Registration is available here. Also, note there is a pre-conference MIT Communications Forum free and open to the public on Thursday, Nov. 8.
At the two-day conference, each morning will be spent discussing key issues faced by media producers, marketers, and audiences alike, at the heart of the futures of entertainment. Each afternoon, we will look into how some of those issues are manifesting themselves in specific media industries.
More information will be released regularly from @futuresof on Twitter.
Also, in anticipation of FOE6, we are finally archiving the video from Transmedia Hollywood 3 here at the FOE site. Transmedia Hollywood is our sister event, held annually in the spring at the USC or UCLA campus. A description of Transmedia Hollywood and the videos can be found below.
Transmedia Hollywood 3: Rethinking Creative Relations
As transmedia models become more central to the ways that the entertainment industry operates, the result has been some dramatic shifts within production culture, shifts in the ways labor gets organized, in how productions get financed and distributed, in the relations between media industries, and in the locations from which creative decisions are being made.
This year’s Transmedia, Hollywood examines the ways that transmedia approaches are forcing the media industry to reconsider old production logics and practices, paving the way for new kinds of creative output. Our hope is to capture these transitions by bringing together established players from mainstream media industries and independent producers trying new routes to the market. We also hope to bring a global perspective to the conversation, looking closely at the ways transmedia operates in a range of different creative economies and how these different imperatives result in different understandings of what transmedia can contribute to the storytelling process – for traditional Hollywood, the global media industries, and for all the independent media-makers who are taking up the challenge to reinvent traditional media-making for a “connected” audience of collaborators.
Many of Hollywood’s entrenched business and creative practices remain deeply mired in the past, weighed down by rigid hierarchies, interlocking bureaucracies, and institutionalized gatekeepers (e.g. the corporate executives, agents, managers, and lawyers). In this volatile moment of crisis and opportunity, as Hollywood shifts from an analog to a digital industry, one which embraces collaboration, collectivity, and compelling uses of social media, a number of powerful independent voices have emerged. These include high-profile transmedia production companies such as Jeff Gomez’s Starlight Runner Entertainment as well as less well-funded and well-staffed solo artists who are coming together virtually from various locations across the globe. What these top-down and bottom-up developments have in common is a desire to buck tradition and to help invent the future of entertainment. One of the issues we hope to address today is the social, cultural, and industrial impact of these new forms of international collaboration and mixtures of old and new work cultures.
Another topic is the future of independent film. Will creative commons replace copyright? Will crowdsourcing replace the antiquated foreign sales model? Will the guilds be able to protect the rights of digital laborers who work for peanuts? What about audiences who work for free? Given that most people today spend the bulk of their leisure time online, why aren’t independent artists going online and connecting with their community before committing their hard-earned dollars on a speculative project designed for the smallest group of people imaginable – those that frequent art-house theaters?
Fearing obsolescence in the near future, many of Hollywood’s traditional studios and networks are looking increasingly to outsiders – often from Silicon Valley or Madison Avenue – to teach these old dogs some new tricks. Many current studio and network executives are overseeing in-house agencies, whose names – Sony Interactive Imageworks, NBC Digital, and Disney Interactive Media Group – are meant to describe their cutting-edge activities and differentiate themselves from Hollywood’s old guard.
Creating media in the digital age is “nice work if you can get it,” according to labor scholar Andrew Ross in a recent book of the same name. Frequently situated in park-like “campuses,” many of these new, experimental companies and divisions are hiring large numbers of next generation workers, offering them attractive amenities ranging from coffee bars to well-prepared organic food to basketball courts. However, even though these perks help to humanize the workplace, several labor scholars (e.g. Andrew Ross, Mark Deuze, Rosalind Gill) see them as glittering distractions, obscuring a looming problem on the horizon – a new workforce of “temps, freelancers, adjuncts, and migrants.”
While the analog model still dominates in Hollywood, the digital hand-writing is on the wall; therefore, the labor guilds, lawyers, and agent/managers must intervene to find ways to restore the eroding power/leverage of creators. In addition, shouldn’t the guilds be mindful of the new generation of digital laborers working inside these in-house agencies? What about the creative talent that emerges from Madison Avenue ad agencies like Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, makers of the Asylum 626 first-person horror experience for Doritos; or Grey’s Advertising, makers of the Behind the Still collective campaign for Canon? Google has not only put the networks’ 30-second ad to shame using Adword, but its Creative Labs has taken marketing to new aesthetic heights with its breathtaking Johnny Cash [collective] Project. Furthermore, Google’s evocative Parisian Love campaign reminds us just how intimately intertwined our real and virtual lives have become.
Shouldn’t Hollywood take note that many of its most powerful writers, directors, and producers are starting to embrace transmedia in direct and meaningful ways by inviting artists from the worlds of comic books, gaming, and web design to collaborate? These collaborations enhance the storytelling and aesthetic worlds tenfold, enriching “worlds” as diverse as The Dark Knight, The Avengers, and cable’s The Walking Dead. Hopefully, this conference will leave all of us with a broader understanding of what it means to be a media maker today – by revealing new and expansive ways for artists to collaborate with Hollywood media managers, audiences, advertisers, members of the tech culture, and with one another.
Once the dominant player in the content industry, Hollywood today is having to look as far away as Silicon Valley and Madison Avenue for collaborators in the 2.0 space.
