32 posts categorized "Social Media"

December 05, 2012

Tweet Wars – A Twitter Concept for Engaging Sports Fans, Brands, and Social Causes

  TwitterBirdSportsBallsSepia550

There are legendary fan rivalries in the world of sports and on the field – UCLA vs. USC (college), Dodgers vs. Giants (baseball), Leeds vs. Manchester United or Argentina vs. Brazil (soccer), Ford vs. Holden (auto racing), India vs. Pakistan (cricket).  But today, with networks like Twitter, fan rivalries can create competition online that can rival the intensity and passion of that on the field or on the court.  So why not harness that energy to create better content for all, in a way where social causes can benefit, that provides brands with new genuine ways to engage with fans in both the real-time digital and physical worlds?

So what is the content competition that we can create online around the fans and “nations” that already gather? How do we value “Twitter actions” and track the score in cyberspace while the game is on the field?  What’s the opportunity to link fan action and the online “win” with social cause support in alignment with athletic competition beyond what we see today?

Background 

Fans and athletes already create and share content on Twitter during games – from simple team support and virtual cheers to trash talking; from tweets that stand alone to those with media attached such as photos and video from the event and behind-the-scenes, or deeper online article links shared form those at home. 

The 2012 London Olympics saw the creation of an aggregation page from Twitter – a one-stop shop for tweets and media from athletes, mainstream media, and fans. Many media sites have found great (and often unexpected levels of) success via deep fan engagement, commenting and content creation (Bleacher Report).

Notable consumer and media brands (ESPN, Nike, Gatorade, P&G) have a long creative history with sport leagues and major events, as well as more recently with innovative social causes (Pepsi).

Twitter has continually proven its value in the world of live TV – from entertainment to sports – as a voting and media creation/engagement mechanism.  Nielsen has taken note of this value in strategy and acquisitions to rethink ratings. Twitter is also experimenting in the world of direct customer (fan) surveys.

Tweet Wars: The Idea and Its Elements

The Idea: Engage fans of competing teams in real-time during the game in valuable content creation that has distribution in both digital and physical worlds, provides a new relevant brand platform for sponsorship, and results in the distribution of dollars to social causes or scholarships in a way that has meaning and value to fans.

 

TweetWarInfographicFramed2

The concept of “Tweet Wars” in sports is about building on the trends that we already see (from above), and evolving and integrating those experiences by:

  • coalescing fans and rivalries in online competition around the creation of high-value content during games;
  • setting the stage for a “winner” in the digital world that may be different from the winner on the field, by creating a “Tweet War Counter” that  tracks a running tally of tweet volume (adjusted by new tweet value rules) between the two teams and their fans;
  • offering new brand-sponsored opportunities on Twitter for “Tweet Wars" and the “Counter” that integrate with, but go beyond today’s offerings of promoted tweets, trends and accounts
  • attaching the award of dollars at the end of the game, in a “Tweet War” winner-take-all mode, to a social cause (or in the case of college sports – alternatively to a scholarship fund) selected by the team, the school, the conference, or the league – with which fans will have an  affinity. (Those dollars to come from a part of the brand sponsorship/ad sale package with Twitter).

 

The Elements

(1) Content Creation: For Tweet Wars to have value to brands and fans, both the level and volume of Twitter content have to grow beyond current levels, with a focus on unique content that brings additional information, insider perspectives and enjoyment to the game. Hashtags would exist for each team to enable automating the identification, filtering, curation and counting of Twitter delivered content for each team (eg #Go49ers vs. #GoRams, or #GoStanford vs. #GoUCLA).

(2) Content Value and Scoring: Not all tweets would be equal in Tweet Wars.  More points would be assigned to tweets with higher value content, and perhaps even the source (decisions here vs egalitarian nature of Twitter and people wanting to “hear” from celebs and athletes). No points would be awarded to spammy tweets or tweets with nothing but the #hashtag. Minimizing the opportunity to jerry–rig the system would be critical.

Tweets might have different point values depending on the content they carry, such as:

  • With photo from the event or relevant archive shot
  • With link to historic background information or profile
  • With link to a card with data visualization
  • With live insider information from the sidelines
  • From an athlete or verified account or account with a sizable number of followers
  • For tweets that are favorited and retweeted

(3) Content Output and Distribution: Twitter content spurred by Tweet Wars would find distribution in both digital and physical spaces. Digital distribution might evolve from the work at the 2012 Olympics with both human editorially curated and data-driven (MassRelevance applied here) rollup of content on Twitter via a single page that would show side-by-side competing team content, as well as the Tweet War Counter. Scoreboards and Jumbotrons at games provide the screen for periodic display of the “Tweet War Counter Tally” and encourage game attendees to get more involved in the digital outcome. 

(4) Sponsorship/Ad Sale Opportunity for Twitter to Brands: The Counter, side by side team/fan tweet page, as well as surveys and insider content in the tweet stream is a natural brand sponsorship/ad sale opportunity online – that can be packaged with the display in the physical world on the scoreboard of the intermittent Tweet Counter. Sale can be to a consumer brand, media brand, or even to league or conference.

(5) Social Causes: Tweet Wars, like the game on the field, is a winner take all proposition, with the social cause of the team/fans that wins in digital space having the biggest number on the Counter – as the recipient of a set sum of money that is a part of the brand sponsorship package. (Remember that the winner on the field and the winner in digital/Twitter may not be the same – Those results are completely separate. One is about athletes.  The other is about fans.)  This can be thought of as an evolution of or adjunct to some of the “fund your cause” voting campaigns we have seen from brands such as Pepsi (Refresh campaign) and Chase (Community Giving campaign) in recent years.

Time to Experiment?

So is it time for a Tweet Wars experiment in sports that links fan enthusiasm and content; tweet value assignment, curation and a scoreboard; brand sponsorship; and social causes?  Pick a single major event such as SuperBowl,  a series such as the NBA Playoffs, or even a whole season with MLB to see how it might work. 

“Sport is where an entire life can be compressed into a few hours, where the emotions of a lifetime can be felt on an acre or two of ground, where a person can suffer and die and rise again on six miles of trails through a New York City park. Sport is a theater where sinner can turn saint and a common man become an uncommon hero, where the past and the future can fuse with the present. Sport is singularly able to give us peak experiences where we feel completely one with the world and transcend all conflicts as we finally become our own potential.”  - George A. Sheehan

 Favicon

November 09, 2012

Technology and Live Events: Using Twitter to Reimagine a Woodstock for 2013

  Framed_woodstock2012_h

The Question

What might one of the iconic music and cultural events of the past century – Woodstock – look like today with the integration of digital and social technologies, especially with Twitter as the network?  And how might this compare almost 20 years later to the first experimental integration of digital consumer technology into the 25th anniversary of that live event?  (If your reading time is limited, go to the sections in this post labeled "Using Twitter to Reimagine a Woodstock for 2013" and "Woodstock-Twitter Schematic Elements.")

The Background

In 1969, Joni Mitchell said, "Woodstock was a spark of beauty" where half-a-million kids "saw that they were part of a greater organism." Without any real outside media coverage during the event, that experience was initially limited to those camped out for 4 days at the 600 acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York.  The true size of that “greater organism” and the full impact of the cultural experience that transformed and energized a group into the “Woodstock generation”  - came later, delayed by limitations in distributing and sharing the experience.

Cut away to the present time, and we see widely adopted consumer media creation technologies and platforms like Twitter that when creatively deployed (with smart production values and rock solid engineering) in areas such as politics, entertainment, and sports  - create real-time living breathing “organisms” (we might now say audience or community) that are “Woodstock worthy” in terms of the potential for impact - and that powerfully bridge the physical and digital worlds for both those at the event and others geographically separated from the event and each other by even thousands of miles.

So it’s not surprising that Twitter CEO Dick Costolo recently told the Wall Street Journal that the company is evolving to "more closely tie the shared experience on Twitter to the actual event that is happening."  And the proof of that is certainly found in the company’s track record of just the past 6 months as Twitter has made some bold and successful partnership and production moves into the live event integration arena with examples such as:

  • NASCAR – Launching a relationship with the first sports organization to create an enhanced live event experience on the platform.  (May 2012)
  • The London Olympics – Partnering with a major main stream media company, NBCUniversal, along with major brands such as GE, to create an infrastructure and experience that aggregated and parsed millions of tweets from athletes, fans, and commentators. (July-August 2012)
  • The US Presidential Debates and Election Night Coverage – Redefining the relationship between first and second screen in terms of information, conversation, and delivery of candidate announcements.  (October – November 2012) 

The Experiment

So what if we now take Woodstock - one of the most surprising and culturally redefining live music events of the past 50 years - and use the lens of technology powered media and engagement – to see how the spirit and experience of the 1969 original was translated with early digital technology in its first “reissue” at the 25th Anniversary in 1994, and what a “reimagined Woodstock” might be in 2013/2014 with the kinds of technologies and experiences we have today, with twitter as the empowering network.

A quick comparison table here with frameworks, specifics, and flowcharts following.   Download Woodstock Comp Grid

The 25th Anniversary of Woodstock 

In August 1994, the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock was held over a three-day period at the 800-acre upstate New York farm that had been initially intended for the first event.  This was the first time that the iconic brand had ever been revisited as an event, and the producers who had also set the stage for the original phenomena, wanted to remain true to that initial vision while also adding relevance for what they described as “a generation who was reading William Gibson and getting up on the Internet.”

(NOTE: This was quite a statement to be made at that time. In 1994, there were only 1500 Web servers online, the Mosaic browser had just come out one year earlier, Earthlink was launching, and Yahoo was about a browser and content index. No Google, no Facebook, no Twitter, no YouTube. There were no smart phones, and consumer digital still and video cameras were expensive and limited in resolution.  Platforms to distribute media were limited to videotape and CDROM, with containers and authoring systems being jerry-rigged around software such as Macromedia Director.)

But what was the same then versus now?  The drive to create and share information and experiences.

An 8-acre area of the festival field was carved out and named “The Surreal Field” with interactive experiences from artists like Todd Rundgren and Peter Gabriel.  This was also where a 4000 square foot tented production facility (plus an adjoining semi truck with mobile video editing bays) was built in which Woodstock concert goers could observe the behind-the-scenes creation of the twice-daily Woodstock News “video magazine” by a team of two dozen videographers, editors, animators, blue screen operators, composers, programmers, onscreen talent, field reporters, producers and directors working nearly round the clock.  Story types included Woodstock history and event pre-production, behind the scenes interviews, artist interviews, concert audience “ambush style” interviews, “question of the day” blue screen interviews, creative and gaming tech stories, and the concert schedule for the day.

Additionally, limited amounts of text-based reporting were sent out each day via an Apple Web Server.  Yes, limited Internet access was pulled into this portion of the 800 acre cow pasture for this purpose.

A simple flow chart (click image below for larger size image) of the creation of the Woodstock News in terms of people, equipment, and infrastructure. Almost two dozen people, more than 12 Macintosh computers and 24 monitors just to handle acquisition, digitizing, and output to a distribution format from “professional” sources.  No opportunity for “audience” contribution or feedback other than the limited offering in field interviews and blue screen “question of the day” segments.

Framed WoodstockProdFlow

 

  • Woodstocknewsroom
  • Woodstock_jumbo_Blog
  • Woodstock News Storyboard
  • *band schedule image
  • WoodQuestionDay 2
  • Woodpress
  • Woodstockk Logo
Woodstockk Logo

 

My observation at the time on the people and the technology, and live events as platforms for testing creative and technical boundaries. I think it’s very relevant no matter the year – then or now.

"Sometimes it’s almost more about how well your team will coalesce and how they will deal with the elements and difficult situations - mud, crowds, thunderstorms, close-quarter housing - than if the technology will work.  Rock and roll festivals are great places to test the boundaries of multimedia, both from a technical as well as a creative sense.  From a creative perspective, you have to create something that will really grab and maintain people’s attention - from the front row to the guy standing half a mile from the stage watching the Jumbotrons.  And technically, you never know what you might face in terms of the elements causing problems with your equipment - dust in the video deck heads, thunderstorms during which you have to power down, rain coming in through AC vents - and there is no local Apple dealer around when you are out in the middle of what is essentially an 840-acre cow pasture."

Using Twitter to Reimagine a Woodstock for 2013

There are innumerable ways that one could reimagine and engineer a Woodstock  with the wealth of broadly distributed digital and social technologies available to both professionals and the “consumer” audience today, the user experience, design and technical skills that have developed from experiments on many platforms, and the mobile element – which did not exist for anyone at any price before.


Framed WoodstockTwitter2013Infographic

This is a simple flow chart (click for full size image) showing the sourcing of various forms (created by both pro and user) of media content and conversation directly and indirectly into Twitter, and then the moderation, curation, and filtration of that along with the tweet wrapper content itself -  based on both human editorial and rule sets – to create output, visualizations, and control streams back out to various distribution types, displays, and devices.

The description and schematic above in this post represent just one possible “reimagining” (with Twitter as the primary network).  It is meant more as a sketchpad for thinking more deeply from creative, technical and business perspectives of what we can do now in bridging the physical and digital worlds (in both real-time and asynchronously) in ways that were never before possible.  And those new kinds of experiences may well create the “sparks of beauty” and connection to a “greater organism” that Joni Mitchell talked about in the opening of this post. 

  • It  - and that which it surfaces and displays by separating the signal from the noise - can become part of the event/show itself;
  • It can take a deeper show experience to other people outside of the event space (geographic independence synchronously) and time (asynchronous);
  • It can change the “planned” nature of the event itself, by content and conversation created by the audience locally and in other areas;
  • It can spark unexpected cultural shifts.

Woodstock-Twitter Schematic Elements

(1) Content Input Sources into Twitter

How might media of all forms come into Twitter at a major live event such as a reimagined Woodstock?  Significantly different from the 25th Anniversary of Woodstock, media comes from both the pros and the audience.  And depending on the synchronous nature of the event, that audience may not be geographically determined or bounded.

From the event producers, pros, and the artists themselves, we might see:

  • Video elements such as live streaming, edited packages included historical and behind the scenes stories, video bits from location-based monitoring cameras (like DropCams), and timelapse;
  • Audio delivery via live streaming, asynchronous stream or download, edited and packaged interviews and commentary;
  • Individual iconic photos and high quality photo packages;
  • Engagement activities constructed around live tweet chats, polling, alerts, and announcements;
  • Information and data generating devices automatically generating data to a “Tweet card” output based on some behavior by attendees.

For the “audience” both geographically near and far, the ability to create media and commentary is unprecedented.

