August 31, 2007

NBC Acquires Sparrowhawk: Conglomeration Marches On, But Where's the Brand Going? (2 of 2)

So, what's NBC to do, in light of what I wrote about earlier today?

The domestic and international markets are crowded with American programming, which is incredibly diverse. Even though NBC is the oldest American network, it did not enjoy a monopoly on American popular culture on television as the BBC did for many years, making an overall brand building exercise easier.

At the same time, NBC grew much more like the BBC, with interests in network TV and radio with a bigger and more general audience than Turner networks had, at least initially. As such, it is caught in an interesting situation: build out the overall brand, or concentrate on known "sub-brands" as it expands internationally.

Continue reading "NBC Acquires Sparrowhawk: Conglomeration Marches On, But Where's the Brand Going? (2 of 2)" »

NBC Acquires Sparrowhawk: Conglomeration Marches On, But Where's the Brand Going? (1 of 2)

Yesterday NBC Universal announced that it acquired Sparrowhawk Holdings, a global portfolio of cable television channels that will give NBCU a greater presence in markets in the US, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East with the Hallmark Channel.

Although the exact amount of money changing hands was not disclosed, one report put the figure around 175 million pounds, or just under $353 million. As you may have read in my post earlier this month about New Site, the joint venture between NBC and FOX to create a legal aggregator video streaming site for their content, Providence Equity Partners also has a 10% stake, worth about $100 million, in that project as well.

Why is this significant?

Continue reading "NBC Acquires Sparrowhawk: Conglomeration Marches On, But Where's the Brand Going? (1 of 2)" »

August 29, 2007

The West Side: An Interview with the Creators (3 of 4)

Here is the third part of the inteview with The West Side creators Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo and Zachary Lieberman that ran in our internal C3 Weekly Update newsletter last weekend. I am posting the interview sections here on the C3 blog a week after they run in our newsletter. You can see the first part of this interview here and the second part here.

JM: What drew you specifically to the serialized format? And how much in advance have you produced & scripted? Is there room for change in the story and style based on feedback, or do you feel pretty locked in to your vision of where it's going?

ZL: We spent a long time in preproduction. We thought a lot about the themes we wanted to explore and went through several major rewrites. It was pretty painful sometimes, but we always made the decision to go back and rewrite when something didn't feel right, which retrospectively was always the right decision. I say always because it happened more than we'd probably like to admit; we took a lot of time to craft our ideas and to really pare them down to the best they could be.

Continue reading "The West Side: An Interview with the Creators (3 of 4)" »

August 28, 2007

AOL Truveo Developing a Reputation in Online Video Search

As the growth in online video proliferates, despite some people's unsatisfactory experiences with downloading as mentioned here, video search becomes a more and more important function. With powerhouses like Google providing less-than-satisfactory results for video search, there is a gap in the field that several companies have been looking to fill.

Of late, most of the attention has been going to AOL's Truveo. Truveo, which has been powering a variety of online video sites with search functions, has now relaunched as its own more boldly branded site, hoping to fill the dearth of reliable online video search options by putting greater emphasis on its presence in online video search.

Continue reading "AOL Truveo Developing a Reputation in Online Video Search" »

Survey Says Downloading Video an Unsatisfactory Experience

Sure it's cool, but will the general population do it? That's the question that a recent survey asked about consumption of online video. And this particular study found that a wide variety of those who said they had downloaded online video didn't really plan to do it again in the future.

According to the Parks Associates study, only one out of every five Americans who have downloaded video plan to do it again, according to their sample. Their analysis points to the fact that there are a lot of technological barriers in place that impede viewers from getting an enjoyable experience from online video. The lag in download time, lower-quality video, smaller screen sizes for those who don't have the technology to easily transport the video to their television sets, selection of what's commercially available, and a variety of other issues are among the problems people have with online video.

There are a variety of issues to keep in mind. Internet connection is a major one. I don't have details on Parks Associates' study, but one would think that a study of places in which higher-speed Internet connectivity is less prevalent probably makes those who have tried downloading video particularly frustrated.

Continue reading "Survey Says Downloading Video an Unsatisfactory Experience" »

August 27, 2007

YouTube Creates New Ad Models as Viacom Woes Move Forward

A little bit of interesting wrap-up on the YouTube front as well, based on some unfolding stories throughout the month. I was interested in the continuing fallout from the Viacom/Google lawsuit based around YouTube, as I've blogged about several times.

When I first wrote about the topic, I was concerned with the ways in which the community of YouTube was getting lost in the corporate structure for the business model as the lawsuit moved on, with no distinguishing between YouTube the group of users and YouTube the business. I wrote, "What's missing is the fact that YouTube is not the entity posting this content--it's the fans, fans who see quoting from these shows and sharing their favorite moments with each other as part of expressing their love for these programs." See more here, here, and here.

