Conferences of Interest
Today is the historic MTV/MySpace Presidential Dialogue featuring John Edwards.
The MTV/MySpace Presidential Dialogue with John Edwards will take place Thursday at 12 p.m. ET. The entire dialogue will be webcast live through both MTV.com and MySpaceTV.com, and will then be rebroadcast on MTV on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Tired of scripted, old-style Presidential debates? MySpace & MTV join forces to empower you to ask questions directly to top Presidential candidates and respond to their answers in real-time.
… Because of this, I am not at the YPulse Tween Mashup conference I was talking about back in August (see My Musings: Thoughts on Tweens and the Mashup (I want to go) ). Is someone going to be liveblogging at this conference? I hope so.
Definitely visit chooseorloose.com or myspace.com/election2008 right now to catch the live stream. And of course, check back at mtvnews.com for the on-demand version that we will be working on all day. It’s pretty exciting to be involved with something that has never been done before. Will it be successful? What kinds of questions will the kids ask? We’ll find out…
EDIT: The on-demand version has been online since 3:30pm. Click here to watch!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
WidgetCon was fun, and even as I continue to roll around ideas and chew on all the commentary, I am looking forward to another conference that I have been excitedly monitoring: The YPulse Tween Mashup. Why? Because if you haven’t noticed, over the last few years there has been an onslaught of clever and at times insidious campaigns targeted at Tweens that hit them where they play the most: online and on their mobile devices.
My wildest dreams do not involve figuring out how to successfully sell things to children. If that is your dream, hey – dreams help you to get up in the morning. My dreams involve figuring out ways to accomplish everything on “the list” and making positive contributions in the lives of young people. I have a very strong interest in the ways that social media tools are transforming the adolescent experience and formation of identity. I feel a certain responsibility to understand how my actions, and the actions of any employer, are helping to empower (and screw up) teen spaces, online and off line. I am interested in learning more about how “big media” and “new media” brands are leveraging social media tools to reach their young audience, developing offline brand extensions, and reviewing real data on safety features and case studies. Why? Because when you care about your content, you should care about how it’s been shared, interpreted, and co-opted by your many audiences.
Tweens more than any other demographic strongly define their identities through their musical tastes, favorite clothing brands, books, movies, creative outlets, and (most importantly) by how others judge them. In their online worlds, they are at once afforded infinite freedom of expression while (when electing to participate in such sites) choosing to be constantly monitored. These kinds of contradictions are incredibly fascinating to me. (check out this compiled list of research on social network sites - Dana Boyd)
I want to know how all these parental controls effect their tastes/purchasing decisions, restrict/re-route their creativity, and what the long term effects of being constantly monitored could be.
But most importantly, I want to understand the tactics that companies are using to inspire brand loyalty in the Tween space, because eventually all these overstimulated young buyers, empowered to react and with endless information at their fingertips, are going to snap and start some sort of revolution and I want to be one of the geezers they spare. A post MySpace sympathizer. Joking, but not really.
Ypulse is the leading independent blog for teen/youth media and marketing professionals that has been featured is some of my favorite magazines such as Fast Company, BusinessWeek, and Forbes. Anastasia Goodstein, Publisher, recently completed a book about teens and technology called “Totally Wired,” published by St. Martin’s Press.
Here are some interesting quotes on the topic of marketing to Tweens/Teens:
- I may think some of these are disgusting but still worth noting
“Tweens are discerning consumers. They think a lot about what they are going to wear, whether their outfit matches their peach-sparkle nail polish, how clothes sit with a teal-colored cellphone (‘Can you believe Mom didn’t know what color teal is?’), what kind of sushi they are going to eat, and what to read after books like ’30 Guys in 30 Days.’” – from Roger Cohen’s New York Times OpEd “Twixt 8 and 12, the Tween”
“Teens are wired different than any another consumer group. They navigate through media clutter with a heightened “BS” meter to sniff out hidden advertising agendas. In a post-scarcity media world, there is no shortage of brands or media pipeline channels. Attention is the new scarcity. Loyalty, trust and affinity become the new pipeline.” – WhatTeensWant
The most important thing in a secret agent, says Groppe, is “that her peers trust her opinion. … We have to approve them. You know, important strategic business decisions are being made off of this 8-year-old and her friends, so we have to make sure she’s the right one.” – How marketing firm GIA uses young girls to sell products to their friends
…Youth Trends has also studied tween media consumption, and it found that 40% of those surveyed said that they think going on the Internet is better than watching TV. Slightly more girls than boys feel that way. – emarketer on the topic of Tweens and MultitaskingRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
So, WidgetCon ’07 is over.
