Pandora Trying to Get Local Ad Dollars

In the New York Times yesterday, we learn about the new “local” strategy for Pandora, the music streaming service.

Pandora’s pitch to advertisers is that its technology can cater to consumers with far greater precision than radio — it can pinpoint listeners by age and sex, ZIP code or even musical taste — and that as it grows, Pandora will effectively be the top station in many cities.

This year, Pandora has had 400 local advertising campaigns across the country. One new client was Planet Honda in Union, N.J., whose president, William Feinstein, said he gave up on terrestrial radio years ago because he felt it cast too wide and expensive a demographic net.

viaPandora Courts Local Advertisers by Reaching a Narrow Audience – NYTimes.com.

What it means: as radio gets atomized (i.e. the atom is now the song), the future of this media goes through mass customization (or mass personalization), this ability to listen to the music you like whenever you feel like it. Pandora provides consumers with that experience. In today’s world, that’s probably a better experience for consumers and it puts Pandora directly against local radio stations and ad dollars. Four hundreds local campaigns is still a very small number but it shows the potential. As always, the challenge will be getting these ad dollars through a local sales force. Expect radio companies to eventually start reselling Pandora ads as part of their Internet package.

Traditional Local Media and Community Building

One of the challenges in social media is building a robust community with many human activities and interactions. Something that’s alive and thriving. If you build it, they will NOT come. A lot of efforts are needed to get to the social tipping point. I’m always inspired by the story of Yelp.com. They had to regroup around their home base of San Francisco after a so-so first year of operations. They built momentum from there and were able to re-start successfully. From a recent Inc. article:

Without the cash for a national rollout, Stoppelman decided to focus on making Yelp famous locally. With the help of a buzz-marketing guru he hired on a whim, Stoppelman decided to select a few dozen people — the most active reviewers on the site — and throw them an open-bar party. As a joke, he called the group the Yelp Elite Squad.

To build a community, you need humans, you need personality. This is not only about hardware and software. In my many conversations with traditional local media companies (and those include directory publishers, newspapers, radio and television companies), I’ve discovered that not all local media are born equal when discussing social media. Some already have community in their DNA. Newspaper publishers for example have always been local opinion leaders, stirring conversations, trying to change things, and engaging their readers to contribute and provide feedback. Their journalists and editors are in effect community managers. Radio stations are used to doing contests (“the 12th caller will win a pair of tickets to so and so’s show”), urging listeners to call in to discuss various topics in talk radio, obtaining traffic information from drivers or getting friends to send messages to each other via the DJ. In smaller cities, radio hosts are superstars with their own nicknames and are invited to openings and movie premieres. Radio hosts are also powerful community managers.

I think that local TV stations used to be very strong local opinion leaders but as local programming disappears and is replaced by national content, it becomes more difficult to engage viewers locally. Still, local news anchors continue to have a great aura in a community. Through major television events (think Superbowl, Oscars, Olympics, etc.), national TV networks are creating social events of a bigger nature than any other media. TV industry pundits are saying social media is actually helping with ratings but all the activity is happening in the back channel, on Facebook and Twitter. It should happen on the network’s website or on the television set itself to create real value for those media companies. Directory publishers are in my mind the furthest from having social media in their DNA. A traditional directory look-up is very mechanical, utility-driven, even when it’s attached to an emotional life event. Users of directories do not engage with other users (yet) or with the publishers. We could probably make a case that there’s some sort of social/community relationship with advertisers but it would tenuous at best.

But with all these assets, social media still feels awkward or forced in traditional local media companies and it means the game isn’t won (or lost depending how you see the world). In the newspaper industry for example, journalists often badmouth bloggers and publishers struggle with user comments fearing trolls and lawsuits. The relationship is very unidirectional, I’m caricaturing but it often sounds like”we write, you read”. Success will come when newspaper groups understand the bidirectional nature of the relationship. In the radio industry, the atomization of their core content model (i.e. you can listen to any songs anytime you want online) threw them a curve ball but they can hook up their offline broadcasts with the Web to create a very loyal listener environment. In the TV industry, local content creation (online and possibly offline) should be embraced again and social engagement tools should be made available at the point of viewer contact (think online but also with TV set manufacturers, set top box, etc.). In the directory industry, the almost 100% focus on advertisers up until a few years ago has made the shift very difficult, but giving complete power to consumers will enable them to regain their reputation as the most trusted source for merchant recommendations.

