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Mixed Metaphor? It’s Still a Good Quote September 30, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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“Apple products are works of art. We’re looking to make devices that you don’t need to worship.”

    – SanDisk SVP Daniel Schreiber, in the LA Times
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Tween Tidbits September 28, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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I couldn’t take notes at the panel I moderated at today’s Ypulse Tween Mashup, but we had a good conversation about what kind of programming works online for traditional media and marketing companies.

I felt Nintendo’s and Lego’s pain in being slow to create share-able content and widgets due to lawyers and complicated rights. (And Nintendo’s honest desire to keep ’em playing Pokemon on their DS’s, not online.) But they’ve got to get around that. Oh, and apparently the card trading Pokemon contingent skews older than tweens, while the TV show fans are younger.

Doing UGC and communications online is brutally difficult if your audience is under 13. A game or one-way information communication is much easier to manage safely. Still, Procter & Gamble’s Beinggirl lets its users communicate with each other in a mostly self-policed environment.

In the keynote, Neopets’ Kyra Reppen reminded us that, in the face of Webkinz and Club Penguin, the original kids’ avatar-world slash social-network hasn’t been completely buried under Viacom. It’s still going strong, and it seems possible that Nickelodeon’s Nicktropolis has learned some tricks from Neopets.

At the same time Neopets characters and themes are migrating to television (while polls of Neopets fans suggest a big interest in featuring their own characters in video — that sounds like Internet video, not TV, to me — and in voting on plot outcomes), the original Neopets site is starting to house user-generated short animated pieces, and building out its alterna-cash economy (750K transactions/day). Look for Neocash gift cards in retail next month. And watch for NeoStudios to create some parallel worlds to the original Neotopia — “like a TV network” of shows — and more TV “convergence.”

Millennials Tidbits September 27, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Some highlights from my The Millennials conference panel with MTV’s Matt Catapano and Alloy Media’s Samantha Skey:

– While Samantha and I agreed that there’s big differences between tweens, teens, and college/young adults born between ’82 and ’00, Matt pointed out that one thing that unifies this big group is a familiarity with digital technology: they all grew up with the Internet and cell phones. That’s for sure, and something that will characterize this cohort/peer group forever – even while some characteristics will change as this group ages.

– Other thing Matt and Samantha thought would remain peer group-specific included multitasking and constant communication. I’m not a hundred percent convinced about those, but we’ll be watching that closely. Multitasking, probably, but the constant need to be in touch may suffer from real life work, family, and environment demands.

– Matt had a very clever turn of phrase describing Millennials self-broadcasting tendency. He said a new “middle class of fame” was emerging. I think I’ll steal that one. He also described a related feedback loop of create, share, validate (by friends) that definitely applies to programming and marketing for this group.

– Samantha said kids and teens in this generation actually aren’t rebelling against their parents — in fact they get along great. A whopping 13% text with their parents daily.

TeeVee Targeting — You Can’t Beat It With a Stick! September 26, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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The first two ads shown during the premiere of the highly nerd-anticipated Bionic Woman on NBC are for a laxative and the DVD of Disney’s Jungle Book. Either I’m missing something or a lot of older women are nerds.

One Thing You Need to Know About Millennials September 26, 2007

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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I’ll be at the Millennials conference tomorrow morning, on a panel with MTV Networks and Alloy. We’ll each be sharing Five Things you need to know about millennials. I don’t want to tip anybody’s hand — and I’ll probably blog some tidbits tomorrow — but one of my Five is about influencers. Jupiter surveys show that teen influencers tend to work cross-category in contrast to grown-ups, who are specialists. That is, a single teen influencer will carry clout among friends and family on a variety of things: music, fashion, games, etc., while adults, even 18 to 24 year-olds, are more likely to to affect only one. See you there.

Amazon Digital Music Store Beta – First Take September 25, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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I just bought a digital album from Amazon, managed it through iTunes, and am playing it on an iPod. And the world didn’t end. I seem to have written something similar before.

But this time is different. Amazon knows how to sell music. It has a huge customer base. Today, unprotected MP3s are the way to get onto iPods, but they may be the future. (Make no mistake, RealNetworks knows music, but it’s all about the Rhapsody service, not a la carte downloads.)

Yes, Amazon will have to build a great store. Yes, for the time being, Amazon’s 2.3 million song catalog is fairly crippled (the same EMI and Universal repertoire others can get at, plus a ton of indies). But pretty soon, consumers will see the fruit of competition based on pricing, merchandising, packaging, user experience, editorial, knowledge of consumer habits, etc., etc., instead of on random acts of technology.

