Meet Tom Fishburne. He’s a former marketer that got wise and is pursuing his passion. Much like someone we know, who eventually sold out to corporate America again. I met Tom when he spoke at J&J and he looks like the kid in Sixth Sense.
This cartoon is brilliant because it reflects the naive hope that a viral-intended video will certainly go viral… and drive sales. If you haven’t heard this blather you may not find it as funny as me.
Screw you, flying car. You haven’t been invited, and you never will be. Screw you, Fox News. I’ll believe it when I’m riding a terraguia flying car that cost less than $50K. I’ll be riding it with my hover board under my seat, and the animated head of Walt Disney on my lap.
Sometimes when you’re trying to be controversial, you end up being right. Around 2001 I kept hearing that “electronic medical records” (EMR) were just “one or two years away.” I’ve since joked that it is indeed “one year away” perpetually (no matter what the year is). I’ve not been significantly wrong yet.
Here are some more pathetically pessimistic statements I’ve made about the future of technology and advertising, but they haven’t failed me yet. If I’m right, please remember that. If I’m wrong, I respectfully which to join the top 87 bad predictions about the future (that have been wrong). Perhaps I shall rank as high as “Everything that can be invented has been invented,” which is attributed to Charles H. Duell, an official at the US patent office in 1899.
Mobile-Marketing: While working at KPMG Consulting more than a decade ago, I was asked to speak about the future of mobile marketing. Naturally I knew almost nothing about the subject but most didn’t. So I did some fast research and made up some decent crap that seemed plausible. Then, to ensure I put my own touch on it, I expressed a contrarian opinion or two. Most over-zealous experts were predicting that we were just years away from mobile ads that gave you real-time promotions based on geographic proximity. The most-viral example was a Starbucks “offer” that summoned a person back if their device’s GPS told the advertising network that the individual passed a store (see parody below). So I cried “nonsense,” and said those wouldn’t be coming for a very long time, and that usage would be minimal. Just a hunch, but I was right. Here we are 11 years later and here’s 8coupon and how many people use these things? >>> Sure mobile marketing is a big deal, but we’re not idiots… we’re going to find ways to ignore intrusive spam and let very select companies and brands into our smart phones. Or, arguably the phones (and their owners) are not really smart, right?
Customized Marketing: Yeah, right. The Tom Cruise scene in “Minority Report,” created the character with competing talking voices by ads mentioning his name and specific tastes. I cried “bullshit” because Chief John Anderten (Cruise’s character) clearly hadn’t opted in for so many programs. Furthermore the audio delivery would need to be incredibly precise to target an individual’s ear without spillover. And did I mention that fake hole the Coyote uses with Road Runner is total and complete bogus. I’m so sure. A black circular sheet that creates a whole wherever you place it. Utter bullshit. We barely ever see custom digital ads, which would be incredibly easy to create and deliver. It’s because media buyers are too dumb and lazy (except you, dear reader). >>> We’ll get better at custom marketing, but the vast majority will not be conspicuously targeted. It’s best that the buyer not know the magic we’re using to reach them. It’s creepy.
Y2K Will Be Anticlimactic: Having a contrarian opinion about a popular belief makes you more interesting and credible. Like when I did a Y2K interview I decided to take the “nothing bad is going to happen” approach. I had no real facts, but I figured if I was wrong nobody would remember. And if I was right I’d be a genius (which, of course, I am). >>> Most of the warnings of Y2K turned out to be hogwash. One of my sisters packed a “Surviving the Apocalypse” supply of food and water, and still has it. Another called me in tears in the last minutes of 1999.
