January 31, 2007

WWE Set to Merge Existing, New Video Streams into Broadband Video Network

Along with my earlier post about the controversy surrounding News Corporation's investment in ROO comes news from World Wrestling Entertainment of plans to turn the various video bits they offer into a centralized broadband video network.

According to the press release from Noah Starr with the WWE, "For the first time ever, WWE fans will be able to access all the free videos on WWE.com from one convenient location." This is all part of a campaign from the WWE over the past several months to continue innovating its Web site as a must-visit destination for its fan base, as I've written about before.

The content will include airing the entrance videos of wrestlers that they use when they come to the ring for matches, as well as highlights of each week's RAW and Smackdown, the online-only wrestling program Heat, and a variety of Internet-only segments, such as OMG Moments, Hardcore Hangover, WWE Sidesplitters, Val Venis' Sex-U, Lifestyles of the Built & Dangerous (featuring tours of the WWE wrestlers' homes), and Seein' Superstars, focusing on celebrity fans of the WWE.

The new broadband network is set to launch in the morning.

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News Corporation Investing in ROO, Alongside Plenty of Controversy

While 20th Century Fox may be issuing a subpoena for YouTube, News Corporation will be investing 10 percent of the Internet television network ROO, the company whose service drives the video offerings on the Fox News Web site.

The deal, announced Monday, will be that News Corp. will gain 5 percent of the shares of ROO initially and then get 5 more percent "after it meets certain revenue-based milestones based on its usage of ROO's services," according to Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek. The deal is valued at approximately $12 million, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The sale has led to some controversy, based on Michael Arrington's TechCrunch post about how Fox Interactive wasn't involved in the deal. He writes, "From what we are hearing, not only was Fox Interactive not involved in the deal, they didn't even know about it. The rumor is that Fox Interactive execs only heard about the investment when they read the WSJ article this morning. And they weren't happy" (emphasis his).

However, those Rumorbusters write that these reports are "pretty much all wrong."

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Reverse Product Placement and C3 Members' Ideas in the Popular Press

Anyone see the C3-inspired article by Todd Wasserman with BrandWeek on reverse product placement this week, a process through which brands from a fictional world are made available as products in the "real world." The article stems from research from two of our affiliate research, Ilya Vedrashko and David Edery. The discussion of reverse product placement, particularly in games, has been a focus here at C3 throughout our formative years, as the quotes from Edery and Vedrashko indicate.

Edery, who now works for Microsoft's Xbox division and who has written about the idea of reverse product placement for Harvard Business Review, while Vedrashko is an emerging media strategies for Hill, Holiday.

The phrase "reverse product placement" is an interesting term to use to label the practice of marketing items out of a narrative world.

The idea of taking something out of a narrative world and making it available in the real world surrounded media marketing from the beginning. Wearing the clothes or buying the brands that one sees on screen or even reads in a book, as my colleague Ivan Askwith is fond of reminding everyone, stretches back to the work of Charles Dickens, and that desire to buy the brands of your favorite character is the drive behind product placement.

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January 30, 2007

Nielsen Now Measuring College Viewers from Nielsen Households--Will It Change the Industry?

Many fans--and marketers and producers--are wondering what the latest decision from Nielsen Media Research will mean for their ratings now that Nielsen has started counting views from college students.

Starting yesterday, Nielsen will be counting the viewing of students who are living away from their households for the first time in ratings history. How will college viewing skew the results? Will it make a significant difference? Of course, it's a benefit to any show who draws a significant number of young adult viewers and shows that would be popular among a college crowd. Perhaps, if there are shows that are popular for the demographic but not necessarily among college viewers, it could be a detriment as well.

The sample will be from Nielsen families who agreed to let a meter be put in at the student's dorm room. Approximately 450 families from the Nielsen sample include college students, and about 30 percent of them agreed to let their students be involved. (Some families could not because the students did not have a TV in their dorm room). And advertisers and networks alike may be thrilled to include a segment of the audience that do not use DVRs nearly as much as the national average (which still remains pretty low, by the way, at about 13 percent).

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YouTube Links with Google Video Search, Plans to Pay Content Owners

Subpoenas from Twentieth Century Fox isn't all that YouTube and Google have in mind...or GoogTube, as Geoffrey Long likes to call it.

The first part of the plan was announced last Thursday, when YouTube released a statement that YouTube's video listings will start appearing as part of the Google Video search service. Certainly, most people expected the expansion of Google's video services was coming now that YouTube was in house. Through the change, Google Video searchers will be able to get full access to YouTube content through regular video searches.

The long-term plan, of course, is to make YouTube the site that will house the content, while Google itself will work toward increasing the viability of video search tools and monetizing those functions.

Meanwhile, over the weekend, Google also announced plans to start sharing the revenues derived from advertising to content owners. It's unclear exactly what this means but not a complete surprise, as some other sites have launched similar models.

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Fox Issues Symbolic Subpoena to YouTube

The question isn't what big media company has a gripe with YouTube but rather which one does this time. Now, it's Twentieth Century Fox getting the lawyers lined up to contend with Google over episodes of 24 and The Simpsons being pirated through YouTube. In this case, they even have a pretty substantial gripe, as the episodes of 24 aired before the season premiere and, at least in their minds, deflated the aura around the premiere.

YouTube acted quickly after a response from Fox earlier this month, pulling down the content in question. That tends to be YouTube's policy. However, Fox wants more. As you may have heard, they've issued a subpoena to the company demanding the name of the users who uploaded the pirated content with the intention to litigate.

The question now is what YouTube will do. According to the company's own privacy policy, users are warned that the company "may release personally identifiable information" if the law requires them to do so or also "in the good-faith belief that such action is necessary to comply with state and federal laws (such as U.S. Copyright Law) or respond to a court order, subpoena, or search warrant."

However, just because YouTube can give the names up doesn't necessarily mean they will. The question is whether YouTube has the same rights as a lawyer, doctor, priest, or journalist and whether the company sees its users in the same way those other professions see their clients, patients, parishioners, or sources.

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January 29, 2007

Low-Cost Tools in Media Production - Hype or Hope?

After acclaimed film editor Walter Murch's proof-of-concept use of Apple's Final Cut Pro for editing Return to Cold Mountain in 2003, a second, more bizarre attempt at using commercial off-the-shelf software for professional media production has come to public attention: guitarist and producer Ry Cooder mastering his latest album using the 'sound enhancer' feature built into iTunes. While both stories have much news value, a factor that should not be neglected after all, these episodes allow for a critical look at the perceived 'democratization' of professional media production and changes in workflow and production rationales.

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January 28, 2007

Proceed and Permitted: Second Life's Response to Parody Site

Here's a fascinating situation I have been planning to write about for the past several days, brought to my attention by my colleague Alec Austin here in C3 and what I would consider a strongly viable alternative to the issues of fair use we've been writing about here on the blog on several occasions as of late. I believe this is the type of response most other media companies could learn from.

For those who haven't heard about the parody site of Second Life, the site is called Get a First Life, a parody of the popularity of Second LIfe. Take this promotional line for "Teen First Life," for instance: "America's teens, your First Life dream world awaits. Hang out at the mail! Embarrass yourself in gym class! Get acne! Experiment with mind-altering recreational drugs. The First Life world is your oyster."

