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April 03, 2007

The Pursuit of Happiness

Maybe it was the strong green tea served at breakfast. Maybe it was inspiring view of downtown Seoul. Whatever it was, there was a lot of energy in the room at the Seoul deep dive on media and content. And the powerful mix of old and new media heavyweights gave the GIO team all that we could handle.

The Seoul deep dive brought together high-level executives, mostly CEOs, of companies from all up and down the Asia-Pacific rim. The attendees included: a representative from one of Australia’s largest online news publishers, Fairfax Digital; media consultants from Tokyo and Auckland; the young CEO of Korea’s top online gaming company, Neowiz; the former Korean minister of information and communication; and the CEOs of two of Korea’s top new media companies, Tatter and Company (blogging software) and Ohmynews, the citizen journalism site that has taken Korea by storm.

We began the meeting by asking participants about the impact of Korea’s considerable lead in wireless infrastructure and broadband penetration has been on its content. Does ubiquitous access change the types of content, both media and otherwise, that gets consumed? Most of the folks in the room were in agreement that though Korea had solved the infrastructure problems that still bedevil many other nations, it had yet to figure out the business models that would complement these formidable distribution channels. 

Ironically, it was the one man in the room that seemed to have solved that problem that had the most questions. Mr. Yeon-ho Oh, President and CEO of Ohmynews, kicked the conversation off with a decidedly philosophical tone. Ohmynews is part business success story part social phenomenon. The company uses an army of 50,000 citizen journalists to deliver breaking news and analysis on happenings around the world. It’s motto: Every Citizen is a Reporter.

Mr. Oh wondered whether all the information that is being provided throughout Korea, and the high-level of participation that the Internet affords (especially in the case of Ohmynews), is actually making people happier. “And secondly,” he continued, “What is the commercial value of all this participation? And how can a business like this become sustainable, and grow profits.”

The room was a little shocked by Mr. Oh’s line of questioning. I think most of the people in the room were hoping that he could tell them the very same things. But at the same time there seemed to be a sense of relief that no one, not even the wildly successful Ohmynews franchise, has all the answers.

Another interesting concept that emerged was the idea that content should be able to understand its context. In other words, right now different types of content come at consumers all the time, anywhere, any time. Wouldn’t it be interesting to be able to let content providers know what kind of content you’re in the mood for. Like an instant messenger status indicator for content. For example, there are times when I want fast and easy information. And then there are times when I want to read an in-depth article, watch a long movie, or not be bothered at all with information.

This ties into a thought that first came up in the New York student deep dive, whereby individuals could control their own marketing profiles and manage them throughout their lives, ensuring that they were only marketed to appropriately. One deep diver thought that perhaps public libraries could act as a trusted third party network that keeps our marketing profiles on record.

And there was one theme that reemerged in Korea that we’ve heard everywhere we’ve gone: authenticity. It came up in New York, Mumbai, and now in Korea. I suspect it will follow us everywhere we go. There is an understanding among all of the top thinkers in the media space that the world is craving authentic experiences. Consumers don’t want to be marketed to anymore. They want the truth, be it from an advertisement or a piece of content.

It got us thinking whether there might be a need for some kind of credibility rating that could be attached to any kind of content. It could be something simple, an eBay seller’s rating for news articles, advertisements, blog content…everything. It would tell viewers how many people had viewed the content, and what level of confidence they had in its authenticity.

Overall, it was a fascinating day. Our Korean hosts were kind and considerate. The conversation was lively and provocative. And the GIO team hit the road again for Shanghai early Wednesday morning. Stay tuned for the Chinese perspective on all of this!

April 3, 2007 in Media and Content | Permalink

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