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.

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Kickstarter Mythology Needs Some Retail Reality


Kickstarter mythology has outgrown reality.

(But let me be very clear. I’m NOT talking about Kickstarter art, music, and movie projects. It was designed for these and they seem to be running pretty well overall.)

I’m talking about Kickstarter campaigns that raise money by Directly Selling new Products that have never been built – and taking orders for lots of them. In the computer business we used to call this selling vaporware and investing in businesses dedicated to vaporware led to the dotcom crash. Segway and Google Glass were both massive vaporware disasters.

Now, by selling vaporware with Kickstarter, we’re seeing amazing train wrecks among the most highly successful money raising campaigns. These train wrecks are all made possible by the mythologies that drive Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites. (Incidentally, a comment below points out this is a far more dramatic version of the direct mail practice of “dry testing”. There is already FTC guidance on dry testing.)

The Mythology of Kickstarter for Inventors. Inventor mythology starts with a belief that it’s enough to come up with a good idea and some money to build it. And Kickstarter appears to “unshackle” inventors so this can happen.
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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.)
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Cursed by Checkbox Video

You know the videos I mean – the ones made so the agency can check the box “Cool video complete”. (Of course, many of them aren’t very cool – at least to consumers. But we’ll hold off on that discussion.)

Checkbox work has always been a curse. Before it was video (back in the dark ages of the 1970s and 1980s) it was the checkbox slide show. When I was a client shopping for supercomputers in the 1980s aerospace business, if the salesman brought the slide show or video I’d skip the meeting. My team had learned that these checkbox presentations never communicated what mattered as we evaluated computers.

That was then and this is now. And what used to be merely dull and boring has exploded in that way only the web can make things explode… (It’s amazing how fast bad marketing choices replicate across the web.)
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Space Jump Gets Viewers. But Does Branded Content Really Fly?

Wave Goodbye to Branded Content Myths

Humanity loves watching the truly daring. From NASA projects to high altitude ballooning and trips around the world, my adult life has been paced by some fascinating events.

So it was with tremendous awe, excitement and fun on Sunday that my family watched the TiVO playback of Discovery Channel coverage of the space jump – where Felix Baumgartner jumped from 128,000 feet, lost control in a tumble, fell at more than the speed of sound, then opened a parachute and landed on his feet. (And, tested a possible high altitude emergency escape for astronauts.)

This morning we find that apparently around 8 million YouTube viewers watched the event. (Link here.) (As always…we’re not really certain what a YouTube viewer means since I can count as 15 YouTube viewers given all the devices I use.)

True to form the online advertising enthusiasts are ready to jump on these numbers as “proof” of the power of branded content. Branded content? Articles I read today remind me that Red Bull sponsored the jumper (I’d forgotten already). So, enthusiasts are taking “sponsored” and deciding that it is clearly “branded content”. Whatever.

Anyway, when it comes to numbers we need to be more skeptical.

What the Space Jump Really Proves is That Traditional Media Remains the Best Driver of Demand. After all…

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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.)
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Setting Reasonable Expectations for Online Video Power

New media has found one more shiny new bauble – this time it’s online video. Let the exaggerations and over-statement begin! (Oh, wait, they have…)

Don’t get me wrong – I’m a video enthusiast. And our work ranges from TV spots for Kobalt brand tools from Lowe’s to 1/2 hour infomercials, web videos, in-store videos, and video send by direct mail.

But I think that gives me a reasonable position to suggest we shouldn’t sell online video services by dramatically exaggerating their potential impact. Read more of this post