Death to the Page View How do you track the popularity of web pages? It used to be that every page that was loaded into the system would be counted as a "view." From here, the sites with the most "views" would be counted as the most popular. However, with new technology like Ajax (think Google Maps, where you are not reloading the page) and streaming video, the page view is no longer accurate. Nielsen/NetRatings one of the bigger ratings agencies online is changing its metric from the page view to time spent on the site (via PaidContent). Right off the bat, we know that Google known for redirecting other people to the sites that they want will drop in ranking. Yahoo with its Ajax filled pages will rise and MySpace will most likely fall as well (poor HTML design forces users to visit new pages). Video sharing sites where users are spending a whopping amount of time will likely increase and crack the top 10.
What does this new measurement mean for marketers? Well, sites are able to use these new metrics to increase their CPM. However, I think we will all know which tactics work best given our demographic. The new measures also don't take into account widgets, which I think given Facebook's API opening will be essential for marketers to know (although technically we could go by number of subscriptions). So once again measurement is all over the place.
Google is going to continue to drop in terms of time spent at least with their flagship search product but I still think that contextual search and SEM are the best ways to bring folks into your online store and convert them (since they are looking for you anyway). We all know the addictiveness of social networks and email but if you leave your email open all day (as Mashable suggested) are you really engaged with the banners on there as well? Does Yahoo or Gmail have the right to charge more for these pages? Similarly we also know that sites like YouTube will rank higher but is anyone watching the ads?
I don't think the new metrics are going to tell us anything that we don't know already. It may give media companies a way to charge us a higher CPM, but I think that we know (hopefully) the ways that our target demographics use the Internet. Whether its through banners, Facebook widgets, etc, I think the best way to measure is by ROI ....
MySpaceTV looks a lot like YouTube - Prom Queen stats MySpaceTV launched today and it really does look very similar to YouTube. Besides its cluttered landing page which is stuffed with banners, MySpaceTV has nearly the same exact layout as YouTube, which isn't necessarily bad. MySpace users most likely have visited YouTube and know that site fairly well. All they need to do now is hang onto their traffic instead of direct it to YouTube. Given that it launched today, I'm not going to discuss their very slow load times as I'm sure they are working out the kinks, but I think that with all of the folks that YouTube pissed off (especially on the pro content side) MySpaceTV is a viable alternative. It's already #2 and with this new setup could overtake the top spot. The more I look at it, the more its an EXACT copycat of YouTube. Everything from the layout to the categories to the way that its sorted (although some of the things don't really work).
An interesting point to note about MySpaceTV is that PromQueen received a majority of their traffic through the social network. I'm looking at the PromQueen page and seeing that different episodes get a different number of views. I would expect recap episodes to have a low hit count, but some of the videos that have low hit counts just don't make sense. Granted I haven't been watching so perhaps the prior show lead in was weak or there was some type of grand PromQueen promotion....But the variance of views goes from a few hundred thousand to 20,000. Strange huh? Is that really the way that we consume our video? I would compare all 80 some episodes of PromQueen at 1:30 each to a 2 hour feature film. Are we really that impatient that we will skip the boring parts and fill this in with our own perceptions? My initial feeling was that Prom Queen episode 1 would be the most watched. It's not. It's episode 20: Off like a prom dress with 1.2 million views. Could that have been the day that Prom Queen was featured on the front page of MySpace? Or was episode 19 really that good? Was it the name of the episode? Because episode 67 was called Naked n the Rain and that only received 139,000 views. I'm glad that MySpaceTV captures all of these YouTube like metrics (and hopefully more) as we'll soon be able to dissect our viewing habits.
Overall, I think that MySpaceTV is going to give YouTube a run for its money. Why go onto two sites when you can simply stay on one?
Social Networking at an All Time Buzz The words couldn't be out there more: MySpace, LinkedIn, Friendster, Bebo, Facebook. All of them are useful sites. All of them are addictive sites. But what are they really worth? Yesterday we talked about the demographics of MySpace versus that of Facebook. Today, we're going to talk about the value. Yesterday a few pieces of news turned our heads toward this social network phenomena again. LinkedIn, as broken by Reuters, could be planning an IPO "as early as next year." The site claims to have about 12 million users and expects $100 million in revenues by next year. Then, the guys that started it all, Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson, the founders of MySpace asked Rupert for 50 million bucks for the both of them for two years. Again, many speculate that this request was to cash out at the height of the social networking revolution. So far no news as to whether Rupert will grant this request. And just to throw it in the mix, Facebook is still independent although rumoured at at least one billion dollars (and I guess given the more educated demographic with more disposable income, possibly worth it, given the $580 million spent on MySpace).
All of this money being thrown around for user generated content platforms. Is this the height of the social networking that we've seen prevalent since Friendster days? Why are these guys looking to cash out? MySpace is nearly saturated with users, coming up on 200 million. Do they think that social networking has maximized its growth? An interesting book that I read lately is The Cult of the Amateur where the author talks about how all of this user generated content is ruining us. Is this what the owners think? Do they want to be distanced from their creations?
