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Reaching Beyond Stadiums and Arenas to Engage Sports Fans

Alison Flato CMSG marketing intern 2010GUEST POST; Alison Flato, CMSG marketing intern

It‘s been a very exciting summer in the sporting world – the NBA Finals, the US Open, the Lebron James free agency frenzy and the World Cup. These events, in particular the World Cup, have redefined social entertainment on a global scale and pose some interesting thoughts and questions about the future the fan experience online.

Twitter recently reported that on a normal day users generate 65 million tweets, an average of 750 tweets per second. During the final game of the NBA playoffs last month between the L.A. Lakers and the Boston Celtics, Twitter recorded 3,085 tweets per second, that’s over 4 times as many Tweets as the Twitter average on a normal day, and more than 185,000 tweets every minute.  Earlier this month, NBA superstar Lebron James joined twitter with the handle @KingJames and in just 7 hours amassed over 150,000 followers, outpacing the growth of other famous figures on Twitter including Microsoft founder Bill Gates.

Even more recently, the World Cup shattered web and social media records.  CNET reported that the World Cup’s first day on Friday June 11 set a new record for Internet traffic – news sites reached over 12 million visitors per minute by noon Eastern Time. These figures surpassed Barack Obama’s Election Day record of 8.5 million visitors per minute in 2008. The World Cup also broke the NBA Finals record for Tweets per second with users publishing 3,283 tweets per second at the close of Japan’s victory over Denmark. There was so much Facebook chatter about World Cup players that The New York Times launched a visualization resizing World Cup Players based on the buzz they generated on Facebook on any given day. More than 1 million fans watch the U.S. vs. Algeria game online and during the tournament the English team’s Facebook page racked up over 500,000 fans, more than any other team.

Sports fans want more than just the who, what, when and where that is usually associated with breaking sports news. Simply reporting news is not enough – sports fans want information that sparks discussion and they want to consume this information in a place that enables them to participate in and fuel this discussion. In an era in which breaking news has become a commodity, the way to reach sports fans is through what happens around news breaks. As the sports content category evolves, winners of this game will provide more than just the breaking the news – they will provide an immersive experience that gives fans a rich, ongoing relationship with a specific event, athlete or team by providing a collection of engaging content.

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Are paywalls the answer?

Alison Flato CMSG marketing intern 2010GUEST POST; Alison Flato, CMSG marketing intern


As a current USC graduate student, I couldn’t help but notice that USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism recently released its Digital Future Study. The study has been tracking online and social behavior for the past nine years and, among other facts, researchers discovered that while almost half of the individuals surveyed have tried free web applications like Twitter, zero percent would actually be willing to pay to use Twitter. This finding seemed rather alarming to me and has many implications when we think of generating revenue opportunities in the digital world. First and foremost it underscores the difficulty that media and entertainment companies face as they confront the challenge of getting consumers to pay for anything online that they already receive for free.

This is a particularly difficult problem in the publishing industry where it seems every week we hear of major publications struggling to stay alive in the digital age. In an effort to combat the revenue lost from declining advertising revenues and print subscriptions, both Newsday and The Times have implemented paywalls for online content and both news outlets have reported a dramatic traffic decrease since doing so. The challenge is not only is it difficult to get people to pay for something that was once free, but it’s even more difficult when that content is still readily available for free elsewhere online.

Some experts hypothesize that mobile devices will be the saving grace of the publishing industry and return journalism to a paid subscription model tying content to access. In fact, Columbia University’s Journalism Review recently published “A Second Chance: How mobile devices can absolve journalism of its original sin: giving away online content”. It’s an interesting theory – consumers have already shown that they are willing to pay for content on a mobile device and publishers that develop their own content management system for mobile devices will be able to charge subscriptions for this content. On top of that, publishers could then use these engaged (and paying) consumers to provide additional incentives to advertisers.

Mobile may provide new monetization opportunities for publishing firms, but what about creating a better than average experience online for an audience? Edelman recently released a study which found that 70% of people in the U.S. consider social networking to be a form of entertainment. The word “entertainment,” is usually synonymous with content: movies, television programs, music, books. This study highlights that the majority of consumers have a different definition of entertainment, one that extends beyond content to include interactions that they have via social networking sites.