  • Visual media creation from smart phones, DSLRs, and GoPro cameras, loaded directly to Twitter or attached via intermediary site (e.g. video to YouTube or photo to Instagram).  Short video bursts via perhaps Vine or Viddy.  Longer form via YouTube, Vimeo, and other newly emerging video distribution platforms.
  • Comments and text posts

(2) Separating the Relevant Signal from the Noise

As software advances (including Mass Relevance and other custom software) and real-time human curation skills develop, the effective (from both production and engineering perspectives) moderation, curation and filtration of the vast sea of tweets and associated media from such an event can be parsed and routed to the right people and devices (both private and public) that not only enhance, but change the very nature of a live experience such as a Woodstock

(3) Experience Outputs and Destinations

Twitter content may then be filtered and edited into dynamic media packages, or the underlying data translated into infographics, guides, and maps.  For example:
  • Event page curation as was seen at the 2012 Olympics, with in the not too distant future, the option to add another layer of personal filtering based on geography, demographics, or interests;
  • Tweet streams, editorially selected tweets, and tweet visualizations sent to venue-based displays, as well as out to various broadcast and Web partners;
  • Tweet activity informing real time maps and “programming guides” to optimize the experience of both on-site attendees as well as those at a distance; (See Twitter's Director of TV Fred Graver’s talk including comments about Twitter creating real-time programming guides – a live event is not that different;
  • Tweet activity and conversation turning into data that controls onsite or remote devices, offering up new forms of activities and entertainments that the “Twitter audience” creates intentionally or unintentionally through it’s actions.

More than a moment in time. It’s a way of being in the world.

This is true not only for a major live event with deep cultural influence, but also for Twitter itself.

Beyond the ideas sketched in this post, fully conceiving a reimagined Woodstock size live event would also require looking deeply into engineering issues, brand engagement opportunities, and revenue models including and beyond creative advertising and sponsorship. This party is just getting started, so to speak.  

Favicon 

 

August 07, 2011

The “Summer of Love” Grows Up to Become the “Summer of Smart” – Reinventing Government One API at a Time

SOS 
“ In the ‘60s we protested the establishment.  Today we write an API to it.” - Peter Hirshberg, Board Member GAFFTA, San Francisco CA

The Rise of Gov 2.0 and the Smart City

Technology and politics have been interesting and increasingly intimate bedfellows over the past 7 years – starting at a national level with the Howard Dean bloggers in 2004, the Obama digital team in 2008, and today’s live-streamed and tweeted town halls - to on the local level, the rise of urban hackathons like San Francisco’s Summer of Smart designed by and for citizens to address issues in their own city.

During this same period, there has been the explosion of ownership of mobile electronic devices and smart phones beyond the tech population into the hands of the general community across all age groups. And within cities, the deployment and embedding of sensors in a variety of places and products has led to the development of and research into the concept of the “real-time” city at places like MIT’s Senseable City Lab.

With these developments in place, and the announcement of the Open Government Directive in December 2009 by the White House, there have been a growing number of technologists and political/community activists asking "Are there ways that diverse groups of everyday individuals can use technology to change and improve local and national government and empower and provide direct control to the individual in the community?"   This is the evolution of the concept and practice of Gov 2.0, eloquently described by Tim O’Reilly in his post “Government as a Platform” as:

 

“…a new generation has come of age with the Web, and it is committed to using its lessons of creativity and collaboration to address challenges facing our country and the world … Government 2.0 is not a new kind of government; it is government stripped down to its core, rediscovered and reimagined as if for the first time …  (It) is the use of technology—especially the collaborative technologies at the heart of Web 2.0 — to better solve collective problems at a city, state, national, and international level.”

 

Much of the Gov 2.0 movement that has been written about has been at the national level.  In addition to the Open Government Initiative, there are sites such as Data.gov and Apps.gov.  Organizations such as Code for America, Sunlight Labs and Expert Labs have served as incubators for the funding and development of data access and technologies that are designed to bring citizens and government closer together. 

But now, led by cities like San Francisco with its own Open Data Executive Directive, the philosophy and possibilities of Gov 2.0 are manifesting at the local level to deal with everyday issues.  Groups such as The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA) are facilitating this movement by organizing a series of urban innovation-inspired gatherings and hackathons called “Summer of Smart.”

The Summer of Smart

The Summer of Smart (SOS) is an intensive, three-month experiment in urban innovation that has evolved in part out of the city data visualization and art projects of GAFFTA, and also draws inspiration and foundation from four other main sources:

  1. The evolution of the hackathon concept to include non-technical participation,
  2. Grassroots community activism and its similarity to hacker/DIY culture,
  3. Gov 2.0 open data initiatives at the local and national levels,
  4. The birth of the real-time sensor-powered city with work pioneered by MIT

The various hackathons, presentations, and mayoral debates of SOS are part of a new model for how citizens and government might work directly together to address urban issues – in essence to begin to build an extensible platform for local government, an urban operating system.  Examples of addressable issues: mass transit inefficiencies, building energy efficiencies, and better means and measurement of citizen engagement with elected officials.

Within Summer of Smart is a series of 3 hackathons, one each month addressing a different topic area. The three areas:

  1. Community development and public art - June
  2. Urban innovation and Sustainability - July
  3. Public health, food and nutrition - August

And GAFFTA’s hopes for results from the hackathons?

  1. The prototyping of new ideas with opportunities for the best to find continuing development and real world deployment.
  2. The expansion of “bottoms-up” Gov 2.0 innovation from a small niche of activity to become part of the greater urban conversation and reality through the gathering and empowerment of self-organizing multi-disciplinary teams of technologists, artists, writers and activists.
  3. The meeting and collaboration of two previously distant and often adversarial cultures – politics and grass roots innovators - and providing a platform for then to learn and work in tandem. GAFFTA smartly optimized the chances of this outcome by scheduling its activities in the months leading up to the local election with candidates anxious for new ideas, while simultaneously intimidated and interested in the prospects of Gov 2.0.

 

“…there are people in the city bureaucracy that have interesting ideas .. but you just can't express them there as there are budget limitations and bureaucracies … But if you can connect them up with the creative tech community, that’s when it can become very interesting.” – Peter Hirshberg, GAFFTA

The Hackathons – 100 People + 48 Hours of Innovation

If one believes that innovation often happens at the edges of expertise and is fueled by constraints, then a 48 hour hackathon with multi-disciplinary teams of people who have never met each other before seems like a good starting structure for participatory democracy. 

“Hackathons are good in the same way that design charettes are. You give people too little time, too little resources, and too big a goal… that leads to a whole lot of creativity, and forces the creation of something that is “good enough” while keeping people from becoming too bureaucratic. This is the opposite of just about everything else that goes on in a city.” – Peter Hirshberg, GAFFTA

Hackathons and the Importance of Data

Data is at the heart of Internet application development at hackathons like SOS. The goal is to go beyond simple government data access in order to establish simple frameworks and tools that make it possible for citizens, not just the government, to create and share useful data – and drive action based upon that data.

“We are at this moment in time where there is this huge surplus of data. What do we do with it?  In the past, most of the effort was on just visualizations and art derived from city data. But now, we are looking at how do we create a feedback loop that makes something actionable.” – Peter Hirshberg, GAFFTA

Hackathons and the Importance of Redefining Citizen Participation

Gatherings of diverse groups of people - both tech and non-tech -  at hackathons like SOS, provide a forum for citizens to connect like never before and to leverage their respective skill sets and passions to identify and begin to solve problems directly affecting them.

“The success of a hackathon such as SOS is highly dependent on the diversity of the teams. It’s when you get journalists, designers, coders, policy types, sensor experts, and activists who understand the communities – that’s when this exciting stuff happens. You always need programmers … but the bottoms-up “maker energy” that we associate with hackers is similar to the energy that you see with community activists and artists.” – Peter Hirshberg, GAFFTA

The ideas, approaches, and apps that can come out of this type of gathering can redefine collective action in a way that goes far beyond “collective complaint.” Collective action and citizen participation can go beyond the boundaries of “input” (that may or may not be considered by government entities and officials) and enter the arena of direct measurable engagement and control, with potentially new interfaces to government entities and politicans.

Hackathon Project Outcomes

The best projects from the three weekend hackathons will be presented to city officials and mayoral candidates at Summer of Smart’s final public forum at the Commonwealth Club in early October.  Some may even become “productized” in the sense that a home base and ongoing support structure are found for the work. A list of projects can be found here, with some examples:

  • GoodBuildings.info - Helps individuals compare commercial spaces based on their environmental performance.
  • The Call Wall – Makes calling a representative more transparent and collaborative.
  • Public Art Mapper - Assists in locating and cataloging San Francisco’s public art from the street.

Moving Forward

In the near future, will technological advancement contribute to government working better for the average citizen? And more importantly, will the result be not just a more effective way for government to source questions and concerns from the public, but more importantly for citizens to provide and drive solutions, ideas, and true two-way engagement and accountability?

If GAFFTA’s Summer of Smart and its hackathons are an indication of what is possible, the chances are good that at least at the city-level, Gov 2.0 practical innovation can happen.

“... every man … feels that he is a participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year, but every day.”– Thomas Jefferson

Additional Resources

Background information on Grey Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA) and Summer of Smart (SOS)

Summer of Smart (SOS) Launch Press Release

Video: Summer of Smart- Democracy in the Digital Age

Open Government Initiative (Obama Dec 2009)

San Francisco Open Data Directive (Gavin Newsom 2009)

Video: Smart, Smarter, Smartest Cities from MIT Forum on Future Cities

Tim O’Reilly’s  “Government as a Platform”

 Favicon

 

 

June 13, 2011

What’s Past Is Prologue – The Link Between Early CDROM Publishing and Today’s Digital Books and Storytelling Apps

  HyperCardBrochure (HyperCard brochure cover excerpt, 1987)

 

“What’s past is prologue.” – William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” (1610-1611)

 

In William Shakespeare’s play “The Tempest” (1610-1611), the character of Antonio utters the phrase “What’s past is prologue” which in modern times has come to mean that history influences, and sets the context for, the present.  Such is the case if we look at the links between the vision of media-rich computer-based storytelling from approximately 20 years ago (1987-1991) with the possibilities that the iPad now offers for realizing some of those dreams  - if not now, then in the very near future.   That is, if we get a few things right this time.

In preparing this post, I spoke with some colleagues from the early days of “New Media” at Apple including:

  • Hugh Dubberly, who was a creative director at Apple and co-creator of the famed “Knowledge Navigaor” video . He now runs an interaction design and information architecture firm.
  • John Worthington, who was a pioneering software engineer in the areas of sound and video (QuickTime, Sound Manager, MIDI Manager) in Apple’s Advanced Technology Group, and is a software architect, inventor and performing musician today. 
  • Antonia Chappelle, who was an interactive producer/business development exec at groundbreaking CDROM publishing companies Voyager and Inscape, and has now founded iPad publishing company Sage Tales which recently released its first title “The Venetian.”

 

1987: Past as Prologue

In 1987, Apple produced a video that articulated a vision of the computing future called “The Knowledge Navigator.”  It painted a story of a near future with a portable tablet-like device with high-speed connectivity and new UI paradigms (e.g. touch and voice) enabling a highly personal visual convergence of documents, rich media and data with autonomous agents acting on our behalf (what we might think of now as “friends,” semantic search, intelligent readers, and curators).

That same year, Apple released Macintosh veteran Bill Atkinson’s HyperCard, one of the first interactive authoring platforms “combining database capabilities with a graphical, flexible, user-modifiable interface.” This was an important “entry level” authoring platform with a pathway to adding some more sophisticated programming and media control options.  One big drawback that limited HyperCard – there was no powerful global network (or browser) to access non-local (beyond on the computer or a CD) information or remotely connect people and ideas.  And there were certainly few hints anywhere of the powerful social networks of today (with AOL and The WELL as the only real players in the space at the time).

“Hypercard as an end user authoring system had a low bar of entry but gradually stepped up to sophisticated programming …  It was really powerful but there was no Internet.  It could work over a LAN but there really were no networks. It (the Internet) was still locked up … This thing that was a “war device” could be used for commerce and information exchange…. (But) laws had to change as well as technology. “– Hugh Dubberly

 

The Limitations of the Past

With a vision of a rich media connected computing future that is not much different from the reality of today, married with the beginnings of an authoring platform that could, at some level, address different levels of programming sophistication – why did we not have the potential explosion of interactive storytelling that is possible today?  The late 1980’s to mid 1990’s rich-media storytelling world was largely a great experimental playground populated by a mix of avante-garde experience creators/artists and some mainstream entertainment brands repurposing existing properties.  But the playground never evolved into a sustainable business.  Why?

(1) Immature authoring platforms

HyperCard was a start, but never evolved into a mature authoring platform.  Even Macromedia Director, which became the workhorse of the time, was still in its technical infancy and largely held developers at its mercy.  With a lack of both powerful cross-platform tools and an ecosystem of APIs to plug in and extend functionality quickly and inexpensively, both creative and technical expertise was disproportionately focused on solving rudimentary problems rather than envisioning what the storytelling experience could become.

(2) Long and expensive development cycle

Development cycles for early interactive CDROM titles were often in the 12-18 month range, with the deployment of teams of significant size (10-20 people or more).  Development was expensive, not only as a result of time, but because of the expense of specialized platforms – high end desktop computers ($20-30k) with additional expensive memory, hard drives that had to be physically moved around offices between machines because of lack of networks (with a cost of $10/meg for a device), limited – if any- opportunity for distributed collaborative teams without the Internet and online storage/file sharing, and often expensive ($5k/development computer) software licenses.

(3) Lack of interactive design and development experience

Outside of the MIT Media Lab (founded in 1985),   there were few individuals with any experience in interactive design.  And while both design and engineering talent for these kinds of projects was difficult to find, it was nearly impossible to hire an individual who could bring some level of both design experience and engineering knowledge to the medium.

(4) Limited distribution

Many early developers of interactive titles saw distribution as the single largest obstacle that they faced, even more so than the expense of development/teams and the lack of tools. Because the end game for a title was a CDROM disc, both physical production and physical distribution were necessary.  There was no one button publish or Apps Store.

“Distribution was difficult, if not impossible, to capture if you weren’t a major entertainment company.  In order to compete you had to be able to buy shelf space and end caps at a price tag of $100,000 or more.  And even at that price, you were still competing against big game titles.  This made things difficult for any immersive storytelling company at the time.” - Antonia Chappelle 

(5) Pricing options

Because of the expense of development and limited market size, CDROM titles were priced more like the platform video games of today ($49 or more), as opposed to the free or $.99 apps of today. 

There is a very different consumer expectation of value, and willingness to experiment, when the cost is $49 vs less than $1.  How many units of the Angry Birds app would be out in the market if it cost nearly $50 vs $1?

(6) Niche audience

Audience size was limited because of player platform requirements. Early interactive CR-ROM titles usually required higher end computers for playback to handle graphics, video and audio.  Higher end machines naturally skewed to the early adopter, male dominated, gamer audience – an enthusiastic group, but limited in size then and very specific in its tastes.