If you are looking for a liveblog transcript, go here. As I forewarned, I didn’t liveblog and this won’t be a repeat of everything you can easily find scrolling through all the liveblogs that will inevitably be floating around in the blogosphere over the next day or so.
The following 8 trillion paragraphs are some of my initial thoughts on what widgets are and how they are currently being used. The swarm of thoughts I’ve had over the past ten hours. Tomorrow and over the next several days I will post the notes I took during the panels and case studies.
The Rise of Web 3.0, What Is A Widget, and How It Can/Will Change The Way Your Content Is Shared
Hehhehheh. This slide from the opening remarks was funny – Cuz it’s true! ^_^
Page views are no longer an accurate enough way to measure your audience’s interest in your content. Not anymore. Many corporations that could benefit from frolicking and collaborating in the world of widgets are too possessed with irrational fears.
Fear Q: What if I create a widget and it doesn’t contribute to page views?
Awesome A: Who cares?
As Nas once aptly put it – Whose world is this/The world is yours
Welcome to the Me2 Generation aka Web 3.0. It is their world, we just live in it. And as precious as your content may be to you, ultimately it means little to them if they are unable to interact with it, share it, and personalize it. As Alice Walker once said, “You sustain yourself by letting go“. Let your content go. Set it free. And watch how it can be transformed into an agent of brand evangelism, a tool for expressing identity, and perhaps something you could have never anticipated.
Have you made it possible for your content to live in the worlds that are important to your audiences?
We are not serving content to a passive generation anymore, satiated with just digesting our messages without any opportunity for interaction. We are dealing right now with an active generation, and we should be excited about that, because it opens avenues for not only boring-but-necessary things (like new methods of monetization) but for new ways of distributing truly creative content to passionate, informed, and engaged audiences. A true brand experience should be able to thrive in all sorts of environments.
I could mention Steve Rubel’s top keynote messages like “Nielson scraps web page view rankings“, “outdated metrics“, “websites will become web services“, “picture in a picture marketing“… But do I really need to?
It’s all around us – the signs that the novelty apps of web 2.0 have evolved into necessities. The Standard. The language of the digital natives. If you are a company that calls itself creative and distributes content on a regular basis, you are not innovative if you offer RSS feeds, blogs, embeddable players, podcasts, and inroads for UGC. You are simply functional, meeting the most basic requirements of a web literate 10 year old.
To be truly innovative as a purveyor of content in a Web 3.0 world is to take the most ancient and successful method of marketing and to apply it in a way that is current, relevant (to the product and the audience) and that encourages continual participation. Widgets, when effectively utilized, can be the ultimate word-of-mouth tool.
I do not believe that widgets will completely replace websites as some might believe, but I do believe they will change the way that all content is published, promoted, and shared.
Chris Jones, former CEO of JWT, said it best at WidgetCon when he recalled the marketplace behaviors of the ancient Greeks. The most successful merchants could speak the language of the people. They engaged them – directly – in conversations that led to future sales, connections, and communities built around their wares.
What does this conversation have to do with you? If you plan on staying relevant through the death of Web 2.0, everything.
A brand is a symbol of quality. It is transferred, through purchase/acquisition, into a symbol of identity. A widget, when placed on a personal web page, blog, or social media profile, is a badge of endorsement for your brand. Even more so, it can be a living hub of activity that your audience can engage with individually, with friends, and that they can share.
What use is a toy to a child if they can only use it in the store? Once a product is sold to a consumer, they are free to do with it as they see fit. I believe we must look at our content in the same way. If you do not allow your content to be engaged with and personalized, it will lose social currency and it will die.
I understand the urgency to monetize, to track, to measure, to control. But in the scramble to place a dollar value on every eyeball we just might be losing track of the real point – to strengthen the bonds between our content and our audience. Providing users with the tools to carry on the brand experience in useful and engaging ways is essential to remaining culturally relevant. A widget should not be seen as just a method of repackaging or recycling your existing content, nor as just a tool to create compelling experiences that inspire a viral sharing effect. I don’t believe there is a “super widget” that will save your company.
