September 8, 2006
MIT C3 WEEKLY UPDATE
- Editor's Note
- Opening Note: Jing Wang on DynoMedia, China's First Viral Communication Company
- Glancing at the C3 Blog
- Closing Note: Shenja van der Graaf on Media Literacy
--------------- EDITOR'S NOTE ---------------
Welcome to this week's Weekly Update from C3.This week'supdate features an opening notewrittenby one of our MIT faculty members affiliated with C3, Jing Wang, who concentrates on the opening of China's first viral communication company, DynaMedia, and what it means for advertising and marketing there.
The closing note this week is from one of our international scholars here at C3, Shenja van der Graaf of the London School of Economics, who writes about media literacy and how understanding the term is important for companies hoping to capitalize on user-generated content.
As usual, the update also includes links to all the entries from the week from the Convergence Culture Consortium blog. Some of you all are already contributors to the blog or else regular followers and even commenters on the blog. We encourage everyone who is part of the C3 team, including faculty and corporate partners, to engage in this public part of C3's work.
If you have any questions or comments or would like to request prior issues of the update, direct them to Sam Ford, Editor of the Weekly Update, at email@example.com.
--------------- OPENING NOTE ---------------
Introducing A New Viral Company in China
By: Jing Wang
The Internet is considered the fastest-growing advertising medium for Generation Y in China. But online advertising made up only 1.5% of the national ad revenue in 2004. Successful viral campaigns were far and few in between even in 2005. I was naturally thrilled to find out that DynoMedia—China’s first viral communication company—was launched three weeks ago in Beijing.[i]
It signaled the beginning of a new trend in China, i.e., the convergence of commercial communications and grass-roots creative communities. I am currently working on a book on advertising, and I immediately incorporated the launch of DynoMedia into my book. I thought it would be nice to share an excerpt from my book's afterward, entitled "Countdown to the Olympics, New Media, e-Marketing, and Creative Culture":
DynoMedia delivers non-intrusive richmedia content and coupons to consumers over a large umbrella of P2P networks across device and platform, and across viral communications applications (e.g., instant messaging, e-mail, mobile SMS/MMS, podcasting, and P2P softwares). Its main target is China’s 40 million P2P Internet users who can send to their web site user-created, open, or rights-flexible content including videos, reviews, ratings, and discussion forums. In short, DynoMedia strives to kill two birds with one stone—an open platform for consumers and a fast channel for marketers to build their social networks like Nike did with Joga. Founded by MIT graduates, DynoMedia consists of a team of technology entrepreneurs and media/advertising experts. A distinctive feature of their platform is using coupons as a medium of communication between advertisers and consumers. Those coupon categories break down to `fashion and cool trends,’ ‘food,’ ‘digital communications,’ ‘leisure and travel,’ and ‘home decorations and furniture.’ For instance, by clicking on a coupon posted on their site for McDonald’s fried chicken legs, a user not only redeems the coupon but can access richmedia content linked thematically to the product.
The range of content covers a diverse range from McDonald’s TVCs to funny videos shot by customers who have something unique to say about the McDonalds experience or fast food culture. Take tourism as another example. Acoupon from a Lijiang (an attraction in Yunnan) tourist agency are matched with documentaries on the heritage town made by independents, with music and art and even travelogues and digital albums centered on the Lijiang motif submitted by users from DynoMedia P2P networks. Content providers came from the growing creative class in metropolitan China. Some of them are young underground filmmakers and free lancers seeking maximal exposure of their work through viral channels. They can choose to share their work as open content or charge for a small fee. The flexible digital rights architecture is another distinctive value proposition made by DynoMedia. The end user, of course, is welcome to send both the coupon and richmedia content to his or her network of friends. By publishing, sharing, redistributing, or reformatting funny videos and targeted ads across viral platforms, DynoMedia stakes out a unique four-in-one positioning: it is a high-tech service brand, a viral marketing and social networking platform, an open content provider, and an e-commerce network builder.
The company’s self-adaptive profiling engine offers segmentation-on-demand and well integrated online/offline metrics service to enable advertisers to test the market, launch campaigns, and measure ROI accurately. Service charge is determined by CPM, CPC, coupon redemption rate, media `watch-through’ rate, and `pass-along’ referral rate.
DynoMedia has a Chinese media partner CRD 360, a leading-edge television and e-entertainment company based in Beijing. [ii] When quizzed about the difference between their model of content provision from those usually seen on other P2P social networks, Han Cheng, the main architect behind the venture, explained that the latter is peppered with pirated content, but DynoMedia only provides legal content. `Our business conduct will always comply with MIT and MIT Sloan professional standards,’ he says.