“ …people had to have higher end machines, so naturally this  skewed more gamer … (but) to be truthful,  we really didn’t know who the audience was .  We were driven more by experimentation than business.” - Antonia Chappelle 

(7) No consumer Internet

With the inability to build in any network connectivity (beyond a LAN for some specialized business applications), developers had to limit their content and code to the 650 megs that could be squeezed onto a CDROM, or deal with issues of multi-CDROM installations on customers’ computers.  This limited choices about breath and quality of media (and why we saw video postage stamps of 1/16 the size of screens in even the most advanced titles)

 

As a result of these 7 key limitations (“7 deadlies”), early interactive/immersive storytelling was limited in market size, and was dominated economically (although not creatively) by large media companies who already had channel and brand awareness to address the physical distribution channel issue at some level.  As large entities, risk mitigation played a greater factor in decision-making than it did for the independent developer community – resulting in many “best-selling” titles coming from repurposed books or other media, often lacking a particular editorial point of view for what the medium could be.

 

Then vs Now - The Rise of iPad and the Demise of the 7 Deadlies

What’s different now and why won’t 2011 be a repeat of the “failed” (at least from a business point of view) efforts of the 1980s and 1990s?

Over the past two decades, all but one of the “7 deadlies” has been addressed.  The average consumer’s access to baseline processing power and bandwidth is significantly better.  Development teams are perhaps 1/6 the size with virtual geographically distributed teams taking ½ the development time of some of the original titles. Interactive design expertise still continues to evolve, but has moved out of its “ransom note” beginnings.  The market and appetite is no longer only “gamer niche” when over 150 million people have their credit card numbers in Apple’s iTunes Store alone. And the Internet has 15+ years in front of consumers, bringing in a volume of content and connection not even conceivable in the early interactive days – but with user and design experiences that generally fell far short of those developed in early interactive CDROM titles.

“Apple's iPad is a milestone in computing, because it brings together for the first time several capabilities long in development. Vannevar Bush (1945), Douglas Engelbart (1962, 1968), and Ted Nelson (1974) articulated early visions of computers as tools the average person might use to organize their own research. SRI, PARC, and Apple demonstrated the power of graphical user interfaces and direct manipulation. HyperCard and Director ushered in a "revolution" in interactive multi-media, but 600 MB CDs were the only medium for distribution. The Internet exploded onto the scene in 1995 providing distribution but taking a 10-year step backwards in terms of media and interactivity. iPad is the first device to bring together rich media, interactivity, portability, and broad distribution.” – Hugh Dubberly

So which one of “the 7 deadlies” still needs to be addressed?  It’s mostly about authoring platforms, although one can debate there is still a distribution limitation focused now around “how one rises above the noise once you get in the free apps stores, were certain companies have a lot of say about success.”

 

The Remaining Deadly - Authoring Platforms

While the Internet took us steps ahead in accessing and distributing information, entertainment and conversation, it took us many steps back in terms of authoring and design.  And that’s not surprising if you consider and believe this:  looking at the Internet as something that was initially structured to transmit 20-30 page physics papers, and then various individuals found ways to bolt on code and brute force morph that system into something that could distribute cat videos or sell stuff, and create multimillion dollar valuations.

Now if we are to move ahead and take the best of the vision of “Knowledge Navigator” and merge it with that of the Internet, thoughtful development of authoring platform(s) needs to be addressed.

“2011 is like 1991 all over again  -  a new revolution in interactive multi-media. HTML-CSS-JS-SVG offer a great deal of potential, much of it still untapped. But we lack good authoring tools at all levels from end-user to professional designers and authors…. As good as it is, iPad has no authoring environment … Quite a number of iPad information utilities or intelligent aggregators have emerged… All of these services are new and evolving. We're quite a ways from a final or even a stable form.” – Hugh Dubberly

Given this, there are several challenges/development areas that will need to be addressed to get to a true authoring platform that enables many (not just the “tech elite”) to develop immersive storytelling and information sharing experiences (that are neither pure books/magazines, video/documentaries or social platforms):

  1. Intelligent readers and social aggregators that can learn from user behavior and facilitate discovery beyond intentional search of a friend’s “Like” (cross reference this to my prior posts on Flipboard etc);
  2. Richer “book/magazine” authoring platforms that contain social elements (to facilitate media as catalysts for conversation) and more structural information beyond a list of words and pages – reflected in richer navigation, parallel information, linking, collecting and curating one’s own and group material);
  3. Interactive video (and photos) authoring platforms beyond simple linear editing and navigation;
  4. Mobile authoring platform as opposed to authoring on PC.

 

Moving Forward to “Past Is Prologue”

With the development of the right authoring tools and APIs we may well move to a “Media and Story Convergence 2.0” where we see the digital and physical worlds; journalism, publishing and broadcasting; social and personal; services and commerce – all come together in a meaningful, accessible, mass market way - after a nearly 20 year hiatus since the first experimental attempts.

“It’s exactly the same thing people were trying to do with HyperCard.  What has changed is of course the platform … Now with Push Pop Press the real stunning thing about it is consistency of vision throughout the book… Part of it is about the willingness to do things on a grand scale, to go beyond repurposing.  People really thought about the material and the right way to present this… Brain cycles can now be spent against the bigger issues – and not the struggle of the 90’s with so many basic technology issues ….”  - John Worthington  


“Imagine an updated version of HyperCard running on smart phones, enabling 10-year-olds everywhere to develop contents and apps. That will create a revolution equivalent to the invention of pocket books which made possible universal education and literacy. ” – Hugh Dubberly

 

So to the innovative developers who have pieces of what a powerful authoring platform could be - Push Pop Press, Zite, Flipboard, Inkling, and others -  the games have begun.   The past is waiting.  Patiently, perhaps.  Favicon

 

May 15, 2011

If "All Politics Is Personal," Then for 2012 Will It Also Be Increasingly Social and Semantic?

  PoliticalMagazines2012

(Image top right: Flipboard.  Image bottom left: Zite.  Image bottom right : Push Pop Press "Our Choice."  Click on image above to see full size image.)

 

Politics and the Internet, as well as politics and the personal, are inextricably linked.  This may offer up some interesting new opportunities for "political magazines" (built around individuals’ social graph, expressed interests and inferred semantic behaviors) via "publishing platforms" like Flipboard, Zite, and even Push Pop Press - depending on their respective development and business plans.

In 2003, the Howard Dean campaign demonstrated that the Internet could be used effectively to raise campaign funds.  In the 2008 Obama for America Presidential Campaign, a relatively small team demonstrated that digital, social and mobile platforms had graduated from fundraiser status to gamechanger. (Twitter was in its infancy when the Obama campaign sent out its first tweet in April 2007.) And outside of American politics, many of the defining moments for Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook have been around political issues and movements.

What did not exist in these earlier campaigns was the iPad and technology platforms that could enable the construction of personalized political/issue “magazine” experiences built around individuals’ social graph, expressed interests and inferred semantic behaviors – with both deep archival and breaking content of all media types. With thoughtful experience design added to the equation, platforms from companies such as Flipboard, Zite and the underlying technology from PushPopPress could evolve and be used to create a new kind of living mobile political campaign magazine for the upcoming 2012 election.

 

"Like a lot of Web innovators, the Obama campaign did not invent anything completely new. Instead, by bolting together social-networking applications under the banner of a movement, they created an unforeseen force to raise money, organize locally, fight smear campaigns, and get out the vote…” – David Carr

 

A Look Back at the 2008 Obama “New Media” Campaign

The campaign generated a connection with “users” in ways that had never been achieved before, and was based around the facilitation of the dissemination and sharing of massive quantities of media (interlinked with actionable opportunities) across many platforms, with minimal effort (given small size of the team). A quick recap of some of the main elements: (for more details, see a great 2009 case study written by Kimberly Smith for Marketing Profs).

  • Main campaign website: My.BarackObama.com was designed to be the comprehensive resource point with media, how-tos, transcripts, and opportunities for involvement.
  • Video: The campaign’s YouTube channel eventually held 1800 videos with over 18 million views. Ustream.tv served almost a million hours of live video streams during the campaign.
  • Photos: The Flickr account included official event photos as well as candid views.  (There was no Instagram,Path or other social photo sharing apps at that time.)
  • Social technologies: Numerous Facebook groups were created and updated daily not only for Barack and Michelle Obama, but also for every state and innumerable interest groups. Twitter was in its infancy when the campaign sent its first tweet in April 2007 (with under 300 followers for @BarckObama). LinkedIn was used to present questions and discussions to the (largely) business community.
  • Mobile: The campaign developed an iPhone app that included news, photos, videos, location specific engagement opportunity information (using GPS), and user’s contacts organized by state for campaign calling. The opt-in nature of the mobile strategy provided the campaign with a community with robust profiles on almost 3 million participants by the August 2008 VP announcement.

Possibilities for the Personal-Social Political Magazine 2011-2012

If 2007-2008 was about brute strength and enthusiasm fueling the cobbling together of the various digital initiatives, perhaps 2011-2012 will see the addition of the elegant auto-generated (and two-way) “personal and social political magazine” generated by new tools from companies such as Flipboard, Zite or even a more social-enabled version of PushPopPress (with various evolution of the tools required).

If “O Magazine” and my Twitter feed can be social magazines via Flipboard … If  Zite can learn about my interests and serve me up more undiscovered content … If Push Pop Press can create Al Gore’s “Our Choice” to merge the models  of the book with documentary film … Then why can’t a party, a politician or a cause have the same kind of possibility of creating an engaging, ever changing environment of media resources (from archival to breaking) and social conversations/sharings around their “brand?”

That new personalized political magazine could include integration of all the disparate elements we saw in the 2008 Obama campaign into one dynamic package (although one could still go to the individual platforms as well).  We might see in these "magazines":

  1. Curation of the political articles/videos your friends have found most useful and interesting
  2. Revelation of influential sources and expertise from sources you didn’t know about (avoiding the personal echo chamber)
  3. Revelation of related issues and discussion documents (to what you have already requested or that has been pushed via a programmed feed)
  4. Options to select information on opposing points of view on particular issues
  5. Historical issue and poll timelines and dynamic infographics and maps generated on the fly
  6. Deep archival issues video presented in relationship to relevant current writings
  7. Live streaming video integrated with info graphics, social curation, feedback, polls and calls to action
  8. Polls, real-world engagement opportunities, and messaging/texting supplied in realtime relating to your interests, reading/viewing path, and geolocation data (of you and friends)
  9. Realtime social sharing of media as well as personal highlighting of media
  10. New models of "opt-in" database building, as well as advertising and fundraising

Data and Insights

Think of the interesting breadcrumb trails of action data to be culled from the various browsings of such an integrated, dynamically built, and two-way “magazine”  - the reading of a tweet from a political curator that leads to a YouTube video that leads to a campaign donation and hosting of an event with 20 friends that generates instantly shared photos curated back into the Twitter feed and displayed in the magazine. Additionally, there would be an incredible learning opportunity for mapping people’s information sources, interests,sharing propensities, and their relationship to various stances on critical issues by discrete geograhic location (even via GPS).

Platforms Need to Evolve

In order for this kind of experience to occur, there would need to be evolution in the development of the technical and design capabilities (eg interactive graphics) of the various  social magazine (Flipboard) and personal semantic learning magazines (Zite), or alternatively the integration of these kinds of social and semantic capabilities into the rich-media book/documentary model of PushPopPress .  Some ideas:

  1. Combination of social curated, search generated, and semantic discovered content across a complex topic definition in a single "magazine" format (not in multiple panes in Flipboard or separate list categories in Zite).
  2. Opportunity to more powerfully discover, capture and retain content of interest from your quickly flowing “historical social stream” to get beyond the timeline model to the “personally important model” that is driven by both “discovery and unexpected delight.”
  3. Intuitive and powerful “bookmarking and clipping” functionality to collect and share entire pieces of media or only highlighted and annotated sections (think scrapbook).
  4. Dynamic integrations of various media types from multiple sources into a single screen experience – eg streaming live debate video with an interactive map and poll, curated related analysts' content that can bookmark, conversing/tweets with friends, fundraising around the issue being debated
  5. Balance between content and sources that are asked for, and new serendipitous information and sources that would be useful and revealing. This goes to the ideas in Steven Johnson’s book “Emergence” where he presents the idea that a newspaper tailored to the tastes of a person on a given day will lead to too much positive feedback in that direction, and people's choices/offerings would be permanently skewed for the rest of their lives.
  6. Addition of new interactive media types.
  7. Smarter deduping of shared media via social relationships so that the same video or url is not shared multiple times from multiple sources using multiped url shorteners.

The Near Future

“Much of the creativity and spirit they (Obama 2008 digital team) brought with online tools to help galvanize grass-roots supporters in 2008, they will be trying to re-create this time with an ambitious online presence. This was evident when Mr. Obama began his re-election effort this month with an e-mail and text-message blast, posts on Twitter, a short video on YouTube and a new app that connects supporters and their Facebook friends to his campaign Web site with a question: Are you in?”NY Times Blog: The Caucus

And in the not too distant future (later this year?), might this not also include political iPad magazines that have content that is both professionally created (by candidate/party) as well as "personally" curated via social platforms, search generation and semantic learning?  Favicon

 

April 20, 2011

Will 2011 Finally See the Realization of the 1995 Idea “The Daily Me” - and Beyond?

FlipboardBeingDigital

"To be a viable publisher in this new world you have to think about how your content is going to map to social real-time experience."  - Mike McCue, CEO, Flipboard, 2011

 

Imagine a future in which your interface agent can read every newswire and newspaper and catch every TV and radio broadcast on the planet, and then construct a personalized summary… It (the newspaper) would mix headline news with “less important” stories relating to acquaintances, people you will see tomorrow, and places you are about to go to or have just come from … Call it The Daily Me.” -  “Being Digital” (p 153) by Nicholas Negroponte, 1995

  

The Future Is Today

Sixteen years ago in 1995, Nicholas Negroponte wrote one of the seminal books of the early days of digital media and design called “Being Digital.”  In Chapter 12 of that book, there is a brief two page section entitled “Personal Filters” in which he sketches the vision of “The Daily Me,” a personalized newspaper that would migrate us from the world of general print (atoms) to that of personalized electronic bits (see his quote above).

A lot has had to happen since then to turn this from prognostication/science fiction into the possibilities we are now seeing popping up most predominantly on our iPads.  Remember that in 1995:

  • Netscape was but a year old (Navigator 1.0 browser),
  • Steve Jobs was at NeXT,
  • the fastest commercial cell phone network anywhere was 2G in Japan,
  • the coining of the term Wi-Fi and the first version of RSS were still 4 years away,
  • companies like Google (1997), Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005) and Twitter (2006) wouldn’t be founded for years

In the decade and a half since then, the Web evolved into an amazing cacophonous, and certainly imperfect, information source – filled with innumerable pieces of content of all types (words, numbers, photos, audio, video) – with the “good/relevant” sharing equal shelf space with “bad/irrelevant.” And with technology development generally outpacing the integration of thoughtful experience design, even that deemed “good and relevant” was often surrounded by distractions and elements that diminished its value and the experience – often made in pursuit of an elusive, but needed, revenue model or some way to optimize search.  Then, more recently, layer in the supersonic speed of information sharing via social technologies like Facebook and Twitter, and it becomes a near full time job for mere mortals to sift the “signal from the noise.”  (This is at least true for the information junkies among us).

