Saturday, November 29. 2008
The Mobile TV market is moribund - too many standards chasing too few users. And the non standardisation of standards makes the end to end video content production for most mobile phone types totally uneconomic.
However, we think this is about to change. One of the impacts of the iPhone is that it creates a set of de facto standards for online video services to design to – so, for example the Web TV service Joost released an iPhone version of its service on the 29th November 2008. This lets users stream and watch any of Joost's 46,000-plus videos for free.
As one reviewer commented:
“When you load up Men in Black on Joost, it just feels like a whole different ballgame. This isn't a video of a dog on a skateboard anymore. This is real, Hollywood-produced content, delivered to your phone, for free.”
Just add surround sound via stereo headphones (we've heard it trialled, it is stunning what a difference it makes to a small screen picture's "believability"), and I suspect its a game changing experience
TechCrunch reckons Netbooks aren't up to the job of being a "real" laptop, for 3 main reasons:
- Too Little Horsepower
Hmmm....I was around when luggable PC's appeared, and I recall similar criticisms then. Lesson of history is you can never be too light or too mobile, and Moore's Law is remorseless.
Our view is that these devices will more be used as big smartphones in the future anyway - TechCrunch demurs...
There is a big fat hole in the market between mobile devices like the iPhone and regular laptops. But smaller, underpowered laptops aren’t the answer for the mass market. Most of the Netbooks aren’t much cheaper than very low end laptops (and those laptops have normal keyboard and much bigger screens).
....but people will pay a premium for convenience of conveyance.
For what its worth, most of the people I've spoken to who have one say they won't go back to a standard laptop again - and this is just 1st generation! I'd be interested if anyone has views on their use of smartphones vs netbooks.
Nice post by Broadcom's Rags Gupta on surviving dot.bomb 2.0 from experience of dot.bomb 1.0 (props Deirdre Molloy for link). Its also on GigaOm over here. I was on a panel on the Chinwag Web TV Takeover event with him a few months ago, very sensible chap)
1. Be as transparent with your employees and other stakeholders as you can be. At one point, we had to tell everyone in the company that coming to work was optional and that the next payroll was in doubt because of our cash issues. Even though it was bad news, they appreciated the transparency. In hindsight, I would have been much more communicative than I had been.
Point 3 is a biggie in turbulent times. See his note on Ad revenues as well.
If only the young 'uns had listened when the old hands said here comes another Bubble, eh
I was thinking about Social Capital and Social Capitalism (its been on my mind a lot since I went to Berlin) when I saw this on Seth Godin's blog:
You get what you vote for with your attention, money, karma etc.
I was set to thinking about how this applies to the things that money doesn't buy, that, as Joni Mitchell noted, you don't know what you've got till its gone. And I was thinking that Amplified 08 - great that it was - is only the starting point in rebuilding the sort of Social Capital that previous generations took for granted.
The problem with a lot of Social Capital infrastructure is you can't actually buy it, you have to build it, and you have to do that in collaboration with others. And the only way that really occurs is to agitate and campaign, and put up a structure that a community can vote for.
And the one thing, the one new tool we have, is Social Networks. Which is why I was so exasperated by the way Twitter was abused in reporting the Mumbai attacks, and also so energised by the way we used it at Amplified 08. Same time, same service, different usages.
Still, its early days - and if you believe, as I do, that Social Media is the next major comms tool to create non-zero-sum behaviour in our world - and that it will be essential given the crises we face, then there is still so much to do!
Friday, November 28. 2008
Zeitgeist time - I was reading an article in today's Economist about trends in online advertising when a friend emailed me today about a discussion with 2 marketing agency people, they were saying that the "Creatives" do not have all the powers they used to. I had picked up similar trends last year when researching the Future of Online Advertising work, but I suspect its becoming far more piquant as the downturn gathers speed - and as online advertising becomes ever more measurable, as the Economist article notes:
In brand advertising, “rich media” ads are taking over from banners. These allow users to interact by clicking, so their engagement can be tracked.
In other words, its becoming clearer which half of advertising works, and the arcane creative arts will increasingly struggle to justify their place at table heads as measurement becomes prevalent.
Also, these notes on the New Advertising.
The industry is also cautiously excited about two new forms of online advertising. The first is video. So far nobody has found a way to advertise inside online clips on a large scale. YouTube, which Google bought for no less than $1.65 billion two years ago, is “a huge end-user success,” says Eric Schmidt, Google’s boss, “and we’re awaiting the monetisation.”
