16 Feb 2010

Music and Newspapers: Parallels in paid-for-content models

Last week Warner Music CEO Edgar Bronfman Jr questioned the sustainability of the emerging ad-funded music streaming models and called a halt to any further deals.

The deals with WE7, Spotify and MySpace Music will remain in place, for now.

Mr Bronfman said, “Free streaming services are clearly not net positive for the industry and as far as Warner Music is concerned will not be licensed . . . . “.

He went on to suggest that getting all the music you want free, with the option to pay for a few bells and whistles was doomed to fail. Now it seems that pretty much the entire digital industry is warning music companies not to pin their hopes on advertising revenues to plug the shortfall from declining physical sales. The parallel with newspapers and their paid-for-content models is stark.

A breakdown in negotiations between YouTube and music collection agency PRS seems to be behind these calls for a cessation of the ad-funded model. Google has also attracted the music industry's ire after demanding the option to build up advertising income to a sustainable level prior to paying the rights holders fees. Other content distributors echo Google and call for modest revenue deals in what they still see as an emerging market.

The furore is understandable. Radio 1 is known to pay up to £20 a minute for music. In accepting far less from digital content distributors, rights holders' acceptance is unlikely. The gap between falling physical sales and fixed or rising costs isn't being bridged by growth in digital downloads either.

Newspapers face an identical problem. Physical newspaper sales are falling. Yet the costs of news generation remain fixed, or are rising. Advertising revenues are on the decline too and though these may recover it is unlikely that we will see the heights we saw in the noughties. The damage is also exacerbated by the extensive free provision of news content, as much by newspaper websites as the BBC and Google.

News International (owners of The Sun, The Times, Sunday Times and News of the World) who also have interests in satellite broadcasting (BSkyB in the UK and Fox in the USA) seem poised to bundle their newspaper offering into a 'club' with associated 'member rewards' available to their TV customers. The costs of news generation will be reduced as the economies of scale come into play. Cross-selling to their very strong TV base means an instant uplift in subscription revenues, and is also great for retention. Advertising revenues can also be upsold and cross-marketed on the diverse platforms. So, Mr Murdoch's enterprises will start to rival publicly funded broadcasters like the BBC who, though free are prevented from such commercial activity (in the UK at least).

The Guardian and the Telegraph are likely to develop their existing community and 'club' initiatives whilst maintaining a limited free model. The likely focus for both will lie with developing new content and apps for every access model conceivable. This move has already been signalled by the focus on clubs, content, commerce and community that both publishers have outlined.

The paid-for-content model is, in its infancy and likely to face many more hurdles. News International and BSkyB have deep pockets, a history of undercutting competitors and promoting their offerings aggressively. As they will also be most likely to launch first, theirs might the model that sets the terms of the debate going forward. It won't be without challenges. What is certain is that if there is nothing in it for the consumer, publishers will lose out. In our democratising media age, the customer is the king maker.

UPDATE (28/02/2010)
So, the BBC has announced cuts in it's operations and budgets and the Times responds with a carping editorial . . . roll on the battle to be top dog - Both organisations ask you to pay, which offers the best deal?

15 Feb 2010

Startling video

This one made me stop, its is heartbreakingly beautiful with a haunting score and tells a story really well:

Nuit Blanche from Spy Films on Vimeo.

10 Feb 2010

This made me laugh

We've all been there - being presented to by agency types (and there are types who work for agencies JUST as there are individuals). This particular agency type has scary hair and is great at talking the talk (never listening) and has zero interest in the product or proposition. This particular agency type is just feeding you a generic presentation.

Well, if you don't know what I mean - see this:

9 Feb 2010

Social Media: What is the co$t of doing nothing?

A lot, depending on how you look at it . . . . . food for thought:

Social media for brands: What people REALLY want . . .

The truth about social media for brands . . . . .

People want to do THINGS!

Brands and Social Media

Following on from my post about what brands need to think about when it comes to social media and its use for online PR, comes hot news about Vodafone.

The facts:
Late on Friday 5th February 2010, a member of Vodafone’s social media team posted a homophobic remark via the company's official Twitter account. Around 8,800 Vodafone followers received the remark in their tweetstream, I was one of them . . . .

