Friday, December 22, 2006

Digital media predictions for 2007

This will be my last day in the office before the New Year. I will attempt to resist updating this blog until then (about as likely as resisting the temptation of more Christmas chocs, to be honest...). However, I thought it would be a good time to make some predictions about 2007 - all of which you are very welcome to contend, add to or dismiss via the comments below.

So, I say, 2007 will be the year in which:

1) Access to the internet via mobile will surpass 40% of all internet use (globally).
2) A UK national newspaper will close its print operation. And a series of one-time print only magazine brands will become digital only (pick a number between 25 and 100).
3) Broadcast TV on your mobile will become commonplace. Sky will offer it as a bolt-on upgrade to your home services.
4) Microsoft/Google/Yahoo (one or all) will launch a mobile phone.
5) All mobile operators in the UK will follow 3 and offer fixed price mobile internet access.
6) A mobile operator will seek the edge by launching a fixed price for all services (ie £40 a month for all-you-can-eat internet, voice, text, mms...TV(?)
7) More than 10% of internet users will blog.
8) A citizen-journalism TV channel made up entirely of video shot on and uploaded from mobile phones will launch.
9) TV on demand will revolutionise how you consume TV and send advertisers into a blind panic.
10) A slow-burn campaign for users to claim back their digital identities will turn to a riot of noise by the end of the year...

Media companies and the 'clever-people' gap

Something controversial for to get your head around over the festive period: How are you going to attract the big brains you've always relied on, into the future.

I'm thinking particularly of media brands which inspire and are driven by passions.

In the past if a very clever person was passionate about (for example) horses, and wanted to be involved in publishing about their hobby they had one choice (assuming they hadn't got the bunce to start their own company) - join a media company.

They'd put up with starting on hobby-money salaries, poor managers and old fashioned hierarchies - because they had no other option.

Now the clever person doesn't have to worry about finding the cash to start their own publishing rival. Now they can start up digitally, cheaply, manage themselves, pay themselves what they are worth (they are a clever person - they will succeed) and chew chunks off you.

I'm not saying a passionate hobbyist with an IQ of 195 will never join you again. But I am saying that has become far less likely in the post-blog age.

The way people publish has changed. Has they way your media company recruits changed to close the clever-people gap?

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

BBC signs up with YouTube rival Zudeo

As reported by the Beeb itself: HERE
In nutshell - the BBC has done a deal with a High Definition downloads site (codename zudeo) from the makers of BitTorrent. And it's pay per view with some social functions (eg rating, blogs, fan sites etc). Users can also upload to it.

Privacy and Permissions: The customer wants his data back

Whenever you're involved in any kind of digital project clever marketeers will fight tooth and nail to make sure they get data-mining elements included.
They talk about 'owning data', by which we mean owning customers' personal details. The more we know about them, the more money we can make from them. Perfect knowledge... and all that.
But we shouldn't assume this is a digital default. Some time, very soon, we're likely to see a consumer revolt. And with the power vested in the blogosphere, the social consumer will get what they want - their identity back.

Individuals will own their data and offer us permissions to access it from time to time. It will be theirs to share, not ours to own.

What this means for brands is that we will have to work harder than ever at our engagement - we will have to make ourselves more trustworthy, more relevant and more worthwhile to get any kind of permissions. And we'll have to do it consistently, persistently, every day.

Peter Miles, discussing the issue on the Oxford Forum (see link below, left under resources, says:)

"For a whole host of reasons I think this current arrangement is illogical. I think the logical arrangement is much simpler and will be based on the fact that I do own (and retain) all rights to my personal data / profile but essentially I am prepared to 'share' aspects of this with selected companies based on a mutually beneficial arrangement for both parties.

"My logical situation would be something like:

"All data / profile on 'me' is stored in a secure place under my direct and sole control.

"I allow different levels of access to this data information to different companies / institutions based on the nature of the relationship. So I might allow my chosen Bank certain access and say my sports social networking site a different level of access.

"None of my data is actually transferred to these sites thay are simply allowed to access through to my secure place.

"If at some point I decide to 'deny' them that access then they cannot therefore keep any data of mine as a sort of legacy trace.

"One beneficial side effect of this might be that I will no longer need to remember 50 different user names and passwords as I - or is that 'me' - become the centre of my own universe.

I do think that at some point there is going to be a legal challenge to the current situation and that will spark a very interesting debate."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Widsets and Moblr

A couple of mobile internet enhancing sites/applications for you to consider: (download it to your phone, it optimises sites, offering a better user experience on the third screen (and thanks to Alan Moore for that one).

And then there's the newly-launch

Moblr claims to work as follows:
"Upload: A video shot using a mobile phone can easily be published on the Moblr site. Users can either upload the clip directly from their mobile phone or send the clip by MMS or email. The clip can be named and tagged before it goes public so others can search for content easily.
"Viewing: All videos can be accessed for free from users’ mobile phones or PCs. Most recently uploaded videos are posted on Moblr’s home page and users can search all videos by category and tag.
"Formats: Nearly all video formats are allowed. (There is a file size restriction as the videos are intended for mobile viewing.) Moblr automatically converts files into a format that is compatible with most mobile phones and PCs. This means that videos can be passed from one mobile phone to another and from a PC to a mobile phone without any problems.

However, my tests of it have revealed a very clunky (no, unusable) mobile internet site and a fixed line site which works just like YouTube but with a tiny filesize limit (to suit mobile applications).
I’d be interested to hear other users experience because the idea (and it is in beta) sounds very interesting.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Nintendo moves fast to avoid having the wii blogged out of existence

Blogging colleague StressedBadger reported this just a week ago.
The Blogosphere was getting itself very animated about strap failures on the new Wii.
Nintendo has shown it has learned a lesson from the Kryptonite experience (see Communities Dominate Brands et al).
They've listened and have reacted extremely fast with a recall (HERE)

From the Beeb: "The strap recall affects all Nintendo Wiis sold worldwide and almost all units currently on shelves in shops. "

This is the new reality for manufacturers. You can't keep a problem quiet anymore. You can't expect it to go away. And you have to deal with the issue in the right way and fast.
Nintendo have done the fast bit - customer reaction (keep your eyes on the blogs!) will tell them if they've done it in the right way.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Could social consumer tech make your 1.0 site a 2.0 one for free?

I've been ferreting around among the 2.0 social shopper applications and have started to think they may offer a fast, free track to 2.0 social-facing consumption for 1.0 websites.

For example; imagine if added the offertrax button (see below) to all its inventory, suddenly they get all the advantages of 2.0 with none of the costs, trouble of conversion, need to convince consumers to take up a novelty etc etc.

And so it goes for any digital play which lists stuff for sale - particularly if those catalogue listings change with fairly regular rapidity (consumer electronics, clothing, groceries etc etc).

It could even apply to a classified model (though eBay might fill your rss inbox a bit quick!) - provided you allow users to update their offering (eg change the price).

For more on offertrax and similar social shopping offerings, see links below.

Social consumption: A rapid and sticky way to close the trust gap is a 2.0 browser download that enables 'social annotation'.

They say: Highlight, Clip and Sticky-Note for any webpage
just as you would on paper --> write on any webpage!
make them private or public --> interact on any webpage!
Share your online findings with your friends and colleagues
complete with highlights and sticky notes
as lists, as blogs, as albums, as feeds, or via email.

I can see this proving very useful as a tool in beta testing of sites (see example, here)

But it's also worth considering as a social consumer tool, hard on the heels of offertrax et al.

And it set me thinking: There are many social consumer sites cropping up now.
How disruptive to traditional BUYNOW classified models do you think they are likely to be?

These social consumer sites offer a new and fast way to close the trust gap - ie "you might have the right price, mate - but I've never heard of you. Why should I give you my money?"

The notion of customer loyalty to any particular vendor brands has pretty much been crushed by the internet.

It's essentially because vendor brands (shops and online retailers) have way less influence over us than the communities we want to share our thoughts and lives with.

Now we follow the price - the brand of the product itself is where the value resides for us - provided the vendor has a certain level of trust about them.

There are some exceptions - and they are perhaps those brands which work hardest to engage (think Amazon's onsite CRM) but ultimately that loyalty to vendor brand only makes you choose that particular brand as one of your preferred places to search/visit (a definite advantage even in a 2.0 world, it has to be said).

