The global content playbook & how the internet actually works

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I’m a big fan of the John Oliver show Last Week Tonight. Which, in an unconnected web world I wouldn’t even know about as it has never been shown in Australia. But through the wonder of sharing great content online I became a big fan. The show airs in the USA on Sunday nights, and in their wisdom, HBO would publish much of the shows content on Youtube a day later. I’d eagerly await to watch it here on Monday night in Australia through the Last Week Tonight Youtube channel. At last, a media company that gets it. A media company that understands the value of building connection and fan bases globally in real time. They even made it available to non subscribers – wow.

That was until this week. For some reason, most likely the HBO launch in Australia or some other licensing arrangement in Australia with Stan, Presto or Netflix, I now get the classic picture above: Sorry, This content is not available in your region.

Wrong.

This content is available in my region, they simply made a decision to give up their direct relationship with me, and forced me to get it elsewhere. Now they won’t share any of the potential advertising revenue or other prizes which come from direct customer relationships. Weirdly, much of it is ‘still’ available on youtube channels where others have uploaded it. The back door has been opened. And it’s licensing deal structures born of the late 1970’s cable TV era that create this back door leakage.

More than 20 years into this thing, here’s a simple lesson every media company should already know: Once it is released anywhere digitally, it is released everywhere digitally. The desires of the content owners to limit distribution are irrelevant. Given this is the new truth, a better strategy might be to just embrace it.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now. 

Welcome to the culture of Extremistan

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Famed author and modern day renaissance man Nassim Taleb talks about Extremistan. While his analysis refers to black swan events, randomness and outliers in the economic world, it seems as though pop culture is on a similar trajectory.

Tattoos used to be an extreme thing in themselves. Now real tattoo people have to differentiate through full body cover and face tattoos. Extreme Sports used to mean things beyond golf, football and athletics like motocross. Now they look more like base jumping, jetpack flying and cave diving. Game Shows used to be about trivia and family fun guessing answers to win cars. Now they involve near death experiences on tropical islands to win millions of dollars and potential reality stardom. Travel Stories used to be interesting enough when someone visited far flung Asia or eastern Europe. Now hardcore globe trotters visit Afghanistan and Honduras to ensure their story gathers more kudos.

I’m sure you can think of another zillion examples of the progression towards our culture of extremistan. It is a clear reminder we are in a world which is so connected and immediate that most things have already been seen and done. What used to be unusual is just the new normal. There’s very little scarcity when it comes to ‘things and activities’. And because one of the only things that is scarce these days is attention, many people are literally risking their lives to get it. This tells us much about the human condition. We crave attention. But attention is really just a proxy for something much more human. We want to be recognised and acknowledged, and maybe deep down we just want to feel loved.

What an opportunity. To pay attention to everyone, and not just those who will go to the extreme to get it. Genuinely caring about people and making them feel your love might be the best low cost strategy we can find these days.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

The reality of the screen

Old Abandoned Drive in Cinema

The reality is that all screens are created equal now. Every screen can serve up the same content. Every screen is connected to the same world. Every screen doesn’t care whose eyes and ears are at the other end of it. Every screen can deliver the same data, on the same day, globally. There is no such thing as TV anymore. And so it then begs the following question:

Why do people who profit from screens treat them as different entities?

It seems the people who work in TV still think their screens are different. It seems the people who make movies think their cinemas are different. And pretty much anyone else who created content for the screen pre-broadband era thinks the new screen reality does not apply to them. And while the screens don’t care what they show, the people also don’t care which screen they view it on. In fact, they’d much prefer to have the choice over which screen they can use. I’m pretty sure many of these people, like me, would possibly a premium for such a convenience. And yet, in 2014, decades into this shift, the powers that be, sorry the powers that ‘were’, are still avoiding their potential revenue. And here’s why:

They love their infrastructure more than they love their customers.

Or more correctly, they believe their ultimate success is decided by their supply chain and not by the end consumer. Serving business partners at the expense of the ultimate paying customer down the line is a strategy fraught with danger. Especially when we are now in a phase where the middle man is quickly evaporating. Many of those business who could go direct to the end user choose not to, as they may ‘offend their existing trade partners’.

I like movies: I love seeing new release movies. A night out at the cinema is a fun and reasonably inexpensive night out. But now that I have very young children, getting out of the house to grab a movie is more difficult than it used to be. And so my wife and I just don’t go very often. But here’s the kicker – I’d pay a premium for the right to be able to watch a new release at home. $30 for a stream via Apple TV? – I’d pay that. It’d still be cheaper than paying for parking, ice creams, inflated corn and everything else at the cinema. And to this day I still can’t do it. No doubt I’m not alone. No doubt, this entices piracy. And I know what those in the movie business would retort with. They’d say the cinema chains would cry foul and stop distributing their films. And when they both claim this, they’d both not be understanding the true reason we go to the cinema – The night out. The movie is only part of the deal and the real competition is not watching a movie at home, but going to a pizza a restaurant, or a bowling alley. They’re also forgetting the margin enhancement opportunities of low cost digital distribution.

Here’s some simple advice for every screen business: If you have the opportunity to serve a customer directly, then without delay consider releasing all content in all forums simultaneously. Not only will it create a new direct relationship with those who actually pay for the product, it might just stop another startup eating your lunch.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

False Positives

The promise of online advertising was the ability to find an audience based on interests more that just demographic profile. An audience based on interests. This advertisement below appeared in my twitter stream which not only gave me a little chuckle, but reminded me that the web is full of false positives.

