Posts about Media

Playing by media rules

Media and Obama fans are trying to change the rules and kick Clinton out of the race. It’s no surprise that Obama would try to do that; it’s politics. But that media has accepted this meme is only further demonstration of their Obamalove.

This week’s On the Media is a mash note for Obama if there ever were one. My friend Bob Garfield repeats over and over that Hillary can’t win and then goes on to ask whether media should even be covering her or at least not as much as they are because, after all, he has declared her the loser.

Let’s get this straight (again): Obama, too, is not likely to walk into the convention with enough delegates to win. And then the rules decree that it should be up to the superdelegates. There is no rule that says they must act as a proporational whole or that they all should accede to the wishes of the majority. I’m not saying that would be a bad rule — indeed, I’ve long wanted national or regional primaries that count onlly the popular vote and I’ve long wanted to abandon delegate votes, not to mention the Electoral College, because — we need no better proof than 2000 — it can be gamed. But we are still stuck with our system and so both sides will maneuver within those rules. However, media and Obama think Clinton should not have that right.

Let’s put forward another scenario: Imagine that John Edwards had sparked voters more and that he stayed in the election until the convention, walking in as the kingmaker who could throw his support either way and crown the nominee. I don’t think we’d be insisting that whoever was behind — No. 2 — in the vote should be quitting before the convention. I don’t think we’d be insisting that Edwards had no choice but to throw his support behind the candidate with the most votes (though that candidate might make a wishful try to argue that). No, we’d realize that Edwards would decide where to throw his critical support based on (1) his self-interest, (2) his party’s best interest — which is to say, victory in November, and (3) his own beliefs (not necessarily in that order). We could only hope that those interests would all coincide. But that would be his decision.

Well, the superdelegates are all John Edwards. They have been charged with making this decision at the convention if there is not a nominee thanks to the fucked-up system of popular vote mixed with caucuses mixed with disenfranchising crucial states. The election remains close, not over, and for better or worse, it is going to be in their hands — not to mention the voters who’ve not yet voted. How dare media try to grab it away.

Hey, Obamalovers, the election’s not over yet. In the soon-to-be-immortal word of Bill Clinton: Chill.

: ALSO: Just to show there are no hard feelings with Bob — it’s politics — I’ll embed his masterful commercial for ComcastMustDie, which I see I forgot to embed before. One has nothing to do with the other but I’ll take the excuse to show how Bob and I agree about defeating something: cable companies.

One picture…

mediameaculpa.jpg

By Matt Davies, via Make Them Accountable.

At the Media Summit

What a difference a day makes. I’ve gone from SXSW to the McGraw-Hill Media Summit in New York. It certainly is a different crowd: jeans to suits and better haircuts and far more people trying to pitch. By the coffee table, I hear a guy saying, “We build communities for large brands.” That is something you would never hear at SXSW because the people there know that’s an impossibility.

* * *

Good PowerPointese line from Disney’s Bob Iger: He has shifted from protecting the brand to projecting the brand.

Another: He says Disney isn’t embracing the internet so much as embracing consumers and to be relevant to and reach them, they need to use the technology.

He says they will generate $1 billion in digital revenue in the company up from $750 million the year before (not including online sales to the parks). He says they’ve sold 4 million movies on iTunes and 40-50 million TV episodes, which pales into comparison to streams. Both are incremental — that is, new and additional — to their existing business. He says the DVD business won’t go away but there will be a shift to online delivery.

He cautions that social media isn’t just about Gens X and Y. It’s about kids now. He believes that the broaddband enabled computer will be come a primary entertainment medium for kids. “It’s just as important to them as television.”

Asked what’s the trick for an old-media company to get it, Iger responds, “Hire new people.” He says you need people who look at technology as a friend not a foe, not talking about challenges and fragmentation. (The kind of people at SXSW.)

Google is no threat, he says. Disney is a popular search term. He knows that Google sends him people and rather than seeing Google’s ad sales on top of that as a problem, he wants his company to find ways to make the experience of coming from Google better.

