MTV’s dilemma: when media brands enter the long tail of online social networks

another week, and Mediation observes another brand embarking on an online social networking adventure.  BrandRepublic yesterday reported that MTV is “launching a social networking site called MTV House, which will allow members to interact with each other using avatars and take part in competitions and promotions”.  we’ve been here before, in April HMV announced a similar venture.  good luck to them.

I’m just not convinced that people will join brand-led online social networks (or OSN as I’m already bored of typing it)… and if they do, the offering will remain niche – the people who join will need to be really into that brand.  a quick survey of Mediation’s office (20-30 year old Londonites) generated 30 respondents who between them consider themselves to be part of (one or more of) thirteen online social networks – from Facebook to secret member-only DJ sites (10% didn’t belong to any online social network).


Sites ranked by claimed membership – most to least (27 respondents): sites with one claimed membership: bebo, Flickr, LastFM, Small World, MSN Spaces, YouTube Pownce, MakeTheTea.com and a secret DJ club

now this isn’t statistically robust, but let’s run with it.  the average respondent belongs to 1.6 social networks.  but, unsurprisingly, when ranked by site with most to least claimed membership, they form a long tail distribution, with a minority of sites accounting for the vast majority of members.  this at least demonstrates the potential for smaller niche OSNs to exist, but if you’re stuck in the tail its an expensive way for a brand to aggregate and entertain what is a niche audience.

all brands – and especially media brands – have to ask themselves what business they’re in.  non media brands should avoid this area like the plague.  but media brands face a much tougher call… MTV – like any media brand – is an aggregator, but is MTV in the content or audience aggregation business?

if difficult to argue against investment in the creation of their own OSN if they commit to being the latter (after all they should follow their audience as they migrate to joint TV / Online viewing), but financially they’d be better off in investing in the creation of applications which capitalised on the dedicated OSN that already exist.

on the plus side they’d get access to a much larger audience for a lower cost, but on the down side they couldn’t as easily generate a return on that investment thru commercial selling of that audience to advertisers.  instead MTV’s presence on existing online social networks would be a means of navigating audiences to MTV’s commercial spaces.

its a tough call… but becoming a bit-player in the tail of online social network offerings is a place this angel would fear to tread.


The power of brand; as demonstrated by Picasso

I was browsing for a birthday card for my lovely friend Gina at the weekend and noticed this card.  I really wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not.  after some consideration I turned the card over to learn that the illustration is a Picasso.  upon receiving this information, I immediately decided that I liked it.

and that – it occurred to me – is as clear a demonstration as any I’ve seen, of the power of brand.

content creating, user-generating

There’s Radiohead’s version; and then there’s everyone else’s version

RadioheadRadiohead are giving anyone the chance to create their own version of the bands video for their latest release House of Cards.  the video was made using structured light to create three dimensional images.  but anyone can download the data  – courtesy of Google – from here, manipulate it, and share the results of their efforts on a YouTube group created for the project.

its essentially an open-source video – anyone can down load the data from which it was made and then make their own version.

James Frost, who directed the video, comments that “In a weird way [the
project] is a direct reflection of where we are in society. Everything
is [computer] data. Everything around us is data-driven in some shape
or form. We are so reliant on it that it seems like our lives are
digital”…as quoted in the Guardian

in a digital world everything and anything can be remade all the time.  nothing is set in stone.  nothing is ever fixed, or finished for that matter.  there is no definitive version of anything; only this version.  which becomes your definitive version is yours to decide.  its a fun world to be in.

here’s Radiohead’s version:

content creating, gaming, user-generating

Spore’s Creature Creator: creativity has never been so fun or addictive

so I’m addicted already.  only an hour playing with Spore’s Creature Creator and I sense the precious few hours I had remaining this summer evaporating.  its a beautiful bit of software, allowing you to create and then test out creatures in a habitat – their mating calls, dances, moods and attacks.

its round one of Will Wright’s Spore, due for release in September.  the game will see you navigate a species from single cell being to galactic conquest…  and EA have pulled a blinder…  one of the key elements is the Creature Creator, software that’s integral to the game as it allows you to design the species you’ll be taking care of – and EA have given it away for free.

a whole couple of months ahead of the game’s release a key component of it free to download from the game’s site…  a million creatures have already been created (a video of my own little contribution – furdock – is above and a little pic below).  the creativity you’re afforded is staggering, and the hardest part is coming up with a name for your little fellas…


its one thing to play the neat trick of getting millions of people addicted to a core element of your game before its even released.  but it’s quite another to make sharing those creations so simple and intuitive.  if this nugget is anything to go by, Spore will be a genuine milestone; not just for gaming, but for the whole of popular culture.


How Burn offers a simple solution to what to ask for at the bar

so I end up doing a fair bit of thinking on how broadcast messages can influence decision making at the point of purchase.  here’s a great little solution from Tours in France that gets le barmen to suggest how people should mix their energy drink.

the barman makes the suggestion and the customer gets the opportunity to try something new without feeling the potential intimidation of having to ask a barman what he recommends…  very simple, very neat and very based in a brand and consumer problem.