How Traditional Entertainment Can Use Social Media

Remember when social media was going to reinvent the entertainment business? Back in 2007 and 2008, Viacom’s MTV Networks tried to tie its shows together into the since-abandoned Flux social network. About the same time, NBC Universal’s Bravo network bought snarky fan site Television Without Pity, but it has done nothing with it since. But that was then.

Just last week, two big old-media companies made acquisitions that seem to signal new life: Warner Home Entertainment, home of the movie studio’s DVD efforts, acquired Flixster/Rotten Tomatoes, and News Corp.’s IGN bought Hearst’s UGO. Warner’s move hints at Netflix envy: The company said it wanted to use Flixster’s Facebook-driven user reviews and Rotten Tomatoes’ aggregation of professional ones to “grow digital content ownership.” Meanwhile, by doubling down on video game info sites, News Corp. is constructing a traditional aficionado-magazine model — but one with lots of social media elements (user blogs, friend-following, points for participation). A number of observers believe News Corp. will spin off the combination.

These opportunities — and others like them — seem to be spurred on by the excitement over tablets and apps, startup activity in the space and Facebook’s potential role in distribution and audience acquisition. Here are some ways in which other big players in TV and entertainment can capitalize on social media:

* Discovery and user curation: GetGlue is the early leader in cross-media entertainment check-ins, smartly using Facebook and Twitter (a check-in auto-generates a topic hashtag) to amplify the promotion.

* Extension: Forums and discussion boards give a fan a dose of his favorite TV show more than once a week, and book clubs are migrating online.

* Shared experience: VH1 showed a slick app last week that, in addition to adding user commentary to live viewing, acts like a “DVR for tweets.”

* Gamification: Entertainment check-ins deliver the ubiquitous participation stickers and leaderboards; they should offer virtual currency for loyalty.

* Commerce: Apple’s Ping social network doesn’t seem to be boosting iTunes sales yet, and Facebook’s only just begun to dabble in video rentals. (Google threw its hat in the movie-rental ring with an announcement at its Google I/O conference.)

* Analytics and fan feedback: FOX Broadcasting and others use Think Passenger’s private communities for audience analysis. Who will figure out if simultaneous Twitter traffic means anything?

By David Card, GigaOM
© 2011 GigaOM All Rights Reserved

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