Online content: free at last!

Jeff Jarvis has a great post on his blog, Buzz Machine, about the death of TimesSelect, the now defunct pay service of the New York Times. He makes several great points as to why it was a doomed idea from the get-go to put a pay wall around their columnists and other content deemed "premium." He points out, "There is no end of free competition. The value is fleeting in time. The cost of charging is too high."

But the real kicker for me is the lesson that we can draw across all internet media: music, video, news, opinion, etc. The lesson, as we have mentioned countless times, is that the value of social media is the creation and advancement of relationships. Jarvis puts it this way: "It’s the relationship that’s valuable. It’s the relationship that is profitable, not the control of the content or distribution. That is the essential media moral of the internet story. It has taken 13 years of internet history for media companies to learn that, to give up the idea that they control something scarce that they can charge consumers for, but they’ve finally learned it."

This is not to suggest that there is NOTHING worth paying for online. But you need to pick your spots.

Online video is online video

An interesting study came out about internet video usage that was rather eye-opening (awful pun intended).

During the month of July, internet users watched an AVERAGE of 3 hours of video online, with Americans viewing 9 billion videos online. Nearly 134 million Americans viewed video online, which equates to 3 in 4 American internet users. The average duration of each video was just under 3 minutes.

TV continues to hemorrhage ratings share. Eyeballs are online and quality continues to improve. How will you take advantage?

Consumer consequences

American Public Media, producers of such radio programs as Marketplace, Weekend America and Speaking of Faith (among many others) has a cool tool on their website right now.

As part of a special series called "Consumed," which explores whether the modern American lifestyle is sustainable in the long run, there is an interactive game designed to illustrate the impact of our lifestyles on the Earth. It asks you a series of questions about your lifestyle and, as you play, it will show you how many "Earths" of natural resources it would take to sustain all 6.6 billion humans if everyone lived like you.

Most of our friends think we’re weirdos (or incredibly annoying, I cannot tell which) since we belong to an organic food buying club, drive a hybrid, recycle and compost like mad, etc. Despite all that, my score was still 2.6, meaning it would take 2.6 Earths if everyone lived like us. (Curiously, the transportation section was devoted to questions about how often you car pool or use public transit. No questions about the kind of car you drive, other than its mileage.)

Check it out.

New podcast episode

For those of you who prefer to listen right here on the blog, the latest podcast episode is up.

This week, we elaborate on three big new media happenings all taking place this week. While they all happened independently of one another, they all speak to the convergence in the new media space.

Listen live or you can also subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

TV on the web

Three very interesting stories in recent days:

1- Warner Bros is introducing 24 web productions in a range of formats including minimovies, games and episodic television shows. But they have rather dramatically altered their initial strategy of demanding that advertisers bear the production costs from the outset. Instead, they have decided to finance most projects themselves and worry about lining up advertisers to recoup costs later.

Why? Because the content train is moving so fast towards Destination Online (sorry, that was pretty weak) that big companies must abandon their safe, risk-free models. "The shift underlies a growing realization among the big Hollywood studios: Web entertainment is evolving so quickly that they must take on more financial risk to keep up." (NY Times- 10 Sept 2007)

2- Talent agency UTA, which launched digital studio 60Frames Entertainment a few months ago, has now created United Entertainment Group to build brand-specific entertainment properties for consumer brands.

3- LA attorney Kevin Morris, who recently cut a precedent setting deal for the creators of South Park, is now putting together a Sun Valley-style conference to put entertainment and technology people together to bridge the divide between Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

All of these occurrences speak to the growing importance of web entertainment. In my view, there is a huge chasm that needs to be filled and all of these happenings are beginning to address it. Where do professional content producers find an outlet for their work that does not fit into the established 30 or 60-minute model we’ve become accustomed to? There will always be a place for cats playing the piano or people falling on their wedding cakes, just as it’s great that I can download Scrubs from iTunes if I missed an episode and my Tivo broke.

It’s the vast middle ground where the opportunities lie.

New iPods- but THIS is more telling

So Apple did their big pre-Holiday season roll out of the updated line of iPods and the new iTunes store yesterday (September 5). New features, more storage, different colors and one new product- the iPod Touch, which is an iPhone without the phone. We’re not in the business of reviewing Apple products, as much as we love them. (Go to Engadget if you want the full 411 on all the latest products.)

Rather, what we found fascinating about Steve Jobs’ speech was some of the facts regarding the digital influence. Peep this:

  • Over 600 million copies of iTunes distributed
  • 3 billion songs purchased on iTunes
  • 95 million TV shows purchased
  • In the US in 2006, ONE THIRD (32%) of all music released was digital only, that is to say, not on CD but only as a download. One third. Talk about digital influence.

All these stats are only relevant to iTunes and the amount of content that THEY have aggregated. It boggles the mind to try and extrapolate that across all content aggregators across the entire web.

It’s happening, folks. Are you ready?

Emergence and the internet

If you’ve never listened to Radiolab from WNYC in New York, I urge you to do so. The topics are compelling, the production of each show is engaging and they only produce 5 per year so they leave you wanting more.

The episode from August 14, 2007 investigates the science of emergence or, simply put, where does organization come from? How can order come out of nothing? The group is more knowledgeable than any of its individuals. A simple, illustrative example is the guessing game involving a huge jar of jelly beans. No one person hardly ever guesses correctly. But the average of all the guesses of the entire group is almost always within a jelly bean or two of the correct number.

In the co-hosts’ analysis of how ant colonies function, their irreverent distillation of the science of emergence was, "How do so many…creatures with no boss add up to be so smart?"

This directly relates back to the "organization" of the internet. Who is responsible for popular search topics? Answer: everyone and no one.  Error is architecture.  Hundreds of local, unplanned decisions can add up to a mass movement. Consider this: you log on to search for a restaurant to try this weekend, but in your search you swerve and swerve until you find yourself on a site that gives tips on how to make your home more energy efficient. You’re not where you planned on going, but you’re not dissatisfied with your destination either.

Is this is how movements, neighborhoods and communities form? Are there no instructions? Or do they just come out of how the colony lives and behaves? What I DO know is: this is how Google has achieved primacy on the internet.

Another channel- Will there be anything on?

Web video content is improving. Search is improving. Is anyone noticing?

Apparently, yes.

According to the Online Publisher’s Association, internet users are spending nearly half their online time visiting content, a 37% increase from four years ago. The study shows that the primary role of the internet has shifted from communications to content. The study is pretty interesting and can be found here.

One of the nice conclusions is further proof that one person’s success does not have to mean another’s failure. While some in the old media (read: Hollywood) are afraid that this might be the death knell for traditional TV and film distribution models, other glass half-fullers see this as the opening of new business models like pay-to-own downloads (iTunes), subscription services (RSS) and online rentals (Amazon Unbox, among others).

Got a good idea? Get it out there and make it easy for people to find it and get it. But,in the inimitable words of radio and TV host Jim Rome, "Have a take. Don’t suck."

Today, we demonstrate the concept of “link love”

On the topic of blog and podcast promotion, we left out one element in last week’s podcast episode: link love. Link love is when you link back to a relevant site that supports what you might be blogging about. Very often, you can let that blogger or website know that you are doing so, and it can produce some rather nice results that benefit both parties. That’s why it’s called "love." It must be reciprocated. Concept is simple, now here it is in practice:

Our pal Andy at Lotame posted today about the growth of advertising on user-generated content sites. The takeaway is that these sites are experiencing phenomenal growth rates and advertisers better pay attention because this is where the eyeballs are but, more importantly, this is where the active users are. Social media sites’ (even this very blog) whole raison d’etre is to get you do DO something while you’re there: upload or download a picture, video or song, click on something, post a comment, etc. It would stand to reason that if you can reach these people IN THE SAME WAY THAT THEY ARE USED TO COMMUNICATING, you will probably have some success.

Which brings us to link number 2 from VNUnet.com. The article is entitled "Traditional marketing failing on social networking sites" (Kind of telegraphs what the article is about, eh?) Two key takeways from the article are, 1) "…marketers should be prepared to engage in a personal relationship with users by providing something of value." (Bold mine.) And, 2) "People no longer want ‘interruptive’ brand communications; they want interactions with their peers and true value from companies…"