Volvo Wins

Ad Biz, Co Creation, Digital Media, human joystick, Media Technologies, theater advertising, Volvo

2006:

2007:

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iTV now myTV

Ad Biz, Co Creation, Digital Media, iTV, Joost, Media Technologies, myTV, Web 2.0, widgets

Most people in the business of marketing know of Joost if they haven’t already had the chance to play with it.  For those that don’t, let me sum up their service as high-quality, full-length, time-agnostic television broadcast through the Internet. 

Given that it’s a web-based platform, Joost offers viewers basic Internet services as they watch.  For instance, you can instant message your buddies across the globe as you simultaneously watch the same show.  Your screen looks something like this:

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(The IM components are in the upper-left and lower-right corners)

Joost aptly calls this IM service a “widget” that can be put on top of your primary content (the show you are watching) as add-on components.  Other examples of widgets on Joost include a news ticker, rating tools (upper-right corner), and an alarm clock.  All are made by Joost programmers. 

The problem thus far is that Joost hadn’t opened up their widget source code so that people could upload their own widgets into the system. Combine this barrier with the fact the programming available on Joost comes from broadcast corporations like MTV and you quickly realize that iTV is not necessarily “myTV”.  I don’t get the rights to upload content – like I do on YouTube – and I don’t get the rights to upload widget applications – like I do on many major social networks.

Well, Joost is opening up, and we should all rejoice.  MIT’s Advertising Lab noted today that Joost has opened their Widget API (or source code) to anyone interested in adding new features. 

According to the Joost forum (where Joost fanatics talk shop), the ideas for new widgets are pouring in.  Here is just a select few (with marketing implications in parenthesis):

  • Queuing – drag/drop/select movies/shows to go into a viewing queue similar to what Netflix offers (marketers could build target audiences by queue content)
  • Show Tagging – let people mark great moments in a show to indicate their favorite/worst moments (think 0f this as a copy test…for better or for worse)
  • Content Screener – let people take a survey that then generates content recommendations (more options for targeting, options for paid search)
  • Shopping Widget – syncs with programming so that people can buy what they see (allows marketers to advertising products in widget that are seen on show)

There will soon be a day when all content is a la carte.  Passive programming and active components will intermingle at my discretion.  TV? Internet?  Who cares?

TV + Internet = iTV

iTV + co-creation = myTV

2008: The Year of Circulation

barcode, Co Creation, Digital Media, GPS, LBS, location based marketing, Location Based Services, Media Technologies, mobile, mobile marketing, NeoMedia, Node, Ubilabs

2006 was the year of connecting.  Some call it social networking. Time named it You.

2007 is the year of conversing.  Some call it consumer-generation.  Others like the term co-creation.  Wired named it crowdsourcing.

2008 will be the year of circulating.  Some call it mobile marketing.  Others refer to it as location-based (LB) services, media and/or marketing.  It currently lacks a fancy name.

Circulation – literally meaning free movement or passage through a system – has been on the minds of marketers and media for quite some time.  Today, we call our efforts “mobile content”, and some of us have shown investing in the mobile infrastructure can pay off.  However, because the current infrastructure has so many limitations, greate examples of mobile content still elude us. 

But 2008 will see mobile devices come into their own.  The technology being unveiled today will start to impact how everyday people choose which company (and brand) to patron tomorrow.

Everyone’s favorite example of this is the iPhone.  It has a mishmash of applications that make it more of a mobile computer than phone.  People can seek out coffee shops using Google maps and GPS synchronization.  The opportunities for Starbucks to get in the middle of this are endless.  And they will…in 2008.

But the iPhone is just a piece of a larger puzzle still being put together.  Other parts include geo-positioning devices in cars, RFID tags embedded in products and places (and people), the further expansion of WiFi, mobile media access, mobile barcode recognition, and all the related applications and services that come with it. 

Combined, they allow us to take our social networks and desires to co-create to the streets.  We will commune, we will converse, and we will do it without constraint.

