Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Positions Vacant – a Billion Scriptwriters….

I keep watching with interest, the continuing saga of the scriptwriters in the US. These people have apparently been on strike since 5th November 2007 and, as usual, it is all about money. The consequences of this are dire – for goodness sakes we missed out on the Golden Globes and there are rumours that the TV networks could run out of Grey's Anatomy ….. could it be that people need to resort to conversation?

Interestingly, I am not sure that the popular User Generated Content sites are suffering the same shortage of content. Youtube now apparently hosts over 65,000,000 videos – and some of these are fantastic content.

At play here are a number of interesting trends. The changing options for consumption of video content ("snacking" on smaller, self contained rich media content pieces) and increased variety of mechanisms to access this content. Increasingly, the mobile handset will be used to access this content, as will connected TVs (such as the one announced by Panasonic which will connect to YouTube) and other IP enabled devices. Rich media entertainment is changing and the options available for consumers to pick and mix the content they want to see are greater than ever before.

There are some players out there who are embracing these changes now – working on strategies which spread the content over a range of channels and integrate these to provide a coordinated, complimentary offering. Some of these are even engaging the consumers in the process, with consumer feedback and contributions shaping the overall content experience. I am not talking about the reality TV genre as we now it now, I am talking about "Wiki-scripts" where the community contributes to the storyline and dialogue, and other initiatives which challenge the traditional model. It is yet to be proven that this model will generate sustainable supplies of good quality, consistent content, but a "drought" of established content may create the catalyst for this to be tested.

This, of course, presents some great opportunities and also challenges for marketers. Lining up your offer with content which is in demand, is a great way to reach targeted customers, who are consuming entertainment and content in a form and at a time they want to consume it. It might even follow that if these consumers have contributed to defining what this content is, it may be even more effective in reaching those target customer segments. There are even opportunities for marketers to create their own content and explore these increasingly popular channels. It may also provide a working case study of the opportunities to use collaboration as a way to develop advertising content and concepts …. another sign of evolution and innovation that digital services enable.

I remember someone once told me that one of the risks of "challenging the status quo" can sometimes be that you end up with an outcome you may not like. In forcing the hands of the networks and the content distributors, the scriptwriters may find out that the new world they create may not be the one they set out to find, and it may motivate others in the market to explore new and innovative ways to satisfy their requirements.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Last Year’s Six Very Big Things…

Last year I had the audacity to offer up my list of six Very Big Things for the digital world – themes I thought we would see start to bubble up over the coming year. You can read these HERE and I am pretty happy with how I went. Internet use has continued to reach new heights both in terms of the number of people using it and the quality of access they have. The advertising budgets and the use of the internet by the big brands has increased significantly and with it comes the rise of digital services; the serious, commercial, business transforming use of digital channels to reach, engage and do business with customers. User-centricity is on the rise, through the rise of social networking (who got a Facebook / LinkedIn / Myspace / Bebo / [insert new aspiring social networking site here] page last year?) and more use of user generated content, while the use of the internet amongst non-English speakers continues to grow apace. Finally, digital connections continued to become more embedded in the fabric of our lives as out TVs, GPS systems, mobile phones and music devices all became a bit savvier this past year.


A couple of things didn't make it to my list, as they came on a little faster than I expected and I thought they would be themes for this year and maybe next. The rise of user generated video came much fast than I thought and shows us that people have a deep desire to contribute, communicate and create. I really thought this would take a couple of years to get as far as it has in one, but with video capture everywhere (from video cameras with hard disks to cheap webcams and mobile phones) there are masses of content looking to be broadcast and people are doing lots of it.


I was surprised by some of the big deals done last year and the prices paid for businesses like DoubleClick, Realtime 24/7 and Aquantive. These businesses provide the systems and the services to aggregate advertising planning, buying and management for advertisers and their acquirers (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft respectively) have seen the enormous opportunity for vertical integration amongst their online advertising inventory and their technology offerings. This for me is a sign of the increasing momentum of the digital services industry and the great opportunities for those who service it. Exciting times.


There is one thing I have learned in my now 15 years in this game (it is THAT long since I first stumbled across this crazy emerging thing called the Mosiac 0.89b web browser – about 1.6 million 'internet years' as my more youthful colleagues are quick to remind me) is that you cannot ever assume that you can see everything that is coming. This technology is truly transformational and that creates opportunities for innovators, renegades and the creative to do things which shift or nudge the evolutionary path we are on. In my experience, the best thing to do is to act on the things you can see with confidence and react quickly to those things you don't expect. As we have proven in our business, having a sense of the opportunity the future holds is one thing, but being able to turn that perception into a working, dynamic business is another.


It is going to be another great year for digital services and I look forward as we continue to change the world.