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Jeff Cole on Internet Trends (2 of 3)

Dawn Anfuso
Jeff Cole on Internet Trends (2 of 3) Dawn Anfuso

In July 2004, Jeffrey Cole joined the USC Annenberg School for Communication as Director of the newly formed Center for the Digital Future and as a Research Professor. Prior to joining USC, Cole was a long-time member of the UCLA faculty and served as Director of the UCLA Center for Communication Policy, based in the Anderson Graduate School of Management. At UCLA and now at USC Annenberg, Cole founded the World Internet Project, a long-term longitudinal look at the effects of computer and Internet technology on all aspects of society, which is conducted in over 20 countries. At the announcement of the project in June 1999, Vice President Al Gore praised Cole as a "true visionary providing the public with information on how to understand the impact of media."

In an Insight Presentation to the iMedia Summit last month title, "New Internet Trends: Changing Media Use, Declining Credibility and the Rise of Broadband," Cole enlightened the audience with results from 10 years' worth of research. In the first piece of this series, Cole explained the impact of broadband. Here, he talks about media usage:

Moving into media use -- we found media use, especially television, has shown profound change. First what we find is television displacements continuing but changing. The use of newspapers and magazines has dropped for the second year in a row out of the four years we’ve been looking at this. The use of books declined slightly this year for the first time -- this is among Internet users. The use of radio and watching movies at home has remained stable. Internet doesn’t seem to be a factor here. And age makes an immense difference in how people use media.

And first just a television displacement chart -- if you can’t see this, that's okay. I’ll read it to you. This shows Internet users in blue and Internet non-users in yellow. And what you can see, is if you look at all these different countries we’re looking at, and every country in the world we are looking at, Internet users in blue watch less television than non-users in yellow. This isn’t all that surprising. If you take the United States, television has always dominated our at-home, awake time. And if we are going to carve out time to go online, it almost has to come from television. Although broadband, as I talked about in some length, is already beginning to change that a little bit. 

But everywhere we look we see displacement. Five years ago, I used to work in the 1990s with all four of the television networks on policy issues. When the networks first looked at this they said it’s demographic differences: Internet users are different. And that might have been true five years ago, but today Internet users in America are three-quarters of Americans who access the Internet at least once a month. They are by-in-large the whole country. They’re just a tiny bit younger than non-users. And that doesn’t account for this any more. Internet users actually do watch less conventional television.

Looking through America -- and I’ll walk through this quickly -- comparing Internet users in blue and non-users in yellow, we see Internet users spend a little bit less, almost an hour less, time per week reading books. They spend about almost over twice as much time watching movies in the theater. Internet users spend close to an hour per week watching movies in the theater, or close to 50 hours per year, or about two movies a month. Internet users spend more time watching rented movies at home, not significantly more, but more time. They spend over two and a half times as much time playing video games at home. This incidentally, is all Internet users. When we look at those under 18, this becomes about five hours. Internet users spend more time listening to recorded music, such as MP3s or CDs.

They spend 1.9 hours less time, per week, reading newspapers. You know that newspaper readership has been in trouble long before the Internet. It’s very difficult to get people under the age of 30 to read newspapers. If those trends continue, then you could argue in 40 years every newspaper reader in America will be dead. Hopefully that will not happen and younger people will take up newspaper reading in greater numbers as they age. But Internet users spend 1.9 hours less time per week reading newspapers. They do spend 42 minutes a week reading online newspapers. I don’t know if you consider them equivalent. And of those 42 minutes they spend per week reading online newspapers, about half of that is reading the newspaper they used to buy offline, the one they used to buy the hard copy of. The other half is reading a newspaper they never could have found on their own, from their home town, whether it’s in Indiana or India.

Internet users spend less time, but the drop is not as significant, reading magazines. They spend a tiny bit less time, not significantly, listening to the radio. And television we’ve already talked about.

And one thing -- I don’t have to go through this with people who work in advertising, but it’s really quite dramatic how media use in America varies by age. There are the media that increase as people age, that people use more of as they age. And there are the media they use less of as they age. The media use that increases as we age are reading books, reading newspapers, reading magazines, using the radio, except for one dip there, and watching television. 

The media use that decreases as people age are watching movies in the theater, watching rented movies at home, playing video or computer games, or listening to recorded music. You can see these are all consistent. The Internet’s an anomaly. The Internet use is fairly high among the young, reaches its highest levels among the middle aged who use it at work and at home, and then declines in use as people age. It’s the one anomaly when you compare it to all these other media.