Examples of Location-Based Services/Media

Mobile Touring by Ubilabs

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MobileTouring is an authoring tool for tours. Anybody (you, your company, a city’s convention/visitor’s bureau, etc.) can set points of interest online and enrich them with a photo and short text information. In turn, anyone that has the system uploaded on their mobile phone can create customized tour specific to their needs.  No more dirty headsets at museums.  No need for three+ travel books fore each city you visit.

Bar Code Scanners by NeoMedia

Scanner:                                                      Phone with Code:

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Neomedia has deployed mobile phone scanners at concerts around Europe. Fans and concert goers purchase electronic tickets over the Internet and instantly receive a text message containing a two dimensional code (Data Matrix or 2D) on their mobile phone. The code can easily be scanned at the concert’s point of entry by mobile scanners for immediate event access. In doing so, NeoMedia demonstrates the use of optically processed mobile codes for real-world financial transactions.

Explorer v3 by Node

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The Node Explorer is a small handheld computer with stereo headphones which is connected to a central server.  The Explorer’s integrated GPS location sensor is able to pinpoint the exact location of its user, triggering images (still and video) and broadcast sound and video, in a targeted format (e.g., content can be customized by language, age group, particular interests, special needs, etc.)

Examples of Location-Based Marketing

Got any?  I’m sure all of us will next year.

Meta Travel

Digital Media, Media Technologies, Trends, Web 2.0

My wife and I have a very specific travel style.  We like to go to foreign lands with only what we can cary on our backs.  We refuse to get professional travel agents to coordinate our travel, and we avoid America both in fashion and food.  No suprisingly, the planning process is requires a lot of attention.  I think that’s why I like it.

The last trip we scheduled was to Ecuador.  It included Christmas in Quito, a week of white water rafting with some Amazonian natives, New Year’s Eve back in Quite, and finally a week on an eco cruise through the Galapagos Islands.  It was a great trip.

On paper.

The night I mailed in my final deposit check for the cruise – the biggest chunk of change for that trip – I decided to get run over by a car.  My last words before going under the knife was “Anne, cancel that check.  Whatever you do tonight, cancel that check.”

The Ecuadorians were pissed, but what are you going to do?  I spent the next two months in a wheel chair followed by rehab followed by an unexpected pregnancy.  Not me.  My wife.

Needless to say, I haven’t had time to do much travel save a few trips to see family on both American coasts.  That’s why something as cool as Kayak has been exploding in popularity right under my nose.

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Kayak is what the techies call a “Meta Search Engine”.  Before today, I was somewhat familiar with the term but under the assumption Meta Search only applied to the aggregation of traditional search engines like Google and Yahoo!  If I were to use Meta Search for my queries, I could expect a greater depth of search results and hopefully no redundancies. 

However, this form of Meta Search has never really exploded onto the scene.  They’ve been around for quite some time – in Internet time – but most people are content with just traditional search engines.  The logic goes that if you can’t find it on Google you can’t find it.

Enter Kayak.  Their mission was to apply the Meta Search Engine philosophy to a specific sector of the economy: travel (which is a $10 billion dollar industry online).  Their business model aggregates the availability and pricing of flights, hotels, car rentals and cruises from different online travel agents ranging from Orbitz to Travelocity to smaller, more obscure ones like cruisesonly.com. 

They have competition like SideStep and Yahoo! Farechase, but Kayak is breaking away from the pack.  Their growth has been 300% in the past year; 2.5 million unique visitors went to their site last year alone.  It is perhaps due to their great user interface complete with numerous filters and a great Google Mashup that shows you where the listings are located in town.  Click on a thumbnail for a full review with photographs and TripAdvisor star ratings:

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According to Compete, Inc., a travel research company, Meta Search Engines are poised to reinvent the online travel category.  Already this summer the number of unique visitors using Meta Search for their travel needs has eclipsed 10 million.  This category growth is at the expense of more traditional online travel agents like Orbitz and Travelocity (OTA’s have seen a 5% drop from Q1 ’05 to Q2 ’06.  This could mean a major shift in how many of us book travel in the future.  It could also mean further brand devaluation for many of the major travel providers.

