Showing posts with label digital media. Show all posts
Showing posts with label digital media. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 10

Rethinking Print: And How To Leap Beyond It

Now that most people are attempting to master the digital space, it's clearly time to think beyond it. That was the primary impression left by Dale Sprague, president of Canyon Creative in Las Vegas, while speaking to my Writing For Public Relations class at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, last Thursday.

When Sprague, a designer and creative director who invested the majority of his career in print, product design, and packaging, said that print had largely become a support medium for digital marketing, the reaction was immediate and dramatic. Not only had everything advertising agencies been cautioned about for by people like me for a decade come to fruition, but it was time time to rethink what's next.

Everything you think you know about marketing is about to change. 

The changes ahead won't be confined to a medium, but message delivery in entirety. Much like Patrick Collings recently wrote, brands that fail to innovate will fill graveyards. Their names won't be remembered either. Instead, their tombstones will be decorated with the cliches that killed them.

You can see these changes taking place all around you. Signage has lost ground to environmental graphics. Branded giftware and novelty items are being supplanted with branded product innovation (actual products designed for marketing purposes, some of which are produced by 3-D printers). Glass is quietly becoming a new marketing canvas (projected holograms along with it). And print?

Print isn't as dead as people think. Much like public relations professionals always had to find new ways to reach journalists as news releases transitioned from mail to fax to email to social, marketers are best served when they start to ask themselves the right question.

Specifically, the right question isn't "where is everybody spending their marketing dollars?" The right question is "where aren't people spending their marketing dollars so my organization doesn't have to compete?" Ergo, the social-digital space has to be part of the marketing mix but it's also a very competitive, crowded, and cluttered place. It creates a market where a handwritten thank you counts.

Even online, people are finding that it's not enough to be everywhere because you put your content everywhere. Marketers need to be everywhere because they are part of what a public considers relevant. Ergo, real marketers aren't content trying to infuse their presence into a trending topic. They are the trending topics because they do things. They are top of mind because they made an impression.

Where does print stack up in a world that seems digital?

Print works were it always worked best. It is a high-touch medium that was temporarily downgraded because of the economics of junk mail with blow-in scrap paper and cluttered messages.

Before mail was loaded down with mainstream marketing, it primarily consisted of individual notes and invitations, niche newsletters that felt exclusive, and something thoughtfully sent through the mail because it might actually have value and you might keep it. It will in the future too, with specialty papers that capitalize on the one sense that consumers miss in digital — touch — and a message more memorable than a business card, even those that don't already have chips embedded in them.

Print won't be alone, of course. All of it will change and some of it for the better as marketers buy up space not because they want to fill it with 8-point bullet points and 140 characters of gratuitous interruption but clearly defined messaging with plenty of white/negative/neutral space to frame it.

What does that mean? Every year, when I teach any class, I make note of how the number of impressions has continued to increase before a message even has a chance to penetrate the consciousness of someone who is already receiving a novel-sized amount of information every day. What used to be three impressions now exceeds 300 — that means you need 300 impressions before something sticks.

But, you see, that isn't always the case. We've crossed a clutter threshold that makes some messages stick the one time, the first time. Ergo, if you show someone a Mona Lisa (the real one, not a facsimile),  they will never forget it. And maybe that is how we should see print and advertising going forward.

Print doesn't haven't to be a support piece to digital. Like any message delivery system, it only needs to break through the clutter of a message saturated world. Or, in other words, a message that feels immediate (purpose driven), individual (personal), and important (value driven) delivered by the most appropriate means given the context.

That is what print will look like. And marketing will too. You can wait for it to happen or you can leap ahead and start implementing these ideas today.

Wednesday, June 13

Measuring Facebook: Social Network Ads

The Wall Street Journal reports that 70 percent of Facebook campaigns return three to five times the spending; five times the cost for nearly half. The internal reporting, which was released by Facebook, comes after the "quiet period" after an initial public offering ended.

The study was completed by comScore and included tracking 60 campaigns. What is less understood is how those campaigns were chosen and whether they represent the larger share of ad purchases on the social network. Another interesting hiccup in the study is what is considered a return — mostly, the measurement was based on amplification, showing Facebook extends media exposure between 50 percent and 200 percent.

Why do many marketers still distrust Facebook and social media ad purchases?

The biggest challenge with social media marketing remains the same. Many critics attempt to apply rules to social media advertisements that aren't fair when compared to other reporting measures.

Specifically, they attempt to measure return on investment in a vacuum, as if impressions can be isolated and quantified without considering the "social" portion of the equation. Others fail to measure the right outcomes, thinking about "likes" as the outcome even though it's better to assign an outcome to anything but likes. (They just make you feel good and give you a readership base.)

If you want an analogy to better understand Facebook advertising, think of it in terms as an introduction to publication with "likes" being subscribers. But much like magazine subscribers, it's silly to expect that every subscriber is going to read every stitch of content from cover to cover and see every direct response ad. Results vary and the variance isn't decided by the publication alone. It could be anything, ranging from the content of your advertisement to what people see when they land on the page.

Besides, different advertising works differently on Facebook. While most marketers invest considerable time on prospect advertisements (filtering out people who already like a page), other advertisements could target people who already like the page — you know, people who already gave you a wink and a nod or perhaps a share.

That's part of the problem with social network advertising now. Marketers have become so accustomed to gaining numbers that they forget about the people who are already there, waiting around for something to happen even if it isn't ever going to happen. In many cases, underperforming Facebook ads/pages are often the result of not producing anything valuable (whether content or coupon) for the people there, leaving people with an empty feeling: "Okay, I 'liked' your page, now what?"

Facebook advertising works well enough for hyper-targeting efforts. 

After running Facebook ad campaigns for a number of companies, the only common ground is that there is no common ground. Each presence deserves its own objectives. For example, running a campaign to shore up locals to visit a restaurant is very different than attempting to target tourists.

It doesn't even matter what type of cuisine you are talking about (although there is a way to focus in on those folks too). To drive more locals, the ad needs to target proximities. To drive more out-of-town guests, you might need to target people who love visiting the town.

Conversely, most restaurants only target people who have an expressed interest in a specific kind of food. But the reality, in most cases, is people who have an expressed interest in a specific kind of cuisine are already entrenched with one, two, or three restaurants of that kind. If you want to penetrate that market and cause conversations, then you have to be prepared to offer them something more than their favorite restaurant.

At the same time, looking at outcomes, one also has to appreciate that if your goal is to drive more visitors to your restaurant then it stands to reason that the local targeting is a short-term investment and tourist marketing is a long-term investment, e.g., once-a-month visitors as opposed to once-a-year visitors.

Along with deep thinking, marketers need to appreciate that Facebook advertising works best as part of an add-on campaign element anyway. While there have been a few Facebook-only campaign successes, the majority of companies seeing returns are those that use social networks as an add on. Ergo, if you produce a television advertisement, post it on Facebook and ask for feedback. A percentage of people who have subscribed to the page will likely share it and some of their friends might share it too.

The lowbrow measurement is that if 1,000 of the 10,000 people who like a page see the ad and 100 of them share it, then that return is better for the few seconds it takes to upload the video than the return of not sharing it. If you can increase that outcome by running an advertisement to that video post, all the better.

Likewise, someone finding your Facebook page on a search is probably better than someone not finding your Facebook page on a search (unless your page sucks). And keeping people who do like your restaurant up to date on special events, menus, introductions, etc. is better than not doing it.

