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Weird Al and AOL need a mash up

Poor Weird Al. His video “White & Nerdy” was leaked to YouTube before it had a chance to premiere on AOL, and now AOL has decided not to go ahead with the launch. Al posted on his blog his disappointment in not having the wider exposure AOL would have afforded him, and his fans lept to his defence in the comments and lamented the fact that they wouldn’t have the chance to see it on the portal & support Al.

Not a good PR situation for AOL all in all, as Al decided to post it for free on his MySpace page, he’s getting tons of press, and the video is enormously popular (and quite hilarious).

So what they need is a mash up. Pure and simple.

AOL made a mistake in backing away from the video because it leaked onto YouTube, and thereby walking away from Al’s community of fans, when a good strategy would have been (and still could be) to mash it up. Engage the community. Give them something exclusive. Ask them to create something themselves. Initiate and take it in stride.

Why doesn’t AOL mash up an exclusive re-mix of the Weird Al and Chamillionaire videos and post that instead?

Or ask users to submit their best mix?

The pre-release of the video actually affords AOL a chance to get into the social media space proactively and bring the community something additional of value. Unexpected? Yes. But not insurmountable if you’re thinking 2.0.

[Web 2.0-ized logo via Alex P - h/t ProPR.ca]

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Scraping around YouTube

The Wall Street Journal’s Lee Gomes has been scraping around YouTube and comes up with some fascinating numbers:

  • In one month the number of videos posted on the site grew 20% to 6.1 million
  • Number of video views reached 1.73 billion
  • 70% of YouTube’s registered users are American, roughly 50% are under 20 according to self-reported profile data [this point is especially relevant to marketers considering using YouTube as a media channel]
  • The total amount of time people spent watching videos on YouTube since it started last year is 9,305 years

These metrics are impressive, but there are a few points which I feel need further exploration (hint, hint Hitwise folks…)

  1. How many of those videos are related to brands or products? Of those, how many were UGC vs. brand promo content?
  2. Of the user-base how many are active participants vs. passive users?
  3. Of the videos posted how many reside in the long-tail and how many are at the head? What is the percentage of overall videos with less than 2% traffic?

Gomes also makes note of the types of terminology used within the video titles to infer popularity of subject matter, and finds that the standbuys of “love”, “music”, “dance”, and “girl” are at the top of the list (as to be expected from the majority youth demo). However, he then completely over-reaches with this interpretation of his findings:

Also, nearly 2,000 videos have “Zidane” in the title. Who at a desk anywhere on the planet didn’t watch at least one head-butt video in the days after French soccer star Zinedine Zidane’s meltdown in the World Cup final? For all the talk of the Internet fragmenting tastes and interests, YouTube is an example of the Web homogenizing experiences.

This conclusion warrants further thought from a few angles as it’s quite broad with little context. Yes, there are 2,000 videos with Zidane in the title, but are they all the same? Or are they each a reflection of an individual’s perspective on the incident? Some are funny, some are nothing more than the clip itself, some are shorter, some are longer, etc. Is that homogenization or is it embracing a shared experience, making it your own and expressing it back to the community? Metrics alone, as marketers know, rarely provide a full picture, but rather a directional basis for analysis and interpretation.

Additionally, the Zidane example actually proves the point of fragmented interests – out of over 6 million videos on the site ONLY 2,000 have Zidane in the title. Is that not the definition of niche interests? Finally, user-generated videos are not “The Internet”, but rather one part of a much larger and more complex whole.

[H/T - Micropersuasion]

[photo credit: Al-Fassam on Flickr]

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Colbert gets TV/ web integration

Leave it to a fake anchor on a comedy network to provide a great example of TV/ Internet integration done right.

Stephen Colbert & The Colbert Report are taking the best attributes of both mediums and harnessing them to empower their viewers and build positive word of mouth.