Moderator: Denise Mann, UCLA
Nick Childs, Executive Creative Director, Fleishman Hillard
Jennifer Holt, co-Director, Media Industries Project, UCSB
Lee Hunter, Global Head of Marketing, YouTube
Jordan Levin, CEO, Generate
In countries with strong state support for media production, alternative forms of transmedia are taking shape. How has transmedia fit within the effort of nation-states to promote and expand their creative economies?
Moderator: Laurie Baird, Strategic Consultant – Media and Entertainment at Georgia Tech Institute for People and Technology.
Jesse Albert, Producer & Consultant in Film, Television, Digital Media, Live Events & Branded Content
Morgan Bouchet, Vice-President, Transmedia and Social Media, Content Division, Orange
Christy Dena, Director, Universe Creation 101
Sara DIamond, President, Ontario College of Art and Design University
Mauricio Mota, Chief Storytelling Officer, Co-founder of The Alchemists
A new generation of media makers are taking art out of the rarefied world of crumbling art-house theaters, museums, and galleries and putting it back in the hands of the masses, creating immersive, interactive, and collaborative works of transmedia entertainment, made for and by the people who enjoy it most.
Ted Hope, Producer/Partner/Founder, Double Hope Films
Sheila C. Murphy, Associate Professor, University of Michigan
By many accounts, the comics industry is failing. Yet, comics have never played a more central role in the entertainment industry, seeding more and more film and television franchises. What advantages does audience-tested content bring to other media? What do the producers owe to those die-hard fans as they translate comic book mythology to screen? And why have so many TV series expanded their narrative through graphic novels in recent years?
Moderator: Geoffrey Long, Lead Narrative Producer for the Narrative Design Team at Microsoft Studios.
Katherine Keller, Culture Vultures Editrix at Sequential Tart
Joe LeFavi, Quixotic Transmedia
Mike Richardson, President, Dark Horse Comics
Mark Verheiden, Writer (Falling Skies, Heroes)
Mary Vogt, Costume Designer (Rise Of The Silver Surfer, Men In Black)
Audience behavior across television platforms is networked, instantaneous, and visible like never before. To maximize the value of the digital television audience, the industry needs to recognize and quantify the cultural value of content—they need to evaluate the reasons people watch TV in the first place. Unfortunately, current business models aren’t up to this challenge. While digital networked culture presents tremendous opportunities to engage with audiences, digital data allows us to see how poorly television ratings reflect actual audience behavior. In this white paper, we’ll see that the ratings system is ultimately responsible for the growing division between the financial value of the audience and the cultural value of content. As long as ratings exist in their current state, publishers and advertisers will miss out on innovative revenue opportunities, and they won’t be able to create programming that reflects real audience demand.
Television ratings are meant to make audiences valuable to publishers and advertisers, but ratings are too narrowly constructed to represent the diverse sites of value embodied in the contemporary television audience. This white paper suggests three key areas that should be re-imagined to maximize the value of the television audience for the digital age.
PART I: Structural Relationships Among Industry Players
• This section argues that the economic structure of the television industry has prevented industry players from maximizing the value of increasingly fragmented television audiences.
• We consider evidence of how industry players are caught in a codependent relationship that privileges the status quo to the detriment of true innovation.
• These relationships functioned best when audiences and programs were aggregated because there was only one way to watch TV—when it was on.
• Today, there are many ways to watch TV—live, recorded on a DVR, online, downloaded—but audiences are still measured like linear television audiences. This method of audience measurement fails to leverage the affordances of the medium and allows a lot of viewers to slip through the cracks. Sometimes viewers take it upon themselves to make sure this doesn’t happen, but most of the time networks and advertisers are guided by their dependence on outmoded conceptions of audience value.
PART II: The Changing Value of Television Audiences
• The second section argues for a system of audience measurement that maintains the value of audience exposure while accounting for the value of audience expression.
• Here, we resist the temptation to look at fans as a model for measuring expression both because fan behavior is anomalous, and because we can measure digital expressions as simple as clicking a mouse or changing the channel on a digital TV.
• Finally, this section deals with the value of viewing context. There are also different behaviors associated with different platforms and different content. Understanding the implications of viewing context makes the television audience even more valuable to advertisers and publishers. Context provides an opportunity to expand advertising strategies beyond showing the same ads on every platform.
PART III: Leveraging Digital Affordances to Maximize Audience Value
• The last section explains how the logic of successful digital companies can be applied to the television business. Both the methodologies and corporate ethos of successful online companies can serve as a model for the television industry, or they can be its undoing. This section uses mini-studies of several Internet companies to argue for the increasing importance of experimentation, networking, taste, organization, and interface in the television business for the purposes of better understanding audience engagement and audience value.
• First, we explore how Google is the leader in online advertising sales by making sense of data and making user behavior valuable.
• Next, Netflix provides an instructive example of how networked culture and progressive corporate culture can lead to success in digital business.
• Finally, Demand Media shows us how digital data can make visible manifestations of user taste valuable.
• Publishers, advertisers, and measurement companies have historically been able to get around the limitations of their codependency, but they are faced with increasing competition from digital companies that understand how to make fragmented audiences valuable.