The site was launched by Vancouver blogger Darren Barefoot, poking fun at the immersive nature of Second Life and all the media hype surrounding it. We've certainly written about Second Life enough times in the past year, from the innovative ways in which advertisers are infiltrating that space (much more adept use of that space than the way advertisers are handling first life these days, as I wrote about earlier this month) to the ways in which media companies are launching their products into Second Life, such as Ninja Tune music videos.

Traditionally, the response to this type of parody site would either be to ignore it or to send out a letter claiming use of one of its trademarks or something of the sort. However, Second Life did neither. In fact, it took an activist approach that leaned toward what we would call the collaborationist approach, as opposed to a prohibitionist approach, acknowledging the site's existence and granting permission based on its use of parody, thus still leaving the door opening for prosecuting more blatant ripoffs of the company's intellectual property.

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Nielsen's Compromise: Six Streams of Commercial Data and Let the Industry Sort It Out

The controversy over commercial ratings never seems to end, but Nielsen's latest plan, announced earlier this month, will be to offer six different streams of data for both advertising buyers and networks to choose from and let them sort out the right balance for what they are looking for. Nielsen, in this case, is washing its hands clean of the impossible battle between various sides of the television industry over what the commercial ratings should mean, how DVR viewers are counted, how long of a delay should be recorded, etc.

The current plan is for the six streams to be made available in May, with each stream counting a different amount of delayed viewing, ranging from live viewing only to playback within seven days, as the two extremes. The plan is to provide, in between, DVR playback on the same day, live + 1 day, live + 2 days, and live + 3 days.

I guess Nielsen just decided to get on with it, once the company realized that no one was ever going to be happy with any particular compromise when dealing with something as delicate as the commercial ratings. Never has something more imprecise been the currency of trade for an industry the way Nielsen ratings are for television. Networks feel that ignoring the growing number of DVR viewers is costing them significant profits and want those DVR viewers counted but also have to realize that, as opposed with live viewing, DVR viewers have their commercial-skipping behaviors recorded.

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Reviving the Fairness Doctrine?

While issues of net neutrality and the Deleting Online Predators Act continue to be discussed, add another topic that has strong implications for the media industry--discussion of returning to the Fairness Doctrine of times past.

Dennis Kucinich, the Democratic Representative from Ohio, has emphasized his interest in challenging the FCC and potentially in bringing back the Fairness Doctrine on his road to the presidency, as he was named a little over a week ago to be the new head of the House Government Reform Committee's Domestic Policy panel. He had already made announcements earlier by emphasizing that there would be discussion of media ownership issues and reviving the Fairness Doctrine. He calls media the "servant of very narrow corporate interests." And, while I find some of this rhetoric of the narrow-minded sort one would expect from the Media Education Foundation, as I've written about before, there is certainly danger in a lack of diverse voices as well. However, I'm generally wary of overregulation, so I plan to continue watching this issue develop at arm's length for awhile.

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Online Video Distribution Transforms the Sundance Film Festival

In the spirit of Ted Hovet's recent piece here on the C3 blog about the film and its review in the New York Times, I thought I would point to a Times article about another innovative filmmaker, particularly the launch of M dot Strange (Michael Belmont) through the Sundance Film Festival. Meanwhile, another movie was premiered in Second Life the day after its Sundance premiere.

As David Carr writes in his recent article, M dot Strange's movie gives "new meaning to the term 'studio apartment' by jamming eight computers into his place and producing 'We Are the Strange.' The movie has a wide visual vocalbulary borrowed from the far reaches of the Web, anime, video games and children's nursery rhymes. And dolls. Lots of dolls."

While plenty of viewers apparently got up and left at the Sundance instead of watching his film, Strange benefitted from a strong following from viewers who had already seen his work through YouTube. The filmmaker had been regularly updating a video blog on YouTube for the past two years, giving updates on his movie and then posting a trailer that received almost 650,000 views when the article was published.

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January 27, 2007

Siklos on Antisocial Networking and Big Media's Crush on Social Networks

Richard Siklos continues his intriguing coverage of many of the aspects of convergence culture we write about so often in the New York Times, this time focusing on last Sunday's article on social networking and how it is transforming people's lives. The article is really more of a two-headed beast, the first part a personal narrative explaining his own disconnect with the growing connectedness of social networking and his trouble with balancing out the delicacies of how to handle himself in many of these situations--maintaining various lists of friends and having to decide what to do when given an invitation by someone he's not sure he wants to invite.

The second half of the article looks at big media's "crushes" on social networking and the many business models built up around the practice.

What most intrigued me, though, was his discussion about how the social networking invitation has transformed what one does in life, whether it be a MySpace Top 8 request, a Facebook friend confirmation, someone who wants to LinkIn, an instant messaging buddy, or a Second Life friend. He displays the ambivalence of inviting someone who he doesn't really know and finds himself relieved not to have a LinkedIn account when someone he likes wants to "link in" after only one meeting.

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Comcast Positioning Itself Through VOD in Competitive Media Landscape

Last Sunday's New York Times featured an in-depth account of the ways in which Comcast, and the cable television industry as a whole, have turned their fortunes around, after many people were predicting only months ago that, between telcos and the Internet and satellite, that the days were numbered for the industry. The article, by Geraldine Fabrikant, profiles some of the innovations at Comcast and the company's philosophy and provides some details about how cable companies have positioned themselves during this time of tremendous media flux.

Fabrikant writes, "Today, the entire cable business, and Comcast, the country's largest cable company, are sitting pretty. Amid the scramble that will decide which companies provide consumers with the flood of new media, entertainment and communications services, cable suddenly looks to be the winner. Analysts now say cable operators are better positioned than their rivals. Until quite recently, however, that wasn't a foregone conclusion because Wall Street -- even discounting the myopia that often distorts its vision -- had good cause to be pessimistic."

In an effort to remain increasingly competitive, Comcast has branched out into providing Internet access and digital telephone service in the past few years, trying to entrench the company--and the cable industry--at the heart of American media consumption. And, as a result, the article notes that Comcast's stock "has risen at least 10 percent a quarter for 25 consecutive quarters", leading to a sharp increase since the stocks fell 22 percent in 2005.

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General Hospital Borrows from 24 in Real-Time Storyline During Sweeps Month

While on the subject of soap operas, I thought I would point out a really interesting development on the soap opera General Hospital that shows just the kind of interesting television genre crossings (of sorts, in this case) that we've written about before. Michael Newman, who teaches film and media studies at the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee, recently directed my attention toward a post on the Entertainment Weekly Popwatch Blog by Abby West, following up on a story they wrote last year with the head writer of GH and the producer of the primetime series 24 giving their version of the other's show. Now, apparently, General Hospital is going to turn that fun exercise into action.

The plan is for General Hospital, during sweeps month, to enter into a 24-like plot, showing an explosion at a well-known hotel in town and then making the next 16 episodes the 16 hours before the explosion, so viewers can slowly learned what happened leading up to this event. In other words, more than two weeks of the show's programming is going to focus on telling the story of the events leading up to this explosion in real time, a la 24.

