Wednesday, February 28, 2007

emap and restructuring for the future (Magazines 2010)

It's no secret to anyone checking my profile that I work for media company emap (and please note the following are simply the perceptions and views of an employee - not the official company line). So you'd be more than a little surprised if I didn't say a word or two about the 'restructuring' the company is widely reported to be going through - labelled Magazines 2010 internally.

Personally, I find it a very exciting time. For me this is the moment that a magazine publisher that did a bit of digital decided it was going to become a digital business, which also does magazine publishing.

It's a radical shift and one which all traditional media companies are going to have to go through. emap just happens to have been savvy enough and brave enough to do it first and to do it openly.

I don't want to reveal too much more at the moment (not that I'm privy to the whole picture) for business sensitive reasons - but I absolutely think we're on the right course with this - and I'm a digital immigrant so completely immersed I can teach the language to newer arrivals.
I expect the city (if it 'gets' it) to react very positively, too.

Even before this, one internationally renowned technology and media consultant told me: "I can say with complete confidence, from speaking with many senior managers in UK and international print media, that emap is way ahead of the curve. "

However, Magazines 2010 means human casualties - job losses and all the pain that is inevitably associated with that. And it's interesting that, even when we're trying to be honest, we continue to spin internally (and externally). We talk about restructuring rather than job cuts, we don't talk about numbers because we want to talk to those affected first - though we must have a target figure in mind. We have lessons to learn about internal engagement which we must crack if we are to crack external engagement (marketing) thoroughly.

We should remember this is about people, and people (read it over and over again on this blog and everywhere else) hate spin and respect honesty - even if it ain't what they wanted to hear.

No wonder then that those trying to report the 'facts' of this get it so wildly wrong.
Take this report on last night's Guardian Online for example. It focuses on emap's automotive business in Peterborough (oddly enough, where I'm based). It describes a central 'design factory' which will 'make' all the magazines.

Er, no. Not even close. There will be eight businesses across the Peterborough businesses (which, for the benefit of Guardian readers, also includes Active's titles). Each will have its own publishing team - which will include designers - but also many other multi-skilled staff who will be trained to deliver across platforms. And that's a publishing team per new business. Indeed the motorcycling business (in which emap is dominant) will have two publishing teams - one for weekly print publication and major website MCN and one for the rest of the motorcycle business.

It also missed the fact that meetings on the outcome of 2010 were taking place across Emap Consumer Media yesterday - not just in Peterborough.

It's also not just about production of magazines, this a far deeper restructing involving editorial, advertising and marketing.

The Guardian does a great job online but this case reveals how inaccurate/off the pace they (and let's be fair - many other news agencies) must be on a hour-by-hour basis. You realise this most graphically when you know the facts of the story intimately yourself.

It's another great example of why 2-way flow is so important, where being able to display your user's corrections and comments alongside their 'expert view' may have more value for all parties.

AND YOU can correct, challenge, rubbish or even support anything I've written above, by clicking comments below - and you can do it anonymously if you prefer.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Services and the death of the website

There are some fairly obvious conclusions to be drawn for anyone making use of widgets, rss feeds and the rest of the web2.0 toolkit.

One of those is the death of the website as we know it. By which I mean a website that doesn't travel with you on your browser, doesn't respond by delivering different content to different users, serves the same ads to every visitor etc etc.

Media companies can't rely on creating a site filled with great content and expect people to come. The Mountains must go to Mohammad.

Users want that great content to be targeted to them, and not just via the gift of search. Services that know you and respond to what you teach them is what is required (think, yahoo radio etc).

Web2.0 makes the internet about people, not information. The user wants to be able to dictate what content is drawn to them through self-selection (think google personalised home).

Google personalised home demonstrates the widget-as-services model quite nicely as well.

Traditional Media companies have, thus far, been committed to delivering or aggregating content. They must learn to deliver services, too. Make the right services available and users will interact with you.

And if you think in service terms, then part of that is delivering the service to the person at the place it's most useful to them - and that is always, always mobile.

And so, the rush to mobile internet gets a little faster. In the rush, do not expect to simply 'optimise for the mobile browser'. The mobile internet requires a different experience from that offered by most fixed line sites. It pretty much means build another digital experience.

