Posts Tagged ‘abc

by Ben Elowitz

We need an experience revolution.Revolution Fist

Each week, we hear of major publications and traditional broadcasters who are struggling to stay afloat in a digital age with new economics and new expectations.  Despite the promise of interactivity made with the internet revolution over the last 15 years, most publishers have done little more than replicate dead trees online, with zero innovation beyond the hyperlink, the slideshow, and an embedded video now and then.

And yet we can see from the rising successes of the last decade like Facebook, Google, Zynga, YouTube, and others that what catches audience attention is interactivity.

To earn loyal audiences today, publishers need to go beyond content creation:  they need to produce compelling experiences that distinguish them and get the consumer coming back for more.  The Pew Internet & American Life Project concluded that “when asked whether they have a favorite online news source, the majority of online news users (65%) say they do not.”  In an era where the consumer’s cost to switch is the flick of a click, publishers must offer compelling, differentiated experiences to earn loyalty.  Choices abound consumers:  there are scads of publishers online in every category; content suggestions offered constantly via social networks; and blue links proffered by search engines dozens of times per day per reader.  In an environment of choice, as brand experts have known for years, nothing builds loyalty like a great experience.

And now is the perfect time to create those breakthrough experiences.  The enabling technologies for the digital customer experience have improved considerably in recent years: we now have ubiquitous broadband, flash and other streaming video, plus HTML5 and maturing mobile application platforms.   Add to that personalization, targeting and social graph access, and there are some amazing opportunities to innovate.

It’s not just consumers that are thirsty for upgraded experiences.  Advertisers are showing that they will pay more for immersive interaction over basic display ads next to text.   Video ads during full TV episodes on ABC.com, Hulu, and others, or mid-day live sporting broadcasts command many times the CPM of typical display ads. Indeed, according to Michael Learmonth at AdAge, The Wall Street Journal’s online video content is bringing in envy-inspiring CPMs at $75 – $100.

But video is not the only way to create an immersive customer experience online.  Online sites of traditional publishers like Better Homes and Gardens are experience train wrecks (to be fair, they’re not alone in that regard).   Contrast that with the much more successful (certainly from an ad rate perspective) MarthaStewart.com which has many of the same elements – a top stories slideshow, cross-promotions for the print magazine, etc., and it’s a substantially better experience due to the focus on design and usability that is expected of the Martha Stewart Omnimedia (MSO) brand.

Even still, much more can be done with today’s technology to put the consumer’s needs and interests first.  The latest example I’ve seen of true creativity in user experience design is Microsoft’s (MSFT) Glo.    There are additional signs of greatness in the tablet demo that Time Warner (TWX) built for its Sports Illustrated brand.   And The New York Times (NYT) continues to excel in their applications and interactive graphics which enjoy significant pass around (bit.ly shows over 5,000 social media clicks to a recent budget infographic and today’s “A Moment in Time” project has already generated over 100 tweets in the first 15 hours).  But too few companies are making similar efforts to distinguish themselves.  The opportunities are there, and we need to step up.

Consumers will decide which brands deserve their loyalty and content alone won’t cut it.  We are on the brink of a total revolution of experience.  For publishers, it’s reinvent or fail.

Do you know additional examples of publishers innovating?

by Ben Elowitz

HuluVentureBeat featured a guest-post from Transpond’s CEO Peter Yared yesterday, and editor Matt Marshall asked me to offer a comment for inclusion.

Peter presents an argument and five predictions as to the balance of power and profits between Hulu vs. its corporate constituents tilting back further towards the content owners:

Hulu sells ads on the video it streams, meaning that Hulu’s ad sales team competes with the networks’ own ad sales teams. Hulu’s sales pitch to the networks was, “let us compete with you on your new content and we will help you monetize your older assets”. But Hulu hasn’t been able to monetize the older TV shows it runs. Pull up any TV show over two years old on Hulu, and all of the ads are public service announcements.

But the original reason for Hulu was not that the networks thought they couldn’t monetize their inventory, but because they believed in the power of a single consumer destination with major network effects.  And that is by and large working.

As I responded in the VentureBeat post, Hulu is working and it’s because they nail their consumer experience.

It is inevitable that in the digital future, consumers will watch what they want, when and where they want it.
Read the rest of the the post, including my featured response about how the networks would be foolish to isolate themselves, at VentureBeat.

by Ben Elowitz

ABC has begun today the process of restructuring its news operations, indicating planned layoffs of 300-400 employees.  The six-point memo from ABC News President David Westin presents the changes as an overhaul of how the network produces news to match the “revolution in the ways that people get their news and information.”

But what we need now is a revolution in how content is created, not just in how it’s consumed.  The real value isn’t in production efficiency for its own sake, and  I’m surprised Westin missed the opportunity to define how ABC News can use this restructuring as a weapon to not just serve but grow audiences.

Yes, the changes will help ABC be more competitive on the cost side of the business by shifting the workforce into more flexible (and overall, far fewer) roles — doing more with less.  Taking advantage of digital technology, the news industry no longer needs as many specialty roles to manage equipment and content.  The technology is so much more accessible, portable, and efficient now that an it can all be at he fingertips of a single content creator.

Well beyond cost reduction, however, a vision of a more flexible workforce has real implications for audience — which is far more important of a lever on ABC’s business.  If ABC can reduce the size of its working units, and evolve them to be more flexible to deploy, it should translate into the network being able to cover more stories, sooner, deeper, and better than competitors.

Additionally, if ABC can maintain its quality level of reporting in the new structure (and I think the news network should be and is deeply committed to doing so), it can scale its operations up this way, two ways:  both with its own proprietary content, but even more interestingly, allowing it to integrate third-party and user-sourced content into the conversation.

The upcoming layoffs and restructuring will be painful, but this action is a sober and proactive recognition of the changing rules of the game.  And if ABC executes right, it may not only be able to position itself as a leader of the new game, but to even establish some of the new rules of play.  They certainly are indicating the right orientation to guide them:  it is all about the audience.


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