Why are websites like MySpace and Facebook so popular? One reason, according to Duncan Watts (A Columbia University sociologist), is that they allow people to see and be seen. In other words, social networking sites are less about networking and more about voyeurism and exhibitionism. They are also about convenience. It is much easier to keep in touch with friends virtually than physically, and in reality sites such as these are just ways for people to hang out and chat together. However, the main reason for these sites popularity is probably the fact that teenagers tend to measure friendship in terms of quantity than quality. Sites like MySpace allow users to build confidence by creating their own worlds in which factors such as looks can be closely controlled. Add to this an element of peer pressure and it’s easy to see why these sites are so popular. MySpace now has 73 million users while Facebook, although much smaller, was the second fastest-growing website in the world in 2005. The sites have a strong community feel and also tap into user-generated content. However, it’s eyeball counts that ultimately interest established media companies like Newscorp, which paid US$580 million for MySpace, and NBC Universal, which paid US $600 million for iVillage. Online advertising revenue has grown by about 50% since 2002 but magazine and newspaper ad revenues are almost static. Moreover, according to a PEW Internet study, more than 50% of Americans have now uploaded some kind of digital content onto the Internet. So will the old media companies die in the face of such new media competition? Unlikely. The smarter players will either acquire sites like MySpace or build Facebook characteristics into existing products.
Future Exploration Network is organizing the Future of Media Summit, which will be held simultaneously in San Francisco on July 18 and Sydney on July 19 to explore the evolving world of media. In preparation for this, we’ve prepared a Future of Media Strategic Framework. The intention is to provide a framework and starting point for useful discussion before, during, and after the event. It is by no means comprehensive, but rather a project to pull together in a coherent way some of the key themes on the table as media evolves, how they relate, and the strategic questions that media organizations of all stripes need to consider.
The Strategic Framework and explanation below are work in progress. These are early versions, and a small part of what will go into the Future of Media Report, which will be produced just before the Summit, and be available to all Summit attendees in both Sydney and San Francisco. This will also include research comparing the US, UK, and Australian media markets across traditional and social media, major trends in media, and more.
Click on the image for the Future of Media Strategic Framework pdf (293KB)
Future of Media Strategic Framework: Diagram Explanation
The symbiosis of mainstream and social media
A symbiotic relationship is emerging between mainstream media (such as newspapers and broadcast), and social media (such as blogs, podcasts, and online social networks). Mainstream media and social media feed off each other. Blogs provide a vast public forum for discussion of content provided by major media. Leading blog search engine, Technorati, has enabled every online piece on The Washington Post, Newsweek and Associated Press newspapers to display the complete blog discussion about that article, turning an article into a conversation visible to all. At the same time, it has become common for mainstream media to quote blogs and bloggers, sometimes exclusively, and the conversations between bloggers often provide the ideas for media stories. Together, mainstream and social media create a single media landscape in which we can all participate.
Strategic questions: How can you best draw on social media for content and ideas, and facilitate social media commenting on and annotating your content?
Key features of social media
Conversation is almost by definition the heart of social media.
Relationships between people and ideas emerge in a very different fashion from the one-to-many configuration of mass media.
Annotation is commentary on and reference to existing information and ideas. This will soon spread into geospatial annotation, where conversations are generated around physical locations.
Self-exposure is a more powerful driver of social media than self-expression. The exhibitionism and associated voyeurism of blogs and social networks are a key factor driving participation, as Richard Watson points out.
A belated blog announcement of Future Exploration Network’s latest venture: the Future of Media Summit 2006. In Living Networks I suggested that the lion’s share of the economy – and certainly almost all the growth – would be based on the flow of information and ideas. Another word for that is media. Increasingly, media encompasses not just traditional print, broadcast, and online, but almost anything that is information, ideas, or entertainment. In other words, most of what we experience. The intention of the Future of Media Summit is to explore how the media landscape is unfolding, and uncover practical insights into business strategy.
The summit will be a world first (as far as I’m aware…) in linking two continents in a live conference setting. The event will be run in San Francisco June 18 @ 5-9pm, while the Sydney event will be the following day 8am-2pm. San Francisco 7-9pm will be simultaneous with Sydney 12-2pm, with videoconference links briding the panel discussions across the two cities. In addition there will be live audience blogging and live videostreaming of the event.