See Tomi Ahonen's piece (linked below)

Mobile: The 7th mass media - and the best yet

Tomi Ahonen (Co-author Communities Dominate Brands)writes a brilliant and compelling argument for the mobile as an inherently BETTER medium than the fixed line lap-top focused world of the web.
It's a message FasterFuture has been banging on about for some time on a series of post. But this is a great summary of why the digital future is mobile. And why you should make it your digital present.
Do yourself a giant favour and read it HERE

If you'd like to get a pdf of Tomi's thought piece in full; email him here:

I'd like to think the CEO of at least one major 'traditional' media company has already 'got' this.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Bye Bye interface - hello intuition

This was debuted in Feb 2006 - but I've never seen it before, so I just loved it: Jeff Han presents his multi-touch-screen tech - making the machine a very literal hands-on experience.
Watch the video you'll find here:

Apple gets to call its mobile the iPhone

Looks like Apple and Cisco have resolved their dispute over the 'iPhone' name. Seems they've areed to agree - they can both call their respective products that.

Be careful what you buy on eBay!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Web 2.0 explained. World 2.0 inspired

If you want to get a fast handle on web 2.0, if you want to be inspired about the value of the work you are doing with web 2.0, if you want to inspire others to 'get' web 2.0...
watch this, share this, comment on it, respond to it.

It's from Michael Wesch, associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University and part of a digital ethnography project.

And here's another which should open your mind just a little:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Be your own TV network - another warning for mainstream media

Former Daily Mail journalist James Black has been conducting an interesting experiment which proves the democratisation of information has reached the once prohibitively expensive world of broadcast TV.

James ( has been kind enough to allow us to publish his thoughts here on FasterFuture.

"Internet TV - the web 2.0 revolution is knocking at your gates
"Who will be the winners? Who will be the losers? Will journalists be losing their jobs?
"Today is the 50th day of 2007 and the ansaTHAT experiment is over. Its final week bringing a full page story in the Chicago Tribune in the USA and its presenter being voted ‘Web Celeb’ of the week on BBC’s Radio One.
"The experiment also sheds light on the emerging $17 billion internet TV market and how it will impact on the present ‘media industry’.
"The experiment began on 01 January 2007 when ansaTHAT began broadcasting a daily internet TV ‘show’.
"The idea was simple, could an individual create a successful daily internet TV show with little experience, no filming skills, minimal presentation skills, no editing skills, basic computer skills, etc - in other words - the average Joe ?"
"Could this individual then find success in both the UK and the USA within 50 days ?
"The show also had to go against the present perception of internet TV.
"It was not allowed to use YouTube
"Its presenter would be the 'wrong' demographic.
"Its chief content was trivial - literally trivial.
"It had no promotional budget.
"It used basic equipment.

It could draw on the skills and enthusiasm of the presenter and unpaid friends of the show.
It did have a basic budget.

"The results made plain from the experiment are startling.
In a short period of time it is possible that semi-professional quality television can be made every day - and made cheaply. The main ansaTHAT website cost $34 dollars to create. The only drawback to what can be made is creativity and time.
"The number of views to the ansaTHAT website compared favourably against those for programmes on a typical lower level satellite TV show, local newspaper, or industry/hobby publication. Programmes / publications that typically cost £10,000 to £20,000 an hour to make, or £5,000 to £25,000 to print.
"The number of approaches to the website to sign them up was two - one from BT in the UK, one from a nameless US ‘organisation’.
"The Google footprint for ansaTHAT reached 36,000 in week two, but presently has reduced to 11,800.
"The number of contacts acquired among the ‘community’ interested in the website was over 400.
"The potential for advertising revenue from the ansaTHAT website was estimated at over £30,000 a year - at a basic level.

"Any 'ordinary Joe' can now become their own TV network for less investment than the purchase of a typical BIG SCREEN TV.
"All they need is a basic camcorder, good microphone and access to a computer.
Of course, they also need a good idea - something that can be shared and appreciated by other people around the world.
"This new army of 'internet TV stars', 'citizen-journalists', and 'webcam warriors', will revolutionise news gathering and interest groups in every conceivable field from how we see the value of a stock or share moving up or down to deciding whether Britney’s ‘bald-look’ is the start of a new fashion.
"The playing field has levelled enough for one-man operators to be able to compete against the big boys.
"The potential impact on those who work in traditional media is also startling - and James Black, the one-time Daily Mail journalist who conducted this experiment is now convinced enough himself to be furiously setting up his own internet TV company) is available for interview.
"The final test is simple - if you watch the final ‘compilation’ on - can you really tell the difference between it and normal TV?
"If your answer is no, then you are in the same camp as the hundreds of advertisers, large and small, who are moving over to Internet TV, the modern day midas-maker."