There is certainly a connection between these two shows. Although the connections aren't made often enough, the seriality of primetime shows bear a strong ancestry with the construction of daytime television narratives, as I've written about several times before. Yet, with all the hype about seriality in primetime, very few articles in tthe popular press or even in academic circles link this type of plot back to the long lineage of seriality on daytime.

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Guiding Light Celebrates Its 70th Anniversary with a Look Back at Its History on Radio, Television

This past week, the American daytime drama Guiding Light celebrated its 70th anniversary with an episode that provides a fascinating historical perspective on another era of media in transition in American history, the cultural move from radio to television.

In the 1930s, the soap opera became a vibrant part of American culture, as radio serials sponsored by soap companies developed the name, and many of the aspects of soaps that remain a characteristic of the drama to this day. Thursday's Guiding Light featured the cast of the show in a tribute to the early history of their own program, as a majority of the cast played the roles of many of the actors and behind-the-scenes players in the early days of the soap, which launched in 1937.

The episode began with the death of a current character on the show, Tammy, focusing on the grief of her loved ones. It launched back to a sermon from the radio show Guiding Light, showing the creative team putting on the show and the way a radio soap opera was done, complete with radio jingles for "Save-All" (would have been great to see a major current P&G product used here, but that's another story). At the helm of the program was Irna Phillips, the creator or co-creator of Guiding Light and several other soaps that are currently on the air.

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January 24, 2007

Broadband Video Sites Veoh and Brightcove Continue to Expand

Two online video sites I've written about several times here at C3 are Veoh and Brightcove, and both made new announcements this past week regarding an expansion of content, in Veoh's case, and significant new funding for Brightcove.

Veoh has formed a partnership with Us Weekly magazine to create an online celebrity news and entertainment show that will be available on the Us Web site and Veoh's site as well. The initiative will launch in February with the intent of also including user-generated content.

For another look at a broadband celebrity destination, see my November post, "The Death of a Buzzword: Synergy and Time Warner". At the time, I wrote about TMZ, the Three Mile Zone product being launched by Warner Brothers and AOL. At the time, I wrote:

But, while TMZ is not my cup of tea, I think that it touches on the ability of the Web to do something others don't and to prove that synergistic relationships, even as that buzzword has gotten a negative connotation, are the building blocks of convergence and transmedia approaches. The success of this site shows that there is still power in these types of partnerships. The problem is in the thinking that they work irrespective to how they are executed.

It will be interesting to see how this Veoh/Us product compares to the TMZ project.

Meanwhile, Veoh has also partnered with the United Talent Agency to create "an online resource for digital content submissions," according to Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek.

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User-Generated Content Expected to Continue Growing While Corporate Revenue Surrounding It Questionable

News broke last week that user-generated videos have been the primary force of growth in the number of online videos available, currently estimated at being 47 percent of the videos that are found online, launched through the popularity of YouTube and other video sharing sites.

The statistics, made available from Screen Digest, leads to a prediction on their part that 55 percent of the online videos viewed in the U.S. will be user-generated by 2010, which would account for approximately 44 billion views.

However, Screen Digest emphasizes in their report that, while the amount of views is bordering on half for user-generated content, the portion of revenues generated from this content is significantly smaller, although their predict that revenues generated from advertising surrounding user-generated content will expand from the $200 million estimated for 2006 to a 2010 total of $900 million, which would still be only 15 percent of the total online revenue, at a time when they predict 55 percent of the online video content consumed will be user-generated.

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Netflix Expanding Beyond Postal Delivery? The Futures of Renting Movies?

Netflix is taking my advice!

Well, okay, there's a strong chance they were already thinking about these issues anyway, and an even stronger chance that the powers that be at this company haven't spent a significant amount of time surfing the Convergence Culture Consortium's blog (although they should, according to Peter Kim. But news broke recently that Netflix is going to be trying to branch the brand name established in their DVD-by-mail movie rental service to providing a space for consumers to watch films and television programs through the Internet.

The announcement, made last week, was that this will be a new product available for free to current Netflix subscribers, automatically provided to them as part of their membership to Netflix. The initial service will include approximately 1,000 properties from a variety of top content providers. The plan for the company si to remain in the rental business, not providing download-to-own or advertising-supported content. This is just a space to test out a new rental forum, in other words.

Back in June, I called Netflix "the world's best idea with the world's worst delivery system," primarily based on my disdain for the United States Postal Service, exacerbated by not having mail forwarded to me for about a month, phantom mail that's never been recovered. (Oh, and this Christmas season, I mailed two things to my parents' house, one priority and one regular mail. They both arrived the same day, about a week later).

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Cable Companies and Their Little Black Boxes

In Convergence Culture, Henry Jenkins writes about what he calls "The Black Box Fallacy," which he describes as the philosophy that, eventually "all media content is going to flow through as ingle black box into our living rooms (or, in the mobile scenario, through black boxes we carry around with us everywhere we go" (14). Jenkins points out, though, in a phenomenon that shows no sign than letting up, that there are "more and more black boxes" (15). He is very correct in saying that we MIT students are carrying "their laptops, their cells, their iPods, their Game Boys, their BlackBerrys, you name it" (I don't have a Game Boy, but the gaming sector is certainly well represented around the campus).

Those words came back to me when I was reading Brad Stone's recent New York Times article about cable companies' efforts to improve their cable boxes, while facing stiff competition from a variety of providers that may usurp the power of cable companies by providing new delivery systems, such as the Apple TV product. Back in September, I wrote about this product and particularly the fears some people had that DRM may affect the technology, as well as discussions about whether the service would eventually replace cable television subscriptions completely. More solid news about Apple TV came out earlier this month.

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January 20, 2007

The Power of Reality Television to Inspire Political Debate in the Blogosphere, Commented on by...A Blogger from The Apprentice

Now here's a surreal moment that could only be provided to us by reality television, and one that reeks of the type of interconnectivity that happens in a convergence culture. Allegations of racism directed toward Shilpa Shetty, an Indian actress appearing on Celebrity Big Brother UK have led to a horde of complaints throughout the blogosphere, including a variety of rumors about language directed toward Shetty during the taping of the reality show. Yet, what fascinates me most is that one of the bloggers who has written a commentary on this incident is brand-manager-turned-reality-television star Surya Yalamanchili of The Apprentice fame.

Yalamanchili, who I've gotten to know through some similar interests in trying to navigate the current media environment, launched his blog not long ago and has already made some astute media-related observations in the short time his blog has been active. But he pointed this post in particular out to me, which piqued my interest because of the mere idea of a reality star commenting on the treatment of another reality star in the blogosphere, while both are still stars on their respective programs. Add to that the fact that both are ethnically South Asian stars appearing on "Western" reality shows and the story gets even more confusing.

These layers of "reality" add an awfully fascinating dimension to their respective shows. The fact that these people, who are both television personas and simultaneously "real," make their public blogs a really interesting source, especially when a character from one reality show becomes a commentator for another.

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"The Museum as Outdoor Movie Screen" or, What IS Cinema?

The January 18, 2007, online edition of the New York Times features a review of a new film by Doug Aitken called Sleepwalkers.

The reviewer, Roberta Smith, discusses the film's content to a degree, but keeps shifting her attention back to something ordinarily overlooked in a movie review: its circumstances of exhibition. This is perfectly understandable, since exhibition involves eight projectors showing the film on three different exterior surfaces of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

Smith asserts this event as a prominent example of an interesting convergence: "archivedio or "videotecture." She points out that the buildings in Times Square already feature "commercial versions of the form" and wonders if "private homes may soon glow with a self-taught variety."

