A New Hope

I am restarting my blog after a hiatus of three years. In the past three years, I finished my USC graduate school program in digital media; did a fantastic internship with Paramount Pictures marketing movies online and campaigning for Academy Awards; met so many amazing people cross different walks of life; and landed my dream job with Disney, where I currently work on entertainment digital product design and management. I’ve been busy!

It has been a demanding and also rewarding journey. But most important of all, I’ve missed writing. I miss the times I spent with myself, reflecting on observations of my daily life, and the exciting shifts in the digital media landscape.

With this brand new start, I will continue to share my thoughts, readings, and work experience related to digital entertainment product development, and how to use data to decipher the intertwined worlds of human connections, business intelligence and digital engagement.

I am learning through practicing, and I feel very fortunate to be able to work on things I love, and with a group people that inspire me. I once read a saying somewhere that I want to use as my career motto:

“Don’t just get things done, make things happen.”

Though I am sometimes bogged down by my busy schedule, I should not forget this motto, and re-booting this blog is a great way for me to make things happen again instead of just getting things done in my life.

With that being said, in light of my new experiences over the past three years, as well as my transition from an aspiring digital media student to a digital industry professional, I think it’s time for my blog to reflect my new interests in data-driven media and product development insights. So, bye bye to my previous blog theme, “Social Media is Great!” And hello to my brand new “Data and Lore” blog. I have added a screenshot of my former blog theme to commemorate it.

Hey, world! I’m back!



Monetization of Mobile Platform

The slides below are for a project that I have been working on in the past two weeks for one of my classes. I have really been fascinated by the growth of the mobile internet and what implications may result from always-on, constantly available internet access. How will users change their internet usage behavior, how will they utilize such easy online access, and just as important, how will businesses make money from the rise of mobile internet?

That means asking what new mobile advertising and location-based advertising and services will be prominent on mobile phone platforms. By examining the major advertising networks and the differences in their various market segments, as well as the impact of location-based technologies on new advertising efforts and the innovative services that have arisen to take advantage of location-based technologies, I wanted this presentation to highlight what advertisers and mobile users can expect to see in the next five years in a constantly changing industry. One important aspect of the future of the mobile industry’s development that is not stressed in these slides is mobile apps. Apps are the way to extend the usability of mobile internet service, and is a major player in the growth of the mobile internet. Also, I believe it will be the leader in efforts to monetize the mobile internet effort in the future, but due to the scope of my research this time, I did not cover it. I would definitely like to look into this sector in the future.

I relied on a variety of sources, including industry media like AdAge, TechCrunch, and marketing research firms like eMarketer and even some Morgan Stanley investor reports, so there’s a lot numbers to digest, but also some neat graphs and charts to make things easier to understand. Maybe this sounds like a cliche, but I really think the potential impact of mobile internet is going to change our lives. What are your thoughts on the growth of mobile internet and mobile advertising? What are the next big mobile web opportunities?

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Why Would Chinese Singers Accept Piracy-tinted Music Awards?

Last week, while I was watching a popular Chinese entertainment channel on satellite TV, I was bewildered by a scene of many of China’s most popular music stars happily accepting MTV Video Music Award-type trophies from Chinese search engine Baidu during an award ceremony co-hosted by Baidu and a national TV station. Seeing these celebrities dressed in sleek couture walk on stage to proudly receive awards like “Most Searched Artist on Baidu” gave me a very surreal feeling. I can still remotely recall that not even five years ago, these singers led waves of campaigns seeking public support in battling illegal online music downloads. In these campaigns, China’s largest local search engine, Baidu, was portrayed as an accomplice of illegal music download sites because Baidu first gained massive popularity by prominently displaying illegal MP3 music download sites in its search results, to the delight of hordes of music fans. As a result of that, Baidu has constantly found itself in many disputes and even got sued by major music labels and singers in the past.

Not many years have passed, but things have changed drastically. These singers and music labels are no longer at war with Baidu, even though Baidu today is still providing easy access to millions of illegal music download sites, and has even come up with more music lists such as “Top 100 Most Popular Downloaded Songs” to help guide people’s illegal downloading. It looks like these music labels and singers have given up on battling online piracy and have aligned with their ex-enemy. What turned these past foes into today’s bed-fellows? I later found a good answer, courtesy of my classmate Lisa who introduced me to Chris Anderson’s new book: Free: The Future of a Radical Price.