A few key recent highlights include:

  • The on-air Wikipedia entries which spawned a thousand imitations and remain an obsession of the show
  • Taking on Chuck Norris to have a bridge in Hungary renamed in his honour (so far Colbert leads the voting with 71% of the total)
  • And the latest episode which brings branded (in this case an individual – Colbert in front of a green screen in a mock light saber battle) UGC to millions of homes via cable TV. Colbert put up the video and invited his viewers to create their own background battle scenes. He has aired two so far with a promise of more as the submissions roll in. This type of interaction creates an appetite for more audience generated creative offerings with the ultimate pay-off being a spot on national television, lionized, or ridiculed, by Stephen Colbert.

The integration and strength of the mediums continues with strong web presences and the availability of video downloads of interviews or memorable segments from the show. The high participation level, consistently strong ratings and positive buzz, even when Colbert is ridiculing the President, show a loyalty any brand slapping a video up on YouTube would be well served to keep in mind during the brainstorming sessions… it can be done, but it must be done right with the customers desires, a true understanding of your goals, and an honest look at why and how you are engaging your audience, front and centre.

As a complimentary piece, Mike Wokosin’s “7 Ways to Integrate Online with TV” is a good read with practical tips (and something the Colbert Report is obviously on top of already!)

[H/T - Eat the Press]

[photo credit: kowitz on Flickr]

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Xbox dives into UGC

In a bold move sure to please gamers and artists alike, Microsoft will release a consumer version of their Xbox game design software this holiday season.

The software will be downloadable and have the ability to create games for both Windows PCs and Xboxes, which will of course immediately corner the independent game design market for Microsoft. Eventually Microsoft plans to allow designers to sell their personally created games on Xbox Live.

The buzz is already starting amongst a highly influential group, video game design teachers, and the unique selling points are two-fold – the ability to demo your games to your friends on your TV and the price point vs. high-powered and expensive PCs typically required to run the games.

Moore hopes the availability of easy-to-use programming tools will spark independent game development at many levels, from garages to universities. Already 10 universities have committed to adding Game Studio Express to game design curricula this fall. “We think high school science teachers will embrace this very quickly,” Moore says.

Georgia Tech University video game design instructor Blair MacIntyre says his students will now be able to buy an Xbox 360 rather than a high-powered PC to test their game prototypes. “Imagine how exciting it will be to be a student and be able to show your friends your class project running on their Xbox, hooked up to their TV in their living room,” he says.

I can see this as next-gen UGC in the next year or two, with the potential to create a cottage industry for many graphic designers/ game developers. Which of course begs the question — will users include brands in their games? If so, will it be handled by companies and marketers as a variation on YouTube, or because it’s Microsoft & users have the potential to make a profit, will we demand it be highly regulated? Will we start cutting individual product placement deals with indie designers?

Should be interesting!

[Image credit: warpaintlighly on Flickr]

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‘The Chain’ leads to powerful UGC

Nike’s “The Chain”, part of their efforts to loosen the stranglehold Adidas has on the soccer market, is an example of how UGC can work in an integrated and meaningful way with branding, engagement, and product placement.

The premise is simple, elegant, and engaging. Film yourself, your dog, what have you, ‘passing’ a soccer ball off to the next person in the chain. The goal is to make the longest soccer video ever and to encompass fans from across the globe. So far the spot runs at 37mins (10 secs per clip on average) with multiple different nationalities represented. It brings the essence of soccer (football) – the global community – to life. And it does so while making quite clear who is the backbone of the initiative – Nike Football. Based on an initial viewing, the campaign is attracting youths from the main football nations who are obviously enjoying showing off their skills for the camera. It’s a great emotional way to get others excited about being part of “the chain”.

The site, because it’s blatantly a Nike program, also has the requiste calls-to-action (sign up, subscribe, etc.), which can help the company keep their customers engaged and updated… and ultimately sell more shoes.

All in all an authentic, engaging, and well planned campaign. I mean, who doesn’t want to see their soccer prowess captured on film? ;)

GOOOOAAAAALLLLL!!!!

[Photo credit: mindcaster on Flickr]

[H/T - Three Minds @ Organic]

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