Thursday, March 29, 2007

Google makes its search more mobile - but misses a trick

Google has made searching the web from your mobile easier and more personal. Try it here.

Or text this in your mobile browser: http://www.google.com/m?uipref=3

You can customise to feature pre-selected weather, news, stocks and movies information, tailored to a specific geographic area. However - it ain't that bright. You have to tell it where you are. Not the sharpest tool on a mobile, then...

By factoring in a user's location, the new mobile search engine is claimed to deliver a more relevant list of web results than its previous version.

Yeah, provided you can be bothered to keep telling it where you are.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Zenzui: Mobile navigation outside the walled gardens

Zenzui is worth taking a look at if you cling to the idea that finding your way around the internet is a bit of a pain on a mobile and see that as some kind of barrier to the inevitable dominance of mobile internet over fixed line.
With their platform the user can customise their own phone with icons which act as hot links to the sites you want. It's book marking built for the mobile experience and essentially makes navigation as easy outside the walled gardens (operators like to throw up) as inside.
Take a look here.

There is of course more to be drawn from this. I've come to the view recently that the right navigation for a mobile internet site should be derived from the user experience of mobile phones - and that means icon driven. Take a look at how you find your way around your mobile. Isn't that how you should find your way around not only the mobile internet, but around the mobile internet sites you access?

Navigational lists are for the fixed-line pc-accessed internet.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

An updated definition of media brands

Drawing a few threads together I'm proposing an updated definition of what a media brand is - and offering a suggestion about what a media brand should do:

  • A media brand is a platform for a community with shared interests.
  • Focused on the interests of this community, we should aggregate content and offer services.
  • Services are best delivered at the point they are needed – and that is always, always mobile!
Note the reference to the 'aggregation' of content, rather than the 'creation of'. I'm not suggesting media companies should not bother with the creation of content. I am suggesting it's no longer our primary function.

Our legacy of content creation can get in the way of putting the community first. We can't resist the urge to broadcast - to select what the audience is offered and spin it to our tastes.

This often reveals itself in the way we display content. Media brands put the content they create first, tip their hats at some user-generated content (always given second billing) and actively prevent the sharing of other sources of content the community might actually prefer.

A blank sheet of paper approach would open our eyes to simple facts such as:
  • The best content for the community is welcome - be it our own, rival media brand owners', or user generated content.
  • The community should judge what content gets highest prominence - and which gets booted into touch.
  • Groups should be allowed to form which set their own parameters for what equals interesting and 'good'.
This requires some bravery on the part of the media brand owner. It means that only if our own content is good enough/a good enough fit with the community will it score the highest ratings and get top billing.

What lessons are there in this that you aren't prepared to learn?

l

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Granular content reveals true value of media brands

Scott Karp's post 'Is Content Still a Business?' (on Publishing2.0) poses a very logical question and one drawn from a series of trends anyone can spot.

These raise critical questions that content creators - should they wish to remain such - should ask themselves as they go forward in a granular content, rather than mass media, world.

Scott argues: "...the most striking consequence of digitizing media and distributing it online is that all content is now available in a discrete, granual form. Music file. Article page. Video clip. Podcast. Photo. There are very few places on the web that require you to buy a whole package in order to get one item.

"This is a radical transformation of the content business. Think about it.

"How many CDs have you bought for just one song? How many magazines have you bought just to read one article? How many cable channels do you subscribe to in order to watch just one show...?

"The media business has always been about selling you content that you don’t really want by stapling it (literally or figuratively) to the content that you do want. The digitization of media on the network has obliterated this model?"

He concludes "...content platform and content aggregation businesses (think Google, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Digg) are the only real media businesses left.

"Oh well. If Google has its way, maybe the content business can transform itself into a direct marketing business."

While this final line appears to be a bit of a throw away - it is exactly what some media businesses are attempting to do by moving themselves along the supply chain. But - as discussed previously - Google's cost-per-action model puts even this quite radical approach in jeopardy.