Continue reading "YouTube Creates New Ad Models as Viacom Woes Move Forward" »

C3 Team's Look at Fan Studies, Spock, Peer-to-Peer Ads, Consumption Studies

It's Monday afternoon, and I wanted to start our round of posts this week by pointing the way toward some work that some of our Consulting Researchers have been doing of late.

Over at Henry Jenkins' blog, there have been some posts of interest. First, Aswin Punathambekar, one of our Consulting Researchers, recently did a round with Nancy Baym (whose work at Online Fandom we have referenced here on the blog on many different occasions), in the ongoing Gender and Fan Studies conversation that has been occurring throughout the summer. To see the two rounds of their discussion, look here and here.

Continue reading "C3 Team's Look at Fan Studies, Spock, Peer-to-Peer Ads, Consumption Studies" »

August 26, 2007


If anyone is going to be in Portland on the 6th and 7th of September, I'll be speaking at inVerge: The Interactive Convergence Conference at the Gerding Theater. The conference gathers an interesting group of people together, including Jeff Yapp of MTV Networks, Catherine Ogilvie, of Edelman, and long time friend of the Consortium, Mark Deuze. Portland looks like it will be jumping, as there are a three other events taking place over those days, and the conference itself looks like it will be a sustaining and thought provoking event. Click the link for an overview of my presentation, which explores many of the principles we're exploring this year, and drop me a line if you'll be in town.

Continue reading "inVerge" »

August 23, 2007

Surplus Audiences, ATWT, and the Luke/Noah Kiss

Those who follow the blog even with casual interest probably know that the world of soap opera is the site of a significant amount of my research and writing. I'm currently in the early stages of preparing a course here at MIT in the spring on soap operas, and my Master's thesis work was on the subject as well.

I'm also really interested in the topic of surplus audiences, those that rest outside the "target demographic" but who still create a valid and significant audience portion. The fact that pro wrestling is sometimes among the most popular content for young adult women, according to some numbers I've seen, or that 25 percent of gamers are over 50, as I wrote about earlier today, are key examples of this.

Perhaps most interesting to me, then, is male soap opera fans, a group I fit into. There are many male soap opera fans, and that's nothing new, but soaps have always been about the 18-49 female demo. Some have gone so far as to say that anyone else simply doesn't matter or doesn't exist, since that's not who shows are selling to advertisers.

Continue reading "Surplus Audiences, ATWT, and the Luke/Noah Kiss" »

Free Market and Copyright

Another piece that I wanted to make it a point to respond to in my flurry of blog updates today comes from Steven Lipscomb. For those of you not familiar with Lipscomb, he is the founder, CEO, and Director of the World Poker Tour, whose content my friend John Morris is addicted to, including buying it on PPV.

Lipscomb wrote a recent commentary on the TelevisionWeek blog, pointing out how China demonstrates the future of capitalism because it enforces the rules of the market better than the United States.

The paragraph that caught my eye in particular? "Free market advocates should agree with this proposition. Either we abandon things like copyright ownership entirely... or we enforce it. Today we have a system that rewards the cheaters and discourages ethical behavior. That simply cannot be the capitalist system we desire."

Continue reading "Free Market and Copyright" »

Externally Located Content

Geoffrey Long sent me a link not too long ago to a really interesting post from Jeffrey Zeldman, a designer and writer. The point? What he calls "externally located" content.

Really, much of what C3 writes about is "externally located content." We are interested in the ways in which technology has allowed for and new conceptions of the audience have acknowledged that viewers can make quite deep connections for and with their content, that the linking among cultural content provides much of its value.

Of course, the blogosphere is the best illustration os this viewpoint, in which value is gained simply by being able to call easy reference to a wealth of prior material. And this leads to a wide variety of content which is purposefully culturally located, fixing to particular ideas and sensibility of the time.

Continue reading "Externally Located Content" »

Gender Biases in the Political Blogosphere?

Is there a male bias in the blogosphere? Many people would say that, when looking at political blogs in particular, that question would be akin to wondering whether there is any evidence of global warming or not.

There was an interesting Boston Globe commentary that my thesis advisor Lynn Liccardo sent to me earlier this month, about how the vast majority of political bloggers--especially the prominent ones--were male. She was interested in knowing what Henry and I thought, if we had seen the article, since so much of our work deals on participatory culture and the way that new technologies are changing dynamics.

But I think these are very real issues to discuss. The piece, by Ellen Goodman, posits a variety of possibilities: that males interested in politics have entrenched networks that help them get more visibility, more gigs in the traditional media, etc.

Continue reading "Gender Biases in the Political Blogosphere?" »

WWE Going to HD on The CW?

More news has surfaced regarding the move of professional wrestling to high-definition, something that has interested me and that I've written about here a few times in the past few months.