Vendor brands which make themselves useful to us - and which we can trust - still gain an edge.

But the trust gap can be closed much more rapidly by new vendors than ever before. And that means it just got easier to launch against No1 in any market.

If members of your community have shared with you that this new vendor is indeed all he's cracked up to be, then the vast majority of buyers are likely to be swayed.

It's always been possible to read user reviews of their experiences with a particular vendor of course - on their own forums etc. But can you trust them?

So you could go trawling the internet on the off chance that someone else has posted about them on some other consumer forum somewhere (though many wouldn't bother, they'll just tootle off to a brand they already have some trust in). And why trust those posters? They aren't part of your particular community (in most cases).

What diigo does is make the thoughts of other members of your community apparent at the moment you view the offer from the vendor (new or old) on any site.

You get instant advice from the community you do trust.

Great news for new vendors. Great news for consumers - because if the new boy gets it wrong everyone (from that community) who visits his site will see the message.

All they need is critical mass.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Sony suffers viral disaster

(Excuse the lack of caps but due to my wrist injury, I’m trying not to strain my remaining good hand)

Sony has really scored an own goal with their new attempt at promoting the psp. Creating a fake blog was bad enough, but they've even accelerated into the car crash by doing it badly, and moderating comments in such an obvious way.

It’s all round the web.e.g.

And in an era when bloggers will openly admit to receiving free gadgets for reviews, it's just so stupid.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Buy Now! No thanks - I'll buy when I want!

Came across offertrax today (here). It's a bit of 2.0 tech which allows you to seek the things you want to buy and then lay back and wait for the right price to fall into your lap.
Essentially you save the site into your favourite links and click on it when you're on the page offering an item you want. You then get RSS feeds updating you every time there is a change in that offer.
The theory is that when the price or offer reaches a level you're ready to accept, you hear about it swiftly and can then go do the deal.
This is a powerful notion. You are putting part of the control of the process back into the hands of the buyer.
"Gone are the days when customers simply land on a merchant page and expect to only see a Buy Now button," says Ben Carcio, co-founder and COO of Offertrax. "As customers grow more sophisticated, so must the sites that serve them." (more here)

I've tried this and found it a bit flaky so far, but the idea is neat and it is only in beta at the moment. There are others offering similar ideas.

There's a review of some of the alternatives (such as stylefeeder and mpire and their social networking functions here on Wired News

The article includes: "As Offertrax's Carcio points out, e-mail has been so badly abused by spammers that RSS, blogs, opt-in offers and other "user-controlled technologies" will soon become the most effective way for sellers to reach out to interested buyers.
Putting the user in control might be the fastest route to online sales success, says JupiterResearch's Evans.
"These new sites are a great opportunity for consumers to get into the game and get information themselves rather than relying on the retailer for that information," she says.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Virtual currency threatens China's Yuan currency

My thanks to StressedBadger for this the story of the threat to the Yuan, the Chinese official currency, from a virtual one used on the country's biggest IM platform - and why this is just the start...

Friday, December 08, 2006

3 X-Series: Activating Orb

Another update on progress with my X-Series (3's ground-breaking fixed-price mobile internet package.
I finally got around to playing with Orb on it last night (attempts to install orb at work having failed due to the security issues around turning a networked pc into a broadcast device...)
At home it worked a treat. Within seconds I was viewing all the images I have on my pc on my mobile - and each one automatically optimised for the mobile browser.
A proper jaw-dropping moment.
Documents were quick and easy to access too.
Can't wait to trial with videos.

Wii-lly annoying

The Nintendo Wii has now officially launched in Europe, with parents and consumers all lining up to get their hands on the new console as the clocks chimed midnight in the UK. Certainly in the nearest supermarket to the office, there was a queue formed by 6.30pm, and it wasn't just stereotypical geeks lining up for a five hour wait.

But the console is also getting a cult comedy following. Besides the usual hardware problems which affect the launch of any new product, the innovative control system also has one flaw. The fact that people have managed to destroy their TV's, windows, and far more as the Wiimote flies free from their hand. Several reports point the blame at the wrist strap snapping, and the President of Nintendo admits they are looking into it.

It's an amusing reminder that users will not only find flaws with your products, but can now post, blog, or set up a dedicated website within minutes to publicise their problems.

See more Wiimotes making a bid for freedom

As an avid gamer, I'll be keeping up with the latest developments and getting a Wii bit of feedback from some early adopters at The Way of the Web.

UPDATE: Nintendo issue recall, December 15: HERE

Thursday, December 07, 2006

When firms can reach their audiences better than media companies can

Scott Karp over at Publishing2.0 (see recommended blogs, left) draws our attention to this.

It includes the tellling line: "The monthly web audiences for P&G (Proctor and Gamble) and Unilever brands now easily swamp the audiences of many magazines and cable and syndicated TV shows where they advertise."

If media companies think they deliver audiences, big brands are already discovering that they can find their own. And how much more targeted are these?

For my money, this is another great example of the need for media companies to become expert in engagement marketing, rapidly - and ideally rather faster than the companies who pay them to reach audiences...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Social networks get networked

Here's an interesting new development from; people search:
At present it searches Bebo, LinkedIn and MySpace - but more will follow (, anyone?)

Not only can you search for people by name, you can also search by interest, age, gender, location, status (single or not so single) screen names or whatever you choose.

So you find people who like what you like AND who like networking, on whatever network, and network with them. It's like adding the fourth dimension!

If only they'd added an optimised-for-mobile version and geo-location...

Stand back and watch that explode.

My lovely new phone, er, computer, er...

Since I made such a song and dance about 3's fixed-price mobile internet access (describing it as the single most important digital development of recent times, and being quoted across the blogosphere for saying as much...), I thought I'd better share a few of the realities now I have a Nokia N73 in my sweaty paws - and the Gold X-Series package.
Setting up Orb has been an adventure in internal IT limitations (our XP build, I believe - have asked internal IT to resolve asap).
But Skype was up and running in an instant (used it yesterday, too) and I've set up a useful homepage for myself, created using google's personalised homepage for mobile.
Access to my home email was a doddle - sending or receiving - and I found myself checking my home email and sending replies from my phone/computer last night in front of the Chelsea game.
ebay is fine - but the text a little small. I used it to check my latest buyer had recieved their goods and was happy with the outcome.
There's an awful lot to discover on the X-Series N73, it's pretty much like getting yourself a new PC - with a new-to-learn operating system.
But the more I get to grips the more I like. Already it's meant I didn't turn on my home (fixed line) pc last night. Is this a glimpse into the future?
I'll bring you more on how it changes my internet use and the uses I find for it as regularly as I'm able.

Someone asked me this morning how much hassle it was having to text-type in all your usernames and passwords etc
Made me wonder how many people 'typed' before they were forced to do so by the desirability of accessing content on the internet via a pc.
People seem ever adaptable - provided the end result is what they want.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The future is startlingly similar to the present...

I'm intrigued to see what the wider world make of my most recent post on The Way of the Web.
My views on how editorial sites will be fuelled by user generated content have become more coherent over recent weeks. Certainly when it comes to text submissions, there seems to be a lot that suggests the new editorial model for many publications will in fact be very similar to the current set-up.
Anyway, I'd be very interested in hearing some more points of view, so get yourself over to The Way of the Web

Monday, December 04, 2006

Yahoo/Reuters embrace phone photo journalism

The NY Times and GigaOm are both reporting that Reuters and Yahoo will start incorporating UGC pictures and video in their reportage.
Cameraphone users will be able to go to You Witness News from Dec 5 to upload. The pictures will be curated by editors from both Yahoo and Reuters. Interestingly, Yahoo will not pay contributors, whereas Reuters say they will pay for anything that goes out via its' commercial services - it's just not sure how it will work.

The timing is certainly right. Following the oft-cited examples of the tsunami or London train bombings, just look for 'Michael Richards' on google or youtube. Even those not familar with Kramer or Seinfeld couldn't help stumbling across the footage of his racist outburst in a comedy club.

The real interest lies in which brands users will run to with their scoops. If you've captured a video of a newsworthy event, would you instantly want to upload it to Reuters or a Daily newspaper? Or would you rather upload it to Youtube, or your own blog?

