SXSW 2014: danah boyd Explains Why Teens Love Messaging Apps

danah boyd is the author of the new book “It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens” and her SXSW 2014 presentation gave a spirited and opinionated look at the lives of teens, with an emphasis on emerging messaging app platforms.

“We keep on treating social media like it can be a broadcast mechanism,” she declared. “It won’t be.” The core of her thesis is that teens crave intimacy through the new crop of apps, and are shying away from one-to-many communication in favor of one-to-one and one-to-few. Platforms like Snapchat also give teens control and demand that users pay attention to media in a new way, she said.

boyd also points out that the ability to easily edit and mess with media on the phone is transformative for the type of fun, shareable experiences teens like to engage in. Ultimately manipulating media and sharing the results with friends is likely to be important when it comes to creating brand experiences on messaging apps.

SXSW 2014: How Sports Have Mastered Social

“Thanks for letting us watch where and when we want— no more illegal streams for me.”

With that comment, one sports fan and audience member at the “24 Hours Sports in the Age of Bite-Sized Content” panel perfectly illustrated how successfully sports networks have adapted to the new media ecosystem. In addition, many brands could learn from how NBC, Fox Sports, and the NFL Network have used social to their advantage:

Talent. Social media is an ideal channel for both finding new talent and establishing their credibility. Trustworthy, engaging personalities make it easier for audiences to connect and allow networks to provide authentic news and other content.

Audience Interest. Monitoring trending topics on social media helps networks understand and promote what fans want to talk about. The debate over the infamous Roger Sherman interview, for instance, started on social media but was quickly carried over into programming.

Participation. Not surprisingly, sporting events are perfect vehicles for fans to debate and trash-talk. Allowing people to chime in, whether through video or other media, makes them feel like they’re part of the greater community.

Flexibility. Sports networks understand that audiences are platform-agnostic: if a better way to access content emerges, they will happily switch. As a result, the networks are constantly testing new formats to see what best serves the fan.

Personalization. The more data people provide, the more networks can deliver information that is specific to them, including favorite players, teams, and regions.

All of this adds up to a stronger content package that is more valuable for both viewers and advertisers.

SXSW 2014: Thinking in Ecosystems And The Lifecycle of Content

As we attended panels from various media companies, one theme became clear: now that consumers have more options as to when, where, and what type of content they view, media producers must become more savvy about planning the lifecycle of their content. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the shorter the consumer’s attention span, the more important the content’s potential for longevity.

For instance, short-form video YouTube clips would appear to be the most disposable: quick to watch and easy to forget. However, multichannel network Maker Studios has capitalized on it by promoting high-quality YouTube talent and guiding viewers towards similar content based on their interests. In fact, many television and movie stars are coming to them for help with this new format, and Disney may even be considering acquiring the studio.

Sports are another type of entertainment that are best consumed live, and would therefore have a seemingly short lifespan. As we mentioned in an earlier post (LINK to Paula’s post on Social/Sports), though careful programming around marquee events can create content that keeps people coming back and sharing with friends.

But what if the content you want to promote has already been created? It’s not too late: some properties can maintain and even grow their fanbase over time. For instance, many of Fathom Entertainment’s events are actually re-releases of old material; some of it thirty or forty years old, like Beatles and Rolling Stone concerts. Behind-the-scenes content and interviews created specifically for the event help keep it fresh and promote the material, but ultimately, fans return for the chance to participate in a communal experience with other fans.

Regardless of the type of content or initial platform, therefore, it’s essential to strategize the best way to keep content relevant. Whether it starts as a clip or an event, creators have multiple opportunities to keep viewers engaged over time.

SXSW 2014: A Battery Delivery Campaign

I was outside the Austin Convention Center Monday morning when I saw this poster:

Power On SXSW

And I thought: “Hey, actually I could really go for that. My battery is not holding a charge very well these days.”

And so, doing something I almost never do, I participated in a hashtag-based campaign. It went something like this:

Screen shot 2014-03-11 at 12.59.20 AM

So I sent them a direct message with my phone number. And then I got a text message telling me a bike messenger was on his way, and I would find him just outside the convention center. I went outside the convention center as instructed, and here was this guy:


And he gave me a fully charged Galaxy S3 battery, and I gave him my old one, and then he biked away.

It was a pretty interesting experience, but I have my doubts whether this sort of campaign could scale efficiently beyond a small geographic area packed with people who blog and tweet a lot.

SXSW 2014: Putting The Audience Front And Center

Today at the Austin Convention Center, Roy Sekoff of Huffington Post held a talk entitled “Is Online Video Killing TV?” In short, his answer was that the two forms would converge to form a new heretofore unnamed medium.

He told the story of his stewardship of HuffPost Live and how it has grown and succeeded by taking the learnings from the Huffington Post and applying them to a live video format. The Huffington Post, in its nine year history, has collected over 365 million comments. And 70% of those were responses to other comments. So it became clear that a conversation was going on. Traditional TV news networks with their 24-hours of pundits interspersed with the occasional reading of a tweet didn’t have this kind of feeling to them. HuffPost Live has attempted to bridge the gap.

The UX of the site devotes half the screen to live community comments. It also includes a big red button that offers viewers the opportunity to be an on-air guest. Using Google Hangouts, a viewer can record a short video. A small team of screeners reviews the submissions, and then clears people to join the live programming from their webcams. Since launch 19 months ago, over 17,000 viewers have participated in the programming and the site gets 22 million unique viewers per month.

Part of what makes HuffPost Live so compelling is that it is live and brings viewers into the conversation live. It is effectively the complete opposite experience as binge viewing, which is often a solitary, non-participatory endeavor.

As digital forms of video entertainment continue to erode the dominance of traditional linear TV, this sort of immediate hyper-participatory entertainment seems like a naturally prominent piece of the new landscape that is set to emerge in the coming years.

SXSW 2014: Big Data Key Takeaways

We’re big believers in the idea that data can provide value to both consumers and companies (see our Outlook), so we were excited to hear from the panelists at “Big Data Inverted: the Best Candy from Strangers?” Some thought-provoking highlights:

  • “Newness” isn’t always a need: data doesn’t have to be current to be relevant. Some content, like tying a tie, doesn’t change; it just needs to be available at the moment people are looking for it.
  • Anonymity and ephemerality build trust: people feel more comfortable sharing their data when they know it can’t be traced back to them specifically.
  • Big Data has to get small: as storage costs shrink and data-generating devices proliferate, it’s more difficult than ever to tease out the most relevant data. In order to truly help people, it must deliver the right data for the task at hand.

Can marketing truly serve and provide value to customers and consumers of both products and content? Great question.

People are similar in the way that they engage with content, but consumer behavior has changed because of big data being used to power their experiences.

Looking at attitudinal and behavioral data first will help filter through lack of context sometimes suffered by lack of context. To help us make sure we are talking to who we think we are talking to when targeting.

  • There is a clear age gate in ability and want to share data. Digital natives have a lower barrier to entry for sharing all levels of data to marketers

Leveraging data to service or communicate is in two distinct buckets. Creepy or Cool.

  • Using customer data from nowhere  = creepy
  • Using customer data from a known relationship = cool

Takeaways from the panel were similar to the Lab’s POV on value exchange to fully capitalize across audiences:

  • Tradeoff of utility for data will be based on more evaluation and balance of age and behavioral information to determine “true vaue”
  • Loyalty is different. Easier to switch, more powerful voice from consumers
  • Better inform customers before they hit the showroom or retail floor

Overall the use of digital data has changed customer culture and expectations of brands. Using Marketing as a Service is one of many ways the management of big data will improve the relationship between customer and brands.