Vodafone admitted that “a severe breach of rules” had taken place, but only after Twitter's amplifying effect took hold.

Attempts to delete the offending comment were scuppered by retweets that amplified the offence. Vodafone apologised repeatedly to its followers . . . using a copy and paste apology . . . oh dear.

What could, and should, have been done:
So, what could have been done better?

1) Accept that human error happens - how you deal with it is what matters.

2) Some errors are worse than others. Posting offensive remarks to thousands of customers is beyong stupid . . .

3) The democracy of social media prevents you hushing things up. The damage is done at the point of publication. The social media network will not allow you to cover things up. The bigger the brand, the more seriously the error will be in terms of its repercussions via retweets.

4) Do say sorry . . . . once. Do it properly, once.

5) Take extra care if you 'own' your company social media profile. It is too easy to accidentally post to the wrong account if you are juggling between a personal and a corporate account. Take time to consider your posts and where they are going to . . . .

6) Some kind of security would be a great idea, especially in situations where profile owners are off-site or based away from scrutiny. But don't persecute the social media profile owner in your company either - be human about it, but sensible.

7) Educate profile users about social media, your reasons for using it and the benefits it brings to the company.

8) Stop and think before you publish. Always.

Social media gaffes of our time:
Habitat - Habitat handed over their Twitter profile to an intern, assuming that social media was just a jolly jape presumably . . . . Result? Habitat were suspended from Twitter following consistent abuse, despite warnings, about piggy-backing trending topics for commercial gain.

Virgin - Virgin Atlantic cabin crew used Facebook to call passengers "chavs" and claimed that the airline's planes were full of cockroaches.

Telegraph - During last year's budget extravaganza, telegraph.co.uk set up a Twitterfall to provide real-time updates of the budget. Tweets were created on the service that included the tag "#budget". Twitter users (savvy lot) spotted the unmoderated twitterfall and embarrassed the paper with a stream of tweets such as "Breaking news: Barclay Brothers to pick up your tax bill in unprecedented act of philanthropy. #Budget" – and far worse than that too . . . . but, that is for another time.

Creative executions

I really like this one. It's an educational film called 'Does TV make you fat?' and was aimed at 9-14 year olds. It's fact packed but entertaining, not too long and pitched just right . . . . the esence of a good video creative.

Take a look:

Does TV make you fat ? from Denis van Waerebeke on Vimeo.

The video was directed by Denis van Waerebeke for the 'Bon app├ętit' exhibition. Design was by Nathalie Prunier and animation by Jimmy Audoin. The sound design was created by Ruelgo with the voice of Mark Jane.

8 Feb 2010

Women: The silent majority?

Agencies and advertisers are missing a massive trick when it comes to targeting women. Admittedly this nugget focuses on the US, but the lessons for the UK are just as stark.

7 Feb 2010

Social Media Marketing - A simple guide

Social media marketing is earning a role in the integrated marketing mix, kind of. As a practitioner I know that social media marketing - SMM for short - is transforming every business division from the inside out. I'm less convinced that brands operating in hierarchical set-ups are getting the message.

Here in the UK a recent survey by Major Players concluded that organisations and marketers need to get a grip on the ins and outs of social media – fast.

Innovate and evolve

This is a recurring theme. Many businesses jump into Social Media without crafting a strategic plan rooted in goals, objectives, KPIs or an understanding of best-practice models. Questions like 'what will be the likely impact of engagement on the brand / organisations?' are rarely asked, let alone understood by senior personnel or the social practitioners and advocates involved. Social media is too often placed in a silo called 'digital marketing', as though it were a discrete part of the business with no relationship to actual processes, actions and reactions elsewhere. Big mistake!

So – here is a view of just some of the opportunities available, and to be avoided, when using the social Web. I'll refine and update these as I go along. . .

Create a survey of fans
Surveys are an effective way to garner feedback to continue to earn ongoing relevance to your existing and new customers. Surveys can range from satisfaction levels, behaviour around the prospect or act of referrals, votes towards new policies and services or be used purely for entertainment. At the simplest level, surveys inject variety into the Facebook stream to foster new opportunities for engagement and communication.