So what future for content creators in a granular context?
If you insist on mass producing media, you have to allow people to extract the one piece of content you've created that they want - eg I don't want Sky, but I do want to watch Lost.

Impact: Goodbye distributor/package creator (who needs Sky?). Hello content creator (I want your programme).

Isn't this the logical impact of IPTV? The end of impersonal scheduling also means you don't need the likes of Sky 'packaging up' the rest of the content for you. You go direct to the point of creation (and this is what we're seeing with social networking, citizen journalism etc. It's logical we'll see this with TV and other forms of media, too.

What future for Media Brands?
Currently you need a go-between to find each other - and as the web gets cleverer the networking becomes more natural and the fit between what you want and what you get gets closer.

Perhaps the best hope for a role for media brands is what Alan Moore is referring to when he considers 'curation' in this post

We bring together the best content that fits our brand - you know what the brand is about (and as part of its community contribute to what that brand is about and evolves into) and therefore look to us to offer you the right stuff and (critically) you choose to help co-create, rate and share the right stuff.

And you get to choose at a granular level exactly which article, which picture, which video, which service you want.

The community element of this is essential for the media brand to have any value.

Why? Google's returns are heavily weighted towards mass (lots of use, lots of links in) at the moment (which means there's a role for a bit of content curation and choice editing, at least in specialist markets) this ain't going to be the case for ever.

You can be sure Google has worked out that niche communities organised around shared interests will take over from mass - and their search mechanisms will strive to keep up (see the custom search engine on this blog, for an example).

And if the user can find exactly the granular element of content they want (from which ever content provider) they will be happy.

But I'd argue that if they do that in isolation, they will not be happy.

This is the lesson we learn from the return to 'we species' that the success of social networking has revealed. We want to be together...

Therefore the community aspects of what your media brand can offer becomes its primary function.

The community co-creates, rates, shapes the content, the content defines the brand.

The brand is the shared interests and values of that community. And community has a huge value for the future.


...and relax... pause for breath. That was a bit of a stream of consciousness. Please add your comments, pull it apart, whatever... below



Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Trap; And why we species begins to re-assert

The BBC2 TV series 'The Trap' goes some way to explaining why the technical tools of web2.0 are allowing us to wake up and re-establish ourselves as a 'we species' (see Alan Moore and Communities Dominate Brands)

If you've missed any, catch up here

In a nutshell it takes the idea that game theory and its simplified view of how humans act has been over-applied since the days of the Cold War.

The claim that ideas inspired by game theory freed the individual from institutional, market and political direction is false, The Trap argues. It has resulted in an actual loss of freedom - a world which does it by the numbers.

The view of humans perpetrated by game theory, it transpires, is only actually demonstrated in test environments by two groups of people: economists... and psychopaths.

Small wonder then that when social networking allows us to re-establish and rediscover ourselves as members of sticky societies (communities of shared interests) mistrust in the post Cold War order abounds.

Google cost-per-action. Is this how mass media ends?

Google has put its much-awaited pay-per-action ad model live (in beta at least). Take a look at the details for yourself here.

So, what's the deal? Google says: "Pay-per-action advertising is a new pricing model that allows you to pay only for completed actions that you define, such as a lead, a sale, or a pageview, after a user has clicked on your ad on a publisher's site. You'll define an action, set up conversion tracking, and create ads that publishers in the Google content network can then choose to place in new ad units on their site."

It's only available within the US at the moment - and you have to apply to join in.
But the potential impact is huge. Scott Karp over at Publishing2.0 has an interesting take in his post Can Google Transform the Entire Web into a Direct Marketing Machine?

I agree with the risks Scott identifies for the web. But for publishers I think there's an even greater potential risk - the final nails in the coffin for mass media.

This closes a loop for advertisers. If I understand it correctly, it removes all risk on their side.

