Category Archives: media

Google + News

This, instead, is a pretty good way for Google to contribute to the media industry:

Fastflip

Final Burp: Media owners will hate this. Users will love it. To me, that sums up all the current debate on media…

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Google vs News

It seems like a good 20% of the news produced on the internet in the last few months is about news on the internet. Declined as newspapers are doomed, journalists are doomed, journalism is doomed, we are doomed.  And if you’re looking for the killer, you should probably head to Montainview.

Perhaps that explains why like Google has recently joined the club or the more-or-less enthusiastic supporters of micro-payments, using the Google Checkout platform.

However media companies shouldn’t be celebrating, as I think this will turn out to be little more than a PR initiative from a company that’s being accused of being a parasite.

The reasons why micropayments are very unlikely to work still stand:

– In the math of consumers, unlike the math of business models, the difference between zero cents and 1 cent is not one cent. It’s the difference between the feeling of grabbing something for free and the feeling of paying with your limited resources, plus the hassle of registering into and going through a payment verification system. (Dan Ariely has done lots of interesting research on behavioural psychology, check him out)

News can be easily replicated and divulged. Apart from any ideological considerations now why news should be free, it’s simply impossible to keep them from spreading. The same applies to editorials and any other from of digital text.

The analogy with iTunes is wrong: music is something that you own and use over time, whereas for everyone but researchers news are disposable.

The analogy with iTunes is misleading: from every song purchased on iTunes, an estimated 99 are still downloaded via p2p piracy. That’s not what I would call a successful business model for an industry.

Pricing policies would be a nightmare: is an all-you-can-eat model feasible for a search-driven, snack-size consumption? Can you fragment a newspaper down to its elementar financial value? (Clay Shirky suggested you can’t back in 2000, it’s funny to see how the debate hasn’t moved further.)

– They provide a massive advantage for free-riders: the one news organization that will publish news for free will receive almost all the traffic, and the related ad-driven revenues.

It’s no coincidence that 2009 was supposed to be the year when media starts demanding its money back, and so far everyone’s waiting for someone else to take the first step, and the risk of being considered a fool.

Final Burp: So, why is Google going down this route? PR. Why are media owners doing it? Self-delusion.

Who is going to pay for Last.Fm?

No, really. It’s not an hypothesis: Last.Fm has just announced that it will charge  users (outside of US, UK and Germany) 3€/month to listen to its radio.

It’s easy to relate this news to the article by the Economist that announced the end of the free model online*, but ultimately this may just prove how wrong that article was.

The first reaction we can have is that Last.Fm made a stupid mistake, for three reasons:

  1. It’s not something you do now that Spotify is getting mainstream and seems likely to make it big
  2. It’s not something you do in those countries where Last.Fm is less penetrated, and use of the internet is less evolved. If you had a choice, you would probably charge american and english consumers,  because they best understand the value of Last.Fm, and if they’ve been using it for a while there may be an inherent cost in opting out and switching to another service (ie. getting familiar with the new service, reinstating your preferences…). Hopefully that cost would be psychologically higher than 3€/month.
  3. It’s not something you do, period. Digital music is free. Not because it’s a viable business model. Simply because it can be. And people would rather have it for free, than pay for it.

These considerations are so obvious that we must assume Last.Fm simply had no other choice. Let’s see what more will come out of this…

 

Final Burp: Back when Napster was shut down, I was wondering why Shawn Fanning didn’t just move the servers to another country where he wouldn’t face serious legal threats. Still wondering…

 

* If you read the article, here’s my comment:

“There’s a fundamental mistake in the article.

Freeconomics did not happen as a business strategy aimed at making money. It happened because: a) technology enables users to “get stuff” for free; b) a certain number of people globally are willing to create and distribute such technology for free.

Whether this is a sustainable business model or not is irrilevant, because Napster, BitTorrent, Linux, Wikipedia, Facebook and many others were not born to be businesses. If their attempts to make money gets in the way of user experience, somebody in the world will come up with a free alternative, and that’s where users will flow to.

The trick is, one person in the world is enough to create a free alternative available to a global audience.”

Predictions for 2009: Consumer trends

More from Trendsspotting, with some highlights:

 

“Several people have mentioned that the recession almost seems like a blessing because they are now forced to readjust their values” I heard that, too. People who are saying this have not been  hit by the recession. Those who have are readjusting their meals and clothes, not their values.

 

“Lipstick sales indicate economic recession”.

 

Lots of other statements, but none of them are really predictions: they’re either acknowledgments of what’s already happening (“People want to know where their products come from” Nah, really?) or generic declarations that could it’d be hard to prove right or wrong, pretty much like horoscopes (“It’s going to be trendy to dress dowdy, with faded colors and melancholy looks”. Already is, always was, always will be for someone. Emo, anyone?)

 

Final Burp: I’m experiencing a new sense of respect towards astrologists…

 

“Content creators are layering a multitude of media into entertainment for simulatenous consumption and engagement. For example, “Little big planet” users are gamers, social networkers and content creators…” This confirms entertainment is the industry we should all try to be in, and that lots of marketers should look at as the new outlet for their products.

