Jeff Bezos: the king of content

Jeff Bezos wants Earth’s biggest online retailer to become the world’s mightiest content publisher and distributor.  In a recent interview with Steven Levy of Wired, Bezos shared how Amazon is creating a web content powerhouse through an a three-pronged, interlocking approach that encompasses the Kindle, Amazon Web Services, and publishing platforms for authors and movie makers. Bezos isn’t just CEO of Amazon or CEO of the Internet, as Wired calls him. In 2012, Bezos may very well become the king of content.

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Netflix wants to own your entertainment

According to Deadline Hollywood, Netflix has become a content creator (not just distributor) by outbidding HBO and AMC to underwrite the production of House of Cards, a 26-episode drama series directed by David Fincher. Deadline Hollywood says that the deal (probably worth more than $100 million) is for Netflix “probably the biggest gamble in its 14-year history” — and “could change the way people consume TV shows.” Here’s what Netflix gets out of becoming a content producer:

  • An opportunity to own the streaming entertainment experience. Netflix can exert more control over its product — not just streaming someone else’s movies but owning the creation, marketing, and distribution of its own entertainment. It’s as it iTunes became a record label.
  • New possibilities for pricing and bundling content. It will be interesting to see what kind of premium pricing and/or subscription incentives Netflix will bundle into the distribution of House of Cards.

The deal has its risks, too, not the least being Netflix’s two-year commitment to the drama series. If the series bombs, Netflix is stuck. By contrast, Netflix bears far less of a financial burden by sharing content created by someone else.

Another risk comes to the Netflix brand: a poorly received product will tarnish Netflix because the company has a stake in its creation. By contrast, we don’t blame Netflix when we rent a disappointing movie from its library as we know it today; we simply return the movie and try again, or stream something else.

Netflix has hedged its bets by investing into a project whose executive producer and director is the highly regarded David Fincher. Moreover, Kevin Spacey (whose work has been inconsistent in recent years) will star and executive produce.

You can expect more companies to act as publishers for one simple reason: thanks to the proliferation of self-publishing platforms like GoAnimate and YouTube, people have become their own content publishers and expect brands to follow their lead. In effect, Netflix isn’t breaking any ground here — the company is merely following the example set by you and me. But with a lot more risk and reward.

How an independent bookstore rocks my world

If you like to discover books by exploring your local bookstore, you are a dying breed. And apparently I am, too. A friend recently shared with me this article about how e-readers are contributing to the demise of local bookstores in Minneapolis, one of my favorite cities for independent bookstores. And The Huffington Post gloomily reported on significant bookstore closings of the past decade. Now I’m not going to launch into an anti-Amazon or anti-e-reader or anti-anything screed. But I am going to give you two reasons why my family and I will continue to patronize our local bookseller, Anderson’s Bookshop of Downers Grove, even though there are times when we can get a better deal on books (and browse larger inventory) elsewhere:

1. Anderson’s is a vibrant part of my community. Anderson’s is among the Downers Grove stores that lets kids paint its windows at Halloween, and in the heyday of the Harry Potter books, Anderson’s owned Downers Grove with its own celebrated book-release parties. It’s also a community center. For instance, it’s a place where I go to meet internationally known authors in person — flesh-and-blood meetings where you can really sit down and talk with writers about what they do and how they do it. And it’s a gathering place in more informal ways. Just a few days ago my family bumped into two good friends, and we caught up with each other while our children plowed through books at our feet. But Anderson’s does something else, too: its people get to know the community. To us, Anderson’s isn’t a faceless brand but warm people like Bridget, Carmel, Don, Griffith, Julia, Kathleen, the two Nancys, Norma, Patricia, and Ryan, who suggest new books for our family both in the store or if we see one of them while we’re running errands at Target. Or they compliment my wife when they hear about one of her short stories being published in a literary anthology. Sure, you can get book recommendations from Amazon, but you don’t have conversations with real people who understand you, talk with you, ask about your family, and offer a cup of hot chocolate on a cold winter day.