Now they can say "I'll only pay when I make a sale". They have to pay bigger than for a straightforward "I'll pay when you click my link" model. But it's a 100 per cent efficient model.

This has an obvious impact on those media companies who are trying to move their position in the value chain by 'taking a cut' on purchases - rather than charging for ad impressions or clicks.

But its greatest impact is in the way this must absolutely destroy the value of accruing (any old) eyeballs that mass media has delivered and ad buyers have fallen over themselves to buy.

Huge ad impressions, giant page impressions, masses of unique users - they all impress the advertiser who can't measure how many will buy his product when he places his ad.

The cost-per-click model gave that a severe kicking.

The cost-per-action model (if it's per sale) kicks it into touch.

And so what is the value of mass media in this world? What is it for?

Mass (produced) media is well and truly over, mass micro media may have a chance (focused on communities with shared interests).

Now that those communities have no (cost) barriers to entry they can organise, produce and share their own media. 'Media' companies must understand their new place in this world.

Your comments, are very welcome.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

UK Mobile internet use sets new records

The trickle of transfer from fixed line internet to mobile is becoming a very steady and faster growing stream . The torrent, the flood, is not far behind.

According to the Mobile Data Association UK mobile phone users accessed the internet via their phone 15.9 million times in… a month! (December 2006).

It’s a record, following hard on the heels of the record of 14.9 million unique sessions the month before.

That’s a considerable rate of increase by anyone’s standards. In the past three months there were 45.6 million unique sessions via mobile in the UK.

And guess what – these figures only include O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone. Whose missing? 3 – who just happened to introduce free-at-the-point-of-use internet access on mobile at the beginning of December.

At the same time text messaging is continuing to grow and grow and grow – 4.4 billion were sent in the UK in December – another record.

The Association of Online Publishers added this week: "54 per cent of people in the UK with an internet enabled mobile device use it to go online and the content of choice via this platform is weather, sport, stock quotes and news."

The research was conducted by the Online Publishers Association (OPA) based in the US. The UK is outperforming the US and the rest of Europe in internet access via mobile platforms.

"Brands were found to play a significant role in driving mobile internet activity across all content categories as more than 50 per cent of mobile internet consumers use the same brands they use on their PC."

Think about that for a moment - they will come looking for your branded website on mobile internet - whether you are ready or not.

Pity the experience will be disastrous unless you've gone to the trouble of building for mobile.

Time to line the boats up? Be first up the river – or dashed against the rocks?

It's all going to get faster. Analysts are saying increased data use should be expected over the next year because more mobile enabled phones are now out there (it was 3G Christmas, after all) and because the operators are lining up to follow 3’s lead on sensible data pricing.

Monday, March 19, 2007

This week's fastest mover - a site for co-creators

The fastest growing site in the world right of this very moment is zazzle.com
It's taken what spreadshirt does and has written it large. And it's been around since 1999 - in concept at least. Its 'product engine' was deployed in August last year.
Where spreadshirt encourages you to have your own site but doesn't contrive to aggregate these, zazzle takes a kind of myspace approach to hosting your own T-shirt etc shop online. You're all brought together (and become No760 site in the world in the process).
Why it's suddenly shot up from an alexa ranking of 4028 ain't easy to spot.
Perhaps it's simply that the idea of co-creation, shared ownership and a cut for helping make something are all getting more and more exciting for a greater and greater number of people.
It's a social way to be both a business and a customer - and social sites continue to dominate the top 20.

You know mobile internet has arrived when...

