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Disney’s Moviebeam: A New Media Distribution Channel With Revolutionary Potential

This morning, Disney announced the launch of a particularly cool new technology entitled Moviebeam. (Incidentally, when was the last time you heard the words “Disney” and “cool new technology” used in the same sentence? It's certainly been a long time since we have.) On one hand, Moviebeam represents a very interesting and inexpensive means for media firms to develop a direct content distribution channel without having to spend billions to acquire a cable network, a la Time Warner. Secondly, assuming that Moviebeam is able to find subscribers, it has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about the distribution of film and TV entertainment, and render video rental stores like Blockbuster, video on demand (VOD) services from cable companies like Comcast and subscription rental services like Netflix obsolete.

For the last few years, there’s been a growing belief in the media industry that the future of media depends on the ability to control the distribution channel to customers. For example, part of the rationale behind AOL’s merger with TimeWarner was that AOL would be able to use the web to pump Time Warner’s music, movies and TV programming direct to consumers. Similarly, News Corporation's (e.g. Fox) forays into satellite broadcasting, and Vivendi-Universal’s ownership of Canal+ (a French cable network) largely represent the desire of media firms to control a distribution network that they can use to resell content to consumers. Not only would such a distribution network potentially increase a media firm’s ability to create value (by eliminating the middlemen of theater distribution, video rentals, or simply by creating an additional distribution channel), it would also provide media firms with a more effective means of generating revenue from their older content, by inventing a means to sell this content direct to consumers. (Generally speaking, sales of older content—e.g. backlist, catalog, syndication—offer media firms the highest margins, since the marginal costs on such sales are extremely low.) Finally, being able to own a distribution channel that permitted sales of video-on-demand might also provide a means of getting around the challenge TiVo poses to advertising revenues in the TV industry: viewers who don’t want advertising can simply purchase a subscription to their favorite shows over a VOD network, giving the revenue directly to the media firm behind the content.

However, as attractive as developing a direct content pipeline to the customer has been for media firms, it’s been insanely hard to accomplish for a number of reasons. Thanks to the limited number of Americans with broadband connections (although, in fairness, it should be noted that this number is actually starting to increase fairly rapidly), and a lack of desire to watch films and TV programming on computer screens, the Internet hasn’t lived up to its potential as a distribution mechanism. Moreover, because of regulatory rules and costs driven by scarcity and competition, acquiring a cable or satellite network for distribution has been prohibitively expensive for most media firms. Building a satellite network of one’s own to act as a distribution content—which was Fox’s solution—has proven to be exceptionally expensive. And media firms have been less than eager to partner with existing cable firms to deliver content digitally (via VOD services), in part because cable firms can use the inability of media firms to forward integrate into distribution as a position of power in negotiations, and capture most of the revenues from VOD sales for themselves.

Moviebeam is a particularly elegant solution to the challenge media firms face with developing a VOD network. It’s essentially a set-top box with a 160GB hard drive inside that receives digital content the old-fashioned way—over the airwaves. This avoids the high costs of having to build out or buy a cable or satellite network to distribute content, while creating a direct pipe to the customer. Subscribers to the service—rather than selling the box outright, Disney plans to charge consumers a monthly fee of $6.99 for the box, plus a per movie charge—can select content from all the major Hollywood studios (with the current exception of Paramount) over the Moviebeam service. The starting menu of films offers a range of recent blockbusters like Lord of the Rings: The Towers, Bringing Down the House, Die Another Day, and some older movies--about 100 movies in total, each of which are priced at $3-$4, or roughly the same price as a rental. The Moviebeam hard-drive offers interesting revenue possibilities, too, as viewers can theoretically pay slightly more to buy movies outright from and store them digitally. It’s also hypothetically possible that over time, Disney—or Moviebeam—can use the data it collects on viewing habits to determine your interests, and recommend films to you accordingly, thereby increasing sales (and selling from its backlist of titles). Finally, because the costs of adding a market to the Moviebeam service are so low—Moviebeam uses local TV stations to broadcast a signal, at a cost of approximately $250K a market—it’s conceivable that Disney could use the Moviebeam network to sell additional content like TV programming, music, or events, and effectively become a cable distribution outlet on its own.

