Archive: Content

The Future of (web) TV

Reflecting on the current discussions, last at the Delphi Executive conference in Bonn, and at CeBIT which I both attended as a speaker, I recalled the very lively panel at DLD 09 around online video and social media. If you are interested in the topic, the video gives you insights with Brightcove, Endemol, sevenload and Termor Media and a great moderator, David Kirkpatrick from Fortune Magazine.

About the specifics of how we perceive the value of recurring WebTV Content, please check my Interview at ETRE in Stockholm:

ETRE 2008: Axel Schmiegelow describes the sevenload community and “The Future of TV” from curtis newton gmbh on Vimeo.

Launching HD at LeWeb08 in Paris

This interview by Charbax, a great blogger/thinker from Switzerland, included his grilling me on tech questions around HD and making me explain the business model of sevenload from an independent publisher’s point of view.

Discussion: Monetization or Reach [English]

Frank Huber recently tackled my post about Monetization in his Blog

http://blog.firstmedia.de/?p=763 (in German)

and contradicted my views of the subject based on 2 reasons: in his opinion, YouTube has shown that “size does matter” and sevenload hasn’t followed my recommended strategy at all. Here’s my reply to his post:

1) It’s undeniable that the “natural market leader”, who’s the one that goes for reach first, is the one who can win the rat race for size. I did point this out myself in my own post. However, it would be wrong to believe that the YouTube strategy and more specifically the YouTube exit is something that can be replicated. Ex post, Google’s investment in YouTube makes a lot of sense for a company that gave up a fraction of it’s shares. But there is exactly one buyer fitting that profile, and that is Google. There’s always exactly one worldwide or www-wide dominant company per segment that can be successful with a sheer “reach” priorization and with such an Exit strategy – so it’s hardly good advice for startups to emulate that model unless the startup is entirely sure of being the first one in its category.

My argument wasn’t that reach or the number of users/clients won is irrelevant- in fact, it’s the opposite. I just think that it is healthier to achieve this reach or customer base with a working and efficient business model than without one. And XING is a good example of this: From its first day back in 2003, Lars Hinrichs (Founder of XING) was already charging 5- € in monthly membership fees, even though at the time subscription models were still widely perceived as unfeasable in the German internet market.

2) sevenload’s strategy is NOT that of gaining a gross increase in our reach at all costs. We’re following an approach of pure, organic growth (up to now we haven’t spent a single € for advertising) which allows us to best offer a differentiated platform and cover the “Long Tail” of content. This allows us to offer advertisers rates that are up to a factor of 10 greater than those of normal video portals – and of most most conventional internet portals as well. Because of this difference, we are the market leader as measured in:

- Unique Visitors (> 10 Mil real unique visitors per month),
- active registered users (> 300,000),
- average visit duration (> 25 min. per visit and registered users > 45 min),
- content volume and
- revenue (we will be the Web 2.0 company with the highest turnover in Germany this year and most likely the only one that will be profitable). We achieve all this thanks to a revolutionary advertising model that is highly effective for advertisers.

Interestingly, though gross reach was not a primary target, this strategy has led to an sustained increase in precisely our gross reach and has put us in second place in the German market in terms of gross reach, right ahead of Clipfish, despite Clipfish’s massive cross-media subsidisation by the leading German TV Channel, RTL, and a full integration in DSDS, Germany’s “American Idol” Format.

In my opinion this once again proves the wisdom of Al Ries’s main marketing theorem:

Create a new category, then dominate it

My post on monetization does nothing more than offer a methodic approach to defining the category a startup strives to dominate in business model terms rather than in media terms.

IPTV, Digital TV, and Web 2.0: Power to the Audience [English]

Technical, economic and social developments, which are only inadequately described by IPTV, Web TV, Digital Special Interest Channels, and Web 2.0, are leading a fundamental structural change in the relationship between consumers/viewers and providers.

Until now, the value creation of television was geared towards offering content in order to gain the highest viewer attention percentage possible and to market a portion of this attention through advertising formats (e.g. TV commercials). As long as there were only a few TV stations available, this was a successful business model.

Today however, the viewer has the power to decide when and which media content he “consumes”. He/she can actively suppress advertising, zap or click to any media environment he prefers. At the same time, technology enables active navigation of media content, empowering the user even more:

- search,

- On-Demand streaming and download,

- and interactivity of content

These navigation tools offer viewers and consumers a completely new dimension of content relevance. The future belongs to

“Long Tail” specific, on-demand offerings, with context-relevant services and interactive ad formats that are targeted and relevant

These enhanced “program formats” are increasingly determined and – even outside the context of User Generated Content – “coproduced” by the users in increasingly differentiated clusters. This is the priciple that unifies the various new approaches from YouTube to Joost to sevenload.

