Archive for the ‘Video’ Category

by Ben Elowitz

This follows my recent post about how a new TV interface from Apple could decimate the television landscape.

Even though Steve Jobs never talked about changing the face of search with Siri, its natural language interface.

But doing so would certainly be a riveting Hollywood screenplay in which Jobs, the uber-innovative, uber-inventive CEO, ultimately gets revenge on a corporate rival he views as a “copy cat.”

In this fictional script, that rival would be Eric Schmidt, one of the top executives at search giant Google. It’s Google, after all, that’s breathing down Apple’s neck with its rapidly expanding Android phone platform – a platform that, according to Jobs and his lawyers, mimics Apple’s breakthrough iPhone technology.

Putting this Oscar dream aside, there’s intensifying competition heating up between Apple and Google, even though Jobs is –sadly – no longer on the scene.

Indeed, even though Google has had voice-enabled search for some time on iOS and Android devices, Schmidt has said it’s possible that Siri could be a real and radical game-changer.

Schmidt may be right.  And if he is, then Google will be facing a serious threat as Apple reinvents Google’s home turf of search.

With a “personality” that displays a unique understanding of humanity, Siri’s digital chromosomes enrich the user’s experience. This sets it apart from Google’s more mechanical offerings, and shows why Apple’s consumer-obsessed culture is so different from Google’s corporate DNA, which is as robotic and algorithmic as the “Android” name suggests.

There is rich irony here, as Apple disintermediates the greatest disintermediator of all time.  When Google’s superior search service started, it practically single-handedly reduced the brand-driven experience that consumers had thereto relied on with directories and a fully editorialized Web.  Google replaced those channels and home pages with 10 blue links.  And in the process, became users’ destination of first resort 13 times per day.

And Apple has always been a curator extraordinaire – developing collections and exercising famous (and occasionally notorious) judgment to determine who deserves to be in its directories of songs and apps.

But now, Siri stands ready to flatten the world of entertainment.

In all fairness, Page and his team are now trying hard to enrich the user experience by aligning their YouTube brand with media companies like Disney, and doling out big dollars for proprietary programming. The hope here is that YouTube can create dozens of lucrative user-friendly / user-favorite Web channels featuring comedians, sports stars, musicians and other entertainers.  The company is building stocks of its ‘own’ media weapons in preparation for the coming war.

But, as always, it will be hard for Google to win the hearts of consumers when it comes to content; and it will be especially daunting because Apple is already so completely connected to users.

Meanwhile, with its enviable consumer connection, Apple will undoubtedly extract a toll from media companies, who still want to bathe in the warm digital light that emanates from the inviting and engaging brand Jobs built.  And, as it has in every other media category, Apple stands to capture an outsize share of profits for delivering content into a magical consumer experience.

Jealous much, Google?

by Ben Elowitz

As I have shared previously, our goal at Wetpaint is to be the leader in building media properties on the social Web.  That’s because I am seeing the web’s nature fundamentally change to become fully social. The Web Is Shrinking - Elowitz/Wetpaint

It’s not just theory – it’s data.

As I shared recently at AllThingsD.com, the social Web is capturing a dramatically increasing share of users’ attention – with internet users collectively increasing the amount of time they spend per month on Facebook by 69% over a one-year period – while usage for the entire rest of the Web, excluding Facebook, shrank by 9% over the same period.

Social is the most strategic medium for our industry.  And yet we haven’t established how to track our collective progress.

So, I’d like to introduce to you the first industry effort to do so.  I’ve released it this week, so that we can all compare ourselves with other top publishers and see our individual and collective progress.

Below you’ll find the “Media Industry Social Leaderboard”, a scoreboard and chart that was developed by tabulating the top 50 media publishers, based on monthly unique visitors, and then determining which were best at generating traffic from Facebook and Twitter.  Of course, I’ve included Wetpaint Entertainment on the list because we are so committed to social that we are going to make our progress public.  (And it doesn’t hurt that we are already significantly better at reaching audiences on these two key social platforms than many major media brands such as The New York Times, The Huffington Post, CNN, Fox News, TMZ and others.  My mother should finally be proud!)

This Month’s Findings

This month, we found that MTV’s website leads the pack with 14.3% of its traffic from Facebook and Twitter, indicating the shareability of their content (especially video, which is inherently more viral), and the heavily socialized audience they serve – not to mention their great execution.  In fact, MTV beat average performance by a factor of two, and were one of only four out of the top 50 that were in the double digits.  Sadly, over half of the Web’s top 50 had less than 4% of their traffic from social, making them menial performers on the medium.