The two biggest challenges Disney faces with Moviebeam is marketing yet another set-top box/consumer peripheral to consumers. Although the fact that Moviebeam is a set-top box that is plug-and-play is a great thing from an ease-of-use perspective, the fact that it’s a set-top box still poses a problem. For example, do you really want another box connected to the TV, after having already wired the cable box, the DVD player, the VCR, the videogame console, and the TiVo, to it? We think that Moviebeam’s pricing will go along way to ensure its popularity with consumers—a $6.99 rental is a small price to pay for the convenience of not having to worry about rental fees, and being able to order up top-caliber content from your living rooms—but Disney needs to develop creative ways to increase the attach rate of Moviebeam to TV sets. (Thinking aloud, perhaps bundling the technology inside new TVs via a revenue-sharing deal with existing consumer electronics manufacturers might be a good idea…) Secondly, continuing to ensure that viewers have access to top-quality content is absolutely critical to Moviebeam’s success. While it’s encouraging that Disney’s been able to line-up the participation of virtually every other major studio (except Paramount), they’ll need to ensure that each is properly compensated for distributing their films and not try to charge exorbitant fees to their partners, lest other studios develop Moviebeams of their own. (We think that Paramount will quickly fall into place and participate, especially if the launch of the service goes well.)

In closing, we’ll be watching Disney’s launch of Moviebeam closely: after all, it’s not every day that a firm shakes up the media business, and creates compelling new business models for media conglomerates in the process…

Some additional notes: if you’d like a detailed visual explanation of how Moviebeam actually works, there are several flash demos detailing the intricacies of the product at the Moviebeam website.

File this under tangentially related, but this is the third favorable article we’ve written about Disney in less than a month (see our take on the Disney Channel’s strategy here; or read about how impressed we are with the passion of Disney’s employees here. This sudden interest in Disney is particularly surprising (to us, at least), since we’d hardly thought about the company at all for the last few years. Is Disney suddenly becoming a hotbed of innovation and a model for media companies around the world, or what?

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Dell Will Rule The Consumer Electronics World, And Look Ugly Doing It

Yesterday, Dell confirmed what many technology analysts had long suspected: it plans to follow the trend established by PC manufacturers like Apple and Gateway, and begin manufacturing consumer electronics. (You can read the official Dell press release here; alternatively, you can peruse the general media’s take on the subject at Google News.) In short, Dell believes that its direct sales model will enable it to dominate the consumer electronics business the same way it has been able to dominate the PC business, and plans to launch new handhelds, an iPod-esque JukeBox player, an iTunes-like digital music download center, and an LCD TV model to help it do so. Assuming that these products prove successful, Dell CEO Michael Dell hinted that more consumer electronics would be forthcoming from the company.

The big question today, is whether or not Dell will be successful in its foray into the consumer electronics world. Our opinions on the matter are mixed—examining things from a strictly economic perspective, we expect Dell to eventually dominate the competition. However, after looking at Dell’s, uh, somewhat less than stylish product line--in particular, what’s up with the design on the “digital jukebox,” anyways--we’re also fairly certain that Dell’s eventual success in this business isn’t going to come as easily as it did in the PC industry.

Let’s start with the economic reasons that will enable Dell to dominate consumer electronics manufacturing. By now, we all know that Dell’s direct-to-customer business model works by “eliminating the middleman,” and allowing Dell to produce machines much more cost-effectively than its rivals, while selling them at the market price. These lower costs ensures that Dell’s margins are much better than its competitors on the whole. Moreover, Dell’s model has proved to be insanely difficult for its competitors to copy—as Gateway, Compaq, and HP have all found out at various points in the last ten years. Not only is Dell just much further down the learning curve when it comes to knowing how to make electronic devices as quickly as possible (it currently holds about 2.3 days of inventory, as opposed to its nearest competitor, HP, which is at 11-12 days of inventory), its cost structure is exceptionally hard for an established rival or new entrant to copy. For example, its rivals are all saddled with the high costs of maintaining relationships with dealers, resellers, mainstream retail channels, and partnerships. This means that should rivals try to copy Dell and go direct, Dell simply has to lower its prices to a point where its rivals lose money, but Dell still makes money (thanks to its lower prices). Since lower prices tend to result in more sales, Dell’s volume increases while its competitor’s losses mount in a scenario that resembles death by a thousand cuts for Dell’s rival.

