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HD antennaI had the good fortune of winning a 20-inch HDTV in a charity raffle recently. (It doesn’t come close to making up for the losing tickets these many years, but I’ll still brag about it.) The trouble was I had no cable outlets where I wanted to put it and, frankly, I didn’t want to spring for yet another cable box, especially for a TV in a room that only gets sporadic use.

Everything they say about over-the-air HDTV is true. The picture is gorgeous. I live in an area outside Boston where analog reception stinks. It was never really an option to have an indoor antenna in my house. But I hooked up a rabbit-ears antenna to a small signal amplifier, and the picture is perfect. No compression artifacts, good color levels - video should always look this good. And, of course, it’s free.

And here’s the thing: it doesn’t really change anything.

At the NAB, David Rehr said "I predict over-the-air HDTV will lead to a renaissance in broadcasting." And I still have no idea how he thinks that’s so.

My antenna TV is a nice third TV for the house. But the programming hasn’t changed. There are no "broadcast only" shows. What renaissance could be coming?

Nobody - and I am safe in making this prediction - is going to give up cable or FiOS to stick an antenna on their roof or on the back of their TV. Trade hundreds of channels for four or five? Not gonna happen.

And if you do, you’ll find yourself, as I did on this election night, woefully uninformed about what’s happening in breaking news. As I awaited the results of the Indiana and North Carolina elections, all I saw were break-ins. It left me scrambling for the cable channels and my laptop. Broadcast TV has pretty much given up live news coverage to the cable channels. Cover the primaries? Not when there’s American Idol to be shown.

So, on the one hand, I have the advantage of free, excellent-reception and high-quality picture TV. On the other, I have the option of $33 a month or so, for hundreds of channels, on-demand and live, and some artifacting in the picture. (Although Verizon claims their picture is as good as broadcast - I’m just basing this on my own experience with my cable company.)

A slightly clearer picture doesn’t seem to win the fight. And it certainly doesn’t justify bold claims of "A broadcasting renaissance."

If broadcasters want a renaissance, they need to go back to their roots. Create original local programming, on TV and on the web. Give me a reason to watch you and not go to or Hulu or whatever. The renaissance can happen. We have the equipment, the people and the creativity to make it happen. Local TV used to be local. It can be local again. The Big Tower isn’t your model anymore. Even if the TV picture is clear, the business plan is way out of focus.

We can do this. We need to reinvent a few things along the way - like how we use our people and how we allocate our budget. But when we stop thinking of ourselves as signal repeaters for the networks (which are going around us anyway) and think of ourselves as local media companies - ah, there’s the renaissance.   <Link>

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A new whitepaper (.pdf) by youth marketing agency Mr. Youth and its subsidiary, RepNation Media, states in very clear terms the kinds of things that Steve and I have been teaching about dealing with consumers in the new era. We’ve never gone so far as to call them "Consumer 2.0," but that’s the moniker given to new consumers by the report. These two companies specialize in youth marketing, so many of their conclusions are build around statistical analysis of young age groupings. I think the realities expressed in the report go beyond generations and are part of a much bigger cultural shift.

Regardless, the groups offer five rules for engaging a new breed of consumer, and I wholeheartedly agree with each one of them.

  1. Authenticity Trumps Celebrity - Consumer 2.0 responds to honest, relevant messaging from peers over marketing speak and celebrity endorsements

  2. Niche is the New Norm - Consumers 2.0 do not form a mass market. They relish in choices and look for products and services that speak to them personally

  3. Bite-Size Communications Dominate - Consumer 2.0 digests short, personal and highly relevant messaging in bulk while growing increasingly adept at blocking out noise

  4. Personal Utility Drives Adoption - Consumer 2.0 chooses to consume what they find useful in their lives over manufactured marketing needs

  5. Consumers Own Brands - Consumer 2.0 will speak about, repurpose and associate with your brand as they see fit

Read the report, and you’ll immediately understand how the model of mass marketing is essentially toast in this new world. People don’t have time anymore for unwanted messages, and that’s a real problem for all traditional media companies, whose business is driven by taking up people’s time.

The report also demonstrates why a key point that Steve and I teach is so important — that consumers will bolt if the price of interaction is too high. What that means is that we’d better be designing web experiences that don’t demand too much of consumers, because many of our new media strategies do just the opposite (think relentless page clicks to get to the good stuff).

Lost Remote blogger Don Day (day job: Digital Media Producer, KTVB News Group, Boise) wrote a wonderful post recently that compares the typical media website with Google practices (low price of interaction). It’s reposted here with permission.

Google has published a list of ten things that make a design “Googley” — and they really are universal. The problem today is that most TV sites have their own set of principles:

Google: 1. Focus on people--their lives, their work, their dreams.
TV: 1. Focus on promotion--our newscasts, our advertisers, our sweeps piece.

Google: 2. Every millisecond counts.
TV: 2. Can we make it flash or use a bright color?

Google: 3. Simplicity is powerful.
TV: 3. Are there enough ad units above the fold?

Google: 4. Engage beginners and attract experts.
TV: 4. People will figure it out on their own.

Google: 5. Dare to innovate.
TV: 5. Are we keeping up with the competition?

Google: 6. Design for the world.
TV: 6. Design for the boss.

Google: 7. Plan for today’s and tomorrow’s business.
TV: 7. Focus on yesterday’s legacy.

Google: 8. Delight the eye without distracting the mind.
TV: 8. Distract the eye while cluttering the mind.

