CBS is Willie Sutton

The famous thief allegedly said he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” The announcement by CBS that it will syndicate its content on various sites instead of trying to drive traffic to its own portal is a welcome admission that a variant of Sutton’s Law applies to media, too: go where the people are. As the Wall Street Journal reported:

CBS, after a year of experimenting with various Web initiatives, says that forcing consumers to come to one site — its own — to view video hasn’t worked. Instead, the company plans to pursue a drastically revised strategy that involves syndicating its entertainment, news and sports video to as much of the Web as possible. It represents a stark departure for the TV industry. Most of CBS’s major competitors, including Walt Disney Co.’s ABC, General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal and News Corp.’s Fox, are to some degree all betting that they can build their own Internet video portals.

Starting this week, an expanded menu of CBS’s video content will be available for free to consumers on as many as 10 different Web sites ranging from Time Warner Inc.’s AOL to Joost Inc., a buzzy online video service that is just rolling out. The company calls its new venture the CBS Interactive Audience Network.

This reminds me of a strategy I employed when I was communications director for a member of Congress. The traditional model until that point was to mail postcards to a community accouncing a town hall meeting. Usually a handful of people would show up, and they were typically “the usual suspects.” We heard of some colleagues turning to radio advertising for their meetings, but took it a step further, holding the meeting at the radio station, and having the meeting over the air.

OK, so that’s kind of an early-1990s example, but Al Gore hadn’t invented the internet yet. Today we have on-line chats and the YouTube campaign.

But the point remains. If you want your content to be seen, go where the people are. When YouTube has a critical mass of 100 million streams a day, see that some of them are yours. Don’t require people to come to your site before they can see your content. Make it searchable. Give others incentives to promote it. Some traffic will come back to your site.

Jeff Jarvis has a good comment on this, too, and an even better observation back in March about the CBS-Viacom split, and who got what.

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Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

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