World Wrestling Entertainment has been among the top rated shows on the three channels that its three brands air: USA Network, the Sci Fi Channel, and The CW Network. The company has been toying with a transfer to high-definition for some time, but this culminated with the decision by the CW Network to move to broadcasting in all HD.

At first, it looked as if wrestling would be left out of the picture. As Richard Lawler writes, the CW announced that all its other shows would be going HD at the launch of the new TV season, aside from its Friday evening wrestling programming.

However, word is circulating now that WWE will make the transition to high-definition in January.

Continue reading "WWE Going to HD on The CW?" »

Wii and AARP: Another Example of Surplus Fans

As some blog readers may know and those within C3 who follow my work more in-depth, I am quite interested in surplus audiences. For anyone interested in my thesis work on soap opera fandom, you will see that come out even more. (A copy of my thesis is available here; thanks for the plug, Boing Boing.)

My work has focused in the past on female fans of professional wrestling, for instance, or in my thesis work on male viewers of soaps, or viewers over the age of the target demographic. No matter what the lies of target demos might tell us, these people still add significant value to the properties and often are engaged consumers/fans.

C3 Alum Geoffrey Long sent me this piece a little while back on Wii players 50 and older.

Continue reading "Wii and AARP: Another Example of Surplus Fans" »

Lonelygirl15 and Advertising Models

In trying to push forward with some much-needed updates to the blog this week, something else caught my eye: Kimberly D. Williams' in-depth article from Advertising Age on the season finale of Lonelygirl. The article is not openly available from Ad Age, but TelevisionWeek has the story available here.

Don't click on the article, though, if you don't want to read spoilers, because they give away a pretty big chunk of information on the online video series. Guess they aren't quite as sensitive to the spoiler issues we've been discussing here recently. If you missed it, see our posting from last month on the Harry Potter book spoiler controversy here and here.

Continue reading "Lonelygirl15 and Advertising Models" »

Moving Forward in Preparing for Digital Deadline

Looks like we've made one step forward in the planned digital deadline, the switch from analog broadcasting signals to digital television broadcasting in February 2009. That comes with the recent naming of IBM as the outsourced group in control of the coupon program the federal government will institute to help pay for converter boxes which will translate digital signals to be read by the analog televisions.

According to Ira Teinowitz's recent report on the decision, the National Telecommunications Information Administration awarded "IBM a contract worth up to $120 million. IBM will design a Web site, phone center and fulfillment procedures to track the issuing and redemption of the $40 coupons the government is offering to households without cable."

The converter boxes are expected to cost a maximum of $70, while the coupons will be for $40 off.

Continue reading "Moving Forward in Preparing for Digital Deadline" »

August 20, 2007

Checking Out Their Alibis: Do Viewers Remember What They've Seen?

Sometimes, you have news you just really don't want to report. That's probably how Nielsen feels about its engagement panel. In short, Nielsen was interviewing folks who formerly participated as Nielsen households about their television viewing. When news started circulating about the Nielsen engagement panel earlier this month, the result was that a great number of the 918 people they had interviewed so far not only couldn't name advertising they had seen while serving as a Nielsen household but television programs as well.

According to a story from MediaPost's MediaDailyNews by Joe Mandese, only a third of those interviewed could recall a television commercial, and 21 percent of viewers could not "correctly recall" at least one TV show they had viewed. The reason it is titled "correctly" is that the interviews were then compared to their viewer data, as some of those who named a show they had watched had not--in fact--watched it, or at least not in their home on a television being monitored by Nielsen. They are going to be comparing those who claim they could remember a commercial with the commercials they actually watched from the Nielsen tracking data.

Continue reading "Checking Out Their Alibis: Do Viewers Remember What They've Seen?" »

MTVN, Second-by-Second Measurement, and Accountability

A few interesting stories have came out in the past couple of weeks relating to shifting advertising structures. First, for those who love the idea of quantifying things down to the nth degree, you might be interested in the story that circulated earlier this month about MTVN's decision to break viewership down to "second-by-second" measurement.

As you all know, MTV Networks is a partner in the Convergence Culture Consortium, so we like to think that might be evidence that they are interested in reconceptualizing the way the industry works, since much of the work we do is about understanding new ways of organizing the system, new ways to tell stories, and new ways to understand, interact with, and respect viewers. Second-by-second measurements are intended to create really deep ways of understanding viewership patterns, partiuclarly during advertising breaks.

Continue reading "MTVN, Second-by-Second Measurement, and Accountability" »

The West Side: An Interview with the Creators (2 of 4)

Here is the second part of the inteview with The West Side creators Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo and Zachary Lieberman that ran in our internal C3 Weekly Update newsletter last weekend. I am posting the interview sections here on the C3 blog a week after they run in our newsletter. You can see the first part of this interview here.

