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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Important wisdom from Ken McCarthy. Read carefully

In case you don't know who Ken is, he's the guy who ran the first ever seminar about marketing on the internet 15 years ago.

This morning I got something from him you really should read.

For years I've summed one main point he makes by asking why you should want to waste time (and money) talking to everyone when you only need to talk to somebody. Somebody interested. It's about being relevant.

He's actually talking about video on the net, but his reasoning (and commendable contempt for idiot analysts) apply to all messages and all media. He also explains why all us old direct marketing lags tell you long copy always beats short.

Here he is, talking about predictions he's made for the past four years.

We said Internet video was going to explode, take over the Internet and shake things up in TV Land and that's pretty much what's happened.

Speaking of NOT on target, in the early days of Internet video (remember way back then?), legions of newly minted Internet video experts would loudly tell anyone who would listen that Internet videos had to be short or no one would watch them.

"Viewership drops off dramatically after two minutes."

The idiocy of this pronouncement always galled me...

=== Duh!

Of course, viewership drops off dramatically at the beginning!

That's because the video in question is not a fit for all the viewers who clicked on it. Those who are interested in the subject will watch much longer videos - and do so gladly.

Imagine if the Nielsen ratings counted all the views of people who channel surfed cable twenty times a minute. 2 seconds here on Program A. 5 seconds there on Program B. 3 seconds there. 1 second there.

By that logic cable and network TV shows should only be 5 seconds long because "the metrics" show that viewership drops dramatically after five seconds.

Well, until recently, the idiot analysts were winning. Not because they were right, but because they had the momentum of unconsidered opinion behind them.

Well, the latest stats are in and..

=== Here comes the reality check

- Last year, the top 25 shows on blip.tv averaged under five minutes. This year, the number is up to 14 minutes, roughly THREE TIMES longer - an increase accomplished in just 12 months!

- Internet video is mainstream now with about 150 million viewers in the US alone (about half the population) and the average viewer is watching 97 videos per month. Pretty amazing when you consider just five years ago, the typical Internet use was watching zero videos per month.

- Netflix has made over 12,000 feature length films available to its customers for instant streaming - and no one's complaining "they're too long."

Two interesting quotes from a recent New York Times article on this subject:

"People are getting more comfortable, for better or worse, bringing a computer to bed with them."
- Dina Kaplan, co-founder of Blip.TV

"I think it comes down to quality winning out over minutes and seconds."
- Rob Barnett, Founder of My Damn Channel.

=== Yes, and there's more

As for computers in bed, things are really going to take off when one of the high tech rocket scientists makes it brain dead simple to search and stream online video with a TV remote and watch it through your TV set. If that doesn't toll the death knell for TV as we know it, it'll be pretty darn close.

As for quality winning? Not quite. It's not quality that matters. It's relevance.

If I am a left handed Lesbian lacrosse fan from Lithuania, I'll watch HOURS of left handed Lesbian lacrosse content from Lithuania. Quality doesn't hurt, but it runs a distant second to relevance.

=== Quality matters only this far

1) Your quality has to be "good enough" to not be totally annoying and

2) There isn't another left handed Lesbian Lithuanian lacrosse channel out there that does a better job than yours because no matter how we improve the medium, normal people only want to watch one program at a time.

=== The future

We're heading to narrowcasting, even if a few topics - sports, financial reporting, and big news - still will command big audiences.

The future market for the traditional boob tube boils down to this: 1) the technically backward, 2) the institutionalized (in prison, in hospitals, in nursing homes), 3) three year olds and younger who don't yet have the cognitive skills to manage a remote.

As I've been saying to broadcast and cable for years now: Change or die.

Ken runs www.systemintensive.com - the best if you want to understand online marketing. I'll be speaking at his next London event - and he'll be speaking at my www.eadim.com event, which is ideal if you want to understand all direct marketing. Incestuous, eh?

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