C3 Weekly Update

Editor's Note

After a brief hiatus, we're back in full force with the latest edition of the C3 Weekly Update. With the Futures of Entertainment 2 conference and Thanksgiving behind us, we are all energized and moving forward with our research.

For those who were able to join us for the mid-November conference, we hope that you found it a rewarding experience. We have a debrief from the conference as the Opening Note this week, complete with both recaps and information on forthcoming video from the conference panels. Otherwise, we've been staying busy with the energy coming out of the conference. We have had a lot of great conversations about the public side of our work flowing out of the event, and we hope that some of the conversations we've been having with the academics and industry folks who attended the event will build into our approach and insight on the spreadable media project we are working on all year.

We hope that many of you who attended the event were able to connect with fellow Consortium members and had the chance to meet our new team of graduate students. Speaking of them, we hope to feature the work of our new graduate student team over the next several weeks here in the newsletter. Each of them have been working on projects specifically designed to run here in the C3 Weekly Update. You all have already seen four parts of Eleanor Baird's five-part series "Valuing Fans." Eleanor will be running the final part of that series here in the C3 Weekly Update before the Christmas holiday. We are looking forward to presenting several other pieces as well.

One of the projects launched last term was an ongoing inquiry into the types of behaviors taking place in social networks, the potential value of these networks, and the trends coming from the most prevalent social networking sites. C3 alum Ivan Askwith worked with Graduate Researcher Eleanor Baird in the spring before his graduation on this project, and we are featuring an excerpt of some of their work here. This will preview a larger section of their work, which we are making available on the back-end of the C3 site in the next week. If you would like to read the entire piece and do not have login information for the private side of our site, please contact me directly.

Otherwise, we are all busy coding YouTube videos, plumbing the depths of content on the video sharing site to figure out what some of the most prevalent uses of this medium is. We will be working on this coding into the new year and look forward to sharing our continued insights from that project with the Consortium. Each of our student investigators has also proposed and are working on individual projects around our focus on viral media. We hope to unpack this complicated term and tease out some of its meaning throughout this process and in the individual focuses of each student project.

These projects are keeping us more than busy leading into the holidays, and we be keeping you updated on their progression here in the Weekly Update!

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


In This Issue

Editor's Note

Opening Note: Sam Ford and Joshua Green Look Back at Futures of Entertainment 2

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Closing Note: Eleanor Baird and Ivan Askwith on the Do's and Don'ts of Social Networks in Advertising and Marketing

Opening Note

A Look Back at the Futures of Entertainment 2 Conference

For all of us here at the Consortium, MIT Futures of Entertainment 2 has sparked a flurry of conversations and activity. While we took a couple of weeks off from the C3 Weekly Update after the conference and Thanksgiving, our own thoughts and projects have been energized by the variety of interesting people who spoke on the six panels at the conference, as well as the diverse audience, which included many Weekly Update subscribers.

The conference provided an opportunity for representatives from our partners to meet with each other and the C3 team, as well as the greater community interested in C3's work. All together, the conference drew about 250 people, including speakers and registrants from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Finland, the Netherlands, Spain, Canada, and 21 states. The audience was a mix of academic and industry participants, drawing academics from across the country and representatives from marketing, research, advertising, and PR industries.

Once again, the long panels and discussion format of the conference allowed us to really delve into the topics. Rather than attempting to summarize the panels here, we want to direct your attention to a variety of resources available surrounding the conference. Links to the live blogging from the C3 team are available below. Throughout the week, we plan to make many of the panels available through the conference site.

Opening Remarks, from C3 Director Henry Jenkins and Research Manager Joshua Green

Mobile Media Panel, featuring Marc Davis (Yahoo!), Bob Schukai (Turner Broadcasting), Alice Kim (MTV Networks), and Anmol Madan (MIT Media Lab)

Metrics and Measurement, featuring Bruce Leichtman (Leichtman Research Group), Stacey Lynn Schulman (Turner Broadcasting), Maury Giles (GSD&M Idea City), and Jim Nail (TNS Media Intelligence/Cymfony)

Fan Labor, featuring Mark Deuze (Indiana University, Jordan Greenhall (DivX), Catherine Tosenberger (University of Florida), Elizabeth Osder (Buzznet), and Raph Koster (Areae)

Second Day Opening Comments, featuring Jason Mittell (Middlebury College), Jonathan Gray (Fordham University), and Lee Harrington (Miami University)

Advertising and Convergence Culture, featuring Mike Rubenstein (Barbarian Group), Baba Shetty (Hill/Holliday), Tina Wells (Buzz Marketing Group), Faris Yakob (Naked Communications), and Bill Fox (Fidelity Investments).

Cult Media, featuring Danny Bilson, Jeff Gomez (Starlight Runner), Jesse Alexander (Heroes), and Gordon Tichell (Walden Media)

Joshua Green Joshua Green is the research manager for the Convergence Culture Consortium and a Postdoctoral Associate at the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT.

