Sunday, 29 March 2009

People who trust advertising

Comscore, Tacoda and Starcom published a research project last year that questioned the clickthrough rate model as an effective metric for online display advertising by showing that 50% of clicks were made by 6% of the online population. These so-called 'Natural born clickers' were not reflective of the people that the advertisers responsible for online display campaigns were generally interested in communicating with.

I was reminded of this when reading Ted Shelton's post on Replacing Anti-Social Marketing, which points out that only 13% of people trust advertising (according to the Edelman Trust Barometer). Ted raises a really important question from this - are these the people that your brand wants to be seen with? Given the range of other information available today, would you really base a business strategy on people credulous enough to still trust advertising?

Saturday, 28 March 2009

ITV's Primeval Twitter simulcast

It looks like I'm not the only person to spend more and more time with Twitter open while watching TV: in the last few weeks I've not only been joining in real time conversations about things I'm watching, but also making more effort to watch things like The Apprentice and Masterchef live, so as not to miss out on the opportunity to chat about them. Hardly surprising, as the so-called 'watercooler effect' is what TV has always been about. Just that now the watercooler gathers people from around the country. So respect due to ITV for integrating the Twitter backchannel into their launch of the new Primeval season that launched this evening: running it simulcast online with the discussion below (and then repeating it online again afterwards), as well as publicising #Primeval on their website in the run-up. To be fair there weren't that many people discussing it (see Twitscoop stats), but then Primeval isn't appointment to view TV in the way that something like The Apprentice is. If a brand like ITV are going to host the Twitter stream on their own site then it makes sense to test things out in sci-fi drama, where the smaller audience are more backchannel-literate than jumping straight in to Corrie.

It'll be interesting to see where they take it from here: ideas like the CNN/Facebook link-up for Inaguration Day let you switch between the whole discussion and just your friends (ok so this was based on Facebook Connect, but surely also possible with the Twitter API). Is there a value in streaming conversations into the video player, as some US broadcasters have done? This might seem intrusive if it was simply a hashtag feed, but if it could sync SMS, IM and Twitter @ replies than that is adding some very personalised value (and could be done by adding an aggregator like Meebo or Digsby into the ITV player)

Thursday, 19 March 2009

The extreme shepherd virus

I [try to] forget how many times I've pointed out over the last few years that viral is something that happens, not something that is. Marketers and agencies can make stuff that is interesting, but they can't naturally select the interestingness

Then something like extreme shepherding comes along.

'Inspired by' Samsung LED TVs to play with LEDs, retro arcade games, art gags, etc. 750k views and counting on YouTube in a couple of days. Genius. And probably predictable by anyone who saw the storyboard.

Not really sure what how it contributes to selling TVs, but I'm sure someone's thought of that. I'd hazard a guess that it is about TV sets = dull commodities/this = fun.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

...or just remove the word 'paper'

After yesterday's post on the future of newspapers or lack thereof, I was pointed towards an elegant summary of the thoughts that inspired it

"Just remove the word 'paper', and talk about the future of news"

Job done. (thanks @lickbrain)

Monday, 16 March 2009

Precipice Industries, Deckchair Realignment and Clay Shirky

There have been a lot of insightful articles over the last few weeks about how some genius piece of deckchair realignment might start to save traditional newspaper publishing. Most of them come from the US, where far more papers have far less national market share, and so are more vulnerable than the UK's virtual monopolies (having checked my Delicious for the links, most of them seem to have been written by Jeff Jarvis). Over here there are plenty of regional titles struggling, but their influence is far less than their north American regional counterparts.

To be fair, I've played fantasy newspaper saviour myself with my former employers at The Indy; but realistically newspapers seem the most likely precipice industry to follow record labels into the history books. Not in the next year, but as Bill Gates pointed out

"We always overestimate the changes in the next two years, and underestimate the changes in the next ten"

So although the Guardian expects to shut its presses for the last time in 2030, plenty of newspaper writers have made an eloquent case for the role that newspapers played in society - the corruption and deceipt that can only be made public by a free, independent and powerful press. And this piece by Clay Shirky elegantly dismantles every one of their arguments. I don't tend to lift big chuncks of text on this blog, but there are a few really powerful truths in it that I hadn't heard of or considered. (the full text is here)

The core problem publishing solves — the incredible difficulty, complexity, and expense of making something available to the public — has stopped being a problem

When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.”

The expense of printing created an environment where Wal-Mart was willing to subsidize the Baghdad bureau. This wasn’t because of any deep link between advertising and reporting, nor was it about any real desire on the part of Wal-Mart to have their marketing budget go to international correspondents. It was just an accident. Advertisers had little choice other than to have their money used that way, since they didn’t really have any other vehicle for display ads....when Wal-Mart, and the local Maytag dealer, and the law firm hiring a secretary, and that kid down the block selling his bike, were all able to use that infrastructure to get out of their old relationship with the publisher, they did. They’d never really signed up to fund the Baghdad bureau anyway.

Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is journalism

Actually that last one covers it for me: when you remember that the link for advertising was with newsprint and heavy machinery and overnight distribution, and that it isn't the medium that brings down governments and brings criminals to justice but the people, then imagining the future isn't too diffucult.

