Digital pebbles

Clarke Mulder Purdie on PR, media and other random topics

Archive for the ‘MSM’ Category

Get distributed, or get out

Posted by Graham Hayday on January 18, 2008

An old colleague of mine once spoke to an IT vendor who had this recipe for business success: ‘Get big, get niche or get out.’

It is of course a massive cliché, and one we repeated ad infinitum in the office for some reason. But it still rings true in IT, and also in media.

Or at least it used to. These days, you perhaps need to add another ‘get’ to the equation – ‘get distributed’.

Jeff Jarvis (et al) has been going on about this for the internet equivalent of donkeys’ years. Using Google’s business model for inspiration, he insists that media organisations today have to enable their content to be distributed around the web, just as Google-driven ads appear all over the place. Google doesn’t care if you never visit the Google.com homepage; it can still make money.

How many media organisations can say the same of their websites? More and more are moving in this direction, and rightly so. A survey flagged up today by Roy Greenslade on his Media Guardian blog shows why. It reveals some interesting trends about American teenagers’ media consumption.

One of the study’s authors is quoted by Roy as saying:

“We found teens are unlikely to follow serious news online, but that they will click on news stories that appeal to them when they find them on other sites… Teen after teen told researchers that they’ll view news stories ‘if something catches my eye.'”

They may well take that approach into adulthood, so it’s crucial even for B2B sites to optimise their content for a web 2.0 world. I noticed today that the CNET-owned silicon.com now has a branded Facebook page. It may only have two ‘fans’ right now (both CNET employees…) but it is another example of a media brand distributing itself online. (They should have news headlines appearing there perhaps – or at the very least a link to the site! – but I’m sure that sort of thing will come. The Facebook presence of the consumer-focused CNET.co.uk site is much busier).

The report also found that teens are “drawn to news stories if they are presented with stimulating video or pictures, or if the topic is humorous or bizarre”. Maybe we need to add another ‘get’ to the equation then – ‘get multimedia’.

So… ‘Get big, get niche, get distributed, get multimedia or get out’. It’s not quite as catchy as the original, but it works for me.

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Warner Brothers and the death of the TV channel

Posted by Graham Hayday on November 20, 2007

Are we seeing the slow demise of the TV channel as we know it? It’s not a new thought, but it has returned to the front of my somewhat addled mind today on the back of this story from The Guardian:

“US studio Warner Brothers has teamed up with cable group Virgin Media and BT Vision to launch Warner TV, the first branded entertainment channel in the UK devoted to TV series programming from a single studio.

Under the deal… more than 500 episodes of Warner programmes such as The West Wing, The OC and Nip/Tuck will feature on Virgin Media and BT Vision’s on-demand services.”

It’s a fascinating announcement. Sky+ users will be familiar with this, but it’s new to me – as a relatively new Virgin Media customer, I’m finding that more and more of my viewing is becoming time-shifted. At least a couple of times a week I’ll flick through the on-demand menu in my (all too limited) spare time looking for a programme that tickles my fancy (it was the most recent episode of QI that did the tickling last night, in case you’re interested).

I stress the word programme here. I don’t care that Stephen Fry and chums were first on BBC2 last Friday night. And there may come a time when I don’t even know which channel originally broadcast my favourite show. I’ll be looking for a genre of programme, or a perhaps programme brand, but certainly not a channel brand.

And that’s something that Warner Bros would seem to be aware of. Rather than deal with someone like ITV or Channel 4, why shouldn’t a content owner go direct to its audience? They don’t need those guys any more. That’s been true online for a while, thanks for YouTube, MySpace etc. Now it has become cost-effective to launch a digital TV channel for the bigger players like Warners.

True, it has had to deal with Virgin Media and BT so this isn’t true disintermediation at work, but they have replaced one link in the distribution chain with another which is completely ‘neutral’, for want of a better word. Virgin and BT simply supply the distribution technology. Warner Bros keeps control over the presentation of its own assets. More importantly it can make money from the consumer, either in subscription revenues or ad revenues (or both), rather than taking a one-off payment for repeat rights from a broadcaster.

Channel 4 will still buy the exclusive rights to broadcast programmes such as The West Wing first of course, but Warners is using on-demand technology to take advantage of the Long Tail effect and ends up being paid over and over again for the same content.

That IPC has launched Nuts TV and now NME TV is not unrelated to this trend. I think we’ll see more and more of this sort of thing in the future as the EPG becomes ubiquitous and TV viewing becomes increasingly time-shifted.

Maybe, as a result, we’ll see the death of the channel brand.

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Social media vs MSM (it’s 1-0 at half time)

Posted by Graham Hayday on September 12, 2007

FT.com has just covered a report that compares the news agendas of the so-called mainstream media (MSM) with the sorts of story that rise to the top of the rankings on social media sites such as Digg, Del.icio.us and Reddit.

The report (which was carried out in the US by the Project for Excellence in Journalism) makes for an interesting read, as it finds that there is little overlap between the content of the two.

To quote the FT’s piece:

“For example, in the week in question the biggest story for traditional news providers was a debate in Congress about reforms to immigration policies, accounting for 10 per cent of all news stories. It appeared just once as a top-10 story on Reddit, and not at all on Digg and Del.icio.us, the study found.

Mainstream media sites also tended to focus on a handful of big issues, while user sites rarely returned to stories.

In addition, the analysis showed that coverage on the user-generated news sites focused more on domestic US events and less on news from abroad.”

The next sentence is crucial. It reads: “Technology and science stories were the most common on the user sites.”

That’s no surprise – the early and most enthusiastic adopters of services such as Digg tend to be geeks (and I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense. Some of my best friends are geeks). The communities that these sites attract are therefore disproportionately interested in science and technology.

The most interesting thing to consider is what happens when or if these sites go mainstream (and it almost certainly is when). The penultimate paragraph of the FT.com story reads:

“The findings will fuel concerns about the situation of the mainstream media, especially as more people switch attention to the web and as advertising spending follows.”

I hope the writer of the article doesn’t mean that MSM should start covering more science and technology stories. It’s the geeks who really dig Digg at the moment, so as far as subject matter goes there’s no desperate need for MSM to change what they’re doing. They’re serving a different audience. The analysis also assumes that the users of Digg have reduced their consumption of other media. They probably have, but I’d like to see the numbers.

Regardless of that particular debate, the crucial point is whether MSM truly understand why these user-driven sites are so appealing. Power has been put in the hands of the people. We like being in control. The wisdom of the crowds should not be underestimated. And a lot of people don’t trust MSM.

Science and technology stories are attracting most of the attention on social media sites today, but next year it could be science and technology and the environment, then it’ll be science and technology and the environment and politics, then it’ll be science and technology and the environment and politics and sport, and so on, until MSM have no audiences left.

If they are to survive (and I think some of them will), the ‘old school’ crowd will have to let readers/viewers shape the news agenda. Channel 4 News has started along this route by becoming more transparent and blogging its news meetings, so at least we can find out why certain stories were covered and why certain angles were taken. That’s a bold and laudable move.

But the Project for Excellence in Journalism study suggests that even that may not be enough in the future. We need to be allowed to get even closer to, and shape, the decision-making process itself.

What does this mean for the PR community then? I’ve rambled on long enough for one post so won’t pontificate about that in depth right now, but it may be that we end up spending more time communicating directly with the ultimate consumer, and less time schmoozing journalists.

* UPDATE (13 Sept, 12:05pm): Roy Greenslade has just posted his thoughts on this report. Not entirely sure I agree with his analysis.  

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