Episode 2: Fantasy Marketing, Virtual Worlds and Heart and Guts with Jack Myers
Jack Myers on Fantasy Marketing, Virtual Worlds and Heart and Guts
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Susan Bratton: Welcome to Dishy Mix. This is Susan Bratton, your host. On today's show we have Jack Myers. Jack is the founder and CEO of Myers Publishing and we are going to talk not only about what that's all about but also what's happening with Jack these days and most interestingly the new book that has coming out. I will let you know about all that in just a minute.
Jack Myers: We made some comments on Heroes and had some fans sound off about Heros in its first couple of weeks and all of the sudden we got a message from Tim Kring, the creator and show-runner of Heroes, filling us in on what was going to happen. It was an exclusive and unique and only because he was looking to get fan feedback.
Susan Bratton: On the reputation system research that you did last year. Who was at the top?
Jack Myers: Yahoo has consistently performed very well. Forbes.com performs very well. Newyorktimes.com has done very well. Google, interestingly enough, is very highly rated and has been consistently for a couple of years.
Susan Bratton: The book discusses the potential that virtual worlds have to dramatically alter the emotional code of the human race. Let's dissect that sentence.
Jack Myers: It's a pretty big concept.
Susan Bratton: I like it!
Jack Myers: We're an intellectually based society, but we have three centers of intellectual processing. We have our brain, we have our heart, and we have our gut. In virtual worlds, we're learning to process relationships and to act based on our heart and our gut. They take prominence over our brain. That's a huge transition.
Susan Bratton: Welcome Jack.
Jack Myers: Thanks Susan.
Susan Bratton: How are you today?
Jack Myers: I'm great. It's good to be here with you.
Susan Bratton: It's my pleasure. One of the things I love about doing the show is having time to just sit down and have a nice talk with people that I'm always so impressed with. Thanks for giving us that time.
Jack Myers: My pleasure.
Susan Bratton: So, I would love for our listeners, first of all, to understand better what Media Village and the Jack Myers media business is all about. Can you just give us a little level set on what that is?
Jack Myers: Sure. The basic business is we serve the media and advertising communities. We publish a number of reports that are subscription-based, built around the Jack Myers Media Business Report. We essentially look behind the scenes in the media industry. What's driving the economics? The business models, the technologies that are impacting on media and advertising across the board. We also do a lot of consumer research on perceptions, attitudes, and what I call emotional connections that audiences have for the media they consume, whatever those media may be. Whether it's broadcast cable, online, print, out-of-home, wherever their exposed to media and entertainment. What are the emotional ties and connections that people have to the media choices they make? So we do a lot of research on that.
Media Village, MediaVillage.com, is a TV fan site basically. It's pop culture. We focus heavily on the most popular television shows from Lost and American Idol to Design Star to Gilmore Girls and far more. Basically, it's a community of TV fans and we identify people who are passionate and interested in television and we invite them to participate in various research studies that we do for the industry about television. We provide feedback and direction connections between fans and the professionals responsible for producing, writing, directing, and putting the television programs on the air.
Susan Bratton: So MediaVillage.com is really your net to catch the television influencers on the Internet.
Jack Myers: I think net to catch is maybe accurate, but inappropriate. I'd call it more a home, a village, where people who love television can come and read about it, connect to it, and more importantly have a, the only place, where they have an opportunity to sound off to the TV shows and to the TV executives that they like. If they are unhappy about a show being cancelled or wondering why a certain plot line twisted in one way or another. If they are upset about star leaving a show or have questions. We are the only place where both professionals and fans come and can communicate with each other and interlink.
Most of the industry professionals come to Media Village because they like hearing the voice of the fan and they can - we'll write about a show, like we wrote early on about Heroes. We made some comments on Heroes and had some fans sound off about Heroes in its first couple of weeks and all of the sudden we got a message from Tim Kring, the creator and show-runner of Heroes, filling us in on what was going to happen. It was an exclusive and unique and only because he was looking to get fan feedback. He came to Media Village for it.
Susan Bratton: I think it is a brilliant idea to put together a site like that. What was the inspiration? When did you come up with that idea?