Certainly, Facebook is not the end all to a successful marketing campaign. But marketers need to step back a little bit more and consider the bigger picture. When comparing something to nothing, something is always better. The rest is dependent on what you want to do and how you prioritize it.

In other words, the jury might still be out on Facebook in terms of an investment, but it terms of whether their advertising can be a benefit is already decided. What isn't decided is whether or not companies have good enough teams to maximize a return on the effort.

Monday, August 15

Publishing Temptations: Three Social Media Content Evils

Content StrategyAlthough some media companies are still struggling with the transition from print to digital, others are doing fine (even if a few might be fine for the wrong reasons). Eventually, the shakedown will leave us with leaner media companies (many specialized in affirmation opinion), probably made up of a mix between transitioned print and digital upstarts.

It's anyone's guess what the quality will be like, but it might be good enough, maybe. That depends on each publisher specifically and when the public eventually learns objective journalism does have value after all. In the meantime, any short term gains by some publishers might be tempered with a long-term outlook. It seems to me media outlets that jump on the most popular publisher trends are borrowing against their future reputations, bloggers too.

Three Content Creator Evils To Avoid As A Publisher.

• Trending Content Stories. While it's always a good idea to track social media trends to discover what topics people are interested in, publishers are better served in being vigilant in balancing their content. After all, publishing is not public relations even if it feels that way at times.

Specifically, some publishers have adapted what it generally considered a marketing or public relations tactic. They check the topical trends and then find something — anything — to write about that matches those trends regardless of how thin those connections might be.

Some publishers even make trend lists and then burp them out to all their writers, screaming that they need more stories on these popular topics. So, for example, if the Bronx Zoo has a lost cobra, they instruct their journalists to pile on stories about snakes — pushing anything important down and elevating the mundane. It's why the media sometimes feels dubbed down.

• Wrapper Content Marketing. While it has always existed, wrapper content has made significant gains in recent years. This technique isn't audience driven as much as it is advertiser driven.

Specifically, some publishers pick up advertisers and then look for content that is loosely or overtly connected to the product that the company wants to peddle. Marketers and social media pros do this all the time, but it begins to become creepy when third-party publishers jump into the space too.

For example, let's say you publish communication content and an advertiser knocks on your door with a new travel bag. So, you drop the story you planned to do about crisis communication and start writing the story about how much you love the bag, wrapped up nicely with five travel tips for busy professionals. Sure, this works well enough for marketing (we expect to see travel tips on an airline's blog from time to time), but one would hope publishers respect their readers more than writing advertorials.

• Automated Content Pushes. While there is nothing wrong with sharing content across multiple networks, it's always a good idea to practice some self-restraint. After all, if exposure is overshadowing quality in terms of priorities, then the content probably isn't worth sharing.

Specifically, some publishers blast everything they say in one place to every place they have a presence. Their Facebook page has the same content as their Twitter page, which now mirrors their Google+ page, etc. While a certain amount of sharing and duplication is expected, not every story, comment, or thought needs to be threaded everywhere.

The reality is that different networks respond differently to different content and almost every network is sensitive to how it is presented. After sharing stories with primary networks, pick and choose what might best fit where and how to present it. (For example, this story would be mostly senseless to share on Reddit, so I won't put it there. But if I did, the title would have to be something like 'hungry dog eats a village.')

Some marketers tell me I'm silly for not sharing every story everywhere, especially those that know my networks consist of mostly different people. I don't worry about that too much. I share where it makes sense, and if someone else (like a reader) thinks it will fit better elsewhere, then they might be willing to share it instead. I think that's cool, because it places engagement over broadcast.

Friday, July 15

Increasing Rates: Netflix Actions Speak Louder

NetflixThe writing was already on the wall, but it wasn't writing that sent the real message. Netflix doesn't want to be in the DVD shopping and shipping business anymore. If you want to hold a movie in your hands, you are better off visiting your local Redbox.

The new price increase reflects its decision. Never mind those sensational headlines that scream 60 percent increases. The new plans are pretty straightforward. People can choose unlimited streaming (no DVDs) for $7.99 a month, unlimited DVDs one at a time (no streaming), for $7.99 a month (Blu-Ray is $2 more), or both services for $15.98 a month (with a broader selection).

If you're nutty, you can have as many as four DVDs out at one time. The price for that service is $34.99 per month.

Some people are complaining, saying that they will dump the DVDs all together and Netflix will lose money. No they won't. As soon as the company can dump DVDs and Blu-Ray, the better. The entire point of the price fix is to force you to make the choice that Netflix has already made. CEO Reed Hastings has said it.

"We are now primarily a streaming video company," Hastings said.

Initially, Netflix investors couldn't be more thrilled (although some started selling as customers pushed back). They had every reason to be thrilled, because unless you cancel the service, there is a plan. And the plan looks pretty great on paper. In fact, there are more changes that Netflix is looking at, including scrubbing the household model customers are used to and moving everything to an individual member basis.

"When our focus was primarily DVD rental, we talked about our opportunity in terms of households, in particular the number of households with broadband access, which is more than 70 million households. Another way to view our potential opportunity is to consider the number of households that subscribe to home entertainment, which includes cable and satellite subscribers, a market estimated at about $68 billion in annual revenue. In either case, we were describing a very big potential market, giving us a lot of room to grow.

More recently, as streaming has become central to our business, we believe there may be an opportunity to change our focus from a household relationship to an individual relationship, since streaming is viewed on personal devices, such as phones, tablets, and laptops, as well as on shared large screen televisions. As we think about this long-term shift from a household to a personal relationship, we are starting to think internally that our opportunity could be viewed as the number of mobile phone subscribers, a group that both invests in electronic content and can afford $7.99 for home entertainment. Needless to say, that is a large opportunity.

The evolution toward individual memberships will take time, and we are still thinking about how to best do it. One option could be to allow an account to add additional concurrent streams (using the analogy of our DVD business, it would be like choosing a higher-priced plan that allows a subscriber to have more DVDs at home). Or it could be that there is a price point that would encourage multiple accounts in one household. In either case, our long-term goal is to evolve the Netflix service so that it feels more natural to have a personal account. We will also be working on broader Facebook integration which we hope will further the notion of personal accounts." — Netflix, July 14, 2011

Every communication counts when choosing a service provider.

Personally, this is one of the fundamental flaws with most media "rental" agreements. The companies in charge are empowered to rescind their contracts, raise rates, and change services any time they want. This extends to not only Netflix services but cable and satellite companies too.

Netflix ScreenBut where Netflix really stands out is in its blatant mission to not only increase its rates today, but tomorrow too. It has been sharing this news with investors for some time; customers not so much. The Investor FAQ says it all. They want to manipulate customers into streaming only and then divide their accounts among individuals inside the household.

More than likely, customers will do it too. Sure, there will be some grumbling, but entertainment addiction is alive and well. Most of us gave up free broadcast for upwards of $100 or even $200 a month services (plus mobile) and we still purchase DVDs or their digital equivalent anyway.

At the moment, Netflix is hoping you won't notice the above graphs and it expects the colorful commentary to die down. Maybe it will. Maybe it won't. Personally, I'm split. But then again, I'm not a Netflix customer.

Don't get me wrong. The communication was rotten. Netflix could have phased it in much like it plans to phase in personal accounts over household accounts, making it so people don't notice so much and "feel more natural." But at the same time, the only recourse Netflix customers have (short of organizing with stated objectives) is to dump the service en masse.

