How 50 Cent Uses Online Video to Build Brand Loyalty 50 Cent might be the most polarizing figure in contemporary pop culture. Love him or hate him, one thing is undeniable: 50 Cent, whose government name is Curtis Jackson, is a great businessman. From his platinum albums to his G-Unit record label and clothing line to his cashing in on Coca-Cola's acquisition of VitaminWater, "Fiddy" and his team never seem to get the raw end of a business deal. So it comes as no surprise that he has a long-term Internet strategy to help maintain and grow his personal brand.
50 Cent's online fortunes lie with This Is 50, a destination that's part hip-hop/pop culture blog, part fan community, and part original content destination. The popular site, which has grown by leaps and bounds since it was publicly released in October 2007, is built primarily on top of two free services. The blog and social network framework are built on top of social network platform Ning, while the primary video content delivery platform is Kyte. While using these two services may be unremarkable, how he uses them -- especially Kyte -- is revolutionary.
Flying High on Kyte
50 Cent and G-Unit have taken advantage of several user-behavior-oriented aspects of Kyte to great effect:
Real-time chat. Real-time chat within the Kyte player adds a new social dimension to the content viewing experience. Users that view 50 Cent and G-Unit content don't feel like they are watching in isolation. As I type this, a real-time audience indicator on the Kyte Player on This Is 50 shows 648 viewers simultaneously watching a new piece of content.
Since new videos are distributed on what can be considered a linear basis, rabid fans anxiously waiting new content consistently populate the chat room. Conversations often continue long after content is introduced, which keeps these engaged users within an insulated 50 Cent/G-Unit branded environment.
Production flexibility. Kyte allows video content to be professionally filmed and produced for subsequent uploading. More important, it allows video to be easily recorded or streamed live from mobile devices. This gives 50 Cent's production team the flexibility to film anywhere, giving fans a unique behind-the-scenes perspective of the rapper's day-to-day life.
For example, backstage concert footage can be filmed on a Nokia N95, edited on the spot via Kyte's dynamic and intuitive mobile editing environment, and instantly uploaded to the Kyte Player on This Is 50 in seconds. Better yet, video can be streamed live through a mobile device for a truly unscripted experience.
Built-in distribution. The This Is 50 Kyte Player has been embedded on more than 50,000 Web sites globally, resulting in over 14.6 million aggregate views over the course of 69 shows. Again, since new content is released on a regular basis and the content is exclusive to the player, many of these sites either dedicate a site section to the player, feature it prominently in their design, or, in the case of blogs, embed the player every time a new piece of compelling content is released.
Such staggering numbers have made the player the distribution platform of choice for 50 Cent to premiere exclusive content. Chances are, when 50 Cent or a member of his G-Unit crew releases a new video, you won't see it right away on MTV, VH1, or BET. You'll find it first on his Kyte Player. I had a chance to speak to Chris "Broadway" Romero, creative director of digital media at G-Unit Records and 50 Cent's personal technology officer, about how 50 Cent approaches his Web presence.
"Through services like Ning and Kyte, 50 is getting his original content out there quickly and efficiently to as many of his fans as possible," says Broadway. "It's all part of the plan. He definitely knows where he's going with this.
"What he's doing online with [www.This Is 50] parallels how he established himself in the music industry with his mix-tape hustle," referring to how a young 50 Cent created a groundswell of attention around his music and persona in the late 1990s by circumventing the major labels and selling low-cost, independent mix tapes on the streets of New York. "He's a natural marketer."
How 50 Cent "Get Money"
I spoke with Kyte cofounder and CEO Daniel Graf about the future of the 50 Cent partnership. The next obvious step, he said, was to help 50 monetize his content.
"There are already plans in motion to monetize 50's content," says Graf. "It only starts with the ad model that we introduced two weeks ago."
The more robust options that he continues to describe are a welcome departure from conventional video advertising.
"There will obviously be pre-roll and post-roll opportunities," continues Graf, "but we are looking beyond that to include full branding and skinning of the environment, providing tools to sell merchandise [and] tickets, host branded games, sponsorships, etc., all within the player, to take full advantage of all the Kyte platform has to offer."
As the music industry continues to struggle to find ways to create additional revenue streams to supplement declining record sales, intelligent and digital-savvy artists are taking their futures -- and their fortunes -- into their own hands.
Graf sees 50 Cent taking a leadership role in the music industry by trying to keep ahead of the digital curve and utilizing tools that work for both his fans and him. "He's a great example of an artist who understands the value of the Internet and technology," Graf adds. "He knows exactly what he's doing."