Jack Myers: Originally I had the idea in 1999 and began building the site. But then there was, of course, the Internet crash. I returned to the idea in 2004 and launched Media Village in 2005. I'll tell you, though, Susan it's not easy. It's not easy to compete for the fan's attention, no matter how good our content may be. There's millions and millions of dollars being spent in promotion and search engine marketing and other marketing tools by TV.com, TVguide.com, and so many other top sites. AOL, Yahoo, MSN that have their own TV sites.
Then on the other side, there is the very dedicated sites. There sites that are 100% focused on a particular show or a particular series. So it is very difficult when we don't have the big marketing bucks to communicate and let the audiences know we are out there. It's not as viral as everyone thinks. It's not as simple to launch a site and all of the sudden have millions of people coming to it overnight. That's really doesn't happen, unless you have a quirk of fate or a particularly inspired single idea that captures people's attention, but we're trying to be a fairly broad ranging site covering a lot of topics and new things every day. It's much more challenging.
Susan Bratton: So what are top three most effective things you do to draw traffic to your site? That's a perennial issue with all my listeners.
Jack Myers: Well, of course, what we want to do better is search engine optimization and search engine marketing. But we don't really have the budget for search engine marketing to buy the keywords, so we do our best to do search engine optimization to make sure that the spiders crawl the site and recognize what we are doing. The challenge again is - today we are writing about Degrassi High and yesterday we wrote about American Idol and tomorrow we will be writing about a different show, so it is very difficult to, on a SEO basis, to constantly be updating.
For example, our single most successful story that we have written was an interview with stars of High School Musical. We were the first website to do any interviews. It was before High School Musical launched. We had High School Musical established with the spiders. Then when it became a huge hit it has become, we continue to pop up prominently in the search engines. That's because it is a sustaining property. Same thing with Miley Cyrus and Hannah Montana. We were very early doing interviews there. But when we write about Degrassi High today and that story is basically in the archives tomorrow, it's much more challenging to build a constant flow.
We are dependent on loyal audiences who come back day-in and day-out and that's really the key thing that we're doing. We're working on developing community features to bring people, a loyal audience back day after day and hopefully get word-of-mouth going. We're building the National Media Advisory board, which is a non-profit organization that is membership and gives people a true opportunity to give feedback to the TV networks that the networks pay attention to and their programming decision. Building that community and giving people a real sense of belonging, a sense of mission, and opportunity is probably are key initiative right now.
Susan Bratton: How much time do you spend on a daily basis writing?
Jack Myers: Well, less and less. Writing is my passion.
Susan Bratton: Yep, you're good at it.
Jack Myers: Up until 2000, I was consulting as my primary business and writing was my avocation. I wrote a daily report for my clients as a value-added to them. In 2001, I closed the consulting practice and began focusing exclusively on writing. Now the research business is building up. We're launching a new website in a month, jackmyers.com, which is a business to business site for the industry. So I would say the answer - right now I spend about 20% to 25% of my time writing.
Susan Bratton: How many people are in your budding empire Jack? And you can include contractors and consultants.
Jack Myers: Well if you include freelance, there are eight full-time. There's another six professional writers. Then there is another couple of dozen bloggers who work on Media Village on a regular basis making contributions who get small compensation.
Susan Bratton: What's the small compensation on the blogger business? I think there are a lot of people who would like to hire very part-time bloggers to keep their content fresh and to capture that individual's perspective.
Jack Myers: It varies, depending on skills and competence, from $25 to $500 and it averages out about $150 a column.
Susan Bratton: Got it. Ok. That's good. Is there any kind of online place that you can find good writers who are willing to blog. Kind of like a market, a craigslist for writers.
Jack Myers: We've actually found some of our best writers from just people who are submitting sound-offs, comments to us. Mediabistro.com is the best, I found, for identifying writers.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, Laurel Touby. Now we both know her through the TED conference. Did you see her there?
Jack Myers: Sure. I invited her to be there as a matter of fact.
Susan Bratton: That's great.
Jack Myers: I think Laurel is terrific and she's done a great job with Media Bistro.
Susan Bratton: That's a good resource for a lot of our listeners who need copyrighting, blogging assistance on a as-needed basis. So that's a good. Shout-out to Laurel. Another touch point for you and I, Jack in the 10 or 12 years we have known each other, is in the sales team assessment category. Back a long time ago when the Internet was first getting started, you were doing team assessment. You have a better word for it.
