Analysis: "Cable's answer to online's ad success: targeting"

“Cable’s answer to online’s ad success: targeting” via Yahoo! Tech.

By the end of the year, Canoe will start rolling out ads that let consumers request information, such as the hypothetical one for the Mustang, industry executives said. Cable operators involved are Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Bright House Networks.

Initially, over the next two months, they’ll tailor ads by demographic profile of a community, such as age and income. So households in a youth-oriented neighborhood might get pitches for concerts, while those in higher-income areas might get exotic travel ads. Previously, cable could only target an entire metropolitan area or town.

Ultimately, cable will target down to the ZIP code and individual household, although when that will happen isn’t clear.

Mini what it means: this article discusses the ability for cable networks to target advertising locally and by socio-demographics.  Interestingly enough, all the examples given in the article are either national advertisers with a local flavor or based on socio-demographics. No mention of the local advertiser.

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Analysis: "Cable's answer to online's ad success: targeting"

“Cable’s answer to online’s ad success: targeting” via Yahoo! Tech.

By the end of the year, Canoe will start rolling out ads that let consumers request information, such as the hypothetical one for the Mustang, industry executives said. Cable operators involved are Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Time Warner Cable Inc., Charter Communications Inc., Cablevision Systems Corp. and Bright House Networks.

Initially, over the next two months, they’ll tailor ads by demographic profile of a community, such as age and income. So households in a youth-oriented neighborhood might get pitches for concerts, while those in higher-income areas might get exotic travel ads. Previously, cable could only target an entire metropolitan area or town.

Ultimately, cable will target down to the ZIP code and individual household, although when that will happen isn’t clear.

Mini what it means: this article discusses the ability for cable networks to target advertising locally and by socio-demographics.  Interestingly enough, all the examples given in the article are either national advertisers with a local flavor or based on socio-demographics. No mention of the local advertiser.

The Innovator's Dilemma

Yesterday, Sophie Cousineau, a business journalist from Montreal’s La Presse, offered her explanation as to why Barack Obama had to fire Rick Wagoner, the CEO of [praized subtype=”small” pid=”597ce70258167de10a3ead0ceea0179355″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] (GM). She talked about some of Wagoner’s past successes but also the fact that he hung on too long to his strategy that centered on SUVs and trucks.

It struck me that with the GM situation, we are facing a perfect example of the innovator’s dilemma. Coined by Clayton M. Christensen in the book of the same name, the innovator’s dilemma is “a theory about how large, outstanding firms can fail “by doing everything right.” The Innovator’s Dilemma, according to Christensen, describes companies whose successes and capabilities can actually become obstacles in the face of changing markets and technologies. ” (source: mit.edu) Christensen also talked about “disruptive technologies”.

In GM’s case, they were so focused on their high-profit margin products (SUVs, trucks, minivans) that they ended up being blindsided when the easy credit required to buy these expensive vehicles evaporated and the price of gas went through the roof.  It also reminded me that sometimes you need to kill your cash cow before someone else does it for you (or said otherwise, it’s better to cannibalize yourself than have someone else do if to you).

Which brings me to traditional media (you knew I was going there, were you?).

Newspapers traditionally have been huge cash-generating vehicles but they now have clearly met disruptive technologies both on the reader and on the advertiser side. Basic news is a commodity and aggregators (like Google News) serve as destination site. On the advertiser front, classifieds revenue has been completely disrupted via the free model (pioneered by [praized subtype=”small” pid=”c51b8fbbdf9041e28ba547a1644985a2c4″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]) and online eyeballs do not monetize as well as print readers. That leaves an industry that’s questioning itself with many people wondering what will happen to it in the future.

Directory publishers have very good profit margins but, for most of them, 80%+ of their revenues still come from the print platform. The good news is there hasn’t been too many disruptive technologies yet but you always have to wonder what will blindside the industry. Social media and mobile should be top of mind IMHO.

TV networks and cable providers are still enjoying a successful ride with broadcast/cable television and are slowly starting to think of a post-broadcast world. Disruption there will clearly come from the ability for viewers to go à-la-carte on the Web (either through legit or pirated channels) and link back to their television set. A startup like Boxee is trying to crack that nut.

