I Want My TiVO! Cutting the Cable on Cable Cutting

Tech industry investment money has generated what it wanted – a perception within the TV biz that “old TV” is dying as people cut the cable. And they’ve titled this trend “cable cutting”. (Statistics show it’s still a relatively limited trend so far.)

And with all this hype over the past decade I’ve been bothered by a fundamental logical flaw:

  • Enormous amounts of money are required to develop programming people want to watch (there are a few exceptions – but they don’t translate into a reliable low cost approach).
  • Yet the enthusiasts for cable cutting have made it all about low cost (usually nearly free) subsistence viewing.
  • If no one can afford to develop the programming to satisfy consumers, consumers won’t be satisfied.

In streaming we now see financial reality rear it’s ugly head.

Read more of this post

Where There’s New Media Smoke, There’s Usually a Smoke Machine

I modified a JFK attributed quote for this title. But also thought another modification explains a lot about one of the biggest hassles in modern marketing:

Where there’s smoke, there’s usually deep pockets writing a check.

Marketers today are pummeled with smoke — especially about new media, brand love, and about big data. And there’s a reason the smoke is so thick… There’s a set of big companies, venture startups, and VCs that think they can make big money by selling these ideas. And that opens their checkbooks wide.

But just because the checkbook is open doesn’t mean they’re selling anything important. All it means is that a pile of VENDORS stand to make big money if they can only convince you that what they have is important. (Most often they’re the ONLY ones making money through the idea.)
Read more of this post

Cable Cutting? Census Suggests Just Sharing Households.

Much was made of Nielsen numbers released recently that suggested a small drop in homes with multi-channel TV (cable, satellite, etc.).

Of course, those wishing to become rich in a new digital world told us, once again, that this was the harbinger of the death of TV…just like newspaper is dead (which it isn’t) and magazines are dead (which they aren’t).

But truth is often quite complex. And today I came across this release (click here). Read more of this post

Future TV Skepticism: Why I Don’t Think Apple will Conquer TV

It’s been a crazy week of reports on TV. It started with the extremists predicting nothing less than complete destruction of TV. They report this, of course, with tremendous glee – after all it’s good for your career to predict the demise of TV.

On the other hand, we’ve been fortunate to read responses from savvy TV watchers who observe TV with more clarity and better awareness of history. In particular, check out this post by Wayne Friedman of Media Post. (Link Here.) And I highly suggest you read this one about why internet HBO would cost far more than cable HBO cable – far more than anyone would pay. (Link Here.)
Read more of this post

Cable Cutting & Self Righteous Attacks on TV

I get pretty miffed when the “cable cutter” enthusiasts try to argue that online video will drag society out of the depths of depravity found in TV programming.

After all, what are most teens watching online? You can bet it’s NOT Masterpiece Theater or Nature. More likely they’re watching video’s of guys becoming eunuch’s when skateboard tricks land them on handrails.

This attack in TV is nothing new. I remember making it a few times in youthful enthusiasm while in college. Still, proponents of new media too often sound like sci-fi books — promising a “glorious future” where the internet changes mankind. (They are, of course, merely the latest to claim to remake humanity in thousands of years of such movements.) Read more of this post

GoogleTV: “More Returns than Sales” (Logitech)

I was skeptical of GoogleTV. It seemed Google fell prey to corporate hubris – believing they could build anything and make the marketplace think it’s valuable.

And from the start Google revealed they had no coherent strategy to deliver value to consumers. Instead, announcements made it clear they were in a desperate ploy to steal ad revenue away from traditional TV. Read more of this post

Incredible Deception: Using Research to Drive New Media Adoption

Here’s a surprise. Facebook hired a PR agency, Burson-Marsteller, to smear Google… Oh wait. Facebook says they were just placing unflattering articles about Google privacy concerns. And there’s a tiny bit of outrage.

Why is it only a tiny bit given the depth of the scandal? Perhaps because deception is fundamental to the new media business. Oops. Did I say “deception”. That word is a bit loaded because deception is in the eye of the beholder.

And, that’s why it’s so effective. There are always excuses where a company can claim a deception is purely accidental or simply the result of good marketing (unless you have the Facebook emails).

Mark Twain knew deception’s power: “A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Today, new media propels the lies through 10 to 20 full earth orbits before the truth touches its laces.

And it’s exactly the new media investment ecosystem that knows best how to leverage the ability to deceive with…new media. Although told in highly creative forms, there’s really only one lie that new media teams use: new media will kill old media.