And, if you look at online media, online media making a real impact, online newspaper readership is rising; the use of magazines and radio online is climbing; the use of online books, online telephone and television is still very low, although we expect to see the telephone break out when we go into the field next month. Online game use [had been] very high but dropped. It had grown for three straight years, dropped a little bit in Year Four. Maybe that’s an anomaly; maybe it’s a beginning of a trend.

I won’t walk you through all these numbers, except to say if you can see these numbers, where the offline numbers were hours, these are minutes. And you can see some online media use, very high: playing video or computer games, around an hour per week; the use of recorded music, getting close; reading newspapers, climbing fairly significantly; the use of reading books online, still insignificant. It’s not much fun to read a book online. I love the idea of going on vacation and loading 30 books into my PC. I just don’t like reading them on my PC. Maybe that will change. 

One of the things we found in our work is people over the age of 30 don’t like reading things online. If we get emails longer than two or three screenfuls, what do we do? We print them out. We’re use to touching and moving and holding. Teenagers are comfortable reading 20, 30 screenfuls online without printing out. Maybe that will change for them.

And just, if you look at age use in online media, you can see that if you look at those under 18, just look at these towers, the youngest people dominate all online media use, with the exception of newspapers and magazine, which are dominated or at the largest percentage by middle age. The exception of that, listening to recorded music, playing video computer games, watching movies, even reading books -- dominated by the youngest people.

Monday: The world's perceptions on the Internet's credibility and reliability.

Twitter Vision (like a humankind lava lamp) 

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Twitterverse presents a "cloud" visualization of term clustering from what people are posting. As Google went public with its DoubleClick acquisition, the Twitterverse "shouted up" the size of "Billion" and "Google." Common emphasized terms with early adopters include "blog," "coffee," "day/morning/night," "going," "new," "sleep" and "twitter."

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Twitterholic: Tracks the top performing Twitterers. The example below tracks the progress of Robert Scoble, one of the twitchiest, most erudite and smartest posters (he is the first "friend" I recommend you enlist).

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Twitterment: Search on specific terms being discussed or compare different terms/categories. In this example, I compare beer volume over wine:

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For the latest web, desktop and device-based applications, check out the Public Wiki on Twitter.

Building on Sharon Sarmiento's post on the 901am Blog, "The Top 5 Ways Smart People Are Using Twitter," here are some digital marketing implications for platform-independent, networked microblogs:

Advertising and marketing communications
The operative word here is "dialogue," where the form gives life to continued conversations and engagement over time. At Real Branding, we define the advertising role of any medium to Introduce, Engage/Dialogue and Remind. While Twitter doesn't have broadcast-like impact or broad enough penetration yet to widely introduce in the way most large marketers consider effective, it can be easily applied to extend the advertising effect. Dialogue is where Twitter lives.

  • For entertainment, consumer package goods, consumer electronics and B2B technology new product releases, as well as highly considered and affiliated categories, expect "Nano-Releases" by Twitter that tickle The Long Tail and maintain interest building to a trial, consideration, engagement or purchase event. See the Fox Twitter for "Drive" as an example of fan-based engagement with their show, and then with the broader community around shared interests.

  • For personality-driven and beloved brands, look for wit, wisdom, clues and insider info delivered to the deserving (See Colbert's and Borat's twitters).

  • For live sports and entertainment event marketing, expect the Twitter to get you front-row. Currently, you can get stats, scores and news from NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL teams pushed to you in real time. There's your Sunday ticket. For multi-venue music and film events like the New Orleans Jazz Fest or the Tribeca Film Festival, imagine quickly sharing the experience from your venue to your friends' devices next door, across town or even around the world.

  • For promotional programs, Twitter can deliver clues, locations, events, program updates and other gambits in richer ways that better account for how consumers are connecting.

  • For crisis management, think about having a Twitter deployment strategy to address breaking events between the news cycles. We would recommend having your Twitter available before it's needed, which brings up another implication.

  • Domain/brand claims. As with your domain names a decade or so ago, and MySpace pages more recently, friends and foes are already starting to "squat" on your most intuitive name. Go forth and register your brands even if it precedes a communications strategy.

As you may imagine, bloggers are the fastest publishing group to adopt microblogging; we've got a list of formidable participants in the last section, people to watch on Twitter.

Notable entrants outside of the blogosphere:

Traditional publishers

New media publishers

Back in the early 1990s at Omnicom, we came up with the idea for a career portal and launched the first one with Career Mosaic. The premise was based on a simple media dynamic: We noticed that the internet -- at the time, mostly newsgroups, FTP and gopher sites -- was primarily organized through the lenses of love (and every variation on the theme), money (with Classifieds being the biggest draw) and hobbies. Expect love, money and hobbies to be connected in short-form and less formal ways through Twitter. More connections before an in-person meeting could develop greater trust, familiarity and confidence. 