Sam Ford is the Project Manager of the Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT and a graduate of the Program in Comparative Media Studies. He is editor of the C3 Weekly Update and is currently doing further work on the soap opera industry, including preparing his thesis for publication, co-editing a collection of essays on the current state and future of the soap opera industry, and teaching a class in the spring on American soaps.

Glancing at the C3 Blog

Madan and Nail Join FoE2 Line-Up. C3 made two late additions to the speakers list for the conference in mid-November, with MIT Media Lab Ph.D. candidate Anmol Madan joining the mobile media panel and TNS Media Intelligence and Cymfony Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer Jim Nail joining the metrics and measurement panel.

A Precursor to FoE2: NBC's Heroes: Jesse Alexander and Mark Warshaw Speak to MIT Community (2 of 2). Lauren Silberman recaps what the Heroes creative team had to say about the writers' strike, serialized narrative, and a variety of other subjects.

A Precursor to FoE2: NBC's Heroes: Jesse Alexander and Mark Warshaw Speak to MIT Community (1 of 2). C3 Student Investigator Lauren Silberman recaps the MIT Communications Forum with Heroes' Jesse Alexander and Mark Warshaw, talking about the move from appointment television to engagement television.

Around the Consortium: FoE2, Free Game Types, and Gender and Fan Studies. Grant McCracken muses about the issues set to be discussed at Futures of Entertainment 2, while David Edery creates a list of types of free games and Henry Jenkins features the 22nd and final round of gender and fan studies conversations on his site, with Eden Lee Lackner and Jes Battis.

The Launch of NBC Direct. C3 Student Investigator Xiaochang Li writes about the beta launch of the NBC downloading service, alongside a recent student from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania on online television viewing habits.

WWE Grapples with CNN Documentary: Smacking Down the News. World Wrestling Entertainment cried foul at questionable editing of an interview with wrestling star John Cena during a documentary piece that aired on CNN and used their own site as a platform to show the unedited conversation.


Looking Back at FoE: Not the Real World Anymore. The last panel at the first Futures of Entertainment featured John Lester from Linden Labs, Ron Meiners from, and Todd Cunningham and Eric Gruber from MTV Networks, talking about virtual worlds.

Looking Back at FoE: Fan Cultures. The fan cultures panel discussion at the first Futures of Entertainment featured a conversation with Warner Premiere President Diane Nelson, Berkeley School of Information's danah boyd, and Cartoon Network's Molly Chase. A recap and audio and video of the panel are linked to in the piece.

Looking Back at FoE: Dr. Joshua Green on Viscerality. At the first Futures of Entertainment, C3 Research Manager Joshua Green discussed impressions and expressions, the social interaction around new technologies, and visceral and tactile relationships with media.

Looking Back at FoE: Transmedia Properties. The first Futures of Entertainment featured a conversation on transmedia properties with DC Comics' Paul Levitz, Big Spaceship's Mike Lebowitz, and Alex Chisholm of Ice Cub3d Studios. Resources from the panel are available in this post.

Looking Back at FoE: User-Generated Content. The UGC conversation at the first Futures of Entertainment featured Rob Tercek of MultiMedia Networks, Caterina Fake of Yahoo!/Flickr; Bubble Project founder Ji Lee; and Kevin Barrett from BioWare.

Looking Back at FoE: Television Futures. The first panel at the inaugural Futures of Entertainment featured a conversation on the state and outlook for television with Forrester's Josh Bernoff, Mark Warshaw (formerly with Smallville and founder of FlatWorld Intertainment), Andy Hunter (formerly with GSD&M Idea City), and Betsy Morgan (formerly with

Follow the Blog

Don't forget – you can always post, read, and carry out online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.

Closing Note

Do's and Don'ts of Social Networks in Advertising and Marketing

Based on our research, we can identify specific "do"s and "don't"s for brands seeking to increase their profile through social networks. These recommendations are based on a longer study of these issues which will be made available on the back end of our C3 site for Consortium members. If you do not have your access information, please contact Sam Ford.

1. Do Treat Your Users Like Co-Creators, Using Lessons from Fan Studies

A community, as web 2.0 sites have reinvented them, are more like a group of fans than a traditional concept of a passive audience. In other words, if you want users to continue participating these communities you "own," you need to surrender some degree of ownership and control to them as well. The users don't need to be empowered to run the community themselves, but they also need to be treated as advisors and active participants whose ideas and contributions are appreciated and taken seriously. Users know better than anyone what your site does well, and what it could still do better, even if they don't always know how to make the site better. A successful community or fan base hinges on getting the participants to feel invested in both the media property and in the community itself.

Since your users won't always be able to articulate what they would like, their actions also speak volumes: when Friendster users began creating fake profiles (Fakesters), it wasn't to defy the site's creators -- it was because they had needs, or desires, that weren't being met, which led them to develop their own ‘hacked' solutions.

But the most important thing is not to act like an owner, or benevolent dictator, but as a partner. In so doing both community and producer needs will be listened to and respected.