They suggest it everywhere and have caused it to become so prevalent in the Bay Area that even Farhad Manjoo couldn’t avoid passing along this lie in his book “True Enough” – after he had spent 200 perceptive pages looking at how we mislead ourselves.

I’m going to continue looking at this in a post that’s a bit long for my taste. But this is a critically important issue.

The most concerning new media lies are told with research. Using research in PR takes advantage of a blind spot in media.

Most journalists have at best a cursory familiarity with research. As a result, they don’t feel qualified to evaluate whether research is valid. So when a company makes a research based claim journalists feel obligated to cover it and will always state the theory that “it’s backed up with research” – especially if there are statistical error limits reported. (Those +/-3% numbers make anything believable.)

Fortunately, in politics Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com does excellent work commenting on misleading, skewing, and other deceptions with research. There is no equivalent in media and advertising. But Byron Sharp’s blog is beginning to challenge flakey advertising research.

This is a good development because research manipulation preys on the market at a vulnerable point – while they are attempting to rely on data to accurately understand rapidly evolving market forces.

Unfortunately there is a disaffected group who want nothing more than to throw out the “old way” and replace it with something new. Groups like this drink deeply from deceptive research because they aren’t really interested in truth – just finding ways to justify their ideas.

Create the Research Answer You Want. There are a wide range of options that create mis-leading research. One particularly insidious ploy works like this:

– Articles are placed that claim something (e.g. “TV is dying”).

– Research is done among the people who have read those articles and, quite surprisingly, this research finds those people “believe” TV is dying.

– The research is put out and it will show things like 90% of marketers “believe they should shift” their money out of TV.

Notice what is missing: reality. In fact, the key to brilliant use of this research is to ask marketer’s opinions and avoid tracking facts media facts (ad spending, ad effectiveness, reader engagement, etc…).

Those of us in the TV business know this work well because this type of research deception has been used against TV regularly. And, here, opinion doesn’t reflect reality. TV has been attacked since the 1980s when VCRs were going to kill it — but didn’t. And in this decade with the theory that DVRs would kill TV ads — but solid, trustworthy research shows that DVRs not only haven’t hurt advertising, DVR’s seem to have made it more effective.

Yet despite these truths, research lies support ad agencies who quite often claim TV is a dying medium. Fortunately for our economy, it’s not.

Twitter was a particular beneficiary of this type of work. It wasn’t until earlier this year we found out that Twitter reaches an exceptionally tiny portion of the US population. But the press hype created a marketing opinion shift that implied Twitter was much more significant than it really was.

Bandwagon Research. Another deception through research leverages the human urge to become one of the popular crowd and may have played an important part in Republican party actions that led to the election of Scott Brown to the Senate from Massachusetts.

I don’t know what actually happened in Massachusetts. But let’s take the hypothetical case and assume a candidate is behind, but not too far. A survey is crafted which is designed to show that the candidate is leading even though they aren’t (it’s easy to create this type of research).

Carefully timing the release of this survey will get independents and moderates to switch their votes and jump on the bandwagon. This can cause the election to swing and eliminate any opportunity for an opponent to respond.

This research is always “statistically” valid – but statistical validity doesn’t equal truth. Statistics in research never look at the validity of the questions being asked and can’t detect manipulation through cleverly wording the questions.

As one example of misleading with research, consider this study: http://www.strongmail.com/pdf/SM_Trends2011.pdf

Note that this study compares “advertising” with email. Wow. That’s like comparing answers between “will your company increase R&D spending?” and “will your company buy more binder clips?”

Then it reports headlines showing exceptional email strength. Except the fundamental comparison is flawed. And even if it weren’t flawed, the headline is meaningless when you really think about it. The 25% who will increase advertising will mean hundreds of times more money than the 65% who will increase email spending. The business opportunity is with advertising and not email.

But media won’t walk away from a study like this – or the headlines it generates. Instead they’ll use it to imply new media success and old media failure.

Study by study, the deception is nothing to worry about. But multiply this one study by the thousands more just like it and you have an entire industry jumping into wasting client money. And all the while, this research use is embraced by a group of people hungry to build agency bookings, make billions on IPO’s, drive their careers to new heights or become pundits.

As long as I’m on a roll,another deceptive practice in new media is the “look how big” comparison. Here’s one I heard at a Google presentation:

“Lady Gaga posted a music video and got 95 million views in a year. Just think about it, only 500,000 people are watching MTV.”