Google: 9. Be worthy of people’s trust.
TV: 9. People trust the anchors. Use big pictures of them.

Google: 10. Add a human touch.
TV: 10. Add a touch more clutter.

We simply must learn the new tricks of working with the entity known as "Consumer 2.0," or we’ll only accelerate an irrelevance that’s growing by the day. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.   <Link>

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Grey hair at the keyboardWe tend to write-off senior citizens from the online world. They don’t "get" computers. They just use them for email at best. There’s no money to be made in advertising to "old people." They have fixed income and fixed purchasing choices. These are the cliches - and they’re just wrong. Not only is the 62 and older crowd online, it’s also buying stuff.

A study called "Matures 62+ On the Internet: An Overlooked Audience" found that a huge chunk of the 62 - 71 year-old market is online. They are spending, on average, 44 minutes online each day, and they’re doing a wide variety of things.

From the ClickZ report summary:

Here’s a list of online activities, and the percent of adults over the age of 62 who engage in each.

  • Search engines: 59 percent
  • Contact family and friends: 59 percent
  • Gather information: 47 percent
  • News/current events/weather: 43 percent
  • Travel planning/reservations: 41 percent
  • Health and health-related information: 38 percent
  • Exchange photos with family/friends: 33 percent
  • Finance/online banking: 24 percent
  • Paying bills: 23 percent
  • Single/multiple-player games: 21 percent
  • Investment/transactions: 17 percent
  • Education/training: 13 percent

The study also found another result that should turn traditional-thinking on its head. When it divided groups into Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, Boomers and Matures, it found the Matures are just as likely to buy something after seeing an online ad as everyone else. From the press release:

"Matures are just as likely to be motivated by an Internet ad as younger consumers in general, and among specific categories, such as pharmaceuticals, consumer packaged goods, entertainment and travel, the purchase intent is even higher."

How do we take advantage of this information? We start with building sites that focus on the Mature audience. We build our niche verticals for the "matures" in our community. 47% are "gathering information" and 43% are getting their news online. We’re already in that business. With just a little work, we can build local sites that address the needs of the mature audience which we can then sell to the "pharmaceuticals, consumer packaged goods, entertainment and travel" industries where "the purchase intent is even higher."

Old people don’t get computers? Another myth - and excuse - busted.

Note: Focalyst, one of the two marketing companies which conducted this study, is supported by the AARP. The other company in this study, Dynamic Logic, shares a parent company with Focalyst.   <Link>

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Scales of JusticeIn the beginning was the newspaper, and the newspaper was with the people, and the newspaper was the people. And the people, being people, needed a place to put announcements of a legal nature in order to self-govern, so they chose the newspaper. This made sense at one time, but the model continues today, despite two important facts: One, the newspaper is no longer with the people, and, two, there are much more efficient ways to handle such things. Today, the "legals" section remains one of the last, highly profitable (and exclusive) branches of what’s left of the money tree that used to be the American newspaper.

Over the last few years, attempts have been made to remove the exclusive nature of these announcements from the newspaper industry, and the voices are getting louder. In Pennsylvania, a bill is moving through the state senate that would allow such announcements to be distributed through free, community papers, and the slight opening of the door to non-exclusivity is not going over well with Pennsylvania newspapers.

An article in the Philadelphia Inquirer says the opposition is framing their argument as one of public access. Deborah Musselman, director of government affairs for the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association, told the paper, "The idea was that people have a right to know what their government is up to," adding that the bill would "make it a lot harder to know what your government is up to because you wouldn’t know where to look to find the information."

Um, okay.

There’s been some name-calling in the matter, with newspapers being referenced as a "cartel," and the free dailies being called "junk mail." There’s a whole lot of money at stake:

Local governments now must place legal notices in a "newspaper of general circulation" in a county. The bill would expand that to include "community papers of mass dissemination" that are distributed free through the mail or delivered by carrier to all households in a political subdivision.

"Right now, the legal-advertising law grants an exclusive monopoly that doesn’t recognize that there are other bona fide options out there," said Jim Haigh, a consultant to the Mid-Atlantic Community Papers Association, which represents 300 free papers in seven states, about half of them in Pennsylvania. "We are just looking for fair competition."

Haigh argues that community papers would do a better job of getting the word out. They are sent free to every household in a community, while newspapers require a paid subscription that not everyone has.

The bill has the support of associations representing municipalities and schools, which long for cheaper ad rates.

"We are always looking for ways to get the message out to more individuals, but at the same time to save money," said Holly M. Fishel, research director at the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors.

Whether this bill passes or not is just a blip in the overall disruption of the mass media model. I’ve yet to hear of any broadcasters getting into the fray, and that’s interesting, because eventually there will be a digital version of all of this. The technology exists today for law firms, school districts and municipalities to publish these themselves, to be aggregated by a smart third-party, and there’s no reason that couldn’t be any local media company.

That’s oversimplified, to be sure. These types of announcements are a part of our various branches of government, so they cannot be considered lightly. There are issues of accessibility to digital media by ALL members of the community, tampering with the announcements, and questions of governmental control of the Web — all things to be seriously weighed and discussed.

But this is another attack on the classifieds armor that used to be a primary revenue support for local newspapers, and it’s hard to believe this one will end pretty either.   <Link>

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NHL Network LogoJust a quick mention here and a recommendation to check out the new NHL Network site. They’re doing a great job with video, archives and advertising. I’ll have a fuller write-up next week, but while the playoffs are going on (and despite the exit of the Bruins) I thought I’d tune you in to this cool site.   <Link>