Lock It Up In A Walled Garden VS. Set Your Content Free! – Old Rules VS New Rules For Media Part 2

This is the second in a series of posts contrasting the ‘old’ rules of the media and the ‘new’ rules that are necessary for success in today’s rapidly changing digital landscape.

Old Rule #2: Viva La ‘Walled Garden’ – You Must Use The Content From Media Companies In The Way THEY Want You To Use It

Traditional broadcasters pay for their content and they want you to experience that programming in the way that makes them the most money back on their investment. Some of the most profitable ways to consume content may not be the most convenient for audiences, but old media doesn’t care – they own it and they will try to force you to do what is convenient for THEM. Because they can. Or least, they COULD.

New Rule #2: Set Your Content Free – Don’t Force Audiences To Come To You.  Go To Where It’s Convenient For THEM.

Most traditional companies want to keep all their content within their own garden walls so they can control it, measure it, and monetize it. But that doesn’t work anymore (unless you’re the 800 lb gorilla in your content niche).

Why?

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Old Rules vs. New Rules For Media – A New Blog Series About The Future Of Media

Old RadioWith apologies to Bill Maher, I’ve tried to re-arrange the presentation I did at the Northern Voice conference in Vancouver and the Multimedia Meets Radio conference in Prague about ‘The Future of Radio’ into a series of coherent blog posts.

Instead of creating a single, giant post, I’ve tried to break up the salient points of the presentation into individual observations that I’m arranging as ‘Old Rules vs. New Rules’.

The goal of the series is to show how traditional media has worked and why they’ve made the strategic decisions they have, and then show how almost the EXACT opposite of those decisions are the NEW rules for success.

In the end, I hope to provide some clarity about why traditional media companies are struggling and where to look for solutions to their current problems.
So without further ado, here’s installment #1…

Old Rule #1: Shut Up And Watch / Listen

In the past, the only way to consume content was to tune into a live radio or TV station’s programming.  Old media pushed it out as a broadcast, and you tuned in.  If you missed it, too bad.  Old media controlled the how, when, and where of your experience. It was a one-way, linear push of content and information.

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An Argument For Test-Driving: The Best Promotional Tool Is Your Best Content

As I’ve written about before, traditional media is pretty blatant with a lot of their web material.  They want you to watch TV, listen to Radio, or subscribe to Magazines.

So here’s my ideal solution to achieve the goal of getting more people to leave the web and go to a traditional platform…

Give them the content on the web for free.

Using your top content as a hook is the best way to increase the likelihood of a user trying out the traditional media property.  For old-media types, that’s a pretty insane and counter-intuitive idea.  (And that’s probably why not enough media outlets are doing it.)

The prevailing mindset is that if you let people experience the content for free, why would they go to TV, Radio, etc afterwards?  Answer: if you don’t give them a  test drive, they’ll never buy the car.

Audiences have an unbelievable amount of choice and power and everyone is competing for their precious time and attention.  So what’s going to win you new converts?  Ads or amazing content?  You need to give it your best shot.

Here’s how I see the decision tree for a brand new audience member:

OPTION 1

-I come to your site
-I see a promo for a show that grabs my interest
-I click on it and get a generic show description, a 30 second trailer, and information that the show is on TV tonight at 9pm.
-I might make a mental note to watch it tonight, BUT, my guess is that younger audiences especially will just move on to somewhere else on the web where they can consume content.
-Or they’ll search for your show on YouTube or BitTorrent and watch it where you can’t track them or make any money.  They’re GONE.  And they’re not coming back. 
-They came for a test drive, but you wouldn’t give them the keys, so they went to another dealer.

OPTION 2

-I come to your site
-I see a promo for a show that grabs my interest
-I click on it and start watching / listening / reading instantly
-If I like it, I will find out more about the show and likely make an effort to watch / listen / read again. 
-The test drive leads to increased likelihood of a ‘buy.’

Don’t get me wrong – not all of them will convert back to traditional media.  Many of them may greatly prefer your online offering.  And you may not make as much money off of them. But some WILL follow you to traditional media.  And they probably would never have found your traditional platform without the free web content.

There are some serious perks to this strategy:  you’re thinking multi-platform distribution, you’re bringing in new audiences that have never sampled your ‘traditional’ content, you’re setting yourself up for the future, and you’re increasing the odds that new people will end up on your traditional platform.

The win for traditional media is creating a win for audiences on the web.

So don’t use your promotional space to sell the air date and air time on the traditional platform.  If your content is so amazing, let the show sell itself. Make me care.  Make me click. Get me hooked on your program.  Make me want MORE.

And THEN, maybe I will also click on the TV or the Radio.

Have you ever done a test-drive on the web that’s led you to ‘traditional media’ to get more?