However, the decision to deploy widgets does signal an entirely different mode of thinking for a historically page view-centric site and, if applicable, should be part of the larger picture within a media company to change the way content production is managed. The media company that continues to solely focus on producing for TV is doing so at the expense of a richer and more interactive user experience on the web/mobile end. By this I mean the following – To throw together an online experience at the end of a production, to not plan that in as part of your original story, is negligent and often results in a lost opportunity for longer audience engagement. There should no longer be two categories of producers: digital and on-air. That distinction will soon be dead. The new media producer is as literate in social media as they are in the field.
If you are producing content that airs on TV, you should make it your priority to understand how it is being served online, on mobile devices, through widgets, etc. What you will discover may cause you to come up with new ways of creating content that you thought wouldn’t work on air, but that may be perfect for another medium. A successful content producer is flexible, social media literate, and “eats his/her own dog food”. If you don’t understand how your audience is digesting your content, someone else will figure it out and will serve it to them better than you.
I think as a team/company/division, we must sit down and decide what kinds of creative widget functionality, paired with new and existing content, and UGC interactivity, can be blended together to create useful and engaging tools for our audience. We must do it now, not later. And within that conversation, we must decide what role and to what degree advertisers will play (if at all). Will some widgets serve as portals to our site, and why? For those built around a specific event or product launch, how do we deal with expiration? I don’t think it’s a good idea to sit on a widget concept for months and then deploy it without any relevant context or without partnering with widget distribution sites. Find out what your audience is using online to locate and interact with content- where are they getting their widgets from? How are they using them? Reinventing the wheel is so lame.
More on widget distribution site partnerships later….
What is a widget?
I could tell you, but why don’t I just show you some examples of successful widgets? Drop by Lil Mama’s MySpace profile and become acquainted with the top widgets young people are using today to explore their identities, communicate with friends, and interact with their favorite stars.
I’ve identified three categories of widgets:
- ad driven
Obviously, there can be overlap in these categories. I am just explaining the kinds of widgets that are currently being used.
The most successful widgets (so far) are simple: Snapvine provides what I would call a standalone widget, an embeddable voicemail player widget that users can place on their profiles, where friends can leave them messages and anyone can play them. There’s more involved, but that is pretty much it. Simple, but very popular. The user is given the tools to engage. Snapvine wasn’t designed with the goal of generating page views. It is counting on viral/word of mouth. It is an app specifically designed for sharing and distributing.
It should be a top priority for any content provider to identify what could be shared through widgets, as part of their overall distribution plan.
I don’t believe something like a branded headlines RSS reader widget falls under the standalone widget category. It does provide a sole function, but is a passive experience, whereas a standalone widget is an active experience. I think that the more passive your widget is, the less interested a user is going to be in sharing it with anyone. I am not dismissing the usefulness of a passive widget, I am simply stating that if there is no inroad for user participation there is less chance of a viral effect.
Obviously, some methods of distribution won’t apply to all of your content. But you don’t have to take shots in the dark. Widget platforms like clearspring and widgetbox have the services already in place to track who is using your widgets, how they are using them, for how long, and where. More on widget platforms later…
A hybrid widget serves more than one function. It may be an NFL widget that gives team and player stats and provides users the option to download NFL themes wallpapers and buddy icons. It may also allow them to interact with a fantasy football league. This particular kind of hybrid widget is being populated by the source site and by the user. It may be a Meebo rich media chatroom widget that alllows users to play and share Youtube videos from their favorite artists while they chat.
You may be a news based site that has a widget that allows users to search for your stories and video packages by keywords, and organize and display it according to their preferences in a customized “my channel” format. They may be able to post video responses to your stories and video packages through the widget, and watch the responses of others. This is an example of a hybrid widget that combines provider and user generated content to create a personalized experience for your audience. Young people today are constantly transforming the look of their social media profiles, and your widget should have the flexibility to also be customizable within their space.
