Tag Archives: Content (media)

Kidding Yourself With Content

When I was a kid we watched 7 channels of TV. There were 3 networks (no Fox yet), 3 independent stations (more than in most markets), and PBS. By the time I had my kids we had many more channels available – Nielsen would tell you that by 1995 the average home had 45. Today the number is closer to 189 in the typical home and with all the movie and sports channels the number in my house is well over 300. That’s a lot of content and I consume only a fraction of what is available.

I bring this up today because I read an excellent study called The Content Marketing Paradox. You can read through the deck here. It was written by the folks at Track Maven and it was eye-opening. As the Research Brief folks summarized it:

The study found the output of content per brand increased 78% from the start of 2013 to the end of 2014, but content engagement decreased 60%. Brands are generating a higher volume of content per channel, but individual pieces of content are receiving fewer interactions

On social networks, brand-generated content is seeing the lowest engagement rates now than anytime in 2013 and 2014, and 43% of professionally marketed blog posts receive fewer than 10 interactions. Marketers are distributing more content on more channels, while simultaneously complaining about how hard it is to cut through the noise.

This was the most meaningful statement in the piece for me:

As channels have proliferated, technologies have emerged to help marketers more efficiently produce and broadcast content, which has in turn increased the total volume being generated. But as the data above show, marketers’ “more is better” approach is not an effective response to channel explosion. Stated differently, marketers are getting better at distributing content, but are not getting better at creating content worth distributing.

So ask yourself this:  why are producing the content we are?  Who is reading and interacting?  What results have we measured?  Most importantly, how is our relationship with our customers and with consumers as a whole being enhanced by our efforts?  The silence may be deafening if the above data are to be believed.  Maybe we’re just kidding ourselves?

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Much Ado About Much Ado

Over the weekend, we went to the movies (The Big Wedding, since you’re asking).

William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare

As we sat watching the previews of coming attractions, up came a trailer for the new Joss Whedon movie. It’s a comedy about two couples and their very different viewpoints on love and it’s filled with twists and turns and snappy dialog.  Here’s the thing:  it was written 400 years ago and yet it seems from the trailer that the script is the same.  “Much Ado About Nothing” was written by Shakespeare long before “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and yet the same guy (Whedon) can make both of them work.

As I sat watching, I was struck immediately by the fact that while the look is modern and the technology that’s delivering the “play” (digital projection) is quite state of the art, it’s the same Elizabethan language.  Which of course prompted a business thought.

More and more, brands and businesses are content producers.  I’m not sure Shakespeare ever thought of himself as such, but that’s what we’d brand him today.  We may think of what he produced as art but at the time it was often about commerce, so I don’t think of it as totally dissimilar.  What’s amazing is that not only has it survived but it has been reinterpreted across many different channels for centuries.  We saw Macbeth as a one-man show a couple of weeks ago and it worked as well as the times we’ve seen it with a full cast.

Here’s the thing: you probably don’t think of what you produce as having to hold up for 400 years.  I’m not Shakespeare did either but isn’t that a great goal?  Motion pictures didn’t happen for a few hundred years and yet this is at least the fifth film version of the script, each of which looks different but all of which remain true to Shakespeare’s vision.

Given the short-term mentality of much of media and business today, it’s easy to think about the next content cycle rather than the long term.  Isn’t it amazing what can happen when a little extra time and care are invested in creating something timeless?  Going viral indeed – for centuries!

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Taking An Umbrella

Sometimes I think that changing landscape of the media business is like the weather:  everyone complains about it but almost no one does anything.  In fact, if you spend any time at all following developments in the media space, you read a lot more about the old models trying to sue the new out of existence (Aereo, YouTube, etc.) than you do about new models being adopted quickly by the older business models.  So today, we have a little food for thought and an example of what can happen when a newer company adapts rapidly.

Image representing Netflix as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

As reported by multiple sources this morning:

Netflix‘s Q1 numbers are in, and the company reports that it now has 29.17 million subscribers in the US alone — that’s 2 million more than the number of subscribers the streaming video provider had at the end of 2012. Globally, Netflix reports more than 36 million subscribers, an addition of 3.05 million new customers when compared to the end of 2012/previous quarter…This is, for the first time, greater than HBO’s domestic subscription base of 28.7 million.

And another point:

Netflix isn’t a cable network, but it competes for attention with television fare beyond just HBO. And in that context, Netflix commands more attention—87 minutes per US household per day—than any American cable network.