Regardless of their reasoning, every new website out there now has some type of social network component. The ability to not only gather information, but to find like minded people regardless of geographic boundary is extremely valuable. But upkeep to these sites is a major task at hand. Again, we'll keep an eye out on how these social networks continue or don't continue to grow.
MySpace versus FaceBook An interesting study by Danah Boyd that we've been pointed to by Mashable, looks at the socioeconomic differences between your typical MySpace user and your typical Facebook user. Overall, she concludes that Facebook users are more educated and "good kids" while MySpace users seem to be those that are "bad" and that live in the fringes of society. Income had little to do with the outcomes of the study as a struggling actor/waiter making $12,000 would fall into the Facebook camp and that the differences emphasize a matter of upbringing. She also notes the banning of MySpace in the military while Facebook is still allowed and used by most officers. Finally she notes the cleanliness of Facebook's white background as opposed to the clutter and noise on some MySpace pages. The results are not of a surprise if you look at the origins of both social networking sites. Facebook started at Harvard and while the network is open now to anyone, you tend to be on networks where your friends are. Hence, Harvard folks are friends with other educated folks and so on. Further, prior to opening up, you needed a .edu account to join Facebook. On the other hand, MySpace started on the fringes with the underground music scene. Soon it spread pretty quickly, but with anything mainstream, pretty soon everyone's on it. I think MySpace has lost the most value recently with the openness of the site. I get more spammers posing as lost 20 year old girls than real people, more bands and films trying to build a following, and more people that I don't know that want to be my friend.
I think that in the MySpace world - it's all about carving out your piece of the Internet; you have your own URL and many use it as a "resume" of sorts. In Facebook, its true social networking. You can't link to anyone randomly. That's the benefit of sites like Friendster and LinkedIn. To get access to others, you must REALLY be my friend (although there's a bunch of ways to get around this). Is that what Danah Boyd is trying to say? That socioeconomic upbringing is about me, me, me? Ego is everything? That kids understand why they went to Harvard, not necessarily about the education, but about your classmates and building networks? The interesting thing is that we can now track how Facebook will grow given its open nature and see if this is true.
Virtual Worlds Online We've all heard about the media success of Second Life; the addictiveness of MySpace; and the large valuations of Club Penguin. Just launched is the Virtual Lower East Side which is an avatar based approach to location based social networking. So take the best of all of the aforementioned products: the avatar based Second Life, with the social networking aspects of MySpace, together with web based aspect of Club Penguin. Just like MySpace, VLES is starting as a tool to bring bands together with their fans. Interesting play, and I think that we could be seeing more of these web based virtual worlds, especially as bandwidth becomes less of an issue and Flash continues to pack in the power in small sized bytes.
Virtual Web based worlds are very interesting to the marketer since we have clearly seen the power in social network marketing and the power of word of mouth. However, what the virual world allows is also a chance to build a strong robust application with little capital outlay. What does that mean????? MySpace really didn't have a strong business model until it reached a critical mass of users and even then CPMs are reaching $30 or so. YouTube didn't have any business model at all (and still might not). These virtual worlds do. Club Penguin charges $6 a month to customize your penguin and users gladly pay. Second Life items cost real money and users gladly pay. Not all users but some and I think that will be sustainable enough for social network and virtual world builders to build a robust application and will allow for more entrants into this brave new world.
Will MySpace become virtual? They have the easiest userbase to do so with. But will it happen? I doubt it. The code that MySpace is written on is so unstable that if we were to have some virtual users and some static users we'd crash the system. So there's an opportunity here! Could VLES be the next virtual MySpace in the 3D Web 3.0? I don't know. But I do know that there's an opening here for someone to create a rich application with decent cash flows that if successful will probably rival a valuation like YouTube's. (Since MySpace was bought for $580 million and Club Penguin was flirting with $450 million at a fraction of the users of MySpace).
The Tipping Point
Something that I've been looking at is why and how things "tip." How does a site like YouTube go from 0-60 in 3 months? Why is MySpace the premiere destination for social networking? Has Second Life "tipped" or is it still a geek's toy? Why did FaceBook grab so many users? Let's look at some thoughts into why these things happened...
YouTube - YouTube was launched by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim, exPayPal employees in November of 2005. Shortly thereafter (around December or January) the trio has no one but the copyright infringer who uploaded SNL's Lazy Sunday to thank. Traffic spiked at that point. And even more traffic came to the site when it was reported that NBC asked them to take it down. But by then it was too late, YouTube was the "it" place to be for user generated video and any kind of online content.
MySpace - MySpace was founded by the friendly Tom Anderson in November of 2003. It started as a site to share music and eventually became "a place for friends." MySpace could be attributed as one of the first successful social networks that really brought about the entire Web 2.0 revolution. However, traffic for the site didn't really tip until what I think was the entire Friendster debacle. Friendster arguably the first social network, was experiencing slowness and server difficulty. A message was sent around Friendster saying that they would start charging and that MySpace was free. Many addicted social networkers flocked to MySpace and that was all they needed. With the newness of social networking, MySpace quickly grew and that rolling stone gathered enough momentum that MySpace is a household name.