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Choking the Golden Goose: In Advertising, Ubiquity Is the New Exclusivity?

For anyone who didn't have the chance to see last Monday's New York Times piece on the spread of advertising into every public space imaginable, it's worth checking out. The gist of the article, by Louise Story, is that advertisers are flooding public spaces with all kinds of new sales messages in an attempt to overcome the advertising clutter and to reach people in a mass number--in transit--as media platforms becoming increasingly niche.

The quote in the title came from Linda Kaplan Thaler from her ad agency, the Kaplan Thaler Group. But it seems indicative of the ignorance of the advertising industry to the idea that intrusiveness is the anti-ad. Their arguments hold up in the short-term--that even as ads annoy people, they will put the name in people's mind. And that may be true, but it doesn't do much for building long-term goodwill.

Story's article identifies both the good and unique ways advertisers are reaching people that displays innovative thinking that also doesn't get in people's way but also the immediate oversaturation by advertisers who don't seem to have any sense to quit while they are ahead. Beaming advertisements onto city sidewalks, putting advertising on barf bags, trying to brand the George Washington Bridge--I mean, really, is the industry that stupid? I have met some awfully bright minds from the ad industry, and we even have what I would consider a phenomenal group of people from GSD&M as one of our partners here at C3. None of the people I've talked to there are out to pay people to name their babies after insurance companies or brand their clients' logos on the backsides of strippers (I'm being a little cheeky here, by the way, as these are not examples that appeared in the Story...story, thankfully).

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The Convergence Manifesto IV: The Importance of Quality Storytelling

This is the fourth part of a piece that originally appeared in the 01 September 2006 edition of the Convergence Culture Consortium's Weekly Update, an internal newsletter for affiliated researchers and corporate members of C3.

These types of transmedia attempts exist throughout the television industry, and I've talked with people in multiple media industries about cross-platform content. All agree on one thing--convergence may exist in a lesser form as a marketing ploy that simply distributes products across many media platforms, but transmedia storytelling...and true convergence...requires, at its heart, a compelling story.

Without good writers and other strong elements throughout the story, the fact that something is converged or spread across several media forms is only impressive in a shallow sense, as an experiment or a marketing ploy.

And that's what the journalists, the writers, the fans, and everyone else who fears convergence are worried about. They don't seem to really be against convergence, but they are against convergence done poorly.

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The Convergence Manifesto III: Quality Storytelling in Soap Operas

This is the third part of a piece that originally appeared in the 01 September 2006 edition of the Convergence Culture Consortium's Weekly Update, an internal newsletter for affiliated researchers and corporate members of C3.

It's no surprise that I will fall back on one of the genres of television that I know best: the soap opera. While documentation of the experiments of primetime television and video games and comic books seem to be well-documented, daytime programming seems largely ignored by critics and scholars and even most of the people in the industry.

I think that such media snobbery leaves the industry ignoring important lessons from these marginalized genres. There's some view that soap operas (and pro wrestling, another major lovemark of mine, is also often ignored by "the mainstream," despite the fact that both genres have very large viewership).

I've been following and blogging a lot about the ways in which the soap opera genre has been trying to adapt in our current convergence culture. In particular, soaps have been attempting to use new cross-platform ways of storytelling, usually attempted more as a marketing experiment than as a true transmedia experiment.

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January 19, 2007

The Convergence Manifesto II: The Journalism Industry

This is the second part of a piece that originally appeared in the 01 September 2006 edition of the Convergence Culture Consortium's Weekly Update, an internal newsletter for affiliated researchers and corporate members of C3.

Let's take an industry that I have written about extensively in the past few months: journalism. Convergence has become a major point of discussion for news sources and J-schools alike. I have worked for several years as a professional journalist and know these arguments from both ends.

The naysayers--and there are plenty--see the idea of convergence in journalism (particularly telling a story in multiple media forms) as being the uberjournalist, the corporate dream in which one journalist is hired to write a story for print and for broadcast and for the Web and for the radio and take the pictures and on and on. In other words, there is a belief that journalism produces a jack of all trades but a master of none, to borrow a common idiom.

That's not what convergence is. For those who believe that the concept is a corporate-driven capitalist ploy, they are looking at a much too narrow slice of convergence.

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The Convergence Manifesto I: Convergence--The Buzzword

This is the first part of a piece that originally appeared in the 01 September 2006 edition of the Convergence Culture Consortium's Weekly Update, an internal newsletter for affiliated researchers and corporate members of C3.

The word convergence is getting a lot of buzz. In fact, since I am a researcher for the Convergence Culture Consortium and the primary operator of its blog, I guess I am capitalizing on that buzz quite a bit myself, so this is no criticism of the convergence buzzword. We took our name from the book by the director of our research group, Henry Jenkins, entitled Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide.

All of us working within C3 wholeheartedly believe that, with the advent of new media forms and the potential for cross-platform and transmedia storytelling, that we truly are in a drastically altered media environment that both users and content producers are still plumbing and mapping out.

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Quoting and Piracy: How the Industry Lumps Together Two Very Different Activities

"It bothers me artistically. Here's this thing where you have no control; they are chopping it up and putting your memories in a blender." -Brian Grazer, producer of 8 Mile.

The quote above, taken from Laura M. Holson's fabulous New York Times article from Monday about Hollywood's response to YouTube, is in response to mash-ups of the Eminiem battle rap flick 8 Mile and the cultish hit Napoleon Dynamite, a video that, as of the writing of the article had received 60,000 hits but also the ire of the moviemakers whose clips were used. The plan now is to create the type of responses to YouTube mash-ups that will eliminate this quotability of their work.

The article addresses two sorts of behaviors of posting copyrighted material, one being short clips or mash-ups and the other being uploading whole chunks of the movie, so that one can watch each chunk and see the whole thing, as a user has done with 8 Mile. The trouble is, in order to resist setting the precedent to allow too active use of its copyrighted material, companies' responses have been to discredit the whole process and instead think of ways they can safely put content up on the Web, where they are in control.

However, these are two very different behaviors--one quoting from a pop culture source and the other just plopping a copy of that source up on the Web in full.

Continue reading "Quoting and Piracy: How the Industry Lumps Together Two Very Different Activities" »

"Less Hitty" Shows and the Cancellation of Passions

Recently, while I was at with fellow C3 researcher Ivan Askwith, we discussed the need for a shift in the economic models for television in general, particularly in how the life of a property is envisioned. I've written time and time again this fall and winter about the death of various shows that had developed a following but not up to the standards the industry wanted to see. Instead of switching those shows to a cable network to finish out their days or aim for profitability over time through DVD distribution, these shows were cancelled quickly for fear of not getting an immediate major profit from advertisers. This up-front, make-your-money-from-advertising model was the way television was structured before products had a shelf life beyond syndicated distribution, but the economic model is shifting now. The many ways products can live on through Internet distribution, mobile content, DVD distribution, video-on-demand, and a variety of other forms of cross-platform distribution means that television producers who are making shows are no longer producing one-time ephemeral content but rather a media property that could live on well into the future in various formats.