Jack Myers: I still do it. In fact, that's a core part of the business and has been for 25 years. We do annual surveys of the advertising community, advertisers and agencies, on sales organization performance. Customer satisfaction. We do both for the television industry and for the online community. In fact, we have a survey going out next week for a couple of thousand advertising industry executives asking them to rate over 200 online sales organizations in a half-dozen different categories and competencies.
Susan Bratton: So we have a lot of media people, a lot of marketers, a lot of agency professionals. Where would they go if they would like to rate sales teams and participate in that survey?
Jack Myers: They should email me to get onto the distribution list for the survey. It's [email protected] We are, in fact - part of establishing jackmyers.com is to begin an initiative where we'll be capturing insights and information on sales organizations on a 24/7 basis. So a sales person or a marketing executive from a network or a website walks out of the office and the advertiser or agency can come right to jackmyers.com, identify the sales organization, the sales person, and provide a rating.
Susan Bratton: Wow! In the world of infinite transparency, we've just taken a giant step.
Jack Myers: It's so important. Communication and quality assurance is such a critical part of every single industry except the media and the advertising business where essentially there have not been real measures of quality control. I think as we toward a Google universe and as we move towards move exchanges and online media buying and selling, I think customer satisfaction measures are going to be a critical part of the industry.
Susan Bratton: You're creating a reputation system for the sales infrastructure.
Jack Myers: Thank you for saying that. That's perfect.
Susan Bratton: There you go. You can have that one Jack. So I want to get two things from you. These are just quick answers because I am dying to get into the book and I want to talk about you, as Jack, as well. So we have plenty of things here we still need to cover. Two quick answers. One, on the reputation system research that you did last year. Who was at the top? And who has at the bottom?
Jack Myers: Well, you know there is over 200 organizations and it varies depending on categories. There's seven different categories we measure. Yahoo has consistently performed very well. Forbes.com performs very well. Newyorktimes.com has done very well. Google, interestingly enough, is very highly rated and has been consistently for a couple of years. AOL has moved up in the rating system. You get a wide variety. Weather.com overall has been the top performer now for two years running. Weather Channel, over on the television side, is also the top rated sales organization, so the Weather organization has done very well. Liz Janamin, who is one of the top people on the TV side of Weather, has just moved over to Current, Al Gore's company, to head sales there.
Susan Bratton: I am very interested in that organization. You have told us about the darlings. Are there any dogs you can mention?
Jack Myers: That would be unfair because what we do is measure people. While we capture data on negative ratings, we ask people to rate the organizations on a 1 to 7 scale, our rankings are based on percent, rating them 6 or 7 on a 7-point scale. We're really looking for who is doing the excellent job and the information on who is really doing a poor job we keep confidential and that is shared individually with each of the organizations.
Susan Bratton: Well, you have always been a high-caliber person and that is just one more instance of it. Give me another quickie answer. On the emotional connections, the consumer research studies that you do, for my audience which is primarily the interactive media, the marketing world, the people on the Internet building websites, the next generation of websites. What could you tell us? Throw us a freebie Jack Myer's bone on the emotional connection piece to the interactive research.
Jack Myers: You know it is really extraordinary that as we are moving into social spaces, communities, virtual worlds, which is what my book is about, emotional connections become more and more important. We are moving progressively away from a mass media marketplace where advertisers would spray their messages out intrusively, hitting as many people as possible, without really being concerned about how people were receiving the message. It was just, put it in front of them and give them as many millions of exposures as possible.
What's happening today is the media, especially online media, are looking for ways to really ingratiate themselves and build loyalty among a more core group of people and we are seeing that more and more with the social networks, virtual worlds, and instant messaging. So many new technologies are built around loyalty-based marketing. You really have to capture how engaged people are with the content. Whether the connection they have to the content is able to transfer itself to the advertisers. And whether because of their loyalty and passion for the environment for the media, they are more likely to purchase the products being advertised. We need to really begin finding ways to capture that data, as opposed to just how people are exposed to a message or how many people are clicking through. It's what's the emotional response to the message and how does the environment that it's in impact the emotional response. That's what we are trying to measure.