Second Life - Second Life is the avatar based role playing world. So far its received a lot of attention in the media and by brands. However, as you can see from the chart, it still hasn't tipped. I think that its a combination of things here and one of the big barriers is the user experience. Second Life for the non techy is hard to use. That's agreed upon. Secondly its a separate software download. That's a pain. Compare this with Flash based ClubPenguin who's traffic is slowly creeping up on SecondLife, and was recently offered $500 million from Sony.
Facebook - The darling of Social Networks - Facebook was rumored to be worth in the $2 billion range. How did a dorm room start up at Harvard become one of the most valuable properties on the web? The chart below shows how Facebook really hit straight up growth in the beginning of 2006, which corresponds to their high school out reach. But why did all of these high schoolers want to join Facebook? I think here the tipping point was based on what Malcolm Gladwell calls influencers. And there are many influencers at Harvard the birthplace of Facebook. Would Facebook have survived if it started at another school? Princeton? Perhaps. University of Middle of No Where? Probably not.
I think that its interesting to look at the different ways that these things "make it." YouTube had a unique piece of content, MySpace was positioned at the right place at the right time, and Facebook had influentials behind it. What will it take for Second Life or the plethora of Web 2.0 companies? Sometimes its dumb luck.
MySpace Safe Again..? TheGlobe.com has settled with MySpace, the largest social networking site, for $5.5 million dollars after spamming MySpacers through fake accounts about their GloPhone product (which is now defunct). Other lawsuits filed by MySpace (thanks to Mashable) include TheDilly, a social network that picked up many users via MySpace messaging and Anthony Lineberry who ran MyFriendBot, an automated friend requester.
While TheDilly settled for $6000 and Lineberry, I believe, walked away unscathed, its a step in the right direction for MySpace to combat spam. The $5.5 million settlement with TheGlobe.com should deter spammers from trying to get back onto the MySpace system. However, the inherent problem seems to be the simplicity with which it is to create an account. Anyone can create an account without any verification. Should sites like MySpace and YouTube force users to enter credit card information (without any charges of course)?
MySpace has done a great job of spam and abuse reporting but could these efforts curtail any type of real marketing being done on the site? The great thing about MySpace is that its free. But if you are a small company or a non-Fox owned property you are going to have to pay for placement either on the front page of MySpace or some of the other costly real estate the site provides.
CPMs on MySpace are significantly less than CPMs on Yahoo!, and its probably the supply and demand curve working its magic. Advertisers are still afraid of being put next to content that they have no control over and therefore associated with. Most of the ads that I see are pretty raunchy dating sites, Shave the Armpit and win an iPod sites, Hit the Monkey and win a shopping spree sites, Can you Tell this Celebrity sites...in other words content that is already so outrageous that it could hold its own against little Johnny's MySpace page. So then how does a brand propogate on MySpace? I think its through good old fashioned word of mouth while utilizing smartly some of MySpace's tools. The most powerful tool of them all...the top 8. Yes, you may laugh, but being in the MySpace top 8 ensures that you're brand or product is being seen by others when they visit someone's page. Of course you can achieve the same effect by commenting, but Top 8's change less frequently than comments. For those of you not familiar with the Top 8 its a MySpacer's "top 8" friends. These friends appear on the person's page without any need to dig deeper into the profile. Users are always curious about other folks and will mostly likely click on some of your top 8 friends. How do you achieve a top 8 status? Some profiles like the Black Carpet Screenings for Borat made you print out your MySpace profile showing Black Carpet in your Top 8. Others want you to email them when they are in your top 8. Screen grabs, the list goes on and on. So there it is, spammers why bother? We already know all of your tricks and we quickly delete your messages and comments. Have a good profile, a good product and a reason for us to put you in our Top 8 and you'll spread like wildfire. Maybe Lineberry's next project will be to work on an automatic Top 8'er.
Brand Dilution There's been a few announcements this week in merger mania that has left me scratching my head. Sure, the Dow is at an all time high making stock transactions relatively cheap. Still, I think that synergies are more important unless these big conglomerates have something farther up their sleeves that they are not letting on. Granted there have been some M&A activity that makes sense: Coke buying out Glaceau , the Vitamin Water manufacturer. This makes sense as a line extension of "healthy drinking" as soft drinks are slowly falling out of favor from the more health conscious community. Further, Coke already has a wide distribution channel that the smaller Glaceau can take advantage of. Great deal here for both sides.
Then there's the line extensions that just make no sense whatsover. Even if he has something up his sleeve I really don't see how this ties into his brand. The brand I'm talking about is Trump. Donald Trump. After his successful runs in New York City real estate and Atlantic City casinos, the mogul has put his name on a few different items that didn't really reinforce his luxury brand status. Trump Water? Trump Vodka? (from the man who doesn't drink?) and the latest Trump Steaks. The Apprentice definitely reinforced Trump's image as a wheeling and dealing businessman but steaks? Perhaps vodka, water, and red meat will be given to the folks at the Trump Modeling Agency? I'm not sure, but I'm sure there's something behind this...or not, just another thing to slap the Trump name on (which at this point, might not be such a great thing - The Apprentice was not picked up by NBC).
