Dennis Haarsager's rolling environmental scan for electronic media. "Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us." --Jerry Garcia "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." --Bob Seger
"Mediaeater," whose real identity I don't know but whose bookmarks on del.icio.us I find invaluable (if I ever get hit by a truck, del.icio.us/mediaeater is a pretty good substitute for this blog, though more like drinking out of a firehose than this effort), recently added the new master's thesis of Ivan D. Askwith with this title. Askwith's thesis supervisor is Henry Jenkins, Professor of Comparative Media Studies at MIT, blogger at Confessions of an Aca/Fan, and author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, among other books -- and whose bona fides prompted me to read the first few pages of this quite interesting 174-pp work.
Television is in a period of dramatic change. As the mass audience continues to fragment into ever-smaller niche audiences and communities of interest, and new technologies shift control over the television viewing experience from network programmers into the hands of media consumers, television’s traditional business models prove themselves increasingly untenable. In an attempt to preserve these models, television executives are attempting to shed television’s long-standing reputation as a passive medium, which emphasized the viewer’s role as a consumer of television content, and which critics often decried as vacuous and mindless. ¶ The current discourse suggests that television’s future now relies on the industry’s success recasting it as an active medium, capable of capturing and holding the audience’s attention, and effective at generating emotional investment. The single most important concept in this new industrial discourse is that of audience “engagement”, a term that has generated a tremendous amount of debate and disagreement, with television and advertising executives alike struggling to understand what engagement is, how it works, and what its practical consequences will be. ¶ This thesis argues that television’s future as an engagement medium relies not on inventing new methodologies that define engagement in terms of quantifiable audience behaviors and attitudes, but instead in a new conceptual model of television, better suited to a multiplatform media environment and the emerging attention and experience economies, which focuses on the development of television programs that extend beyond the television set. Such a model must understand television not as a method for aggregrating audiences that can be sold to advertisers, but as a medium that draws upon media platforms, content, products, activities and social spaces to provide audiences with a range of opportunities to engage with television content. Accordingly, this thesis offers a framework for thinking about viewer engagement as the range of opportunities and activities that become possible when drawing upon an expanded, multi-platform conception of the modern television text. Applying this framework to the innovative and experimental textual extensions developed around ABC’s Lost, the thesis indicates both the challenges and opportunities that emerge as television becomes an engagement medium. [emphasis added]
In June, Bear Stearns issued a very useful report with this title authored by research analysts Spencer Wang, Shub Mukherjee and Stefan Anninger. It displays lots of good data and, though it focuses on video content, it has a great deal of validity for audio content as well. The authors write:
... Value Will Reside in the Middle of the Supply Chain. If our thesis is correct, one major problem with infiinite choice is the potential for overwhelming confusion. Said another way, how do consumers navigate a world of unlimited choice and find what they are looking for? ¶ We think this conundrum (the "Paradox of Choice") will increase the value of "middlemen," or packagers of content that can appropriately filter out the noise and connect users with the content that appeals to their interests. This can be done through strong brands, editorial discretion, technology, and harnessing user recommendations. ...
The best "freebie" white paper I found last year relating to my electronic media responsibilities was IBM's The end of TV as we know it: A future industry perspective, to which I linked in January 2006. It holds up well today. So when David Leroy (thanks) pointed me at a pair of related new ones from the IBM Institute for Business Value and with two of t he same authors, I was hopeful.
The authors (Saul J. Berman, Steven Abraham, Bill Battino, Louisa Shipnuck and Andreas Neus -- Berman and Shipnuck being two of the authors on The end of TV...) didn't disappoint. Navigating the Media Divide: Innovating and Enabling New Business Models and The fight ahead on media's main streets are, as the titles imply, about more than television -- but then last year's report was relevant beyond television also. The papers explore issues around the familiar scenario framework that creates four quadrants with the X-axis being "Distribution and device platforms" ranging from "proprietary" to "open" and the Y-axis being "Content blend" ranging from "Produced by professionals" to "User/community contribution." They view the upper and rightmost dimensions as being particularly disruptive amd posit that these four quadrants will be the four business models in use over the next 3-4 years. The figure here (click for larger image) depicts these business models.
