Measuring online media coverage

RulerI can’t believe I’m going to say this out-loud. Let me be clear I’m not completely convinced of this idea but it hasn’t stopped circulating around my head since it first occurred to me so I thought I’d throw it out there.

Is there a case to be made for measuring the ad equivalency of online media coverage?

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, ad equivalency is a public relations industry metric that looks at the size (column inches or running time depending on the media) of a mention in the press and calculates what the company being mentioned would have had to pay for advertising of that size in that outlet. So if a company gets a two column inch mention in The New York Times it’s supposed to be worth $X since that’s what an ad of that size in the NYT would have cost. It’s not a perfect metric but it’s common one that PR professionals have used for a long time because, unlike advertising, there’s little in the way of direct monetary ROI they can point to. So it’s basically a way of saying “I’m justifying my salary here because this story I got placed would have cost you $15,000 if you had bought that much space as an ad.”

I started thinking along these lines after reading all the coverage, like this Variety story, about the push for three-screen measurement of who’s watching movies, TV shows and other content across TV, mobile and online platforms.

As an example of what I’m thinking about, look at Jenni Miller’s post on Cinematical about watching Twilight twice and liking it. It’s an eight paragraph story that, if I’m running Summit’s publicity efforts, I’m loving right now. If that publicist wanted to he or she could look at the ad rates for Cinematical and figure out how much a similar ad buy would be on the site, using that number to figure out how much the story is “worth” to Summit.

As I said, ad equivalency is not a perfect metric and you’ll find as many people who want to kill it as you will people to defend it. And there might already be a system in place to do just that, but if there is I haven’t heard about it. But as online media matures and advertising pervades most all the large-scale sites on which publicists are trying to score coverage it’s one that I can see being used by those making the case for reaching out to online media outlets.

I’m going to go swallow my own tongue now.

Marketers driving the development of iPhone apps

iPhone 3GsThat headline might not sound all that revolutionary, but let me explain. This AdAge story confirms a notion I’ve held for a while, which is that a disproportionate number of iPhone apps are being developed simply because marketers themselves – and the people they hang out with – are iPhone users and therefore that’s what they’re thinking about.

Executives at ad agencies said they see the iPhone user base expanding at their brand clients, but it’s by no means the mobile standard. Agencies themselves tend to have disproportionately higher iPhone penetrations than the average business, but some are wary of iPhone myopia.

Beyond an audience of themselves, iPhone apps are, I think, largely developed to reach those who are seen as early adopters and therefore influencers among their peers. There’s no way you’re getting the consumer scale you need right now since iPhones account for only three percent of the smartphone market. But that’s an influential three percent who, most importantly, are always talking about their iPhone and how cool the latest app they downloaded is. So there’s tremendous WOM value in such a tactic.

Streaming hold-outs

Movie Icon: RSSIt shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been paying attention to the content-delivery industry that a recent report by Retailer Daily shows the biggest threat to physical media sales is the promise of TVs eventually having direct internet connections that can be used to either stream or download media.

We’re already seeing this in the gaming industry, where online-enabled consoles are leading to the eventual death of discs, which right now are increasingly just the key that’s used to unlock the online multi-player experience.

The report speculates that slow consumer adoption of Blu-ray means people are holding out to see what happens with net-connected screens and are unwilling to invest in a still expensive technology that may be out-dated in less than five years. More and more TV manufacturers have announced devices that have baked-in streaming functionality. Right now many of those are in the form of exclusive partnerships with Blockbuster, Netflix or other retailers but eventually there’s going to be a shift to a more generic online functionality that will give viewers the option of paid services like those or free streaming via Hulu or television network sites.

Put that together with research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project that shows the percentage of internet users watching online video is way up over the last couple of years and you’ve got the signs of a major shift that’s occurring.

Specifically that percentage has risen from around 32 percent at the end of 2006 to over 60 percent in April 2009. Looking at younger folks more narrowly, 89 percent of those 18-29 watch online video on a daily basis.