Back into technology where I have a feeling that I know where Google is going with its acquisition of Green Border. Google is becoming Microsoft slowly and surely. It more or less has an entire suite of products and once those products become unreliant on IE and can stand independently on any browser, Google will have a portable desktop. And since you don't want other viruses you may have picked up while using your virtual desktop anywhere else, Green Border protects your home computer (note I didn't say PC). So that's Google's strategy it seems. Buy everything to make it a viable competitor to Microsoft. Google's about halfway there (market cap GOOG: 151B, MSFT: 295B).
The final question in my head (and please help me here!) is CBS. We covered CBS's purchase of WallStrip last week for $5 million. I speculated that CBS wanted to lock in the rights on Lindsay Campbell as their own Amanda Congdon. Ok, that makes sense, I think. But this morning, CBS announced their intent to buy Last.fm. We've spoken about Last.fm's loyal user base and I think its a great tool to find new artists and even old ones that you didn't know about. A StumbleUpon for music so to say. But I'm not sure how these two purchases really help CBS in the long run. CBS spokespeople have said that Last.fm helps them get that younger demographic that is so elusive to advertisers. Could be true. And perhaps this is where the synergies begin. Since the split of CBS and Viacom, CBS has all of the "old" properties, while Viacom retained the MTV's, Nickelodeons, Vh-1's, Paramounts, etc. Further as its old parent is suing YouTube, CBS has publicy said that YouTube has boosted its viewership. I think that these last purchases are probably more of a way for Les Moonves to stick it in Sumner's face more than anything else (since Sumner was so mad about the loss of MySpace that he fired Tom Freston). And for $280 million (half the cost of MySpace) why not?
OpenFaceBook The Facebook Platform, launched yesterday, is designed to do exactly what MySpace didn't want: Allow for third party content. Facebook has opened up all of its API's in order to encourage development for its site. There are tons of applications now that are sanctioned for use on Facebook. So unlike MySpace (when they shut down Photobucket, which they now own), Facebook encourages open access to their proprietary network. Facebook has some impressive statistics on growth and engagement and with the launch of their video network could really give MySpace and even YouTube a run for it.
Why is the opening of Facebook so important? Better yet, is that the right move? After all, third party widgets could take users away from the site. I think that it is. Think of Facebook as Windows. If Windows could only utilize Microsoft applications, there would be some utility but not as much as if Windows could also use Adobe products and (gasp) Apple products. Sure, the third party widgets are going to lure some users off of Facebook's site, but in the long run, users will be more engaged, Facebook will have free development, and third parties will develop cooler things for Facebook (leading to more and longer page views for the site). Think Amazon, Second Life, Linux...all of these tools were made better because users and developers could plug in their own enhancements. From a marketing and monetization standpoint, this offers unlimited possibilities. Zuckerberg noted that Facebook was the sixth most trafficked site in the country. The ability to create embeddable widgets on a site like Facebook offers huge possibilities for commerce and contextual advertising. Favorite books, shows, music, and media could be purchased off of someone's profile page. Facebooks photo application (the largest in the world) could be integrate with an Ofoto or Kodak Gallery to provide for prints. Mashable talks about some of the applications already created for Facebook. The lesson here is that closed source does not work in today's open world. The music industry learned that, Hollywood is learning, and Microsoft will eventually learn that. If we can embrace our users and partners, then we'll hae a better platform all around.
Everyone's a Star
The ever popular live webcast Justin.TV has turned Justin Kan into an overnight web celebrity. He's opened his life up to the entire world, everything from police raids, landlord eviction, even things in Justin's personal life. Justin Twitters his goings on and keeps everyone in the loop about what he's doing. At just two months old, the site has really gotten some great traction. So, what's next for Justin? They are opening the site up for other live webcasters to become the next Justin. Via TechCrunch, you'll be able to create your own URL's, broadcast your own Twitters, real time chat, calendar, everything.
This idea is really really interesting. I'm not sure how much traction it will gain, although as hardware costs continue to drop a decent webcam attached to your hat (ala Justin) would set you back about $50. Further as we are already impatient enough when you don't respond to an email immediately (and hence IM is so popular) we can actually see what you are doing as to why you aren't responding. Could Justin.tv be the next MySpace?
I don't know about Justin, but I know that the majority of us can't stand to be "on" all the time (like in the Truman Show). Even some stars need their alone, quiet time. Justin is really sacrificing his life by broadcasting 24/7. I think college kids could probably get away with putting a webcam on your head, but what about when you "grow up" and get a real job? I don't think your employer would be too happy.