Here are the takeaways I’m getting from this trend:

  • Meta Search will take over other industries where customers filter on price and attributes.  Think car insurance.  Think stereo equipment. 
  • TripAdvisor, the king of user-generated travel content, will build out a Meta Search component to compete against Kayak.
  • Kayak will add in user-generated content to their fantabulous map system.  In doing so, they will go head to head with TripAdvisor, Cruise Critic, and the like.
  • Google will buy Kayak.  They probably already have.
  • My long-postponed, customized trip to Ecuador will be a helluva lot easier to coordinate.

Pixels vs. Voice Patterns

Ad Biz, Community Marketing, Media Technologies, Traditional Media 2.0, Web 2.0

More on my blog entry from this morning…

Amazon announced over the weekend that they were going to be including podcasts from some of authors and artists that make up front-end of their long tail of products.  Examples include Rick Steves, Sting and some lady named Joss Stone:

Amazon Podcasts

Per some obscure blog: “Amazon Podcasts offers customers exclusive content and interviews they won’t find anywhere else,” said Kristi Coulter, Senior Manager of Editorial at Amazon.com. “Amazon is continually finding ways to improve the service we provide to our millions of customers. Thanks to this new and innovative podcast series, listeners can get more exclusive information about the artists, authors and actors they love.”

I’m thrilled that Amazon has included audio content into their website.  It’s not video, which would be ideal, but at least it adds a level of authenticity and human tonality to reinforce the written descriptions for each product be it a book or CD.  Soon, Amazon may be taking the S&S approach asking artists of all kinds to upload their audio interpretations of their respective works.  Soon, we may have fixture designers talking about the benefits of the kitchen sink in question.

In fact, this is what is missing.  Rather than spending time and money on an infrastructure that allows each and every author to upload their respective audio commentary, Amazon has gone out and spent what is likely millions of dollars for a select few artists.  Much of the commentary is backlogged no less.

Amazon fails to truly capture what “content” means in a world that is flat, a tail is long, etc., etc.

In previous lives I have battled with partner agencies responsible for purchasing exclusive content rights for my clients.  Time and time again millions of dollars are spent to purchase the rights to a big name that, in turn, promotes the product in question. 

However, and back to Amazon, this model just doesn’t hold water when people are spending more time watching :30 second YouTube videos of dancing cats and less time watching expensive, produced content on broadcast television.

Amazon needs to open up their entire model to let authors, artists, and creaters of all kinds upload audio and video descriptions of their work.  The backroom logistics will be rough at first – after all, they don’t want me pretending to be Sting – but once those aspects are ironed out Amazon will have a true point of differentiation in the global, online marketplace.  Such a tool in Amazon’s website will be something online shoppers  “won’t find anywhere else.”

Next step: Open up audio reviews to end users.  Make every product review an experience that goes beyond the written word.  Incorporate audio filters to scan for nasty words just like text filters are already used.  Build a level of trust online that no other marketer can even touch.

Pulp vs. Pixels

Community Marketing, Media Technologies, Traditional Media 2.0, Web 2.0

I probably read 100 articles of electronic news a day. This includes newspaper websites, electronic magazines, blogs, and research reports. Still, I plunk 50c in the metal box next to my house at least once a week just so that I can curl up on my front porch with a real newspaper.

The one thing I have never read online is a book. I refuse to sign onto the eBook phenomenon even if it allows me to get instant access to anything I want. Tabling the environmental argument – I would love to see a comparison study on the energy needed to recycle wood pulp vs. project a book on a laptop for hours on end – I am very conservative when it comes to the hardback. In the words of my Republican father, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

It seems that my persistent patronage of the printed word applies to almost everyone who has access to both a great bookstore and broadband connection. Whereas in 2001 the well-paid analysts at Accenture and Forrester projected up to 28 million dedicated eBook readers by 2005, today eBooks only account for one twentieth of one percent of total book sales worldwide. In the words of Walt Crawford at EContent, “eBook sales might just amount to a rounding error in overall book sales.”