Finally, this paper concludes that the industry can move beyond its problems by embracing emergent sites of audience value. Digital distribution affords significant opportunities for the television industry to make audiences valuable. By continuing to explore digital data, targeted advertising, behavioral use patterns, and audience engagement, the television industry can revolutionize its ailing business.
Sheila Murphy Selesgraduated with a Master of Science in Comparative Media Studies from MIT in 2010. Her graduate thesis focused on the television ratings industry and the changing value of television audiences. Seles also holds a BA in American Studies and Theatre from Middlebury College. Her work at The Convergence Culture Consortium examined the television industry with a concentration on the changing business of television research. Seles is currently the Director of Digital and Social Media at the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF). Sheila can be reached directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also this spring, Nancy contributed one of the first C3 Research Memos distributed to C3 Consortium Members. This C3 Research will be made publicly available via the C3 blog in late November of this year.
While here in Cambridge, Nancy was asked to speak at the Berkman Center at Harvard Law School. Her talk (in the embedded video below) entitled "Changing Relationships, Changing Industries" addresses her thinking on notions of exchange (economic and social) between fans, audiences, the music industry and the independent music scene - specifically in the case of independent Swedish artists and music labels.
Nancy's insights into how the independent music scene by necessity has embraced new media distribution channels and the audience embrace of these new channels, as well as her insights and metrics on the major label music industry as an inadvertent 'loss leader' in the swift dismantling of the top down corporate music hierarchy (which we are now seeing manifest in film and television) were an early influence on what became 2008 - 2009 C3 research on new consumption patterns, new patterns of value exchange, along with innovative ideas surrounding value and worth - specifically the 2008 C3 White Paper on Spreadability, Xiaochang Li's 2009 C3 White Paper More Than Money Can Buy: Locating Value in Spreadable Media, Ana Domb's 2009 White Paper Tacky and Proud: Exploring Technobrega's Value Network and the CMS C3 FOE4 Panel, Moderated by Prof. Jenkins entitled "Consumption, Value and Worth" (panel video here, liveblogging archive here).
Michael Zimmer, executive committee member of the Association of Internet Researchers, gives his opinion on the ethical implications of Pete Warden's 215-million-user data set of public Facebook profiles.
Jean Burgess produces her own review of the criticism on Google Buzz's privacy issues evolving on the Association of Internet Researchers mailing list.
And, finally, enjoy (or be surprised at) this video:
What is a Browser?
A representative from Google asks 50 strangers in Times Square if they understand what a browser is and does? Given that most of the online hype around Internet development addresses early adopters, here's a look at how the general public perceives the Internet. The results: Less than 8% of those interviewed knew what a browser was.
This summer I've been working at two fabulous internships in New York--one with C3 Partner Turner Broadcasting and the other with the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF). These experiences are going to be invaluable to my C3 research this year as I've had the much-needed chance to see what's important to those who work in the media and advertising industries.
Last month, I was able to attend the ARF's Audience Measurement 4.0 (AM 4.0) conference. This two day conference brought together leading players from research, publishing, and advertising to discuss the state of audience measurement.
Here then is part 3 of the full interview transcript with Seung Bak and Suk Park, the founders of the Asian Media streaming site Dramafever.This section deals with issues of audience measurement and engagement metric, as well as the challenges and opportunities licensed online video platforms face in light of the many unofficial sources of content out there.
Part 1 and part 2 of the interview are available, and the rest will be up soon.
Surplus Global Audiences and How to Court a Community: Insight from Dramafever.com
Last week I introduced Dramafever, a new content-distribution and community platform dedicated to bringing Asian entertainment content to the US (currently in closed beta) that is posing some interesting questions about engaging niche audiences in an increasingly global media landscape. This week, I had a chance to sit down for an informative phone conversation with the Dramafever founders, Suk Park and Seung Bak, about their goals, their tactics, and how they're negotiating the space between fan communities and commercial interests.
Expect the full interview transcript in the near future, though for now (and for those of us pressed tight for reading time), after the cut is a brief summation of some of the stand-out revelations on how to approach established communities, unexpected surplus audiences and the broadening appeal of Asian entertainment, and what the future holds for global media flows online.
FOE3 Liveblog: Session 2 - Making Audiences Matter
Coming out of Henry and Yochai's conversation about networked media spaces and participatory culture, we headed into a discussion of value around audience, with liveblogging by CMS graduate student Flourish Klink.
Moderator Joshua Green: I want to address topics that have been brewing all day to discuss what the audience may be becoming - "the audience ain't what it used to be." So intro's...
Kim Moses: Exec producer of Ghost Whisperer.
Gail De Kosnik: Ass't prof in UC Berkeley Center for New Media
Vu Nguyen: Crunchyroll.com
Kevin Slavin: Area/Code - "games that have computers in them"
JG: In a transmedia world, what does the audience look like?
KM: I come from a very traditional place, a network television show - needs to have a v. broad appeal. So my goal is to "take back Friday nights" - took different media platforms in addition to TV to reach multiple groups.
GDK: Audiences today aren't just audiences, they think of themselves as makers. Are audiences also workers in the media industry?
VN: Audience more empowered & therefore demanding than ever. Crunchyroll's audience consumes media online primarily. Skews young because tech-savvy, less money, more time to invest.
