Archives for January 2004

DVDs are yet another way to "watch" TV.

DVDs are yet another way to “watch” TV.
Unlike the VCR threat of years gone by, programming DVDs appeal to the Postmodern’s demand to better manage time. With all those commercials removed, according to a report in the Washington Post, people are buying up everything from The Twilight Zone to Sex and the City.

According to the trade magazine Video Business, TV titles generated approximately $1.5 billion in sales last year — up $610 million from 2002. In addition, the trade newsletter DVD Release Report calculated that studios released 527 TV titles in 2003, nearly double the number released the previous year.

“The DVD is becoming a fifth network that [viewers] get to program themselves,” says Ted Sarandos, chief content officer of the online rental service Netflix. “Appointment TV doesn’t work like it used to.”

His company added 400 TV titles just last quarter, bringing to 1,300 the total number of TV titles that members can have mailed to them by ordering through the Internet.

This is just more handwriting on the wall for broadcasters, and further evidence of what Rishad Tobaccowala of the Starcom Mediavest Group meant a few weeks ago when he said, “This is not about the death of TV. It’s about the slow death of the 30-second commercial.”

Understanding AOL's loss of subscribers

Understanding AOL’s loss of subscribers
AOL lost over 800,000 paying subscribers in the 4th quarter of last year, according to a report in today’s Washington Post. AOL is a training wheels version of the Internet, and Jupiter Research reported late last year that over half of Internet users now have at least 2 years experience online. That alone meant trouble for AOL, but it doesn’t entirely explain the continued drain on paid subscribers. What’s really at issue here is that AOL is all about command and control, and the Internet, at core, is opposed to such. Its business model is flawed, and it will never be what its originators prophesied. I, for one, hope we’ll see an end to those ubiquitous AOL CDs at every checkout and in the mail. They don’t even make good coasters.

More evidence of the Internet threat to TV

More evidence of the Internet threat to TV
I brought my dog and pony show to a client’s sales force yesterday. I enjoy watching the lights go on in the faces of those who begin to understand the real threat that continued fragmentation means to their market and, more importantly, what they can do about it.

So it was interesting this morning to wake up and read the MediaDailyNews account of a new FCC study on the subject. Not that I’m paranoid, but it’s as though the FCC researcher was in our workshop yesterday.

As if the TV universe weren’t already crowded enough, an important new study released Wednesday by the Federal Communications Commission shows the expansion of TV viewing options continues to grow and that the Internet is poised to become a major factor. As of June 2003, Americans had 339 national TV networks available to them, more than three times the number of networks that were available ten years ago when the FCC first began publishing its annual report on competition in the video marketplace.

While the FCC did not project what the impact of further competition might have on future channel availability or on consumer costs, it does suggest that Internet video is finally poised to become a significant factor, mainly because of the rapid expansion of broadband Internet access.

Local television’s only downstream hope is to become serious multimedia distributors of local content. It requires a completely different mindset, but the leap is not as enormous as many think.

Memo to the blogoshere: Drop the separatist lingo!

Memo to the blogoshere: Drop the separatist lingo!
Human beings have long used language to identify with a group and separate themselves from others. There’s a special smirk that accompanies the polysyllabic, sesquipedalianism of intellectuals. Teenagers have long sought their own adjectives to separate their group from their parents. In my day, it was “groovy,” and I haven’t a clue when it comes to some of today’s hip-hop jargon. Seinfeld had its language. Rush Limbaugh has his. Conservative Christians have their own lexicon.

You’re an outsider if you don’t “get it,” and nothing’s worse than being an outsider.

But just as language can be used to separate, it can also be used to unite, and that’s why I’m growing increasingly weary of the cute, special words that I read daily among the wonderful discussions and arguments in the Internet world of blogs and blogging. For example, you’ll never find the word “meme” in this Weblog. While I’ll admit its definition is deeper, meme is synonymous with “idea,” and it’s a favorite of bloggers. Is this really necessary? Why can’t we simply use the word for which it is most often substituted? If a blogger uses this word, does it mean they’re on the A-list?

Language of this type is used to claim special insight, like a club’s unique handshake. Do we really want to be a club? I thought the meme here was to engage in discussion. (See how stupid that looks?) How can we have discussions with anybody outside the echo chamber if we insist on off-putting them with our cute lingo?

