Friday, 31 October 2008

Guardian publishes full articles over RSS

Doesn't sound particularly significant or groundbreaking, but I think this is a major landmark in how traditional media businesses are dealing with the change from publisher focus to user focus.

...and what does that mean exactly?

So sites like the Guardian & the BBC, who were both quick to start publishing RSS feeds back in 2004-05, did this because it would increase repeat traffic to their sites: by broadcasting a headline to people who had expressed an interest in receiving such headlines, lots of said people would click through to find out more. Which is obviously a good strategy, and very similar to emailing them once a week, which all the press publishers also still do.

Publishing a taster on a 'click to find out more' basis is very different to offering the whole article for to be dragged into whatever reader you want though. A headline feed was only ever going to drag the reader back to the original site. A full feed can be consumed anywhere (personally as a Google Reader feed on the Viigo app on my mobile). As Mashable points out, it can also being to exist virally as Google Reader content is shared via Friendfeed.

I'd expect that this will offset whatever ad revenue is lost through onsite traffic, and the Guardian can continue to push their credentials as the most forward-thinking UK old media brand. However there is also a promise that

advertising will soon appear within each full content feed item

which will be interesting to follow as well...

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Social TV

Following on from Nick's post about CBS social viewing rooms, there's a few more bits of kit out there that are putting conversation at the heart of the viewing experience, to help drag the good ol' tellie back into the forefront of media innovation.

I'd argue that it is user experience rather than distribution speed that is the main thing preventing on demand TV reaching mass appeal. 99% of the population are happy with the big screen in the corner of the room, even if the little one on their lap gives them access to far more content. Once the content can easily move between the two, then we start to see a fully on demand viewing experience available back on the TV screen. I had expected that the hardware that will deliver this will become available (probably iTunes/Apple TV based) and have appeal outside of early adopters once Kangaroo made huge great piles of back catalogue and nostalgia available, and marketed it heavily (using iPlayer as a benchmark for my future guessing).

The obvious problem with mass take-up of on
demand is that it takes away the role of TV as a conversation starter - the water cooler moment. This won't happen overnight, but it will slowly eat away at the central role that TV plays in the national psyche. Which is ironic, when brands that have historically relied on TV for advertising are starting to realise that communication might actually be a two-way process.

Gamers on the other hand have been able to converse via the TV set for years, since the launch of XBox Live in 2002. Over 60% of US owners pay the annual subscription for the service. So it is no surprise that the next release is rumoured to include a much wider range of social recommendation tools, for a range of gaming and entertainment content.

And this type of social feature is starting to make its way into the next generation of entertainment hubs - Boxee is a downloadable app that organises all the content on a PC or streamed live from the likes of Hulu. It is designed on the basis that it will be viewed on a big screen and operated via remote, and it has social recommendation at its heart - it can't actually share content with friends, but can recommend. You would expect that the next move from here is along the lines of CBS's ideas about individual groups of friends all being able to start off viewing simultaneously and comment over the TV screen.

This begs the question of whether the big social networks are missing a trick - surely Facebook TV would be a viable option? Again, it depends on having the infrastructure to deliver content to the TV screen (both the broadband distribution and the hardware in the home), but television is inherently social so the readymade friend network and app environment would give this type of application a distinct advantage.

The real trick being really missed though is gaming devices. The social element is already built in, and they already bridge the gap between laptop and TV, and there will be a huge gap in the market in the UK around Kangaroo launch time. 6 months on from Hulu launching in the US the hardware manufacturers are still chasing their tails.

Could XBox or Playstation running Kangaroo on a Facebook app be coming to a living room near you?

Monday, 27 October 2008

Old publishing/New publishing

David Armano - 10,217 subscribers (Feedburner)
Campaign - 10,012 circulation (ABC)

Just an observation

Dexter the Magazine

I don't know what it is about this show that brings about the best in marketers, but if you liked the genius viral for Series 2, you will love the experiential work for Series 3 in the US highlighted by Marta. Pop2Life not only created spoof 6 page Dexter issues of a range of magazines

but also set up Dexter newstands in some of the highest footfall spots in large US cities, with the full range of mags and a selection of blood red confectionery

The 8th Mass Media - how does that work?

