Learning from Media Gurus

The following are what I’ve taken away from one week Media Management Case Study class in New York City. Those media gurus refreshed my minds. Thinking two levels higher? – It no longer sounds foreign to me.

“If you don’t have a high tolerance for risk & ambiguity, then don’t be an entrepreneur.”

– Lisa Gersh, President & Strategic Initiatives at NBC News

Lisa founded Oxygen, an early company combined cable and web video business. It was too early for web video, but we never know when it’s too early, when it’s the right time. It’s all about your courage, vision and luck – that’s entrepreneur. She also founded Education Nation – under NBC’s big name (That’s the advantage of brand!) Her vision about education – three changes are anticipated in future education:

  1. Tenure system turns to most Affective teacher
  2. Parent education
  3. Technology

“Big media companies can’t be top down. We have to flatten our structures.”

“Curate your content teams; 5 or 6 innovative people are a better team than all-inclusive groups of stake-holders.”

– David Carey, President, Hearst Magazine

“The definition of a viral product is, it’s more valuable if your friends own it.”

“We live in an attention starved economy with people who have continuous partial attention”

“Apple is not a computer company…it’s a fashion company.”

“America is based on NEW ideas…Consumer society is based on newness”

—  Bob Rosenschein, CEO Answers.com

“Hesitation on a difficult decision only makes it worse”

“Follow the business life cycle, if you proactive, act faster than curve moves, see forehead, you can be successful.”

– Kelly Day, COO of Discovery Digital Media and Commerce division

She talked about when they decided to close the Discovery retail commerce stores and move it to website. Discovery is moving ahead by lauching HD channels, and owns tons of distribution channels. Can it be successful?

“You can’t just be a magazine writer anymore. You have to write for multiple platforms.”

Mike Perlis, CEO of Forbes Media

“Content makes the brand, not vise versa”

“Work for a start-up and learn from your successes and failures quietly. Talk about tech.”

“Five year plans are history. You’re lucky if you’re company is there in five years.”

“Murdoch has done convergence well; WSJ, Barrons, MarketWatch all mixed in the newsroom & feeling like 1 company”

— Jon Friedman Media Columnist, Marketwatch.com

Joanne Lipman  –  Editor-in-Chief of Conde Nast PortfolioPortfolio.com

Most important issues faced by today’s media organizations —  “3 +1”

  1. DNA: Many media companies don’t have a clear identity. People don’t know who they are.
  2. Audience: who is your audience? For legacy media company, it’s particularly important.  Have a strategy on talking to your audience
  3. Structure: most structure is built on “old fashion”   People’s brain is multi-functional.
  4. +1: Accountability of commenter (social media)

Martin Nisenholtz, SVP, Digital, The New York Times

NYT lives based on circulation money, so that they can protect journalists. Only 10-15% of users (3 million) are loyal users, who help generate ads revenue. They wanna protect their circulation part, that’s why they built a digital pay-wall and made digital version available to print subscribers. Will this strategy work?  Also, NYT wants to build Facebook module on NYT site. They don’t care much about people who share links on FB. They wanna turn NYT site into a social platform. Will this work?

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How Company should use Social Media as Marketing Tool

During Thanksgiving 2010, shoppers in America just experienced a unique Black Friday, when the large number of specials and promotions were offered by retailers by using location-based apps and services. Users of social networks like Foursquare and Facebook Places got discounts just by checking in to their Black Friday shopping destinations. In addition, many retailers used Facebook and Twitter to promote their early-bird specials in advance of the big shopping day. Coremetrics Benchmark™ Report showed that this year’s Black Friday had a 15.9% online sales growth in comparison to Black Friday in 2009. Also appeared in the report is a world “Social Shopping”, which is defined as consumers increasingly savvy about their favorite brands’ social presence, and are turning to their networks on social sites for information about deals and inventory levels[1].

Nowadays, social media is playing a more and more important role on marketing and cooperation’s integrated communications. If Internet costs people less money and time to communicate with each other and allows people to cultivate many more relationships, social media costs cooperation less money and time to build up relationships with their target audience/partiner, and create social impact more instantly and effectively. Social media is no longer simply a platform for reconnecting with classmates, colleagues and friends; it has become an essential marketing tool for brand management, product promotion, and effective public relation.