JM: So why an "urban western?" What brought you to that genre mixture, and where there specific films, programs, or other media that inspired you to try to create such a fictional world? The threads of influence that I see weaving through the project are The Wire (in part because I know Ryan's devotion to the series), early Spike Lee, Firefly, and of course classic John Ford/Howard Hawks/spaghetti Western films. What else helped shape your aesthetic?

RBK: Zack had been talking about writing a Western--I'll let him talk about his influences there--and I'd had an idea in college for a thesis on "hip-hop as the new American Western." In terms of ownership of property, personal freedom, living by the gun, disregard of the law, etc., I felt that hip-hop's relationship with American culture today was very similar to that of the Western fifty years ago (or thirty years ago with the Spaghetti Western). I never wrote that thesis--I wasn't alive during either of those eras anyway, so I couldn't really speak to the cultural climate--but once Zack and I started talking about internet video and Westerns, the idea came right back.

Continue reading "The West Side: An Interview with the Creators (2 of 4)" »

August 17, 2007

The West Side: An Interview with the Creators (1 of 4)

This July, Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo and Zachary Lieberman launched an ambitious online serialized film called The West Side here. Rather than trying to generate attention on YouTube, these two young filmmakers, who met at their day jobs at MTV, are trying to offer something distinctive on their own terms, creating a visually rich and leisurely-paced genre mixture of the urban Western. The first episode has been up for around a month, and due to some technical challenges of no-budget filmmaking, the next episode won't be out for a few weeks.

To fill the gap, I conducted an online interview with Ryan, who is a former student of mine, and Zack, discussing how they see their project fitting into the online video moment and broader possibilities of independent filmmaking. The filmmakers speak to many of the issues surrounding convergent media--serialized storytelling, innovative distribution strategies, viral promotion--but places them within the context of ambitious creators trying to make something new rather than make a quick splash. Be sure watch the first episode to get a sense of the project and their combination of ambition and imagination - and keep an eye on these emerging filmmakers!

I am running four weekly installments of the interview in the Consortium's C3 Weekly Update, but I thought I would put the interview segments here after they appear in the newsletter as well.

Continue reading "The West Side: An Interview with the Creators (1 of 4)" »

August 16, 2007

New Site: To Aggregate or Not to Aggregate? (4 of 4)

Why partner with FOX, a competing network with weaker web traffic, but consistently strong TV ratings, particularly for reality programs? It may be partly circumstantial; Viacom was originally in talks to join "new site", but pulled out and brought the $1 billion suit against YouTube.

As the Times article mentioned in the first part of this series cited , it may make the project more palatable for the giant conglomerates behind the media companies to be partnered with another conglomerate and an equity firm. But it also signals a willingness of traditional rivals to work together in digital distribution, perhaps a sign of consensus on how concerned the industry is for its long-term health.

To aggregate or not to aggregate? Producers know that content has a way of appearing on the web, whether or not they intend it to be there, as demonstrated by the recent discovery of new pilots circulating on the torrents, and that people want to access content online quickly and conveniently.

Continue reading "New Site: To Aggregate or Not to Aggregate? (4 of 4)" »

New Site: To Aggregate or Not to Aggregate? (3 of 4)

So, what could all of this mean in terms of strategy for NBC? I think the removal of Heroes from the site is a somewhat misguided attempt to get people to buy the DVDs or go to iTunes, when putting them online free of charge weeks before the fall lineup premiers might actually encourage people to join the series in season two and help the programs ratings and following in the longer term.

And people who really want to watch Heroes may now turn to the torrents. A recent study found that most Americans don't like downloading video, so the actions with Heroes may also be a bid to get people who would have watched online in the habit of paying for content directly.

Continue reading "New Site: To Aggregate or Not to Aggregate? (3 of 4)" »

New Site: To Aggregate or Not to Aggregate? (2 of 4)

"New site" may not be a YouTube killer. However, there are two problems facing the networks, in my opinion, that are bigger than YouTube, two-fold, and relate back to an essay I wrote earlier this year about network television branding.

The first problem is that the way that consumer habits and technology have evolved have pushed content advertising to a variety of sources, on-and-off-line.

NBC, which I will focus on because it has a strong network-branded online presence, cross-promotes and airs programs on its cable networks (USA, Bravo, Sci Fi), and has agreements with iTunes, YouTube, MSN and AOL and sells programs on DVD, which are also circulated through Netflix. (See this story from Jon Lafayette in TelevisionWeek last September.)

Continue reading "New Site: To Aggregate or Not to Aggregate? (2 of 4)" »

New Site: To Aggregate or Not to Aggregate? (1 of 4)

"New Site" is not new. The joint, billion-dollar, working-titled venture between NBC Universal and News Corp. was announced almost six months ago. Late last week, however, The New York Times reported that Providence Equity Partners, a "media investment firm," bought a 10% stake in "new site" for $100 million.

In the next four posts, I will first do a quick analysis of NBC's current distribution strategy, then look at each of the two problems facing the networks, and finally examine why NBC has partnered with FOX to ultimately address the question: "To Aggregate or not to aggregate?"

