A Chat with Terry Monahan

A chat with Terry Monahan of Cincinnati, Ohio – Former President of iGo Media and Entertainment Technology innovator.

Note:  The following Q&A appears on the IBMSummit.org portal.

After making my rounds at last year’s Symposium and interviewing multiple media producers in Sports and Music, I became amazed of how many mentions Terry received when covering the topic of content consumption and distribution.  Three separate individuals referred to him as a “content experience strategist”.  Since I wasn’t familiar with this new term, I tracked down Terry Monahan for some tutelage.  Terry keeps a very low profile, and isn’t based in LA, therefore an interview from the Summit was the perfect opportunity.

Terry, after reading your BIO I noticed that your background is actually in Finance.  How did you end up in the Technology and Entertainment arena?

Actually, it was by accident.  In 2010 I was managing investments for a living and serving as an advisor to a friend who owned a small streaming technology.  He was trying to use the tech as a way to increase the flow of information between researchers and traders.  Since that was my area of speciality I tried my best to help.  I failed miserably and my friend decided to focus on something else.  I wanted to stick with it.  I still felt like their was an opportunity to be had somewhere in interactive streaming.  So, I partnered up with a small product management company with the thought of creating a product to live stream upstart music artists.  When that didn’t work, my product manager and I found a relationship that could get us connected to a more established group or band.  From that point forward I was able to exit the monotony of the investment business and never look back.

Was that “more established” group the Backstreet Boys?

Eventually yes.  In 2012, one of my partners at the time got us connected to the band’s management team, just as they were planning the 20th anniversary in Hollywood (for April of 2013).  We made a pitch to stream the event Live throughout the world.  As a bonus, our developer integrated a chat window to make the event interactive.  As it turned out the opportunity was super successful even with no advertising. The event reached 64,000 fans in 99 countries. It definitely wasn’t a bad way to start out in the business.

What did you do next?

To pay the bills, my team and I began primarily working on projects for Procter & Gamble.  As one of the world’s biggest advertisers, and the fact that they are in Cincinnati, it made a ton of sense.  We, spent most of our energy on a project run by an agency that used unique talkable content to build advocacy.  It was essentially a digital approach to word of mouth marketing.   At the same time I was introduced to a very well known music manager who then introduced me to Yahoo Entertainment and Live Nation.  From there I established many significant relationships.  I began advising and trying to win business with music content and original series content creators.  One thing brought me to another and I transitioned into prospecting and advising celebrities or sports personalities that had brand relationships and/or a passionate message that required amplification.

Did you face any challenges along the way and if so how did you overcome them?

Oh heck yeah!  iGo was an insane roller coaster ride.  First, being inexperienced and a start-up, I continually ran into the parasites of the entertainment industry who required you to pay a retainer for information and introductions.  I made the mistake of engaging in quite a few of those relationships with every single case equating to us paying and receiving nothing in return.  To make matters worse, there were so many opportunities and we chased them all; causing us to drift away from our original plan and as a company we couldn’t figure out who we wanted to be.  When we started, we wanted to produce our own interactive content and stream it on the enhanced version of our own platform.  But instead, I kept getting these opportunities that required us to completely customize an application or experience.  What ended up happening is we got positioned as the guys that complimented or competed with LiveStream (the company).  Being opportunists we tried to pull both off  concurrently by creating a second brand and a customizable platform.  Which lead us to an extremely well known customer who had a bad case of scope creep.  The constant scope drift ran havoc on our tech partnerships and ultimately made us run out of money.  That customer brought the house down on top of us.  You know that saying “you can’t be everything to everybody”?  I obviously ignored it.

Finally, to answer your question in its entirety, my product manager/partner and I decided to go our separate ways.  iGo and its related companies closed and I spent the next few months reflecting on everything that I learned over the past 5 years.  Then, I made a list of the biggest problems or opportunities that needed to be solved in the new era of media consumption.  After that, I built a prototype and a user story of a technology that could enhance and amplify the Live entertainment experience.  A good friend of mine put me in touch with a fully scalable and strategic technical team.  And, before I realized it, I was back in business focusing on something completely different yet much larger.

Can you tell us what that technology is or what it will do?

Hopefully you will be able to enjoy it soon.

Fair enough.  Finally, can you share what it means to be a “content experience strategist”?  

I have heard that used quite a few times over the past year but I honestly have never called myself that.  In fact, it is not like I even charge for strategy sessions or consulting.  I mean, over the past year and a half, I have pursued my own agenda given this new technology my team and I have built.  That being said, I suspect it is because I have time while the tech is being constructed.  I enjoy creative people, so whenever given the chance I spend a good bit of time talking to all those relationships I have developed over the past 7 years.  I always try to accept invitations for white board meetings and those conversations turn to “what if” or “how would you creatively integrate this”, etc.

Having many of those conversations has probably begged the question from the real smart people in the room. Which is, “why the hell is he here”?  The default answer I guess has become the answer to your question.

Sometimes I come up with some real crazy ideas and the room gives me that look that lets me know I have taken it too far.

Can you give an example?

Sure.  One of my friends is a producer who has been working on this original series that he hopes will be picked up by HBO or Showtime.  He invited me to participate in one of his meetings to serve up any ideas of unique ways (outside of character and story development) to stand out from other related content.  At that particular time I had just immersed myself with the future use of AR (Augmented Reality) as it relates to merch (merchandise).  So, since the show has some really sweet cars in it, I gave the team the idea of creating an AR portal that allowed fans to bid on some of the cars used in the action scenes.  One of the team members almost spit out his coffee laughing and said, “we are not in the car business Monahan”.   Whatever, I thought it was a cool idea.

Since you brought up technical advancements, besides Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, what other technology do you think will help shape the future of media?

I think the deployment of AI (Artificial Intelligence) is underutilized.

Something as simple as what Netflix does with serving up content suggestions can make a huge difference.  As long as the use of AI is to create a better experience and not to be intrusive, then it should be implemented in every use case imaginable.  I am fascinated with all the possibilities that exist with AI.  For example, you know those annoying ads that pop up in your browser from items you have shopped for…like if you looked at a baseball hat or a shirt then that same hat and shirt pop up in ads?  That is so annoying!  What if I purchase the hat?  Why am I still getting the ad for it?…  Anyway, what if someone built AI into a LIVE sports program and it recognized the most popular or unique clothing items in the crowd and served those up as suggestions for purchase?  Now that is something I think would be cool.  I am sure it exists but maybe it hasn’t been deployed in a user friendly environment.

What will be your subject matter at this year’s event?

I am going to illustrate the power of creating content with the consumer story in mind and how effective technology deployment can enhance the experience of that content.

Everyone is so focused on the creation of new technology when in fact there needs to be more who are focused on the deployment of all the cool things that exist right now.

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me and good luck with your new tech.

No, thank you.  I appreciate your interest.