Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Social networking reaches Middle England. Daily Mail running scared

What's that? They harm what? There's plenty to suggest that 'social websites' might harm newspaper sales and ad revenue, and this is certainly evidence that they are approaching universal usage in even the middlest of middle England. Less to suggest anything else. To quote a very old Stephen Fry piece (from a Daily Telegraph column in Paperweight), it's just the Daily Mail projecting its own sordid fantasies on a batch of harmless statistics.

Nice to know they're worried though

Monday, 23 February 2009

Image of the Day: Copy > Control

Don't think I'm going to be adding much to GeekMedia over the next couple of weeks: there's a strong smell of pitch work looming. So short stuff it is. I've always been better at words than pictures, so thought I'd challenge myself to come up with some images instead. And rather than summarise all the problems the legacy record industry is facing (see yesterday), I thought this covers it.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Betting against the future

I used to work on a financial spread betting client, which involved learning a lot about how that sector worked, how people with different attitudes to risk used the site, what helped someone using the site for the first time start off with realistic expectations, etc. The main thing that every serious spread better is looking for is the 'edge' - the approach or the knowledge that will make them successful. The simplest approach is to watch out for news stories or interviews and be able to react quickest; many spread betters never get beyond trading this way. However, it is time and labour intensive and relies heavily on luck.

So the article in the Times today in which the CEO of EMI explains why his company will be betting against the 21st century and investing heavily in the 20th reminded me of this. The skill in spreadbetting off news stories is getting information about something about to go wrong, and then selling it before the market does. If I had the time or money to still play around with these sites, I would be selling every bit of EMI I could get my hands on. Any sort of long term bet against this company's future looks a pretty safe investment.
As The Music Industry Manifesto points out , this is a corporate suicide note. Actually, it's not even that: a suicide note shows intention, whereas this interview just shows lack of understanding at a fatal level (in the same way that intentionally jumping in front of a train would be suicidal, whereas not realising the danger of playing on train tracks is fatal stupidity).

You might expect that Terra Firma, the VC that owns EMI, might be considering backing a more clued up CEO in the near future.
(Hat tip to Jonathon MacDonald for the sources)

Saturday, 21 February 2009

The Geek Gene

My son said his first word today. It was 'mobile' (sounded more like 'ro-ri', but he said it while trying to nick my Blackberry out of my pocket...). So, nature or nuture? Is there a geek gene, or is this behaviour learnt from someone who spends far too much time on a Blackberry?

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Facebook changes attitude to data after rest of world says no

Facebook's new terms of service slunk back to the C20th this morning after Mark Zuckerberg's apology earlier in the day didn't clear the media storm around the service. It has been replaced by the old (and still highly suspicious) one as a holding position. However, this is a temporary measure until it can be replaced by this:


In other news, the case against Pirate Bay pretty much collapsed on day two after the prosecution admitted they didn't understand how BitTorrent works.

Maybe we can change stuff after all. Let's start in New Zealand

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Meeja Kitteh

(Photo Credit)
With apologies to Cheezburgers

Monday, 16 February 2009

Facebook's attitude to data

Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine
Facebook updated their Terms of Service today, with an amendment that has caused a lot of people to question how worthwhile their FB profile really is. Basically what has happened is that Facebook have used one of their rights as set out in the ToS to change any term that they want to, with no warning or right of appeal. That shouldn't cause anyone any problem, as you all knew they had this right from when you read the ToS back when you signed up, right? Oh.

And the term that they have decided to change is this: it used to say

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display, transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate, excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute (through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof

but importantly it also used to add this:

You may remove your User Content from the Site at any time. If you choose to remove your User Content, the license granted above will automatically expire, however you acknowledge that the Company may retain archived copies of your User Content.

That bit has been removed and replaced with this:

The following sections will survive any termination of your use of the Facebook Service: Prohibited Conduct, User Content, Your Privacy Practices, Gift Credits, Ownership; Proprietary Rights, Licenses, Submissions, User Disputes; Complaints, Indemnity, General Disclaimers, Limitation on Liability, Termination and Changes to the Facebook Service, Arbitration, Governing Law; Venue and Jurisdiction and Other.

So the amendment seems to have changed things from 'we can do what we want with your data until you tell us to stop', to 'we can do what we want with your data forever and you better get used to it'. This is obviously a concern, particularly for for example for musicians who post their tunes and videos on FB - not only is any content posted automatically the property of Facebook, but this amendment removes any way of regaining it by leaving the network.

Personally I think that there is not enough use of Facebook as a creative community that this change has been made to steal and licence content, and it clearly won't be now, as artists and musicians will surely revert to networks offering fair usage terms. It does raise a question about data and the internet though. The C20th record label business has fought for ten years to continue to 'own' data that costs nothing to store or distribute, It also refers regularly to people stealing content by using P2P networks and BitTorrent, and as of today is back in court in Sweden trying to close down PirateBay for breach of copyright on a global scale.