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As a reminder a false positive is a a test result which wrongly indicates that a particular condition or attribute is present.  No I am not a One Direction fan. I have never mentioned them in a tweet. But I do very often tweet about music and music videos and use such hashtags. Clearly I’ve been incorrectly identified in one of the parameters for the advertising as being a potential teenie bopper.

It reminds us to think through what the web tells as and to use our own internal analytics to tester, our brain, to see if what it is telling us is valid.

A key word is used in social media might actually mean the person doesn’t like it and the keywords were among other derogatory sentiments. The number of followers and readers we have in a social forum doesn’t necessarily mean we have that many followers of readers. It just means people clicked a button once upon a time. I have over 5000 twitter followers, but I’m certain only a small percentage of that ever see my tweets. My weekly twitter report tells me this as do the number of clicks the links I post in my tweets get (which I track). Not to mention that anyones tweets can now be muted with no one knowing.

Numbers do not necessarily equal caring. It’s also true that media organisations through the ages have used these grey areas to create massive profitability. And even though the technology is getting better at giving us a more accurate measure, there is a still a long way to go. It’s worth remembering that the actions and interactions are what matters, not the numbers.

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Celebrity in a post mass media world

If you had to name a famous person, in a particular category of fame, just 20 years ago, there was a very good chance that all of us would have known the person named. The famous Television Host, Actor, Rock star, Author, Politician, Activist… we all had an understanding of who the ‘famous people were’ in the mainstream categories. It’s still true that we know who the super famous people are in most categories. But as every day passes, fame is starting to become less defined by media owners and more defined by media users. Those with the fame got handed the stage, the microphone, the printing press, the camera and held one of the few positions available. They got picked by the owners of the factors of influence. But now we can pick who we want to care about, and that means one thing:

Fame is fragmenting.

The word famous itself derives from the latin word fāma which means to talk. And now that we can all talk to the public, fame is decided by who we think is worth listening to. I recently had two such situations where I interacted with famous people – famous to me anyway. People whose opinions and work I value. A simple twitter interaction, albeit micro with Tom Peters and Marc Andreessen.

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Guys like these are my Justin Bieber, and I hate myself for writing his name in my blog – but unfortunately he was the best example to make the point. And while I couldn’t name even one recording artist in the current top 10, or who is on Free To Air TV at 7.30pm weeknights, I still have my own set of famous people, or celebrities I look up to in my niche world. I also know that as time goes by this will be the norm, rather than the exception. Fame will become a community by community proposition. It’s not without some irony that high technology is reversing many of the social and economic structures back to our pre industrial reality.

For me this is another reason to be excited by the technology revolution. We are starting to get back to a more valid definition of celebrity – People who have a positive influence in our lives, not just those who occupy a limited number media channels.

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When receiving is better than giving

I’ve had a few discussions with friends lately about their social feeds. A few of them have mentioned that they don’t even read their twitter feed. That they don’t read other peoples blog posts, or tweets and they only pay attention to the attention their own content is getting. The views, the shares, the open rates, the followers, that’s what they care about. And I understand why they might do this. It’s only natural to see if we are having an impact. It’s natural to focus on the work we are delivering to the market, even if this work is content creation and curation. We’ve all heard the argument that much of the content is created by the motivated few. But in a world where content is being replaced by digital conversations I wonder if everybody is so busy talking that no one is actually listening.

What if we all did that? What if every one of us was so introspective that the only work that mattered was our own work?

If everyone is posting and creating and not reading where does that leaves us?

It leaves us in a place where the internet becomes a noisy auditorium of nothingness. There’s a reason why we have two ears and one mouth. We should listen twice as often as we speak. If attention is the asset in the modern economy we need to ask ourselves the question of how much we are giving others. Are we being generous enough with our own attention for others content? Are we respecting the gift of knowledge dissemination provided by others? I feel like this is becoming an important question in these times of data deluge.

It comes down to a simple fact which is as old as human language. If we want to be heard, then we first need pay our respects and listen first. People in our specific communities are making an effort with their thoughts and we should support it. Because the things that don’t get attention and support eventually disappear. Content is no different. We need to look at our physical make up and read 2 for every 1 we create. Answer 2 tweets for every 1 we send. Comment twice for every blog post we create.

This is one of the few times in life where it is better to receive than give.

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Focus Folly

There is nothing more common in startup land than to hear the advice of remaining focused. I used to believe this myself, but recently I’ve changed my view. I’ve changed my view because I think we focus too soon. We tend to focus when we think the idea or the space is we are playing in is hot. We should only focus once we have real in market validation. While there are many measures which validate a concept, media coverage does not amount to market validation. We have to remember the objectives of the media – especially when it comes to technology industries. What they want to do is the following:

  • Report on something new
  • Try and predict new trends and what’s next
  • Fill up their pages for traffic (fill the void)

Just because what we might be doing is interesting and different, doesn’t mean it will get traction in market. In fact, sometimes media coverage in the early phases of a startup is an indication the idea itself might be bad. They cover the new and the shiny, which could mean we’ll have a much harder job ahead of us in changing behaviour and redefining how something is done.

I think we can take a lesson from the old fisherman we see on the shore line. They tend to cast a lot of lines in the water and employ the multi-fishing rod strategy. Not knowing which one will get a bite. They use different bate and different sized sinkers. Some lines are cast far from the shore, while others are much closer. They are looking for validation, for a bite. And once they get a bite, they’ll focus on that particular fishing rod and reel it in. Focus, post validation, not before.

When it comes to non-fishing startups we need to look for real in market validation. Real usage growth and revenue are the simplest. And once we have that, we can start to focus without folly.

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