Nov 132006
 

BBC 360 02

ARCHIVE: Just spotted my old collegues Matt Locke and Frank Boyd launching another series of 360 lab initiatives at the BBC. Not much has changed since the labs of 2000 and earlier, when EXACTLY to the day, six years ago I was presenting slides including those on this post to wannabee cross-media BBC producers. Incidentally I have put a selection of my old and new presentations up as a permanent, growing page here if you get the urge. Think it is important to look back on ones crystal ball gazing to constantly hone future predictive media skills.

But back to the cross-media multi-platform conundrum. There are many problems in creating great, audience engulfing services across a sea of devices and these are not going to go away. As I have found out with hundreds of projects I have been involved in, we are on constantly shifting sands as new converged devices, distribution channels and changing audience numbers mean producers have to constantly be on their toes – part storyteller, part trend analyst, part risk taker. I have avoided statistics in this post, but we can take it as read that audiences are constantly fragmenting and using more and more media forms across more and more platforms. Much of the below is based on real world services to real audiences but the lab environments I am involved in are also good (especially LAMP 😉 not necessarily for what comes out of them but for the way it transforms producers – and I get to see their on-going concerns and their future ‘approach’  to dispersed, interconnected and distributed service creation. What follows below is a draft’ish diatribe of cross-media thinking prompted also because I am speaking at a couple of conferences in the next couple of weeks (SPAA and ACMA) on the subject of 360 storytelling and viewer platform trends and with this and my leadership of LAMP I thought I would try to put keyboard-to-blog page and capture some thoughts, concepts and techniques. This helps me too, so note to me!

BBC 360 01

Cross-Media Production

There is quite a lot of mystique surrounding cross-media. As if some kind of black art that only those ‘in the know’ can produce, something very complex that only those with a techhy frame of mind can understand and a new audience who are too hard to reach. In fact cross-media has been with us for many decades, nay centuries and all that has really changed is a exponential growth in the valid distribution channels. It is a problem for traditional media aggregators and creators who are seeing audiences on their main platforms diminish and so, have been for the last decade (since audiences flooded onto the web), trying to create services that pointed back to their main ‘production’. We all know that using alternate platforms to ‘sway’ audiences back to your main ‘channel’ is a dead end street and the only real sustainable course of action is to develop innovative, truly multi-faceted services that work with the cross-media snackers we have become. The important signposts and calls to action across a viewers media device armoury still follow the same rules of engagement and storytelling that existed when an enigmatic poster promoted a theatrical event several centuries ago. Today though the cross media creator has to tackle critical temporal and locative elements and think way beyond passive consumption and become an ‘experience’ designer. This is not just about cross promotion, or extending the story or even complementary elements on each platform, no this is:

“bathing the audience in a sea of your original inextricably linked content across continents of devices, letting them find their own path to live their own story”.

A little personal history

My own foray into cross-media began probably when I was creating, producing and promoting music in the heady Manchester music scene of the 80s. There was nothing black art about doing radio interviews that navigated listeners to a concert or magazines and posters that promoted a record release or the main tryptych of radio to record release to gig (where the record store had a poster of the gig). Of course this was in the days pre-web and mobile phone but there was many and various initiatives that allowed you to preview music on landline telephone calls for example, or the old fashioned in-store promotion kiosks.

When I joined the BBC in 95 the web was in its early days but already TV was promoting the BBC Networking Club in various late night ads. The BBCNC was effectively an ISP and at that point offerred people free internet accounts. Over the years that followed 95-04 I was part of the revolution as the tables were turned and the internet moved from being a partially referred adjunct to in 04 many shows needing to be promoted ‘from’ the internet. We are still at this tipping point and as such anything conceived now will only be a transitional service -  beware those who say they know the future of the cross-media. The first real audience centric cross-media I produced at the BBC was in 97. A netumentary project in Central Asia which was live creation of world and local radio, a 40 day long story website with audio and photos, TV doc filming, daily viewer interaction as well as casual sound games. It was a lesson in making lots of rich-media in real time, which was good training for later on in interactive TV production. I also spent several years leading early thinking in BBC cross-media navigation (which I have referred to in posts before), which was at least seven years before its time!

