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Musings on Architecture, Installment 1

There comes a time in the evolution of building a technology platform that you have to pause and look back where you’ve come from, before continuing on with the journey. As I think back to the formation of the Cisco Eos platform, it was a time of hard work and rapid growth.

The Cisco Media Solutions Group went from being a business unit with an idea, to truly taking form in 2007 when Cisco made three software acquisitions—Five Across, the assets of Tribe.net and the assets of Click.tv. From that day forward, we were charged with developing an innovative platform that could get media companies online in a simple, manageable way. That long journey started with the single though difficult step of uniting three independent companies and countless independent perspectives into a single team executing against a single vision.

As with any consolidation effort, tough decisions had to be made. One of the most important we faced was what development platform we were going to leverage. Our three teams had experience in just as many languages: Ruby on Rails, PHP, and Java – not to mention Adobe Flex and even a bit of C. After much debate, we chose to use Java for the back end, which includes the core Cisco Eos data and content components like blogs, discussions, and member profiles. And we chose PHP for the front end, the dynamic page-rendering environment that our users can customize for presentation to end consumers. Read More »

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Social Networks and Music – Part 2

At SXSW 2011, Dan Scheinman, SVP and GM of the Cisco Media Solutions Group talks about the importance of collecting data about music fans and how they interact with content on social networks.

At the SXSW 2011 Music Panel “You’ve Built a Social Network, Now What” panelists including our own SVP and GM Dan Scheinman, offered a diverse audience made up of musicians, artist managers, independent record labels advice on how to leverage social media tools to grow and monetize their fan bases. The main theme of the conversation, as we pointed in out in our first part of coverage of the panel (link), is that an artist web site needs to be the center of a musician’s online strategy. Just recently, music marketing manager Michael Branvold offered up eight more reasons why artists should not rely on social networks for their main online presence -- Branvold’s eight points are diverse and can be read over at the site Music Think Tank.

An independent label manager in the audience of the SXSW Music panel, complained there are too many social networks for musicians and label / artist managers to keep up with. He wondered which ones are the most important to maintain presences on. Moderator Bill Werde, Editorial Director of Billboard Magazine, Michael Fiebach of the digital marketing and management agency Fame House and Paul Sinclair, SVP of Digital Media of Atlantic Records offer some strategy for this independent label manager asking the question.

As Paul Sinclair pointed out, musicians shouldn’t chase every new social network that comes along. But at a minimum, musicians are expected to have a dialog with their fans on Facebook and Twitter, and then use the conversations there to drive fans back to the artist web site.

At another SXSW 2011 panel about social networks and musicians titled ‘Musicians and the Social Graph’, DJ and video producer Mike Relm offered to the audience that musicians should take the time to figure out which social networks and services lend themselves best to the kind of conversation they want to have with fans. Relm offers that he primarily focuses on YouTube because he’s focused mostly on the production of video content. Yet he still uses the videos to drive fans back to his web site -- http://mikerelm.com :

If Facebook and Twitter are the main social networks musicians are expected to engage with fans on, which other social networking services are important to fans? At the ‘Social Graph’ panel,  Jonathan Crowley, Director of Business Development for Foursquare, talked about how rock giants Soundgarden used the location based social network. Twitter’s Jonathan Adams and SF Music Tech’s Brian Zisk joined the conversation, explaining how messages from musicians over social networks can then be amplified by their own fans.

Personally, I wasn’t using Foursquare as a music fan at SXSW 2011. It turns out if I had been following some of my favorite bands on Foursquare, I would have been let on the news that they were playing some secret shows.  Please use the comments section below for any thoughts on the video conversations offered in this post.

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Enriching the Content Experience on ALL Screens with Cisco Eos

Working with our customers, we see media companies in all stages of the social entertainment development process. Many have taken the first step and have begun integrating social features into branded web sites, leveraging Cisco Eos to build out the social experience. However, it is when media companies stop here that they immediately leave fans longing for more.

You may be thinking, “But my competitors haven’t gone any further than this, so we must be in line with what users want, right?” To address this, I ask you this question, “How do you personally interact with content?”

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have a smartphone that gives you the ability to use targeted interactive apps or surf the internet. You may have taken it a step further and bought an iPad to get this same mobile experience on a larger screen. If you fit into either of these scenarios, ask yourself why your consumers aren’t also looking to take advantage of these platforms to engage with your content. As with any product or service, individual users have individual preferences. To fully reach your target audience, you need to provide access to content from all of the devices they use. If you don’t, you run the risk of leaving a large percentage unsatisfied, or turning them off from repeat visits.

