Video (Content) Killed the Communications Star

(via Research Brief)

According to the Online Publishers Association, Internet users are spending nearly half their online time visiting content, a 37% increase in share of time from four years ago. The Internet Activity Index, conducted by Nielsen//NetRatings, shows that communications accounted for 46% of consumers’ time online in 2003. A dramatic shift has taken place since then, with consumers now spending 47% of their time with content and only 33% with communication.

OPA Internet Activities

The OPA found a number of other important factors behind the changes, including:

  • A more accessible, and much faster, Internet is driving increased overall time spent online.
  • The increased popularity of video is leading to more time being spent with online content.
  • The improvement in search allows consumers to more easily and quickly find the exact content they are looking for, increasing the likelihood they will engage more deeply with that content.
  • The Web simply offers far more content than it did even four years ago, increasing content’s share of time.
  • The rise of instant messaging (IM) as a key communications tool has been a factor in communication’s reduction in share of time. IM is a more efficient communications vehicle than email.

What it means: for anyone who doubted the strength of the content tidal wave (professional and user-generated), these numbers leave no doubt. If you are traditional media, make sure your offline content is ready for the web and published there as well. Create also web-specific content and allow users to comment, tag and contribute additional content. And don’t forget that content can be accessed using non-traditional platforms: mobile, Nintendo Wii, etc.

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What is Social Media?

In my daily work, I often use the expression “social media”. I’ve been asked to define it before but I always end up talking about user-generated content and reciprocal, two-way conversation between the user and the media. Wikipedia has a good definition but Joe Marchese from the Mediapost’s Online Spin adds more meat:

Social media describes the online technologies and practices that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, perspectives and media itself. Social media can take many different forms, including text, images, audio, and video. These sites typically use technologies such as blogs, message boards, podcasts, wikis, and vlogs to allow users to interact. A few prominent examples of social media applications are Wikipedia (reference), MySpace (social networking), Gather.com (social networking),YouTube (video sharing), Second Life (virtual reality), Digg (news sharing), Flickr (photo sharing) and Miniclip (game sharing).” (source: Wikipedia)

Marchese begins: “first I think one of the biggest myths regarding social media is that it equals user-generated content. (…) Second, there is nothing about social media that demands user creation. The “media” part of social media can be anything from professional content to home videos. Just because “America’s Funniest Home Videos” consisted of user-generated content certainly didn’t make it social media. Conversely, just because “Heroes” is professionally produced doesn’t mean that it can’t be social media.”

He continues: “the real difference between broadcast media and social media is not the media itself, but the system of discovery, distribution, consumption and conversation surrounding the media. (…) What many of us are defining as social media today are actually just technologies specifically architected to facilitate people’s natural tendencies to seek out, share and discuss media content. Think about it. How is MySpace social medium? I would certainly say that MySpace is the largest and most influential social media platform of our time, but it doesn’t create media (at least not for most of it). The media one finds on MySpace is a mix of professional, semi-professional and (I hate using the term) “user- generated” content, and that media is made social by the context of its distribution and its ability to create dialogue between people. ANY TYPE OF MEDIA CAN BE SOCIAL MEDIA — and eventually all media will be social media in the most literal definition. This will have serious implications for media companies and advertisers alike, so it is important that we are not dismissing social media as the user-generated portion of the Internet.”

What it means: so my quasi, minimalistic definition wasn’t too far off. I agree that social media is all about the conversation but I think that, as part of that conversation, there will be some “user-generated content” happening. I agree that all media can be social media. I would even say that all media will have to become social media. Consumers are getting used to contributing to the conversation and that’s not going away. BTW, I like his thoughts regarding America’s Funniest Home Videos.

EADP Conference: Eniro and User-Generated Content

Barcelona Arts Hotel

At the EADP conference last week, I had the chance to listen to a great presentation by my friend Christer Pettersson from Eniro, the Nordic Countries directory publisher. Their online strategy has always been very progressive but this presentation has convinced me that they are amongst the most innovative directory publishers worldwide.