Let’s look at this. Lady Gaga is 1 in a million. And, her numbers ARE big – but they’re driven to those heights because of nearly non-stop coverage in the…wait for it…traditional media.

Still, let’s consider the MTV comparison. The Google presenter implied the internet is more powerful than TV. Bull.

In terms of viewer minutes, Lady Gaga’s videos got about 385 million viewer minutes in a year. In only a single day, MTV accumulates nearly twice as many viewer minutes. And in a year, they accumulate 700 times more. Note also that Gaga is the extreme example driven by excessive traditional media.

Consider also that MTV’s viewer minutes include advertising which means the ability to charge hundreds of millions of dollars each year for those viewings. Lady Gaga’s economic power? Hard to calculate. But, nowhere near the economic power of MTV.

And that means that we learn absolutely nothing about the value of online video from this example. But that’s not what our Googler said.

A Rampant Problem. I cannot comment fully on the intent of the people behind all this mis-leading research. A portion of the research error comes because many new media advocates lack the training to think clearly about research.

Regardless of intent, it is sad that the majority of media surveys mis-lead in ways like these. Certainly the media world is changing and that means we desperately need good research that shows the truth about this change. Too bad that the rarest of rarities is quality research about new media.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

Research Proves Netflix is the Internet Hawg. What Will the Angry Birds Do?

A recent report looks at all Internet bandwidth (upstream and downstream) and concludes that Netflix is now the single biggest consumer of bandwidth. (Report here.)

And so it begins.

What begins? That’s the big question. Fundamentally, the Internet universe we have come to know and love is threatened by the onslaught of movies online.

For example, in my neighborhood we can tell when our neighbors start watching movies – because our bandwidth slows down dramatically. And, talking with folks, it’s a pretty universal experience to lose Internet speed on Friday afternoon/evenings as well as weekend evenings.

Does this mean an apocalyptic Internet disaster? Probably not. But it looks like Netflix has stolen the internet eggs that we’d like to use for other things. And, from what I can see, the consumer, the movie business and the Internet business are all unprepared for the havoc Netflix is wreaking.

Netflix’s Loophole. I’m told that Netflix dominance is made possible in large part by a short term loophole. Right now, high speed Internet relies heavily on past investment in infrastructure that contributed to the dot com crash, then was bought for a song and expanded in the past decade. My guess is that this means that the current equation (you get all the movies you want to watch for under $10) isn’t likely to last.

So Netflix is using a type of bait and switch tactic: hook us with low prices and it sure looks like they’ll have to switch to high fees later. All this made possible because they don’t have to pay for the bandwidth they’re using today. The result will be that we end up paying more for Internet delivered entertainment than we ever have for cable.

There is an alternative outcome. Comcast (and other cable operators) seem to be the Timex watches of the entertainment business. Nothing exciting. Nothing particularly motivating. But they take a licking and keep on ticking. So in truth, Comcast may dominate and Netflix could be forced out of the picture.

I never believe companies who claim they have suspended fundamental economic truths. And Netflix’s statements about bandwidth lack economic truth. Fortunately we were reminded recently that economic laws can’t be broken when Blippy had to return to a sane business model.

So let’s hope that sanity comes back to the discussion of TV over Internet. Because right now it’s stuck in an imaginary economic universe where bandwidth performance is free.

And lets hope some of those angry birds get their eggs back so we don’t move back in time and end up with the neighborhood equivalent of dial-up because the Hawg stole the bandwidth.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

The New (Old) Truth: Mass Media is the Key to Building Brands

For some time, marketing has been dominated by the theory that the way to success is getting your most loyal consumers to buy more. As a result, it’s become popular for marketing “guru”s to declare the end of mass marketing.

There’s just one problem: it’s not true. The best discussion of this reality that I’ve seen recently is found in Byron Sharp’s book “How Brands Grow” (2010, Oxford). Let me share a few of the realities I found in this excellent, and challenging, read. Read more of this post

iPad 13 – App Developers Must Improve Their Finished Product; Thoughts To Start My 2nd Laptop-Free Year

Just one year ago I took possession of Flatland, my iPad 3g. And just this week I’ve received Flatland 2 – my new iPad2 (64GB, 3g, black with Red case).

A laptop free year. After getting Flatland, it took a while for it to dawn on me that I had immediately started living Laptop-Free. In fact, in the past year, I carried a laptop only once (when I had to do a Skype presentation from Des Moines to an audience in Czecklosovakia).