Author Sarah Mylnowski and friend at Anderson’s

2. Anderson’s isn’t just the store for me; it’s a home for my entire family. As my wife and I can attest, Anderson’s has become my daughter’s playground. There are places with bigger inventories of kids’ books. But Anderson’s is not a hardware store with inventory; the kids’ section is a comfortable little nook where my daughter has grown up — by playing with a Thomas the Tank Engine track that snakes its way through one corner of the store (when she was younger) and by diving through a pile of books provided by the staff, with no pressure to buy anything or leave at anytime. Some day after my daughter has moved on, my wife and I will remember Anderson’s as a place where we grew up together and discovered the world — all of us, sitting on the floor, getting to know different sides of our daughter through her books. I tell this story not just for sentimental reasons but commercial ones, as well. At a time when marketing experts preach the need to relate to “me” in a personal way, Anderson’s includes my extended me  — my family –and at all stages of our lives. We’re an interconnected team influencing each other’s purchases and providing more revenue to Anderson’s as well because Anderson’s makes all of us feel welcome.

Treasures await behind this storefront at 5112 Main Street, Downers Grove

“But wait a minute,” you might be saying. “There’s nothing special about Anderson’s. I know lots of bookstores like that.” Well, do you? Please speak up about them. Unless you patronize them and share your experiences with others, your favorite store might not be there next time you visit.

Meantime, learn more about Anderson’s on Facebook.

New Razorfish report studies consumer purchase behavior

Social media influence consumer purchase behavior far more than you might think.

That’s a key finding of new Razorfish thought leadership, FEED: The Razorfish Consumer Experience Report. The report is available in Flash and PDF download here: and on the Razorfish Digital Design Blog. FEED, launched on 20 October 20008, helps marketers design better consumer experiences by uncovering insights into consumer behavior in the digital world. The report documents the results of a 2008 survey that Razorfish conducted of more than 1,000 “connected” consumers (a coveted group who spend money online and have access to broadband). Here are a few key findings from FEED that marketers might find noteworthy

1. Social media increasingly influence purchase decisions. Four out of 10 consumers surveyed by Razorfish have made a purchase based on advertising they saw on a social media site, and 76 percent welcome advertising on social networks. Consumers’ purchasing behavior reflects the larger influence of social media on their lives. About 75 percent of consumers surveyed spend at least one hour a week on social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. More than 68 percent of connected consumers are active on two or more social media sites.

2. Consumers are adopting social media and web 2.0 technologies with startling regularity. Nearly 7 out of 10 connected consumers have customized their home pages with content feeds, scheduled updates, and other features. Sixty percent use widgets on websites. The widespread use of widgets is the most surprising finding. We believe the uptake of widgets, mobile devices and social media means that marketers need to design experiences for consumers across a world of fragmented digital media.

3. Video explodes as an advertising format. A whopping 94 percent of consumers surveyed say they watch interactive video with some level of frequency, with nearly a third watching video on a daily basis. We also find that consumers are open to advertising through interactive video, with the majority preferring companion banners to pre-roll as well as new, emerging forms of video advertising such as tickers and interstitials.

4. Personalization and loyalty sway consumers. Razorfish reports that 65 percent of connected consumers say that retail loyalty programs highly influence purchasing decisions. According to Razorfish, loyalty services like Amazon’s Prime or Best Buy’s Reward Zone are essential for retailers to succeed on the eve of the holiday shopping season. Moreover, websites that give personalized recommendations strongly influence connected consumers. Of the total surveyed, 65 percent said that they have made a repeat purchase on a site that issued an automated recommendation based on their previous purchase.

FEED also consists of a series of essays that examine the ways consumers interact with digital media. A few of my favorites are “Putting Jakob Back on the Shelf” and “What’s in a Game?” Both of these firmly assert that simply designing functional websites isn’t going to please a broadband-enabled audience that expects an interactive experience. Instead, designers instead need to ask how to employ concepts like gaming, storytelling, and interactivity to create the next generation of consumer experiences. For instance, “What’s in a Game?” challenges marketers to imagine how consumers could experience one’s product or brand in a playful, game-like fashion. The essay cites Razorfish client work with Lipton tea, where we designed “BrainTrain,” a collection of mental alertness games that engage the consumer while branding Lipton in a subtle way.

Other notable essays include “Twitterific,” “Life after the iPhone, and “Designing Experiences for the Facebook Generation.”

I welcome your feedback.