This fact was supported by a series of meaningful data collected by some previous studies. As early as July 2010, Nielsen company released a report stating that nearly three fourth of global internet users have ever visited social media websites or blogs and spent averagely 6 hours per month on these sites. As early as August 2010 data from comScore showed that time spent on Facebook was greater than time spent on Google sites in the U.S. for the first time ever. In the meantime, Yahoo continues its downward slide[2].

According to the latest report from L2 Think Tank, 81% of upscale Gen Yers (average age: 27) use Facebook every day, nearly twice the number who watch TV or read newspaper content. Among 535 “high-achieving and high-earning” Gen Y adults who participated the study, 63% use social media to engage with brands and more than 50% say that Facebook, blogs and brand videos affect their opinions about products[3].

As to the situation global wide, Nielsen’s Asia Pacific Social Media Report showed that among the 7 biggest global online brands, 3 of them are social media websites – Facebook, Wikipedia, and Youtube. Close to three quarters of the world’s Internet population (74%) have now visited a social networking/blogging site, and Internet users are spending an average of almost six hours per month on social media sites. More than that, social media is having an increasing impact on consumers’ purchasing decisions. Online product reviews were listed right behind family and friends’ recommendations as the third most trusted source of information when making purchase decisions[4].

All of these trends illustrated that the flow of marketing dollars toward the social web is increasing exponentially. Social media is a key platform that is changing the landscape of audience engagement and customer loyalty and has become a critical element in any company’s PR and marketing efforts. Therefore, for those of people who work in public relation realm or are in charge of cooperation integrated communication, social media engagement must be in their radar.

From Ford, to Dell, to Starbucks, to Jet Blue, some companies with digital insights have already pioneered early uses of social media for business. However, 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report showed that marketers are mostly new to social media — a significant 65% of marketers surveyed have only been involved with social media marketing for a few months or less[5].  By reviewing and studying their successful cases, I concluded four important aspects that cooperation could follow as their communications and marketing strategy on social media.

1) Create Unique Profiles

For a company, having a LinkedIn profile is like having a resume, creating a Facebook Fan Page is like creating a PR portfolio, setting up Twitter account is like building up an instant massage release system. In virtual world, social media is powerful tool to brand yourself and establish ties with your target audience. Facebook pages, Twitter lists, LinkedIn groups and YouTube channel favorites are all terrific means to identify new leads, because these are all user-created, pre-populated lists that will assist a business in quickly identifying targeted individuals or brands.

Creating unique profiles on most popular social media websites and actively updating them will help expand your business. Lesson from a small business – Tom Bihn, a Seattle-based bag manufacturer, could be learnt. The following list reflected how they successfully managed their social profiles.

  • TomBihn.com forums — customers could share their experiences of their Tom Bihn bags, offer advice for selecting the right bag to new customers, and post reviews/pictures of their experiences.
  • TomBihn’s lively blog – a mainstream hub of the latest company information and new product launch.
  • TomBihn Flickr group – Informative photos show how much can fit inside a bag (and weight) and how items look once they’re in the bag, with some interesting customers’ comments.
  • Tom Bihn’s Facebook fan page – There are posts to the wall a few times a week by both fans and the company. Gray posts status updates such as photos and links to new products, reviews as well as shipping deals. The company also incorporates its blog posts and YouTube Channel videos into the fan page.
  • Demo Videos on Youtube – The videos are thorough demonstrations of a bag’s features — often by Tom Bihn himself. They cover topics including what he uses a particular bag for, items he fits in which compartments, accessories he uses with it and what the bag is made of[6].

TomBihn built up engagement among members on various social media platforms, but each social media platform has unique content that doesn’t overlap with the other platforms the company is on. At the mean time, they’re integrated and linked to each other.  Similar with how should traditional media react to new media, companies should avoid “shovelware” – simply shoving contents from one media platform to another. Instead, what TomBihn taught us was that taking use of unique features of different social media sites would help you showcase your business in a more comprehensive and integrated way.

