October 31, 2007

A Transformation of Our Own: Fanfiction Communities and the Organization for Transformative Works

I started reading fanfiction relatively recently, starting in the mid-to-late 90s with the rise of fandom on the internet. And in just the time that I've been watching and participating in fanfiction communities online, it has shifted through a number of technologies, spreading over newsgroups, bulletin boards, and blogging networks.

In the divide between the centralized mega-archives and the segmented, and in some ways more difficult to penetrate, LiveJournal fanfic community, I saw what appeared to be a tension in the dual nature of fanfiction as both a social practice and a body of creative work. While the archives worked to provide, to varying degrees of success, a place to store and aggregate fanfiction as a form of user-generated content, livejournal provided a place that could foreground the development, writing and sharing fanfiction as a social process.

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October 30, 2007

Growing Up in the 1930s: How Media Changes Our Relations to the Past

I like to tell people that I grew up in the 1930s and 1940s.

Stop! Before you update my Wikipedia entry, please note that I am speaking metaphorically and not literally. Despite my gray beard and despite how I feel on some Monday mornings, I'm not really that old! I was born in 1958! But a number of things happened in my mid-childhood which utterly fixated my fantasy life on the mid-20th century.

For one thing, when my grandmother died, I was helping my parents go through her old house and we found a trunk in her basement crammed with 1940s Life magazines (along with a range of other publications of the era). As a kid, I would spend hours going through the magazines, looking with fascination at pictures of Jitterbug contests, reading articles about the Blitzkrieg, or most interestingly, looking at old advertisements and wondering what archaic candybars had tasted like. The magazine covered everything -- from the most important political and military events of the era to the most mundane aspects of everyday life and taught me to see social and cultural history as the essential backdrop against which to make sense of the big events that dominate our history classes. I would grill everyone older than myself about the world of their childhood, trying to find out what it was really like to live in the past.

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October 28, 2007

What Value Is There in Being LinkedIn?

A friend of mine, Surya Yalamanchili, recently took a job as director of marketing for LinkedIn. His moving into that position got me to thinking about the role that social networking site plays in the "Web 2.0" universe and the reasons people get involved with the site.

As you know, I am am a proponent of social networks and the way they can transform our lives. I also think they introduce a variety of new strains and that you should not enter them lightly; as well, you should have a strategy about how to handle connections and try to remain consistent with that strategy.

All these issues prompted me to write after I read Steve Cody's recent piece on LinkedIn over on his RepMan blog about the headache of trying to manage LinkedIn. Steve is one of the co-founders of Peppercom, a public relations company who recently graciously hosted me for a day at their offices in New York City. He writes about some of the challenges of finding use out of LinkedIn from an executive-level standpoint.

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Around the Consortium: Gender and Fan Studies, WGA Strike, Lost

As the weekend draws to a close, I wanted to point the way to a few interesting conversations that have been taking place of late around the Convergence Culture Consortium. For those who follow our work through the blog, C3 is made up of a core team here at MIT comprised of myself and research manager Joshua Green, in conjunction with Henry Jenkins, and a team of four graduate students, all of whom post here on the blog. In addition, we have a variety of consulting researchers who provide work through our internal weekly newsletter and who act as "guiding lights," so to speak, on our thinking along the way.

As usual, I like to point to some of the public work those folks have been doing, for those who have regular blogs. For a complete list of our consulting researchers, look here. We will be bringing more updates to this page soon, including putting up the student bios for each of our grad student researchers.

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October 27, 2007

Exploring "Cine Latino" (2 of 2)

In my previous post, I detailed some thoughts about my introduction to the Latin-American filmmaking community through a recent panel called "Challenges for Latinas in the Media and Cross-Cultural Filmmaking" at the Boston Latino International Film Festival last week. In this post, I wanted to provide some more thoughts I had coming out of the festival.

One thing I became more aware of during the panel was that Latina filmmakers here also encounter the challenge of working in cross-cultural environments.

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Exploring "Cine Latino" (1 of 2)

The Boston Latino International Film Festival (BLIFF) wrapped up its 6th edition last week. During the festival, I had a chance to attend the panel called "Challenges for Latinas in the Media and Cross-Cultural Filmmaking".

I have worked for the past five years with Central American film but only arrived in the United States two months ago, so this was a very interesting opportunity for me to start understanding the issues that surround Latino and independent film production here in this country.

Panel participants included: Angelica Allende Brisk (Editor/producer, Cartoneros); Diane Lake (Emerson professor and scriptwriter of Frida); Lisa Mattei (Interactive media designer and film festival producer for the Plymouth Film Festival); and Monika Navarro (Emerging filmmaker and ITVS grant recipient, Animas Perdidas). The panel was moderated by Mary Ann Dougherty, professor of film at Boston University.