Although consumer electronics is a tough business to be in—
featuring razor-thin margins, short product cycles, and intense price competition across the board—the nature of competition is highly similar to that of the PC industry. In particular, other consumer electronics manufacturers sell through retailers and resellers, and have yet to go direct in a big way thanks to the problem of channel conflict. From the outset, this means that incumbents in the consumer electronics industry have higher costs than Dell, since Dell is direct-only. Moreover, the types of consumer electronics products that Dell is initially manufacturing aren’t too different from those that it already makes—the LCD TV it will sell, for example, is really little more than a variation on an LCD monitor it already produces, while the hideously ugly digital jukebox it will make is nothing but a hard-drive with headphones. By avoiding—for the time being, at least— more complicated CE devices, such as 50” plasma TVs, for example—Dell’s costs will remain far lower than established consumer electronics manufacturers for the foreseeable future. These lower costs should allow it to gain substantial share at the expense of others: not only can price its products slightly lower than competitors in order to gain volume, should a price war occur, Dell should still be able to turn a profit, while its rivals will destroy wealth.

The biggest threat to Dell is if the superior brands, and better looking products produced by MP manufacturers like Apple, compensate buyers for the lower prices Dell will be able to offer. Although we hate to admit it—we’re inclined to paraphrase Steve Jobs’ famous comment about Microsoft, and boldly state that Dell has no sense of style—we don’t think that the better-looking, but more expensive, iPod will win against the cheaper but uglier Dell Digital Jukebox. Dell will win because it produces machines that are the equivalent of a Honda Civic: they’re not the prettiest products, but they tend to be very reliable and have minimal problems to boot. We’d guess that unless the Digital Jukebox violates Dell’s long-standing track record of producing pretty durable, and easy-to-use machines it will probably more than satisfy the demands of mainstream consumers and dominate the majority of the market. There will probably be a market for iPod at the higher ends of the MP3 player market—much as there’s a market for Apple’s computers in the upper echelons of the PC market. We’re wondering, however, how quickly Dell quickly could have overrun the consumer electronics market if it knew the meaning of the word “aesthetic.” In closing, we like Dell, but if Dell was a person, they’d be an all-achiever desperately in need of a Queer Eye for the Straight Guy makeover.

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The Dumbing Of America

Harold Bloom writes a scathing op-ed in The Boston Globe this morning disagreeing with the decision to give the National Book Foundation's annual award for "distinguished contribution" to Stephen King. Bloom suggests that awarding King an honor once reserved for the likes of Arthur Miller is a bellwether of the dumbing of America. He suggests that the selection of King demonstrates how today we are quicker to award commercial success than art.

Today there are four living American novelists I know of who are still at work and who deserve our praise. Thomas Pynchon is still writing. My friend Philip Roth, who will now share this "distinguished contribution" award with Stephen King, is a great comedian and would no doubt find something funny to say about it. There's Cormac McCarthy, whose novel "Blood Meridian" is worthy of Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick," and Don DeLillo, whose "Underworld" is a great book.
We couldn't agree more with Bloom's assessment of the importance of Cormac McCarthy and also feel that it is nice to see someone touting the significance of Pynchon beyond the ivory tower.
Bloom's is a well written commentary on the commercialization of American culture--and well worth a read this morning.