Here are the highlights:

  • They’ve introduced moderated reviews and ratings within their directory site a year ago with great success. They want this database to become a new competitive advantage that cannot be easily replicated by competition. They offer an opt out for merchants who don’t want it but very few have done it. Some advertisers even include their review scores within their print ad! Users love it.
  • They now offer free user-generated classifieds
  • Eniro acquired 50% of Bubblare.se, the Swedish YouTube. They’re placing a bet on the explosion of online video advertising and want users and advertisers to upload videos.
  • They want to encourage tagging
  • They want people to upload pictures and are introducing picture navigation
  • They want users to update/improve their residential listings
  • They’ve launched a corporate blog

Update: just before publishing this post, I received news that Eniro had acquired Krak.dk for 400M DKK ($72M). According to what I’m reading (my Danish is quite poor…), Krak.dk is one of the leading local search and mapping site in Denmark.

What it means: Eniro has clearly decided they would experiment with all sorts of Web 2.0 applications and features within their network of sites. Kudos!

Who Will “Own” Social Media Optimization in a Corporate Environment?

(Via the Mediapost blog)

A big question is addressed in this blog posting from Max Kalehoff, vice president of marketing for Nielsen BuzzMetrics. It might be shocking to the ears of online purists but the question needs to be asked as more and more companies embark in this new world. Where does social media optimization fit in a corporate environment? Where do you build that competency?

Public relations: Kalehoff says: “They were the first to fully understand and embrace the potential impact of CGM (Consumer Generated Media), which typically is uncontrolled and must be earned, much like the news media. But with few exceptions, public relations people have yet to push the needle in CGM beyond their core competency of media relations and associated budgets. But the opportunities around CGM are so much bigger. On the plus side, public relations agencies don’t have much to lose, because CGM is additive for them. But because CGM is potentially more disruptive and erosive to other marketing disciplines, I can promise all the public relations people that the pressure for others to build competency is quickly dialing up. Competition is on the way.”

Full-service advertising agencies: Kalehoff adds: “(…) like the PR agencies, there are a few progressive ones, which have invested substantially and created value for their clients. But for the most part, they are lagging. Perhaps it’s because CGM still seems so trivial and miniscule relative to those big television budgets? Why bother?”

Big media shops: he continues: “To be sure, many of these guys are making substantial investment in tapping into buzz to understand consumer decision processes and the way that word of mouth weaves into other media dimensions. It is perhaps the channel-agnostic investment approach that gives media people an edge in leveraging CGM. They have yet to really step up to the plate, but I’m betting we’ll see more action as CGM metrics, standards and best practices evolve.”

Direct marketers and interactive shops: “Relatively speaking, these guys have been walking the talk within the agency world. They’ve been heaviest among the agencies in investing in research, planning and execution, and connecting to larger brand programs, including with other marketing partners and agencies. Of course, these folks have the digital and database savvy required for larger scale programs, and are nimble to navigate the fast-moving and sometimes volatile nature of CGM. They’re also advantaged by the continued flood of marketing dollars online.”

Client-side marketers: “Barbara Bacci Mirque, executive vice president of the Association of National Advertisers, recently observed that “more and more advertisers are leading their agencies into new media, not the other way around,” and that “clients are the ones who are personally and professionally experimenting with new media forms and directing their agencies to look into them.” In the world of CGM, I can confirm this is true, and it happens across departments.”

Max Kalehoff’s prediction for 2007? “Client-side marketers will continue to lead, though they’ll soon begin to receive (and expect) a far higher level of support and expertise from the larger agency landscape. In fact, marketers will simply need more and more integrated support, to properly bake CGM into more complex marketing functions. Consequently, we’ll see agencies make massive educational and experimental investments to develop their unique value proposition and credibility. Each discipline will jockey hard where there is ambiguity or overlap of ownership, but broad fluency will rise and CGM will become a more holistic overlay in the entire marketing mix. ”

What it means: based on my current experience, I would say that the SMO thrust has been coming mostly from a mix of both interactive shops and client-side marketers. In any case, marketers need to start embracing SMO (potentially starting with blogging) and push their marcom stakeholders in that direction as well.