“Friend” recent customers with your corporate profile
Strictly speaking, this activity goes against Facebook’s Terms of Service so go carefully. Facebook periodically flags and deletes branded profile accounts as they’re discovered. Twitter is more open to this approach.

Use Facebook/Twitter user data to profile customers
Social media is nothing if not an experiment. Along the way it provides enormously useful insights into your users' psychography (their interests, passions and motivations – cause based connections for example). Examine your social graph to gain an insight into possible initiatives and trends.

Create a Facebook app around the brand
As the old adage has it – 'yup, there's an app for that', in fact there are often too many. Their lack of utility or longevity springs from their usually being, well, useless. Facebook apps are not guaranteed to earn an audience simply because they’re created. Users' adoption of new apps are related to their friends' activity rather than an allegiance to a particular brand. Make an app relevant, stimulating and ideally 'issue' or 'entertainment' based and you'll likely be on to something – it's that pesky psychograhy again!

Driving traffic to corporate materials through status updates
Where are you sending your users? Chances are your users are landing on a message-rich, yet lifeless and generic web page or company home page. So, you are using a highly interactive and social environment to drive traffic to a static dead-end. Hmmm, not good. Consider linking to issue / campaign specific pages and ideally captivating, interactive or viral content.

Buying targeted CPC ads
Targeted CPC (cost-per-click) ads on Facebook are only as effective as the intention and experience to which they’re tied (see above). Many businesses use these ads to increase the number of fans on a fan page or to promote corporate material. I would suggest using them to drive traffic to clearly pre-defined experiences. However, do bear in mind that buying ads is perhaps the least effective element of the mix.

Monitor Twitter/Facebook and other social media for PR problems in real-time
A PR problem can materialise at any moment, with little warning. Monitoring what your customers are saying about your brand (and to whom) enables you to be proactive in addressing the reported problems internally, in tandem with an external 'push' to correct the . . . . misapprehension. There are myriad free tools to help you monitor what is being said about your brand - Technorati, Blog Pulse, Google Trends and Alerts, Omgili, Tweetcloud and Tweetbeep . . . . . and way more besides.

Contact Twitter users tweeting negatively about the brand
As users venture into using social media in ever-greater numbers, so they are also learning that social media, like Twitter especially, can act as an echo-chamber for complaints and suggestions to brands. Brands that monitor this space are more likely to respond. OK, it could be argued that this encourages users to complain in a public forum. What would you rather? That they complained to you and your processes ignored the complaint or mis-handled it? Or are you assuming that no-one complains about your brand and services? Think again.

Contacting users tweeting negatively about your brand is a tactic shared between PR and customer service and requires solid work flow processes tied to it. It’s very easy to confuse who should respond to which tweets and who already did, versus which tweets require response.

Create 'events'
Too often I've seen people confine themselves to Twitter alone, or just Facebook, without considering using both in addition to LinkedIn and myriad other social options such as surveys and email invites to create buzz around an event. Not only does this provided great user feedback and engagement, it can help guide the tone and style of your event as well.

Provocative text drives clicks
Interesting. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me.” To earn attention nowadays requires a level of creativity that mirrors the methodologies of creative advertising and marketing fused with the grounding of strategic communications. Pay attention to planning and editorial programming to ensure relevance and appeal. Avoid the merely sensational or 'trending' as users will see through that pretty quickly.

Invite Twitter users who tweet positively about a brand to do . . .
Consider using positive tweets as the basis for an advocacy or official ambassador program. As this tactic becomes ubiquitous, consumers are getting wise to their power in social media. Consumers expect something for their loyalty. Consider this prior to engaging.

Time Tweets to maximise views
There is an art and science to what we tweet and when. When using social media think like a media programmer. Content, timing and promotional style will dictate the size of the audience and their expectations. For example Monday and Friday are a great time to Tweet. In the UK, the morning slot from around 7am to noon is perfect for local/territory based messaging.

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5 Feb 2010