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October 25, 2007

Copyright Crackdown: Coalitions, Aggregation, and Audiences (2 of 2)

Yesterday, I wrote about all the new stories arising about online video and copyright: Google's YouTube announcement, the media company pact, the shutdown of TV Links, and NBC closing out its YouTube channel. I wanted to follow that piece up with the predictions I alluded to last night, as well as some recommendations:

Some analysis...

1. The industry may actually be ready to work together - for now.

No, pacts to protect and defend copyright are not new, but we all saw what happened to the recording industry. It's very difficult to quantify revenue that one would have had, but that's not really stopping anyone. Overall, I expect more lawsuits filed by multiple plaintiffs for exorbitant damages, just to make a point and to tell television advertisers that the networks aren't allowing CPMs to increase without trying to get their audience back. Expect the creation of an industry-sanctioned YouTube-style site. How customers will react to leaving the sites they know to go to one they don't for content is yet to be seen, but I would not be overly alarmed, particularly if Hulu gets a reasonably large amount of traffic, if other networks or content producers jump on board. This leads me to my second prediction.

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October 24, 2007

Copyright Crackdown: Coalitions, Aggregation, and Audiences (1 of 2)

Viacom suing Google for a billion dollars may be old news, but the ten days have marked a sudden and a little bit startling push of the big media companies and government to defend copyright of video on the web. These events, although not totally unexpected, may have long-term implications for audiences in how we access television content online, and signal a need for some changes in how media companies relate to their audiences.

What happened? Replaying the last 10 days

There were four important developments this week: Google's YouTube announcement, the media company pact, the shutdown of TV Links, and NBC closing out its YouTube channel.

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Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover: An Interview with Electric Sheep's Taylor and Krueger (4 of 4)

This is the final section of a four-part series featuring an interview with Damon Taylor and Daniel Krueger from Electric Sheep, who helped produce tonight's launch of the CSI:NY television series crossover into Second Life.

Sam Ford: Electric Sheep is using this collaboration for the launch of OnRez, your viewer of the Second Life universe. What is it about the CSI:NY/Second Life collaboration you all are producing that made this the best opportunity to launch OnRez?

Daniel Krueger: I can't speak for our software development team, but I think that it's always been something that Electric Sheep wanted to do, as far as making an easier interface for navigating Second Life. It's not traditionally a very intuitive space for new users, so we wanted to make something simple for new users to come in with. We launched it with this project because we wanted to provide the easiest way for CSI:NY viewers who have never used Second Life to be able to come into the virtual world. It's really a perfect opportunity to launch OnRez.

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Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover: An Interview with Electric Sheep's Taylor and Krueger (3 of 4)

The following is the third part of an interview series being published today regarding tonight's launch of the CSI:NY television series crossover into Second Life. This interview, with Damon Taylor and Daniel Krueger from Electric Sheep, looks at the motivations, implementation, and plans for extending the popular crime drama series into a virtual world.

Sam Ford: What is Electric Sheep Company's involvement in this project?

Damon Taylor: We are the vendor working with CBS to develop this, and it all started out as a relationship between Electric Sheep and CBS, working with Anthony E. Zuiker, who has become convinced that virtual worlds provide an opportunity for television companies or entertainment companies in general to create and provide content in ways that has never been done before. This has been a six-month planning process, culminating today. Our contract with CBS is to do this for six months, so we will be operating this experience for the next half-year. With content being updated every four weeks, we will be moving this story forward, along with a second television show next year that will tie back into the whole storyline.

Continue reading "Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover: An Interview with Electric Sheep's Taylor and Krueger (3 of 4)" »

Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover: An Interview with Electric Sheep's Taylor and Krueger (2 of 4)

What follows is an interview with Electric Sheep Company producers Daniel Krueger and Damon Taylor about their involvement in the CSI:NY/Second Life collaboration that launches with tonight's episode of the crime scene investigation drama on CBS. For a background on the crossover, look at this post from earlier today.

Sam Ford: To start off with, what do the two of you believe are some of the most compelling aspects of the CSI:NY/Second Life crossover that's taking place tonight, and what are the benefits for CBS and CSI:NY, on the one hand, and for Second Life other other?

Damon Taylor: This experience is compelling for users from two different perspectives. One of those perspectives is new users of Second Life, who are new to virtual worlds in general. The other perspective is for existing Second Life users. Potential new users who are fans of CSI:NY will care about this crossover because it will give them the opportunity to wrestle with CSI content in a way that has never been made available to them before. We have endeavored and achieved a true cross-platform experience where these fans can watch the television show, see the storyline that began on the TV show continued in-world, and then see the storyline jump back to the TV show next February when there is a sequel show that wraps up the storyline that starts tonight.