Alan Moore keynote speech at Nokia World

Alan Moore (Co-author Communities Dominate Brands, see recommended blogs, left) speaking at Nokia World in Amsterdam last week.

Click here to watch his presentation.

Alan has some brilliant ideas about how recent technologies have uncovered human truths which set the scene for entirely new ways for companies to work with consumers. He offers new strategic thinking and a deep and perceptive understanding of why social networking and co-creation of content is going crazy.

Stick with it; it's a good summary of many of his ideas.

Sorry, did I say two years until mobile internet rules?

Latest survey from Harris Interactive (reported on Brand Republic, see link below) reveals that already more than half of all 16-24 year-olds "prefer to access internet content from their mobile network provider via their mobile".

Sourcewire clarifies this: It's not so much about the preference for using mobile internet, as about the youth market insisting on freedom when doing so. They don't want to be coralled behind walled gardens.
The message is that if you have a mobile internet offering you should make sure it's available both sides of a walled garden arrangement with an operator.

From m-send, the people the survey was done for: “At the moment we are in a similar situation to the early days of consumer use of the internet when most people used CompuServe as it was simple, easy to use and correctly formatted.
"However, users soon realised that there was much more available to them outside of this walled garden, as companies realised that it was actually very easy to create websites themselves,” comments Chris Astle, Managing Director of m-send.
“The result of this survey shows that at the moment the vote is split, but we firmly believe that as consumers become more aware of how easy it is to use the mobile internet, they will be demanding access beyond what is offered by their network operator. Getting the offering to those consumers right, will definitely give some companies a competitive edge.”

But all this is before we see the impact of 3's new free-at-the-point-of-use mobile internet deal, which may well make inside-or-outside of walled gardens, moot. To me, optimisation full stop, is the key.

I'd add links to previous things we've posted on this, but blogger is playing up again. I'll try later. In the meantime; use the label links below to find related items:

Full Brand Republic story:

Friday, December 01, 2006

3 deal goes live - and they can't keep up with demand

Regulars will know I'm a big fan of the 3 deal to offer fixed-price free-at-point-of-use internet access (and more) on your mobile.
It went live today and I managed to order one this lunchtime. Prices are £5 for the silver version and £10 for the gold one (which includes orb and slingtv).
I don't want slingtv (just at the mo) but I do want orb, so I've gone for the gold.
Only one phone - the nokia - available yet - and no available date for the sony-ericsson.

The reality is this will cost me £25 for six months and £40 a month for the remaining 12.

If the fact that their website keeps crashing when you try to order the X-Series is anything to go by, demand is big.

Here's the smallprint:(i'd make it a link but blogger is having fun a bit of fun at the mo...)

We want you to have an enjoyable and unlimited experience of X-Series on 3. But as you’ll understand we need to manage this, so here are some things you should know.

About X-Series Gold and Silver
To use X-Series services, you need to buy an X-Series mobile, sign up to a Pay Monthly price plan, and buy X-Series Gold or Silver – all from 3. You can only use our X-Series services on X-Series mobiles.

If you also buy a Slingbox, you'll need to take X-Series Gold for a minimum of 12 months. Otherwise, X-Series Gold and Silver are for a minimum period of 6 months when bought on connection to 3. Or if bought after connection there's no minimum period. After this they will stay active on your account until you cancel the one you’ve chosen.

If you don’t use your monthly allowance it doesn’t roll over to the next month.

More on X-Series Gold
Mobile access to Orb or Slingbox does not include using your mobile as a modem.

For Orb and Slingbox you’ll need minimum PC software, PC and router specification and broadband at home.

Slingbox and Orb are for personal use only and you mustn’t breach copyright or get around copyright protection.

To watch home TV on your mobile you need to have a TV service that you can legally view.

Slingbox is sold separately and contains a Freeview receiver so you’ll need a TV licence if you haven’t already got one.

You’re responsible for your compliance with all of these terms.

Our fair use policy
We have fair use limits and hope you’ll use your common sense. These limits should be big enough for you to do all the things you want to do. But we’ll get in touch with you if we think you’re using our services unfairly, and especially if you’re abusing them. If we find people are using X-Series above these limits, we’ll review them. Here’s our take on fair use:

Unlimited data is 1GB per month. Also, your data usage doesn’t include using your mobile as a modem.
Windows Live Messenger won’t count towards your monthly data fair use limit but has its own limit of 10,000 messages per month.
Skype on 3 is 5,000 minutes per month. If you go over this you’ll need to wait until the start of the next bill month for the service to resume, however Skype calls can still be received.
Orb and Slingbox have a total combined limit of 80 hours a month.
Where can I access X-Series?
All X-Series services will work when there’s video coverage on 3’s networks in the UK or overseas and, except for Orb and Sling, will work in our UK standard coverage as well. International roaming voice call charges will apply when making Skype calls from 3's networks overseas.

When you’re online
When using the internet, you can’t use some websites (including adult websites) and some websites aren’t compatible with all mobiles.

Some email accounts might need a premium service upgrade from your supplier.

What else?
For more details on X-Series and our fair use policy see

X-Series Gold and Silver are provisioned as Add-ons and we may need to suspend or change them as permitted in the Terms for 3 Services.

The future has been delayed

You may recall a previous post here regarding Sony and the flagship racing game for the Playstation 3, Gran Tourismo.
The reasons it was so newsworthy was the concept that it would be released without the selection of 400 cars previous games had featured, and instead you could select which cars you wanted to buy.
Maybe it was a bit pre-emptive:

"November 30, 2006 - Sony and Polyphony Digital's experiment in download-based gaming has come to an early end. Sony announced today that it has cancelled the retail release of Gran Turismo HD in favor of a full-fledged Gran Turismo 5 product."

Excerpt taken from

There will be a free download of a Gran Tourismo HD demo of some sort, but any features considered worth keeping will be in GT5. It could be a sign that Sony has realised the effort it's taken for Microsoft to own online console gaming and transactions, or it could be a sign that despite the experience of develoeprs Polyphony Digital, they were being stretched just that bit too thin.

Either way, the fact the 5th installment is being describe as an "Online Car Life Simulator", rather than the "Real Driving Simulator" of previous games has been undermined somewhat by the arrival of Test Drive Unlimited for the Xbox 360 a couple of months ago, which has already had two packs of extra cars available for sale at around £3-4 each.

I'm searching for figures, but indications still suggest that the market for add-ons for specific games only work for a very select number of very, very popular games, as most have faded by the time downloads are available. The big draw for the Xbox 360 is Xbox Live Arcade, with complete vintage arcade games and modern games which offer quick excitement for between £4-£10.

And fromt he feedback I've had, it seems like the 360 is scooping up the more hardcore online gamers, while the Nintendo Wii has the interest of those looking for something different. It remains to see how much of the mass market are still around and waiting when the PS3 finally arrives in the UK, and until then, all we have to guage excitement is a huge number of Chinese people paid to queue inf ront of Japanese department stores.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The apple i-phone is about to land

The clever money among informed sources is that apple's much speculated mobile is actually on its way this time. There's even talk of firm orders being placed for 12m of the little white jobs with a Taiwanese manufacturer.
Expect to see it in March next year.
I've seen discussions where there is a suggestion that Apple will take the brave decision to make this a telephone. ie a communication device rather than convergent with its I-pod. The argument goes that they could take an innovative lead in making devices connect with each and communicate with each-other in an intuitive way, rather than build their own I-pod killer.
Hmmm. I don't see anti-convergence working - not now there is talk of 20GB of storage on next generation phones, and security systems which recognise the phone's owner, and lock as soon as you move more than a couple of feet away from it (being launched in Japan right now).
I'm a firm believer in the convergence cause. Every objection I've seen can be overcome with either online storage accessible via mobile internet, or orb networks solutions.
There's a reason nobody carries a filofax anymore...

Monday, November 27, 2006

First glimpse of a new economy...

Online gamers have long talked about 'gold farms', but they have now been captured on film for the first time. In basic terms, they are sweatshops dedicated to procuring exclusive items from a variety of online games, which are then sold on auction sites and forums for real cash.
MTV was actually the first place to air the clip from a new documentary film which looks into the phenomenon.
You can watch the film here:

It's certainly evidence of a change in the global economy, with the young generation of blue collar workers now beginning to spend their working lives in repetitive virtual employment, rather than simply walking to the nearest factory every morning to work on a real-world production line.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Reason report on MIT's Futures of Entertainment conference

Alan Moore on Communities Dominate Brands draws our attention to this post.
It's by Jesse Walker at Reason magazine. Read the whole thing here.