I’m very pleased to say there will be no speeches or presentations in the entire event. Instead of a keynote, we are featuring a conversation between Chris Anderson, editor in chief of Wired magazine and author of the much-awaited book The Long Tail, with John Hagel, one of the best thinkers in this space, who made his name with the prescient book Net Worth. Other fabulous people involved include Dr. Moira Gunn of TechNation, David Sifry of Technorati, and on the Sydney side, people like Jack Matthews, CEO of Fairfax Digital, Hugh Martin, editor of News.com.au, and many others with great insights to share. In addition, we will run participant panels at the events, so that everyone can engage in discussions and share insights.
Key links to the event:
Future of Media website
Hope you can make it! If you’re not in those cities on those dates, please do pass on info to people who may be interested in attending, or tune in later for information on the videostreaming of the event.
There will also be substantial content associated with the event. The Future of Media Podcast Series features great interviews with Art Kleiner, editor in chief of Strategy + Business magazine, Nicholas Scibetta, global head of media strategy at Ketchum PR, and a raft of others coming very soon.
We will release a Future of Media Report just before the event. This will include a wide range of content and original research. The Future of Media Strategic Framework, which will be used as a basis for the discussions and conversations at the event, will be released in its first version in the next couple of days – I look forward to thoughts and reflections on this when it’s out!
ABC News is asking readers to submit images and video for a forthcoming report on global warming, looking for everyday indications of climate change. Asking for reader contributions is not new, though increasingly the broadcast networks and other media are looking for specific content to use in programs they are creating, in addition to being open to any newsworthy items. In this case ABC is offering contributors a non-exclusive license, so they will not own the content, just be able to use it any form themselves for free. This allows the contributor to provide or even sell the content to others subsequently. I expect that “citizen journalists” will grow to expect this kind of license rather than passing over all rights to the media outlet. However there will be experimentation in this space by the media companies as they work out how they deal with the manifold intelectual property issues of user-created content.
AOL, part of one of the big five media conglomerates, is going in a big way into user filtered content. It is taking the Netscape brand, which has lost profile but is still very powerful, and under the wing of Jason Calacanis, whose Weblogs Inc. was bought by AOL last year, creating a new kind of news site. Most commentary on AOL’s move, such as that in the New York Times, points to the similarity of the site’s workings to Digg.com. Over the last year Digg has become massively popular, now attracting 8 million visitors a month, putting it in the top league in the media site stakes. Digg very simply allows people to submit pieces and news on the web, and the readers to collectively vote on and select what’s most interesting. The best floats to the surface. Digg has just announced a move to encompass a whole range of topics, rather than just the tech domain it has covered so far.
Where AOL is going beyond Digg is in employing a couple of dozen full-time and part-time “anchors”, who are journalists/ bloggers who will comment on and build on the stories that the audience deems the most worthy of attention. This brings the symbiosis of mainstream and social media that I have often talked about to the fore in a new model for media. Media-employed journalists are guided by and feed back to the readers. As Richard Watson has pointed out, the Wisconsin State Journal selects its headlines every day on the basis of voting by readers the previous afternoon. AOL’s model takes the integration of media and audience yet further. User filtered content is the big, big emerging space. There has been much talk of user generated content, however there has been less talk of user filtered content. The two domains can be combined in a variety of ways. Examples include:
User created, user filtered: YouTube
Media created, user filtered: Digg
User created, media filtered: Current TV
Media created, media filtered: CNN
AOL’s lead move here will undoubtedly be mimicked by other large media groups – this is the way of the future.
The latest issue of Business 2.0 has an interesting piece on how the Institute for the Future (IFTF), one of the oldest future-watching organizations, is creating “artifacts from the future” – physical manifestations of things that may come to pass – to help its clients understand the convergence of current trends and their impact. The article says that IFTF’s clients don’t have the time or mindspace to trawl through the annual 10 year forecasts that are its trademark, thus the creation of more tangible outputs. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang of IFTF believes its clients’ supposed lack of inclination to read reports is overblown, but there is no question that some of the IFTF’s outputs are pretty cognitively dense, and we can all see the attention span of senior executives whittling away year by year. Future Exploration Network will be applying a wide variety of ways of engaging our clients with new ideas. Richard and I, in a project last year helping a major bank develop long-term strategies, used newspapers mocked up with possible headlines for 5-10 years hence to stimulate discussions and new ideas. If we’d had the budget, we would have created one or more “bank branches of the future” that executives could experience for themselves. There is no question that rigor is needed in exploring fundamental trends and how they might play out, but time-impoverished executives often need a more direct approach to provoke them out of their everyday pressures.
