I spent last Friday and Saturday attending the MIT Convergence Consortium’s Futures of Entertainment 2 conference, featuring an amazingly diverse array of panelists that I was really excited to see, from MMORPG guru Raph Koster, NBC’s Heroes Writer/Co-Executive Producer Jesse Alexander, as well as marketing folk like Faris.
Overall it was great to just be able to talk to people who aren’t in advertising about all of this convergence junk. Sometimes I think we spend a little bit too much time talking to ourselves rather than talking to people who make stuff that people actually ENJOY.
The much more comprehensive live blogs of the event can be found here. My notes and thoughts can be found below. Prepare for pain.
Panel 1 – Mobile Media
Panelists – Marc Davis, Social Media Guru at Yahoo!; Bob Schukai, VP of wireless and broadband technologies for Turner Broadcasting; Alice Kim, Senior Vice President of Digital Distrubution and Partner Relations for MTV networks; and Anmol Madan of the MIT Media Lab
They spent a lot of time talking about the wireless technology disadvantage we have in the US. In fact, Bob Schukai went as far as saying we are now second-class citizens. We’re two years behind Europe and 3-4 years behind parts of Asia. In the US we’re still talking about coverage as an issue, which apparently isn’t an issue anymore in the rest of the advanced world. We were sitting in an auditorium at MIT, one of the technological capitals of the world, and didn’t have cell coverage. That illustrated the point well. The problem isn’t so much the technology, its in breaking down the business models in the US.
The conversation then turned to the role of cell phones moving forward. The fact that they have become network aware video cameras, or network aware personal computing devices that can tell where you are, what time it is, and who you’re near. This allows the visable world to become a new realm for fictional stories to be told.
Other notable topics
- Innovation is the least of the problems in mobile, breaking down business models is the way forward
- The best platform to understand peoples intentions is the phone – Mobile is the future of user-gen metadata
- The distinction between web self and real self is breaking down, and mobile devices are the bridge
- China has a completely different wireless standard than the rest of the world, which should make the Olympics interesting for those attending from abroad
Panel 2 – Metrics and Measurement
Panelists – Bruce Leichtman, President of Leichtman Research Group, Inc.; Stacey Lynn Schulman, Senior Vice-President of Turner Entertainment Ad Sales Research; Maury Giles, Vice President and Director of Accountability and Analytics at GSD&M’s Idea City
Basically it boils down to this: there isn’t a system in place that can effectively measure communications as they exist now, no matter how much any one business can claim they can do it. Maury from GSDM had the best outlook on it I thought, which is to set business goals for projects before beginning, and track success against those goals.
I think the biggest problem with trying to measure media for new technology world is that a lot of people will argue that it was never done competently in the first place with the simplified communications world of 10 years ago…so how can we expect anything better now?
Oh and the other thing that came out of this that I totally agree with is the need for perspective with dealing with new media. According to Comscore, only 6 minutes of online video is being consumed per user, per month. That is per user, it would be much lower with a base of every Internet user. The Colts/Patriots game was the most watch non-Superbowl NFL game ever. So while mediums like online video are growing quickly, it’s important to realize that media habits are in evolution, not revolution. People are still watching TV.
Panel 3 – Fan Labor
Panelists – Mark Deuze, Indiana University and Leiden University; Catherine Tosenberger, Fan Fiction guru; Jordan Greenhall, Co-founder and CEO of DivX (until last July); Elizabeth Osder, Senior VP of Audience at Buzznet.com; Raph Koster, President of Areae Inc.
This was an interesting conversation about Web 2.0 and the rights of those who are actually creating the content. I thought Raph had the most interesting things to say about it. He argued that owning the content isn’t what Web 2.0 is interested in, they want the metadata … who owns the user profile is what matters, not who owns the content. These companies invite participation so they can measure it and watch people “skitter across the content.” And something that I hadn’t thought about before was that the basic premise of making a Facebook application is to steel Facebook’s database. These are essentially just fancy ways to find out information about consumers and then use that information to make money. In fact, it was argued that most Web 2.0 companies don’t care at all about what the content actually is unless it begins to affect their business model.
Later, the discussion moved to fan generated online communities and our old friend authenticity raised its head. Most of these communities, especially fan-fiction type-sites, are started and thrive based by people who genuinely love the subject. These are really fragile ecosystems that have often birthed what the group termed “cool new shit” without the help (read: interference) of large companies. These communities are held together by authenticity, and once the users catch the scent of a “suit” that is running things rather than a member of the community, its over. One of the unwritten rules of fandom is to not make money on it.
Couple of other things:
- Mass broadcast is good at monetizing scale, but small scale media is good at monetizing passion
- Whether professionals are ready to admit it or not, they are competing with amateurs in content creation
- And my favorite line of thinking that came out of the conference was this: culture IS the medium.
Day 2 notes to follow soon. I'm currently at my parents house in Williamsburg, VA which is keeping me surprisingly busy and isolated from the Interweb.