Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Virtual MultiTouch - 3D entertainment controller

Swiss tech designers OZWE have created a virtual interface that replicates the iPhone screen's control surface.... controlled by gesture in 3D! According to TechCrunch,

Think of the convenience of multi-touch gestures applied to all your media, and not limited to a small patch on your laptop. Raise your hand and make your fingers into a shelf, then lower it the volume decreases. Spin your finger around clockwise to fast forward, counter-clockwise to rewind. Speak the name of a song, or the track number, or hold up an album cover to play it. This from anywhere in the same room as the QB1 or whatever successor makes good on these ideas

That's right, not just controlling the audio functions, but actually selecting tunes based on picture recognition (moot point - who has album covers any more?). Anyway, the video isn't embeddable, but can be found here

Faris wrote a couple of months ago about Pattie Maes from MIT's TED talk showcasing the wearable web, and this announcement shows that this type of tech is nearer than we think.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

David Armano on the Future of Advertising

The Future of Advertising. WTF?
View more presentations from David Armano.
Sure most people will see this without me posting it, so if anyone has accompanying notes i'd love to see 'em 

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Why aren't brands asking this?

Respect to Camden Council: it's the question that everyone wants an answer to.

(and another question: why is this the highest quality photo that my Blackberry can take?)

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Mothercare's affiliates following me on Twitter

There's not many of my family currently using Twitter very much, so I don't put much on there about them. I do mention my son from time to time, but I was surprised to be followed by a parenting brand called @MothercareDeals. When you look into it a bit closer, their biog states:

We find bargains available at Mothercare. We are not Mothercare.

And they tweet about anything that is on special offer there and link to a WordPress blog called NipperNews with imagery pulled from the Mothercare site. Which then has links through to the Mothercare site proper, presumably on a percentage of each sale.
So far the people they are following appear to be ones who have just had kids and announced it on Twitter, usually with a message of congratulations. While this does seem a little stalker-y, it is also a very relevant service, and the account does explain why it is following people if they ask. However, most of the references to Mothercare on TwitterSearch are of the 'WTF' variety.
While Twitter is very good at banning spam accounts, I think we will start to see more affiliate marketers who understand how it works really capitalising on Twitter's growing mainstream appeal. If the brands that pay them are not finding ways to be relevant (as Mothercare aren't), then they will take advantage of the trademarking wild west that currently exists on the service to maximise their sales.

Murdoch's still way ahead of the game - WSJ iPhone app

To be fair I don't know if Rupert himself is to be congratulated for the Wall St Journal's iPhone application, but as well as being a great execution of the mobile news genre, it also shows that value of paid content online for the future of a newspaper. As I've mentioned before, it is unrealistic to think that popular news sites are ever going to be able to build a subscription model. That horse has long since bolted. There is a possibility that they can generate revenue through mobile access to news, as mobile is still an area where we are used to incremental payments for better services and functionality (as in the iPhone itself). The problem is that few phones make reading content (particularly content that includes pictures, links, flash video, etc) particularly pleasant. So you would be paying for the convenience of consuming the content anywhere, although it is actually relatively inconvenient to do so.

Much better if you are looking at offering the same content on a mix of free and paid media to have the always-on but difficult to use in depth medium available for free, and charge for the one that people will want to spend more time with. As the WSJ has maintained its subscription model (more because it could, having unique and high quality content rather than having any particular insight into the future of newspapers) it has been able to do that.

Although thinking about it that the same could have been said about print and online versions 8 years ago....

Monday, 20 April 2009

The Telegraph's #Budget problems

(Photo Credit - Flickr user Noodlepie)
To give The Telegraph their due, they embrace technology more than their reputation (and particularly the reputation of their readers) would lead you to expect. Their newsroom apparently runs a Twitterfall display of breaking trends
(Photo Credit - OneManAndHisBlog)
and in the run up to Wednesday's budget, they had a go at rolling this idea out onto the budget section of their site, displaying every tweet that was either tagged #Budget or mentioned Alistair Darling. So while Skittles seemed happy to take the inevitable abuse that comes with the opportunity to post rude words in incongruous places for a good few days before switching Twitter to a dark recess of their new site, The Telegraph pulled the plug within a few hours. But fortunately not before people had had a chance to have a good giggle and take a few screengrabs, which are preserved here for your amusement.

(Photo Credit - Flickr user Noodlepie)
(Photo Credit - The FT)
(Photo Credit - The Guardian)
As you might guess from the links, there is a little hint of schadenfreude at the other newspaper groups. Can't see anyone hurrying to recreate this idea - it seems to be too much fun for people (particularly those on Twitter) to resist playing with.