But the industry still isn't structured that way. If a show dips in ratings, it could quickly become yesterday's news, and it seems the shows are becoming even more drop happy at a time when the economic model should be shifting in the opposite direction. At the least, if a show is booted off the network, it could be finished off on one of the many cable networks these conglomerates own, or even just finished for DVD distribution . After all, a substantial number of fans have already invested in many of these shows, and they are angry when they are cancelled. And, who knows, the show may pick up a strong following to be launched back into broadcast. Instead, though, they cancel these shows before they even have the opportunity to build up enough episodes to launch onto DVD at all, and then they run fans off with getting them invested in a product, only to finish out the experience with having to read a synopsis of what would have happened the rest of the season, if the network had not decided to pull the plug.

No wonder fans don't want to invest in these shows. Investing in a show, especially a serialized one, is an obligation, and no fan wants to start listening to a story that people are just going to stop in the middle of. Nothing is more frustrating than that.

Continue reading ""Less Hitty" Shows and the Cancellation of Passions" »

January 18, 2007

New Statistics and Initiatives Meant to Revitalize Syndicated Programming's Relationship with Affiliates, Advertisers

Syndicated content may have a stronger connection with its audience, a new piece of advocacy research finds, while syndicators are striving to find new ways to reach a majority of Americans, including using broadband video to help hook new viewers.

The week has certainly been full of news for syndicated program producers, particularly with the release of a new study from the Syndicated Network Television Association that finds that the stars of syndicated shows have a more developed connection with their viewers than stars on corresponding network television series. The survey found reports of viewers claiming a higher degree of "trust" in the stars of syndicated programming and also found that those with digital video recorders were less likely to skip commercials while watching syndicated programing and also that the shows have higher same-day viewership on DVR than network viewers, with 95 percent of adults watching a show the same day it aired, while it takes up to four days after airing for 95 percent of DVR audiences to watch network shows. The statistics were for viewers 18-49.

Continue reading "New Statistics and Initiatives Meant to Revitalize Syndicated Programming's Relationship with Affiliates, Advertisers" »

Replacing Viewing Fees with Advertising Leads to Huge Growth in Web, Mobile Big Brother Views in UK

Are ad-supported models becoming the definite winner in terms of mobile content? Endemol UK has reported increasing its audience for mobile video clips of Big Brother in the United Kingdom when it started making the clips advertising supported instead of pay-per-download.

If last year's generated 100,000 paid downloads, my math skills inform me that it means the show has reached the million mark for the current season with free ad-supported video clips instead.

The discussion was part of the "Mobile ++ Conference" from the NATPE in Las Vegas. Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek reports that the show also received a significant boost in broadband downloads, jumping to 24 million downloads of ad-supported content, as opposed to 5,000 to 10,000 downloads of clips online in 2005.

Continue reading "Replacing Viewing Fees with Advertising Leads to Huge Growth in Web, Mobile Big Brother Views in UK" »

24/Sprint Deal Provides 24 with Ancillary Content, Sprint with Substantial Product Placement

A new mobile phone deal struck between Sprint and the hit television series 24 will bring episode previews to cell users, according to a deal announced a little over a week ago. After each episode airs on Monday night, clips from the next week's episode are made available for those who use the Sprint video services Sprint Power Vision or Sprint TV.

A variety of other planned cell activities will help promote the link with 24 as well including trivia games in which a prize will be offered--a trip to a Florida "covert ops" training camp.

In return for the deal, Sprint receives product placement, as Sprint products will appear on episodes of 24 throughout the season.

Continue reading "24/Sprint Deal Provides 24 with Ancillary Content, Sprint with Substantial Product Placement" »

"15 Seconds" of Fame Meaningful Use of User-Generated Content or "A Load of Crap"?

Will CBS' new initiative with YouTube get its 15 minutes of fame? The joint project, called "15 Seconds," asks users to submit 15-second inspirational clips into a contest in which the best videos will be shown on the CS broadcast networks throughout the season, with one to air on the network each quarter, probably as a commercial bumper leading back into a show or something of the sort.

The new plan got major press after it was mentioned by CBS President and CEO Les Moonves earlier this month at CES in Las Vegas and the first viewer video is set to air on Feb. 4, Super Bowl Sunday. With just one video per quarter picked to air on the network, the project is just a minor way to encourage the incorporation of user-generated content into the everyday presentation of CBS and provides a contest for YouTubers to get their work in front of a massive national broadcast audience.

In addition, other top videos will air on CBS.com every two weeks, providing cross-platform distribution of the winning YouTube videos. And the top videos from the CBS.com selections may make it up to the network, as MarketingVOX points out.

Continue reading ""15 Seconds" of Fame Meaningful Use of User-Generated Content or "A Load of Crap"?" »

January 15, 2007

Two New Products to Help Bridge Blu-Ray, HD-DVD War

One other major technology story coming out of last week is multiple plans for DVD players that help find a truce in those caught in the middle of the high-definition format war. Two companies have designed products that will help viewers find refuge in the middle of this industry technology war by being able to play both Blu-Ray and HD-DVD formats.

Warner Brothers Home Video are releasing a disc called "Total HD," which is actually encoded in both formats, while LG is promoting a dual HDTV player that it unveiled at the CES show last week in Las Vegas. The player, called Super Multi Blue, will retail at $1,199, so it's just as cheap to buy both players separately.

Continue reading "Two New Products to Help Bridge Blu-Ray, HD-DVD War" »

iPhone, Apple TV, and Social Networks for Switching Contracts

Of course, the big news of the end of the week that I have yet to focus on is the major announcement, or at least the one that's gotten major press, from Apple as to the new iPhone and Apple TV.

For those who haven't heard about the new products, the iPhone is a mobile phone that has video capability, with the screen being both touch-activated and a place to view video content. Meanwhile, Apple TV, is a wireless device that will link televisions to the Internet, which has been talked about since September, when it was called iTV.

Continue reading "iPhone, Apple TV, and Social Networks for Switching Contracts" »

January 14, 2007

Interactivity and Television Viewing Connected, While People Don't Know About 2009 Digital Deadline

Here's a pre-CES news story that I forgot to mention. CBS released the results of a new study which indicate that people who have a digital television and a broadband Internet connection are also the most likely people to watch the biggest of broadcast network television. In other words, connectivity is linked to viewing.

The study also indicates that this same segment that are connected with both technologies are likely to visit the Web sites for networks often and to stream clips or episodes on the Web in addition to their watching on the television. With the new Apple TV product, these two activities may be increasingly becoming blurred.

Perhaps not surprisingly, "These people tend to be upscale, better educated and more engaged with programs," according to the CBS study. However, I think an important caveat to also include is location, since I've written before about scores of Americans who have both the desire and the capital to have this degree of high connectivity but who are not currently being well-served by Internet providers.

Not to stray too far off subject, though. Connectivity is shown to have a link with primetime television viewing? David Poltrack was quoted by Jon Lafayette with TelevisionWeek as saying, "Consumers who embrace the new media are the heaviest viewers of the top network prime-time programs, and this sector of the audience is growing. By offering them new ways to connect to their favorite shows ... we're able to deepen the bond these fully connected viewers have with our programming."