That sort of trend story makes the just-announced deal between a handful of movie studios and the site FilmFresh to offer movies that can be downloaded and burned to a DVD that’s playable just about anywhere kind of…funny. This is the functionality that people were asking for five years ago but which has always been elusive because of studio concerns about piracy and such. I’m not saying this is a bad thing – just that we’re way beyond this being some sort of major coup, I think. Burning to a disc is an extra step that consumers, I believe, no longer see as necessary. The preference now would be to download it once and be able to watch it on their computers and then have that device tie right into their TV. Or, as the Retailer Daily story suggests, even skip the need for a computer-to-TV connection altogether.

[Graphic via Nielsen Wire]

How much does movie-watching cost

Anne Thompson shares a chart created by online money management site Mint.com on how much, on average is spent per purchase across a number of movie-watching options, from big theater chains to Redbox.

MINT-MOVIES4

This chart really shows why studios are so afraid of Redbox: The numbers there are growing from 2008 to 2009 while the numbers at theaters and Blockbuster Video and other rental outlets are shrinking. The the dollars spent per purchase at Redbox aren’t nearly what they are elsewhere and so represent a clear and present danger to studio revenue.

(Anne also has a guest post from Diane Garrett that goes into the studio’s oppostion

I get why studios have been so aggressive against Redbox. I do. It makes sense to me. I’m not saying I agree with them, but I get it and this chart makes it very clear what has them spooked. But the reality is that distribution is changing and the market is defined by what the consumer perceives the product to be worth and not only by what the producer wants it to be worth. Long before Redbox or Netflix there were “dollar theaters” – second run houses where films would go after their initial theatrical run where they’d play for a few more weeks at a cheaper ticket price – and people would make the decision whether a movie was worth paying $5 for at the first run theater or $1 for a couple months later. So it’s not a new mindset we’re dealing with. Just different distribution.

That point – about consumer perception of a movie’s “worth” is picked out by Chris Albrecht at NewTeeVee in a post pointing to a Video Business article about the aggressive pricing for online distribution adopted by iTunes and Amazon. The first factor in that is likely those two outlets using their powerful status to make a play for market share. But there’s also the idea, he says, among consumers that online movies *should* cost less. That’s true both in theory and reality. Digital distribution comes without the production of physical media and the packaging it needs and the lack of those expenses should absolutely be reflected in the price, regardless of what Walmart might want.

Product is worth what the market will bear. The problem with disruptive models like those Redbox adopted is that it not only threatens the establishment but also drastically changes the thinking of the consumer-focused public in a way that can’t be done. Lawsuits will fly and settlements reached, but the reality is that people are now used to the “free” rentals they get from Netflix (a monthly charge, but no direct cost per movie so it’s seen to some extent as “free”) and the $1 idea introduced by Redbox. Eventually there will need to be thinking devoted to how to adapt to these models and stop railing against them.

Restrictions on social publishing

Wait, you mean the social media publishing restrictions imposed by the NCAA’s Southern Conference weren’t as restrictive as some people thought they were?

Conference officials said they were not trying to prevent fans from sending personal messages or brief descriptions of games to their Facebook pages or on Twitter, as some fans fear. Enforcing such a policy would be impractical and counterproductive because social media platforms help promote the conference’s teams, said Charles Bloom, a spokesman for the SEC. Last August, the conference signed 15-year television contracts with ESPN and CBS.

But “the line is drawn at game footage video,” Mr. Bloom said. “We want to protect our rights to have video between the conference and its members, and ban the commercial sale of photo images. Fans can post photos on their site or Facebook page, but they can’t be for sale.”

Much of the criticism from social media types last week was based on the assumption/belief/misinterpretation that the rules were meant to specifically restrict Twittering, posting photos to Flickr and other such activity. But no, not so much, at least not based on this story.