 

 

The Problem and a Need for a New More Human Experience

 

For the most part, the truth is out.  Except for a few media sources accessed religiously, a growing portion of news and entertainment finds us via friends, followers, communities, loose ties, and vertical curators. (Whether we “consume” it in the social space, or go to the media brand source with social primarily serving as discovery and trusted referral service, is another discussion.)

 

On the other side of the media equation, publishing brands are struggling with maintaining control of the content they pay professionals to create, installing paywalls, fighting social syndication, bringing in or contracting technical expertise to create their own branded apps, and perhaps “burdened” with old Web thinking and assumptions that people already know of their content and its relevance for them (excluding the opportunity for new serendipitous discovery/new audience).  At what cost?  And might there be another road (not necessarily exclusive of these) to take?

 

The problem with journalism on the Web today is that it's being contaminated by the Web form factor. What I mean is, journalists are being pushed to do … stuff meant to attract page views …  that are really distracting for the reader, so it's not a pleasant experience to 'curl up' with a good website. … Journalism is being pushed into a space where I don't think it should ever go, where it's trying to support the monetization model of the Web by driving page views. … Let's leverage the power of the Web -- don't get rid of it, but make the Web beautiful again. We need to give the content room to breathe, and give magazine-style advertisements the opportunity to flourish.”  - Mike McCue, Flipboard

 

So What's the Win-Win?

For the consumer audience: it’s the creation of a mobile media “enjoyment” tool for the average person, not another power user dashboard that fills large monitors and enables the parsing and scheduling of content. It’s a platform that, in essence, reinvents the Web content model – by providing, in one aggregated place, what the individual specifically requests/wants or what they would enjoy if they knew about it – without inundating them with everything and expecting them to sift.

  • Platform that can help me find what is most relevant to me from a variety of sources - branded, social, curated, semantic-search aggregated - and present the totality in a visual structure that encourages emotional and intellectual exploration and engagement (vs. just clicking).
  • Customization of sources if desired – passively (via technology in the background observing human behavior), and actively via conscious human choice.
  • Creation of “magazines, portfolios or movies” of content pieces that are additive in nature, rather than providing duplicative coverage of a story with the same reference sources,
  • Presentation in a beautiful engaging way that encourages scanning, as well as reading/viewing, bookmarking, highlighting, sharing, and saving
  • Collection and presentation of all media types around a content areas within a single wrapper – text, photo, audio and video

 

For media brands and publishers: it’s about providing a viable technology platform option and place to aggressively experiment with a reinvention of the possibilities of digital content surfacing, presentation and monetization less constrained by some of the “Web rule” legacy that results in “unnatural behaviors” to generate clicks.  There is a chance to be able to design and provide information and entertainment – to tell stories - in ways designed for human behaviors and not merely Web optimization behaviors that humans tolerate.

Could they make far more money than they ever have on the Web in the past  - when they can get the combination of broader distribution and better targeting leading to larger ad, commerce and even ticket/event subscription revenues – with “The Digital Me” as the way they finally tap into real digital revenues (which for pre Internet entertainment company sector in particular, has been strictly second class)?

  • Platform that rewards playing to the strengths of storytelling and understanding the audience
  • Choices of revenue opportunities from multiple sources, including and beyond re-imagined advertising and subscriptions (see “Evolution” section below) – that supports and evolves the brand essence and the creation of great stories
  • New promotion and discovery opportunities that maintain brand and creator integrity
  • Inspiration for opening up media brand’s archives of content, as well as the creation of new – with both used in concert to create new kinds of stories
  • Exploration of new kinds of programming and storytelling experiences, with the majority of resources going to content creation vs. technology infrastructure

Smart and Powerful Under the Hood; Beautiful and Witty on the Surface; Socially Savvy and Agile

If the above are the desired end states for consumers and creators, how do we begin to get there?  Has there been enough evolution in “installed base” infrastructure, agile tools, and human understanding and practice of media design since “Being Digital” -  that companies in the space (such as Flipboard, Zite, News.me, Pulse, FLUD, NewsMix, Taptu) can successfully move toward the vision of the “Daily Me”?

I say “Yes.”  From a development perspective, it’s about focusing on three areas, while always understanding the importance of the building of relationships with media creators and publishers with a creative and economic model that can support all.

 

Smart and powerful under the hood

Search and social for discovery highlight the need for syndication and integration beyond the need for subscription to single branded channels.  A syndication model in turn requires additional focus on relevance and personalization.  Algorithms that are smart and powerful under the hood will have an increasing role in differentiation (because of the desire for personal relevance) but must be deeply linked to design respect.  Technology can’t trump presentation. The kinds of business relationships that can be developed with media partners will also influence the outcome of what algorithms will be allowed to present  (What can be done is not always what should be done.)  Lots of questions and exploration to come here:

  • How is personalization different than customization?
  • How might recommendations algorithms play out – asking questions that require human action (like Netflix and Amazon) or making decisions and taking action to refine choices in the background (like Pandora)?
  • How will content search and semantic search balance out?
  • Does the resulting model of the algorithmic parsing of the information need to be (or lend itself) more to a digital newspaper or magazine, or something not yet seen?

 

Beautiful and witty on the surface

Design that is beautiful and witty on the surface – meaning innovation on the presentation and navigation layers – needs to have equal footing with algorithm development. And this mantra applies as much to the visual manifestation of advertising and other revenue sources integrated in, as it does with the content itself.

 

Socially savvy and agile

A socially savvy and agile approach that can make the wide, fast-moving streams of Twitter, Facebook and even RSS more navigable and time effective is a requirement for any of the experience offerings that wouldn’t revolve around a single media brand.  Again, many questions to be answered in this area beyond technical development and feed integration – as important questions in terms of how one monetizes and could share revenues within “curations apps” part of the system would work vs. the “single media branded” world (whether as part of a social magazine platform or a stand alone branded app).

Evolving the Opportunity - Strategies and Examples

How might a platform like Flipboard evolve to consider areas such as:

  • Advertising
  • Commerce
  • Special Events - Both Live and with Deep Archival Content
  • Video, Music and Entertainment
  • Location-Based Experience Guides

 

Advertising

Is there an opportunity for design-centric advertising fueled by deep multi-source data (real time and historical), in addition to supporting ad sales and display for single media brands within their own “social magazines?”

Advertising models within this kind of environment, could potentially exist in three spaces:

  • The media brand’s space itself (eg the Flipboard Pages model with brands such as “O Magazine”)
  • Socially curated spaces, ranging from Flipboard curated spaces like FlipTech, or feeds from noted curators such as Maria Popova and Jason Hirschorn.
  • Self-curated and directed by the individual using Google Reader, or some future form of custom complex search (if this capability develops over time with Ellerdale technology)

The first is the model that is being experimented with Flipboard Pages with magazines such as Rolling Stone and O Magazine, as well as pure online plays like All Things D – For now, full page ads that fill part or all of the page sold and provided by an outside agency.

In the second and third instances, with aggregated or curated content “magazines” fed via news reader-type application, no one has yet figured out how to share advertising revenues with publishers. One option is to have advertising revenue for brand specific “magazines” only, and use access to curated content feeds as “discovery cost.” However, while the waters may currently be murky in the world of curation, there may be an interesting hidden opportunity for both technology and media partner alike. Consider the possibility of advertising that leverages the power of all the data feeds that pour into Flipboard from the various Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Flickr, Instagram and other accounts – as well as directly from the media brand “magazines.”  That’s a pretty big potential gold mine –obviously more complex than Scenario 1, requiring different technology, agreements and resources to scale and support.

But while not publicly on the drawing boards, could there eventually be a Flipboard powered ad network or advertising type for “multi-source social magazines” that combines great creative with the diverse data streams, social heuristics and additional inventory?

 

Commerce

In many instances, It has been easier to monetize in the commerce space than advertising space on the Internet.  Something to consider in more broadly thinking about what Flipboard and the 'social magazine" space could become, with three potential models:

  • Traditional catalogs (print and Web) translated in a new way onto the platform
  • Curated commerce around a single brand (media or product), product class/type (across brands), or various "deal of the day" offerings
  • Social semantic search commerce where information (photos, social reviews, offers, videos etc) is collected and displayed on the fly against a certain specific product, product class or brand with purchase opportuity online or real world (with geolocation driven recommendations)

 

Special Events - Both Live and with Deep Archival Content

Special events offer new content opportunities to media partners both in creating new live programming, as well as digging deeply into their content archives and integrating "evergreen" programming with new professional content and social commentary/curation.  Programming could range from one time only to an ongoing series (monthly or quarterly) with revenue opportunities extending beyond traditional advertising to include branded sponsorship.Revenue sources ranging from brand underwiritng to ticketing.

What might this look like for live nature, adventure or travel-related programming, sports, music performances, and curated events (think PopUpMagazine on Flipboard)?  How might a YouTube Live partnership fit with this?

 

Video, Music and Entertainment

Could Flipboard become a new syndication and monetization platform for video creators  - both at the head and mid-tail.

  • Major media brands with their video vaults of evergreen content not yet on the Internet (eg topics around science, nature, travel, sports, history, health, pop culture.)
  • New integration/distribution opportunities for many of the newly funded digital studios that fit the middle ground of media continuum between “the major brands” and the long tail of “skateboard dog videos” (eg Maker Studios, Machinima, Break, BedRocket).
  • Celebrity partnerships with direct to the audience behind the scenes or cause related content.

 

Location-Based Experience Guides

Could Flipboard provide a platform for the next generation in guides - around a  location/geography or experience type/topic? The potential exists for guides to be created "on the fly" with social and  algorithmic curation, appropriately integrating (and “de-duping”) media of multiple types from a variety of sources, providing not only content, but cross reference commerce/retail offers and unique events and experiences that are time-based.

 

Moving Forward

We could be seeing the beginning of the first serious rethinking of the Web content experience in 15 years via a better and more human balance of technology, design and financial relationships. This space (and Flipboard in particular) sits squarely at the intersection of design and algorithms, social media and copyright, storytelling and data feeds, order and cacophony - so it is certianly not going to be boring any time soon - and the opportunities for all sides of the table could be astounding.   Favicon

 

January 16, 2011

For the Movie Industry - Marketing is the Eye of the Storm

MovieMarketing_3Posters

 

While the debate storm swirls around the issues of technology and its impact on the how and when people can access “mainstream” entertainment, the true “eye of the storm” may be a product of technology and its impact on how the marketing of entertainment (and the associated distribution of dollars and time) needs to be significantly re adjusted if not completely rethought.

So why “the eye of the storm?” 

 

While the eye is perceived as the calmest part of the storm, it is often the most hazardous and deceptive.  In storms over water, conditions inside the eye can include towering waves generated by the storm walls.  Over land, people wander outside to inspect the damage once the eye passes, thinking the storm is over, and then are caught by surprise by massive winds in the oncoming eyewall. Such it is with technology (the storm), distribution (the storm and eye walls) and marketing (the eye) in the entertainment industry.

 

 

What Does It Mean to Market a Movie?

Historically, marketing a movie, whether it is a wide release from a major studio or a niche ultra indie, is not the same as marketing a similarly priced consumer product (an item priced at about $10). Movies exist in an environment filled with a nearly infinite variety of creative choices for an audience that needs to make a purchase decision (and an often one time purchase decision) without trial.  They don’t personally know if they like it until they have actually tried/viewed it, and there are no returns.  For the studio, the value of that initial ticket purchase decision is non-trivial, as it has historically set the tone for the all important downstream revenue opportunities.

So how does a marketer make a potential viewer feel that “they know” the movie and become invested in the experience, and provide signals that raise the chance of ticket purchase, without giving away the creative surprise that is at the core of movie viewing?

 

“… marketing by its nature is an attempt to influence the outcome.” – Jeff Ulin


This is why the race should be on for innovative thinking and well-crafted and monitored execution, and dare we say “some calculated risk taking” in rethinking the appropriate media vehicles and digital-physical linkages for different stages of the marketing conversation. 

 

Seven Stages of the Marketing Conversation

Marketing needs to be thought of as an ongoing engagement process, not a sales spike only (push style) strategy.  Media and platforms chosen for one stage should setup and feed the conversation and engagement in the next.  The following seven activities propose one way of organizing the structure and flow of the marketing conversation.

  1. Research: Identifying potential audience groups, influencers and platforms
  2. Seed: Creating and placing media, experiences, conversations and platforms for exchange
  3. Discovery: Optimizing the opportunity for discovery, curation and sharing of content and conversation of interest to the potential audience
  4. Purchase: Creating ways that make ticket purchase easy, immediate and sharable
  5. Experience: Watching the movie in theater or unique location
  6. Share: Encouraging the dialogue of personal experience with the movie, between individuals and groups with both strong and loose ties
  7. Ongoing engagement: Aligning the movie with opportunities for ongoing conversations and media beyond the initial spike push to meet opening weekend reach and sales goals. Depending on the film and originator, this linkage might be with the brand, characters or related cause

 

Timeline of Marketing Activities for Theatrical Release

Today, there is no magic formula when it comes to the theatrical release. It’s not about “one from column A, and 2 from column B.”  Innovative and creative thinking, married with well-coordinated (but flexible) execution is as important in marketing as it is in the conception and production of a movie.

The table in this post is not meant to be a complete representation of all the possible tactics, nor should every movie use all the tactics listed at a high level in this document. It is meant to help frame some thinking about media and conversations in a time based manner – before , during, and after theatrical release – and begin to introduce some more thought around the concept of “continuity of brand over time” vs. “spike/push tactics to reach initial release reach and frequency targets.”

 

Page 1 focuses on the more physical space tactics where the majors have traditionally focused and spent - with the dominance of traditional sources like TV advertising (sometimes 80% of total media spend), but with the need for more creative use of digital.  Indies may use very little of the traditional (and expensive) media platforms on Page 1, but have great opportunity to creatively use their limited dollars against digital tactics and social platforms such as those on Page 2.

 

Disney spent $34M in the initial marketing of  “Finding Nemo” with more than $20M just for TV spots - this against an estimated  $536.7M initial gross.  (Source: Ulin book)

“The power of the Web to target messages to specific demographics is a marketer’s dream, and the budgets for online advertising continue to grow.  However, the percentages spent online and the migration of marketing dollars has not been as great or fast as one may expect.” – Jeff Ulin 

 

Timeline of Marketing/Communications Activities for Theatrical Release

GenericMarketingMatrix
GenericMarketingMatrixPage2


Integrated Marketing Communications- Making the Digital and Physical Symbiotic

 

With the increasing pressure on traditional marketing tactics, there is a strong argument to be made for rethinking not only the timing of marketing activities, but also the need for:

  • strong thoughtful integration of physical/traditional media and digital/social platforms
  • increased digital spend with an understanding that those dollars are not just about ad spend with “risky non-standard platforms” (to the industry), but against new digital experiences
  • better understanding of how social platforms extend the “virtual” media budget for a film, but also require attention in dollars and resources beyond free “interns”
  • changed thinking that all activities on the Web, mobile or via apps are free for people to find randomly on their own  
  • an agreement that execution and luck do not “magically intersect” online  

The infographics that follow show snapshots of a theoretical movie campaign with both (1) a traditional media only approach and (2) a digital deeply integrated approach. Their focus is on the integration of elements and the time frame of elements is not identified (as was the purpose of the previous table). Much of the traditional marketing comes and goes, while the digital and social technology platforms can take on a more persistent continuity role before and after a particular release.

