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.

This morning Edelman’s DERT team announced the results of their fifth annual survey on Value, Engagement and Trust in the Era of Social Entertainment. Gail Becker, President of Edelman’s Western U.S. Region presented the results and hosted the event along with Jon Hargreaves Managing Director of Edelman Technology in Europe and a panel of experts including; Matthew Hawn, Vice president Last.fm, Emma Barnett, Digital Media Editor, The Daily Telegraph and Simon Nelson, the Digital Business and Strategy advisor and former controller of multiplatform commissioning at the BBC.

We will be sharing the full slideshow on here later today and posting up video snippets of the event for now here are the highlights and some of our thoughts, let us know what you think.

The key stats from the survey:

· 4% of U.K. consumers feel positive about the move to a paywalled service

· 45% of people in the U.K. and 57% in the U.S. believe social networking sites are a form of entertainment

· Personal enjoyment and visual/sound quality continue to top the list of purchase drivers with “being one of the first to have new entertainment” dropping significantly (to 14%, down from 40% in the U.K. and to 17%, down from 41% in the U.S.).

· More than half (52%) of all respondents would like to use a computer to access further entertainment content, and 30% would like to be able to access that content on their mobile phone

· 49% of people in the U.K. and 52% in the U.S. believe they are spending more than a year ago with their mobile phones to access their entertainment, while 59% (U.K.) and 53% (U.S.) spent more time with their laptop

As the study revealed last year, the internet remained the second most frequently turned to form of entertainment for the second year in a row. While television remained the most frequent form of entertainment both in the U.K. and the U.S. (49% and 47% respectively), dropping 8 and 11 percent respectively since 2010.

The Internet as connective tissue

Most sources of entertainment are less used, this just means that people are spreading their consumption wider. It seems that to succeed in the era of social entertainment, entertainment companies must invest in multiple channels of distribution to enable consumers to access their content wherever and whenever. Five years ago the entertainment industry viewed the internet as a threat, but now it’s an opportunity for those same companies to monetise internet content through simple revenue models indeed the internet can be the connective tissue bringing content together.

Overwhelmingly, consumers (84% in the U.K.) feel negatively about the move from free to paid entertainment services. The survey also reveals that paywalls created by entertainment sources for previously free services are being met with feelings of frustration and distrust by users. Some cite the lack of improvement in quality of service, while others state they would suspect a profit motive driven by greed.

The study also delivers insights on how content providers can try to overcome feelings of distrust about paywalls by delivering value in other ways. 87% of U.K. respondents consider visual and sound quality important in making their entertainment purchasing decisions and nearly half (47% in the U.K.) consider the number of devices with which they can access the entertainment.

The DERTy types at Edelman (that’s those of us who work in the Digital Entertainment, Rights and Technology practice) are gearing up for the launch of this year’s study:  Value, Engagement and Trust in the era of Social Entertainment.  We go live tomorrow so watch this space…

But what do you remember most about the entertainment landscape if you think back to 2007? We thought it would be interesting, ahead of releasing the new findings, to take a look back at the headline stats from the last five years.  Wow how far we’ve come…. Early studies were dominated by the debates around illegal file sharing, how much consumers were willing to pay for content and the emerging power of social networks.  In some ways a lot has changed – and in other ways nothing has.

We should add that the methodology for the study has changed a little across the five years as we’ve grown to look at a wider pool of consumers in the UK and US.  So a statistician wouldn’t be happy about comparing year on year.  However – we think this little slideshow gives a nice little summary of the evolution of the sector.  If you’d like to know more about each specific year, what was asked and who was asked, then please just drop us a note in the comment section.  You can see last year’s findings here.

If you can’t attend the event tomorrow, you can still take part by using the hastag #SocialEnt.  You can also have a listen to our podcast last week, with Matt Locke, Richard Sambrook and Luke Mackay, which sets up some of the themes of tomorrow’s study.