IPTV, Digital TV, and Web 2.0: Power to the Audience [German]

Die technischen, wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Entwicklungen, die mit IPTV, Web TV, Digitales Spartenfernsehen und Web 2.0 nur ungenügend beschrieben werden, leiten einen fundamentalen Strukturwandel im Verhältnis von Konsumenten /Zuschauern zu Anbietern.

Bislang war die Wertschöpfung des Fernsehens darauf ausgerichtet, Inhalte anzubieten, um die Aufmerksamkeit eines möglichst hohen Anteils der Zuschauer zu gewinnen, und einen Teil dieser Aufmerksamkeit werblich zu vermarkten. In der Zeit nur weniger Sender war dies sogar ein erfolgreiches Geschäftsmodell.

Heute entscheidet der Zuschauer viel differenzierter, was er wann medial konsumiert. Er blendet auch aktiv die werbliche Vermarktung aus. Gleichzeitig bieten die technischen Möglichkeiten

- zur Suche,

- zum Angebot On-Demand,

- und zur Interaktivität

dem Zuschauer und Konsumenten eine völlig neue Dimension der Relevanz von Inhalten. Die Zukunft gehört dem

“Long Tail” spezialisierter, On-Demand angebotener, mit Zusatzservices und relevanten interaktiven Werbeformaten

angereicherter “Programmformate”, die überdies von den Nutzern in immer differenzierteren Clustern mitbestimmt werden. Das ist das Prinzip, das die unterschiedlichsten neuen Ansätze, von YouTube über Joost bis sevenload, vereint.

Viral Social Commerce

These past months have, in a way that I would not have thought possible, created a start-up market situation closely resembling a certain period in time that we had in 1999. A number of new start-ups have sprung up that stem from what I call “feature-itis”, that is: their main business idea is not the creation of a value that addresses a particular market in a way that is commercially feasible, but much more the “hey- wouldn’t it be cool if it were possible to do this or that on the web” impulse.

If you sift through the business history of the first and second wave of the internet and try to analyze which companies ended up being successful, which companies were moped up as additional features to Yahoo! and bought out, and which companies simply failed, you find out that at the end of the day it’s not at all about a new economy, it’s about very old principles of

– servicing viable markets
- with a viable market proposition/value proposition
- and at an affordable price

in the widest sense of price, that is: convenience, access, time, budget and eventually price in dollars.

If we now look at what I like to call Web 3.0, that is, the commercial maturity of the social phenomena that we are observing with Web 2.0, then remembering that business history and applying the method of identifying customers for a market that are prepared to pay a given price, is a healthy mental exercise.

You’ll allow me to refer to myself and my earlier Blog entry about the distinction between Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 and briefly describe Web 2.0 as the discovery that the internet is not only a repository for information and data, and a network through which e-mail and chat communication can happen, but has become a medium where

the human source of information

and human source of opinion and entertainment becomes as accessible as the data that he/she has created, that is at the core of the Web 2.0 social revolution. And as any revolution, it creates a whole new set of social behavioural changes, business opportunities, political implications and essentially an entirely new medium- which incidentally is not only confined to the Blog or Social Network phenomenon.

Stating these now commonplace insights into Web 2.0 leads me to reflect upon the Web 3.0 phenomenon, that is the commercial viability of all of these changes. As described in my Blog entry, I believe strongly that this will be the era where the source of data and information, and essentially this means the

human individual as a source of expertise,

can more and more market that expertise in many different ways- either

- by being accessible as an expert or
- by offering more in depth information or
- services related to the information
- transactions / products related to the information

for any kind of currency (this may be a social reward or a commercial reward/payment) in a variety of models that can range from subscription to micro-payments or even other forms of transaction that we may not yet even imagine (my informed hunch is “subscription” will mean many different rental models that are being imagined right now). As of now, the main focus of business endeavour in the Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 transition era, is to create and monetize exactly these kinds of platforms- much in the way that sevenload is doing for the video world.

In the future, business focus will be to harness the technologies, communication methods and social behaviour of Web 3.0 to create new value and new markets, thereby disrupting existing business structures. Increasingly, this will be achieved by individuals and small companies rather than larger companies.

