September 21, 2007

MIT C3 WEEKLY UPDATE
Weekend of September 21, 2007

*Editor's Note: Lee Hunt, HTML Newsletter, and This Week's Newsletter

*Opening Note: More Information on FUTURES OF ENTERTAINMENT

*Glancing at the C3 Blog

*Closing Note: Eleanor Baird on Valuing Fans, I of V

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

Lee Hunt Speaking at MIT

Lee Hunt, a strategist and trainer for media companies around the world, will be giving a presentation on groundbreaking strategies, innovative tactics, and breakthrough creative in relation to television marketing. He will be presenting an excerpt of work he presented at Promax/BDA earlier this year. Lee's colloquium will take place from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. here at MIT. If you are going to be in the area and are interested in coming to this event, feel free to get in touch for more information on the event. For more, see the Colloquia schedule here.

HTML Newsletter and E-Mail List

As I mentioned last week, we are in the process of moving the C3 Weekly Update from this text e-mail into an HTML format. As part of this process, each subscriber will be getting an e-mail confirming their subscription to this publication. You just need to click through and verify your interest to continue receiving the newsletter. If you have trouble receiving the newsletter or have any feedback during this transition process, feel free to contact me.

This Week's Newsletter

This week, our Opening Note gives more detailed information on the current lineup for Futures of Entertainment and points the way toward the site for more information and registration, which will be active later this week. The Closing Note features the work of Eleanor Baird, who runs the first of a five-part series on trying to understand and value fan engagement. The second part of this piece will appear in next week's C3 Weekly Update.

As usual, the newsletter this week features all the entries published during the week on the Convergence Culture Consortium Weblog.

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 samford@mit.edu.

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

More Information on The Futures of Entertainment

The MIT C3 Futures of Entertainment conference is set for November 16-17 here at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The conference, which is cosponsored by the Consortium and the Program in Comparative Media Studies at MIT, will feature five panels on various current issues facing the media and entertainment industries. Panels will focus on advertising, mobile media, metrics, fan labor, and cult media properties.

The lineup is now close to complete, and this year's event is shaping up to be the perfect followup to last year's FOE. For those of you who weren't able to join us last year, video and audio podcasts of last year's event are available here. Panels last year included discussions on the future of television, user-generated content, transmedia properties, fan cultures, and virtual worlds.

Each of these panels are designed to be 2.5 hours long and include substantial involvement from the audience as a group discussion of these events. Futures of Entertainment draws from both industry and academic voices to try and provide multiple perspectives on understanding the issues and opportunities the media industries have today.

The Futures of Entertainment site will be updated to include a registration form, as well as information on the registration fee, later this week. More information on the conference is available here.

This year's conference will include the following panels:

Advertising and Convergence Culture. Bill Fox from Fidelity Investments, Mike Rubenstein from The Barbarian Group, Baba Shetty from Hilly/Holliday, Tina Wells from the Buzz Marketing Group, and Faris Yakob from Naked Communications lead a discussion on the impact of the decline of channel loyalty, the increasing prominence of migratory audiences, and the rise of campaigns that play on the creativity of audiences.

Mobile Media. Marc Davis from Yahoo!, Bob Schukai from Turner Broadcasting, and Francesco Cara from Nokia lead a discussion on the future of mobile services as devices for convergence culture. This panel will focus services, gaming, and content of the mobile media market.

Fan Labor. Elizabeth Osder from Yahoo!, Mark Deuze from Indiana University, Jordan Greenhall from DivX, innovative game designer Raph Koster, and Catherine Tosenberger from the University of Florida have a discussion on fan labor and the way it is compensated in the era of Web 2.0.

Metrics and Measurement. Maury Giles from GSD&M Idea City, Bruce Leichtman from the Leichtman Research Group, and Stacey Lynn Schulman from Hi: Human Insight lead a discussion on the current state of measurement in the media industries and how metrics are being revised and rethought in the current era. This panel includes a discussion of how to value "engagement."

Cult Properties. Transmedia creator Danny Bilson, Jesse Alexander from Heroes, Jeff Gomez from Starlight Runner, and Walden Media's Gordon Tichell lead a discussion on the politics, pitfalls, and potentials of exploiting niches and mainstreaming once marginalized properties.

