Marc Sands of the Guardian on the future of the media

November 7, 2008

Marc Sands, Director of Marketing at the Guardian newspaper company in the UK spoke at our Forrester Research Consumer Marketing Forum in London on the 7th of November. He came to speak about how media companies have had to give up control of the media — the sources of media content, the analysis of the content they deliver, and the online communities that feed off them.

I introduced myself before Marc’s speech and mentioned that I would be posting a blog entry. In classic British modesty, he appeared uncomfortable with the attention. I misinterpreted this as concern about my blog and asked if he was okay with being blogged live. He responded very quickly and sincerely:

That’s the whole point, isn’t it? We media companies have to give up control over the content. So whether I like it or not doesn’t matter.

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Here’s what else I learned from Sands:

  1. The newspaper isn’t dead, it’s just changing how it adds value. He’s not pretending that newspapers aren’t challenged and the question of where the money will come from looms very large in Sands’s view, but he showed some data about how newspapers are becoming more valuable as sources of analysis rather than daily information. See the clip below for his comments and data. His point isn’t just about newspapers. Rather, he’s emphasizing that all media have to find how they either pursue a niche, or use a multimedia strategy to meet their audience’s different needs. 
     
  2. One potential side effect of media digitization is the rise of people who don’t consume news at all. Sands reported data on consumers who don’t engage the news at all. He mentioned that as many a tenth (didn’t catch the actual number, sorry) of Americans don’t consume news at all in a typical week. He wondered aloud whether they knew yet that their compatriots had elected a black president.
  3. The people inclined to say “yes” are the ones who will shape the future. This was a particularly powerful point, especially coming from somone at a newspaper which Sands admits tends due to its political leanings to say “yes” to just about anything (including Ricky Gervais’s hilarious podcast). He said that people who are by nature inclined to say yes to new things will do the most valuable experimentation. As a result, they will end up having a disproportionate impact on the future (my words, his implication). To that I say: “Yes.”
  4. The media have the luxury of having short development cycles. Media companies can launch new things, new stories, new ideas, quickly. They can also make mistakes quickly (he mentioned the role of citizen journalism to correct news organizations when they fail, such as in the case of Dan Rather vs. George Bush). But, responding to the speech before him from BMW in which the company spoke of 5-7 year development cycles, he added, “at least when we make a mistake, it doesn’t get built in to the body of a car. We can bury our mistakes more quickly and move on.” 

Web stream of my speech at the Forrester Consumer Forum

October 28, 2008

Imagine my surprise to find out that one of the bloggers on the front row of the Forrester Forum streamed my keynote speech live. You can see the archive of the stream here. It begins with Carrie Johnson’s kickoff to the forum and then at about minute 11, she introduces my keynote. It’s not the best quality image or audio, but if you’re really interested in the speech, here it is in its glory.

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What is a Convenience Quotient?

October 28, 2008

A Convenience Quotient (CQ) is something we debuted today at our Forrester Consumer Forum in Dallas. It’s a new metric we have devised to summarize how convenient your product/service/channel is to consumers. In concept it’s straightforward:

Convenience = Benefits – Barriers

Basically, the convenience your product offers is a function of the benefits you offer minus the barriers that stand in your consumers’ way. If you offer tremendous benefits, people will overcome great barriers to get at them. If you offer modest benefits, even the slightest barrier will stand in your way. An example I offered today in my speech is depicted below in the slide (which you can click on to see a bigger version of).

 

A slide from my presentation at the Forrester Consumer Forum

A slide from my presentation at the Forrester Consumer Forum

In this example, you see the way the CQ works. You start from 0, you add up the benefits you provide (that’s the tricky part, obviously, and we’ve developed an approach to doing this which will show up in our research) on a scale from 0 to 1. Then you subtract the barriers that stand in your way. If you end up with a positive score, it means you have more benefits than barriers whereas if you end up with a negative score, well you know that negative scores are never good.

This example shows how CQs might work in the case of a banking website when a customer needs help with a serious issue (lost ATM card, missing deposit, etc.). I ran through sample scores that different alternatives might have: FAQ = 0 (few benefits, few barriers, cancel out); email = -.2 (many barriers, uncertain benefit); 800 number = .05 (some barriers, decent benefits); online chat help = .2 (many benefits, few barriers when done right).

It’s an important concept that we’ll be developing more fully in our research over the next year and I’m already getting smart questions and comments from forum attendees about it, so look for me to talk about it more on this blog as it relates to video entertainment.


Jim Keyes, Blockbuster CEO, taught me 5 things

October 28, 2008

I’ve been around the block a few times. By that I mean I have been to more than a handful of big conferences where CEOs talk about why their companies are the cat’s meow. And many times, these CEOs disappoint, falling into the role of simple cheerleader for their brands. We work hard to make sure Forrester Forums escape that pit, but it doesn’t always work.

That’s all in preamble to what I just heard from Jim Keyes, CEO of Blockbuster, who delivered. He took the stage for 45 minutes and told this audience the nitty gritty details of what it’s like to take a company many people have pronounced dead and transform it into a leader.