2) Make Connections

For those companies who have owned various social media profiles, how to generate more traffic to each site could be the next touch objective to achieve. Companies need to identify who is their target audience and where do they interact online and what are the methods that make sense for getting in front of them. In my opinion, those people who the company brings in virtually are mostly from those they bring through real life. And connections are usually made correspondingly with other marketing stratgies and campaigns, such as word-of-mouth and regular PR campaigns.

First of all, you want to target people who are willingly connect and target you. Because this group is already interested, it is important to let them know the existing of your social media websites. You can put a button on your website for people to friend you, follow you, and link in with you. This is also where you should combine your social media marketing strategy with other marketing strategies. Grasshopper, an entrepreneurs’ phone system company, successfully utilized direct mail marketing to promote an online video before they launched their business. Prior to its launch, the company mailed 5,000 bags of grasshoppers covered with chocolate to influencers in their line of business. Website traffic increased by 4,911%, 144,843 video views with 162 comments within a month. The traffic brought to the videos in return helped promote their newly born business as well.

Secondly, you should know where your target market or partners go for meetings or business events and engage with them there to strengthen your footprint. People are willing to put conferences they attend on LinkedIn or other events on Facebook and Twitter. For example, many conferences and events use a hash tag to create crowd on certain topic. Being able to reference or collaborate with conference attendees in this manner is a good opportunity to meet with other professionals and make new connections.

Thirdly, you can engage key targets you identified across all social media platforms. Show them you are interested in them and that you are working to understand what they are seeking. For example, Wells-Fargo targets two audiences on their social media sites; one examines the company’s history and the other is for students interested in getting their finances in order. From their blog and Facebook fun pages, young people seeking personal financial management tips could get lots of suggestions. In this case, social media become an informational resource center; it’s not only for fans to simply follow a company, but also to get useful information from doing so.

3) Establish Relationship

Social media could be used as an information release tool, such as posting short news on Facebook wall or twitter, uploading events’ pictures, or creating discussion topics. For example, Ford publishes news releases with lots of multimedia content and employs a social media news release format to display them in their newsroom. In this case, social media is used as a public relation tool for cooperation to more easily establish relationship with media organizations and their partners.

However, another greatest advantage of social media is interactivity – you could tell, while listen. Therefore, utilizing social media to interact with your audience and clients could help build up stronger relationship and generate more profits. For example, Dell leverages a variety of social media platforms for customer engagement, including an island in the virtual world of Second Life. Beyond regular information releasing. Dell utilized these virtual platforms to provide supports for its customers. Dell is also one of the few companies publicly stated that they created a return on investment from Twitter.

Nowadays, people are willing to share unsolicited customer service feedback openly on social media. Regardless of whether it was a positive or negative experience, people will talk about it and either recommend or encourage others to avoid a particular brand. Dell knows how to listen to what customers are saying. Through interacting with their customers on social media, Dell improves and understands what they need to do better to move past its competitors. The positive result is that Dell’s social media efforts help generate “1 million in revenue.”

Starbucks is another smart company who benefits from the relationship with customers through encouraging idea providers online. Starbucks used mystarbucksidea.force.com to improve its image and to tie its customers closer to the brand. Everyone can post suggestions on what could be improved or done differently at Starbucks, as well as submit wish lists for new products. As a result, Starbucks got 70,000 suggestions  from Starbucks clients and won over 1.7 million fans on Facebook. So, listen and engage with those you identified, and engage both reactively and proactively – not only will you reinforce the relationship with your customers, but you will gain a good opportunity to understand them and create more customer values.

4)  Use it as Low-cost Promotion Tool

We all realize the high cost of promoting on traditional media, so why continue investing more into an unknown and immeasurable result? If you’ve already had unique profiles, made prominent connections and established tight relationships through social media platforms, promotion is just a low-budgeted but effective step to go.

Facebook’s “fans” and “Likes” could enable you to collect your customers’ preference information easily. It would first help with target advertising. Now there’re more than 400,000,000 Facebook users published their “likes” through Facebook, from favorite brand to personal product, from articles to videos, which provided accurate customer behavior information and demographic profiles. It’s easier for companies to identify characteristics of their target customers, thus bring the “right” product in front of them. It would secondly help with location based advertising. People like to check in their destinations on Facebook Places or Foursquare, and companies could embed their promotional information into the check-in site or create a creative PR campaign based on this feature.

