Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category


Jan

13

Excitement around the mobile web was palpable at 2012 International CES. While consumer electronics hardware and product launches dominate headlines, CES has quietly become a must-attend event for digital media and marketing professionals, many of whom were in attendance this year for the first time.

With dozens of sessions on mobile content and marketing at Digital Hollywood and other CES conference tracks, the Las Vegas Convention Center was abuzz with discussions about delivering quality mobile experiences to consumers while efficiently capitalizing on the channel for marketers.

What follows is a summary of insights from some of the best minds in mobile content and marketing who appeared on panels I attended throughout CES.

“Mobile technology is enabling an important and disruptive transition in content distribution, and interactivity, as content becomes aware of users and consumers have a greater ability to interact on multiple devices and from any location,” said Jeff Demian, research strategy and business development director at Intel Labs.

Creating contiguous experiences and measuring behavior were recurring themes throughout the week, as marketers prepare for the onslaught of a multi-screen universe and the need to create compelling, tightly integrated content while catering to the unique characteristics of each platform and device.

Content and Revenue

Saul Berman, global strategy and change leader at IBM spoke about the consumer experience needing to be additive, and in so doing, how it forces the “devaluation and revaluation of content.” In other words, changes in distribution and payment models may result in less revenue per eyeball in the short-term, but leveraged across an entire publishing enterprise, can become an even more valuable asset over time.

Murray Solomon, vice president, digital business development at Time Inc. validated Berman’s assertion, saying early indicators suggest its all-access model of providing both print and digital versions of its 21 publications at a single subscription price is paying off. Bryan Moffett, vice president, digital strategy and sponsorship operations at National Public Media noted how more than 100 million streams of PBS Kids content on the iPad didn’t cannibalize its web streams, and that with ten to 20 percent click-through rates on the iPad, digital is “leading the conversation and resulting in big radio sales.”

Daniel Tibbets, vice president, digital media, Bunim/Murray Productions, says it’s the quality of content that matters most. “Product decisions need to be made on the basis of what consumers want, and their needs to be treated in a way that is unique to each platform.”

Mobile Advertising

Although today’s banner ad paradigm is understandable, display on mobile won’t be effective for long, as consumers demand a deeper experience. Andrew Maltin, CEO of mobile development studio MEDL Mobile, says ”the most engaging apps are technologically advanced and highly interactive.” Cameron Fiedlander, vice president and director of creative technology at Designkitchen/WPP Group notes “we’re seeing mobile formats evolve into deeper, more socially-driven experiences, making mobile display much less relevant.”

Steve Yankovich, vice president of platform business solutions and mobile at eBay, points out that “consumers will dismiss ads altogether if they get in the way of their intent to do something else.” The solution is to have better contextual and geo-fencing capabilities. According to Time, Inc.’s Solomon, “there is no reason why an immersive advertising experience with applications is not also possible in the same way which ads are viewed as valuable content to magazine readers.”

Context Matters

While the need to create a great product is always implied, context may be even more important in mobile.

“If content is king, then context is queen,” says Ashley Swartz, senior vice president marketing at Digitas. “Mobility gives content creators the ability to know more about their audience, and to include the audience in unique ways that before now were not possible.”

Consumers want to pick up the experience where they left off on different devices, and marketers need to be ready to accept them at those nonlinear entry points, while at the same time moving them through a story line or a funnel that ultimately results in some desired action.

Lori Schwartz, chief technology catalyst, North America at McCann Erickson says the near future is going to be all about “long-tail narrowcasting and less about broadcasting. “If you can build a community of uber-influencers down that funnel, it’s possible to create micro-franchises around brands.”

The Year of Big Data

Notwithstanding a slew of legal and regulatory concerns, also on the minds of mobile marketers is the use of real-time data and how it can be used to create relevant brand experiences. While panelists were quick to coin phrases like “the year of big data” and “data is the new creative,” few specific solutions were offered.

On the contrary, caution was urged when considering integration of social graph data into applications. Schwartz suggests pulling data from social media APIs into a custom solution a brand can control for its own brand experiences, rather than integrating in ways that could leave brands vulnerable to the decisions of social media platforms in the long run.

Martez Moore, executive vice president, digital media at BET Networks, says media and brands “need to be very thoughtful about how to integrate third party data that could potentially cannibalize their CPMs were providers to leverage that data too.” Instead, Martez says BET uses social to market, promote and engage traffic, which results in the ability to sell ads at a premium around shows like 106 & Park.

