The Panel on "Following the money" provided one of the best reviews of our revenue landscape (public broadcasting online) I have seen at any time. It featured three straight shooters: Colby Atwood from Borrell Associates, Barry Parr from Jupiter Research, and Rafat Ali, the principal of PaidContent.org.
Atwood is bullish on the local ad market. Displaying the research gathered by Borrell Associates, Colby likes the picture he sees: money moving into new forms of direct marketing, much of which will occur online. His chart of projected revenues over the next five years was the first one I have seen which shows some forms of online ad money declining, as dollars move from, say, display ads, to interactive applications that build data bases.
Parr had not quarrel with the broad movement of dollars from traditional media to online--but he feels that public broadcasters are poorly positioned to take good advantage of this trend. Our traffic is too low and our organizational culture is wrong. He took much of his mic time to urge that we build on the membership model. Speaking directly to public radio types, Parr strongly recommended that stations and networks use online service--especially streaming--as a membership benefit.
Rafat Ali weighed in mostly in support of Parr. He sees little upside in pursuing the "ings" like "advertising" and much more potential in "...ships," including memberships and sponsorships. He also suggested the pubcasters were making a mistake by looking down our collective nose at commercial social networking sites. The benefit of social networking, he explained, is in the eye of the user, not in the intention of the network site manager.
Ali also suggested a proposition that all of us should take to heart: people like Gather.com (and others) are going to build on the social networks that are embedded in the audiences for public broadcasting. In his view, there's nothing wrong with that. It's going to happen. The question is: who's going to own those properties and benefit from enabling those relationships. If we (pubcasters) don't do it, someone else will.
Talk to you soon,