Friday, 29 May 2009

Twitter and the FA Cup Final

ITV have been playing around with socially connected TV for a few months now, most notably with the pre-launch event for Primeval, and with @ITVinsider, their well-followed Twitter dialogue with their fans run by @benayers. Most of the interesting conversations have been around their flagship programming like Britain's Got Talent (as you'd expect given its social footprint). So the Twitterfall experiment in tomorrow's FA Cup final looks like opening social TV up to a new audience of footie fans. Nick Burcher has already detailed the potential that this has here, but it got me thinking about what social TV means to TV advertising (ITV's bread and butter revenue stream).

For someone who invests a lot of other people's money in TV advertising, I am not very good at ever seeing it live on TV. Sometimes through choice, but increasingly because I hardly ever watch live TV. Media planners know that there are a lot of other people who view it in this way, which is why genuine appointment to view programming like sports events are so valuable to advertisers and broadcasters, and why football rights in particular are so expensive. Once you know there result of a match, the value in viewing it on Sky+ goes right down. However, most of my viewing of live events is actually not in real-time, it is a few seconds or minutes behind. Close enough that the no-one is going to spoil it by telling me the result, but usually paused here and there during the match. Which then gives me two ad breaks during half time to fast forward and catch up with real-time events. This doesn't get in the way of discussing the action, as everybody in the room is viewing the same events at the same time.

But what I've noticed recently, in the Apprentice generally and the Champions League final in particular, is that viewing even a minute or so behind leaves me out of the wider conversation that is going on on Twitter. Access to a wider set of friends than the one in your living room means that viewing has to be synchronised if conversations are to mean anything. Which for sporting events means that appointments to view have to be live rather than near-live to get full value from them.

There is obviously a long way to go in the development of social TV, but experiments like this start to show how the social currency created by televised sports, reality TV and soaps can be developed into something that not only gives viewers more value for their attention, but also breathes life into the old TV ad model. The old model was based on the concept that content was king. Now content (as Cory Doctorow points out) is just something to talk about, broadcasters are starting to understand the value in the conversation.

(Moot point - will this Twitterfall generate the same level of abuse, swearing and general mischief as previous ones like Skittles or the Telegraph Budget Day? Given that it is designed for English footie fans, you've got to hope that ITV have a level of moderation built in for their own sake. How this affects the real-time nature of the event we will see tomorrow afternoon)

We7 - free music streaming and sharing

I have a have a tendency to request Beta invites for anything that looks like it might be interesting, and then often forget to actually do anything with them. I guess that's what happened with We7, a Spotify competitor that has just emailed me an invite code.

The interface web rather than desktop-based, but the selection of music looks at first glance to be a good start (ie lots of artists I like, but not necessarily all of their albums). What is interesting though are the sharing options; playlists can be set up as apps in your social network, although currently that only works as long as your preferred network is Bebo. The playlist appears in your profile page like this:
And can offers embed codes like the one at the top of the page. As it's a sunny day I've grabbed a few tunes that remind me of summer, but with a bit of a range of style and era to show the range of music already available on We7.

I don't think this is anything radically new, but the idea of embed and share app codes for playlists is pretty sleek. While you can do far more on LastFM, you have to start parting with cash to get any of Last's better features. And obviously, I like having all the music there is available on my desktop.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Twitter tools visualisation

Twitter tools are growing at similar exponential rate to the service's traffic this year, so it's always useful to have everything in one place. Mashable has been my preferred choice of reference points, but this visual from Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas is a neat framing of the best research tools around at the moment, grouped by what they are for. Great when you can't remember which of the ten you know of is best for a certain objective. And also great to play around with the new ones.

Spotify Mobile app - the first view

This has been coming for a while, but the first view of a Spotify mobile app was unveiled today at Google's I/O developer conference. And the venue should give us a strong clue that this ain't no iPhone kit. Oh no. Given the huge potential conflict with iTunes, that has yet to happen, and this is an Android development.

To be honest, I believe that Spotify has too much potential for Apple to ignore, and it may well be that the iPhone app is in development (actually it is strongly rumoured to be: the question is more about whether Apple will approve it). Given Apple's previous preference for exclusive deals of the O2/AT&T variety, I had a suspicion that Spotify would only be allowed onto the iPhone as an exclusive (and no doubt premium subscription/buy-through-iTunes revenue share deal) handset partner.