If last month’s SXSW Interactive Conference brought anything to the forefront, it is that people are increasingly interested in using mobile web and mobile apps to view content anywhere, anytime. If you are in charge of developing social entertainment experiences across your content portfolios, it is time to start reaching beyond the desktop computer to mobile devices. If you fail to extend your social entertainment experiences to all screens, you are missing the ability to capitalize on a very important, very large audience growth opportunity. Read More »

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Is there Gold in the Trash? Lessons from the Film Industry

Recently at the Consumer Electronics Show I had a enlightening conversation with the head of a major movie studio.  He told me that they spend close to $1 billion annually to “acquire the same customer over and over--people that go to movies.”  That’s because the natural goal with each movie is to maximize box office revenue.  Since web properties deliver little incremental revenue today, all their effort is placed on the traditional revenue streams.

They create web properties and social engagement platforms primarily for promotional purposes that live for about four to six weeks after the in-theater window.  Then, they are abandoned and they start over on the next film.  With the cost of the average Hollywood movie promotional website running about $1-3 million, the studios lose an opportunity to understand, engage and monetize that audience.

The lack of recognition on digital opportunities goes even deeper.  At the Digital Media Wire/Variety Future of Film Conference, a tech startup that does social widgets for film sites said they loved coming to Hollywood because it was “like printing money--every film studio wants to ‘do social.’”  They said they were surprised at the end of each engagement because they’d try to transfer the audience data they collected via the widget back to the studio, and they’d be told to keep it; that the use of that data wasn’t the studio’s “job” and that they wouldn’t know what to do with it anyway.  The startup said it was fascinating to watch studio CFOs scrutinize the ROI on every campaign as measured by impressions, click through rates, etc, but then walk away from the most valuable assets--the data and the relationship with the consumer--that the social app was generating.

Movie studios perhaps are optimizing around revenue today (box office) but not yet optimizing around the revenue and asset of tomorrow.   That asset is data.  By having a source of data about their audience that can do useful things, studios can both decrease marketing costs and develop new revenue sources around that audience and film property.

While Cisco Eos can help studios accomplish short term promotional goals via a socially enabled entertainment experience, the real added value is over the long term.  That value is realized in three ways: Read More »

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SXSW 2011 Recap: Chop Shop / Atlantic Records Party

Rhydian Dafydd, on bass and Ritzy Bryan, on guitar - rock out at the Chop Shop Records / Atlantic Records SXSW Party 2011, enabled by Cisco Eos

At SXSW, with hundreds of bands, singer / songwriters, DJ / producers, playing across the city, I was reminded of why record labels are important. You need them for the curation and aggregation of the music. Otherwise, in a sea of music, there are less avenues to find a good group of similar artists you may like.  Last year at the Bandwidth Conference in San Francisco, we heard music industry luminary and Elektra Records founder, Jac Holzman, opine on the importance of labels as curators (watch video here).

I attended many record label showcases at SXSW 2011 that proved this point -- including two showcases enabled by Cisco Eos: The Killers Lasers Papers showcase which was hip hop / R&B focused (link to our review), and the primarily indie rock driven Chop Shop Records / Atlantic Records SXSW Party.

If you are reading this post before March 27th and you register at several of the artist sites of the bands who played the Chop Shop / Atlantic showcase including -- kittentheband.com, scarson45.com, republictigers.com, thejoyformidable.com -- you’ll be entered to win a custom designed Flip MinoHD™. The custom artwork on the Flip reflects the talents of Portugal The Man lead singer, John Gourley, who created the painting for the showcase poster.

I had not heard any of the Chop Shop Records bands before the event, and I was pleasantly surprised once the showcase got going. All the bands put on monster performances. I thought to myself again, “great curation at work”. The showcase started off with Kitten The Band, led by vocalist / guitarist Chloe Chaidez. Chloe was thrashing about during the 5 song set with a powerful voice and a confident stage presence. The music reminded me of early years of The Cure.

When Chloe of Kitten got off stage, I got to talk with her briefly about how she uses social media to connect with fans. The Atlantic Records team kindly let me know she’s only 16 years old. You would need to get up close to the stage to even guess Chloe’s age because she performs so confidently, yet sure enough she’s a soft spoken fresh faced teen when not singing. Each of the bands I talked with during the showcase have a specific social media channel that they like to use as their primary means of communication with fans. Chloe of Kitten’s social media platform of choice to talk to fans is Facebook;  I guess like you would expect of a teenage girl.  John Gourley of Portugal The Man emphasized he’s all about Twitter. For the U.K.’s Scars on 45, video blogging is the primary way they communicate to fans. In the clip, they talk about the video they shoot and other methods they use to communicate with fans, including via their Cisco Eos powered web site -- Scarson45.com.

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