So, why is NBC, which already has a popular network website partnering with FOX, which doesn't, to spend $1 billion (now effectively $900m) on "new site," and why is Providence contributing $100 million dollars to the effort?

Continue reading "New Site: To Aggregate or Not to Aggregate? (1 of 4)" »

C3 Team: DRM, Hypermasculine Soaps, and Gender and Fan Studies

In addition to all that we've been covering here on the Convergence Culture Consortium blog, there have been some interesting pieces written recently on the blogs of some of our consulting researchers as well that I'd like to point the way toward.

First is a recent post from C3 Consulting Researcher Rob Kozinets, over at Brandthroposophy, his blog on "marketing, media, and technoculture." In a post entitled What Does DRM Really Stand For? Whack-a-Mole!, Kozinets thinks back to a conversation with an executive from the music industry in a class he taught back in 1999, talking about early MP3 players, and his own conversations with students over the years about file sharing and digital rights management, for both music and movies. He concludes that "entertainment companies haven't even come close to getting it. When they do, they'll learn to work with the trends and not against them. That's going to be an interesting day."

Continue reading "C3 Team: DRM, Hypermasculine Soaps, and Gender and Fan Studies" »

August 15, 2007

NBC's Didja To Launch Alongside the New Site

Tomorrow, Eleanor Baird will be providing an in-depth look at NBC's current repositioning of its online content, through its launch of the New Site venture in particular. I wanted to preface that earlier today by pointing toward what we've written about previously regarding New Site, as well as pointing out another new venture launched by NBC that has been getting some press lately.

That new venture is an online channel made up entirely of advertising, where the ads are not just something to support the content, but content themselves. Our partners over at Turner Broadcasting were trendsetters in this regard, with their channel focuses particularly on humorous commercials called Very Funny Ads.

Continue reading "NBC's Didja To Launch Alongside the New Site" »

C3 Updates: Flash Gordon, ATWT Inturn, and Ten Day Take

Hope the C3 readers got something valuable out of the interview with Parry Aftab. It's Wednesday morning now, and I wanted to update everyone on a few extensions of issues we've been following here at the C3 blog over the past year.

1.) Flash Gordon. I first wrote about Flash Gordon in a post from January on fan communities based on historical comic strips, such as Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon, as well as the historical Yellow Kid of much older fame. Some fans wrote in response to me, questioning whether Tracy and Gordon could really be considered historical properties, and the scope of this changed when I learned through Warren Ellis' blog that Sci Fi was planning on making a television movie featuring Gordon.

Continue reading "C3 Updates: Flash Gordon, ATWT Inturn, and Ten Day Take" »

August 12, 2007

An Interview with Parry Aftab (4 of 4)

This is the final part of the four-part series featuring an interview with WiredSafety's Parry Aftab.

Sam Ford: If the government's involvement is limited, what are your views on how to manage self-regulation?

Parry Aftab: The industry needs to do a lot of self-regulation because they have the power to respond quickly and create standards that will be enforced. Further, they should want to, because their insurance and banks and venture capitalists will expect them to answer to these questions when these social networking companies start getting popular. That's just good business to be prepared for these safety issues. Whenever the business environment require the companies involved to be smarter and more careful, I am always for self-regulations. I think MySpace had the best of intentions, and we worked with them for free. A lot of people are safer because we did that. The key to keep in mind is that these companies, for the most part, will do the right thing and the safe thing. No one wants to have something terrible happen through their site, and the people who work for these companies are often parents themselves, and we've all been kids ourselves once. A lot of what needs to be done for safety really are simple things these companies can do, simpler than many people think.

Continue reading "An Interview with Parry Aftab (4 of 4)" »

An Interview with Parry Aftab (3 of 4)

This is the third part of a four-part series with Parry Aftab, the Executive Director of the WiredSafety organization.

Sam Ford: Are you still working with MySpace?

Parry Aftab: When Rupert Murdoch took over MySpace, everything was put on hold with everyone for about 10 months while they were tring to figure out what to do. I personally wasn't very pleased with the company's responsiveness once Murdoch took over. I work with MySpace still, but we don't work with them in the same way we had before. They've hired their own lawyers now, and they are working with all the politically correct groups to work with. No one is embedded with them like we were in those days, but our mark is still there.

Continue reading "An Interview with Parry Aftab (3 of 4)" »

An Interview with Parry Aftab (2 of 4)

This is the second part of an interview with Parry Aftab, Executive Director of WiredSafety, an organization which focuses on safety issues related to children on the Internet and particularly on social networks.

Sam Ford: Tell us about what has now grown into WiredSafety and the work that you all do.

