What Justin Bieber Could Teach Us About Social Media

Fascinating article about Justin Bieber, the teen idol, last weekend in the Globe & Mail. His fame, starting with a YouTube video, has been constructed using social media.

He [Scott Braun, Justin’s manager] continues to cultivate Justin’s following on YouTube and on Twitter. “If I see he’s not Twittering, I tell him, ‘Get on your Twitter.’ Because it’s how his fans relate to him. They made him, you know? The moment he disappears from them, they feel like they’ve lost that kid from YouTube that invited them into his living room. (…)

It likely takes him a matter of minutes to copy a message such as this one sent by fan @GillianLovesJBx to his Twitter home page – “@justinbieber Do u respond to a simple I Love You? :)” – and then reply, for all the world to see, “I love u 2…i love all u ladies :).”

But that small amount of effort can produce immeasurable rewards: Fans blessed with a bit of attention will turn around and encourage others to buy his albums, post messages when they request his songs on the radio, and talk about how much they want tickets to his shows.(…)

His image and his Twitter personality make him seem ultra-accessible, but it’s not so easy to get to Justin Bieber in person. Universal Music Canada’s Mr. Lennox says that was part of the label’s strategy.

via How Justin Bieber got so big – The Globe and Mail.

What it means: Bieber has close to 3 million (!) followers on Twitter and he manages to make “you” feel special. He understands that it’s all about conversation and not about broadcast. It’s real. Can you imagine the marketing power that this engagement brings? Now, if you’re used to broadcasting, how do you change to a conversational model? That’s your new challenge.

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My Lady Gaga Twitter Experience

I attended the kick-off of Lady Gaga’s World Tour on Friday night at Centre Bell in Montreal (for those who don’t know her, she’s a rising star in the pop world, you can read more on Wikipedia). The evening allowed me to generate some interesting insights on real-time media, real-time search and mobile phones.

  1. At the end of the first act, a group called Semi Precious Weapons, Lady Gaga tweeted from backstage “You had 96 hrs to learn the lyrics. I can hear u screaming.” (the 96 hours was a reference to the release of her new album 4 days before). It wasn’t much but isn’t it cool when the artist you’re going to see is actually sending Twitter messages minutes before stepping on stage? It definitely increases engagement with the fans and personalizes the relationship. Interestingly enough, Semi Precious Weapons had also tweeted before going on stage and they also shared some pictures on Twitter after the show.
  2. After the first act, we were supposed to listen to Kid Cudi but the guy didn’t show up. After waiting patiently for one hour without any information, the crowd consisting mostly of teenagers started getting restless (some people even booing!). I picked up my phone and did a search on Twitter for Lady Gaga, see if anything had popped up in the “back channel”. I saw that Perez Hilton, the well-known celebrity blogger, was in Montreal that evening and had just tweetedJust for tonight… GaGa is going on at 10 pm. Tell everyone near u!”. That information wasn’t shared with the audience even though it was known. Real-time search won that night.
  3. Now, being a good guy, I shared the information with the people around me. The teenager in front of me had a Blackberry (a Pearl, I think), which surprised me because I didn’t think RIM had been successful in promoting their devices to teenagers. I still associate Blackberries with “work”. The other thing that surprised me was that the teenager and his friend were vaguely aware of Twitter but were clearly not users of the service. These teenagers were clearly in a Facebook world. An anedocte, but still interesting.

Analysis: "Pete Waterman: 'I was exploited by Google'"

“Pete Waterman: ‘I was exploited by Google'” via The Telegraph.

The 62-year-old said the Rick Astley classic Never Gonna Give You Up, which he co-wrote and which was the subject of a YouTube craze last year, had earned him just £11 from Google, despite being viewed 154 million times.

What it means: the phenomenon mentioned above is “rickrolling“. Even though the song had amazing exposure last year, its co-writer was paid only £11 ($US 16) for his work appearing in YouTube. Not sure Google made tons of money with it (they would have shared more with Waterman) but it certainly drove a lot of traffic to the site. I think Google is now experimenting with call-to-action overlays on YouTube music videos to convince consumers that are exposed to songs to buy them online. This might eventually benefit creators.

Analysis: "Pete Waterman: 'I was exploited by Google'"

“Pete Waterman: ‘I was exploited by Google'” via The Telegraph.

The 62-year-old said the Rick Astley classic Never Gonna Give You Up, which he co-wrote and which was the subject of a YouTube craze last year, had earned him just £11 from Google, despite being viewed 154 million times.