(A different kind of) Cannes Predictions

 

No matter how digitally-lazy I have become, I  have to write a post on Cannes 2008.

And that’s because I think that it has really been a breakthrough edition. Finally.

Here is a spare sum-up of most remarkable works, with some considerations:

1 It’s not about the gorilla. I had to rule that out. I don’t know how it landed the Grand Prix (I guess it’s that bit of Cannes logics that I still don’t get). Yes, it may be funny, but I don’t see the idea.

(Apart from: let’s put a monkey there. Monkeys are fun!)

(I know it’s not a monkey, it’s an ape)

(You get the point)

And it really doesn’t matter how many people have seen it, as Cannes has never been about effectiveness. If it were, we would have seens tons of direct-response tv ads landing lion after lion…

2. Impressive work by Nine Inch Nails. It’s so much part of their art you can’t even consider it advertising. It’s experiential art, and I think it belongs to a different category.

3. A piece of tech-masturbation by Uniqlo, that landed the Cyber Grand Prix. I don’t really love it, because it seems “web tool for the sake of it”, with no real idea/insight, but it’s interesting as a showcase for what widgets can be.

4. Kudos to the Halo team at Microsoft: a simple, inspiring idea (ie. promoting an action game without any real action), and a very good execution. Not much interaction, and that’s good: it’s about becoming familiar with the Halo legend, and that’s much bigger than You-User.

5. The Millennium Phone by Droga5 definitely deserved the Titanium Grand Prix. Just like NIN, it plays in another league, and shows how, as the digital age progresses, brilliant agencies may become all-purpose “idea factories”, well beyond communication as we now intend it.

6. There had to be something from Crispin, and here’s the much talked-about Whooper Freak-Out. Two considerations about this:

  1. Reality rules. And by that I don’t mean reality shows. I mean real vs virtual. 
  2. Simple rules. How many advertising creatives in large agencies would have considered that, well, enough of a “creative advertising idea”, as opposed to “a dull client idea”? And how many of them would have tried to come up with some sort of spectacular, metaphorical film imagining an imaginary Whopper-free world?

And now some predictions for future Cannes editions:

  1. Tv and Press will become marginal.  Ok, this is an easy one. With growing media convergence, there will be no point in having stand-alone “Tv” and “Press” categories, as the most meaningful works, or indeed all works, will have some sort of integration. Traditional Tv and Press ads will be the equivalent of the comic strips page on newspapers: you spend only a few minutes and half a brain on them in exchange for an easy laugh, but then you move on to the real stuff.
  2. Cyber will become a display of tech skills. Again, with cyber being the center of creative works that will most likely feature some other media, there’s no need for a separate cyber category. On the other hand, there may be a need for a category that would award technical innovation, rather than creative ideas. (If you want to know the difference, Uniqlo vs my long-time favorite Gamekillers)
  3. Integrated will split. With pretty much all remarkable work going multi-media, there will be a need to split Integrated into different categories. No idea yet what those categories will be, but it’s sure worth spending some thoughts on…
  4. Titanium will part. Titanium was born as a distant relative of advertising already, and even though in its youngest years the advertising family tried raising it under its own roof, it’s now pretty clear that the two don’t share much. Titanium will increasingly become a category awarding business innovation, even though it’ll be still hosted in the Palace. It’ll draw a different crowd and just work according to different rules. It will then part in spirit, if not in body.
  5. Cannes will die. Ok, that’s a long shot. But with advertising, entertainment and many other industries (search, anyone…?) blending into one, single discipline of brand promotion, and creativity taking on larger challenges besides pure communication, there will be no need for an Advertising Festival. But oyster-lovers need not to be scared: Cannes may easily evolve into a different kind of festival, a mash-up of the current adv parade, the Academy Awards, a business fair and a Ted Conference.

 

Final Burp: Going through both works at Cannes, and daily projects here at Dare, I’ve been wondering way too often already: is this advertising? It doesn’t look like it is. (And that was a good sign). Let’s just not call it advertising anymore.

Why Derek Zoolander* may save the movie industry

 

The movie industry traditionally looked at films as a sort of one-shot product: a film is produced and sold, so that you can start producing (and selling) another one. In case of success, here comes the sequel. Other sources of revenue were limited to home video and television, and this sources became more significant with the arrival of DVDs, pay-tvs and pay-per-view.

Despite a shift in the revenue portfolio (movie theaters, dvds, tv) the business model is still focused on producing one, single piece of entertainment, and selling it all over.

Some categories of films (sci-fi, kids…) have taken this business model farther, through licensing agreements, so that the latest Disney films gives birth to dolls, backpacks, pencils, videogames, and pretty much anything.

Apparently, this may mean that films are treated as brands.

But only to a certain degree: the original creators of the film are often responsible for the film alone, with licensee are allowed to exploit it in a number of ways. If we look at it more deeply, this is still the case of a producer creating one, single piece of entertainment, to be replicated.