Alongside the two powerhouses of web and TV there was a slow fragmentation of audiences across a growing range of life devices. I call them life devices because most of the cross-platform revolution came about as consumers took control over when, where and how they get their media. I was lucky to be part of the global thinking about on-demand as well (my tenure as TV-Anytime Business/Audience Model Chair) and the move to content on demand onto portable, IPTV and TV PVR devices when combined with mobile phones and thrown in with TV and web well – things got complicated for producers. I deliberately put these slides from over six years ago not just because it was part of the first wave of BBC 360, Strategic Compass thinking, but to reinforce the point that no cross-media strategy or theory beyond generalistic audience media consumption habits will persist.

Cross-Media Talent

Before we look at specific services, which I will add on tomorrow, one of the first key problems of real world cross-media production is and I quote the oft phrase “where is all the content going to come from? We have just enough resources to do the main show! It is easy for non-producer types to say you have a mobile bit here, a website there, some TV over there and a bunch of blogs here, and even if you can do it cheaply there is still the problem of the time and people resources. If the cross-media element is heavily linked to a TV property as it so often is, the real problem comes from ‘diverting’ the producers from making their oh so important show, which must go on. I have heard this so many times. The BBC was quick to devolve New Media creation back into production. A few other broadcasters have done likewise, just, but for the most part cross-media is a team of ‘webbies’ beavering away grateful for any morsel the TV or film team can throw over the wall to them. Even today in the US it is hard to get ‘talent’ to do specific non-TV elements. I recall twisting many linear producers arms to get talent to do some pieces to camera and how the process was oft slotted in linear production ‘breaks’. Then there was the period when talent sniggered when they said “www dot bbc dot” etc: Now of course the talent take it all very seriously – most of their audience after all are ‘engaging with’ them on that ‘dot’or interactive TV thing.

So having strong branded talent on your side is important. You need them to stimulate the audience to move between platforms with great call to actions – get them to say why it is worth their time to ‘tune in’ over there, what’s in it for them, the reward, the importance, why they will be missing out, they are addicted so heres another hit and because they trust you and you say so. More on why and the storytelling element, later. For now back to content production.

Cross-Media Content

What’s there for them when they do make the move and make another date with your property. Well here are four quickly thrown together cross-media, 360 classifications (updated copied from my Wikipedia contribution)
Definition
Crossmedia (aka Cross-Media, Cross-Media Entertainment, Cross-Media Communication) is a media property, service, story or experience distributed across media platforms using a variety of media forms. It is about the journey across devices and through forms and is most seen in branded entertainment, advertising, games and quest based forms such as Alternate Reality Games where there are a range of dependencies between the media and fragments there-of. There are potentially four main categories or levels of cross-media:

Cross-media 1.0 – Pushed.
The same or minor variations of content placed on different platforms in different forms. E.g.: A minor re-edit of the audio from a TV programme for a podcast or a script adapted for a website and in its simplest form exactly the same content delivered on multiple platforms such as mobile, TV and broadband web. The user in this case could create their own cross-media links such as watching half of the episode on mobile and the rest on broadband. This level does not have strong cross-media triggers but may promote the same content on another platform.

A good simple example of this is the world first Forget The Rules which was a weekly short form drama delivered simultaneously on TV, Broadband Wed and 3G mobile.

Cross-media 2.0 – Extras.
This is content produced alongside a main production and delivered on different platforms from the main production. This ‘extra’ cross-media content is naturally different from the main property and not necessarily dependent on it – temporarily or editorially. For example it could be a mobile video-captured behind the scenes of a feature film, destined and delivered in segments on the mobile phone. It could be a flash game strongly based on a radio drama or a book back story delivered through posters in train stations. The most obvious incarnation is the ubiquitous ‘making of’ feature that may be delivered only via video web portals.

A good recent example is the various transformations of a property called Thursday’s Fictions. This started as a book, turned into a surreal dance film and more recently a Second Life presence created for it. Each version played to the strengths of each platform.

Cross-media 3.0 – Bridges.
The truest form of cross-media where the story or service structure is specifically authored to drive the audience across media devices to continue the journey. The content placed on the other platform is critical to staying in touch with the experience and the narrative bridges tease you towards investigating or moving to another media form/platform. Obvious examples include a TV show that ends suddenly and gives you a URL to explore more. It may be a SMS that teases and points you towards a live concert in a city square which then leads you to a TV show, then to a podcast then to subscription emails. The trigger, or bridge, is the critical component of this in motivating the cross-media action.

