Guardian Changing Media: Democratising content in the user-in-control era

Session Chair: Janice Gibson, assistant editor, the Guardian

Edwin Aoki, chief architect, AOL

Ben Hammersley, multimedia reporter, GuardianUnlimited

Tariq Krim, CEO and founder, Netvibes

Steve Olechowski, cofounder and COO, FeedBurner

Tariq Krim: I used to be a journalist. I used to be in the media space. When the blog came out, I decided to go to the other side. I created NetVibes mostly by accident. I was trying to survive in the age of personal media. He found himself subscribed to 1,000 blogs. He wanted to know how to aggregate all of the content and services he used, not only blogs but also e-mail and eBay.

The real issue is where do we put our attention? If they spend one hour on the internet, where did that one hour come from?

The architecture of the internet has changed with RSS and syndication. Syndication is the first way to reach the user, through the RSS. (My colleague Neil McIntosh responded to the question of why there was such low adoption of RSS by British newspapers last week. I think that RSS is more than reading feeds in purpose-built feedreaders. It is an enabling technology. The real power of RSS is liberating content from websites and their front pages as well as liberating content from platforms. Adoption will be driven by simple tools like NetVibes. Bobbie Johnson, one of the Guardian tech correspondents, said pretty much the same thing in Neil’s comments. Don’t worry Neil, we aren’t ganging up on you.)

Steve Olechowski: FeedBurner manages syndication for publishers all over the world from Reuters, the Daily Mail, the USAToday to bloggers and podcasters around the world. People are consuming content outside of the context where the publisher originally created it. In 2003, RSS was mostly blogs, but in 2006, there are podcasts, blogs, video blogs, retail and e-commerce, online media companies and web services.

Ben Hammersley: It’s my birthday in a couple of weeks and I’m beginning to feel like an old man. I’ll be 31. I’ve been building websites for 15 years. I was on FidoNet, which none of you will remember unless you’re really geeky. He offered to buy someone a beer if they had heard of FidoNet, but

He sees the sames mistakes, the same debates in 1994, 1998, in 2002. They are based around the problem that large corporation and brand managers are fundamentally at odds with their customers. The content that you are producing is very personal to the people who you are creating it for.

You have a create a love affair and then get out of the way.

Over the last 15 years, we’ve seen media companies, record companies actively trying to destroy the love affair their users have with their content. As an example of this, Viacom is suing Google. They think they are suing Google and they are against Sergey, another big corporation. But they are really at war with their users.

They are taking a Valentine’s Day card and burning it in front of the person who gave it to them.

Edwin: Yeah, this is really the same.

Old Media:

  • Controlled by a select few
  • Out of date by the time it’s printed/broadcast.

New Media:

  • Let a thousand flowers bloom
  • Or, let a thousand people with typewriters create something

He focused on user generated context, mashups and remix culture.

Tariq: Most media view RSS as as a way to get people to get back to the website, but he said that one liners aren’t getting people back to the websites.

Steve: There is no evidence that putting more content in your feeds is taking traffic away from your users. You certainly aren’t losing audience by publishing feeds. The people reading feeds are different from the people reading your website. Feeds and syndication are a separate medium from websites.

They talked about ads in feeds. What is really working in terms of advertising in feeds, is people engagin in feeds.

Edwin: You bring them back to your site with other services and other levels of participation. Sites that are successful do drive people back to their sites by offering fuller feeds.

Ben: What is micro-chunking? Micro-chunking comes around every 18 months. It is one of those buzzwords that come around that is nothing more than a good excuse to have a conference. As a word, you can ignore it. As a concept, you need to know what it is.

Steve: The difference is that there is a 24 hour publishing cycle not a daily publishing cycle. The old feedback loop was writing a letter to the editor. Now, feedback is instantaneous.

Question from person from Chinwag, RSS is a way to build results through search.

Ben: If Google is indexing your RSS feeds, sack your webmaster. That is a Fisher-Price mistake. Write headlines in a way that works best for Google not best for a way that is elegant. That is a shame because I like puns. All of the other technical issues are down to having competent technical staff.

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Guardian Changing Media Conference: Radio in a multiplatform world

Session Chair:

Matt Wells,
media editor, Guardian News and Media

James Cridland, director of digital media, Virgin Radio

Chris Kimber, managing editor, BBC Audio and Music Interactive

Felix Miller, CEO,

Nathalie Schwartz, director of radio, Channel 4

James Cridland rolled out Virgin’s first such as their first in social networking. He said that there was a lot of doom mongering talk about radio, which was causing many in the advertising community to believe that hype. One in five people surfing the internet are also turning into radio. His internal theme is control and conversation. Control to reflect that today’s media consumer is used to controlling their environment in so many ways, whether control as in YouTube, iPod or SkyPlus Box (DVR). Conversation is another goal. Radio is a shared experience. A lot of people feel part of a community as a radio station listener. People say that I am a Guardian reader, a Radio 4 listener or a Heart listener. We need to give people a chance to have a conversation with us and with the brands that advertise on our station, as well as with themselves.