 

Social Success Could Triple Your Audience’s Value

Lest you think that MTV’s 14.3% is anything to sneeze at, we dug a bit deeper to look at the true value of social.  Beyond the boost to audience attraction, we also looked at audience retention.  Measuring the visit frequency to each of the publishers (excluding the portals), we found a striking correlation to their sociability.  The performers above median in social saw an average of more than five times as many “addicts” (visitors who come 30+ times per month) as a proportion of their audience, according to data from Quantcast, compared to those below the median; and they saw a corresponding reduction in their “passers-by” (visitors who come only once) by 16 percentage points.  These patterns map overall into more than three times the visit frequency per audience member overall for these top performers.  That’s three times the value per unique.

A Leading Indicator of Long-Term Success

One thing is clear from the growth trends of the social web:  Those publishers that figure out how to capture and maintain a leadership position in social will win over the next decade.  For Wetpaint, it’s a critical strategy for us to be a leader among the media industry.  Which would make my mother very proud.

Speaking of which, in this debut month, my company Wetpaint came in #4, bested only by MTV, People, and ESPN.  Not bad for a debut… we’ll be #1 within six months.

For those interested, detailed rankings of all Top 50 are included below.

Rank Name of Publisher (Owner) URL Monthly Uniques % from Social
1 MTV mtv.com 17,101,841 14.3%
2 ESPN espn.com 33,242,207 13.7%
3 People people.com 12,671,101 13.2%
4 Wetpaint Entertainment wetpaint.com 2,532,044 12.4%
5 TMZ tmz.com 14,575,713 8.8%
6 Yahoo yahoo.com 172,269,418 8.6%
7 Patch (Aol) patch.com 10,610,327 8.6%
8 Major League Baseball mlb.com 15,552,415 7.9%
9 Aol aol.com 51,659,415 7.7%
10 Discovery Channel discovery.com 11,170,738 6.7%
11 Break Media break.com 9,166,220 6.3%
12 IGN (News Corp) ign.com 10,112,530 6.1%
13 Us Weekly usmagazine.com 10,970,162 5.9%
14 CNN cnn.com 56,595,377 5.3%
15 FOX News (News Corp) foxnews.com 26,900,038 5.0%
16 BBC News bbc.co.uk 14,863,384 4.8%
17 MSN msn.com 115,933,138 4.6%
18 Nickelodeon (MTV Networks) nick.com 10,716,354 4.6%
19 The New York Times nytimes.com 33,034,269 4.4%
20 MailOnline dailymail.co.uk 15,747,179 4.4%
21 IMDB (Amazon.com) imdb.com 39,778,499 4.4%
22 CBS Local cbslocal.com 11,039,512 4.4%
23 TIME time.com 10,024,132 4.2%
24 Cartoon Network (Turner) cartoonnetwork.com 10,794,764 4.2%
25 The Washington Post washingtonpost.com 17,818,260 4.1%
26 New York Daily News nydailynews.com 9,931,052 3.9%
27 The Guardian guardian.co.uk 10,283,648 3.8%
28 CBS News cbsnews.com 12,144,917 3.7%
29 Food Networks (Scripps) foodnetwork.com 14,324,933 3.5%
30 Allrecipes (Readers Digest) allrecipes.com 17,986,031 3.4%
31 The Huffington Post huffingtonpost.com 36,701,275 3.3%
32 TODAY / MSN (NBC/Microsoft) today.com 23,323,684 3.3%
33 Los Angeles Times (Tribune) latimes.com 18,618,265 3.2%
34 WebMD webmd.com 12,048,444 2.6%
35 The Wall Street Journal wsj.com 16,643,499 2.5%
36 Forbes forbes.com 12,356,124 2.4%
37 FOX Sports foxsports.com 18,346,185 2.2%
38 USA Today / Gannett usatoday.com 16,979,964 2.2%
39 Reuters reuters.com 12,726,776 2.2%
40 ABC News abcnews.com 19,876,129 2.1%
41 CNET (CBS Interactive) cnet.com 27,602,379 2.1%
42 Sports Illustrated (Time Inc.) si.com 9,304,012 2.1%
43 LIVESTRONG / (Demand Media) livestrong.com 9,650,128 2.0%
44 MSNBC Digital Network msnbc.com 44,198,985 1.9%
45 About.com / NY Times about.com 36,978,618 1.4%
46 Bloomberg bloomberg.com 10,592,480 1.4%
47 Mayo Clinic mayoclinic.com 10,944,436 1.1%
48 eHow (Demand Media) ehow.com 48,624,976 1.0%
49 ThePostGame thepostgame.com 12,017,913 0.9%
50 CNN Money cnnmoney.com 16,643,785 N/A

Source: Wetpaint.com analysis, comScore, Compete.com.

by Ben Elowitz

Change is hard. Change is scary. Change is costly. Change is essential.

This is no more true anywhere than in today’s unbelievably dynamic digital media business.