For most older audiences, desktop and start page rss reader widgets are standard. With ever evolving mobile device functionality (the iphone lets you see the web like the actual web), it makes sense to develop widgets designed for those devices that allow users to access your content in ways that are search friendly and make sense to their lifestyle. More on SEO for widgets later….
An ad driven widget can fall in the standalone and hybrid categories. Here is an example:
Taco Bell, Gizmoz, and MTV’s VMAs – Taco Bell partners with Gizmoz to create a widget campaign that allows users to create a customized audition for the chance to be on the 2007 VMA’s. This widget is ad driven, it’s a marketing tool for the VMA’s, and it’s a tool that is already popular with the targeted demographic. The Gizmoz widget is a recognized widget regularly used on MySpace. By leveraging an already endorsed widget brand, MTV is “speaking the language” of its audience.
How and when do you monetize an internally developed widget?
I don’t I think I am nuts when I say that not every widget should be designed specifically to earn ad revenue. Sometimes a widget is useful for simply generating interest around an event, a new product, or to bring attention to a worthy cause. A smart marketing plan/budget should factor in widget development. I am definitely more interested in the pro social applications of widgets than anything else, but I will save those thoughts for another entry.
I know I wrote a lot about what I think about widgets and very little about what actually happened at WidgetCon. There’s a lot of information to disseminate and I will do it in a way that works for me.
In closing (for now), I feel that a smart company will create all different kinds of widgets — widgets that are designed as part of a larger scale marketing plan and in partnership with advertisers, widgets that are designed strategically around events, that have short life spans, that are fun and simple and that truly increase brand credibility while providing the audience with ways to interact with your content.
If you’ve ever taken a look at the apps available on Facebook, and then on your friends profiles, you will see that widget users can be a fickle bunch. That’s ok. Some widgets have a short lifespan. Others consistently remain on profiles. I think that the stronger the user identifies with and personalizes your content, the longer it remains relevant and therefore the longer the widget lives in their various spaces. For now, I suggest you take a look at the widgets currently offered by RockYou, think about why they are so popular and how your future widgetized content could reap that same ultra sticky user interest.
Quick Event Notes
* Catered breakfast, lunch, and cocktail was especially delicious
* Panel discussions and case studies were very engaging.
* People were running around recording and taking pictures.
* Venue was really conducive to networking (but it was really cold and made my cough worse)
* The audience was filled with developers, content providers, and marketers
* Freewebs did an amazing job putting this togetherRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Well, I am definitely not coughing up my lungs anymore, but I am still a bit under the weather. So it was nice to discover that Andrea, editor-in-chief at Freewebs and one of my MyBlogLog contacts, will be liveblogging at WidgetCon.
I know I said I would liveblog on here but come on – I’m sick. Give me a break ^_^
I will be taking lots of notes about what I see/what is going on/things of interest, and will dutifully bring my findings back to my bosses at the job and will definitely post them here as well.
Apparently there’s a full house for this conference and a long waiting list. Thanks again to Justin for giving me the heads up in time.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )
Back in June Susan Wu produced the first ever Virtual Goods Summit. Purveyors and those interested in getting into the business of virtual goods should have checked it out.
Here are a few round ups:
marks.dk – …The key point would be that they don’t buy an object. They buy an emotion.
Virtual World News – Liveblogging the Virtual Goods Summit
GigaOm – ..Three Rings’ CEO Daniel James on Puzzle Pirates, a casual MMO: “We do about $350,000 a month in revenue, of which $250,000 is virtual currency sales.”
On Facebook, you can send your friends “gifts”. Some are free but others you have to buy. Meez offers a lot of free accessories for your avatar, but you have to pay for the really cool stuff. The same goes within other social networking sites like Club Penguin, Neopoets, and Gaia Online.
The Kids are using virtual goods more and more to express themselves, and are willing to pay for it (or you know, get their parents to pay for it). Person to person virtual goods auctions happen all the time, often causing controversy over who actually “owns” what.
MTV has been cashing in on the growing interest in virtual goods for a some time now. Members of Virtual Hills and Virtual Laguna Beach can dress their avatars in branded clothing, and then get their hands on the real things via the MTV store.
