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David Cushman http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com
The following is the presentation I gave at WidgetWebExpo (http://widgetwebexpo.com ) in New York on June 16, 2008. The relevant slide deck is available here: http://www.slideshare.net/davidcushman/media-transformative-how-widgets-close-the-gapbetween-ad-and-content?src=embed It forms the basis of a similar presentation “We’re all publishers now” which I am giving at Digital Asset Management in London on June 25, 2008. http://www.damusers.com/events/conference-program.php?eventid=2 The power of the network changes the traditional media model through two key disruptions. First it disrupts how, and by whom, content is created. Second it disrupts how, and by whom content is distributed. Together these offer an opportunity for the traditional chasm between advertising and content to close. This session will consider how 'media' companies can reform themselves to change both what they do and the way they go about it to deliver products and services which are a better fit with the inhabitants of the networked world. Slide 2 One of the few images we have of William Shakespeare comes to us not because the artist charged with making the image was selected as the finest of his day, nor because this was the image chosen by Will’s adoring audience as the most accurate or representative (SMS voting of the American Idol variety hadn’t quite hit London in the early 1600s). William Shakespeare was the most important play-write of his day – and this was a day when the play was THE primary form of entertainment. He was a big deal. And yet the picture we have of him is… well it’s a bit rubbish really. The creator was a young man named Martin Droeshout. And while he may not have been possessed of a huge artistic talent, he did possess something more fundamental to his ability to form the rare and enduring image we have of Shakespeare. He owned the brass-plate printing gear required to print Will’s mugshot on the famous first folio. He who had control of the means of production got to control the information – even if that information wasn’t particularly great. The information, in this particular case was packaged up in books by the media business and distributed by the media business. Slide 3 And this remained the case as media revolutions swept through the 20th century – print was followed by audio recordings, radio, cinema, TV. And the model remained the same, the same rules applied. Media controlled the production of content. Media controlled the distribution of content. This was true right up until the arrival of the internet. Even while the internet remained in its 1.0-pre broadband incarnation it was still essentially true – while publishing remained relatively complex and expensive. Slide 4 But with the arrival of web2.0, with its really low technical barriers and promise of the ubiquity of tools for creating and sharing, the grip on control has been shaken, loosened… broken. There are new ways for people to gather. Now we can all sit on the global hotdesk, forming into adhoc communities of shared purpose, sharing and learning in real time on a global scale. As Stowe Boyd puts it: “I am made greater by the sum of my connections, so are my connections.
Slides 5-6 Who gets to control production of content now? Anyone and everyone. Good and bad. It’s all relevant to someone. Social networks are made of small groups of purpose. Groups of people looking at each other – not at you! This is not an audience. So congratulations on the scale of the gathering - but you have to understand these are an aggregation of small groups sharing separate purposes. Slides 7-8 Who gets to distribute content now? Anyone and everyone. Shared with who they choose, chosen by who wants to share. Widgets lower the technical barrier of this and make the disruption explicit. Those twin disruptions are serious for every media business model. Not just for content producers either, but for anyone employed in the business of being the middle layer, the mediator, the middle man. We now have a way around you! Slides 9-10 Who gets to control the user experience? With a print publication we produce the content, we control the distribution, and through our editorial selection, our choice of what to include and how to present it, we control the user experience. Same applies to broadcast media. The programme maker decides. But in the digital space that control is lost. Building intuitive user journeys remains a wise investment of time, but we cannot rely on users following our breadcrumbs. In fact, expecting them to is a bit patronising – as if we think they are too stupid to work out where they want to go. The digital world is formed of discreet units each of which can be accessed from any other and in what ever order the user chooses. The user controls their own A-Z journey. Actually it’s A-Anywhere now. The old model was based on building destinations and harvesting eyeballs. In the digital networked world we continue to try to build destinations The new world is a very different place… Slide 11 If you want to evolve to survive in this world then your first step has to be to live in its environment. So write a blog and you’ll understand how easy it is to be a publisher, how easy it is to create and share content, how easy it is to form groups of shared purpose in networks of trust, how easy it is to find relevant content and for relevant people to find you. Build a widget and the process will illustrate that we are all distributors now. You have to start by trying to guess who might choose to share your widget or be enthused or impressed enough to pass it on. And that reveals something of the new challenges and opportunities for media. Slide 12 Think about this in the context of traditional advertising (and by association we'll realise we face the same issues with content, because as we discover over and over again, in this world they are heading towards becoming the same thing). My first thought, on discovering that I could build my own basic widget through the likes of Sprout Builder (say hello to Carnet Williams ceo who was here) (I don't code) and publish it,