KS: The conventional idea of "mass" is actually really constrained by the geography, distribution of a TV signal, at a certain time... assumptions are made in the production of conventional media because it is locationally, temporally situated. When those things go away that's REALLY mass - it can be to anyone anywhere at any time. That's a totally different thing. Part of the value of a conventional model is that there are those geographic, locational constraints. But now ad value goes down because it could be anyone, targeted ads are harder.
FOE3 Liveblog: Session 1 -- Consumption, Value and Worth
First full panel of the day, with liveblogging services courtesy of CMS Graduate student Lana Swartz and CMS/C3 Alumni Sam Ford.
Liveblogger's Note: Hello, dear reader, I did the best I could to make this coherent, but now I need to eat foods.
HJ: This panel is really intended to extend the conversation, continuing to lay out the core vocabulary that was developed in earlier remarks
PANELIST INTRODUCTIONS Rishi Dean - VP Visible Measures, working on metrics of the consumption of video content and advertising. Finds more about more that it's less about the technology and more about the dynamics of the medium and then working on how to leverage those dynamics
Anita Elberse - prof at Harvard Business School, media entertainment - media and entertainment industries - invited here likely because of an article on the Long Tail and why it might not be correct
Anne White - VP of programming Premiere Retail Networks - met Henry at at 5D conference last month, in charge of visualizing the future of advertising for Minority Report, who and what should be advertised in the future and placing it into the film, multimedia and branding projects, putting video everywhere and annoying people by targeting it directly to them. creative, but very strategic,
Renee Ann Richardson - doctoral student at HBS, working on status and brand status and authenticity, looks at what happens when there are counterfeits. Previously worked in marketing and advertising at Leo Burnett and LVMH
Registration information will be soon to follow, and be sure to check in for updates to speaker lists as we start to finalize our panels in the upcoming weeks. This year promises to be exciting and provocative, as we push our themes of convergence and media spreadability onto the global stage, while not losing sight of central C3 issues such as transmedia storytelling and audience value.
To get an idea of what the Futures of Entertainment conference is like, check out last year's site and listen or view the podcasts.
Measuring Consumer Awareness about the Digital Deadline
When it comes to measuring phenomena, there are a variety of things one can look at, but at the heart of any question is whether your goal is to measure how much of something exists or the quality of that phenomena where it does exist. These are two fundamentally different research questions, yet it often feels that the goals of both get confused.
We've spent considerable time over the past year talking about audience measurement--online, for advertisers, for the television industry, for technological adoption, and so on. Several of those pieces are available here, and you can watch to a whole panel on the topic from our Futures of Entertainment 2 conference back in November.
The media industries adapt to change very slowly. That I have established several times. In some ways, this is necessarily so. The infrastructure that the industry has built for itself helps major media companies weather the tests of time, but they also keep them from being nimble enough to change very easily.
On Monday morning, I was up at 3 a.m. working on a class project. Part of the assignment was to come up with an alternative metric for television.
I thought back to what I know about engagement and what it might mean from my friend Ivan Askwith's thesis, the Metrics & Measurement panel at C3's Futures of Entertainment 2 conference, and what we'd covered in class. There's been a lot of great discussion about a new metric, but few concrete suggestions about what might replace the much maligned Nielsen ratings and C3 (the commercial rating).
So, I decided to write a metric, put something on paper, and get feedback on it. That's what this post is about.
Looking at the Google/Nielsen Partnership in Light of This Year's Developments
One of the biggest pieces of news making the rounds of late is Google's further movement into the television industry with the announced partnership with Nielsen to help provide second-by-second ratings information, starting with a test market. I wanted to link this back to the trends we've been discussing here at the C3 blog for the past several months, to think about all that this means, and doesn't mean, for the industry.
First, Google having its eye on television advertising is hardly new news, although its application to audience measurement through Nielsen is. I wrote about the Echostar partnership Google started earlier this year in a post back in April, which also touted bringing online precision of "measurability and accountability" online.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
Nielsen, the media rating giant, recently launched www.heynielsen.com, a site where anyone with an internet connection can set up a profile and comment on TV, movies, web sites, personalities and music. What makes this different from the millions of fan sites and blogs already online is that - it's well, Nielsen, a name that carries a fair bit of clout - but also that it's using data from its other properties, Billboard.com, HollywoodReporter.com and BlogPulse.com to develop the Hey! Nielsen Score which, according to the website, is "a real-time indicator of a topic's impact, influence, and value". Rather than deliver a single number and ranking, I will argue that the site's purpose is ultimately less obvious and more strategic.
The concept itself isn't exactly new. The company has had a product called BuzzMetrics for at least a year now, a measurement tool that gauges reactions in user-generated media to specific products. There are products with similar aims on the market from other companies as well.
It was an announcement we knew was in the works, but Nielsen has made public that it will be tripling the size of its ratings sample by that mythic year, 2011, in which the media industry is hanging all its hopes. (I say this because every projection I come across extends a forecast out to 2011.)
The announcement, made earlier this week, has seen Nielsen proclaim that their numbers will be much more precise now, since they will be based on 37,000 homes and 100,000 people, rather than the current 12,000 homes and 35,000 people that Nielsen says it uses today.
Privacy and Information Ownership: The Rapleaf Controversy
The past few weeks, I've been following the controversy around Rapleaf, a company that got some attention in early 2006 as an expanded, more powerful version of Ebay's feedback system, which would allow people to build and look up the "reputations" of other by entering an email address. Profiles on Rapleaf can include everything from your age to your political affiliations to what books you want to buy, as well as testimonials from people who have done business with you (though it's unclear how Rapleaf verifies that these testimonials are legitimate). In short, Rapleaf billed itself as a way to find out what you were getting into before entering a business transaction.