I don't think they will. I think most will do exactly what Netflix wants. Netflix wants to get out of the mailing business, which costs considerably more than its streaming arrangement. So, if you dump mail, you're not really protesting at all — you're doing Netflix a favor. That favor isn't nearly as big as the favor you will do when everybody in your home wants an individual account, but this is clearly the first step to make it happen.

It's a plan that is, very literally, worth billions for a company that suddenly makes people reminisce about Blockbuster. But for communication pros, the real lesson goes back to not mixing your investor and customer messages. Everything is public nowadays.

Friday, May 27

Asking Questions: If Websites Could Talk

About Me StrategyYou never really know how people interpret information until they apply it elsewhere. Nowadays, some people truly believe that social media will eventually supplant websites entirely.

Even a post by Jeremiah Owyang about integrating social functions into websites was attributed to Altimeter and reframed as another call for the death of business websites all together. (The spin itself demonstrated the venerability of social media.) However, all of the calls for the demise of websites miss the point.

Websites won't die. But their functionality will have to change.

All that really means is, somewhat to Owyang's point, social media tools and networks will be built into websites, changing the functionality from the 5-page content template into something, hopefully, that makes sense for the people who visit the site.

That has nothing to do with social media per se. It is, however, one of several reasons some people mistake why the "social media revolution" happened. It's also why news organizations continue to grapple in the new world. And it's why some social media intellects want you to believe that you and your company and your communication are powerless (unless you hire them).

Maybe a better word for the revolution is push back. For all the advances made in the early 1990s in regard to mass media communication, there was one major setback. Mass media, and its advertising and publicity bedfellows, dominated information. Even if someone was unhappy with anything, an individual voice didn't have any value compared to the conglomerate.

In fact, the only information out there was for awhile was decided on by the people with the largest audiences — agencies publishing brochures, public relations firms pitching stories, and new media setting the agenda. There was no other choice.

Social media is the revolution as much as the revolution is choice.

choicesIn other words, if people are visiting a corporate website less, it probably has less to do with the noun "website" and more to do with the descriptor "corporate." Or, even more simply put, the reasons people don't visit or stay on a corporate website is because whatever they are looking for just isn't there.

What is there? Generally, most corporate websites are little more than an "I love me" wall, adorned with trophies, awards, and sales pitches. Sure, some sites toss in some SEO-crooked copy, maybe some runaway advertainment, and whatever website builders can sell.

If your company website could talk, what would it say?

The whole thing is rather preposterous when you think about it. A person visits a site with an expressed interest, i.e., Who can I talk to about a product defect or service problem?

To which the site responds, i.e., Would you like to play a game?

Increasingly unhappy, the person turns to Google. Who can I talk to about a product defect or service problem?

And Google answers, i.e., I really don't know, but I can tell you where all the other people experiencing product defects or service problems are going. Would you like to go? Heck yeah!

Social networks did add another choice. Who can I talk to about a product defect or service problem?

To which the site responds, i.e., Try the live representative on Facebook or Twitter.

So, the person follows the advice to find stacks of unanswered complaints, representatives who only know what the daily deal is, or an endless stream of content that might as be labeled "see more about me on my 'I love me' wall."

Two tips for more effective online content and communication.

First, erase any notion that social media and websites are somehow different and can cannibalize each other. Saying that social media cannibalizes a website is akin to thinking that in-store salespeople somehow steal sales from an advertisement in the Sunday paper. This stuff works together. (*One caveat, duplicate social media content can cannibalize each other.)

Along with erasing the notion of separation, kill the widely adopted prospect that social media and networks are feeders to the varied 200 "about me" pages on websites. (Let's be honest, every single page of a website might as well be labeled "about me.")

questionsSecond, start thinking about why people are coming to your website. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they are not coming to read "about me" pages, play games, or be diverted to a social network (unless the social network can answer their question).

They ask different questions. So if you want to build a more effective website, start thinking about the questions your customers and prospects ask most often. Then start thinking about what they might ask if they even knew to ask it. And then start considering the best methods to deliver the answers, which may or may not include Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Still unconvinced? Take some cues from some of the top websites in world. All of them answer very specific questions. Here are the top five most visited, recognizing that even networks are really websites with more functionality.

Where can I find some information online? Google.
What are my friends and family doing right now? Facebook.
Where can I find some video of >fill in the blankWhere can I find some information if I hate Google? Yahoo.
What if I need information and I'm Chinese? Baidu.

And so on and so forth. More to the point: If consumers are turning to social networks with increased frequency, doesn't it stand to reason that they do it because your website isn't answering their questions? Maybe that's something worth thinking about.

Friday, March 18

Strangling V: Did Online Rights Kill The Show?

VLast year, ABC initially thought it might have tapped into next franchise sci-fi relaunch success story like Battlestar Galactica. The television series V had it all: a riveting premiere, strong story potential, and ample buzz from fans nostalgic for the original series. The premiere drew 14.3 million viewers.

This year, things look very different. Despite ugly angry aliens in Battle: LA helping the war flick with a science fiction twist to claim the number one spot at the box office, audiences have no appetite for the passive aggressive aliens in human skins like those found in the television series V. Its recent ratings, 5.5 million viewers, is considered an uptick.

There is no other way to say it. It's a dead show walking.

But the show didn't commit suicide on its own. ABC had placed it on the bubble last year. It could almost be considered a miracle that the series saw a single second season show.

However, if there was any hope that the series might survive, other decisions clinched its demise. ABC ordered a truncated season 2, first 13 shows and then only 10. It also slated the show for a slot that followed a weak opener on a bad night for the network. And finally, the network decided to withhold electronic distribution of season 2 on all fronts.

Fellow V fans,
It is with much regret that we must inform you that full episodes of V will not be available on or Hulu for Season 2. Just like you, we truly wish full episodes were playing here. But we also hope our detailed recaps will keep you informed and entertained should you ever miss an episode.

Best always,
The Team

Just like you, we truly wish full episodes were playing here?

Despite rumors, the avoided answer — ABC didn’t acquire the online rights for the second season — does exist. And this fits in with Time Warner not liking the price of online content.

VIt would have made more sense for ABC to spell it out, but it seems painfully obvious they don't want to answer the second round "why?" It's likely related to the price of online licensing. And ABC is just as happy to kill the program. (Although they haven't officially killed it yet.)

It seems to beg the question. What is the fair price of a single season? On iTunes, a season of House sells at $60 for high definition and about $40 for standard definition (22 episodes). Amazingly, people still watch first runs and replays, even if they buy it. So perhaps the question that ought to be asked is — what is the value of a product nobody can watch?

Network schedule-only shows cannot survive in an anytime environment. Period.

V was okay, but it never really lived up to satisfying any nostalgic sensibilities. It was good enough to watch now and again, but only on a consumer schedule. In other words, it worked for semi-interested viewers who tuned into or purchased the season on iTunes. But if it wasn't available there, there wasn't much compulsion to purchase a DVD for $30 (or maybe $15 given there are only 10 episodes)? It doesn't make sense.

Digital frees the consumer from shipping costs. And it frees the producers from packaging costs. It's easier to store too. Real space is best reserved for those special collector's packages or those few movies where physical copies feel right for some reason.