and all for free, is to consider ways the media company I work for can take advantage of this for low-risk experiments in widget making. A quick easy option: RSS feeds gathered into an easy-grab widget that users can place where they choose. In other words, offer a simple way for users to choose to disaggregate our content and make it portable. RSS enables this itself, of course, but grab-this-widget functionality and sharing through the likes of facebook make this a possibility for those who find the technical barrier of RSS still a little high – and I don’t underestimate how many people that still includes. This extends our reach and (if we limit the RSS character count) it calls those interested in particular content back to our sites where they could be fed in-context related ads. All good. Slide 13 But what about revenue models integrated with the widget itself? When I choose to distribute a widget that's been made on Sprout Builder every iteration carries a link back to Sprout. Want to make your own? Click here? Every YouTube video functions in a similar way. And if you have Google Adsense enabled on your site then it will display related advertising, too. But these models still treat the ad and the content as separate entities. The distribution of the ad message relies on users choosing to view and to participate in the distribution of a separate ‘editorial’ content. The ads piggy-back on the content that the user actually wants. Perhaps this is a bit parasitical, a little like sneaking in the back door? Slide 14 What if the advert was the content the user chose to distribute? That makes life interesting, doesn't it? If ads and content are coming together, and everyone is a content producer now… doesn’t that make everyone an advertiser now? With that in mind,would anyone choose to place 95% of 30-second slot TV, banner ads and the usual 'creative' solutions on their own (user-generated) content? Would they choose to grab it from where they see it and share it with others? Slide 15 Take my simple widget (please!); it is an editorialised version of how widgets should be. First – I've decided the content. I have edited your choice, I've been the filter on the way in. And that's hardly enabling a personalised outcome. I would have preferred to make it a 'my favourite fasterfuture post chooser' in which you could make up your personal outcome from the full selection of my outpourings. Maybe those posts that get chosen most often would rise to the top of the list the community of users is then offered? You get the general idea. The widget should allow the user to make the choice: That which we create we embrace. If we participate in the process we're more likely to share the outcome and to actively promote it. This is obviously true of the marketing, too. I am more likely to choose to display the results of my personal choice of content and my personalised version of that content (or advertising message). Because that which we create, we embrace (Alan Moore, et al).
Slide 16 It’s worth noting that this works because we live digitally in a community context. It's what the network is all about. There is little point in me sharing what I think is cool unless I expect you might think it’s cool, too. We do this by sharing within our networks of trust. Just as we share links in twitter or thoughts on blogposts. There is residual mass media thinking in the notion that you should create a place on the web for people to show off what they have done with ‘your content’ – for example the ‘for everything else there’s mastercard’ campaign - (all those personal outcomes) as if just anyone, any old set of eyeballs, might be interested. The collective site might not rate your personal take – your friends will. The real value is in the sharing of results with friends, who will be interested because that personal outcome involves a friend - in whom they are personally interested. Then if they take the results and create their own personalised iteration, they'll have friends they may choose to share with, and so the iterations repeat, amplifying the original. This builds on the understanding that the advert transitions into a recommendations. This is most likely to occur in communities of purpose, places where people share cool stuff with others because they believe those others think it’s cool, too. The receiver decides if the advert is a recommendation – not the would-be recommender (the sender). Marketing is not done to you, it’s done by you. Slides 17-21 The outcome relies heavily on three things: 1. A willingness to relinquish control. 2. Toolkits users can play with. 3. Creative users. 2 and 3 are in place. Are you ready for No1? The people best-placed to make the most effective iteration for their peer group are outside of your control. Slides 22-26 The disruption to control revealed by widgets brings us back to that really tough question: If media’s role is no longer about controlling who makes the content, and it’s not about controlling how content is distributed and it’s not even about controlling the user experience, what role can media play? I think there are three potential plays. Slide 27 1. Be the thing that’s paid for at the end of the ‘user experience’ 2. Be a discreet element of the digital experience 3. Be the menu from which those experiences are selected. 1. Is obvious. 3. Is our default2.0 response: we are the aggregators – the nuancers of your experience. And there’s certainly mileage in this. Number 2 is the part that we often neglect and it is the part that can be well served by widgets. Create something so useful that users choose to make it part of their own personal user journey from A-anywhere. A service. And if you can do all three, be the menu, be on the menu and be the meal that’s consumed and paid for as a result, media has a great triple play.