Posted by Bradley Peacock | Permalink | Comments (0)

Cynicism Sells

A story in today's Wall Street Journal covers the launch of MovieLink's newest marketing campaign targeting college kids. We have a blog in the works about the Movelink business model, look for it by week's end.
To see examples of the print and e-mail marketing effort go to either StudentsAgainstMovielink.com or http://www.tracytuckey.com/.
You have to admire the communications strategy that underlies this guerilla marketing effort. Especially in light of the current download climate a la RIAA. This mocking, cynical campaign will work because it pulls the target by the heartstrings and empowers them to immerse themselves in the downloadable-movie concept. Via this effort, Movelink shows that the most effective advertising speaks TO the target, not AT them. All that American teens need today is one more entity speaking AT THEM...or even worse DOWN TO THEM. We also laud the way that the VP of marketing at MovieLink speaks about his teen target: "These kids are smart. They can figure out for themselves that this is a legitimate service." Obviously, Movielink has spent time truly getting to know their target...on their target's terms. If only more marketers could remember that success relies less on communicating product benefits and more on an in-depth understanding and basic respect for one's target--for those are the pillars of a long-term consumer relationship.

Posted by Bradley Peacock | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Hidden Persuaders of the Publishing World

Slate published an interesting piece a couple of weeks ago about the power a clutch of book industry trade publications—specifically, Publishers Weekly; Kirkus Reviews ; Library Journal and Booklist—have over what books ultimately find their way into the hands of consumers. As the article puts it (somewhat ominously):

You've probably never read these magazines, even if you've seen their names on book jackets. But they're helping determine what you read. Together, they make up the big four of book industry trade journals, aimed at publishing insiders: newspaper and magazine editors, bookstore and library book-buyers, literary agents, and film industry types scanning them for movie rights. Long important as behind-the-scenes power brokers, they became even more powerful in the 1990s, when online booksellers signed deals with them. (Barnes & Noble.com, like Amazon, has a deal with Publishers Weekly.) Their reviews—300 or so words of plot summary, context, and a quick verdict—influence which books get noticed, bought, and promoted in the media.

The easiest way to think of Publishers Weekly et al is that they’re effectively the reviewers the reviewers you’re likely to read (whether its Entertainment Weekly, the New York Times Book Review, O Magazine, pick your poison) read. Consequently, these industry magazines have a lot of power determining what books ultimately get favorable buzz, and which ones don’t, which in turn affects sales. For example, Slate’s article reports that an unnamed author claimed that O Magazine cancelled a planned feature on her (which would have likely increased sales) after her book received less than glowing advance praise in Kirkus Reviews.

Assuming that Slate is correct about the power these four industry journals wield over the printed word in America (incidentally, shouldn’t somebody alert scolds like Oliver Stone or Jonathan Rosenbaum about the possibility of a vast and overarching conspiracy in the publishing world?) led us to think about some interesting marketing possibilities. First, could it be possible for publishers to market directly to the tastes and whims of individuals reviewing for these publications in the hopes of “influencing the influencers” (e.g. the harder to reach mainstream publications that dictate what we read?). It should be relatively easy to compose a list of these reviewers—consider that Slate reports that reviewers in at least two of these publications (Booklist and Library Journal) are directly credited, while reviewers in another (Kirkus) are credited in the masthead. (Identifying the reviewers that work for the only publication that doesn’t credit reviewers (Publishers Weekly) would probably require some sleuth work, but this would be by no means impossible.) Given these facts, we’d be surprised if some publishers didn’t already court the reviewers for these magazines already: perhaps by asking them for feedback on a book ahead of time, or by inviting them to swank literary parties where the wine and bon mots flow liberally, all in the hopes of currying favor for an author’s or publisher’s next big book. (Although this seems like a fairly cynical practice, it already goes on to some degree throughout publishing and media—this is why film critics get invited to oh-so-fabulous launch parties in Cannes, for example.)

