The Socialisation of Media

This is the panel discussion thing on social media I did a couple of days ago for the PSFK Good Ideas salon.

It was all good early morning fun [I think I may have been hypercaffeinated] - and there's a party to celebrate being upbeat in 09 to end the series off.

One of the things I got asked was what's going to happen in 2009. Whilst I have no idea, I've never been one to shy away from a little future gazing and I think one of the things we'll see more if is the continued blurring of the modalities of media.

Specifically, I think there is going to be a increase in the socialisation of 'mainstream' media.

I think things like the twitter backchannel that Fallon/Scifi put together for Eureka, and The Hills backchannel that Area/Code did, give an indication of how a previously isolated media consumption experience makes a virtue of its nature as a solidarity good whilst it is happening, rather than later over the metaphorically cooled water.

Newspapers embrace comments and blogging and RSS, opening up their journalists to the discussions that make blogging the essentially social thing it is.

Posters seek content from people, leveraging scale and vanity to avoid being ignored.

In a time when budgets for media are inevitably going to be cut [despire the long standing argument that it pays to invest during a recession] old media will have to embrace the social content ecosystem that surrounds it.

Google TV Ads

Google TV Ads extends the Adwords platform into TV [it also does print and radio].

It allows you to plan and buy a TV schedule based on station and daypart and so on. 

Or it will create an optimised TV schedule for you based on your desired demographic.

You can then buy TV like you buy Adwords, setting daily impression and budget targets, and monitor your delivery, getting results the next day. 

If you don't have an ad, it connects you to the Google Ad Creation Marketplace, which connects advertisers directly to production companies.   

They are currently offering to reimburse you for ads created through the marketplace, up to the cost of $2000.

At that budget level they clearly remained focused on the long tail of advertisers, lowering the entry costs of using mass media.   

But one day disintermediation is going to call into question the need for advertising agents to perform many of the tasks detailed above.

We interrupt these commercial messages for a word from our content

Jerry Seinfeld, of legendary Seinfeld fame, has a new movie coming out that he conceptualised, co-wrote and stars in. It's about a bee.  It's called Bee Movie [like B movie - see what he did there?]

He has also created a number of behind the scenes comic vignettes in a neat spin on the trailer, which are being aired on NBC. According to TIME:

Though the shorts are designed to promote the film on the Internet, NBC acquired the rights to air them during commercial breaks in an effort to encourage viewers to watch the neighboring advertisements.

So, there are now content breaks in the ad breaks to get you to watch the ads, but the content is itself a commercial message, except the broadcaster paid the advertiser to run them.

I'm confused.

What is a media company?


Saw a good presentation this morning by Simon Waldman, Director of Digital Strategy at Guardian Media Group. He specifically addressed something that I've been trying to get my head round for a while: in a converged world, how does a media brand define itself?

He put forward the above model for what a media company used to be. They have a brand and their talent, that create the content, but to a large degree a media company has thus far been defined by its distribution mechanism - so a tv channel is, well, a tv channel and a magazine is a magazine.

But now we are entering a converged world and that, every media brand is converging into the same spaces: you can get cross platform content - be it text, audio or video - from Channel 4, FHM, The Guardian or Kiss radio. So, in this converged world, how does a media company define itself?

Simon put forward the following:


So it becomes the community that considers itself your audience that helps define you as a media organisation [correct me if I'm wrong Simon!].

I like this but I suspect that only media brands that have a distinct positioning will be able to compete. If you can get content in any form from anywhere, only the strength of the relationship you have as a brand with your audience will keep you cohesive. Brands move into the position of editors and facilitators, as well as being content creators.   

So that Guardian moves from being "A Daily National Liberal Newspaper" to "The World's Leading Liberal Voice" - a territory it can fairly claim.

But if you're ITV 3, I've no idea where you go.

The Long Tail Eats the Head

Google's business model derives from the long tail of advertisers, as much of the growth in online advertising has done. Whilst ad spend online has rocketed, the vast majority of this spend comes in relatively small increments, from relatively small advertisers. The lower entry costs and demonstrable returns that search marketing can deliver tempted innumerable smaller players into advertising.

Now Google is providing a similar service on other media. 

Google Audio Ads, derived from its acquisition of the dMarc automated radio ad platform, takes it into radio. It's opening up traditional broadcast media to the long tail.

Yesterday, Google announced it would be rolling a similar model into newspapers, following a test in magazines last year. Newspapers are under pressure fill some of the holes in their ad revenue  caused by the migration of much of their traditional inventory, such as classifieds, online. Using their AdSense model, Google intends to facilitate the flow of money back into papers, by making their display inventory a viable option for smaller advertisers.

But brokering the deals isn't enough to generate the greatest value from the long tail - they want a bigger piece of the action that they have enabled. Hence Google are now looking to buy into Clear Channel radio. By rolling out their model across other channels, and then buying themselves into them, Google can begin to offer a complete cross channel advertising solution, becoming a traditional media owner, as well as the world's largest media company.

The long tail of advertising is enabling Google to eat the head of mainstream media.

People thought AOL /Time Warner was a big deal but the synergies available to a channel and content provider at that time were overstated.

But when Google starts to buy its way into TV, the media landscape is going to change completely.

Eight Traits of the Emerging Media Landscape


Alexa pointed me in the direction of Henry Jenkins' blog today, from which the above image comes, where he's posted his eight traits of the emerging media landscape.

This will be familliar to readers of Covergence Culture but it's still excellent reading and entirely relevant for anyone thinking about transmedia planning.

