TV Industry Taps Social Media to Keep Viewers’ Attention


Alone no more

We seem to be going back full-circle. Decades and centuries ago, information and entertainment really was a shared social experience. Curiously, it seems we’re only now rediscovering how great it to be able to share it again with others.

You sometimes just have to see the absurdity in it. Have we really “progressed” only to be led back to the truths about our human nature?

Over at the NY Times they wrote yesterday about how TV is trying to capitalise on viewers’ social multitasking habits:

“By the time the first ballot is opened at the Academy Awards next Sunday, millions of people will be chatting about the awards show on the Internet. And ABC will be ready.

Trying to exploit viewers’ two-screen behavior, the television network has built a companion Web site with behind-the-scenes video streams, so Oscar winners will be seen accepting an award on the TV set, then seen celebrating backstage on the stream.

Experiments like this one are a sudden priority in television land. As more and more people chat in real time about their favorite shows — on Facebook, Twitter and a phalanx of smaller sites — television networks are trying to figure out how to capitalize.

It’s as if people are gathered around the online water cooler — and the television executives are nervously hovering nearby, hoping viewers keep talking and, by extension, watching their shows.”

Read more on NY Times

Is Schibsted the smartest media company in the world?

I wrote a few days ago about Google’s attempted acquisition of Groupon. Today it is announced that Schibsted, one of Scandinavia’s biggest media companies and No. 3 in the world on online classifieds, has bought a 37.5 % stake in Letsdeal.se. Letsdeal’s concept has many similarities with Groupon, which has experienced strong growth in USA and parts of Europe. It seems local advertising markets is indeed seen as a future gold mine by many media and tech companies, including Schibsted, Google and Facebook.

Letsdeal.se offers on a daily basis at least 50% discount on selected services or goods. If a “deal” gets a sufficient number of buyers it becomes valid. Companies using the service as a marketing channel are in this way guaranteed a certain number of customers. Today, Letsdeal.se is established in Stockholm, Göteborg and Malmö. Schibsted considers the opportunities for growth to be good, and the company is also considering establishing activities outside of Sweden. Schibsted’s existing strong portfolio of online positions has the potential to contribute significantly to the development of Letsdeal.se.

“Schibsted is probably the smartest media company in the world right now,” said Peter Zollman, founding principal of AIM Group, a Florida-based media consultancy, to BusinessWeek a few months ago. “They have been willing to jettison print, where appropriate, and they are willing to invest, where most media companies now are hunkered down.”

While many publishers bemoan the loss of print ads, Schibsted has built up its online classified ad business. Now it’s an industry leader worldwide, only behind eBay and Craigslist.

Like newspapers almost everywhere, Norwegian dailies VG and Aftenposten have watched their once-lucrative classified advertising sections shrivel as readers defect to websites where they can browse and post ads for free. That doesn’t bother the papers’ publisher, Oslo-based media group Schibsted. It also owns the website that lured away most of the classified ad business—and that site is more profitable than print ads ever were. “We weren’t afraid to cannibalize ourselves,” says Chief Executive Officer Rolv Erik Ryssdal about the group’s decision in 1999 to spin off an online business called FINN.no that competes directly with its papers.

Schibsted, founded in 1839, has taken that successful strategy on the road. Its online classified business has expanded worldwide, with sites in 22 countries listing everything from real estate in Malaysia to cars in Italy to job openings in Argentina. On Sept. 22 the group bought control of France’s No. 1 classified site, leboncoin.fr, from a former venture partner, in a deal that values the site at $540 million. Revenues from its classified ad sites hit $245 million during the first six months of this year, with profit margins at some of its best performing sites as high as 60 percent.

Carol Matlack, BusinessWeek

Nollywood: An African dream factory

Movies are uniting a disparate continent, and dividing it too, reports The Economist

It all started by accident in 1992, when Kenneth Nnebue, a Nigerian trader based in Onitsha, was trying to sell a large stock of blank videocassettes he had bought from Taiwan. He decided that they would sell better with something recorded on them, so he shot a film called “Living in Bondage” about a man who achieves power and wealth by killing his wife in a ritualistic murder, only to repent later when she haunts him. The film sold more than 750,000 copies, and prompted legions of imitators.

Nollywood, as Nigeria’s film industry is known, now makes over 2,000 low-budget films a year, about two-thirds of them in English. That is more than either Hollywood or India’s Bollywood. The Nigerian business capital, Lagos, is said by locals to have produced more films than there are stars in the sky. The streets are flooded with camera crews shooting on location. Only the government employs more people.

The market traders control Nollywood to this day. They make films for home consumption rather than for the cinema—a place few can afford, or reach easily. DVD discs sell for a dollar. Print runs can reach a million. Studios, both in the physical and the corporate sense of the term, are unknown. There are no lots, no sound stages and no trailers for the stars. “Films are made on the run, sometimes literally,” says Emem Isong, one of Nigeria’s few female producers, during a shoot. “Some of the guys are hiding from the police.” All scenes are shot on location and with a shoestring budget of no more than $100,000.

Most of the financiers are based in a vast, chaotic market called Idumota. It is a maze within a labyrinth. Crowds push through narrow, covered alleys. The sound of honking motorbikes is drowned out by blaring television sets showing film trailers. The flickering screens light up dim stalls lined with thousands of DVDs on narrow wooden shelves.

Nigerian films are as popular abroad as they are at home. Ivorian rebels in the bush stop fighting when a shipment of DVDs arrives from Lagos. Zambian mothers say their children talk with accents learnt from Nigerian television. When the president of Sierra Leone asked Genevieve Nnaji, a Lagosian screen goddess, to join him on the campaign trail he attracted record crowds at rallies.

Millions of Africans watch Nigerian films every day, many more than see American fare. And yet Africans have mixed feelings about Nollywood. Among Africa’s elites, hostility is almost uniform. Cultural critics complain about “macabre scenes full of sorcery” in the films. The more alarmist describe Nigerian directors and producers as voodoo priests casting malign spells over audiences in other countries. They talk of the “Nigerianisation” of Africa, worrying that the whole continent has come to “snap its fingers the Nigerian way”.

Governments can be hostile, too. Several have brought in protectionist measures, including spurious production fees. In July Ghana started demanding $1,000 from visiting actors and $5,000 from producers and directors. The Democratic Republic of Congo has tried to ban Nigerian films altogether. Nollywood’s moguls make no attempt to deny their influence over the continent—they just regard it as a thoroughly good thing. “We give Africa development and knowledge,” says Ernest Obi, head of the Lagos actors’ guild, during a break from auditioning a gaggle of teenage girls dressed in ball gowns. “We teach people things. If they call us colonial masters, too bad.”