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Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover: An Interview with Electric Sheep's Taylor and Krueger (1 of 4)

For those who haven't heard, tonight is the launch of a particularly compelling transmedia experience, the first time a major television franchise has driven its viewers into a virtual world to fill in the gap of a cliffhanger mystery that will not be resolved until next February.

CSI:NY, the New York version of the Anthony E. Zuiker television franchise, will feature an episode tonight in which a murder mystery takes the crime scene investigation team deep into Linden Lab's Second Life, with the mystery not being resolved until the concluding episode next year. The activities that take place in SL will build off what happens on the show and are planned to give fans the opportunity to get acquainted with a virtual world and also to have a new place to interact with and around the television franchise.

Continue reading "Producing the CSI:NY/Second Life Crossover: An Interview with Electric Sheep's Taylor and Krueger (1 of 4)" »

October 23, 2007

Branded Services: The Way of the Future?

Even as television and other media forms struggle to quantitatively understand audiences as anything other than a mass of passive eyeballs, there is an increasing awareness among marketers that connecting with a brand is an active process not just for advertisers but for consumers as well. One of the ways this approach manifests itself is the movement away from traditional commercials and sponsorships and the movement toward a much different approach: branded services.

It's a concept that perhaps sounds novel and yet not all that surprising at all. Built off the backs of various goodwill and public relations initiatives that have long been a part of marketing brands, these newest moves are to offer services and experiences to potential consumers that in some way help promote the overarching brand.

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October 22, 2007

Be Somebody: ClipStar, and the Myth of Internet Celebrity

Coming off of my Soulja Boy run (look here and here), it seemed appropriate to bring up a new UK-based video sharing community, ClipStar.

Unlike YouTube and other established video sharing sites, ClipStar sets out with the explicit purpose of being a channel for self-promotion and publicity. It's not just about sharing your videos, but sharing them with the right people (ClipStar appears to be affiliated with a number of talent agencies). They're even pushing it one step further than other self-promotion sites by introducing a talent competition, starting at the end of October, with an annual pay-out of one million dollars.

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Around the Consortium: Gender and Fan Studies, Consumption Studies, and Dumbledore

After a couple of updates to get us started this morning, I wanted to followup with a look around the Consortium at the work some of our consulting researchers have been doing. Today, I wanted to point the way toward the latest round of gender and fan studies discussion on Henry Jenkins' blog, the latest consumption studies pieces from Rob Kozinets, and Jason Mittell's writing about his response to Dumbledore's being shoved out of the closet by J.K. Rowling.

The 20th round of the Gender and Fan Studies conversation on Henry's blog features two 2006 graduates of the Program in Comparative Media Studies here at MIT, James Nadeu and Alicia "Kestrell" Verlager. Kestrell, an institution around MIT, writes about being a lifelong fan but a newcomer to fan studies, while James writes about his own focus on queer cinema and visual art, including comic books. Their conversation is available here and here.

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Something Doesn't Add Up: Debating Page Views

As many regular readers of our blog know, one thing that interests several of us here at C3 is audience measurement. There are a variety of debates about audience measurement; a couple of us are quite invested in our own individual projects at looking at how just measuring quantity of views--impressions--is severely lacking in understanding the qualitative relationships people have with that content. But we also often cover a problem that Louise Story examines in today's New York Times: discrepancies in counting.

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Significant Changes for Procter & Gamble Daytime Shows

One of the big discussions generating a significant amount of buzz among the soap opera industry and the soaps fan community is the decision to make some production changes to Procter & Gamble Productions' two daytime serial dramas, Guiding Light and As the World Turns. As those of you who follow this blog regularly know, the soaps industry is an area of particular fascination with me. My Master's thesis work, which is currently under consideration for publication, deals with the PGP soaps in particular, and I am currently co-editing a collection of contemporary work on the state of soaps with Abigail Derecho from Columbia College Chicago, as well as gearing up to teach a class on soaps in the spring here at MIT.

Tremors of this decision had been making their way around the fan community. ATWT has been experimenting with various new aesthetics on the show, including the use of a digital handheld camera and an increase in the use of location shoots, as it has been rare in recent years to have outdoors scenes actually filmed out of the studio. Through using digital cameras, though, PGP has decided that it would actually be a better use of funds to have a permanent "outdoor studio" of sorts, where all outdoor scenes are filmed.

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October 21, 2007

Porn 2.0

I am a regular listener and sometimes guest on NPR's On the Media, which does a great job of covering new developments in news and civic media. One recent segment, featuring an interview with Regina Lynn, the sex and technology correspondent for Wired.com, caught my attention.