All very exciting, but I am more interested in the the following:
- prosocial applications of virtual goods
- how virtual goods and currencies will change social networking habits and behaviors
Some Ideas for ProSocial Applications of Virtual Goods/Currencies
* Rebuild and Contribute aka MyNation
Save the rain forest. Save the whales. Save Darfur. How many young people truly participate in the causes they claim to support? This isn’t a judgment as much as a leading question Piggybacking (or perhaps partnering with?) The Sims franchise, and on the mini dictator in all of us, what if you could rebuild a country in virtual space while making actual change in the real world?
Imagine if 2,000 people were “running” Darfur. Each time they purchased virtual goods such as additional weapons, medical supplies, vehicles, etc. a portion of the cost would be donated to agencies that provide real assistance to Darfur. Darfur is Dying is mtvU’s game for change about the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. In it, no matter what choice you make you end up dying. You then have the option to learn about ways to take action, which include donating funds, sending a message to the U.S. government, and joining the movement.
This is a great way to combine gaming, activism, and outreach. However, it is limited in its applications. You are a sole person with no way of receiving feedback from other players, or any way to actually create change through your gaming. What if you could join forces with other players – build coalitions, share resources, etc.? What if celebrities endorsed this kind of gaming, game bloggers kept up on its activities, and news outlets highlighted the real world results of collective gaming for change? What if?
If we built games around my MyNation theory, collective action could result in millions of dollars donated in the process of increasing your score. Building a better virtual nation could actually help the real one.
If something like this already exists, great. If not, it should.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
A few weeks ago my coworker/pal Justin Tormey who is now Director of Digital Distribution – Product Development, clued me in to WidgetCon. Back in the day we worked together on developing some widgets for MTV News, so he knew I would be interested.
As a result, a while ago I posted the WidgetCon widget in my Facebook feed. I also followed up with some people on Facebook who I thought would be interested in attending. Among them was Lynne, the Senior Editor for one of my favorite magazine’s Fast Company. Per the widgetcon attendee list (that anyone can scroll through), she is now going to be checking it out.
Social networking and transparency in action? Hm.
If my work lets me go, I plan on liveblogging the event, or at the very least taking a million notes. I’ve never live blogged anything before so it would be a fun thing to attempt.
If I end up not being able to go, I do hope that the producers of WidgetCon livestream the panel discussions and also offer them as an audio/video podcast feed.
At the very least, I hope they offer something along the lines of the OnHollywood Conference video archive page (they also live streamed).
WidgetCon CONFERENCE DETAILS:
Date: Wednesday July 11th
Time: 9:00am – 5:00pm,
Reception to follow
Venue: Tribeca Cinemas, NYC
WidgetCon is a full day event to be held at the Tribeca Cinemas in New York on July 11th. Its objective is to begin to look towards the smart growth of widget marketing, through conversations on everything from standards to metrics to production and economics, as well as creative and media strategies.
Some interesting people who are going (per their badge creation):
Sharon Gross – Manager, Online Marketing – Showtime Networks
Allen King – Interactive Media Director – Turner Broadcasting
Brett Dennis – Director Media Marketing – T-Mobile USA
Simon Assaad – CEO – Heavy
Chris Marentis – CEO – Clearspring
Zal Bilimoria – Product Marketing Manager – Google, Inc.
Samir Mehta – Product Manager – Yahoo Inc.
Michael Shields – VP Media Strategy – Warner Music Group
Some Current Buzz
Mashable – …I think it’s incredibly important for businesses to engage in this type of discussion, and more so for companies that have put forth business applications. From the looks of the list of other speakers, most of those involved with WidgetCon hail from media or other non-professional networking sites. Nevertheless, with LinkedIn’s recent announcement of creating a platform for developers, we’re seeing the powerful convergence of business marketing through widgets across the board.
Widgify – …This is making out to be an interesting event and will be the second official Widget-only conference ever. The first was Widgets Live held last year. That event grew out of organic blog commentary and was a smashing success.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
The music video I shot/directed for them, Cazador, will also be featured in an upcoming art exhibit:
In more Lair News…
* I am going to be applying my development/marketing skillage to the upcoming NewFest: The 19th New York LGBT Film Festival.
Over the past few years, I have done volunteer promo/marketing work for the Tribeca Film Festival and Brooklyn Underground Film festival. There are a lot of great changes already in store for NewFest, so it will be good times participating in their growth.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )