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I often watch the video podcast version of Australian Broadcasting’s Media Watch mainly because I’m amazed that the format works. Who’d think that media criticism, especially of print and even of online, could work on video? But it does, thanks to the tough attitude of the host, Monica Attard — I expect to see her come out in leather and studs some week — and to their entertaining conceit of having different people voice the clips they’re talking about, with attitude. Even its slogan is cheeky: “everyone loves it until they’re on it.” ABC Radio, too, has pretty good criticism and reporting in the Media Report, which is also available as a podcast. I have Aussie media on the mind because I’m talking at Murdoch’s Carmel confab of his worldwide editors this week. But even aside from that, I enjoy checking in with Australian media — as I do UK media, of course, on the Media Guardian podcast — because it’s interesting to see our parallel issues around the globe.

This week’s Media Watch has a great segment — with the best collection of examples I’ve ever seen — on unfortunate adjacencies of content and ads on TV and especially online. I pulled put two segments together here:

Note, too, that this is one of the inherent problems with contextual advertising. No machine will ever truly understand the context. Better to talk to people than around content, eh?

The NBC/Fox gigadeal on video

Just as it was to be announced, I learned about what could be an extraordinary deal between NBC and Fox to go a different way from Viacom in their relationship with online video.

The two networks/studios are creating a new company to distribute TV on the sites where large audiences already are: AOL, MySpace, Yahoo, MSN. All their entertainment video and some of their movies will be available there for people to embed in their own pages. This means that a MySpace user who’s an Office fan could put up a widget allowing her readers to watch the clips and even the shows on her page. The joint venture will create a destination site for all this, but this isn’t a portal play; it’s about finding a tolerable — for them — way to distribute content via fans’ sites.

I’m told that it’s likely this video also may be made available for embedding on lowly blogs such as this — and obviously, I think that will be key. You make the popcorn, and let’s get together to watch American Idol on IdolCritic, eh? I doubt that will come on the first day (and that first day, by the way, is about 100 days away).

The new company will also sell ads and will share revenue with the producers and with the distribution sites (whether that will trickle down to the actual users/distributors, I have no idea; I would imagine that would be up to each of the sites and if they are smart enough to share, then the distribution of this video will only expand and explode).

There’s no reason this arrangement cannot include other producers, networks, and studios. And there is no reason this cannot include other distribution points (read: Google/Yahoo and such). And though this starts with entertainment, I don’t see why it can’t expand to include news and sports. It should.

What’s smart about this is that it potentially provides an infrastructure for the viral, audience-controlled recommendation and distribution of video with the two elements the producers demand — control and monetization (mantras I heard from the big guys at the Video on the Net conference). If this makes this kind of viral distribution profitable, it will cut off objections to it. And that, I believe, will leave Viacom out there dangling naked on Main Street.

At first, the big guys will pick their own clips. I think they have to get quickly past and let us pick the clips, the moments we want to recommend and comment on. Every moment in a show should thus have a permalink that makes it a linkable part of conversations. At VON, I saw a company called Gotoit that enables just this: you can send people directly to that moment you want to talk about. That is vital: We, the people — not the producers, prorammers, and network execs — need to be the recommenders, not the producers; that’s the point of viral distribution

At first, this will also be about just the big guys’ shows and movies. As you can predict, I argue that if they want this to succeed, it also must include small TV, our TV, the TV we are reinventing. That doesn’t mean that they should air all the flaming farts. But the smart things to do will be to find the great new talent and give it a means of distribution and control and monetization — which the little guys want, like the big guys, a point made at the end of my VON spiel. And then the networks will like networks.

I don’t know what this means for NBBC, the very tightly controlled venture NBC started to distribute video. I suspect it will be involved.

If this is done right, it makes viral distribution of video a noninfringing activity. It will legitimize, enable, and exploit what we already want to do: recommend and watch their shows. That would only be smart.

If it is done wrong — if the networks try to maintain too much control and still tell us what to llike and where we can watch TV — then it will fail miserably. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this.

From the Wall Street Journal story:

“This is a game changer for Internet video,” News Corp. President Peter Chernin said in a statement announcing the venture. “We’ll have access to just about the entire U.S. Internet audience at launch.”