The segment started with the oft-repeated claims that pornographers might be regarded as lead users of any new communications technologies, being among the first to test its capacities as they attempt to construct a new interface with consumers. We might add that pornography is at the center of the controversy surrounding any new media as the public adjusts to the larger shifts in the ways an emerging medium shapes our relations to time and space or transforms the borders between public and private.

The Medium Is the Message?

Indeed, I have long used pornography as an example to explain Marshall McLuhan's famous line, "the medium is the message," suggesting that the evolution of pornography can show us how different media can change our relationship to the same (very) basic content.

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October 20, 2007

iPods Behind a Crime Wave? Someone Is Missing the Point

In the past, the C3 bloggers have bean quite outspoken about their opinions on media effects, as you can see here and here, but, as far as I can tell, this is a new one for us; for once, media effects are not about the content or in its usage, but about the device itself.

A recent study by the Urban Institute states that the reason behind the recent spike in violent crime is none other than the iPod. "The gadgets are not just entertaining and convenient; their high value, visibility, and versatility make them "criminogenic"--or "crime-creating," in the vocabulary of criminologists.

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October 19, 2007

Live Viewing + 3 Days via DVR + Visiting Transmedia Brand Extensions = More Questions about Engagement

This week marked some significant events in the quest for a measure of engagement with and consumption of advertising. Announcements included the first round of C3 metrics, a new ad-insertion software company backed by some major players, and a partnership between Nielsen and ESPN on total audience measurement. These new developments bring them a number of new implications, but the old questions of what really constitutes engagement, and with what, remain.

A question raised in my mind about C3 is if we should be looking at engagement with TV programming or with ads, or both, and how could we be looking at those metrics in a holistic way? Although the collective effect of content and advertising may matter, there are still no guarantees.

Continue reading "Live Viewing + 3 Days via DVR + Visiting Transmedia Brand Extensions = More Questions about Engagement" »

October 17, 2007

"Meet me at my crib . . .": Reading the official "Crank That" video

Last week, I brought up the phenomenon surrounding Soulja Boy and the "Crank Dat" dance craze that propelled him to success and touched upon a few of the things that drew my attention to this particular case. This week I thought I'd dig in a little further, and try to tease out some of the things that Soulja Boy really embodies for me (as a concept more than as a musician or performer) through a closer examination of his official music video, which touches upon a lot of these themes of production, participation, and distribution in the age of convergence.

Continue reading ""Meet me at my crib . . .": Reading the official "Crank That" video" »

Punathambekar on Showtheme!, Askwith in Slate, and the McCracken/Anderson Debate

I know I just did a roundup of some of the interesting discussions surrounding the Convergence Culture Consortium, but I have to double back around and point you all toward a few new conversations that have caught my eye this week. With the somewhat heated discussion that has occurred over on Grant McCracken's blog with Chris Anderson, coupled with C3 alum Ivan Askwith's latest appearance in Slate, there's been plenty to cover.

First, though, from C3 Consulting Researcher Aswin Punathambekar: a great piece detailing one of the earliest examples of the convergence of film and television in Bombay cinema.

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Babel: Understanding Online Video Trends Is a Messy Process

All right, class. Time for a review. This material may be covered on a future exam. Assuming you've been keeping up with what we've covered on the blog of late, what do we know about online video?

1.) People who are online like being online. Just ask IBM, who took a survey to find out that surprising bit of information.

2.) People are consuming less media Just ask Veronis Suhler Stevenson.

3.) People like online video. Just ask Nielsen.

4.) People like online TV viewing. Just ask TNS, as I wrote about earlier today.

5.) People DON'T like downloading video. Just ask Parks Associates.

6.) People like streaming video. The latest is insight from Advertising.com, which I will get to more in a moment.

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Pragmatically Challenged: Where Do Quotes Fit in the YouTube Copyright Solution?

As those who are either members of the Consortium or who follow C3 regularly may know, we are in the process of doing some in-depth research into YouTube and the types of content that is most prevalent on the video sharing site. With that in mind, we have been paying more attention than ever to what is happening in this space. With the recent launch of the tools designed to cut out the improper use of copyrighted material, or at least offer copyright holders the opportunity to profit from the content's appearance on YouTube by offering ads, I fear that both fair use and the benefits to producers are getting lost in the process.

Let me explain what I mean. It has to do with what I feel is a very legitimate and fundamentally important aspect of YouTube: quoting. There is a substantial amount of copyrighted material on YouTube--of that, we can all surely agree. However, there is something fundamentally different about a segment from a show, a funny bit or a suspenseful bit, that is quoted in particular, versus the many people who post "last night's episode of X, Part I of V." One is trying to find the way around distribution; the other is about sharing a snippet of content that points back to the larger work, pointing to the proselytizing activities that are vital to a fan community and benefit both the fan sharing the link, those who click on the link, and the media company which the quote points back to.

