Next Generation of Media Panel, Forrester Consumer Forum

Shar VanBoskirk leading a “Next Generation of Media” Panel


Panel at Forrester Consumer Forum 2007

Q: What is media?

Philip – networks are going away. We are all our own networks now. You no longer care so much about the “package” so much as the specific content you’re looking for. It’s no longer important where you get your content from.

Ze – For the purposes of this discussion, I’d define media as anything you can advertise against or put a brand statement next to.

Jeremy – you have to also think about the metadata, behavior and context – it’s not just the idea that content can come from many places and go through many channels, but what opportunities there are to make that meaningful.

Q: It all sounds very chaotic – how do you control effectiveness, reach, etc?

Jeremy – in some ways this seems chaotic, but on the flip side it is less chaotic since it is addressable and controllable in a way offline mechanism are not – activity can be measured and tracked, etc. The business of measuring and valuing of things has to keep up and it hasn’t yet.

Ze – Two approaches – Design, top down work in order to create a high degree of predictability,
but also bottom up, in which predictability is different – it comes from a real time tracking of what’s going on. Chaos is the pov of using a top down strategy to control a bottom up mechanism or vice versa.

Philip – It’s been said that now the customer is your competitor – if you put something out that isn’t good they will tell each other and compete with your message – your ability to control the message through scarcity is gone.

Q: How do you take the system in place today (media buying traditions) and bring it into this new universe? How do we get from here to there?

Philip – Yahoo in their last call mentioned losing audience to places like Facebook, MySpace – as more effective ways of getting to those audiences. What we’re finding is that lots of brand advertisers are looking to smaller markets. 150x times differential between ads on ESPN or Joes Great Football blog – but the difference may not be justified given the audience belief in Joe versus ESPN. Aggregating smaller sites may create broad reach with leveraged costs.

Qs from audience: How do you get sponsors to adjust budgets to these online formats?

Jeremy – the reasons for the shift are well understood – this is where the audience is going, plus the ability to measure and track performance much more directly.

Ze – There are broad ranges in terms of how aggressively you move into this space – setting up an island in Second Life is very different than buying ad banners on facebook. There’s a huge difference between MMPG and setting up a forum.

Philip – this requires a lot of trust and transparency. You’ve got to build relationships, and measurability. There is no easy simple answer.

Q: In general new is risky. Easier to go with what you know. What would you recommend prioritizing given that there are so many new things to try.

Philip – care less about where the ad appears and more about the audience it reaches. Let’s also not be afraid of more intrusive approaches – making ads part of the content.

Jeremy – it costs a lot to do one 30 second spot – with new interactive techniques you can create many different versions in tools like flash which can be shared in many new places. Don’t get stuck with your old “creative” work which is what you’ve done before. Example of a drug site created by a drug maker which allows individuals on the drug to talk about their experiences – some of which may not be entirely positive – creates conversation and trust.

Philip – totally agree. They will talk about it whether you want them to or not – so it is much better to have a place for that conversation to occur.

Ze and Philip argue over reviews – Philip says most are negative, Ze says people really want to love you. (Maybe the difference between running Fucked Company and running the Ze Frank show).

Ze – it needs to be anchored in very simple interactions around your product – complex is ok, but make sure it is anchored in the experience of the product. Bad reviews are part of the experience – it won’t all be roses, but people will give positive reviews.

Q from Audience: Some of the internet laggards are now the biggest name, so what is the incentive to be an early adopter rather than a late adopter?

Philip – ebay was an early ad banner buyer, and eighth to sign up for LinkExchange, and that is part of how they became so successful. Early adoption made them successful.

Shar – but was it early adoption which made them possible or the model?

Jeremy – why start now? Learning. Having competence, intelligence, and knowledge about an emerging opportunity, you allocate some resources to it. This is the number one reason.

Shar – is there value in waiting, until there are best practices to follow?

Ze – on the fringes, sure. You don’t want to start your first experience with some radically new feature or site that is unproven – but you don’t need to stay out altogether just to be able to learn.

Jeremy – Second Life is a good example – this was conceptually very interesting, but maybe those large brands who built out whole experiences jumped in too soon, given the cost/effort involved as opposed to blogging or ads or video.

Ze – but don’t overlook the PR value as well. Stories about stories is a major way of getting publicity online – if you want people to think of you as an innovative brand, there are opportunities there, but don’t build them based on large scale mass engagement.

Philip – if you see something new and small but you think it will be interesting, don’t hesitate – take some risks. As other folks come to see it as interesting as well – you will have been there first.

Q: What about the dark side of social media?

Philip – Well, if you’re kryptonite locks and someone figures out how to pick your locks with a pen, and posts a video of it, that sucks.

Jeremy – we shouldn’t really think about optimism or pessimism – it’s here. It just is, and you can’t avoid it. If you spend all your time thinking about all the bad things which could happen, you’d just stay in bed.

Q: What about large media companies who want to retain attention?

Jeremy – need to connect product to audiences. We see a lot of people, for example, putting television shows online as is – is that the best model? On the other hand, lots of newspapers and magazine brands are creating original video content directly – appropriate content which connects with their audiences. Reach consumers where they are, not where you want them to be. You don’t necessarily need to think of getting users to “your site” so much as connecting users to your data. Let users take embed codes, they will drag video with them all over the web, and ultimately result in bigger audiences – even higher website traffic.

Philip – of course everyone can make content now. But what can media companies do that individuals can? Throw a lot against the wall and see what sticks. If you just keep doing what you’ve been doing – hey come to my site or read my magazine, you’re gonna be screwed.

Ze – The issue is really fracturing. I think the winner of all this is really brands themselves. Users are craving content to help put back together this mass of content we’re exposed to – these mass brands have some opportunity to be that context which replaces the “network” in the old model.

Q: What about people producing viral videos that are product placement?

Jeremy: Just don’t tell anyone. Make it a secret project.

Ze – Wow. I would stay say away from it. Be transparent, be upfront. It’s ok to be self-deprecating and upfront about what you’re doing.

Philip – if you’re gonna do that (fake viral videos) you’re gonna get caught. If you make a cool viral video about what you’re doing and make it an ad, that’s great. The good news that way is that if it sucks no one will know – if it sucks and it is a fake viral video, everyone will know.

Q: Isn’t the end just google? Won’t google just eventually buy everyone who’s ever created a video tool or video?

Jeremy – I obviously don’t agree with that (though they are free to make an offer). The argument Ballmer and others have made about Google is that they haven’t really produced any innovation outside search – they’ve bought innovation but not really innovated businesses they developed. Most of the significant scaled consumer innovations came from outside Google.

Ze – turning away from Google for a moment – there is a wave coming, which is around facilitating innovation – things like Facebooks open API support, Nokia building that kind of philosphy into hardware – we’re going to see a lot of innovative stuff coming up.

Q: What limits is the all going to run up against?

Ze – there are built in hardware limits in the wires and processors – but those are scaling well. The real limits we will run into are our human capability to process all these stuff – the ability to maintain relationships and live our lives in a world of information overload and fracture -that’s the bigger bottleneck here.

Philip – totally agree. You larger network of randomness (above and beyond facebook and myspace and such) – people who comment on the same stuff as you, or random email discussions, etc – these are getting larger and overwhelming – but smaller niche communities may be needed to be really workable for people.

Jeremy – from an infrastructure perspective we don’t see operational issues – the capacity is there and people are using it, but we don’t see that as a major hurdle.

Shar – summary.

It isn’t about positive or negative – it just is. It is happening whether you like it or not.

Start small – don’t have to try to do it all the first time.

(She had a third one which I missed while typing.)

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