A PRACTICAL SUGGESTION

As I mentioned at the end of the post before last ("Content is No Longer King"):

Being able to create high-quality content is a big advantage, but it's not the endgame. On the web it's less and less about creating and more and more about Aggregating ... Curating ... Annotating ... and Facilitating.  That's a big reason why the little guys are now jumping over the big guys like Jack Russell Terriers on a hunt, and in heat.

That said, the Big Guys do have a bunch of advantages.

Before we get to the advantages Big Media enjoys — and how they can create new editorial products that can be monetized, based on those advantages — let's review the current state of their affairs:

.

DEATH BY A THOUSAND CUTS

The internet with it's ever evolving set of features and utilities has made it incredibly easy to aggregate content and information, and the inevitable result is that rather than create new content, most individuals have gone meta — the web is filling up with content about content, news about news, remarks about remarks, reviews about reviews — simply because it's far easier and faster to comment than to create. It's far easier to simply link, rate and rant, than produce original content.  So, almost all what individuals are producing, and a good chunk of what is now being consumed, is happening down on the left-hand side of The Curve.

To be clear: I'm not saying bloggers are lazy by nature, I'm just saying the web makes some things incredibly easy.  And it takes a lot of resources to do more than just comment and link.

So, the Big Guys are dying a death by a thousand cuts — make that a google's worth — in no small part because they're still doing the heavy lifting, e.g. they're creating news reports, episodic television shows and feature films, and spending lots of money to do it — while everyone and their mother is using Big Media's highly produced materials as grist for their own home brew mills. 

And, unfortunately for Big Media, the audience would just as soon read meta content, just as soon read coverage about the coverage than read the actual coverage itself; or, if it's video, the audience often would rather see the raw and unfiltered videos, rather than the produced, filtered and packaged coverage.

In short: the gatekeepers have lost their gates, and now they're getting nibbled to death by millions of little guys down on the left-side of The Curve, each one a nasty little blade cutting away at the Big Boy's audience.

Death by a google's worth of cuts.

.

“HOW DO WE GET THOSE LITTLE BLADES WORKING FOR US?”

That’s the question the Big Guys are finally starting to ask themselves:

How can Big Media get the blades — especially the blades of the blogisphere — to work for them? 

One answer is by utilizing Big Media's biggest advantage, i.e. deep resources and scale, to create a TEAM of bloggers, each with their own style and individual sensibility, and having them contribute collectively to a single "Event Blog" — to provide a depth of coverage in a single presentation that none of the millions of individual bloggers acting alone can match.

That individual sensibility is especially important when it comes to coverage of major sports, entertainment and planned "news" events (e.g. campaign and convention coverage), precisely the events where resources and scale matter, and where the pre-packaged nature of traditional event coverage no longer resonates with much of the audience.

The Big Guys need to deploy their people on the scene in a manner that best fits the "post gate-keeper" media world — to enable their Event Blog Team to become part of the scene itself and — through a blend of raw initiative, a bit of chaos and a new form of participatory, ("Hey, let me take a video of us!") coverage.

The end result is an Event Blog — a product that is unique, easily branded and highly sponsor-able — and something, for now at least, that Big Media companies, because of their ability to invest resources, are best positioned to produced.

.

THINK QUILT, NOT BLANKET

Instead of providing blanket coverage of an event, the goal with Blogging Teams should be to create quilted coverage, to stitch together moments, fragments, video snapshots and commentary about major events — to create an evolving scrapbook for an audience that doesn't just tolerate but has an appetite for low production values (the left-hand side of the curve) and for incomplete productions — publishing them in real time for an audience that isn't looking for the whole story in a single narrative. It's an audience that with regard to video is happy with fragments in the form of quick scenes, and in print online with pictures, short comments and links.
.

EXAMPLES

We took a few steps in this direction for Maxim and Blender with their digital coverage of the Super Bowl and the "South by Southwest" Music Festival.

In each case, we flooded the zone (as the dearly departed Howell Raines would say), spraying it with a passionate team of young, video-enabled bloggers, all contributing to a singe Special Event Blog.

There's a wonderful rawness to both blogs — an authentic, behind-the-scenes sensibility, balanced with real smarts — the sort of sensibility that used to exist at Rolling Stone Magazine.

Captured over time, in real-time, the end result gives the multimedia audience a sense of the myriad moments — and ludicrous observations — that make up and surround any "big event."