In February of this year, I outlined the characteristics that define great leadership in this tumultuous digital media industry – and will determine who ultimately succeeds.  I published it in my Media Success newsletter that month (reprinted below), and it has remained a sidebar feature ever since, as the definition of a perfect game.

The 7 Variables For Media Success

  1. Focused strategy and leadership
  2. Meaningful destination brands
  3. Content and experiences craved by audiences
  4. Scalable channels to acquire new audiences
  5. Reach the audience when, where, and how they want
  6. Robust revenue streams (advertising and other)
  7. Profitable business model that scales

Those with these seven attributes will win in media.

 

And that’s why I hereby nominate Netflix CEO Reed Hastings for real-time membership in the Digital Hall of Fame. 

His extremely controversial and determined decision this week to split his company in two is both phenomenally ballsy and smart.

Hastings sees where the world is going, and, instead of resisting, he is getting out in front. He knows that his DVD service today is immensely profitable, and yet it is on a long slow ramp toward zero.  And, at the same time, Internet-delivered video is a whole new, and far more valuable, business.

Sound familiar?

It’s the same dynamic throughout most large old media businesses.  And yet – unlike many in old media – Reed is doing something aggressive about it.

Rather than playing to short-term profits on the DVD business, he is turning full-tilt to the business with the greatest strategic value. If I’m not convincing on this point, please read Mark Suster’s trenchant analysis.

Yes, Hastings communicated his new strategy poorly. But he admits as much in his widely distributed apology. So, with this mea culpa now delivered and digested, let’s get off Hastings’ back, and get back to the most interesting dynamics at play here:

Far beyond any villainy on Hastings’ part, and far beyond any damage to his customer base for changing his product line, I suggest looking for someone else to blame by pointing the finger at Wall Street.

Verrrrrrrrry hypocritical.

The Street talks about its desire to see long-term strategic vision; but whenever it’s there, right in plain sight, investors collectively blink – and then sell, sell, sell. Indeed, the current sell-off of Netlfix’s stock is one of the most alarming signs of the Street’s misunderstanding of media’s strategic future. And now, looking forward, I pity any CEO who turns to Wall Street for strategic validation.

Let’s keep the spotlight on Netflix, though.

I wholeheartedly agree with Hastings.

And there’s no question – in my view, at least – that broadband-delivered content represents the much more important and valuable business opportunity for his company. The fact that he decided to split the service lines at Netflix simply confirms openly what was already inevitable, if previously hushed.

For some reason, Wall Street just doesn’t get it.  And, in my opinion, its punishing resistance to Hastings’ moves is akin to pummeling AOL for thinking beyond dial-up service; yet, as we all know, that company is a decade overdue in figuring out its next wave.

I’m a believer in facing facts, truth-telling, marketplace opportunity, and getting to the sweet spot first.

So, having said that, I’m putting my money on it. Yesterday, I bought Netflix shares. It’s the first single stock purchase I’ve made in media in a couple of years; and I made the buy after seeing a CEO – who has all the variables dialed in to achieve on the next big opportunity in media – do the absolute right thing.

by Ben Elowitz

This article originally appeared as a feature at AllThingsD.

We all read the statistics every week documenting the meteoric new growth areas of the Internet, and they are impressive:

Online video is exploding, with annual user growth of more than 45 percent.  Mobile-device time spent increased 28 percent last year – with average smart-phone time spent doubling.   And social networks are now used by 90 percent of U.S. Internet users – for an average of more than four hours a month.

None of this is a newsflash.  Every venture capitalist, Web publisher, and digital marketer is hyper-aware of these three trends.

But what’s happening to the rest of the Web?

The Web Is Shrinking - Elowitz/Wetpaint

The Web Is Shrinking.  Really.

When you take these three growth areas out of the picture, the size of the hole left behind is staggering:  the rest of the Web – the tried and true core that we thought would have limitless growth – is already shrinking.

Here are the facts:

When you exclude just Facebook from the rest of the Web, consumption in terms of minutes of use shrank by nearly nine percent between March 2010 and March 2011, according to data from comScore.  And, even when you include Facebook usage, total non-mobile Internet consumption still dropped three percent over the same period.

We’ve known that social is growing lightning fast – notably, Facebook consumption, which grew by 69 percent; but now it’s clear that Facebook is not growing in addition to the Web.  Rather, it’s actually taking consumption away from the publishers who compete on the rest of the Web.

And just what is the rest of the Web?

I have been calling it the “document Web,” based on how Google and other Web architectures view its pages as documents, linked together. But increasingly, it might as well be called the “searchable Web” since it’s accessed predominantly as a reference, and navigated primarily via search.

And it’s becoming less relevant.