Susan Bratton: You're really moving beyond the measurement of engagement which is kind of what we talked about last year to maybe measuring the value of gratitude marketing.
Jack Myers: I haven't used the word gratitude marketing, but it's a great word. I may take that one also.
Susan Bratton: That's your second one from me. You can have it.
Jack Myers: It's important - you are exactly right, engagement with the content is one small piece of the process. It's what happens once you are engaged with the content and how does the advertiser or marketer benefit from that. What is the trust in the advertiser based on the media? What, also at time same time, is the responsibility of the media to oversee and have a role in selecting the advertisers who can't be involved with them because of the value of that brand equity.
Susan Bratton: So let's talk about your book. It's called "Virtual Worlds: Rewiring Your Emotional Future". You've co-authored this with Jerry Weinstein, who I see is a editor on your site as well. The book discusses the potential that virtual worlds have to dramatically alter the emotional code of the human race. Let's dissect that sentence.
Jack Myers: It's a pretty big concept.
Susan Bratton: I like it!
Jack Myers: What we are really talking about are the kids who are being born today, who are being born into virtual worlds. We have generations that we born into television, generations who were born into the Internet, for whom it is just a part of their lives. For those of us who are not born into a virtual world reality, it's going to be hard for us to really understand the impact it's going to have on the generation. For these young people it's a lot like amphibians climbing out of the ocean and onto land for the first time. They can comfortable go back and forth between both worlds. They can breath air and they can swim underwater comfortably. This new generation is going to be able to go back and forth from a virtual world and a physical world. I don't call it a virtual versus a real world because for those people who spend time in virtual worlds, who have lives in virtual worlds like Second Life, or There.com, or Doppelganger, or Gaia if you're a kid, or Club Penguin, or Webkinz, it's very real.
What is most exciting to me is that these generations who are being born into virtual worlds are experiencing relationships in a very different way. We've been trained for the last hundred years to process everything intellectually. We have to think before we act. We buy something emotionally, impulsively at the checkout counter and then we regret it after we have thought about it for a while. We're an intellectually based society, but we have three centers of intellectual processing. We have our brain, we have our heart, and we have our gut. Most of our society and most of our experiences taught us to repress our heart and our gut in favor of our brain. Again, to think before we act or to process our actions based on not what we feel but what we think.
In virtual worlds, we're learning to process relationships and to act based on our heart and our gut. They take prominence over our brain. That's a huge transition. For those generations who are being born and will be growing up in virtual world environments that will be far more sophisticated than the early stages of Second Life and other virtual worlds we have today, they are going to be learning how to act and think with their heart and their gut taking prominence over the brain. I think that is going to be fascinating. I think it could lead to less repression of emotions. Less depression as a result. That we will be learning how to act in the physical world based on our experiences in the virtual world. That is what the book is about.
Susan Bratton: Oh my god, Jack. That is incredible. My mind is literally reeling from the concept of the impact that coming from your gut and your heart as even equal, or even a small percentage of, or your approach to your life, what kind of impact that can make. Then thinking about what marketers are going to have to do to change the way - the rational features and benefits, value-oriented marketing that we have today - how much that's going to change for these future generations. Not future generations! This is today's generation! Right?
Jack Myers: That's why the testing and experimentation of marketers in Second Life and other virtual worlds is go important, but they can't just take their current campaign thinking and their current strategic plans and implement them into Second Life. It's counterintuitive. What's even more interesting about the book is two things. One, because virtual worlds are a moving target and because they are constantly changing and growing and we are learning every day, the book itself is just a starting point. I've invited readers to subscribe at no cost once they've bought the book for $15.95. It's available at amazon.com borders.com barnesandnoble.com, and so on. I will put in a gratuitous plug.
Susan Bratton: Please do because we all want to buy it now. I will put a gratuitous plug on my blog with links to Amazon for you.