The central premise is worth bearing in mind - it's not the technology it's what people do with it that's important:

Most often, when people are asked to describe the current media landscape, they respond by making an inventory of tools and technologies. Our focus should be not on emerging technologies but on emerging cultural practices.

Henry's Eight Traits of the New Media Landscape are:

  1. Innovative: the rapid development of media technologies means that the cultural impact is unpredictable - each new technology spawns a range of different uses.
  2. Convergent: every idea, image, story, brand and relationship will play itself out across the broadest range of channels.
  3. Everyday: the pervasive nature of media has led to new behaviours like "continuous partial attention", coined by Linda Stone, a researcher at Microsoft. The danger is that with media being pervasive, we will no longer be able to see it, any more than fish can perceive water. It becomes a new kind of medium, as it were.
  4. Appropriative: here he talks about the emergence of a remix culture.
  5. Networked: media technologies are increasingly interconnected, allowing the effortless flow of content from person to person, or increasingly from many to many, replacing the sender / receiver mainstream media model of old.
  6. Global: media flows across national borders [except into China] and allows the development of international communities - like all of you out there.
  7. Generational: increasingly generations define themselves around their media behaviours - think the Myspace Generation - making inter-generational understanding even less likely.
  8. Unequal: his point here is about the digital divide - being visible online is a prerequisite for participation in this culture - anyone unable to participate is rendered invisible.

How we adapt to the world we are creating is perhaps the most interesting thing about working in any part of the media.

But I think people confuse colonising Second Life with understanding what people are getting out of online role playing games, what motivates people to contribute to online communities and what that might tell us about how people think about the world and themselves.

Emergent platforms are not spaces to invade - they are spaces to learn.

Read the wise man's wise words here.

Media Bingeing

A couple of months ago the New York Times ran a piece about Media Immersion Pods being the new new thing in Tokyo. These "drug dens for internet addicts" are cubicles that can be rented, for solo or couple use, and are rammed with every kind of media access device you could possibly desire: pc, tv, dvd, playstation and so on.

According to one of the quoted pundits

The Japanese love liminal spaces

and these dark little media nooks fulfil a deep and persistent cultural longing, caused by the rigid Japanese hierachy, to  shed your identity, to leave your social status at home for a few hours. Or even all night - as the article points out - one hour can easily become two, or seven.

This led me to think there might something more universal about this need. Media bingeing seems to be an emerging trend around the world - a corollary of on demand culture. Always on broadband has enabled immersive gaming where millions of people enjoy a rich second life for many hours a day. Timeshifted viewing, be it PVR or boxset,  allows you to chew through episodes of Lost or 24 all weekend. The continuous partial attention that the connected generation give to multiple media streams [internet, tv, phone, iPod] at the same time could be seen as a smorgasboard.

We are a society saturated by media, so it seems counterintuitive that the time poor would spend the free time on a media binge.  But perhaps it makes sense if we think of it in terms of empowerment. If we are bombared constantly by media, perhaps a good media binge is a way of taking back control.

Health Warning: Like any kind of binge, a media binge can be fatal if you don't know when to stop.

What is digital?

As a proud and self proclaimed geek, I often get asked about digital this and digital that.

"What's the digital strategy?" "What should we do with digital?"

What is digital?

It seems to have become the de facto term for online. With an occasional nod to mobile phones.

Or maybe video games.

To me this is a symptom of the not thinking cleary - of our need as an industry to maintain the delineations we have structurally established.

The picture is of a digital cross track projector. Viacom are setting them up in flagship stations on the London Underground over the next year or so - my mate Steve kindly showed me this fully functioning prototype. Already there are questions surrounding what they are a medium - are they a poster? An out of home film without sound? Will traditional creative agencies produce the films? Or digital agencies?

What about digital television? What about when it becomes proper IPTV all pumping through a Media Centre or Set-Top-Box equivalent?

What about digital radio? Or newspapers that are delivered electronically onto electronic paper?

Sorry. That's a lot of (mostly rhetorical) questions. You get my point.

To me the Internet was never a just new medium - it was a new kind of medium that had the ability to deliver the content developed for any other channel and was interactive to boot.

And the internet changed the rules of the game. People aren't willing to accept interruption online like they are elsewhere. Digital consumers born into an internet age don't think and act like the passive massive.

So what happens when all channels become digital?

YouTube Bigger than BBC


Youtube now receives more traffic than the BBC.

The BBC is nearly 100 years old and is funded by a mandatory television license paid by anyone owning a TV in the UK that amounts to almost £3bn annually.

Youtube launched in December 2005.

The BBC has come on leaps and bounds into the digital world as it attempts to justify its funding to the connected generation, but I think this is a telling development, at the very least about how fast things are changing.

Double Your Life


Business Week is featuring Second Life, mentioned briefly in a previous post, as a cover story. It's fascinating. The new model of media consumption  - collaborative and participatory - is exemplified by this 'game'.

Game isn't the right word though. There isn't even a word yet really. A virtual world where you can be anything, create anything and then sell it, own land, where the currency has a real world value. You create your own experience from the ground up.

They have clubs and residents associations. They have a stock exchange.

They have a record label.

They have a porn mag, featuring nude avatars, called Slustler, that is shot and distributed entirely with the 'game'.

Businesses are using it to host virtual presentations.

A game created within the 'game', called Tringo, has been licensed by Nintendo for the Gameboy Advance.

If you want to understand how people will interact with media in the future, this is the place to watch.