Fascinating stuff. It certainly shows you can reach audiences and make decent TV cheaply. It also draws on its audience to co-create it - a lot of the right boxes ticked. HowTo TV, hey?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Brickfish: Engagement advertising gets its own platform

Here's a very interesting development bringing together the concepts of engagement marketing and user generated content. Communities Dominate Brands (see links, left) should love it.
Going straight in on my ones to watch list!
It claims: "Brickfish is the first Digital Engagement Company to provide a comprehensive platform that connects advertisers and consumers through the world of User Generated Content. The Brickfish platform enables consumers to engage with advertisers by creating User Generated Campaigns for their brands. This approach creates digital communities comprised of brand evangelists and 100% brand-specific content, forming a positive feedback loop between advertisers and consumers. Consumers are recognized and rewarded for participating in Brickfish campaigns as they create, review, vote on, and propagate content across the internet. Brickfish also provides advertisers and content creators with comprehensive propagation and reporting tools. The company is located in San Diego, CA
UPDATED: Feb 21, 2007: Brickfish has just acquired an $11M sack of investment cash. See here:

I want my identity back! Tough times ahead for data collectors

The slow-burn begins
At the end of last year I predicted (among other things) that digital consumers would start demanding their identities back. I was inspired in this thinking by Peter Miles writing on the Oxford Forum. Here's the original post on it:

The news that Microsoft is throwing its support behind the Open ID scheme is a very significant moment. It means there will be a very simple way for users to own their ID data and to control how much or how little they wish to share with you. And that data remains held by them - not you.

From the BBC report: "The Open ID scheme uses web addresses that people already own to help authenticate their identity...
"Microsoft has got involved to supply a technology it is developing called InfoCards to add more flexibility to the scheme.
"The InfoCard program gives users a way to identify themselves with varying degrees of detail depending on who is asking for information about them. Each InfoCard acts like a virtual index card that can store different sorts of ID information for different purposes.

I'll make some assumptions here. When a user can store their own identity and share only those elements they prefer - aren't they going to demand that this data is only available when they want it to be available to you, too? ie while they are logged in on your website - and removed the moment they leave.

The drive will be for them to demand you do not store those details in any form. New Data Protection Act anyone?

This all has huge impact for those who make their money from personal data - and should sound an alarm for those building business models around the ownership of personal data.

There is a ray of sunshine. People like how useful cookies are to them. Unless the Open ID system can resolve a way of taking your history for each site with you back to your own stored ID location, it might not quite spell the end of data acquisition.

But I suspect a solution to that will come. The real answer is not to rely on owning a relationship (by virtue of keeping someone else's data under lock and key) but in sharing an ongoing and persistent relationship - by continuing to deliver what that user finds valuable to their life and by encouraging a regular and enduring two-way flow of communication.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Video didn't kill the TV ad

TV on demand, the PVR, Tivo... they all spell the end of TV advertising don't they?
Actually, I don't think it's at about the latest technology at all - it is about the latest people.
I'm old enough to recall the fears raised when VCRs became mainstream. People hit fast-forward through all the ads. Surely this was going to kill TV advertising?
It didn't.
Nor does the PVR.
What kills the TV advert is what is killing all traditional interruptive broadcast (and potentially print) advertising - the fact that people don't trust the message and don't want it delivered in their face. Result: they turn off to the message, the advertiser gets no response. They stop buying them. The media channel gulps.
Consumers want to have their say, help to shape, rate, reject, receive only on their terms etc etc.
Engage, engage, engage (see engagement marketing links). It is the ONLY solution.

Apple wants the DRM wall torn down

Apple wants the DRM wall torn down?
I'm not a techy, but those that are whisper 'if only' whistfully'.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Engagement marketing: a practical example

It's tough to 'get' engagement marketing if you're used to selling interruptive stuff.
So, you may or may not find this useful; I heard a case today of a firm who did a deal with one part of my company to run a story in the magazine and on the website promoting their competition. You send your pic and some words in about your life with this particular product - and they choose the best ones and stick you in a ad campaign. Your prize? why fame of course.
Sounds almost like engagement marketing dunnit - almost UGAdvert...

But we can do better than that.

As an engagement marketing opportunity it might work a little more like this:

media company hosts a competition for users to generate their own version of the ad to the brief of the company concerned. Users upload their images and words to an interactive area. Other users comment on them, vote on them, share them. Most viewed/highest rated at end of campaign wins a prize.

Upside; loads of users think creatively about the product - consider what it means to them - and share this with the world. Engaged - oh yes.

Downside: Company concerned might here what people really think about their product. And it may not be all good. But even this offers an opportunity for dialogue and to learn from the community to perfect that product.

Want decent UGC? Try the same from an editorial perspective.

I'm not claiming I'm revealing anything new here - just hoping a concrete example might help.

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?