That proposition quickly became rather ironic once controversy surrounding the company started picking up speed in late August 2007, when some bloggers received email notifications from Rapleaf informing them that they had been searched.
While some of the backlash was directed at the "spam" factor of receiving annoying email invitations to Rapleaf, the most vocal outrage was over the potential invasion of privacy.
A few weeks ago, I got an e-mail from Pontus Bergdahi, the CEO of Swedish television measurement company MMS. Pontus, a regular reader of the C3 blog, wrote to say that his company had produced a study that might be of interest to our focus here at the Consortium. Unfortunately, the 100-pp. study is not available in English, but I got a chance to look through a summary of the findings, which revealed a few interesting trends.
For instance, the study emphasized above all else that viewers today are watching more television than ever, but it is complicated by the fact that there are a variety of new channels in which they are viewing. In a media environment which values views equally, without bias to which platform they are viewed on, the television industry is stronger than ever, then. As examples like the CBS/Jericho situation reveal, however, the system is not equipped to deal with views on video-on-demand, DVRs, online streaming, downloading or other sources equally, meaning that a viewer really does "count more" when watching on television at the regular time, than they do otherwise...Well, let me amend that: as long as they have a Nielsen box, that is.
Catching Up: Net Neutrality, Online Video Ads, and Nielsen
In my efforts to play a little catchup tonight with a week that has largely gotten away from me, I wanted to catch up on a few developments on stories the Consortium has followed quite regularly here on the blog.
First, there is network neutrality. The latest comes from the Justice Department, which has written to the Federal Communications Commission with official comments opposing net neutrality. While, at the time Ira Teinowitz wrote her piece for TelevisionWeek, the FCC had received almost 28,000 comments on the issue, most of which supported net neutrality being upheld, the Justice Department said that neutrality "could in fact prevent, rather than promote, optimal investment and innovation in the Internet." The comments have sparked some controversy, and it's not yet clear whether the pressure from the Justice Department will have a significant effect on the FCC's decision-making process.
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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."
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.
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.
New Measurement and Monetizing Efforts on Web, Mobile Platforms
Our continued discussions here about transmedia storytelling and the potential for new models for telling stories, gaining revenue, and consuming media properties remains reliant on the gradual acceptance of these new technologies and the infrastructure--both in terms of technology and business models--that surround them. This was a major focus of several of my posts here last week, focusing on the rate of technological change, realities of the digital divide, measurement systems, and cultural practices.
While thinking about some of these issues, I was paying particularly close attention to a couple of recent news stories.
First, ComScore--the main competitor for Nielsen NetRatings--sounds like they are moving in quite a different direction than Nielsen. While Nielsen is focusing its ratings toward time spent on a page more than total number of views, ComScore's shift in practice will move toward targeting less active viewers instead of the active minority.
Changing Measurement Systems Move Even Slower than Technological Change...
If the rate of technological change is often slower than many people want to acknowledge that it is, as I wrote about earlier today, it is perhaps even more true that the systems we have in place to measure how people consume media is even more slow at adapting to these changes.
There's little doubt that the process of measuring television viewership based on a modest sampling of American homes became less and less relevant as television viewing became more and more fragmented. Now, as traditional "television" viewing patterns are moving to a variety of new platforms and a variety of time-shifting behaviors, the whole model of the linear television channel is showing cracks, as well as its supporting advertising system.
Again, I think it's important to emphasize that we aren't talking about the death of the 30-second spot, or the demise of television as we know it, but there is little question that a lot of changes are happening at relatively quick speed, when looking at change from a decade-by-decade perspective. The problem is that any single metrics system is designed to measure a single phenomena, but it's becoming increasingly clear we don't live in a single-phenomena world.
Earlier today, I looked at the issues of metrics surrounding this year's upfronts, particularly regarding the question of DVR viewing. At the end of that post, I moved the conversation toward one of the hot "new" words in the day in the media industry: engagement.
The engagement hypothesis is that the engaged viewer is more likely to watch the program carefully, devoting their full attention to it, and possibly the accompanying product placement and commercials. In theory, if the message is right, the engaged viewer is more likely to get the message, get it repeatedly, and buy the product. With the advent of the Internet, audiences and producers have more opportunities to interact with one another. Producers have more opportunities to create relatively inexpensive, broad, on demand forums and mechanisms for interaction with their brand or their media property. Thus, more and more ways to engage consumers and get them to the set to watch the program at least 3 days from the original airing.
Intuitively, this all makes sense. However, engagement is also one of those terms that gets thrown around a lot, there is lots of agreement that engagement is good, but no clear cut definition of what it actually is. So, for all of our measurement capability, this concept is extremely tricky to quantify. Even if you have a definition, how do you effectively boil a passionate devotion to the X-Files into a number? And this is all before you even think to tackle the daunting task of establishing a clear causal link to buying patterns around sponsor products. Ironically, it all brings us back to a question of which matters more, program ratings and engagement or commercial ratings and engagement?