No Flying Cars: When I spoke last fall at my son’s fourth-grade class (about writing and my book) I told them that when they’re adults they will desperately need to write, even if that writing may occur in radically different ways (like using the voice or swiping the fingers in the air). Ways they couldn’t even imagine. Then I told them when I was in fourth grade I predicted flying cars by the age of 2000, and I was wrong. Before I could observe what was coming out of my mouth, I heard my lips say with great ferver, “there will NEVER be flying cars.” >>>> Sure the elite might have magical flying cars, but I don’t see them as a travelling device for the unwashed masses. Too many accidents in the sky, a place that does not very well accommodate such things as red lights, speed bumps, stop signs, and white/yellow paint. Sure could find electronic equivalents, but I’m betting it’s not in any reader’s lifetime.
Why has America’s Funniest Videos (AFV) not died in 20 years even despite the age of “instant gratification via YouTube”?
How does AFV manage the logistics of culling through massive amounts of user-generated clips?
How many clips does AFV producer Vin Di Bona own?
Why has no other show or format “cracked the code” of televising web clips until, perhaps, Tosh 2.0?
Wired Magazine solved many of these age-old nagging questions in “Painfully Funny: Why America’s Funniest Home Videos Won’t Die” a recent issue by Brian Raftery. Note Raftery’s choice of “won’t” versus “hasn’t” or “can’t.”
Some quick AFV-facts (below) were fascinating news to me, and I’ve watched the show since 1989 with the love-hate relationship you perhaps share. Sure, I dig the poodle in a congo line and giggling quadruplet babies, but my spoof (now at 12 million views) tells you how I see the show. All that’s missing is Sagat’s painful impersonations — the chalkboard scratch of the 1990s.
Di Bona is like the porn king of user-generated videos, and is sitting on an exclusive library of 104,000 plus digitized clips, all carefully tagged with words like “cat (4K plus), parrot, baby, snot (265), itchy, zipline, sea turtles and lick.
Why, despite Sagat’s horrible humor, sound effects and voiceovers, did the show survive? Because in the 90s it was impossible to share clips and nobody was culling them. Luckily Tom Bergeron and a smart writing/editing staff have fine-tuned the model. Bergeron is like Ryan Seacrest. Each sound, facial expression and body movement exudes confidence, is inflected with precision, and yet is approachable. I watch them like you may watch professional ice skaters (I tend to prefer the latter only when they spill).
Did you miss a key word of my first bullet? Exclusive rights, which is extremely rare in today’s digital economy. That’s why David DeVore, a Florida real-estate agent, made a smart decision to turn down “exclusive,” in a move that’s given him far more than even AFV’s top $100,000 prize (and since the clip involves a minor under the influence of a drug, it might well have never left AFV’s faults, points out Raftery’s Wired piece). I just found DeVore’s note to me: in the weeks after “David After Dentist” exploded: “Do you have any advice on what to pursue? Maybe its nothing, I dont know. Is youtube partners a good option? Are there other things to look into?” I rushed to bring this to YouTube’s attention, although it certainly would have happened without me. It takes a lot of home commissions to reach what he’s earned from that clip in advertising-revenue sharing, and he owns it… not Di Bona.
The show’s secret formula is that it stayed away from video “stories” (beginning, middle and end) in lieu of micro clips that have global appeal… I’d see FailBlog as today’s version, yet many of its clips are ripped and certainly not capable of monetization. I sent my 1980s videos to Di Bona when I saw a “call for entries” that preceded the original broadcast (I can’t remember signing a release, but I’m sure I’d have signed away my life at that time). I was tickled to see some of my videos on the early promotions of the show, although I don’t believe they’ve ever been in the show. For two decades people have asked me why I don’t send videos to AFV, and I now have two simple answers: my videos aren’t AFV gold (with a few exceptions like Charlie and the Santa claus) and I don’t like exclusivity. No AFV grand prize could offset what YouTube’s done for me.
Charlie and Santa, having surpassed ever slightly the “50K views or lower” AFV requirement, would not make it eligible for AFV. They’re smartly avoiding online memes and popular clips. That’s a distinct advantage over shows that recycle clips most of us have already beat to death. To be considered for AFV, of course, I’d have to take down the video and cede any upside that might come otherwise (the clip has been on television but no exclusivity was required).