However, we’d argue that the real opportunity for publishers to reach out to the reviewers of these publications and treat them as partners. While anyone can throw a bacchanal to woo writers (if we remember correctly from our respective days in grad school in the humanities, all it takes to impress most writers is a few jugs of cheap wine and some overwrought allusions to the fall of whatever empire you feel most jaded with nowadays), not everybody can work well with writers. There’s a chance for publishers to work with these reviewers through every step of the publishing process—inviting them to key meetings, introducing them to authors, having them act as an informal advisory board and generally, treating them more as human beings and less as naïve hicks who can easily be wowed by fabulous parties and a few minutes of face time with the editor of a publishing house. Put another way, any two-bit publishing firm can identify a reviewer for one of these industry ‘zines and market to them with a sledgehammer; not every firm can turn an external reviewer into a trusted confidante and partner. Consequently, firms that could hypothetically develop partnerships and listen to the “influencers of the influencers” and involve them in their day-to-day activities would have the makings of a pretty powerful—and more importantly, inimitable—competitive advantage on their hands.

One other idea spurred by the Slate article…Slate mentions that although reviewers for each of these journals are usually correct in assessing the response that mainstream customers and editors will have to the books they’re advance reviewing. However, in some cases, the reviewers get it dramatically wrong—here’s a humorous outtake from Slate detailing how Kirkus was way off the mark with one of our favorite books, Dave Egger’s A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius: “It isn’t.” According to Slate:

Though the review allowed that the book “is better than most novel-like objects created by our younger writers,” it nevertheless concluded: “Few readers will be satisfied…for their investment of time and good will.”

Given that we can track reviewers and book sales of each book, it would also be possible for publishers to establish a rating system that tracked how correct each reviewer was, and therefore, how tapped into the zeitgeist they are. Combining this data—sales and reviewer attitude—could provide publishers for a tool that could help them determine which reviewers at which publication to concentrate on most in their efforts to win sales.

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Latest call on the Do Not Call list

Moments ago a federal judge in Oklahoma blocked the FTC's Do Not Call list that was scheduled to go into effect on October 1st. The Direct Marketing Association argued that the DNC list would cut the direct marketing industries by $50 billion per year (nearly 50%).
The big question for companies considering direct marketing isn't about ACCESS it is about RELEVANCE and RESONANCE. Dialing for dollars during the dinner hour may be the most effective means of accessing sales prospects, but one must question its effectiveness. Furthermore, how much damage can such a call do to the brand perceptions of the company that hires telemarketing firms? Why don't telemarketers spend their litigation funds on finding a creative means of creating Opt In lists. Why don't they create panels of consumers who willingly accept calls from telemarketing firms in return for subsidized long distance rates? That way the telemarketer/prospect relationship would be just that, a relationship. Terms such as the timing of calls and remuneration would be mutually agreed upon. In fact, if a telemarketing firm (or its client) were to take the time to segment their panel of opt-inners into "connectors" a la The Tipping Point, companies could begin to leverage its telemarketing targets as a virtual sales force.
Telemarketers, stop fighting a fight that you can't win and steal a page from the on-line researcher's book. In the end of the day marketing strategies based more on PARTNERSHIP will always win out over those favoring blanket INTRUSION.

Posted by Bradley Peacock | Permalink | Comments (0)

Big Yellow Brand Bus

Well, it happenned. Yesterday a two-year-old referred to the canned beverages that we were drinking as "Cokes". Obviously the little guy's brand knowledge has been growing steadily over the last 24 months. We know that he is more than acquainted with Elmo, Barney, Thomas The Tank Engine, Pooh and of course the Bob The Builder. He sings the PBS Kids four syllable jingle. He even calls the Disney Store, "Mickey Mouse's house".
At first blush, it makes sense. Brands consist of meaning and associations and for a two-year old the likes of Barney and the Wiggles are exceedingly meaningful. But how much is too much...and too much too soon?
Until the "Coke" episode, we had consciously invited a handful of brands into this person's daily life. What is a parent to do, however, when commercial brands are thrust upon thier kids lives? Today it was announced that the Marion County school district (Florida) is set to consider placing paid advertising on its school buses to subsidize the school system. And we thought that placing ads on police cars was suspect!
If McLuhan is right, and "the medium is the message" then what is the message that we are sending to kids who have brand names plastered on the school buses?