But the real value in this then becomes who we are putting our webcam on top of. While the rest of the magazine industry has been shrinking, we've seen growth in celebrity gossip magazines. We've seen "glimpse" type shows like Curb your Enthusiasm (look into a day in the life of Larry David), or Entourage (look into a day in the life of a movie star) really take off. However, these are things that are made to entertain. Could you imagine the laws that would be broken if we put a Justin.tv on Donald Trump's head? All of the deals that he would be doing would be known before they were announced. Sergey Brin's head? You'd be able to know what other medium sized company he was going to buy next, run up the stock price, and wait for the official announcement (although I'm sure GOOG traders are watching Sergey's Justin.tv page too). So it really comes down to celebrities and Hollywood celebrities at that, otherwise I'm sure alot of information that we don't want out there will get out when we forget to turn off our Justin cam.
Virtual Worlds the New Social Network? We've all heard of MySpace, YouTube, Facebook, and the myriad of other social networks that have popped up since the infamous Friendster spawned the social network revolution. MySpace sold for $580 million and everyone has jumped on the social network bandwagon. Since then however, we've had some interesting developments in the space including virtual worlds, which is essentially a social network based on a movable avatar. Second Life is the most popular of these with a in world economy and real money being transacted. I previously wrote about how I thought that this would be an interesting addendum to the Web with Linden Labs (who owns Second Life) to open up their architecture and allowing anyone to plug into their API (application programming interface) similar to the World Wide Web but in 3D space.
While I still believe that this is Web 3.0, I can't ignore these new Flash based applications like Habbo Hotel, Webkinz, Club Penguin, Runescape, and a bunch of other in browser applications. While most of these are for younger users (children and younger), there is an appeal to many based on the lack of a download and simplicity of it (a common complaint about Second Life is usability). Recently Sony was in talks to acquire Club Penguin for $500 million+. (via Techcrunch) This puts Club Penguin with a demographic heavily skewed toward youth right up their with MySpace. The big difference between the two is that users are willing to pay a fee to dress up their avatars in Club Penguin and have access to members only areas. I think this customization will allow these social networks to finally monetize. MySpace which allows HTML customization is free, but with virtual worlds, the ability to feel like you purchased something as you would in real life appears to be worth payment. So users feel like there is value in having customized clothing for the avatars which is similar to having personalized wallpaper in MySpace. It's an interesting concept and I bring it up because of the potential for true interaction with your customers. There is now a way to track to see if users would like to use your product for their avatar (which would be fraction of the cost of real world usage). Further, as I previously mentioned, in the virtual world you can create anything, so another great opportunity to see how users interact with your brand. Watch this space since it appears that it will follow the way of the social network where a virtual world will appear for the long tail.
Crowds Being Manipulated I didn't want to write about this, but I think that if its brought to attention to most of these online platforms, perhaps something will be done about it. Some of the most influential websites include Digg, Reddit, YouTube, MySpace, and Yahoo News. Like most social networking sites, these sites include areas for superlatives, that is Most Viewed, Most Emailed, Highest Rated, etc. Collactive which Sequoia Capital invested in (via The Alarm Clock) helps you get your story to the top of these sites. You simply submit your story to Collactive and they utilize their network to affect the social network rankings. Digg, of course, is not happy with this, as their tool like most of the other tools above is all about the collective "wisdom of crowds" and not about a single lobbyist manipulating the system. However, as Mashable has pointed out before, its fairly easy to game YouTube to get to the "Most Viewed" list via a couple of browser plug ins and a desire to do so.
As you can see this is a big problem not just for marketers but news in general. To some extent, yes, we need editors to make sure that we get real news on the front page instead of simply the most viewed, otherwise we'd still probably be reading about Anna Nicole. But at the same time, Web 2.0 is about the collective intelligence of the group, and not simply the brute force that Collactive or any other system manipulation provides. And therefore you can see the danger here. The Web is about equality and not about money. However, if tools can be used to receive honorable mentions, high diggs, YouTube views, then the rich will continue to get richer. Great products and services will still be available online but will need to compete against the deep pockets of larger companies whose products might not be as superior. Furthermore, if we know that these rankings are being manipulated then what's the point? It becomes editorial again and the most Digg'd article becomes similar to "Collactive Presents..." and YouTube's Most Viewed becomes "Videos who's owners had nothing better to do but refresh a few hundred thousand times in order to draw traffic to their own websites."
It's a big problem for Web 2.0 just like spam was a big problem (and still is) for Web 1.0, especially for YouTube, where SuperMoviesDownload.com is trying to steal some of their traffic by gaming the system. And based on this, perhaps they will be able to more accurately reflect the collective wisdom of crowds...
Social Network Woes? This past week MySpace announced the purchase of Photobucket for $250 million in cash. Compared to News Corp's $580 million acquisition of MySpace, this looks relatively expensive. Further since Photobucket users are primarily MySpace users, News Corp is paying a lot for an incremental amount of eyeballs. Why would News Corp do such a thing?