The upfronts may have wrapped last week, but the discussion they highlighted, on the demand for measuring and monetizing television content on air and online, looks like it will continue for the forseeable future. So, now that the dust is beginning to clear (a little) what can we make of what's transpired and what's ahead?
In short, a lot of options, a lot of speculation, and nothing really conclusive. I want to examine this issue in depth in a couple of posts here on the blog today.
I would argue that this uncertainty is reflected in the revenue from this year's upfront. After all the haggling over, claims of a small victory were made when it was revealed that the nets brought in 3% more ad revenue than they did at last year's up front, excluding syndication. Yet, inflation was also 3%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How Much Have Industry Developments Changed in the Past Year?
While thinking today about how this issue between the Writer's Guild of America and television producers seems to have been stretching on for quite a while now, I began to realize that a lot of the issues I've been covering for the Consortium since we started our blog a little under two years ago, and especially since I've been the primary contributor to the blog since last summer have not changed that much.
So, while people talk sometimes about how fast change happens, it is important to realize that the falsity that nothing is ever going to change is often countered by an equally tall tale, that things are changing extremely quickly. The truth is that industry practices, corporate infrastructure, technological lagtime, and an endless variety of factors causes everything to move slowly.
I was told by an industry executive not too long ago that the upfronts this year didn't feel that much different, as if this person were somehow disappointed. I think that's how we all feel when we realize that the new environment feels only slightly removed from yesterday's...and that's because we as human beings can only move in steps. The first cars really did resemble horseless carriages, and the first mobile phones looked quite like landline phones. Change necessarily comes one step at a time.
That being the case, I thought it might be interesting to revisit the stories that were posted here on the blog during this same week last year. You'll see a few stories that have fallen by the wayside but a few more that could quite possibly be easily plugged into this week's headlines and still seem right at home.
Another problem is how advertising engagement was measured. Using copy test results doesn't measure engagement, but how much people liked an ad, which is not the same thing. I've liked plenty of ads for products I don't need, don't really like, and don't buy. I have also seen a number of studies that have suggested that people may like an ad - and the copy test results may therefore be good - but that doesn't mean they will remember what the product being advertised actually was, or necessarily buy it because of their engagement in the ad.
This brings us to the sales data, which is vitally important in demonstrating that causal link. Ideally, one would track the buying patterns of the people in the study to establish a causal link between those patterns and engagement with the ad. Some qualitative data from the group would also be helpful. However, I'm not sure what sales data was used. General sales data would be extremely problematic in a model, because it would not reflect the control group from whom the original data was collected, and therefore not demonstrate a clear link between engagement and behavior.
How precisely to quantify and place a value on viewer engagement, is still, at best, an inexact science. Advertisers, networks, investors and content producers would all very much like to know what an engaged viewer is worth to them. It's a question I've personally pondered in some of my own research, at school and at work.
My usual Monday morning haze cleared when I found "What's the Value of an Engaged Viewer?" in my daily scan of Advertising Age online. I read it with eager anticipation, but walked away with more questions than answers.
The article describes the results of some new research by Omnicom Group's OMD that was presented to an Advertising Research Federation forum in June. According to the article, the research concluded "[o]ne engaged viewer is worth eight regular viewers", as "engagement with media and advertising drive sales, but it could also drive sales more than media spending levels". The study also found that factoring engagement into advertising analysis for the 3 financial services companies involved in the study increases ROI between 15-20% over models that rely on ratings. To come to these conclusions, they used a "proprietary engagement measure" to assess engagement with media and copy-test results to measure engagement with advertising.
What Are the Most Popular Video Sites? Companies Jockey for Position
Yahoo! Video and AOL Video are now more than popular than MySpace in terms of video-sharing sites. But, wait, more popular by what terms? Is that visitors and page views? Or will it be in terms of the time spent on the site?
Appears the news that MySpace has fallen is through "old school" Nielsen/NetRatings mentality. According to the story from Daisy Whitney at TelevisionWeek, YouTube dominates the heap with 51 million visitors for June, followed by Google Video at 18 million, AOL Video at 16 million, Yahoo Video at 15 million, and MySpace at 15 million. These are all unique visitors.
New Industry Deals Demonstrate Shifting Media Landscape
I wanted to mention a few news stories that passed my eye over the past few days that I thought would be of particular interest to C3 researchers and readers, especially taking into account links between online initiatives and traditional television and print properties.
The news includes a new deal between TV Guide and Maven Networks for powering broadband video content for TV Guide's Web site, a cosmetic change for the brand of Court TV to the new truTV, Joost's deal with VH1 to show a sneak peek of the premiere of I Hate My 30s online first, and Bravo's deal struck to do its advertising deals minute-by-minute with Starcom USA.
TV Guide and Maven Networks.TV Guide's choice to hire the technology provider to power its broadband video on its Web site indicates an increased effort to make TV Guide a brand based on more than the print product it is most closely identified with, especially as paper guides have become all but obsolete. Find more at The Boston Business Journal.
Nielsen/NetRatings Replaces a Simplistic Model with...Another One
Nielsen is not just making changes to its television program ratings and commercial ratings systems. As I have already written about this month, Nielsen recently purchased mobile research firm Telephia, as the company looks to bolster its Nielsen Wireless Initiative for mobile content audience measurement. See more on that purchase here.