Media companies, because of their “social assets” and strong offline components, should have a leg up versus their online media competitors but they often don’t realize social media and community building are part of who they are. I’m not sure newspapers and radios are fully realizing they already have strong assets to win in local/social. This is also the opportunity for local television to regain what it might have lost and for directory publishers to learn to swim the social media waters. They all need to take the plunge, sooner than later.

The Self-Media Decade

We’re almost at the end of the first decade of the 21st century (yes, it went by really fast!) and it’s probably time to reflect on what characterized the last ten years. Each decade gets its own descriptive “brand” and this one won’t be different. The seventies were all about “the peak of hippie culture“, social change and related values. The eighties were all about the individual, economic liberalization and some would say money and greed but it also saw the end of the Cold War. The beginning of the 90’s was very nihilistic with the grunge movement but finished on a high note with the start of a long period of economic growth, an amazing era of technology innovation and the dotcom boom.

So, what defined the 2000’s? We obviously could talk about September 11, the dotcom bust and the recent worldwide financial crisis but those are punctual events. They definitely influenced the zeitgeist but they are not the zeitgeist. I believe the decade that’s ending was all about “me” and the extreme democratization of media. I call it “The Self-Media Decade”.

It all started with the reality television phenomenon in 2000. Survivor, the famous TV show, ignited the genre and there’s been no looking back since then. Every time you watch television today, you see “real” people in “real” situations. In parallel to that, blogging and blog platforms arrived on the market (LiveJournal in March 1999 and blogger.com in August 1999). Throughout the decade, millions of people took up blogging. Some blogs became a real alternative to newspapers and magazines, journalists started blogging and the line with mainstream media started blurring. In the newspaper industry also, Craigslist democratized classifieds, allowing anyone to post a classified ad online for free. Their first real expansion out of the San Francisco market happened in 2000.

Another parallel was the arrival of Napster, also in 1999. By enabling downloads of individual songs, Napster was allowing everyone to become their own radio programmer (or CD mixer). Why listen to radio (or buy packaged music CDs) when you can just download your favorite songs and get instant gratification. We all knew at the time that television and movie distribution would be impacted in the coming years. Tivo became a phenomenon in itself and created the personal video recorder product category. No need to sit down at a fixed date and time to watch a television show. Can you guess when Tivo launched? Yup, 1999.

On the shopping side, the birth of Epinions (again in 1999) was the first signal of the important role consumers would play regarding merchant and product recommendations via user reviews. Up until then, directory publishers were pretty much the sole gatekeepers in a very advertiser-focused world.

With the introduction of these new sites and tools, the only thing missing was a solid broadcast ecosystem. Facebook (and later Twitter) created those much needed amplifiers starting mid-decade. By building your social graph, you’re creating your own media network. I quickly clued in to this when I wrote my “Robert Scoble is Media” blog post. We were all becoming media (production and broadcast) including myself.

I’m actually a good case study of the power of social media tools. Up until I started blogging in 2006, I had an excellent professional reputation but in a very small circle of industry colleagues and peers. By blogging extensively since then and by using broadcast mechanisms provided by sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, my worldwide reputation has grown tremendously. I now have thousands of monthly industry readers on my blog and I’m often invited to speak at conferences. I’ve become an important influencer in the directory publishing industry and I’m amazed at the speed at which it happened.

So, what did we gain as a society? We now have more transparency, democracy and meritocracy. What did we lose? We lost common “experiences” (traditionally focused by media) and we’re not always sure who we can trust out there. There’s a lot more noise. But clearly, we’ve all become media by participating, with everything good and bad that comes with it and this will continue in the next decade.

Morgan Stanley: "Teenagers Don't Use Business Directories". Nothing New Except…

Morgan Stanley, the US research firm, released a report this week titled “How Teenagers Consume Media“. Written by a 15 year-old summer intern, the document explains what is relevant and what is not in today’s media/technology world from a teenager’s point of view.

Highlights:  

On newspapers: “No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV. ”  The intern adds that most of his friends do read the free newspapers like Metro.

On radio: “Most teenagers nowadays are not regular listeners to radio. ” They listen to online radio though.

On social networking: ” Most teenagers are heavily active on a combination of social networking sites. Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an internet connection registered and visiting >4 times a week. Facebook is popular as one can interact with friends on a wide scale. On the other hand, teenagers do not use twitter.”