(None of it's going to win a Pulitzer but that's not the point — at least, that wasn't the point when developing these for Maxim's online audience and sensibilities.)

.

The below clip contains a moment of economic analysis by a Ticket Scalper that CNBC would be proud of (honest), it's @ 1:40 into the video.


And because these entries were part of a single, special Team Blog, there is a cohesiveness to the chaos.

The end result doesn't "tell" a story as much as let the audience experience the story.

.

“NO NAME” CREDIBILITY

Critical to the editorial success of these Event Blogs is the fact that they were reported by behind-the-scenes personnel, rather than on-camera "talent" or big name bylines.

Blog_team_2

Blog_kitchen

.

AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION FROM THE EVENT

Because in this "Do It Yourself" media world, the audience responds positively and interacts differently with productions they feel they could have contributed to themselves.

And Event Blogs should give those members of the audience also at the event an opportunity to do just that.

For the SxSW Music Festival we a contacted bands and musicians in advance, and asked them to file their own reports to the Event Blog — and their reports give you a truer picture of the lives of indie bands at their Super Bowl than anything else I've ever seen or read. Anywhere.

Here's a tremendous, short video report created by the band, Produce O:



Here are some more videos filed by the bands and musicians attending the SxSW Festival. We're talking 101 homemade A Hard Day's Night's.

.

WHAT WOULD HUNTER DO?

If Hunter Thompson were in his mid-20's today, I think this (partially) is how he would be covering events.

Hunter and Cameron Crowe wouldn’t just be blogging, they'd be out capturing in sight and sound their point of view of "the scene" surrounding the big events.

They’d still file the ultimate wrap-piece or profile, but Hunter and Crowe's coverage would be "video snapshots" — posted during, not after the events, in a highly annotated and personal style.

And they'd be doing it as part of an Team Blog team. (And Rolling Stone would be selling it, big time.)

It's something the Big Media companies should be doing now, while they have the advantage — using the young, passionate and intrepid journalists and aspiring websters already on their staffs, i.e. the kids working for them as researchers, production assistants and associate producers, in their day jobs, while on their own blogging and building websites at night and on the weekends.

And they should do it before the independent bloggers start collaborating ad hoc on their own special events coverage.

.

Finally, here are links for the Event Blogs for the Super Bowl and SxSW. (Again, both created for specific audiences with specific sensibilities — not for everyone's taste buds.)

CONTENT IS NO LONGER KING (continued)

Once again, let me say right off the top: I'm not bashing content.

Heck, I've devoted the last 25 years of my life to it — back when it was just called "writing" and "programming," and stuff like that. 

Content is still key.

But too many media companies are failing to make the most of their content, ironically because they've put it on a thrown and value it too highly, as I wrote below.  And at the same time, they continue to undervalue the importance of utilities.  The latter is now the most important factor for the success of media properties on the web: features and functionalities that get people to your content, get your content out to people, and let people do things with it.

Justin Kim, a terrific, on-the-edge indie marketer has an interesting take on this.  Here's some of it:

I think the never-ending quest for the killer app has resulted in the development of a ton of cool little tools. Like mitochondria, maybe one day they can come together with other apps to form an evolved interface.

...it's all about creating the best platform for serving content — be it RSS, aggregation, peer-to-peer, voting, whichever's clever.  And easiest to get your quick fix.  Different methods work better for different kinds of content.

 All things considered, ease of use and providing the quickest access to the desired content is a recipe for a platform with stickiness. It's not just the content that gets people to come back. Just as most successful shows eventually become syndicated, the same content is almost always available elsewhere. Or at least a knockoff version. The winning platform is the one that works the best for the user.

On my personal scale:  Usability > Content > Interactivity > Popularity.

Justin's scale is an interesting one.  Especially when you try to figure out why so many people — especially in the younger, instant gratification generations — watch one piece of content over another, simply because it's easier to get to.

More on the above, and other thoughts from JK at  www.blogoriety.com

CONTENT IS NO LONGER KING

And I'm not just saying that because I'm about a decade sick of the old cliché.

Content is still key, but the king's crown now belongs to Utilities (features and functionalities).

To help prove the point, here are two interesting items that were put together by one of the fastest minds I know (Mr. Russell-Foltz Smith).  They're eye-openers for anyone trying to reach that rather elusive male 18-34 demo:

Slide1_3

(Click-on graphics to enlarge.)


Eye-opening not only in terms of where the traffic's going but also in terms of where the advertising dollars are going, too.