However, not nearly as surprising to me is that the survey found that less than 30 percent of Americans are aware of the 2009 deadline for broadcasters to switch to a digital signal, but even half of those people who are unaware have already purchased a digital set, and another 30 percent plan to by 2009. According to the survey, 40 percent of those who were told about the upcoming change said they would upgrade to digital by 2009.

Continue reading "Interactivity and Television Viewing Connected, While People Don't Know About 2009 Digital Deadline" »

Implied Interactivity in Fan Site Toolkits

I recently wrote a newsletter piece on 'implied interactivity', i.e. decentralized forms of strategies involving the encouragement and indirect pre-structuring of user-generated content through structural properties of the media artifacts themselves.

An interesting case in point are toolkits, i.e. structured collections of materials to facilitate (and shape) the creation of fan sites. I will try to use the toolkit offered for the decent tactical shooter Close Combat - First to Fight (2005), a game focusing on and endorsed by the US Marines as 'brand' that is allegedly also used as training tool.

Continue reading "Implied Interactivity in Fan Site Toolkits" »

January 13, 2007

Metacafe Producer Rewards Program Successful, Despite Various User-Generated Challenges

According to Daisy Whitney with TelevisionWeek, video site Metacafe has announced that their Producer Rewards program which gives creators of video content $5 for every one thousand views of their content, has resulted in more than 27 million views thus far, driving traffic to the site while also creating a way to create revenue for video producers, giving an incentive both for creators to post their content there and for advertisers to pay more attention to the site.

Could this business model work as a permanent fixture? According to Metacafe, it already is showing signs of major success for content creators. They have reported that the top eight creators on their site, through the Producer Rewards program, have topped more than $10,000 each for their video content on the site, creating a lucrative return on the online videos in a two month span.

Whitney sites the Nielsen Net ratings as ranking Metacafe as "the 8th most viewed video site with about 2.6 million unique visitors per month."

Continue reading "Metacafe Producer Rewards Program Successful, Despite Various User-Generated Challenges" »

January 12, 2007

Burnett to Produce MTV Movie Awards Live

One of the big news stories swirling around the net is based on the announcement that Mark Burnett will take over the role of executive producer for this year's MTV Movie Awards.

The awards will be going live this year, with the idea that Burnett will bring an increased level of interactivity to an awards show that prides itself on being unpredictable and cutting edge but who some have implied have been lackluster in that regard in recent years.

Along with the Flash Gordon Sci Fi series I mentioned earlier today, the new version of the Movie Awards was announced as part of the Television Critics Association press tour.

Burnett has already said that his plans are to make the awards show both more off-the-cuff and more interactive, such as with the solicitation of user-generated content. The backstory is apparently that Burnett approached them with his ideas, felling a debt of gratitude to MTV for helping launch his career through Eco Challenge.

In the AP Story on the awards show, Burnett said, "They've become so well-produced that it doesn't feel as MTV as in the early days." With the ratings cut in half from 2003 to 2006 for the show, the hopes are that Burnett's reputation and ideas will propel the MTV Movie Awards back into a must-watch program.

Continue reading "Burnett to Produce MTV Movie Awards Live" »

Update: Flash Gordon Television Series Announced

Last weekend, I wrote about the fan communities that have kept some long-standing comic strips alive, including longtime hero Flash Gordon. Thanks to some of the readers over on Warren Ellis' site, I learned that rumor had it that Flash Gordon had a movie due soon through the Sci Fi Network.

Instead, Sci Fi announced their plans at the Television Critics Association press tour today, that the network would be launching a new Flash Gordon series instead of just a one-shot film.

The series, produced by Robert Haimi Sr. and Jr., already has a commitment of 22 hour-long episodes for the first season. The series was among several announced projects for the Sci Fi Network, which also has a Darren Star series under consideration about an under-the-radar government agency that covers high-tech crimes.

This has to come as a very pleasant surprise for Flash Gordon enthusiasts. In response to Ellis' post, Chris Arrant had written in the comments section, "The belief is that Sci-Fi will greenlight a 3 to 4 episode mini-series event that will serve as a back door pilot for the potential new series. So while no show runner has been brought aboard, negotiations are currently taking place."

The announcement, then, was for more than fans were expecting.

Continue reading "Update: Flash Gordon Television Series Announced" »

January 10, 2007

Net Neutrality Legislation Proposed Early on the Floor of the New Senate

Among all the big CES news this week, Tuesday also launched another major story: a push forward for net neutrality by the new Congress that just convened.

In the senate, a discussion has started about renewing talks of net neutrality, as a bipartisan effort to once again push for neutrality was introduced. Well, bipartisan in the fact that it was introduced by a Democrat and Republican senator, Olympia Snowe of Maine (Republican) and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota (Democrat). The senators who are co-sponsoring the legislation are all Democrats, including such heavy-hitters as John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama.

The argument centers on whether Internet service providers should have the option to charge higher fees for some sites as compared to others or privilege the connection speeds for certain sites. On the service providers' side, the argument against net neutrality is that some sites pull considerably more bandwidth for the type of data they contain, particularly video sites, while net neutrality would keep them from charging those groups higher fees for faster data speeds.

The debate has been over whether a lack of such neutrality would lead to discrimination in choosing one content provider over another, with proponents of net neutrality bringing up the potential drawbacks for the consumer who would be caught in the crossfire.

From a libertarian perspective, the whole debate produces an interesting dilemma. For service providers, laissez-faire logic says that government should stay out and that these groups should be able to make their own decisions regarding what to charge and what sites to privilege. However, another angle of libertarianism says that, in order to provide a free market for content providers on the Web, there has to be a neutral market in place. In this case, the bottom of the question is how to classify Internet service providers and their rights as compared to the rights of online businesses.

Called the Internet Freedom Preservation Act, the bill would prohibit activities that, as Sen. Dorgan said in a statement yesterday that has been quoted various places, would "fundamentally change the way the Internet has operated and threatens to derail the democratic nature of the Internet."

Continue reading "Net Neutrality Legislation Proposed Early on the Floor of the New Senate" »

Showtime's Upcoming Broadband Gaming Service

News broke late last week that Showtime, the network that has developed a reputation for interesting television shows in the past couple of years, are branching out even more, this time into the broadband gaming business. Showtime is a CBS property.

Plans were announced last Thursday for Showtime to launch On broadband Networks with Broadband Libraries, a gaming company. Plans are for the On Broadband Networks product to be branded separately from Showtime itself.

The gaming network is expected to launch later in January, joining C3 partner Turner Broadcasting's online subscription gaming channel GameTap.

Continue reading "Showtime's Upcoming Broadband Gaming Service" »

January 9, 2007

Is Serial Programming a Format or a Genre? Slippery Language in the Popular Press

The New York Times is the latest authority to chime in on the controversy of the Fall 2006 television lineup, as people still debate about complex television and the failure of some of the new shows this fall.

By this point, I find that so much of the negativity surrounding seriality has become the way the failure of these various shows have been covered in the popular press, particularly in considering serial programming a genre. That's the language used by reporter Edward Wyatt in this story. After first calling serial programming a "format," he later writes, "All of which has left some fans of the genre wondering whether it is worth committing to untested new serials, or better to wait and see if a new series will be around for more than a few weeks."