What the movie industry hasn’t done yet (with a few exceptions) is looking at films as just one, major step in a longer narrative process: the film allows you to introduce the story, or to express a climax, but then the narration (the brand) goes on with many more pieces of entertainment.

And here is where Derek Zoolander starts to matter: Zoolander was created as a typical Hollywood one-shot product. A film is made, and later sold on dvd/pay-per-view/cable/… Should we be lucky, we may expect a sequel that is as good as the original.

But if we look at Zoolander as a brand, we may come up with so many more opportunities: a modeling school, of course; a make-up and hairstyle line; weekly tips on what to wear that you can download on your mobile; a website where you can upload your picture, so that Derek can give you suggestions for a makeover… Much more than the traditional licensing.

The “Derek Zoolander’s Group for really really ridiculousyly good looking people” on Facebook now accounts for more than 200.000 members. I’ld guess that most of them would love experiencing more Zoolander content, and Hollywood has no interest in leaving that to Facebook alone (or to consumer-generated films on youtube)

 Star Wars is one of the few examples of Hollywood films that are actually managed as a brand: you can experience the world of Star Wars in so many more ways than just watching the 3 great, original films (and the 3 subsquent prequels, if you really really have to).

There are videogames, roleplaying games and comic books adding original pieces of content to the Star Wars universe, so that you can even get a full sense of it without having actually watched any of the films.

Cloverfield is another interesting examples, with trailers and teasers scattered all over the world, with original footage that has no clear relation with the film itself.

In this perspective, the film is only a significant investment in the creation of a brand, thus giving a very different meaning to box office figures.

 

Final Burp: How many films are interesting enough that people want to be involved in the story long after they exit the movie theater?

 

*Disclaimer: This post was originally supposed to be based on “L’allenatore nel pallone”, an italian cult-movie on the most unlikely football coach. But then I realized that Derek Zoolander is more of a global icon than poor Oronzo Canà.

Channel planning: purchase-based vs brand-based (and what that has to do with Pollock)

Media agencies are blessed by current evolutions in communication: not only because media fragmentation requires dedicated specialists that can put together tailor-made plans to harass each and every consumer in more and more ways and places, but also because the growing demand for measurability happily meets media agencies’ familiarity with figures.

And the future holds even better news: with a more complex marketing and a growing need for speed, marketers will need to empower one single entity to manage brand communication, with the legitimacy to take immediate decisions (and risks) in order to ensure a quick reaction on the market.

Big companies can embed that position, smaller companies will have to rely on a partner. (Many marketers have already started doing so, including major companies)

Media agencies are in a better position to take on that role, both for the reasons above, and because creative agencies seems to be so reluctant to change. (As well as to produce some good enough work to help the industry regain that sort of credibility that only a few creative shops retain)

Now, why does it matter whether the leading role is taken on by media agencies or by creative agencies? (I could always move to media, and make sure that I can still pay for my mortgage at the end of each month)

Media agencies have always looked at people as media consumers, and recently opened a second eye to look at people as purchasers involved in a purchase path. It’s common sense: investigate how people go through the purchase process of a given product or service, find out what kind of media/channel gets their attention at each stage, and build a channel plan upon it.

Makes lots of sense. 

Bad news is, it makes sense for consumers, not for brands: if all brands of a given market follow were to follow this model, they would all generate the very same communication plan. They’ld make sure that they’ld be in the place where consumers expects them to be: too bad they’ld be there together with all their competitors.

Creative agencies look at people as people, and look at brands first for their content, that should be unique to them, and only secondly for their purchase process, that is usually the same as their competitors’.

Looking at people as people means that we don’t need to be about to buy a tv, in order to be interested in Sony Bravia. On the opposite, if we’re not within the purchase process, our mind is “clearer”, and we can dedicate Bravia a greater share of mind: and this will make it stand out among the brand clutter,  once we will actually be ready for a new tv.

Looking at brands for their content is the safest way to be consistent and distinctive against competitors: if ads (or any other piece of communication) from Sony Bravia are only found in those media I go through while looking for televisions, I mainly understand that Sony Bravia is a tv. (Big deal.). The piece of communication would really need to be different, unique and engaging to make it stand out, and let me understand that Bravia is “that one kind of tv”, as opposed to all the other I would simultaneously be exposed to.

 If I find a Sony Bravia’s ad at Pollock’s exhibit, I understand that Sony Bravia is about “color”. And if no other tv brand is there, I understand that “Bravia’s color” is “like no other”.  (Assuming that potential consumers of Bravia visit exhibits, that makes quite a difference).

Now, of course Sony needs to be where consumers look for informations on televions: magazines, tech websites, word-of-mouth…

But if communication plans are devised starting from purchase process, Bravia will never meet Pollock. After all, who would visit an exhibit searching for informations on a tv screen? But, wouldn’t it be one of the best places to be for Sony?

Final Burp: In the future, focusing on purchase process might result in many media plans mostly converging to Google: real purchasers in real time. Focusing on people and brand content would result in creative agencies taking care of all the communication that takes place before and after the purchase. It sounds like a lot more.