What the writers’ strike could mean for online video

The Hollywood writers’ strike is now grinding into its twelfth week. I have a lot of friends in LA who are writers who are feeling the pain. But make no mistake: the writers’ strike does not just affect writers, but rather an entire industry and tens of thousands of people. As glamorous as the entertainment business appears from the outside, the truth is it is an industry like any other whose continued operation is made possible by regular people with kids, mortgages, car payments and credit card bills.

The last writers’ strike was over DVD revenue sharing (mostly) and the writers really took one in the chops. The by-product of that last strike was the rise in prominence of cable TV and reality programming. Indeed, for every loser, there is a winner. Once the average TV viewer starts to get fed up with reruns of their favorite shows, they will start to look elsewhere for entertainment. I have believed since the beginning of the current strike that if it dragged on too long and people began to look elsewhere, THEY MIGHT NOT COME BACK TO TV. Sound far fetched?   

A recent study from Burst Media which is instructive but not definitive, shows that 40% of respondents "expect to use the internet more for entertainment purposes if their favorite TV shows are shown only in reruns." I do not believe the internet will replace TV in the near-term, but cable TV was a something of a wasteland and a bit of a joke before the last writers’ strike. How many of us now turn to cable FIRST when looking for something to watch?

Here’s hoping the strike ends soon, everyone gets back to work and no more pain is inflicted on the workaday folks who make up the backbone of the Hollywood workforce. But remember, every day that goes by without a settlement is another day of lost viewers who will need a hell of a lot better reason to come back to TV than "The Moment of Truth." (I refuse to link to it. If you don’t know what it is, consider yourself better off. If you’re curious, it’ll only take a second to find.)

More thoughts on control

We all like to think that we know what’s in store for us. That somehow we have a hand in the short and long range outcomes of our lives. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t.

We posted recently about how giving up control can help you gain control. More on that in a great anecdote from Jeff Jarvis who publishes the Buzz Machine blog. He relates a Paulo Coelho story about how the author has posted one of his own copyrighted books online and has surpassed 100 million downloads. He welcomes the "pirates" who spread his book around and even finds that his sales have increased.

But the best part for him is that before the internet, 100 million readers were an abstraction. Now he can interact with them (well, probably not ALL of them) through the social media tools that he employs in his daily life.

The cognitive disconnect of selling more books by giving away books is going to take a very long time for people to come to terms with.

50 ways to recycle your old cell phone

With apologies to Paul Simon, here is a useful article from Treehugger.com about how to recycle your cell phone. We found it rather shocking to learn that the average life of a cell phone in this country is a mere 18 months.

The "50 ways" are actually found in a link to VoIP News, but we wanted to give some link love to Treehugger since they consistently come out with practical information and even the occasional yummy recipe or two.

Two interesting trends for 2008

One of these days "new media" will stop being new. Maybe that day is inching closer.

At the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Tivo announced that it was making its popular Season Pass functionality available for web video by simply subscribing to your favorite stuff via RSS. This immediately elevates internet content, making it easily available as part of the customized and personalized TV viewing experience that Tivo provides. This was a long time coming, and further validates the place that internet content occupies in consumers’ overall entertainment mix.

The second trend that we read about with great interest came from eMarketer.com and it suggests that for advertisers in this fragmented internet world where the old pattern of interruption messaging is dying out, they must make their ads into content. Once again, hitting on the topic of engagement (that we talked about here and here), CEO Geoff Ramsey averred,

"The new ad model is about creating great content and finding clever ways to embed it in the fabric of communities and content platforms where consumers are hanging out and actively participating."

Indeed, when was the last time you forwarded a banner ad to someone?

New Media Consulting

We are proud to announce the launch of the consultancy arm of Clearcast Digital Media. Over the past year we have come across so many professionals who are looking for good, solid and USABLE information about online media tools and their effective application that we have decided to formalize our offering.

In the coming weeks we will be sending out information about the different packages and consulting services we provide. In the meantime, we wanted to get the ball rolling by releasing part one of our five part podcast series dedicated to how your company or service can benefit from the implementation of an online media campaign.  (We wouldn’t be very new media if we didn’t use a new media tool, now would we?) Episode one is entitled State_of_the_Online_Media_Union.