Parry Aftab: We are a network of 12,000 unpaid volunteers from 76 countries around the world. We have no offices; we operate virtually. None of us are paid a dime, including me. And we all come together to do different aspects of the job. I had personally been interested in Internet safety before I saw the picture of the little girl. I had gotten involved in writing a book on Internet safety and also did a piece on CNN. At the time, my argument was that you could protect children on the Internet, but it requires a little more of a thoughtful response and not knee-jerk reactions to just shut the technologies down. I self-published a book on these issues that ended up becoming a bible on Internet safety for some called A Parent's Guide to the Internet.

My early days were spent working to protect the Internet to well-meaning people, some of them in Congress, who were interested in curtailing or even shutting down the Internet. When I saw that image, though, I went from working primarily on protecting the Internet to protecting children from horrible things, such as online child pornography, cyber bullying, and a range of other issues. My work focused on trying to keep children from being sexually exploited and trafficked online, for instance.

Continue reading "An Interview with Parry Aftab (2 of 4)" »

An Interview with Parry Aftab (1 of 4)

Over the next few posts, I want to present an interview I conducted over the weekend with Parry Aftab, a leader in Internet safety movements for children who heads up the WiredSafety volunteer organization. Aftab, a lawyer, has worked with a variety of companies--including MySpace--to help develop their strategies on how to develop child safety protections and privacy settings while still maintaining as many of the features of the network as possible.

I first got introduced to Parry through a New York Times story by Brad Stone, in which she was quoted as saying that no good could come of children using Webcams. At the time, I wrote, "The problem is that people go to these extremes when discussing the issue. It has to be all bad because of child safety fears, with no balancing discussion of the many ways high schoolers could use tools such as video chat and Webcams."

Later, I received comments here on the blog from Aftab, in a post on DOPA that was part of my Access vs. Censorship series.

Continue reading "An Interview with Parry Aftab (1 of 4)" »

August 11, 2007

Answering Questions from a Snowman: The YouTube Debate and Its Aftermath

I posted this on my blog at the beginning of the month, and I wanted to share it here on the Convergence Culture Consortium blog as well, since it ties in closely with some of the writing on user-generated content featured here on the site.

"I think the presidency ought to be held at a higher level than having to answer questions from a snowman." -- Mitt Romney

I first promised some reflections about the YouTube presidential debate almost a week before I finally put it up on my blog but something has kept getting in the way. I almost decided to forget about it but in the few days before I wrote this post, the issue has resurfaced as the Republican candidates are doing a little dance about who will or will not participate in CNN's planned GOP YouTube debate in September. So far, only two Republican candidates have agreed to participate. I've been having fun challenging folks to guess which ones they are. The answer will be later in this post.

Continue reading "Answering Questions from a Snowman: The YouTube Debate and Its Aftermath" »

August 10, 2007

Social Networking and Social Marketing

As many of you know, we have been doing a significant amount of research here at the consortium recently in regard to social networking. While some of this has ben for a white paper shared internally in the consortium, our musing on social networks has appeared multiple times here on the blog in the past several months (see here, for instance).

Tied into those comments on social networking, though, are questions regarding social marketing, especially as we think about how brands co-exist in these online spaces. There are always a variety of opinions on what this means for users, what the correct balance between marketing and a lack of commercialism is, and...on the business side...what constitutes a worthwhile investment and what does not.

Continue reading "Social Networking and Social Marketing" »

August 8, 2007

Futures of Entertainment 2 Planned for Nov. 16-17

Futures of Entertainment 2The Convergence Culture Consortium, in conjunction with the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, will host their second annual MIT Futures of Entertainment conference on Friday, Nov. 16, and Saturday, Nov. 17, on the campus of MIT in Cambridge, Mass.

Continue reading "Futures of Entertainment 2 Planned for Nov. 16-17" »

The Battle of the Business Models - Subscription versus Ad-Supported

Yesterday Veronis Suhler Stevenson and PQ Media released a report that predicts that internet or "alternative" ad spending will become the "leading ad medium", surpassing newspapers by 2011. There were a number of interesting findings and projections in this report, such as huge expected growth in blog, podcast and RSS advertising; growth in advertising on so-called "pure-play" sites; record communications spending in 2006 and beyond; and a slight decline in time spent with media and the consumption patterns of audiences.

However, because I am primarily interested in television networks, one finding in particular peaked my interest. The report was that audiences are "migrating away" from ad-supported media, spent less 6.8% less time with this type of product (ie. networks, newspapers) in 2006 than they did in 2001, and more 19.8% more time with products they support directly (video games, and (I presume) subscription based Internet service), while overall media usage declined in the period by about half a percent in that period.

Continue reading "The Battle of the Business Models - Subscription versus Ad-Supported" »

The Problems with Measuring Reputation in the PR Industry

I've had the pleasure of being connected recently to some intelligent folks over at Peppercom, a public relations company that serves a variety of interesting clients, from The Columbia School of Journalism to Netflix to Panasonic to Tyco.