Sure, not everyone has a digital device or a component video cable to make their computer-television conversion seamless. But eventually they will. And if not with a hard cable connection, then with WiFi sharing. With this in mind, $40 to $60 per season seems reasonable because it's the standard networks and producers set when they wanted to cash in on videos and compact discs.

But more importantly, when viewers cannot catch their shows or forget to set their DVRs (because they missed the first few episodes or have too much in memory already), then limiting distribution won't gain viewers or increase the value. It will diminish viewers or possibly turn them off entirely (with the possible exception of a few shows).

Profit doesn't come from protection. It comes from innovation.

Tuesday, June 29

Counting Crowds: Circulation Only Matters Sometimes

According to Brandweek, print is still losing its place as a viable business. National magazine spending fell 19.3 percent. Newspaper advertising fell 13.7 percent. But marketers who made those cuts didn't stop spending. Marketers migrated to digital media.

Still, the industry-wide advertisers only tell part of the story. Re/Max cut its print spending by 53 percent. Hertz Car Rental slashed 58 percent. State Farm dumped 55 percent of its print budget. Add to that Unilever's recent decision to double spending on digital marketing this year.

"I think you need to fish where the fish are," said Keith Weed, CMO for Unilever during a question-and-answer session with WPP Chief Executive Martin Sorrell. "So I've made it fairly clear that I'm driving Unilever to be at the leading edge of digital marketing."

According to an article by AdvertisingAge, Unilever is hardly alone. P&G doubled its measured U.S. Internet spending last year to $100 million.

The Case Against Migration.

Of course, not everyone is bullish on digital. Audrey Siegel, president at media agency TargetCast, who was quoted in the aforementioned Brandweek article, says dollar cuts aren't necessarily a shift from print to digital. She says print still commands the same amount of market share.

“In regard to digital spending, there’s no reliable source in tracking it, so when we talk about print dollars migrating, it’s anecdotal,” she said. “Digital will continue to grow but not necessarily just at the expense of print. It can just as easily be a case of broadcast dollars shifting into digital.”

Siegel seems to be be right and wrong. On one hand, print's hold over the same percentage of advertising spending is true. But on the other hand, it's not true for the reasons cited. Digital adverting has yet to make up ground as a viably priced medium. Specifically, digital media is still the cheaper buy while print, despite seeing publishing budgets shrink, are hanging on to higher ad rates.

The group trying to change all that isn't necessarily on the print publishing side. On the contrary, the Interactive Advertising Bureau is attempting to set some sort of standard that will place digital on equal footing. According to MediaWeek, the same problem remains. Everyone wants to plant "eyeball measurement" into the equation.

"Newspapers and magazines are particularly frustrated in their attempts to make up for steep print revenue losses with Web dollars and feel their high-quality content should command higher CPMs online," writes Lucia Moses. "Local newspapers have it tough because panel-based measurement isn’t well suited to local sites, resulting in erratic results."

One example Moses cites comes from Scripps. Scripps generates $500 annually per print reader but only $75 per online visitor. So the problem for many print publishers, to follow the marketing dollars online, is that "circulation" is up but the "value" of that circulation is down.

Solutions, solutions everywhere, and not even one to measure.

We see it every day. Many clients, even a few of our clients, are sometimes conflicted between the number of eyeballs versus engagement. It's a well-reasoned disconnect. Everything they have known until about five years ago suggests playing the numbers beats consumer concern. Every media salesperson on the planet has spoon fed them viewers, listeners, and readers as the fundamental measure of success. Public relations practitioners are guilty too, using the promise of reaching high circulation print pubs as their bread and butter has been the message they've carried forth for years.

The reality they are coming to terms with now is that "eyeball" rates do not necessarily equal conversation rates because two-way communication is a much different affair. Consider yesterday's research finding from Omni Hotels & Resorts as an example.

Seventy percent of those who do connect via Twitter and Facebook said that they share positive hotel experiences and incentives such as room upgrades. Sixty-two percent said they are more likely share positive experiences over negative ones.

So, in terms of "eyeballs," counting "followers" isn't the only answer. In some cases, ten followers might provide an expanded reach of 150,000 more people, assuming they share the content, page, incentive or offering. Add in their followers, and the potential reach could outpace some very respectable publications. However, not all of those potential eyeballs will ever equal conversions.

Case in point. One of our colleagues emailed us yesterday, excited by a traffic spike. When we asked them to attribute their spike, they said it became a controversial hot topic on a social network, meaning people disagreed whether the advice was wise or whether it was an advertisement.

"So, of all those people who flocked to the site to offer up their opinion," I queried. "How many will ever become customers?"

Hardly any. Contrary, the one follower who shared his post with ten friends within proximity to his business — those people, especially if they make plans together — are very likely to become customers. The irony, however, is that marketers have been trained to devalue the qualitative for the quantitative for their entire careers and it's just not true.

That's right. That video with one million views might be worthless. The one with ten views, depending on the value of the customer, might be worth $1 million. And the only way to approach media buys right now is to know the difference and find the middle. But since each middle might be different, there is no "formula" as much as there is an equation that leaves many publishers out of the loop.

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Tuesday, May 11

Blending Content: The Next Step In Journalism

There is one simple reason you don't hear much talk about broadcast-Internet convergence anymore. While public adoption is moving forward at a steady pace, current technology and infrastructure suggest it already happened. Did you miss it?

Sure, there are a few kinks to be worked out, most notably a seamless transition between the content we already access on the computer and the television set (or smart phone) where we view it. But technically, that barrier doesn't exist either. The population as a whole just doesn't know how to make it work yet.

Blended Content In Beta.

If you have a hard time envisioning what the future will look like, there is a real life case study in the making. While it is still crude in its presentation, the future will largely consist of blended content — Web desintations with a combination of articles, blogs, photo galleries, and programming — managed by partnerships between media companies like NBC Digital Networks and major corporations like Procter & Gamble with the content provided by a mix of broadcasters, journalists, authors, experts, and social media personalities.

Can't envision it? Visit Life Goes Strong. While the name rings as weak as any picked-by-committee offering might, Life Goes Strong provides a phase one preview into targeted content. In this case, according to Procter & Gamble, baby boomers between the ages of 45 and 65 years of age. The content is organized in traditional vertical channels — family (, style ( and technology ( — with contributors ranging from a contributing editor at Newsweek to a former professional fashion buyer.

As mentioned, the initial foundation for the launch is rather crude. It looks very Web 2.0 with a remarkably weak organizational structure that makes fluff seem as interesting as real news content. Much of the content is short. Some of the content is as short as three graphs, leaving readers with the task of answering their own questions. (You can tell someone was convinced that short content was the way to go.) The photos are miserable. And while the release promised video content, it's difficult to find today.

All in all, it's about two steps behind from what I proposed to interested parties three years ago. It didn't move forward for lack of funding. Yet, despite the problems with Life Goes Strong (including a low opinion of its target audience), it represents a very crude glimpse of the future. And it's more likely to supplant what we think of journalism today than my friend Ike Pigott's vision of an embedded journalist.

Moving Beyond Beta.

So what would make Life Goes Strong work beyond a better name and pandering to people who recognize Robert Scoble on the watered-down tech section? Here are five critical areas that need improvement...

• Life Goes Strong has no sense of community. Its old fashioned, soft news nugget presentation is as expected from mass media. You only need to look as far as Facebook to see that people like content.

• The short article format is better suited for a mobile introduction. In general, people want their questions answered in articles over sound bites. The summaries they present as articles are best left as content introductions and not content.