Jack Myers: Thank you. Once people buy a book they can go to the website and register at no cost and receive monthly updates on virtual worlds. We are inviting readers to submit their virtual world experiences. What I'm having the most fun with is the very last chapter. It's a short book. It's 115 pages long. The last chapter is the first chapter of a novel called CyberParadiseSociety.com. It takes place in a virtual world 25 years in the future and it's a mystery. We are inviting readers to submit chapter two. We are going to select the best chapter two. We'll publish it and we will invite readers to submit chapter three and so on. Every winner will be a profit participant if and when the book is published in total. Maybe their will be film rights or video rights or whatever. So we are having some fun with it.
Susan Bratton: That is amazingly clever. The idea of a collaborative book development using the wisdom of crowds. I love that. I know there are a couple of people doing that. I know Joe Jaffe is doing something like that. Guy Kawasaki is working on an idea for - I think his followers are helping name his next book. It's either name or the cover or a combination. I love this idea of a group build. It strikes me that I am hearing a lot in the marketplace now about collaborative fantasy. I see a groundswell among many people who I talk to about this. Last week I was at Myspace. I was MC for an industry event they did and they unveiled the first market research consumer insights about how consumers are using Myspace and other social networking worlds. One of the things I heard was - you know Rex Briggs from Marketing Evolution?
Jack Myers: Sure. Sure.
Susan Bratton: I'm sure you knew Rex. He came about with the best practices for marketers who want to engage in the social networking space. One of the tenets of his advice was to allow your customer to develop their own fantasy about your brand. To have fantasy play with your brand. It's a lot like what you are doing too. I tend to see these connections all over the place. I will post a link to that research on the blog when we are done with our show today, as well. I will make sure that you get a copy of that. I keep hearing about fantasy and it definitely goes back to what you were saying about the heart and the gut and the willingness to be irrational in a really positive and playful way.
Jack Myers: That's a great point Susan. The idea that you have a fantasy life in a virtual world in fact may reflect more about your true self and who you truly perceive yourself as than the way you portray yourself in a physical world where we are constantly being judged and evaluated. The nice thing is you can try on new identities, become different models of virtual selves. You can also assume there are possible negative implications of this as well. I have chosen to emphasis what I think are some of the positive implications for society for the generations being born today.
Susan Bratton: My mind is going in a million different directions. One thing I wanted to talk about was - have you seen the Britney Mason show. It's a video podcast. Britney Mason is an avatar from Second Life. She does a show, a bi-weekly podcast. Have you watched that?
Jack Myers: I have not.
Susan Bratton: Very interesting. Definitely check that out. Britney Mason.
Jack Myers: See that's exactly the type of story - we would love to have her as her avatar write a chapter or a future chapter for "Rewiring Your Emotional Future" and sharing her experiences.
Susan Bratton: Happy to make that connection for you. What was the moment when you realized the body, heart connection in the virtual space and the level of impact you believe and I agree with you that this will have on the mentality of the next generation?
Jack Myers: Well, that's a great question. I am not sure I can identify a moment when it suddenly gelled, but in the mid 1990s I was really looking at the industry and somewhat frustrated by the years of believing that marketers and media companies needed to really put themselves together in a way other than the industrial age mass media age model. There were opportunities for marketers to take advantage of the more highly targeted TV networks and the programs that were making really strong connections with audiences, but yet all the traditional models remained. I felt for that model of stronger relationships to work there had to be some kind of currency and I began thinking about the currency. I began thinking about how do you measure what people are responding to emotionally? Then I started thinking about the heart and the gut How do you get a hold of that? There are well tracked studies done - the amphibian brain and the reptilian brain and the mammalian brain. The heart, the gut. When you put the heart and the gut together, you get the soul.
It has just been really part of my thinking and part of my life for as far back as I can remember Just thinking there had to be more in our business than just throwing a bunch of meaningless messages out there. Tracking ratings to see how many connections you make. I'm not sure there was a specific moment. I took last summer and spent it on the beach, as much time as I could, with the goal of writing a book. It was just a very traditional business book that I was writing. I found myself constantly coming back to emotions and that's when I really sat down and said I want to find a way to connect what's going on in the media today back to emotions.
Virtual worlds seemed to be the coalescence of so much of what is happening in the Internet. I think that with virtual worlds we will have highly targeted search and behaviorally targeting. All things that are happening in a professional way with the Internet. I think we are going to have a home in virtual worlds. That's where people will increasingly center themselves and build their own personal lives in the Internet through virtual worlds.
