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?

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, 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.

Online video is an unstoppable force

Since we are video producers, we are partial to this kind of news:

comScore announced that US internet users watched 12.7 billion online videos in November 2008, up 34% from November 2007. That translates to 77% of users watching nearly 4 hours of video per month EACH with the average video duration being around 3 minutes. THAT’S OVER 90 VIDEOS PER MONTH FOR EVERY MAN WOMAN AND CHILD ON THE INTERNET, or
four videos a day. It boggles the mind.

Another recent survey says that 66% of marketers plan to implement online video into their 2009 plans. Uh…YEAH. You think?

Using social media to market your business or organization is more than setting up a Facebook page, as 59 of the top 100 US retailers have done, including BestBuy, Kohl’s and Wal-Mart. You need to connect with people and there is still nothing more powerful than the moving picture, whether it’s coming from your TV or, increasingly, your computer screen.

We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: videos get shared, commented on and passed around endlessly. When was the last time you forwarded a banner ad to a friend?

How much video do you watch online? Has it changed your TV viewing habits at all?

Online video is no longer a choice, but a necessity

The online video audience has grown significantly in the past year, and the reasons for that are compelling ones.

Women and older internet users are closing the gender and age gap that might have once existed. Adam Wright from Ipsos MediaCT who conducted the study observed, “Television networks, movie studios and other video entertainment entities will need to recognize the growing demand among all consumers for digital distribution. Streaming video is no longer something just teens and twenty-something’s are enjoying, but rather it has become a fixture in mainstream America’s daily routines.”

Think of your own internet habits, especially in this election year where videos are being uploaded, downloaded, forwarded and shared like crazy. There is no longer anything exotic about watching video online. On the contrary: those companies and organizations that eschew online media will find themselves left behind or, worse yet, having their story told by someone else.


Social Media in the “real world”

I spend a lot of time talking and reading about social media. Trends in new media and social media as new methods of communication fascinate me, and I am completely immersed in all of it. I read tons of blogs, download tons of podcasts and do all I can to stay on top of what’s out there.

What happens sometimes, however, is that you end up in a kind of echo chamber where you forget that there are millions of people out there who have never heard of Twitter, might never download a podcast on purpose or venture onto Facebook, comment on a blog, etc. Some of the reasons might be generational or, more likely, that change is slow and incremental.

That’s why I found a recent encounter so encouraging. I was at a golf course near my house and when I went into the pro shop to pay for a token for some practice balls, all the TVs were turned off. Now, on any given weekend in every pro shop in America, all TVs are tuned to whatever tournament is being contested that weekend or, at the VERY least, the Golf Channel. Instead, the 50-something staffer was watching YouTube. He paused it when I came in and I could not QUITE make out what he had on, but where he paused it I was able to see that it was a documentary from the BBC about the Victorian era.

I LOVE that there was nothing on but this guy was not going to be deterred. For all of you out there who are wondering: the revolution is BEING televised.

Tina Fey, Sarah Palin, NBC and A change is gonna come

Historically, the fight over displaying network TV content on the internet has been about where,
when, who and how to exhibit it
AFTER it plays on television. Well, now Tina Fey/Liz Lemon/ Sarah Palin has turned that argument on its head.

Lately, Tina Fey has been everywhere between her AMEX commercials, Emmy awards for 30 Rock and, of course, her spot-on Sarah Palin impression. Unfortunately, what NBC WANTS her to be known for is the critically acclaimed, but ratings challenged, 30 Rock. The momentum she has built up is, quite literally, historic. Online and DVR viewership was twice what it was for the original showing on Saturday Night Live.

Among all the people who saw at least one of the three SNL sketches, 33% watched it on television during the original broadcast and a staggering 67% watched after the original broadcast either online or on a DVR. (By the way, 56% of those who saw the SNL spoof never actually watched the ACTUAL Biden-Palin debate. Insert wry comment here _______) (Source: Online Media Daily)

“This is the first time we’ve seen delayed viewing numbers this big,” said Amanda Welsh, head of research for San Mateo, Calif.-based IMMI. “Usually it’s the other way around, with the overwhelming majority of viewing occurring during the actual broadcast.”

Of course, NBC had no way of knowing all of this when they programmed their fall schedule, and 30 Rock is not slated to return to the airwaves until Ocotber 30. What to do? What to do?