A very strong example of this is the 30 second Mitsubishi Superbowl 2004 TV ad which showed objects being thrown out of a truck in front of two trailing race cars. It paused on a cliff-hanging moment (as two cars were thrown out) and invited the audience to go to seewhathappens.com. Millions did.

Cross-media 4.0 – Experiences.
An aggregation of the first three levels this is also where the content is distributed across many platforms in a non-linear way and is producer ‘hands-off’- in that they have created an environment, much like a game, that the participant/s ‘lives’ inside of, following their own path and personalizing the experience. A cross-media 4.0 property is co-creative collaborative play with the audience across many devices, which evolves and grows a life of its own. Although likely to be heavily authored the cross-media triggers and invitations are part of the experience in terms of the audience creating their own bridges. The best examples of this are Alternate Reality Games and it incorporates elements of the first three levels but is likely to be dynamic in that producers will have to be constantly bridge building in response to where audiences are travelling.

Part of the mix is also what I called Mixed Reality, merged media entertainment and multi-modality – which doesn’t need multiple devices, but utilises multiple media forms in the same place, from many distributed devices back on to ‘one’ device to give a ‘distributed’ entertainment experience in one place. At one end of the spectrum therefore it is a sort of ‘fractured’ CD ROM (yes those mid 90s things that had lots of stuff that you navigated around), a pot pourri of content thrown onto many devices BUT without coarse temporal signposts that break flow and ‘cheapen’ a users journey. At the other end it is something that doesn’t really exist beyond a seed of an idea created by the producer. Perhaps a viral video, or an extremely enigmatic blog. I am avoiding talking about ARG’s here as to me they are a subsection of CM 4.0. A cross-media 4.0 property evolves and grows a life of its own. Where a producer for example writes the first scene, some context and like the process of starting a fire, uses paper, matches, tinder wood, breath, small twigs, large logs and coal – a range of ‘elements’ to build the flame. Requires constant nurturing and that in truth is a content producers role in the future, growing an audience around their property, fanning the flames when required. Not very specific but I will talk more in the techniques section.
BBC 360 03

The Cross-Media Audience
Right a major problem for producers with cross-media at the moment is with CM3/4 above. If any platform has a dependency, in other words you must view or collaborate with that device/narrative element to continue the journey there is the potential to lose parts of your audience. One sees this all the time. Even though video on mobile or video iPod could be a compelling element, when you say only 5% of the audience may get it, it becomes a nice to have, then eventually a ‘lets forget it’. A shame but that is life. You can throw duplicates onto those devices, but if you cannot make it a necessity then it falls outside of true 360 innovation. This is the really big thorn in 360 production’s side at the moment. Anything outside TV and websites is a potential problem. Physical elements like playing cards or almost ubiquitous SMS can be thrown in but even then if they are critical bridges you may lose audiences who cannot cross it. So most cross media tends to fall into v 1 or 2, because that is the safest, it has elements of brand reinforcement and allows a traditional publish and get on with the next thing, mentality. Even so younger audiences are so 360 savvy that they don’t need to be told when and where to go, they will do it anyway. So CM3.0 is the only way to go for most producers, you have to move your property onto other platforms or you will lose them for completely the opposite reasons ‘ they see you as one dimensional! As for CM4.0 this requires you to be so in-tune and as simultaneous a user as the audience that you effectively become what is referred to as an ‘alpha user’ – a leader of a niche cross-media audience. To some extent you need to be able to ‘live’ the story with your audience and play with it on their terms. If you are not a heavy cross-media user yourself you may not understand their world and no amount of trend analysis will get you there.