As always, you can find us on iTunes and we hope you subscribe for free. For those of you who have not made iTunes a part of your entertainment and information mix, you can listen live right here on the blog.  (Click the link above.) In doing it this way, you will miss out on many of the links and enhanced features available in the iTunes version. Rest assured, however, the content is exactly the same.

For consulting requests, please send us an e-mail.

Challenges don’t build character, they reveal it

One of the major challenges we encountered in 2007 as we tried to evangelize the gospel of New Media was a combination of entrenched ways of thinking and maybe a dollop of fear of the unknown. We are, of course, undeterred. Our work is made easier by the unending raft of coverage of new media by the traditional media.

As we begin the New Year, this quote seemed particularly well-focused:

    It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arriving partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had the actual experience of it. Thus it arises that on every opportunity for attacking the reformer, the opponents do so with the zeal of partisans, the others only defend him halfheartedly, so that between them he runs great danger."

The Prince, published 1513                                                                                 
Niccolo Machiavelli (b.1469-d.1527)

Reflections on 2007 and predictions for 2008

As the year winds down, we are succumbing to the temptation of trying to put the previous year in perspective as well as try and focus on the year to come. No "best of" lists here, but I did want to pick up on a theme from a recent post, that being the future of internet TV.

There has been some buzz about VC money entering the game as writers and independent content producers try and figure out a way to take their product directly to the people. VC money may follow the potential for new revenue, but there is an interesting wrinkle in the internet distribution model, one that might be easily mitigated.

Success with any entertainment format is all about distribution. You don’t need to reach hundreds of millions of people to be considered "successful," just those who are truly interested and passionate about your offering. Any new distribution model will need execution to be successful. It is clear that the hunger for new content and new methods of finding that content exists. But successful entertainment requires people to respond to it. With the new low cost distribution model, production companies would do well to produce several different formats in order to mitigate their risk. Instead of needing to convince a couple of suits to distribute your show to millions, you now need several thousand people to distribute your show to several more thousand. Since it is difficult to predict what will stick (some things never change), it will become necessary to have several entertainment strands working at the same time.

The good news is, distribution costs allow producers to recoup their costs of a pilot much faster. Social media will play an ever increasing and critical role in the distribution of quality content on the internet.

So, our prediction for 2008 is this: web video content will play a larger and larger role in consumers’ lives and become as much a part of the entertainment mix as TV, DVD rentals or going to the movies. (Here is a nice summary of 2007 in internet TV from Read/Write/Web.)

All the best for 2008, and we’ll be back in touch after the first of the Year.

Embrace the chaos

The future of online content is in the hands of the 1.3 billion worldwide users of the internet. Since mobile phones outnumber personal computers by about 3 to 1, it’s all about portable interactivity.

Striking film and TV writers are now looking for ways to bypass the Hollywood studio system and produce and distribute their content directly for the net. The are seeking out VC funding as well as technology partners to make this happen. Advertisers would feel more comfortable with a model like this since it assuages their fears of being aligned with user generated content that might be objectionable or of low quality.

It’s a brave new world.

Gain control by giving up control

I really enjoy Matt Bai’s coverage of the campaigns for the New York Times. In the Magazine section from December 9, 2007 he makes a compelling argument for why candidates no longer control their candidacies.

The essential lesson of Dean’s 2004 campaign and the online movement it is credited, rightly or wrongly, with inspiring was that these things cannot be orchestrated. "…the greatest momentum goes not to the candidate with the most detailed plan for conquering the Web but to the candidate who surrenders his own image to the clicking masses, the same way a rock guitarist might fall backwards off the stage into the hands of an adoring crowd."

The smartest companies have reached the same conclusion: since it is no longer possible to dictate the rules of the game as it pertains to marketing, product development and branding, you may as well as give up some of that control to your audience or consumers and, in so doing, foster greater loyalty.

Gain more by giving more. Hmmm….interesting concept.