Here's some of my personal highlights, Alan selects others at CDB here.
And there are a few of my own conclusions at the end. Feel free to add your own as posts.

Last summer, as the explosive popularity of YouTube became obvious to the older media companies, the marketing department at the Cartoon Network decided to use the site to promote its shows. So it posted some video clips there, hoping the promos would get forwarded in emails, linked on blogs and MySpace pages, and otherwise spread through the Internet, strengthening the channel's fan base and drawing in new viewers.
Happily, people noticed the videos. Unhappily, some of the people who noticed the videos worked for the Cartoon Network's legal department, who mistook their colleagues' new marketing tactic for an unauthorized appropriation of the firm's intellectual property. They promptly sent cease-and-desist letters demanding that the clips come down...

...a business meeting she and some colleagues once had with Apple... the TV people were caught up in pleasing all their stakeholders, while the Mac man was concerned solely with improving the consumer's experience. It's a pretty good snapshot of the difference between a company that sells eyeballs to advertisers and a company that sells tools to the audience....

The second panel... was devoted to content generated by the audience itself. The speakers included Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr; Rob Tercek of the (M)FORMA Group, which produces mobile entertainment; Kevin Barrett of BioWare, which makes computer-based role-playing games; and Ji Lee, who started sticking empty speech balloons on ads around New York City, waiting to see what people would write inside them and photographing the results... They all build structures where users can roam, interact, and create and share their own content.

Fake suggested that there is a "general exhaustion with mass consumer culture," and that less passive forms of entertainment are arguably the natural state of affairs. It wasn't long ago, historically speaking, that quilting bees and front-parlor music occupied the space now filled by movies and television.

Tercek argued that economic logic favors user-generated content.

And Barrett noted that, while only a minority of the grassroots creations... might be "good" by mainstream standards... that doesn't matter from the ordinary consumer's point of view. What's important is that it fills a need for the people who make it, not that anyone outside their immediate circle find it engaging...

You can't predict the way those people will use those tools. Flickr began as a feature in a long-dead online game, a way players could drag and drop photos into instant messages. The programmers soon added the ability to post those pictures on webpages, and that was the side of their service that succeeded.

Wise companies -- put another way, companies that survive in the marketplace -- understand that it's better to foster and follow such serendipitous developments than to try to force your users to conform to your original vision.

Ron Meiners of described his company's plan to build a platform that will let other people build yet more worlds on a license-free basis, from enormous World of Warcraft-style games to amateur, user-generated realms, each with their own aims and mores.

Of all of the above, the most telling for me is the notion that the natural human state is to join in - to interact, to be part of the entertainment rather than to sit back and stare at a screen: hence the success of social-networked sites, of blogging, of computer games... etc etc etc

It's why engagement marketing beats interruptive marketing, why UGC is essential, why micro mass media beats mass media, why broadcast is failing and self-cast is growing.

Even when we thought we were a mass media, passive-entertainment addicted society, the clues were still there: It's why people always liked Letters pages in magazines and newspapers, why phone-ins have always been at the heart of talk radio and why gossip happens.

Hollywood and TV have masked some human truths. The tools of the internet have done nothing more than reveal the huge commercial potential in understanding them.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Expert content does have a role in social-networked success

Social networking has been a huge success on the web. Tomi T Ahonen (Communities Dominate Brands) has called it the killer application of 3G. It's certainly going to be one of them.

But one of the difficulties for media companies (or at least, those which existed before the internet took off) is that these sites (orkut, myspace, faceparty, youtube etc etc) attract huge audiences, offer compelling propositions - and manage all this without going to the trouble or expense of providing expert-created content (though, it has to be said, often without troubling themselves about such trivialities as profit, at least in the short term, either).

So it might be easy for us to spit our collective dummies and assume no one wants our fantastic creative genius any more. They just want an opportunity to show off their own.

Maybe. Maybe not.

What if we gave them our fantastic, crafted, creations AND engaged them in a vibrant, co-creation-rich, social-network?

So far, I haven't seen anyone doing both really well - great content to give you reasons to arrive, keep coming back, sample other media etc, combined with a killer social networking function which results in communities with the freedom to interact and form groups in the way they prefer.

Why not? Perhaps because recognised brands create instant 'them and us' in the communities which could form around them. Perhaps it's as simple as the proposition hasn't been right so far?

So let's not give up just yet.

Expert content (off the top of my head...):
  • gives advertisers confidence,
  • presents a touchstone/testing board for the community,
  • is initially more compelling and (if you get it right) trustworthy,
  • offers access everyday users can rarely acquire (exclusive)
  • provides an historic archive of great content (UGC can't be retrospective!).
  • Offers an assurance of a certain quality standard
  • er... I'm sure you can think of some others (please post them below)... that expert content is and which UGC isn't
Its addition to a cracking social-network application has to be a bonus, doesn't it?

I'll throw in a third and a fourth strand to this proposal:

Old style interruptive ads just won't work on the optimised mobile environment (and one in which, don't forget, people will be used to watching TV on within two years)...

So, if you can tick all those boxes (and check it against recently identified trends - particularly among Generation-C) you really ought to have something worth investing in.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Ericsson predicts mass global mobile TV by 2008

Interesting to see Ericsson predicting mobile TV will go mass-market global by 2008 (here for the full story).
Given that other sources were predicting a mobile TV audience of 25 million in Asia by 2008 recently, you'd have to think the Sony Eiricsson tie-up has even more up its sleeve.

Add this to predictions of primary access to the internet being mobile by 2008 and that thing you text and call with becomes ever more valuable.
Nokia referred to its latest handset as a 'computer' rather than a phone throughout the launch of 3's fixed-price 3G browsing deal.
Makes me wonder how long it'll be before Microsoft (and others) come up with a rival device.
Bottom line is that the convergent technology of the mobile has to make it your primary consideration in any digital launch. And it's no longer the future calling...

What media companies should do next

I believe there are two very simple strategic imperatives:

1. Be where it’s at
2. Understand how you can make money from where it’s at.

So, where is it at?
Mobile internet (optimising for). But know this; even though 3’s announcement tears down the walls by setting a fixed-rate for broadband access on your mobile (rather than per-mb data charges), this is not the end of the story.
When broadband access is free on your fixed line (and that’s where analysis insists this is all going) then mobile internet access will have to follow. So where's the money?

2. Understanding how you will make revenue from this is tougher than it’s ever been. Which is why we have to get well and truly, thoroughly expert in engagement marketing before the rest. Forget data-charge sharing – embrace new marketing techniques which take advantage of new consumer demands and desires and understand what a new generation understands.

Netservices positive step...

It's not often I get the chance to be happy...hence my pseudonym...

But following the recent V21/Netservices problem, at least Netservices have made themselves heroes in some way by reinstating broadband for all affected customers until the mass cease order comes into effect

Latest News

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22/Nov/2006 - 18:00 - Statement and FAQ Updates

NetServices offer Biscit CSP customers free internet access.*

NetServices is providing this statement as an update to recent announcements it has made regarding the contractual dispute between itself and Biscit CSP (trading as V Two One) which resulted in the termination of broadband services provided to Biscit CSP.

NetServices confirms earlier statements that it will cease broadband services on the telephone lines of all Biscit CSP customers who have not taken up the alternative provided by ezeeDSL on Friday 24th November 2006.

NetServices believes the steps it took to make available an alternative supplier was a better option than simply immediately terminating all lines – as it could have done. We would again re-iterate that given the numbers of customers affected it was not possible to generate MAC codes on such a large scale, leaving aside its stated policy on the subject.

NetServices has dealt with an unprecedented level of calls and emails over the last week from Biscit CSP customers, due in a large part to Biscit CSP’s lack of responsiveness. This has impacted on the day to day running of our business and involved significant resource and cost on our part. NetServices has taken the decision to provide all Biscit CSP customers (who have not signed up with ezeeDSL) with free internet access. This cost of the service will be covered by NetServices. A bulk cease on all Biscit CSP end users is being put through on the Nov 24th. *To re-iterate from today until these ceases take effect all Biscit CSP customers will have free broadband.

