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February 2011

Howard Stern And The Future of Broadcast Media

The view expressed below are solely my own and do not neccesarily reflect those of my employer.


With the relative and growing ubiquity of content, the broadcast media world has tried, tested or considered nearly every trick in the book to maintain and grow their standing in an increasingly digital world.  While their core products continue to be challenged by a multitude of threats, earlier this week I believe we saw the light at the end of the tunnel.  And it came from an unusual if not unexpected place.

Last Sunday night Howard Stern used his relatively new twitter handle to do something remarkable: he live tweeted a color commentary alongside a live broadcast of his 1990s movie, Private Parts.  This light, human commentary drew enough attention to become a trending topic on Twitter.  This wasn't a mass media bonanza.  These tweets weren't featured in broadcast.  There was no major media driving to this experience.  This was an organic exercise.  Howard started tweeting and dual-screen viewers jumped all over it.

Which begs the questions: Why hasn't anyone successfully productized this experience?  Would a similar experience work again, or was this all about novelty?  And what led Howard, a Twitter newbie, to come up with a concept so many other seem to have missed? 

The Social-Broadcast Future

Rather than fighting the multi-screen viewer, smart broadcasters will look to this new viewing dynamic to provide a richer, more interactive broadcast media experience.  Live social commentary, live fan chat... these are relatively simple to execute and have a huge potential upside for broadcasters - driving live viewing, reinvigorating the live un-timeshifted experience, creating new touchpoints that provide user value AND advertiser engagement opportunities... sounds like a win-win.  

I would not be surprised to see this new multi-platform social-broadcast experience teased by broadcasters in next years upfront, if not tested sooner.  Most early efforts will get a lot of buzz and grow boring quite quickly.

And this is the real lesson broadcasters can learn from the King of All Media.  Howard knows his audience and he has the intuition and in-the-moment spontaneity to deliver the experiences he knows his fans will value.  He just went out and did it.  

Not all content demands, deserves, or goes better with color commentary.  Much of that un-comment-worthy content may fall flat in a comment-worthy broadcast era.  This new experience dynamic will demand a new approach to content development, a new broadcast media format that embraces the live social viewer.  Social-Broadcast will be to the 2010s what reality television was to the 2000s.  

Welcome to tomorrow.

Social Can Take Down Governments, But Can It Build?

Untitled It is easier to fight for change than to agree on what that change should be.  

There are far more great stories of the digital community taking someone or something down than there are great stories about digital communities building a real and sustained solution.  

There are a number of basic human truths that fuel this negativity:

  • bad news spreads faster than good news... 
  • it's generally easier to be critical than productive... 
  • negative movements often don't require the same sustained commitment... 
  • the list goes on.

I don't mean to minimize the commitment it takes to mount a revolution.  However, it is far easier to agree to dislike the status quo than to agree around what to do about it.  And therein lies the limits of the power of the community.  Great leaders lead.  Visionaries have strong vision.  And great communicators drive people to believe in their path forward.  Social media is a set of communications tools and dynamics, not a replacement for leadership, vision or strong communications.  

Meaningful, lasting, positive and productive change is going to need leaders, visionaries and communicators.  And in our brave new world, the better ones are going to learn to leverage the community to build.  To paraphrase the Lubavitcher Rebbe, The challenge of a leader isn't to quell dissent, but to direct that incredible momentum towards the sublime.

5 Lessons Brands Can Learn from Hosni Mubarak #Egypt #Jan25

  1. 1195670569_7014759b86_z Social media is fueled by real people with real concerns.  Not everyone in social is serious all of the time, but social media is a reflection of our society.  Social is the cause and social is the effect, and it's fueled by real people.
  2. You cannot turn off the conversation.  You can't stop people from talking.  You cannot control the conversation.  The community defines the consensus.  Leaders don't force, they lead.
  3. Social media isn't a technology.  It's a form of communications.  You can shut down a technology, but necessity will drive ingenuity.  Social media is about people and their passions, about the connections and conversations they have.
  4. Your target market doesn't live in a vacuum.  We live in a global neighborhood.  The experiences people have in a remote corner of the world can change your reality.  
  5. The pace of change has changed.  We live in real time.  We talk in real time.  Information flows in real time.  When people have a passion, they will find one another.  When their message resonates, the world is ready to believe and be inspired.