 


Traditional/Physical Marketing Only Approach

  PhysicalOnly_MovieMarketingInfographics(click for full size image)

 

The major elements are as follows, and can also be linked back to the previous table (page 1) in terms of general timing.  The major goal – to “push” awareness and traffic.

  • Advertising
  • Trailers
  • Press
  • Events
  • Posters
  • Merchandise
  • Cross Brand Promotions

 

Integrated Digital and Physical Marketing Approach
  MovieMarketingInfographics(click for full size image)

 

In addition to the major elements from the physical/traditional only campaign, other media/platforms/activities are integrated (and can also be seen in terms of general timing from the previous table page 2).

 

Additional elements to existing physical/traditional categories include:

  • Advertising – some digital push platforms
  • Press – seeding online and bloggers and digital EPKs
  • Events – virtual audience oriented
  • Trailers – the consideration of online only versions as well as digital distribution of theatrical trailers
  • Contests – digitally driven

New categories include:

  • Digital and social platforms
  • Online video
  • Apps

 

(1) Digital and Social Platforms

Creating brand specific digital platforms and leveraging those created by others that have garnered significiant (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) and targeted (e.g. "vertical" blog networks) audiences create powerful amplifying nodes for content creation and distribution; curating, commenting and sharing; awareness and traffic driving; and reach/value extension for the traditional media efforts.

“For too long, we've tried to understand ourselves in isolation, as we test people one at a time in the psychology lab or rely on their past preferences to predict behavior. But these conditions and algorithms are artificial. In the real world, we are deeply intertwined with each other, dependent on our social networks for all sorts of advice. If it weren't for the buzz of strangers, we wouldn't even know what movie to pick at the multiplex.” - Jonah Lehrer in The Wall Street Journal

 

(2) Online Video

Online video can range from the creation of YouTube channels, integration and posts into Facebook groups, promotion and discussion via Twitter, stealth placements, and even syndication across "vertical" blog networks. Material can inlcude that created for traditional broadcast campaigns (e.g. talent interviews), but is even more powerful when unique digital-only content is created on an on-going basis that lets the potential movie-going audience connect deeply and personally with the brand in advance (e.g. behind the scenes, remixes with popular pop culture talent, ongoing Q&A's, digital only trailers). This can be content with high curation, aggregation and sharing potential.

“… the virtual community can scale and expand beyond what would typically occur in the physical world .. because the Internet has no geographical boundaries… It becomes a global, real-time conversation and online video is in many cases the catalyst that brings all these people together.” - Peter Levinsohn, President of New Media and Digital Distribution for Fox Filmed Entertainment

 

(3) Apps - Third Party and Original

Experimentation with apps has recently included the development of orignal apps and leveraging third party apps to directluy drive ticket sales:

"You now have a self-identified list of participants who are passionate about entertainment, and the event brand has even more value to them." - Jordan Glazier, CEO of Eventful in reference to the use of his company's app in the marketing of the movie "Paranormal Activity"

 

Three Case Studies

The series of posts that will follow will use the models and infographics presented in this post to look at the use and integration of digital platforms and content for three kinds of movies:

  • Toy Story 3: a major studio franchise release, the kind of movie where the amount spent on traditional media (largely TV) to open it is disproportionately large as theatrical launch is seen as the engine that drives larger downstream revenues.
  • Ready Set Bag:  the ultra indie passion project where distribution and helping theaters sell tickets has to be earned one geographic market at a time.
  • Waiting for Superman: the cause-related film where the key is knowing how to engage those already deeply involved with and invested in the topic and their surrounding communities. Favicon

June 30, 2010

Is "Open" Just Another Four Letter Word?

OpenScrabble

Download Open Leadership Flow Chart

 

Like the word "free" in Chris Anderson's book "Freemium,"  the word "open" indiscriminately applied to organizations might be seen by some as just another four-letter word - representative of business anarchy, causing more problems and disruption than the value it could ever eventually deliver.  But that perception is as off base as the one where social media zealots require that organizations be 100% open without regard to individual business needs.

In her book "Open Leadership" Charlene Li presents a rigorous approach to identifying and evaluating a specific organization's need for open leadership and its respective strategy, action and ongoing evaluation plans.  Her approach is not a one size fits all prescription, rather she best describes it as:

"Being open should not be a mantra or philosophy ... The question isn't whether you will be transparent, authentic, and real, but rather how much you will let go and be open in the face of technologies.  Transparency, authenticity, and the sense that you are being real are the by-product of your decision to be open."

- Charlene Li

Rather than writing another high level review of the book, I've created a downloadable "how to" road map or flow chart of the main concepts and their relationships to each other. The map takes many of "Open Leadership's" detailed and highly practical audit lists and metrics recommendations, and builds a visual relationship between them.

It's clear that "open" (leadership or organizations) is not a mono-dimensional state, nor is it for everyone.  And it's certainly hard to achieve - meaning that patience and dedicated resources are required once the desired location on the "openness meter" is identified.  Some may give up and others may prevail. So in the end, "hard" - like "open" and "free" -  may just be another four letter word for some.  Favicon

March 31, 2010

Why Sharing Matters

TheShare.001

Sharing is no longer just about good manners.  It has assumed a front row seat in the discussion about powerful leverage points at the intersection of content and influence. If you are a media company or consumer brand (and the difference between these two is shrinking in many respects), understanding how people engage with and share content is a critical skill.

And you won’t be alone. 2010 may well be the year that brands and media companies spend as much time (if not more) looking at social sharing optimization as they do at search. The sheer volume of content (both good and bad) being added to the Web is outpacing people’s ability to find what’s interesting and relevant to them. This has been leading to a decline in the overall perceived value of content, along with companies’ and individuals’ abilities to make a living from creating and distributing it, as well as brands promoting around it.

"Abundance breaks more things than scarcity does."

- Clay Shirky at SXSW 2010

But if you can build a system than increases the likelihood of providing the right content (informational or entertainment), at the right time, to the right people, there is the opportunity to reestablish value.  Generating appropriate sharing is an essential element in this “value re-establishment chain.” Sharing lifts content above the general noise level of the Web by the fact that it is deemed important by the users (both initiator and recipient of the share).

"With all the noise online. your social circle becomes a de facto filter, surfacing useful information because they know exactly what's interesting to you and what isn't.  That piece is so important - it's the essence of  influence."

- ShareThis Blog Oct 22

Sharing Stats

  • 84% of “connected consumers” share links and bookmarks – Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Report 2009
  • 50% more page views per unique via share-originated links that search
  • For many sites, sharing is now accounting for as much as one-third of the amount of traffic driven by search –ShareThis Blog, Dec 2009

"Publishers, meanwhile, are devising ways to persuade readers to share more, in much the same way they use "search engine optimization" strategies so search engines will rank them higher in search results.  A personal recommendation, they say, can be just as powerful as a referral from Google."

- NY Times, Sept 2009

Publishers and the Design Dynamics of Sharing

If sharing is becoming that powerful a source of engaged traffic, then publishers and creators need to know how and why people share in order to develop and deliver viable strategies for maximizing share-generated traffic, ad revenue and engagement. 

"If you ask a site manager, they'll know how much traffic they get from search.  But when you ask about traffic from sharing activity, they can't tell you."

- Tim Schigel, CEO, ShareThis 

So how publishers incorporate sharing capabilities is becoming increasingly important, not only because of its impact on traffic, but that it also shows that they understand the interests of their audience and want to make it easy for them to share things of interest to their communities.

ShareThis has some interesting information on how different types of media companies have addressed sharing from both technology placement and design perspectives in a post called “The Art of the Share.”   They look at the question of where to place sharing widgets (beginning or end of post) and what share platforms to breakout specifically from the widget, and how this should differ depending on the audience and media type (eg entertainment v technology site).

In the near future, sharing data may influence how publishers look at content development, and how quickly they can respond to sharing trends with more new content. Sharing patterns may also let them know that they are not covering certain areas of content in ways the audience wants.  

The Editorial Anatomy of Sharing

In addition to having the right tools to share and the appropriate design integration of that technology into the site, the content itself needs to be highly sharable from an editorial perspective.

Dan Zarrella conducted some recent research into sharing and his data contains some interesting insights into what, how and why people share content online.  The complete details and TOC can be found at his site here.

Some highlights from his sample of “why people share” provide useful food for thought as to how publishers and creators might think about the editorial nature of their content.

  • 18.6% audience relevance
  • 8.8% increase their own reputation
  • 8.6% further a specific cause or message
  • 7.4% utility and usefulness; conversation starter
  • 5.5% feedback; wanting others’ opinions
  • 5.2% meet new people

Another study from the University of Pennsylvania examines the character of the most emailed articles (email is certainly one form of sharing).  From that study:

“Perhaps most of all, readers wanted to share articles that inspired awe … They used two criteria for an awe-inspiring story: Its scale is large, and it requires “mental accommodation” by forcing the reader to view the world in a different way.”

Once we understand more about why people share from an editorial perspective and have the tools to help them appropriately share and receive shares, how do we look at the editorial process to “give back” and reward “topic specific influential sharers?" This provides the potential of creating a "virtuous loop of personalized content" that fits the editorial criteria of "sharable." Might we begin to use sharing data to design customized programming experiences that could include:

  • Recommended content provided to senders and receivers of shares via a syndication of realtime topic matching (you shared this, you might also like this)
  • Special content for "topic specific" influential sharers pulled from a brand's archives or created as "behind the scenes" sneaks

    In these models, people are treated as unique individuals vs members of a broader group.  This type of customized programming can be monetized at the individual level, yet still maintain individual privacy.

    New Technologies to Facilitate Sharing

    As sharing becomes more than just a simple utility and moves toward being a core social action for Web users, existing social media companies are revamping their offerings and new ones are appearing, offering their sharing solutions to publishers and creators.  

    “The easier you make it for others to share your content with their social networks, the more you capitalize on the Internet Press — the ability to have your content taken from your central hub and then re-published on others’ hubs and among their networks…People trust their social networks much more than advertising or what a company itself says.”

    Pete Codella in Fast Company

    Three Examples

    (1) The Revamp: Digg 

    This Spring, Digg began revamping its strategy toward "social curation of all the world's content and the conversation around it ... shifting toward a personalization model, where the homepage will be based on ... a user's interests, location, who they follow not only on Digg but services like Twitter and Facebook ... and leaderboards for the infinite topic and vertical pages that will emerge, letting Digg users become trusted sources in a given niche."


    (2) The Evolution: ShareThis Stream  

    The ShareThis Stream is a real-time view of sharing across the Web, enabling users to see what content their friends have been sharing, and the comments, tweets, etc related to that content.


    (3) The New Kid: Stickybits  

    Stickybits brings the physical and digital worlds together via barcode stickers and a SmartPhone app that unlocks access to audio, video, photo, and text messages associated with an object when its code is scanned. Individuals can tag physical objects with media (text, photos, video) by applying custom stickers or correlating existing product barcodes with content. They can also receive additional notification and media from others who scan the object and attach their content to the same barcode.

    However interesting these initiatives are, the conversation needs to move from the “means of sharing” to “meaning enabled by sharing.”  Having technology in place is one piece of the equation; delivering a real user benefit and engaging experience is the other (and more meaningful) part.  While you can have searchable real-time feeds and any number of ways to rate and comment on content, it remains a solution just for geeks if it is not matched with consideration for how people want to more broadly use and interact with content.

    Too Much Information?

    As the world of digital media continues to grow at a dizzying pace, without personally relevant methods of discovery and recommendation such as sharing, users will continue to be overwhelmed and miss relevant content, or simply give up looking for anything new out of sheer frustration. 

    I'd prefer to avoid that world described in the song by The Police called "Too Much Information."

    Too much information running through my brain
    Too much information driving me insane
    Too much information running through my brain
    Too much information driving me insane

    Overkill
    Overview
    Over my dead body
    Over me
    Over you
    Over everybody     


    So can the economics of digital publishing be changed by creating a market for revealing and promoting personally relevant influence (via sharing) across the Web? I say "yes." And that’s why sharing matters. Favicon

    January 29, 2010

    Presentation: Twitter in 20

    TitleSlide_LizGebhardt_WIPP_Jan282010
    Today I had the opportunity to co-present a session on "Building Your Business with Twitter and Facebook"  along with Facebook's Director of Corporate Communicatons Brandee Barker at the annual leadership conference for Women in Periodic Publishing.  A PDF version of my Keynote slides is available here: Download LizGebhardt_Twitter_WIPP_Jan282010.

    This 25 minute talk is a very shortened version of a more robust 2-4 hour seminar I have been giving at media companies - print, TV and digital. The Twitter portion focuses on 5 main topics:

    • Twitter Myths, Misconceptions and Reality
    • The Value of the Shared Link
    • Life On and Off the Twitter Network
    • Guidelines and Tactics for the Brand and Individual
    • Tweet Anatomy: A Real World Example

    There are also related posts at this BLOG, including:

    More information on the ShareThis study referred to in the presentation is available at their BLOG. And the book "Groundswell" is available here.

    I'm interested in hearing how different media companies will use this information. 

    Comments? Favicon

     

    September 30, 2009

    The Influence Equation

    TEAInfluenceEquation

    “You don't have to be a "person of influence" to be influential. In fact, the most influential people in my life are probably not even aware of the things they've taught me.”

    – Scott Adams, “Dilbert” series cartoonist


    At the gut level, we know that influence is important, whether it is for creating individual personal social capital to impact discussions and decisions, or brands looking for ways to convert influence into cash.

    Who or what influences our perceptions and decisions? Is it our family, work colleagues, a blogger with 100,000 RSS subscribers, someone on the Twitter SUL with a million followers, brands like Nike or Apple, a charismatic politician, or mainstream media personalities such as Oprah and John Stewart?

    How is that opportunity to influence earned?  What elements or behaviors make up the “Influence Equation?”  Might the relevant mix of trust, expertise and attention (TEA) come together to define “contextual specific engagement” which provides the opportunity (but not the guarantee) for a receptive and relevant “audience”,  as well as the appropriately timed moments of influence? (Meaning that influence is defined for both individuals/groups, as well as time).