Production Trends

From the production standpoint, the industry is embracing HTML5 as a baseline when developing across platforms, but recognizes there are still gaps in functionality that must be addressed. In the meantime, hybrid approaches are emerging and native apps for iOS and Android are still best when it comes to creating feature rich experiences. While some, like eBay, still develop for Blackberry, Sol Lipman, senior director, mobile at AOL says the BlackBerry PlayBook has “fallen off a cliff statistically for AOL.”

On the issue of whether to develop on multiple platforms concurrently, Lindsey Turrentine, editor in chief, CNET Reviews, points out “these are difficult choices and you have to be very smart about how to proceed. We started with iOS Native hybrid HTML5 approach.”

Swartz suggests building with an eye toward reach and ubiquity, but to do so with a dose of pragmatism. “It’s expensive to develop and promote an app in a world where 60 percent will open it once and never go back, and where app discovery is still an issue for lesser known brands.”

Strong distinctions are also being drawn between developing for mobile phones and tablets, with several describing the iPad as the more engaging experience. Chrisophe Gillet, product manager at Fanhattan, describes mobile as “a start and stop experience,” where users get the information they need and then put their device away,” whereas tablets “have become more of a companion device due to their more comfortable form factor.”

Mandar Shinde, director, mobile monetization at AOL also sees tablet co-browsing as a big phenomenon, citing 50 percent more browsing traffic in the evenings, presumably while consumers are also watching television. The complexity and lack of tools for accurately tracking the integrated viewer behavior across devices was also raised as an issue yet to be resolved.

Growth Through Collaboration

Top of mind for agency executives has been improved collaboration and breaking down silos that prevent marketers from achieving their goals and giving consumers the best of what the medium has to offer. “We’ve been living in the construct of television versus digital for too long,” says Schwarz. It would be a mistake to cannibalize television for digital. We need to look at it more holistically.”

So how do we do we get there? Alexandre Mars, CEO, Phonevalley and head of mobile at Publicis Group suggests all of the agency stakeholders – creative, digital, media and mobile – need to be part of the conversation. Only then will everyone get the budgets required to achieve the goals of marketers and to create more powerful experiences for marketers.

Yahav Isak senior vice president, project management at Digitas Health, says “everything is digital — it’s really more about understanding the different channels of digital marketing and how they can best be integrated.”

According to Tibbets, “the only thing we are limited by is bandwidth and our imagination to create amazing immersive experiences.”

 

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Posted in Advertising, Conferences, Content, Data, Entertainment, Integrated Marketing, Marketing, Mobile, Social Media, Technology


Dec

15

Over the past several months, I’ve been honored to assist entrepreneur Frank Catalano with product development and marketing for CanaryVoice. One way we are building awarness for this unique way of using voice greetings to celebrate special occasions, is to create public celebrations like the one we announced today. Since Veterans Day, we have been inviting the public to phone in messages to honor the U.S. armed services, and today we launched the first-of-its-kind audio greeting card for the troops, giving them the ability to hear firsthand how much their service is appreciated this holiday season.

Our “Voices of Gratitude” holiday album for the troops is still accepting messages. Anyone can listen, add a message and easily share the album via email, Facebook and the web, all free of charge. To contribute a message, simply call this number: (847) 598-3466 (Mailbox: 2710 and Pin: 9801).

Even if you decide not to leave a message, we would appreciate if you would share the album to your Facebook wall, so others may have the option to lisen, contribute or share. The completed “Voices of Gratitude” album will be available on the CanaryVoice site and CDs will be mailed to the public information officers of each branch of the military and to select military support groups, publications, media outlets and blogs. For complete details about the “Voices of Gratitude” campaign, or to create your own voice album, visit www.canaryvoice.com.

 

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Posted in Cause Marketing, Community, Culture, Entertainment, Family, Internet, Social Media, Technology


Jan

6

varietyVariety’s Hollywood Creative Masters SuperSession at CES featured five top producers sharing insights on how they are embracing digital platforms to engage consumer audiences and build fan bases for their TV shows and movies. While the methods and reasons for using social media vary from movies to television, and whether content is live or scripted, there was a clear consensus about its value for both engaging existing audiences and mobilizing new ones. 