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Online TV Affects TV Viewing; It Affects It Not; It Affects It...

Alice Robison here at the Program in Comparative Media Studies alerted me last night to a short piece from TelevisionWeek's Daisy Whitney that viewing of online TV has doubled in the past year.

The study, which came from ad researchers TNS Media Intelligence, found that viewers cited most often a desire to avoid ads and the convenience of watching on-demand as reasons to move online. However, she writes, "While broadcast television ratings continue to decline, 80 percent of online viewers say watching shows online has not affected their viewing of traditional television."

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October 16, 2007

Best and Worst Practice in Online Narrative Extensions

I wanted to respond this morning to a piece over at The Extratextuals, the blog which C3 alum Ivan Askwith has a 1/3 stake in. This was not from Ivan, but prolific Extratextual Jonathan Gray, who had a couple of notes of interest for me.

Gray reviews two NBC-related textual extensions of their show, a character blog from My Name Is Earl and the Dunder Mifflin site for The Office. His criticisms of each are both quite strong, as they include official NBC logos, advertisements for shows, ranking favorite characters, and a whole host of things that break the illusion that this is in any way part of the narrative world. I think his criticisms here are a lesson as to how to make these extratextual extensions more meaningful and part of creating an immersive story world, a sense of deeper engagement with the characters.

He asks for examples of really good Web sites, and there's one, bar none, that deserves all the credit: WWE.

Continue reading "Best and Worst Practice in Online Narrative Extensions" »

Around the Consortium: Monetizing Third-Party Content, Vanity Zip Codes, and Gender and Fan Studies

I wanted to start out Tuesday morning by linking to a few relevant pieces of work in the blogosphere surrounding C3, from our network of consulting researchers.

First off, David Edery ,who used to work here at C3 and who remains involved in the Consortium, has an interesting discussion up on his Game Tycoon blog. David wrote a note to point out one place he thinks Microsoft is missing the ability to fully tap a niche market interested in their Flight Simulator.

Co-worker Kim Pallister wrote a followup, in friendly manner, calling David's take "ignorant," writing, "Like with other closed vertical markets - not only would MS not have been able to develop this range of product extensions had they chosen to do it themselves, they most likely could not even have conceived of them all."

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October 14, 2007

Going Retro: NBC Revitalizing American Gladiators

It's retro marketing at its most direct, and since it is intended to appeal directly to my demographic, it fascinates me: it's NBC's plans for the return of American Gladiators. For those who don't remember the original, it was over-the-top television spectacle at its most ridiculous, often to the point of absurdity. Of course, it was coupled by many stations in syndication alongside professional wrestling content, hoping to appeal to the same demographic.

In the early-1990s, when I was in elementary school, I watched American Gladiators among my Saturday morning television favorites. Without the narrative development and greater story world of the World Wrestling Federation (now WWE), American Gladiators seemed to pale in comparison, but it served as an acceptable appetizer for wrestling content.

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If You Attended the Forrester Consumer Forum...

I wrote about this on my blog earlier this weekend, but I wanted to post this note on the C3 blog as well. I spoke on Friday to the Forrester Consumer Forum in Chicago and promised the crowd that I would use my blog to provide some links for further reading on some of the topics I presented. For those of you who follow the C3 blog regularly, I thought these links might be of interest here as well.

First, let me provide a pointer to our upcoming Futures of Entertainment conference. This event is run with a talk show format and is designed to bring together cutting edge thinking from across many different media sectors. Many of the issues I raised in my remarks -- including the discussion of how to value fan contributions or how to build communities around media properties -- will be discussed in depth at this event.

Continue reading "If You Attended the Forrester Consumer Forum..." »

October 13, 2007

Peacock on the Block? NBC Universal Faces a Post-Olympic Sale

Yesterday, a number of media outlets reported that General Electric (GE) was thinking about selling NBC Universal following the anticipated ad sales bonanza of the Beijing Olympics.

In this post, I'd like to explore why GE would sell NBC and who might have an interest in buying it.

What's on offer?

Just like its parent, NBC Universal is a big and diverse conglomerate. Although we often think of "NBC" as the television network, it also has businesses that span the media and entertainment industries. There is Universal Studios in the film space, Universal Parks and resorts covering tourism, and iVillage, among others, in new media. NBC's most notable expansion lately has been into cable; it owns a slew of cable networks from Telemundo to the USA Network to MSNBC.

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October 12, 2007

The Proliferation of Online Video Series

The future of online television continues to get brighter. Why? Not necessarily because any of the particular series that have launched are of such high quality that it will make a major difference. In fact, I'm trying to take a quality-agnostic approach here. I'm convinced rather by the proliferation of online video series. As the number of television series that launch online continues to skyrocket, the chance of online distribution becoming a viable market increases.