It's just like the music industry where people still love music, musicians still love to be able to make their living playing music, but there isn't any money left for the record companies (for a breakdown of exactly how ridiculous this industry is becoming, check out Some Random Website on the PRS/YouTube debacle)

Friday, 13 March 2009

Comic Relief - what people are saying in real time

This is a post about data visualisation and Comic Relief. It's really not about Twitter...
As the UK gears up for the BBC's massive charity bash tonight, I thought that there might be some interesting Comic Relief style conversations going on. Neoformics data guru Jeff Clark has just released a tool that builds word clouds out of searches on Twitter (covering the last 200 references to a search query) - so allowing you to see in real time exactly what people are saying on Twitter.

Also really interested to see that basic sentiment analysis is included -
seems to be at a word level (ie 'awesome' or 'funny' are automatically counted as positive regardless of context, and 'weird' shows up as negative) but any non-human based sentiment analysis is a major development in a free tool. Basically positives show up green and negatives red.

So then you can dig deeper into the data by clicking on any word i
n the cloud to add it into the search query: this is what 'comic relief weird' looks like
At this level there are much more references to Chris Moyles.

Given the levels of buzz there has been around TV shows in the last few weeks (Heston Blumental and Masterchef are two that I've joined in, and sure that non food geeks are doing this too), this type of application seems perfect to be added into backchannel visualisations from the major broadcasters.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Hashtags and trends

Oh dear, third post in a row about Twitter.....

So we launched a really cool thing at work last week called REAL Social, which is a whole range of partnerships and projects bringing disparate parts of Publicis and external partners together and make working together faster and more fun. Nick Burcher has all the details, as he helped build it. And at the press launch on Friday there were lots of people twittering away, all using the hashtag #REALSocial. We set ourselves the not outrageous target of 80 or so tweets an hour (bearing in mind that there were 100 or so people in the room, and 50 more on webinar) that
are generally needed to get a tag into the 'currently trending' type of lists on apps like Twitscoop.

I'm not sure if I'd missed something on how trendtracking apps work, but I've never followed any of them as i'm not particularly 'trend-y' and anyhow that isn't really what i do on Twitter. So it wasn't until other people who do subscribe to them started RT'ing th
at the #REALSocial tag was trending that i realised the relevance of this: so basically everyone who follows Twitscoop (7000 odd) gets a message to tell them 'this is important, you might like to find out more about it', with a list of the people who are contributing most to it for them to follow up. So suddenly we had gone from our own individual networks of a couple of hundred people, to thousands that follow each of the trend tracking services. Which made me think of this diagram.

(Pic Credit - David Armano)
And thinking about it, I clearly have missed a big chunk of how trending and hashtags work.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

#TwitterNovel: Writing things (in 140 characters or less)

There's been lots of 'how to use Twitter' articles been flying around in the last week, some good (Wall Street Journal, FT), some less so (Shortlist). And ad agencies are not immune - this Slideshare deck from BBH/MadeByMany is a great intro that also starts to talk about how the service has been used to publicise things other than the people using it. The challenge for ad agencies joining in is all around the 140 character limit: what can actually be said in 140 characters (or less)?

In terms of narrative, 'flash fiction' predates short message formats, and although the genre tends to be Six Sentences, or even One Sentence that take the 'short story' to its logical conclusion, the genre tends to focus on narrative under 1000 words. The goal of this style of writing is to create narrative that exists in isolation of other reference points within pre-defined limitations. Kind of like what Twaiku (Twitter Haiku) does already within Twitter, but with more words to play with.

But for the communications business the 'in isolation of other reference points' bit is irrelevant: nothing exists outside of the framework of cultural and commercial significance, and everything contributes to it. So 140 characters is not the limitation for telling a story, rather an opportunity to reference the existing story.

So I was thinking along these lines after reading some Twaikus, and wondered how big an idea you can condense into 140 characters if everyone knows the original idea. My attempts are below, which I'll also publish on Twitter as it seems a much more relevant medium than here. Please add to comments if you want join in, but again, it seems like something that shouldn't really exist in a blog environment, so maybe better to use #TwitterNovel (actually that's giong to make it 127 characters or less, and every character counts...)

His Dark Materials
Most conspiracy theories are true, but only kids and physicists know it. BTW Milton was right, Satan’s a dude

Lord of the Rings
Get off your arse. You’ll be surprised what you achieve. Look, there’s King Arthur with the Romans

The Great Gatsby
Maybe boy meets girl, maybe girl rejects boy, maybe boy wins girl back. Who knows, sounds good though, eh?

Catch 22
War? LOL that’s sane compared to people. I’m the only normal one here. Don’t trust the normal ones. Jump!

The Beach
Smug narcissistic backpacker seeks similar for utopian idyll. GSOH unnecessary. May lead to reality TV show

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Love, Sleep and Google

Been away for a while and now I'm back. And conveniently a data genius called Yvo Schaap has built this Twitter trend visualizer called TwitterThoughts so that I can see what I've missed. You can track references in a flash interface with all manner of sliders and dropdowns to customise (inluding stuff like total followers who have viewed a meme). and map movement over time (as in the image above). Yvo explains the concept as follows:

TwitterThoughts creates charts based on Twitter tweets in combination with lots of APIs: From a sample of 600 tweets/minute served by the Twitter Api that we send to Yahoo Pipes where it extracts all phrases from the tweet text and the latitude/longitude with use of Yahoo YQL. This Yahoo Pipe outputs serialized PHP back to our local update script that grabs every tweet and phrase and puts it in our MySql database. Daily overviews for fast rendering of the chart data are generated with a daily CRON update. Finally Google Visualization API generates an interactive flash chart based on our JSON data feed.

And it appears what I've mostly missed is love, sleep and google. So pretty much like any other pitch then.
(Hat tip to ReadWriteWeb)