On directories: ” Directories Teenagers never use real directories (hard copy catalogues such as yellow pages). This is because real directories contain listings for builders and florists, which are services that teenagers do not require. They also do not use services such as 118 118 because it is quite expensive and they can get the information for free on the internet, simply by typing it into Google. “

On mobile phones: ” Mobile Phones 99% of teenagers have a mobile phone and most are quite capable phones. “

What it means: more anectodal than data-driven evidence, this report nonetheless confirms many things we take for granted now but it still holds a few surprises. The observation that teenagers don’t listen to radio regularly is, to a certain extent, a surprise to me. Radio used to play a very important social role when I was young but this might explain why we hear so much ’80s music on commercial radio these days. The industry don’t cater to youngsters. They’re trying to hold on to listeners from 20 years ago. A bit of a surprise on the cold reaction to Twitter as well but then again, they’re not prepared to build a second social graph after having spent so much time building one on Facebook.

On the other side, I’m not surprised at all by newspapers and business directories usage. I suspect very little teenagers (except for me!) used to read print newspapers in the past and Yellow Pages usage is usually driven by life events, most of them happening after you leave your parent’s house. So, no surprise there. I think what should concern directory publishers is two-fold. First, teenagers think that Google will provide them with the answers Yellow Pages used to provide to their parents on business searches. So, in effect, as Seth Godin said, “Google is the Yellow Pages”. Second, because they’re heavy users of Facebook, teenagers now bring their network of friends (their social graph) along with them wherever they go (including with their mobile device). That proximity enables easy word-of-mouth recommendations. So, what does that mean for publishers? It means they need to embed themselves wherever these kids will go for references as you might not be able to convince them to use your core web site.

Morgan Stanley: "Teenagers Don't Use Business Directories". Nothing New Except…

Morgan Stanley, the US research firm, released a report this week titled “How Teenagers Consume Media“. Written by a 15 year-old summer intern, the document explains what is relevant and what is not in today’s media/technology world from a teenager’s point of view.

Highlights:  

On newspapers: “No teenager that I know of regularly reads a newspaper, as most do not have the time and cannot be bothered to read pages and pages of text while they could watch the news summarised on the internet or on TV. ”  The intern adds that most of his friends do read the free newspapers like Metro.

On radio: “Most teenagers nowadays are not regular listeners to radio. ” They listen to online radio though.

On social networking: ” Most teenagers are heavily active on a combination of social networking sites. Facebook is the most common, with nearly everyone with an internet connection registered and visiting >4 times a week. Facebook is popular as one can interact with friends on a wide scale. On the other hand, teenagers do not use twitter.”

On directories: ” Directories Teenagers never use real directories (hard copy catalogues such as yellow pages). This is because real directories contain listings for builders and florists, which are services that teenagers do not require. They also do not use services such as 118 118 because it is quite expensive and they can get the information for free on the internet, simply by typing it into Google. “

On mobile phones: ” Mobile Phones 99% of teenagers have a mobile phone and most are quite capable phones. “

What it means: more anectodal than data-driven evidence, this report nonetheless confirms many things we take for granted now but it still holds a few surprises. The observation that teenagers don’t listen to radio regularly is, to a certain extent, a surprise to me. Radio used to play a very important social role when I was young but this might explain why we hear so much ’80s music on commercial radio these days. The industry don’t cater to youngsters. They’re trying to hold on to listeners from 20 years ago. A bit of a surprise on the cold reaction to Twitter as well but then again, they’re not prepared to build a second social graph after having spent so much time building one on Facebook.

On the other side, I’m not surprised at all by newspapers and business directories usage. I suspect very little teenagers (except for me!) used to read print newspapers in the past and Yellow Pages usage is usually driven by life events, most of them happening after you leave your parent’s house. So, no surprise there. I think what should concern directory publishers is two-fold. First, teenagers think that Google will provide them with the answers Yellow Pages used to provide to their parents on business searches. So, in effect, as Seth Godin said, “Google is the Yellow Pages”. Second, because they’re heavy users of Facebook, teenagers now bring their network of friends (their social graph) along with them wherever they go (including with their mobile device). That proximity enables easy word-of-mouth recommendations. So, what does that mean for publishers? It means they need to embed themselves wherever these kids will go for references as you might not be able to convince them to use your core web site.