Been thinking about this one for a while, and this isn't the right answer (it is just a view on what there will still be for a buying agency to take commission on in 10 years time), but it is a better question than the ones that ITV seem to be asking themselves at the moment.

Ok, so if the 7th Mass Media is mobile, as Tomi & Alan have explained, then the 8th will be Us. The theory is David Cushman's, and it isn't just another big up to UGC: it isn't the content that defines Us as a new media channel, it is the fact that people are now a distribution medium with equivalent broadcast potential to the other mass media. This can change the game, as content producers have traditionally funded production by monetising distribution.

Now, soon after reading a post related to this, I had one of those random chain emails forwarded from a friend promising me lots of money. You know the kind: someone, usually Microsoft, are experimenting with viral emailing, and will pay you a certain amount for each person that you forward this on to, and then more for everyone they forward it on to. Pretty basic pyramid selling scamology, which only works because it comes from a friend, it is easy to ignore, and you don't want to be the one who misses out if it does come true one day.

Thing is, at the time I was looking for more details on a
new report on PVRs that had just been published by Oliver Wyman Research. This suggests that across the US, UK and Japan, 85% of PVR owners skip at least 75% of all TV advertising. This will come as no surprise to anyone who owns a Sky+ box - i know i can't remember the last time I watched a TV ad anywhere other than YouTube. However if you are an advertiser who relies on impartial advice from their media agency (who make their money from commision from TV advertising) or the marketing press, in articles based on research from, if not actually written by, Thinkbox (who make their money from....oh) then you could be forgiven for thinking that hardly anyone wants to avoid those beautiful expensive 30" spots.

That got me thinking about whether the pyramid spam is a viable medium. Not through email, but as a means to monetise the huge scale that Facebook et al have built over the last few years. What if we could incentivise people to watch our ads through a pyramid commission structure? If you can make £0.01 per view of an ad that you have forwarded, not just by the people you have forwarded it on to, but by everyone else downstream of them, then all those 1p's will add up. In fact, if everyone forwards it on to 10 people, who forward it on to 10 people, then by level 8 we have 100m ad impacts at £1.11 per thousand.

This could maybe split down between the network (ie the people who view content and share it) and the platform that they share it on (social network or whatever), but the really neat part is that £0.01 really isn't that much. So if the content isn't any good, no-one will be missing out on much by not forwarding it to anyone.Which will reward innovative, risk-taking advertising. So it is really short-form branded entertainment (a bit like a viral really, but with a kick start), which is good because it will stop rumours about the death of advertising, and help speed up the death of bad advertising, which is a much better idea.

Like I said, this isn't a right answer, but it's an interesting question.....

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Future of the Internet

Kevin Kelly on the next 5000 days of the web. This is on the basis that as of December 2007, when this was filmed, the web was 5000 days old, and he explains how based on processing power, memory and number of links, we have built something that is roughly equivalent to one human brain in that time. Then he applies Moore's Law.

So over the next 5000 days, we will not see cloud computing in the sense that it is usually portrayed, where all those lots of machines that we have at the moment just shift their storage and systems onto the network - instead, we'll see those machines just become screens into one single worldwide machine.

Personally I just get excited by the whole Matrixness of this, but the analogy that I really love (and the reference I followed up from Faris to find this clip) is an improvement on 'social media is like air'. It is this: The most comparable technology to the internet is the alphabet: it utterly transformed communication and data recording, and we take it for granted to such an extent that it is invisible.

Advertising and recessions

I like this.... and not just because i've been talking about the same reasons to carry on spending through a recession for the last few months in just about every meeting i've been in!

