Social Media CEOs share their visions

In the near future… “Brands will stop trying to blast one message to all and (learn to) speak to people who are connected by a passion,” or so says Herb Scannell, CEO of Next New Networks and former Vice Chairman of MTV Networks and President of Nickelodeon Networks.

Next New Media is not live yet, but its plan is to create an online video network of niche content. According to Scannell, media is moving from mass to “micro” nets, or special interest subgroups with which brands will need to relate.

That statement got me sitting straight up in my seat. We are struggling to get big brands to see us as MORE than just a regional media channel. We’re hoping he’s right..

Next I heard Richard Rosenblatt say, “We are buying niche sites that represent vertical markets (like hiking) and adding social media…we don’t think it’s wise to try to build a community from scratch.” Richard is Chairman and CEO of Demand Media, and former CEO of Intermix and Chairman of Myspace before they sold it to FOX, so he apparently would know what he’s talking about.

It’s only 9am on conference day, and already these guys are validating our business strategy! We’ve already got an audience / community. Now we’re adding social features!

The two quotes listed above came from our first session (at EconSM), which featured top dogs from 5 different social media companies: Six Apart, Bebo, NetVibes, Demand Media and Next.

Here are some other pearls of wisdom from the CEOs

“Hits are fewer and farther between”

“Go where the audience is”

“Media is moving…from mass media (broadcast) to channels (cable TV) to Web 2.0 (micro niches)”

“Building your site with content purely via API from other sites could be dangerous – be sure to work out revenue shares on the front end”

“Advertising is over. Brands need to provide a service (add value) to niche media communities that compels members of the community to “opt in”. (Sounds like “sponsorship” to me…one note from my margin: “sponsorship” is a VERB…it needs to be ACTIVE).

“New media is not about “telling”…it is about “creating” a platform for your AUDIENCE to tell.”

Here are the questions rolling in my head:

How big does a “niche” need to be for brands to pay attention?

How can brands possibly participate in enough niche networks, and add value in personalized ways, to get the scale they need??

If someone could invent a way to help brands somehow automatically personalize messages (by community) they’d be RICH

Here are my thoughts for MYCOLTS and the NFL

Perhaps the brands that currently sponsor the NFL would want to build test programs with us to learn how to navigate the social media waters?? Or perhaps not. Maybe the larger the brand the less likely they’d be to jump into these waters, given the inherent risks to reputation. Therefore, maybe smaller brands (with more to gain and less to lose) will be the best prospects for innovative new programs.

Eventually the 32 NFL team sites + NFL will need to form a national network to make it easier for advertisers to buy across the league. If we can establish a league wide social net that demonstrates the value of our community, I’ll bet we could raise the CPM value of banners ads on our dot com sites.