Pushing and pulling

There’s a rather revealing little piece in today’s Online Media Daily about the fear that the Media 1.0 crowd has about so-called “user-generated” content.

Bermel (Mary Bermel, interactive director for Hewlett-Packard) admitted she was “scared to death” of the prospect, while Trimble (John Trimble, SVP of branded sales for Fox Interactive) and Koerner (Stacey Lynn Koerner, president of consumer experience practice for Interpublic) were ambivalent.

User-generated content brings “huge additional pressure,” Bermel said. “We want our brand in the marketplace presented in a certain way. Our advertising teams are used to push marketing–now we’re asking them to create pull marketing, things that will attract people to our brand.”

She also decried that “We say the new metric is engagement, but when people ask what that is, we can’t really tell them.”

Trimble said there was a “major paradigm shift” underway…

There is so much to say here that I don’t know where to begin.

As Jeff Jarvis says, it’s “not users, not generated, and not content.” The term itself is used by mainstreamers to pigeonhole something that better enables them to (mis)understand it. These people will choke on the term rather than see it for what it really is, people being people.

They’re not scared of the UGC as much as they are of losing control. This line — we want our brand in the marketplace presented in a certain way — is the very heart of what’s under assault in the Media 2.0 space. “A certain way,” in this context, means that which will provide the most profit, the truth be damned. As Seth Godin recently told an audience at Google, “All marketers are liars,” and isn’t that the license accorded to push marketing?

As I wrote long ago, attraction is the key concept for marketing in the 2.0 space, not promotion.

Another milestone for WKRN

For the first time since we embarked on a pure Media 2.0 strategy for audience development at WKRN-TV in Nashville, aggregate traffic to the station’s 19 blogs last week exceeded traffic to the station’s primary Website, wkrn.com. This means the station has doubled its reach and created niche “businesses” in the market at the same time.

Two of the blogs are aggregators, and the rest are run by various departments (weather and sports), anchors, and niche (beat) VJs.

I’m very proud of Mike Sechrist, Steve Sabato and the whole gang at this progressive station, and as George Peppard used to tell The A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

UPDATE: Rex Hammock observes: “I guess it’s because people like me are always pointing their way because they know how to point this way, as well.”

Well said, Rex.

The Wisdom of the Opposite

One of the most insightful voices in the media world today is that of Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and a blog by the same name. Anderson’s genius is in his understanding of economics in the new world, and the book is a must-read for anybody who wants to do business in Media 2.0.

In a presentation at Pop!Tech, Anderson spoke of what he calls the “Economy of Abundance,” which is what we find now that anybody can be a publisher or broadcaster. Our old models are all built on scarcity. Heck, advertising rates are built on scarcity, so talking about abundance is counterintuitive to Media 1.0.

Thankfully for all of us, Ethan Zuckerman was at the presentation and posted a delightful summary, including these four “business changes” that we all would do well to study:

  • In the past, we built business cases based on ROI. Now we build it and build the business afterwards.
  • In the past, “everything is forbidden unless it’s permitted.” Now everything is permitted unless forbidden.
  • Scarcity is about paternalism, a decision that an editor knows what’s best. Abundance is about egalitarianism.
  • Scarcity is top-down, abundance is bottom-up. Instead of command and control, it’s out of control.

The first business change is the one that fools most broadcasters (and all media companies), because our training and instincts demand that we have a profitable business plan in front of us before proceeding to do anything. This is a trap in the Media 2.0 world, because entrepreneurs in the space aren’t so bound. Consequently, they leapfrog companies who, for a very small investment, could be seizing the low-hanging fruit that these entrepreneurs are seeking. By the time they “build the business afterwards,” it’s too late to get into the game.

In my presentations, I often use a slide featuring a picture of George Costanza from Seinfeld and a quote of George’s from one of my favorite episodes, “The Opposite.” In it, George has decided that his whole miserable life was built on bad decisions, and that if he’d just do the opposite of what he thought was right, he’d end up better off than his current state. The show is filled with hilarious lines built on the premise, but none is more memorable than the one repeated in the slide. In the diner, Jerry, Elaine and Kramer convince George to try his new theory on a beautiful woman sitting at the counter. He does, and she shocks him by agreeing to a date.

