Archive for October, 2009

Be Creative with Your Audience and Revenue Will Follow

October 22, 2009

Traditional television outlets are under pressure as consumers look for, and now expect, great video content from the Internet. The efforts of these players to keep their consumers engaged in the online world offers general lessons for those looking to “monetize the audience, not the content,” as Fred Wilson has aptly put it.

Lisa Hsia, Senior VP, New Media & Digital at Bravo TV, discussed her efforts to build Bravo’s online presence while speaking at BRITE ’09

My job is to try to interact and engage our users before the program, during the program, after the program and always, and my job is not only to interact and engage but my job is really to monetize. … When I was at NBC news you know it was like, “this is a higher calling.” No. This is about money.

And just how does she do this? Through “constant experimentation and trying to figure out the user.” Although it isn’t all experimentation, Lisa noted that there are constants that drive audience interaction: photos, videos and blog posts. Her experiments come through different treatments of these resources and how they promote actions, like text message polling and paid content downloads.

In addition, based on the success of online polls and chats that occur during broadcast re-runs of Bravo’s shows like Top Chef, Lisa went back to her advertisers and suggested the development of interactive features for their banner ads. She noted that this is a trend the advertising industry is moving towards, but by showing the audience’s engagement with the shows, she helped push advertisers along.

To meet her “always” engaging the audience objective, Lisa developed affinity groups, e.g. “Bravo for foodies” and “Bravo for style,” which maintain a more constant level of interaction and permit additional opportunities for partnerships, sponsorships and advertising development. An online audience needs additional content, so costs can be a concern, but Lisa noted that for a 7-part webisode series spun out of “Make Me a Supermodel” she spent a mere $2,000. (Note the audible gasp from the audience in the video.) This combination of online activities yields tens of millions of dollars of additional revenue to Bravo.

It is true that the reality TV shows which dominate the Bravo line-up are ideally suited to online engagement. Lisa’s efforts demonstrate, however, that by being efficient and creative you can excite your audience, and drive deeper connections that lead to additional brand or advertising revenue.


This post originally posted by Matthew on the BRITE Conference blog at:

Four Things the FTC Can Do To Fix Its Assault on Free Speech

October 15, 2009

After 25 years, we still don’t understand what the Internet is.

At least that is the more charitable view of the Federal Trade Commission’s new regulations that will fine bloggers who endorse a product without disclosing any free samples or other compensation that they received.

The less charitable view would be that the FTC is using a minor annoyance (blogging shills) as an excuse for a vast power grab and restriction of free speech.

As the Supreme Court recognized in a landmark 1997 ruling, speech on the Internet is closer to speech in books or the public square than it is to broadcast media like radio or television.

And yet, in its new regulations, the FTC fundamentally mistakes blogging for a mass medium, like radio or television, whose publication is limited to a few large institutions broadcasting messages to a large audience. In reality, there are approximately 200 million blogs around the world (throw in 50 million Twitter accounts and the status updates of Facebook’s 300 million users, and you’re starting to get some real numbers here). The vast majority of blogging is not by influential platforms read by millions, but by individual bloggers publishing for a miniscule audience of friends and acquaintances.

To attempt to regulate speech (however sleazy and deceptive) on “blogs” is not at all equivalent to regulating speech on radio or television. What it is equivalent to is trying to regulate all speech printed on “paper” – newspapers, office memos, classroom handouts, post-its, and handwritten notes on your kitchen fridge.

I surely hope the FTC will quickly kill its regulation, and not force the courts to rule on the disastrous precedent it is setting.

If the FTC truly feels that bloggers flogging shampoo that they get for free is an affront that demands government action, I suggest they scrap their rules and start over with an approach based on the following:

  1. Regulate only those who solicit undisclosed endorsements. Companies that pay endorsers would need to take steps to ensure their gifts are clearly disclosed by recipients, and to cut off the goodies to any endorsers who fail to disclose in the future. Bloggers themselves would not be regulated.
  2. Make a distinction between giving free sample products vs. cash or additional gifts. I should be able to give out free cupcakes in front of my bakery without a disclaimer. But if I fly 50 bloggers to an all-expense weekend in Miami so I can ply them with products, I would need to request that they disclose this when talking about the products, and make a good faith effort to follow up and de-list anyone who repeatedly fails to disclose. (A minimum value for gifts requiring disclosure could also be set, say $500 per year.)
  3. Apply the rules to every media… As the law currently stands, magazine editors are still not obligated to disclose all the free products they receive, while your mother with 12 people following her on Twitter can be fined $11,000 for posting about the same thing.
  4. … and yes, even spoken speech. The rules should apply to those who solicit verbal endorsements as well, including “word of mouth” marketing agencies like BzzAgent. If you can’t write a law that’s constitutional in regulating spoken speech, then it isn’t fit to regulate speech on the Internet.