Although on the one hand you have an out-of-date business model trying to stem the inevitable flow of data into the public domain, and on the other a behemoth of the internet
age struggling to live up to its venture capital billing, these cases are similar. If data is free and in the public domain, then anyone can use it for whatever reason. If we put a caveat on that such as 'whatever legal reason', then the record companies are in the right, as copyright is part of all [western] legal systems. If we support PirateBay, then the argument follows that Facebook can have all the pretty pictures that we have given them of our own free will and do what they want with them.

And by and large I think I agree with the second part - if we choose to hand over data rights in return for a really really easy way to share it with our friends, then we shouldn't be overconcerned about what Facebook does with it. With the very very important addition that we should also be able to ask for that right back at any point. So up till now Facebook data rights has been a fair trade - I wouldn't upload my own music on there, but I can see the cost/benefit if I did. But now it seems suspicious.

Still not sure about whether it is any worse that what we've done to record companies - however, I also don't care, as they profiteered from me and every other music f
an for 50 years (actually only about 25 for me specifically - I'm not THAT old). And that is the other important point, because at the end of the day this isn't something that is going to be ruled on by a judge or a barrister. If Facebook has gone too far here, we will be the judge. We will either use it or not use it - another bit of breaking news today showing how it can be done: the campaign against New Zealand's repressive copyright laws shows both the depth of feeling and the impact of having @stephenfry get behind your campaign. And I think that that is the difference - no-one will line up to save the record business because no-one cares. They were just a middleman. The difference is not one between data being free or owned, it is between people caring and not caring. If we care about data privacy, we will use the network that Facebook has created to make a change (as seen in Beacon), in the same way that data has fought to be free of the clutches of the record industry. If not, then it probably wasn't that important.
(Hat tips to Mashable and Stephen Fry for sources)

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Twitter business plan convincing some people

Today's announcement that Twitter has secured another $55m in venture capital suggests that whatever the revenue generation plan is, there are people willing to invest in it. Within the announcement was the detail that only around a third of Twitter traffic is on their website: the majority is through the API, which suggests where revenue generation is going to be focused. That feels important, in the same way that Twitter feels important. So as there isn't an easy elevator pitch for Twitter I'm finding myself trying to explain it more and more to colleagues, friends, and random passers-by that I have to apologise to when I bump into them while on Twitterberry. Just saying 'Facebook status on IM' doesn't really work any more; it feels like a copout, as even the people who don't understand Twitter know it is more important than that. Likewise I can't guess exactly what the business plan is, but it is clearly all about the service not the site.

Friday, 13 February 2009

mobileYouth talking about the future

When we think about the future of anything it is difficult to frame it in anything other than what the present, or at least the recent past, is like. I've seen (and borrowed) a few people's ideas on how our late C20th experiences may be actually be the anomaly in the transition from pre-industrial brands to a networked society - Karl Long, Rohit Bhargava and Andy Hobsbawm particularly.

So I wanted to share this deck from Graham Brown at mobileYouth, mainly because it is a great analysis of what has changed and what is changing, using education analogies rather than the production line ones that tend to explain our changing economy, but also because it looks so good and I want to remind myself next time I'm writing something on Powerpoint what presentations should look like. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Conversations, media agencies and Bill Bernbach

We Are Social have been hosting some great debate about the past, present and future of advertising over the last few days, centred on the question of what the role of great creative is in an increasingly networked world. Having resisted the urge to drop my favourite 'conversation' quote, from a Cory Doctorow piece on downloading movies, in to the comments, I'll paste it here:

Content isn't king. If I sent you to a desert island and gave you the choice of taking your friends or your movies, you'd choose your friends -- if you chose the movies, we'd call you a sociopath. Conversation is king. Content is just something to talk about

and as recent great work such as VCCP's Meerkat for Compare the Market (Disclaimer: client) and the T-Mobile flashmobbing at Liverpool St have proved, content that is talked about leads to business success specifically because of the talkability, as well as because of the content.

Another comment on Robin's post referred to Bill Bernbach, and reminded me of a quote of his that I believe everyone working in advertising should think about on every piece of work they are involved with:

If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic.

It cuts to the heart of the problem that we are all trying to solve in an attention economy, and I think it is particularly relevant for media agencies. At some dim and distant point in my past, someone who I believed knew what they were talking about explained agency departments to me like this:

Planners identify the problem, creatives solve the problem, account people make sure the solution happens, and media people make sure the solution gets noticed.

Having only ever worked in a media agency, I can't vouch for whether this is true, but I've been known to put this together with the Bernbach quote if feeling self important. It is possibly what is at the root of my hatred of reach and frequency, the twin pillars of media planning, being bandied about as objectives in communication plans.
Leaving aside arguments about how they are measured (not going to link, too boring, Google it), they are useful guides to the POTENTIAL to achieve objectives, but they are essentially hygiene factors. There's an important disclaimer hidden away in the definitions. Reach is the percentage of a target audience having the OPPORTUNITY to see an ad. Frequency is the average number of times they had that OPPORTUNITY. From a media person's perspective, EVERYTHING is about actually taking that opportunity. If an ad goes unnoticed, everything else is academic. Media planning STARTS once the hygiene factors are in place: to make sure the solution IS noticed.

