Media Business Strategies

The Blog of David Polakoff

My Cannibal Lecture

Posted by David Polakoff on March 24, 2009

The Windmills of My Immediate Mind

Media Business Strategies – David Polakoff

My Cannibal Lecture

I am unable to tell you how many cable television channels I pay for each month, but like most people, I only watch about 15 channels of my cable package. Television viewers won’t stray too far from their fave 15; the audience is somewhat captive to these channels’ programming. My cable channel program selection challenges are dwarfed by the issues of visiting (and returning to) infinitesimal websites that I access via computer or mobile device. My lifestyle has been blessed and cursed; it is forever altered. My screens time cannibalizes my daily living resulting in decreased sleeping hours (hallelujah for Juan Valdez, Jean Martin, Cora, and Mrs. Olson). My allotted screens time cannibalizes amongst the three screens.

Josephine Cochran’s technology (inventor of the dishwasher) enhances my efficiency; technology is supposed to make me efficient (being “productive without waste”). The utility of web/mobile access has blessed my life: I can bank, book a flight, and buy a friend a birthday gift with incalculable time savings. The more discretionary web/mobile use is another story; here, the technology that encompasses the “three screens” has not necessarily made me more productive without waste.

Waste Potential A: Intending to web research a topic or visit a bookmarked website, I visit my portal and my hand/eyes spontaneously coordinate to click me through to an unintended website visit. Now I’m playing a version of website Let’s Make A Deal – will I end up discovering a website that is the “big deal of the day” or a wheelbarrow of melons?

Waste Potential B: A social network visit alerts me to a friend’s recommended weblink (a new song; a television show highlight; the big sneaker sale; a news story; a website for my favorite hobby; a funny user generated video; etc.): click-through. Did I Win, Lose or Draw?

Waste Potential C: A New York Times or Wall Street Journal story touts the features of some company and provides its link: click. Am I now in Jeopardy?

Like Lucy and Ethel in the episode, Job Switching (commonly known as the episode with the chocolates), everything is coming at me faster than I can keep up – and in the process I’ve eaten a lot of chocolates that looked good on the outside; but had a distasteful inside.

Unlike my cable television fave fifteen, I land on an increasing number of new, fave websites. Forget the bank and the mobile carrier websites: I’m stuck with them (Reluctantly, I’m not going to change my bank because of their lousy website). A discretionary website has to serve a desire (weather; medical questions; niche interest; comparative shopping) or entertain (user-generated or professional video; music; gaming; celebrity gossip). How do I get attracted to them, what makes me “bookmark them” and triggers me to re-visit them? Ease of use and experiential satisfaction will earn usage of my (precious) time and command the demand to return. Like a new restaurant, a lousy visit guarantees I’ll not return.

When I provide strategic consulting to media/entertainment clients, I challenge the thinking to assure a clear consumer value proposition, a visually appealing site design, and easy site navigation. If my client’s team can’t achieve the strategy I lay out, I bring in my associates who can do the work or guide the client staff. The first time site visit must be compelling, within seconds. I want the consumer to understand the site, serve a need, bookmark it, later return to it, and recommend it to others. The site needs to initiate the cannibalization by the consumer. That is, the consumer has to displace other web, tv, and mobile usage to add my client’s site to their (reasonably) fixed, daily three-screen time. And during three-screen multi-tasking screens time, my client’s site should be center stage.

There’s room at the cannibal’s table for each screen. The web and mobile screens won’t replace the television screen, but it is time to stop trying to shove the traditional media model through the pipes of the two “new” screens – innovation and content, together, must be the blue plate special.

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