That raises an interesting question. Serial programming is not new. Maybe there is a particular bent of serial programming to this new format, but the idea of storylines that connect from week-to-week has helped drive narrative interest in some shows for a long time now. But, to me, the serial format is a mode of storytelling, not a genre of story, at least not in the sense television genres are usually discussed in.

What we have here is a question about genre and how it fits in with form versus content. The problem here in general is this discussion of a genre that seems to be failing to gain attention, but one source points out in the story that more shows in general are serialized this year and that the fact that some of them failed obscures the fact that most TV shows fail every year and that this is no more of a trend than usual. That source, Jeffrey D. Bader from ABC Entertainment pointed to the success of new series like Heroes on NBC, Jericho on CBS, and Brothers & Sisters on ABC as all shows who have a serial format and who are not just surviving but could be considered "working," in his language.

Continue reading "Is Serial Programming a Format or a Genre? Slippery Language in the Popular Press" »

New Study Reveals that 55 percent of 12-17s Are in an Online Social Network

According to a report released recently from the Pew Internet Group, available here, 55 percent of teenagers who are online from ages 12 to 17 are a member of an online social network. Not surprisingly, the numbers are higher among older teens than they are among younger children, and there is a stronger use of these sites among girls.

"For girls, social networking sites are primarily places to reinforce pre-existing friendships," a summary of the report stated. "For boys, the networks also provide opportunities for flirting and making new friends." While I think the idea to split these two very different activities along gender lines is a little dubious, I think the report does strike at the two very different functions of these online networks. Back in July, I wrote:

The truth is that MySpace is changing the ways in which people view community--on the one hand, people form virtual communities freed by geographic restraints, based on their own personalities or interests; on the other hand, people who no longer live in an area can stay connected to the people in their hometown or former residence to a degree that's never before been possible.

While these teens may or may not have moved from place-to-place, this division points at the two main drives of a social network--bolstering current relationships and trying to create new ones. The latter is what has been more often touted as the abilities of the Web, with that lonely teen who is trapped in a local culture that makes them an outsider but who finds a vibrant virtual community that doesn't think her or his interests make them a freak. There has increasingly been attention given to those people, though, who go home after school and start writing with other friends.

Continue reading "New Study Reveals that 55 percent of 12-17s Are in an Online Social Network" »

DirecTV Leads Announcement of a Variety of New HD Channels

Yesterday, I point out recent reports that high-definition television sales were soaring. Now comes word that a whole other line of networks are ready to launch their high-definition version of the network, offering a variety of new entertainment options for those new set owners.

Everyone who pays attention to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) were likely not surprised that there were plans to unroll a variety of these services in the coming year. The announcement was first made at CES by DirecTV, as an announcement promised that 60 cable networks would be launching HD offerings. The networks include NBC-Universal's USA Network and Sci Fi Network, and CNN and TBS, both owned by C3 partner Turner Broadcasting, as well as Fox's FX and MTV, a member network of C3 partner MTV Networks.

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January 8, 2007

HDTV Sales Soaring as Prices Lower

According to the latest statistics on the sales of high-definition television sets, there was a great surge in purchases for the final quarter of 2006, facilitated in part by the drop in cost for units over the holiday period. While this only meant modest improvements for profits for the companies involved, it's an indication of a significant upswing in interest in HDTV sets.

The Quixel study revealed the upswing in HDTV sales, revealing both that more than twice as many high-definition sets were purchased this Christmas season than the same time last year. Also, LCD sets continue to sell more than plasma, in fact twice as much.

Continue reading "HDTV Sales Soaring as Prices Lower" »

January 7, 2007

What Are the Most Popular Hits for "Fan Community?"

How do you measure who the most avid fan community is? Well, to turn the question around a little bit, which fan community do people seek out the most? That was my initial project last January when I wrote a blurb for the C3 Weekly Update asking about the popularity of fan communities themselves. Looking back at that question now, I have found that a few things have changed yet others have not.

In order to find the answer to this question, I am going to enlist the help of one of our partners here in the Convergence Culture Consortium, Yahoo! Well, actually, I'm just using the search engine in this case. And, for the sake of balance, I'm also going to check Google to see what it finds is the top page for a Web search of "fan community."

When I conducted this experiment last year, I joked about how there might be a page from some major conglomerate media property which was trying to create a space for the fan community surrounding that property, or else a picture of Henry Jenkins or some of the other great scholars here in C3 who have engaged in fan studies at one point or another. Instead, I found the Web site for the Glasgow-based alternative rock band Franz Ferdinand was the top hit on Google for "fan community." I will have to say that I'm shocked, but it shows that music communities in particular have appropriated the language "fan community" into its very fiber, especially based on the celebrity involved with individual vocal performers or bands.

Number two on the list last year? The Artist Currently Known as Prince!

Continue reading "What Are the Most Popular Hits for "Fan Community?"" »

Merging WB and UPN into the CW Network: What Did the Fans Have to Say?

For my final look back at some of our early work from the C3 Weekly Updates internal newsletter and where we are now this weekend, I was interested in revisiting this piece I wrote in the first quarter of last year about the formation of the CW Network and what it might mean for the shows then airing on UPN and The WB. I looked in particular to see which shows seemed to have more ardent online followings than others based on fan sites surrounding the media properties and fan discussion groups that I could find that were explicitly for fans of that show.

Writing just days after the announcement that WB and UPN would be merged, I wrote that "fan communities surrounding the various WB and UPN shows have begun writing, wondering what these changes could mean for their shows, whether they will make the cut, and the potential benefits for the amalgamated network if their shows do make it onto the CW.

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These Fans Will Follow You...Through Rain and Sleet and Snow and...

don't know if there are very many readers who simultaneously read my posts here on the C3 site and also my column "From Beaver Dam to Boston," in the small weekly Kentucky newspaper The Ohio County Times-News, but, if you are one of those Times-News readers, then you aren't surprised to know my aversion to the U.S. Postal Service. Between a month's worth of my mail being lost when I went back to Kentucky to work as a journalist this summer and the impossible time I had afterward trying to locate that missing mail and start getting mail forwarded to me, I find the post office to often be inefficient and frustrating. Now, I've never blamed the workers but rather the organization of the system as a whole, yet it's a system that's hard to avoid.

When I looked back to the various early short pieces I wrote for the C3 Weekly Update internal newsletter, however, I was interested to find that I had written about the rather surprising number of online fan expressions for this bureaucratic government monopoly, the USPS. Last February, I wrote about this online fan community for the postal service and my surprise to find fan sites or fan posts dedicated to their delivery services.

Continue reading "These Fans Will Follow You...Through Rain and Sleet and Snow and..." »

January 6, 2007

(Not) Interesting Brand Communities? Fans of the Quotidian

To revisit another piece I wrote for the C3 Weekly Update (the initial piece appeared in our internal newsletter last February), I am interested in the variety of fan sites dedicated to the more commonplace brands and the brand communities that follow around them. While affiliated researcher Rob Kozinets has written at length about brand communities, including some communities that form around the content and products of yesteryear, and affiliated researcher Grant McCracken has encouraged brand managers to encourage greater fan involvement in what may seem some of the most static brands around (such as Mr. Clean), these sites are examples of fans attaching to the most everyday of brands and forming celebratory sites on their own, without explicit coaxing from the company who manages the brand itself.

