Off to the races...
The Wall Street Journal & Red Herring weigh in on monetizing the Web

Digital Hollywood, The Riches and Ocean's 13

Just finished watching Ocean's 13 which was a fun, stylized romp through Vegas. I loved all the colors used to create different moods via the cinematography, the hotel's 60's feel, the surprise of Eddie Izzard's appearance and the even bigger surprise of seeing my friend, Jacquie Barnbrook, as the first casino winner.

I've known her since our days working together at Sony Pictures Imageworks back in the mid 90's and every so often we bump into each other socially. It's always fun to see friends succeed. I of course also loved seeing the old gang work their magic too. Hot guys anyone? Especially loved seeing Eddie Izzard because I think he's such a great talent.

However, Ellen Barkin's boob job was way too distracting to make her plausible. Sorry Ellen, you know it's true. Although I must admit you look amazing for 53. May we all turn out to be "cougars" like her...:) Oh, and just in case you're a younger guy looking to date a cougar - here's a Web site just for you - I aim to please. Although you won't be finding my profile on there anytime soon. HA!

Digital Hollywood has been great as far as the seminars I've attended. It's been interesting to compare and contrast it to OMMA (the Online Media Marketing and Advertising conference I also recently attended.)

What I find most interesting is that both conferences' theme seems to be that no one knows how to measure and quantify the web in order to monetize it. There's small steps being made, but for the most part we're back in the hey day of the dot com craze where start ups are flourishing, VC's are dropping money like crazy, and content providers are still trying to figure out what will be the next big thing.

I remember back in the early 90's attending one of UCLA's Entertainment law symposiums where the lead guy from AT & T, or some such company, who had moved over to CAA was explaining how one day soon we would be sitting in front of our TV and if we saw something we wanted we would click a button and we would be able to buy it right from the TV screen. (I'm oversimplifying this, but it's late so bear with me.)

That was almost 10 years ago and I don't think we're going to be using TV's to make purchases like that any more, nor do I think we're any closer to this happening as it was predicted back then. However, each aspect of industry from advertising to entertainment to music doesn't know what it will be, but they're willing to give it a shot and try to be the next greatest thing.

The last seminar I listened to this evening was two brand experts discussing the current state of affairs with the Web. The one, an author and European likened to Simon Cowell for the web world, and the other, an ad guy and American, sat side by side as they examined the role of the Web in branding today.

I heard it mentioned over and over again, both in this seminar and others I attended that although journalists are being eliminated from their jobs there is still a need for an informed, objective, accurate voice to give us the news rather than read someone's blog and believe them outright. Does this make sense? It's late, I'm tired, but I'm trying to make a point here.

People like myself who have a background in journalism (and in my case PR also), must find ways to validate our content as a credible source of information in order for people to believe what we have to say. If all news media is eliminated due to it not having a "market share or value" we, according to the acerbic author, will continue to become a society of inane, shallow people. Paris Hilton anyone? He pointedly asked, is this what we want our society to become or continue to become?

He stressed the importance of independent newspapers for their reliability, their outreach and credibility that is so sorely lacking in present day blogs and other "amateur" "citizen" journalism so prevalent on the Web. I enjoyed asking the LA Times representative during the Q & A of another session whether or not the decision to eliminate journalists was a result of their decision to become more interactive and create a community of news readers.

There was almost an audible gasp in the room that I would dare to ask about the elephant in the middle of the room. I was just curious though because if on the one hand experts are stating that journalists have value and the very institution that employs them is laying them off in droves, what does that say about what our news media is becoming?

And if people like myself, who are considered citizen journalists, are now running the store... We better hope there are some controls set in place to control distortions and wrong messages. The speaker was a good sport about it all and actually took my card - who knows? You may see my name on the LA Times site for travel writing one day soon.

Another moderator mentioned receiving an email asking for a donation to support someone illegally held in jail (I'm paraphrasing horribly so bear with me - I'm one of the citizen journalists you've been warned against - so you get what you pay for. HA!) and after researching on the Web for a credible source to back up the validity of this request was unable to find any until finally he found a small paragraph verifying it as a true story in the Washington Post or some such credible newspaper of that level. Then, soon after Dateline did a story on it making it mainstream.

Now what I found interesting in that discussion is that the email was true, the blogs he'd read were true, but he still chose to wait until a traditional media source validated it before he too believed it to be true. What's also interesting is that he's of a generation where traditional media is still looked to as the ultimate source, whereas people of my generation and actually much younger are looking to the Web as their source and they don't seem to care that some stuff that's reported may or may not be true.

I think this generation of Web users feel that if enough people validate it, then it must be true despite the source. Look at Perez Hilton. I'm not so sure how I feel about that. But I do like the idea that was also proposed that if you build your brand (i.e. blog) as something that is reliable and authentic, then ultimately brands will come to you to align their product with your content. Now how long that would take since you're one small voice among the many is another story.

That's what I liked about the OMMA conference. The general consensus that I heard in one seminar of  interactive advertising guru's was the importance of PR to help your voice stand out in this crowded marketplace. Public relations is one of the few ways brands have to become visible. And blogs play a huge part in this visibility factor.

The OMMA conference speakers and attendees seemed to have a closer pulse on what was current and what plays in this new marketplace, but even they confessed they didn't know exactly how to make it work. However, I think they were the closer to finding out of the two conferences in my humble opinion.

Digital Hollywood conference attendees seem more interested in the platforms and the "how" of what the future holds, whereas OMMA is more concerned with the "who" - the end user. I believe that if you're focused on who is actually using your product, platform, etc. then you'll naturally create the "what" to draw an audience and ultimately make money doing so. Does this make sense?

I'm just trying to analyze this from different angles and it seems to me that if you're trying to have the general public adopt what you're trying to present, you better know what works and what doesn't. I walked the exhibit halls of Digital Hollywood tonight very briefly as I'm a curious person and wondered what was being touted as the next best thing.

What I found interesting is that this exhibit hall was littered with exhibitors who create social networks that do amazing things. However, as an early adopter of technology and especially myspace, Linked In, Ryze, Friendster, Tribe, and all the other social networking sites out there, I know I personally have to resonate with the people who are on the network. I also have to easily understand how to use the network.

I have many professional friends who use Linked In for making great professional connections and just love it. It's one of the few I dislike because I find it cumbersome and difficult to use. If that's the case for me, someone who's pretty tech savvy and likes connecting with people on the internet, what does that say about all the other social networks currently being put out to market? Are you following me?

If all these other social networks are fighting for eyeballs and no one knows about them, or likes using them, then they're just another software geek's personal agenda that doesn't resonate with the very crowd they're trying to attract.

I think part of the beauty of myspace (despite all it's detractors) is the ease of use even for those who aren't technically minded. In a matter of minutes you have a cool (albeit crude) Web site which you can manipulate quickly and easily to reflect your personality, your likes, and build a community around.

Now according to OMMA there's numerous other sites that are becoming even more popular than myspace, but at Digital Hollywood they're still stuck on this one example of social networking (at least in the seminars I attended - although Youtube was mentioned also, but still there's others people!)

There's so many more that are underground right now which is what people who join these networks like. It's fun to be in on the cool thing that isn't mainstream. As soon as myspace became mainstream and large brands starting pimping themselves on it, I think it lost a lot of street cred with the trend-setters - the exact people these large brands are trying to reach. I wonder how much longer before Youtube loses favor and some other source takes its place.

However, I did hear tonight that an independent filmmaker supposedly made 14 million dollars by charging people to download clips of his film. Now if that's true, show me the money. I just haven't seen youtube making money like that for any of my friends who are avid viewers and creators. However, maybe that's just my friends. Sure wouldn't hurt to be friends with the 14 mil guy, right?

Another band I heard refused to put their music up on myspace because "everyone was doing it" and by not doing whatever everyone else was doing, all of sudden his band had mystique and there was more interest. Who knows if that's true or not, but I find myspace is great way to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time. I've kind of moved on from it, but when I first joined I was on it almost 24/7. Now, if someone asks to be my friend, I'll add them, but I'm not actively mining the site to add more friends like I used to before.

I think once trend setters become savvy to the idea that the reason all these companies are allowing them to create videos around certain brands like GM did with their contest (which received only 2000 entries apparently) it will end. For an example, on one panel yesterday the Yahoo rep was bragging about all the user groups they have - the original "social networks" if you may. He was talking about how they are now starting to tap into the psychographics (the reason behind why people make certain brand decisions) by collecting data (legally, but still collecting.)

Now when I got home that night, I tapped into my online networking community and there in the midst of all the other messages was an email from an attorney who participates warning us that Yahoo was beginning to collect our data and the only way to prevent this from happening was to opt out and she gave us the link. What does that say about Yahoo's possible success? People don't like it.

However, then you look at Google who is the most flagrant privacy breakers and everyone is loving gmail. I don't know if I like the fact that every Web site I peruse, every email I send, anything I do is now being tracked by Google.

In fact, it's even worse than I thought because now Feedburner, the company that distributes my blogs to subscribers (of which you may join too by entering your email in the top left corner under my picture) was just purchased by Google five days ago. Now any blog I write is analyzed by Google.

I already knew that though because generally whatever I link to causes my blog to appear in the top 10 searches on Google for that item. Then, a few months or weeks later, anything related to that company or Web site is plastered all over Google's top 10 searches - check out Hair Impressions and Haute Moms Rule for example. Don't believe me? I'll have them verify it for you... These are relatively small businesses that are now top in their field when googled. Now if I can only figure out a way to monetize my own damn blog! LOL

For those who've been reading for awhile, you might remember the movie circulating the Web about how our lack of privacy will affect us in the long run with Google as Big Brother. Ultimately, we will all be tracked via our phones and the original projection that if we liked something we were watching on TV we would be able to purchase it would be taken one step further and if we happened to like pizza and were near our favorite restaurant magically a coupon would appear on our cell phone which we would be able to download and then cash in. (Sorry, run on sentence, but it seemed appropriate given the run away tendency of technology now.)

I'll search for it again, but in the meantime, check this out - just copy and paste into your browser.

I find it interesting, that the Bible which was written so many years ago, predicted that in the End Times we would have serial numbers to identify us (hence the 666 number.) How much longer before that comes true too? We're definitely heading in that direction. And I'm not talking about just social security numbers either. Check out that video on google and you'll see what I mean.

Call me crazy, or delusional, but I also find that my calls sound monitored lately. I know I've said this before, but it seems more prevalent now. I used to work for Delta and Alaska Airlines and you could always tell when a supervisor was listening in on your calls. I experience the same thing with calls to certain people I call often. I don't know who's doing it, or why, but I have nothing to hide so screw 'em.

Anyway, I should go to sleep cuz it's late, but I just felt compelled to share on this because I find it fascinating and definitely worth tracking. Not my phone calls being monitored, but the trend of technology now.

On another note, The Riches screening and panel discussion with Actresses Minnie Driver and Shannon Woodward who plays Dehliah, and Dawn Prestwich (Executive Producer/writer) afterward was very interesting and entertaining.

They confirmed my thought that the reason the show worked so well is that it played true to life with pathos, humor, and tragedy equally playing out. I love that show. It's dark, it's dysfunctional, it's life. I wish you could have been there, but just know it was great. I'm way too tired to go into all of it now, but hope you'll trust me on this one.

That's all she wrote. Have a good one.


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