Now, Nielsen has announced that it will be changing the way in which it measures the popularity of Web sites. We here at C3 are gearing up for a year of talking about the stickiness model in terms of Web traffic and how it is, in many ways, still fixed in prior ways of thinking. Nielsen does not agree, or else it sees value in keeping a system as close to the current one as it can find.
Their shift is going from measuring the popularity of a Web site from total number of page views to one that measures instead time spent. The change has particularly been attributed to the rising popularity of online video, which might keep a viewer on a particular page for quite a while instead of clicking through an increasing number of links.
The measure will be of "total sessions" and "total minutes," for the new Nielsen/NetRatings.
The latest announcement by OMD indicates a further shift toward considering viewer/reader engagement as a factor.
OMD, a media agency, announced that it would use these metrics in its decisions on which programs to buy after studying the engagement that people have with Web sites, television and magazine titles. Their studies found massive differences in the degree to which people engaged in certain television shows versus others, which comes as no real surprise.
Television, as with radio, can serve both as background noise at some points but as the focal point at others, depending on if people are "watching television" or "watching a particular program." My wife is a zapper who is known for "watching television," but I almost always only turn the TV on if I have the intent of watching something in particular.
And that type of viewing definitely carries a more focused involvement with programs that the industry has known it should take into account for a while--no one likes to talk about it, though, because qualitative measurements are a little harder to do than just counting eyeballs as all being equal.
However, study after study demonstrates how much more valuable involved viewing can be.
OMD claims that they are going to be able to create a "standard engagement currency" based on their study that would be comparative in nature, branching across multiple media forms.
To me, this should invariably take advertisers back to thinking more closely about natural product placement as an important alternative. DVR and TiVo viewers are the most dedicated viewers of all, since they've singled a program out for special viewing. Of course they're going to skip the regular commercial spots because they want to continue with the dramatic run of the show, but advertisers and producers alike should be considering product placement alternatives and sponsoring alternatives that do not interfere with the quality of programming and diminish viewer involvement while capitalizing on the deep involvement these consumers have with the product.
Nielsen Media Research made a not-all-that-surprising move this week, when the company announced that it will be making a shift to all-electronic recording of television viewing over the next five years.
The company will be abandoning current paper responses for what it is calling the "Anytime Anywhere Media Measurement," or the very clever A2/M2. However, the company hopes that A2/M2 will be much more compelling than a Star Wars character, in that it will compel companies to trust the data it collects on out-of-home media viewing, Internet viewing and other "non-traditional" media engagements.
According to their press release, the technology will be used to "measure the new ways consumers are watching television, such as on the Internet, outside the home, and via cell phones, iPods, and other personal, mobile devices."
This, in addition to the Active/Passive meter which measures all time-and-place shifted viewing and measurements of DVR and VOD viewing, are Nielsen's attempts at remaining the flag-bearer for audience measurement for the television media.
And it's reassuring to see the company try to further address the problems. As long as everyone remains invested in the 30-second spot, system, however, many of these issues remain problematic. The designation of active and passive is moving in the right direction, and measuring depth of experience seems to be preferable to just getting overall impression numbers, but those are tough things to quantify.
We have to applaud Nielsen for its further attempts to move in the right direction, however, and responding to the growing number of media changes, even if it is going to take the next five years to implement.
Considering my previous post about what has been labeled "gated" channel distribution, such as is the case with the SoapNetic series only being available on Verizon, comes something more along the line of the model I'm thinking of--Sundance will be launching a new series on the AOL Black Voices Web site before it debuts on its show.
Of course, AOL helped pioneer the "gated" channel concept on television, as I can remember the stress one had in the mid-1990s if some of their favorite media content was available exclusively to AOL members and others were available exclusively to Prodigy members.
But this newest initiative shows how much their thinking has switched. Sundance will be launching its new series House of Boateng, which is based on fashion designer Ozwald Boateng launching his first clothing line in America. The series will debut on the AOL site on June 20 and will play that Tuesday and Wednesday before debuting at 9 p.m. next Thursday night.
AOL Black Voices is a major online initiative to reach African-American audiences.
I think this is just the right idea to create buzz for a new show among a target audience. Of course, that type of approach only works if the show you have is worth creating the right kind of buzz for. Sometimes, movies that don't release their films early for reviewers have the right idea--they don't want to kill any buzz for their release. In this case, though, I think Sundance has the right idea, as long as they believe in their product.
It will be interesting to see how many downloads it gets in the two days prior to the series premiere on television with the numbers the show brings in. Will the exposure on Black Voices create a grassroots word-of-mouth for the target audience in time to get more views for the program's opening on television?
And, if so, will the Nielsen numbers be able to reflect that word-of-mouth, which depends on your faith in current measurement systems, I guess.
The Most Important Discussion in the Entertainment Industry?
A really interesting discussion has been taking place on the official Procter & Gamble Productions message board for Guiding Light, based on a comment made by a PGP moderator on the board on what the fans mean to the show in the overall business scheme, and where the online fan community stands in contrast to the Nielsen ratings. In many ways, I think it is a discussion that should be happening not on the boards of fan communities but in the offices of the sponsors behind these programs.
To give you a short recap. The moderator, Alina, stated that "a headwriter's job is to make the sponsors happy. They're the customers who pay the bills" and that "the only way to gauge fan happiness is ratings (message boards, magazine polls and Emmys are nice, but they mean nothing if the numbers aren't there)." Fans were upset by Alina's comments, believing that this process is backward and that making fans happy should in turn lead to maximum profit for sponsors, not the other way around. It's a case of someone wanting to shoot the messenger, though.
