TED Talks have had more than 500 million views online and earn millions from event tickets, advertising, and event licensing fees. TED has presence in branded events, online videos, and mobile apps.
TED’s impressive story begins in 1984.
1984 to 2006 to today
TED began as just a conference. TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design and that is its focus – www.ted.com. The event was founded by Richard Saul Wurman. The first TED event took place in 1984 in Monterey, a Californian coastal town. It’s a short drive south of San Francisco. The event bombed.
It was revived six years later in 1990. This time it had sufficient success to warrant annual re-runs in Monterey, feeding the nearby Silicon Valley hunger for new people, networking, and ideas.
It took another 16 years, along with new ownership and its vision of possibilities for video online, before 2006, the year TED Talks launched online.
Since 2006 online video has achieved for TED global diffusion of its brand, business and revenue streams. Online video has made viewing TED Talks a regular habit for millions, there have been 500 views since 2006.
7 online video production hints
QUESTION: How has online video achieved TED’s exceptional results?
Benjamin Wallace discusses this question in an article “Club TED”. It’s a great read, profiling Chris Anderson as a personality and entrepreneur who acquired TED in the late 1990s, developed it, and made it fly with online video.
Wallace says that “Anderson’s real breakthrough, the one that turned TED into a global media brand, was the launch of TED Talks online in 2006.” The Wallace article provides evidence of how online video made TED fly. The action items for other businesses are:
- Maintain regularity in content uploads. Over 1,100 TED Talks have been uploaded since 2006.
- Maintain content topic quality. The TEDx video’s live quality, localisation, format and style grab attention.
- Lift content production values constantly. For TEDx videos this involves rehearsed presentations, multiple cameras, movement on stage, and slide show visualisations.
- Use effective content formats or structure. For TEDx videos the 18 minute speaker time limit works well. Wallace quotes Anderson: “It’s long enough to not be trivia…”.
- Make video an event worthy of audience attention. Feature original content by credible speakers.
- Make online video strengthen and build online business models and their originality. It has for TEDx, see End Note.
- Engage qualified content development people. TED sources globally, with “8,000 volunteers translating them [TED Talks] into 85 languages” says Wallace.
Monetisation through product extension
QUESTION: What monetisation opportunities has online video facilitated for TED as a business?
As a law firm and commercialisation consultancy, we apply a tested commercialisation framework. In our terminology, TED has grown really big and richer from product extension.
Licensing agreements have earned licensing revenue, ticket sales revenue and advertising for TED Talks in locations beyond California and subjects beyond TED’s historical focus topics.
- TEDx, involves TED licensees organising local mini-TEDs. Since it launched in March 2009, there have been more than 3,000 TEDx events in places as far flung as Sydney, Yerevan (Armenia), and Gujranwala (Pakistan).
- TEDMED, an annual conference focusing on health and medicine.
- TEDWomen, with topics such as gender issues and reproductive health.
- TEDBooks since 2011, focusing on shorter texts of up to 20,000 words.
- Since late 2009, free mobile device apps have been released for iOS (iPhone, iPad), Android, webOS and Windows Phone 7.
For technology and intellectual property commercialisation real money comes from such product extensions. For example, new spinoff or customised events (conferences), versions (software), episodes (television), series (film), issues (magazines) or volumes (books). All this is evident in the above story, especially for TEDx. It is also evident in From Goldfinger to Green Thumb – The James Bond Story.
In advice to clients about commercialisation of products and services of we regularly emphasise that very few ventures make their money on the first “version” of their offering. TED was the same. Nothing in 1984. Growing from 1990. Exponential growth from 2006, especially for TEDx.
Lawyers with online services and technology expertise
The secret to the TEDx formula is important to us as our firm works with clients closely along side digital production experts, for example Michael Ney and Jason Kemp of DialogCRM. Working with professionals in digital media production has raised our firm’s expertise in how use of online video grows client businesses.
I regularly advise clients that understanding business requirements and technology (and not just law) are prerequisites for doing a great job as an internet business lawyer.
Technology knowledge is vital for drafting effective online terms of service and privacy statements. It also helps in providing value-for-money trade mark applications, patent registrations, copyright advice and other services required by online businesses. Writing on TED and online video builds that understanding.
Call for a conversation on how we, or business/media/technology experts we can refer you to, might assist your business with practical knowledge of law, licensing, video production, monetisation and online services and business models.
End Note – originality and planning for imitators:
What TED has achieved with online video is remarkable. It’s an exaggeration, but it recalls comparable media history watershed events defining new uses for new media. Think of Georges Méliès footage of a moving train telling us what motion pictures might be, sound in The Jazz Singer (1927) imagining what talkies might be, and interactivity demonstrated by Hypercard (1987) foreshadowing software interactivity across the world wide web.
Those who seek to launch original offerings need to consider in advance how others might copy them. That’s one of the strategic insights which an intellectual property lawyer can provide for business model and intellectual property protection. Consider TED and how it has grown despite a plethora of similar event-based offerings. TED has grown in a cultural context of many other similar meeting, conference or event-related ventures. In his article Wallace correctly terms them “social-intellectual trade routes”. Those Wallace mentions are mostly U.S. based, and include Davos (held in January in Davos, Switzerland), PopTech, FOO Camp (short for Friends of O’Reilly), BarCamp (a FOO “knock-off”), Clinton Global Initiative, Solve for X (a Google conference), Sundance (for films), SXSW and Burning Man. Lesser known U.S. events Wallace lists include Feast, Do Lectures, 99% Conference and Techonomy.
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