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Jun 11, 2009

Facebook Trumps MySpace, Twitter Among NBA, Nascar Fans

Ed: My guess is that the absolute number of participants was pathetic - raising questions about the statistical significance of this article/conclusion. 

Turner: But Those on MySpace Are the Most Vocal When Using 'Social TV'

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Pop quiz: What is the social network to which Nascar fans flock?

If you guessed Facebook, you would be right -- at least according to data from Turner Networks, which recently made Nascar and NBA viewing social by letting users sign in to the various online networks to chat about the basketball games and races. But MySpace users are the most vociferous and accounted for the largest percentage of chatter about live sporting events.

Users watching the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals could log on to Turner's companion websites and chat with fellow viewers.
Users watching the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals could log on to Turner's companion websites and chat with fellow viewers.

MySpace: Most vocal
Turner launched the social-viewing option using a service called Socialize from social-media technology provider Gigya. Users watching the NBA's Eastern Conference Finals or Nascar's Pocono 500 live could log on to Turner's companion websites using Facebook, MySpace or Twitter (or a combination of those) to chat with fellow viewers. The cable network found Facebook represented, on average, 48% of Socialize log-ins during the NBA games, while MySpace came in a very close second at 40%. Twitter users composed 12%. But from a message-volume standpoint, MySpace users were the most vocal, accounting for 53% of all the messages sent.

In last weekend's Nascar race, the Pocono 500, the difference among log-ins was more pronounced: Facebook accounted for 54% of users; MySpace was half that at 27% and Twitter trailed with 10%. Again, MySpace users talked the most, accounting for 44% of message volume despite only 27% of log-ins.

"I think everyone was surprised at how competitive MySpace was," said Dave Yovanno, CEO of Gigya. "It's not an all-Facebook social web -- users have choice. MySpace is not out and, in fact, was very competitive in terms of total connections and messages." Mr. Yovanno suggests there will be consolidation on the social web, "but we expect there to always be a few dominant platforms."

Turner's agnostic view
The practice of letting people log into TV network's website through their social-network IDs was made popular when CNN.com encouraged those viewing President Barack Obama's inauguration online to sign in using their Facebook accounts so they could chat live; shortly after that Turner used the same service, called Facebook Connect, to let users chat while watching the NBA All-Star Game. But over the past couple weeks, Turner became the first TV network to adopt an agnostic view, letting users sign into MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.

"We were going to allow the Facebook guy to chat with the MySpace guy to chat with the Twitter guy," said Matthew Hong, VP-general manager of sports digital at Turner Sports.

In both cases, on-air mentions drove people to the Turner sites where Socialize lived. During the Nascar race, the on-TV commentators also answered questions from the social-networked audience.

Turner isn't releasing total numbers of users who logged in using their social-network IDs, but Mr. Hong said it was pleased by the "better user experience and higher engagement," as indicated by the time people are hanging out in Turner's interactive environments. "The early return is it gives people an opportunity to participate in our content," he said.

That Twitter, which just launched its own Facebook Connect service, called Log in With Twitter, trailed the other two networks shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone following web traffic trends. Despite the hype and rapid recent growth, Twitter has far fewer users than Facebook or MySpace. According to ComScore's figures for April, Twitter notched 17 million unique visitors to Facebook's 67.5 million and MySpace's 71 million.

How the numbers break down

Nascar on TNT (Pocono 500) Users:
MySpace: 27%
Facebook: 54%
Twitter: 19%

Nascar on TNT (Pocono 500) Messages:
MySpace: 44%
Facebook: 37%
Twitter: 18%

NBA Eastern Conference Finals Users (average of all games):
MySpace: 40%
Facebook: 48%
Twitter: 12%

NBA Eastern Conference Finals Messages (average of all games):
MySpace: 53%
Facebook: 35%
Twitter: 12%

Jun 10, 2009

Why YouTube Will Sink or Swim With Midtail-Shows like Obama Girl

'Midtail' Content Safer for Advertisers Than User-Generated Fare

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Forget Hollywood. YouTube's future lies less in "Desperate Housewives" and more in low-budget fare from producers such as Next New NetworksMachinimaHowcastand MondoMedia. That's because for all the sound and fury over studio deals, long-form content just isn't that popular on YouTube. Rather, it's the so-called midtail content, which fills a niche somewhere between studio-produced and user-generated fare, that's exploded.