The challenge is to identify these markets beyond advertising. If we look at what is happening right now in the Web 2.0 sphere, it is essentially one giant cannibalization of the editorial market, trying to supplement old media and replace them with “Facebook-”, “MySpace-”, and “YouTube-” (new) models of broad- and selfcasting and interaction with the user. That will, of course, be successful, but it is hardly imaginable that more than a productivity or effiency increase of more than 25-35% (maybe even 40% or 50% through better targeting) with relation to the advertising market can be sustained.

Even more market volume may be created by opening the advertising market to new segments that, until now, had a high cost barrier towards advertising, for example in the Long Tail of smaller and mid-sized companies, or in niche markets which had to rely on direct marketing because there was no medium for them to address at sales efficient cost on a large scale.

This disruption of the advertising marjet is of course fueled by the radically changed cost-dynamics of Web 2.0 platforms and the possibility to address the long-tail of content and offering highly specific audiences to as specific advertisers.

This opening of niche markets for advertising may one day – probably soon to come – come as far as user groups and communities centered around exotic topics such as the nuts and bolts of drilling joints (or something similar).

But by and all, if advertising is the only focus of what is happening right now, there will inevitably be a crunch at the moment of realization that there is just not enough money in these markets to create hundreds of new billion dollar companies. Even though a return to the Nuclear Winter of The Internet of 2001-2003 seems unlikely, it is highly probable that we will have a structurally similar shake-down and that just one or two more Yahoo!(s) or Google(s) will crop up, having found the holy grail of

on-demand fully trackable horizontal niche long tail CPA advertising

By the way, addressing that advertising market will also have to overcome a formidable opponent which is very well positioned to address the long-tail of advertising, and that is Google.

My point in this Blog post is that there have to be, and there will be business models beyond advertising and they are starting to emerge. Essentially these will be transaction based and will be centered either around the handling of goods in an e-commerce sense (that is already being seen in a number of start-ups) for example, by itravel, but there will also more and more be transaction platforms centered around services, much in the sourcing logic mentioned above.

The sum of these developments is what I call “viral social commerce”. It is viral in the sense that its dynamics of growth/expansion are very much word-of-mouth and very much based on the social phenomena of Web 2.0.

*I might add, that these phenomena are not new, word-of-mouth has always been the most powerful marketing instrument, it’s just that technology has enabled it to travel at light-speed, where before it was at a horse carriage pace.

It is social in the sense that, not only communication, but also increasingly parts of the production process and the definition of the product/service offered will be defined not by an entity that is producing it, but rather by a group of people or a community that adds a significant part of the value that is being created. An example for that is again itravel, where the travel community creates a lot of the product knowledge and even product sourcing that is necessary to create its catalogue of once-in-a-lifetime-experiences. Another example is ChariTees, where the community sources not only the designs, but also decides which designs will appear on t-shirts and also decides which institution would benefit from that part of the proceeds of ChariTees that is being spent on charity.

The commerce part of the “viral social commerce” idiom, reflects on what I was describing at the beginning of my post, namely that this is more than a social communication phenomenon and it is also more than pure interaction, it is in essence a whole new commercial dimension to what happens in our increasingly web-enabled society.

Viral social commerce is, for me, the essence of what will happen with Web 3.0. In my next post, I will describe how companies can confront this development and attain competitive advantages by harnessing them.

The YouTube Problem

As the winter of discontent of content owners and YouTube begins, a certain rumbling is growing. If you look back at the first Blog posts describing the Web 2.0 phenomenon, they often called it an illusion, overrated or a bubble. Very often it is pointed out that while YouTube was sold for $1.6 Billion, it in effect only had $15 Million in revenue last year and now a host of other problems (if you count all litigation issues and tech issues, the costs of YouTube may well be above $1 Billion or so). That is assuming, of course, that Viacom and Co. will manage to convince the courts of their point of view.

However exaggerated this view may be – it has, on a fundamental level, one merit. The YouTube Business Model, as far as it is now established, is based on an unjust usage of copyright and the equity of copyright.

Now I would be the first proponent of the theory that the internet, as John Perry Barlow put it, is “the end of copyright”. In the sense that transmitting, copying and distributing knowledge and information has become so easy through the internet that an author who wants to earn the fruits of his labor is well advised to find new ways of establishing himself as a person and establishing derivative business models off the content he produces, rather than relying on licensing fees alone. Nevertheless, YouTube does not even give that to content producers and content owners. It is like a giant attention lottery, where the very few motivate the very many, through their success stories of 15 minute world fame, to copy their endeavour and try to achieve that kind of world wide recognition. However, who of those authors, even of those who have achieved that kind of short-lived fame, has actually managed to earn money off it?

