Digital Media

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Content Roundup

Most of my writings on digital marketing, advertising and media don't make it to this blog. Instead, they're published elsewhere - and a girl can do only so much typing sometimes.

So herewith, a roundup of recently published thinking that's appeared elsewhere over the past month or so:

My new book! Obviously, this is the big one.  Content Marketing published in late October. I'd love to hear your thoughts if you read it. And thanks for waiting at least a couple of months before asking when I plan to write the next book!

The Altimeter Blog Some topics I've address on my company's blog include covering a Pilot Event at company HQ on the future of media at which I spoke with my colleague Jeremiah Owyang; Occupy Wall Street: Disruption & Leaderless Leadership; and thinking about how content marketing is impacting the advertising ecosystem, the topic of the research report I'm currently working on. It will look at how organizations are rebalancing to incorporate content marketing into their other marketing activities.

TopRank Blog I was honored when my friend (and interview subject for the above-cited research report) Lee Odden) asked me to guest post on his TopRank blog on Mastering the Content Workflow. It's a bit of tactical advice for getting a marketing operation running like a newsroom.

iMedia Connection For the better part of the year, I've been writing a fortnightly column for iMedia Connection. My editors there just invited me to write my first feature (or as they call it, "cover story") on mastering geek speak. It's practical advice for marketers struggling to communicate with their developer and programmer and generally more techie colleagues. Never have left brain/right brain schisms been deeper than in digital marketing disciplines, but there are ways to bridge those two hemispheres of the brain.

Other recent columns for iMedia include a guide to getting started with content metrics (based on a recent talk I gave at eMetrics New York); and avoiding brand embarassments in real-time.  

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Transmedia Storytelling: Once Upon a Time

Transmedia storytelling. Quite the buzz term of late, particularly in content marketing circles. In case you're not au courant, Wikipedia define the term as "the technique of telling stories across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies, not to be confused with traditional cross-platform media franchisessequels or adaptations."

If you haven't already heard the term bandied about, you will. With the decline of any real form of mass media, a fundamental strategy of publishers and broadcaster, not to mention brands, will become getting consumers to follow stories across channels, media and devices, each bit a stepping stone toward the total brand experience (even if some of those steps are skipped or eliminated).

It's a concept I've been discussing in interviews I'm conducting for my in-progress research report on the impact content marketing is having on the advertising ecosystem. It popped up several times in discussion just today. Yet transmedia storytelling is at this juncture more likely more aspirational than it is a reality.

Print brands such as Hearst, Rodale, Time, The Wall Street Journal, Motor Trend, Vice, Slate, Thompson Reuters and The Onion have signed on to become programmers. Each will run one of the 100 or so original, branded channels YouTube is on the verge of launching, primarily with media companies and celebrities (Madonna, Jay-Z, Amy Poehler, Ashton Kutcher and  Deepak Chopra) but also with brands such as Red Bull.

Sure, it's a way of extending the brand, and hopefully of raking in some additional ad revenues. But when a traditionally print brand extends its reach into video, is it transmedia storytelling?

Don't bet on it. Indeed, many of these publishers have dabbled in video already, from running their own YouTube channels to adding video elements to digital stories.

We won't know until we see it, but it's more than likely these new YouTube channels will read as brand extensions, not extensions of the stories the brands are telling in other digital or analog channels. It's a gut instinct, but it seems likely that the considerable editorial talent at these brands has yet to acquire the skills, the thinking and the mindset to arc their stories across multiple channels, in multiple places. Print, digital and video departments aren't yet tightly integrated, not to mention orchestrated. Writers aren't necessarily telegenic. Eloquent as they may be in print, their storytelling skills don't always translate into talking to a camera (nor is that what they were hired for).

Real transmedia storytelling is something we've barely seen in digital yet. It borders on aspirational. Achieving it may require a new generation of storytellers who are digital natives with mad storytelling skills and production know-how who are really, truly platform agnostic.

We're not there yet, and it's much, much too soon to be calling print publishers' experiments with digital "transmedia," interesting as they'll be to observe.

