Crowdtap CEO: Sorry, But The Kardashians Are More Disruptive Than The Beatles



People are the new media, and the seeds were planted long before Khloe, Kourtney and Kim took over our living rooms.


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We’ve come a long way since the Beatles appeared on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in 1964—or have we?

The TV series “M*A*S*H” shattered viewership records. “The Cosby Show” introduced the concept of episodic, or “snackable,” TV and broke cultural barriers along the way. “Seinfeld” proved that the public could be entertained by, well, “nothing,” and closed out a Golden Era for TV.

What happened next, beginning in the early 2000s, would begin to set the stage for the modern media landscape, one that is increasingly dominated by the stories of individual people—namely celebrities—instead of brands and networks.

Matt Britton, CEO of the influencer platform Crowdtap, addressed the media evolution and its seismic implications for brand marketers at a SMWLA main stage presentation called “Instagram Killed the Television Star.”

Can you guess where this is going? Here’s what we learned.

Reality TV helped merge the digital and physical worlds

After the final episode of “Seinfeld” aired, sitcoms dropped from 50 percent of all broadcast TV to just 4 percent, said Britton. What replaced sitcoms? Reality television.

Reality TV was an instrumental precursor to social media for two reasons: First, reality shows began to introduce the viewing public to the allure of hearing real stories, from real people. Second, they began to blur the lines between entertainment and real life. “American Idol” was first to do so, noted Britton, in that the audience could watch the show and then download the music on iTunes, or hear it on the radio, the very next day.

People are the new networks

Remember “Must-See TV?” Networks used to matter in that they curated what they thought people would want to watch. From there, they held the power to distribute content into your household. The consumer choice was restricted to a few option, said Britton.

Obviously, a lot has changed since the Golden Era of TV, which Britton says ended in 1999. In the 2000s, as reality TV took hold and as social media took off, something fundamentally changed. With social media came the ability to create our own networks as consumers. Moreover, celebrities began to market themselves as their own content networks—and the Kardashians were true pioneers in this regard.

“Yes, the Kardashians were more disruptive than the Beatles,” he said.

The Kardashianification of culture

Flash forward to 2009, and the social media revolution was well underway. Celebrity-influencers began to build massive followings on platforms like Twitter and Facebook, which posted dramatic user growth for several years. Moreover, sales of the iPhone—which didn’t even exist until 2009—posted a 300 percent increase by 2011.

Over on Twitter, film star Ashton Kutcher parlayed his early adopter status into a PR win as he raced CNN to 1 million followers. As Britton noted, he was then able to leverage his newfound social influence to sell something: himself. He inked a deal on “Two and Half Men,” largely due to his popularity in social media, and this is the very model that the Kardashians have perfected like no one else.

Influence is the ability to sell sh#t

Influence and influencer marketing are buzzwords that brands and agencies have been latching onto for years. In fact, they’re used so often that there’s a lot of confusion around what “influence” actually means. Britton argued that influence is not just about the follower count. It’s about the ability to drive business impact: “The Kardashians are influential because they sell,” he said.

Pulling up a recorded Instagram Live video from Justin Bieber doing mundane things in his home, Britton pointed to the never-ending uptick of viewers (more than 200K people) and comments, indicating an engaged and captive audience. At this moment, argued Britton, Bieber could have sold anything he wanted. That’s influence.

Full circle

The current evolution is the most powerful, argued Britton: “Social media and TV have come full circle.” Brand newsrooms are dead. User-generated content can’t achieve the reach marketers had hoped. And so, advertisers today are harkening back to the Golden Age truisms of reach and frequency. The big difference now? People are the distribution channel, not networks, and certainly not the brands themselves.

What does this mean for brands? “The big stipulation here is that it’s not about advertising; it’s about content,” Britton said. It’s the difference between DJ Khaled using social media to promote album art, versus his approach to Snapchat, which created a subculture and movement around his brand.

Looking ahead, Britton argued that it’s not hard to imagine a world in which swipe-able TVs are docked in everyone’s homes, complete with a Facebook login. From there, brands will create thousands of pieces of content, not just one, to reach highly targeted audiences based on demographic and interest data (e.g. programmatic TV). The networks we know them will fade away, and an Apple TV-like interface will give consumers to choose from a variety of new networks, which are dominated by personalities and sports.

But that’s all in the future. How far off exactly? “Five to seven years,” predicted Britton.

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