Alina responded by pointing out that "the 1000 or so people on this board are a tiny number compared to the overall audience, right?" She suggested that fans should "try to get as many people as you know to stop watching the show for, say, a week [ . . . ] and then see if it moves the Neilsen needle. That will give you an idea of the sort of numbers TPTB are looking at, versus what we on the boards are looking at."
Unfortunately, Alina has taken the brunt of fan anger on the board for the comments, but she is getting at the heart of what is happening in the entertainment industry. Alina is one of the people who "get it" the most in the entertainment industry and develops a lot of transmedia content for PGP. She was just stating the harsh reality of the way the industry works right now, for better or for worse.
Sure, it's unlikely that a significant number of the people posting on the boards are a large number of the 5,000 or so Nielsen households that exist at any one time. On the other hand, the question is how viable the Nielsen ratings are in an era when television viewing is splintered by so many choices. Sure, 5000 households may be a good indicator of what people are watching among three or four choices, but what happens when you have hundreds? The Nielsen's are still potentially viable, but can they really be the bible to base success by?
And are Internet message boards then not a viable measurement of a show's success? I guess it depends on what you're looking for. A message board of 1000 or so actual viewers is a bigger sample than 5000 Nielsen households, if everyone on the message boards are viewers of the show. And in the soap industry, fluctuations on a show and between shows are usually only by one or two tenths of one rating point, which would be caused by the change of a channel of a tiny number of Neilsen households.
The Nielsens are probably more flawed than the logic of some of the fans on these boards, but Alina has a good point--if it is what TPTB (sponsors and not creative forces in this case) accept, how do you change the logic that surrounds it?
If you accept that most involved fans are likely to plan their days around the shows and more likely to be more profitable for advertisers and, in the long run, more economic benefit comes from increasing the number of loyal viewers than there is creating a greater number of casual viewers on a particular day.
But Alina's point is important here...As long as the Nielsen's are accepted industry-wide as the guide to go by and as long as that is what sponsors are looking at, how do you change it? It is the sponsors that should see the value in expanding the data they look at beyond just Neilsen numbers.
Sure, a lot of the most vocal fans on the Internet aren't necessarily the best indicator. You can't write too much for an online audience who is likely to complain no matter what happens, and a lot of them will say they'll quit watching but hardly ever mean it, becuase their involvement with the show is so deep there is great opportunity cost in their minds to quit watching it considering how much time they've invested in the show over the years. On the other hand, it's important to keep the most loyal fans the most happy because they tend to be your cheerleaders, and word-of-mouth is still the best way to grow your audience.
The PGP Boards are a great example of fans and representatives of the company getting together and not discussing the company line but rather having a conversation, as a group of individuals. Sure, these discussions are not smooth, but the issues aren't really smooth, either, when there's so many transitions taking place so rapidly in the media industry.
35 to 54 year olds are 20% more likely to watch online video than the average internet user, according to a recent study by ComScore, and accounted for more than 45% of the online video audience in August 2005. As ComScore's Erin Hunter notes, "it's not just college kids or bleeding-edge internet users who are streaming videos."
While the bulk of the study is behind a pay wall, the following findings were summarized in the press release:
* More than 100 million users consume online digital media (streams and downloads) in the U.S. in a month, which represents almost 60 percent of the U.S. online population (97.5 million computers).
* Video consumption crosses all dayparts and demographics, with the primetime and daytime dayparts showing particular strength.
* Nearly two-thirds of all U.S. Internet users in August streamed audio or video through a Portal and almost 50 percent did so from an Entertainment site
* More than 17 percent of U.S. Internet users streamed content from a Music site and 15 percent streamed from a Retail site.
All this data is interesting, of course, although it would more useful it it was put in context. For instance, what kinds of content do users watch through streaming video, and what do they prefer to download to their hard drive or DVR? Will people pay for streamed content, or is advertising a more effective means of monetizing the media form? Obviously, some popular streaming videos are advertisments, such as the now-defunct BMW Films and Apple's movie trailers, which presumably more than pay for themselves.
1) live, viewing excluding any DVR playback;
2) live plus same day, live viewers and those who played back programs on a DVR within one day of their initial airing; and
3) live plus seven, live viewers and those who played back programs on a DVR within a week of their initial airing.
While up to 90% of DVR users skip ads, the expanded DVR ratings will be important for gauging the reach of product placements, particularly if Nielsen releases minute-by-minute breakdowns of their ratings so both producers and program sponsors can see when viewers were tuned in.
Says Sara Erichson, general manager of national services for Nielsen Media Research, "With regard to the different flavors of data, it was pretty clear that different clients had different needs and different priorities."
Changes in Nielsen ratings, the basis upon which networks and advertisers negotiate the value of ads, threaten to drastically alter how advertising deals are structured. Many ad buyers, not surprisingly, don't like the new streams and say they won't include DVR viewers in deals they make during next spring's upfront; more viewers mean more money that advertisers could be asked to shell out.
Of course, 45% of all viewers of live TV don't watch ads either. Still, the spread of DVRs and the availability of TV shows for online download should start pressuring advertisers to sink more money into product placement any day now...