What it means: the GM and the newspaper industry examples definitely show us that smart people, doing what feels like the right thing, can lead whole industries to catastrophe. What should media companies do? As Clay Shirky said recently “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments, each of which will seem as minor at launch as craigslist did, as Wikipedia did…”

The Innovator's Dilemma

Yesterday, Sophie Cousineau, a business journalist from Montreal’s La Presse, offered her explanation as to why Barack Obama had to fire Rick Wagoner, the CEO of [praized subtype=”small” pid=”597ce70258167de10a3ead0ceea0179355″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] (GM). She talked about some of Wagoner’s past successes but also the fact that he hung on too long to his strategy that centered on SUVs and trucks.

It struck me that with the GM situation, we are facing a perfect example of the innovator’s dilemma. Coined by Clayton M. Christensen in the book of the same name, the innovator’s dilemma is “a theory about how large, outstanding firms can fail “by doing everything right.” The Innovator’s Dilemma, according to Christensen, describes companies whose successes and capabilities can actually become obstacles in the face of changing markets and technologies. ” (source: mit.edu) Christensen also talked about “disruptive technologies”.

In GM’s case, they were so focused on their high-profit margin products (SUVs, trucks, minivans) that they ended up being blindsided when the easy credit required to buy these expensive vehicles evaporated and the price of gas went through the roof.  It also reminded me that sometimes you need to kill your cash cow before someone else does it for you (or said otherwise, it’s better to cannibalize yourself than have someone else do if to you).

Which brings me to traditional media (you knew I was going there, were you?).

Newspapers traditionally have been huge cash-generating vehicles but they now have clearly met disruptive technologies both on the reader and on the advertiser side. Basic news is a commodity and aggregators (like Google News) serve as destination site. On the advertiser front, classifieds revenue has been completely disrupted via the free model (pioneered by [praized subtype=”small” pid=”c51b8fbbdf9041e28ba547a1644985a2c4″ type=”badge” dynamic=”true”]) and online eyeballs do not monetize as well as print readers. That leaves an industry that’s questioning itself with many people wondering what will happen to it in the future.

Directory publishers have very good profit margins but, for most of them, 80%+ of their revenues still come from the print platform. The good news is there hasn’t been too many disruptive technologies yet but you always have to wonder what will blindside the industry. Social media and mobile should be top of mind IMHO.

TV networks and cable providers are still enjoying a successful ride with broadcast/cable television and are slowly starting to think of a post-broadcast world. Disruption there will clearly come from the ability for viewers to go à-la-carte on the Web (either through legit or pirated channels) and link back to their television set. A startup like Boxee is trying to crack that nut.

What it means: the GM and the newspaper industry examples definitely show us that smart people, doing what feels like the right thing, can lead whole industries to catastrophe. What should media companies do? As Clay Shirky said recently “If the old model is broken, what will work in its place?” The answer is: Nothing will work, but everything might. Now is the time for experiments, lots and lots of experiments, each of which will seem as minor at launch as craigslist did, as Wikipedia did…”

TV Content Atomization is the Biggest Threat to Cablecos

The Wired blog reports on a new customer satisfaction study from market researcher [praized subtype=”small” pid=”e70e73bc173c08791d52fb78fc51947def” type=”badge” dynamic=”true”] explaining that Cablecos could soon see customer exodus if they don’t improve their customer service.

“Cable subscribers are generally less satisfied, which creates opportunities for satellite and telco/IPTV providers to grab customers,” said Kurt Scherf, vice president, principal analyst, Parks Associates, in a prepared statement. “Although cable operators have improved service efforts, cable operators will still hemorrhage subscribers unless they are perceived as offering leading-edge features at equal or better value. In today’s economic climate, carriers cannot afford to ignore these findings.”

What it means: I suspect the biggest threat to cable companies in the long run is not bad customer service.  It’s content atomization.  Initiatives like Hulu.com, internet broadcasting on TV networks web sites (I can watch full episodes of popular US series on CTV.ca) and BitTorrent allow anyone to watch their favorite TV shows anytime anywhere.  Compare this to cable packages, where you need to buy a minimum number of channels, some of which you never watch.  TV viewers will soon clamor for personalization and customization and will want to pay only for channels “consumed”.  Expect TV sets to come with Wi-Fi chips allowing you to connect your TV to your wireless router.

Why did Cox Buy Adify?

From the press release:

Cox Enterprises, Inc. today announced that its subsidiary Cox TMI, Inc. will acquire Adify Corporation. Adify will operate as a stand-alone company and will continue to be led by Russ Fradin, CEO and co-founder of Adify. (…) Adify is the premier technology and media company focused on vertical online advertising. The company’s comprehensive technology and services allow major media companies, venture-backed businesses and entrepreneurs to build and operate targeted ad networks that support their advertisers’ goals. Vertical advertising networks offer marketers the reach, targeting and quality that brand advertisers increasingly seek in the online advertising space. More than 100 premium ad networks currently operate on Adify’s technology platform.