The learning curve requires industry innovation, an increase in quality, and viewer acclimation. The many online video series that have been launching in recent months encourage all of that. The first online video series are interesting just for their "gee-whiz-ness," the fact that they were an online video series being a novelty all their own. As these series become more commonplace, though, the industry begins to learn through trial and error what does and doesn't work, and series can no longer ride on that innovator wave, requiring the shows to have to stand on their artistic merit.

Continue reading "The Proliferation of Online Video Series" »

TV Sponsorship Model Becoming Increasingly Prevalent

Earlier today, I wrote about the new Live with Regis and Kelly promotion with Walgreens for a 3D episode on Halloween. In that case, Walgreens was not planned to circumvent the usual advertising for the show but rather to help promote and provide the glasses for 3D viewing for that special event. In many other cases, though, a sponsorship model increasingly means limited advertising for a show.

The latest to get some attention for moving toward a sponsorship model is Mad Men, the AMC series actually focusing on the advertising industry. The season finale of the critical hit show will be commercial-free branded as being brought to us by DirecTV.

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3D Daytime TV, Brought to You by Walgreens

As high-definitiion becomes increasingly ubiquitous, the new frontier of experimentation continues to be 3D TV. Whle sports organizations and networks have been the predominant experimenters with 3D technology and television content, the latest tinkerer looking to add a dimension to his show is one that American daytime audiences might know well: the shy TV producer at the sidelines, Michael Gelman.

Gelman is the not-so-behind-the-scenes executive producer of Live with Regis and Kelly, the daytime talk show featuring longtime TV personality Regis Philbin and Kelly Ripa, a daytime TV star in multiple genres. The 3D experiment will be featured as a stunt for Halloween. As longtime viewers of Live will know, Halloween has long been a featured episode on the show, stretching back to the days that it was Kathy Lee Gifford instead of Kelly Ripa.

This is more than just an experiment with 3D technology, though: it is also an experiment in sponsorship, as the special 3D Halloween episode will be brought to viewers by Walgreens pharmacy. As soon as the episode was planned, Disney-ABC went forward to find a sponsor willing to take part in playing 3D to the home viewing audience.

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October 9, 2007

And Now, a Metric for Our Sponsors--New Metrics, Temporal Shifts, and Engagement (2 of 2)

Temporal Shift...and a Proposition

This is where the temporal dimension of watching television comes in. The audience's contribution to the TV value chain is their time and attention. C3 is counting time and attention, but not in a way that I believe really measures how much someone paid attention to the ad or to the show, which would get us closer to forming a link (albeit still tenuous) around the effectiveness of TV advertising relative to the program that surrounds it. Metrics that do that would, in my view, increase every group's level of accountability to the others.

What should be measured is not just a question of eyeball volume, but a question of when people watch a program and how "engaged" they are with it, and I think that has something to do with time, but in a different context than it used to be counted. Several studies have indicated that an engaged audience pays more attention to advertising. So what if, instead of simply adding up the viewers from the broadcast date to the 3rd day DVR playback, we had a metric that weighted audiences based on an estimate of their engagement level before the airing of the next episode?

Continue reading "And Now, a Metric for Our Sponsors--New Metrics, Temporal Shifts, and Engagement (2 of 2)" »

And Now, a Metric for Our Sponsors--New Metrics, Temporal Shifts, and Engagement (1 of 2)

As the fall season begins in earnest with some surprising ratings, the ghost of upfronts past has reappeared, as well as renewed murmurs for "accountability" in television ad sales. Then, Nielsen made two big announcements: that C3, the de facto new currency that measures commercials watched live plus 3 days of playback, would take a week longer to report, and that ratings for multiple airings of a show will be reported in aggregate. In the next two posts, I will investigate how this shift away from temporal metrics may influence future conversations about viewer engagement and the market for television advertising, and if this does actually make anyone more accountable.

Something Old, Something New, Something Illogical

These new metrics signal a quiet but significant change in how viewership is measured. It is significant because it is acknowledging that TV viewing is moving outside the flow of the medium, the temporality rendered less relevant. This is an acknowledgement of changing consumer behavior, but are these changes also moving us closer to metrics that are more about engagement than spectatorship?

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The Radiohead Revolution?

Last week, the mainstream music industry was (yet again) turned upside-down. British rock band Radiohead announced that it had finished its latest album IN RAINBOWS. Their website says:


So why is this such big news? Well, the first clue is in the band's low-key notice: "so far, it's only available from this website." In Rainbows is Radiohead's first album since they concluded their contract with EMI, and, so far, they've decided to release it on their own.

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Hustling 2.0: Soulja Boy and the Crank Dat Phenomenon

A little while back, Kevin, one of my colleagues here at MIT, brought the Soulja Boy YouTube phenomenon to my attention while we were discussing an upcoming project.