Slide 28 It’s worth us getting our heads round this and perhaps more rapidly than we may have thought necessary. I’m starting to believe the impact of change wrought by the internet has been seriously underestimated while the impact of social networks has been underplayed. This has much to do with how tools turn from geeky high tech oddities to the familiar items of everyday life. Slide 29 The telephone didn't make us communicate. It’s a tool for communication. The internet doesn’t make us form groups. It’s a tool for us to do this through. Yes, the internet is a tool for forming groups. The tool that is the telephone didn’t change the way society functioned - until it was in the hands of the majority - and until that majority was comfortable using it. It moved from being an odd piece of high technology to being a familiar tool. We certainly needed the network in place for this to happen. But we also needed a really easy way for us to understand how to use that network - an interface. Once we had both, everything changed; from how fast news travels through networks, to how widely it gets distributed, to how many bank clerks and insurance salesmen need to be employed (witnessed through the dread edifice the 'call centre'). Emergency services, journalism, military activity, shop delivery systems, politics... you name it, the ubiquity of the telephone as a tool alongside a wide network to make that tool useful, changed our world. Telco networks aren't a tool, they are the medium. The handsets are the tools. Slide 30 And social networks are to the internet what the handset is to the wires of the phone network. They are the easy-to-use interface which allows the majority of people to access the disruptive power of the network. Email 'newslists' and forums may have been with us since deep into last century but there was a reason people who used them were considered 'geeky' or 'nerdy'. You had to be of a particular type to early adopt. They were flat two-dimensional implementations brought with us from a flat broadcast world. Social networks have been spluttering into existence since about 1995 but they certainly weren't ubiquitous back then. It took lesson-learning and the explosion of broadband to move them into the 'familiar tool' category. By 2005 MySpace was clocking up more page impressions than google. This perhaps marks the watershed in the move out of 'geek' and into 'familiar tool' for social networks. Slide 31 In other words, we haven’t had 15 years of disruption caused by the internet – we’ve had 3. Social networks reveal to the users the new and very disruptive low overhead cost of forming groups. Easy-to-use social networks reveal this, and allow large numbers of people to experience this, in ways that previous connecting software and technologies could not match. And as more and more people become more and more familiar with the power of the network through the familiar tool of the social network, so the disruption will bite deeper - the one that will remove the mediators in supply chain after supply chain as new networks form supply and demand webs. It will remove the mediators.
Slide 32 The 'familiar tool' social networks (of which facebook and twitter appear to me the easiest to use and best at revealing its group forming nature) do a different job. They put group-forming at their heart. They allow the user to dial D for disruption the moment they start a group. How fast does the change happen when ubiquity arrives? I spoke at EPublishing in London in May, where Vin Crosbie gave the keynote. Vin showed pictures of a London street just before the internal combustion engine became ubiquitous. Streets filled with horses, a transport infrastructure to support all those horses, how far and how fast people, goods and ideas travelled controlled by those horses. 20 years later the horse was all but gone from London's streets. They were filled with cars, buses, taxis and trucks. What do you expect the pace of disruption to be in the digital space in the 21st Century? Consider this. YouTube launched from scratch a little over 3 years ago. How differently do we think about TV three years on? Dr Mike Wesch says 83% of YouTube content added in the last six months is user generated. This accounts for more content than has been broadcast on TV – ever. More than half of teenagers are creating UGC. We are only a few short years into the real disruption – the one being wrought by the arrival of the social network as a familiar tool. Slide 33 How many people are familiar with using social networks today? Among online American teenagers, according to Pew a year ago, 55% were using social networks. Comscore stats in April this year suggested 60% of Latin Americans online use social networks. 40% of US Mothers are on MySpace. Facebook claims 40% of online canadians use its service, alone. In the UK, Ofcom found a quarter of 8-11-year-olds already have profiles on social networks. They are growing up fast and they are growing up connected in Total Communities – communities in which to take part you have to create part. They are growing up understanding the power of self-forming communities of purpose - with a tool in their hands to access it. They are growing up with different expectations not only of media, but also of business, politics, education and society and their own role within each of these. And this will change everything. The silent majority have had their day. The participating majority are coming. Slide 34 Widgets give us a mainline into the DIY distribution element of this revolution – an opportunity to enable and facilitate. And through this we will discover our place in the new world. Through this we may adapt to it. Through this we may earn our place in it.