As well as allowing our business to get back to normal this action will ease the disruption to the end users.

What's in your wallet? Oh a sim card

Over at one of my recommended blogs 'Mobile Weblog', you'll find this which takes us a step closer to your mobile-is-your-wallet, by widening the availability of the required technology.
This element of the convergent technology of mobiles opens loads of new doors. Imagine you sell a magazine aimed at kids - who run out of pocket money. Give them a mechanism by which they can buy your mag in a shop (where they see it, when they want it) without needing cash and you've just made their lives a little easier.
One interesting take on the 3G revolution is that before too long there will be more machines communicating with each other by mobile than humans - and they'll probably generate the bulk of the revenues (Tomi T Ahonen, M-Profits). A tip of that iceberg is automated billing.
Media companies wanting users to renew subscriptions may find it rather easier to have a machine send them a text message offering them a new deal - which also offers them the opportunity to buy with one click of their mobile phone.
Try the same with classified ads, display ads etc etc.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

If we keep repeating, they will listen....

John Audette, responsible for the Internet News Bureau, has chosen to share his 'Sweet 16' of things that have worked well in making successful internet sites...e.g. integrity, niches etc...

Most are probably pretty obvious to anyone schooled in the web, but they bear repeating...particularly when dealing with people who don't use/understand this wonderful "new" technology which is being forced upon them...

e.g. "The customer might not always be right -- but the customer always rules."

There are a couple which might not be so apparent, such as No 4..."Put the power of inertia on your side", No5 "Build scalability", and my personal favourite...No15 "Respect the power of the index finger"

An important note for print types:
" If you try to do business the old push way and simply focus on what you want and try to jam products or services down the markets throat, then it's bad. In fact, you don't have a prayer of succeeding."

The man talks sense. Read more at The Sweet 16

Optimising for mobile: The time is NOW!

It occurs to me that optimising your website for mobile NOW has to offer significant strategic advantage.

Since mobile will become the primary access point for the internet within two years (probably less post 3's announcement of fixed-price 3G internet access last week) then it follows that those users arriving on the mobile web will prefer (and fall in long term love with) the first sites they find on the subjects they are interested in AND which are best optimised for the mobile user experience.

Brand will give you a head start - but if you offer a poor user experience (by not being optimised for mobile) then bye bye! Your user is off to find someone offering what you've got - on a mobile-optimised site.

We are in an internet ground zero situation.

Imagine being able to be at the start of the internet revolution knowing all that you know now. You are in that position now - if you recognise the mobile internet opportunity and move fast.

The alternative is to repeat the mistakes of sitting, watching, and following too late. The alternative is unthinkable.

eBay is already there, google is already there, yahoo is already there, microsoft is already there.

Where are you?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Yahoo goes shopping...

Yahoo has been on a multi-million spending spree, investing in MyBlogLog, a social netowrking site and tracking site for bloggers, and Bix, a site which lets anyone set up their own online content (see previous post on this blog HERE).
More on the buying spree, here.

And just to keep David happy here's Movidity.....who plan to launch in January, allowing users to upload audio or video content, which gets converted in formats for most smartphones and PCs...but like the report writer, I'm not sure that a new start up will get people using the service, rather than waiting for youtube....unless an opportunistic Mobile operator gets involved, of course.

Why 3 has changed the world

Further thoughts on 3's ground-breaking fixed-charge mobile internet announcement of last week.
It's a no-going-back moment. All other operators will have to follow. If they won't, they'll lose market share - and rapidly.
For example; when I rang 02 to say I was ending my contract and going to 3 to take advantage of this deal, the chap on the other end of the phone was so impressed with the 3 offering he took himself off to their website to sign up too.
The deals with eBay, google, yahoo, orb networks, sling media etc are unlikely to be exclusive, either (can you imagine eBay doing an exclusive deal with one network with only 14 million users globally? No? Me, neither).
So all the networks must change and change fast - and they will ALL have great offerings.
3 has a headstart because it's that handset-changing contract ending time of year. Nice timing 3.

Reasons not to go on the internet....

Imagine you'd paid your phone bill on time, by direct debit for a couple of years. Then, one evening, you get home from work, to find that you could only access a recorded message, telling you that you had been cut off, and the only way to phone anyone would be to sign up for a more expensive package?

That's what's happened to the 9,500 customers of Internet Service Provider V21. On November 16th, all internet connections were lost, due to a dispute between business supplier Netservices, and V21, who resell their broadband.
V21's subscribers (Of which I was one) could only acess a single web page, which told them that they could sign up for a service by Ezzeedsl, at an increased cost, and be reconnected in a couple of hours.... or they could wait for Netservices to issue a cease order to their account on November 24th, and then wait for the BT process to end, which takes around 10 days. At which point they can then begin signing up for a new account with a new ISP, potentially regaining their broadband connection around Dec 11th onwards.
Netservices will not release MAC codes to allow a quicker transfer to individuals, as they claim it breaks their confidentiality with their business customers. They will, however, facilitate the switch to Ezzeedsl within hours...strange....
Ofcom previously issued a warning about netservices using this practice in the past to trap customers, but despite complaints, are powerless to act, leaving almost 10,000 people in the cold. And that includes people that pay their bill on time, people that use the internet for their main income, and basically anyone who has an account with V21.
To add insult to injury, this follows the recent buy-out of V21 by another ISP, Biscit, in the last couple of months, which have seen the service slow, and the Biscit helpdesk overwhelmed...

I can safely say there are several thousand people who will now make every effort to avoid Netservices, despite the hassle of waiting a month without a service they've paid for. And they'll continue to recommend avoidance of such shoddy dealings... In the event of legal action between Netservices and V21, there were several options, whether it was issuing MAC codes to V21 customers immediately, continuing the service and billing, or at the very least, giving more warning that this was to happen, or a free trial with the new service. By choosing none of these, Netservices has done itself no favours at all...

Right, I'm off to go adn post these details on several other blogs and forums. Now imagine 5000 other people doing the same, and you'll see how much a lack of thought about your customers can achieve....

Niche brands need UGC, broad brands need ultra exclusives

While sweeping leaves on Sunday afternoon (and ain't it always the case that our best ideas come to us when we're not at our desks..?) I had some further thoughts on how media brands can be successful. This builds on my thinking posted here, about why what we traditionally regard as niche, just doesn't count anymore.

In short; We might once of thought of serving a niche as segmenting a market by 'motorcycling' or 'classic cars'. And that served well for a print-formed world. But that's not niche enough any more. Niche is 'BMW R1200GS owners'. Try searching for them on google - you'll get offered a range of sites with very expert advice - and it's all UGC. There's more about micro niching and the global play here.

The lesson is that our ultra niche products have a reliance on UGC and getting the interplay with your expert content right offers your best chance of success. It is the access to really focused expert (and that's the UGC stuff too) content and, crucially, to belonging to a community with shared needs which offers the opportunity for success. This model also meets the challenges of engagement marketing. An advert in this space (provided it is in-context and related) is unlikely to feel like an interruption - it becomes part of the user-welcomed content.

Our other opportunity for success - in broader brands - is to offer ultra exclusives. And this must be content genuinely not available anywhere else. Users are prepared to pay for this because they can't get it for free.

For brands like these we have to recognise that users only want to pay once. They don't want to buy the magazine, then pay for access to the same content on the web or via mobile - new and different and (again) exclusive content - ok. Same old thing again - why would you?

However, there are place-shifting opportunities for content you've already paid for once - ie buy the mag and get an access code to see it on your pc or mobile (content where you want it). Where's the revenue in that? Consider engagement marketing techniques - if the user wants to access your content at different locations what are the new opportunities that creates and how could we serve the consumer better by meeting those demands?

I guess for long term strategies you have to consider - how are you going to retain ultra-exclusives when the whole world is a blogger?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Another social networking UGC site bought

Yahoo has bought, according to brand republic. I guess it's the response to failing to buy YouTube.

Says President and CEO Mike: "With Bix's platform focused on talent-based competitions combined with Yahoo!'s global audience and leadership in social media, as well as its sales and marketing muscle, we will take Bix to the next level. Expect many more contests with cool prizes, more community features, tons of entertaining content, and integration with many of your favorite Yahoo! services."