Chris Kimber, not having any advertises to worry about, I will say that radio has huge challenges going forward. We will see declining figures in live, linear listening in the next five years, both in BBC radio and commercial radio. Radio does need to re-invent itself. It needs to be multi-platform. It needs to be visual. People are beginning to expect more than an audio stream. It needs to be on-demand. We launched the audio player five years ago, and we launched podcasting before Virgin did. Radio has to be even more distinctive. That pressure is even greater than in the past. The importance of brands are really key, whether that is a radio station brand or a programme brand. The big challenge for all of us is how to engage the younger demographic.

Teenagers who spend all their time on YouTube and MySpace. Will they ever come back to radio?

Nathalie Schwartz believes that radio has competitive advantages when you get it right, which is why Channel 4 is bidding for a multiplex. User generated content in the terms of the phone in has been on radio for years. The future is digital. DAB radio sets will have a slideshow stream (My two cents: and the audio quality will get even more shit.) People can record streams. (My two cents: Until they are sued by the recording industry.)

Felix Miller, CEO of is a new type of music platform based on sharing. Every user can display what music they are listening to on their own page. These music profiles can be used to create collaborative filtering. You can generate recommendations, and out of these recommendations, you can create ‘radio stations.’ (It’s similar in concept to the Pandora service but instead of an automated system, it’s generated by the usage of listeners.)

MW: Radio used to be the box, but now James and what everyone says, it’s more of a theory.

JC: The music jukebox will succeed, but I don’t listen to a lot of music on Radio 4. Maybe we’ve concentrated on music too much in the past. It used to be 10 great songs in a row. Maybe we should be concentrating on the bits between the songs. Oh, I just realisedd that the last 10 songs in a row was a Virgin Radio strapline.

NS: I suppose if I think what Capital was when it started in teh 1970s, it was innovative. It was all about community and conversation. They were celebrating their anniversary, and they interviewed the founder. They trained the presenters so that they talked with listeners not at them. Today’s definition of community may be an in-depth website with blogging that feeds into the radio. If you have a strong brand and a lot of loyalty and you can create compelling content, then you can succeed.

CK: I think that certainly the BBC and commercial radio that have quite a long way to go. and Pandora’s daily reach way outstrips Virgin Radio websites reach.

JC: Can you compare it to a BBC station?

CK: Oddly, it only has Virgin Radio on the graph. It used to be about schedules, but in the future, you have to think about a programme as an idea.

FM: We have 50m unique visitors to the website.

JC: He quoted some figures that shows that radio listenership is still growing. Don’t be under any illusion that radio is stuffed and we should run to nearest lifeboat. The actual reality is that radio audiences aren’t erroding to a great degree.

CK: I don’t want to get into a stats war. With 15-24 year olds, the trend for the BBC and commercial radio is that the trend is down. If we’re losing young listeners at a young age, at what time do they come back? Or do they just continue with their habits in their teens and 20s.

NS: We will be aimed at extending the diversity of radio. The most worrying statistic is the BBC’s current market share. The BBC has 55% of the radio market share. Channel 4 and its partners must invest in serious programming. Speech, comedy, drama have not been traditionally done on commercial radio. 84% of those listening to speech radio is listening to the BBC. Perhaps reach has grown, but amongst 18-34 listening hours has dropped.

MW: You have a number of ideas on how to do that. You talked about adding pictures.

JC: Adding visuals to radio isn’t about making TV-lite, it’s about making rich radio. Every new platform, whether DAB, Freeview or Sky, we can put information related to music – pictures of bands, information on song.

FM: We should talk about what works. The point about the youngest audience is that they have niched. That is why they go to YouTube and How can I do my own media? Communities increase stickiness and market for audience. There is no reason for teenagers to switch on radio at some specific time of the day to listen to some specific DJ. We need to exploit medium that we have: The Internet. There is a lot we can do there. There is a lot of interactivity. Our audience has changed.

MW: Chris, you’re the doomsayer on the panel. Talk about works.

CK: To say why would a person want to turn a radio on misses what radio is. It is live. It is a communal experience. It’s the bit between the music.

I sort of threw a grenade at the panel. I don’t care about DJs to sift through music for me. Recommendations from my friends are much more important to me. I know their tastes. I’ve got a friend back in the States who has a great taste in music. I love going to his place and just listen to what’s on his playlist. After a couple of responses from the panel, I quickly realised that we don’t really save in the same world.