It remains to be seen if this fascinating viral business model will be attractive enough for end-users to heavilyengage in building the DynoMedia community site. Will they contribute their own creative materials whilebeing targeted with advertising up front? There is no immediate answer to this. But it seems clear that social network media and web 2.0 technology is engendering more and more business concepts integrating grass-roots creative communications with commercial communications in China.
[ii] CDR’s web site is http://www.crd360.com/ CRD initiated the first Chinese reality show `Top Pick’ for Tourist Satellite TV.
Jing Wang is the head of the Foreign Languages and Literatures Department at MIT and founder and organizer of the MIT International Committee of Critical Policy Studies of China, in addition to her role as C3 affiliated faculty member. She researches consumer culture in contemporary China, including working in 2002 and 2004 as a consultant with Ogilvy in Beijing. She is currently set to publish the book Brand New Chinawith Harvard University Press.
----------- NEWS FROM THE C3 BLOG -----------
Media Group Purchases ITN. Sony Pictures Television, Veronis Suhler Stevenson, and the Zelnick Media Corporation are prepared to pour $250 million into the company known for "customizing national TV networks" for advertisers to expand to the Internet and video games.
Spanish-language and Internet-based Ads Drive Slow Growth Second Quarter. Numbers may be flat for broadcast television, but Spanish-language and Internet-based ads continue to have impressive growth.
Shakira Considering an Expansion of Bollywood Influence. The Columbian-based performer hopes to expand on her Bollywood-inspired routine at the MTV Video Music Awards with a Bollywood video.
Television Goes Multiplatform. Henry Jenkins examines recent trends in expanding content to the online realm and the impact this has on the potential for true transmedia storytelling.
Sci Fi Programming Launches Webisodes. The network's show Battlestar Galacticais developing short Webisodes in anticipation of the show's October season launch.
CBS Makes Sneak Preview Deal with TiVo. New shows will be previewed or even available early on TiVo, to help drive word-of-mouth that the network hopes will be positive.
Google Releases News Archive. The Internet search engine has teamed with several respected newspaper to provide news archives stretching back 200 years.
Technological Problems Delay Star Trekin HD. The promised launch of the sci-fi series in HD for syndication has fallen through, with both sides directing blame to the other.
Community Journalism Expanding Opportunities for Smaller Papers. This month's installment of The Convergence Newsletterexamines how smaller publications can benefit from new media in their quest to maintain relevance and open the reporting process to citizen journalists as well. This month's newsletter features a piece from C3's Sam Ford as well.
L. Brent Bozell Steps Down/PTC Goes After the Emmy Awards. The well-known PTC leader may have stepped down, but the organization is not changing course, angered at the comment "tits" making air at this year's Emmy Awards.
Wikis Providing Greater Potential for Collective Intelligence. The New York Timesexamines the potential business models taking advantage of the wiki concept for profit.
Slamming Media Effects. Henry Jenkins reacts to Sam Ford's recent writing about the WWE/media effects argument and how it is part of a long-time struggle around pro wrestling, as well as other art in popular culture.
Olbermann Clip Circulating Via YouTube. Journalist Keith Olbermann's rant about Donald Rumsfeld has been picked up by YouTube users, causing people who have never watched his show to become exposed to his argument.
All My ChildrenLaunches Video Podcast. The ABC soap is launching the content to provide a backstage look at the show and the performers.
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Don't forget - you can always post, read, and carry out online conversations with the C3 team at our blog:http://www.convergenceculture.net/weblog/
--------------- CLOSING NOTE ---------------
On Media Literacy
By: Shenja van der Graaf
The changing nature of media literacy
What do media companies Valve, BBC, Linden Lab, Rivers Run Red, and Fox have in common? They are all trying to figure out how to measure the ROI of their user-generated content activities. Or should we speak of return of customer (ROC) coined by Peppers and Rogers? And what about a ‘long tail’ strategy? For example, Linden Lab has, over the past year, created lots of buzz via the 3D world Second Life, which is ‘created by its residents’. Though lately residents’ criticisms have turned rather evil – Lindens handing out favors here and there, shutting down particular forums, muting certain people, a failing land dispute resolution mechanism, no transparency regarding further development of SL, no transparency regarding firms that want to get in-world representation, and so forth. Problems of a ‘real society’, or, has Linden Lab grown too fast, or, is mixing with users plain tricky, or is something all together at stake?