Sponsored contests (from both advertisers and consumers) has been the revenue model so far - a rather more engaging way of marketing than most seen in old media. I'll be keeping my eye on this.

The New York Times, said: "Some advertisers are using the site to reach potential customers. Six Flags, for instance, has created a contest on called the Great American Scream-Off, in which participants upload videos of themselves screaming — as they might do on a roller coaster — for prizes including free passes. Yahoo would not discuss how much it charges advertisers to sponsor contests."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

3 accelerates mobile web in the UK

Sounds to me like 3 may have hooked up with (see post below, oh and here's the confirmation)... given that their new package appears to include the ability to access your home pc from your mobile.

The BBC reports that you'll also be able to make free internet calls from 3 mobiles (via a deal with Skype).

You'll be charged a flat-rate monthly fee (can't find anywhere saying how much!)

Here's the '3' webcast on the subject

And here's the full 3 promo for the X-series:

And me? I've just done another deal with 02 for 12 months - a company which had to have its arm twisted to let me have a 3G phone for less than £140 and which has a set data price!

Anyway, 3 looks the way ahead. Interesting that they describe themselves, not as a mobile network service provider or operator, but as a mobile media company.

Perhaps those who couldn't quite believe the predictions that mobile web would outstrip fixed web within two years can start to see the sense now? (See previous post).

Right of this minute, I think this is the single most significant digital development I've heard of since I started this blog.

The implications include:

a) the massive potential acceleration of mobile internet

b) A solution to the mobile memory problem (see post on, below)

c) A solution to potentially off-putting run-away data charges (though it remains to be seen how much 3's set price is

d) An answer to the 'problem' (for network providers) of free internet calls and access which would inevitably be made through wifi connected mobiles accessing the internet.

And of course (a) takes us rapidly to Tomi T Ahonen's conclusions about how websites will inevitably be designed for mobile as their primary access point within two years. Two years? Perhaps he'll have a recount.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

YouTube on your mobile - too late!

My blogging colleague StressedBadger pointed us to YouTube's plan to get on to a mobile platform within a year. Sorry guys - too late. Click here.

In fact the new offering from Orb Networks gives you access to not only YouTube but GoogleVideo and others. Orb have an interesting earlier application which allows you to access anything stored on your pc from your mobile - answering the memory storage issue for mobile phones. In fact I think they're so interesting they're going straight in the 'one's to watch'.

But I digress. Given mobile internet's instant ability to turn video blogging (and any other form of socially-networked co-creation of content) into cash, perhaps Chad & Co missed a trick.
Even on a simple YouTube the publisher-You the Consumer model, there has always been cash in them there phones.

Apparently YouTube have 'declined to comment'.

Useful social networking?

LinkedIn has been around a while and has some use as a business networking tool, but it's not often that you discover a web 2.0 social networking site which actually has a worthy and useful function...

So if you've ever fancied learning a foreign language, read more about Friends Abroad at The Way of the Web

US firm surrenders licence to online

US publisher Ziff Davis has announced it will close the official US Playstation Magazine after the next issue, due to the pressures of the internet. The publisher has already closed two other magazines, as it concetrates on building up internet portal site
It recently posted a quarterly loss of $0.5 million for its game division, citing "a decline in print advertising and circulation revenues", partially offset by online revenue increases.


For those not into gaming, the official licenced magazines were always seen as a surefire way to make cash from game fans, with most publishers competing for the kudos it gives to be official. Moving that proposition entirely online is a major step.

Partly this move is down to the practice of cover discs becoming essential to games mags. It raised the price substantially, and now that broadband has taken over, people are less likely to pay £7 for something they could download at home...
Partly it's down to advertising revenue shifting.
And partly it's because the publisher has not only realised a valid online offering, but also worked to create a viable portal site with a comprehensive range of titles. It's an alternative to having seperate sites for each title in your portfolio, and has also worked well for publisher Cnet.

There are blog posts already on 1up from ex-staff:

It also allows your editorial and advertising staff to work across titles, creating greater economies....

Ones to watch: 32M+ users

I added to the 'ones to watch' (See left hand navigation) a couple of days back - but thought it worth drawing attention to here.
My apologies if you are one of the 32M plus people already connected through Yes, that's right 32M. I hadn't even heard of it until early this week.
I only checked it out because I was having a look at the dominance social networking sites are having in's top 10 global sites. Orkut was a new one on me in at No10!
3 out of 10 are English language social-networking sites.
Orkut is owned by google. How long that has been the case (the site has been around since early 2004) I'm afraid I don't know. What makes this one to watch is how and when they intend to monetise it. I can't spot a single ad on it! Not even a google one.

Remember the google motto: "You can't milk a calf..."

Why hadn't I heard of one of the top 10 biggest sites in the world? Almost certainly because it's Brazillian based - and here's where there is potential for this to grow further. About 65% of users are Brazillian, 15% American, 11% Indian. More Iranians use the site than UK citizens (0.7% of users were from the UK on Nov 15, 2006). If the European figures grow now that Europeans (like me) are starting to discover it, how big could this get?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Google AdNoSense

An interesting issue with Google Adsense has been raised on a forum I frequently use. Having had Google Adsense running for several months, the owner has been told it has been disabled due to invalid clicks...

Fair enough, you may think, but crucially:

"We will not receive any income accumulated over the last month, instantly creating a funding void. We have no idea why they have disabled the account, we have never encouraged clicking on adverts, nor have we clicked on the links to gain income. "

And the appeal procedure is a single email to Google, with a response within 24 hours, only if the appeal is successful. If not, presumably it goes into the Googlebin...

Something to bear in mind if you're implementing Google ads, particularly on a large scale. It would be interesting to see exactly how many ads you would need to serve daily to gain access to any kind of negotiation...

Monday, November 13, 2006

The geeks are listening...

It seems like I'm not the only person fed up with the internet schizophrenia which comes as a side effect of uploading images to flickr or photobucket, videos to youtube, and words to Blogger, whilst also managing social networking sites for work and pleasure...
Blake Ross, one of the main guys behind the Firefox open-source browser which has severly dented Internet Explorer's monopoly, has now revealed his new project, Parakey. There's lots of clever stuff behind it, but basically it's an interface which resides on your home computer, but creates a portal for everything you might want to upload. And it's all done in a simple, one-click fashion, rather than sending you off to log into your usual 12 or 13 different sites to manage your online persona.
Read more;

Two years until mobile internet is bigger than fixed line

I use this blog as a thoughtpad as much as anything else - and so - here's some thoughts about mobile internet pulled together from the many blogs and brilliant minds I access - so credit to you all (see recommended blogs and links):

By 2008 more people will access the internet by mobile than by PC* (Tomi T Ahonen).
By 2008: Mobile TV reaches 25m users in Asia Pacific (72m by 2010). (

Mobile on internet delivers things you can't get on PC:
i) a mobile phone-based internet is totally personalised. Our PC is often shared (family, work restrictions etc)
ii) The mobile phone is always on. Alerts can always be delivered at the moment they are needed.
iii) The mobile phone is always within hand's reach. No other technology is so close to us physically at all times.
iv) Mobile phone offers a built-in payment mechanism. On a fixed line internet we need to set up something like Paypal, or need to submit a credit card. On the mobile we can pay with a click.

v) Give the above it's inevitable that the internet big boys will optimise for mobile RATHER THAN pc.

For Content providers:

Users on the traditional PC-based internet expect content to be free, but mobile phone users expect mobile content to be paid-for.
Collecting money on the traditional fixed wireline internet is very cumbersome. Collecting money on the mobile internet is built-in.
The world's biggest internet company by revenues is not Google, Yahoo, eBay, Amazon or AOL. It is Japanese mobile operator NTT DoCoMo's domestic mobile internet arm, i-Mode. i-Mode alone makes bigger profits than the five internet darlings combined.

Where will you put your best content? On the mobile internet of course.