I think the CEO lives in my world. It’s about niches and exploration, and I don’t hear that when I turn on the radio. I hear programmed playlists and sameness.

Suw said that the panel was obsessing about music. She said that is about much more than music. Through the internet and podcasts, she’s found things like This American Life and the Merlin Mann, three-minute podcasts about productivity. She said that there is an opportunity for nuance.

NS: Podcasting is just radio on demand she said and talked about a trial with WiFi and PlayStation Portable. She also took a swipe at the BBC and said that its programming haven’t really faced a competitive challenge and therefore weren’t remaining vital.

CK: We have 7.5m downloads of our podcasts. (MW: But that is just your radio material?) Yes, we can’t podcast unique material because of regulatory materials.

FM: He fielded a question about whether would add podcasts. They might if there appears a demand for it.

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Guardian Changing Media: Game on: Gaming and virtual economies – players in control

Nick Higham, moderating
Ed Bartlett
, vice president, Europe, In Game Advertising (IGA)
Justin Bovington, CEO, Rivers Run Red
Gavin Forth, head of entertainment, Orange
Timo Soininen, CEO, Habbo Hotel
John Burns, senior director of e-commerce, Electronic Arts Europe

NH: Justin, what is Second Life?

JB: Virtual world where users create everything in the world. 5m unique users. But that’s half the story. 1.6 million people log in in for average of 4 hours in there. Very difficult to monetise social networks. Second Life has an economy. 1.7 million USD exchanged, thousands of businesses earning real money within SL.

NH: How is this money transferred to the real world?

JB: Linden Dollars have an exchange rate with USD, just like air miles have an intrinsic value, so do Linden Dollars. SL is just one – there’s also things like World of Warcraft.

NH: What do people do?

JB: People create things, run events, wedding planners, all sorts of thing. From the last panel, content and brand, people are getting behind their own content and their own brands.

NH: Who are these?

JB: Average age of SL is 33 – these are not 17 year olds, it’s actually very sensible people. [audience laughs] All high education mostly college graduates, 10% are professionals, e.g. doctors.

TS: Difficult to explain Habbo without being able to show it. Business model is different to most, it’s end-user based, not advertising. It’s a personal virtual world ad online community for 13 – 15 year olds, 50/50 split male female, non-violent, moderated virtual world. About self-expression, UGC, about being who you want to be and playing together. Four areas, Habbo Hotel, 19 ones around the world; Habbo home page; Habbo multiplayer game section; users’ own web pages.

74 million player characters, started in 2000, 7.5 unique users per month, 400m page views.

Opportunities for companies to sponsor an area, or have in-game advertising, or holed events, create your own virtual area and advertising using interstitials as people navigate from room to room, us IM to communicate message, sponsor games and prizes. Market surveys are popular because kids are very responsive – response rates 10x higher than industry average. Create background themes. Brands are most powerful form of self-expression for teenagers.

Brands that have used Habbo including iPod, and various music artists, Moo cards (?? – they looked like them).

NH: What’s the different to SL?

JB: Mythical thing about ‘brand immersion’, how you move people from conversation to brand loyalty. SL allows people to have immersive experience, collaborating with the brand. How do you make brands content, that’s when people will really engage. But the bottom line is that if you add value to someone’s virtual life that you’ll be successful, if you try to crowbar your message into their world, they won’t engage with you. The internet has always been about the head, about information, but SL have really hit people’s hearts, it’s very emotive.

JN: EAE has a more conventional history. How do you see this going/

John B: I agree with Justin’s point, gaming itself is a reality now as a media forum, and a forum for a vast group of consumers. It’s not niche. And the online revolution is happening and the definition of online for games is changing, all gaming is beginning to develop an online aspect, whether through broadband or mobile. Tremendous opportunity for major bands and consumers. We have a franchise, Battlefield, and we have an active community playing that game, 1.2 million users, and people interact, it’s not a passive experience. Beyond gaming being such a large market, and online being key, one of the differences between gaming and a lot of the other things that exist on the net, Gaming is interactive, we make people engage, sometimes at a deep level.

JH: Who are the gamers? Habbo it’s 12 – 15, but SL is 33?

JohnB: Both are correct. ‘Gamers’ is too narrow a definition, it’s consumers. Gaming is on your mobile, it’s on the net, it’s many things on many platforms. We see this, yes there are hardcore consumers, but when you look at the Sims which is one of the most popular games, they are female with a broad age range, so the stereotype of gamers is out of date.

Ed: This is an entertainment media, our core demographic is 18 – 34 male, but we have a lot of female, and a lot of ‘grey gamers’, so we cover a large range of people and products. Cost of developing games has spiralled, so some of the EAE teams are over a 100 people, and the games themselves are getting cheaper, so the margins are narrower. So advertising is a way to do that.

