Archive for Grant McCracken
This is an extraordinarily complex post. There are two fundamental themes. The first is the notion of the changing means of how content is consumed. The second theme is that the notion of consolidation or “whole” really needs to give way to the notion of “fragmentation”.
HOW WE USED TO RELATE TO CONTENT
Once upon a time we had three major networks. We came home from work. We watched the evening news. We ate dinner. Then we watched our shows. I literally grew up with M*A*S*H. MASH ran for 11 seasons beginning in 1972. So from about age 5 to about age 13 I would sit with my mom and step-father and watch MASH every week. I honestly cried during the last show.
Other shows I grew up with were “Different Strokes” (8 seasons), “Facts of Life” (9 seasons), “Dukes of Hazzard” (7 seasons), “Fall Guy” (5 seasons), “Magnum PI” (8 seasons) and of course “The Cosby Show” (8 seasons).
Hopefully, you’re starting to see a pattern. We used to “live” with TV shows. They were constants in our lives from season to season. We had relationships with these shows. Whether it was “St. Elsewhere” or “Hill Street Blues” we had prolonged relationships with shows and networks.
For the longest time every network followed a prescribed schedule. Then along came cable where repeats found new life and new audiences (or the same old ones). Then came FOX that started airing new shows when nobody else was. Then the Internet gradually began to turn things on its ear. Yet for some reason in the world of media planning and buying we still have a TV upfront.
I’ve known for quite some time that that the nature of TV shows and the way we watch them has been changing. I believe this to be a geologic change though. One in which we don’t necessarily see it happening. We make minor adaptations but there has yet to be a seismic shift.
That however I believe is coming. I’m not sure what it looks like. I’m not sure exactly when it will happen. Five years? Ten years? That’s where perhaps you can all lend a voice to predict or pontificate.
I believe that we are on the cusp of something and we need a much deeper understanding of people’s relationship with content.
What do we watch on which screen and why? Where does each “screen” fall as it relates to the trade-off of fidelity versus convenience? What is content we share versus content we commiserate about versus content we talk about at the water cooler?
We used to watch shows on a specific night. Now we may DVR a show and watch it on a different night. We may wait altogether and watch a whole season in weeks courtesy of Netflix. We may watch a show one week with friends and the next week online and the third week via a smartphone waiting at an airport.
Nevertheless, networks continue to present shows the same way all the time.
HOW CONTENT IS CHANGING
About a year ago, I watched Ken Block’s second iteration of Gymkhana.
No this isn’t Kurt Thomas’ attempt to extend his 15 minutes of fame and woeful acting skills on the heels of his early ‘80s film Gymkata. I’m talking about the founder of DC Shoes and his foray into the world of rally racing, stunt driving and the next generation of drifting.
Ken Block is a phenomenally intuitive marketer. Certainly as evidenced by his savvy in building DC Shoes into arguably one of the strongest action sports brands ever. Perhaps second only to Burton. Maybe it’s that no one felt comfortable to tell him the rules. Or he wasn’t listening anyway. Whatever it is, he knows right when he sees it.
Gymkhana 1 was originally posted about three years ago and between various posters of the video, it garnered over nine million views. Not too shabby. No doubt it was professionally shot at every level and Ken Block has money to throw at these things. Although, I’m pretty sure he’s mastered the art of OPM.
But then he came out with Gymkhana 2 (22m views). And Gymkhana 3 (25m views).
Nevertheless, while most create :60 spots and hope they’ll find viral traction on Youtube, Ken Block did it on purpose! And I know lots of people will say, “come on, we did that.” Tampax, Dove, Cadillac. Blah Blah Blah. I don’t think anyone has done it as well AND on purpose as Ken Block.
In Gymkhana 2, the video is 7 minutes and 32 seconds. They even call it an infomercial. At the beginning of the video note the following:
How many people are choosing to watch your spots?
Now let’s just take YouTube and content as a whole. Consider this from the ADWEEK article by Brian Morrissey about “YouTube’s Stars”.