And to drop in another nugget of 1950s wisdom, Word of mouth is the best medium of all. I'm not saying that advertising is the only way to generate it (that would be a whole other post), but I don't believe advertising can succeed if it doesn't.

Friday, 6 February 2009

A Presentation About Community, By The Community

Love this idea!
Neil from Only Dead Fish was due to present to 50 planners at the IMM conference on the power of online communities, and decided to illustrate his subject by crowdsourcing the presentation - anyone who wanted to contribute sending one slide. I was one of 30 people who joined in, and the finished product is below, but well worth reading the full narrative that accompanies it here.
A Presentation About Community, By The Community
View more presentations from neilperkin. (tags: branding brands)
According to the IMM website, most of the delegates at the conference are from media agencies, so hopefully we can look forward to some more media agency bloggers in the near future. With a few honourable exceptions we're a pretty reticent bunch when it comes to sharing our ideas in public, and there can be no better inspiration than Neil&everybody's presentation.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

This Kangaroo has ceased to be....

(Photo Credit - Flickr user Thomas Rosenzweig)
Right, I'm going to keep this [relatively] short, as I was looking forward to having the BBC's back catalogue on tap as much as the next comedy addict. What's that? Have I heard of YouTube. Oh!

So the Competitions Commission have pulled the plug on Project Kangaroo. The idea of the 3 main broadcast content providers in the UK all distributing through the same portal whilst selling ads separately was referred to in the report as something that 'has to be stopped'. And you can see the Commission's point. After all, this is supposed to be the future of TV, not just exactly the same model as we have now. I can't see the difference between a TV screen that's been showing content from three UK-based content providers since 1982, and a computer screen doing the same. The only winners are the walled gardens that the ISPs would love to lock us into. Something like Boxee is great, but only for the few people who know that they want this type of app and go out and look for it. The sort of marketing that
BBC, ITV and C4 can throw at a new technology between them would put UK internet usageitself onto a different level.

Where do they go to from here? Well the market for their content isn't going anywhere. It's just the portal that they aren't allowed to collaborate on. I'd expect to see ITV.com, 4OD and iPlayer scaled up quickly, but this isn't a replacement. It was the robust aggregation platform that would have been the success of of Kangaroo - everything all in one place. If the broadcasters were brave, they would free the content: instream ad units, distributable anywhere. Don't worry too much about the actual viewing platform. Sound familiar? Because it's where we're all going to be viewing our archive UK content now. Until Hulu launches, and BBC, ITV and C4 sell them the content rights. So that 18 months of legal review has got us where exactly? The same result, but US owned.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Someone said it had been snowing....

Photo Credit
So lots of people in central London couldn't get to work yesterday. And lots of other people on the mainland and in North America understandably laughed at us for getting in su
ch a fuss over 6 inches of snow (incidentally, is snow the only thing other than TV screens still measured in inches? I don't understand imperial measures on principle, but have spent the last couple of days converting centimetres BACK into inches, like it's the 1950s).

And once we'd finished our 'every five years sledging expedition', we turned the day into genuine English community spirit. Lots of weather to talk about, a proper reason to whinge about public transport, but an overwhelming sense of being sent home from school. London certainly turned into a bunch of kids for the day. And what means now is sharing experiences with as many people as possible. The BBC had the largest ever response to an appeal for photos, video, stor
ies, etc. Much of the BBC news consisted of camera phone video: this was news affecting everyone and documented by everyone.

But it was also the day that Twitter showed its public service credentials.
Not for everyone, but anyone using it was at a distinct advantage. By 8am the overground rail companies' information boards had frozen up, the TFL website was buckling under the weight of traffic, but anyone following @uktrains knew exactly what their chances of getting anywhere were (slim to none). The app pulls feeds from the BBC, shortens them in Yahoo Pipes to 140 characters or less, and publishes them through Twitterfeed. More details here

We also joined in at crowdsourcing the weather forecast. From Sunday afternoon's excited but disorganised 'Its snowing in [wherever]' tweets, we had moved by early Monday morning to a semi official hashtag #uksnow, and a location based weight of snow system, relying on tweets including the hashtag, a postcode, and a snow intensity out of ten (eg. '#uksnow SE24 7/10'). This fed Ben Marsh's fantastic #uksnow mashup, showing live Twitter sourced weatherTo be fair this is more of a map of where it is snowing AND people use Twitter, rather than simply of where it is snowing. But you get the picture.

To me the really big and important mash-up will be when the BBC start broadcasting events like this using Twitter. We saw it a couple of weeks ago when Janis Krums' photo of US Airways Flight 1549 floating in the Hudson River made front pages around the world, but that was a single big event where he happened to be closer than the news crews. We also saw it pre-planned with CNN's Facebook Connect link up for the US presidential inauguration. Here, in a random weather event affecting half the country, the real personal content was there for all to see and mashup, and there was a major broadcaster desperately seeking real personal content. The BBC's coverage has been all the better for leading with non-professional footage, but next national story there need to be more integration.