What it means: A bit late blogging about this news, but wanted to come back to it as it validates two of my key predictions for 2007 and 2008. I said in December 2006 that 2007 would be see more site “verticalization”. I also wrote in December 2007 that 2008 would be the “year of ad networks”. Adify sits at the confluence of these two major trends. They’ve seen amazing traction in the marketplace. Why would Cox buy them? I see two reasons: i) it’s a great business to be in, major growth to be expected in the next few years, and ii) it provides Cox with access to many ad networks to push their own ad networks (newspapers, television, autotrader, etc.) as an optional backfill, thereby extending their reach tremendously. Very smart strategy!

 

Oops! We Forgot to Atomize Our Business Model!

A couple of news articles caught my eye last week. Mediapost reported on a TV exec seminar hosted by Havas’ Media Contacts unit. Talking about the online video revolution, Mediapost says major TV providers are moving aggressively online–and not only to their own online destinations, but in an array of “distributed” online content options to deliver their programming directly to consumers regardless of where they are on the Web.”

In addition, TorrentFreak discussed data from Mininova (one of the largest torrent listing sites) showing that “ 50% of all people using BitTorrent at any given point in time do so to download TV-series, quite an impressive number. In total, over a billion TV-shows are downloaded every year, and this number continues to rise.”

Our friend the Atom

Flickr photo by Marshall Astor

What it means: recently, all savvy media industry strategists have been talking about content atomization and clearly, in the TV industry, TV channels are being atomized by new Web technology. Whereby, in a traditional cableco world, channels used to be the basic content building blocks (think about how your cable TV subscription is structured), TV shows have become the new atomic element.

But there’s a problem.

The content is being atomized but the main TV business model (30-second ads) was built to be part of a larger element, the TV channel. Ads used to fill, i) the “empty spaces” between shows and ii) planned 3-minute interruptions during the show. In the first scenario, those empty spaces don’t really exist anymore as shows become the basic element and BitTorrent is disrupting the second scenario by offering easily accessible ad-less versions of your favorite programs.

Guess what. Someone forgot to atomize the TV business model while they were busy atomizing the content.

So, how do you atomize TV’s business model? Is it all about product placement, sponsorships, pre-roll ads? Do you move to a user-paid subscription model for individual shows? And BTW, is the future cableco the equivalent of a RSS reader for online videos?

And what does it mean for other media, newspapers for example?

In the case of newspapers, from a content point of view, news articles are the new atoms. This is the way news information travels online. But, in that situation, newspapers’ business model has been blown to bits (no pun intended). Let me explain. Like TV channels, newspapers are inserting ads in the empty spaces around news articles. These spaces don’t really exists anymore, so how do you monetize? News article sponsorships? A-la-carte article user-paid
subscriptions? This one is not easy as journalism ethics (rightfully so!) have kept news article and ads completely separated. How do you bring ads closer to the article without breaking readers’ trust?

What about radio?

For the traditional FM radio industry, individual songs are clearly the basic atom of content. But those are so easy to find online through legal (music streaming services, iTunes) or illegal means (BitTorrent again). As for their business model, radio stations insert ads around songs. Again, these slots don’t exist in an atomized world. Maybe radio stations should invest in original content or better DJs (Wired calls them robo-DJs in “Why things suck”)? Can radio stations move online as trusted brands and become real music aggregators/recommendation engines? It might be too late. So, is FM radio as we know it screwed? Maybe more than people think. That one again is not easy to solve.

And finally, directory publishers?

As for directory publishers, their business model is currently in the ranking of directory listings. But those individual listings might be the new content atoms. And if they are, it means that the ranking structure does not exist anymore. Is it now the merchants’ phone number and a pay-per-call model? Is it pay-per-click to individual merchants? Given that directory content is all about advertising, atomizing content does not impair a directory publisher from atomizing their business model but it just needs to be properly executed. I believe pay-per-call and pay-per-click to individual merchants might definitely be the way to go.

Conclusion

If you’re atomizing your content, don’t forget to atomize your business model! This blog post raises important questions about future traditional media business models. I don’t have all the answers at this point but I meant this post as a wake-up call to stimulate deeper strategic thinking in all traditional media firms.