That is why YouTube lacks the value chain one needs for a viable business model. That is not to say that YouTube did not achieve something very important. It created a platform for ubiquity of video content and facilitated the exchange, commenting and sharing of that kind of content. It taught users an important lesson- that broadcasting is not the prerogative of a few publishers. From there, to a viable business model is a different step.

Google may use the YouTube technology to create Google video ads and to create a platform for viral marketing (which actually may be a sound business from the position that Google has) but, anyone trying to copy the YouTube model must fail if he does not devise a value chain, a sound and profitable value argumentation, and defines what his market is.

In essence, the markets the emerging video platforms target is the advertising market or the market for sharing and licensing content- the latter being a very difficult one. The key to monetizing that kind of tool and achieving success in that kind of market will be to define the value chain and to make it track-able, so as to be able to calculate an operating margin and to devise ways of building a business.

None of the me too(s) and copycat models of YouTube has achieved that yet.

None, except one- sevenload.

sevenload is one of the most exciting business ventures I have ever been a part of, by defining a value chain which, because of its self-reinforcing nature, we call the “value mill”. By devising a technology to track not only usage of content, but also the revenue generated by the individual video stream and by devising a way to create specific audiences that add a lot to the advertising value that a video can have, sevenload has in effect solved the 3 main problems of any video business model.

For now I don’t want to describe, in too much detail, what sevenload does as we still have to establish our market leadership. But stay tuned to see how the first viable video business model on the net will continue to be established.

What is Web 3.0 ? (revisited)

As always, that’s a difficult discussion. First of all it’s important to remember that “Versioning” the web is initially a marketing trick, albeit a powerful and a valid one. It does make sense to try to assess the pace and scope of change in and through the Digital Revolution. In our internal discussions at http://www.denkwerk.com we differentiate the technical, the social and the business levels of analysis. Our very broad clusters are as follows:

Web 1.0:
It is particularly inexact to retroactively dub the pre-2004 era as „Web 1.0“, since that is a rather vast period of time which underwent different phases in itself. When did it start? With Tim Berners-Lee & the appearance of Mozilla in 1993? With the first Social Network (sic!), the Well, in the 1980s?, With the ARPANET in 1968?

Tim O’Reilly coined “Web 2.0” as a call to reconsider the then ruling technical paradigms and the generalized underestimation of the social and economic impact of the internet in post-bubble headache times. But the 90s, the bubble, and 2001 – 2003 constitute a wild rollercoaster of different developments. In our view in short:

Technology:
The first simple websites evolved to more and more interactive, from static to dynamically generated, from handcrafted to cms-driven, from pure media to more and more transactive, and these vast increases in value remained through independently of the vast hyperbole of expectations that the New Economy and Irrational Exuberance engendered. In software paradigms though, simple web development and early script-based architectures and languages were supplanted by Enterprise Application thinking, the advent of web services, and the JAVA Revolution. After 2001, you were a wimp if you stuck to PHP.

Social:
Mostly Early Adopters went from discovering the web and portals as sources of information to accepting shopping, then dating and other increasingly interactive services and transactions.
The Internet, however, was never “lean-back”, a prerogative of TV.

Business:
The only really working business models (at high volumes) were
a) lead generation for existing brick and mortar business (“click and mortar”)
b) Online Advertising (mostly banner, after 2002 more and more search engine marketing)
c) E-Commerce (online sales, B2C or B2B )

BTW: Many ideas that now resurface in Web 2.0 were imagined just then, but failed because user behaviour and markets weren’t there yet. We founded http://www.oneview.com as a very early precursor of deli.cio.us, for example.

Web 2.0:
Somewhere around 2003, disgruntled entrepreneurs, the aforementioned PHP Wimps, the Linuxites, and others started reforming and having Galilean Moments („eppure si muove“ – “and the Earth does rotate”). That is what O’Reilly picked up at his conference in Fall 2004 when he coined Web 2.0.

Technology:
On the technology side, Web 2.0 can be oversimplified by describing it as a set of new or renewed technical paradigms:

a) the return of scripting and DHTML.
b) AJAX and the transformation of websites into dynamic applications
c) much faster development speed, prototyping
d) APIs and total interoperability of all digital services (mashups, microformats etc..), the rebirth of standards
e) the end of the concept of “the site”, with functionalities spreading across converging media (web, mobile, TV) instead

Social:
a) You Are Not Alone:
If “Web 1.0” was all about discovering the potential of interactive services, then Web 2.0 is the discovery of the Fellow Users, of the immense potential of finding online people that you can share interests and needs with.

b) You Can Do Things Together / User Generated Content:
New Web 2.0 tools let the vision of the web as a collaborative platform slowly become true: every type of content can be shared, discussed, rated, and messaging allows constant and instant, but also deferred and intermittent interlocution with other users (networking, messaging, Blogging, co-shopping etc…).

c) Mashup Everything / User Generated Functionalities:
The combination of different services, information, and functionalities that the technical paradigm shift of web 2.0 makes possible opens a whole new set of possibilities for networked and collaborative behaviour on the web that creates value from the wisdom of crowds and the knowledge of the few.

