Monday, May 23, 2011

Social Networking and Television

It's not enough for a brand to advertise on a particular television program just because that show has great ratings. That's the old model of how things were done.

First of all, the traditional ways of measuring a television show's audience aren't accurate -- at least not yet. The landscape is changing too fast. Social media buzz, online views, embeds on blogs -- all of these things aren't quite calibrated to a fine science with accurate metrics. Media data collection and analysis is scrambling to come up-to-date with the various emerging platforms. But we are all, more or less, playing catch up to the technology.

That having been said, one has a strong sense, in spite of the nebulousness of the present state of our metrics, that buzzy shows like Colbert Report and the Daily Show probably rank high in the new metrics on account of their sophisticated mix of traditional cable strategy (winning the money demographic), their social media-friendliness, their online views and, finally, their general social buzziness. Whatever the Nielsen ratings are for Stewart and Colbert, those numbers don't fully capture the full influence of the show. On the other side of the spectrum, if Oprah -- particularly in the wake of her media victory lap -- is probably looking for ways to turn digital interest in her into ratings on OWN.

I have argued recently that we are probably moving into a post-traditional advertising era, mostly because brands are still presenting their pitch in the way they did in the 70s. Traditional ads, if they are to survive -- and they will, of course, in some form or another (could you ever imaging the election season political ad disappearing altogether?) -- evolve, addressing the fact that they are now competing with 500 + other channels, as well as a myriad of other devices and gadgets for their viewers' attention.

With that in mind, it is not too surprising that aggressive start-ups like the Dachis Group are going after television ad dollars. Bluefin Labs, a startup led by MIT professor Deb Roy and his research partner Michael Fleischman, wants to match up the world's television channels and their programming with the social conversation taking place around them. Some of their findings, from AdAge:
After nearly a year of crunching the numbers at the rate of 2 million minutes of TV and 3 billion online comments a month, Mr. Roy has already drawn some pretty striking conclusions. It turns out there are about 20 million people in the U.S. -- identified by their public profile names -- who routinely communicate about TV in social media; 4.2 million did so in April. Some have outsize influence over the conversation -- and presumably the opinions of the millions upon millions more who are listening.
The media and marketing industry is just getting its head around how to use this information. Brands like Best Buy, Mars and Humana, as well as agencies like Wieden & Kennedy, Razorfish and Dentsu are using the data to understand which shows and timeslots, as well as which creative, generates the most response. TV networks like Fox Sports are using it to guide programming decisions.
What will this data have on the future of sponsored tweets? Or sponsored Facebook status updates? In the future will these influencers be able to cobble together deals with companies? Will these trusted voices -- TV critics, amateur avids, bloggers -- dilute their hard won reputations from taking too much corporate money? 

Should one's social media identity change once it accepts sponsorships? Has Perez Hilton's? Are celebrity bloggers -- in the gossip machine -- as "trusted sources" somehow immune to the charges of selling out? Are there different standards of behavior acceptable to advertisers vis-a-vis a sponsored Facebook status update, a Twitter tweet, celebrity blogging or political blogging?

These answers are forthcoming and will be interesting to interpret.

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