We are gearing up here at the Consortium for the Futures
of Entertainment conference, which is now less than two weeks
away. If any of you within the Consortium who are coming to Cambridge
for the event next week have any questions about what to do while you
are here, or interest in connecting with other folks involved in the
Consortium while you are here, feel free to be in touch.
This week's newsletter features an Opening Note
from the Consortium's research manager, Joshua Green, who
an advanced copy for a piece he is writing for FlowTV, the online critical forum on
television and media culture from the University of Texas-Austin's Department of Radio,
Television, and Film. This piece, based on work
that Joshua has been doing on how to brand a television network in a
cross-platform media environment, is the first in a series of pieces he
is writing for Flow. He plans to include the three following
installments in this series in future issues of the C3 Weekly Update.
Eleanor Baird's series on valuing fan
returns this week in the Closing Note with the fourth installment.
Eleanor, who is one of our research assistants here in the Consortium
and a graduate student at MIT's Sloan
School of Management, will
provide the final installment in next week's Closing Note. For those
who missed the first three pieces in this series and do not have the
copies archived, feel free to contact me for a PDF version. This week's
newsletter has come out a little later
than usual to help facilitate a longer-than-usual Closing Note, but we
are excited about this series and hope that
it is of use to many of you readers.
As usual, the newsletter this week features all
the entries published during the week on the Convergence Culture
Also, please let me know as usual if you are having any trouble
newsletter. If you have any questions or comments or would like to
request prior issues of the update, direct them to Sam Ford, Editor of
the Weekly Update, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue
Opening Note: Joshua Green on the Branding of
Glancing at the C3
Closing Note: Eleanor Baird on Valuing Fans, IV of
V: Working It Out: The Model Fan?
What Does an American Television
Network Look Like?
As U.S. networks adjust to the shifting paradigms of
control that govern the space in which television is produced,
distributed, and consumed, the nature of the television network is
being re-written. The industry focus on 'engagement' across platforms
requires a re-imagining of what a television network looks like, how it
behaves, and how it constructs its audience. Though not completely dead
yet, the network ident, historically crucial to the construction of
network identity, has been stretched by these new conditions.
Network idents themselves seem to have been absent from
U.S. television for a while now. Though the network's featured promos
for the fall line-up advertises the highlights of the coming season,
ongoing promotional material selling the network itself is, in the
words of ABC marketing chief Michael Benson,
"fairly low on the totem
pole." (McPherson 2006).
Yellow "I Like TV" campaign of the 1990s
is still popularly remembered as the last network-wide branding
campaign that had any real impact (Friedman 2007), and the current
emphasis seems to be on promoting programs as sub-brands rather than
focussing on network "cheer" (McPherson 2006). This approach resonates
with current discussions about the changing nature of television's
form, particularly the decoupling of television programming from the
television schedule and advertising modes (Carlson 2006), and the
increasing disconnect between content and the broadcast medium (Dawson
2007; Hills 2007; Kompare 2006).
The absence of overarching branding campaigns
articulating the nature of the television network - advertising,
consequently, it's appeal to audiences - raises a question, however,
about what a television network looks like in the current climate.
Television branding, Benson told Broadcasting and Cable in
2003, "is not simply graphic packaging; it is developing a voice,
personality and feel for a network and its programming." ("Brand
Builders", Broadcasting and Cable June 2, 2003). Reflecting on
his time at VH1 in the 1980s, Benson remarked, "It dawned on me that we
needed to take more of a packaged-goods approach to branding
[television] - to create our 'Coke can' or 'Cheerios box,' - and then
prove to our audiences who and what VH1 was about." ("Brand Builders", Broadcasting
and Cable June 2, 2003).
While a little blunt, the 'packaged-goods' metaphor
seems a useful one to describe some of the work television idents have
traditionally played. In the U.S. cable market, this description would
still seem apt (consider USA's "Characters Welcome" or Bravo's "Watch
What Happens" campaigns), and, though it doesn't account for the
community-forming role idents play, it would also seem to describe, to
some extent, the role of ident campaigns in places such as the U.K. and
U.S. networks, however, have progressively eschewed this
model of television branding, moving further towards program-specific
promotion at the expense of network identity campaigns. The germ of
this movement might be traced to the watermarking of content in the
early 1990s in response to the increased mobility of viewers in a
multi-channel environment. ABC introduced watermarks as part of their
1993 attempt to position the network as a 'superbrand' (Mandese 1993),
promoting programs rather than the season's lineup and marking their
programming with the now standard visual reminder of the content's
origin to make apparent the link between program and network.
