The signs have been adding up: CBSNews.com did major layoffs and an aggressive retreat from news online. CBS stations made news layoffs aplenty. And now CBS is said to be talking with CNN — again — about outsourcing news to CNN. One imagines a one-woman-thick news operation: Katie Couric reading intros to CNN reports. The pressure of being the Tiffany network is long over. I’ll bet they will finally have the guts to go out of the news business, apart from 60 Minutes. And if that happens, others will get the courage to do likewise. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Oh, we’ll hear wailing about public service and the public airwaves — that and a damned expensive contract is why they’ll keep Couric in a storefront operation. But what we have now is not public service. We don’t need three evening newscasts exactly alike except as a repository for erectile dysfunction commercials. So let one or two networks win the ratings. Let CBS put more resources into investigations on 60 Minutes. Let CNN cover breaking news — with more help from witnesses with cameras. I hope they let others take that news and curate it in different ways with different perspectives. There’ll be a new ecology of news on video and it’s about time.
CBS’ purchase of Last.fm, described as a social music recommendation system, for $280 million is a fascinating extension of their audience network strategy. PaidContent boldfaced the key quote from Last.fm founder Martin Stiksel to the BBC: “They want to move from a content company to an audience company, giving the audiences control and learning from this and that’s why Last.fm was their choice.”
Last.fm combines the notion of content as functionality — as I publish my list of what I’m listening to, the act of consumption becomes an act of creation; we all become radio stations — and people as distribution: the audience as network.
I saw this firsthand watching Jake’s Last.fm ap spread on Facebook: viral meets viral. In two days, his ap got 15,000 users without promotion and it’s killing his server (which, by the way, is one weakness of the Facebook platform).
: See also the Last.fm blog:
CBS understands the Last.fm vision, the importance we place on putting the listener in charge, the vibrant and vocal community, the obsession with music stats, and our determination to offer every song ever recorded.
CBS continues to extend its notion of the audience as the network, today announcing a bunch of deals with social services to enable and encourage embedding of their clips — among them WordPress, Ning, and Voxant. I’m not sure, for example, what a deal with WordPress means; I can already embed clips from a number of CBS’ distributors. But it’s the thought that counts. And that thought, to repeat the words of Quincy Smith, president of CBS Interactive: “We can’t expect consumers to come to us. It’s arrogant for any media company to assume that.”
The head of one of these distributors, Voxant, just emailed me with his success stories. Voxant enables embedding and pays the embedders. Jeff Crigler emailed (and note that as far as I’m concerned, he misuses the term ‘mash’ — which means to remake and manipulate — when he really means ’embed’):
I know you have been following this long-tail syndication stuff. We’ve had an interesting couple of months at voxant. I think its kind of relevant to how ultimately new media gets its legs.
About a month ago we signed the NHL deal and got their hockey videos up in TheNewsRoom.com Three weeks ago we started blogging about it and sending very personalized emails to some of the top hockey blogs and small web sites. Then an amazing thing happened. One of the hockey blogs came to TNR and mashed [that is, embedded -ed] some clips. then a couple of others…. then a swarm of others. All of the sudden we are driving gobs of traffic to hockey sites who have grabbed our game highlights and “hockey fights” videos from the news room. The echo chamber actually started working. Before you turn around a third of our traffic was hockey stuff and we had bloggers and web sites coming back on a daily basis to get the latest game highlights.
So, for demonstration purposes, here’s a CBS clip via Voxant. This is one of those ridiculous you-could-write-them-before-you-see-them stories TV loves to do: Amercians are taking to the road this holiday weekend… gas prices are higher/lower… the triple-A says…. yadayadayada. Note that I just made fun of the segment and got paid for it. But that’s good: you want to be in the midst of the conversation, sometimes starting it.
When CBS and Viacom split, CBS got the smarts about the future of video. The Times today writes about the network inviting people to put up their videos. And here‘s Les Moonves talking about the benefits of putting the network’s stuff on YouTube: “It’s hard to do an absolute cause and effect, but we know it absolutely is helping. We are looking at every single outlet there is for our content.”