Ed Moed, who is one of the co-founders of Peppercom, wrote a piece recently about the public relations industry, focusing on the dangers of the way quantitative metrics are understood for measuring corporate reputations in the public relations industry.

Considering all that we've been writing lately about metrics in relation to the Nielsens, engagement, and both the television industry and the success of Web advertising (look here), I found his perspective on the dangerous assumptions always backing what are accepted as "hard numbers" to be illuminating.

In short, he looks at a recent study which measure company reputations on the basis of the amount of positive press that company has received. Ed's point, however, is that articles touting the release of some new product or service doesn't necessarily mean that readers, or the media itself, views those companies positively, just that they gave them some positive coverage.

Continue reading "The Problems with Measuring Reputation in the PR Industry" »

People Are Consuming Less Media? But What Does That Mean?

A new study finds that consumers are spending .5 percent less time annually with media this year than one year ago. But what does that mean?

The study won't really tell you definitively. It was from Veronis Suhler Stevenson, who did provide their hypotheses about it--that it was due to digital alternatives taking less time than traditional media and therefore being quicker. It would be interesting to know more about what is and is not considered media, and about what people who would report a declining time spent on media were spending that time on instead...After all, with a finite amount of time in the world, the question is where that time goes to instead.

The study also found, however, that media usage has grown 3.2 percent at work, which also makes sense in relation to a continuing rise in time spent consuming online media. While watching television or listening to the radio while working might be a little more difficult, there's something more private (and easier to hide, if your job requires you hide it) about consuming media online, and being able to look at media in conjunction with work, with multiple windows open on the screen. (That spreadsheet, of course, to pop up when a supervisor walks by.)

Continue reading "People Are Consuming Less Media? But What Does That Mean?" »

August 6, 2007

CBS' Schizophrenic Response to the Jericho Situation

Seems like CBS has been sending a lot of mixed messages lately. Or else just demonstrating the confused nature across the television landscape. CBS is just a particularly good example, given all the fervor surrounding the cancellation, then renewal of Jericho. (See Nancy Baym's following of the Jericho phenomenon; I link to her here and here.

I've been e-mailing with Lynn Liccardo lately, who pointed out an interesting distinction in the CBS timeline. It was back on June 07 when CBS Entertainment President Nina Tassler told The New York Times, "We want them to watch on Wednesday at 8 o'clock, and we need them to recruit viewers who are going to watch the broadcast."

Continue reading "CBS' Schizophrenic Response to the Jericho Situation" »

Harley-Davidson Provides a Window into Sturgis

For those who are interested in the mixing of brand planning and content distribution, brand exemplar Harley-Davidson shows once again how to make open content a meaningful part of the brand experience and to engage proselytism in the process.

It all hinges around the big bike rally in Sturgis, which--despite my uber-masculine lifestyle--I had forgotten was even coming up until a storyline on As the World Turns saw a kidnapping plot move toward Sturgis, as the kidnappers might be headed to the big bike rally.

Of course I should have remembered that this time of year equalled Sturgis from those terrible Road Wild pay-per-view wrestling events that WCW used to put on, held live from Sturgis and featuring a crowd full of bikers who both didn't pay to be there and didn't really have any product knowledge...Oh, and the 1998 Road Wild was one of the worst PPV events I've ever seen, especially with Jay Leno in the main event.

But that's a tangent. My point is that, while WCW didn't seem to get anything about Sturgis culture at all, Harley-Davidson has found another way to tap into that American cultural milestone in a way that meaningfully extends its brand.

Harley created a gadget that can be incorporated onto anyone's Web site that both featured a live feed from Sturgis, with the window branded by Harley-Davidson, as well as a variety of packaged videos from the motorcycle rally as well.

Continue reading "Harley-Davidson Provides a Window into Sturgis" »

Another Proposed Metric: Tabulating Engagement Online

And there's yet another way to measure the value of viewers online, tied into the magic industry word of the year: engagement.

The prize goes to WebTrends, the analytics firm which has created a tabulation method that can give you a score on the spot for a specific visitor. That's right, the qualitative processes of engagements can just be narrowed down to a simple metric that you can add up.

While the sarcasm here is directed at how misguided this intense obsession with making everything boil down to some simple number, there are some important points...the site tracks how deep they go into the site, weighting various pages on the site depending on how engaged with the content you are likely to be to view them. More time spent on these pages might help weed out those who are on the phone or involved in other activities while they are on the site.

Continue reading "Another Proposed Metric: Tabulating Engagement Online" »

FCC Preparing to Educate Public on Digital Deadline

The FCC is moving forward on finding ways to educate the public about the coming digital deadline, the Feb. 17, 2009, date when over-the-air analog broadcasts will be replaced by digital. For a number of Americans who only have analog television sets and no cable or satellite subscription, this will be a pivotal date without a digital-to-analog converter box or a new digital television, since they will no longer be able to watch TV.