The emphasis on program brands as opposed to network
identity makes a certain degree of sense given the declining role of
the schedule as a way to structure audience engagement, increasing
personalization of both content streams and sites of consumption
(Carlson 2006; Dawson 2007), and move further toward
first-order-commodity relationships with viewers (Hills 2007; Johnson
2007). And yet, the Networks have not fully transitioned to a status as
program producers or content providers. The organizational form of
television still relies on individual programs contributing to the
cumulative success of the network, meaning there may still be some
value in promoting the network brand. This brand, however, is one that
now stretches across not only multiple content types but also multiple
sites of consumption or engagement, and this requires a shift in the
way the network is constructed through ident materials.
Despite the current elusiveness of network identity
material on American television, ABC's "Start Here" provides an insight
into the way US Networks are adjusting to the challenges of
representing the network in the current market. Rolled out with their
Fall 2007 line-up, "Start Here" presents ABC as the launching point for
engaging with their content regardless of platform. Built around a
graphics package featuring revolving icons representing a TV, computer,
iPod, and cell phone, it features a prominent "play button" on the
flip-side of the ABC medallion and a reminder to viewers the Network is
the official source for accessing content.
Expressly offering viewers the promise of content
available "anytime, anywhere", the campaign attempts to establish the
significance of the Network in an era of textual and viewer mobility.
As Dawson (2007) argues, 'mobility' as it pertains to the current
television moment needs to refer not only to the physical mobility of
viewers but also to the mobility of television texts, available and
portable across platforms. Having traditionally only made limited
offerings available through official or sanctioned sites, the Networks
are yet to ascend to a status as the predominant sites beyond
television viewers can access content through.
ABC's approach, then, attempts to establish the network
not only as the party responsible for the production of content, but
also as the site responsible for the distribution of this content
across platforms. This campaign represents a determined shift away from
network branding strategies of old which positioned the Networks as
sources for the experience of television. Consider, for instance, NBC's
Home to NBC" or "Be There"
campaigns from the 1980s where the network was actively constructed as
not only domestic but the site itself through which the television
experience took place.
If anything, "Start Here" serves to drive viewers away
from the television set, responding to the fact the consumption of
television content is no longer medium or temporally specific. Similar
tendencies are present in the break bumpers NBC uses during commercial
pods to remind viewers they can consume more - additional content,
encores, two-minute recaps and the like - over at NBC.com. These break
bumpers play with the feathers of the NBC peacock, using one feather
each spot as a substitute for a mouse pointer while the content
available online is promoted (a similar strategy is employed by NBCU
owned cable channel Bravo).
What is significant about ABC's campaign, however,
particularly in comparison to NBC's break bumpers, is the way it
constructs the television network itself as a multi-platform object.
"Start Here" portrays ABC as a network that exists across multiple
platforms, rather than emphasizing (as NBC does) that the television
experience is supported by extra-medium materials. Referring to ABC in
the first person (suggesting viewers "start with us") and presenting
the platforms as virtually equivalent or interchangeable as sites for
consumption (which in practice is untrue), the campaign re-imagines the
television network as a network oriented around television content,
rather than one organized around the television medium or the shared
experience of consumption.
Carlson, Matt. (2006) "Tapping into TiVo: Digital video
recorders and the transition from schedules to surveillance in
television," New Media & Society, 8 (1): 97-114
Dawson, Max. (2007) "Little Player, Big Shows: Format,
narration, and style on televisions' new smaller screens," Convergence,
Friedman, Wayne. "Peacock
Ruffles Feathers, Launches Brand Effort", Media Daily News,
07/17/2007, accessed September 17, 2007.
Hills, Matt. (2007) "From the Box in the Corner to the
Box Set on the Shelf," New Review of Film and Television Studies,
Johnson, Catherine. (2006) "Tele-Branding in TVIII: The
network as brand and the programme as brand," New Review of Film
and Television Studies, 5(1): 5-24.