Cross-Media Techniques

Dont want to get bogged down in detail or specificity here but just look at a simple range of techniques, that should work sympathetically to the four levels above, of how historically and in the future audiences will be moved around platforms. (Note: some of this is circa 2000 and I have kept the ‘fishing’ metaphor for now even though it suggests a non-collaborative relationship, so not totally ideal but…)

1 ‘Fishing for your audience’. This is more a pre main event experience (not that one should consider anything in a true CM world as a main event really), but this is about fishing for audiences across platforms. A poster on the underground, an enigmatic SMS, a viral video on the web, something odd in a TV trailer. They may or may not make direct references to go somewhere or do something else. This is about bait. Garnering interest in your initial creation by having tasty or interesting morsels dangling around the platform environment. Traditional ads and trailers are well too formulaic now for savvy and heavy CM users, they want to be wooed more.

2 ‘Getting them to bite’. This is covered to some extent in a post I did a while ago about immersion and addiction but this is where you have to be clear about what they are going to get. The benefits. This is selling your service. If the service allows them to win money this should be clear, if is about a narrative experience like no other then the ‘teaser’ should have that inherent embedded into it. Doesn’t have to be the gravel voiced film trailer man, but paint a picture of something big (see my scaled points in the above post). If this has been delivered in a viral way consider a phased release of other parts of the puzzle virals with more clarity, as the first viral picks reaches a critical mass and the fish start to swarm. As all good fishermen know patience, timing and knowing the difference between ground bait and hook bait is critical. The lesson here is to surround the potential audience with small fragments of morsels, immerse them in a cross-platform ‘trail mix’.

3 ‘Reeling them in’. They bit and are holding on. So does your property live up to expectations. How do you keep them there? There is so much more bait floating around in this sea of media. Do you open the curtains and reveal all? This is a relationship and like any first, second or third date to reveal everything, warts and all may not be the best tactic. You need to constantly court your audience and give a sense that your service is worth spending more time in. This is where meticulous planning of phased releases of story fragments across the media channels comes into its own. To some extent this is no different from a series editor/writer who has to arc each weeks episode narrative to keep them coming back for more. In a 360 world though it is layered up three or four times and with the disadvantage that audiences are probably viewing your service in a not so ideal order. You need to offer more and more attractive bait and again in my designing experience post in 2 above, you will need to be fleet of foot.

4 ‘Go there for more’. As old as the hills the simple presenter or burnt in signpost url to get more stuff – after, post a main event. Usually seen as an ad or end credit sequence where the voice over tells you why it is worth your while to carry on somewhere else with them. Breaks the fourth wall but is a clear directive. “and over on ABC2”, “read more on the website”, “vote and win prizes by calling this number” and so on. It could be in-story “want to find out what happened to so and so? Go here”.

5 “Parallel Dimension”. There is something on another platform running synchronous to the one you are watching – so treated slightly differently to number 3. The simplest example is when I used to watch cricket. Watch TV while listening to Radio 3 in the UK, because I preferred a more ‘in-depth’ commentary. Now of course there are many other parallel channels. Web, mobile and TV all running along with each other. I am more and more involved with parallels between real and virtual worlds. The techniques to draw audiences into these experiences are often inherent in the service such that if you are on one you can actually see the other one taking place. A website in shot on the TV show, a video running inside a virtual space or a TV studio show live on your mobile. If the parallel element is part of your design and services USP then make sure you reference it in both channels. There are some automated systems that will do this for you I talked about in this cross-media trigger post.

6 ‘Storyworld, fishfarm. On their own’. Many refers to CM 4.0 above, but this is where the narrative or just the expectation from the audience that there will be other media elsewhere, drives their journey through the story. The technique here is the hardest to identify but it follows the same technique of designing a physical hunt. You hide things, give not so easy clues and then set the ground rules. Even if you are telling the story of how they used to build Pyramids for example, make the cross-media experience as far as possible deliver something that makes them ‘feel’ like they are a pyramid builder (examples to follow). They will expect something on all platforms and this is where the term 360 or cross-media will eventually become redundant. All properties will have something on all platforms, the same way DVDs now all have extras – or if they don’t they at least pretend to. This all comes back to expectation and trust. If they have enjoyed cross-media experiences from you before they will come back. It is about trust, being consistent and giving them a media world to play in.

I have a few more areas I would like to cover, for my own benefit at least 😉 Will have a go tomorrow and probably tidy up the above! To come

Cross-media communities, Meaningful 360 examples, Commercial vs public service examples, When cross-media becomes a redundant term.