I recently read that Mall of America runs a Twitter “Parking” Party to fight with the horror of holiday parking at the local mall. According to the news, this year Mall of America will be rewarding their loyal Twitter followers with a VIP ticket to the best parking around. The event is being run through EventBrite where batches of tickets are being released twice a day for a total of 96 spaces. To claim a ticket, a person must follow the mall on Twitter and provide their Twitter name. There are also very specific times for arrival and a print out of the registration is required. The Mall of America is also offering a $25 gift card to the first five people who check-in per day on Foursquare between Dec. 20 through Dec. 23. In addition, on Facebook Places, the Mall of America Youth Foundation will donate $1 each, up to $500 per organization, to VEAP and One Heartland now through Dec. 24[7].

This idea is a great example of how companies can use social media to increase sales. Like what the author said, “it’s all about offering something of value and at this time of year, there’s nothing more valuable than a no-hassle parking spot at the mall.”

If you own a retail location or restaurant you can offer discounts via Twitter, Facebook etc. For example, you can advertise the following message via Twitter, “If you are in our place, tweet it and show the tweet to your server to get a free drink.”  In this case, you are dealing in real time with your client base and also giving people a reason to eat at your restaurant. The great thing about using social media sites in this way is that it’s immediate and cheap. You don’t have to plan ahead of the print run and calculate the print and publsish budget. You can engage with your customer base and get them involved in the discount process much easier.

The above four aspects are what I learnt from reading some social media marketing cases and what I thought could help cooperation better communicate with theirs customers and partners, and expand their social networks. Most of these cases were retrieved from a 2010 summer social media research at http://www.slideshare.net/courtneycarr1119/social-media-4902336.

In summary, social media offers cooperation the opportunity to heighten marketing and public relations on a consistent basis. However, social media could not be seen as a replacement of companies’ current marketing tactics, but instead is an excellent add-on to what companies are currently involved in integrated marketing communication plans.

At the end, I would love to use a graph from 2010 Social Media Marketing Industry Report to restate the benefits of using social media as marketing and PR tool – “Generating exposure”, “Increased my traffic”, “New business partnerships” etc. This graph reflected business professionals’ opinions on social media marketing.

Realizing these multiple benefits social media could bring to business, how can any company dare to reject taking a more serious look at their social media sites and better managing them?

[1] Coremetrics @ http://www.coremetrics.com/solutions/benchmark-report-black-friday-cyber-monday-2010.php


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Be ready for the Experimental Efforts and Taking Risks

The fight between Tencent (QQ), the most popular Chinese social network online chatting software company, and 360, the most prestigious anti-virus company in China reminded me the law of disruption in our informational and digital era. The book I read – <The Laws of Disruption>(by Larry Downes) seems more valuable as I can understand.

The Internet is our era’s big disrupter. We already know how it has changed our habits and ways of doing things; its long-term effects on social, economic, and legal systems will be even greater. In the information life section, Larry Downes made several good points on illustrating how digital world is disrupting our long-established copyright and patent systems and how legislative level should modify copyright and patent laws to adapt to rapidly changing digital world. Most importantly, media companies should learn open-source thinking and use “open source” as a new model for business.

My position on law reforming is consistent with Downes’. For the open-source business model, I believe it must be an alternative method for media companies to reach a new market and reduce possible costs on lawsuits, but implementing it, in my opinion, is challenging as well.

Current law system cannot meet the uniqueness of software and other IT products, but it doesn’t mean regulators and judges should be rush to keep up by imposing completely new laws and regulations. Instead, these authorities may make small adjustment continuously, because the rapid pace of change makes it impossible to predict the course of technology. Reducing the length of copyrights and patents for software, making any noncommercial use a fair use, undoing the “Digital Millennium Copyright Act,” carefully evaluating cross-licensing and pooling of patents, even leaving the Web alone and simply protect it from interference … yes, all of these can be tried and implemented for a certain period of time. Market and time will tell whether they will work or not.