Is it any wonder the mainstream press views us as one giant cult, a self-selected group of chosen ones?

And who came up with the word “blogoshere?” Do we really need a special word to describe this space? Isn’t that really a mass marketing game?

I think this is especially important in the wake of what’s happened to the Presidential campaign of Howard Dean. Well intentioned folks are missing the point of the Internet’s role in the new politics and view the blogging community as circling the wagons. This false notion is fueled by our separatist language. Not that “winning” them over is the mission, I suppose, but what’s an evangelist such as myself to do when I lead newbie clients to the portal and they’re greeted with such crap as, “That guy’s meme is full of shit!”

It’s enough to turn good people off and prove our critics right. We are an echo chamber, and we all know the fruit of inbreeding.

Pomos listen to each other, and help sell products.

Pomos listen to each other, and help sell products.
In the Age of Participation, Postmoderns (Pomos) trust their experiences over the words of any “expert,” regardless of the field. A real expert, to the Postmodern mind, is anybody who has actually experienced the topic in question. Pomos lean on each other and trust each other, more so than any other western culture.

And now Madison Avenue is taking notice. I’ve previously discussed efforts by marketers to get involved in the social networking phenomenon, but here’s something even more interesting. Proctor & Gamble has made public a secret little (and brilliant) marketing scheme that it has had since 2001. Known as “Tremor,” the company has enlisted (read: bribed) teenagers across the country into helping sell products, and not just those of P&G. An interesting Forbes article notes that the kids, natural talkers, do the work without pay, not counting the coupons, product samples and the thrill of being something of an “insider.”

The effort grows out of a profound dissatisfaction among advertisers with conventional media, particularly network TV. Audiences are fragmented, and ever more viewers are using devices like TiVo to zap commercials. Teens, in particular, are maddeningly difficult to reach and influence through advertising, even though they are a consumer powerhouse that will spend $175 billion on products this year. When they do catch TV commercials or print ads, these jaded consumers often ignore the marketing message. Hence the emphasis on friendly chatter among peers to deliver targeted messages. “The mass-marketing model is dead,” says James Stengel, P&G’s global marketing officer. “This is the future.”
Valvoline, the motor oil company, is spending $1 million with P&G to promote its SynPower premium oil.
“This generation is much more influenced by peer behavior than baby boomers were,” says Walter Solomon, senior vice president at Valvoline. “If we can make an impression, it will have tremendous long-term effect.”
Most of the kids love it, and, of course, the stopper-doers of life are predictably looking aghast. In my view, this is a natural foray into the Postmodern culture, where self-identity is determined more by the tribe one selects than family or neighborhood. P&G’s selection process looks for those most likely to be outgoing members of their tribes, those willing to share products and services they deem as worthwhile.

This will certainly be an interesting trend to watch.

Nothing states the New Media case like numbers

Nothing states the New Media case like numbers
A great case can be made that culture itself is the enemy of broadcasting’s current conundrum, and the numbers make that pretty clear. Here are some quotes from an excellent resource article on the changing media landscape by Wall Street Journal writer, Martin Peers.

So much is changing so quickly that NBC’s head of research, Alan Wurtzel, predicts the period of 2003-2005 will in the future be seen as a “watershed change … the beginning of a very different era.”
Since 1973, the median number of hours that people say they work has jumped from 41 a week to 49, according to Harris Interactive … That has mostly come out of people’s leisure time, which has dropped from 26 to 19 hours a week over the same period.
Technologies that help consumers manage and maximize their own time are gaining popularity, including cable-TV “on-demand” services that let viewers order movies or TV shows on their own schedule rather than a network’s.
“In 1965, 80 percent of 18- to 49-year-olds in the U.S. could be reached with three 60-second TV spots. In 2002, it required 117 prime-time commercials to produce the same result,” (according to) Procter & Gamble’s global marketing officer, Jim Stengel.
“This is not about the death of TV. It’s about the slow death of the 30-second commercial,” says Rishad Tobaccowala, an executive vice president in Starcom Mediavest Group’s media planning and buying group.
As earlier reported, nearly one-third of prime time network television is now taken by commercials, so is it any wonder people are looking for alternatives? I don’t think so.