The venture will also start its own site, with a name that is yet to be announced, which will go up in the summer. The two companies said “full episodes and clips from current hit shows,” including NBC’s “Heroes,” “My Name is Earl,” “Saturday Night Live” and Fox’s “24,” “House,” “Prison Break” and “The Simpson”s will be available as well as programs from the companies’ TV libraries. Movies will also be available, including “Borat” and “Little Miss Sunshine.”

Here’s the LA Times report.

: LATER: I think some reporters are missing a key part of the story. I think this is less NBC/Fox v. Google in business and more NBC/Fox v. Viacom in philosophy. These guys, unlike Viacom, recognize the power — and the necessity — of the recommendation engine (aka us) as the new means of marketing and distribution. They are trying to do that in a way that feels safer to them and that they can make money on — echoing, once again, the themes I kept hearing from the big guys at VON: control and monetization. If they crack the monetization, then these guys will care (a bit) less about control.

They will succeed if they enable us to recommend, share, and talk about (positively or negatively) their good stuff.

They will blow it if they try to maintain too much control: if they give us only their shows, if they insist on which clips we can embed, if they don’t open up to more programming, if they don’t open up to our putting this stuff in our space (not just Rupert’s MySpace). So we’ll see.

But it’s all about the recommendation engine as the new network.

DuPont’s internet-video ads on blogs

DuPont just launched a new series of internet-video ads — stories about science starring Amanda Congdon — that they are placing on blogs. Steve Baker of Business Week writes about it here and Josh Bernoff of Forrester here. Here are the videos with Amanda in a white lab coat, which has to be someone’s fantasy.

Full disclosure: I consulted on the effort. I was brought in because I know the folks at Rishad Tabaccowala’s think-do tank Denou at Publicis. When they started, they wanted to involve bloggers and I insisted that the only was to do that was through advertising on the blogs; it’s a clear relationship and it also gives respect to the medium and its people (I’m happy to see that Bernoff liked this). I introduced them to Amanda (which thrilled them; it was as if I’d snagged Oprah). And I gave some advice on the videos (obvious stuff: put your best stuff first, make them short and fun). And I suggested Bright Cove for the serving and Federated Media as an ad network. And they bought lunch.

I’m glad that we’re seeing internet video and blogs and ad money come together. This is the kind of new thinking you can bring to life in these new media. I will leave it to you to say what you think of the program and the videos:

: LATER: Radar goes after Amanda for shilling while also reporting with ABC. Legit discussion. But it’s not a first; she is making a Dove commercial at Blip and she made commercials for first first sponsors on Rocketboom. There are a bunch of different issues besides the one Radar raises, including how small shops will handle the sponsorship they get (a la Rocketboom).

: LATER STILL: See Amanda’s blog:

ABC and HBO both approved the DuPont spots. And under the “blogger” title, which is what I am, hello? I am not subject to the “rules” traditional journalists have to follow.

Isn’t that what new media is all about? Breaking the rules? Setting our own? I see nothing wrong with doing commercials, which is what they, quite transparently, are. If DuPont had tried to pass them off as authentic, homegrown videos, yeah, then that would’ve been wrong (and, of course, I would never have agreed to the project if that was the plan). . . .

It’s also about acting.

: THURSDAY UPDATE: Here‘s an LA Times story about bloggers in ads out of this.

Open Data

I’m at Seth Goldstein’s Open Data confab at the Reuters building. I love the mission on the wall: “Open data is to media what open source is to technology. Open data is an approach to content creation that explicitly recognizes the value of implicit user dat. The internet is the first medim to give a voice to the attention that people pay to it. Successful open data companies listen for and amplify the rich data that their audiences produce.”

Katie Neiderhofer of BuzzMetrics is presenting and is asked about opening up their data (because, of course, in the end, it is our data). She doesn’t quite get it, talking about sharing data with a company. Who owns the wisdom of the crowd?

She shows a chart that associates words with the concept safety and groups them: children, life, police, work, home… Bush, president, American, administration…. terrorism, Iraq, military, attacks… And she finds that the emotional words — dangerous, risk, fear, ensure — as associated with the personal words: children, life, etc. This is fascinating data that also becomes useful to associate words and concepts (and, I’d say, behind that the sites and people that talk about them). She shows something called Floodgate with a live view of blog tag clusters; unfortunately, this, too, is closed.