It may not be surprising that brands like Nike or Abercrombie & Fitch have had semi-religious online followings because they aim to incorporate a whole lifestyle around the products they sell. Nevertheless, there are a lot of other brands which have reached what Grant McCracken would call the commodity basement (not to be confused with my concept of the bottom of the branding barrel), where brands become commodity goods rather than distinguished branded goods. In these cases, however, these commodity goods have fan followings, some for comedy and irony but all celebratory of these brands. These are everyday products that have sometimes ardent fan followings online, extending far beyond Coca-Cola and Starbucks and Apple and Harley-Davidson.

Continue reading "(Not) Interesting Brand Communities? Fans of the Quotidian" »

No Actor Left Behind: On Vincent Schiavelli's Legacy Page and Paul Lynde Fan Sites

At this time last year, in our Jan. 06, 2006, newsletter, I focused on two deceased actors who I had recently seen expressions of fan support for that honestly surprised me. My interest in this article was rekindled when I saw one of these two actors yesterday, actually when I was watching some episodes from the second season of Bewitched, which I have on DVD. These two actors, both famous for playing particularly quirky supporting characters, are just the type of character actors who would be much less expected to garner quite as ardent a fan following, but, in both cases, I was struck about just how vocal their fans could be.

Continue reading "No Actor Left Behind: On Vincent Schiavelli's Legacy Page and Paul Lynde Fan Sites" »

Fan Followings for the Comic Strips of Yesteryear

This weekend, I plan to write a series of posts based on work I did about a year ago for the Convergence Culture Consortium internal weekly updated. Circulated among affiliated faculty and corporate partners, as well as all of the C3 team here at MIT, the weekly update is one of the perks of being an affiliated researcher or a corporate member of the Convergence Culture Consortium.

When the internal newsletter first launched, I wrote a series of articles looking at some rather unique examples of online fan communities, including fan communities based on historical comic strips. These fan communities have helped keep characters alive and act as historians of sorts. Some of these projects are explicitly based on archiving for historical purposes, while others are more explicitly fans expressing their lovemarks for these strips that have long since stopped producing new work.

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January 4, 2007

Dirt/Pontiac Further FX Model of Sponsors for Premiere Episodes

I mentioned yesterday that I had another thought about the Dirt season premiere to mention today.

FX has yet again relied on the sponsorship model that we have discussed previously with Nip/Tuck on Dirt Tuesday night. The new weekly drama, starring Courtney Cox and focusing on the life of the editor for two popular L.A.-based tabloids, was presented commercial free with only a short message at the beginning of the end about the sponsor of the show, Pontiac, who was providing this episode without commercial interruption.

I first focused on this model for FX in September 2005, when the season premiere of Nip/Tuck was 30 minutes longer and sponsored by Sony Pictures, with the only commercial interruptions being a few previews during the show for trailers for upcoming Sony releases.

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Henry Jenkins on Congress, MySpace, and DOPA

In yesterday's post about filling in the niches around YouTube censorship and the many companies that are launching services that try to take advantage of the content YouTube is rejecting, we made reference to Henry Jenkins' work on MySpace.

I wanted to point out Jenkins' piece that appeared in last Sunday's Boston Globe as well, listed in the category of "Hidden in Plain Sight: Unsung Developments of 2006." Jenkins' focus is about the congressional response to the growing popularity of sites like MySpace and the introduction of the Deleting Online Predators Act, acronym DOPA. The program "would prohibit schools and public libraries that receive federal funds from allowing youth access to social network, chat, and blogging sites -- most notably MySpace."

The bill has already passed the house in a vote of 410-15 and is now going through the Senate, but Jenkins points out that organizations like the American Library Association opposes the move because it would put severe restrictions on educational resources. "Rather than abandoning youth to face MySpace's perceived dangers on their own, trained educators could help students use social network sites safely," he writes.

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Localization in Video Games in The Escapist

The December 26 issue of the online weekly video game magazine The Escapist has an intriguing article that ties in to our research on cross-cultural products and the transnational flow of media properties, particularly the ways in which fans are explicitly aware--and even energized--by the fact that these media forms are transnational. Particularly, this article--called "Local Hero"--focuses on the localization process in the video games industry.

Gearoid Reidy's piece begins by comparing video game fans and the gaming industry with that of the film industry, pointing out the many differences in the localization process for games and that for movies and the very different reception for products from a different culture. Two reasons for this--the first is that there is simply a greater market for playing games that come from other cultures, particularly Japan, because Japan has long been a leader in game development. And, second, the process of localization for games is much more immersive than that for films, so that the product is transformed to be uniquely American, while still holding some authenticity from the source game, by the end of the localization process.

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January 3, 2007

Online Intern Contest Providing Extension for The Apprentice

A new online contest will partner Yahoo! with the popular NBC reality show The Apprentice, which is set to debut this month in its sixth season with another contest pitting young and hungry business folks against each other for a final nod of approval from The Donald.

The popular online site will feature a game called The Intern, starting on Sunday. Each week, through The Intern, fans will get the chance to come to Yahoo! and predict what will happen on the next installment of the NBC show. But where does it get the "Intern" title? The eventual contest winner will get the chance to be an intern to the Apprentice winner for two weeks after that new apprentice has started their new job with Trump.

The apprentice and the intern. Definitely a clever idea that feels like an organic contest. It creates an incentive for watching and gives a tangible prize at the end of the contest that makes sense within the framework of the show. However, I don't know how strongly Yahoo! is putting the tools in place for a communicative space for the fan community around the contest, as it seems to make sense that Yahoo! would want to make its game a connected part of the online fan community for The Apprentice.

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Boston Globe Summary of 2006 and Complex Television

Regular C3 blog reader Lynn Liccardo forwarded me an article from Sunday's Boston Globe that focuses on the trajectory of the fall television season now that we are moving into the second half of the television year. Author Matthew Gilbert gives an admirable quick glance at the television industry and where various networks stand in regard to serial program.

The piece discusses both the failures of many of the complex television shows to connect with audiences this fall, particularly because of the launch of too many of them and hints at the need for new business models that take into account more than just the initial broadcast of the shows, as we've been discussing for some time. Look here, here, and here for previous C3 discussions about this issue, and look here for Jason Mittell's piece about The Nine and "unmotivated complexity," as well as my response.

Gilbert calls the year "an embarrassment of riches" for viewers, writing:

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Video Sharing Sites Filling In Niches Around YouTube Censorship

Yesterday's New York Times featured an interesting piece about the video sharing and streaming sites that are making a name for themselves by lowering the safeguards that YouTube has put up in various ways.

The piece, by Brad Stone, looks at sites like Stickam, LiveLeak, and Dailymotion and explains both the niche that these sites intend to fill as well as the industry and parental concerns about the services these sites provide. Each provide an interesting method of looking at both the legitimate problems of video sharing online but also the way that child safety discussions often obscure some of the valuable aspects of these sites as well. Trying to wade through and distinguish the hyperbole and reactionary thinking from the legitimate safety concerns for users is key in understanding which of these sites provide potential long-term business models for counteracting the popularity of YouTube and MySpace's video features. The three sites share a lack of policing by employees that set them apart from the now corporate YouTube and MySpace.

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