Here are a few of my key takeaways from the session:

1) Embrace the Digital Natives

Tailor your social strategy to the audience you want to reach. Gale Anne Hurd, executive producer of The Walking Dead, referred to herself and the panelists as “digital immigrants,” whereas the social audience is comprised mainly of “digital natives.” By embracing the audience in the language they speak and thinking of story telling in a more three-dimensional way, audiences will engage the franchise wholly too.

Ms. Hurd went on to explain how the primary use of social for The Walking Dead had the advantage of tapping into an existing audience of online fans of the popular Robert Kirman comic series. Whereas Conrad Green, executive producer of Dancing with the Stars, called social media important, but not a major marketing driver since his audience is primarily 50+. Instead, referring to DWTS as a temporal experience, social is used more effectively as a trigger to spark dialogue among younger audiences around controversial contestants like Bristol Palin.

2) Tailor Digital Media Assets to the Experience

One way to make entertainment franchises less temporal is to extend them across media and over time. Tim Kring, executive producer of Heroes and creator of Conspiracy for Good, encouraged embracing fans across multiple digital points of entry, citing that 73 percent of viewers are also on a connected device while watching television. Green elaborated with an example of a contest they are working on that will allow viewers to predict how the judges will vote and to win prizes accordingly. He also pointed out the unrealized potential of how audiences can have more involvement through more innovative use of mobile devices, especially live streaming from audiences’ cameras.

3) Involve the Audience in the Story

Audiences are no longer just consumers of content, they are also creators and promoters of entertainment media. By providing tools and assets for the community to use and interact with, there becomes the opportunity to create more audience engagement.  Bonnie Arnold, producer of How to Train Your Dragon, also spoke of the need for continuity between releases, and in her case spoke of the nine books, a DVD release a Cartoon Network deal and a Christmas television special as ways to keep audiences sated until the sequel in 2013.

Mr. Kring spoke of extending the mythology beyond the core television or movie asset by allowing the story to take on a life of its own online and elsewhere. For example, the back-story about a sword seen on the show could only be found on the packaging of a retail product. By doing things like this, the story ran so deep that the producers had to refer to the fan wiki in order to learn whether one of their own characters was still alive!

4) Keep it Authentic

As with all social media endeavors, having authenticity with audiences is paramount. Advertising and sponsorship are critical, but they can also be a program’s biggest threat when engaging consumers. By involving the creators and allowing them to vet everything used for marketing, promotion and authenticity don’t have to be an oxymoron. 

5) Rely on Instinct

From the real-time nature of feedback from Twitter to television rating reports, the poential exists to react too soon to the whims of an audience. After all,  as Ms. Hurd stated, the audience isn’t supposed to “like” the villans. Whether it’s in real-time or not, the audience will provide feedback, and often it mirrors the opinions of the producers had in the first place. Both Kring and Jeff Ross, executive poducer of Conan, cited the symbiotic relationship with audiences, but also the need for producers to rely on their instinct when it comes to programming according to what audiences want.

6) Protect (and yes, promote) Your Assets

Not entirely off-topic, but certainly top of mind was the issue of piracy. While Kring suggested even those who pirate movies could be your biggest fans, and therefor advocates for viral promotion, others held a more protective view. Ms. Hurd spoke of the need to make a good first impression with audiences, citing an unauthorized leak of a trailer that could have been interpreted as the movie having technical flaws when really it was just an early view of the technology. More to the point of piracy, she called for an industry campaign to show consumers how piracy could prevent the creation of quality content and gave an example of how a unified release of properties globally could reduce the need for international audiences to steal content the would otherwise have paid for.

7) Create a Great Product

Perhaps it goes without saying, but when you take a point of view, tailor content to the desires of your audience and produce a high quality product, social media, and more importantly box office and ratings, success is sure to follow.

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Posted in Entertainment, Film, Social Media, Television


Jan

5

img-featuredCongratulations to Michael Terpin and the Social Radius team for their successful Startup Debut event to kick off CES in Las Vegas. Several influential technology journalists made their way to the House of Blues Foundation Room atop the Mandalay Bay Casino Tuesday night, where they were given an intimate look at some of the hot new media, entertainment, games and mobile companies making the rounds here this week. The full list of participating companies exhibiting at Startup Debut can be found here, but following are a few higlights from my conversations throughout the evening.