However, we should always remember one thing: less protection will never mean no protection. Mr. Downes’ view on intellectual property is “the value of information . . . increases exponentially as new users absorb it;” This may not be true. I still believe that scarcity generally makes information more valuable. Firms would still carefully protect their brands to ensure that they are not over-exposed. Certain level of legal protection would ensure the scarcity of the information and prevent it from being overused or abused.

Another alternative is to let market solve this dilemma. Mr. Downes can be a bit of a free-market triumphalism; it seems that market did give us certain answer, such as giving up copyright control in certain degree and “open source” thinking. Apple’s iPod and iTunes creates legal forms of downloadable music, which told us that allowing people to share information sometimes may create value. And open source thinking could be a new asset for media companies. Certainly, we saw some successful cases based on open source projects, such as Google and Red Hat. I think the core elements that determined Google/Red Hat’s success is the nature of software – a series of codes which are open for software builders to modify. As long as there has been software, there have been some people eager to share and improve it for the common good. Companies may rely revenues on relevant by-products and services other than the software itself. Therefore, for any media who is thinking about open source, they should clearly identify the potential benefits it may bring to organization.

Think about New York Times’ new Document Viewer, which will allows primary source documents to be viewed on the NYT web pages. The Times will release the program code, allowing any website or organization to use and modify it. This doc viewer is a double meaning “open source” to me, because it both opens the news source to readers and open the software source to programmers. New York Times plans to take advantage of open-source software to strengthen journalism and transparency, as well as benefit from software developers and technologically skilled journalists outside of the company who improve the software. This will also reduce readers’ search costs for information products and enhance readers’ news consuming experience. Moreover, the availability of open source software may largely reduce traditional media’s operating costs and distribution costs.

Open source might be something traditional media should consider about. Although we can still not tell whether this model is successful or not, we can at least think towards this direction and make an experiment.

However, open source is certainly challenging and risky, and reality showed that lots of open source is not very successful. “There’s only one company making real money out of open source, and that’s Red Hat,” said Simon Crosby, the chief technology officer at Citrix Systems. “Everyone else is in trouble.” Even Red Hat didn’t achieve more, when many open-source advocates had once hoped Red Hat would scoop up the top open-source start-ups, keeping these crown jewels out of the hands of proprietary software makers, Red Hat failed to go after other open-source companies initially and later could not afford to pay the high prices offered by larger companies.

Therefore, facing with the open source thinking, everybody should think twice before action. This could be a new profitable territory, but could also be the next trap. On the edge of another technology revolution, both legislative level and small media companies should be open to the changes and be ready for the experimental efforts and take risks.

References:

Open Source as a Model for Business Is Elusive. (2009). Retrieved from:

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/30/technology/business-computing/30open.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1

New York Times Releasing Open Source Document Viewer. (2009). Retrieved from:

http://ostatic.com/blog/new-york-times-releasing-open-source-document-viewer

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Social network expand to searching

 

New trend is emerging…. As social networking keeps getting hotter, a few major Internet players are looking to direct some of the upcoming action. A group of Internet heavyweights, including Facebook, Amazon.com and Comcast on Thursday set up a $250 million fund to invest in social networking start-ups.

KPCB partner Bing Gordon said, “… Today every business, organization, and entrepreneur should have a social strategy.”

Reports have been circulating the Internet for a few months that Google developing a own social network that would compete with Facebook. And Facebook, the most popular social network, has been making some moves to better position itself to take on a frontal assault from the world’s biggest Internet company.

Earlier this month, for instance, Facebook furthered its partnership with Google rival Microsoft to making searching with the latter’s Bing search engine more social. Providing help to start-ups that one day will support the facebook platform will further help the company in its battle with the search giant.

Source: http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9192578/Facebook_others_move_to_boost_social_net_innovation

 

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How Journalism should react to Mobile Internet

From the data generated from Morgan Stanley’s 2010 report, the most important trends are the soaring usage of mobile Internet and social networking, as well as the implication of huge potential of online commerce.

According to the data, here we come to the era of mobile Internet. It’s surprising to see that the acceptance of iPhone and iTouch is taking place more than 11 times faster than that of AOL, and about 5 times faster than that of Netscape. The report predicts that the number of global Mobile Internet users will surpass that of desktop Internet users within 5 years. The leading two devices that occupy high share in global unit shipments, mobile page views and app usages are iPhone and Android phone – smartphones with access to mobile Internet. Helping to drive this is 3G technology. 2010 is an inflection point, which means 3G is available to more than 20% of the global cellular users. The report predicts that this percentage will increase to 43% in 2014.