Actually enforcing such a policy might seem daunting, but it would involve policing thousands of companies and marketing agencies, rather than the hundreds of millions of citizens using social media who are covered by the current law. In large part, it could be enforced by the community ratting out the most egregious violators.

How about it, FTC? Can you rewrite this to make constitutional sense under our Bill of Rights?

If not, just admit your mistake and kill the new rule.

Disclosure: David Rogers is the Executive Director of the Center on Global Brand Leadership at Columbia Business School. He received no cupcakes while writing this post.


This post originally posted by David on the BRITE Conference blog at:

Crowdsourcing in Action: One Step to Build a Company

October 14, 2009

There is growing evidence that a company can strengthen its brand by listening to customers and even sourcing business ideas from the crowd. But just what does such an effort look like in action?

Entrepreneur Aaron Cohen used his speaking slot at the BRITE ’09 conference to conduct a live crowdsourcing experiment with the attendees. Cohen described the basic concept and unique assets behind a new company he was about to lead,, and then sought out suggestions that might turn these raw materials into a breakout media brand. Here is a video of this “crowdsourcing in action.”

Cohen assumed the role of CEO shortly after BRITE, and AnyClip is now moving forward along some of the tracks discussed during the conference. AnyClip (now in beta launch) lets users find, watch and share short clips of their favorite movie scenes online, and it has already secured the rights to host films from most of the major Hollywood studios. The company won rave reviews for its recent demo at the TechCrunch50 competition, walking away with the coveted Audience Award.

One of the key ideas in Cohen’s crowdsourcing discussion at BRITE was to open up the company’s film clip database to the software developer community — so that anyone can build new applications, services, and revenue streams based on AnyClip’s platform. Cohen discusses this strategy in a recent piece he wrote for The Business Insider, including the use of an “open API” (application program interface). Opening a new platform up to development by other entrepreneurs has been a critical part of the success of both Twitter and the iPhone App Store.

Open APIs are unique to technology brands. But, whatever industry you are in, there are ways to solicit ideas from your stakeholders and strengthen your brand through collaboration with your customers.


This post originally posted by Matthew on the BRITE Conference blog at:

It’s Time for the New York Tech Community to Brand Itself

October 2, 2009

This week I attended my first Clickable Interesting Cafe event with Fred Wilson, a VC and principal of Union Square Ventures, providing the talk. What stood for me was how much Fred’s discussion about the growth potential of the New York tech community was about branding, and yet he never couched it in those terms.

Fred spoke of the issue as a matter of perception: the more established web industry players still don’t see New York as one of “the” places to build an influential start-up company. Changing these perceptions will be about building a strong brand for this community.

He had no specific plan about what to do to show off this potential, but he’s sure that “we need to get the word out.”

Well, you may not have tackled the how, Fred, but you laid out some clear brand attributes of the New York web industry.

My favorite of the “factors” he discussed were:

  • New York can excel in building web applications
  • New York is a media obsessed city
  • International trade and business thrives in New York
  • New York is the world’s biggest stage, and
  • (my absolute favorite) New York will call you on your bullshit

The event also reflects the broad way in which our center thinks about brands–they are not just products, services, or companies. To drive even greater successes for the New York tech community, a brand will need to be built that combines both community and place.

Chris Dixon, founder of Hunch, provided some counterpoint to Fred’s talk, but also sees the potential for a boom in the New York web world (as he noted in his blog this summer). He described the need to “build a firewall” so that the great ideas and minds that form on the East don’t get pulled away to grow in the West.

In the end, I think that innovative tactics to “get the word out” will eventually come, in part, from the new web communications tools that are being built by this very community.

But I also think that a good old fashioned idea and tactic is in order here: the formation of a “New York Tech Industry Association.” The networking is already there (in places like NY Tech Meetup), and leading players like Fred and Chris are in place, maybe it’s time to bring all of this together within a more organized structure.

(For more of Fred’s “factors” you can watch his presentation from the Web 2.0 Expo).

[Photo by Benjamin Ellis (Flickr)]


This post originally posted by Matthew on the BRITE Conference blog at:

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