The Internet Is Your Media Lab

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Does your company wish there was a place where you could experiment with New Media, Marketing, Advertising and Communications?

While attending MediaCamp today in Montreal (as a preamble to PodCamp Montreal), Sylvain Carle (from Praized) suggested that maybe more media companies needed to create a media lab where they could experiment with new content platforms, revenue models and distribution channels. This may sound kind of obvious, but it already exists…

It’s called the Internet.

While it may be wise for most brands to have a premeditated strategy and plan before diving head-first into the online channel, there is nothing wrong with trying, tinkering and grappling with a few skunkwork projects online to see what kind of reception and traction you can get. Why not use the channel to experiment and try things… many, small things? You know, that whole "fail fast" model of innovation and development.

Failure to launch.

Most brands fail at the online channel (or think they’re failing) because it’s not a part of their culture (more on that here: There Will Be Blood). Many of the Journalists at today’s conference were pulling out the old, "How do you make money with a Blog?" or "No one is willing to pay me to Blog, and writing is how I make my living" types of sentiments. So, why not experiment and see if those statements really do hold up?

Here’s what you can do by making the Internet your Media Lab… 

  • You can start sharing the content that has, traditionally, lived and died on paper.
  • You can open that content up to comments and commentary.
  • You can figure out what people like about it, what they don’t like and how long they spent with your content (try Google Analytics).
  • You can figure out if your content resonates (if it does, people will spread it on their own volition).
  • You can ask people to subscribe to your content (and track how many people actually care about what you’re doing).
  • You can sell ads on your space.
  • You can sell sponsorship on your space.
  • You can put Google AdWords on your space.
  • You can collect data (email addresses, profile information, etc…).
  • You can set-up a tip jar and see how much people are willing to pay for your content.
  • You can use Creative Commons, and let people distribute your content, so that your ideas can spread.
  • You can use the platform to expand your content into other media. If you’re writing, why not try audio, video, images, etc…?
  • You can engage in the comments and commentary you get as a way to build community and spark new ideas for content.
  • You can use your space like a mental gym: work out your content, daily, so that it stays fit, healthy and in shape.
  • You can use your space as a Media Lab to push your critical thinking into new directions (more on that here: Blogging Still Matters… Now More Than Ever).
  • You may get invited to speak somewhere, meet new people or learn a thing or two (or a thousand) about how people really connect with what you are doing.

… And that’s just the beginning.

Once you begin your new Media Lab, you will start to meet new people. If you’re truly connecting to them, other things will happen and you will uncover amazing strategic byproducts from your Media Lab actions. These might be PR and Marketing related, they may be new business development opportunities or you may just learn a whole new way to do what you love to do. Worse comes to worst, you will learn – in short order – that this is not for you or that your content doesn’t have the audience you once suspected.

… And one more thing…

It’s free. Well, that’s not true. You will have to pay in terms of time, effort and sweat equity, but the platforms can be free to start off (you may want to switch to a more sophisticated and flexible platform if your idea really takes off). Remember, never before – in the history of civilization – has one individual (yes, we’re talking about you) had the ability to have a thought, and be able to publish it – as professional content – in text, audio, video and images instantly (and for free) to the world… and be able to measure the results almost exactly and in near real-time.

What are you waiting for? 


  1. Mitch, and then you go write another great post in the same day.
    Your personal branding post was completely appropriate for the performing artists I work with. This post on a media lab is so incredibly to-the-point and apropos for all the arts organizations I work with or who are in the non-profit sector. Most of them are so damn afraid of just trying things, many things, small, just to see what happens.
    I don’t usually overflow with praise like this, but you’ve inspired me to write some things for my favourite sector. Thanks for the second time in one day.

  2. Mitch I think you are dead on. There is very little a brand can do via new media that can backfire if you run your business on the up and up with decent ethics. I know Nestle got burned with Facebook. But when you have 2bil customers shame on you for being so big you didn’t think first. But there is so much opportunity with technology to try new stuff unless its 100% a budget issue why not try a lot of different things and find what works? What World 5000 company doesn’t have $25k to try something?
    I think the problem is entrenched interests. And that comes from Agencies too. If I focus 100% on creating commercials for TV and Cable and my client asks about New Media that potentially affects my business I might not be a proponent. Brands and Businesses should 100% focus on their self interest and say screw everyone else when it comes to marketing. And if they have Agencies or Internal Groups that block these efforts because they refuse to adapt… em/replace em.
    Great post as usual.

  3. At MediaCamp, I felt like there were too many people who were complaining, complacent and sitting on the fence. It was as if they needed someone’s permission or a pay cheque to do something. I didn’t understand it one bit. The more people who realize how empowering and powerful these instant publishing platforms are, the more great content we all get to share and the more these great content producers there will be in the world.
    Imagine if a percentage of the people attending MediaCamp had decided to take that full-day and start a Blog instead of spending the day complaining that they don’t have time to start a Blog, what the outcome could be.

  4. I think big companies can make big mistakes online if they don’t understand the landscape and culture. I think all companies should have a strategic plan in place. I do think if they start small and focus on sharing, adding value or creating something new and different, they might discover something new. Instead of looking at this as a new marketing channel, think of it as a media/publishing lab. That different prism could make all of the difference.

  5. Not waiting but the list of bullet points has me thinking about new directions. Maybe I’ll try the tip jar? 😉 No, but maybe a “tip box” for people to send me tips on topics they’d like to see me cover 🙂 – Thanks for getting my thinking outside the box. I’d been stuck inside for a few days.

  6. Mitch, When Joe said he liked the idea I jumped right on it. You adding to the list makes me feel even better it’s now done. check he sidebar of my blog to see my quick and dirty implementation. I’m sure it will change over time.
    Thanks for the encouragement gentlemen!

  7. This reminds me of a recent post by Marcus Sheridan ( Of course, many people, who do blog or otherwise experiment online, understand this issue, but from the outside, it seems like such an insurmountable thing. All they see is the mountain before them and wonder how they can get around rather than thinking about the accomplishment of getting to the top…if that’s not too much hyperbole, that is.
    Now and then, it might be beneficial if these journalists take a page from the entrepreneur playbook and say to themselves, “I’m going to start running with a great idea, and if it’s really as great as I believe it is, I will make it work financially, but for now, I just need to prove that it really is a great idea.”

  8. It’s very hard to get out of your comfort zone. While publishing is new and exciting to all of us, this disruption – and what it means to people who were used to traditional publishing – is a huge hurdle… it’s just totally different from the world they live in.

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