“The dirty secret of cable TV is audience numbers are often pitifully small, with many programs drawing under 100,000 viewers. That’s not the case for a select group of YouTube creators… The numbers they draw can be staggering. Comic actor Shane Dawson averages nearly 1.5 million views per day, according to video analytics service TubeMogul, and has racked up 670 million views of his videos over two and a half years. The typical YouTube star will average 250,000 views per video. ‘On any given night or day or two, the top 10 YouTubers will have more views than any cable channel,’ says Walter Sabo, a former ABC radio executive who started an Internet talent agency three years ago called HitViews.”
iJustine pictured to the left has more than 1m subscribers. DC Shoes… 79k subscribers.
Take that Ken Block.
“Tremor Media, the largest independent network, reached a deal last week to acquire Scanscout, one of its smaller competitors, in a bold attempt to consolidate the market, and create a scaled competitor to Hulu and YouTube. Separately, Undertone Networks is expected to announce a deal Monday to buy Jambo Media, a video syndication and ad platform. Two weeks ago, Specific Media snapped up BBE, one of the first pure-play video networks in the market… TV advertisers are the ones moving most aggressively into web video, looking to achieve similar goals through it. ‘I think that has been one thing that has been missing for advertisers is the ability to deliver mass reach,’ said Chris Allen, VP-video innovations at Starcom USA. ‘A lot of our clients are married to the reach metric, and TV delivers reach as fast as possible. The only way to achieve that reach online is through a network.’”
Is the :60 spot going away? No.
Does broadcast deserve its dominance and to make all the money? Most definitely not. Arguably, they are the least removed from purchase behavior. Wouldn’t it make sense that I’d be more likely if I was online to then stay online to purchase something as opposed to going from one screen to another to do so?
Are “reach and frequency” dated analytics? Do they truly get at how we consume media and connect to purchase behavior?
Once upon a time people laughed at cable as a network contender. ESPN, 24 hour sports. It’ll never work. FOX could never take on the Big 3. 24 hour news? Don’t be silly. 24 hour weather? Please!
Is Comcast/NBC really that big of deal? Not really in my opinion.
Fragmentation is the world of today. Whole is the world of yesterday.
No matter how big Comcast/NBC make themselves, the reality is that when it comes to content, they are hardly the only game in town.
McCracken, Grant “Chief Culture Officer: How to Curate a Living Breathing Corporation”, 2010
Maney, Kevin “Trade-Off: Why Some Things Catch On and Others Don’t” 2009
Grant McCracken hosts this thing called the “Minerva Contest”. They are in my view intellectual compare and contrasts on topics that are seemingly similar but not. The contests may be intellectual bragging rights but I’ll take it. The task is as follows here. It was on the difference between PBS’ “Antiques Roadshow” and The History Channels’ “Pawn Stars”. I’m honored to have won the most recent Minerva Contest. Below is my entry. Enjoy.
“When apprised of this intellectual compare and contrast of Antiques Roadshow versus Pawn Stars my initial inclination of those who watch either show or participate was that the primary difference would be in level of educational attainment. Immediately there’s a snob factor when you think about a distinction between the shows.
After a conversation with a producer of Antiques Roadshow, Sarah Elliott, I came to believe I was over thinking it a bit. Or at least I couldn’t find any hard evidence to support my hypothesis.
What I discovered was that while the shows could be seemingly similar, the core differences with the shows really have to do more with the nature of each show.
According to Ms. Elliott, “Antiques Roadshow is filmed over the summer. We visit six cities and travel with about 75 or so professional appraisers. Each event attracts some 5000 to 6000 attendees and sees appraisals of 10,000 to 12,000 items in a one day event. We produce 18 original shows and two compilation shows for a total of 20 shows each season. It’s a pretty well-oiled machine.” About her Anecdotal observations Ms. Elliott continued, “In my 11 years working on the show I can honestly say that it truly attracts the widest cross-section of America imaginable.”
Your price of entry into an Antiques Roadshow event is an item to be appraised and generally the item is legitimately believed to be antique.
Although as Ms. Elliott said, that she’s come across the “widest cross-section of America imaginable,” that’s not the focal point of the show. That’s an unintended outcome arrived at as a result of an object. When producing Antiques Roadshow she noted that they make the “object” the focal point. As far as the appraiser or person with the object being entertaining is almost purely a matter of luck.
The most important distinction about Antiques Roadshow is that there is no buying or selling of items on Antiques Roadshow. Thus motivation becomes an important factor. Once an item is appraised on Antiques Roadshow what the individual does with that item is then up to them.
