Thursday, November 15, 2007

Loudmouth lives! A new era for old media?

UPDATED Nov 16, 2007 to include an interview with project lead Colin Kennedy (see below).

Very pleased to receive the following text in an email a few moments ago:

"I got an invite to this brand new service and thought you might want to be one of the first people to check it out.

If you're into movies, music, tv, people or cars (biscuits coming soon), or you just want to meet new people, you should find something that interests you.

Have a look at www.projectloudmouth.com.

P.S. It’s still in trial mode, so feel free to give them feedback. If you like it – pass it on!"

Which all means that emap's first from-scratch social media play is in public beta.

It's a bit of a watershed in some ways. It's not attached to any current emap brands - and it's not about push content. It is about self-forming communities of interest, about user ratings and recommendation, about networks of trust. This is community-assisted navigation. And it's fun.

You answer enticing questions, building your social network as you go. The result is networks of taste, recommendation and trust which make it easy to discover things you didn't know you needed to hear, see, drive... own.

Maybe it's one answer to the question: what happens after advertising?

It's all pretty radical for an 'old' media company. Maybe the old dog can learn the new tricks?

Disclosure; I work for emap and this is an emap project. I'm privileged to have had some great conversations with some of the guys on the development team - led by Colin Kennedy (ex-editor and publisher of film mag Empire) and Dhiraj Mukherjee (co-founder Shazam).

I caught up with Colin last night (Nov 15) and this is how he sees it:

"We are (at last) in public beta and yet still sort-of in semi-secret trial mode. In other words, there's a long way to go. By mid-December we should launch with a new brand name (finding open .coms in late 07 is a bitch) and I may even label that an "alpha" release if only to highlight the potential we see for the service (if all our dreams come true).

"For the minute though, our aims are more modest, get a rounded product out, get some users, get some feedback, be prepared to kill some favourite features if necessary. We’re trying to remain open about what the service will be used for, it could take off as a dating site or as an Amazon add-on or a classic social network – or some mixture of all three. We’re not sure.

"The trick is to communicate the immediate benefits to our early adopters clearly while keeping our options open for long-term development. This is very much a work in progress but the December drop should make the more useful aspects of taste navigation clear. Our belief is that personal taste is an important factor in lots of decisions and if we can therefore capture and correctly index taste on a wide scale then we can start to facilitate user navigation in lots of interesting ways.

"No one else is quite so well positioned to capture the way people feel about a wide variety of stuff – how important this is only time will tell.

"Since you ask, entertainment navigation is an age-old problem and something I am personally very familiar with from my Empire days, the reason we decided to pursue a social solution to an old problem is that after analysing the market it was just obviously more powerful and scalable. It was like we had all been making radio shows for a number of years and someone had just invented television – if you wanted to remain where the action is it was simply impossible to ignore.

"As it goes, we did trial what I would call a more traditional “content” solution to the problem which would have enjoyed a close relationship with Emap brands but the proposed service just didn’t feel very elegant or cost-effective compared to existing social solutions like LastFM or Flixster - even Trip Advisor and LinkedIn were inspirations. The technology was new but the thinking was old.

"So we went back to a drawing board, tried something that is much more simple in terms of client-side technology but represents a pretty radical break for a traditional media company.

"We asked them to believe in the properties of successful communication systems rather than put their faith in content. I am not sure they entirely understood the pitch but, all credit to them, they did at least decide our approach was worth a shot.”

I think it's exciting and innovative - but I would say that wouldn't I?

I'm really interested in what you think - and so are the team. Feedback please in comments here or directly through www.projectloudmouth.com

FasterFuture.blogspot.com

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?