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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
In This Issue
Opening Note: Sam Ford and Joshua Green Look Back
at Futures of Entertainment
Glancing at the C3
Closing Note: Eleanor Baird and Ivan Askwith on
the Do's and Don'ts of Social Networks in Advertising and Marketing
A Look Back at the Futures of
Entertainment 2 Conference
For all of us here at the Consortium, MIT Futures of
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
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
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
Remarks, from C3 Director Henry Jenkins and Research Manager Joshua
Media Panel, featuring Marc Davis (Yahoo!), Bob Schukai (Turner
Broadcasting), Alice Kim (MTV Networks), and Anmol Madan (MIT Media
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)
Labor, featuring Mark Deuze (Indiana University, Jordan Greenhall
(DivX), Catherine Tosenberger (University of Florida), Elizabeth Osder
(Buzznet), and Raph Koster (Areae)
Day Opening Comments, featuring Jason Mittell (Middlebury College),
Jonathan Gray (Fordham University), and Lee Harrington (Miami
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
Media, featuring Danny Bilson, Jeff Gomez (Starlight Runner), Jesse
Alexander (Heroes), and Gordon Tichell (Walden Media)
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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 Mplayer.com, and Todd Cunningham and Eric Gruber from
MTV Networks, talking about virtual worlds.
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.
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.
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
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.
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 CBSNews.com).
Follow the Blog
Don't forget – you can always post, read, and carry out
online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.
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
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'
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
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
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
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
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
Research for this piece was provided by Debora Lui,
Huma Yusuf, and Sam Ford.
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 email@example.com
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.