The other day I had lunch with Ray Kotcher, the global CEO of Ketchum PR, and a leading light in the public relations industry. From our extremely interesting and diverse conversation I’ll touch on just one topic: whether the PR industry (or any of its participants) will grasp – or leave lying – the opportunity that lies before it. As I discuss in my recent article on the future of PR, the issue today is about reaching people who are awash in a sea of messages, coming from friends, acquaintances, traditional media, online sources, advertising, and the world at large. Advertising – which is how companies have traditionally spent money to reach their targets – is waning in influence among the flood of messages. In addition, advertising is just what it is – an isolated message to a consumer – and as such is immensely less influential than a dialogue or interaction. So, in the vast space that involves playing in the totality of the flow and interplay of information and influencing people, who will create the most value?
On the face of it, the PR industry is the best positioned to do so. Traditional media will always provide a central (though gradually smaller) share of the messages people are exposed to, and no industry other than PR has the expertise to work with the media industry effectively. As Ray put it, dealing with the media is “heavy lifting” – somethng the other disciplines don’t have the expertise to do well, don’t know how to make money at and often see beneath them. “New” media in fact has many similar characteristics to traditional media. Certainly many grievous mistakes have been made by PR firms in dealing with blogs and bloggers, but they are learning, and prominent bloggers, as key influencers in the emerging world of media, need to be communicated with in a very similar fashion to journalists. However public relations is still caught – certainly in perception and to some degree in reality – in the world of “spin”. It is difficult to get out of the habit – and clients’ expectations – of pitching stories and hype. To move from PR to encompassing the entire domain of how people are touched with information, and the sum of the influence networks, is an enormous leap. The structure of the global communications conglomerates also stymies innovation by segmenting specialties among different firms, and often discouraging direct competition. Can any of the current players in media, advertising, marketing, and PR shift into the encompassing space of meme propagation? Perhaps. The reinvention of the advertising, PR, and communications industries will happen apace over the next years. There are golden opportunities to be seized.
Since our conversation, Ray has pointed me to the commencement address he made at Boston University College of Communications, titled Join the Conversation. It’s a great piece, well worth reading, that shows that Ray really understands the forces at play here. His clearly deeply-felt admonition to “join the conversation” is the antithesis of the attitudes of corporate leaders clinging on to the rapidly disintegrating, rigid structures of yesteryear. He finishes his speech with personal advice to the students, including:
Engage your curiosity
Never forget your integrity and credibility
Develop your voice
Foster your creativity
Take with you passion
The Future of Media Podcast Series is launched today, kicked off with a fabulous interview with Art Kleiner, who is among other things Editor-in-Chief of Strategy + Business, the quarterly strategy magazine of Booz Allen Hamilton, author of Who Really Matters, editorial director of The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook Series, and generally one of the top business thinkers around. His extensive background in media includes running significant consulting projects examining the future of media.
In the interview, Art touches on three key themes:
• The evolution of media formats and conventions
• Giving voice to many participants in a coherent way
• Globalization and localization of media
Art points out that the conventions of newspaper layout and television programs took decades to develop. He notes that in 1888, when newspapers were first produced for wide circulation, the concepts of newspaper headlines, lead stories, classifieds and use of advertising were yet to be developed. Art adds, “Procter & Gamble didn’t make a dime from the format of soap opera. But their initial development of the format of soap opera put them in a position of leadership.”
Art goes on to discuss how the formats of blogs, Wikipedia, HTML, online readership tracking are now evolving. “What we have are the very, very beginnings of formats that ultimately will be influential and widespread…. These are not technological innovations. They are the format innovations that emerge 5 to 10 to 50 to 100 years after the original technology.”
Another theme that Art emphasizes in the podcast is the challenge of globalization for media. “ New media that have previously been tied to a particular nation or locale, have the challenge of recreating themselves around communities of interest,” says Kleiner. He suggests, for example, that a local newspaper such as Silicon Valley’s San Jose Mercury could become a global brand for technology news. Referring to his own magazine, Strategy + Business, he says its challenge is “how exactly we evolve so we keep our distinctive presence and make it a global presence. The same is true for every other publication.”
Art says that “we are still 10-20 years away from establishing conventions for new media, even moving at internet speed,” and that a huge amount of experimentation with formats is needed.
Highly recommended podcast! Have a listen, and subscribe to the RSS feed for the podcast series, available from the link.
More great interviews in the Future of Media Podcast Series out soon, including Jerry Michalski, Nicholas Scibetta of Ketchum PR, Bruce Wolpe of Fairfax, and far more. The podcast series is associated with the Future of Media Summit 2006, which will be held simultaneously in Sydney and San Francisco – more details on this soon.