Business:
a) Businesses are under pressure and with the opportunity of adapting to the fact that the consumer / customer has an increasingly wide, reliable, and truthful range of sources of information and first-hand experiences with any given product.
b) Creating customer communities becomes increasingly relevant as a business factor. This increases the demand on long-term accountability and trustworthiness of business institutions
c) In the same vein, Business and Media monopolies on information and broadcasting power are dwindling with the advent of increasingly differentiated access to the opinions and knowledge of customers and the creation of increasingly valuable User Generated Content and Community-Based or Collaborative Functionalities. This doesn’t mean a perfect world of truthfulness, but it certainly shifts power to the customer.
d) an open question is by whom and how is this information power, the interlinking of customers, and the long tail of business, going to be aggregated, thus creating the next Googles?
e) On the long tail of business, even the most absurd niche markets can network worldwide, thus creating market volume until now completely untapped.

Web 3.0:
We don’t really need a new term – but it is clear that versioning will somehow be inflationary, since it is such a nifty marketing tool. So we might as well tackle the definition now (and secure some mind share early on, hehe).

In our view, Web 3.0 describes where the different patterns and revolutions might lead to. Think “minority report”, “Neuromancer”, “Matrix”, for early paradigms (not literally of course, we’re between 30 and 1000 years away from that). It is hard to describe and open for discussion, but we see the following trends:

Technology:
a) Interoperability and total convergence of all media and networks to form the Evernet
b) The End of The Site: Functionalities can be used by any user on any device in any network.
c) Everything is mashed or modular or snippeted or microformatted, so that a search on your handheld will deliver a topical article, four experts, seven alternative topical products to be ordered along with their ratings and reviews, three according services and information about what your friends or respected contacts think about the topic, all in one fell swoop.

Social:
a) The rise of the „Digital Boheme“ – in a No Man’s Land between employment, freelance and artistic lifestyle, everyone on the web can “market” whatever talents he has, whenever and however much he wants.
b) Thus, “virtual environments” will play a much bigger role in determining the social status of an individual much more than his geographic environment used to. In other words, the lost liberal hippie tech geek living in, say, Oklahoma suddenly gets a life and recognition – that’s one of the reasons for the hype about Second Life.
c) Thus a) and b) become more and more determining for the identity of the individual – with all due consequences
d) Technology and the networking of individuals and their expertise will lead to an increasingly efficient tapping of the Deep Web (that has been building up since 1974), thus creating a “semantic and human web”, where searching and finding delivers increasingly complex results, ranging from data / documents to Evernet functionalities and sites, to experts and interest groups and events.

Business – we call it VIRAL SOCIAL COMMERCE
In the virtual worlds of the web 3.0 or Evernet, every individual will get a much fairer share of his or her social and economic status. If until now, the consumer was an object of the economy, he increasingly becomes a an active element in every one of his areas of expertise and interests. (Someone who is into handmade puppets from the Münsterland [a region of Northern Germany] can connect to fans of handmade puppets worldwide an be recognized as an expert and set up business selling access, expertise, or even the puppets themselves – if he chooses to do so).

We could call it the Ebaying of life – but the differences to the Ebay model are:

a) it expands virally along social network lines
b) it is not focused on price, and probably not even profit-oriented, but is a blend of social and economic rewards that triggers individual behaviour
c) it is in an elementary sense democratic, with almost any space for very individual definitions of success and lifestyles.
d) thriving in such environments will require new business, communication, and marketing models in almost any industry.

In Science Fiction, the various visions of the emergence of a web interlinking society almost invariably include that web become a determining factor of social and economic status in the real world. We aren’t that far away from that, even if reality always tends to be mundane. What is almost certain is that already today, the web liberates the individual even from very difficult forms of seclusion, allowing him to overcome niche market intransparency and increase his social and economic impact in society.

What we are doing at sevenload (http://www.sevenload.com), itravel (http://www.itravel,de), oneview (http://www.oneview.com) and Qype (http://www.qype.com) is working toward that vision.

Join us, discuss, hire in, let’s create the tools of this evolution step by step!

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