    Trust

    In a previous post, “This Year It’s all About Trust,” trust was examined in great depth and dissected into the components of Ability (knowledge) + Integrity (alignment of word and deed) + Benevolence (open communication).  From that post:

    “Trust is a statement of faith about what is otherwise unknown
    because it is currently unverifiable or the results exist in the future.
    Because of that, it is a powerful attribute for an individual or a
    brand, and a prerequisite for real “credibility” … it is the currency
    that enables … attention acquisition in a time starved world.”


    While there is no one universal Web-based trust metric, there are measurable actions that imply trust depending on the context in which one wants to measure.

    “From traditional media sites to niche blogs, from Twitter and
    Digg, to Facebook and MySpace, consumers are engaging with
    online content - and each other - in totally different ways from in
    the offline world. Friending someone on Facebook, linking to or
    leaving comments on someone's post, blog-rolling a trusted blog,
    adding a story to your social bookmarking service of choice - these
    are implicit actions that communicate trust. It is safe to say that
    the ability to use the web to aggregate and analyze these collective
    activities would paint a very powerful picture of both who and
    what influences a particular consumer. And this is marketing gold.”
    – Todd Parsons, co-founder, BuzzLogic
    (more here)

    Expertise

    Trust and expertise aren’t always a part of the same package, but they are both required components of the “Influence Equation.”  When the two are combined, credibility or believability results – at least in the eye of the beholder (per B.J. Fogg  in “Persuasive Technology.”)

    What is expertise? Fogg defines it as “the perceived knowledge, skill and experience of the source", and others have added in the dimension “contextual knowledge in ill structured situations.”

    Experts are different than novices in that novices must usually rely on a set of fixed rules or processes applied in very specific (narrow) situations. Individuals (experts) with expertise earned and demonstrated over time are much more flexible than novices in that they have accumulated contextual experience (beyond the novice’s rules) that can be applied as strategies “automatically” in complex, ill-structured situations. For experts, intuition becomes as important as domain-specific knowledge.

    The value that can be derived from expertise within the “Influence Equation” is well articulated in Brian Solis’ post “Unveiling the New Influencers”:

    “Those who master their domains are developing persuasive and
    important communities around their areas of expertise, interests and
    passions and now possess the prowess and authority to direct,
    instruct, and steer decision makers and referrers.”



    While there is not yet a good industry wide measure for “expertise” (we seem to know it when we see it), it should not be confused with “authority” as many bloggers do when they use the Technorati index to benchmark authority ranking.  Several good blog posts address this, including katrinah.com, Beth's Blog, and Brian Solis in a TechCrunch post.

    Attention

    Attention is a scarce and valuable resource in a data-packed 24-hour world, making it no small task to ask people to gift some of their time. As Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon (1971) said: "...a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention..."

    Chris Andersen said in his book “Free”:
    “The value of attention and reputation is clearly something, or companies
     wouldn’t spend so much on advertising to influence them. We set prices
    on attention every day: the cost to reach a thousand radio listeners for
    30 seconds, the charge for forcing a million Super Bowl viewers to interrupt
    their game. And every time a movie star’s agent negotiates a film deal, a
    reputation is being valued.  … But there’s a lot more attention and reputation
    in the world than that measured in media and celebrity.  The problem is that
    we don’t have any idea of how much more."



    So is trying to get people you don’t personally know, to do something you want them to do (but they may not yet know they have interest in), fundamentally arrogant? When considering the concept of acquiring attention, earning vs. asking might be the better model, and doing so in a “humble” manner over time might be a good idea. 

    So what is attention and how do you earn and build it?

    The “What” of Attention: Attention is ultimately about the connection between people and ideas, and it may well be considered a “flow” or a continuous collection of moments (vs. an individual or discreet thing).  This would indicate that in order to “keep attention” one must continue to do new things (Meaning one can’t take attention for granted). There are also different kinds or levels of attention that should have different values attached to them under different circumstances and contexts – ranging from “full and undivided attention” to “continuous partial attention” as coined by Linda Stone. (more here).

    The “Earn and Build” of Attention: Bill Wasik, the author of “And Then There’s This” and a senior editor at Harpers Magazine who coined the term “Flash Mob” has some interesting perspectives on this topic in a video worth watching.The high level bits regarding attention building:
    • reliably create stuff that gets attention over time,
    • understand the role of the feedback loop (criticism) in the development of attention,
    • see attention as a volume commitment vs. a one-off undertaking

    The “Where and How Much” of Attention:
    A recent HP Labs study suggests that, when measuring influence, it’s important to identify the “hidden social networks” or the “where and how much” of attention. In the network. the number of followers/friends that a person has is meaningless if there is little or no interaction. What matters are the exchanges (and attention given in those exchanges) that take place between the individuals and their circle of “real engaged friends” in the network .

    Given these frameworks, from a measurement perspective, it is clear that attention is NOT a commodity good, and that there is no such thing as a “standard unit of attention.”  At this time, there is no standard attention metric.  The soft metric has to be framed within the context of the specific audience, type of attention given, and subject area.

    Regardless of how difficult it is to measure in definite terms, understanding at least relative changes in attention is critical to both individuals and brands.  Regarding the importance of attention to brands, Scott Karp wrote:

     “In media 1.0, brands paid for the attention that media companies gathered by
    offering people news and entertainment (e.g. TV) in exchange for their attention.
    In media 2.0, people are more likely to give their attention in exchange for
    OTHER PEOPLE’S ATTENTION.”


    Regarding the importance of attention to individuals and making a strong link back to our earlier discussion on “expertise,” John Hagel wrote:

    “We all find ourselves in a globalizing world where we must find ways to develop
     distinctive and rapidly evolving capabilities (Liz – what I called “expertise in this
    post) … We all need to find ways to tap into a broader set of experiences and
    perspectives to refresh our understanding of the changing world around us. To
    do this effectively, we need to receive the deep and sustained attention of those
    who have the most to offer and we cannot do this unless we can offer compelling
    value in return. If we cannot build deep and sustaining networks of attention (in
    other words, networks of relationships), we will find it more and more difficult to
    remain relevant and productive…we risk becoming progressively marginalized. 
    Receiving attention becomes far more important than it ever was and will require
    far more effort than in the past.”


    Influence

    Influence can be defined as “the potential of an action of one individual/user to initiate a further action by another.”  That further action may be the bestowing of social capital or an exchange of real monetary capital. The opportunity for that influence to exist is the result (over time) of the development of deep Trust, the demonstration of appropriate Expertise, and the ability to garner some form of Attention flow. And that Engagement-Influence is specific to the context, community (collection or an individual), and content (area of expertise).

    With shifts in the media landscape away from a purely professionally created world to one in which user generated and user-commented (of professional) is added - it’s no wonder that both individuals and businesses are experimenting with and trying to understand how to use the Web in a very human way to build reputation, awareness and influence.  And beyond that, where appropriate, to find a way to translate that engagement-influence equation into some kind of business value.

    The question remains: Is there an engagement -influencer metric or set of metrics that reflects this model of Trust-Expertise-Attention (TEA); something that is beyond old school reach and penetration?  That is what companies such as BuzzLogic and ShareThis are betting on.  And that’s all food for a future post that moves past this philosophical framing and into the search for real (and useful) numbers and maps. Egv_tiny_blogicon



    July 26, 2009

    This Year It's All About Trust

    Trust composite

    Trust Image

    The monthly flyer from my neighborhood hardware store arrived in my mailbox. The headline: "This year, it's all about trust."  Trust is a word that seems to be turning up more and more, in often unexpected places - like this flyer.  But the discussion of trust is permeating the big issues. Trust in politics.  Trust in business.  Trust in product or medical information.  Trust in the "experts" and talking heads on the evening news. Trust in everything you read online.  Trust in the folks populating various social networks ... And sometimes, more appropriately, the lack of trust and that sinking feeling of things you just can't quite prove are wrong.

    The need for trust is universal and arises from our human interdependence. We often rely on others (individuals, groups, brands or institutions) to help us obtain, or at least not to frustrate, the outcomes we value (and they depend back on us as well). Trust allows actions to occur that otherwise would not have been possible because of currently incomplete information or an unwillingness to give resources now for an unguaranteed result in the future.

    There are a lot of angles I’d like to explore when it comes to trust, but the area of greatest interest to me currently has to do with Trust and Media, how trust is obtained, and the possibility for the migration of online trust and talent to other media platforms.

    In this post, I’d like to explore these questions:

    1. Trust and Influence: How important is trust when it comes to being able to influence behavior and decisions?
    2. Earning and Maintaining Trust: How do brands (companies/collections) or people (individuals) become trusted? What do they do to maintain that trust, and once obtained is it theirs to loose?
    3. Trust in the Digital vs. Real World: Is building trust in digital media space different than building it in the real or broadcast worlds?
    4. Exporting Trust Across Media and Communities: Can a "trust metric" developed in one digital space be "exported" into other media areas, like TV? (or visa versa)  - thus making one a potential talent development source for the other.

    (Before jumping into these questions, it’s good to have a baseline understanding of what is meant by “Trust” covered in the next section. However, if you want to jump head first into the meat of the discussion, you can skip that and go right to the section header “Trust and Influence.”)

    What Is Trust? – The Etymological Foundations

    It’s interesting that the etymological origins of the word “trust” share many commonalities with the word “truth” (“faithful, accuracy, correctness”), and go back, in part, to the 13 century Old Norse word “traust” meaning “help, confidence.” That makes sense given an understanding of trust as a measure of belief in the honesty, benevolence and competence of another party; and a predictor of the reliability of future action, based only on what one party currently knows about the other. Trust is a statement of faith about what is otherwise unknown because it is currently unverifiable or the results exist in the future. Because of that, it is a powerful attribute for an individual or a brand, and a prerequisite for real “credibility” and “the ability to influence.”

    (1) Trust and Influence

    Conventional wisdom would say that trust and influence are inextricably linked, but let’s look at some numbers so it’s not just my opinion.  From PR firm Edelman’s Trust Barometer 2009 Study the data affirm that trust affects/influences consumer actions/spending and overall reputation.

    People act based on trust.

    • 91% of 25-to-64-year-olds around the world indicated they bought a product or service from a company they trusted
    • 77% refused to buy a product or service from a distrusted company

    People listen to and believe those who have earned their trust over time.

    • 59% of 35-to- 64-year-olds saying an academic or expert on a company’s industry or issues would be extremely or very credible
    • 17% of 35-to-64-year-olds indicated they would trust information from a high profile CEO (a six-year low)

    People need time and continuous conversation to build trust, not one-time edicts or proclamations.

    • 60% of 35-to- 64-year-olds say they need to hear information about a company three to five times before they believe it

    (2) Earning and Maintaining Trust

    How do brands (companies/collections) or people (individuals) become trusted? What do they do to maintain that trust, and once obtained is it theirs to loose?

    Frameworks from the Studies
    Where does trust come from? Some would frame trust as a hard wired brain chemistry calculation.

     “The moral is that trust is ultimately about the expectation of rewards. Trust may be an admirable social trait, but it's ultimately rooted in a greedy calculation, emanating from our primal dopamine reward circuitry…”
    -  Jonah Lehrer in “Trust: The Frontal Cortex”  July 7 2009

    This definition of trust as “biology plus calculus” is part of the answer; but the “heart” of the definition can be found in the literature of conflict resolution theory where “real world” trust in another is grounded in the evaluation of their ability and integrity (early in the relationship) and benevolence (over the longer term).

    • Ability: Defined by knowledge and competency. The more one has of these, the more likely a trust level is to grow.
    • Integrity: Defined by adherence to principles that are essential to the “trustor.” This is demonstrated by consistency over a period of time accompanied by the alignment of word and deed.
    • Benevolence: Defined by observation of the others concern of our welfare (or at least that they won’t work against it). Open communications and shared control are the key indicating behaviors.

    Additionally, trust is not a final destination.  Trust is a continuum of stages and levels, and over time, behaviors and levels of resiliency change.

    Early “congnitively” (ability + integrity) driven stages of trust are framed by a need for predictability and reliability.  Trust is built at this stage by demonstrating:

    • Competent performance
    • Predictable and consistent behavior
    • Accurate and open communication
    • Shared and delegated control
    • Mutual concern

    At later stages along the trust continuum, when mutual identification has occurred, and benevolence is forming via the parties “internalizing” each other’s desires and intentions, trust is further solidified through:

    • Common identity (we vs. me)
    • Co-location (sharing the same space)
    • Joint goals and product creation (make and contribute to things that define commonality)
    • Shared values and emotions (recognizing contributions and demonstrating confidence)


    Trust in the World of Media
    Given these models of trust-building, how do we see trust built in the media world - for individuals as well as business entities?  Some thoughts and examples follow.

     

    Walter Cronkite: During the heyday of CBS News in the 1970s and 1980s he was often cited in opinion polls as "the most trusted man in America.” But he did not come on the scene as “trusted.”  He had to earn it, obviously in a less fragmented media world than today.  Nonetheless, he built trust over decades of work beginning with reporting from WW II, constantly displaying ability and integrity (early stage trust builders).  One might say with the Kennedy assassination announcement and later with the moon landing, that he entered the more advanced stage of trust (benevolence) fueled by the common identity with the American people he displayed on camera and the clear sharing of values, emotions and experiences. Given the lack of media competition that existed during the prime of his career, and the longevity of his career, it is doubtful that this trust level could be duplicated again.


    Oprah Winfrey:  Oprah Winfrey is often cited as one of the most trusted Lighthouse Brands that is also a Market Leader in Media.  Like Cronkite, she has built her trust quotient over time (The Oprah Winfrey Show has more than a 20 year history) by demonstrating ability and integrity (early phase trust), and also reaching the more advanced solidified trust levels (benevolence) with her audience though a mutual identification against a variety of:

      “…monsters she sees threatening her chosen community …  notably domestic violence, child abuse, and weight loss and self-esteem issues among women. Oprah is not a Goliath, both because she is smaller and visibly vulnerable to these larger monsters in the eyes of her community, and also because she uses all her strength and size to fight them on her community’s behalf.  And her community eternally loves her for it. ”
    - (Eating the Big Fish p. 301)

    Separated by generations, Oprah and Cronkite are alike in the depth of their advanced trust level with their particular audiences, in large part because of their ability to express vulnerability (shared emotion) while at the same time exuding competence and connection. Cronkite tearing up over Kennedy and expressing amazement and wonder at the lunar landing; Oprah sharing personal struggles over her weight, causes, and friendships.


    Jon Stewart: An August 2008 New York Times story asked: "Is Jon Stewart the most trusted man in America?” and a July 2009 Time Magazine Poll answered “Yes” with 44% choosing him as “America’s most trusted newscaster” in the post Cronkite era. His period of trust building is half that of Oprah’s (hosting The Daily Show on Comedy Central since 1999) and perhaps one quarter of Cronkite’s years (between the 1930s-1970s), but he has had the accelerant of the digital space.  And it’s tough to measure comparable size of  “trusted influence” for all three from various combos of TV  and Web audience numbers. It’s also interesting that in this particular time period, Stewart is the most trusted man who has built a persona of not trusting anyone. (And for that, we trust him even more.) Still, in his shows he consistently exhibits the trust building characteristics of ability, integrity and his own brand of benevolence (to his audience/community, not necessarily to his interviewees).