Posted by Gary Hayes © 2006

Oct 152006
 

Barrier Social NetworkGot a constipated blog draft situation – lots of half finished posts in the saved area. So to catch up I take a mouthful of wordpress ‘fibre’ and put these out slightly half baked, drafts to mentally move on. Oh the compromised nature of blogging! Its a shame because this particular one is the big issue at the moment. Still part of my assimilation process too. There will be a few more catch up posts in next couple of days…

“Just had a week break walking in the rainforests of Far North Queensland and diving in the Great Barrier Reef and as one does in the relative solitude I kept thinking about the reasons people join and use social networks? Around 600 million or a 10th of the planet now take part in online social networks. With the mighty Google and YouTube now controlling 60% of all shared video on the planet and the potential that MySpace may be made interoperable with both of them we are starting to see a major consolidation in the way we share and communicate. I have also talked before about web 3.0 and the impact of immersive areas on social networks, also about advertising in social nets (part two will have more) but for now I am keen to see how ‘business’ and to some extent professionals can play a part in this. The biggest question on everyones mind. I might make this a two part post as I am still formulating but here is part one (sitting in draft for weeks!).

Part One

Apart from the obvious reason that humans are evolved social animals and simply need to communicate with each other to survive mentally (less so physically today of course), doing this via the intraweb, though abstracted interfaces, and clumsy tools is a far less efficient medium than face-to-face. Also the new social networks are easily the equivalents of what used to traditionally be mass media – the water cooler is now transformed into a database-driven, globally connected, busy-bee-hive of media nibbling participants. But of course there are far more elements at play here beyond just, ‘contact’, so I thought I would throw a ‘media laymans’ group of enablers to the great social network explosion.

This is not academic in nature, that would be in PDF format and have a PhD disclaimer attached of course, not this is just observation and open to flames and debate. Even this post itself is part of one of the areas I will be discussing, the constant ‘injest and regurgitation’ aspect which will be referred to. The reason I wanted to understand what the ‘motivational’ draw of social networks is, is to work out at what points advertising, subscription or pay-per-service actually make most sense. There are potentially many models that can come into play that are being overlooked by the current plethora of networking services. Part of this came on a personal note when I was struck by a synergistic push, an email from Friends Reunited towards their Genes Reunited a couple of days ago. For various reasons I checked it out. Just at the point I had found a potential long lost relative it asked me to subscribe for the year at $20 Aus. This allowed me to contact (like LinkedIn’s chain of contact) to owners of family trees that may contain members. I dug a little deeper and at the point I wanted to check the online birth records back to the 1600’s another fee $7.95 required. The message here is work out when user need is the greatest, when the experience is about to jump a level and place a micro-(or major) fee on it.
Lets look at a real world metaphor. The social network of the ‘bar or club’. People are driven to a place where it is easy to express and talk, express their sexuality, have conversations, show off, dance, escape from normal life, feel safe (or feel in ‘safe’ danger – space cadet mode), feel connected to a larger group and so on. To achieve each of the non exhaustive list above what do they happily spend money on?

a) They pay entrance fees for a kind of exclusivity,

b) buy lots of drinks to escape and make conversation easier, spend money on clothes to attract new partners before they arrive,

c) buy music to get clued up and appear to be up to date –

I will stop this ‘day one’ social anthropological study just to point out that for social network designers, we need to think about the ‘experience’ that users want and charge them for those things they value most highly if any kind of money is going to be made. So entrance fees for exclusivity, no brainer, make it easy to escape/safe haven (which is why virtual worlds are growing) and around that the ‘tipped’ barman model, pushing conversation along, cross-recommending people (the escort role) finally making sure that there are lots of cross-media links, to extend the world, aid learning and sharing and not make it feel claustraphobic.

Before we go further though what is a social network via the intraweb? Wikipedia has a definitive list here so will not relink from here. But what are social networks used for.