Advertising ITV

Ironic that ITV launched their bizarre 'Sunshine' ad campaign the same day Britain's Got Talent launched global superstar Susan Boyle. Her YouTube clip shows everything that ITV is about as a brand - big warm mass entertainment with a feelgood factor running through the middle. I suppose that this will likely be associated more with Brand Cowell than with ITV1, but surely if they want to play 2.21 minutes of something on their own channel they should try repeats of Susan rather than the blandly weird beach spot. If you haven't seen it, don't bother with the full video play, skip straight to the vox pops kindly grabbed from BrandRepublic. As one guy being interviewed points out, it is much more likely to win awards than to change anyone's behaviour (which in my view is the most disgracefully self-indulgent thing that can be said about an ad).

I would have embedded the Susan Boyle clip here as well, not because there is anyone on the planet who hasn't seen it yet, but more to illustrate my point. But every clip on YouTube is coming up with an 'Embedding disabled by request' message. I wonder who has requested it to be viewable only on YouTube: the production company, ITV, YouTube, the singer herself? Not sure what anyone would have to gain from it.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Yahoo Japan trials Minority Report billboards

I've been expecting personalized outdoor advertising to turn up at some stage ever since seeing Minority Report. I'd always expected that this would be based on some data privacy troubling RFID reading technology that could scan your mobile for web history and shopping preferences. However Yahoo Japan have developed face-recognition software that can identify the age and gender of passers by, and serve them *relevant* advertising messages.

The demo will initially run across 500 screens in Fukuoka, which will also play news and weather updates. Given that we already have the most videoed public spaces in the world in the UK, I can't see how this would theoretically cause too much problem if it was rolled out here - certainly far less intrusive than the RFID model. Whether this would actually work will be more related to how useful the ad content is, and how much the it adds to the environments where it exists. (so not holding out much hope there....). Will be an interesting one to watch though.
(HT to @deandonaldson for the link)

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Telegrams to the future and selling your soul: two extremes

ReadWriteWeb have done a bit of digging into the Magpie ad service on Twitter. If you haven't come across this before, it is basically a service that pays normal Twitter users to tweet on behalf of brands (usually for discounts, offers or special deals). Because the links are hidden behind a link shortener, like all links on Twitter (unless you make the very easy and free upgrade to PowerTwitter), you can't see where the link is directing you: ie the Magpie redirect gets very well hidden. The brands that are using the service, and attracting the fury of RWW, include Apple, Skype and Flip (well realistically its probably affiliates that get paid to shift coupons, but it is still on behalf of the brand).

Personally it doesn't bother me that people will take a few £$ to pass
corporate messages on using Twitter, as long as they come with the #Magpie tag that the service recommends (I am pleased that I don't know if they tend to or not as i haven't come across them outside of tech blogs though). Where it starts to get a bit suspicious is if they aren't clearly marked: of the list in the RWW article only two of the Apple examples use the tag. Aside from the dubious ethics of taking cash to persuade your friends of something that you don't believe, this is also a pretty shaky legal position. Or at least it is in the UK, where it is illegal to post positive feedback on behalf of a brand that you are working for without full disclosure of the fact that cash is involved (whether as a one off payment or an agency relationship). (I'm sure it is elsewhere as well, it's just that I know the UK ethics and laws better). Which makes the international nature of brands and the internet, not to mention people's Twitter networks, a bit of a moot point. This is clearly advertising, and if people using the service are 'conveniently forgetting' to add the tag, then surely the responsibility lies with Magpie to comply with the laws of ALL the countries its messages are being viewed in?
In happier news, the Imperial War Museum in London has taken a novel approach to the recession by marketing money saving tips from World War 2. They are set up as telegrams to the future from a character called Mrs Sew&Sew, the Ministry of Information's voice of 'Make Do & Mend' in the 1940s, published onto a blog and a Twitter feed. While the recession tips give a very 2009 saliency to the War Museum, I love the incongruity of this very 40s voice appearing on Blogger and Twitter, alongside tip sheets like this one
While I can't see a huge amount of spreadability in this idea, it has taken an objective [sell War Museum tickets] and a strategy [bring to life the similarities between the Home Front and a Recession] and set about achieving them with warrmth and intelligence. Which makes it a refreshing change to the duplicitous stuff that Apple and Skype are involving themselves in
(HT to Brand Republic for the War Museum link)

Monday, 6 April 2009

Virgin Mobile says Screw You Recession

Ok there's a big recession on, Virgin Mobile Canada offer cheap calls and low line rentals, people are looking for tips on how to save money. So Virgin provide some in this blog, and give it a big provocative title
Screw You Recession
that plays well on urban billboards. Sounds simple, but what makes it work* is in the quality of the writing; it's basically what a few of your mates would write if they were really good writers (which obviously these guys are, as they are professional copywriters.....) doing it for a laugh.