• The concept of blended content requires live video streams (like traditional programming), automatically archived for later video viewing (library), and articles that can be optionally accessed for more in-depth analysis and/or factual background.

• It's obvious too much is borrowed from their original joint venture at While reaches 1.5 million people per month, it also relies on the passion people have for their pets. Long tail broad content models can be built on a niche model and expect to capture the same interest.

• Like many sites, the article-blog mushup leaves little to be desired. The future of blended content will require some obvious devisions, letting readers know which content is objective news gathering and which is opinion puff. Currently, this has become one of the number one problems at industry trade pubs like Adweek and AdAge. Sometimes you click on a link and get a well-written article. Sometimes you get five graphs from someone who thinks they know something.

But again, despite where it falls short, Life Goes Strong represents something. As it moves beyond beta, it means content convergence (video, photos, articles, blogs, etc. working together) and format convergence (assuming the content works with smart phones and iPads).

More importantly, it's something for communicators to watch. Even if it doesn't get off the ground with the financial backing of several deep-pocket companies, you can expect more Web desintations like this one. Only better. And that will likely mean that all those tactics you've been developing in the last few years to bypass media will be gone, right out the window.

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Monday, April 5

Shifting To Digital: Media Moves

According to a study conducted by PR Newswire, journalists are facing heavier workloads. However, if there is any good news for print, it's that the heavy workload provides increased job security as the fear of further job erosion has become moderate.

Last week, as part of my final class for Writing For Public Relations, I hosted Bruce Spotleson, group publisher for Greenspun Media Group, which publishes some 30 different online and print publications. Many of them are niche media publications, delivered free to targeted demographics within specific communities.

"Most of the dailies had made cuts in critical positions such as investigative reporters and political reporters," explained Spotleson. "They tend to be the most expensive positions for newspapers, but they are also among the most important."

While Spotleson has hope for the future and believes that publishers will survive (based in part on slight upticks across several economic indicators), he seems less certain about where the evolution will lead. As hard news reporting gives way to short breaking news, novelty, validation media, and highly trafficked informational light content similar to broadcast news, it is anybody's guess where the objective journalism will end up.

"Heavier workloads, shorter deadlines, and increased competition are causing journalists to seek out new sources of information to help them get their jobs done, including social networks," said Erica Iacono, executive editor of PRWeek. "Although these new tools offer a different way for journalists to interact with PR professionals and media consumers, there must still be a focus on the basic tenets of good journalism."

Unfortunately, good journalism doesn't always translate into readership, a requirement which has been thrust upon some journalists as publishers count page views. Counting hits tends to undermine quality news in favor of trolling for traffic.

Expect more of it. One of the biggest changes in the last year, just as "2010 PRWeek/PR Newswire Media Survey" reveals, is the merging of traditional journalism with online communications. Spotleson said Greespun Media and the Las Vegas Sun had done much the same last year. Reporters and online journalists are attempting to balance two mediums despite very different criteria and formats. Instead of long format in-depth analysis, journalists have to be just as comfortable with three-graph news blurbs.

Likewise, while Spotleson didn't provide details, he made it clear that news publishers are looking to the iPad as the future of print. He's not alone. The survey reinforces this fact, with a continued shift from print to online reporting. Fifty-seven percent of magazine and newspaper journalists indicated that this trend will continue in earnest. The survey also revealed that as many as 91 percent of bloggers and 68 percent of online reporters "always" or "sometimes" use blogs for research, only 35 percent of newspaper and 38 percent of print magazine journalists said they do.

The transition will likely cause some other changes not considered by PR Newswire. Specifically, wire services with the exception of ginning up SEO, will likely become less relevant than search and social networks. And publishers will have to balance being popular and providing quality news in order to remain competitive. Another possibility, according to Spotleson, is that some print could become its own niche. People tend to browse printed magazines when they are delivered to their door or mailbox for free, he said.

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Thursday, January 21

Considering Multimedia: What Is Possible?

After having a great conversation regarding broadcast-television convergence with David Schepp, business news reporter (DailyFinance, Dow Jones, BBC News and Gannett), the subject has been on my mind again for the better part of the week.

Then today, my longtime friend Amy Vernon sent me an update on Boxee, which announced it will be launching a payment platform this summer. If you are unfamiliar with Boxee, it defines itself as a social media center that allows you to play videos, music, and pictures from your computer, local network, and the Internet on your television. The significance of such cannot be understated.

There will be no distinction between media and online media, right around the corner.

While some people consider Internet television the fourth method of distribution (alongside cable, satellite, IPTV) for broadcast and premium content, it really represents the singular distribution model of the future. For some smart phone purchasers, it's already difficult to distinguish the Internet from mobile.

The transition, which will continue to accelerate, will cause disruption because it places every distributor and service provider — AT&T, Boxee, Comcast, Charter, Cox, DirectTV, Sprint, Time Warner, Verizon, (to name a few) — in the same industry, with the only distinction being content creator or distributor/service provider (and even then those distinctions might overlap). It may also mean a contraction in related industries as it becomes more difficult for companies to ask consumers to pay for four services — phone, mobile, television, and Internet — that are being carried on what is essentially the same network.

What will the future look like? It seems crystal clear.

As a I told Schepp, the future will likely allow for our mobile devices to carry our preferences (and some content, as they do now) and then, once plugged in to another docking station, automatically pull up a customized desktop screen tailored to that device.

Specifically, I dock my iPhone (or whatever) to the television and all my preferred settings will be ported to the device. When I dock it to my desktop or laptop computer at work, ditto. When I dock it to my car stereo, I choose from my playlist or satellite radio. Calls and text messages can come through all devices, depending on my settings (which is important to anyone who has had a movie interrupted by a telephone call). It's simple, effective, and changes our thinking.

Online ... offline ... it all means communication and/or entertainment and/or mobile.

What does that mean for communication professionals?

While we're working on models that help companies better integrate social media into comprehensive communication, most of them are temporary five- to ten-year fixes. Just as the broadcast-mobile-Internet-cable mash up promises to erase our understanding of those industries, I anticipate there won't be any distinction between public relations, advertising, etc. It will all be communication, distinguished (perhaps) by previous world views.

Organizational communication will have to change, especially if consumers adopt a pay-for consumption only model, which could preclude advertising from the mix beyond product placement and peripheral marketing. (For example, maybe a customer becomes interested in the car their favorite character drives. One click and their programming could pause or be bookmarked for a future visit to the manufacturer's Web site. Another click inside the car, and GPS technology maps out the closest dealer or, perhaps, the one with the best deal).

Or, maybe, some companies will become content creators (with programs related to their products), competing with amateurs and production/broadcast companies or simply running alongside them as another option. Some of the better YouTube productions have already demonstrated the potential for advertainment, assuming we get more than an infomercial.

The applications are as endless as the imagination.

For me, the only thing more exciting than entertainment and communication changes ahead are the real life applications in areas such as education. When every classroom becomes a potential studio audience as it is streamed live across the Web (and any handouts are released to portable devices such as smart phones or tablets), it could potentially erase the barriers for higher education, with the most common barriers being proximity (physical location) and price points (mass audiences could reduce the current per credit rates).

What else? Anything is probable, but we can expect the road to be as bumpy as the transition from horses to horseless carriages or couriers to telephones. And speaking of phones ... have you thought about mobile lately?