... even the Mail on Sunday is producing supplements about mobile internet (in it's Financial Mail section).
The March 18 issue heralded it as 'The Biggest Hit of the Year and said: "After ignoring it for so long, the mobile phone industry has finally embraced the internet... and it is set to be a marriage made in heaven."
The article quotes Nokia's CEO on how his company is 'putting the internet in your pocket'. The impact and ideas behind 3's X-Series are discussed and Juniper Research is quoted saying the value of the mobile entertainment market is predicted to his £42 billion by 2011.
So, I guess the secret is out. How well prepared are you? If you thought you were ahead of the game - several million more people just caught up/on.
But of course it's not just knowing that the mobile internet is going to become dominant. We've 'known this' since April 2006 (Tomi T Ahonen's prediction) - it's knowing why and how it will do it (is doing it) that's critical.
Then you can work out the best possible response. But there's one thing for sure - there's less time to do that today than there was last week!

Friday, March 16, 2007

Google to make a mobile phone: Another 2007 prediction comes closer

So now it looks like Google is going to make another of my 2007 predictions come true - making two from the list within a couple of days (following hard on the heels of emap's announcement about a shot-on-mobile UGC TV show)!
At the end of last year I guessed that in 2007:
"4) Microsoft/Google/Yahoo (one or all) will launch a mobile phone."
Yesterday, this emerged indicating that the myth of the google 'switch' phone was becoming reality.

"The head of Google in Spain and Portugal has confirmed that Google is working on a mobile phone. "Some of the time the engineers are dedicated to developing a mobile phone," Isabel Aguilera is quoted as saying on the Spanish news Web site Noticias.com."

Google in the US of course is saying nothing right now.

So I'm not going to tick number four off the list just yet - 'some of the time the engineers are dedicated to developing'... almost anything you can think of. That's the beauty of google.

But a tick in pencil, for now.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Microsoft's knockout blow for online gaming

With the launch of the Playstation 3, and Sony finally attempting to integrate Playstation online games into a service equivalent to that of Microsoft's Xbox Live, the Bill Gates gaming squad has announced a major step with the introduction of Windows LIVE.

Put simply, PC gamers will now be able to compete with the six million members of Xbox Live, with cross platform compability via a simple interface and two membership options, one of which is free.

So the online gaming community will now become more integrated under the MS banner, with a huge number of Windows Vista machines now being able to talk to the 'PC in a console disguise'

It's a sign that Microsoft remain committed to the online service they launched with the original Xbox and see it as their biggest weapon against the new online services launched by Nintendo and Sony. Plus it now makes more sense for gamers to invest in Windows Vista PCs alongside their Xbox 360, and HD-DVD drives as all forms of home entertainment converge into one Microsoft entity.

See more discussion at http://thewayoftheweb.blogspot.com

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

User Generated TV show - shot on and sent from mobile

Another of my predictions for 2007 gets to be ticked off (well, very nearly). And no, I had no idea this was in the pipeline when I wrote this 'A citizen-journalism TV channel made up entirely of video shot on and uploaded from mobile phones will launch.' (click for 2007 predictions in full.)

I'm pleased to say it's emap (the company I work for) which is delivering this one.

FLASHBOX is a 100% user generated programme which will be aired on TV channel The Box.

Nowt particularly unusual about that (hello Current TV). Where it ticks my 2007 predictions' box is in being created almost entirely of video shot on and sent from mobile.

From the release: "viewers (can) upload personalised video clips via sms (really?), mms and online and will be shown around the music video playlist. This is a natural step for The Box, the first UK music channel totally dependent on consumer interaction."

It will be screened daily from March 19 at 4pm for 1 hour.

Emap programme Controller, Phil Poole said: "We all recognise the change in consumers media consumption habits and our programming needs to reflect that. We are excited by the new format and hope that our viewers are too!"

I'm interested to hear whether or not there's a revenue share for our new content providers? And can the show also be viewed on mobile - that would close the circle beautifully for me.


Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The $1billion dollar threat to YouTube

Viacom appears to have run out of patience with YouTube/Google and is now suing for $1 billion over 'massive intentional copyright infringement'.

Viacom says (full story on the Beeb site)

"YouTube's strategy has been to avoid taking proactive steps to curtail the infringement on its site. There is no question that YouTube and Google are continuing to take the fruit of our efforts without permission."

"Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws."

Tough to argue with - though GooTube says its confident it has multiple legs to stand on.

Viacom claims there are as many as 160,000 unauthorised clips it owns being shown on youtube.

What isn't clear is how many of those are just straightforward clips - and which have had someone else's creative touch (eg a mash-up of the recently lauded Dragon's Den vs X Factor).


Who gets to own those? Who gets what share of the revenue, as I asked at the time of google's purchase of youtube.

Copying stuff straight off the TV really isn't in the spirit of web 2.0.

But an injunction (and that's what threatened) against YouTube could prevent an awful lot of inspirational and co-created content from being shared. And that certainly ain't in the spirit either.

Monday, March 12, 2007

CurrentTV turns on in the UK

Al Gore's wonderful CurrentTV is now on UK and Irish shores to get all disruptive on the old-style TV broadcasters asses.
Find out more here: http://uk.current.com/

Thursday, March 08, 2007

100mbps to your mobile

I just got news of this. It's from 3G.co.uk
Made me swear out-loud, it did.

"Long Term Evolution (LTE) of 3G technologies is about to benefit from Rel-8 of the 3GPP standard, planned for the third quarter of 2007. This will be the trigger for development of components and systems to provide 100 Mbps download speeds to mobile devices."

Hold on there a second. 100mbps. That's not a typo. 100 - count em!

There's a host of reasons why that won't mean a genuine 100mbps to your own individual mobile phone (similar to those that explain why my btinternet 8meg broadband is usually closer to 3 in reality) - but the experts seem to figure it's more than enough to make the internet experience on your mobile at least as good as that of fixed line broadband.

Another accelerator to the mobile internet taking over from fixed line.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Nokia launches google adsense-style offering for mobile

Wow, now this is interesting if you're a media company (creating content) or an advertiser. Nokia has launched a global ad service. http://www.adservice.nokia.com/news_index.jsp

It smells a lot to me like a google adsense for mobile.

And I quote from the Nokia blurb: "Nokia today announced two mobile advertising services. Nokia Ad Service, is a fully managed service for advertisers to conduct targeted advertising on mobile services and applications. Nokia Ad Service consists of a group of mobile publishers forming a mobile ad network and a platform to deploy, manage and optimize mobile advertising campaigns. Nokia also introduced Nokia Advertising Gateway, a private label service for third party Publishers and Advertising Aggregators that want to extend to relevant mobile advertising. Nokia Advertising Gateway operates as an intelligent switch, selecting between text, visual, audio and video ads - depending on the user’s context – and feeding the ad to the device. "

Ajit Joaker believes this is an extremely significant moment. Read his take here.
Alan Moore at Communites Dominate Brands has this to say.

Publishers are offered (from Nokia site):

  • Our mobile ad server delivers sophisticated campaigns. Publishers can capitalize on the following:
  • Categorization in Nokia ad network to receive relevant ads
  • Flexible setup of any mobile publishing service
  • New source of ad revenue without deploying ad sales and operations
  • Full technical support to help with implementation
  • Detailed user profile while respecting users' privacy
  • Users' data is secure, protected and maintained in our ad platform

The implementation of the service is a 3-step-process:

Step 1: create the order form to outline different formats of advertising,

Step 2: receive ad tags from Nokia Ad Service and place them in the desired location throughout your mobile internet service,

Step 3: access full reports 24 hours a day. Metrics are available on a flexible set of cross relational rules.

This is all based on the theory that there are loads of Nokias out there to serve ads too - they are as much a network globally as the internet is. But if google comes up with something similar, surely the reach will be greater?

A little further reading of the Nokia site reveals: "Nokia Ad Service provides a worldwide reach to advertisers through its network. Nokia.mobi, one of the largest mobile portals with over 100 million monthly visits in 120 countries, has already joined the network."