  • Winners here will be people practiced in the art of the sustained short-schmooze. In fact, this could really change that art, and could put a higher demand on substance.

  • Think networking on steroids. 

  • Consider it a friends & family rollcall and alert system.

  • For interdependent, interdisciplinary teams, this could be a killer client, teams and project communication tool ("alpha version on the staging servers!"). 

  • Proceed with caution: it seems like an Artificial Intelligence engine can fake a Twitter session/persona pretty easily (similar to what we created for HBO with Da Ali G bot).

Faster, stronger, better truths and transparency
Anyone who got the flu last year knows how good new strains are at beating our defenses. It's the same with these evolving platforms. Twitter will challenge the PR and corporate communications groups in ways that will make blogs look like warm-ups.

The next noise you'll hear around Twitter/microblogging could be a demolition of old ways of communications and brand management. Expect a wall of corporate secrecy to tumble one chip/Flickr Shot/YouTube video/Twitter at a time.

If you dig into expert commentary on the subject, there's this strange dynamic around the Twitter party. It seems like critics want to love, hate or at least appear indifferent to Twitter, perhaps to mask the obvious question: "How can you change the world in 140 characters or less?" Most blogs about Twitter will have a form of apology or disclaimer. For example the 901am blog by Sharon Sarmiento captures the sentiment: "To be honest, my first impression of Twitter was that it was for folks who had way too much time on their hands who narcissistically wanted to broadcast every random thought that crossed their brains."

It's true, a service answering one simple question, "What are you doing?" sounds so-Generation Y (See chart.), with a first-person world view and graphophilic-enabled drive to be somebody. Scroll through a page or two of short messages on the Public Timeline (one of the default views on Twitter) and the majority seem like navel-watching.

The first post by someone answering the essential Twitter question, "What are you doing?" is likely to be "trying to figure this thing out." Within a day or two of working on that question, the quality of posts may evolve. Just like the question "Who are you?" can become a life's work when practiced long enough, "What are you doing?" moves from temporal descriptions of the mundane to more emotional, humorous and intellectual musings.

The magic comes from the one or two posts every 10 seconds that present universal truths, and that makes the Twitter experience like watching a human lavalamp. Every five seconds or so (today) someone around the world is putting something you should read out there. The point of this social criticism is that Twitter taps into something deeper than the moment, than Gen-Y, than the ADD-attention span, and it's more than social networks that meet all your devices.

The big idea is that it's small and immediate. There's little room for fluff or editorial. It's a distilled meme or it's an update on something relevant to you. Whether it's the lives of loved ones, the status of a project, the fortunes of your team or fantasy player or even the weather, it is highly relevant should you choose to lock in your attention. Pick the right "friends" and the posts become personally, socially and professionally rewarding.

Given that Twitter is finding traction/velocity, the question every smart marketer seems to be asking is, "Is there a 'there' there?" Briefly, "yes," and in the next section I'll offer concrete applications for marketers and publishers to exploit this platform right away.

To give this new form a little context, here are three different cuts at definition:

  1. Twitter's description: A global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing? Answer on your phone, IM or right here on the web! In an April 22, 2007 New York Times interview, Twitter co-founder, Evan Williams, said: "Twitter is best understood as a highly flexible messaging system that swiftly routes messages, composed on a variety of devices, to the people who have elected to receive them in the medium the recipients prefer. It is a technology that encourages a new mode of communication…"

  2. My description: Microblogging meets global social networking. All the ways you connect digitally -- instant message, email, SMS/mobile, web -- combined with your select network or populating globally with a 140 character-limit. The short form is a big part of the function. Twitter is an active stream and archive of brief thought bursts bound to expedite and influence taste, news, popular culture and perhaps even where you'll dine tonight or in the near future and with whom.

  3. Wikipedia description: Twitter is a social networking service that allows members to inform each other about what they are doing and what they think. It allows users to send messages via phone, instant messaging or the Twitter website. Two SMS gateway numbers are available: one for USA and one UK number for international use. Users can receive updates from other selected users via web, IM or SMS. It made its debut in March 2006. It is an example of a microblogging platform.

    "Quoting the Wall Street Journal March 16, 2007 article, 'These [social-networking] services elicit mixed feelings in the technology-savvy people who have been their early adopters. Fans say they are a good way to keep in touch with busy friends. But some users are starting to feel 'too' connected, as they grapple with check-in messages at odd hours, higher cellphone bills and the need to tell acquaintances to stop announcing what they're having for dinner.'"

Note: A new service has since been launched that mitigates most of the "higher cellphone bill" concerns. EmailTwitter.com lets anyone post and retrieve Twitter updates by email without incurring SMS fees.


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