Tuesday, October 13

Stacking The Odds: Magazine Publishers

The story may be stale for some, but it's no less relevant. AdvertisingAge published an interesting article last week, revealing that rival magazine companies are discussing the creation of an ad network that would sell targeted ad space across many industry Web sites.

While considered very preliminary, the concept is that each participant could get better ad rates. Owning their own network, these publishers believe, thereby reduces the increasing number of independent ad networks that return pennies on the dollars.

According to the IBM Global Business Services study highlighted earlier, this is the kind of network that many advertising professionals expect in the next three to five years or less.

Will a collaborative magazine ad network work?

According to the article, a magazine publishers' network, if it could achieve the crucial scale required, could offer advertisers behavioral targeting on professionally produced, "well-lit" sites. However, depending on the structure and whether publishers would retain independent account executives, it could also skew sales toward favored publishers.

While it might seem like a prudent move for magazine publishers, they would have to take care not to model such a network after the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970, which may have saved some newspapers in the short term, but resulted in near dual-paper monopolies that hindered start-ups.

Generally, most participating newspapers consolidated advertising sales and distribution. In recent years, the number of joint operating agreements has declined considerably. Personally, I wonder sometimes if the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970 didn't set the stage for declining print circulations today.

Specifically, had newspapers not grown complacent with little fear of competition, would they have been faster to act in developing a modern distribution model that paid for itself? We may never know.

Tuesday, August 18

Measuring Impact: Nielsen

In May 2008, fans of a cancelled television program, Jericho, dumped more than 4,000 pounds of peanuts on the doorstep of Nielsen Media Research. Shipping peanuts had become the statement of choice for the fans, who had secured a truncated second season after sending more than 20 tons to CBS.

But the nuts sent to Nielsen were different. The statement wasn't a call to action as much as it was a measure of their displeasure with the people who control what people watch based exclusively on the viewing habits of a shrinking few. They blame a flawed and antiquated rating system for the demise of the series. And they are not the only ones to feel that way.

This week, there was more talk about dumping. And this time, fans of television shows weren't talking. According to the New York Times, it is the owners of the four major broadcast networks; cable channel operators, including Viacom and Discovery; three of the country’s biggest-spending advertisers, Procter & Gamble, AT&T and Unilever; and two of the biggest advertising agency holding companies, GroupM and the Starcom MediaVest Group unit of the Publicis Groupe. And the conversation did not include dumping peanuts as much as it included dumping Nielsen.

Nielsen, which possesses a monopoly on the rating system for television, would not comment. It has been trying to prove its ability to catch up on the measurement curve for years, with plans that it once said would take five years or even a decade to execute.

But times have changed. It only took Facebook nine months to add 100 million members and Apple to celebrate 1 billion application downloads for the iPhone. In terms of communication, especially social media, we frequently talk in terms of what can be accomplished in 90 or 180 days. So it's no surprise that words from the CEO of Nielsen say old world to many of them.

"Innovation is a process," says Dave Calhoun. "And it has to be a well-defined process."

Translation: It will take a long time. And it may take long enough that the opening of his story in Fortune last year might not read as funny as it did then. Not much has changed. If anything, it has gotten worse outside and inside as indicated from this internal memo sent to employees after the Financial Times had broke the story (hat tip: James Hibberd's The Live Feed)...

"As you know, our Company is committed to measuring across all screens – known in the industry as “three screens”: television, computer and mobile – as part of our long-term strategy. Over the last three years, we’ve invested more than a billion dollars in research and development as part of this effort. As with all of our measurement science, we’re working closely with our clients, whose input and engagement has been consistent and constructive.

You may have read the Financial Times article published late last week, or the subsequent articles appearing in a number of publications over the weekend, about the potential formation of a new three-screen consortium. While our Company policy is not to respond to speculation or future announcements, we have been in direct contact with many of our clients, including some cited in the original article. Much of what was reported by the Financial Times remains unclear, and many of our clients are themselves looking for answers to questions raised by the story. What is clear, however, is that three-screen measurement is at the center of our strategy. Just as clear is the commitment of some of our largest clients who have recently renewed multi-year contracts with us for television, online, mobile and other measurement services.

We continue to move forward helping our clients understand and measure media consumption anytime, anywhere."

Of course, nobody would have understand media measurement if, you know, Nielsen could count everyone. You know, like Arbitron (no, not seriously).

Monday, August 17

Targeting Behavior: YuMe

Most advertisers are already familiar with YuMe for its video ad management platform. Basically, advertisers can purchase space — power rolls, click to videos, overlays, tickers, sponsorships, pre-roll, etc. — on video streams provided by more than 500+ publishers.

Earlier today, YuMe announced its new partnership with Access, which is another advertising network that targets automotive consumers specifically. But what we found interesting about the news isn't the partnership as much as the reasoning behind it — behavioral tracking.

Behavioral Tracking Places Qualitative Over Quantitative.

Forget all the buzz about who has the most friends and followers, online advertising is beginning its slow shift away from the number of impressions and toward qualitative measures that lead to qualified buyers. The shift in thinking could eventually hasten the decline in traditional media, which tends to focus on volume over value. In fact, according to YuMe, the partnership was forged because of the company's ability to leverage data about the viewers' browsing behaviors, search histories and video consumption habits.

For example, Access will now have the opportunity to target video ads to viewers who have recently searched and compared vehicle prices online or searched for a specific car make and model. The concept is simple enough: reaching people with a specific interest is more powerful than reaching someone within a specific demographic.

This comes at a time when online video viewing has reached a record high. According to comScore, Inc., more than 157 million U.S. Internet users watched an average of 124 online videos (each) totaling an average of 453 minutes during the month of June. This represents more than 81.2 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience. Additional data:

• 111.8 million viewers watched 7.6 billion videos on (67.9 videos per viewer).
• 53.6 million viewers watched 524 million videos on (9.8 videos per viewer).
• The average visitor to Hulu watched 10.1 videos, totaling more than an hour of videos per visitor.

There Is One Caution In Behavioral Tracking...

Much of it touches on demand fulfillment. Demand creation is something else, entirely.

Monday, July 6

Marketing Mainstream: Online Video

Several years ago, we floated the idea that advertisers would be able to produce online videos that would attract as much attention as any broadcast advertisement. Some people thought the idea was very funny (given the frequency in which people insist they hate advertising).

Yet, in the last 18 months, that is exactly what happened as 200,000 tuned in this week to watch the Eyebrow Dance from Canbury, 325,000 viewed the T-Mobile Dance from T-Mobile, and thousands more continue to watch Extreme LED Sheep from Samsung, a video that has already garnered more than 8.5 million views. There is enough interest in online video advertising, in fact, that Video Measures compiles a real time Top 10 Viral Videos Ads of the Week Chart.

"It's not a niche activity anymore, it's a fairly mainstream activity," Matt Cutler, vice president of Video Measures recently told Abbey Klaassen of Advertising Age. Despite more than 20 hours of new video added to YouTube during every minute of every day, there is plenty of room for advertisers to produce an online video that becomes viral.

Viral Videos Are Usually Part Of Integrated Campaigns

During the interview, Cutler also noted that advertisers began to seriously look at online video shortly after the last Super Bowl when their joint study revealed Super Bowl campaigns captured 99 million viewers compared to the 98.7 million viewers that watched during the broadcast. For the first time, marketers realized that a single online video might reach as many people as broadcast television.

