February has been the month for innovation conferences on music and publishing. Last week was O’Reilly’s Tools of Change Conference (in New York with amazing food). Yesterday was Brian Zisk’s SF Music Tech Conference, and today starts Ned Sherman’s Digital Media Wire Music conference in New York.
Recurring themes have been abundant start-ups facing creators to help them into continuing to shift distribution platforms, as well as various efforts in creating thoughtful fan data tools. Innovation on both coasts and with both industries is in the face of long-standing industry leaders, all embracing digital in workflow, marketing, distribution, and social media . . . to various degrees. We’ve been having a good time chatting with companies as they have been launching over the past year or so. One company eagerly approached us yesterday at SF Music Tech, eager to tell us that the company that they dreamed of last October is launching in April.
Revenue? Business models? The issue we find the most interesting is business development. How do you cost-effectively sell into these spaces, especially in working with traditional distribution and rights holders? We keep running into one frantically running biz dev person at many of these companies.
We’re seeing the issue with more startling contrast in the educational media and technology space, with biz dev people trying to sell one small product to many universities, and amazed they can’t get scale.
We’re getting busier and busier around educational technology change with many higher education organizations now. In this season of MOOCs (“massively open online courses”) and other education innovation announcements, I am focusing with many organizations on how to plan educational design with all of this output. How do we syndicate and create multiple use streams? How do we interact with publishing companies and other universities with all of this multimedia content? How do we collaborate and re-purpose what can otherwise be expensive limited use content?
This week, I’m heading to the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference to think about how multimedia distribution might fold into all this expanded production in higher education. At least one university we’re working with is rethinking their academic publishing arm — what can we do with all of this media being produced in MOOCs and blended course environments?
For the past two weeks, we have been running presentations and workshops on education in the cloud and digital education in creative industries. I’ve also been going to a variety of conferences, including heading today to Billboard FutureSound in San Francisco.
At last night’s event, several of us began to compare notes on all of the digital learning companies that we see launching. One of our advisers, on the investment side, said that he had two companies just pitched to him yesterday.
What are the barriers to entry in this business, now that you can perch your new learning environment on flexible cloud-based tools and infrastructures-in-the-cloud? Audience?
For many years, I have taught part-time at UCLA. Every year, friends have come to me saying, “What I really want to do is teach.” I have told them how much it pays (and they are taken aback), and they still want to do it. UCLA does get picky, and has turned down many fine VPs of divisions of companies because they lack both the right credentials and teaching experience. UCLA Extension provides a wonderful alternative, within their structure and fine teacher training, for a lot of this content to get out into the professional worlds.
Now we are mixing the abundance of User Generated Content with all of this unmet teaching demand. I spoke with two start-ups last week. Each is “allowing” the teaching faculty for their programs to invest all of their own time and recording energy to create their classes, and “only” taking 50% of the revenue for letting them teach on the platform. Other older entities are more gracious to the teachers (some keeping 15-30%), but all of these seem to put the production risk onto the eager teacher with no guarantees or advances. Many seem to offer deals to learners with deep discounts to drive continuing interest in the platform.
There are some great programs that do have nice revenue streams for the teachers online. The newer models, mixing new abundance into education, seem to be taking willing content producers and promising them lights to shine.
Perhaps I’ll be less cynical when I see review structures come out and customers not flock to the next new freemium educational product.
Fox is hosting with NAMIC a Digital Media event on Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012: “The Future of Digital Content & Distribution.”
FOX / NAMIC — Digital Media Multi-Platform Panel Exchange: “The Future of Digital Content & Distribution”
Wednesday, October 30, 2012, 6:00pm-8:25pm @ Fox Studios Lot
Click here to register with NAMIC for the event
Two panels offering engaging and relevant perspectives and professional insights on the impact of digital content development and distribution across multiple platforms.
Networking Reception: (6:00p / 45 minutes)
Digital Content Panel (6:45p / 40 minutes)
· Martez Moore, EVP, Digital Media/Strategy & Business Development
· Gigi Johnson – Executive Director, Maremel Institute
· Maureen Lane – Vice President – Programming West, Time Warner Cable
· Maurizio Vitale – Senior Vice President, Marketing, OWN
Intermission/Networking: (7:25p / 20 minutes)
Digital Distribution Panel: (7:45p / 40 minutes)
· Carlos Sanchez – Executive Director, Warner Bros. Digital Distribution
· Ric Whitney – Director, Digital Marketing – Cable Distribution, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
· Melissa Peterkin – Senior Director, Product Strategy & Partnerships, Digital Media Group, CBS Television Distribution
A reporter from a major newspaper emailed me on Friday with three questions about the Ryan Seacrest/NBC Universal two-year, multi-platform deal. He had found me from one of my non-Maremel roles: lecturer at UCLA Anderson Graduate School of Management. (I’m off this quarter, and back in June with their summer program.)