Fast forward to October: Soulja Boy is fending off Britney Spears and Kanye West on the Billboard Top 100, and you can now watch a rag-tag team of MIT grad students, researchers, affiliates, and Richard Stallman, founder of the GNU project and the Free Software Movement, crank that:

(CMS program director Henry Jenkins even joined in the learn the dance, but sadly had to run off to something undoubtedly important before the video was shot.)

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October 8, 2007

Jericho Fans in Waiting to See How Season Plays Out

When are we going to see the next chapter in the Jericho saga? As most of you know, Jericho was the CBS serial primetime drama cancelled at the end of last season that raised substantial fan outrage, which manifested itself in fans sending a large amount of peanuts to the CBS offices, among other things. CBS has decided to bring the series back for a seven-episode run in its second season. The only question is when that mini-season will run.

Jericho was planned as a replacement series once one of the newcomers to the CBS lineup fails, with the idea that it would launch after the first several weeks and give viewers either a chance to support the show for a longer run or to get a better resolution of the plot with seven episodes to wrap up lingering questions.

But what will happen?

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I Want Serial with My $130 Milk

This is not a rant, although it could easily be mistaken as one. This post points out a small but nagging problem I'm having: being broke. No, this has nothing to do with my salary; I'm totally loaded being paid as a Research Assistant at the Convergence Culture Consortium.

This is about me being broke because of the savvy marketing/PR people working year after year to market games that are just updated versions of a past successful title with a few new features (on maybe a new system) for more of my money.

A year ago today, Sam Ford wrote a piece about the emerging storytelling more "serialized" narratives that were being seen in games. These episodic titles, being shorter in length, would be lower-priced.

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Around the Consortium: Fan Studies, Geeks, and Nielsen

It's a holiday here at MIT, so our C3 team is still scattered enjoying a long weekend, or else getting caught up on work. In the midst of the updates I've been doing this weekend on Futures of Entertainment 2, among other things, I wanted to note some of the most interesting work that has been occurring around the Consortium over the past week.

First, the Gender and Fan Studies discussion over at Henry Jenkins' blog continues, with the eighteenth round featuring Julie Levin Russo and Hector Postigo. The conversation, which covers issues such as labor, value, capitalism, the work of Tiziana Terranova, as well as "technology and control" and "ownership and desire," is available here and here. Those who are concerned with some of these issues might also be interested in the fan labor panel at our upcoming FoE2.

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VOD's Business Model: Need for Advertiser Leadership?

Recently, I was reading a piece from MediaPost by Lydia Loizides, a friend of the Consortium's. Lydia was talking about video-on-demand and some of the problems inherent with the current deployment of VOD, particularly the myriad ways in which VOD advertising has been capitalized on so little.

She points out all the ways in which VOD needs to be revolutionized as a business and calls on the advertisers to be the one to make this happen, since they will drive the VOD business model as it matures. Lydia, who is VP of the new media division at Paradigm, writes, "I have been following VoD technology for close to ten years now, and I can honestly say that while the advances we have made in deployment should be applauded, the lack of technological enhancements that have been developed and adopted in order to grow this into a true revenue-generating business should be admonished."

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October 7, 2007

Wendy's Watermark: Experiment or Error?

You know we are in a phase of experimental marketing when audiences start debating whether or not something was meant to be an advertisement, or whether it was just an error.

The debate, of course, can be good or bad: when an ad runs consecutively, back-to-back, I've often found that it annoys consumers, at least from anecdotal evidence of hearing others talk when it happens, or conversations I've seen take place online. But I saw a new one a little while back.

I was reminded of it when I was going back to watch parts of a wrestling show from the end of August. It was Friday Night Smackdown, World Wrestling Entertainment's show on the CW Network, for Aug. 31. When the show first came on, I noticed something peculiar every time there was a black screen: a Wendy's watermark.

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DOCTV IB: Documentary Production and Regional Public Policy

In March 2006, the Brazilian-lead project, DOCTV Iberoamerica, was launched. By creating a documentary filmmaking contest for all of Ibero-America, DOCTV planned to do some pretty extraordinary things: it would strengthen the public broadcasting system, empower each country allowing them to decide what content they wanted to produce, assure the distribution of local content throughout the region, trigger creative processes, promote an attractive model for regional advertisers, generate local and regional cultural public policy, and, in the medium term, be self-financed.

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October 6, 2007

Spreading the Word about FoE2

This past week, registration opened for our second annual Convergence Culture Consortium and Program in Comparative Media Studies (CMS) co-sponsored conference, Futures of Entertainment 2. More updates will be forthcoming over at the FoE2 Web site.