    CNN: CNN has a slogan: “The Most Trusted Name in News."  They gave it to themselves; no one “conferred” it on them as in the case of Cronkite.   As an organization, I can’t say that they pass the trust sniff test.  There are a lot of things I personally like about CNN, but the sometimes constant droning repetition by some of their news personalities of their various catch phrases such as “the best political team on television” serves to dilute not only any truth metric earned by the enterprise, but that of deserving individual members.  You can’t claim trust, you have to earn it from others.

    (3) Trust in Digital vs Real World

    Is building trust in digital media space different than building it in the real or broadcast worlds?

    Participation in digital world communities and platforms can accelerate the speed and reach of the trust metric, but the underlying human reasons for earning (and maintaining) trust are the same: ability, integrity and benevolence.  While the Web speeds breaking stories and content memes around the world, it can also provide equal acceleration to mistakes and humiliation. Self, as well as group, correction then have to follow with equal speed.

    One of the mistakes that many make in terms of trust and digital space is that just because messages can be sent instantaneously, that trust can be developed and exploited just as fast.  Not true – this violates the human side of trust development and the nature of the trust continuum.  Just as in the physical world, in digital space, you need to create significant shared value before you ever ask for any of it back.

    “Consider it (trust building) tending a farm of potential versus hunting for the short term ... in this wired world of digital communities and deep long-tailed niches, humanity over IP is the protocol…”
    - Chris Brogan and Julien Smith in the eBook “Trust Economies.”

    (4) Exporting Trust Across Media and Communities

    Can a "trust metric" developed in one digital space be "exported" into other media areas, like TV? (or visa versa)  - thus making one a potential talent development source for the other.

    I propose that trust is more defined by the relevant community/audience than the particular media platform.  If the community is engaged across multiple media platforms, trust and the person who has earned it has the potential to transfer across them (other economic and access barriers not withstanding).  There aren’t a lot of examples yet in terms of trust + personality transfer.  And it’s unclear to me yet if that’s a result of many online trust building tools and communities are still relatively “young” OR if the barriers of “old media” at this time neglect the trust quotient from other media, even if it would be to their own benefit.  More exploration on this later, but for now, two examples: Some examples of online to TV trust/personality migration: 

    Ana Marie Cox (@anamariecox): Started in the blogosphere at places such as Wonkette; became known for her interesting and personally very transparent fundraising activities while covering McCain in the 2008 election. Now Air America’s national correspondent and a frequent guest and fill-in host on The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.

    Joan Walsh of Salon.com (@joanwalsh): Editor at Salon.com and now a frequent knowledgeable commentator on both Hardball and The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC.  She cites as important in maintaining trust and credibility across: “A record of accuracy in what’s important, regardless of what you’re doing; correcting mistakes when you make them … and not speaking outside your area of expertise.”  Her view of online media: “It's built with attention to accuracy, with mechanisms for rapid self-correction as well as dialogue with audience.”  Seems to me that’s a pretty clear alignment with the ability, integrity  and benevolence (audience dialogue) measures of the trust equation.

    Trust Lessons

    Trust is not a luxury; nor is it something that can be immediately purchased.  Earned over time based on specific demonstrated behaviors that, at a basic level, are the same in the real world as in the digital world – ability, integrity and benevolence – it is the currency that enables influence and attention acquisition in a time starved world.   And that’s very valuable stuff in the world of media.  It will be interesting to see if the growing trust building and distribution platforms in digital space will find the cracks in the walls surrounding traditional media to enable more breakthroughs of talent and opinion.  Seems like fertile ground to me. Media companies and trust agents, what do you think?  Egv_tiny_blogicon

    April 19, 2009

    Ashton Kutcher's Billboard - Possibilities Beyond Celebrity for the Future of Broadcasted or Public Social Media

    Twitterashtonpicframed

    One of the 1,133 digital billboards provided pro bono by Lamar Advertising in the race to a million followers against CNN. 

         -  From a story in Advertising Age


    If you work in the social media space or are a CNN or Oprah viewer, it was nearly impossible to not know about the "race to a million followers" on Twitter last week between celebrity/entrepreneur Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) and CNN's newly acquired account (@cnnbrk).  Kutcher started the challenge slightly trailing CNN, but used YouTube-distributed videos and calling on his more engaged social media followers to surpass Larry King/CNN's cable TV promo efforts. The "celebrity" facts: Kutcher passed the million mark first and appeared on Oprah (@oprah) to be crowned "king of Twitter."

    But what else might this mini-digital duel reveal beyond the obvious celebrity vanity stories and the growing importance of social media bylines?

    Benefit for social ventures and charities

    Consider that as part of the challenge, the winner agreed to donate 10,000 mosquito nets (the loser 1,000 nets) to April 25th’s 2nd annual World Malaria Day. That means 1,000s of people will have additional protection against a disease that threatens 40% of the world's population and  infects 500 million people a year. And Twitter is full of "tweets" about additional donations coming in from everyday people as a result of the awareness brought about by the race and subsequent interviews.  That's a win.

    Other celebrities including Hugh Jackman (@RealHughJackman) and social entrepreneurs have been using the platform as well to engage an audience predisposed to quickly responding to and sharing information.

    Near future traditional/digital media mashups

    Let's go back to the digital billboards at the beginning of this post.  Not sure in terms of any measurement that might exist what they contributed to Kutcher's tally.  But the more important aspects to consider are two fold:

    (1)  Since the billboards are digital and connected to a network, the message/creative could be programmed and distributed (and theoretically updated/changed) nearly instantaneously to the 1,000+ screens.  No printing turn around time.  No guys on scaffolds with buckets of glue. The content was nearly immediate/real-time.

    (2) Now what if (for safety's and reading time's sake) that the screens had been indoors, like those we see at Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, etc. AND that the screen network's application set was sophisticated enough to take both the simple "old school" billboard message and combine it with real-time information of interest via a feed. On the simple end this could just be a tally of number of followers updating, perhaps with an additional message encouraging peple to join in via their cell phones while they were waiting in line.  Something more complex would be a real-time "curated" feed overlay to the screen of the relevant "tweets" about both the "million follower race" as well as information about Kutcher's malaria cause.

    All of the pieces to do this today exist.  If you look online at applications written off the Twitter API like Glam Media's Tinker or similar Twitter parsing/aggregation apps from Federated Media like ExecuTweets, you get a sense of what is possible through some design and then integration of an RSS feed into a public digital screen.

    Below is an example of what the live Tinker feed looked like this morning for Ashton Kutcher.  Imagine what an "indoor billboard" at a coffee shop or train station might look like with the main visual of the billboard at the beginning of this post,  with an overlay in the lower horizontal part of the screen of the Tinker Twitter stream when the race was still on.


    TinkerKutcherStreamFramed  

    Other possibilities? 

    Here's one. Given that Earth Day is this week - what about a brand doing an Earth Day promo with inspiring photos (professional images and real-time consumer photos) cycling through the screen and relevant tweets of what people were doing that day to help their local environmental efforts, as well as links to activities people could join, appearing simultaneously along the bottom of the screen. Egv_tiny_blogicon



    April 03, 2009

    Digital World Meet The Real World - An Audience And Media Model

    MediaStrategyCircles

    This is a simple model for looking at the meta choice relationships for a brand/person/program between its audiences and communities, response goals (emotional and intellectual), and engagement/distribution platforms.


    Center Circle: This is the initial source or core entity which can be a person, brand, network, program, movement, etc.


    Second Ring: With your core subject area at heart, this is about the identification of the high level breakdown of the audiences/communities that are important for you to engage with.  This may include both individuals or organizations that already know of you or do not know of you, who are your advocates, detractors or are passive bystanders.  If what is at the center is completely new, then it is about finding communities "talking about" (meaning anything from micro-blogging and ratings to full blown blog posts or videos) relevant related subject areas.

    This is the time for some "digital anthropology" of listening and learning before engaging appropriately. It's also time for finding the influencers, ambassadors and action-oriented conversation leaders and media creators through observation, as well as through a variety of social media influencer tools such as those from social marketing companies like BuzzLogic, and new conversation comment trackers (the class of startups such as SparkWords, Kutano, Reframe It may evolve into this).  A careful parsing of popular vs influential individuals is in order, segmented by content area.


    Third Ring: What is the engagement result for which you are striving - both emotional and intellectual?  What's the tone in which you are going to deliver and then what's your expectation back from the audience/community?  And are you "prepared" for the unexpected?  Data may be important, but it is passion that drives things forward.


    Fourth Ring: This is where one needs to become wary of the obsession with the newest "shiny geeky object," particularly in digital space.  There are literally dozens of distribution/engagement categories with hundreds of companies and technologies populating them.  It's easy to get swept up in the "Twitter-verse," and forget that what's right for one is not for another. That said, a healthy dose of clearly defined experimentation is always important.

    It is critical to link thinking about the fourth ring "distribution/engagement categories" to a traditional and technology-based understanding of second ring "audience/community." In "Groundswell," Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff coined the term “Technographics”  - as similar to demographics and psychographics, but with a focus on developing profiles based on technology behaviors. Before a mixture of real world and digital world distribution/engagement models can be selected, it is critical to know the distribution model of the people with whom you are hoping to engage. Are they at one end of the spectrum as creators who are active bloggers or video creators/uploaders; somewhere in the middle where the might comment or rate on content created by others; or are they passive readers or viewers who don’t leave a “visible” footprint. One can see how critical this understanding is if you look at an example of launching a consumer generated media campaign to an  audience with a technology profile that is dominated by raters/commenters.  Not much is going to happen in that case as the activity does not translate to the audience, even if the subject area is relevant.


    Fifth Ring: There is incredible power to be found at the intersection of the Digital (Web) and Real (Live) Worlds. Life is lived in both places.  No matter how much the Web has evolved, you can't (yet) touch objects as you can in the real world to create powerful sensory physical experiences and memories.  And nothing in the real world can reach the potential of the Internet for distribution and democratized exchange that pierces geographic, economic and social borders.  Think of the power where one can feed the other in relationship with appropriate audiences/communities. Egv_tiny_blogicon


    The media model in this post is not about the interrelationship between a particular selection of  real/digital distribution and engagement vehicles; it is about the high level portfolio of choices.  There is an earlier post with an example of interrelated digital and real world distribution/engagement vehicles for a theoretical campaign.


    February 25, 2009

    Nike Stores, Digital Screens and the Nike+ Application: An Opportunity In Waiting For In-Store Social Media and Influencer Building?

    Nikestore  
    Multiple digital screens with rotating images and videos form the visual gauntlet at the entrance to the Nike Store Downtown San Francisco. (photo taken with iPhone)

    Before one even sees a single shoe or pair of running sweats at the Temple of Nike in downtown San Francisco, one takes a ride up the escalator and passes by a series of programmed digital screens that are also peppered throughout the store.  Images of bodies in motion artfully shot along with select Web screens and animations of the Nike+ application speak to the brand story of aspiration and achievement.  One literally travels from the outside world to the athletic world enabled by Nike.

    On Wednesday nights the store is full of runners, members of the Nike Running Club.  They are “the faithful,” armed with iPods sequestered in arm bands and Nike+ sensors tucked into shoes.  Before heading out on a weekly group training run, they browse new merchandise and promos specially selected and staged for the evening. (Last week’s merchandise was Livestrong shirts to coincide with Lance Armstrong’s participation in the Tour of California race.)

    It’s all a great idea – bring the influencers together who use and wear the brand frequently in public, give them a group activity (that syncs with the core brand story) to do in significant numbers, and highlight new products they might like.

    So what’s missing? 

    Web meets (live) World is being overlooked. There’s a unique opportunity to engage these people even further with each other and the brand – powered by the technology they are already “wearing” and the screens and backend networks (video distribution and retail computer systems) already in the store environment surrounding them.

    Consider This : An opt-in real-time public social media system with retail benefits and bragging rights

    A whole host of new opportunities for engagement are made possible if 2-way connections can be established between:

    1. The cell phones* of the runners with an intelligent network serving the video to the screens (as opposed to video coming from a DVD)
    2. The cell phones* of the runners with the retail transactions network (cash registers)
    3. The network serving the screen video to the network that handles the retail transactions at the cash register
    4. Video screens in multiple (a least 2) Nike Store locations holding running events at the same time

    (* assuming iPhone type  devices and or docked/synced iPod minis)


    The Schematic:

    NikeTechConnections  

    If the above technology is in place, and we enable individuals to opt-in as public/in-store social media participants, some programming/engagement opportunities might be:

    1. If a runner has achieved some significant mileage milestone with their Nike+ (e.g. the 4,000 mile mark), and they come into the store for a run night or make a purchase, their mileage achievement appears on the in-store screen network or on a specific set of screens designated for this purpose (cell phone or retail network sends info to the video network) and they are also given the ability (a digital coupon/reminder) to purchase (dare we say “get for free?”) a limited edition mileage achievement shirt (retail network to phone)

    2.  On run nights, teams can issue challenges in-store to those in the same store, or in another store with a run happening at the same time.  Winning team gets on-screen in-store bragging rights, and a discount for purchases that night or an equivalent value that could be donated to their “running charity.”  (This involves syncing of team iPods in-store, aggregating those numbers, comparing to other teams, and visually displaying score results on the screens in store, or between stores.)  This could also be an aggregate competition, running many weeks in the case of earning dollars for a running charity.

    3.  When runners come into the store for the run night, they can send their “in-store digital identity/opt-in registration” information to the screens and the screens visual “slide show” during the pre-run shopping time is information (run stats, photos etc that have been pre-approved) of the actual in-store runners/participants.

    There are many other “public and personalized social media” experiences, as well as “professionally produced” programming concepts that are possible when we can connect the customer devices and networks in the Nike Store.    I am not advocating that this be done just because it can or is trendy because we are using the word “social media.”  I believe the experiences in this environment must give “the participant” at least one of the following, as did the three previously outlined examples.

    1. Help me – have a better day/run, live a better/healthier life, be more effective, make better decisions
    2. Surprise me – by gifting me, recognizing my achievement, or showing me something I didn’t know that will contribute to my cocktail conversation factor
    3. Amuse me – by giving me something to do while I am waiting in line or for the run – trivia, puzzles, games – and if I like it a lot, let me quickly download or bookmark it on my portable device
    4. Inform me –about a product or service, my community, the world – of which I have particular interest; provide quick information with the ability to mobile bookmark and learn more later without having to search for a piece of paper to write down a url
    5. Connect me – to people, events, causes that I can participate in; locally and also globally; one time or on a continual basis

    With these premises in mind, the appropriate 2-way technology in place, and the brand story clear – great Web meets (live) World personal experiences can be delivered on a meaningful and continual basis at the same time that: a brand is being built, promos are being offered, sales are uplifted, environments enhanced, ad dollars earned and impressions made, customers amused while they stand in line.  Seems like a win to me. Favicon-short


    February 20, 2009

    Digital Screens Are Not Billboards

    Starbucks

    Digital Screen at Starbucks showing song currently playing in-store

    They’re both rectangular, have images and text designed to catch your attention in a short period of time, and are built around a business premise of taking messages to places that people physically (vs. digitally) frequent.  But that is where the similarity ends… or rather where it should end.