2003, Hive was the first product placement for gaming, did a lot of work with RedBull – couldn’t make product claims on TV but could put them into a game. Move to become a platform channel, so aggregate games into a single channel. When you look at these games, there are so many choices, so we take entire game spectrum, and aggregate together through our tech, can then insert ads seamlessly, and can do it in context.

Games are now very realistic, and these environments have to be believable, and adding brands increases the realism. Can also add geographical relevance – can geotarget advertising, so someone in Germany would see different advertising to someone in the UK.

NH: How important is this for Orange?

Gavin: Gaming is the second largest revenues stream for Orange. Lagest is music and ringtones in particular. It’s interesting when you start looking what peopple are doing with virtual communities and how you can start bringing that into mobiles. Starting to see mobile access and get people playing against each other in environments that reflect the real world, e.g. if it’ ssnowing in the real world it’s snowing int he game.

Broad spectrum of users, from deeply immersed people who are into Second LIfe; mid-range gamers who like console games; also strong area of casual gamers, like most people in the audience, playing things like Sudoku, most of those people are significantly different to traditional gamers, so older, more females, and they are games like Sudoku, crosswords, and ‘Deal or No Deal’.

NH: What are the ad opps?

Gavin: branding is key, so one of the most successful was Sudoku sponsored by The Economist. Looking at sponsors to subsidise the price of the game, as most games are around £5, so sponsor puts ads on to make those games cheap or free. Provide click-throughs after the game, that works.

NH: How welcome are branded messages and advertising in the game environment?

TS: The biggest risk is that people start treating it as another media space, but it’s not, it’s the space of the users. Don’t allow any flashy banners, or anything in-your-face. Kids love and hate brands, but they are self expression, so we give them the opportunity to use the brand in clever ways. But we are taking careful measures not to over-commercialise it, because otherwise that’s the end of the story. We work with things like Coca-Cola, but I’m sceptical of brands going there directly, and brands have to go where the users are, not that he users have to spend time with the brand.

NH: What about Second Life? Lots of brands have stores in Second Life and they’re all empty.

JB: there are monolithic buildings that sit empty, and you have to ask why do that? Have to think about where the brands are going rather than corporate identity. Most brands think of themselves as content, and virtual worlds are an obvious part of their mix. It’s all about picking the right audience for the right product, so in Second Life, have had some weird and wonderful people thinking they can come in and get something from it. What wouldn’t work would be, say, Cillit Bang adverts. It’s less traditional things that you think would work, and Penguin publishers are great, because people can discuss novels. Radio works, because people can come together as an event based processed.

John: Our experience is that advertising in games in and of itself isn’t new, so consumers have adapted to that, they like it, it ads reality to their experience. What is new is connectivity, think of games in the broad sense. As that accelerates, that enables us to change ads to messaging. E.g. Need for Speed, ads are relevant to today, and tomorrow you’ll see new, different ads. You have to be sensitive to the needs of the users, and understand what they will accept. As more games go online, our ability to deliver great content is growing. Major brands should look at games as a valid place for their spend.

Historically, minority markets haven’t been well catered for, e.g. gay and lesbian.

Gavin: Games are being developed for all communities, including niche communities such as battlefield surgeons. ten years ago games were all about shooting, but companies like Nintendo span every genre, sexuality, race. Everyone is a consumer, and everyone can find something to entertain them.

Lord Puttnam: Replicating real life online, Timo said that brands are the most powerful way of expression for children, but that’s alarming. I’ve worked hard to support creativity in the online world, and it’s an entertainment medium, but so is TV and radio, and they are also agents for serious change. When will the creatives in this medium join the human race and start tackling serious problems instead of being pure entertainment?

JB: Youth don’t define themselves so much through fashion, and inside Second Life there’s been a huge outpouring of political movements, in France, Mr Le Penn opened offices and was greeted with derision. But people in Habbo and SL, People are creating their own stuff, young film makers and content producers are coming through and creating their own culture. People ask how does someone spend all this time in there? Well, these people are not watching TV so much or going to the cinema, and it’s up to all of us to go with them.

TS: Habbo is a social environment and if you behave badly, you’ll not get friends. It’s like practising real life. Average session is 35 minutes a day, so it’s a part of their life for socialising typically with existing friends from school. Habbo culture is non-violent, it is responsible, and want to be the good guys. Work with several governmental and non-profits, sponsoring virtual infobus, where there are trained adults who can talk about problems users face, like obesity, or drugs. Not trying to simulate reality, but as these things are important to them.

