The first day of the digital media conference nextMedia 2008 in Toronto gave the audience useful tidbits about monetizing Web 2.0 properties. In this overview, find how how YouTube is evolving its ad strategies and why cellphone apps are still hot.
Digital Journal -- How can Web 2.0 companies make money in a highly competitive market? What's the best marketing strategy to make people aware of digital start-ups? And can well-known brands do more than just lure eyeballs?
Those were the questions at the heart of nextMedia 2008: Monetizing Digital Media, a meeting of tech minds at Toronto's Circa nightclub. On the first of two days, Digital Journal was able to report on the sold-out event, while also taking part in the mobile phone showcase.
First, the day began with Shelley Palmer, Managing Director of the Advanced Media Ventures Group, who led his discussion on Economic Meltdown? Will “Free” Save the Future? He was quick to praise an upcoming presenter, YouTube, by saying he didn't foresee any future YouTube killer. He admitted there were better technologies and sites for video distribution, but none will become the sensation of the world's top video sharing site.
He also touched upon other currencies online, not just cash. Palmer mentioned how Web companies should also attract currencies of attention, intention, fame, respect, and passion. "Consider those carefully when you go forward," he added.
Coca-Cola was cited as an example of a successful brand. Yes, it is well known (awareness) but it earned respect for its taste and won fame through its impressive ad campaigns. It's obvious many people have brand loyalty to Coke, exhibiting a dedicated passion to the soda.
One of the more illuminating talks came courtesy of Bryan Segal, vice president of sales at ComScore. He related impressive data on how Canadians use the Internet -- the 24 million Canadians age 2 and up who are online on any given month each spend 46 hours on the Web in that period. The average Canuck checks out around 4,000 Web pages a month. And 44 per cent of Canadians between 35 and 44 are wired. "That's not to say TV is a dying breed," Segal cautioned, "but the Internet is changing everything."
It's an obvious statement, but Segal had less obvious statistics. Who knew Canadians were among the world leaders in watching online video? Young Canadians (18-24) watch 195 videos per month and the older set (55 to 65) view around 95 videos per month. Forty-eight per cent of all videos checked out in Canada came from YouTube.
Segal also looked at the gender divide: women spend an average of two more hours online than men, and also visit 211 more pages on social networking sites. Segal told marketers and CEOs to not only be concerned about click-through rates but about an overall digital media strategy. "You have to be where the Net users are," he said, "and realize how your brand can stay with a user long after the computer has been flicked off.
YouTube's Jordan Hoffner spoke about monetizing the video site at nextMedia 2008.
The star of the day was Jordan Hoffner, head of content partnerships for YouTube. The audience packed the room to hear Hoffner speak about YouTube's monetization plans, something many content providers were keen to learn from.
It was partially a cheerleading session for YouTube. Hoffner said users upload 13 hours of video to YouTube every minute. No, not a typo. The site will be celebrating its three year anniversary in December and Hoffner said the video site "has made a lot of progress." True, its interface is simpler and user-friendly, but people want to know how it's making money for Google.
"It's not longer being called SueTube," Hoffner said, eliciting some laughs. He noted how premium content nicely complements user-generated content, what he labelled "cats on skateboards." He said the Video ID feature puts major corporations at ease because it finds any content identical to those uploaded by premium providers, such as Hollywood studios. Also, ushering in a Google Analytics-type service called InSight give comprehensive stats on videos so directors can know how effective their videos are doing on the site.
Advertising options on YouTube include overlays, "a video within a video", and display ads along the clip. Users can click to buy a DVD of a film trailer they're watching, for instance.
"And to push margins higher, we've been promoting sponsorship deals," Hoffner said, citing the example of a deal with People.com to create a YouTube video submission contest to be a reporter at the Emmys.
During the Q&A, a good question focused on whether YouTube was in the business of commissioning content. Hoffner was quick to shoot down the idea. "We don't want to do that, that's not the business we're in. We don't do syndication because that's what broadcasters specialize in."
The next session, Making Money from Pay-Per-Use Content Services, was notable mainly for its odd array of speakers: David Purdy, vice president of television for Rogers Cable Communications; Trevor Doerksen, CEO of MoboVivo, a mobile broadcast distribution company; and Missy Suicide, co-founder of pin-up site SuicideGirls.com. Seeing these three presenters on stage was like learning about the various Web 2.0 leaders: Purdy was dressed formally in suit and tie, Doerksen went a bit more casual in a sweater vest and Missy Suicide showed off some skin with a black skirt.
Presenters at the Pay Per Use panel discussed how subscription models and pay-per-view projects are still going strong.
The intriguing quotes usually came from Missy, who said SuicideGirls.com started when she thought, "What better than hot, beautiful people to bring people together?" Their subscription model for checking out naked punky girls eventually evolved into a site guest-starring community features. Missy mentioned that many couples first met on SuicideGirls.com.
Purdy from Rogers Cable said pay-per-view will survive thanks to the Adult category, noting how innovation is difficult but necessary in his market. "If you call yourself just a TV guy, you'll be gone at some point in the future," he said.
Doerksen pointed out how he noticed customers are willing to pay $2 or $3 per episode, especially if it can easily be viewed on their iPhone. MoboVivo offers TV shows such as The Hour and Fashion File, for instance. He said the major challenge was marketing the site and shows, a topic that often came up in other panel discussions.
Missy footnoted with a poignant reminder: SuicideGirls' live burlesque show has been incredibly successful, touring across the world and opening for acts such as Guns n' Roses. It looks like the sexy site isn't just banking on horny dudes with multiple credit cards.
Another panelist session shifted gears and showcased mobile applications from various market segments. Moderated by Digital Journal, the showcase featured Trevor Madigan of Nokia showing off a music store app already winning fans. Nader Elm, senior director at Rogers Digital Media, talked about an app his company developed for 680 News, allowing users to check out real-time news, traffic data and weather. And speaking of highs and lows, Mark Thompson of The Weather Network introduced the audience to a weather app long on features, including the ability to see if your city has a high flu risk.
Clyde Wagner, CEO of Sweet Ceasar, gave us a peek into a currency converter app (extremely simple to use, not too many frills) and also pointed out how an application for Toronto's Luminato Festival of Arts and Creativity elegantly display pics of several artistic installations.
Giving us the all-in-one app, Mark Ruddock of Viigo explained why his app was top for BlackBerry users. "Imagine having news, weather, sports, entertainment, traffic, all collected together in one place," he said.
The panelists soon got talking about how to best crack the mobile phone app market (iPhone app store, advertise on handset blogs like CrackBerry) and then moved to an intriguing discussion on the competitive market they've dove in. Wagner was quick to point out his uphill battle as a "little guy" in a field full of players like Rogers, and Ruddock highlighted the importance of making the user feel part of the application, not just a passive customer.
nextMedia 2008 continued today with panel sessions on social media, digital engagement, and media buying in the Web 2.0 domain.