A recent study finds that, since 1997, user generated content has grown to become one of the main strategies for the BBC. Findings indicate audiences expect the BBC to interact back and acknowledge contributions, particularly where user-generated content is solicited. It is therefore argued the BBC must move from a technologically led position to one that foregrounds the mediation of interactive public service content. However, it is beginning to be clear many BBC producers and presenters do not feel comfortable engaging with audiences at close proximity. And, likely, they are not the only ones.
With all these new forms of knowledge production, social networking, communication, and play people who have grown up with access to these new digital tools are engaged in an unprecedented exploration of language, games, social interaction, and self-directed education. This if often approached as a way to support learning (activities); however, this also means that both company and customers need to reflect on their sense of self, the way they express their independence and creativity, and their ability to learn, exercise judgment, and think systemically.
Unfortunately, I’ve just started working on the corporate issues, hence I provide a brief theoretical argument that I believe will help develop a new understanding of user-generated content and associated matrixes used to measure it and build sustainable strategies.
The value and purposes of media literacy
Media literacy is the subject of academic research, educational initiatives and communication policy. Although the definition of media literacy is much contested, reflecting enduring tensions between critical scholars and policy makers, educationalists and technologists, defenders of high culture and defenders of public morals, most scholars would broadly concur with the clear and concise definition proposed by the USA’s 1992 National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy: media literacy is ‘the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and create messages across a variety of contexts’ (Christ & Potter, 1998, p. 7).
Media literacy research depends partly on the discipline of those who study it. Those more influenced by the arts and humanities see media literacy as a route to enhancing the public’s appreciation of, and ability to, contribute creatively to the best that the cultural and audiovisual arts have to offer. The focus is on pleasure and interpretation, creativity and diversity, originality and quality. By contrast, the social science approach sees media literacy as a form of defense against the normative messages of the big media corporations, whose commercialized, stereotyped, unimaginative, and parochial world-view dominates mass culture in capitalist societies. The focus is therefore on uses and gratifications, influences and cultivation effects, and everyday cognitive and social mediations of mass culture. Different evaluations of the media themselves are at stake here, with the media being seen, on the one hand, as having the potential to enhance cultural value and, on the other hand, having the potential to undermine social values.
Thus, although recognition of the importance of media literacy is growing, its purposes have been greatly contested. As media and communication technologies increasingly mediate many spheres of activity, not just leisure and entertainment but also work, civic participation, education and community, there is growing consensus that media literacy is important for (1) democracy, participation and active citizenship, (2) the knowledge economy, competitiveness and choice: in a market economy increasingly based on information, often in a complex and mediated form, a media-literate individual is likely to have more to offer and so achieve at a higher level in the workplace, and a media-literate society would be innovative and competitive, sustaining a rich array of choices for the consumer, and (3) lifelong learning, cultural expression and personal fulfillment: since our highly reflexive, heavily mediated symbolic environment informs and frames the choices, values and knowledge that give significance to everyday life, media literacy contributes to the critical and expressive skills that support a full and meaningful life, and to an informed, creative and ethical society.
Thus far, most media literacy research has been conducted on broadcast media, and as yet very little exists for new media (internet, digital television, mobile communications, and other converged or new electronic information services). The priority now is to develop a subtle and detailed account of how people understand, trust and critically evaluate and create information and communication contents delivered on new platforms and disseminated and regulated in unfamiliar ways, that can match the analysis already developed for audience’s understanding of (mass, broadcast) television content. So, research must now identify, in textual terms, how the internet mediates the representation of knowledge, the framing of entertainment and the conduct of communication.
And, in tandem with this analysis, it must investigate the emerging skills and practices of new media workers and users as they meaningfully appropriate ICT into their business practices and daily lives. (This doesn’t necessarily mean that e.g. Valve’s incorporation of the mod team of Counter-Strike or Day of Defeat, is the way to go; i.e. too often amateur-turned-professional designer becomes inoculated with corporate thinking). What practices surround user-generated content? What literacies are workers and users thereby developing?
-- Many thanks to Sonia Livingstone at the LSE. This piece is part of larger research that we are currently working on.
Sheja van der Graaf is an international scholar who has studied at Utrecht University, Leiden University, the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School, the Oxford Internet Institute, and the London School of Economics, where she is currently working on her doctorate. She studies the Japanese, American, and European media industry and markets.
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