Merge the above thoughts with the following trends I've identified re social-networking - and the idea that social networking is the killer app of mobile internet (ie 3G) and we seem to be building an increasingly compelling case for putting mobile internet at the heart of content provider strategy. See below (previously published)

  • Users want to tag their world (3G, geolocation)
  • People are making use of new social networking tools to re-establish a ‘we-species’ (as in communities everywhere, but with 3G geolocation these communities can be focused on where you are right now, with the fluidity to allow you to connect with new communities as you move through your world).
  • Users want to remain permanently connected to their communities (through text messaging if not ‘online all the time’.)
  • People are (naturally) creative and want to co-create their content if we give them the tools.
  • People want their opinions to matter – and will rate things (including content others have created).
  • People are increasingly used to using several channels, increasingly at once.
  • They demand speed of response.
  • They have an open-minded approach to change and to experimentation (creative hacking).
  • Convergent technology is helping to drive much of the above.
  • Crowd-sourcing draws on all these to create contributory communities willing to help develop products which can self-perfect. This can inform all digital development.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Social software: Things to accept, things to design for

Clay Shirky has a collection of (regularly updated) work about the economics and culture, media and community and open source, on his site (see recommended blogs/links).
One of the documents you’ll find there captures a talk he gave in June 2003 on writing social software – and particularly on dealing with the dangers inherent in large groups forming social networks (read it in full).
Might sound like old news, but with the growing excitement around a 3G revenue revolution around Social-Networking on mobile internet, it's worth considering once again (and it's new to me, anyway!).
Read it in full if you can. If you can't here are a few (very) edited highlights:

Three things you have to accept
1. You cannot completely separate technical and social issues
… the group is real. It will exhibit emergent effects. It can't be ignored, and it can't be programmed, which means you have an ongoing issue. And the best pattern, or at least the pattern that's worked the most often, is to put into the hands of the group itself the responsibility for defining what value is, and defending that value, rather than trying to ascribe those things in the software upfront.

2.) Members are different from users. A pattern will arise in which there is some group of users that cares more than average about the integrity and success of the group as a whole. And that becomes your core group, Art Kleiner's phrase for "the group within the group that matters most." In all successful online communities that I've looked at, a core group arises that cares about and gardens effectively. If the software doesn't allow the core group to express itself, it will invent new ways of doing so.

3.) The core group has rights that trump individual rights in some situations. This pulls against the libertarian view that's quite common on the network, and it absolutely pulls against the one person/one vote notion. The people who want to have the discussions are the people who matter. And absolute citizenship, with the idea that if you can log in, you are a citizen, is a harmful pattern, because it is the tyranny of the majority. The core group needs ways to defend itself so that it can stay on its sophisticated goals and away from its basic instincts.

All groups of any integrity have a constitution. The constitution is always partly formal and partly informal. At the very least, the formal part is what's substantiated in code -- "the software works this way."
The informal part is the sense of "how we do it around here." And no matter how is substantiated in code or written in charter, whatever, there will always be an informal part as well. You can't separate the two.

Four Things to Design For

1.) 'Handles' (IDs) the user can invest in.
Anonymity doesn't work well in group settings, because "who said what when" is the minimum requirement for having a conversation. Weak pseudonymity doesn't work well, either. Because I need to associate who's saying something to me now with previous conversations.
The world's best reputation management system is right here, in the brain. And actually, it's right here, in the back, in the emotional part of the brain. If you want a good reputation system, just let me remember who you are. That requires nothing more than simple and somewhat persistent handles.
Users have to be able to identify themselves and there has to be a penalty for switching handles.
2.) You have to design a way for there to be members in good standing. The minimal way is, posts appear with identity. You can do more sophisticated things like having formal karma or "member since."

3.) You need barriers to participation.
It has to be hard to do at least some things on the system for some users, or the core group will not have the tools that they need to defend themselves.
Now, this pulls against the cardinal virtue of ease of use. But ease of use is wrong. The user of social software is the group, not the individual.
The user of social software is the group, and ease of use should be for the group. If the ease of use is only calculated from the user's point of view, it will be difficult to defend the group from the "group is its own worst enemy" style attacks from within.

4.) You have to find a way to spare the group from scale.
Scale alone kills conversations, because conversations require dense two-way conversations. You have to have some way to let users hang onto the less is more pattern, in order to keep associated with one another.
This doesn't mean the scale of the whole system can't grow. But you can't try to make the system large by taking individual conversations and blowing them up like a balloon; human interaction, many to many interaction, doesn't blow up like a balloon. It either dissipates, or turns into broadcast, or collapses. So plan for dealing with scale in advance, because it's going to happen anyway.

The people using your software, even if you own it and pay for it, have rights and will behave as if they have rights. And if you abrogate those rights, you'll hear about it very quickly.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

'Crowd-sourcing' and citizen journalism go mainstream in 'old media'

Those of you who check my profile will know I work for emap. It's also a matter of public record that the company is currently undergoing a strategic review of its business known as Magazines 2010 - with the assistance of the Boston Consultancy Group.

With that in mind, you'll understand why this particular post on Communities Dominate Brands is one I'm very keen to share - particularly with anyone working on Magazines 2010.

What it reveals is that the idea of citizen journalist and crowd-sourcing have come together, been tested and proven and are being rolled out across mainstream mass media in the United States TODAY.

The post, by Alan Moore, quotes Wired: "According to internal documents provided to Wired News and interviews with key executives, Gannett, the publisher of USA Today as well as 90 other American daily newspapers, will begin crowdsourcing many of its newsgathering functions. Starting Friday, Gannett newsrooms were rechristened "information centers," and instead of being organized into separate metro, state or sports departments, staff will now work within one of seven desks with names like "data," "digital" and "community conversation."

The article continues: "The initiative emphasizes four goals: Prioritize local news over national news; publish more user-generated content; become 24-7 news operations, in which the newspapers do less and the websites do much more; and finally, use crowdsourcing methods to put readers to work as watchdogs, whistle-blowers and researchers in large, investigative features.

Alan says: "What we have seen and witnessed over the last 15 months is a body politic that wants to engage, given the right context, in a process that they can share in, be part of."

Apart from today's post. I'd also recommend this post on Group Forming Network Theory which helps to explain WHY people are responding so well when provided with these routes to contribute and publish and why joining in them is so important.

How NOT to do search

I liked this post for the real life example (poor Nike!) it offers.

AND it's got a great link to this SEO tool to help with keyword research.

Anyway - the mistakes big brands make with search are (according to writer Wil Reynolds, and detailed in his article):

1. Missing out on the long tail: Search daddy Danny Sullivan says: "Typically, big brands want to target the big unbranded terms like "tennis rackets," "golf clubs," or "running shoes." I do recommend that they target such terms as a way to position their brand in the minds of people who are searching. But they often miss terms like "golf club reviews" or "women's trail running shoes." Typically, these long-tail terms are the ones that convert best.

2. All-Flash sites with no alternative.

3. Not reinforcing search query results on landing page.

4. Not developing a descriptive meta description tag.

5. Making things 'cool' rather than easy to find.

6. Driving a user with a very specific query to the homepage - a waste of pay-per-click budgets

7. News flash—you can't pay to be No. 1 on Google anymore. An algorithm that decides how well your landing page matches with the user's search mission will affect where you rank (along with your cost per click, and other factors). Yahoo is apparently going this route as well.

8. Flash sites adversely impact natural search rankings

9. Flash sites do poorly on froogle

10. Great tools are a mistake without investment to drive traffic to them

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

What users want from modern digital offerings

I compiled the below list of recognised current trends when thinking about the boxes that need ticking when developing a social-networking mobile internet offering. But they probably apply to all current digital planning.

Granted, my thinking is probably a bit focused on Generation-C (the under 27s this year, the under 29s, next) but then, they are the most likely group to take-up a 3G mobile offering anyway - I'd have thought. What other trends do you think ought to be considered?

Check the list and add your thoughts by posting below.
  • Users want to tag their world (3G, geolocation)
  • People are making use of new social networking tools to re-establish a ‘we-species’ (as in communities everywhere, but with 3G geolocation these communities can be focused on where you are right now, with the fluidity to allow you to connect with new communities as you move through your world).
  • Users want to remain permanently connected to their communities (through text messaging if not ‘online all the time’.)
  • People are (naturally) creative and want to co-create their content if we give them the tools.
  • People want their opinions to matter – and will rate things (including content others have created).
  • People are increasingly used to using several channels, increasingly at once.
  • They demand speed of response.
  • They have an open-minded approach to change and to experimentation (creative hacking).
  • Access to mobile internet is accelerating and looks set to overtake fixed line. Design for it!
  • Convergent technology is helping to drive much of the above.
  • Crowd-sourcing draws on all these to create contributory communities willing to help develop products which can self-perfect. This can inform all digital development.