Of course, this only comes after a wide variety of folks have criticized the government and the industry for not doing enough to inform Americans about such a big change being well under two years away. In response, the FCC has finally laid out a number of ideas, including public service announcements, notices that come with new television sets, and inserts in cable bills. However, although a digital deadline has been discussed for some time, a great number of Americans don't seem to know about the digital deadline.

Continue reading "FCC Preparing to Educate Public on Digital Deadline" »

August 5, 2007

Skype/Metacafe Deal Expands Video Sharing Site's Reach

VIdeo sharing site Metacafe has made the news in the past week by striking a deal with Skype to provide its videos to Skype users, integrated in the newest Skype launch. Among the features are options to allow users to include a video in a chat or as part of their profile. There is also a deal in place for Dailymotion.

What does this mean? It's the latest in a continuing number of cross-platform distribution deals, as more and more it is online channels finding an increasing number of avenues to promote their content. Metacafe, in its effort to be more than just a one-stop destination for Web videos, is trying to extend the Metacafe reach outward, and that includes syndicating into programs like Skype that are becoming more and more mainstream for broadband Internet users.

Continue reading "Skype/Metacafe Deal Expands Video Sharing Site's Reach" »

Gender and Fan Studies, Facebook, and The Death of Marketing

Over the weekend, I thought it might be helpful to point the way to a few recent posts from the blogs of some C3 Consulting Researchers and corporate partners.

First, the ninth round of Henry Jenkins' continuing Gender and Fan Studies series posted late this past week. This round features Cynthia Walker and Derek Kompare. It can be found here and here.

I continue to do a lot of thinking about virtual networks and how they are transforming social and professional relationships, as I've written about several times here on the C3 blog. For instance, see my post from back in June on personal questions on maintaining personal relationships raised by social networks.

That takes me to this interesting post from the Idea City blog from our partners over at GSD&M. This focuses on how Facebook is being heralded as the next big breakout star of online networks, based particularly on its surge of popularity since going public and away from high school and college registration.

Continue reading "Gender and Fan Studies, Facebook, and The Death of Marketing" »

August 4, 2007

The Importance of News Brands in a Convergence Culture

Earlier today, I was on a conference call espousing about how important a reminder it is to temper all this discussion about a transformation of journalism with the realization that the brand names of the most respected news, magazine, and industry publications still carry a lot of cultural cache, whether we want to proclaim the era of print as dead or not.

This was all driven by the news from a few news outlets recently that Second Life was losing steam and that it wasn't the business opportunity some thought it was. I wrote about those issues earlier today.

But this has been a longheld debate, whether it is Axel Bruns in Gatewatching or Dan Gillmor and his book, We the Media. I agree with both that there is something transformational in involving the collective intelligence of everyone by getting them involved with the news-gathering and reporting process and that it leads to a better information in the process. There has always been something a little murky about the intense "professionalization" of journalism, and it seems that the credentials of being a good journalism means that "the proof is in the pudding," so to speak. If we are to believe in a system where the best writing rises to the top, anyway, doesn't this mean that credibility still has to be gained on a micro-level, even in a much more decentralized news world?

Continue reading "The Importance of News Brands in a Convergence Culture" »

August 2, 2007

Second Life and the Dangers of the Expectations of Immediate Profitability

For those of you who have been following discussions here at the Convergence Culture Consortium for some time, you know that we've been thinking about Second Life in one way or another for a while. In fact, folks throughout MIT have been. Our recent conference Media in Transition 5 took place in Second Life, for instance. And then there was the three-way Second Life between Henry Jenkins, Beth Coleman, and Clay Shirky. Clay brings up some of the questions about the validity of Second Life that have been raised more broadly in the press recently, while the CMSers look at the use of Second Life through all the "overhype."

Be sure to read this piece from Paul Hemp at Harvard. Paul has spoken at our internal retreat here before and is a very keen thinker in this space.

Continue reading "Second Life and the Dangers of the Expectations of Immediate Profitability" »

August 1, 2007

Pirates vs. Ninjas: Valuing Fans and YouTube Users

Is copyright infringement enforcement across the board the best strategy for content producers? Or, would enabling some illegal sharing actually provide a benefit? The developments in the last week or two in the various lawsuits are indicating to me that a desire to stamp out and punish piracy is trumping the potential benefits letting users push content quickly and unfettered through social networks and other "web 2.0" sites, the most compelling benefit of these sites and a key means for fans to add value to media properties. The desire to adhere to traditional revenue models, boilerplate rights agreements and, perhaps most of all, an inability to qualify the value added by YouTube users, may ultimately be more of a hindrance than a help to producers in promoting their product.

Startling revelation? Perhaps not, but it's worth considering in the context of this week's developments.

Continue reading "Pirates vs. Ninjas: Valuing Fans and YouTube Users" »

Add to Technorati Favorites