Given that eBooks can’t seem to take off, and people like me aren’t interested in giving up their hardbacks, the book publishing industry can be considered the last place for profit in the “old” media class. Whereas every other industrial, linear path of communication – be it radio, TV, or print – is up in arms over what to do with the loss of an audience, the publishing industry continues to increase their sales annually. Amazing. I wish I could have predicted this in the early 90s and invested in undervalued publishing houses…

Moving on, Simon & Schuster, one of the powerhouses of the publishing world, recently announced that they were getting out of the world of old media and into the world of new media. This seems like a contradiction in customer demand, but their approach is not to push for electronic purchases of their best titles.

Rather, it is to flip the approach they take for promoting books. In a brilliant move, the publisher has decided to shift much of its promotional dollars to videoing and broadcasting author interviews online. ClickZ noted that Simon & Schuster has partnered with a book-centric video channel called Bookvideos.tv to promote its authors. They will select 40 of their more famous authors from “a mix of genres to talk not just about their books, but about their own lives and how they came to write about the topics they’re interested in.”

I can’t say whether or not the partnership with Bookvideos.tv is the right approach – the site isn’t even up an running yet – but certainly taking the author book tour to the web is a logical and simple way of extending the reach of a promotional dollar. The next step will be to include areas within each book/authors website to allow viewers/readers to upload their own opinions about the book and even allow them to upload their own video reviews of the title in question. At this point the conversation is still linear, and to truly work within the philosophy of a “connected Web” the publishing house must make room for readers to get into the action, but for now I consider this a great step in the right direction.

Broadening out the conversation for just a minute, video commentary from authors is something that should not be considered just a tool of publishing houses.  Today, we have “authors” of all kinds. Each industry has its hero brands, and each hero brand has its hero authors. Think video games, fashion, car engineering.  Why can’t I watch interviews from the guys who invented Timbuk2 or Simple shoes?  I want to meet the people in LA who made my Americal Apparel boxers and got a fair wage for it.  When I buy a drum at 10,000 Villages, why don’t I get the change to go home and learn more about the tribe who built it?  These brands ask the end user to think of consumption as something more human, so where is the face?

Companies, like publishers, can personify their products by allowing those who wrote/designed them to voice their passion through video streaming online. When a customer is drawn to a product, and that draw is reinforced by a connection to the maker, a casual reader/buyer could well turn into an avid loyalist.

Kudos to S&S. I’m sure the rest of the publishing world, and many other industries, will follow suit.

Rapid Prototyping

Breakthroughs, Design & Creativity, Idea City in Second Life, Media Technologies

The New York Times has a great article on 3-D scanners today – desktop boxes that can copy, e-mail, print or fax 3-D objects.

This builds on the current regarding home fabrication in the home.  Sears was publicised a few months back for introducing a home fabricator.  Combined with a 3-D imager, hobbyists will soon be able to upload an original object, tinker with its specs, and produce a copy/revised version at their desks.

Per the NYT article: “The world is just beginning to grapple with the implications of this relatively low-cost duplicating method, often called rapid prototyping.  Hearing aid companies, for instance, are producing some custom-fitted ear pieces from molds of patients.  Custom car companies produce new parts for classic cars or modified parts for hot rods.  Consumer produce makers create fully functional designs before committing themselves to big producution runs.”

The ramifications of these technologies are huge.  People often think of emerging technologies as simply allowing people to stay connected with others.  But, in this instance, the effects are much more personal.  Customization will be open to the masses, and with it the mass produced, mass advertised product of the industrial era will receive a long-overdue expiration date.

However, companies and their marketing departments can still tap into this technology.  Just off the cuff I can think of several examples how this technology could be used by brands as utility for their customers.  For instance, Ray-Ban could provide me with a service whereby my face is scanned and a pair of aviators are custom fabricated for me.  “My Ray-Bans” are born.  And, of course, if Ray-Ban insists on ignoring this technology, I can always look elsewhere…so goes the rejection of technology so goes the rejection of brands in a world where the tangible is comoditized.

One more thought from me: Online piracy is about to move beyond media.  When anyone can make anything, the complaints coming from the music industry seem trivial.