Kompare, Derek. (2006) "Publishing Flow: DVD Box Sets
and the Reconception of Television," Television & New Media,
Mandese, J. "ABC's 'superbrand': Net powers up plan to
bolster programming", Advertising Age, 6/14/1993: 2.
McPherson, Steve. "ABC's Benson Pushes "One" Campaign," Broadcasting
and Cable, 6/12/06: 2, 24.
is the research
manager for the Convergence Culture Consortium and a Postdoctoral
Associate at the Comparative
program at MIT.
Glancing at the C3 Blog
2.0: Christianity in Cyberspace. In light of a recent Forbes
piece on Christianity in the Web 2.0 world, Sam Ford looks at several
of the pieces featured on the C3 blog in the past couple of years
dealing explicitly with the way Christian communities are using
technology in interesting ways, and business models built around
creating Christian media audiences and users.
Black Nerd: A Stereotype to Break Stereotypes? Sam Ford looks at
the recent post by Desedo Films' Raafi Rivero on the history of the
black nerd and the ways in which conflicting stereotypes help
Music and Fan Tourism at Jerusalem Ridge. Sam Ford looks at his
hometown's appearance on the front page of the Travel section in
Sunday's New York Times and how fan tourism can be a
draw for music industries like bluegrass.
Future of Niche Cinema. Sam Ford writes about shifting business
models for promoting films to target audiences and how outlets like
DVD, online video, and video-on-demand might help change the cost
structure of film production.
at the Panoramic View: The State of Online Video. Sam Ford recounts
a recent visit to the offices of Hill/Holliday to meet with C3 Alum
Ilya Vedrashko and VideoPlaza Founder Sorosh Tavakoli to discuss the
current state and future of a business model for online video. "It is
precisely the panoramic view that people like Ilya have that can make
this so frustrating. The industry is slow to change, and technological
infrastructure can often be even slower."
Afternoon with the Robot. Sam Ford recounts his recent visit
with Robert Doornick, founder and president of International Robotics,
and the robot he believes can still innovate education, therapy, and
marketing. "So what is the purpose of the robot? Is it to diffuse a
serious situation through an out-of-place gimmick? Is it to provide a
face to marketing that isn't tied up with preconceived racial/cultural
markers? Or is it to make us more aware of human nature and biases
ironically by presenting a non-human entity communicating in very
human-like ways, with a human controller? Or does it have to be any one
at the Google/Nielsen Partnership in Light of This Year's Development.
Sam Ford looks back at the Google/Echostar partnership, controversies
surrounding page counts, and second-by-second ratings, in relation to
recent news of Google further positioning itself in the television
Center for Future Civic Media Blog. Sam Ford writes about the
launch of MIT's Center for Future Civic Media, through a grant with the
Knight Foundation, and the breadth of coverage on their blog, spanning
not only issues in the journalism world but also posts like CMS
graduate student Abhimanyu Das' recent piece on the Comic Book Legal
Transformation of Our Own: Fanfiction Communities and the Organization
for Transformative Works. Xiaochang Li writes about the
Organization for Transformative Works, the new fan-run
organization which is seeking to create its own archive of fanfic as a
reaction to the FanLib controversy, which sought to create a commercial
outlet for fan fiction content.
Up in the 1930s: How Media Changes our Relations to the Past. Henry
Jenkins looks at the amount of historical television and radio content
he consumed in his youth and how the media of the past can still be
relevant to the present.
Value Is There in Being LinkedIn? Sam Ford takes an audit of his
own LinkedIn network and starts a discussion with readers on the worth
of maintaining a network on the site, based on a recent piece from
Peppercom's Steve Cody on whether maintaining a LinkedIn page is worth
the effort it takes.
the Consortium: Gender and Fan Studies, WGA Strike Lost.
Avi D. Santo and Barbara Lucas participate in the latest round of
discussion on Henry Jenkins' blog, while The Extratextuals look at what
the writers' strike might mean for the industry and Jason Mittell
shares an upcoming publication entitled "Lost in a Great Story:
Evaluation in Narrative Television (and Television Studies."
Follow the Blog
Don't forget – you can always post, read, and carry out
online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.
