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April 25, 2007

Keynote Roundtable Panel: Content Is King! (Again?)

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Happy Wednesday! You guys are totally missing out because I’m doing my happy I-got-coffee-and-life-is-good dance to the blaring Nelly Furtado playing in the ballroom right now. Take a second and imagine all the crazy shimmying in your minds, if you will. Huzzah!

Okay, knock it off. It’s time to get serious. Jon Fine (BusinessWeek) is moderating this morning’s keynote roundtable panel with speakers Jason Hirschhorn (Sling Media Group), Kourosh Karimkhany (Wired Digital), Suzie Reider (YouTube) and Caroline Little (Washingtonpost.com, Newsweek Interactive).

Before we get to the keynote, Drew Ianni is back to deliver some opening remarks and housekeeping details. He says that some of the session rooms have been changed due to overcrowding. Oh, no! I’m going to get lost again, aren’t I? More running in heels for me.

Drew shares some noteworthy terms he heard yesterday including:

  • Video Snacking – Heh. I heard this all day yesterday and it made me giggle and slightly hungry all day.
  • Web 3.0 – Thankfully, I haven’t heard this.
  • Engagement – Are we still talking about Rand? That happened 2 months ago, people. Let’s move on!
  • Mastering "The Art of Conversation" – Creating a brand dialogue.

Now that we’re updated on yesterday, it’s time for today. The keynote speakers are all comfortably seated on the blue couch and orange chairs that I’m stealing out of the conference hall Friday night. Don’t tell anyone.

Jon says if content is indeed king there are a lot of people in his neck of the woods not feeling it right now. The value of certain top tier content is not being recognized or monetized in the new media world. These new distribution platforms have also shown that professional content isn’t always needed.

It’s worth noting that today when we talk about content we’re not just talking about professionally written words. We’re talking about all forms of social media, but especially video.

Before the panelists are allowed to speak, Jon warms them that if they’re caught using the phrase "the consumer is in control" they will be seriously punished. Awesome.

Caroline starts out talking about her experiences working for Washingtonpost.com and says that her company has an unprecedented audience. Ad revenues are growing at alarmingly fast rate. Her goal is to make enough money in alternative forms of media so she can continue to build what is core to her mission which is newsgathering. And that’s newsgathering for all forms of media, not just print.

Jon asks if the power is with the content holders or the aggregators?

Kourosh says it’s still with the content holders. The aggregation is becoming less important because of Google and the search results. Having good old HTML on your site with good content is the surest way of getting content to your audience. Create the content and the engines will find it.

Suzie from YouTube says, like love and marriage, you can’t have one without the other. Content and aggregators are in control because we need them both for the system to work.

Jason says content is still the King. Distribution without content doesn’t mean much but the biggest pockets on the Web are sites like YouTube, Yahoo, Google, etc. These sites aren’t creating content, they’re aggregating it. What’s genius about Google is Google’s platform is not Google.com. It’s everywhere AdSense is. Google doesn’t actually create anything but they’re involved in everything. That’s powerful.

Kouosh says where Wired gets the most value is making sure they’re ending up in the search results. Jason says a key factor is that not everyone needs to be a Time Warner. Sites are content to be smaller and getting less traffic. They know if you are doing a deal with AdSense or Panama, it’s not just about the big publishers. In aggregate, the small publishers mean something.

Suzie says the real question is what is content today? When you hear content people think of professionally created content. They don’t think of the stuff that’s on YouTube, but it is. That may be true but that just means all those people are wrong. All those YouTube cat videos are content. It doesn’t matter how you feel about cats.

Jon questions Suzie on the rumors that YouTube is experimenting with testing ad models and when they’ll "flip the switch" and make those live.

Suzie responds that YouTube cares a lot about their content partners and they want to reward them. YouTube is approaching testing in an academic way. They’re looking at the ad executions on the watch page (the page where the videos reside) to find a system that will not interrupt the user experience but will provide a revenue stream for these content producers. They’re testing very quick commercial intros at the beginning and than maybe one at the end. What they don’t want to do is interrupt the user experience. It’s not going to be a great unveiling, she says, it’s going to be an evolving process. Suzie says they’re being really careful not to screw it up, but content products may begin seeing ad models as early as this summer.

Jon says one of the reasons YouTube took off was the user experience. Will a bumper or pre-roll ad disrupt that experience?

Suzie says it might. She doesn’t think a :15 pre-roll in front of a :27 clip is going to be a great experience. YouTube is going to keep looking at it.