On the social networking side, report shows that social networking passed email in terms of time spent in 2007, and passed email in terms of raw user numbers in mid 2009.

One important implication of mobile access is a growth in online/mobile commerce, featuring things such as location-based services, time-based offers, even virtual goods. Data shows that online commerce and paid services made up 32 percent of mobile revenue in Japan in 2008, up from just 14% in 2000.

Online commercial also has a huge upside potential. Internet/mobile occupy 28% media consumption time, however, Internet advertising spending only occupies 13% among total media advertising spending. One graphic shows that average online CPMs are still well below other media, which means buying a commercial space on Internet is cost effective. Yahoo’s owned and operated display advertising is increasing 20% a year, and 32K customized homepages are delivered every five minutes. Facebook also offers significant new ad opportunities. These facts illustrate that online targeting and personalized advertising will be the new trends. Japan shows potential for mobile commerce. Part of online commerce revenue is derived from Mobile, 18% ecommerce revenue is from mobile in 2009, comparing with 4% in 2004. The revenue percentage still keeps rising.

Facing with the above trends, newspaper and broadcast news organizations should open a new contents distribution channel, changing the traditional formats of news, and be open mind to new business model.

It’s worth to notice that consumers still need news, because data shows that the first three activities Mobile browser users did are searching (48%), social networking (43%), and news (30%). Since mobile Internet is the trend, news organization should distribute news in both text and video form through mobile Internet.  But remember, “paywalls” won’t work, you must be “open source”, distribute free contents on mobile to keep readers and drive advertising revenue. News application for mobile can be a direction to go, as it can make readers easily and quickly get access to your news without specific searching. You can also sell ad spaces on your mobile news site to earn profit. But these ads could not be random ones, but be highly targeted. For example, provide ads on new digital devices to those who always read technology news. Internet ads have large growing space; revenue would soar if ads can be pushed to those who need them.

Success always relies on realizing and responding to customers’’ needs. The traditional formats of news should be altered because of the characteristic of mobile news consumption behavior and limitation space of mobile screen. People won’t have time and space to read those long and well organized news articles, or watch those long broadcast news packages on mobile. People want information instant, want to know them fast. Therefore, information can be packaged differently and more effectively online – reporters can produce short and dense news messages, or short news clips to consumers immediately after an event happen, then send a news text message to readers to let them know what’s going on recently. If readers are interested in certain news message, they can reply reporters by clicking a “like” button below the message. By calculating the number of “like”, news organization can get data of what their customers like, and use these data to build up customized contents. Reporters can also use these data to decide whether to do more follow-up stories on certain topics. Interactivity, personalization, tagging, maps, multimedia seem to be more important on mobiles than desktops, because it’s easier to realize through mobile.

Also considering the popularity of social networking, news organization must set up connection with social network website such as Facebook and Youtube. This doesn’t only mean to add a “facebook” icon at the bottom of the story for readers to share, but also means to create opportunities for user-generated contents. For example, for certain local events, some people were actually there and witnessed the event. So, you can encourage readers to “reshape” the news by uploading their own experiences (either texts/pictures or self-recorded videos shot by their mobile phone) on certain event. It’s an approach of interactivity. Another idea is to create a “news community”, let readers share the news they like to their friends; it’s similar to the model of iTune and Ping.

Regarding the potential of online commerce, news organizations cannot fully rely their business model on advertising selling. I recently saw a British community news website called “Teesside Evening Gazette” is selling collectable news photos online. This is a model that news organizations may consider. Although news stories cannot be charged, some granular contents may be valuable and chargeable, such as a wonderful news photo, a classic quote from a columnist, or a distinct video/sound clip.

Another thing worth to bring up is the line between different news organizations has blurred, consumers won’t care whether this piece of news is from CNN.com or New York Times, they only care about the information itself. Google news become very popular online, because it integrates news from all news sources and shows top news regardless where the stories come from. To deal with this, maybe new partnership should set up between traditional news companies and companies with new platforms.

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