Leading up to this event, there will be a special MIT Communications Forum event on Thursday, November 15, focusing on the move from appointment television to engagement television, through a discussion with members of the creative and production team of NBC's Heroes. More information on the Communications Forum is available here.

We hope that many of those within the Consortium will be able to join us in November for our second annual conference, and we hope you will come prepared to participate in these conversations.

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

The Odd Couple: Digital Distribution and Network Television Branding Together at Last? (2 of 2) Eleanor Baird finishes this two-part series by looking at some of the difficulties NBC's new NBC Direct service will have to overcome and raises continued questions of how the network will brand itself through digital offerings.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/the_odd_couple_digital_distrib_2.php

The Odd Couple: Digital Distribution and Network Television Branding Together at Last? (1 of 2). In the first part of this two-part series, Eleanor Baird looks at the NBC Direct service and some of the potential positives of this business model.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/the_odd_couple_digital_distrib.php

New Tide-Sponsored Online/Mobile Video Series. Sam Ford reviews Crescent Heights and what the new branded entertainment series means for product integration, online video models, and the traditional soap opera.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/new_tidesponsored_onlinemobile_2.php

Kentucky Weatherman Controversy Raises Issues About Privacy, Copyright, Context, and Information Traces. Sam Ford looks at the fallout after a weatherman who he grew up watching having controversial outtakes released online, and what issues this situation raises.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/kentucky_weatherman_controvers.php

New York Times Opens Archives--for Ad Revenue. Arguably the U.S. newspaper of record, the Times admits that the business model for advertising-supported Long Tail content supersedes a pay-per-view model of viewing old stories. Sam Ford examines this turn of events.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/new_york_times_opens_archivesf.php

Take the DS Out to the Ballgame. In her first piece on the C3 blog, new graduate research assistant Lauren Silberman looks at a new use for the Nintendo DS: interaction for Seattle Mariners fans at the ball game. What can sports fan use their DS devices to do? The possibilities are numerous.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/take_the_ds_out_to_the_ballgam.php

Grooveshark and Amie Street: Two Interesting Business Models for Music Distribution. New graduate research assistant Ana Domb's first piece for the C3 blog focuses on two interesting online distribution sites for music and what sets them apart.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/grooveshark_and_amie_street_tw.php

C3 Team's Talk with Joe Pine (2 of 2). Sam Ford examines Pine's recent work on authenticity, the topic of his new book with Jim Gillmore, based on his conversation with the Consortium team last Monday.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/the_c3_teams_talk_with_joe_pin_1.php

C3 Team's Talk with Joe Pine (1 of 2). In the first part of this two-part series, Sam Ford looks at a recent conversation with Joe Pine about his ideas of The Experience Economy when he visited with the Consortium team here at MIT.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/the_c3_teams_talk_with_joe_pin.php

Privacy and Information Ownership: The Rapleaf Controversy. In her first post on the C3 blog, new graduate research assistant Xiaochang Li looks at the fallout surrounding user outrage toward having their information from social networks shared and gathered for-profit.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/privacy_and_information_owners_1.php

Streaming Cinema: Contemplating Hollywood and the New VOD. Eleanor Baird looks at the promise and complications of digital video-on-demand as a new distribution model for the movie industry.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/streaming_cinema_contemplating.php

A New C3-Related Blog: The Extratextuals. C3 alum Ivan Askwith has joined with Jonathan Gray and Derek Johnson to launch a blog following the television industry, particularly through aspects of television series outside the text of the shows themselves. Sam Ford previews the site.
http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/2007/09/a_new_c3related_blog_the_extra.php

--------------- FOLLOW THE BLOG ---------------

Don't forget - you can always post, read, and carry out online conversations with the C3 team at our blog: http://www.convergenceculture.org/weblog/.

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

Valuing Fans: Producers, Audiences and the Worst Episode Ever
Part I of V

By: Eleanor Baird

Comic Book Guy: Last night's Itchy & Scratchy was, without a doubt, the worst episode ever. Rest assured I was on the internet within minutes registering my disgust throughout the world.

Bart Simpson: Hey, I know it wasn't great, but what right do you have to complain?