The FT Advertising in a Downturn
resource that this is advertising has a good mix of McKinsey and PIMS data, so hopefully it is going to reach a good number of FDs.....

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Being followed by the godlike genius of Stephen Fry

and I've got the Twitter email to prove it!...along with 4835 (and counting) other people.

It's great that the wonderful Mr Fry is using Twitter to publicise the Rhino conservation work that he's doing in Kenya, and also inviting followers to check TwitPics to confirm that it is actually him. He's also making a point of following back everyone who follows him (which begs the question of how much actual work he's getting done out there, what with tweets, pics and following people back....but then the same could be said about me blogging about it). To me the best bit of this is the warm fluffy feeling I got on receiving the email that (I'm sure incorrectly) suggests that one of my all time heroes might take the slightest bit of interest in what I'm talking about in return!

As you would expect from a technology guru like Stephen Fry, this campaign is a great example of how being interesting and interacting with the community leads to social media success. This can be seen on Icerocket, where activity begins to spike on the 9th October, the same day as his first Tweet, as the social capital of that 'Stephen Fry is now following your updates on Twitter' email leads to conversations.

Conversations lead in turn to more followers: although these emails have been popping up everywhere in the last couple of days, it seems that the Twitter buzz started after the first episode of Stephen Fry in America. The Streamgraph for the last 3 days shows a huge spike in activity after the show.

Not sure if there was a reference to his relaunched site, which has a 'Follow Stephen on Twitter' link on its front page, but can't wait to see more Rhino pics and how the site develops.

Lexus Films? L Studio Web TV

This looks interesting.... L Studio is the newly launched broadband TV platform from Lexus US. Billed as "a celebration of innovation in all its forms", it seems to be somewhere between a lifestyle-orientated varioation on BMW Films and a video customer mag: while it doesn't have the same level of star quality as BMW Films, there are high quality shorts starring Lisa Kudrow and Famke Janssen among others. This is the trailer from YouTube

What is interesting is the lack of obvious cars or branding: there is a clip from an artist deconstructing a Lexus car and rebuilding it as art, but then there are also clips from Japanese architect Shigeru Ban on building from pre-existing materials, about the symbolism of shoes, and on Ray Manzarek of the Doors on writing organ basslines. The Lisa Kudrow series, Web Therapy, is a 15 part comedy that is driving most of the conversation about L Studio so far according to SocialMention. According to the actress,

"Connecting with Lexus gave us a chance to develop an idea we've wanted to do for a while -- that's truly designed to be web content. It's a great opportunity to be part of such a unique experiment in entertainment"

While the site has a nasty whiff of microsite about it, including a lack of any RSS or sharing tools, it is ranking 1st on Google for "L Studio" and 4th for "Lstudio". Most of the content has been uploaded to YouTube, although traffic levels are pretty low there (like between 10-250 views - top traffic referrer being Passionate Pursuit, Lexus's fan site), and there are currently 4 subscribers.

I don't think that traffic levels are really the issue at the moment - it will stand or fall by its content, and sharing tools are easy to add. What is important is that the films themselves are genuinely interesting/funny/different/etc, and they are branded content that positions the brand as a creator and distributor, rather than sponsor. If they can maintain the "creator" status, and release control over the 'distributor", then this might be worth watching

Monday, 13 October 2008

Doodlebuzz Random News visualiser

Can't quite work out what this app is for - i guess it randomises themes around a search term (this one searched "Fabio Capello". Looks cool though

Google Apps 1 - Microsoft Office 1 less

(from readwriteweb)
One US CTO, with a stated aim of making his local governmental organisation operate more like a start-up, has confirmed that he will be switching from Microsoft Office to Google Apps for all day to day emailing, spreadsheets, word processing, etc. Although this is only a total of 38,000 fewer desktops for the Microsoft empire, what is significant is the organisation: the District of Columbia. Although this is only District employees rather than national government, so won't be the email client of choice for just yet, it is a significant symbol that web-based computing is reaching tipping point with large organisations.