Posted by Bradley Peacock | Permalink | Comments (0)

Is There Something More To Yahoo Shopping's New Price Comparison Tool?

This morning’s Wall Street Journal has a brief but thought-provoking article about Yahoo’s plans to incorporate a shopping comparison service into its online mall, Yahoo! Shopping. This tool will allow shoppers to compare products on the basis of brand, price, merchant rating and so forth, and closely resembles comparison services like MySimon in terms of functionality. However, whereas the information on other comparison sites tends to be somewhat out-of-date—sites like MySimon or BizRate crawl the web at regular intervals to pull down price information, meaning that they don’t necessarily capture up-to-the-minute price information—Yahoo! promises to provide up to the minute comparison information. By paying a small fee, Yahoo! Shopping’s merchants can use the comparison tool to list their wares in real-time. Ideally, this new feature will help boost site traffic and increase sales at Yahoo! Shopping, and play an important component of Yahoo’s growth.

Although Yahoo! Shopping is currently the third-most visited online shopping site, boasting 15.1 m unique users, it trails the market leaders—Amazon and eBay by fairly significant amounts. (According to a handy Nielsen/NetRatings chart kindly provided in the Wall Street Journal, Amazon.com has 26.1m unique visitors and eBay has a hugely impressive 42.4m unique visitors.) Although the number of Yahoo shoppers is large, it’s imperative that Yahoo find a way to grow this figure for two reasons.

The first danger to Yahoo is that the success of online malls such as Yahoo! Shopping, Amazon.com’s Marketplace, and eBay to date has largely been dictated by what economists call network effects. Effectively, what this means is that the sites with the largest number of unique visitors (and even more importantly, the sites that have the proven ability to convert those visitors into actual buyers), attract the most merchants, which in turn attract more shoppers (since they offer more shopping choice) in what’s called a “virtuous cycle.” In Yahoo’s case, this means that for many smaller merchants, eBay offers a potentially more effective location for an online storefront, given the fact that eBay has nearly three times as many visitors as Yahoo! Shopping. Yahoo clearly hopes that providing shoppers with a useful comparison tool will help merchants increase sales, and thereby hopefully give it a way of catching up to eBay in the numbers game.

The second major threat to online malls is that improvements in search engine technology render the concept of an online mall that funnels traffic to virtual storefronts all but irrelevant. Effectively, as search engines like Google continue to refine their ability to find things online, it’s possible that they could theoretically own the online shopping experience. Google has already been heading this direction: last year, it launched Froogle, a souped-up search engine devoted to shopping that allows users to type in, say, “widgets” and receive a list of sites selling widgets and their pricing. In the future, Froogle will likely provide information regarding brand, quality, reviews, shipping and perhaps a merchant rating. Yahoo’s new online shopping comparison feature is designed to head this challenge off at the pass by offering merchants enhanced functionality—real-time pricing data, and an opportunity to provide greater information about brand and merchant reputation to customers—before an upstart like Google can offer similar functionality.

On the surface, Yahoo’s comparison tool seems like an example of what we call “so what?” functionality. The only truly unique feature that Yahoo’s tool offers shoppers and merchants is the ability to access real-time pricing data—everything else (merchant ratings, brand information, shipping data, etc) is already available at other comparison tools like MySimon. What’s even worse is that the only way Yahoo can provide the benefit of real-time price comparisons to customers is by convincing merchants to participate in the program. And this begs the question: what type of merchant would want to opt-in to—yet alone, pay for—a service that promotes destructive price competition by pushing consumers to the least expensive version of an item they’re shopping for?