The AFV videos are recycled less often than you’d think. In periods Di Bona received 1,000 videos a day, sometimes barely any, and other times 2,000 per week. If he relaxes his exclusivity clause and invites easy web submissions he’ll get far more entries even if worse in aggregate (that would lower the bar for home-video creators, making it less effort to submit, and perhaps overwhelm his staff reviewing loads of nonsense). Relaxing the exclusivity requirement would also change the business model since by air time we might already be sick of the Sneezing Panda.
The most interesting fact about the Wired article?No mention of Cute, Win, Fail... which I think is a brilliant adaptation of AFV for YouTube… with potentially a higher potential revenue source long term.
Bottom line: should people submit to AFV or YouTube? That depends on the power of your clip, and whether you think you’re a “one-hit wonder” or someone who wants to make this your passion. Most likely your clip isn’t going to go “David After Dentist,” but get lost in a sea of sameness. But I’d certainly test it on YouTube, and see how quick it gets views. If it caps at a few thousand and doesn’t appear to be moving, odds are it won’t (though it’s possible). Then you’ve got higher upside on AFV, although you may never see it on television or make a dime. For me, the odds of winning the coveted $100K prize just seem too low… and my videos are usually pranks or mini-stories, so they’re not an AFV fit. So when I hear the word “exclusive,” I hear “if this thing starts making loads of money, you won’t see a dime.”
Imagine sending a fax from the beach via a computer, or using a payphone to say goodnight to your child… from another timezone.
It was all part of AT&T’s WE WILL campaign, and remarkably accurate in its general predictions. But unfortunately we’re not sure the telecommunications company pulled any of these off. Hey- at least they were thinking.
In a very interesting model, the producer of America’s Funniest Videos is bringing an archive of 1970s-present user-generated content to YouTube. And, no, Bob Saget and Tom Bergeron are not hosting, VHS players are optional, and the AFV brand isn’t involved. Thank God.
Instead Vin Di Bona (who, trivia here, used some of my 1980s clips in the trailers promoting AFV) is teaming with Phil DeFranco (Sxephil) and Toby Turner (Tobuscus) in what’s called CuteWinFail. Read about it on NewTeeVee if you actually want facts. The premise is that the audience decides if it’s cute, a “win” (victory) or “fail” (embarrassment).
Toby is one of few people who can pull off hosting this format with his manic delivery, clever writing and genuine nature. He celebrates the archaic clips without pandering to them… and avoids falling into the dangerous trap of Webjunk and Tosh 2.0, where the host snubs the content. Toby walks the fine line in a way that Phil probably couldn’t have done — simply because he couldn’t likely hide his contempt for the clips (but who among us can throw a stone?). Toby, on the contrary, mocks and celebrates the cheesy moments in what can only be called Tobuscumockercelebration.
I believe it’s one of the smartest collaborations between traditional media and YouTube, and far more likely to emulate the popularity of FailBlog than most production/network “fails” on YouTube. It’s also likely to get Phil and Toby on the big-boy radar since it has the credibility of AFV’s producer.
The biggest difference between “Cute Win Fail” and Failblog, of course, is that the clips are owned by the channel, so advertising is fair game. Poor FailBlog could be making several hundred thousand dollars (actually well more) if it was monetized, but it’s mostly “ripped” content. Di Bona’s production company (see NewTeeVee) owns loads of cheesy b-roll, and it would have been a horrible embarrassment to start uploading and monetizing it without Sxephil and Tobuscus vouching for it and putting it into YouTube context… and allowing it to be self aware of the “cheese” factor in a way that even the smooth Bergeron couldn’t have done.
