Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Cable cutters lead the charge toward web TV

Web television should be huge, right?  It isn’t, at least not yet. But a growing number of folks disenchanted with commercial TV are cutting the (cable) cord - opting to search the web for better (and often free) programming. I myself recently cancelled my cable service (as an experiment) and frankly I am astonished by the wealth of online video I'd happily view on my TV screen. 

There’s Hulu and iTunes for standard TV fare, but lesser known sources for news, interviews, documentaries, concerts and lectures abound. Among my favorites are TEDLink TV, Factual TV, Flora TV and PBS. Another great find is Academic Earth, which aggregates university lectures (including courses taught at Ivy League institutions). I’m now enjoying Yale’s semester course on the History of Roman Architecture and it's absolutely free. I'm also following overseas news outlets like RT Russian TV, Mosaic World News and Al Jezeera

Finding quality programs online is much easier thanks to, a search engine that combs the web for free and fee-based video. recently launched an integration app with Facebook that even suggests programs based on your profile and friend “likes.” 

Web-based TV is still pretty raw, of course. There are big industry hurdles to clear before platforms like Google TV can deliver programs of prime-time caliber; networks and cable operators still have a lock on big-time shows, after all. 

But who's to say that indie talent won't popularize entirely new forms of TV devised just for the web? 

Right now there's growing interest in transmedia - richly integrated entertainment delivered across multiple channels. Early executions have aired on NBC, Disney, Nat Geo Channel and MTV. Tablet computers fit neatly into this trend by making it easy to converge web streams onto one screen. 

For sure the way we watch television will dramatically change. A must-read on this subject is Jessi Hempel's story "What the hell is going on with TV?" in Fortune magazine. 

Monday, January 3, 2011

For Weight Watchers Dieting has Always Been Social

Anyone interested in narrative marketing should look at the commercial weight loss industry, a fascinating business and can-do culture that promotes talking, sharing and success story testimonials. Weight Watchers International for example has a huge asset in its network of staff and members who delight in advocating the brand - holding themselves up as proof that the program works.

It’s no surprise that Weight Watchers embraces storytelling. The company began in the early 1960’s when founder Jean Nidetch, an overweight New York housewife, hosted weekly pep talks for her dieting friends. She discovered that talking about one's weight struggles and successes was highly motivating, and today millions around the world attend weekly community-based Weight Watchers meetings where sharing is integral to the program.

Of course the web has given rise to all kinds of online diets, and many incorporate peer support via social networks. Indeed Weight Watchers does, with its own private network for members supplemented by branded channels on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.  According to Mashable other dieting giants like Jenny Craig and Nutrisystem, and diet-friendly food brands, effectively use social networks, too.

Each brand is anchored in its own brand story - Weight Watchers USP is its proprietary POINTS System. But the commercial story is secondary to the millions of very real, truly engaging, utterly inspiring member stories that continually encourage fellow members to succeed while (quite organically) helping promote the superbly managed brand. 
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