Valuing Fans, IV of V: Working It
Out? The Model Fan
Comic Book Guy: Last night's Itchy & Scratchy
without a doubt,
the worst episode ever. Rest assured I was on the internet within
minutes registering my disgust throughout the world.
Bart Simpson: Hey, I know it wasn't great, but what
right do you have
CBG: As a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.
Bart: What? They're giving you thousands of hours of
free. What could they possibly owe you? I mean, if anything, you owe
CBG: Worst episode ever.
Source: The Simpsons Archive: Comic Book Guy File, http://www.snpp.com/guides/cbg.file.html
After a short hiatus, we return to the questions raised
two weeks ago in my previous installments of this thought piece on
quantify fan engagement based on previous qualitative work that C3 has
done on categorizing fan behaviors.
In this installment, I will revisit our index from last
discuss in more depth what it might mean and how we might use it to
understand the potential value of fan engagement.
Back To the Index -- Feedback and More Analysis
To recap, the chart is a visual representation of
different forms of fan behavior and engagement, based on criteria for
loyalty set out in the marketing literature, and the three behavioral
categories: socializing, activism and consuming. The bars represent the
total index points that each role received in the analysis (to a
maximum was 45), and the colored sections the proportion of the points
that came from each of the three behavioral categories (with a maximum
of 15 points each).
Based on input from my colleagues at C3, I changed the
order of engaged behaviors in the "consuming" section. The updated
chart appears above and the table on the final page of this document.
The objective of this exercise was to enable us to
visualize and scale the proportion of activity within each role, or
type of fan behavior, that is related to consuming, activism and
socializing. It is important to note that this is about fan engagement
with a media property, not with the advertising, which will be
addressed in a future piece.
From this exercise, we see that although loyals,
grassroots intermediaries, long tail fans, and content creators all
have similar levels of consumption under the index, the loyals, the
group of fans identified in C3's research as the traditionally most
valuable given the current economics of the television industry are
actually not the most engaged. For the time being, I will focus on that
finding and come back to the other points later.
The Big Ideas
What are the implications of this? If indeed the
"grassroots intermediary" and "lead user" behaviors represent the
highest levels of engagement, it suggests that true engagement with the
program is not about that first broadcast airing, or success of a
product when it is launched, but what happens to that property and its
fan base over a longer period of time.
Consequently, the value of these engaged audience
members is not just difficult to quantify, but is complicated by
realization over a long period of time. So, is measuring engagement the
best way of establishing ad rates or reaching of the appropriate
demographic targets? I would argue that it is not.
Ideally, if you are in agreement with this chart, a fan
who is a grassroots intermediary and a long tail user, perhaps someone
who watches a show after (and also perhaps during) the initial network
run and promotes it to others. And therein lies the key -- the value of
an engaged audience may not lie so much in what they do to interact
with the property in any way, but how they create conditions for others
to do so.
So, the question then becomes, what is the value of this
long-term audience, and is it more or less than the eyeballs on the
screen at the time of airing or, as the industry seems to accept, three
Assessing Long-Term Value
This installment and part five focus on answering this
very question. As always, my first step was to look at literature in
various disciplines to see if there were any tested models that could
be applied. The difficulty here is always knowing exactly the extent to
which how these models are transferable.
Marketing research and models are helpful, but present
There is a fair amount of literature dedicated to
consumer lifetime value (CLV), how to calculate it, and how much it
should factor into the company's marketing decisions. There has also
been a fair bit of work done on and customer relationship management
(CRM) the value and motivation of word-of-mouth.
CLV is a particularly interesting concept to examine
here, because no matter how you calculate it, the basic premise is that
it is seeking to find the present value of all future monetary
transactions that a company has with a particular type of customer,
less the promotional and usually acquisition cost of those revenue
streams. Like the model I am attempting to create here for audiences,
CLV models generally seek to understand groups of customers, not
individuals. The models can get very complex, but the key variables
seem to fall into four categories:
Scale: Number and type of distinct
Behavior: Probability of repeat
purchase, propensity for cross-buying/picking up similar products,
variation in customer activity in each cycle (season), word of mouth
Retention & Acquisition: Overall
retention and acquisition rates, trial rate relative to regular
consumption, switching costs to the consumer, customer communication
and involvement (with the corporation).