It's a category that didn't really exist before YouTube, but will play more than a bit part in its future because it supplies the biggest pool of brand-safe ad impressions, fertile ground for YouTube's overlays and banners, and malleable content for brand integrations it can peddle to Madison Avenue.

2 billion views
The top-100 midtail producers -- including names such as College HumorSmosh and MyDamnChannel -- have racked up more than 2 billion views during the past six months on YouTube, growing nearly 5% a month on average, according to video analytics firm TubeMogul. Meanwhile, the full-length hour-long and half-hour TV shows on YouTube, 3,215 episodes in all, have accumulated 19.5 million views.

YouTube's biggest TV partner to date, CBS, has only 6.9 million views across 315 TV episodes in the year it has had shows on the site, which represents the equivalent of a bad night for "Two and a Half Men" on TV, and a mere speck on the 1.5 billion views YouTube streams around the world each day. (Granted, part of YouTube's dismal numbers for studio-produced shows are because its TV catalog consists of titles such as "I Dream of Jeannie" and "Fantasy Island," not current hits such as "30 Rock" and "24.").

"The closest thing as made-for-YouTube is this midtail; it's more snack-size -- you're watching at work when you have less time," said TubeMogul CEO Brett Wilson. "As audiences grow, this will be more profitable for YouTube than selling ESPN's content."

It is becoming even more important now that most of the valuable rights to major TV shows are locked up with Hulu for the next two years. But even if YouTube gets more studio content -- or a distribution deal with Hulu -- it's hard to see Google making a business out of YouTube without cultivating a healthy ecosystem of semi-pro or midtail video, whose brand-safe content has devoted, if small, audiences and is unencumbered by complicated rights issues around pay TV, DVD or international windows.

"Our shows are built to be semi-pro, a whole step up from user-generated but not intended to feel like heavily produced television," said Lance Podell, CEO of Next New Networks.

Not major money-makers
Making video for YouTube isn't making anyone rich, and production companies producing web fare operate on very low overhead and tiny margins, if they're making any profit at all. At least two have folded during the recession, ManiaTV and 60Frames. Several others are heavily venture-backed, and need to scale quickly.

But as audiences grow, they become more attractive to marketers looking for cheap video integrations. YouTube producers with their own sales operations routinely include YouTube in agency pitches, giving them entrée to brand-advertising dollars. And small content partners are routinely part of YouTube's pitch.

A few producers earn in excess of $1 million a month in the form of advertising revenue-sharing deals with YouTube, where the producer typically gets 55% of the gross. And because many of these companies live or die on small YouTube tweaks, such as a change to the home-page architecture, Google's VP-strategic partnerships, David Eun, includes YouTube's partners in talks about its plans through a program it calls Strategic Partner Development.

Some producers privately grumble that YouTube isn't doing enough and has courted Hollywood at their expense. It is making concessions to Hollywood that it won't grant to indie content providers, such as integrating proprietary video players for Disney and creating a "shows" section of the home page to showcase TV content away from the user-generated hoi polloi. YouTube softened its TV-only stance in that section, but it's unclear who will get showcased and who won't. Spokesman Aaron Zamost said YouTube is "flexible" on the content that ends up there and wouldn't rule out "graduating the most popular content from these kinds of midtail partners to the 'shows' section." The genre, he said, is a key way YouTube hopes to boost the percentage of videos it can sell to advertisers.

YouTube has begun working with Blip.tv, which is accumulating 70 million views a month with energetic little web shows such as "Average Betty" and the "The Mortified Shoebox Show," and Freewheel, a video-ad server founded by ex-DoubleClick execs that makes it easier for both producers and YouTube to sell video ad inventory.

"In the end, what works for YouTube is to be the default place to watch video online, like Craigslist for classified ads or Google for search," said Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3. "In order to do that, they have to have everything there."