10 Reasons Traditional Media Should Use The Tools WE Use

Why doesn’t traditional media like to use the Web 2.0 tools we use?  There are 5 very good answers:

  1. They want total control over their own user experience.
  2. They want a unique user experience that is differentiated from their competitors.
  3. They want to make all the profit from their own content.
  4. They want their content separated from the user-generated masses to ensure it continues to be seen as premium content.
  5. They want to drive traffic almost exclusively to their own website and become a ‘destination’ instead of being just one channel in big, vast, occasionally tough to search YouTube / Flickr universe.

These are VERY valid points.

BUT just to play devil’s advocate…

10 Reasons Why Traditional Media Should Use The Same Tools That Their Audience Uses

  1. Fish Where The Fish Are. The audience has clearly chosen the tools (like Flickr, WordPress, YouTube, etc) that THEY want to use.  Isn’t there a big win for a traditional media company that meets their audiences where they already are?
  2. No Learning Curve. Audiences know how to use the tools and don’t have to deal with usability issues, learn new functionality, etc.  That also means your production staff will be able to learn it and use it easily – HUGE perk.
  3. Best Place To Find New Users. Not only can existing audiences find content on your site, but new users who know nothing about you can stumble onto that content and discover you for the first time on places like Flickr and YouTube. YouTube has 250 million users worldwide.  How many do you have?
  4. Easy To Get User Generated Content. Your users can contribute to your content more easily by using tools that they already use
  5. Easier To Go Viral. Your users can share your content much more easily because the Flickr and YouTube tools are almost always easier to use, with better functionality than traditional media photo and video tools (including embedding, sharing, rating, etc).  And again, on YouTube, 250 million people have easy access to your content.
  6. Is Developing Online Technology Your Core Business? Traditional media often can’t keep up with the development of new technology. Developing the ultimate online video experience is YouTube’s core business and with Google’s bank account behind them, I’m betting that they’ve got serious resources going into the ongoing evolution and development of their player.Can traditional media say the same thing? They don’t have billions of dollars to invest in R&D, web developers, etc.   So MOST traditional media companies work with ‘enterprise’ solution companies who build video players, blogs, commenting, and photo tools that are generic, and more often than not, a wee bit clunky.  And by the time it gets customized and implemented into the infrastructure of a traditional media company, it’s usually out-of-date compared to its online-only rivals.
  7. Save $$$. Media companies can save some serious cash – MUCH less spending on buying, developing, maintaining, supporting tools a media player, a blog engine, photo uploading tools, etc.  Significantly less infrastructure, too.  And if you’re using a public platform, you’re also not paying for bandwidth, which is a considerable expense if your content is popular.
  8. Take Advantage of Community Development And Innovation Instead of Doing It All Yourself. In the case of tools like WordPress, there are large, talented communities developing amazing new plugins, designs, and modifications to the platform that are available for anyone to use.  The wisdom and resources of the crowds will almost always trump the evolution of an internal company product (unless, as is sometimes the case, that is their core business and their core product).
  9. Deliver A Precise Target Audience To Advertisers. When it comes to selling targeted advertising and hitting only the audience you want, who has the best-in-class tools to reach people of a certain age, certain location, speaking a certain language, who have a set of interests that perfectly match your content and have disposable income to spare?  And who can best measure consumption habits and conversions of those people?  The ones who are masters of aggregating and analyzing data.   Google vs a Traditional Media company – there’s no contest.
  10. It’s Going To End Up On YouTube Anyway. Finally, if you don’t use tools like YouTube and Flickr, your audience will put your content up there anyway. (If it’s good…) Wouldn’t YOU rather control the YouTube experience – make it quality, get some revenue from it, track it, etc – instead of letting Johnny in his basement control your YouTube experience?

Content Vs. Distribution

Here’s the big question for Traditional Media that might help answer the question of whether to use existing, popular tools – is your future the content business or the distribution business?

In the past, it’s been both, but today is much murkier.  It’s going to be VERY tough to stay relevant in the distribution business on new platforms.  There are simply too many different platforms and there are industry leaders that control or have access to the pipes on each one of these platforms.

The Future Of Media

The future is pointing to a world where an individual’s content consumption will be personalized through aggregation across a vast variety of content providers.  I don’t necessarily want all my news from one content company, all my comedy from one source, or all my music from one source.

I want a service that can aggregate all my favourite content from a wide variety of content providers, package it nicely, and deliver it all to me in one tidy package.

That doesn’t’ sound like something a traditional media company is set up to do.  (Can they continue to make the amazing content I want to read, watch, and listen to?  Absolutely. But work with other broadcasters?!!? The horror!)

Now Google, on the other hand, sounds like they’d very much like to deliver me that tidy little package. They’ve repeatedly said that they are not in the content creation business.  They’re in the distribution business and they’re in it for keeps.

And if I was a traditional media company, I’d have second thoughts before stepping into the ring with Google.  But that’s just me…

Questions!

I know Hulu is a possible exception  to this line of thinking – are there any other good examples of traditional media companies that are leading the pack with their own technology?

As an audience member, what tools would you prefer to use?

Are there good reasons for traditional media companies to use their own tools?