Social bookmarking

After having a play with (and great fun it was, too) I thought it best to log this link, which is currently in the RSS feeds in the left-hand column (though, no doubt, won't be for long).

Google is trying to capture some of this with new iterations. In the meantime there remains a hole for niches. When you search on google it's sometimes possible to miss really specifically useful sites to you because they don't have the scale of audience to appear high up on returns.

These social bookmarking sites resolve that (particulalry those which allow ratings of links).

Free classified video ads on YouTube - an update

Some of you may recall this earlier post: YouTube and a whole new world of free classified ads.

I contacted Icapmedia (the small firm dabbling with video classified ads for dealers on youtube).

The chap behind it has just got back to me. He says: "It is a great tool to help promote the cars, allot of work but I post on google now more than youtube, one in the same now I guess."

He adds that the idea has proved successful - though hasn't revealed exactly what kind of response rate he gets.

"I've sold many cars this way, it gives an honest, un-adulterated,fresh approach"

I suspect the honest and unadulterated aspects are why it works so well in a social-networking environment like YouTube.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Big ideas about ideas

I keep regular tabs on the musings of Doc Searls.
This recent work (Ten Ideas About Ideas) is an interesting take on how being open about your ideas will make them the best they can be.

The problem for the doc, I guess, is that the bottom-line is often shouting loudest with its 'keep it a secret' message. How else will you retain your competitive advantage, it will insist?

But that secrecy can be infectious. How many hold back on ideas within organisations, hoarding them to play their cards at the right moment, in order to score a competitive advantage politically/internally?

I'd like to think the company I work for is pretty open internally. But I also know it could be better. This blog is one of my responses to that.

Have a read of doc's ideas about ideas.

If it makes you feel just a few per cent more collaborative today, job done.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Youtube on your mobile?

YouTube CEO Chad Hurley has said that they hope to "Have something on a mobile device within the next year".
Whether or not they do a carrier deal, or use a WAP site, the fact that Google have just started offering GMail on mobile, and could now add a limitless supply of comedy videos means that you've only got until they sort the current copyright problems to get any video content mobile services up and running, or it'll be too late...

Cyworld: 21M uu a month, 16M page impressions a day, $100M a year.

Alan Moore has just posted this on communities dominate brands

Apart from anything else, I hope the headline on this suggests we all could learn a little here.

Visit this link and there's a 100-page plus report on best practices learned from Cyworld to download free.

The interview Alan conducts reveals, for example, that the US version I link to on this site (one's to watch) and have sampled is a much watered down version of the full-on Korean one. So that explains that then!

The numbers alone are staggering. A third of the population of South Korea has an account. And most of them appear to visit almost every day.

Take a look at Alan's full post.

Here's a few highlights from an interview with Benjamin Joffe of Plus Eight Star

"Among the most interesting aspects are Cyworld's business model relying on micro-customization, which concerns not only avatars but the whole page with music and many other functions. Also, the mobile aspects of Cyworld can certainly inspire companies who wish to step into this next 3-billion dollars industry'."

"The key point in Cyworld is its 'real-name policy'. Basically you need to use your real name associated with your official ID number to register. This has become more or less a standard among South Korean Internet services... Real name policy does not damage free speech, it brings responsibility, courtesy and a lot of benefits for users themselves in terms of trust in the information they can find."

"It is useful to note here that most Cyworld users write for their 'offline friends' and not for strangers. They can set privacy levels to their hompy, setting accessibily by content category to themselves only, friends or everybody. The role of the 'il-chon' friendship link is critical here. Visiting friends' pages and friends-of-friends' can help deepen relationships by understanding people better.

"Among the most important issues has been this privacy aspect: many information are at risk on (western) blogs: appearance, name, address, contact info, pictures, relationships, age, etc. Some problems have appeared in services like MySpace."

"what do users value in the service?
This is a critical question to ask yourself as a SNS operator, as it will largely condition service development, marketing and eventually revenues! In Cyworld we found the following drivers:
a). Not being left behind
b). Their creations
c). Their relationships
d). Their image"

Hollywood and the digital consumer

Angus Farquhar points us at the videos you'll find here at DigitalHollywood
"All the top names in the industry discussing most of the stuff we are all currently talking about using in both advertising and consumer stuff," he tells us.

Subjects included in the conference videos include:

Hollywood and the Digital Consumer: How Technology, Content and Services Establish the Next Level of Consumer Entertainment Experience

Programmable Web, Podcasting & Blogging - is Transforming and Disassembling the World of Traditional Media, Communications & Advertising

Digital Music & its Transformation: Downloads and Subscriptions in Mobile, Broadband, Pods & Digital and Internet Radio

Strategies in Wireless Devices and Services - from Audio & Video to Downloads: How Innovation Drives Avenues for Subscriber and Revenue Expansion

Game Power - Entertainment as Franchise - Crossover into Music, TV, Cable, Movie, Mobile, Advertainment & Custom Branded Experience

TV & Interactivity: Evolving Content & Business Models: Content, Commerce and Branded Entertainment

Branded Media Marketing - TV, Film, Broadband, Podcasting & Blogging, Mobile, Music and Games – Reinventing the Commerce & Media Model

Internet Video, Advertising & Marketing: The Next Generation of Consumer Reach

Entertainment Expands the Digital Home: Networking, Sharing and Protecting

etc etc,

I'll no doubt have more to say once I've had a chance to watch them! If you get a chance to see them before me (or after, for that matter), by all means have your say by posting below!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Skills for a 'participatory culture' world

Henry Jenkins has written a paper for the MacArthur Foundation which is all about what he calls: "participatory culture" and what this means for 'media literacy'.

He and colleagues have also identified core cultural competencies and social skills they believe the kids of today have got to pick up if they want to participate fully.

They also argue that many are acquiring these skills informally from the way they use digital media.

It might be useful to think of these alongside your own digital publishing plans. Does what you are offering allow participation on these levels:

Play – the capacity to experiment with your surroundings as a form of problem-solving

– the ability to adopt alternative identities for the purpose of improvisation and discovery

– the ability to interpret and construct dynamic models of real world processes

Appropriation – the ability to meaningfully sample and remix media content

– the ability to scan one's environment and shift focus as needed to salient details.

Distributed Cognition – the ability to interact meaningfully with tools that expand mental capacities

Collective Intelligence
– the ability to pool knowledge and compare notes with others toward a common goal

Judgement – the ability to evaluate the reliability and credibility of different information sources

Transmedia Navigation – the ability to follow the flow of stories and information across multiple modalities

Networking – the ability to search for, synthesize, and disseminate information

– the ability to travel across diverse communities, discerning and respecting multiple perspectives, and grasping and following alternative norms.

Read more HERE (start with the post by Alan Moore and move on to Jenkins own blog.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Current trends in consumer behaviour

Nokia will publish a white paper at the end of this year on where it sees gaming in 2010.

You can read a preview HERE on Communities Dominate Brands

It's extrapolated from recognition of what is currently going on in gaming and social networking. But I think the insight is worth bearing in mind in any digital publishing plan.

Here's some of what the paper has to say:

"Three interesting aspects about current consumer behavior are:
1) leaving traces,
2) media acrobatics’ multi-tasking culture and
3) pleasure orientation.

"It is increasingly relevant to leave your own mark (tags, comments, modifications, patches (for a really graphic example, see to the networked media communities and interlinking with mobile with online communities.

"Multitasking refers to a way of using several channels, devices and services simultaneously to link with other products and related themes.

"Media acrobatics refers to the fast reception ability of new technologies, devices and services, as well as an open-minded experimentation mentality and misuse (also known as " creative hackerism").

"As a general effect of these, one can say that media use is in transition points. The change affects mobile games and the expansion and creation of new active consumer groups."

Perhaps the most all-encompassing learning being made from the success of social interaction via digital devices is that the human is a "we species", one which is naturally (ie built to be) social.

That should be at the heart of all new developments.

You'll find more on this from Alan Moore an CDB.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?