What it means: the phenomenon mentioned above is “rickrolling“. Even though the song had amazing exposure last year, its co-writer was paid only £11 ($US 16) for his work appearing in YouTube. Not sure Google made tons of money with it (they would have shared more with Waterman) but it certainly drove a lot of traffic to the site. I think Google is now experimenting with call-to-action overlays on YouTube music videos to convince consumers that are exposed to songs to buy them online. This might eventually benefit creators.

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.

A Look Back at 2007

In business blogs everywhere, it’s that time of the year again, when we start looking back at the year that was and we start to forecast what 2008 will look like. In this post, I look back at 2007 and discuss the most significant local and social media news of the year.

1) Facebook

Clearly, Facebook was the number one news of 2007. By allowing anyone to open up an account in the Fall of 2006 (at about the same time they introduced their newsfeed function), Facebook paved the way for the arrival of tech enthusiasts and early adopters/influencers. Silicon Valley got very excited in the Spring and the launch of the F8 platform in May, allowing third-party developers to build applications, brought more excitement. I believe early adopters’ interest in Facebook has peaked (and has even started to decline) but the job is done. More than 55M active users of all ages access the site every month. The social network had a couple of setbacks around the end of the year with the beacon fracas and the launch of OpenSocial by Google but I believe it does not tarnish their luster. Facebook retaliated by opening up their infrastructure. The biggest benefit to the Web in general: Facebook is introducing people to the social web (micro-blogging, blogging, pictures uploading, “friending”), people who will eventually graduate to more complex social applications.

2) The opening up of the social web

Symbolized by the publication of the OpenSocial standard, the web is becoming more social and more open. Additionnally, the announcement by Six Apart that Movable Type, their leading blogging software, is going open source and the launch of the DiSo initiative to create open source implementations of distributed social networking are also important projects. Social will be part of the fabric of the web.

3) The launch of the iPhone and the unveiling of Android

Apple created quite a stir in June by launching the iPhone, a beautiful device that changes the way we see mobile web access. It’s not a perfect machine by any mean (still very closed) but it’s a game changer. The Android mobile platform by Google is also potentially very disruptive and paves the way to an interesting 2008 in that field. Local mobile search, the famous holy grail of local search, is on the verge of becoming reality.

4) The acquisition of Ingenio by AT&T/YellowPages.com

This purchase is a critical move for YellowPages.com and it clearly signals to the rest of the directory industry that call-tracking/pay-per-call will be the unifying standard in local product bundling, allowing a single sales force to sell multiple media formats. In the same vein, Marchex acquired Voicestar earlier this year.

5) The Radiohead “pay what you want” experiment

Even though it wasn’t as radical as industry watchers wanted it to be (Radiohead is still going to release a CD version of InRainbows), this trial by one of the most preeminent alt-rock group generated a lot of discussions in the blogosphere. Consumers were allowed to pay whatever they wanted to pay for the download including not paying at all. ComScore released some disheartening information about the percentage of people who paid for the album but that was quickly shot down by Radiohead’s management. In any case, the music industry needs more bleeding edge experiments like this one to find their future business model(s).

6) Reality check in the local search industry

The last two Kelsey conferences offered a sobering and realistic look at the realities of local search. Local is tough, hasn’t been cracked yet but offers tremendous opportunities. Stakeholders are realizing that partnerships will be needed to succeed. Two senior executives from the print directory industry talked openly about the opportunities and challenges of being a traditional media publisher and it was the first time that we heard that kind of discourse publicly. Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are all courting traditional local media companies that possess large sales forces to help them increase local revenues. I think we’re getting close to the “acceptance” stage of the Internet grief cycle and we should see a lot of action next year on the local search front.

I’d love to get your feedback on 2007 events. Anything important I forgot?

CBS Buys Last.fm for $280M

(via BBC News)

CBS just picked up one of the darlings of the Web 2.0 world, Last.fm for $280M. The site “allows users to connect with other listeners with similar music tastes, to custom-build their own radio stations and to watch music video-clips. The online network was founded in the UK five years ago and it now has more than 15 million active users. As part of the deal, Last.fm’s managing team will remain in place and the site will maintain its own separate identity. ”

What it means: great acquisition by CBS as Last.fm is a very interesting site and application. Interesting also: CBS will maintain Last.fm’s separate identity. It seems like this is happening more and more when large media corporations acquire smaller Web 2.0 start-ups. The Flickr example comes to mind. I think media companies are realizing that innovation happens in smaller, tightly-knit teams.