Jason argues that pre-roll ads don’t work because users are clicking expecting content and they don’t want to have to wait for it. Placing a bumper on a second video may work as long as users know where they are. No one has figured out a model that works yet. Advertisers need to be very flexible about what the units are.

Kourosh says he’s a big fan of YouTube and with that the love fest begins. He says Wired is a big supporter and they use it everyday. They have their own video solution but their journalists and editors prefer YouTube over their own. Aw, that’s nice.

Jason jokes that YouTube is cool but he’s selling Slingboxes out by the taxi stand.

Jon asks if advertisers are comfortable taking from what’s online?

Jason says they’re not because there’s a whole system built against NOT going down that road. However, what we’re seeing is that users care less about "quality" versus great, funny content. The utility that we’ve gotten out of SNL shorts has been the same as professional content. There’s a great farm club and they’ll pick talent out from there. Advertisers have to get with it and realize that they don’t control their brands online.

Jon asks Caroline what she thinks about Yahoo now partnering with 12 major newspaper companies to share revenue.

Caroline says that if you look at the people who have signed up with Yahoo they’re primarily smaller companies. The deals were originally built around jobs, now it’s changing. If you look at the larger newspapers (like Caroline’s), they haven’t signed up for big distribution deals because they already have fairly decent distribution. The smaller papers are looking at something very different than what we’re looking at.

Jason cautions that you also have to look at the long term. Who controls the sales in those deals? You have to protect yourself. It’s not about copyright; it’s about control and sharing.

Kourosh becomes the coolest guy in the room saying he’s totally comfortable with users mashing up Wired content. Wired allows users to take their content, modify it, and throw it up on their site as long as they link back and they’re not using it for commercial purposes. They realize their audience is actually smarter than they are in some areas.

Caroline doesn’t seem quite as comfortable as Kourosh with letting users take control of the content. That’s because she’s from a "big media company". She believes there’s a scale with reporting and editing that is useful. If you’re a political reporter you know more than a layperson who just dabbles in it. I think there’s a role for reporters and journalists, she says. I think Caroline’s not making a lot of fans this morning, heh.

The difference with Wired and sites like Washingtonpost.com is that Wired really lays the framework for users and then let’s them take control over it. I think users respect that. I also think Wired has the perfect audience for adapting that kind of business model.

Jason says this stuff is going to happen the way it’s going to happen. Major media has put way too much effort into fighting it instead of letting the floodgates open and learning how to monetize it. I totally agree with Jason the approach Wired seems to be taking. Big media needs to wake up.

Caroline says there is a definite attitude in media NOT to send people off their site or link to a competitor and it’s a losing proposition; the Web doesn’t work that way. The major media still haven’t accepted things like blogs.

Kourosh says you make money from the conversation the same way you did before. The only thing difference is that these days the conversation is a lot more interesting than the static voice it once was. He shares a funny story where a Wired reported wanted to interview Jason Calacanis but didn’t want to do it through email (which Jason was fighting for) because the writer didn’t want to lose the conversation and the ability to go off on tangents. Jason blogged about it in the normal angry Jason way and proclaimed that Wired was afraid of email. Wire, smartly, used their blog to respond and before any knew it the conversation that was created was a lot more interesting than the actual interview probably would have been.

He’s right. That conversation is more interesting because it’s real. Not to use the popularity of reality TV analogy used in yesterday’s Blogging session, but there is some truth to that. It’s interesting to watch people react in their natural way. It’s always more interesting to see Jason Calacanis act out the way Jason does than to get him into a cold interview format over email. Which conversation would you rather ease drop in?

The lesson of the keynote is that video is content and that big media needs to recognize that people do want to have these conversations. Poor, Caroline. She’s taking all the heat for being part of "big media". Jason wants to see traditional media companies taking the lead in these conversations. I think we all do.

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One response to “Keynote Roundtable Panel: Content Is King! (Again?)”

  1. A.B writes:

    “Content is king.”

    It sounds good in principle. Produce a truly great piece of content, and you’ll get all the links you could ever hope for.
    Maybe it worked too, several years ago. The Web used to be a fairly quiet place compared to what it is now, and it was easier for people to notice great blog posts.
    But not anymore.
    Now great is no longer good enough. The Web is full of so much remarkable content that bloggers don’t have enough time to read it all, much less link to it.
    If you want links now, you need to be more than great. You need to be connected.

    http://arthur-internetmarketing-guide.blogspot.com/2009/12/is-content-really-king.html#more



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