Well, in a case of the rich getting richer, MySpace is the primary destination for social networkers out there. Sure, there's LinkedIn for business folk, Friendster for early adopter social networkers, Sneakerplay for sneaker lovers,Facebook for college students and so on and so forth. However, nothing beats the shear strength of MySpace's reach and depth (176 million as of right now). MySpace helps to launch many items of interest including a high proportion of Michael Eisner's Prom Queen episodes, various movies and television shows, and of course the original intent of MySpace: music and unsigned bands. MySpace video is second only to juggernaut YouTube and the numbers for MySpace are staggering, with the social networking site consistently in the top 5 sites hit, searched for, and session time.
MySpace is protecting its territory and rightfully so. However, those of you who remember Friendster also remember how quickly that social network flickered out. With niche social networks coming out, MySpace wants to be the ONLY destination for social networkers. Two weeks ago, I was notified that my account on Nike's Runner's social network would no longer be supported. I suspect that as time goes on this will be a common scenario. However, the niche social networks do have targeting which many advertisers find valuable. The social network is stronger than ever however, we are slowly seeing segmentation. I would compare this now to the age of network television versus cable. We have the big players, the MySpace, Friendster, LinkedIn, and Facebooks (akin to ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox) and then the niche players like SneakerPlay, MuscleDog, Barack Obama Supporters, etc which all serve a very important purpose. And if we take this a step further, I could definitely see MySpace purchasing other social networks (like StockPickr for example) similar to NBC and CNBC, simply to sell highly targeted niche advertising.
Music Industry Growing eMarketer's report today talks about growth in the music industry (yes, believe it or not, GROWTH). Revenues last year (2006) were $60.7 billion and by 2011 will be $67.6 billion (about a 2% annual growth rate). The report states the obvious that CD sales will continue to plummet and digital continue to grow, however, digital sales will never make up for the loss from CD's. Thus, the growth will come from other innovative ways to exploit the music such as online and mobile, concerts, licensing deals with TV, films, video games, and tie in with various products (the report states U2 and iPod and Bob Dylan and Victoria's Secret). I think that the record labels have definitely enjoyed a monopoly on this business for a while, however, in order for good music to continue to be put out, there needs to be a way to monetize this business. Apple recently put announced that 100 million iPods were sold and about 2.5 billion songs sold via iTunes, which puts each iPod on average with 25 legally downloaded songs, a far cry from the thousands of songs that you can put on it. So where is the other music coming from? I wonder....Regardless, some very interesting models have come out, one of them I talked about before called AmieStreet which is a true supply and demand model. However, with sites like MySpace offering streaming music how would a band make money from them? The answer: Poptopus. Poptopus (reviewed by Mashable), is a widget (we talked about these yesterday) that you can embed on your site and revenue is shared by the artist and the publisher. Advertisements play in the video portion of the player and are paid on a per listen basis. It's actually a radio type model but uses the visual portion of the Internet to play the commercial while you are enjoying the music. I think its a great way to utilize the single servingness of the Web with a business model that could be sustainable. And since everyone makes money, or gets eyeballs, everyone should be happy....the one downside I see is that if a popular band doesn't want to be associated with a certain advertiser (but I think those are few and far between).
Regardless, its a good time for the music business as they've finally embraced the Internet as opposed to fighting it and it turns out that artists as a whole will be making more money than ever and some artists will actually be able to call themselves full time musicians because of this long tail phenomenon. We'll keep track of the music space as it continues to innovate....perhaps Sirius XM can take a lesson here? (i.e. Give away your units and advertise on your proprietary hardware?)
Eisner named Prom King The results are in and Michael Eisner wins ... or does he? The anticipated results for the one month old Prom Queen Internet serial are in from Eisner led Vuguru. According to Mediaweek, the 2 minute web episodic is averaging 200,000 views per day and an aggregate of 5.2 million views since its premiere on April 2nd. Now that's pretty impressive considering that some of the weekly most viewed on YouTube are 200,000 (in fact, at 200,000 it would have been 15th on YouTube's Weekly list). And for many of us, we can actually go back and watch these clips at our leisure and thus racking up more hits. Further, Prom Queen has garnered more than 18,000 friends on MySpace where users are treated to a sneak peak of the show. Out of the show's 5 million views, MySpace accounts for nearly 4 million, followed by Eisner's other company, Veoh, at about 1 million, YouTube at a quarter million and PromQueen.tv.
Given the long tail, that's a hit. Prom Queen is receiving on average 200,000 views. That's not taking into account any of the archived views or streamed mobile clips. That's an amazing number, especially one that can be sustained over (thus far, 40 episodes). I'm not going to comment about the content, although, I got into it for a while, but then my interest level dropped off (probably because I'm not a Prom Queen friend....yet). The production values are phenomenal and I almost wish there was more to watch at the end of my two minutes. Ok, so the content is great, production value is great, but the big question is this: Is it bringing any value to the sponsor, HairSpray the movie? I'm not sure, although it probably is bringing some general awareness to the movie from this tween demographic. The other question is this: Is this model easily replicated? The team that put together Prom Queen also put together a daily webisodic called SamHas7Friends, which while good did not receive the same number of hits as Prom Queen. But again, that, I guess was an experiment (a very successful one) that landed them the gig with Eisner which didn't have the P&A (prints and advertising) that Prom Queen has (although Prom Queen has no P&A but in web speak, they have banner ads and big time press and a big time backer). So...what's the model here? Does this have to be something daily? What frequency? TheBurg.tv comes out monthly with their 15-20 minute episodes and I think they've done fairly well (537,686 on Alexa vs 148,798 for Prom Queen). Is it the length of time? 2 minutes really does keep you on the edge of your seat... What genre works? My gut would say comedy or thriller but watch YouTube and you find all types of things. Well, I guess keep watching this space for more information as we continue to experiment in this new new world.