Image creditdeanashour

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CMOs Want Technology and Content

I spent this afternoon immersed in a briefing on IBM's most recent research effort, perhaps the most exhaustive survey of CMOs ever conducted. In a four month period, the company interviewed over 1,700 CMOs in 64 countries to learn more about their priorities and their pain points. The full report is available for download (registration required).

There are many fascinating insights in the report, as well as much information that's validating, if unsurprising (CMOs feel they need to better understand social media, data, and technology in general, for example). Two tables are of particular interest given the rise of content marketing and social media.

When asked in which areas they plan to increase the use of technology, responses are overwhelmingly geared toward content-oriented initiatives. Social media, content management, tablet applications - all these are heavily oriented toward the creation of content, not advertising and not direct marketing. SEO made the list, but search advertising didn't. Less than half plan to invest in more email technology - unthinkable a mere five years ago.

Of course, this naturally doesn't mean CMOs plan to abandon email marketing (or any of the aforementioned channels). But these planned investments indicate that worldwide, companies want to create content, interest and dialogue with customers and prospects.

This indication is borne out in their plans for partnerships. In the chart on the left, red indicates near-term, yellow longer-term plans. Call and service centers, community development, and new media strategy outweigh more traditional agency considerations for either traditional or digital advertising.

These are all themes I'll be digging into shortly in a research project: how organizations are reallocating both internal and external marketing resources to balance their need for advertising with the demands of content, social media and conversational marketing  

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What Do We Talk About When We Talk About Mobile?

What do we talk about when we talk about mobile? Increasingly, the landscape is muddled. Having spent Advertising Week in session after session on mobile media and advertising, both at MIXX and the Mobile Media Summit, not once did a speaker say specifically what they were talking about when using the term "mobile."

To contextualize any discussion of mobile marketing or media these days, the entire arena must be addressed with a much greater level of specificity. Raise this point with people who live and breathe mobile and the first reaction is, "Oh! I get it. You mean whether it's iPad or smartphone, right?"

Only sort of right. Because defining device is just the tip of the mobile iceberg. And let's get one thing straight - straight off: mobile is not as simple as tablet vs. phone. Mobile can encompass laptop computers. Mobile gaming devices. Kindles and other e-readers. Non-smart (dumb?) mobile phones are mobile devices, and so are a panoply of digitally connected gizmos, such as Bluetooth headsets and those NFC-enabled car keys BMW is developing to do stuff in the real world other than unlock your car door (the internet of things - that's a whole other discussion).

While all the above are mobile, they're mobile in extraordinarily different ways. Plenty of mobile advertising is highly geo- or location specific. So do devices such as laptops, without GPS or other location functionality, now qualify as "mobile" within this context? Not for many ads, apps or media. Can the device handle a QR code? That's pretty essential to many of these discussions. Barcode scanners are part of the standard Android deck, but optional add-ons in the iOS environment. Flash works on some of these things, but not on others.

So now that we've narrowed our discussion of mobile media and marketing to a specific device or two, can just we move on? Not so fast. Media and ad formats vary by device, by size, and by carrier. Apps are robust on some platforms, while not available on others. Consumer behavior varies radically not only between devices, but as research is beginning to indicate, on and app-by-app basis even when the device in question remains the same.

Perhaps this inability to reach any level of granularity or specificity is why that elusive "year of mobile" is yet to arrive (unless it's already come and gone?). How will we know it when we see it if the terms aren't defined? It's easy to understand why mobile advocates shy away from fine distinctions. Mobile marketing and media are still nascent - even more so than the rest of digital. Only in a landscape developing this quickly, and with new devices with new levels of functionality coming onto the market seemingly every month, delineations and definitions become only more critical.

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Future of Media: Altimeter Group Pilot Event

Advertising: is it dying? In an ecosystem where rolling your own media has never been easier or cheaper, why would advertisers buy media from publishers to spread their messages? What's the new model: advertorial; advertent (as one attendee dubbed it); content marketing? And hey, aren't ads content, too?