.

SO, WHERE DOEST ALL THIS PUT THE FORMER KING, CONTENT?

Like I said up top, it's still key — it's just not the big Kahuna, anymore.

In almost all cases, content is still the means by which that elusive thing called "brand" is best expressed — it's the voice, the look, the tone for a media property.  But while that once was enough for content to keep its crown, now on the web content is the wrapping around the new king: utilities.  Content is the label, it's the billboard, it's the promo, it's the sign on the door.  But it ain't the house, no more.

What percentage of the time do you think people are spending on Facebook and MySpace ingesting "content"?   That's not what's driving them there, or driving them around and around the sites once they get there.  They're showing up and sticking around for activities (i.e. utilities).

Social-networking is not about content, it's about activities — and those activities are the result of compelling features and functionalities.

Okay, I know what you're thinking, "What about the content sites?"

Well, think about this for a while, and then get back to me:

How much time are visitors to ESPN.com and CBS SportsLine spending reading articles, as opposed to engaging in activities and using features and functionalities, like looking up stats, participating in Fantasy Leagues, filling out NCAA bracket applications and joining and tracking their online groups/pools? (Not to mention scads of other features and functionalities that ESPN has brilliantly created and integrated into its ecosystem, to enable its audience to parse through the tsunami of information on ESPN's site, whether it's packaged and presented as "content" or simply aggregated by ESPN).

.

THIS LEADS US TO WHAT'S KILLING — AND, REMARKABLY, STILL BEFUDDLING — SO MANY OF THE TRADITIONAL MEDIA PROPERTIES:

There's a reason why newspapers and the major magazines are getting lapped by newer, smaller players: The big fellows value their content too highly! They don't realize that while content may be their calling card and their brand (right now), it's not their essence. At least not on the web. Not anymore.

Instead of worshiping their own content they need to be relentlessly figuring out how they can integrate it with compelling utilities and service offerings, both on their own sites and by syndicating their content in a branded manner through widgets, gadgets, trinkets and toys that can be shared.

.

THE CONTENT WORLD WAS A WORLD OF GATE-KEEPERS. TODAY IT'S A WORLD OF GUIDES:

Gate-keepers hand you content. Guides hand you a GPS and connect you to a whole community of people who are looking for the same thing you are, armed with their own navigation systems, flashlights, walkie-talkies, metal detectors, shovels, and a bunch of other cool tools that they're having fun creating along the way.

When I started at ABC News in the late 1970s there were three television networks (CNN had yet to hatch out of Ted Turner's head) — it was a world of gate-keepers, a world of the 6 o'clock news. But now it's a world of infinite streams of 24-hour news and information flooding an infinite number of platforms, including RF video panels on the roof of your taxi and flat-screens inside the cab, in your elevator and on your doorman's pda. To quote the Beatles, "It's All Too Much." Screw the gatekeepers. Gatekeepers piss me off. I need some guides!

A media company's essence should be all about being a great guide — providing services that act as reliable, fun and entertaining divining rods for its audience.

On the web it's less and less about creating ... and more and more about Aggregating ... Curating ... Annotating ... and Facilitating.  Being able to create high-quality content is a big advantage, but it's not the endgame. That's why the left-side of The Curve is so much higher than the middle. And it's a big reason why the little guys are now jumping over the big guys like Jack Russell Terriers on a hunt, and in heat.

.

All that said, the Big Guys do have a bunch of advantages that I'll be getting to in my next post.

In the meantime, like I said earlier:


"IT'S ALL TOO MUCH"

"AN EARLY CLUE TO THE NEW DIRECTION?"

When thinking about trends my mind always wanders to one of my favorite scenes from the Beatles' first feature film, "A Hard Days Night" (1964).

Here's the set-up for this brief, absolute gem of a scene that's all about trends and the people who spot and market them:

Just hours before the Beatles are to perform live on British television, Ringo is nowhere to be found.  John, Paul and George split up to look for him, and along the way each Beatle has his own brief encounter of a strange kind.  George's fate is to become an accidental one-man focus group for a trend-master:


CONSUMER GOODS & "THE CURVE"

Some more folks are beginning to look at "The Curve" as a lens through which to observe consumer consumption in more than just the media space.

Makes sense, as the cost of production and distribution drop, and goods become mass produced commodities in many more areas than just entertainment.

