Copy & Paste vs Customization of Content – Old Rules vs New Rules For Media, Part 3

This is the third 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 #3: The Web Is Just Another Distribution Channel For Traditional Media’s Content

There are many traditonal media types who, believe it or not, still see the web as a place for either marketing or just dumping existing content ‘as is’ in the hopes of making a few bucks.

It is precisely because the web is so flexible that it seems obvious to simply put up your content there, exactly as it was produced for a traditional medium.  For example, you’d never run a radio program on television because it’s only audio, but you can put up audio programming on the web and it’s just fine.  You can’t put a TV show in a newspaper, but you can just put an entire TV show on the web, as is.

It is this ease of ‘copying and pasting’ content on the web that often leads to a lack of thinking about serving the unique needs of the audience online.

New Rule #3: Customize The Content For The Medium

Again, it may be easy to say, “why bother customizing the content? I can just repurpose my existing content because the web can serve up audio, video, photography, text, and pretty much everything else I can think of.”  However, put on your ‘audience hat’ and think hard about how you use different types of content on the internet in VERY different ways than you use traditional media.

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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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The Changing Face Of Conferences – Traditional Media vs Social Media

I recently had the opportunity to speak about the future of radio at both the Northern Voice digital media conference in Vancouver and the Multimedia Meets Radio conference for European Public Broadcasters in Prague. In both cases, I came away learning a lot from the other presentations, but the lasting impact will be the realization that it’s the attendees, more than the speakers, that are transforming the definition of these gatherings by making them more interactive, social, and meaningful experiences.

‘OLD’ CONFERENCES

Every year, I go to a few conferences that are pretty much exclusively targeted at ‘traditional media’ – people who work for broadcasting companies. Here’s what happens at a typical one:

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10 Twitter Tips For Traditional Media

It seems like Twitter is finally starting to penetrate the mainstream media. CBC recently invited some experts in social media in to share their ideas about how a traditional media company might use tools like Flickr, YouTube, Facebook… and Twitter. While I wasn’t there, it sounds like it was a big success and got people excited to dig in and use these new tools as part of their show programming.

Twitter even seems to be replacing blogs as the ‘cool’ go-to news source for ‘what’s happening on the web’. However, many mainstream media companies are still clearly struggling with what Twitter is and how to best use it.  So I’ve put together my personal…

10 Twitter Tips For Traditional Media (try and say THAT 10 times quickly…)

1. Twitter is NOT an RSS feed.

I know that the New York Times, The Globe and Mail, CBC, and others are using Twitter as a news feed, but I don’t personally subscribe to any of them. I can get that EXACT same information from an RSS feed (which I do…) and I don’t personally like my Twitter feed clogged up with every news item under the sun.

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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?

You Don’t Control Your Brand. The Audience Does.

Traditional branding is dead. The days of ‘choosing’ your brand and pushing your choice out to passive consumers are gone.  Today, you have to earn your brand.

Thanks to social networking and Web 2.0 tools, you simply can’t ‘control’ a brand by saturating a market with endlessly repeating messages and advertisements.  It’s too easy for your audience to call your bluff, share their views with an enormous number of people, and create the exact opposite impression you were intending.

So how does today’s branding work?  You actually have to provide value for your audience or your customers.  If you give them a stellar experience, they will tell others.  If you give them a bad experience, they will also tell others.   The word of mouth about your content or product IS your brand.

Let’s say you upload 100 music videos and 5 comedy videos to YouTube.  In traditional media thinking, that means that you’re mostly a music service.  However, if only 10 people watch your music videos, but 3 of your comedy videos go viral, to the audience, you’re a comedy company.

The point is, you don’t get to choose. The audience creates your brand with every click of a mouse, every content rating tool they use, every comment they make about your content, and every link they send to their friends.

So forget trying to ‘sell’ people with endless hype.  Focus your energy on building a relationship with them by giving them a terrific experience first.   The days of ‘promising’ a brand are over.  The days of having to deliver on the brand promise are here.

ALERT To Traditional Media

Dear Traditional Media Executive,

URGENT MEMO

The web is NOT primarily a place to advertise your TV programming, your radio programming, your newspaper content, or the latest issue of your magazine.

As a valued and (relatively) YOUNGER audience member that you are craving so desperately, when I decide that I want to experience your brand on a ‘non-traditional’ platform like your website, your Facebook page, your Twitter feed, etc, PLEASE don’t use it for the sole purpose of telling me about all the wonderful things that are on TV, on the radio, in your newspaper, in your magazine, but AREN’T on the web.

I’m choosing to interact with you on the web.  I want a content experience, not an ad. Give me what I want or I will go elsewhere.

Here’s what you’re telling me:

“Thanks for coming my website.  Please leave the web immediately and go to the inconvenient place of my choosing  where I can make more money off of your eyeballs and/or ears.”

Would you watch a TV station whose only programming was ads about great content on the web?  Of course not.  So stop using the web that way.

Sincerely,

Your Future Audience

(P.S. The best way to promote your TV, radio, newspaper, or magazine content?  Let me experience it on the web. If I can have a content experience with your brand on the web and I like it, the odds go way up that I’ll give it a try on another medium.  But if I can’t try it and instead experience the equivalent of a billboard, I’m almost certain to give it a pass…)