  1. Keeping up with partners/friends/contacts. Social and business
  2. Generating new partners/friends/contacts. Social and business
  3. Sharing your media with the world. Social and professional
  4. Being part of like-minded, niche-interest, speciality groups
  5. Targeted ‘contact’ services for family and very close friends
  6. Various clusters of blogs that organically form into social networks
  7. Collaboratively creating and potentially monetising that content
  8. Combinations of all of the above

Why do we join these social networks and what may be the points we can monetise? Assume with all of these that the key business model of ‘targeted’ and ‘personalized’ advertising can run throughout. Relevant ISN (In Social Network) content and OSN (off social network) product will be gently pushed, after opt-in, to participants. There may be a general subscription to use the service and most things may be included with that, what follows though looks more at the free-to-join, pay-per-socialise type model.

Social Currency

Bush Fire near CairnsSlightly more abstract in nature but to make it easier to grasp. This post is part of social currency. The fact that I have decided to share some of my meandering, random thoughts, the fact that you are reading it still, may lead you to consider adding me to a blogroll (go on!) make your own comment, tell others, be inspired to rip off parts of it and so on. It all comes down to “this person has contributed content/ideas that are of value to me”. This model becomes a social currency of sorts – you do this long and hard enough and you gain a position of trust and like heritage media, you get enough people reading, listening or watching your stuff – well you know the rest. But there is a problem. Many heritage media folk I talk too still think that model exists – people will pay for content in the same way they paid for books, music and film. Up to a point. But we are now in a world where the value of your content is based on the ‘collectively agreed’ value of your social wealth. Slightly utopian I know, but like the world of art, people will pay $2million for a painting that cost $10 to make, if everyone agrees it is worth that. Same with gold, same with virtual gold or land and so on. So for media creators, you need to create a social status around your content in the blogosphere and on these social networks to then be able to start to charge for and heres the kicker – digital, limited editions. It will happen. Part of the progression of these business models is a system that hackers will not break (even if they can) because it is ‘socially’ unacceptable and there will be less anonymity, greifers and hackers will be visible and ostracised. Piracy also will not be good for much longer.

Peer pressure

We want to be part of a community of small group. Natural human desire. We dont get that very easily anymore in modern society. Where most of the teenagers in the US create blog communities around their existing 20 plus friends for example, these social networks are almost obligatory for certain key demographics. “What, you dont have a MySpace account!”.

A Gary Business Model Tip – have tiered levels of subscription. The free means you will get pushed advertising (naturally!), may get hit by griefers (those who just like to irritate others), and you will not get by default an ability to create a private group or perform a host of customisations. This comes with a subscription. Tie that into a ‘recommend a friend’ into your private group credit so you are growing clusters of private groups – this of course does not mean these participants cannot join the wider network. There may even be a higher tier for organisations who want to use the tools of the network but just for the organisation – this is a model I haven’t seen used that often. A MySpace for the GPS Postal Workers in the US? A Friendster for the 25 000 that work at the BBC? Almost enterprise software with some customisation. Another I am looking at, a Second Life for worldwide media schools. Special rates and custom firewall type gates to the wider networks.

Because its free and easy

The tools for blogging are essentially the same as the tools within most social networks. As blogs go above 100 million and social networks combined go above 600 million the number of participants is almost proportional to the ease of use of the ‘tool’. Creating a website in the early 90s required a level of technical prowess. Creating a dynamic, database driven website in the early 00’s likewise. Now any user can build a rich media dynamic web presence, espress their view and package their world for all to see as simply as using a word processor (almost).

Gary’s Biz Mod tip – As the open source tools become more free and easy to use there is a market for charging for the integration and bells and whistle elements (plug-ins) that is not being leveraged. A key differentiator to the ‘publisher’ (viewer creator or the old UGC) is showing off. In virtual worlds a big part of the economy is ‘buying stuff’ – mostly to show off to peers/dates/gameplay etc: Those who can develop even cooler ways to present, even around open source tools, have a big, very big market. We have not seen a really good tool for example that is a one stop shop for podcasting, vodcasts, blogs, preparing graphics, editing sound and publishing it all and so on. MySpace is pretty crude, web 1999, I think there are social nets around the corner ready to take the baton.

To be heard

Never before in the history of mankind has one individual been able to at no cost, or relative risk, been able to express his or her opinion. This is intoxicating enough already for many enlightened people, but when the rest of the world catches on to this, watch out. You aint seen nothing yet. Of course as we have seen with YouTube the sharing of what many people in the developed world can produce now with little effort (video) has sky rocketed in the past months. Much of this is driven by the need to share something personal or funny or dramatic with the world for altruistic reasons but much comes down to vanity publishing and the next topic.