Much more about it on the LEADSExplorer website, which has multiple entries on the matter.  The first of which points out:
Similarities with Infant Mortality and Burn-in distributions

- An infant mortality period with a decreasing failure rate
- Followed by a normal life period (”useful life”) with a low, relatively constant failure rate
- Concluding with a wear-out period that exhibits an increasing failure rate.
Bathtub curve

.

These curves are called Weibull distributions.  Used in Operation Research for addressing production and operational problems.

If you would tweak the parameters you could produce a curve very similar to the Warshaw curve, as there are enough parameters to play with.

So far for the maths.

Other examples of Warshaw curve

Low-End content:
Flickr or Stock.XCHNG (high quality!)
- Blogs
- Free amateur adult content
- Product white paper of company

Medium content:
- Sony ImageStation has been closed - business model was: “paying” by receiving emails from Sony
- Newspapers, industry magazines with registrations allowing them to email the readers.
- Adult content portal websites linking to many other websites.
- White paper syndications: registration required

High-End content:
Getty Images
- Newspapers with subscriptions
- Paid adult content
- Paid white papers and market surveys by research organizations: Forrester, IDC, Gartner, Jupiter, Ovum, Bloor, …

.

AGAIN, MORE FROM THIS POST AND A FOLLOW-UP POST THAT DIVES DEEPER CAN BE FOUND ON LEADSExplorer.  

OTHER SECTORS FOLLOWING THE CURVE?

Adam Park recently applied the High-End/Low-End/No Middle paradigm of The Curve to the marketing and consumption of consumer products in the consumer electronics sector. It's an area that I've been talking about with some of my clients, but had yet to write about.

As Adam notes on his blog:

If you chart the customer distribution compared to price, you get a bell curve that looks quite like the one below:

 bell curve, or normal distribution


Flipping the Bell Curve

Problem is that the bell curve is losing touch with the reality. Take cell phones or mobile devices for instance. You can now get a phone for free with subscription to a mobile carrier’s services. If you choose to do so, you can also get a premium phone that will cost you more than 500 bucks in some cases. What’s wrong with this picture? It ain’t no bell curve any more.

 warshaw curve, or flipped bell curve


Now you need a different persepctive altogether! You need to flip the bell curve to meet a new curve: the Warshaw curve.

In the Warshaw curve era, the consumer distribution looks more like two hills and a valley in between. This means that there’ll be (a) land of free(b) valley of mediocre; and (c) highland of premium.


(More of Adam's observations can be found here.)

* WHAT IS "THE CURVE"?

(If you've already read this post, just skip to the UPDATE at the BOTTOM.)

What is the Alden Curve?  (Or, perhaps more to the point: Why?)

Well, the modestly named Alden Curve is two things:

First, it's a pattern of content consumption.  More specifically, it's the contrast between two different patterns of video content consumption: a contrast between how all of us used to consume video content in the fading world of scheduled "traditional media," and how more and more of us now enjoy video in the ever-growing, on-demand and interactive world.

It's a concept I started noodling around with a couple of months ago, and recently started showing to a few friends who work in various corners of the media industry.

(Usually I'd tentatively bring it up at the end of a conversation about something else entirely, I would draw the curves on the back of a piece of paper or napkin, sketchily put forth the idea and ask my companions for their thoughts.  During one particularly fruitful conversation, Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS News, dubbed it, "The Alden Curve."  And, honestly, who am I to argue with Mr. Heyward?)

Below is the curve for TV News and Entertainment.

              (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

Warshaw_curve_1_6

Warshaw_curve_2_1

So, what's the significance of the Curve?

I'm still noodling with that — but almost all the folks I've showed it to agree that, unlike Gertrude Stein's opinion of the city of Oakland, there's at least some there, there.  Or, more to the point, in the words of Stephen Stills: "There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear."

But the pattern is real, and I do think it tells us something about the direction in which content consumption is heading — and that has a good deal of significance for content producers, programmers and distributors.

(I'll posit some of the details in future posts.)

Which finally brings us to the second thing that is "The Alden Curve"; i.e. this blog:

More than just a place to post my musings on the curve, this blog is a place where I hope others will post their responses, thoughts and challenges. A place to think collaboratively along some of the tangents of the curve.  It's also a place where I'll be posting some examples of other trends that I've been encountering, and even some interviews with folks who work and play on various slopes along the curve.

So, here goes nothing.

Or, just maybe, something...............?

.

.