Hey, how about that online video thingy? Yup- NBC will be premiering the first episode of the new season on on October 23, one week before its scheduled TV debut. Hulu has been an unqualified success, and NBC is showing some smarts by taking advantage of changing viewing habits.

(By the way, 30 Rock is really funny, and NBC announced that Salma Hayek will have a recurring role this year.)

Interactive TV: Is the future finally here?

It has been said that interactive TV is the future of television- and it always will be. The most commonly used example to explain what it makes reference to “Rachel’s sweater”, as in Rachel from “Friends”, which gives you another idea about how long people have been talking about it.

Imagine you’re watching “Friends” and you could click on Rachel’s sweater and be able to find out who makes it, where it’s available and maybe even buy it right there on your TV. That, in essence, is a key feature of interactive TV. Boston- based Backchannel Media is expanding a test into three New England markets. It will offer viewers programs and ads that feature on screen icons that they can click. Each click sends a signal to the viewer’s personal portal which aggregates all the things they have previously expressed an interest in. The next time they go online, they can look up more info. Presumably, this would not just be for commerce but offer the ability to drill down deeper about the content of participating shows.

Online advertising is held to a much different standard than traditional advertising because of its vaunted ability to track engagement and interaction. This might be the first step for television viewership and advertising to be measured in the same way. Fair is fair, right?

Online video vs. Cable- Can anyone win?

It was announced the other day that Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” can now be found on Hulu. (Hulu is the joint venture between NBC and News Corp where you can watch selected episodes of dozens of TV shows online for free. No downloading permitted and there are ads, but, hey…) Viacom, which owns Comedy Central, is the first major network to sign with Hulu since its launch.

Clips of The Daily Show have been available for awhile on for free. All of which got me thinking: what will this mean for cable TV providers? Sticking with the example of Comedy Central for a second, let’s play it out:

Your cable company pays each channel or parent company a carriage fee based on how many subscribers that system has. Those costs are then passed on to you in the form of your insanely high cable bill. (I’m simplifying this, but not a lot.) Now, it is not a stretch to say that “Daily Show” and “Colbert Report” are the flagship shows on Comedy Central. I have no idea what their ratings are, but without those two shows, Comedy Central would turn into a test pattern tomorrow. “Mind of Mencia” ain’t keeping the lights turned on over there.

So, imagine you’re Comcast. You are paying Comedy Central a certain fee per month to include that channel in your line up. And then you turn around and find out that they’re giving it away for free. You see where this is going, right? I am not defending cable companies. That is not the point. The point is, we are starting to see the tectonic shift on how content is delivered and what logically follows is how that content is paid for. This is big, folks. And it will have far reaching ramifications.

UPDATE: Since I wrote this, look at what the BBC is planning. Holy crap!

TV viewership down- and it will stay down

The television upfronts concluded in New York last week and the news was sobering. Six million viewers seem to have vanished and it is unclear if they’re coming back. Back in January, right here on this very blog, we predicted that viewers who were alienated by the writers’ strike might not come back they way they did after the previous writers’ strike. The Business Day headline from the May 12 New York Times wondered “In the Age of Tivo and Web Video, What is Prime Time?” And finally, FOX Entertainment head Peter Ligouri had this clear eyed assessment of the state of prime time TV: “But we should all look at what happened to those viewership levels and be shocked into being more aggressive about our thinking.”

The revolution is being televised. Just not on TV.

Change in online viewing habits

On this blog, we talk a lot about the experience. In other words, making the consumption of online content an easy and pleasant one for the consumer, as well as one that adds value. The thinking up until now was that "video snacking," or the consumption of sub 3-minute clips, was the holy grail. Turns out, maybe not so much…

When NBCs "The Office" premiered back in September, it attracted a broadcast  audience of about 10 million, but it also attracted an online audience of nearly 3 million more in one week, according to exec producer Greg Daniels. Nielsen revealed that one in four internet users had watched a full length TV episode in the past 3 months, with a surprising 23% of them in the 35-54 age group.

Watching full length episodes on your computer was the sort of behavior that was thought to be years away. The networks are not thrilled, as crystallized by the now infamous words of NBC prez Jeff Zucker and his unwillingness to trade "analog dollars for digital pennies." The good news for advertisers is that their ads are more likely to be remembered since there are fewer of them and they can potentially be better targeted.

The toothpaste is out of the tube and the networks are holding on for dear life. What have they learned from the music business?