Jim sold me. Here are five important things I heard from Jim about the future of entertainment:

  1. One customer, many channels. Jim made a compelling case that Blockbuster is the company best positioned to have a true multi-channel entertainment offering: rental, purchase, kiosks, digital downloads, even a set top box strategy which he publicly acknolwedged but indicated would not happen this year. No competitor has the same opportunity to deliver through all possible channels to all possible devices.
  2. The over-the-top set top box business is not there yet. This is probably why Steve Jobs keeps publicly referring to the Apple TV as a “hobby.” While Jim acknowledged that Blockbuster will offer the same kind of product, when I asked him in Q&A to go in more detail, he said that these boxes are ahead of the customer right now and it doesn’t make sense to get one out there just to have one out there. He could subsidize, like he thinks Netflix is doing, but it didn’t make sense right now.
  3. Convenience is king. Putting aside for a moment that in the entertainment business, content is the real king, when it comes to the companies who want to deliver entertainment, convenient access to content is what matters. Jim discussed in great detail (including assumptions about pricing and consumer strategy that were alarmingly frank for a CEO speaking in public) about the business model implications and challenges they face in trying to make access to content convenient. Oh, and he used my Convenience Quotient model from earlier today, so of course I liked it :)
  4. Change is best when it comes from the top. One of the questions we get at every one of our events is, “how do I drive change in my organization to participate in this digital revolution?” Jim led his speech by saying he had a great opportunity if he could “inject change.” So I took the opportunity to ask him just how he planned to do that. His answer was as detailed as all his other comments, but the short of it is that he personally takes the responsibility to inject change, including communicating to every store manager each week. That way he can personally infect them with his own enthusiasm and ideas for the company’s future.
  5. You can’t get too far ahead of your headlights. Those were Jim’s words in response to me asking him the question about whether he’s actually innovating too fast by trialing kiosks and multi-channel experiences. He admitted he might be ahead of consumers just a bit, but was willing to experiment. As long as, he then confessed, that he didn’t get ahead of investors. I think that’s a lot of what is going here: Blockbuster isn’t just managing to customer’s expectations, but to Wall Street’s as well. From what I see, Jim is doing a good job of both. 

As you can see, I’m impressed by what I saw. Jim’s a guy who knows what he’s up to. If Blockbuster is going to turn itself around, I can’t imagine anyone more prepared to do it. More from the forum as it unfolds.


Cameron Death of NBC on stage saying good things

October 28, 2008

Welcome to Forrester’s Consumer Forum, in Dallas. We’re off to a bang, I have just finished my keynote speech a few minutes ago and now Cameron Death, VP of Digital Content at NBC Universal is speaking.

He put up a slide that I didn’t get to capture with my BlackBerry in time, but it showed the number of people who caught the Heroes season premiere. It was something like 24 million in broadcast (probably including DVRs), 8 million online, and just about 126,000 people in mobile and VOD. Just 126K! Online is hot, the rest is not. (Now if only Heroes had been as good as it was in season 1!).

He is so refreshingly open! My experience with TV execs is that they are very guarded. Perhaps because Cameron is an ex-Microsoft guy who has only been at NBC for a year, he is talking very openly about ratings, DVRs, and other challenges. And he’s very optimistic. Perhaps it’s because NBC is doing very well right now in the online space. NBC’s joint venture with Fox, Hulu.com, is a roaring hit. NBC is having a huge rush online thanks to Sarah Palin/Tina Fey. 

In fact, in a very surreal moment, Cameron read from today’s USA Today which was delivered to his hotel room here at the Gaylord Texan.  He quipped, “it’s interesting there are numbers in here, because I wasn’t given permission to share these numbers, so I’ll just quote USA Today!”

Not only did SNL get its largest TV audience (15 million) in 14 years for the October 18 broadcast with vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin watching Tina Fey impersonate her, but Palin-related SNL skits have been viewed more than 63 million times across the Web… – October 28 paper, Section D, page 1 (update note: originally had incomplete quote here, replaced it with full quote once I had a copy of the paper)

Cameron pointed out that this is clear evidence the digital channel matters, driving not only online activity that dwarfs the broadcasting viewing, but also lifts the broadcast viewing itself.

The forum is shaping up well. I’ll prepare a summary of my speech a little bit later, with some screen shots because there’s some good stuff in there worth talking about. If you want to follow the forum on Twitter, follow “forrester.” I’m also twittering at jmcquivey.


Forrester consumer forum, sneak peek at my speech

October 27, 2008

Well, not all of my speech, I have to save something for the attendees, after all. But I recently had a great conversation with David Armano (VP of Experience Design with Critical Mass, and blogger responsible for Logic + Emotion as well as a contributor to Advertising Age’s DigitalNext blog) and shared with him the basic pieces of my keynote speech which I will give to 600+ people tomorrow morning in Dallas.

David blogged about the speech, connecting to the element he found most interesting, that was my focus on convenience as the path to meeting consumer needs. That’s actually the theme of my speech:

People share a set of universal needs – satisfy those needs with convenience and you will win

It’s something we’ve arrived at after ten years of solid Consumer Technographics research, and I’m excited to be able look back at the data and find evidence of the role of convenience in making products, services, and channels successful.

Hope to see you there. If not, look for my blog posts about the event starting tomorrow and into Wednesday.


Speaking at Ooyala webinar on onilne video syndication

October 22, 2008

It’s coming Thursday, October 23rd, at 11am PT/2pm ET. Go to this page for the details of how you can participate. Thousands have been invited, I hope you’ll be there.

I’ll be speaking for 20-30 minutes about online video syndication, one of the secrets to making sure your content gets seen everywhere — or making sure your advertising message will engage the maximum number of viewers possible, depending on whether you’re the marketer or the content provider.

I’ll also be sharing the mic with Bismark Lepe, CEO, and Sean Knapp, CTO, of Ooyala. They’ll be explaining what Ooyala is doing to help advertisers as well as content providers do what I’ll be talking about. Sounds like a good fit!

If you come, come ready with some questions about the growth of online video advertising (I’ll be sharing the forecast I recently blogged about), and the formats that are likely to dominate for now. Should be a great conversation. Talk to you then.