Monday, March 19, 2012

2 Fundamental "Must Haves" for Any Online Media Service

An intriguing post hit earlier today via TechCrunch about the critical importance of user experience (UX) for any service. That got me thinking about fundamental tenets ("must haves") for any online media service -- whether it be Internet TV or online music.

And, those bedrock principles can be distilled down to 2:

(1) Depth of content, and
(2) Navigation of that deep pool of content.

Without either of these two fundamental tenets, your online media service is DOA (here's an interesting post from TechCrunch that expands on this point in the online music context).

FUNDAMENTAL TENET #1 -- Depth of Content

I lived this first-hand when I was responsible for music licensing in my days as President & COO of Musicmatch. These were the early days of online music, and we led the way. Our fundamental mission for our new revolutionary online music service? License as much content both from the major and indie labels. Hundreds of thousands of songs weren't enough -- we needed millions? Why? Because your customers will accept nothing less. Yes, you may be able to attract them to your service, but they most definitely will leave if they find "holes" -- i.e., if you don't carry the music they want. "Holes" translate to customer frustration -- and, frustration ain't a good thing. That's why today, Spotify and others tout 15 million tracks. They are trying to differentiate themselves by essentially saying they alone have all the music you could ever want.

The same thing goes for Internet TV of course. That's why all the major players in the Internet TV game -- Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Vudu (and soon-to-be-joined by Apple and Google) -- are racing to close as many TV/movie licensing deals they can. They know that -- right now -- no one comes close to getting it right. Take Netflix for example. I am a long-time customer. But, I rarely use it because I almost never find the content I want. I become frustrated. And, a frustrated Csathy ain't pretty ....

FUNDAMENTAL TENET #2 -- Navigation

Here's the flip-side of Tenet #1 -- a deep pool of content is great and absolutely essential, yes. But, it becomes meaningless and useless to consumers if they can't easily find what they want. Then it becomes noise. That's why easy/intuitive navigation is absolutely essential to any successful online media service.

And, effective navigation means two things: (1) finding precisely what you want, when you want it; again, that means no content holes -- otherwise, bam, you're outta there; and (2) the service must give you the power to discover content that is meaningful and personalized for you amongst the deep content.

Take online music, for example. It's great that Spotify and others offer you 15 million tracks. But, how do you make sense of it all? That's the critical role of effective discovery tools -- again, we saw this first-hand at Musicmatch with our own music discovery (U/X) efforts.

Again, the same holds true for Internet TV. Only those services that give consumers the ability to easily "make sense of" the available content will win.

Bottom line -- without either of these two fundamental tenets satisfied, your online media service will be DOA with consumers. Yes, you will need other elements to succeed as well. But, these are the fundamental building blocks on which your service must built. And, it's amazing to me that so many -- even the behemoths -- get this wrong.

(ASTERISK to the previous point -- of course, the content providers must cooperate and be willing to license their content on realistic terms ....)