Cost & Revenue: Advertising
expenses, discount rate, consumption rate, transaction size and
Some of these variables do apply to fans, but as the next section will
explain, some are not closely related to the fan behaviors that we have
been looking at.
My first step was to create a table of the fan behaviors
we have been working with and compare it against the preceedng
variables from CLV models to determine what characteristics the ideal
model would focus on to value engaged fans.
To use any of the models, we would need to work out is
what the currency in valuing fans could be. In the absence of
advertising revenue as a currency, there are three potential units of
measurement, which I see as playing, generally speaking, into the forms
of fan engagement that the "Fanning the Flames" study outlined as shown
in the table below.
Not surprisingly, the consumption category generally
requires money, while the other two require relatively large amounts of
time and what I have called "affinity," meaning a strong emotional
investment in the property and a desire to publicize it in order to see
To visualize how these currencies might relate to
existing metrics, in the columns next to those, I have put in the CLV
metric(s) that seemed to be the best fit.
Organizing my thoughts this way, a couple of things, not
altogether surprising, stood out:
The "most engaged" behaviors involve some of all three
currencies, but a significant time investment is the most common element
Currencies for measurement pose a real problem, but
relative rates may be a workable measure over a dollar value
Time, which can be assigned a dollar value, but a
single rate is tough to pin down, whereas time in itself is quantifiable
Affinity, the second most common potential currency is
extremely problematic to assign a monetary value to, but ranking
relative to other media properties may be an option
Money, outside of the consumption category, is not a
very common factor
Retention/repeat patronage seems to be the element that
relates most in all of these behaviors to potential CLV metrics
WOM, although not easy to quantify, may also be a
Estimated repeat purchase of media property-related
items may also be useable to measure fan behavior
I also began to think about how the ad-supported model
figures into this – in other words, could we value these different
types of fans based on viewing ads, in the traditional publishing-style
model. I have more or less come to the conclusion that that may be
possible, but it would require data that’s really beyond the scope of
this piece, but that is probably also not practical to obtain and
segment as an activity separate from assessing overall viewership.
So, it appears that a lot of the CLV metrics that many
of the models use are, not surprisingly, a bit difficult to use,
primarily because conversion to a single currency is problematic.
Before my next installment, I will try to find a metric or model in the
literature that only uses the stronger elements, but my sense is that
there is not a single one at the moment that will fit appropriately. A
metric for fan engagement will probably need to be made up of a number
of elements, combined in a way that makes sense in the context of the
environment in which they operate. Public relations metrics may
actually prove to be a better fit than CLV.
Next time: Measuring fan impact on the rest of the
Coming back to my earlier argument that a large part of
the monetary value of fans comes from recruiting and retaining others,
in my next piece, I will look at CLV for an average viewer and how time
spent and affinity among fans may have an impact on the value of those
customers. At this point, I will also bring in a discussion on
advertising and how engagement in ads, rather than content, might be
integrated into this discussion.
See below for a revised chart from Part III.
Until next time…
Part of the intent of this series is to encourage
discussion of what I am attempting to do here, why, and how it might be
a useful tool for industry. If any reader has questions or comments
about the methods or data used here, please email me at email@example.com.
Beck, Jonathan. "The sales effect of word of mouth: a
model for creative goods and estimates for novels." Journal of
Cultural Economics. January 2007, Vol 35, p5-23.
Berger, Paul D. ; Nasr, Nada I. "Customer lifetime
value: Marketing models and applications." Journal of Interactive
Marketing. March 1999, Vol. 12, Issue 1, p17 - 30.
Berger, Paul D.; Weinberg, Bruce; Hanna, Richard C.
"Customer lifetime value determination and strategic implications for a
cruise-ship company." Journal of Database Marketing & Customer
Strategy Management; September 2003, Vol. 11 Issue 1, p40-52.
Dodson, Jr., Joe A; Muller, Eitan. "Models of New
Product Diffusion Through Advertising and Word-of-Mouth". Management
Science. November 1978, Vol. 24, No. 15, p. 1568-1578.
is an MBA
Candidate, Class of 2008, at the MIT Sloan
School of Management. She has worked as a Research Assistant with the
Convergence Culture Consortium since February 2007. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org