He asked about (1) whether ubiquity is necessary in media these days, (2) what the deal was like from a management point-of-view with Ryan as a business, and (3) whether there is a risk of backlash.
I thought about these issues, and came back with five ways to view the deal:
- Diversification of his brand portfolio with this deal, to expand into prime time, sports, elections, and a broader morning show portfolio.
- Comcast/NBCUniversal’s need to bring younger audiences to NBC News, and elections, and possibly women to Sports.
- Social Media, essentially in “buying” a Klout score
- Ubiquity – Wow, he’s been ubiquitous for years
- Strategic role vs. being the product
- Diversification: I’d contest he already is ubiquitous, though in entertainment modes across the US and some global distribution. What this deal gives him is diversification; it helps him move from an entertainment brand to a news, politics, sports, and prime time brand. Bluntly, it could reduce his “fluff factor.”
- Comcast audience challenge: The TV audiences are getting older, or younger viewers are finding other modes of engagement instead of watching network TV as network TV. Ryan is a broadly appealing brand with a younger audience base than election coverage usually attracts. Whether the Today Show, the news, or even Prime Time, Ryan brings a potentially younger demographic than currently is showing up to those genres. For US elections, this age gap in attention on Network TV is of increasingly important; as Morley Winograd says in his work on Millenials, “only 5% of Super Tuesday’s votes were cast by people under 30,” while they make up a much larger percentage of the US population. (http://communicationleadership.usc.edu/blog/post_6.html)
- Social Media: He also brings a nice, high Klout score (85), a strong Twitter following (6.6 million), robust Facebook following (487,000 subscribers), and other direct connections with fans. That asset set dramatically could help the interconnections with these old and new media delivery arenas for NBC Universal.
- Ubiquity: Being in LA, Ryan has been everywhere for years. I think I first heard him on KYSR back in the 1990s. As he added in his American Idol, E!, and American Top 40 expansions, it felt to many of my friends here that Ryan was everywhere all the time…quite a while ago.
My funny story there: My two teenage daughters joined me at a much younger age to see an American Idol live taping, I think in Season 2. Ryan came into the audience and spoke with them a while, which both my (now) 14-year-old and I remember vividly. She remembers that moment now, mentioning that it was so cool as he was a famous person (back then). I asked her about him now. “Well, he’s a lot less famous now.” I think that the “ubiquity” might be apparent now to those Americans who spend time in traditional television; it won’t affect or even be noticed by my 14-year-old unless those outlets come into her social media sphere to do more than just hire Ryan.
- Strategic Role vs. Being the Product: He already was amazingly busy as an individual. I’m not sure how all of this will work for him. As a leader of a production holding company, his time will be swamped out by all of this face-time. I don’t know Adam Sher and Jeff Refold from his company management team, or his support network including his CAA team – I’m hoping that they will be able to leverage these new demands on his time, as well as the January co-investment in AXS TV and new incoming funds from Clear Channel and others. Hopefully they can mix this all with his time and health, creating strategic opportunities for him to make it all happen.
Some comparisons have been made with Dick Clark. Dick Clark Productions leveraged his time, making his ideas come to life. Dick did a lot of things himself, but seemed to structure his business world to help him amplify his influence beyond his appearance. Ryan has made some efforts in that regard, but the deals in January would be the core to help him create robust, permanent economic legacies for him other than his charm and appearance. Perhaps this NBC Universal deal can help him bridge in this direction as well. I hope that it doesn’t put too much complex pressure on his time that may pull pieces out of a complex puzzle.
Ryan Seacrest ubiquitous? Nah. 😉
We’re building new short-form classes here at the Maremel Institute (and join our email list to find out more about the upcoming schedule). One that so far is in high demand is on Social Listening, the arts of using social media for business intelligence not just on big trends, but also on where unique conversations are going on that align with your work and message.
We are looking at current resources to share in these courses, and ran into a great SlideShare deck from December by Rosie Siman (@rosiesiman) on Social Listening tools. We wanted to share this great visual representation of tools while we are putting our own work together.
2) Let us know which ones you like or have been missed.
3) Let us know what you’d like to make sure that we cover in these new short-form classes. You can contact us at synthesis [dot] maremel.com for more information and recommendations.