Susan Bratton: You've spend so many years in the rational world with your research and your quantification and your market forecasts.
Jack Myers: I would say I have spend all these years in a irrational world, but OK.
Susan Bratton: What I am saying is that in your mid-life your heart and soul are erupting out of you and that's the stuff you want to engage in. It was funny. Have you heard about Twitter?
Jack Myers: Yes. Very much so.
Susan Bratton: Have you been twittering yet?
Jack Myers: I have not twittered yet because as much as I can think about these things, write about these things, even understand these things, put me down to actually do these things, I become the older, middle-aged guy that I am.
Susan Bratton: Well you are a very handsome - you are a hottie for a middle-aged guy! I will tell you Jack, I am middle-aged too. I think middle age ...
Jack Myers: You're a hottie middle-aged lady!
Susan Bratton: Rock on! I think we got to come up with a better word than middle-aged because it is just not working for our generation.
Jack Myers: Well, back to - young at heart.
Susan Bratton: Yes.
Jack Myers: Back to the heart.
Susan Bratton: Yes.
Jack Myers: That's what it is all about.
Susan Bratton: Exactly. Beautifully said. I was twittering I think last night or yesterday sometime. Of course I was doing my research on you and I read an article about Kaneva. This is a new virtual world that I hadn't heard about and I was twittering to my friends that I was still in Second Life trying to figure out how to turn my avatar into the viking goddess that I really am. I want the horns. I want the double-d boobs. I want to be 8 feet tall. This is what I trying to create in Second Life. I am trying to figure out how I get viking horns in Second Life. So if anybody listening can help me with that this is what I am looking for. So I am twittering saying I still can't even figure out how to create my avatar in Second Life. And now according to Jack there is this whole new world that I need to go discover called Kaneva which sounds really interesting because its media sharing which is what I love to do.
Jack Myers: Yeah, it's a little friendly in terms of the usage. Then of course there is virtual Laguna Beach and virtual Logo and there is virtual everything these days.
Susan Bratton: I love it. I really wish you a lot of success with your book. I am buying it and I can't wait to read it. I'm also glad it's only 155 pages! I have to listen to a lot podcasts every week so Amen for short, punchy books with a lot of great ideas. You and I are both attendees of the TED conference and you have been involved with Bill Clinton before. In 1995, you were asked by President Clinton to lead a delegation of ad executives to the White House conference on children's educational television. You have always been involved in those kinds of things. What did you think of Bill Clinton's request for assistance at the most recent TED conference?
Jack Myers: Well, he is an inspired, inspirational, motivational speaker. He has the tremendous ability to appeal to us intellectually and through our hearts. I thought the fact that he was requesting help to build a economic social structure in Rwanda. And his admission that he was guilty as anyone for allowing the human destruction of Rwanda to continue. His effort to build that country, I thought were extraordinary. One of the frustrations I have with TED as an event in general is that there are so many inspirational people. There are so many causes worth courting and of course years ago it was Al Gore doing the Inconvenient Truth presentation coalescing the whole TED group behind him. But, there is so many causes. We are so focused on our day-to-day existence. My aspiration in life is to get to a point in life where I can devote and dedicate myself to supporting causes, meaningful causes that I believe in and that others who have an emotional connection believe in, but the reality is I am not at that point yet. So TED is both inspirational and a bit of a frustration for me.
Susan Bratton: It's a good frustration I think and I think at that we are going to end our podcast today. It's definitely inspirational and you are on a roll Jack. I really feel like you have hit your stride. You are doing so many great things that help the industry move forward. I love the concept of your new book. I can't wait to read it and I am going to go checkout Kaneva. Maybe you will join Twitter and twitter with me for a week or so. Just to play with me.
Jack Myers: That's my next big initiative. Susan I wish you all the best of luck with your podcast and your future. You're a great inspiration and a great leader for the industry as well. I appreciate you taking the time to do this.
Susan Bratton: It is my pleasure. Squeezing out a huge right now to you Jack.
Jack Myers: Same to you. Back at you.
Susan Bratton: Have a great day. This is your host Susan Bratton and you have been enjoying the wonderful Jack Myers from mediavillage.com. Have a great day and I will see you next week.
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