September 2008 Archives
This morning I attended the Future of Media forum over at the Times building a few blocks down from my office. With Mark Cuban, Cathie Black, Nigel Morris and others, it promised to be a provocative discussion and it certainly was. Here are some of my takeaways from the morning.
It doesn't matter whether you're old or new media, generation x, y or a baby boomer - no one has really figured out the direction that this industry is headed in. Everyone agrees that new monetization models need to appear but nobody knows what they will look like and how exactly the traditional print industry will be effected.
The ad agencies need to change as well. They're too focused on buying media and still too TV centric. A more holistic approach that also recognizes how we consume and interact with multiple forms of media in a social context and at once is needed. The work being done by ad agencies is getting commoditized as well. The only real differentiator over the long term - creativity with its broadest definition. Agencies that can attract the best talent and deliver the most creative work will win.
Social came up a few times in the discussion but mostly in the context of Facebook and YouTube not making any money. And I think that's where these speakers are missing something. Firstly, Facebook and YouTube do have revenue models and each year earn more money. Secondly, the social behavior on these platforms is so widespread that they cannot be ignored. Google maybe paying for YouTube with its search dollars but I am confident that a significant percentage of YouTube users would pay $1 a month if they had to keep using the service. That's all YouTube would need to make their service incredibly profitable. At the moment, Google doesn't need to take that step.
Another key discussion point was the importance of mobile devices and how televisions and other large screen formats will be incorporate the web into them all at the cost of desktop computers. There's no question that the Internet will keep getting more mobile but will that address the monetization issues facing a lot of media today? Probably not. It was interesting how the speakers struggled with thinking of media beyond the framework of channels through which to push content.
The Future of Media forum confirmed a few suspicions of mine. Some people are wedded to old business models and with good reason. In some cases, as with Hearst Publications this is because the business models still continue to work well. In other cases, it is because that's all they know. What's missing is that no one is focusing on how consumption behavior has changed and the importance (or lack of importance) we give to traditional media brands. They way we consume, appreciate and respect media has fundamentally altered. We recognize that change but no one is rethinking their business model based on that change. That's the problem.
Also check out this article on The Future of Media at Mediapost.
Here's an interesting video interview with the MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe conducted during Techcrunch 50. He discusses MySpace Music, touches upon advertising and covers the financial aspects of MySpace. He also talks about MySpace's relationship with Silicon Valley.
Now I know practically nothing about CBS owned The Insider but they just started testing Facebook Connect and it works beautifully. I'm impressed. Here's what I can do.
I'm given a choice to login with my Facebook credentials and upon doing so I can see other friends who have logged in or have logged in within the last 24 hours. I can also invite other Facebook friends to the site and start conversations with them. Best of all - to join or cultivate a community on The Insider, I did not need to go through a painful registration process. I was able to carry my social graph with me.
I bet that over the next year more and more publishers will offer Facebook Connect or Friend Connect as a way to bring login credentials and social graphs to their sites. It'll get especially interesting when retailers start doing this encouraging social shopping or certainly advice giving to take place near the point of purchase. Why does this matter? Because by allowing the social influence to take place on ecommerce sites, retailers will be better mapping their site experiences to how people shop in the real world resulting in more informed and satisfied customers. For more on this, read A New Frontier of Social Influence: Portable Social Graphs.
I'll be speaking at the Social Ad Summit here in New York on Monday. Its a full day invite only conference focusing on advertising and social networks. I'll be on a panel hosted by Brian Morrissey of Adweek where we'll be discussing what social networks can and are doing for marketers. It should be a provocative discussion.
You can bet I'll probably touch upon our own efforts to bring the worlds of social media and online advertising together. Nobody has this figured out but things are changing quickly.
I often start conference presentations asking the room how many people know Mark Granovetter. (His research on the strength of weak ties in social networks is groundbreaking. Having studied his research, he's basically a hero of mine.) In a typical audience of 100 to 200 people, rarely more than three or four hands go up. I always find that troubling but move on nevertheless.
Well, a wonderful article in last week's New York Times explains why people need to know Granovetter better. Brave New World of Digital Intimacy discusses how ambient awareness is changing how we relate to our weak ties, how they strengthen (but in a parasocial sort of way). The article explains why micro-blogging works and how digital phenomena like that can also build community. Not online community but real world community in the concrete jungles that more and more of us live in now. Don't miss this article, I nearly did.
As we move beyond the hype phase of social media and into one where the proof will be in the pudding, I am willing to bet that a lot more people will start paying attention to people like Mark Granovetter. They need to otherwise, it'll be hard to explain why some user experiences work and others fail. Why some campaigns go viral and others don't. Why crisis management can be its own crisis in some instances but a breeze in other cases. Folks, its time to put your disdain for academia to one side and pay attention to this stuff. Your job maybe on the line.