For media companies, this “wisdom of the opposite” is more than a script in a sitcom; it’s a real-world challenge to all of us, and getting past it is what will free us to engage the real competition of the Media 2.0 world.

A lesson from home

Nostalgia can be an evil seducer, for the past cannot be dragged forward, regardless of how hard we try. The past belongs where it is, and whether we glamorize it or run from it, its power is limited to that which we give it. The here. The now. These are what matters, and they are impossible to enjoy fully, if we hang onto that which used to be.

It has been a very long time since I went “home,” and as I drove around the old neighborhood, I wanted to enjoy the moment, but I felt I didn’t belong. The house in which I grew up appeared vacant, but I didn’t get out to look. Too many feelings. It is most definitely run down, but if somebody lives there, my guess is it doesn’t feel run down to them.

Everything on the old block felt crowded and cramped. The trees are enormous, and the field out back where we used to play is so overgrown that it’s hard to imagine the time long ago when we played baseball and football there with all the neighbor kids.

I got to spend precious moments with my mother, Miss Dorothy, and her cat, Missy Sue. Though I look like my father, it is my mother’s block from which I was chipped. She hasn’t a clue about the internet except for the woman downstairs who complains every time her computer belches. She doesn’t know about blogs, bittorrent, streaming video, social media, or any of the stuff of which I write, nor does she care. She smiles when I tell her what I do, but the smile is more a courtesy than anything else, and that’s okay.

But I was struck by the metaphor contained in that smile and all the way back to Dallas, I thought about how absolutely different our world is today from it was when I played in that field out back of our house. I thought about generations past and generations to come, and how I will one day likely smile that courteous smile rather than engage in that which belongs to the future.

For our lives belong to us, each with its beginning and its end. The past belongs where it is, with its good and with its bad, and the future belongs to that and those yet to come. Today is God’s gift to each of us, and my prayer for each of you today is that you not squander one moment thereof.

Going home is a trip

I’m in Grand Rapids for a long-overdue visit with my mother.

I haven’t been here in years, but there’s an odd familiarity with the people here, even though I don’t know a soul. Western Michigan is home to a lot of people with Dutch ancestry, so blonde hair is everywhere. And, brrr, it’s cold!

Mom lives in an apartment, but I’m going to drive by the old home place (now in what would best be described as a “bad” neighborhood). I’ll have some thoughts and a picture or two when I get back (if anybody cares).

The water in the (video) pot is getting hotter

Warner Music Group’s deal with Brightcove to put video on its music sites is yet another fragmentation in the video distribution marketplace that ought to make broadcasters sit up and take notice. According to an article in today’s Online Media Daily, Brightcove will handle ad sales in the deal.

The Web-based players will encompass music videos, artist interviews, live performances and “behind-the-scenes” material. Through the deal, Warner will also allow bloggers, social networking sites and other Web publishers to add its video on-demand service to their sites. Sites that syndicate the Warner video programming will be able to share in ad revenue.
In the past, companies like Warner were strictly content creators that relied on detached distribution systems to get the word out, but that’s all changed now. The web allows them to be something they could never have dreamed of years ago, and this is just the beginning. More and more companies with goods to sell will be getting into the video game, and these efforts are competition for eyeballs in the overall video marketplace.

The pair of eyeballs watching an artist interview on a Warner Music Group site won’t be watching anything else at that time. And the fact that Warner is unbundling this content from the sites is the real incumbent killer. If that artist interview can be seen on Joe Blow’s blog, who needs the Today Show?

The message for broadcasters is pretty clear. The only thing we have now that others don’t is a temporary lock on local video, and this is not something that will last much longer. Newspapers, citizen journalists and video bloggers are all knocking at the door, and if we lose the local video niche, all is lost.

Like the proverbial frog in the hot water, we’re enjoying the bath, but the disruption is cooking us.