30 million subs at $8 at month is a quarter of a billion dollars every month in gross revenues and high engagement.  Not too shabby.  That money is funding original programming such as House Of Cards (the implications of which I discussed earlier).  Moreover, House Of Cards itself was bought using all of the knowledge Netflix had on its subscribers’ viewing habits and preferences, something older media doesn’t have since the traditional TV ratings provide next to nothing of value when compared to the granular data streaming services have.  Anyone see that changing?

A couple of years ago Netflix was tied in to physical media, which is still a small percentage of its business.  It was smart enough to pivot to streaming, taking advantage of the growth of broadband and the ubiquity of mobile devices that can’t handle the physical media upon which Netflix had originated   Sure, there was a rather large misstep along the way as they separated the DVD and streaming price plans.  However, they did an excellent job of recovering over the last 18 months, mostly because they listened to their customers and provided increased value by adding more original programming.

The lesson I take from this is that spending energy defending an outdated business model rather than moving forward to take advantage of the new opportunities provided by market changes is ultimately a recipe for failure.  Like the weather, the change is going to happen.  Either dress appropriately or drown in the rain.  You with me?

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Content Worthy Of Your Brand

The biggest challenge I face producing the screed each and every weekday is not in the writing of it. Most of the time the words come pretty easily. The challenge is in finding topics that I think will both enlighten and entertain you guys. Some days it seems as if there’s plenty about which to write; other days I stare at the screen while sorting through hundreds of articles trying to think of something that meets my standard – hopefully yours as well.

Audience

(Photo credit: thinkmedialabs)

That challenge is shared by anyone who creates content: how to produce something that’s worthy of the audience‘s attention. How to produce something that satisfies the attention/value exchange on a fair basis. It’s a challenge that I think is met less and less often (and not just by me!) and let me explain how it might affect you on both ends of the equation.

I guess it’s obvious how it does on the consumer side.  None of us like to invest our time and attention and be served the content equivalent of one of the foams that have gone so out of style in the food world.  These foams are airy and sort of have a flavor but they fade quickly and are pretty unsatisfying.  My real concern is how it affects you on the other end – the business side.

Everyone had become a content-producer.  Companies that make remote controls or eyeglasses are suddenly making content as well.  Sometimes they hire people who once were copywriters but now are “branded content producers.”  Idiots who film their friends at parties are now “rich content generators”.  Kids who annoy their friends over social networks are hired as social media content specialists.  Everyone and every brand produces “content.”

The effect is that we’re all overwhelmed by a lot of crap that doesn’t serve the audience.  White papers that are just ads for a product.  PR releases disguised as microsites.  The answer to this is, I think, not to get caught up in it if you’re a brand.  If you are going to send something out into the world, make it as good as your product.  After all, you wouldn’t let something out of your door with your brand on it that was inferior.  Make it as smart as your audience and worthy not just of their attention but also of the audience with which you want them to share it.  Hire professionals to generate it on your behalf, not your nephew who can speak reasonably well.

Anyone can produce drivel (and no remarks about how this blog proves that point).  Great brands need to produce great content.  Right?

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RTB Means Really Tough Business

The always reliable Digiday did a piece yesterday on Real Time Bidding (some folks say Buying) and the effect it’s having on web publishers. Entitled “Publishers Face RTB Pressures,” it’s an excellent though depressing overview of what’s happening in the digital publishing business due to the steady growth of programmatic ad buying. I can’t sum it up any better than this:

The drive for more efficient buys in RTB is putting pricing pressure on the entire display ad market. According to Magna Global, display advertising globally rose just 1.5 percent in 2013. That’s not very good in a market that expanded 14.4 percent overall for the year. In fact, the reason Magna identified: price drops.

That’s the situation today, when 17 percent of buying is through exchanges. In five years, Magna director of global forecasting Vincent Letang expects 43 percent of display advertising to be bought and sold via exchanges.

In other words, there’s too much inventory and these formulae don’t give the quality of your content enough consideration.  Heaven forbid that humans actually enter the equation!  Before all of my friends who sell non-digital media get too smug, one can rest assured that when the efficiencies of this buying protocol become evident that someone will push it on TV and print just as sure as the sun shines.  So is this a bad thing?