Last night a group of advertisers and marketers from all sides of the equation (tech, buy-side, media and agency) got together at the Hangar to discuss these and other very topical issues around the future of media and advertising. As is traditional, we kicked off with a Wiki Wall to rev our brains. Questions included: "In what year will advertising die?" "What works better online, ads or content?" and "When do you build content versus buy media."

There were passionate opinions, dissent, and even +1s.

Fueled with wine and lots of food, conversation began in earnest (ably facilitated by my colleague Jeremiah Owyang - also the event photographer). Some of the major points we touched on encompassed the following.

Advertising isn't dying but...there are more options. Roll-your-own-media is a viable option, and one paying off handsomely for all types of advertisers and marketing, from the biggest CPG brands to B2B and even mom 'n' pop operations. Yet striking a balance between paid and non-paid (more about that below) media is complicated. It means new skill sets, budgets and resource allocations.

Media is changing, often painfully A point that really resonated with the group was the statement that the New York Times has more Twitter followers than it does print subscribers. Ouch. When should publishers throw up a paywall, follow a freemium model, or throw open the gates? It hasn't been easy to monetize Google traffic. To make things more complex, publishers (not to mention media companies like Spotify) are playing in a Facebook world. That means lots of eyeballs, but scant tolerance for buy me/click here now-type messages. Some publishers, particularly in the magazine world, are establishing in-house agencies to provide advertorial for advertisers. But when advertisers begin content marketing initiative, publishers suddenly find themselves in a situation where clients are also competitors. Talk about disruption!

Content assumes multiple guises, resulting in a high level of complexity Where does content come from? Seemingly everywhere. It can be earned, owned, user-generated, aggregated or curated - or a combination of all of the above. Determining what to use, which goes where, how to integrate content with other marketing initiatives, governance, measurement and quality benchmarks is no mean feat. It requires new attitudes, resources and skill sets. Adding element such as targeting to the conversation, and addition channels such as mobile, only underscore how much there is to grasp...and balance.

The conversation was animated and lively - with a fantastic level of participation from the group. But it was the tip of the iceberg. Happily, it lay some solid foundations for my first Altimeter research report on how content marketing will impact the advertising and media ecosystem.

Missed the discussion? No you didn't. We recorded the evening's proceedings - watch the conversation here.

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Is There a Digital 180 Degree Law?

Everything old is new again. Apparently this holds true nowhere more so than in digital channels. When there are major, disruptive shifts in digital, the needle doesn't just move. It moves straight across to the opposite pole, 180 degrees.

Why does this matter? It's something digital strategists, marketers, advertisers, media companies and others must take into consideration as they look toward the horizon to plan and strategize. They must realize that in the future things will not only be different than they are now. They could well be the opposite of what they are now.

Following, three examples of the digital 180 degree rule.

Distributed to central to distributed Remember what started the internet revolution? It was the shift from network computing to desktop PC's, from distributed to central computing. It freed users from dependency on a server - everything they needed was right on the desktop hard drive. The past five or so years have turned that advance on its ear. Computing is distributed again. We live in the cloud and rely on mobile devices as much (often more) than our laptops. As for the PC, it's becoming something of a relic. The return to distributed computing changes everything about how and where users interact with digital channels.

Walled garden to open internet to walled (well, solidly fenced) garden In the beginning there was Mosaic and the BBS. Not a lot of people were there. The internet began to achieve mainstream popularity when AOL (together with competitors such as Prodigy and CompuServe) inundated consumers with diskettes that, once installed on a PC, promised a graphical online browsing experience, provided you didn't stray from the parameters of your content provider/ISP. As the "real" internet developed (and broadband proliferated), users ventured beyond these walled gardens into a brave new world. We're beginning to witness an attempt by some of the major digital players to, if not confine users to a content-rich garden, then to at least make it more compelling for them to stay longer, and stray less often. Spearheading this trend is Facebook, working hard to become a one-stop destination for all the news, media, music, streaming video, communications, photos, games, apps and etc. you'd ever need. Why go anywhere else? This trend may not go a complete 180, but it will be interesting to see how Facebook, and perhaps Google, influence (or hog) traffic as each strives to become a one-stop destination for almost all your internet needs.