John: I think we already have that, clearly gaming is an entertainment medium so you serve a variety of tastes, but we all understand the validity of the question and the gaming industry continues to offer positive things to consumers: helping people to act responsibly in online spaces, helping them work around making decisions and choices which they might work into their life. So there are many positive things in games.

Ed: It’s a good question. We have a network of over 50 games, and lots of engagement. Games industry only really 30 years old, only since 95 that it’s become the industry it is now. So we’re seeing the same stories about games that our parents saw about rock music. It’s become so commercial now, it has to have a commercial element to it. But you are seeing more serious games, using it for helping people with disabilities, or helping reform people in prison.

Q: What’s the space for government in these communities?
Q: What do brands do if they aren’t cool? Can we still get involved? E.g. universities.

Gavin: Any advertising has to be relevant to the customer, so if you put advertising for government in front of people who aren’t interesting it’s not going to work.

Ed: The COI are one of the early adopters in this space, it’s a great way for them to engage with things ike drugs messaging. Universities might be less relevant but we’re all expanding into new areas

John: Yes, there’s absolutely space for it. In some of our games we had a campaign from Frank, the drug advice agency. And cool brands have their place, but the real estate in games is pretty broad, so I think.

Timo: It’s all about packaging and making it relevant. If you have to go there and deal with the issue to that it fits with the environment, not be too serious, offer something interesting. Non-profits are popular because they’ve worked in a style that fits with the environment. Virtual worlds and communities have an opportunity to refresh your brand, but you can’t just put banner ads up.

JB: Lots of examples of this already in SL, Swedish Embassy is in SL, John Edwards and Rudi Giuliani are already in there Great captive audience to get your message across. Cool brands have to still tell their story better.

NH: Are today’s gamers people who will behave differently or will they grow out of it?

Gavin: No, people continue to game as they grow.

Ed: TV is evolving, and gaming is a part of that. Trick is to get as many eyeballs together at once as possible.

John: There is a shift, it’s just part of the entertainment medium, but it’s at the cutting edge of the move from passive to interactive. In other passive mediums, like TV, they are trying to become more interactive, but gaming’s already there.

Timo: Yes, we’re like a training platform for the more serious online games, so people learn the netiquette, learn behaviours that are never going to go away. People talk about user generated content, but we’re moving to user demanded advertising.

JB: Step forward 10 – 15 years, I’m from the Star Wars generation and that’s where my cultural references rae from, where as these people’s references will be from games.

I’m surprised that no one mentioned in their answer to Lord Puttnam’s question the variety of serious projects going on in Second Life. There are support groups for stroke victims and educational places such as a house which explains what it’s like for someone who has schizophrenia. There’s also a huge presence from universities whose students are gathering not just for social reasons, but to attend classes and tutorials. And there are NGOs such as Creative Commons who hold talks and lectures and provide information. I’ve no doubt that’s that’s just the tip of the iceberg, because I’m way behind with my Second Life news these days.

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Guardian Changing Media: Care in the community – from new media to social media

Session chair: Emily Bell, director of digital content, Guardian News and Media
Kevin Anderson, blogs editor, GuardianUnlimited
Gavin Newman, executive producer, Virgin Media Television
Jay Stevens, vice president, sales and operations, MySpace
Joanna Shields, president, international, Bebo
Celia Taylor, director of programming, Trouble, Challenge, Bravo and Bravo 2 for Virgin Media Television (by video)
Patrick Walker, head of video partnerships, Google

Celia can’t make it today so in the spirit of the session, her thoughts are delivered via the internet.

Celia Taylor, at Trouble have been working with UGC for over a year, didn’t analyse it just jumped in. Didn’t take a genius to see it was growing, launched Homegrown which is a UGC web site. commissioned a half hour weekly user generated content (UGC) TV show called MyTV. Didn’t know if they’d get the content to sustain a strong TV show but it’s been a huge success. Constantly try to move it on. Doing a TV show felt old-fashioned, so wanted to be more inventive, Sunday morning, MyShout, send in material and be on air in minutes. Experimental, only going a few weeks. Important – in world of TV to have a strategy where you can be inventive and creative is exciting. Have strong relationship with audience, communicate well with them. Important for Trouble, risky but rewarding.

In terms of rights, users accept they have to transfer all rights in order to show it. Obviously need the rights to broadcast, so have to be organised about that. When they started, had to get sign off from the board and let them know that here’s an element of risk and in terms of music it’s not always clear if it’s been cleared. If there’s something that someone complains about on the Homegrown site, they take it down. Contributors are generally thrilled to get their stuff on to TV or MyTV website, so no problems or accusations of exploitation – the opposite. They have made a significant number of TV shows, no problems so far, feel they have a good relationship.