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New Paths to Content Monetization

A couple of weeks ago Warner Music Group and MTV Networks announced  a digital content and ad sales partnership that allows MTV Music Group to sell ads against WMG’s premium video content on both MTV’s and WMG’s sites.

This deal brings together complementary skills/assets, and is indicative of the relationships the media industry can (and should) foster to better monetize their online, digital content.

Think about it:

WMG has great content.  More importantly, fans of that content are passionate about their favorite artist/band/song (just take a look at some of the comments on  Passionate fans tend to stick around the WMG sites longer, consume more content, and come back more frequently.  This type of highly engaged audience is ideal in terms of a media property since all that interaction creates more, higher-value advertising inventory that media buyers are interested in. 

Many media companies have pursued the promise of monetizing online content.  What’s different in this situation?

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50 Cisco Eos Sites – Media and Entertainment Content Growing Online with Cisco Eos

Media Site at the Center of Online Strategy

From day one on this blog, we’ve been writing about how the web sites of media and entertainment brands are the keystones of an online experience around content. For instance, one post which we point consistently to, is titled ‘Your Web Site is the Center of your Online Entertainment Strategy’. The above corresponding graphic from that post is still relevant.

And we believe that’s why our customers like Warner Music Group are having continued success with Cisco Eos. In fact as of writing this post, Billboard applauded Warner Music Group for putting the artist web site at the center of their digital strategy (story link).  Glenn Peoples, Senior Editorial Analyst at Billboard (follow @billboardglenn on Twitter), writes:

The strategy lays out nicely in a flow chart and conforms to the logic of the multi-rights contract: music fans go to YouTube, watch a Warner artist’s video, some continue on to the artist’s web site where there is more MTV-acquired advertising and the consumer goods that are an integral part to Warner’s multi-rights deals. 

An integral part of Warner’s strategy is its use of Cisco’s Eos platform for its artist web sites. Not only will those sites carry advertisements placed by MTV, they enable the e-commerce and fan relationships that are core to Warner’s vision of its future. Warner is ahead of schedule on converting artist sites to Eos, a source says, and Eos sites have been quick to gain traction. “It’s far beyond what we expected.” 

That’s exciting news. We’ve come quite a long way from CES 2009 when we launched the Eos platform publicly with 2 sites,, and As of this blog post there are now over 50 entertainment / media web sites being powered by Cisco Eos technology.

So what Cisco Eos powered sites has the media and entertainment industry built of late – continue on …

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Album Art in the Digital Age — How do Fans Connect to Bands?

In 1979, I wandered into a record store (yes I know) and with a wad of one dollar bills in my pocket, went and bought the now classic Clash double album “London Calling.”   On the garish pink and green cover (what odd colors, for a punk band I thought) was an aggressive picture of Paul Simonon smashing his bass guitar on a stage.  What I did not realize until later was that the smashed bass was not really the message.  The message was in the garish colors meant to evoke Elvis Presley’s first album.  For me, that iconic cover has represented a lifetime of engagement with the band.

Now, few record stores remain and the music industry has been through enormous change.  How music deals with this change and what the future looks like is hotly debated by technologists, industry executives and the artists themselves.  Yet at the core, the questions remain the same, how can the music industry connect, engage and ultimately monetize that engagement with the fans as the Clash did with me?                       

As many of you know, Cisco has partnered with leading media companies to try and answer this question.  So far, I have learned that three things will drive connection, engagement and monetization: 

1) Data 

2) New Experiences 

3) Useful Things for consumers (like recommendations and personalization, or cloud based delivery). 

These three elements work together in a cycle, providing consumers with richer experiences, and businesses with meaningful information.

Back to my misspent youth.   Cover art was part of the experience of music.  The music companies “gave it away” with the album (as they gave away music videos, but that is a story for another day).   Cover art was significant because it gave music fans something tangible to look at, interpret and sometimes argue about as they were given that extra clue to the story the music was telling. By the way for those of you interested, there’s a new book entitled, The Art of the LP: Classic Album Covers 1955-1995  that looks exclusively at cover art and what it meant or didn’t mean to the musicians releasing their albums.  



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