad agencies. She announced that the 4A’s is opening up membership to international agencies effective this year, and will also offer membership to educational institutions for the first time so they can take part in the group and access 4A’s materials.
These moves come as the 4A’s — under the leadership of Ms. Hill, who took the helm last year — attempts to transform from a stodgy organization into a group that’s relevant to the rapidly changing agency landscape.

A couple of interesting ideas are encapsulated in this communique. Despite all of the discussions about agencies getting their acts together and recognizing the way that they need to handle the content and ad campaigns with different types of media the following remains true:

  • Agencies are largely managed as media silos, despite all of the rhetoric, primarily because the systems used in most agencies are not integrated.
  • Consolidating media and production budgets across mediums and across campaigns is difficult on an ongoing basis.
  • Standards for electronic media buying do not really exist (with the exception of cable and web), they have been stuck in committees for years. Neither agencies nor vendors can agree. So much of the buying is manual.
  • Systems for managing content and production are sparse. Workflows are largely manual, even if you do count homegrown traffic databases and spreadsheets.

So what do the agencies do? They just keep cutting costs, and start ‘new creative shops’ that grow up with the same problems and then get acquired, exacerbating the problem. This is unsustainable, and is becoming an inhibitor to growth. As scale of targeted advertising (volume) and the imperatives of dealing with multimedia (integration) become even more a requirement to daily operations, what’s being done? I think it is time for agencies to really wake up and fundamentally accept the changes that technology has imposed upon their business, and focus on solving those changes by leveraging technology…

Changing your name may be recognition that times have changed, but admitting your problems and focusing on doing things differently is far more important.

Used to be a great, fun business. Now I’m not so sure.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

April 30, 2009 at 7:59 am 2 comments

why target?

I need my privacy, I need my privacy
So paparazzi, get away from me

The three most valuable items that a consumer has to trade for content are:

  • Privacy – the extent to which they’ll trade their personal information
  • Money – how much they’ll pay for a service
  • Time – the amount of their personal time they are willing to invest in a service

All media business models are derivative of these three currencies. Targeting enables the precise measurement and relative valuation of each of these currencies in order to optimize the bundled value to the advertiser.

As audiences become increasingly fragmented, that fragmentation will naturally create more target audiences. As a result of this fragmentation, more inventory will be created. However, not all of that inventory will be of a perceived high quality. In order to derive value from advertising, these audiences will need to be more accurately aggregated and valued.

Advertisers will increasingly aggregate audiences, rather than dissect them…

We are moving from a multi-casting world to an aggregate of unicast consumers.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

April 9, 2009 at 4:40 pm Leave a comment

a recession winner?

When there’s too much to do
Don’t let it bother you, forget your troubles,
Try to be just like a cheerful chick-a-dee

According to yesterday’s Yahoo news (Monday March 16, 2009), one of the top 10 recession winners is ‘Hollywood’. The article by Amanda Ruggeri makes the statement that “The number of subscribers to Netflix, the DVD delivery service, climbed 26 percent in the fourth quarter from the same time last year. That helped put the company’s revenue up 19 percent from the previous year. And according to industry researcher Media by Numbers, 2009’s box office sales are tracking 16.5 percent higher than the year before—at this rate, theaters will make $1.9 billion, versus last year’s $1.6 billion—with attendance up nearly 15 percent.”

From my years in media we (i.e. I, and the company’s with whom I worked) anecdotally always saw similar results – the theory being that advertising was a leading indicator of the health of an economy… businesses spend less on ads as things get tight and spend more as they get better. Consumers spend more on escapism to get them through the tougher times. So long form content was inversely accessible to short form content in recessionary times.

What I have yet to rationalize is, why doesn’t free content do even better? Perhaps we cannot accurately measure it, or perhaps as consumers we still need to feel the empowerment that a discretionary purchase brings our self-esteem.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

March 17, 2009 at 11:34 pm Leave a comment

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