Distraction from mainstream media to probable primary media  access point. Remember when the web was going to obliterate newspapers, magazines, books, music and pretty much every other form of traditional media? It didn't (and it won't). The 180 degree shift we're in the process of witnessing is the migration of all forms of media consumption to digital channels. Ebooks now outsell hardcover and paperback editions - combined (while ereaders are plummeting in price). Moreover, books are subsidized by advertising on some versions of the Kindle. As consumers cut the cord, TV viewing is migrating to digital, too. New platforms such as GetGlue and Miso make watching TV social, wrapping it up with promotions from retailers and media properties alike. The New York Times has more Twitter followers than print subscribers. Spotify delivers almost all the music in the world - free - if you share what you're listening to with your Facebook friends. DIgital isn't eradicating traditional media. Instead, it's turned distribution, consumption and monetization models upside-down.

In which area will we witness the next digital pole shift? Hypothesize in the comments, please.

All images licensed under Creative Commons

Walled Garden photo -  Newsstand: Joe Mabel  


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Facebook: Socialize Media to Target Ads

In the Q&A following Mark Zuckerberg's F8 keynote today, he was asked how brand advertising will change. His reply? Ads are becoming more social.

Sure, Facebook will still feature display ads on its pages. Stay tuned for açai berry diets and special deals on tooth-whitening for alums of [fill-in-your-alma-mater].

But the apps featured today at F8 are media apps, offering Facebook users (billions of them) new ways to consume content: music, movies, news and books, without leaving the confines of Facebook.  Spotfiy, Hulu, Netflix, Yahoo and the Washington Post are some of the first to offer content within apps within Facebook.

Some initial thoughts.

Discovery & Curation: More media will be consumed on and within Facebook (inevitable, given the size of its user base). At present, Facebook is the fourth-largest referrer to content sites, according to a recent Outbrain study. As more content purveyors offer more app-based content within Facebook itself, that balance could well shift. Publishers will have to consider enclosing their content within Facebook apps to promote discovery and sharing, or risk losing traffic and eyeballs.

New Value Exchange: The traditional media value exchange has always been that users spend a portion of the time they spend consuming content being exposed to advertising. Currently, the WaPo Facebook app displays no ads (this could well change). Instead, if a user clicks an article, they spread it. Their friends are notified that they're reading such-and-such, encouraging more discovery and click through.

Users will be targeted by advertisers based on what they listened to, watched or read. Sure, a concert promoter can try to sell you tickets to Lady Gaga, if that's what you're into. But it goes deeper than that. In a conversation a couple of years ago with Spotify founder Daniel Ek, he confirmed the assumption that it probably (for example) makes more sense to market black leather jackets to heavy metal fans than try to sell them yogurt drinks. You get the idea.

Changing Media Consumption Patterns: With Facebook's ginormous user base, it's going to be interesting to see how content consumption patterns shift. Apps are becoming sophisticated; they "learn" what individual users like and display content accordingly. Friends and connections become one anothers' content curators. Will users become overwhelmed by the flow, or embrace purportedly more targeted content? Will this accelerate or put the brakes on a growing degree of social media fatigue?

Only time will tell.

Content/App Marketing: These days, brands are as much publishers as publishers are. Expect them (particularly lifestyle brands) to jump into the content creation business with both feet. Not that they haven't already, but apps will now become an urgently compelling channel for branded and utility content.

Facebook is saying they have no plans for an app store at present. They're trusting users to recommend apps to one another. As advertisers get into the game, they'll likely push to change this rather than rely exclusively on word-of-mouth. Expect display campaigns to feature get-the-app calls to action, too.

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Will the Media Buy Go Bye-Bye?

Social networks. Consumer-generated media. Twitter. Foursquare. YouTube. Facebook. Blogs. Websites, even.

With digital media there for the taking (or earning), what’s the sense in buying it?

Digital advertising and media are certainly not going to go away. No media channel has ever been truly supplanted (movies didn’t kill live theatre, just as VCRs didn’t stop people from munching popcorn in cinemas, despite dire predictions to the contrary). But online advertising is certainly experiencing forced evolution, largely thanks to disruptive social technologies.  

