Conferences and custom mobile apps: Yup, that makes sense

Attendees at the LeWeb conference held earlier this month had an extra organizational tool at their disposal: a custom iPhone app. I cannot believe how much sense this makes. As app frameworks become more common, and development costs come down,…

Attendees at the LeWeb conference held earlier this month had an extra organizational tool at their disposal: a custom iPhone app.

I cannot believe how much sense this makes. As app frameworks become more common, and development costs come down, I can see a point in the next two years when conference apps move from novelty to must-have. Sort of like Wi-Fi (but hopefully more reliable).

And let’s not forget the sponsorship opportunities here, either. A smart sponsor could use the app to send a hyper-targeted message to a hyper-targeted audience. Toss in some sort of booth contest, and you’ve got the marketing equivalent of the Death Star’s tractor beam.

An exclusive search engine deal for newspapers can’t be far off

Reports suggest Microsoft is courting European publishers for some sort of Bing-based news thing. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch continues to shake his fist at Google. Cory Doctorow connects the potential dots at Boing Boing: So here’s what I think it going…

Reports suggest Microsoft is courting European publishers for some sort of Bing-based news thing. Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch continues to shake his fist at Google. Cory Doctorow connects the potential dots at Boing Boing:

So here’s what I think it going on. Murdoch has no intention of shutting down search-engine traffic to his sites, but he’s still having lurid fantasies inspired by the momentary insanity that caused Google to pay him for the exclusive right to index MySpace (thus momentarily rendering MySpace a visionary business-move instead of a ten-minutes-behind-the-curve cash-dump).

So what he’s hoping is that a second-tier search engine like Bing or Ask (or, better yet, some search tool you’ve never heard of that just got $50MM in venture capital) will give him half a year’s operating budget in exchange for a competitive advantage over Google.

Toss in the growing idea that Twitter, Facebook and other recommendation-based results are now more important than Google traffic and we’ve got a very interesting set of signals.

Well, damn. DVRs aren’t so bad for advertising after all

Remember how DVRs were going to kill TV advertising real bad? Yeah … about that: Against almost every expectation, nearly half of all people watching delayed shows are still slouching on their couches watching messages about movies, cars and beer….

Remember how DVRs were going to kill TV advertising real bad? Yeah … about that:

Against almost every expectation, nearly half of all people watching delayed shows are still slouching on their couches watching messages about movies, cars and beer. According to Nielsen, 46 percent of viewers 18 to 49 years old for all four networks taken together are watching the commercials during playback, up slightly from last year. Why would people pass on the opportunity to skip through to the next chunk of program content?

I love the explanation for this seemingly impossible turn of events:

The most basic reason, according to Brad Adgate, the senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, a media buying firm, is that the behavior that has underpinned television since its invention still persists to a larger degree than expected.
“It’s still a passive activity,” he said. [Emphasis added.]

Sure is! Never underestimate the power of passivity.

The New York Times deserves kudos for writing this story because, far too often, the Chicken Little projections of execs and analysts are left unchecked. Consumer behavior and disruptive technologies are moving targets, so remember that the next time the latest iPhone killer or Kindle killer or ad killer or media killer is touted. Reality is contextual and complicated.

Early signs that content creators and platform providers aren’t on the same team

It often seems that major content companies and platform firms walk in lockstep when it comes to digital distribution, but two articles published today reveal significant philosophical differences. Here’s an excerpt from a Bloomberg story on Viacom’s uneasy relationship with…

It often seems that major content companies and platform firms walk in lockstep when it comes to digital distribution, but two articles published today reveal significant philosophical differences.

Here’s an excerpt from a Bloomberg story on Viacom’s uneasy relationship with online viewing:

Viacom has to ensure that placing television shows and films online adds to its profit, through sources such as advertising sales, subscription fees and revenue from enabling users to buy content by downloading it, [Philippe] Dauman said. The viability of such a model relies on strong intellectual property safeguards, he said. [Link added.]

And here’s a passage from an AP story looking at a similar online offering from Comcast:

Comcast executives said the company plans to generate revenue by adding more and different types of ads on the sites. But the company’s goal is not necessarily to profit from it but to keep subscribers happy enough so they don’t cut the cord or defect to a competitor. [Emphasis added.]

The content creator is worried about direct revenue from the content, while the platform provider is more concerned about keeping its subscribers happy. It’ll be interesting to monitor Comcast’s mindset if/when that NBC deal goes through.

Naturally Scarce Products Call “Shotgun.” Advertising, You’re in Back

In an interview with CNBC, Gary Hoenig, general manager for ESPN The Magazine, says the economic downturn put advertising in the hot seat: … the overdependence on advertising is a real crutch for media and this is an opportunity for…

In an interview with CNBC, Gary Hoenig, general manager for ESPN The Magazine, says the economic downturn put advertising in the hot seat:

… the overdependence on advertising is a real crutch for media and this is an opportunity for us to actually get to the consumer and say, “Hey, what are you willing to pay for”?

The advertising conundrum is something I’ve run up against throughout my career. In an odd way, my focus on Web content forced me to confront the detriments of advertising earlier than my print and broadcast comrades because Web ad rates have always been low. The rest of the industry is learning what Web folks already know: ad revenue kinda sucks.

When I started to conceptualize a sustainable model for online content businesses — a project I’ve been working on for quite a while — I pushed advertising to the back burner. It’s still present, and money can certainly be made in the online ad realm, but it’s a rickety foundation for a content business. That’s why I diversified the revenue streams across naturally scarce products (education, consulting, research, in-person events), sponsorships, and advertising. The aggregate is far more stable than advertising alone.

And speaking of that sustainable model for online content businesses project: each section includes a comments area, and I welcome all suggestions and criticisms. The model’s fundamental concepts aren’t original, and I’m certainly not positioning this as anything revolutionary. Rather, it’s a collection of ideas, theories and guidelines that I collected over the years and arranged into a structure. What it becomes and where it goes are up in the air, but I found the organization and writing process quite useful. The framework helps me parse the vast number of perspectives and innovations I run across.