The authors provide ten specific recommendations for media companies some of which seem pretty obvious (e.g., "Put consumers at the center of your business and boardroom"), while others more insightful (e.g., "Give control to get share").
Public television station KETC in St. Louis, now under the leadership of the always-progressive Jack Galmiche, has been using consultant Rob Paterson to help it find better connections with its community. Rob has an interesting overview of what they're doing on his weblog. Link: Robert Paterson's Weblog. --Dennis
Bridge Ratings head Dave Van Dyke has a good blog to which I subscribe via RSS and from which I occasionally quote, but I can't find such a feed for the company's main site. That's too bad, because on those occasions when I remember to check it, I usually find something helpful, such as the subject of this post. Add a feed, please.
From the press release (click for larger image):
... It is no longer a world of mass media but rather it
is a world of communities of customers and consumers. In an attempt to keep up
with the changing world that the Internet has brought, the media world has
embraced such things as websites to reach their customers, but it isn't enough.
Consumers have gravitated to social media and that is where Influence is finding
a significant home. ¶ Influencers or Influentials are a group of very
active consumers involved in "conversation marketing" where word-of-mouth is
becoming a significant power in spreading dialog with customers, listeners and
viewers. It means creating a conversation with your consumers in which useful
information is exchanged so that both parties benefit from the relationship. ...
... In the face of technology and a changing consumer
experience, the term "radio" now covers not only traditional radio (AM/FM) but
also all those digital audio entertainment media that compete with terrestrial
radio: Satellite radio, Internet radio, Podcasting, digital music players - even
cell phones. ¶ And because the landscape is changing so quickly and
shifting in ways never before expected, radio of all colors and those that
advertise on those platforms, must address the problem of audience "scatter" (See Bridge Ratings study
#755), i.e. audiences are moving in multiple media dimensions and capturing
their attention requires more skill than ever before. ¶ This is where the Influentials come in. This is the
subset of consumer experience which radio must attract. ...
... Among the questions, we asked about the role of
traditional radio in their futures. 46% thought it was "Very important" for
traditional radio to change with more relatable content. Adding "Somewhat
Important" brought the score to 77%. ¶ Only 11% thought it was "Very Important" for
traditional radio to remain the same as it is today. An additional 18% thought
it was "Somewhat Important". By this panel of Influentials of all
ages, traditional radio has some work to do if it is to remain
relevant in the near future. ...
I have accounts on a few social networking sites -- Skype (which I'd describe as a social VOIP service), LinkedIn, Facebook -- each of which involves networking among friends and acquaintances. I've also checked out Gather and MySpace. Except for Skype, which I use for actual phone calls, my use of other social systems has been mostly responding to various requests from others to be added. While many of my colleagues are enthusiastic about the possibilities for relationship building, especially for public media, so far for me personally it's been more chore than treat. Perhaps that's just the natural result of it being early in the game.
Jake Shapiro points to (and writes the forward for) a new report of this title from the Center for Social Media at American University by Abbey Blake Levenshus. Here's the executive summary:
How are public radio stations taking advantage of social media tools to expand their base and enhance their service to their mission? Through a survey of U.S. public radio stations and case studies of four stations successfully using social media, this study provides a snapshot of the realities for U.S. public radio stations wanting to use social media to engage audiences. Results of a survey of 77 station staff, along with case studies of four stations’ social media projects, reveal ambivalence about social media. Station executives both seek to explore social media opportunities and also resist experiments, because of lack of knowledge, because of resource allocation, and because of institutional culture. Current experiments at early-adopter stations demonstrate that social media experiments do require resource reallocation and still lack persuasive and appropriate metrics but nonetheless have returned significant benefits to the stations, particularly in terms of serving the core mission of public broadcasting: contributing to a rich and participatory public culture. More methodical goal setting and appropriate metrics will permit stations to document both their successes and their challenges.