Our research for the Future of Online Media corroborates this, that quality video to quality audiences is gathering the "hit head" of video advertising leaving the rest to scrabble for the slim pickings in the long tail. But as for Social Media:
The other hope is for ads on social networks such as MySpace and Facebook. They are experimenting with a variety of advertising formats, though none has yet proved very successful. Their big weakness is that users go to social-networking sites to socialise, not to shop (as they might on search engines). Their biggest strength is that users spend so much time there. Two years ago 11% of time spent online was at Yahoo! and MSN, two web portals; now their share is down to 5%, and 5% of online time is spent at YouTube and Facebook.
Perhaps this is the last refuge of the unmeasurable artifice in Ads, at least for a while - so maybe all is not lost for the Creatives just yet......
Actually, I think the Creative will always have a role, its just that it was overweighted when Advertising was largely unmeasurable.
(There is also an article on Mobile advertising, saying its coming of age - but its come of age so many times before, one just keeps the virtual Barmitzvah tent open all the time )
There is (to my mind anyway) a rather disingenuous post up on Techmeme today on the use of Twitter as a news service, based on its usage over the Mumbai attacks:
While CNN and other mainstream publications have been slow to credit online services like Twitter in the past for breaking news during times of crisis like earthquakes and wildfires, now they’re definitely coming around. It shouldn’t really be a surprise the CNN is the one saying this either, one of their anchors, Rick Sanchez, has been very active in the Twitter community, using the micro-messaging service to help with his reporting for several months now.
Rise in #Mumbai tag from Twitscoop
I didn't see it that way at all - I think the point Tweetip (who aggregate Twitter signals around a subject ) made about the pattern resonated with what I saw (see the graph above):
And in terms of ratios I'd estimate it followed the Social Network standard of 1 : 9 : 90 in terms of percentages - ie c 1% was signal, 9% was noise around the signal. The "noise" I'd classify as the standard stuff you'd see around a terrible event - are people OK, is my friend OK, thats sort of thing - but the bulk, the 90%, was pure cr*p, with stuff such as:
What this means is that this was not news - it was a hose of sewage, in which the few nuggets of real news were virtually impossible to pick out. And the "corrections" were meaningless, as they were just adding to the morass of manure as it all swirled around in unverified retweets. Was the original right? Was the correction right - uh oh, here comes an opinion that the correction was wrong.
The old adage that you shouldn't believe everything you read was built for the days when what you read was at least curated and edited in some form, and you could apply rational judgement to it. When faced with a sewer pipe of cr*p of every imaginable sort, its impossible for anybody's brain to filter out what is "real" news and what is not.
If Twitter's performance on this is the "future of journalism", I don't think CNN has anything to worry about just yet.
What will be needed is ways to filter this - I can see 3 approaches that can be used:
(i) Verification - some way of stopping 3rd parties entering and hijacking the stream. with different agendas
(ii) Increased Transaction costs, ie some form of "strong tell" - only people fairly strongly involved will want to communicate
(iii) Filtering - probably combined algorithmic / empirical - to strip out clear recirculatory or off topic responses. Over the last 2 days I have lost any faith that pure "social media" can self correct fast enough or accurately enough in these situations.
How to do this is a fascinating task in itself, and when it starts to occur then I think we will see real "Citizen Journalism" occur, and at that point CNN can be worried.
Or maybe not - yesterday at Amplified 08, one of the sessions led by the BBC team was on the interaction of "Citizen Journalism" and Mainstream media - and I came away with the thought that at the scales the MSM operate, half baked shamateur systems are just not going to cut it. It will need big iron and serous organisation. The MSM have that. So, of course, do others, but it is MSM's to lose.
Update - not just me who saw it this way:
Update - as a friend noted, the CNN piece was rather a good analysis of Twitter, whereas the reverse was not true
Update - a day later, other people are starting to think about how to make Twitter more useful
Thursday, November 27. 2008
I loved this piece on ComputerWorld so much (and it gave me the title to the post) so I've stolen it (sorry, it is of course "research")
A prediction from the article - Identity fraud will be so rampant that Cellphone numbers will be required to set up profiles on Facebook by mid 2009
Marvellous...now, who shall I be today
I know its tres fashionable to trash email as a failure compared to more modern (aka incomplete) systems like Twitter etc (Coding Horror being the latest to cast aspersions) - but is it really true? For example, he pointed to thoughts by one Tantek Celik on the subject (abridged below)
1. Point to point communications do not scale.
Now this is just not a valid comparison. He's comparing a system which has total persistence to one which you limit the participants, only communicate when you are using it, and that has no persistence. Of course its going to be less overloaded, because you're governing it in all sort of ways. I think nearly everyone who pans email and praises (insert your favourite comms system du jour) makes the same cognitive errors:
(i) Your email address is usually more universal, ie more people contact you on it - thus, by definition, the volume of email will be higher
If IM had persistence and was used by all people to talk to you, it would mount up as quickly as emails do. Or, if emails faded away within seconds of not being read and only a few people had your address, it too would be a wonderfully lightweight system.