In the last year, Facebook’s share of users’ time online grew from one out of every 13 minutes of use nationwide, to one out of every eight.  In aggregate, that means the document Web was down more than half a billion hours of use (that’s more than 800 lifetimes) this March versus last March.  And in financial terms, that represents a lost opportunity of $2.2 billion in advertising inventory that didn’t exist this year.

The Creation of a New, Connected Web

The change in the Web’s direction is a clear indication to me that we aren’t just in the midst of a boom for new interaction modes, but rather a generational overhaul of the Internet.

What replaces the declining searchable Web is a new and “fully connected” digital life.  You may have heard this before.  After all, the promise of the Web was to connect pages with hyperlinks.  Well, this time, “connected” means much more.  It means the Web connects us, as people, to each one of the individuals who’s online; and those connections, ultimately, extend from one of us to all of us.

Just as significantly, this all happens in real-time, and at nearly all times.

And here’s what’s different when you connect people, as opposed to pages: Now, the Web knows who we are (identity); is with us at all times wherever we go (mobile); threads our relationships with others (social); and delivers meaningful experiences beyond just text and graphics (video).

The connected, social Web is alive, moving, proactive, and personal; while the document Web is just an artifact – suited as a universal reference, but hardly a personal experience.

The Social Web Versus the Searchable Web

Analytical explanations – increasing smart-phone penetration, bandwidth availability, and technology sophistication – fill in some of the gaps as we try to understand this sea change, but they fall short.

Something larger is afoot, and it’s not about science or technology.  Rather, as human beings, we have changed how we fit the Internet into our lives.

And the nature of the Web is changing to match. The old searchable Web is crashing; while the new connected, social Web is lifting off.

The implications for publishers are massive.

The last decade has been defined by the rise of Google as the nearly limitless supplier of traffic to digital media properties.  And so a generation of digital media publishers developed and followed the same playbook:  create lots of content around top keywords; engineer for search engine optimization (SEO); and expand the surface area in search engines to reach more users.  The objective was to catch visitors in their net; expand reach – as measured by ComScore; look more impressive to advertisers; and capture more demand.

The landscape is changing, and fast.

SEO’s strategic value is quickly fading as Google’s growth slows and its prominence in distribution slides away.  In its place, Facebook has become the wiring hub of the connected Web – a new “home base” alternative to Google’s dominance of the last decade.  Facebook began receiving as many visits as Google in March 2010, and already garners more than three times as many minutes as Google each month from users, according to comScore.  Looking ahead, the best projections of U.S. online reach indicate that Facebook will surpass Google on that metric in less than a year, too.

And with this change, the nature of the relationship between users and publishers is being altered fundamentally – and perhaps forever.

Search offers a utility relationship, connecting users to content for the briefest of transactions; typically, it provokes users to just one page-view so they can find a piece of information, and then they move on.

But social discovery builds a relationship.  Leveraging social endorsements and an environment of serendipitous discovery, consumers meet publishers in a meaningful context. As a result, the relationship that forms is stronger – and, more importantly for publishers, it’s branded.

Unlike the ecosystem set up by Google, where the search engine ironically intermediates between users and the objects of their queries (so that users reinforce their loyalty to Google, far more than to the publisher), in the world of social publishing, the Facebook hub enables a direct, if constrained, relationship between users and media brands.

The results – at least for my own company, Wetpaint – are that social media brings more qualified eyeballs and retains them.  People who come via social media stay longer on the first visit; and they are more likely to come back sooner and more frequently.  Overall, our visitors from social networks have a relationship that’s several times stronger – and several times as valuable when measured in engagement, page-views, and revenues – than the relationships people form when then arrive through search.

The Human Connection

But it’s not just a change in mechanics.  It’s a change in our human relationships.

Lewis D’Vorkin, the Chief Product Officer at Forbes, speaks of it when he and Alex Knapp talk about “live” media, quantum entanglement and mutually rewarding relationships that bind authors and readers on the new connected Web.  It’s a sense of the Web moving from static published reference to living digital companion.

But there’s even more, and this vast change foreshadows bigger and better impacts on our lives.  The greatest innovators in social media are driving along exactly that edge today.   As one friend commented recently on the full potential of connected lives, by being joined more closely together, we can increase empathy and meaning, while decreasing isolation.

Toward a Fully Connected Future

Admittedly, we’re early in the replacement cycle when it comes to the connected Web. Even for strong connected Web performers like Huffington Post, my own company, Wetpaint, and others, the sum total of traffic from Facebook, Twitter, video, and mobile may add up to only half the total, or less.

But the trend has tipped; and with that tip has come both the business necessity and the human impact potential of elevating the relationship.

As the document Web of old shrinks, the new connected Web expands and delivers experiences that make our time online more effective, efficient, and enjoyable.

And that changes the role of companies on the Web from mere content publishers or providers to truly connected digital partners for real people.


top