Archives for October 2012

The space jump’s stunning YouTube victory

Felix Baumgartner outside his capsule at the top of the world

Felix Baumgartner outside his capsule “at the top of the world”

The numbers are in from Sunday’s awesome space jump, and the message is another warning sign for one-to-many media. The event was “televised” live on The Discovery Channel and Velocity, for a combined rating of 5.2 million viewers. That’s a record for Discovery, by the way. It’s the highest rated weekend, non-prime time program in network history. Good for them.

However, another record was set over at YouTube, which, at peak, had 8 million simultaneous one-to-one 1080p HD streams.

I’m sure that the Red Bull team that pulled this off could have exceeded these numbers by providing the feed to CNN, Fox and the networks.

But they didn’t, and the end result is a chilling harbinger of things to come. Why? Because businesses with money, thanks to the good old personal media revolution-cum-great horizontal, can do what they want in terms of distributing the content they own and produce. Make no mistake, that 8 million number is S-T-A-G-G-E-R-I-N-G, because all of those people were able to watch it wherever they happened to be due to the one-to-one nature of the Web. You can say what you want about the efficiency of broadcasting, but today’s world is increasingly about individual choice and decreasingly about being forced into somebody else’s “schedule.” One of the Twitter comments during the jump was that those viewers on TV had to deal with commercials, while those of us who chose YouTube got to experience every single gripping moment.

And don’t be so sure that Google will follow the broadcast model downstream.

These are the kinds of thoughts that get me into trouble, but, folks, the evidence of change continues to mount, while the TV industry continues to crank out the kind of hubris that belongs in the first stage of grieving (TVB’s As the Ad Industry Envisions All That Is Bright and Shiny, Local TV Broadcasters Are Lighting the Way).

I’m afraid it’s just not going to end well for the people and the industry I love so dearly.

Tension, anxiety, then relief

Felix Baumgartner safe at home

The shot that’s destined to become the iconic photo of the space jump

I was 23 years old when man first walked on the moon, and I’d forgotten the emotions of that event until Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner jumped today from a capsule 128,000 feet in the air. My heart rate was way up, as I sat in front of my computer watching it unfold live via YouTube. I was almost gasping for air as he went into a spin during the free fall and pure adrenaline was controlling every system of my body. And finally, there was the flush of a great chemical release that replaced it all the moment his feet met his shadow right here on planet Earth. There are so many winners here that it’s hard to state them all.

Baumgartner, of course, for becoming the latest in a long line of space heroes. As @lukepeters Tweeted: “I’m amazed Felix managed to get out of that capsule considering how big his balls are.” We love heroes, and it will be fun to watch the coming media glom.

Science for what it provided and what it gained from this historical first. @jeffjarvis and others engaged in a discussion of whether this kind of free fall could have saved the astronauts from the shuttle Columbia when it exploded upon re-entry in 2003. Jeff Tweeted: “Consensus of answers: This would not have helped shuttle victims as their vehicle was going too fast & no time.” Science learns from science, and this mission will doubtless provide important data for tomorrow.

Red Bull for sponsoring the event. Will this be the start of commercial space missions? Will we see a competition, of sorts. @dansinker Tweeted: “And thus began the energy-drink arms race that culminated in the Brawndo Sun-Jump tragedy of 2174.”

YouTube for blowing away its previous record in providing flawless 1080p live streaming to more than 8 million viewers, an “audience” 16 times bigger than anything it had done before. Kudos, and call me amazed. This will likely be the first time a streaming event beat a television (one-to-many) event.

And then there’s the sheer magnitude of sharing this historical event with friends via Twitter. Somebody asked if Evel Knievel would have been bigger in the YouTube era. Good question, and I’m not sure. This was the real deal of second screen sharing, and I can’t wait until the numbers come in. It may not have been the Oscars or the MTV awards, but for utter drama, it was amazing.

But the drama of the event tops my list. Baumgartner’s contact back at Mission Control was 84-year old Joe Kittinger, the retired Air Force colonel whose record Baumgartner was trying to break. I doubt NASA would have permitted such, but the emotional bond between the two was evident, especially as Kittinger turned Baumgartner over to “the guardian angels.”

I’m betting on this for the next Bond movie in four years.

Deconstructing the path to truth

Here is the latest in my ongoing series of essays, “Local Media in a Postmodern World.”

Deconstructing the path to truth

We’re hearing lots today about the laziness and weakness of what Jay Rosen calls “he said/she said” journalism, where writers find what feels like a sterile form of “balance” in the issues of the day by including both “sides” of any particular matter. This formula is fine until we discover that there isn’t another “side,” or that this other view is actually one that’s based on falsehood or worse, manipulation. “He said/she said” has worn out its welcome in many places, where the experiment now is to find a sense of fairness amidst the often manipulative efforts of those who have a selfish interest, and use the rules of “balance” to interject their thinking into complex issues.

