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Monetizing Content in a Social World, Part 1

Last week the Cisco Media Solutions Group facilitated a conversation on stage at the IBC 2010 conference about how media  owners are leveraging social media (blogs, syndicatable video players, Facebook, Twitter, etc) to monetize their branded content.  We had an exciting line-up of speakers from various entertainment genres including:

The speakers engaged in several interesting conversations about how their organizations are incorporating social technologies into their business, the organizational challenges this created, and ultimately how they are looking to turn a social entertainment experience (premium content + social interactions) into a differentiated audience experience that could be monetized.

We’d love to share a video of the entire two hour session with you, but oddly enough videotaping was not allowed (seems a bit odd for a broadcasters’ conference, but whatever.)  Instead, I’ve tried to summarize a few of the themes that I found most interesting:

1)      “Social” = just another channel -- There was general agreement that the digital or new media teams are doing themselves a disservice by continuing to confuse the business with technical jargon and trying to convince the organization that “social” is completely different than anything the organization has ever done doing.  While social is a different beast in many ways, the general consensus was: it’s time media companies evolve our thinking to include “social” as yet another distribution channel -- and become more rigorous about how, why and where we’ll monetize content in that channel versus others.   

2)      There shouldn’t be a “digital strategy,” only a business strategy – Alex and Claude clearly articulated that since media companies are in the business of entertainment (or making money from content), the focus should really be on how “social” helps them build a sustainable, profitable business.  Separating the “digital strategy” from the overall business strategy just provides more opportunities for misalignment between the two.

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3)      Plan for future behavior – In outlining LOCOG’s social media strategy for the London 2012 games (btw: Alex’s full presentation can be found here), Alex highlighted their focus on figuring out consumers’ social habits so they can future proof their content experiences for new(er) technologies – in other words, trying to identify what social aspects or features will become mainstream, rather than just a niche or short-term phenomenon.  Nathan articulated this as a “fast-follower” approach – watching the early adopters and experimenting with newer technologies/platforms, but waiting to see what will have true staying power before bringing it into the portfolio of tools used across the business.

4)      New roles; the “content harvester” – All of our speakers acknowledged shifts their organization and internal business processes are making with the rise of social technologies.  Nathan pointed out that Universal Music now has “content harvesters” whose role it is to collect and catalog all the related assets that are created around an artist (live performances, acoustic sets, photos, etc) that can be used in the social channels to fill the gaps between major events like album releases or tour dates.  These individuals span the various digital silos and teams to make sure there’s content to fuel the ongoing relationship with fans.

There were several more themes that I’ll blog about a bit later, but I wanted to end with the piece of advice that Claude London gave at the end of the panel discussion that did a great job summing up many of the themes we covered:

“Don’t outsource social.  Just don’t.  Social media is as much content, as it is marketing.  And content is what we [a media company] do.  Don’t outsource what is core to your business to someone else.”

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