Wednesday, March 7, 2007
NEWS AS A SOCIAL PLAY: HERE COMES MYSPACE NEWS!
(Terry)
MySpace is getting into the news business with launch due in early 2nd quarter, according to inside sources and the company's own sales materials.

  • MySpace News takes News to a whole new level by dynamically aggregating real-time news and blogs from top sites around the Web
  • Creates focused, topical news pages that users can interact and engage with throughout their day
  • MySpace is making the news social, allowing users to:
    Rate and comment on every news item that comes through the system
    Submit stories they think are cool and even author pieces from their MySpace blog
  • MySpace users previously had to leave the site to find comprehensive news, gossip, sporting news, etc. With MySpace News, we bring the news to them!

Now it doesn't take a genius to figure out that this is not good news for those of us in the news business, unless we view it as another way to get our content onto yet another platform. MySpace is currently cutting deals with content providers to do just that, and I think it's likely the process will show us what types of "news" will be of interest to young people, circa 2007. And that is something we might be able to use downstream.

That said, this is another example of an internet pureplay company taking on the role of media company and using their core audience as the distribution vehicle.

And we're about to see a bunch of "real" media companies attempt to grow their own social networks. First up is USAToday.

USAToday.com has relaunched with new interactive features, in an effort to create a "social network" of news users. USAToday has led the way in RSS and customizeable pages, but this takes all that a step further. Users can not only interact with the paper; they can also interact with each other.

USA Today

While I don't doubt that this is cool and will help their overall mission (to drive traffic to their site and keep it there), the truth is this is a Media 1.0 play in Media 2.0 clothing. There's nothing wrong with that, of course, because there's an awful lot of money to be made in the 1.0 world.

The demand is unknown, but everybody in the news business knows there's a group of news "groupies" in every market, and these, I think, will likely be the users of such an application. This, of course, begs the question why there isn't already a social networking site called "news groupies," but that would mean the ability to tap multiple media sources, and this is something media companies abhor. We want everybody to come to OUR portal or OUR site or OUR social network.

This, I think, misses the bigger point of Media 2.0, and because of that, I think media companies who explore this space as a way of bringing more people into their tents may be wasting time and resources they could be spending on developing business strategies within the Media 2.0 disruption.

All traditional media companies speak to their own audiences, regardless of format, but those audiences are shrinking and just because we have elaborate sites online does not necessarily mean we're attracting a different crowd. People who left "the media" did so for a reason, and no matter how much we try and reformat, remix or repurpose what we do, it still is what it is.

We should strive to do as much of that as possible, of course, but it simply cannot be our only strategy, for the disruption impacting all media isn't something that brand extension tactics can overcome.   <Permalink>

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MTV BUILDING THOUSANDS OF WEBSITES: BELIEVE IT OR NOT, YOU CAN GET INTO THIS BUSINESS (Steve)
The joke used to be "I remember when MTV played music videos! Hah hah hah." Music videos turned out to be a lousy way to maintain an audience. The turning point came with "The Real World," the original reality show. MTV realized it was selling a hip lifestyle.

Now you can see music videos on MTV -- they're just online. And that's better, because I don't have to sit through a ton of videos I don't like to see, maybe, the one in 25 videos I do like. It's a searchable database. I don't care for Ludacris or 50 Cent. I like John Mayer and Eric Clapton. Everyone in the audience has different tastes. Online, you can have a channel for everyone.

MTV has announced it's going to build thousands of sites. Thousands. Are they going to create original content for each of these thousands of sites? Of course not. They're going to take information, look at it, see which piece of information is appropriate for each microsite and apply it accordingly.

Local media outlets do stories on consumer issues, health issues, business issues, sports, music, politics and more -- all that focus on their community. The content is already there, in the archives. All you need to do is build the microsites and you're instantly in the business of local verticals. And there is plenty of money to be made in advertising for the local health site, don't you think?   <Permalink>

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JOOST — THE NEXT BIG THING OR HYPE? (Terry)
The last few days have been a swirl of news reports and blog entries, the hype of which I haven't seen in a long time. The pace with which things are moving reminds me of the height of the bubble days, and a lot of it's coming from those who "just know" that they've figured everything out.

Joost LogoThe fuss is all about Joost, a new media video play that, if you believe what's being said, will completely disrupt everything about television. A Time Magazine puff piece on Joost over the weekend is so glowing in its preview of the service that SPF-45 is required before reading it. In a nutshell, Joost brings "quality" television to the web using proprietary technology.

"We took a 'lean-back' approach," says CEO Fredrik de Wahl. "On the Web today, you have to know what you're looking for, lean forward and click. But we wanted people to be able to just lean back and watch."