UPDATE: "Disruptive Selection"

In May of 2009, I peaked over the shoulder of my 15 year-old biology (and "House") obsessed daughter as she was studying evolution, and I discovered the below:

EVOLUTION

(Click on the images to enlarge them.)

The curve on the bottom-right looks pretty familiar, doesn't it?

Makes sense that The Warshaw Curve, which is about the effect of disruptive technologies — like video on demand, YouTube, et al — would match up with what biologists refer to as the curve for "Disruptive Selection."

 

SLINGING THE CURVE

Here at CES in Las Vegas, Sling Media is showing off their new "SlingCatcher" — the reverse cousin of their Slingbox.

While the SlingBox let's you watch your home TV on your computer — even if you're on the other side of the globe — the SlingCatcher lets you play anything from your computer on your TV.

Now you can watch all of your favorite clips on the big screen, whether they're stored locally on your laptop or anywhere on the web.  We're talking the ability to watch YouTube clips on your flat-screen TV.  (That means more content consumption from the left-side of The Curve!  A bit more on that in a second.)

So, along with "What you want, when you want, and where you want," now you can add: "how you want it" (i.e. on the big screen or the small screen).

Here's a video clip of the SlingCatcher in action:   


As Daisy Whitney of TVWeek points out in her comment to this post, I originally neglected to mention that the SlingCatcher combined with the SlingProjector lets users "Sling" TV-to-TV, as well as Web-to-TV.

Along with giving users the ability to watch their bedroom TiVo and their laptop on their living room TV, it also lets them watch their home media on TV sets located outside of the home...further decreasing the desire to ever read a book again, or rent a movie from the local Blockbuster near their country house.

Bottom line for the individual content consumer:

More viewing of webclips (left-side of the curve!) and more viewing of episodes of their favorite shows like "House" (the right-side of the curve!) and less of the mid-level content — the stuff that falls out of the middle of the Curve in the post-DVR world. 

THE ALDEN CURVE ?

(If you've already read this post, just skip to the UPDATE at the BOTTOM.)

What is the Alden Curve?  (Or, perhaps more to the point: Why?)

Well, the modestly named Alden Curve is two things:

First, it's a pattern of content consumption.  More specifically, it's the contrast between two different patterns of video content consumption: a contrast between how all of us used to consume video content in the fading world of scheduled "traditional media," and how more and more of us now enjoy video in the ever-growing, on-demand and interactive world.

It's a concept I started noodling around with a couple of months ago, and recently started showing to a few friends who work in various corners of the media industry.

(Usually I'd tentatively bring it up at the end of a conversation about something else entirely, I would draw the curves on the back of a piece of paper or napkin, sketchily put forth the idea and ask my companions for their thoughts.  During one particularly fruitful conversation, Andrew Heyward, the former president of CBS News, dubbed it, "The Alden Curve."  And, honestly, who am I to argue with Mr. Heyward?)

Below is the curve for TV News and Entertainment.

              (Click on the images to enlarge them.)

Warshaw_curve_1_6

Warshaw_curve_2_1

 

 

So, what's the significance of the Curve?

I'm still noodling with that — but almost all the folks I've showed it to agree that, unlike Gertrude Stein's opinion of the city of Oakland, there's at least some there, there.  Or, more to the point, in the words of Stephen Stills: "There's something happening here. What it is ain't exactly clear."

But the pattern is real, and I do think it tells us something about the direction in which content consumption is heading — and that has a good deal of significance for content producers, programmers and distributors.

(I'll posit some of the details in future posts.)

Which finally brings us to the second thing that is "The Alden Curve"; i.e. this blog:

More than just a place to post my musings on the curve, this blog is a place where I hope others will post their responses, thoughts and challenges. A place to think collaboratively along some of the tangents of the curve.  It's also a place where I'll be posting some examples of other trends that I've been encountering, and even some interviews with folks who work and play on various slopes along the curve.

So, here goes nothing.

Or, just maybe, something...............?

.

.

UPDATE: "Disruptive Selection"

In May of 2009, I peaked over the shoulder of my 15 year-old biology (and "House") obsessed daughter as she was studying evolution, and I discovered the below:

EVOLUTION

(Click on the images to enlarge them.)

The curve on the bottom-right looks pretty familiar, doesn't it?

Makes sense that The Alden Curve, which is about the effect of disruptive technologies — like video on demand, YouTube, et al — would match up with what biologists refer to as the curve for "Disruptive Selection."