An article in the FT today states that Facebook is set to become the worlds largest online display advertising company (by revenue). This is some accomplishment, overcoming Google and Yahoo.

Importantly this also comes off the back of the news that Facebook is now starting to challenge Google as a referrer of traffic to other websites which shows how far social referring has come in the last few years.

Certainly Twitter and now Facebook are the first port of call for internet users looking for news that interests them; a quick scan of your news feed is all a simple strategy for looking at news that fits your interests and passions. Much easier than looking at five different websites to find out the same information.

What does this mean for us? Well, as ‘Influencer Marketers’ we should bear this in mind. Getting social links and a high Facebook referral might be more significant than the Tech pages of the Daily Mail.

Maybe we should spend more time writing copy and tailoring ideas for Facebook these days?

@GLeney

As part of our work with Orange, at a Group level, we’ve recently been involved in the launch of Mobile Exposure 2010 research and the launch of a new tool for advertisers – the Orange Mobile Targeting Monitor.

We wanted to share the research findings on the Pheasant for a couple of reasons:

  • The data is interesting from a tech point of view.  It reveals what content mobile media users in the UK, France, Poland and Spain are engaging with and when.   Of particular note is how applications are sitting alongside the mobile browser.  The research is a bit of a bench mark, so as Smartphone penetration grows it will be interesting to see how this usage evolves.
  • The advertising tool highlights the insight that is used to build advertising campaigns.  As I said in a post last week, PRs need to continue to use data to inform our thinking

Included here is a deck with the key research highlights.  If this subject is particularly of interest to you – then whiz over to the Orange micro-site to read and view more.

@LukeMackay

*just in case the above isn’t clear….  Disclaimer: Orange is a client, and I work on the account.  Our team was involved in the creation of some of the Exposure 2010 materials*

Tiptoes: A stupid flick.

As the Gun Cabinet shows, the internet is providing us with an increasing array of online tools that allow us to search, monitor, create and invent in our own right. Creating your own content has never been easier and Stupeflix is another example of an online tool that does just that, in this instance helping you to create fun videos, even if you don’t own a video camera or have editing software to hand.

Not only are tools like this enabling creativity, they are also a great way to share new ideas, concepts, or just fun, visual material with friends, colleagues or clients.

For those who haven’t explored Stupeflix yet, the tool allows you to upload images – drag and drop them in place to create your own running order, and add music, effects, backgrounds and text to create a full video display. The best thing, the tool is free for a video under one minute, but content can be purchased if you are looking for longer videos or high definition quality.  We find it really useful for creating coverage videos – clients love that it’s not just another PowerPoint.

@KatieWatkin

So, after months of deliberating and speculation, Murdoch has today come out and announced that access to The Times and Sunday Times’ online content will be charged as of June – with daily access for £1 and weekly for £2.

New websites will be launched in May for each title – replacing the existing timesonline portal – and it sounds like there’ll be limited free access to entice readers once the paid content sites launch.

That a major publication has come out with a paywall is hardly a surprise, but it is certainly high risk. The reception has been mixed – certainly if you simply consider the newspaper content on its own, it seems slightly extravagant to charge for what is currently free; that idea’s not going to get very far in the Dragon’s Den

However, the Times has quietly upped the ante with its acquisition of digital partners and content providers and it could be these added ’membership’ style benefits which could tip the balance between simply paying for news content, and being part of an entertainment hub – the Times is certainly already associated with quality culture and cultural insight.

The major issue this development throws up however is that Murdoch, despite being something of a publishing leviathan, doesn’t own everything online, and if other newspaper publishers go down the same route, the market will become incredibly siloed headlessand surely disenfranchise the customer. (We’ll not mention the problems having multiple access / subs to every newspaper would throw up for a PR Agency).

If key sites have to be individually paid for, it’s going to get very expensive very quickly for a consumer – and micro-payments will only work if there’s a unified platform to base the content on, (rather like a pre-paid Oyster card network for news), which of course doesn’t exist.

