Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Loopt--Looking for Customers in New Media

In April I wrote about the social network for mobile, Loopt. I commented that there was clearly interest among people much younger than I; I’ve had several students develop marketing plans for a company that would connect mobile users. It seemed like an idea whose time had come.

On Monday MediaPost had an article on Loopt’s new customer acquisition program. Not surprisingly, it’s a new media program. Basically they are sponsoring the popular Black20’s Middle Show hosted by David Price. There are probably several things in that sentence that need translation anyone over 35, and perhaps some under. Black20 is a start-up that makes and broadcasts daily videos. The New York Times has a great story—the founders, where the name came from, how they do what they do. The Middle Show is their popular version of late-night comedy. It is hosted by David Price, recently named by New Media Minute as the “Sexiest Web Host.” I found the announcement on a site called The Feed that bills itself as “The Only News You Need to Know.” Pardon me if I take that with a grain of salt, but I hope you’re up to speed now.

I found the first sponsored episode of The Middle Show on YouTube. The video was posted on July 3 (this is July 9) and has 3,400 views, 26 ratings (4.5 stars out of 5), and 15 comments. Mull that. Some of the commenters are annoyed about the commercial aspect, but they really do appear to like this program. With that in mind, it’s worth devoting 4.35 minutes to viewing the video. I’m not sure this is ‘best in show’ new media advertising, but it does integrate the product into the story line—such as it is. Having watched it, are you inclined to “friend” David on Loopt?

The videos are going to appear on other social sites like Facebook and MySpace. Those make sense. New York’s TaxiTV seems to make less sense in terms of the target audience, but it’s clearly new media.

I know there’s a profound marketing implication here; I’m just having a little trouble finding it in the context of new media programming. Seriously, that is the implication. Loopt clearly has gone where its audience is. They’ve recruited a popular figure in that space to deliver their message. Have they got the message right? That remains to be seen. I agree with some of the commenters that it’s rather heavy-handed promotion. Will the product promotion fade more gracefully into the content of the show as time goes on? Time will tell!

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