My vs. Buy

Whereas a handful of years ago the digital display people complained bitterly of silos – of being cut off from the main event of the traditional campaign – there may now be a disconnect on the other side of the house as display advertising, still pretty firmly anchored in the world of direct response, becomes disconnected from social campaigns. How should marketers integrate display advertising with social media? Does one drive the other, or do we have Dr. Dolittle’s hybrid pushmi-pullyu on our hands, the fabulous animal who could do two things at once (or struggle mightily to do nothing at all)?

It’s clear that creative and media buying strategies must be adjusted to accommodate a display/social world, particularly as online brand advertising (as opposed to direct response) continues to rise. Emarketer, for one, predicts that by 2015, display ad spend will finally supplant search spend.

The agency role in the new My vs. Buy ecosystem will, of course, be re-evaluated, as will measurement. Impressions, clicks, virtually all measurement standards are up for assessment and new forms of standardization, as a consortium of the major advertising trade associations announced yesterday

As the landscape rapidly evolves, we’re still in a period of more questions than answers, but asking the right questions is a critical first step in coming to terms with tough decisions about allocations between marketing and advertising, of build vs. buy.

If you’re interested in these questions - and in the San Mateo area next Thursday, Sept. 29 - consider joining my colleagues and I for a discussion at the Altimeter Group’s Hangar. Request an invitation here.

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Evolution: Joining The Altimeter Group

New beginnings. Today, I officially join The Altimeter Group as an analyst. I'll cover digital advertising and media.

New...and not so new, given for the past 10+ years, I've microscopically covered digital marketing and media as a journalist, columnist, editor and author. More recently, I've been consulting on digital initiatives and strategy with clients ranging from start-ups and non-profits to Fortune 100s . All this work has had a single focus: to help digital marketers do their jobs better.

I couldn't be more excited about taking on this challenge from a new perspective, that of an analyst. I'm jazzed about working with clients both old and new, and particularly learning from and collaborating with my new colleagues, a seriously impressive Who's Who list of some of the most respected minds in the industry.

Altimeter's advisory approach to disruptive technology is research-based, which is why I'm launching this blog: to discuss, muse, think aloud, and hopefully to get input, feedback and perspective for the Open Research reports I'll be working on very soon.  

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Publishers: Take Note of "Social Subscribe"

Digital publishing is no longer about newsletter subscriptions. Social media channels are capable of driving more traffic to media sites than search and direct navigation combined (sometimes).

Two years ago, when I was with Econsultancy, we learned 10 percent of traffic was coming from Twitter alone. Ten percent may not sounds like an enormous number, but it's not peanuts, either. Moreover, it was traffic that hadn't existed a scant two years earlier, before Twitter launched. With Facebook on the scene and Google+ billing itself as a "content discovery" tool, social media simply cannot be ignored by any publisher hoping to attract eyeballs.

It's not as if publishers aren't aware of this. Many, if not most, already have some sort of prerequisite presence on Facebook and Twitter (at a bare minimum). Today, AllThingsD raised the bar for all publishers by launching a social media subscribe page.

It's about segmentation. User preference. Social media. The page makes it easy for subscribers to follow the topics they wish to follow in their channel of choice. The page features 12 topics to follow on Twitter (news, mobile, media, etc.); coverage of five specific tech companies (OK, here's a hint, they start with "G," "M," "A" "F" and "T"); and 10 different writer feeds (are you listening, PR professionals?).

Scroll down the page and take your choice of 20 (20!) RSS feeds, an iPhone app, e-readers and widgets. There's even a newsletter option, which in the context of the rest of the page starts to look terribly retro.

While this plethora of new follow, like and subscribe options give AllThingsD more to measure, at the end of the day these social metrics won't be more complex or difficult to analyze than email metrics in terms of number of subscribers/followers, clickthroughs and yes, even conversions.

Publishers need to take a look at AllThingsD's social subscription page now and seriously consider using it as a template for their subscription options. Email newsletters are far from dead, but there are many other channels in which users find, discover, consume and share content.

Be there for them.  

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.


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