People worry about copyright infringement, but came at it from a different angle. How can they work with copyright owners, so work with record companies, e.g. Oasis allowed people to download a track and make your own videos, and ran as a competition. Copyright owners working to connect with their fanbase. Done it with Justin Timberlake and Gwen Stefani. Also did it with movie companies, Rocky Balboa. Did paid-for campaign with Step Up, and potentially monetise this, which is what people are interested.

Come at it creatively first and foremost, rather than think about making money, has allowed it to be a success.

How do you monetise it? Come at it from a different variety of ways – MyTV was ad funded, sponsorship opportunities are there, advertisers working creatively thinking about how to use UGC for their brands. Find the right people to work with. Not going to be a huge pot of gold but it’s about ‘can I actually make UGC commercially viable as well as creatively viable”.

The future for UGC and Trouble as a company is quite exciting. Making Homegrown into a social network site, much richer experience. Still moderate it, and now with Virgin Media Television that’s opening opportunities and are very excited about what’s coming up.

EB: Not a large pot of gold. But Viacom took out a case against YouTube/Google.

SL: Important to remember YouTube isn’t just UGC, it’s an open platform so rights holders can put their own stuff up too. Important to recognise that it’s open, and it’s meant for east of contribution and sharing of video content on a global scale. Very clear guidelines and policies regarding content submission. Proud of the platform, and are fulfilling their legal obligation, but in many ways it’s an attack on the DMCA, and the safe harbour of ISPs that that provides.

People take different approaches – BBC and CBS are really taking advantage of it instead. Developing policy.

EB: Their approach is that they can put up poor resolution clips, and if you want a higher resolution one they’ll add advertising. But is Viacom going to do damage?

SL: It’s really about DCMA and this will affect all web domains that provide content to users, as they don’t have to police the content just take down content when they are informed that it’s infringing. But this might take several years, but most importantly usage of YouTube has grown, and the number of partnerships growing, so don’t think Viacom is going to impact the business.

EB: Is there an emergent model for giving back revenue?

SL: Absolutely. When our partners do well, we do well, and we distributed a lot of money to our AdSense partners. but there’s a lot of experimentation, so trying to engage rather than just extract revenue, so it’s about ease of use, trust of users, and it’s a place for them to express themselves. Perception of the need to monetise, but other objectives too, .e.g. might be promotional. So CBS uploaded clips from late night chat shows and saw a rise in audience numbers as soon as they did that .

EB: Two speed approach to copyright. Copyright is broken on the one hand, but the reach of copyright keeps getting extended. Who wins that debate?

SL: It’s important for content creators to think about clearance for all formats right at the beginning. But one thing that’s encouraging is the willingness of people to take risks, and think we’ll see a lot more of that, even whilst there’s uncertainty – e.g. mashups, how do you deal with that?

EB: Google used to be quite techy, now it’s much more about communities. How well is Google adapting to do that?

SL: Google is a very geeky, tech-driven company, and that’s good because we focus on our position as a search tech based organisation and where we’re adapting is in partnerships, bringing in people with different areas of expertise that don’t necessarily have a tech background. Company growing very quickly.

EB: Is there a danger now that there’ll be more concerted efforts by content producers that they will want to close you down because they are threatened?

SL: Depends on which services you are thinking about. I don’t think anyone can say that you don’t benefit from having more people sent to you via search. But YouTube, people want to keep control of their content. But we didn’t invent the internet, we just want to make it easier for people. But that’s threatening to those who prefer to keep things behind a wall. Those who understand this, they can partner with us in ways that protect their traditional business and extends their reach. So BBC is doing well – promotional, introducing their shows to new people, and providing people with content that they love to help build the brand.

You can’t just put stuff up, you can’t speak at an audience, you have to have a conversation with them. So Chelsea FC wanted to put up a clip from Chelsea TV, and they had a huge umber of comments, in all sorts of languages. Became a dialogue between them and their fanbase, so it’s a different environment.

EB: Joanna, UGC really is your site. How do you monetise it?

JS: 30m users of Bebo, 8.5m registered users in UK, largest social network in their demographic, under 30, mainly 16 – 24. Most interesting things about Bebo and its community is that the idea that kids go online to express themselves. Highest engagement of any site in the UK. Frequency that people connect with Bebo – great opportunity for advertising, brands, even politicians to engage the audience.

One of the things that’s different about Bebo is that much more progressed on the profile, and media is a personalisation tool. People post the music they are interested in, write blogs, share photos, all about personal expression. So when someone adds a clip from a media rights holder, it’s more about ‘this is what I like’. It’s not a channel. Need a different discussion – if someone uploads a video of themselves that’s great, but if it belongs to someone else, that’s a challenge. There’s impressive economics for brands, need to com up with a model to help them to communicate, and delivers revenues.

EB: When you talk about being in the profile business, is that the key driver for your economic health?