We will be including full speaker bios and headshots over the next few days for all the speakers on our various panels, among other things.

For more, see our last few posts, including our announcement of the conference, Henry Jenkins' notes on the conference, and a look back at the first event last year. However, word about FoE2 has been popping up elsewhere across the Web as well.

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Looking Back at Futures of Entertainment 2006

For those of you who may have been hearing recently about this year's Futures of Entertainment 2 conference (see the site here), but who may not have been able to attend last year's event, I wanted to go back into the archives and share more information about last year's event.

The site is still up, available here. As I noted back in August, there are audio and/or video podcasts up from the panels last year.

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Announcing Futures of Entertainment

I ran this announcement about Futures of Entertainment 2 over at my blog, but I wanted to crosspost it here as well, for those who might be interested in more details about the communication forum that will appear before FoE2 and more information on the panels and last year's conference.

Many readers attended last year's Futures of Entertainment conference, which brought together leading figures from film, television, games and virtual worlds, advertising, comics, and other media industries for an indepth discussion of some of the trends impacting our contemporary mediascape. If you missed this event,you can check out the podcasts here and read a report on it written by Jesse Walker for Reason online here.

Well, we were so excited by the quality of last year's event that we decided to host a second Futures of Entertainment conference with new topics and a new cast of characters. The event is sponsored by the MIT Comparative Media Studies Program and the Convergence Culture Consortium.

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October 2, 2007

Registration Opens Today for Futures of Entertainment 2

Today brings with it the official opening of registration for Futures of Entertainment 2 (FoE2), the conference here at MIT in November co-sponsored by the Convergence Culture Consortium and the Program in Comparative Media Studies. For more, see the FoE2 site. Read more for the full press release.

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Lowes (tm) Sucks: Consumer Criticism and the Lowes Trademark Fiasco

We write rather frequently here at C3 on issues surrounding Intellectual Property (as well as things that suck, come to think of it), though, admittedly, home improvement falls a bit outside the usual area of focus. But, given some of the implications, both disturbing and humorous, of Lowes Home Improvement's recent trademark controversy, it seemed time to learn something about fence installation.

A couple of weeks ago, the register ran the story of Allen Harkleroad, a man who, after being frustrated by what appears to have been epically bad service from Lowes Home Improvement, went and did what we've all done on occasion: he complained.

On the Internet.

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Wrestling Fans Dissect "Save_us.222"

The Consortium is always interested in ARG-esque promotions for content, as regular readers of the blog and some of our other work know, and I am always keeping a close eye on the world of professional wrestling. That's why a recent WWE campaign caught my eye in particular. It has the fans talking and speculating about the potential impending return of one of the biggest wrestling stars of the last decade, "Y2J" Chris Jericho, or perhaps the impending return of "The Heartbreak Kid" Shawn Michaels, who was injured earlier this year.

Jericho, who took a sabbatical from wrestling in 2005, has not returned to the ring since. But a short clip that aired during World Wrestling Entertainment, starting a couple of weeks ago, has gotten people talking about his potential return. The video, available here and in various versions, features streaming numbers and letters, Matrix-style, with the only major repeated text being flashes of a message: "Save_us.222."

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Condom-Sponsored "Online Soap" in the UK

I've been writing about a variety of interesting online video series lately, that have been in one way or another labeled "online soaps." I want to make clear at the outset, though, that I don't personally agree with this definition, or at least would argue that the online soap would be considered a very different format than the daytime soap.

I've been thinking about these issues a lot lately, as Abigail Derecho and I are co-editing a collection of essays on the contemporary state of daytime serial drama. We have been thinking through questions about what does and does not count as soap opera. I've discussed this often with other friends and fellow soaps enthusiasts, like Lynn Liccardo, in the past, finding that there is danger in the conflation of daytime soaps and primetime soaps, even with the similarities.

The latest of these online soaps comes from the United Kingdom, originating with a study that has found that the desire to watch the romantic lives of soap stars often eclipse the romantic lives of the actual fans. Now, mind you, a condom maker commissioned this study.

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Around C3: Askwith at the Producer's Guild and Interesting Writing from Consulting Researchers

Early this morning, I wanted to catch up on the C3 blog by directing readers' attention toward some interesting work that's been done by some C3 alum and consulting researchers recently.

C3 alum Ivan Askwith appeared on a panel about transmedia storytelling at the Producers Guild of America last Wednesday. Askwith, who now works for Big Spaceship, participated in a discussion called "Creating Blockbuster Worlds: Transmedia Development & Production," along with Starlight Runner's Jeff Gomez (who will be here for Futures of Entertainment 2); Kenneth N. Swezey from Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams, & Sheppard LLP; and Jeremy Kagan from Publicis Modem. For more information, see Askwith's blog, The Extratextuals.

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