The Final Frontier? There's been a lot of speculation about Web 3.0 and what that will mean in the coming months and years. A quick recap - Web 1.0 was simply push technology, technology similar to a newspaper where a central editor pushed out content to you. Web 2.0 (where we are now) combined Ajax (pages reload with hitting refresh, similar to Google Maps) with an interactivity feature like a blog, social network, or rating system with the first Web 2.0 properties being Amazon.com, eBay, and Craigslist. Web 2.0 has definitely made an impact on the current web with nearly all sites offering these features and valuations skyrocketing into the billions (see YouTube). The most important aspect of Web 2.0 though is the fact that it is so engaging that Web 2.0 sites are one of the stickiest sites on the Web and one of the most visited (behind search engines). Now if you think about where the majority of us spend our time it is on video games. Yes, even older women spend time playing video games online, since games include not just Grand Theft Auto but Sudoku and FreeCell.
So what's the point of this recap? Well, its definitely to figure out where the Web is going. There's been a lot of hype over Second Life (kind of a Sims like game where there really is no point). There's also been a lot of hype over video games including Sony's Virtual World for PS3 users. What about the combination? Hitwise came out with a report yesterday about how quickly virtual worlds have been growing and Runescape is #1 with 44% of marketshare to online worlds with Webkinz coming in a distant second with 14%. This, of course, does not include downloaded virtual worlds like Second Life, or the ever popular World of Warcraft, although I think at some point Web based games may overtake these downloaded versions.
The virtual worlds cannot be ignored. I think that we all like the aspect of the interface coupled with the Web 2.0 characteristics of real people that we can interact with. Brands now will have that intricate product placement opportunity ever so prevalent with video games, an ability to monitor dialogues, and a chance to see what people will create and do with their brands given a blank slate. Is this Web 3.0? Many think so. Many think that its simply a way of representing Web 2.0 in 3D space. I think that if its not Web 3.0 at least it will be Web 2.5.
What Are You Doing? With all of the hype surrounding Twitter, I just had to write about it. For those of you unaware of Twitter, it is a minute by minute, second by second updater that you can post to via SMS or the web. It's popularity really grew after the SxSW film festival about a month and a half ago, and its been growing ever since. There have been some Twitter clones out there, like a Facebook or Bebo, however Twitter seems to have rapidly become its own verb in a very short amount of time. The sign that Twitter has made it to the big time is the new Barack Obama account that is a featured Twitter member. While Barack is the most Web 2.0 ified of presidential candidates (he has his own social network, YouTube, MySpace, etc), something about Twitter is extremely compelling. Unlike Facebook's automatic updates, Twitter allows you to write about something when you WANT to write about it and be able to broadcast this to the world (or your subscribers).
So you're probably thinking "Why would I want to know what you are doing at all times?" From a personal perspective, you probably wouldn't. (You definitely wouldn't.) However, from a brand perspective and perhaps even from an IR perspective (although this is very far from happening), you might be interested in knowing what is going on and a daily updated blog is simply not enough. Diehard Apple fanatics would be able to know Steve Jobs every thought at any time of the day. Fans of 24 would get to know what "Jack Bauer" was thinking every second of his day. And supporters, or potential on-the-fencers would be able to know what Barack Obama's viewpoints were...every second of every day. Sounds almost too good to be true, and it is, but the point that I want to make here is that as more and more tools come out that are being adopted by mainstream (right now it is the blog), consumers will be demanding more and more usage of it, which means allocating more resources to updating your Twitter / blog /MySpace profile / YouTube channel
If you can't build it, BUY it. Stockpickr, a social network geared around the portfolios of various investment professionals, was bought yesterday by TheStreet.com for undisclosed terms. We've been talking about Stockpickr for a while now and whether or not the collective intelligence of the group could predict the fortunes of the market. We've noticed that Marketwatch launched something similar with so-so results. However, the difference is the aggregated knowledge that Stockpickr has, boasting the portfolios of Warren Buffet and George Soros.
I think that Stockpickr was a great acquisition by TheStreet.com which can utilize the social networking aspect to bolster its editorial content. The Wisdom of Crowds approach holds again, as savvy investors dart to see which stocks were picked by which investment gurus. The real reason however that I wrote about this acquisition was because of all of the press surrounding social networks. MySpace and Yahoo both have equal page views, however MySpace has a CPM that is a third of Yahoo. I wrote about metrics that MySpace commissioned to determine what the value of a friend add is. Facebook, the cover story of this month's Fast Company, was reportedly offered a billion dollars. YouTube of course $1.65 billion. A lot of money is being thrown at these social networks, but at the end, this money needs to be recouped. Of course, you can never charge someone to have an account, but if you can't do that, then how can you monetize this? Do you charge for premium content like TheStreet.com? Perhaps, after all this is how equity research makes their living (sort of). While it was a great buy (terms pending, of course) it remains to be seen if Stockpickr really is a stock picker!