    Burma Shave and Route 66

    Billboards have been around in some form since the mid 1800’s when Jared Bell began making 9’ x 6’ posters for the circus in the US.  Their numbers expanded in the early 1900’s when the Model T was introduced and more people took to the highways. Advertisers quickly saw the miles and miles of open road as an untapped promotional landscape, with cheap potential for increasing consumer reach. Billboards even began to achieve pop culture status when the 6 panel Burma Shave billboards began lining highways such as Route 66 in the mid 1920’s. 

    (Does this not sound a lot like the Internet of late 1990s/early 2000’s?  And I won’t pull the cheap shot of referring to the … ah …. “Information Superhighway.”)

    However, billboards are not, nor have they always been, welcome additions to the visual environment. (Kind of like the way I feel about pop-ups that are still around and clutter my screen on occasion.) Many cities in the US tried to ban them as early as 1909 - “visual pollution”; and they are currently banned in 4 states (Vermont, Alaska, Hawaii and Maine), as well as in some 1500 individual towns.

    Starbucks2

    (These billboards and others can be seen at Toxel.com.)

    So when do billboards work?  When they move away from some of the “in-the-box” thinking and premises of the media and embrace directions such as:

    1. Breaking the old 2D language: Adidas (top right) and Mini Cooper (middle right).
    2. Evolving the image (content) over time: Tide (bottom right).
    3. Integrating visual elements into the surrounding environment outside the billboard space: “Kill Bill” movie promo (lower left).
    4. Blending into the environment rather than encroaching on it:  Nike and its “gate billboard” at the opening of a park and running/nature path (middle left).

    Evolution or De-volution?

    So where are we now in the timeline of intelligent digital screens that are part of out-of-home networks?  How might they “break out of the frame” and “integrate with the surrounding landscape?” What are the rules they need to construct new creative/interaction models so they are not relegated to the role of disregarded chorus member in what some might call the growing cacophony of screen pollution.

    Friend or Foe? Networked Digital Out-of-Home Advertising or Place-Based Media

    Some might say that the whole host and variety of digital screens that we now see populating coffee and bagel shops, Nike stores, the window displays of brokers, airport terminals, and even doctors offices are the new millennium equivalent of twentieth century billboards, and with that they also bring with them the potential visual downside if misused. Like the drivers of the Model-T’s, out-of-home screens, are focused on marketing to consumers when they are 'on the go' – but now it is in high frequency foot traffic public places, in-transit queues, waiting lines and in specific commercial locations (such as in a retail venue).

     “In fact, billboards are not just for roadsides anymore. Advertisements have been popping up more frequently inside subways and buses, shopping malls, office buildings and airports.” 

    - Jan. 2007 New York Times

    But most are getting it all wrong.  Digital screens too often are turning into Route 66 billboards or an homage to “Blade Runner” with all of the associated problems in terms of consumer engagement or downright disdain because of ill conceived approaches and media that brings no personal value to viewers. With that, the opportunity could be lost to foster and grow a truly unique form of communication and connection.

    Ported Static Ads vs. Dynamic and Personally Relevant Social Media Opportunity

    We will concede that digital signs (even when approached like billboards) can offer what the industry may see as benefits over traditional static signage in that, depending on the intelligence of the backend network sending content to the screen:

    1. content can be updated and exchanged more easily, focusing on the day’s most important promotional item or message,
    2. content can be hyper-local parsing by zip code or other micro-targeting data,
    3. content can adapt to the time of day and audience profile with different programming cycles for different time-of-day experiences.

    Unfortunately, the creative of many digital screens is populated by directly ported print ads or banners, TV ads and promo videos that do not take the full potential of the medium into consideration, and other creative that looks as if it was almost directly pulled from the Web, because … well … “It’s kind of interactive.”  Those translations fall short of what the medium (I am assuming there is an intelligent backend here) could be if it took but a few premises into consideration.  If we use the earlier model of the 4 points of “out of box” thinking around interesting and engaging billboards and apply it to networked digital screens:

    1.    Breaking the old 2D language: The breaking out of the “self-contained rectangular frame” is in the potential for 2-way connection with people via their mobile devices.  This can include information that is downloaded (store and refer to later), information that is uploaded (consumer generated content) and two-way engagement (play). Examples might include: games and puzzles, download coupons and offers, bookmarking urls and downloading pdfs that relate to more info about on-screen content, consumers uploading content (a survey, comments, shout-outs, photo experiences) to the screen system on the spot, customers being identified through an integration of the digital screen and retail systems to display pre-approved personal information or offers.

    2.    Evolving content over time:  By creating programs, events and initiatives, screen network providers, the venues that host them, or major brands that “buy space/time” on them – can create integrated campaigns in which content that people/customers actively create, contribute and comment on is an important element.  This provides ever-fresh and personally relevant screen programming that with more sophisticated two-way and database capabilities/applications could be set to trigger screens when the person who contributed or commented on the content arrives at the venue and activates a mobile device and their ”digital opt-in signature.”

    3.    Integrating visual elements into the surrounding environment outside the screen: A website and mobile device outside the individual screens or screen network defines the person’s “surrounding environment” in this case.  Screens should not be seen as isolated uni-directional islands blaring propoganda.  Appropriate social media programs (per #2 above) means enabling people to create and upload, as well as download and experience – media related to the (perhaps shorter form) content of the out-of-home digital network screen on their own personal screens, tethered or mobile.

    4.    Blending into the environment rather than encroaching on it: Simply said, the look and feel (UI) and nature of the content of screen programming needs to fit seamlessly into its physical environment and feel a part of it, not at odds with it.  It must deliver on the customers’ expectations of what any experience in that environment should be, in alignment with brand image, without being obtrusive or invasive.

    In essence, screen programming needs to embrace and reflect the surrounding brand environment in which it exists (in creative execution and content) and be an integrated part of the kind of experience customers expect (even require) in that environment.  The programming experience needs to be personally meaningful to individuals at the point of physical delivery, but also provide information that can be taken with them when they leave the physical location (via their mobile device) or sent to their computer at home (mobile to screen while at the venue) for later engagement.

    So screens are NOT billboards. Simple concept.  Takes some thinking and risk-taking (technically, creatively and in partnerships) to execute. Favicon-short

    (Disclosure: Danoo, a Kleiner Perkins backed startup in the out-of-home digital network space is a client.)

     

    December 04, 2008

    Social Media = Cave Art?

    Cave

    "Ads are the cave art of the twentieth century."

    - Marshall McLuhan


    So said McLuhan in "Culture Is Our Business," written in 1970.  In this new century, might this now be rewritten as "Social Media is the cave art of the twenty-first century?"

    So what if we evaluate these 3 media - advertising, social media, cave art - in terms of :
    • Purpose
    • Direction
    • Accessibility
    • Reach
    • Time

    From the perspective of Purpose

    Advertising is about persuasion to purchase and consume, and building brand awareness/loyalty.
    Social media is made for conversation and community, through the sharing of resources, stories and experiences.
    Cave art probably had many purposes ranging from the purposeful to the artisitic; from shamanic storytelling to even "Killroy was here" style signage.  No one knows for sure.   The word "art" in 'cave art" reveals our own bias, as probably not all of it was done for "art's sake".

    From the perspective of Direction of Conversation

    Advertising in general is monologue.
    Social media is one-to-many  bi-directional, or at least you hope it is.
    Cave art is considered to be omni-directional, meaning connecting not only people in this world but others.

    From the perspective of the Accessibility to the Means of Creation

    Advertising comes from a limited creative commercial class.
    Social media is anyone's game  to create and  distribute given various levels of creative skill and passion.
    Cave art, like social media, was probably created by all comers.  And as still practiced today in parts of Africa and Australia, it is not class based.

    From the perspective of its Reach

    Advertising is meant for scale and requires it to cover costs.
    Social media can be completely personal or fully broadcast to the blogosphere, defined or even undefined community.
    Cave art probably existed at  many levels from personal (a shaman's cave), to semi public (sites of rites of passage) and public.

    From the perspective of Time

    Advertising has a relatively long time lag between time of conception to production to time of public appearance and reaction.
    Social media is designed for virtually instantaneous response, as well as response over time.
    Cave art is timeless.  If public, it was consumed instantaneously, if semi-public it was seen during those who passed the gateway of the ritual, and if public, whomever "stumbled-upon" it, saw it.  The oldest known examples are from 30-40,000 years ago and it is still practiced today.

    So in light of current technologies and media shifts, I'm gonna go for the rewrite/update.

    "Social Media is the cave art of the twenty-first century."

    Afterall, in Facebook we're invited to write on another person's (cave) wall. Favicon

    (Note: Thanks to my friend Kevin Stein for talking with me today about our mutual interest in cave/rock art.  And let me veer a bit off the business and geekdom course and indulge in some other interests. I'd link to his blog but he does not have one yet).
     

    November 20, 2008

    News, Opinion or Spin - Can Technology Help You "Take Back the Truth?"

    It's no surprise that according to a recent study by the The Pew Center, 66% of digital news users, who are often the heaviest consumers of news overall, distrust the mainstream media believing it to be one-sided.  But they , 67% of them anyway, want unbiased news and not just the talking opinion bobble-heads of many a cable news channel commenting on what "unnamed sources" have allegedly said to their next door neighbors' dog.  But in a world of 24/7 broadcast news mills, tabloid journalism, and bloggers who appear to suffer from OCD with little interest for fact-checking,  how does one get at "the truth" or, if not that, at least the facts?

    Two new endeavors have recently launched in response to this scenario: a new 6 part series on IFC called "The Media Project" hosted by former MTV reporter Gideon Yago, and a  Seattle based tech startup, SpinSpotter, launched by two veteran entrepreneurs Todd Herman and John Atcheson.

    "The Media Project" is designed to provide perspective and a baseline for discussion on a variety of issues that have an impact on accurate, balanced reporting from the leading news outlets. Reporting on what? Politics, war, the environment, business are obvious answers - but consider more broadly perhaps about the brand you or your agency represent and how it is covered.  Stories that are mostly regurgitation of press releases may not be thought of traditionally as "spin", but what kind of "news value" is there in source after source creating stories with most of the content directly pulled from a well-crafted release?

    "The average American spends 70 percent of their waking day consuming, or exposed to, some form of media, but goes on autopilot when it comes to thinking about the message behind the media," said Evan Shapiro, president of IFC.

    SpinSpotter, which launched its early beta offering in September at The Demo Conference (see onstage demo), is a partner with IFC in the project, providing the early stage technology (a browser toolbar plug-in currently) that enables users to see, share and create conversation about the media spin and inaccuracy that they find around their passion interest areas in online media - be it from a global news conglomerate or the blogger down the street.

    SpinSpotter pulls its unique approach from both the crowd sourcing models of companies such as Digg and the world of scary-math algorithms of Google to create a technology that learns from human beings (citizen editors) what spin looks like in the news based on a predetermined rule set from the world of journalism monitored by an advisory board, and then identify it in other places online.

    So if you don’t trust the news media, what are your options? Do you ignore it all or just listen to those with your bias? Or might "The Media Project" provide the food for thought, and SpinSpotter the toolset and community to kick start the reboot of media literacy?

    For more coverage on IFC's "The Media Project."

    For a New York Times update on SpinSpotter.

    For a SpinSpotter in action demo.

    Disclosure: I consult/advise SpinSpotter on occasion in addition to producing their sneak video above. In general, I think all efforts at media literacy and exposing spin = good stuff.

    November 15, 2008

    Tribes - Choose to Lead Rather Than Wait to Be Chosen

    TribesInnerCover

    Image from the inside jacket of "Tribes" by Seth Godin

    Oh you modern city dweller - you think you don't belong to a tribe?  Guess again. If a tribe is defined as a group of people who are connected to each other, to a leader,  to an idea AND they have a way to communicate about a shared interest -  then we are all probably members of multiple tribes. 

    The connective power of the Internet and its social media tools has nearly eliminated the barriers of geography, money and time that in the past were powerful definers of the boundaries of tribes and the selection of their leaders.  But technology is just that - technology.  It doesn't have a heart.  It doesn't have ideas.  It doesn't have passion.  That's where leaders come in.

    "Tribes" will make you think about leadership in a new way.  Don't wait for leadership to be conferred on you.  Define it for yourself. And there are some sketches of others who have followed this premise and become leaders in tribes as diverse as wine-making, social entrepreneurship, political activism, religion and the Forune 500.

    A great evening or afternoon read designed for inspiration.  It is NOT a "how to" blueprint book.  For example, from p.84:

    "It's easy to get caught up in the foibles of a corporate culture and the systems that have been built over time, but they have nothing at all to do with the faith that built the system in the first place."

    Rating: 47 of 151 pages tabbed/annotated in my copy of "Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us."

    October 25, 2008

    The Engagement "Nutrition" Label

    "Nutrition labels" are no longer relegated to the world of packaged foods. Innovative companies such as shoe manufacturer Timberland, and sustainable modular home manufacturer LivingHomes are creating "labels" for their products that reflect some of the original intent of food nutrition labels - to show you how much of things you "should and shouldn't consume each day" are in a product.

    LHScoreCard

    So I'm wondering, why can't we create an Engagement "Nutrition" Label for digital/social media campaigns? Are there some things we can learn from other industries that are experimenting with this kind of "labeling?" 

    In the case of LivingHomes, their Sustainability Scorecard reflects how each of their home models at its   base level adheres to the LEED System for green building. It's a useful interactive model as well for communicating their products' uniqueness as the scorecard numbers change as customers use an online interactive tool to customize a home with different options such as rainwater recycling systems or more solar panels.

    Timberland_ readable_nutrition_label

    In 2006, Timberland began putting an "Our Footprint" Label on their footwear boxes - including some key measurements regarding environmental, community and manufacturing impact. Three areas of interest to Timberland purchasers who enjoyed the product both for its urban fashion hipness as well as its eco-responsible appraoch. 

    So what might the Digital/Social Media "Nutrition" Label look like?  It certainly would be nice to begin to consolidate real performance metrics and insights in a meaningful way.  More later.

      Or

    Liz Gebhardt


    • © Amanda Jones
      Digital and traditional (live & broadcast) media/ marketing strategist and producer living at the intersection of Web meets (live) World. More than two decades of experience in building media and technology businesses, content programming and distribution, brand stories and integrated communications campaigns.

      Believes that strategy is all talk unless it can be executed in a way that delivers on both the creative and business promises. Embraces the role of navigator of the uncharted path vs. passenger along the known road.