CPM of Various Media Advertising

Excerpts from “How Much Ads Cost” – eMarketer.

(…) broadcast TV had the highest cost-per-thousand (CPM) rate of $10.25, with syndicated TV at $8.77. Magazines, cable TV, newspapers, radio and outdoor advertising round out the space. (…)

US Advertising CPM by Media 2008 eMarketer

As for spending in the online sector… it’s a little more complicated. (…)

For display advertising, Credit Suisse estimated that in 2009 the average CPM will be $2.39, down from $2.46 in 2008. (…)

As for paid search, JPMorgan projected that for every 1,000 searches, $75.33 would be generated from ads in 2009. (…)

What it means: always interesting to compare the CPM of various media. It gives you a good benchmark to calculate revenues needed to counter offline to online revenue migration. Again, no Yellow Pages CPM to compare though. I wonder if someone has made the calculation before for the directory publishing industry.

Analysis: "ESPNChicago.com Launches Monday"

“ESPNChicago.com Launches Monday” via Mediabistro.com.

The Chicago-focused online sports destination will feature original content from some of the most familiar names in Chicago sports including former Bears wide receiver Tom Waddle and former Bulls announcer Chuck Swirsky.

ESPN Digital Media is also launching new technology that allows for geo-targeted content and ad insertion in both live audio streaming and downloadable audio. ESPNChicago.com will also make use of existing ABC/ESPN properties in the city including ESPN Radio 1000 and WLS-TV and abc7chicago.com.

Mini what it means: I’m seeing more and more “national” media brands (television, magazines, newspapers) deploying local strategies online. Makes sense. They leverage a powerful and trusted national brand online but they make it locally relevant. It’s something that’s usually very expensive to do offline but is cheaper to do online.

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.

Why Topix Introduced User-Generated Content

I love that slide coming from Chris Tolles‘ Web 2.0 Summit presentation. Tolles is the CEO of Topix, a well-known hyperlocal news aggregator. It clearly shows why Topix decided to allow user-generated content in their site back in April.

Web2Summit Topix Chris Tolles

In it, he tries to extrapolate the number of daily local news stories coming out of traditional media outlets (newspapers, radio and local TV) and comes up with a grand total of 22,293. Given that there are about 43,000 zip codes in the US, this means every zip code gets 0.5 stories per day on average. Not much if you’re trying to build zip-code driven news aggregator. Smart move.

Word-of-Mouth the Most Powerful Selling Tool; Traditional Media Advertising Still More Credible than Online Ads

Nielsen just released the results of their Nielsen Online Global Consumer Study (found via Eric Baillargeon’s blog). In it, “Nielsen (…) surveyed consumers on their attitudes toward thirteen types of advertising – from conventional newspaper and television ads to branded web sites and consumer-generated content.” Excerpts:

The Nielsen survey (…) found that while new platforms like the Internet are beginning to catch up with older media in terms of ad revenues, traditional advertising channels continue to retain the public’s trust. Ads in newspapers rank second worldwide among all media categories, at 63 percent overall, while television, magazines and radio each ranked above 50 percent. (…)

Nielsen Online Global Consumer Survey - all media

Although consumer recommendations are the most credible form of advertising among 78 percent of the study’s respondents, Nielsen research found significant national and regional differences regarding this and other mediums. Word of mouth, for example, generates considerable levels of trust across much of Asia Pacific. Seven of the top ten markets that rely most on “recommendations from consumers” are in this region, including Hong Kong (93%), Taiwan (91%) and Indonesia (89%). At the other end of the global spectrum, Europeans, generally, are least likely to trust what they hear from other consumers, particularly in Denmark (62%) and Italy (64%).

The reliability of consumer opinions posted online – which rated third, at 61 percent overall – also varies throughout the world, scoring highest in North America and Asia, at 66 and 62 percent respectively. Among individual markets, web-based opinions such as Blogs are most trusted in South Korea (81%) and Taiwan (76%), while scoring lowest, at 35 percent, in Finland.

What it means: a few weeks ago, I blogged about the fact that word of mouth might actually be the biggest opportunity directory publishers have seen in the last few years given that the Web was becoming a big word of mouth machine. These numbers clearly show that i) traditional word of mouth is still the most trusted source of advertising and ii) online word of mouth is not far behind. It’s also interesting to note the differences in the various geographical areas.