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Necessity is the mother of online invention

Marketing, I have found, can mean many things to many people. For the product marketer, it implies an exhaustive effort to detail product attributes, place of distribution, pricing models and ultimately positioning. For others, marketing is simply advertising, PR or anything “fluffy” that we intuitively know moves products, but frequently have a hard time quantifying. After a few long conversations on Porter’s classic 4Ps, I’ve realized that online marketers are best poised to return the “market” aspect to “marketing.” Marketing is as much about economics as it is about good creative, with the underpinnings being supply and demand.


This is particularly evident to those in search engine marketing who spend most of their time capturing real time demand and displaying real time supply of product, organic listings an ad inventory. Furthermore, a byproduct of the medium is the immense trail of data that, when properly filtered, can identify new markets not currently being served. In an ideal world, this data would be relayed back as input for product innovation.


iTunes and the iPod are two of the more genius innovations that recognized the untapped demand for access to, and portability of, music content. The pricing model was just attractive enough to convince consumers who previously downloaded pirate versions for free to pay for music once again. By 2005, the model evolved to offer advertising-free video content. In that same year, YouTube launched, also meeting an insatiable demand for easy video sharing. And so for the past 18 months, these new distribution channels have increased supply for new markets though both Web and internal search.


That is, until the content producers found themselves in a vulnerable position, most notably when NBC realized that its content was widely distributed on YouTube and that iTunes would not budge on the $1.99 pricing per episode. And so the network began to pull its content off the shelves, despite comscore’s estimate that 136 million Americans viewed online video in September of this year.


To NBC’s credit, its online video service Hulu service is in private beta mode, and NBC Direct, a downloading service from NBC.com, has recently launched. Despite having access to both, the content supply still hasn’t quite caught up to my demand for one of the more popular Bravo shows, previously available via iTunes.


What is a girl to do? She turns to YouTube, the largest index of online video and searches where viewers have neatly packaged this season’s episodes in a series of 11 minute clips using a unique naming protocol along the lines of “S02E05 – Part IV.” (Season two, episode 5, video clip five). This, my friends, is just how badly people want online content – content they were willing to pay for, but can no longer access online. Only time will tell if the supply of content provided by NBC Direct and Hulu will suffice. And if it is wise, it will heed the many trails of data that demonstrate the market’s demands.


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