In the advancing “age of participation” – what I call “postmodernism” – this artificiality is having difficulty standing up against the wider spectrum of the public, which has two things going for it today. One, they’re more able to monitor and respond to any form of artificiality in the news, and, two, they can participate in the forum that was once reserved only for the professional journalist and make up their own minds. As Gallup reaffirmed last week, the American public simply does not trust the professional press, and the whole “he said/she said” business is a big part of that.

It is against this background that I’ve published another chapter in the manual of postmodern journalism. It is my hope that you will give the ideas expressed herein a few moments of your valuable time.

We need to get into the ad serving business

Inventory management is an industrial age conceptThere is a 20th Century marketing term being used in 21st Century marketing that doesn’t belong, and if local media companies are ever going to truly comprehend and benefit from digital advertising, we’re going to have to let it go. The term is “inventory,” and it hearkens back to industrial age models of doing business. If you don’t believe we’ve entered into a new age, I feel sorry for you, but that’s a different problem than what’s on my mind today.

I want to review (again) why I feel that not only the term but the concept is holding local media companies back from embracing the digital disruption. Here’s part of what I wrote two years ago:

In introducing the concept of Local Ad Networks to media companies — where we place ads on as many sites in the marketplace that will have us — I’m often met with the following response: “Why would I want to increase the number of sites I’m advertising on when I can’t even sell the inventory I’ve got on my own site?” It’s a logical question given the world we’ve created been handed. The answer is simple, but understanding it means thinking outside the conventional realm of reach-frequency in a display advertising model.

Implied in the question are at least seven assumptions…

  1. The CPM method of selling and accounting is the best way to handle online advertising.
  2. All ad impressions are created equal.
  3. Eyeballs are eyeballs, and inventory is inventory.
  4. Cumulative reach is the same as real time reach.
  5. Banner blindness isn’t a real problem.
  6. The value of online advertising is determined by the advertiser, not the publisher.
  7. Local advertisers are happy with the CPM model.

In the old days of the Web, media companies built static pages, and those pages contained code for advertising. In this context, media companies sold “inventory,” because the weight of the site included a limited number of “avails,” despite the reality that the numbers of views depended on the number of people visiting. We could mathematically calculate a “real” inventory, just like we did with newspapers or local television, but this was always an unknown until after the fact. Eyeballs were determined by audience estimates, and that was often highly obscured, which benefited us.

Today, however, ad “views” are precise and web “pages” are generated dynamically based on a myriad of choices built into templates that come alive when a browser cries (in a hypoinstant) “Lazarus, come forth!” This allows advertisers to target specific browser windows, because in that hypoinstant the browser doing the calling is fully vetted electronically by the ad server for identifying information, such as IP address and cookies. In this sense, the ad server cares less about the ad slot — the inventory — than it does the browser that’s making the request, so “inventory” at the very best is a hole. Fewer people are buying holes these days; they’re increasingly buying specific browsers. This is what “targeting” is all about, so your inventory is only significant if the data available for the user meets specific criteria. It’s not that the holes aren’t important; it’s simply that they’re not the important part that an advertiser is buying. As long as media companies offer only sterile holes, we’ll never get on the side of real money in digital advertising, and this is as true for mobile as it is the desktop.

Today, Gordon Borrell released new revenue projections for newspapers and beyond, and there’s one slide that caught my attention. It projects local digital revenue into the future, by advertising type. Take a look:

Borrell Revenue Projections

The big growth opportunity is with targeted display advertising, and while “targeted” is a big word, the real money is in browser targeting, mobile or otherwise. According to Borrell, advertisers are no longer interested in CPM run-of-site buying, the mainstay of the old world. They’re interested in reaching specific categories of watchers or readers, and the ability of a news website to provide detailed targeting is limited (Wait, we have a pet section!). The 3rd-party ad companies that serve ads on our sites have more detail about our users than we do, which is why they can target via our inventory while we really can’t. My fear is that media companies will get caught up in believing that they actually provide targeting within their infrastructures and will continue to cede the real money to pureplay web companies (and ad networks) that are able to do beyond.

In a very real sense, the actual “inventory” that a media companies provides is its audience, not it’s advertising avails.

The solution is for media companies to build their own local ad networks, but that’s one of those things that media companies simply don’t appear to be interested in exploring.

See “Why I’m leaving AR&D” below.