He talks about Disney as an American brand worldwide. He says he respects the need for local creation of content and so in local markets they set up creative centers, not just distribution centers. (I wish he were around in 1991 when my bosses at Time Warner killed — muzzled — my column at Entertainment Weekly because I dared to say that local content support could be a good thing. “How can you say that?” demanded one of the company’s editors. I stopped writing my column then, in protest, and soon quit the magazine. This was only one of my problems.)

* * *

Next, a panel with big, old media companies: Julia Wallace of hte Atlanta Journal Constitution, Jon Klein of CNN, Kinsey Wilson of USA Today, David Westin of ABC.

“The paper I read most often is the Pocono Record,” says Raines, ex-editor of the New York Times. He says that local is the value of local newspapers. And that quote will float around his old shop in a few minutes.

Asked about the Times, Raines says they need to decide whether to go head-to-head nationally with Murdoch and the Journal. I thought it was the other way around. Isn’t the national report the high ground? Raines says no. He points to the Washington Post’s contraction strategy, pulling back into inside the Beltway. He says that the Times may need to come up with a contraction as opposed to an expansion strategy. “Common sense tells you that when your stock was at $54 in the mid 90s and it’s now at, what, $18 and the son of an Alabama construction millionaire has bought 20 percent of your company… your stock price cannot sit there.”

What should the New York Times do? Lightning round. Klein: “Stop writing about themselves.” Wallace: “Become that voice for the intellectuals of America on any platform.” Wilson: Long pause. Then he agrees with Howell — contraction. Westin: “It sounds right … that they’re in a middle ground that is not sustainable right now, neither fish nor fowl.”He says he doesn’t know whether the contraction is about local or a set of subjects of readers. Raines: “I think Julia’s idea of going for that elite, intellectual audience is a sound one.”

Klein answers moderator Jon Fine’s question about what job they’d fill first if they had a budget to start a new news product: “I’d hire data miners.” Right. Hunters. Gatherers. Searchers. Vetters. Curators. Right. “If you do it the right way, you’ve got the audience telling you an awful lot.” And that helps.

Fine gives a question that came in response to his blog post on the panel: Is there a supply-side problem? Is there too much news? Will there be a consolidation. Well, I’d say, there’s not too much news. But choice hurts one-size-fits-all products. There’s a supply-side problem for them, but it’s not that there is too much. There’s just too much for the old control point.

Wallace says the demand for news is higher than ever. I agree. And, as I’ve said before (but can’t link to it because there’s no wi-fi in this auditorium… grrrr) we are in the post-scarcity economy. Those who made their business by controlling that scarcity are the ones in trouble. And that is these guys if they don’t change their essential models, which they’re trying to figure out.

Westin says that they will not win on covering, say, the bridge collapse because that news is a commodity. But the Rep. Foley story is where they will win because that was reporting. There, he argues, there is an undersupply. Wilson says that is the discussion happening in newsrooms across the country: minimizing commodity effort and maximizing unique reporting value.

Fine asks them how they’d organize their newsrooms if they were doing it from scratch today. Klein says they’d have a lot fewer people. He tells about taking a feed via Skype (because Jeff Toobin went to law school of Eliot Spitzer and was on an island with no satellite uplinks); today, he says, he’d buy a lot fewer trucks and buy more laptops. (Or soon mojo phones, I’d say.)

Asked what is its high ground, its unique value, Wilson gives a characteristically smart answer: He says that USA Today is perceived as a down-the-middle voice, something it has cultivated since the start and something that is more valuable in a time when news organizations are perceived as having agendas. But then he acknowledges that it is difficult to bring that to online when the web wants voice and perspective.

I ask Klein what they’ll do when people out here are broadcasting live from their phones via Qik.com and Flixwagon.com etc. He says that iReport.com will be “a home for unvetted material.” He says they haven’t dealt with live material but they’re getting there. He wouldn”t put the CNN brand on it until it is vetted.