However, Cutler also concludes that online video success doesn't happen in a vacuum. The best online videos are usually tied to an integrated campaign that helps connect the video with viewers. Additional advertising support, public relations, and social media all play a role. After that, assuming the video attracts critical mass, its own momentum can carry it forward as popular videos tend to attract larger audiences.

Once A Video Goes Viral, Then What?

While the prospect of capturing several million viewers is appealing, advertisers still need to overcome the notion that "viral videos" can be made. The reality is that while advertisers can make a video, its propensity to become viral is determined exclusively by the online audience.

Of course, there is something else to consider. Even viral video success stories might be empty if there is no purpose beyond popularity. Specifically, making a video is easy; ensuring it goes viral is virtually impossible (most do not); and weaving in a message that has an impact or achieves an outcome remains as elusive as ever.

Thursday, June 18

Making Sense For Media: PriceWaterhouseCoopers

PriceWaterhouseCoopers released its Global Entertainment and Media Outlook: 2009-2013 yesterday, and the findings will set the stage for some companies to excel while others will be forgotten. Not surprisingly, the migration to digital entertainment platforms and convergence will accelerate as companies seek advertising distribution efficiencies while consumers want more value and more control over their content streams.

The future is bright, but not for everyone.

While the report shows declines in consumer ad spending through 2011, PriceWaterhouseCoopers sees industry growth returning in 2012-2013. Specifically, global spending on entertainment and media will reach $1.6 trillion in 2013 and then grow by 2.7 percent in digital content, which will eventually offset declines in traditional media revenue models. In the United States, the entertainment and media market will ultimately grow at a 1.2 percent average annual rate to $495 billion in 2013.

The primary challenge, it says, will be that some media companies will struggle to attract revenue from fragmented and mobile audiences. On that one point, we couldn't disagree more. The emphasis on mobile audiences is leaning toward more convergence, not less, with audiences being able to import and make portable their favorite content from their desktops to their laptops and mobile phones.

If any fragmentation is occurring, it's a direct result of consumers finding a continually increasing amount of content that would otherwise be unavailable. More choices simply means not all people will pick from the most popular three, but rather any number of options from a list of 3 million.

The decision that media companies have to make is whether their product is strong enough to capture any audience at all. For example, as one large publishing company reported months ago, its greatest challenge on the Web is competition. Rather than compete with the only other daily in a major market, they have to compete with several more migrating print sources, broadcast news sites, radio news sites, and the seemingly endless supply of amateur op ed blogs and network content.

They're asking the wrong questions. They're searching for the wrong conclusions.

Digital demand is increasing, but not everyone sees it.

"The current decline in revenues is not because of declining demand," Bill Cobourn of PriceWaterhouseCoopers' media and entertainment practice said. "In fact, demand for (entertainment and media) appears to be increasing."

The struggle that some media companies are facing is where that demand is increasing and their own ability to be able to meet that demand. Rather than continuing to find ever-narrowing niches where no competition occurs, they ought to be asking what do they have to do different to demonstrate a clear product contrast.

The right content mix would ensure that the publisher would never compete with other migration print sources, broadcast news sites, radio news sites, and the greater content sources that make up social media, including former advertisers who are finding it easier to develop direct-to-public online programs.

Ergo, today's news doesn't have to be the same on every station. If anything, that is the model that died when consumer choice began to grow exponentially. Consumers no longer have to choose which newscaster or print reporter they enjoy more as much as they choose which stories interest them the most. It changes, daily.

Coupled with the media's focus on preserving old distribution models, e.g., print and broadcast, they miss the bigger picture. While there will always be room for some print (assuming it is not duplicated online), distribution stands to sort itself out.

Even PriceWaterhouseCoopers sees it. It projects mobile and digital platforms expanding at the highest average growth rate of 12.2 percent through 2013 in contrast to a non-digital growth rate of 1.2 percent. So traditional-minded media might ask itself: which growth sector makes more sense to pursue?

Tomorrow's media model will be everywhere or nowhere.

When migrating media learns how to deliver valued content over the same old coverage and shift its one-way communication model into two-way community development, then advertisers will have a real reason to invest advertising dollars in order to capture those communities. However, and in the meantime, right now it makes more sense for companies to develop their own online communities while media struggles to sort it all out.

After all, digital spending is projected to rise to 25 percent of total industry revenues in 2013, up from 17 percent in 2008. And advertisers will continue to shift toward new media, boosting Internet advertising to 19 percent of U.S. advertising by 2013, from 13 percent in 2008. In other words, the hard choice media needs to make today is whether they want to be everywhere or nowhere at all. And that choice will not be made by media alone.

Content Related To The PriceWaterhouseCoopers Report

Digital spending to fuel slower media growth-PwC by James Pethokoukis

Pricewaterhouse Coopers Notices We're Going Digital by Catharine P. Taylor

PricewaterhouseCoopers Study Finds A Positive Outlook For Digital Media Growth by Stuart Elliot

Thursday, April 30

Ignoring Audience: Traditional Thinking

According to a new study by Integrated Media Measurement Inc. (IMMI), a consumer behavior research firm, audiences are spending more time multitasking while watching broadcast programs than ever before.

Specifically, the study found that TV watchers spend an average of 9.3 percent of their time online while simultaneously watching television. Among viewers watching broadcast TV, 11 percent also are surfing the Web. For cable viewers, it’s 8.2 percent.

"During the past year, there has been much debate about the perils of making television programming available via the Internet," said Amanda Welsh, head of research for Integrated Media Measurement Inc. “While some have speculated or feared that online accessibility would cannibalize television audiences, our data shows that the affinity of DVR users to view television episodes online offers advertisers new opportunities to recapture a desirable audience that had been slipping away."

Of the people who watched primetime programming both online and on a DVR during the month, 35 percent watched four or more episodes online, compared with 15 percent for people who watched prime time programming both online and on live television. Of the people who watched prime time programming both online and on a DVR, 30 percent went online only once, compared with 57 percent for people who watched prime time programming both online and on live television.

Previously, IMMI had found 50 percent of online viewing are audience members watching episodes they missed on television. They are either filling in an episode online when they had already seen the other episodes around it on TV (18.7%), or they are catching up on an episode online after seeing the subsequent episodes on TV (31.3%). The other 50% are apparently viewers using the Internet to check out shows, replacing the channel flipping or sampling they might have done on the television in the past.

Integration Over Traditional Thinking Is Key

The bottom line is that advertisers cannot continue to afford a singular mindset as if to choose television over online marketing. As the IMMI study suggests, consumers do not distinguish between delivery systems.

They simply want to watch their programs. And we're not the only ones to think so.

“To effectively utilize digital media, and promote its integration with traditional media, marketers and advertisers must overcome the two obstacles that continuously arise: education and measurement,” said Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the Association of National Advertisers told TV Week. “Only once the industry takes steps to become savvy will integrated marketers be able to fully embrace all that advertising today can offer a brand.”

We're seeing it play out exactly like this with one of the projects we're currently engaged in. While more traditional thinkers on the team are quick to dismiss the greater impact of other team members (both with product and with exposure), the 360-degree view demonstrates the audience does not distinguish between entertainment assets such as soundtrack and film nor do they distinguish between traditional media and online engagement. Rather, the audience sees various elements as different contact points working toward each other.