Gary’s Biz Mod tip – create competitions for fee to participate and upload or share your content around themes and develop internal economies linked to social credit. Facilitation of themed content participation that has entry fees, sponsorship and across the network voting encourages loyalty. Make the prizes big enough. Put the winners on the still existing parts of mass media. At the moment most ‘calls’ are share based formats particularly with broadcasters and most of the other several hundred call for submission sites. I think something like TriggerStreet could easily generate within it a viable economy – social credits are transferrable for more real world

To find stuff

Being part of a good social network often means you have a digital fingerprint, a profile. The advantages of this as a user is you are able to be matched with and be presented with content (which includes people – as personalizemedia readers will know in the digital world we are all represented by clumps of metadata, social networks are no different). So through a series of collaborative filters, dumb and intelligent recommendation agents and user tracking these networks actually connect us better to other content and people than independent systems.

Gary’s Biz Mod tip – like my Genes Reunited hint earlier, there is the potential to monetize (at micro level) connectivity. The dating sites have worked this out already, tempt you with a potential partner and a fee required to make the actual contact. In a social network there are many ways to tempt users with the promise of lots of really cool content they will like (and content includes other people). Like some of the immersive virtual worlds, the sort of 10c for ten albums you dont own but would die for, a dollar for the people most like you and so on – you get the idea…many have been implemented already, but this ‘find-for-fee’ model is really under used at the moment and open for new players/alogorithms, intelligent agents and artificial intelligence to come into play.

‘Random’ minutes of fame

I will not resort to using the obligatory Andy Warhol phrase or variants of. Simply that being able to become ‘famous’ is a big reason people use social networks. The notoriety of being the most downloaded video, the best reviewer or the most hit blog post is again a compelling reason to participate.

Gary’s Biz Mod tip – Monetize the ability for people to be included in these top tens. A small fee gets you considered for the hall of fame. Perhaps have an internal currency so you can organise ‘electoral’ style lobbying to get votes. Add a real world element (physical prize sponsored by an advertiser who wants to get noticed) to make the carrot even bigger. Also give people content themes to upload as in the ‘to be heard section above’.

Escapism and Addiction

Modern society is full of trials and tribulations (I know sounds like a voice over for an old movie) but the web is a place that millions are withdrawing into. Never before has the disenfranchised been able to find solace with like-minded others, or teenage angst been shared. Some social networks like second life (I oft post about) are alternate worlds in themselves and deliver potentially total immersion and alternate identity. But the more general 2D social networks allow one to escape the bounds of geography, time and true identity. That again is compelling enough for many.

As mentioned above. Pay-for-escapism. Events for your peer group. A special event only you and your friends can chat with a celeb for fee. Work on the group vs group, tribe vs tribe mentality to encourage some competition on doing the coolest, escapist things, that you can do online. OK sounds like drug pushing – I know. But what has the media been for the past 1000 years. The ‘I have gotta have it’ because everyone else has is working on us at a primal level – don’t want to be ostracised because I am not fitting in. Charging for ‘must have it’ is what advertising is – an ad blitz for the latest movie, is nothing more than filling your neural maps with the property and brand, via the back door. Being hooked on drugs works on the same associative, emotionally linked neural net principles.

A sticky post I did called Media Addiction the next wave which implies this most obvious business model, make it hard for them to give up and the escapist element we are seeing with the social nets inside say World of Warcraft (the guild must-take-part or I lose social standing) for example are verging on the ‘addictive drug’ parallel. The key is to know on a pay-per-hit model the point at which it is impossible to refuse. As I said in the other post – there is an element of getting them hooked (immersed, engaged etc) then introducing a fee. OK the immersion and level of interaction with others is compelling but not addictive, what is addictive is ‘it is harder to stop than to start somewhere else’. So much time and effort is already invested in building up profiles, making contact lists. I wonder if the one trick pony Google with its ad search model would consider slipping in subs for premium parts of video sharing once it has swallowed up the next 10% of video? MSN and Yahoo excluded…;-)

Time out on this one. Part Two soon – mostly focusing on the holy grail business model, targeted and personalized opt in advertising!

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006