I don't know about you, but I've never accessed Nokia.mobi. Perhaps its pushed more to users on handsets outside the UK? In any event divide 100m by 120 and that ain't that many users per nation per month. But I guess this is just the start of the network?

What the Nokia plan does have is that it isn't mobile-internet dependant (google adsense for mobile has to be). Nokia will serve ads against content dependant on the way that content is being seen - on a text only page, or video where that's appropriate.

I'm fascinated to try to understand the detail - do Nokia phone owners have to opt in, can they select preferences? I've got a Nokia and no-one has told me what to expect...

Whatever the case, just as everyone expected mobile advertising to be a rich picking for content providers and operators this year, along comes a supreme piece of disruption.

Think what google adsense did for internet advertising and to traditional media.

Think what it did for the drive to generate content on the internet platform too.

Then you get a sense of why the likes of Alan and Ajit are raving.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Web 3.0 - it's just a question of semantics, ain't it?

References to web 3.0 have - at least on my radar- remained arcane and esoteric.
But now a mainstream player like the BBC is talking about it for their latest video search mechanism, perhaps it's time to get up to speed?

In a report by the Guardian, a Beeb spokesman says: "This is web 3.0 - semantic web - technology, technology that actually understands the value of content on the page rather than just a page of ones and noughts." Full story here

Oh, so that's what it is then?

Often when people talk about 3.0 they are referring to service-related, always on (in the browser) functions of the kind I'd ordinarily describe as 2.0 (in a nutshell people, rather than information, become the web).

Take a look at this (Semantic Web on wikipedia). Now I'm not a techy, so that soon starts confusing me. Anyone able to pick the bones out? Please post.

And this definition, it seems to me is all about the service stuff I've merrily considered 2.0 (now who's getting into semantics?)

This piece from the New York Times refers to web 3.0 as being about humanising the web - and that means AI.
The report says:
“We are going from a Web of connected documents to a Web of connected data.”

"Web 2.0... describes the ability to seamlessly connect applications (like geographic mapping) and services (like photo-sharing) over the Internet... Web 3.0 — or the “semantic Web,” (is about) adding meaning.

"The classic example of the Web 2.0 era is the “mash-up” — for example, connecting a rental-housing Web site with Google Maps to create a new, more useful service that automatically shows the location of each rental listing.

"The Holy Grail for developers of the semantic Web is to build a system that can give a reasonable and complete response to a simple question like: “I’m looking for a warm place to vacation and I have a budget of $3,000. Oh, and I have an 11-year-old child.”

Examples other than the Beeb's welcome. Further clarifaction also - please post below.

Friday, March 02, 2007

BBC services with ads - within the UK

Looks like the BBC deal with google and youtube means there will be ads served against and on BBC content within the UK. BBC REPORT HERE
The Beeb has long carried ads on its international networks but been shy of doing so on similar services in the UK.
One of the YouTube channels the Beeb will supply content for will carry ads and even have 'pre-roll' ads on their videos.
It's not like the BBC isn't a commercial organisation - it publishes magazines, sells books etc etc.
The BBC's director of Future Media and Technology, Ashley Highfield, said the deal was "not about distributing content like full-length programmes; YouTube is a promotional vehicle for us".
It's also a fantastic vehicle for two-way flow. Imagine the video response fun to be had. I wonder how much they'll censor them, too. See the Worldwide channel here.

What's the next step?
Global video on demand - supplied free with ads in place?
The future is about providing free content - and attempting to engage markets around this, after all.
How are the Beeb going to make the distinction between what they should place ads on and what is a sacred cow?
How is an ad on a BBC video clip any different from an ad at the start of the 10pm News on BBC1?

Both are just as likely to annoy viewers.

The difference is the ads can be so much more targeted on a clip-by-clip basis. Perhaps the Beeb is watching ITV's crisis and realising that not only is it much more under-the-radar to do ads on YouTube clips, it's also - thanks to its superior level of engagement - of potentially MORE value to advertisers.





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?