Web 3.0 Framework discussion
Below is a quick overview of the Web 3.0 framework for the Viacom sites. We have not gone into the details of all the properties, but you can review the Web 3.0 section of this site for detailed discussions on some of the vertical categories, especially Online Music, a Viacom mainstay.
Viacom’s greatest achievement is in the Context of Youth and Music, across its various MTV networks sites. If you like country music and want to find out about the latest releases, artistes or videos, then CMT.com is the place for you.
NeoPets.com is a site they acquired, and offers virtual pets and related activities for small kids without the trouble of kennels and hair on the sofa.
The overall Context that Viacom maintains is Youth Entertainment, and the rest of the functionality in its sites is derived from that basic theme.
Viacom sites have done a very good job on the content front and almost all its sites have very high quality content, which is relevant to its target audience. NickJr.com for example has games and activities for preschoolers & children. MTV, VH1 and CMT are the best place to find information on music, artistes and new releases. BET has African American focused content, including videos and music. The Gaming sites on the other hand have a variety of games both free and downloadable ones.
Viacom has community features in its sites but it has lagged News Corp. and the others in leveraging the community features to their fullest extent but it is quickly catching up. Sites like ThinkMTV, Quizzilla, NeoPets, Nicktropolis, BET, MTV, have started encouraging users to participate. The overwhelming feeling in the Viacom properties is a lack of understanding of User Generated Content, something that would greatly enhance community engagement, especially in the teens and young adults space.
Nicktropolis and NeoPets have good community engagement for the pre-teen demographic. Xfire allows users to IM while you are playing a game, a good way to stimulate interaction and time spent on the site.
The Company has incorporated e-commerce in most of its sites. CMT, MTV, VH1 and the other sites of Viacom retail music, videos, games, etc. MTV, for example, retails, clothes, accessories, books, etc. Shockwave.com and the other gaming sites earn revenues from game downloads.
Quizilla allows users to create Quizzes, Stories, Poems, start a personal Journal/Diary, play and customize cool games, check daily horoscope, match star signs against friends, read and add new words and definitions to Zillapedia, and more. Nicktropolis allows kids to customize their homepage, make message boards and connect with friends.
Vertical Search on the Viacom sites is nothing to write home about. Most sites have simple search facilities and this is one area that Viacom could improve.
Viacom earns revenues from advertisements on its sites, subscriptions for its mobile services, by selling music and game downloads and by selling other merchandise. The Company would be able to generate much higher CPM rates for advertisements on its sites if they put in better targeting. Today, if I want to advertise a product to the MTV audience, but only to the girls between the age of 15-18, I cannot do that. I need to. Viacom has also entered into an advertising deal with Yahoo! that will hopefully enable it to better monetize its online properties, and add serious targeting capabilities, although I am not entirely sure at this point about Yahoo’s ability to execute on anything.
The music industry is also embroiled in a complex business model issue with Apple’s iTunes charging too little for music sold on its site, while making money off iPods and iPhones, their high margin music players. This puts MTV at a disadvantage, and MTV is looking to diversify its channels by working with RealNetworks on a Joint Venture called Rhapsody America. Efforts like this and others are necessary to break the iTunes dependency, and the cell-phone vendors like Verizon Wireless are willing partners.