I expect the music buying experience at Amazon will get richer over time. Right now, they’ve got top songs and artists, and song ratings and reviews, and rudimentary artists’ pages, all for the first time. And distinct from the Amazon CD store, though loosely integrated. The digital store didn’t tell me I’d already bought M.I.A.’s CD from them, when I clicked on the digital album version. (The CD store would have done so.)

But lots of songs are under 99 cents, and lots of albums are under $10. The recommendations tapped into my CD buying info. And the little download manager applet worked fine, and routed my purchase into iTunes gracefully.

The game just got a lot more interesting.

Platform Buzz September 25, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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The Journal is rumoring about Microsoft possibly taking a stake in Facebook. And the P-word comes up. That’s p for “Platforms.” You know my take. There are four serious consumer-Internet platform contenders: Amazon, eBay, Google, Microsoft; and a couple wannabes: Facebook, Yahoo.

You don’t have to be a platform to be a winner in Internet media or commerce of course. But it might help.

Platform definition, in this context:

JupiterResearch defines a “platform” as a set of core technologies and services that other applications and services, from other companies, can use. These core technologies often include application-programming interfaces, file formats, user interface elements, and, these days, syndicated Web services. Google extends the notion of platform to include revenue streams or business models—for example, paid search and keyword-based contextual advertising—that partners can plug into. Platforms spawn economic ecosystems and feedback loops, and are solidified by habitual usage. Successful ecosystems must offer value to all links—user, partner, and platform provider. Paid search epitomizes that kind of win/win/win situation.

Operating systems, game consoles and the iPod are also platforms, of course, in their own fields. Offhand, I can’t think of a successful platform merger — though there are many partnerships — just some disasters (Novell-Unix, AOL-Netscape, Sony’s intra-company efforts so far).

Yet Another Reason Why Games Aren’t Like Movies September 21, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Fascinating article by the Journal’s Nick Wingfield about how games companies jockey for good reviews — and even base bonuses on them — in CNET’s Metacritic and Game Rankings properties. Apparently, Activision found a very high correlation between review scores and sales.

Being a complete entertainment-culture nerd, I ran a back-of-the-envelope model for movies, comparing Rotten Tomatoes aggregate review scores and domestic box office gross from Box Office Mojo for the top 25 movies in 2006. There’s no similar correlation. In fact, if you just look at box office rankings, there’s just the faintest hint of a reverse correlation: i.e., poorly reviewed movies do better.

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NBC Smart to Cover Bases in Online Video September 20, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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The blogosphere seems confused by NBC’s online video strategy. (Hey, you get what you pay for in punditry. AnonUser11 makes way more sense than what he’s commenting on…)

Sounds to me like NBC is wisely experimenting with a variety of distribution channels and payment schemes. They might be obsessing a bit much about DRM, but according to the NY Times account, the dispute with Apple was over wholesale, not retail pricing. And remember, Hulu has been set up to be at least as much a syndicator as a destination for video, and its distributors have huge reach.

Google Program to Distribute Marketing Widgets via Ad Network September 19, 2007

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Google’s announcement of a beta version of a program that will distribute marketing widgets through its AdWords network is a fascinating twist on widgets. Marketers will be able to use Google’s widgets API — Google calls them “gadgets” just to be contrary — to create interactive rich media ads that Google will serve up contextually on the sites of publishers in its ad network. It’s a “twist” because these ads — which will match standard ad formats — really will be widgets. That is, they’ll be highly interactive and embed-able.

However, marketers who want to enable embedding on anything other than an iGoogle page — say, for instance on sites like MySpace or Facebook, where people actually use widgets — will have to do a lot of coding themselves. Google’s not supplying code or templates or building that into the API. It should fix that. Half the fun of widgets is getting your brand advocates to pass them along or embed them on a page their friends see. And marketers will have to figure out how to clue in users, via the ad widget’s creative, that the ads actually are widgets, or they won’t get embedded anywhere…

That said, as a distribution vehicle, AdWords reaches a lot farther, is more target-able, and bears no Facebook whiff of “walled garden”. Google is building in basic interaction tracking tools, which might be table stakes in rich media ad-serving but isn’t widespread in the widget marketing world. Of course, as an industry, we haven’t figured out engagement metrics or benchmarks yet. Stay tuned for a series of reports from Jupiter on that topic.

Finally, Google’s program raises a ton of questions about how marketers should bid on and evaluate widget placement vs banners vs video vs other rich media formats, all of which will be mingled within the same marketplace, at least for now. But media planners are going to have to figure that out themselves, one way or another.