On a personal note, I feel privileged to live in our era.  The world is changing and quickly.  Twitter didn't topple a government, the people did.  And with this power and new-found democracy, comes responsibility.  A responsibility to respect all of humanity, regardless of their religions or races.

Egypt still has a tough road ahead.  There are elements of major political factions within Egypt that do not believe in basic human rights.  These dark parties sided with the Nazis 60 years ago and protested Egypt's peace agreements with Israel.  These parties still do not believe in equal rights for women.  These parties pose significant danger to the freedom Egypt has fought so long and hard to win.

In this moment of joy I urge all of you take a moment and pray for the future of the Egyptian nation.  There is a lot to celebrate.  And there is a lot to build.

Hidden fees are evil, but do all "extra" fees have to die?

935756569_18aac96892_bThe Customer View

Hidden Fees are great for the bottom line.  And they are a great way of telling your customer that you have no interest in their best interest.

The last time I tried to buy tickets online, there were nearly $30 in processing fees on about $45 worth of tickets.  Shouldn't these fees be have been included in the original ticket price?  Why should I pay a convenience fee for using the services native to the channel - purchasing or printing my ticket online?

The last interaction with a brand is often how customers will remember you.  When you pile on the hidden fees you leave your customer feeling wronged.  

On behalf of everyone, thanks for taking advantage of me.  I'll be sure to tell my friends.

Then again, when it comes to many purchases, we have nowhere else to go.  Here's to hoping we see some real, viable competition in the events and tickets space.  Because right now our only option is to take the abuse, or stay home.

The Business Perspective

If a customer ops-in to making a digital purchase, and the fees and plocies are all transparent and upfront, where is there any harm?  We have a business to run, and as with any business there are various expenses.  We give the customer transparency into how we operate and what they are paying for.  In order to keep the costs to you low, we offer various options when it comes to terms and policies.  Nobody is twisting the customer's arm to buy our products.  We are presenting everything to you upfront, what's wrong with that?

The Business Reality

In an era where social media is our societal greek chorus, businesses need to protect themselves and their customers from perceived abusiveness.  This will challenge our sales structures and policies, demand more of our messaging and experience design and may even shift our revenue models.  Then again, businesses will also learn the art of transparent, social and strategic apoligies.  Smart businesses will learn where and how to stand their ground.  

The customer always deserves our respect but they are not always right.  When brands communicate in a timely and effective manner, the community will learn to recognize this reality.  The new era of transparency isn't evil or scary, it's just your new business reality.  

Building Our Glass Houses

178402429_c316cb7254_o We're building our industry in glass houses, with remarkable visibility into one another's services, solutions and outputs.  Our budding industry is still small enough that nearly everyone is connected and most of us are actively connecting.  One would think that with so much confusion and so much to be proven around social, we would all be working together, celebrating one another's successes and learning collectively from our challenges.

However, fierce competition for limited budgets in a field of untold opportunity, coupled with a surge of aspiring talent in a field where few have much real experience has led many of us to become highly critical of one another's work, perspectives and talent.  Whether it's dismissing a brilliant creative campaign as a stunt, dismissing one another's solutions based on vague claims of superiority, leveraging our influence as a threat against customer service or public relations leads or jumping on the first-movers for their lack of fully baked strategy, this negativity has to stop.  This attitude is unacceptable. Not only are your potential future clients and employers watching and taking note, mine are as well.  

Competition in business is natural.  Competition in business is healthy.  But we as an industry will not win by attacking.  We will only succeed by building.  This isn't to say that there isn't a place for constructive critique, but we must do so in a productive manner.  Your clients will respect you more for it.  Your peers will appreciate you more for it.  And in an era where everyone knows everyone and their business, you may just build the largest glass house of all.