Social News: USA Today Revamps Website, MySpace News is Coming

From Terry Heaton’s PoMo Blog:

MySpace is getting into the news business with launch due in early 2nd quarter, according to inside sources and the company’s own sales materials.

  • MySpace News takes News to a whole new level by dynamically aggregating real-time news and blogs from top sites around the Web
  • Creates focused, topical news pages that users can interact and engage with throughout their day
  • MySpace is making the news social, allowing users to:
    Rate and comment on every news item that comes through the system
    Submit stories they think are cool and even author pieces from their MySpace blog
  • MySpace users previously had to leave the site to find comprehensive news, gossip, sporting news, etc. With MySpace News, we bring the news to them!

Now it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that this is not good news for those of us in the news business, unless we view it as another way to get our content onto yet another platform. MySpace is currently cutting deals with content providers to do just that, and I think it’s likely the process will show us what types of “news” will be of interest to young people, circa 2007. And that is something we might be able to use downstream. That said, this is another example of an internet pureplay company taking on the role of media company and using their core audience as the distribution vehicle.

Update: Wired News has screenshots and a powerpoint presentation.

What it means: MySpace is launching the equivalent of Google News (news & blog aggregator) with a social element a la Digg.com (news rating & reviews). Which means they are completely dependent on content producers, which means, as Terry Heaton says, it’s another distribution venue for news providers. The big challenge will be: can this new news outlet drive traffic back to content producers? By the way, there’s nothing to prevent traditional news sources to execute the same strategy especially if they have a solid brand. The best example is the launch of the new USAToday.com this week. In this letter to their readers (found on GigaOm), the editors discuss their new features. They include scanning other news sources directly on USATODAY.com, seeing how readers are reacting to stories. recommending stories and comments to other readers, writing reviews, etc. This is a very positive move by USA Today!

User-Generated Content: Recap of 2006 and What to Expect in 2007

This article by Bambi Francisco in MarketWatch recaps 2006 and sets the stage for 2007 in terms of the impact of user-generated content:

“Given our obsession with users, and ourselves, I’ve highlighted what will be in demand or wanted in 2007 as the audience is increasingly relied upon as the voice, the experts, the supporting actors and/or virtual stars of tomorrow. These bottoms-up celebrities combined with traditional top-down stars will increasingly dominate the new media landscape of 2007.

Wanted: Your contribution

The concept of a wiki — a site that essentially enables egalitarian editing and collaboration of everyone from experts to novices — has been around for many years. The best-known example is Wikipedia, an encyclopedia that anyone can edit. Today, Wikipedia has 725 million page views per month, up more than 400% from last year, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. And, the beauty of Wikipedia is that it has about 6 employees. This year, the wiki model exploded to the point that now a book is being written in wiki style. Barry Libert is spearheading the first book project to be written in such a manner. (…)

Wanted: Your expertise

“Everyone is an expert [in something],” according to Richard Rosenblatt, who was the former chairman of MySpace and who sold the social network to News Corp last year for $580 million. Today, Rosenblatt is heading up Demand Media, which he calls a new media site. Demand Media is looking for professional, expert content on any topic since the core of its strategy is to start with trusted, professional content and then provide the tools to let people contribute related content or opinions. Some of Demand Media’s sites that use expert commentary include eHow, trails.com, gardenguides.com and golflink.com.

Yahoo Answers is probably the most popular of services that rely on volunteer experts to give people answers to their questions. (…) Yahoo Answers, which now has 60 million users and 160 million answers, marked its one-year anniversary in early December. Those answers helped drive Yahoo Answers traffic from practically zero in November 2005 to 14.5 million this November, according to Nielsen//NetRatings. In a survey conducted by Yahoo Answers and Harris Interactive, a third of online adults have used a Q&A site. (…)

Wanted: Your opinions and comments

About 30% of online news site Topix.net comes from user-generated or reader comments. That’s expected to jump to about 50% next year, Topix.net’s CEO Rich Skrenta tells me. Take a look across the blogosphere and you’ll note that comments make up a large part of the content.