As said in Lisa’s review of Anderson’s book, Anderson optimistically, yet assertively, painted a picture of information flowing free like water, seeking lower ground in today’s digital world as the reproduction and distribution costs for information products are getting lower and lower. This has prompted our society’s evolution towards a new “Free” economy. In Anderson’s book, he gave numerous examples of how companies benefit from this Free business model. One chapter is devoted to the “Freemium” model adopted by information giant Google, which gives out many of their popular services like Gmail and Google Map for free, then build a 20 billion dollar advertising business out of the immense content generated by users on these free services. Anderson also states that 80% of internet companies today are built on the same Freemium business model in which they give out basic services for free to the majority of their users, and charge a small percentage of their users for upgraded services after these users have gotten hooked on the basic service. Though some of these so-called Freemium models do sound like “digital age ‘bait and switch’ marketing or stand cross-subsidy economics” according to Lisa, she believes that Anderson did a good job in his book defining “how [the] traditional brick and mortar or atom-based economy defines value by money, money, money and how the digital/bits economy defines value “by attention (traffic) and reputation (links).”

This new digital age measurement of value through attention and reputation helped answer my earlier question of why the Chinese music industry would align with its former foe, Baidu, as it is becoming increasingly clear that Baidu can bring them attention and reputation through its search service. The current digital environment has witnessed an irreversible trend where songs can be turned into free-flowing bits, and this is especially true in China, a country which has a cultural tradition of tolerating piracy of intellectual property. After the revenues of Chinese music labels were crushed by the online spread of pirated music, and without a viable legal alternative for revenue in the digital age like Apple’s iTunes in the U.S. (even iTunes gets popular in China, I highly doubt people would pay for cheap music if they can get it elsewhere for free easily), music labels have accepted the situation and started to fight in a different battle field—for fame and reputation, which can still bring them millions of revenue through concert tickets and endorsing other brands with their reputation. At this point, I recall that executive Long Danni, from one of China’s most successful entertainment agencies, Tianyu, once said in an interview that today albums are like a singer’s business card, which they use to introduce themselves to their audience instead of making money out of it. Long Danni’s remarks provide a good explanation for the state of the music industry. Chris Anderson also made some comments specifically about how the music industry should respond to new digital trends coincides with Long’s remark, according to another review of his book by Malcolm Gladwell from The New Yorker: “To musicians who believe that their music is being pirated, Anderson is blunt. They should stop complaining, and capitalize on the added exposure that piracy provides by making money through touring, merchandise sales, and “yes, the sale of some of [their] music to people who still want CDs or prefer to buy their music online.” “

In Gladwell’s article, he takes the Freemium concept advocated in Anderson’s book with a grain of salts and also threw in a couple real life examples of how the internet business stays free when they try to sell free. One example he mentions is online video site Youtube. It is without a doubt that Youtube has garnered unparalleled fame and reputation in the internet world, but it still has reported financial losses for the past several years. According to Gladwell, because of the nature of Youtube’s amateur content, it is quite hard for Youtube to make huge profits by selling ads on these videos.

I agree with some of Gladwell’s other critical perspectives on Anderson’s Free economy, but I have to disagree with Gladwell on this particular point for focusing on the short term monetization value for Youtube. I believe by being the undisputed leader in the online video field, Youtube possesses incredible power, which they may not have fully unleashed yet. But even at this point the site has added huge intangible value to Google’s overall search businesses, which by itself does pay off and has exceeded the cost to run Youtube within the Freemium model. The potential expansion of Youtube’s revenue streams has also been noted by many Wall Street analysts, and a recent comment by Google CEO Eric Schmidt even suggests that Youtube may bring in profit for the company this year. In the near future, when Google finishes building its integrated content empire, these amateur videos on Youtube will be an essential element in it. At that time Youtube’s monetization powers will also be fully unleashed. I have no doubt that the money Google paid for this Free video sharing site will prove to be worth it.