Power to the people

I was struck by this stat in a New York Times story today about consumers taking charge of their junk mail: 148,471,508 phone numbers are now on the federal do-not-call list with 300,000 more added every week. There weren’t that many votes cast for President in 2004. Pardon me, but I have to reach into the drawer and dust off my T-shirt with Jarvis’ First Law of media and life: Give people control and we will use it; don’t give us control and you will lose us. Give us the chance to take control of our lives, and we will, by the hundreds of millions. And then I was struck by a second story in the paper: A grocery store put up its own labels rating foods on their nutritional value and found that it affected sales: more people bought the good stuff. Give us information and you give us control and we will use it. Isn’t that what media is all about? It’s simple and obvious but too often forgotten.

TV explodes: The chain reaction hits critical mass

Internet usage is now approaching TV usage — in the US, the UK, Australia, Germany, and Japan — according to an IBM study to which Om Malik points us. Note also that TV networks’ share of online TV viewing is only about 33 percent, below YouTube and barely ahead of Google and social networks in the U.S. — and the alternatives are only beginning (in the life of internet video, it’s only 1954).

Why the hell isn’t online advertising approaching parity with TV advertising? Because advertisers are slow. Says IBM:

The global findings overwhelmingly suggest personal Internet time rivals TV time. Among consumer respondents, 19 percent stated spending six hours or more per day on personal Internet usage, versus nine percent of respondents who reported the same levels of TV viewing. 66 percent reported viewing between one to four hours of TV per day, versus 60 percent who reported the same levels of personal Internet usage. . . .

Despite natural lags among marketers, advertising revenues will follow consumers’ habits. . . .

Saul Berman, IBM Media & Entertainment Strategy and Change practice leader, said, “The Internet is becoming consumers’ primary entertainment source. The TV is increasingly taking a back seat to the cell phone and the personal computer among consumers age 18 to 34. . . .”

Unless, of course, your cell phone is a computer. Hat tip: Steve Jobs.

IBM, being a big-iron company, analyzes what this means to its fellow big companies. That’s where most of the consulting money will be. But it’s not where most of the change — and perhaps power — will be. Says IBM:

To effectively respond to this power shift, IBM sees advertising agencies going beyond traditional creative roles to become brokers of consumer insights; cable companies evolving to home media portals; and broadcasters and publishers racing toward new media formats. Marketers in turn are being forced to experiment and make advertising more compelling, or risk being ignored.

I prefer to look at the opportunities this profound disruption brings:

As we already know, of course, anybody can make TV (second hat tip Steve Jobs), distribute it (YouTube et al), and market it (via the link). The problem remains that even though the costs are a fraction of the old, big stuff, you can’t support it with advertising … yet. But that will come. Witness today’s announcement that YouTube has settled on its means of delivering ads. See also this from the IBM survey: 63 percent in the U.s. said they would watch advertising before or after quality, free content (34 percent said they’d be willing to pay). Speed up, advertisers.

As for advertising agencies becoming “brokers of consumer insights”: they should wish. Before, agencies and media were the gateways to the audience. Now, companies can converse directly with customers and get plenty of insights without gatekeepers. I’d rather be Facebook than an ad agency, wouldn’t you?

Cable companies becoming “home media portals” is a fancy way to say pipe. Period.

Broadcasters and publishers shouldn’t be racing to new media formats for one-way content. They should be racing to enable new kinds of relationships among communities of information.

And marketers shouldn’t just be experimenting with new forms of marketing — though they should. They should be trying new means of conversation with their customers.

Some more findings from the U.S. IBM survey:

* “Content” is now, at last defined as conversation as well. Use of content services: 45% social networks; 29% user-generated sites; 24% music services; 24% premium video content for TV (not sure what that means); 18% online newspaper. Ouch.

* 58% have already watched online video and 20% more are interested.

* DVRs are good for TV: 33% watch more TV as a result (58% the same)

* 74% contributed to a social network; 93% contributed to a user content site. Who says that forums are only for nuts, blogs for early adopters, and photo services for geeks? Everybody’s making content. Why do they do it? Feel part of a community, 31%; recognition from peers, 28%. Conversation.

* How is content marketed today? Peers. Primary reason for viewing content on a user site: 46% said the recommendation of a friend.

* But here’s the fly in my future-of-advertising ointment. Asked which ads “most affect your imopression of a product or company,” TV commercials on major networks got the lion’s share.