There's also some geniune research to give the papers an angle

   Current Mood: Yellow "Sorta' Freaking Out Right Now"

- Biting nails - 72% are anxious about their future
- Brand disloyalty - 41% have given up a brand they love
- Show me the value! - 52% are open to trying value brands
- Chic-onomics - 88% have changed their shopping habits
- Recessionistas - 42% are making "noticeable sacrifices"
- Unemployment - 42% fear being unemployed
- Politics - 57% say they don't believe a change in government
would change anything
- The Simple Life - 75% want a simpler life

(Here's some serious stuff: Virgin Mobile asked 1,500 Canadians
during Q1 of 2009, aged 17-35, to rate their confidence, fears,
openness to change and habits during the current recession.)
*I don't know if it is working in the sense of actually selling phones, or even if it is picking up much traffic (there's 114 comments on a 'Tips to screw the recession' post though, which suggests there are people reading): my Canadian web trends access isn't up to much, and I kind of think that Alexa isn't really a valid measure for this....
(hat tip to Marta Kagan for the link)

Saturday, 4 April 2009

That's because we can't remember

While that doesn't surprise me (we as a city either can't remember that far back or we were hammered), I can't believe I haven't seen We Feel Fine before - so this result probably shows that you need to search for US cities to actually find anything interesting.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Digital Maxim and Murdoch's mobile future

The first big name print casualty of the year was announced yesterday, when Maxim magazine moved to online only. Not entirely surprising given that it had dropped 41% of its sales over the last 6 months, but Maxim is still apparently the biggest selling men's mag in the world so its UK decline suggests something larger than simply ad revenue drying up in 2009. Of course, the brand itself will continue in digital format, where it already looks healthier (250k email subscribers compared to 41k print sales). I have a sneaky suspicion that the online format will look something like Dennis's Monkey - one of those curious 'web-magazines' where you have to drag the pages to turn them. Although the 1m monthly unique users of this magsite (smag? webezine?) obviously like that format, it seems to be the result of a conversation that goes something like this:

Well we're good at making magazines. But people don't want to buy magazines as much now because they're using this "web" . So how do we put "magazines" onto this "web", because then everything will all be ok again?

So rather than thinking what might of how to get things back to the way they were, how about thinking about getting them forward to the way things will be?

Magazines are portable and easy to access. Webezines are far less portable and difficult to navigate. Let's face it, websites are starting to feel a bit unwieldy to anyone getting well-acquainted with applications. And this isn't something that can be blamed on ad revenue in the way that TV and online publishers can: they know that 2009 is tough because no-one's paying them, but both media are growing their audiences (not as difficult when your product is free). Maxim's problem was that no-one wanted to buy the thing. Moving online effectively means 'cut out the fixed print and distribution costs and make the content free'.... which means that it survives simply by being interesting.

What puts this dilemma into a sharp perspective is Rupert Murdoch's speech this week at a cable industry show announcing that he is investing heavily in the next generation of Kindle-type devices. *graeme points smugly at this post*.
Handheld mobile devices are the obvious evolutionary step for print brands, but are currently hindered by useablilty issues (ie reading articles on a 3 inch screen is no match for a physical product in your hand). Mobile as a medium however offers the holy grail for cash-strapped print brands: a lot of people who are very used to paying for content on mobiles (whether through monthly data tariffs, one-off application purchases, whatever - the point is there is a monthly bill attached). The monthly payment isn't as much as the cost of a printed product, but then we weren't ever paying just for content when we bought magazines (or newspapers) - most of that money went on glossy paper, printing, distribution of heavy pallets of magazines, etc.

So News International apparently see this as a possible future medium for some of their brands, and as the most powerful publisher in the world it makes sense that if we ('the consumers') aren't buying into genuinely readable handhelds quick enough then Rupert will give the tech industry the kick/cash injection that it needs to give him the required distribution platform. But there are a few other ways of looking at it:

1. There's a lot of devices already that do a pretty good job of being readable. It might be difficult to for example charge monthly for Zoo on an iPhone, but how about a subscription for all Bauer titles on Vodafone? The Kindle (sorry I hate the phrase 'e-reader' it reminds me of a very long time ago) is an extra chunk of device to stick in your pocket every day, so these sort of predictions will only really start to work when the mobile/netbook battle resolves itself and we're left with really usable useful devices.

2. The brands that survive will be those that deserve to: Maxim's girls/comedy/laddishness content is available in a thousand other places on the internet, and so it won't survive long there either. Print brands that do will be those that either have unique content (usually the very big brands) or unique communities (usually the niche brands)

3. People like magazines (ok not enough to make them profitable). If you are using a site every day to check a few favourite feeds, then surely it should be able to learn enough from what you, other people like you, your friends, etc read to be able to put a pretty decent package of content together that you haven't read. And then your subscription could offer you a couple of printed copies per year (printed specifically for you, content specific to you that it knows you haven't read). (Perhaps when you book a train ticket you could be reminded to order it for delivery the day of travel) - the printed version becomes the personalised collecters edition.

And ideally of course these various new revenue streams all add up to enough to keep the magazine in actual print, as people aren't going to stop buying the printed version of the thousands of mags with a valid reason to exist, unlike Maxim

Since I'm on the subject, I'm still not sure whether i think Wired UK is a good thing - see Ramzi Yakob and Neil Perkin for more. All I can say is that I bought it to read on the way home today, but ended up noticing that Wired US had started publishing full articles over RSS, so read them on Viigo all the way home instead