December 29, 2006

December 29, 2006

*Editor's Note

*Opening Note: David Edery on Driving Financial Value Back to Users

*Glancing at the C3 Blog

*Closing Note: Parmesh Shahani on Hitting the Right (Conference) Notes, Part I

--------------- EDITOR'S NOTE ---------------

Welcome to this week's Weekly Update from C3. As usual, this week's update includes links to all the entries published during the week on the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog. Also, the site now features tools to favorite the blog on Technorati, so be sure to do so if you read on a regular basis.

This week's update features an opening note from C3 Research Affiliate David Edery, who writes about driving financial value back to users.

The closing note this week is the first of a two-part series from C3 Research Affiliate Parmesh Shahani, who writes about his recent visits to conferences in India. This week, he writes about the Global Voices Summit.

As we announced last week, Parmesh, the former C3 research manager, now heads a new ideas incubation lab in Bombay, India, for the Mahindra Group, one of India's largest business conglomerates.

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

--------------- OPENING NOTE ---------------

Driving Financial Value Back to Users

By: David Edery

I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit that lately, when someone asks me for advice on building up their community-centric media project, my answer often includes the following question: "What are you doing to drive financial value back to your users?" I say embarrassed because this question invokes tragi-comic memories of failed dot-com startups; you know, the websites that paid you money for websurfing ("make pennies per day!")... or, for that matter, more recent sites that prove the classic pyramid scheme is alive and well.

Past failures and frauds aside, there's clear evidence that creating economic opportunities for users can result in big bucks for businesses. This has long been obvious outside the entertainment industry -- eBay, Google (adSense), and Amazon (Marketplace) all make a ton of money by riding the efforts of users. But in entertainment, many people remain fundamentally opposed to sharing the wealth. Why bother, they ask, when users aren't demanding it? (see MySpace, YouTube, etc.)

They aren't demanding it yet. But then, they haven't had many high-quality, competitive choices. And that's changing.

Users don't need a community that promises riches to all. In fact, a system that delivers very little to everyone may be worse than a system that creates a few notable winners. It's kind of like the lottery: as long as one in a million customers get rich, the rest of us keep burning our dollars. Second Life is like that. Most users, even most users who make the effort, don't ever make much. But it doesn't matter, because Ansche Chung (the first "Second Life millionaire") is on the cover of Newsweek ... a golden beacon to capitalistic users everywhere. The way I see it (at least in the USA), it's part of our cultural genetic makeup to desire financial rewards for our efforts. There's nothing more American than an entrepreneurial drive for cold hard cash. Sorry, mom. Sorry, apple pie.

I'm not discounting the importance of reputation and self-expression. These are powerful social forces that help drive succesful online communities, and that will never change. I'm just wondering what the next generation of online juggernauts will look like, and what they'll do to steal marketshare away from Web 2.0's victors. I'd be willing to bet that at least some of the future winners will learn to share the wealth. Christmas having just slipped by, we'd all do well to remember that nobody likes a grinch.

P.S. Given my occupation, I should note that while this all clearly applies to the latest generation of "game portals" that purport to aggregate user-generated games, it doesn't apply quite so clearly to games in general. There's a big difference between inviting users to a blank slate (i.e. MySpace) and inviting users to generate maps or art for a full-featured video game (i.e. Gears of War). That said, I can even imagine a scenario in which, for example, revenue from dynamic ads is shared with the creators of multiplayer maps. But that's a topic for another day.

David Edery is currently Worldwide Games Portfolio Planner for Xbox Live Arcade in addition to being a C3 Research Affiliate, in addition to formerly working as a manager at C3 and Associate Director for External Relations and Special Projects for the Comparative Media Studies program here at MIT. He also runs a blog about the video game industry called Game Tycoon at

---------- NEWS FROM THE C3 BLOG -----------

AT&T/BellSouth Merger and the Controversy about Net Neutrality Provisions. Are the provisions for net neutrality for the next 30 months a legitimate victory for neutrality advocates or a bait-and-switch that gets the massive merger approved?

Surplus Audiences: The Deaf Use YouTube to Communicate Through Signing. The deaf have used video sharing as a way to communicate more fluidly by signing through online interaction, providing a substantial use for the technology that may not have been conceived by the site's creators.

Fox Sports to Make Championship Bowl Games Available Online. Fans have the ability to watch video packages for each game, as well as the game itself, through multiple online sites.

The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency Previewed on Glam. The popular Oxygen program launches its second season with an online preview, giving bloggers in the Glam Network the ability to help promote--and comment on--the show and this online sneak preview.

The Game Show Network, Transmedia Extensions, and Brand Building. The Game Show Network is providing a different form of branding for its online identity, with a series of politically irreverent simple games that mock Mel Gibson, O.J. Simpson, Saddam Hussein, and others. Should a brand have separate identities for their Web presence and their television network, and is this a good way to build brand presence?

Star Trek, Fan Culture, and Community Building: An Essay from Lincoln Geraghty. An essay in The Journal of Popular Culture looks at the ways in which Star Trek fans use the text of the show and fan forums to cope with intimate personal problems.