Wanted: Your history

User-generated content can come in the form of a users’ history. As long as people can know your history, it can help form recommendations that drive sales of products, movie rentals, or news articles. In the past, roughly 5% of Amazon‘s book sales came from recommendations, as estimated by analysts. According to Netflix members select approximately 60 percent of their movies based on movie recommendations tailored to their individual tastes.

Wanted: Your reviews, ratings

It all started with ePinions back in the late ’90s. It was a site that thrived on users giving their opinions about sundry topics. Now, reviews and ratings are not only everywhere, they’re essential in influencing what we buy, where we eat, and what we read. They’ve become a great filtering process. They’re the reason sellers are trusted on eBay. They’re the reason local restaurants which are reviewed by users on Yelp.com get new clients. They’re the reason we read certain articles from across the Web, thanks to Digg.com, which relies on users to vote for articles they like by submitting it.

Wanted: Your profiles and journals

We live in an age where what we do, and who we are, is the news. That became clearer to me after Facebook decided to make any update on a users’ profile become a news feed. While the service wasn’t very popular when announced, I think the millennial generation will get used to it. Profiles of every day people make up the social network sites — the fastest-growing sites — on the Web. News Corp’s MySpace, with 115 million members creating the content with their own profiles, saw page views and unique visitors more than double in November. Microsoft’s Windows Live Spaces, which has 70 million members creating profiles, also saw its unique visitors and page views more than double last month.

Wanted: Your video creations

NBC is integrating user-submitted videos, such as favorite pets and wedding woes. They’ll be videos that are family-oriented, said Mark Moore, founder and CEO of One True Media, the technology company hosting the user-submitted videos. Mixing user-submitted video and traditional content will become a bigger deal in 2007.

What it means: this is a great summary of the major pillars of user-generated content. Still looking for a good New Year’s resolution? Make sure you open the conversation with your users. They want to tell you something!

User-Influenced Content: The G4 Example

The Hollywood Reporter discusses a speech given by Neal Tiles, G4‘s president, at the Museum of Television & Radio’s Industry Forum Luncheon in Beverly Hills.

“Young male viewers have “fundamentally left” linear television (i.e. TV scheduled for you by the network), but cable network G4 is working to overcome this by keeping that demo engaged in the brand with an assortment of interactive programming. Tiles said G4’s deals with its affiliates don’t allow it to offer full-length episodes of shows online and that nonlinear media is not yet at a stage where it can be monetized. So G4 is focusing its efforts on its linear programming, looking to keep the interest of young-male viewers with highly interactive shows.”
“We’re allowing viewers to influence content — it’s not user-generated content, but letting viewers influence the content so we retain some control, and it’s more enjoyable than when viewers are 100% in control,” Tiles said. Such programming includes the interactive series “Star Trek 2.0,” where viewers can play the “Spock Market” real-time stock exchange, learn obscure facts that are streamed during the episode and chat about the show, and the upcoming “Star Trek: The Next Generation 2.0.” Tiles said G4 is looking to do something similar with its recent acquisition, “Cops,” as well.
Tiles added that studying how the network’s target demo of males 18-34 consumes media — on multiple platforms — offers an insightful peek into the future. “It’s akin to peering into the future because this is how every demo is going to be consuming media in the future,” he said. “It’s a valuable learning lesson.”
From their Web site, here is a description of G4’s target market: “G4 embraces the male 18-34 audience and their fascination with video games, the Internet, broadband, technology, comics and animation. Additionally, G4 provides breaking news and insider opinions on these topics as well as the broader culture young men are interested in.”

What it means: a couple of insights: first, I love the concept of user-influenced content as opposed to user-generated content. It’s much more reassuring to traditional media companies. It’s also a good way to start leveraging user content without “giving inmates the keys to the asylum”. Even Digg.com has moderators! Second, I like how G4 is trying to leverage interactive media as a support to it’s linear programming. Given their current legal constraints with the shows they’ve picked up (can’t broadcast on the Internet, bla, bla, bla), it’s the best they can do at this point as they don’t own much of their current programming. So, in effect, their interactive media is actually becoming original programming!