Of course, there's little evidence of a market for leaning back these days, but that's likely to change. Given the blending of web, cable and over-the-air signals via computer-enabled TV sets, with Joost, who needs cable? That could be huge, but the disruption simply won't be as it's being hyped. The cable industry ought to be concerned, but the Joost hype machine is positioning itself against every online video play. That's just silly.

It's the creation of a team of 60 top engineers -- veterans of Apple, Flickr and Firefox -- and has already wowed bloggers who have had an early look. "Joost could make YouTube, Google Video and Apple TV look like 1988," gushes tech-blog UtahSaint.

The Time article quotes no one other than Joost executives or those in love with the application. Staci Kramer at PaidContent.org sums it up this way:

Joost could turn out to be the greatest invention since fresh OJ but right this minute it’s just another entry in an increasingly crowded field...(Joost is feeding the buzz with a time-proven gimmick: make the beta hard to get into and urge people to ask those already in the beta for a token to get access.) Their contention: they shouldn’t be grouped with the others because Joost is real TV for the web. If the player is half as good as Joost’s ability to get juice, they really could be on to something.

Ah, the player, a new player, one that nobody currently has. You mean I need ANOTHER player?

I'm a big fan of the people behind this project, but hype carries a certain odor that's hard to get around. Clearly, this is not a "lean back and watch" your laptop concept, because there's no evidence to suggest that this is something people want. That means it's a living room play, and this is where Joost could really be disruptive. The interactive and social aspects of the concept could, repeat: could, dramatically alter the way people watch TV. All aboard the Joost train!   <Permalink>

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STOP TEASING ME AND START TELLING ME. OR YOU'LL LOSE ME (Steve)
On the night of the Oscars, the ABC affiliate in Boston didn't respect me as a customer.

On the east coast, the Oscars ended at about 12:30 a.m. or so. Throughout, the local affiliate kept teasing "a snowstorm is headed our way, we'll tell you about it -- coming up."

I have three kids. I want the info. You'd think a web guy like I would have run to the computer. But I was watching Marty win the Best Director award for one of his least interesting movies. Fast forward to the end. Again, the local news teases the snowstorm. I have three kids. I need to know if they will have school the next day.

The Oscars ends. The local news comes on. The cold open teases the snow. But they lead with a fire in a double decker in downtown Boston. When I tell you this is not newsworthy, you have to trust me. The double deckers in downtown Boston seem to be made of Duraflame logs.

The weather guy comes on at about 12:45. He shows the snow coming in But it's a tease: "I'll tell you the amounts, when I have the full forecast."

Goodbye.

I went to the web, found out about the 1-3 inches of snow coming, and went to sleep knowing my kids would be going to school in six hours. The TV station actually sent me to a competitor that they don't realize is a competitor -- Weather Underground ( wunderground.com) where I found out in 30 seconds about the snow.

Stop insisting I get the important information on your terms. I don't care about the old tricks that improve your ratings at close to one in the morning. If you want to brag about keeping a lead-in from the Oscars -- what's wrong with leading with weather, anyway?

Respect me and my kids and you'll keep me as a viewer. Ignore my needs and you're just asking me to go to the web. You're not "losing" viewers to the web: you're sending them there.   <Permalink>

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WHAT YOU CAN LEARN FROM MY HAIRCUT IN RICHMOND (Steve)
Virginia doesn't think there is a story in her salon in Richmond. Virginia is wrong. Virginia really doesn't think there is a lesson for local media outlets. Sorry, Virginia, but you picked the wrong contrarian.

There is a salon in Richmond, VA, called "Razors." It caters exclusively to men. It is best described as what would happen if "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" went in and did a makeover on a barbershop. It has found a niche: guys who know we need those modern male treatments that go beyond the haircut -- a waxing here, a color there -- but we still want the feel of being a guy. So they reinvented themselves. Razors is not a barbershop. It's not a hair place and to call it a salon is merely to be lacking the right word. It has ESPN playing on a flatscreen and when you enter they offer you a free beer.

There are plenty of places to get a haircut in every town in America. I wound up spending a lot more than I intended when I walked in to Razors. Gladly. Because the service was excellent and Virginia treated me well. Plus -- come on -- Virginia the stylist in Virginia? This was fate.

What's the lesson? Razors figured out they're not in the haircut business. They're not in the grooming business. They're in the business -- the niche -- of making guys feel good about themselves. They go beyond the haircut ("Why, that's our core business!") and beyond the shave ("That's our extension product") and made me feel like a guy. They even have a yearlong membership plan and if I lived in Richmond, I'd buy it.

Make your audience feel special. Find the niche that makes you different from the other stations. They'll spend extra time with you. Yes, Virginia -- there really is a sales clause.   <Permalink>