CBG: As a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.

Bart: What? They're giving you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? I mean, if anything, you owe them.

CBG: Worst episode ever.

Source: The Simpsons Archive: Comic Book Guy File, http://www.snpp.com/guides/cbg.file.html

This scene from The Simpsons has long been one of my favorite and among the most memorable moments from the show. I has stayed in my mind not only because it may have been the first time Comic Book Guy coined the phrase, "worst episode ever," but also because it has made me think about my role as a fan and the implicit contract that exists between communities of fans and the producers of a TV show like The Simpsons.

Masses of Comic Book Guys, or Contributing Enthusiasts?

Like much satire and many stereotypes, I think there is an element of truth to the fear and loathing of the fan that Comic Book Guy represents. He’s not really someone a producer or creator would want associated with their product; a crotchety, overweight, 40+ virgin who lives at home and obsesses over minutiae in various television shows, comic books and films rather than just getting a life.

As the dialog suggests, these fans, with a strong sense of entitlement and time on their hands, don't appreciate the investment of the producers and react angrily to developments in a series that they don't like. Imagine thousands of Comic Book Guys, all demanding satisfaction by rabble rousing and stubbornly causing more trouble than they are worth.

Yet, we all know that not all fans are Comic Book Guys, and that they are contributing to the success of media properties. Granted, leveraging fan support to promote TV programs and films has been mixed, and some fans do infringe copyright and rail on message boards, but I believe that many people in the industry have discounted this activity as having no value. I would argue that even though the many types of fan activity have been studied for their monetary value, they do contribute to the bottom line. In addition to watching TV and films, fans are contributing to the bottom line by buying DVDs, merchandise, and promoting media properties to their online and offline social networks.

So, what could a fan community actually be worth? And why would you want to know?

Serial analysis -- towards a framework to value fan communities

There is scholarship in media studies focused on fan behaviors and culture, and some about the impact of their engagement on media properties' survival and success. But, as I learned as I combed through the literature, very little about what a fan base can be assessed for its monetary impact.

Fan activity obviously has value, so why would I attempt to quantify it? There are two primary reasons that I am taking an interest in this area. First, beginning to develop metrics and numbers to explain the value fans add, both directly and indirectly, might encourage producers to further engage and capitalize on fan behavior as a promotional tool. If that happens, it may alter the production and promotion value chain in future, as new practices and technologies enable fans to participate more directly and fully in publicizing media properties.

Second, I hope that this might be a very early step towards changing how producers and fans relate to one another generally, how studios, networks spend marketing budgets and decide where and how to focus fan development efforts in the long and short term.

What this is and what it isn't

The goal of this series of essays in the C3 newsletter is to develop a framework to begin to assess and value fan communities. Because this is just a preliminary analysis, I intend to focus on television programs for the time being.

To conduct the analysis, I will draw on literature from the diverse disciplines of marketing, fan studies, sports management, economics, and innovation theory, as well as the work that the Convergence Culture Consortium has done.

Some of the key questions I hope to answer in this study are:

1.) What do fans do?
2.) Is there a way to categorize fan behaviors that helps us to better analyze their value?
3.) How do different fan behaviors interrelate?
4.) How can we define a fan relative to just a viewer?
5.) Can we assign values to non-monetary "transactions" among fans?
6.) What can we learn from disciplines outside of cultural studies about understanding and placing a value on fan behavior?

This project is not intended to offer a definitive solution or model, but to be a starting point from which readers of the newsletter can begin to think about the optimal approach for launching, maintaining and promoting media properties, and perhaps set the stage for testing some of the theories presented here and future work in this area.

I would also like to keep this as interactive as possible, and invite anyone with questions, comments, and an interest in this work to email me at any time, ecbaird@mit.edu.

Next week, the second part of this series will look at "Consuming, Activism, Socializing: Developing Continua of Fan Behavior."

Eleanor Baird is an MBA Candidate, Class of 2008 at the MIT Sloan School of Management. She has worked as a Research Assistant with the Convergence Culture Consortium since February 2007.

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Compiled and Edited by Sam Ford (samford@mit.edu)
http://www.convergenceculture.org

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