Continued web-to-television bridges. While we’re still far from a merge of cable, television and online-video, we’ve seen some interesting changes already. Roku, Netflix, AppleTV, and a few brave television manufacturers pre-embedding software and wireless access or Ethernet plugs. I’m going o once again bet on the lazy man’s alternative to setting up their own PC media player. I see a $199 device that allows us to access the Internet right from our televisions. It’s a small PC, a remote-controlled keyboard and mouse, and it plugs into any television via HDMI or even less progressive connections.
More stars dive into online video. Ashton Kutcher, Felicia Day, Tom Green. These guys have embraced new media, and there’s a wild rush to Twitter. 2010 is the year that more stars put themselves on YouTube. Don’t believe me? Wired reports Kutcher IS the future of video. They won’t always “go viral” but their strong fan bases offline will propel them to the most-subscribed pages of YouTube, eclipsing many of the web purists.
AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo Catch Up. Ironically, the laggards are web portals and search engines that had a media bent a decade ago. Google leapfrogged them with YouTube. They can’t stand on the sidelines forever. Watch for these players cutting deals with larger players (cable, telecommunications, etc.) to establish their dominance. Since it’s almost impossible to battle YouTube directly, they’ll focus on partnerships with tech companies and premium content providers. The result may not be as popular, but it will command the attention of advertisers that like pro content and “safe” plays.
Programming Not Sporadic. When I was posting daily, I didn’t realize how important that was. It kept my audience active, and ensured my recent videos got 50-100,000 views. In past months, I’ve posted unpredictably and as little as 10 times a month. The result? I’ve plateaued. Meanwhile the regular posters (Sxephil, WhatTheBuckShow, CharlesTrippy and ShayCarl) are souring. The creator community is learning about the vital need to post predictably. ZeFrank used to post at 1:00 daily. TheOnion was always updated online on Wednesday. If you’re not predictable, you’re forgotten. Many amateurs are hosting live shows once a week, and the crowds flock to see their favorite “stars” unplugged. Audiences like routines.
Division of Audience Focus in Conferences and Publishing. In the early days of the Internet, attendees included marketers, tech folks, and about every other business function that thought the web was going to be more than a fad. Online-video conferences and publications have taken the same approach. Watch in 2010 as conferences and publishing focus on more concrete audiences. AdTech for advertisers. StreamingMedia for technology people. And other conferences for marketers or web-studio playas. These conferences are too frequent and too broad to serve any audience well.
Niftier Audience Participation. We’re still doing little more than putting VHS tapes online. The power of Web 2.0 (or 4.0 or whatever the hell you want to call it) is the interactivity and the engagement it facilitates in storytelling. Sure we saw 2009 videos that took advantage of “annotations” to create “choose your own adventure” series. But watch as advertisers and content creators merge to create more robust engagement experiences built on video, but with lots of tools that create a deeper, immersive experience. SevenEcho is one company to watch.
White Dwarfs and Luminous SuperGiants. The lifecycle of the average weblebrity is compressing, despite a handful of amateurs that have maintained a vibrant presence. In 2010 we’ll see some new talent and more popular talent fading. There are not many people that have the persistence and creativity to sustain a continued audience. There are “Gary Larsons” that burn bright but short. There are Charles Shulz’s that don’t stop until they die (or their lines become jagged like someone drawing on a motor boat).
Advertisers Forced In. Every year we predict advertisers will finally embrace online video (but the spend levels are not proportionate to the audience reach). That pretty much HAS to change dramatically in 2010. Not enough impact on television’s fragmenting and depleting audiences. So even the most traditional and laziest media buyer will be forced by marketers to spend more and spend more wisely. Watch for more obnoxious takeovers on YouTube and other sites, but also some clever alternatives that get brands “inside” the content.
There is No 9th Preduction. That’s because I have to go wake up the kids, and don’t have time.
News, News, News. We have watched as “consumer generated media” has made its way to many televised news stories. Now that cell phones with video cameras are fairly common, we’ll see more of this. And that prediction I made years ago… a live broadcast from some crisis directly from a person’s cell phone? That’s happening in 2010 or I’ll stop predicting it. I promise.