Where I think he is more on the button is here:
2. Emails tend to be bloated with too many details and different topics.
In other words, people write too much stuff in an email. In this respect systems like Twitter are better, they force you to say your piece in 140 characters (its why I don't like Friendfeed - that's Twitter for people who like to woffle).
Actually though, I'd argue the problem with email is that the cognitive load tax is too darn low - for the sender - i.e. there is just not enough of a transaction cost to make people think twice about writing and sending their essays off to multiple cc's. This low transaction cost is true as well for all IM, but that is mitigated by typically no CC capability, non persistence and not being asynchronous. In fact, that is Email's problem - it is just so powerful in comparison, that the "just click to call" simplicity becomes a problem
No, the real trick to make Email usable (and in fact to make any mass comms system that replaces it usable) is, counterintuitively, to put more of a cognitive load on the sender upfront. Now, looking at Coding Horror's 3 thoughts in that light:
We should avoid sending email out of a deep respect for our peers -- so that they are free to communicate as effectively and as often as possible with us.
Interesting idea....but how might it work in practice? Do you still need to send a mail/twitter/whatever saying where they can find it? (And in some cases, the last thing you want is for comms to go public - its more than your cover that gets blown ). Nonetheless, a good idea.
2. If you must send email, make it as short as possible. Think of it as Strunk and White on speed. Can you reduce your email into a single paragraph? How about two sentences? How about just the title field with no body, even?
Now this I think is a Twitterific idea - imagine if emails only allowed say 500 characters before the writer had to go through some hassleful procedure to get more (ah, they'd send it all as attachments, making it doubly irritating)
3. Remember the theory of communication escalation. Email is just one communication tool in our toolkit; that doesn't mean it is always the right one for whatever situation is at hand. Take advantage of phone calls, instant messaging, text messages, and so forth, as appropriate. Scale your choice of communication method to the type of conversation you're having, and don't be afraid to escalate it (or demote it!) as the ebb and flow of the conversation shifts.
Don't you just love those people who email you, ring you to see if you got it, and ping you on Skype "just to make sure".
So none of this (with the exception of the 1st) will really solve the problem, which is that email is a more powerful comms system than the others and too easy to send. It comes back again to increasing the sender barrier, so they self-regulate.
Taking a leaf from IM's book, imagine if:
- You could only send emails to 4 people at a time (like Skype)
Email would be wonderful, as you can see - of course, some other system would have to take up the mass comms load, and people would bitch about that filling up their inboxes, but hey......
(Which is my point, really - if we didn't have email, we'd just have to invent it again)
So, a terrorist attack hits Mumbai, killing c 80 people so far and causing mayhem. Having been in a situation like that before, I can imagine the anguish and fear.
But what do the social media techies crow about - why, that the news got through on Twitter first of course! Hooray. We beat the silly old Mainstream media. No one knows the ins and outs, the whys and wherefores of course - that boring stuff we leave to MSM reporters - but we wonz coz we wuz firzt!
Even worse to watch is the faux sympathy treacled out by wannabe Twittermedia personalities trying to mainline themselves into the lifestream of other peoples misery and worry. Digital rubbernecking......
Update - this comment by Tweetip (Twitter stream aggregator) here sums up Twitter as a news system:
I think that's it - Twitter will tell you something is up, but soon after that it gets swamped by noise and then people jumping on for their own ends. I know I'd do my Noo Meedja credentials far more good by crying out that Twitter is The Best News since the Ghent from Aix, but the honest truth is it ain't - fortunately the BBC is on Twitter too!
Update 2 - been musing on this - what is needed is a filter so that people who do have something useful to say (the signal) get through, while those who don't (the majority) get stripped out the twt stream. But how to do it....
Update 3 - The Indian government asked people to stop twittering. Says it all.
From the My God thats so Profound Dept:
The WSJ today informed us that Tech shares may fall further.
Who woulda thunk it, eh? But the analysts are as perceptive as ever:
"The big guys of today are now hunkering down, looking at where they've been, and the winners are spending their time building on that," said NPD Group analyst Stephen Baker. "When the market finally comes up, they'll be ready."
Talk about a paradigm shift - better get their ducks in a row so's they can hit the beach running, as they were when it tanked, we hope.....
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