‘Social media’ to drive Bebo monetisation strategy

19 May 2008

Social networking player Bebo, which was bought in March by Time Warner for US$850m, is forging alliances with major media firms including the BBC, MTV and CBS to drive its monetisation strategy.

Speaking at the Irish Internet Association’s (IIA) annual congress last week, Bebo’s head of sales, Mark Charkin, said the drive towards monetising content that flows through the site is a reflection of the traditional media players’ need to arrest the growing fragmentation of media.

“We came up with a platform for creating video-centric profile pages that allow content owners to bring their content into the Bebo environment.

“They will have complete control over what they present and on top of that, they can bring their advertisers into that environment and can keep all the revenue they make in that space.

“Bebo will provide the audience in terms of social content, they can bring their advertisers and keep the money.”

But what’s in it for Bebo? “From a Bebo perspective, we actually end up with a huge amount of legal content and traffic. We give the media owners a new channel for their content.”

Charkin said the company initially started working last year with around 40 media content providers, but is now working with 200 small to large media companies including MTV, BBC, CBS and NBC.

“We aim to expand this to include music, magazine and newspaper publishers,” Charkin added.

“We allow them to bring their content and distribute it to users within Bebo. They can control the monetisation of that content in a Bebo environment.”

Charkin’s colleague, Philip Macartney, the new head of sales for Bebo in Ireland, said the company is already working with major brands like Nike to allow them to attract an audience within a Bebo environment.

“It’s all about user engagement and Nike’s Dash Mash allows users to post mashed dance videos in a Nike-sponsored zone.”

In Ireland, Bebo has 1.1 million registered users and attracts an average of 800,000 views per day. “That’s the equivalent of eight times George Hook’s daily listeners,” Macartney said.

Bebo has also been experimenting with brand engagement across a number of video products that were born on Bebo, such as Sofia’s Diary, Kate Modern and The Gap Year, attracting the involvement of brands like Proctor & Gamble, Microsoft and Cadbury.

All of these shows are funded by brand advertising. Unlike traditional TV programming, these are non-linear and involve user interactions. Users are leading the storyline but brands can get involved and enjoy 360-degree communication with the audience.

For example, The Gap Year, an Endemol production, features branding with Trident’s ‘Mess With Your Head’ campaign.

Another show, Conquering Demons, based on the exploits of a team of snowboarders, was actually born out of an idea by sunglasses maker Oakley to drive the ethics of Oakley as a brand for a Generation Y audience. “As well as internet branding, Oakley were able to deploy mobile mechanics to increase engagement with the user base,” Charkin added.

By John Kennedy

Pictured with IIA chair Maeve Kneafsey (centre) were Philip McCartney and Mark Charkin of Bebo at last week’s IIA annual congress