No matter if you agree with Anderson’s of advocacy of the Free economy power or not, the Free age has arrived. Look around on the internet, the most popular and promising internet businesses such as Facebook, Twitter have all been handed to their users for free. Facebook has reported huge revenues by selling targeted ads while Twitter is still trying to figure out its way to make money. While I believe selling ads should not be the only or primary way for these Free online businesses to make profits, I do keep an open mind to potential new monetization business models that have yet to be revealed in the coming decade. I believe whoever can successfully build these original business models in this Free world will be the next Bill Gates for the 21st century.

From TV to Internet: Commercials at Super Bowl 2010!

Hurray for the New Orleans Saints! Their first Super Bowl trophy in their franchise history! They really pulled out a fantastic show starting from the unexpected twist at the beginning of the second half, that was a real momentum builder, and from that point they just rocked! Cheers also for the four Trojan alumni on the two teams that played tonight! Fight on, Trojans!

Twitter went out of capacity during the Super Bowl Game!

Besides the football game itself, the excessive TV commercials have also become another star in the 4 hour long Super Bowl game! Before the Super Bowl started, Pepsi’s decision to withdraw from airing Super Bowl TV commercial and instead invest in social media has attracted so much attention. To some extent, it also helped show how expensive commercial advertisements for these Super Bowl are! After all, this is the most-watched TV event in America, and every second on TV is worths tens of thousands dollars! Advertisers, watch out for how you spend these seconds!

When I was watching the Super Bowl, I was also tweeting, and I noticed on Twitter that the Twitter trend in Los Angeles area showed “super bowl commercials” and “bowl commercials” as among the top ten tweeted key words, which reveals how talked about these TV commercials are! At one point during the game, Twitter was out of capacity! Too many people were tweeting! Here is the picture I captured to record this historical moment:

Fail Whale! Yay!

Three trends from Super Bowl TV Commercials:

Among all these million-dollar commercials, there are definitely many “awww” ones and many “what a waste of the money” ones, and also some pant-less ones out there. One trend I observed is that today so many brands are using TV commercials to direct their viewers to their website for more information, at the end of most brands’ TV commercials there is usually a link to their websites. Among brands advertising their website were Lexus, NFL, Doritos, Kmart, and companies ranging from every industry. It almost feels like these 30 second commercials are like movie trailers saying, “Wanna watch the whole show? Go to our websites!”

Another trend is that more and more websites and online services are using TV commercials to tap into the mass audience of traditional media, such as Google.com (first ever Super Bowl commercial!), Monster.com, GoDaddy.com, Homeaway.com, Carmax.com, Etrade.com. I especially felt Etrade.com (I have to say their commercial using talking babies are kinda freaky though) and Carmax.com were the two biggest online players with Super Bowl TV Commercials, and the number of their ads almost tied with the number of automobile commercials! Who says that New Media has to always be at war with Traditional Media like TV? They could totally help each other out in some circumstances, just like tonight!

Another interesting trend about the Super Bowl Commercials is that some brands do not just use their TV commercials to direct the viewers to their official webpage, but to their social media webpage like Facebook.com. Honda’s TV commercial served as an intro to their Facebook campaign: Everbody knows somebody who loves a Honda! Most of my friends and family drive Toyota, and I really do not know anyone around me who loves a Honda, but after I participated in their Facebook connection, I did find a friend on the Facebook page who does love Honda, ha, I guess their theory proves true with me! Good job, Honda!

Here is my list for Best and Worst Super Bowl Commercials:

The Best: My heart went to the well-crafted, little romantic love story told by the Google commercial, very succinct, very neat, very Google:

Thumbs up: Coca-cola, Honda, Monster.com, Teleflora, Intel, Motorola, KIA

Thumbs down:

Most of those Bud and Bud-light beer commercials were just really silly (in a bad way) and made people who drink Bud Light look really bad!

The worst of the worst:

Vizio Forge: it is sooooo dark, and sooooo scary!

Chrysler’s Dodge Charger: you don’t need to make life feel so dull and miserable just to contrast the joy men may get from driving your car, very depressing!

For people who missed these commercial, you can go to Hulu adzone to review the commercials and vote for your favorite ones! Hulu scores this one! yay!