MySpace Marketing Metrics Today's AdAge mentions marketing to the MySpace set through profiles and tries to quantify what its worth to a marketer when you "add" them to your friends list. The study was brought about due to the much lower CPM that MySpace is receiving as opposed to a Yahoo. In the end of the study, the real value of the brand interaction on MySpace was not simply the brand itself but how the brand actually plays a part in your daily life. Therefore, the value is four times over because of the actual endorsement from someone that you know, and how this person has benefitted from the brand.
The results here are not rocket science however. I think that the more that you engage someone with a feel good about your brand the better. What this study has done was given marketers a way to quantify that (and in essence put a dollar value on it). I wrote about Coke a few days ago and how they are creating a Second Life contest in which you "create the essence of coke." This is similar. How do I capture the essence of your product/brand? Why is your product/brand one of my friends? The brand needs to come up with a reason as to why people should talk about it, whether through a contest, feedback, or comments. Hence the explosion of all of the viral video contests on YouTube. How does my brand make you feel? Hopefully that is a positive experience although in the case of GM's viral video contest there was some backlash.
Finally, the study mentioned that just having a profile on MySpace didn't contribute to much. Three things that the study found were: that they gave a way for consumers to tell their stories, they gave people something to talk about, and they also provided incentive via a contest or promotion. So in the case of YouTube, #1) Video #2) your product #3) the prize. With MySpace's more flexible platform #1 could be a myriad of things. Creativity is the limit and I think that MySpace will work well with a certain type of brand and that clicks on MySpace may go the way of banners.
Coke has really embraced the young consumer market with this promotion as they have a MySpace page, encourage you to upload your Second Life creation via YouTube, and of course have you create something in Second Life. This is a full embracement of the Web 2.0 sphere which is something that I haven't seen yet. I also think that Coke is trying to make up for the backlash they received from not fully acknowledging the diet coke and mentos phenomena. While the prize is kind of lame, a trip to San Francisco to be in a documentary, I think that Coke will receive a good number of entries simply based on the fact that people would like to win this very first Second Life creation prize, especially since the contest is about capturing the essence of Coke, and not having to create something that actually works. Again, the great thing about the "flattening" of the world today is that professional tools are now available to the prosumer. Second Life might not be Maya, but it allows you to share with others what is in your mind. Final Cut Pro is the industry standard. After Effects is used in Hollywood movies. And the great thing is that all of these programs install on your MacBook Pro. The bar is going to be raised in terms of production, but alas even like Hollywood, content is king. And in Coke's words: "A truly unique and exciting stick drawing is better than a been-there-done-that professional 3D animation."
The Butterfly Effect The New York Times had an interesting article this weekend about how Hollywood and the music industry figures out if they have a hit in the early stages of its career. They don't. In a study that seems like it would be a great case study for the Tipping Point, the author, a Columbia professor, talks about a study that he conducted that talked about rating music. In it, he subjected one group to simply the names of songs and bands, and the other group also had the number of downloads on it. As you can slowly see, the one group with the download number had markedly skewed results than the other one. Turns out that the subjects were not only influenced by the music but also by the number of downloads. The Butterfly / Snowball Effect in play here, where people are influenced also by what they perceive others to like. He goes on to site examples of Harry Potter being turned down by eight other publishers, the Beatles, Star Wars, etc.
Well how does that affect your marketing plan? Very interestingly, this comes back around to social networks and the Tipping Point. People have the herd mentality which is why even a stock price falls or rises higher when perceived news comes out that is bad or good, respectively. We are all Lemmings to one extent or the other. We are social creatures, and we don't want to be left out. So, in this case, we need to find those influentials, those people willing to take a risk and endorse something (even if its as simple as putting it on a blog, MySpace page, or creating a YouTube video about how great something is). They're taking this risk, knowing that if all doesn't go according to plan, their reputation is on the line. But who are these people? I think that while mainstream media is the easy answer, you can find blogs that are certainly influential to a certain community (TechCrunch for techies for example). Tila Tequila, the infamous, most "friended" MySpacer. Perhaps you have to "game" a system to even be noticed. I know that when I go to YouTube, there is so much content, that I just want to view the videos with the most hits. People have figured out how to game these systems to appear just there (although their rating reveals what the content really is). I'm hoping that this is helpful for those of you out there trying to market your products in this vast ocean of "stuff." (After all, MySpace definitely is not the cleanest or best social networking site, yet, they somehow caught). But if I could figure out the next hit, I would be doing so, and as William Goldman once mentioned - "No one knows anything." Very true not only in Hollywood, but when trying to figure out who will be the next YouTube.