On a related note, I'm currently trying to find the best combination of Zoho apps to provide an agency-wide planning portal - basically an upload and tag function. Hopefully form a post next week if I can make it work....

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Oh my god they really don't get it!

ITV have announced that they are testing embeddable ad formats to run within audio-visual content, by searching for blank areas of the picture to stream them into.This from TimesOnline

Television viewers who like to fast-forward through advertising breaks may want to look away now. ITV is developing a new form of unavoidable advertisement that can be embedded in television programmes. The new technology, which is known as “automatically placed overlay advertising”, uses complex computer algorithms to find clear space, such as blue sky or blank walls, in video footage in which to display logos or messages.

The technology, which was developed for ITV by Keystream, a Californian company, is currently being tested in news footage on the broadcaster’s ITV Local website. If it is well received, and if regulations permit it, ITV hopes to transfer it to the television screen.

Simon Fell, head of future technology at ITV, said: “There’s a lot of potential. If there’s a scene in a programme where there’s time, then it could give us a chance to get an ad away. But obviously on television you won’t be seeing one of these appearing at a crunch point in a drama.

I don't know where to start on how wrong this is, but if the head of future technology wants to use his development budget in this way you've got to worry for the short term future of the company. Unfortunately it is hardly surprising from a company whose chairman is so confused about the media landscape in 2008 that he claimed YouTube is 'parasitically leeching content from ITV'. I don't believe for a minute that he really doesn't get the difference between content and distribution, but the both these stories suggest that ITV are so commited to their old business model that they are proactively pr-ing the fact that they are out of date. The scary thing is that as one third of Kangaroo, they are going to be able to drive the shoutloud-interupt-ignore ad model into the future

Facebook (for Pirates)

One of the less obvious features of 'New Facebook" is the language settings, which seems to have been opened up to app developers the same way as the rest of the site. Because you can now see your FB profile in English (Pirate). And Facebook becomes a load more interesting if you can scour the horizon for what yer hearties arrrrr doin'. (grog fests particularly)

so 'search' becomes 'scour', 'poke' becomes 'skewer', etc. Unfortunately none of this shows up in your public profile, so the novelty might wear off....eventually

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

London is allowed to do this once....

Got stuck on the tube the other day - a genuine 2 hours stuck in the tunnel, burning smells, helped off the train by transport police and a 50m walk down the track to the platform. I guess it 's a London experience that everyone goes through some time or other... but once is enough! So I had to get a couple of pics to prove that the emergency services really were there, and since my mobile has been asking me to upload photos to Blogger for about a year, I'd have a go at uploading them here. Blame the mobile first, then the file size that Sony Ericsson thinks is appropriate. Only blame my photography skills after that.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Customize Google - Adblocking for Search

At some point the exponential growth in search engine marketing has to level off, if only because there is only so much you can optimise it. Even generic keywords are searched for by people who are already active in the market. Like Point of Sale, Search cannot create demand. What we have done with it over the last few years though is radically change the distribution landscape in direct sale categories. In doing this, Google has built a business model that can shake up a whole range of other categories that don't rely on paid search. The beauty of the business model that Google created is that paid ads tended to be more accurate than the natural ones. In fact, there were probably a lot of brands who used it in place of a joined up SEO strategy for a few years. To someone searching for a product, it doesn't make any difference whether you click on an ad or a natural listing.

So far, so direct response 101. The point i'm ambling to is that Google built the brand on usefulness, with a side order of clean layout & design. Brands now know that a Search strategy has to include SEO and SEM, and have got good enough at it that natural page one results will be useful enough for anyone - the example below is for the highly competitive 'car insurance' term, with the comparison sites that are actually going to be the most useful for someone searching on that term in the top positions for both paid and natural search.

So who is that duplication benefitting? Not the person searching. And the layout is pretty scruffy too (even when it's screengrabbed better than I've done here!). So not very on-brand for Google.