  • WOWee ONE - This compact portable speaker unit uses a standard speaker to deliver mid-high frequencies and a Gel Audio™ driver that turns any flat surface into a subwoofer with impressive low end bass frequencies. At a reasonable $79.99 price point and featuring a rechargable 20-hour battery it’s arguably among the best speakers in its category, but by far the best part of this demo was watching my old pal Spence Bovee enthusiastically pitch the product.
  • yap.TV - Billed by co-founder Shawn Cunningham as the first vertical social network for television fans, yap.TV is a personalized TV show guide app for the iPad with an elegant interface for interacting with friends fans in real-time while watching your favorite shows. My favorite features are integration with Twitter and Facebook, automatic check-in to see what friends are watching and real-time private group chat.
  • NTB Media - The A Game is a video-based pop culture trivia game using music videos, movie trailers to entertain users while delivering brands higher levels of engagement across social media networks, third party sites, in-stream video adverstising and mobile.
  • YouMail - Visual voicemail service YouMail showcased its free Android Visual Voicemail Plus application that allows users to share voicemail not only through e-mail or text messages but also by posting them directly to Facebook and Twitter. 
  • Omek - This softwared development enviornment allows developers to create gesture-recognition experiences with any depth sensor on any hardware platform. Think Kinect for the PC. The bigger news is that legendary game industry executive Jonathan Epstein has been named President and CRO.
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Posted in Blogging, Entertainment, Games, Mobile, Social Media, Technology


Jun

28

Jason & Tony at OMMA Global HollywoodOne of my reasons for creating WOTW was to recognize people in my professional network doing interesting things with their time and talents. Two entrepreneurs for whom I have a great deal of respect appeared in major media outlets last week: Tony Greenberg, CEO of Ramprate and Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo.

RampRate’s report “YouTube: Google’s Phantom Loss Leader – How Google shelters profits from content owners while building a delivery juggernaut” is closer to investigative journalism than it is your typical marketing department white paper. Besides adding a new layer to my own understanding of the economics of online content delivery, as a B2B marketer with an appreciation for the art of PR, I was also impressed by all of the coverage the report generated. My favorite analysis was by Advertising Age and Business Week.

Also related to monetizing original content on the web (or not), was an article in the LA Times about “Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show,” which is co-owned and produced by Mahalo, where Jason Calacanis also produces “This Week in Startups.” In the most recent episode, Jason interviews Microsoft director of business development Don Dodge about his thoughts on Bing and more.

Congratulations Jason and Tony!

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Posted in Content, Entertainment, Friends and Colleagues


Jun

21

make_money_on_computerI’ve been thinking a lot about the economics of online entertainment lately, in part based on a June 15, 2009 LA Times article entitled ‘Hollywood hits the stop button on high-profile Web video efforts.” Despite many failed attempts at monetizing online entertainment content, ranging from DEN, Icebox and POP.com in the late 90s to Stage 9 Digital and 60Frames in recent months, I’m not convinced there isn’t a profitable model for making the studio model of the future a reality.

Whatever the successful combination, it is certain to be as complex and dynamic as the changing media landscape itself. It will include both traditional and yet untested advertising and sponsorship models, but it won’t be fully reliant on them either. It will include brave new brand extensions and cross-platform integration and ways to interact with audiences that result in them eagerly spending their hard earned money on e-commerce and subscriptions and engaging with sponsors.

It will also include strategies with no intent of directly driving revenue, but still being accountable to some other practical revenue stream — offline purchases, participation in events, engagement in online communities, etc. Or for large media carriers to support membership/subscription-based services and any myriad of other business objectives.

Making quality online entertainment content is hard, but building an audience for it from scratch is even harder. This reality has been part of what makes it difficult to monetize the emerging category of web video content with any scale. The model that works will include an innovative way for content producers to attract and retain large new audiences in a way that presents clear value for each of the key stakeholders: content creators, distributors  and consumers.

Many more layers of this oninion to be peeled in the weeks ahead I’m sure.

Speaking of identifying good online entertainment content, as a fan of Weeds, I was interested to learn from Tubefilter about University of Andy, a series of short videos in which Andy Botwin (played by Justin Kirk) lectures on various life skills that are not likely to be offered at the local community college, but are guaranteed to make you laugh.

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Posted in Business, Content, Economy, Entertainment, Online Entertainment, Video


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