However, what makes Yahoo’s online comparison tool worthy of analysis and discussion is this: one of the first merchants to opt-in to the service happens to be a biggy, the aforementioned Amazon.com. We suspect that Amazon is interested in this service for two reasons. First, Amazon’s cost structure is already significantly lower than the competition—thanks to the fact that it’s the largest online retailer, it’s able to spread the high fixed costs of online commerce (e.g. fulfillment centers and slick technology) much more than its smaller competitors can. This means that Amazon has little to lose from a service that promotes lowest prices—since it can still turn a profit at reduced prices, thanks to its lower costs—and much to gain in the form of increased traffic. Secondly, like Yahoo, Amazon also needs to find a way to reach the deal with the network effects that eBay is able to continue to accrue due to the size of eBay’s audience, if Amazon is to hope to lure in retailers to participate in its Marketplace program. From Yahoo’s perspective, landing a huge partner like Amazon is valuable (if not vital), since Amazon’s participation more or less provides merchants with a strong incentive to opt-in to the comparison shopping program—and pay Yahoo! money—or be undercut on price by Amazon.

Ultimately, the Amazon connection to Yahoo Shopping’s new comparison tool is particularly interesting because it potentially highlights future partnerships that could benefit both companies. We could possibly be witnessing the birth of a joint-venture between the two firms, in which Amazon provides its ability to generate sales and revenue to Yahoo in exchange for Yahoo’s ability to refer its audience and traffic to Amazon in exchange for transaction fees. If this is indeed the case, and such a hypothetical strategy works, Yahoo and Amazon’s position in the world of ecommerce will grow significantly.

Posted by Matt Percy | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

CosmoGirl Bible

This month Thomas Nelson, Inc. launched Revolve, a New Testament for the teeny-bopper set. Thomas Nelson has profited greatly from leveraging customer segmentation into valuable, niche editions of the Bible. Revolve is their latest execution of this strategy.
Although the success of Revolve is less than certain, its publication is a clear sign of things to come for the hyper-traditional world of religious trade publishing. No longer will the assumption that one product fits all be the status quo. Look for successful religious publishers of the future to take a page from the sci-fi/apocalyptic Left Behind series and combine it with elements of the successful cross-over Christian rockers Creed and P.O.D.. In the new world of blogging, self-publishing, McSweeney's, pdf's, book-rings, digital video and audible.com, leading publishers will no longer be "printers with an ability to leverage relationships at Barnes & Noble". Leading publishers will be "savvy media marketing companies with an unparalleled understanding of American popular culture--and their place in it".
In the end of the day, religious publishers have to realize that they are not competing for "shelf space", they are competing for TIME. And for Americans to even consider sharing their limited time with you, you have to be RELEVANT to them. It is a lesson that the institutional churches have failed to learn. However, while the traditional religious institutions rush into irrelevance and fewer Americans park themselves in the pews each Sunday, a void of opportunity opens for the religious media companies of the future.
The jury is still out on Revolve, and it is by no means a sure thing. In fact, the mainstream media (ABC News and the New York Post) as well as the "culture police" (Gothamist.com & metafilter.com) may have already doomed the publication. However, the fact that Revolve was even "newsworthy" hints at the potential for "relevant religious content" in the USA.
In the future, the success of religious media companies in the US will need to be less about following convention and more about creating movements akin to WWJD. What's next? Christian "flash mobs"? They are certainly a posibility.

Posted by Bradley Peacock | Permalink | Comments (1)

No Time For Loafing

American's are working harder than ever before, but that's not necessarily "breaking" news. Juliet Schorr brought this trend to light in her wonderful book The Overworked American nearly a decade ago. American authors were quick to pick up on the opportunity with the likes of the magazine Simple Living, Timeshifting, and the Franklin/Covey franchise.
The U.S. government's American Time Use Study will be fielded in the Fall of 2003. Four years in the making (that's the efficiency of the U.S. government for you) the study (acronym-ed ATUS) will provide us with a fascinating peek behind the curtain into how Americans are spending their limted leisure time. Keep an eye peeled for the results in 2005.
In the meantime, expect Americans to continue to struggle to protect their limited leisure time, whether via grassroots movements such as the Cornell-sponsored Take Back Your Time initiative, or via a radical form of prioritizing suggested last week by XBOX and its global advertising agency McCann-Erickson.

Posted by Bradley Peacock | Permalink | Comments (76)