We’ve seen the problems similar approaches have encountered in the mobile space with the walled garden approach – surely content owners will have learnt its lessons here?

The internet has democratised information and made knowledge ‘free’ to an extent – does it really need to be boxed back up again?

@wonky_donky

A frightening precedent was set in Italy last week, which outside of the country itself seemed to have nominal impact in the press, but which could undermine the ‘net as we know it, at least as far as content hosting and delivery is concerned. The initial incident in question occurred in 2006, when an autistic child was bullied at school and the subsequent video put up on GoogleVideo – thankfully for the video to shortly be taken down after being alerted by Italian police. Google worked with the police to help uncover the person responsible for posting the video, and the perpetrator and several schoolmates in the video were subsequently charged.

But, last week the Italian courts convicted three Google executives (who received  suspended sentences) of failing to comply with Italian privacy codes. Now, bear in mind none of the executives were in the video; condoned the content; nor knew of it until being made aware by the police and once that happened, worked with the police to ensure convictions for those responsible. 

What this conviction raises is the prospect of platform owners being responsible for the content being created and put on them by users – the implications for the likes of YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook are massive. Essentially, this means that hosts can no longer disclaim responsibility for content, and thus be held responsible for illegal or reprehensible content whacked up on their sites.

How can this work in the long term, especially if it is replicated outside of Italy – how  can a host network possibly monitor everything posted online without hugely deteriorating from the quality of service, and without massive investment in resources, if everything has to be checked rigorously?

More to the point, if hosting now includes responsibility, where does the line get drawn, given what might offend one person may be acceptable to another? I personally swear like an Australian in some of what I put online, but if this offends someone, should my content be taken down – and what makes their morals ‘better’ and more acceptable than my slightly sweary ones? Who is the judge in all this?

This conviction throws up some very worrying precedents not just for the internet hosting companies and content distributors, but for everyone associated with content creation as well.

@wonky_donky

GSMA causes confusion with a strange choice of taxis at Congress 2010

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated” or so said Mark Twain, once upon a time in a country far far away. Isn’t it great how a little bit of information (or misinformation) can have such a profound effect on the way the world is viewed?

Do you remember where you were when you heard that Nokia were not exhibiting at the Mobile World Congress 2010? Followed by the collective gasps of horror, the ‘tsks’ and ‘tuttings’ and inevitable barrage of rhetorical questions. Was this the end of the show as we knew it?  Would the congress go the way of the likes of Comdex etc?  Did anybody care?

Well no, I don’t think they did. Why?  Because the mobile industry has grown up. They are no longer the ‘kids in hoodies’ hassling the big fixed line communication providers as they try to hang onto shrinking marketplaces and margins.

The mobile boys dumped their ‘L’Enfant terrible’ image years ago and they are ready to do business with the new masters of the mobile world; the companies that offer the holy grail of the mobile marketplace:  “Content Monetization” … if you are allowed to utter such an awful phrase.

Those new masters are the media companies. Disney, Google, News International, Electronic Arts, Sony Pictures etc; the list goes on. As does their list of premium interactive content which we, the viewing, button bashing public, just can’t get enough of.

So what if Nokia hasn’t spent millions of Euros building a booth?  No doubt they will have several hundred of their elite Finnish shock troopers going into battle all over the Fira and up and down “Las Ramblas” doing deals, pressing flesh and generally making their presence felt.

I wouldn’t bet my house on whether the Congress is going to be around forever but in my opinion as long as the operators want to keep selling airtime and m-commerce services, handset manufacturers want to shift volume and the whole world wants to watch the “The Simpsons” on the move Mobile World Congress ain’t going nowhere.

@MarkCasey

NEWS JUST IN: Nokia Microsite went live today announcing the rumoured presence in Barcelona.  Still – you get our point about Disney and stuff. http://events.nokia.com/mwc/