The Android version has clearly blown this out of the water, and if this app can stream and cache to a handheld with the stability and zero latency that the Spotify desktop app offers, then Apple will soon be playing catch-up. I know I am a confirmed lover of Spotify as much as I am an iTunes-sceptic, but I reckon this could be the relaunch that Android needs.

Saturday, 23 May 2009


You might of noticed that I like Lolcats. And I get pretty worked up about politics. So I love, and if you do too, then you probably will too. Simples

Friday, 22 May 2009

Economic Barometers

One of the few plus points of working stupid hours over the last few weeks is getting cabs home [checks to make sure that no-one from The Telegraph reads this]. Not just because it's easier than dealing with the pissed people on the midnight tube, but also to get a view of London's economy from the people who know it best - the cabbies. There's a noticeable difference from the last pitch I worked on back in February, when people were still queueing for cabs at 11pm and the cab drivers' general feeling was that nothing much had changed outside the City since 2008, and now, where a guy who picked me up at 11.30 said he had been on his shift since 10 and I was his first fare. He was lucky: 5 cabs had come past with their lights on while I walked from Zenith's front door to the street.

Theatre kicking-out time in Covent Garden is evidence of this: where 3 months ago an orderly cab rank would form around the time of the end of a performance, there is now a melee of taxis fighting to cut into the entrance to the rank. A couple of people I've had lifts with have seen fights breaking out in cab ranks - in 2009 this is amongst the cabbies fighting over fares rather than punters fighting over cabs.

Anyway, I tend to take cabbie sob stories with a pinch of salt, but although media has been feeling pretty bad this month, there's a lot more people worse off....

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Wolfram Alpha: the next generation of Search?

The possibility of genuine semantic search being just around the corner has been around for several years. With, let's face it, the strongest contender being the bottomless R&D budget at Google HQ. So the very soft launch of Wolfram Alpha the other day (no product demonstration, lots of theory, a request for the tech bloggers invited to the launch webinar not to post screenshots, etc) shouldn't really be anything to get excited about. The product is not a search engine as such, rather a curated collection of data and statistics already available on the web. This data is organized using natural language processing in response to user search queries.

So not a competitor to the existing search behemoth, but potentially a radically different vertical search proposition. The caveat being that no-one outside of Wolfram programmers Mathematica, really knows what verticals, or how specialist.

However, two days after the demonstration, on the 1st of May, some screenshots started to appear, principally on ReadWriteWeb. These show the output from Alpha from research-orientated search queries:
"Internet Users in Europe"

So automatically outputs a range of the most relevant data relating to the query. As a contrast, I ran the same search in Google, and received this set of results :
"Internet Users in Europe"
There might even be some of the same data there, but to me the Wolfram results look much more usable: you wouldn't need to go any further with the query to have a reasonable set of answers. Google is more about giving you a starting point to look for more.

I don't think that this is in any way a 'Google-Killer', but I do think that I will get a huge amount of use out of the Wolfram system. I've been building my network and tag history on Delicious for a couple of years to get to a point where I can use Delicious as a starting point for most advertising/marketing/planning/digital related searches, but I also work in finance, travel, charity, youth, auto and sports sectors, and there isn't (as far as I have been able to discover) enough Delicious history or users in the UK to make these worth developing. NLP seems like the obvious successor to social search, and so I hope to be able to write up how I have been finding Wolfram in a month or so's time after the Beta launch.

Asda: Cheap is good

Smile - ASDA's rolling back more prices from Razorfish UK on Vimeo.

So I mentioned the other day that I'm surprised how few brands are actually asking how they can help people in this recession. Not saying x% off, or 'buy some get more free', but actually asking what they can do to help. I know that this is mostly because brands are just as short of cash as people this year, and marketing folk are the ones whose budgets are at the sharp end of that shortage. Still, if your positioning is all about 'cheaper' then brand image advertising must be a challenge, but the alternative has always looked like Ryanair

Which is why I love this Asda home movie by Razorfish London - it looks genuinely like a spoof, and it absolutely nails Asda's whole positioning in a very meta 'advertising about advertising' kind of way.

Whether I would have seen it if I hadn't been reading Razorfish's marketing director David Deal's blog, I don't know. I'm probably not Asda's 'target audience'. But I can't see it on YouTube, so I'm guessing that this is a campaign that is still to hit TV