Bebo's Big Plan
Bebo – which is like the MySpace or Facebook of the UK – announced its Open Media platform yesterday, which will allow all sorts of entertainment companies to distribute their content virally to Bebo’s 40 million members. Bebo is the largest social network in Britain and the third-largest in the U.K.
“You really could spend hours on it being nosy, couldn’t you?” said one young British Bebo user.
Professional producers – such as Sony and Endemol – already have created original Web series that run on Bebo. Producers need to own their own distribution rights before placing a video on Bebo, but as long as that is covered, they are free to distribute their videos widely. Partners so far include the BBC, BSkyB, CBS, Endemol, ESPN, JibJab, MTV Networks, Next New Networks, Turner Broadcasting Systems and Yahoo!
One part of the announcement that the abovementioned media companies should specifically find appealing: they get to own 100% of all their ad revenues, assuming they provide their own advertisements with any piece of content they are distributing. If people want Bebo to kick in and help them out with ad sales and platform management, then Bebo takes a cut. More on that later.
In the name of research, I signed up for Bebo myself, adding user name and password number 3069 to my already teeming list. I have also signed up for Facebook and MySpace and Friendster under the same guise and I can report that at 39, I am firmly out of the social-networking demographic. My younger friends have a good time with it, but I find all each of these sites just one more way to waste my time. If I want to talk to you, do I really need to post a comment on your MySpace page? Couldn’t I just text, email, IM or even – gasp – call you?
Having spent a little time cruising around Bebo’s site, however, here are my own observations:
The idea of selecting video and then sharing it and distributing it across a network of friends is cool, although I would probably find it cooler if I had any videos I wanted to share. I’m a firm believer that my life should not be captured on video. MySpace sort of lets you do this but so far I’ve found that very clunky. That could just be due to my own incompetence and impatience, but I don’t find it easy to include more than one video on my MySpace page or to share them with people.
I can also see why Bebo’s model is attractive to content providers and advertisers. By letting (mostly young) people share videos with trusted contacts, Bebo does the viral marketing for you. DaniWeb makes the following point and I agree: “The media companies are not being charged for getting access to the Bebo platform, and are even allowed to distribute their content using their own video players which can carry advertising and importantly retain 100% of the related advertising revenue associated with that. Bebo itself also wins here, getting a massive injection of ‘premium brand’ content for free while at the same time adding value to its own advertising and brand associations. “
What hangs me up with this is that, much like CBS’ announcement with Facebook, massive media companies are trying to use grassroots social networks to do their marketing. The idea makes sense on its face – why wouldn’t you want to get your content in front of MySpace’s 50 million users or Bebo’s 40 million members – but it might fall flat if social networkers feel used or played. That demographic wants to feel like it discovered the content it loves. Once that happens, they are all too happy to share it with their friends.
So, Big Media, go ahead and use social networks to advance your business goals, but just be really careful, smart and savvy how you do it. You want people to seek out your content, not try to figure out ways to avoid it.