If you’re buying audiences for your marketing messages, no, it’s not.  It is, however, if you’re a content creator who tries to make money off your content by selling the audiences it attracts.  I suppose that means that if I were in the content business I’d get the hell out by selling off my audience monetization to someone else – a publisher or distributor.  I’d give up some of the upside in return for protecting the downside push to the bottom RTB is forcing.  As the article says “Efficiency is a great thing unless what you do is what is being made more efficient.”  It’s not going to be long (and it may be here already) before the quality of the content is impacted as the resources to produce consistently great stuff just aren’t there.

If I were back being a publisher, I’d be spending a lot of time having someone think about our syndication strategy and fast.  Let  someone else ride the ad wave down to the bottom.  My content – and yours – is worth more than that.

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Making Snacks

Another thought-provoking report from the folks at eMarketer last week.  This one is called “The Smartphone Class: Connected Consumers Transform US Commerce and Culture.”  When you think about it, are you aware of anyone who has purchased a new phone in the last year that hasn’t bought a smartphone of some sort?  I don’t want to sound like a techno-snob and I’m well aware that the installed base of “feature phones” – those that some things such as text beyond just voice but aren’t really smart phones (Android, iPhones, etc.) is still pretty large (as in almost half), but giving them a ton of thought is akin to filming TV showsin black and white when color became the norm.

While Apple has not listened to my complaints ...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In any event:

eMarketer estimates nearly 116 million Americans will use a smartphone at least monthly by the end of this year, up from 93.1 million in 2011. By 2013, they will represent over half of all mobile phone users, and by 2016, nearly three in five consumers will have a smartphone.

Turns out, eMarketer underestimated how quickly they’d be the majority:

50.4% of U.S. mobile subscribers owned smartphones in March 2012, up from 47.8% in December 2011, according to Q1 2012 data from Nielsen Mobile Insights. Broken down by operating system: Android was first with a 48.5% share, followed by Apple’s iOS (32%), RIM‘s BlackBerry (11.6%), Windows Mobile (4.1%), Windows Phone (1.7%), and other (2.1%).

What’s interesting is how this has changed user behavior.  People with these devices are “always on.”  They are constantly consuming content, generally in small increments.  A few minutes of news, a funny video, 10 minutes of a game while commuting.  The issue becomes how are the old guard of content producers adapting?  It’s great that TV shows are available across platforms, but the study tells us that a 20 minute TV episode is unlikely to hit the sweet spot of consumption.  Could it be that the nature of TV itself changes?  What made the 30 or 60 minute episode king other than an ability to tell people when to tune in?

So while “consuming content in frequent, small portions means more touch points for marketers,” it seems to me that users want to be touched differently from how they’ve been in the past.  If we’re producing content, we need to keep that in mind.  And I’ll just leave it there before we head into weirdness.

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I Can Do It All By Myself

For those of you with children (or those of you who can recall when the adults you’ve raised were children), you might remember one of the great parental moments.  It’s the one where the child – probably only 4 or so – realizes that they can do things for themselves.  Maybe it’s pour a drink of water or maybe it’s get dressed on their own.  No matter which of the dozens of tasks we as parents undertook for our kids, at some point we all hear “I can do that all by myself!”

I bring this up because by the time  most folks are old enough to use the web, they can do most things by themselves.  Which is why I can’t understand many sites’ choices to present audio or video elements which aren’t user-initiated.  As someone who used to run a large site that made a fair amount of money based on ad views, I get that showing more ads is a good thing.  But as someone who spends too much time (and more than a second is too much time) finding and closing the pane providing me with an annoying sound or a video that’s running down my laptop’s battery, I can’t help but wonder if web-masters are doing this just to increase their video views, ads served, or audio files played.  They can’t be doing it because users like it.  More importantly, advertisers are starting to ask the same question and about how it affects consumer response to and engagement with their ad.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, auto-initiated content is that which plays automatically when users visit a web pageAccording to SpotXchange, which is a video ad network and market:

 There is a significant difference between auto- and user-initiated video ads, which results in two different user experiences.  An auto-initiated ad plays automatically when a user visits a web page, but the video ad does not block the user from viewing intended content.  User-initiated ads must be viewed by consumers before reaching their desired content, such as a video or game.  Because higher levels of consumer engagement are associated with user-initiated video ads, advertisers are willing to pay a premium for them.

By not letting the user decide what they want to see, publishers may actually be shooting themselves in the foot, since the value of the content displayed is diminished.  We can all do the web all by ourselves and choose what we want to see and hear.  Turns out it’s better business too to let the user decide.  Imagine that!

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