Wilson, Cast Away, and Product Placement/Integration: Maynard and Scala's Essay. This essay from The Journal of Popular Culture ties in with ongoing C3 debates about the values and dangers of product placement and product integration.

Craig Jacobsen and the Conflict Between Episodic Storytelling and Broadcasting Nature. An essay from Flow debates the episodic nature of compelling serial programming and the nature of broadcasting to question whether the medium is as amenable to complex television as originally thought, which relates to a series of pieces in the C3 blog throughout the fall and winter about the current television season.

Ray Cha and the Definition of Television. This series of articles in Flow looks at the need for a precision of language in understanding shifting cultural uses for technology and particularly the ways in which our concept of "television" is changing faster than the language is accommodating for.

Pepsiman! Murray's Essay and Jenkins' Concept of Pop Cosmopolitanism. This essay from The Journal of Popular Culture looks at the popular Japanese Pepsiman advertising campaigns, which ties in closely with Henry Jenkins' concept of pop cosmopolitanism.

Verizon Takes Caution Step into Mobile Advertising. The mobile service provider is putting its toe into the mobile advertising waters, but what are the long-term implications?

Veoh Revamp Another Example of Companies Preparing for Continued Growth in Online Video Content. The online video site has added several new features, including options for rental and download-to-own, as well as new options to navigate through the content.

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--------------- CLOSING NOTE ---------------

Hitting the Right (Conference) Notes, Part I

By: Parmesh Shahani

I am typing these words into my laptop at the cozy Habitat Center on a cold Delhi morning, while reflecting on the rise and rise of citizen media, or media created by individuals outside the scope of organized corporate media. Seated around me are about a hundred bloggers representing countries like Bahrain, Cambodia, Kenya, Poland, Zimbabwe, Germany, and Vietnam, as well as several celebrity Indian bloggers like Neha Viswanathan ( Dina Mehta ( and Kamla Bhatt (

This is a few days before Time magazine has declared me as the person of the year. Well, actually, you and me and all of us, but I don't know this yet. What I do know is that I'm having a blast at the second annual Global Voices summit, as evinced from these pictures. ( Global Voices is a funded non-profit organization (its sponsors include Reuters, the MacArthur Foundation and Hivos), which began at a small room in Harvard as an effort to rectify the 'disproportionate information flow' from the developed West, and from the perspective of the developed West, to the rest of the world. The aim was to amplify the individual voices that were emerging from the developing world via a common online platform, provide them with tools for translation, interaction and advocacy.

The Global Voices team divided the world into six regions, excluding North America and Western Europe. The site functions as an aggregator and gatekeeper of blogs from each of these regions. It is different from the other huge Korean citizen media effort OhMyNews ( in this respect, where entirely original citizen news content is generated. Global Voices has several paid regional editors, and over 100 volunteer translators, and future plans include audio translations, more podcasts and video blogs, collaborations with mainstream media organizations like UK's Guardian newspaper, and hiring a full time advocacy co-coordinator.

I find it hard to believe that Global Voices is only about two years old, so vast and powerful is its blogosphere influence. At the summit, co-founder Ethan Zuckerman revealed that the site currently receives 36 thousand page views a day, and last month some 1.1 million individuals visited the site. It is already one of the top 150 blogs in the world and the blog search engine Technorati linked 33 thousand posts to it in the past 6 months. Throughout the day, I hear touching stories of committed individuals, doing their best to encourage and empower conversation among those who have traditionally not had access to blogs or the internet, or whose voices are just not heard, whether through well known projects like the 100 dollar laptop ( and the lesser known Cybermohalla (, or through incisive, comprehensive reportage about local events in places like Iraq and Ethiopia.

I urge readers of this newsletter to track the Global Voices project. Not just because it's a good cause, expands your mind and is really great fun, but also because this and similar citizen media projects can throw up a lot of interesting ideas that can be adopted/adapted into our day to day lives, or even commercially, for the corporate-minded among us. The issue based global cross regional conversations that the site throws up daily, are a good pulse that savvy marketers and medial planners should be tracking, especially since so much of the conversation flows occur around emerging economies like India and China. (Less than 40% of the site's traffic comes from North America and UK.) What a wonderful site for cross border ethnographic research!

Do you want to study the regional variations in Christmas celebrations by young people all over the world? You could commission an expensive study, or just listen to the exchanges on Global Voices. (Or better, still, do both.) Some citizen media efforts may also be open to sensitive advertising or corporate value based partnerships, and multinational brands that want to project themselves as committed corporate citizens might find it to their advantage to reach out. These efforts need not be direct. For e.g.: one of the suggestions that came up at the conference was to reward online gift shopping points to prolific volunteer translators as a token of appreciation. How wonderful if a company like Amazon saw this as a creative opportunity to brand-build and allied with the group?

This is the first in a two-part series from Parmesh. Next week will conclude his notes from the TIE Summit 2006, (TIE stands for The Indus Entrepreneurs).

C3 research affiliate Parmesh Shahani urges you to celebrate the holidays by seeing the latest Bollywood sensation Dhoom 2 :-) It's been shot in Brazil and Nigeria and has the hottest Bollywood screen smooch yet. Reached him at for more, and happy 2007!


Compiled and Edited by Sam Ford (

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