In this case, as the online audience learns about exposure in traditional media, they rush to review the content and set the tone for non-engaged reader feedback left on the traditional articles. In essence, they are both engaged promoters and media consumers. No one can really separate the two as traditional marketers/public relations practitioners and social media experts tend to do nor as advertising and public relations or print, broadcast, and online proponents continue to do. Nor even as broadcast/print or online programmers/online continue to do for that matter.

Integrated communication, working seamlessly together on assets or promotion, will deliver the best return on investment over the long term, which is best described about 90 days. That's right. Ninety days is long term, and online, even seven seems like an eternity.

Some Related Ideas

• Is social media a revolution in local government communications? by Simon Wakeman

365 is the new 360 by Tom Beckman

• Beginning 2009: The year of communication from Copywrite, Ink.

Tuesday, March 31

Shifting Ad Dollars: Reckitt-Benckiser Migration

"We've seen a fundamental shift in consumer consumption and media habits migrating over to digital video. Obviously YouTube started it, but we want to be aligned with professional content. With broadband getting to the scale that it has, the shift has happened. The integration of traditional and digital media is here now." — Marc Fonzetti, media manager and internet specialist for Reckitt-Benckiser

According to AdvertisingAge, Reckitt-Benckiser joins a long line of companies that are increasingly interested in the net. The company plans to shift an estimated $20 million in TV ad dollars to the Web for more than 15 of its brands, including: Lysol, Air Wick, Mucinex, Finish and Clearasil. $20 million is still only a small percentage of its estimated $475 million media purchased, but signals an accelerated migration.

The increasing emphasis on the Internet isn't only about CPM. Its also about market share. The company, which markets everything from Electrasol dishwasher products to French's mustard expects to increase its market share from 30 to 31/32 percent in 2009. Even more striking, Rob De Groot, head of the group's North America and Australia region confirmed what our research for some of our accounts has been saying for some time.

"The start of the recession has been here for the last six months. We haven't seen any recession in our numbers," he said, according to Reuters. "There is no reason to doubt that our innovation-led strategy is not working."

Right. Recessions are elective. Innovation is exempt.

Reckitt-Benckiser has frequently led the U.K. stock gains, including adding 7.6 percent profit after beating analysts’ estimates in February. The real losers in their most recent move might be major TV network Web sites. Reckitt-Benckiser decided to partner with ad-serving video ad networks such as Glam, Tidal TV, YuMe and Brightroll, rather than TV network Web sites, to avoid higher online CPM charges.

It's long past time for advertising agencies and communication-related firms to consider the obvious. Convergence is accelerating at a increasingly rapid pace. In fact, from our independent research, there is virtually no one under age of 30 that distinguishes media from social media or broadcast from online digital. Besides that, traditional broadcast doesn't reach mobile.

All this means that 2009 is shaping up to be exactly what we said it might be. Except, this is the year of communication in three months, not 12.

Wednesday, November 19

Removing Customers: They Don't Want You

Ever since Blu-Ray started selling 100 units for every 98.71 units of HD-DVD last year, the writing was on the wall. There was going to be change. And for some, change for the sake of change would be painful.

Earlier this year, Netflix sent some consumers in a tail spin after announcing that it will carry high definition videos in the Blu-Ray format backed by Sony and others, but not in the HD-DVD standard once backed by Toshiba. Today, in what appears to be a licensing deal gone temporarily wrong as opposed to an answer to Microsoft's Xbox Live campaign, the Xbox 360 will not stream Sony Columbia Pictures Films. (Sony Pictures Entertainment movies are still available.) Sony Columbia Pictures Films doesn't want Xbox 360 customers.

Did you get all that? Netflix didn't want Toshiba customers. Now, Sony Columbia Pictures doesn't want Netflix customers, at least not those using an Xbox 360. And, long term, it seems doubtful Netflix will want Blu-Ray customers because the adoption rate is less than stellar.

Sure, Netflix remains vigilant in communicating that the company's current business strategy is still firmly rooted in DVD technology, but most weeks it communicates a growing number of streaming deals. However, when you compare a few choice quotes from Netflix, they don't add up:

"There are 100 million DVD players in U.S. households. If you really think people are going to stop renting DVDs, you need to lie down until that thought passes.” — Barry McCarthy, CFO, Netflix.

"As watching instantly becomes a more prominent part of the Netflix service, our goal is to have all of our streaming content licensed for all of our partner devices. We're doing well in this area, but it will take some time before we fully achieve that goal." — Steve Swasey, vice president of corporate communications, Netflix.

More and more, it seems electronic companies keep asking consumers to replace hardware at a dizzying pace just so they can replace all their media content once again (just in time for the next new hardware) or, perhaps long term, only allow them to borrow content from time to time for a monthly subscription price model that made cable companies profitable.

So what are they really saying? Your children's children won't know what a DVD is (or Blu-Ray for that matter) and they might not know what a book is either. While we keep aiming to make content more portable, the side effect might be that content becomes increasingly controlled and temporary. That will be painful. But as mentioned, change for the sake of change is always painful.


Wednesday, September 10

Learning The Hard Way: NBC Returns To iTunes

There are two ways to learn. One of them is the hard way.

Almost one year ago to the day, NBC Universal (NBCU) made one of the worst decisions since it entered the digital media arena — it effectively banned itself from Apple iTunes. With the launch of iTunes 8 a few days ago and its fall schedule falling in place, NBCU seems to have finally learned the hard way and come back.

Of course, rumors of the peacock’s return to iTunes have been out there for some time. In January, Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC, made a massive public relations dance move, shifting from the position that iTunes had destroyed the music industry to saying "We've said all along that we admire Apple, that we want to be in business with Apple."

When the rumors first surfaced in January, Engadget could only speculate as to NBC’s reasons. Today, it seems more clear. Apple has refined its terms of service and NBC will generate more revenue, assuming consumers want to spend $1 more for a high definition version of a television show.

The return might even be bittersweet. The SciFi Channel — which returns to iTunes along with NBC, USA, Bravo, NBC News, and Sleuth — praises the new deal, but then goes on to add “there's not much reason get your shows from iTunes instead of streaming them for free on or Hulu.”

Wow! I’ve never seen a company tell consumers not to purchase its programming before. But then again, advertising revenue has always trumped consumer purchases at the networks. Ask any television show fan groups.

Since the SciFi Channel doesn’t seem to get it, we’ll help spell it out: NBC has always been smart about some of its moves into the digital arena like Hulu but dumb when it comes to understanding one critical component — portability.

Apple has created a platform that seamlessly allows me to purchase programs that I can watch on my computer, iPod, iPhone, or flat screen TV. Unfortunately, any HD purchases I might make will have to wait because the system requirements remove that portability selling point and/or double up on storage space.

There’s something else too. Apple needs to fix a glitch. Right now, if you select some shows in a standard format, they still default to HD in your shopping cart, making them impossible to purchase unless you have a dual-core 2.0 Ghz processor or better. So, for the time being, I’m blocked from buying certain shows until they sort it out or I upgrade my 2.1 Ghz “just before” dual core cpu.

More to the point, the return of NBC to iTunes sets the stage for how digital media will work on the net and it’s much more in line with our thinking when people were still telling us that convergence was nothing more than a fantasy. NBC and other networks need to focus on content creation to stay relevant.

Apple and others will become the digital distribution bridges while the finer points of convergence are finally sorted out. And networks have a long way to go before they understand public relations. You’re back on iTunes despite Hulu. Get over it.


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