In some cases clearly people will likely look to sell/auction the item but in many cases the item’s sentimental value outweighs the financial value. In one episode a gentleman has a Civil War era canteen appraised that was a gift from a dear friend. The appraiser estimated its worth at around $5000 whereupon the gentleman says, “I guess I better keep it in a secure place then.”
With Pawn Stars motivation in almost all cases is financial. There is a financial need or want. A person enters Gold & Silver less concerned about the item’s integrity and more concerned with the cash transaction. Or put this way, they’re only concerned about the items integrity in relation to its dollar value.
To further this dynamic there is often a level disappointment on Pawn Stars because every item the Harrison family comes into contact with they evaluate from the perspective of how much they can in turn sell it for. This means people often leave unable to have made any money.
While both shows are “reality” TV shows, Pawn Stars is produced as such and built around the dynamics of the family. This exposes a few things most notable it seems to me is pride – both generational (wanting to make Dad proud) and individual (wanting to “win” by extracting the most profit). There is also the element of risk. In many cases you see the Harrisons taking on an item, having it restored and hoping they can make a profit on the item. One could equate the Harrisons to stock brokers or traders.
“Pawning” is believed to have existed for more than 3000 years, its history rooted as a means of banking
From an article by Vonda Shines the history of pawn shops, “The word “pawn” comes from the Latin word ‘pignus,’ which means to pledge. The principle of pawning is simple. Someone has an item of worth against which they’d like a monetary loan. A pawn broker accepts it as a pledge – or collateral or pawn – in exchange for money. If the loan isn’t repaid according to its terms, the pawned item is offered for sale to the public.”
However, you rarely see the Harrison’s enter such a contract. Of course that would add an entirely new and complicated dimension to the show. Nevertheless, the character of the Harrison family still comes through clearly in the art of the transaction.
Consider this passage from a book called “In Hock” by Wendy Woloson.
“Pawnbrokers and their staff are not unlike bartenders or beauticians, whose relations with their clients are at once both professional and personal. For many the place plays a special role in both social and economic aspects of their lives.”
Antiques Roadshow originally began on the BBC a mere 31 years ago and in the US, 13 years ago via PBS. This means the show has weathered economic ups and downs.
According to the Simply Hired web site, their most recent Las Vegas trends data shows “Las Vegas, Nevada jobs have decreased 41% since April 2009.” Thus it stands to reason that the Harrison family’s Gold & Silver might see some brisk business these days. One would wonder whether given that we’re at one of the worst economic lows in our nation’s history if that has an effect on Pawn Stars success or even viability.
In short, the difference between the two shows is simple yet robust. One is about the thing and the other is about the people.
Woloson, Wendy. 2009. “In Hock: Pawning in America from Independence to the Great Depression”
Roath’s Pawn Shop, “History of Pawnbroking” – http://www.roaths.com/pawnbroking.htm
Sines, Vonda ”The History of Pawn Shops” – http://www.helium.com/items/1445253-history-of-pawn-shops
SimplyHired.com – http://www.simplyhired.com/a/local-jobs/city/l-Las+Vegas,+NV
Interview: Sarah Elliott, Producer, Antiques Roadshow, December 8, 2010″
“RT @MalikYoba: RT…Twitter makes me like strangers I’ve never met and Facebook makes me hate people I know in real life.”
I couldn’t help but agree but I didn’t know why. That was until I received a copy of Grant McCracken’s new book, “Chief Culture Officer”. This is an excellent read named one of the best Innovation books of the year by Business Week and one of the best Big Idea books by CEO Magazine.
But I digress.
In “Chief Culture Officer” McCrackan references the old Nike ad “Tag”. I remember the ad vividly.
In it is a live version of tag played out in the middle of the day on urban streets. Mr. McCrackan offers a few theories on why this ad resonated and what it meant to us culturally. The third of those theories is what he calls the notion of the “generous stranger”.
Although referring to the ad, he might as well be referring to Twitter as well in saying,
“’Tag’ evoked a third trend we might call the ‘generous stranger’. For many of us first notice came in the form of a bumper sticker that read ‘Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty,’ a phrase so influential it now has its own Wikipedia entry. Several thousand years of cultural practice and religious teaching had encouraged us to think of generosity as a personal gesture that passed between known parties. The ‘generous stranger’ trend suggested that it was better when things passed between perfect strangers. “
And thus Twitter suddenly makes perfect sense.