JS: Largest no. of page impression comes from profile views. Helping brands and media companies to promote their content. But we’re a new site, just 32 people running it. Almost 1 member of staff to 1 million users ratio.

EB: Do you publish your revenues?

JS: We don’t, but we are profitable. When people are spending that much time, it’s more about sponsorship than page views. We’re trying different models and we’ll take it.

EB: Hackneyed old question of fads. Is there just another format that will come along and everyone will migrate?

JS: There’s always a chance that there’s going to be a new technology that will challenge us. But when we do get a winner, it’s big, and sometime the things that bring people in are very simple. It’s about constantly innovating. At our core we’re a technology company, and we just try to perfect that technology and keep it fresh.

EB: Kevin, what’s your take on this?

KA: For news organisation, talking about monetising community it’s putting the cart before the horse, as they don’t have a community to monetise. Readers aren’t a community. News organisations are often still mired in anger and denial, and there’s a lot of fundamental outreach to do. They think it’s a ‘build it and they will come’, but there’s never been a field of dream on the web, you need outreach.

For news organisations, we’re in a competitive market with things we don’t understand. What was state of the art a year ago gets tired quickly and we’re not used to having to change technology so quickly. How often do we buy a new printing press? Gannett rolled out social tools, and found that blogging and social networking worked best. But you have to keep things new and fresh and try to be as nimble as a start up, which doesn’t describe too many news organisations. Lots of cultural changes to go through.

EB: Audience here comes from a one-to-many model. What are the basic rules?

KA: Biggest mistakes is not looking at what is of community interest for their audience. People think ‘news’, and that’s the first thing they go to, but perhaps that’s the last thing they should look at – there are opportunities in news, but mainly it’s orthogonal areas. How much lived experience do you include? Also, participation trumps celebrity – celebs who are not interested in engaging with their audience don’t make for successful sites.

Listen to your audience. Too many times, it’s like a zoo – we throw scraps out to our audience and let them fight over it. Need to have a feedback mechanism, needs to be a virtuous cycle, it can’t just be content out/comments in.

Pete Cranston, Oxfam GB: Will colonisation of these spaces by charities drive people away?

JS: Underestimate young people, they are dying to express themselves, and they are very serious about charities and the environment, and to build charities into the network and help them communicate is important. Last Friday had a Red Nosed Day competition to design the site, and the outreach that happened on the site was inspiring. They wanted to engage and help.

GN: It’s about supplying the tools to allow people to say what they want to say.

EB: Gavin, do you ever want to hasten the end of channels?

GN: We are an entertainment focus, so we’re about giving people an incentive to participate, and giving them a platform.

EB: Fame over fortune?

GN: We’re trying not to take the celeb route, but to nurture talent, and give people a voice. Whilst it’s entertainment it can still be serious.

Jemima Kiss: Ben Hammersley at a conference yesterday announced that nobody cares about media brands. His point was that what people are really after is the content. IF someone wants to watch lost, they don’t care which channel it’s one. Do brands matter?

GN: I think that’s quite true actually. Channels would like to put themselves as the brand people come to, but it’s the opposite, it’s the content people are interested in. So we work closely with the record labels and film production houses, so we’re allowing users to engage directly with the copyright holders.

SL: For those who don’t engage in content production, it’s more of a challenge. People look for Lost if you can’t get it.

EB: On YouTube?

SL: But that is a challenge for those who don’t have a certain relationship with the produce itself. You can have a branded presence, but people don’t go to the content via a linear model. The vast majority of our traffic comes directly to the video assets themselves, not to the names of the broadcaster. Important to have that information, to build a halo effect of your brand, but it doesn’t drive interest.

EB: Do you have to give people content rather than brands?

JS: Kids love brands.

GN: Brand is often more important to the industry than the users.

SL: We see that, brands that focus on their products do really well. Also brands look down their noses at unbranded content, often to their detriment. It’s about the idea, the creativity, and immediacy.

KA: The way that we think about brands is different to the way that consumers think about it. they don’t think ‘I have a brand relationship to Buffy’, no human beings think about brands like that. People don’t enunciate it like that – it’s an over-intellecutalised way of thinking about it.

EB: Kevin, you said audience isn’t a community. How would you define community?

KA: There was talk of an engagement model, and whether you look at blogging, or whatever, we’re moving away from a passive audience that consumes content, the sites that are successful have engagement. What we’re trying to do at the Guardian is to create various levels of participation on the site around our content, but give them different ways to engage, and whether it’s on-site, or off-site and we’re a hub, that’s the real shift, from being passive consumers to active engagement. Just thinking that because you have a loyal audience so you have a community is a misconception.