This is quite significant. I travel about twice a month on business. And that travel extensively covers the US – from Florida to California to Boston to Oregon and points between. On these trips I leverage the iPad extensively. I create spreadsheets, Word docs, & presentations, show presentations on projectors, play back video, stay in touch, write blog posts, write scripts, review our TV work in progress, and do a whole range of other work. Flatland has been fully sufficient – even much better than my previous laptop.

It’s also interesting that around Portland I never carried a laptop much. But I take my iPad all the time and regularly get things done at the coffee shop, lunch, or waiting at my son’s swimming lesson.

Apple, great job! I might even have to bite the bullet and use the word “magical” (tho’ I despise it’s use in marketing anything but Disneyland).

App Developers? I Sure Hope You Get it Together…and SOON! After my year-long experience, App developer weaknesses are my one lingering disappointment in Flatland.

Seems that App developers must be a pretty thick headed group. The Apps they create (a) refuse to take advantage of the pad’s strengths and/or (b) abuse the screen by wasting it on “white space” that abuses my screen space productivity.

A small handful of examples:

– Why is it that Huffingtonpost’s iPad app is so weak? (I’m not alone. Many other iPad owners complain about it. (It’s weird, because they’re iPhone app is good.)
– Why can’t WordPress get a good app? One year later, it remains buggy, tricky to use in some cases, and seems to have been left to fall apart on the sidelines.
– Why don’t Apps like CBS Sports, Bloomberg, and many more have the most basic interface fundamentals – like indicators to tell you when you’ve selected something? This is a user interface basic!
– There is no single App that does what I need to do with Office documents. There are 3 that each have strengths. But each has a major weakness. And none of them work well with MS/Word tables.

App after App simply doesn’t live up to the potential it SHOULD bring to the iPad. Obvioiusly, I’m getting by quite well. But it remains disappointing that every App I download shows up one or two significant weaknesses in major areas. My guess is that these weaknesses result from a few things.

App developers learned their skills with phones but haven’t grown up to tablets. This is too bad. Survival will require that they figure it out. Phone users are more forgiving – tablet users aren’t at all. With a tablet, size is everything and I want apps that use the screen size to become more effective – not just to show off how cool they can be. That doesn’t mean to avoid white space. It means that if you use white space, use it to deliver a better app – not just meaningless space or cool hype.

Developers Don’t Charge Enough. So many apps are cheap – really cheap. Clearly, they are too cheap to be well crafted. Maybe this is driven by the mythology of the companies who build little gimmicks for no investment then sell millions of them at $1.99 each. But I’m pretty well past those cheesy cheap apps. It’s time for real ones that we pay more to buy. How much? Clearly I’d not hesitate to pay over $20 for the right high quality app.

Android’s strength may lead developers to make apps that are lowest common quality (Android). My students describe Android as “the Windows of mobile operating systems”. And that’s not far off. So I’m guessing at this leads to Android “dumbing down” because the Apps feel like they’ve been built with the same hamfisted approach we find in many PC applications.

Of course, history suggests that developers will probably blame Apple (lack of tools, communication, kickbacks, so forth). So I’m ready for it. But I doubt it (having worked briefly at a developer and watched the developer battles since the early 1990’s). In fact, my first software development project was in 1982. And I’ve watched software progress with tremendous interest since. The mistakes I’m seeing are mistakes of an immature industry.

App Developers Need to Catch Up to Apple. The way I see what Apple has achieved in the past 10 years is that they turned technology quality into consumer quality. Nowhere will consumers put up with the fundamentally poor finished quality that is delivered in electronics – except in electronics because they haven’t had a choice.

But in the iPod, iPhone and iPad, Apple has delivered fully consumerized electronics products. Despite Apple’s figuring this out, the rest of the tech manufacturers really haven’t. They’re still delivering products with the same fundamental messiness that they were delivering in 1995. (The specifics may have changed, but the overall experience remains the same.)

Other than game developers, App Developers haven’t figured it out either. Many of the game developers already consumerized their software – but they had to because their “under 10 year old” audience required it.

Apart from the big games, I wouldn’t say that there are many Apps of exceptional consumer quality. Yes, I can get things done. And, yes, the Apple business apps are the best ones (although they still have some unusual failings).

App developers, help us all out. Set a higher standard for yourselves. Set a standard that your apps have to deliver dramatic value and exceptional satisfaction among the mass audience (and not just the tinkering digi-rati).

And I’ll bet that the first one who does will dominate the world within a very short time. Because those of us who live in our own Flatlands will become your fast friends.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved