Television

Is “good enough” good enough?

Is “good enough” good enough?

Long before I made the move into social media, most of my career has been spent in the entertainment business. I started in radio, moved to the music business (as both a performer and executive) and then onto TV (never as a performer, thank God).

I have always been fascinated by trends and how sometimes you can have two diametrically opposed trends developing simultaneously. I still produce, direct and write lots of video content (here’s a picture taken two days ago from a client shoot to prove it), and this has kept me thinking about one of these two-way trends a lot.

Quality. How important is it, as it pertains to audio or video content?

First let me identify the trends, as I see them. On the one hand, there is this breakneck race to the top in terms of HD televisions, HD video cameras, even HD radio. Everything needs to be as life like as possible, and we all want high quality HD monitors at home to watch the, arguably, low quality content on TV. (Hey, it’s my blog. I can editorialize all I want.) But, seriously, video production and delivery quality is going up up up while the prices of TVs and cameras keep coming down down down.

On the internet, however, high quality video delivery is still hampered by bandwidth issues, among other things. Flip cameras, iPhone 3GS and other low cost video cameras are gaining in popularity, and with good reason. You Tube, uStream, facebook and other outlets allow you to then share that content quickly. But that, in my view, is the disconnect. Online video and user generated content tends to be of very low quality. The video needs to be compressed in order to be uploaded, and good audio is almost always an afterthought, if it’s thought of at all. I have long maintained that the democratization of content creation and distribution is both the best thing and the worst thing about the internet. The great thing is, ANYONE can make a video. The bad thing is, ANYONE can make a video.

So, to restate it: We demand high quality audio and video at home, but we give online content a pass. I wonder how long will that trend last? And, more importantly, if your business chooses to use video, does the TECHNICAL quality of the content you put out there send a subconscious message to your audience? You might not realize it, but when people try and watch a video that has terrible sound, they make a LOT of judgments. You do, too. There is an old saying that “Video is easy. Sound is hard.” I understand that there are situations where a company might CHOOSE to go the UGC route, and there are tons of valid reasons for doing just that. But my question is a deeper one. Has expertise been devalued? Are all decisions coming down to dollars and cents? If so, is it penny wise and pound foolish? Something you post on the internet, as I say every day of my life, is there forever. There is no delete button on the internet. So is putting out content for content’s sake a sound decision?

Obviously, quality has always carried the day in all walks of life and in all endeavors. When both audio and video podcasting were new, there were zillions of podcasts being produced and thrown up onto iTunes or onto people’s blogs and websites. There is less of that now because people have realized that creating regularly scheduled, quality content is hard, and expensive work. Expensive in terms of the time investment and, yes, the dollar investment.

But here’s the question I have rolling around in my head that I don’t have an answer to: have we reached a point where “good enough” is good enough? Our attention spans are being vied for every minute we’re awake. So is “yeah,yeah, I get the gist of it” where we find ourselves today? And if the answer to either of those questions is “yes,” then where does that leave professional content creators?

My sense is that the quality of internet audio and video is improving because people are tired of wading through stuff shot with shaky cameras, bad sound, no edits, no titles, no opens or closes- no expertise. In other words, maybe the new way is trending and becoming more like the old way. For every uStream video, there is a Hulu video. I realize it is an unfair comparison to compare UGC with NBC, but I hope I make my point.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Has good enough become good enough? If so, do you think it will always be this way? Am I totally off base with this post? I’m really interested in your comments, so fire away in the comments section.

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What’s the deal with podcasting in 2009?

What’s the deal with podcasting in 2009?

I was in San Francisco last week for two conferences (this one and this one). At one of the evening get togethers, the conversation turned briefly (and I do mean briefly) to podcasting. It went a little like this:

“So, how come no one talks about podcasting anymore?”

“Because it’s not new anymore. Everyone’s doing it. It’s totally mainstream.”

I guess I agree and disagree. A couple of years ago when I launched the company, I anticipated that podcast production would be a big part of the business model. With my years of experience as a video producer and director, it seemed like the next logical step in the evolution of online media creation. I was, and continue to be, a HUGE consumer of podcasts, many of them courtesy of NPR. But I was wrong about the production part being a big segment of my business. Aside from my own, we only produced a couple of others.

But back to the topic of podcasting and NPR…Tom Webster from Edison Research had some interesting stats that he presented at IMS. 43% of Americans are aware of this thing called podcasting, up from 22% just three years ago. And about 27 million Americans listened to a podcast in the last month. Chances are, a lot of them were from NPR.

While stories about the contraction of mainstream media outlets abound, an underreported story is how much NPR has grown, thanks largely to their bear hug embrace of new media. They consistently have several programs in the iTunes top 10 and traffic on NPR.org grew 78% from 2007 to 2008. There has been some internal conflict from member stations that they are essentially cannibalizing themselves. NPR member stations have to pay the mother ship for programming, but if all that programming is available online on matter which affiliate you listen to, you might be less inclined to give during pledge drive time.

Or maybe not. According to a recent article in Fast Company, the NPR audience “is perhaps more ready than most for the radical concept of paying for the content they consume… When we had to announce layoffs and cuts in December, there were comments on some of our stories: ‘How can we help? Where’s the give button?’ There’s a sense that the organization is leaving money on the table. People would like to contribute more to this service that they adore and depend on.”

Compared to traditional media, podcast audience numbers are still small. Yet, as we say over and over, it’s not about the quantity of your audience, it’s about the quality. 50,000 highly motivated listeners (or viewers) is preferable to 1 million indifferent ones.

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Social Media and Online Video- 2009′s Power Couple

Nielsen
released a study last week during ad:tech in San Francisco that tracked
the interests of the average online user from 2003 to today. Quite a
difference!

Video
and social networking sites are the two fastest growing categories in
2009. The stats are a little skewed since online video was not as
prevalent in 2003 as it is today, so when you read things like "the
number of American users frequenting online video destinations has
climbed 339% since 2003," it's sort of like saying "airplane travel is
up 100% since a similar period in 1809. Uh, yeah, I guess so,
seeing as how the airplane had not yet been invented.

Nevertheless,
the findings are still valid and paint a picture of what's to come for
marketers, advertisers and PR people. Here's the line that stuck with
me: "In the age of Twitter, feedback barriers have all but disappeared,
creating a near friction-free environment for playing back brand
experience, campaign reactions or brand events. Recent public cases
involving
Motrin, Amazon and Domino's show that marketers must be quick and savvy to react to these unprecedented channels of instant feedback."

Read more and download the report here.

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TV might not be dead…yet

TV might not be dead…yet

What is being called the most extensive survey ever conducted about our media consumption habits was recently concluded by the Council for Research Excellence. Now, granted, the CRE receives funding from Nielsen, but the results might surprise you. Researchers directly observed participants over a total of 952 observed days.


Between TVs, smart phones, computer and even GPS screens, we are exposed to some kind of screen about 8.5 hours per day. Two of the findings that jumped out at me were that those aged 45-54 consume the most video media, and that computers have overtaken radio as the number two media activity, bumping radio to number 3 and print to number 4.

Another surprise was that the number of media minutes was virtually identical for every age group, with exception of those younger boomers (45-54) who spend an extra hour in front of a screen every day. Multi-tasking does not appear to be the sole province of the young and careless-folks in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s multi-task virtually the same amount.

You can read the report here. I guess we’re not as different as we all thought we were in terms of the way we consume media among the age groups. And, despite the inroads that internet TV is making, traditional TV remains the dominant player. But for how much longer?

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Is Hulu changing our online video habits?

Is Hulu changing our online video habits?

Not sure how much higher the numbers can go, but the latest online video figures for December 2008 are out from comScore and they just keep on growing.


US internet users viewed a record 14.3 billion videos in December, up 13% over the previous month. Google sites, which include YouTube, accounted for 2 of every 3 users who watched video.

What is interesting to me is that Hulu made some big gains, meaning that the AMOUNT of time people spend watching video is also increasing. The average duration of online videos watched was just over 3 minutes, but that number jumps to over 10 minutes on Hulu. Not sure if Alec Baldwin’s Super Bowl commercial for Hulu will bump those numbers up any further- something worth watching (pardon the pun).

How and how much online video do you watch? Do you seek it out on your own, or do you rely on forwards? And what did you think of the Alec Baldwin ad? I thought Hulu missed a big opportunity by almost insulting us. Do you agree?

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Trouble figuring out your social media strategy?

Trouble figuring out your social media strategy?

So you’ve been hearing how social media can help with your overall communications and marketing plan and you want to get started. Maybe you’ve even got the boss to buy in and you’re beginning to see the opportunity to move the plan forward.


But it can be confusing knowing how to get started. You may even have technology issues. Or internal disagreements on messaging or who is going to manage the community. You think you got it bad?

At least you’re not the President of the United States!

The nimble and effective online netroots campaign that helped launch the Obama-Biden ticket into the White House is still feeling its way during the first days of the Administration. But the point of this post is not to point out the problems that they may be encountering as they try and turn what was a powerful campaign movement into an equally effective governing movement. But, rather, to illustrate that while the Obama team is operating on a scale larger than what you’re probably facing, the lessons are instructive to the rest of us, whether we run small, medium or large organizations or businesses.

Organizing for America is the Adminsitration’s attempt to redirect all that Facebook-Twitter-YouTube iTunes mojo into an opinion shaping entity. (No website yet for Organizing for America. I TOLD you this stuff can be hard!)

Just like in the “real world,” figuring out an effective social media strategy inevitably implies what some like to call “failing fast.” Not everything you will try will work right away, or work at all. But flexibility is critical. David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager said in an e-mail to around 13 million members of  “Obama for America” (notice how “Organizing for America” and “Obama for America” yield the same acronym? Clever, huh?) “This has obviously never been undertaken before, so it’s going to be a little trial and error.”

The weekly radio address is now also a weekly video address, and has been since Election Day. The YouTube channel, as of this writing, reports over 800,000 views in two days, with almost as many flame throwing and offensive comments. (The videos are also on iTunes, WhiteHouse.gov and probably lots of other places, too) Still, I wonder how many of you, even the most hardened politcal junkies, ever actually heard the weekly Presidential radio address since they began with FDR as “Fireside Chats?” (As a video guy, I have to mention the the quality of the videos have improved signifcantly from the President-Elect versions to now. Amazing what a couple of lights, a decent background and an HD camera can do for your image.)

The principal takeaways are these:

1- Starting, or in this case maintaining, an effective social media strategy is hard work and requires committment, dedication, attention to detail and continuity.

2- Be ready to shift on the fly if the law of unintended consequences kicks in. Just because something is not going how you planned, does not NECESSARILY mean it’s going badly. Your “perfect” strategy may be revealed as “imperfect” the second you launch it. Study the lessons and adjust.

Pay attention to the difficulties someone else is having, and use them to your advantage. But do SOMETHING. The success of your business may be at stake.

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