Jun 9, 2009

Where to Find the Marketer Opportunities in the New iPhone 3GS

  • $99 for old 3G
  • $199 for faster, better camera, more location integration 3GS
  • Repeat of 1990's ideas for mobile marketing
How Apple's New Device Changes Mobile Behavior

SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Apple executives didn't throw any curve balls at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference today in San Francisco. But the iterative changes hidden within a new, faster iPhone -- and the previously announced software upgrade -- could change not just consumer but also advertiser behavior. Here's a run-down of what's new and what it means to marketers.

The iPhone 3GS is being billed by Apple as the 'fastest, most powerful iPhone.'
The iPhone 3GS is being billed by Apple as the 'fastest, most powerful iPhone.'
Photo Credit: Apple

What's new: Apple introduced the new iPhone 3GS, which includes an updated operating system. It will hit AT&T stores, its exclusive carrier, for $199 with a contract.

Why it matters for marketers: Speed (yes, that's what the "S" stands for) is the key. Billed by Apple as the "fastest, most powerful iPhone," the new handset from the Cupertino, Calif.-based company will provide faster downloads, while the phone's greater memory and processing speed will allow advertisers to dial up more rich-media ad units. The news coincides with AT&T's recent announcement that it is upgrading its 3G network to deliver data faster.

"People are already using their phones as mini-computers," said Tina Unterlaender, account director at digital agency AKQA. "But the faster speeds will change user behavior even more. It's going to change the way whole new generations access the internet, and it's going to mean that brands will have to redistribute their marketing mix if they want to reach a young group."

Krish Arvapally, chief technology officer of mobile ad platform provider Mojiva, said since Apple announced its new iPhone software in March, it has seen a 20% increase in the number of advertisers who say they want to target iPhone users.

What's new: Apple said it would lower the price of its current 3G iPhone to $99 (with a contract) to make room for the iPhone 3GS.

Why it matters for marketers: This should mean greater reach for a smartphone that has generated a lot of gadget envy but is still only used by about 5% of all U.S. wireless users. And, according to Chetan Sharma Consulting, a drop in AT&T's service plan pricing could yield the carrier an additional 20%-25% subscribers per quarter. But if AT&T doesn't budge on its service pricing, then about 5% of AT&T users would likely opt for the 3G iPhone.

Ms. Unterlaender noted if AT&T were to offer more attractive pricing, it could add younger demographic including teenagers to the mix of iPhone users, who until now have been mostly an affluent older set.

What's new: The new Safari web browser will have built-in location-based technology.

Why it matters for marketers: Until now, marketers had to count on users to enter their ZIP codes in a browser to geo-target offers via the mobile web. But this isn't optimal when a retailer wants to know when someone is within 100 feet of its front door. Now, with the Safari web browser pulling the users' location data into the browser experience, marketers could serve geo-targeted ads to any iPhone user with an open browser -- assuming the user has allowed the website operator to track his location.

On a related note, the iPhone 3GS will also sport a digital compass that tells users which direction they're facing, with integrated mapping applications to automatically orient the map in the corresponding direction. Jamie Wells, director of mobile at OMD's Ignition Factory, said he could see advertisers using the compass feature to make their creative more engaging -- for example, a vendor selling merchandise at a sporting event could serve ads that instruct users to point their iPhone at the nearest concession stand to get a coupon.

What's new: The iPhone 3GS allows users to record and edit video, then upload the clips directly to YouTube or share them via e-mail or multimedia messaging directly from the phone.

Why it matters for marketers: As advertisers wait in the wings for mobile video viewing to take off, some say Apple's introduction of video features could jump-start people's habit to view and interact with video on their phones. John SanGiovanni, VP of product design at Zumobi, an app developer and network, said the company is now talking to two brands about creating apps that lets users capture images of themselves doing green, eco-conscious things for the environment, and Michael Chang of Greystripe notes that the "better camera plus the faster network bandwidth could be the start of mobile video renaissance."

What's new: Currently, iPhone users have to punch in each character of their passwords, names, addresses, phone numbers, but a new "auto-fill" function, part of the new iPhone operating system, can remember that data.

Why it matters for marketers: For brands trying to expand their mobile-marketing database or acquire new users, the iPhone's new auto-fill feature could remove a barrier in getting users to sign on. "This means less friction to acquire users; it should lower acquisition costs for lead-gen advertisers like Netflix," noted Jason Spero, VP-general manager, North America, at mobile ad network AdMob.

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