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Guardian Changing Media: Reuters looks at the changes for ‘old media’

Geert Linnebank, a senior advisor to CEO at Reuters, kicked off this summit looking back at how Reuters has kept at the cutting edge during its 155 years. In the 1850s, they used carrier pigeons to transfer stock market information because it was faster than steam trains. Carrier pigeons gave way to telegraph lines and then to an early ‘high-speed’ electronic network 30 years ago.

What are we scared of? Changes of demographics. Promiscuity. They jump from channel to channel. How do you build audiences around communities? Virtual worlds. He talked about Second Life and its explosive growth. They have bureau and a reporter in Second Life.

“There is also brand. How do you create and maintain brands in a digital age?” he asked.

How do earn revenue? How do you protect what’s yours? Intellectual property in a digital world? If you don’t reward content producers, the content will be of low quality and people will go elsewhere. He said that piracy was rife.

But the barriers of entry have changed. Only a few thousand dollars will set you up with the laptop and all you need to produce digital content. “The old value chain has been blown to pieces,” he said. Consumers are in control like never before. Google, Amazon, BT, Vodafone, eBays have created infrastructure to serve big but have also served to serve the small. All of those companies are searching for new users.

That model is different from just a few years when moguls controlled the entire chain from the reporters to the presses, from the studios to cinemas. They created high barriers to entry. There has been an explosion in content, there was the rise of the search engine that allows people to find that content.

The choke hold is over. Lots of players have control over parts of the value chain. He said:

No single company can do it all alone, and no company would want to do it all alone…. They need brutal honesty about what they do best. A focus on core competencies is essential.

There is a huge amount of competition in the entire value chain. If companies want to succeed in the new economy, they must partner. It is a different attitude. It is a respect for what others bring to the table, he said.

Get close to your customers. Partner. Use the best technology. There is a realisation that we need to partner, make the best with both the pro and amateur. They partnered with Dow Jones on distribution although they fiercely compete on content.

Last year, they partnered with Global Voices and funded an editor there. The benefits are mutual and growing. Reuters journalists get access to sources that would be inaccessible or hard to find. Global Voices are an integral part of the Africa site we launched a few weeks ago. At that launch, Global Voices co-founder Ethan Zuckerman talked about tensions in Zimbabwe weeks before those tensions came to a head. That informs Reuters journalism.

Trust, independence and impartiality will mark you out. Journalists are trained to sift through facts and provide context with bias or spin. Contributions bring immediacy. It can also bring deep knowledge. Most journalists are generalists. It can point to real interest, what people want to know about it.

It can also bring aggressive advocacy, at worst an incitement to violence. Editors will remain. Editors are no longer megaphones, but must facilitate. Editors must be candid about the process, more humble than loud predecessor. It doesn’t come naturally to people who grew up in the megaphone culture. But it is possibly a generational issue.

Journalists are good at holding those in power accountable, but they are not as good at holding up a mirror to themselves. Bloggers do tell us when we get it wrong. We ignore them at our peril. There is a role for editors. It is to makes sense of this almost infinite universe of information. We don’t have unlimited time to search for new information and content. Software tools are good, but people are still better. Good editors can be those brands.

He is optimistic about the challenges. The opportunity is to re-engage with audiences despite the hand-wringing. There is plenty of evidence to give rise to concern. Michael Grade of ITV said that news programming in its current form was unlikely to survive in current form without public subsidies. Traditional news programmers are starved as mass advertising switch to more targeted advertising. The PlayStation generation isn’t as interested in news.

Are journalists out of touch? When they read that house price have seen healthy increases, their readers who can’t afford houses must think the journalists are deluded. They try to win over audience with new designs and consumer guides to iPods. He focused on excellence, engagement and partnerships.

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Guardian Changing Media conference

Suw and I are speaking at the Guardian Changing Media conference today. I’m on a panel with Google, Bebo and a production company talking about Care in the Community. Suw is speaking later this afternoon on What is the business model for ‘free content’. Suw and I are very much looking forward to scaring a few dinosaurs today, and when we’re not lobbing rhetorical hand grenades, we’ll be live blogging. And if we don’t blog something, I’m sure Jemima Kiss will pick it up over on the Guardian’s Organ Grinder or Greenslade blogs.

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links for 2007-03-20

Sunnyvale, we have a problem

Like all bloggers, I’m becoming a bit of a stats junkie, and I love the simple easy to understand information provided by StatCounter. It is so much more intuitive than so-called professional systems that I struggle with at the day job. Looking through recent keyword activity, I found this: I dont want to continue using yahoo id anymore?

It’s one of several anti-Yahoo searches I’ve seen pop up in our stats recently. Sunnyvale, you’ve got a problem. Better roll out the Yahoo damage control brigade fast. You’re alienating your users.