Which is why Customize Google represents such a threat. Customize Google allows you, among a range of other things, to block paid search ads. The search results above now looks like this

Just as useful, and much neater. And that's before we've taken into account anyone who might prefer to avoid ads on principle.

Now this is not a threat to Google. Google are way beyond that. Customize is only available for Firefox so far, but since the launch of Chrome, another major incursion into Microsoft's business model, it will be really interesting to see Microsoft's reaction. How tempting must it be to add this functionality into IE8, and automatically dry up your biggest rival's biggest legacy revenue stream? (actually arguable whether they are rivals any more - you need to be in the same league to be rivals.... you might call it a North London derby question....)

So Google are too big and too clever to be hurt by this hypothetical tactic, but the fact it is only hypothetical must be a relief to any number of media and digital agencies, who see the absolute transparency of paid search as a life raft in the economic floodwater of 2009.

And will Microsoft do this? Well I would, just for the annoyance factor. They have lost the battle for search budgets, so why not just be a spanner in the works.......

Friday, 3 October 2008

All this economic weirdness...

Oh so this is how we got here....

Rick Webb from Barbarian with the bestest and most politically neutral explanation of how the economy (US, but applies just as much over here) got into the mess it's in

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Outdoor outdone

Shouldn't really lift from Meme Huffer, but if anything this is worse than the Stockwell one from Tuesday

Brand Tags

I hadn't played around with this for a while, and there's now enough results on the original (US) version to find some interesting detail at a tag level. When I've used it in the past I've only looked at tag clouds for individual brands, which I've found entertaining but not that useful. If you search for Tags though, then look at the brands that they are most often applied to, this can open up some interesting questions. How is Virgin Atlantic's "cool"ness and "new"ness different from American Airlines' "old"ness? Is 30something still young in airline world, or is Branson less naff over on t'other side of the Atlantic? What really stood out was the 2 Japanese and 1 German car manufacturer in the top 5 for Quality, but no US. The US domestic car industry needs an urgent re-branding job.

The UK site doesn't have that much activity yet, so is more of an entertainment view at present.... searching "cool" as a tag over here shows up Marlboro, Harley and Levis in the top 5. Does this say more about the sort of person who is using the UK site so far, or about the sort of Brit who would use "cool" as a tag in 2008? (Don't know why I'm being cynical, I searched for it).

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

More Jeff Clark

More funky stuff by Jeff Clark, who also designed Twitter Streamgraphs. Digg Trends has a really customisable interface, so that by picking on the Auto category, I could concentrate on trends in environmental motoring categories at a keyword level.

Now although data visualisation apps are fun, they aren't much use unless there is something to illustrate, so here I've mashed in the price of oil over the same period (the white trend line).

I think I could get most of this info out of Google Trends, but the interface here is just so much easier

The difference a day makes

Did something happen to the Conservative leadership between Monday afternoon and Tuesday?

I've been playing around with
data visualisation tools this week, and found this app that shows the contrast between Osborne's confrontantional 'blame Brown for everything' speech on Monday, and Cameron's 'Work together to beat the crisis' piece yesterday.

Shared text column in the middle is all the stuff you'd expect - "financial", "crisis", "money", etc. The differences are where it gets interesting: Osborne on the left (not a phrase I expect to hear too often) is focused on Brown, with the main references being 'borrowing', 'pounds' and 'taxes'. Cameron's text is focused on 'safe', 'security' and 'value', but the most interesting difference is in the use of verbs - 'Stop' and 'Tax' being Osborne's main uniques references, while Cameron, in direct contrast, wants to 'understand' and 'pass'.

Obviously this is an easy contrast to pick on: I'm not doing anything that Newsnight and Today haven't already done other than make a pretty pattern out of it. But as someone who is routinely putting media packs or client briefs into Wordle to pick up on things that the authors might have missed, there's some great cross referencing to be done here. For instance, what about it you could compare the tag clouds of two brands on Brand Tags.