September 2011


Is Facebook a content or conversation source?

Back in May, Matt Locke, Richard Sambrook and I had a conversation about the future of Social Entertainment.  (In case you are thinking “My that’s a wonderfully catchy, if opaque, buzz word. But what on GoogleEarth does it mean?”; Social Entertainment is a term we coined a few years back to represent the idea that as social networks grow to parallel the influence of mainstream media channels, so too would traditional media companies need to progress their content and communications to fully embrace the social sphere).  Not rocket science, perhaps, but we’re interested in the implications of Social Entertainment, especially with regard to how entertainment companies communicate with audiences.

It’s highly probable that no one listened to the podcast back in May (I haven’t asked for the statistics lately, in case my worst fear was confirmed and we had chopped down trees, but no one was around to hear the loud thud of timber on the forest floor).  So if you didn’t, let me summarise: We talked about some meeja things and at the end Matt and I made some predictions for the next 12 months.

The erudite Mr Locke suggested that the talent rather than the media brand would continue to increase in influence and that this posed both a problem for the brand and an opportunity for talent looking to take advantage of the currency of their social profiles.  The case of @ITVLauraK (nee @BBCLauraK) perfectly illustrates this issue.  Both Tom Callow at TheWall and Jemima Kiss at the Guardian sum up the ramifications better than I could.  Congratulations Matt.  You were right.

Back in May, I felt the interesting shift would be the inverse of our original Social Entertainment theory.  I.e. Social Entertainment originally concentrated on how traditional entertainment companies could leverage social channels to engage audiences.  I predicted (again, perhaps not radically) that Social brands would expand to become fully fledged media channels and businesses.  This was based on increasingly professional content finding its way onto YouTube – but I thought that Facebook, Twitter and the like would increasingly become media channels – producing and distributing content, not just hosting conversations around it.

Interestingly, our annual research shows a conflict in consumer perception, here.  As this graph shows, consumers now think of social networks as a form of entertainment.

However, when asked who are the top-of-mind entertainment companies, consumers do not name new social or internet brands.  No Facebook, no YouTube, no Spotify.  Only the old dogs are named (I can’t actually show you the brands, but we do have this info should it be of interest.  Let me know if so).

And so here we are at the 22nd September 2011 and the f8 conference.  Much has already been written about the social updates (I’d recommend the Mashable picture gallery, if you’re looking for a quick summary of what it’s all about).  But I’m most interested to hear about how content companies and entertainment channels are going to be integrated in Facebook. Is this the coming of age for Social Entertainment?  True my prediction, unlike Matt’s, has yet to come to full fruition.  But with the f8 announcement, we may well be one step closer. The integration, assuming the often vitriolic users embrace it, will mean that Facebook becomes a powerful, if not the de facto, promotional channel for content owners and publishers.  This presents an opportunity but also a challenge for entertainment brands.  Content has always driven conversations. But some content is more naturally geared to social conversations and ‘lean forward’ programming than others.  For all entertainment brands, programs and channels, not applying Social Entertainment is, from today, arguably not an option.  It’s a simple dilemma; innovate and  collaborate, or risk not being talked about at all.

In fashion circles, ‘The September Issue’ of a magazine is a pretty big deal, capturing the fashion week trends that will inspire the year ahead. We’ve got our own September Issue. But it’s of the DERT (Digital, Entertainment, Rights and Technology) Trend Report, and we like to think it’s just as special as last month’s, next month’s and any month thereafter.

This edition looks at the latest in eco-friendly motoring, retail, festivals and books. Enjoy.

@AJGriffiths

Anyone who tells you that they remember that particular Tuesday minute-by-minute is lying. Memories are fragmented, sporadic and come in bursts. Everyone remembers the weather, funnily enough – it was simply gorgeous. At the time I was Managing Editor of Pipe Dream, the student paper at my University and Monday night was production night for the Tuesday edition, (we published twice a week). I drove the paper to printers at 3AM and managed a few hours of sleep but rolling out of bed for English Lit II.

My first class of the day started at 9:05AM, but by 8:46AM, it was clear that I wouldn’t be spending my morning discussing the religions and sexual undertones of Jane Eyre.

Shortly after the collapse of the North Tower, I headed the paper’s offices to seek solace in the comfy green sofas littered with news editors, staff writers and left over pizza from the night before. There and then we decided to put out a special edition for the next day.

I would have then phoned the printer and set to work purchasing images from Getty, but I have no recollection of either of these tasks.

I set to work planning the issue, blocking the stories and assigning reporters to cover angles of the story across campus. We had very large Muslim and Jewish communities on our campus and University administrators were worried about any clashes. I sent a reporter to go talk to the Muslim Student Union, and then phoned the President’s office to get an official comment about violence reported against Muslims on other University campuses. 

Safe and sheltered on a closed college campus, we were painfully aware of what was unfolding thanks to 24-hour news, but also frustratingly far from family and friends who were there and dealing with a very real personal tragedy – we were stuck in a parallel universe of sorts.

The University swiftly cancelled classes and invited students affected to come forward for counselling and help. Several students turned up at the Pipe Dream office seeking community and something to do. A candlelight vigil was organized for that evening.

One of our professors got in touch to ask if we were all okay and we just said, “Yes, Ma’am, we’re putting out a special issue tomorrow and are all over it”. Years later, I realized that’s not what she meant.

In the days that would follow, I think I must have gotten very little sleep. We had the Thursday paper to get out next and we focused on capturing the unfolding political sentiment right here on our doorstep.

I also had to keep our advertisers happy that we would still put out a paper. “Would we run the Thursday issue without advertisements?” Papa Johns wanted to know. Yes, because it felt it was the right thing to do. Instead, we would allow student groups to publicize counselling sessions, student vigils and chartered busses for free. I was making it up as went.

Ten years later, I think all of us on Pipe Dream must have summoned great maturity on that day. It’s still hard to make sense of the absolute flood of conflicting reports in the 24-hours that followed, and understand how a bunch of (essentially) teenagers  put a newspaper together, while coping amid all the unanswered questions; were there other targets? Where were the missing planes? Where was the President? Who was behind this? Were we safe? 

That weekend, the campus emptied out as students from the City went home in chartered buses. I drove to my parent’s house in Upstate New York. We settled into the rhythm of 24-hour news; MSNBC in the kitchen, CNN in the family room and 1010WINS in the shower.

10 years on I still think very few of us have figured out how to make sense of that day.

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