I ask whether they have tied together the work DataMining blogger Matt Hurst did when he was at Buzzmetrics, mapping the social (linking) associations of bloggers with what she shows: the mapping of topics. In other words, have advertisers come to them to find, for example, the most influential food bloggers? Yes, she says. So, Seth says, this becomes a “media planning tool for social media.” But there is also discussion about this being closed. If there is an influence metric, who owns that? I would benefit by knowing that I am an influential food blogger and if I am not given that information, I might shut off the closed network from exploiting me or I might join in an open, competitive network. See: The open-source ad network.

There is much discussion about the sale of our aggregate and/or anonymous behavioral data and issues of both privacy and PR.

Sanjiv Das from Morgan Stanley is about to explain agtorithms. He says that one cannot disrupt markets but must anticipate them (hello, Viacom). He says that data will become commoditized but organization will be proprietary. Amen.

Barak Pridor of ClearForest presents text analysis. For example, he shows search results that occur only in documents that meet some test. I ask whether he could give us things that have the tag X but only if it also has the tag Y. This would be extremely valuable for such things as Outside.in and Edgeio (e.g., show me posts tagged ‘mexican’ but only if they’re also tagged ‘restaurant’ and ‘new york’). I’m dying for that kind of multilayer search and analysis. It enables so much more.

The need for a measurement summit

Comscore and Federated Media (which sells some ads on this blog) have teamed up to try to improve measurement in the long tail of social and niche media online. And that’s good.

Except I argue that the panel means of measurement is doomed to miserable failure in the mass of niches. You cannot possible build a panel large and varied enough to get reliable measurement of the audience and traffic of millions — even thousands — of sites, especially when we get the means to tie together lots of those small sites into networks.

What I hope they do is honestly and harshly look at their stats from their panel versus the server stats of the sites — especially the smaller sites, not the much-easier-to-measure big boys like Digg and BoingBoing — and realize that the panel just doesn’t work.

What we need, I’ve long argued, is standard metrics reported from the sites’ servers or from snoopers on pages and verified by a service such as Comscore or Nielsen. Old methods will not work in this new world. The same goes for Nielsen, which is buying the rest of Netratings.

And whilel we’re at it, let’s figure out the new measurements that capture the unique value of this new medium: authority, speed, connectedness… The page view is dead.

I think it’s time for a measurement summit: Bring together the measurement companies, the advertisers and their agencies (buyers), the sites’ reps (sellers), the media sites, and technology companies and let’s hammer out some standards and methods for measurement. This will only work if we have open standards with analytics (like Comscore and Nielsen) building value atop that common data. Otherwise, we end up in a world that will continue to confuse and scare advertisers — and their money — away.

Newspapers’ industrial suicide

Three of the (still) big newspaper companies, Gannett, Tribune, McClatchy, announced a joint effort to sell national ads onto their web sites. Now you might think I’d nod approvingly at that. But I’m not. I’m shaking my head in sad disbelief. For this only reminds me of the newspaper industry’s horribly failed effort to sell ads across the sites of a dozen big companies, the New Century Network, which failed because the companies simply could not work together. And the Journal story only points out that there are still fragmented, competitive efforts going on in the industry. The bottom line is that they are making it hard for national advertisers to buy their sites — thus, easier to buy Yahoo, Google, MSN, MySpace, et al. You see, newspapers all think they’re special. But they’re not.

Exploding TV: The ad dollars trickle in

Beet.TV gets its first video ads from Google. There’s the first trickle. Now wait for Google to create an ad infrastructure for video everywhere. The comes the flood.

Blind brands

Jean-Marie Dru, worldwide chief executive of TBWA Chiat Day on user-generated content: I don’t believe in it too much, to be honest. . . . I don’t think you can have consumers telling you what you should do. We believe our best campaigns have been done with our clients, not our consumers.”

Make those words the epitaph for him and his business: ” don’t think you can have consumers telling you what you should do.” That is precisely what you should do.

The Reuters story that reports his sentiments also says: “However cutting-edge the idea of crowd-sourcing may be, companies that tap the public for content risk losing control of the message.” Yes, we hear that from controlling marketers: Our efforts might be off-message. Which only means that your message is off.