2. Do Enable & Encourage Self Expression

An essential feature of fan communities and social networking sites is that they are both forums for self-expression.

The degree and type of self-expression and customization users need will be a function of their demographic -- since younger users are more likely to be engaged in a process of experimenting with and performing identities, the ability to completely customize and design their pages may be more essential than it is to the demographic of Facebook, which seems to skew older, and views the site more as a toolset for social interaction.

It is key that self-expression is never restricted arbitrarily, especially if the community is demanding it. If it must be limited, the reasons should be explained to the community's satisfaction and understanding; otherwise, they're likely to seek out other, less restrictive forums for networking, content sharing, and interaction.

3. Do Let Your Users Establish Context

By allowing users to determine the level of context and detail they want to provide in relation to their individual linked contacts, social networking features become far more useful. Similarly, successful advertising and marketing through fans via social networks should provide mechanisms for fans to highlight and differentiate a brand from the rest of the clutter.

4. Don't Emphasize Quantity Over Quality

While the growth ambition for these sites often seems to be "as large as possible, as quickly as possible" -- which makes the most sense if we're (mis)understanding these sites primarily as valuable for their traditional advertising implications, where more eyeballs = more value -- the desire to grow and incorporate as many members as possible is not always (or perhaps ever) the best strategy in this space. Similarly for marketing or advertising campaigns using these sites, the impact is not so much how many views a viral video gets, but how it has an impact on overall fan engagement and the bottom line.

5. Don't Try To Be Everything to Everyone

In order to make a meaningful appeal to its users, a social networking site needs to know what it is and what it is not: LinkedIn is an example of a service that has succeeded by choosing a very specific purpose, and focusing on new features that enhance and reinforce, rather than dilute, the usefulness of their site in pursuing specific goals (in this case, professional networking). In selecting a social network to use for advertising or marketing purposes, companies should be aware of the overall message that their participation and affinity with a site may send to fans.

Where MySpace seems to have stumbled, at least for a while, was in their attempt to accommodate as many users, from as many demographics and communities, as humanly possible. The problem is that this approach can result in a glut of features, which dilute the overall experience, and make it unclear what users are "supposed" to do on the site. The most successful new social networking start ups seem to be very focused and purpose or content specific. While this may result in a smaller number of committed users, it also means that we know more about the users that do use the site, which can allow for more targeted advertising, and make these audience/communities more valuable to potential sponsors and advertisers.

One way of testing the waters in these focused, specific "mini" networks is through a service like Ning, which allows members to use a single account to join an unlimited number of specialized "Ning-Powered" networking communities. Facebook applications are also allowing for the development of similar focus-specific features and projects within the larger Facebook site.

Marketers and content providers have also experimented with social networking features, from enabling users to create a profile and post comments on a program's web site, as many of the soap opera sites and CBS's program-branded wikis do, or a new social network, as NBC is currently testing in beta.

6. Don't Create Another Walled Garden

Perhaps the single most important recommendation in this space is that it's almost never a good idea to attempt to recreate the wheel, and to develop a new, private social networking service: the playing field is already crowded with competitors, and most users are only willing to commit to maintaining profiles and participating regularly in a few communities, at most -- and each service becomes less valuable (to the users) as their contacts fragment into more and more separate communities.

At present, the best strategies seem to involve finding meaningful ways to work within the existing networks, or to explore possibilities for shared protocols that might allow users to participate in multiple sites with a single account and membership.

Facebook's "Application" platform has already helped several other "niche" networks and services expand their user bases by integrating their content and features into the larger Facebook environment.

Launching a new network from scratch at this point, while it might seem logical from a traditional corporate "we want to own our own community" perspective, is not beneficial to anyone -- it simply dilutes the existing communities further, if it attracts new users, and proves an embarrassment if it doesn't.

Acquiring might make more sense -- News Corp has certainly been able to leverage MySpace, and its user base, in a wide range of ways (as seen in the "Monetizing" section of the paper), and Facebook has resisted buyout offers, and continues to grow more valuable.

Partnering seems to be the most productive approach at this point, since these networks support symbiotic relationships between network owners, added-service providers, content producers, etc.

The core initial question needs to be, what are we going to offer the consumer that they don't have already? Once this is determined, the next question should be, can we leverage an existing community to jump-start (and build a following for) this feature or service? If so, those possibilities are likely to generate the best short-term response.

Research for this piece was provided by Debora Lui, Huma Yusuf, and Sam Ford.

Eleanor Baird is an MBA Candidate, Class of 2008, at the MIT Sloan School of Management. She has worked as a Student Investigator with the Convergence Culture Consortium since February 2007. Email her at

Ivan Askwith is a 2007 graduate of the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT and an alum of the Convergence Culture Consortium. He is now a creative strategist for Big Spaceship, a digital creative agency based in Brooklyn, NY.

The Fine Print

Compiled and Edited by Sam Ford ( for the Convergence Culture Consortium.


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