Friday, 27 November 2009

Is the iPhone about to go mainstream?

It was announced this week that the iPhone - beloved by gadget freaks, the twitterati and the cool kids - will be sold at Tesco prior to Christmas.

Despite what agencies might have been saying for the past couple of years, the penetration of iPhones in the UK is currently minimal. Despite the wealth of stories about the success of the iPhone app. store, the persistent celeb shots and the general hyperbole, the British public still haven't really taken to the iPhone as quickly as Apple would like. Although August's Admob report does report an increased penetration.

As with every market Tesco enters it's widely anticipated that the move will spark a price war that hasn't resulted since the announcements by Orange and Vodafone of their entry into the market. While the Orange deal was welcomed by the geeks for providing better 3G coverage, customer service and faster speeds - things O2 has been criticised for since their exclusive deal began - they didn't twin these advantages with competitve pricing.

Getting the iPhone onto Tesco shelves is the big prize and possibly hands the advantage back to O2, Tesco's operator partner. Tesco Mobile's customer base are already heavy data users so the market is primed to burst beyond the affluent middle classes, but to do that there must be a competitve pricing model. What the Tesco pricing model is will remain a question for the time being, but the iPhone could suddenly be this year's hottest present again.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Minority report and beyond...way beyond

This video doesn't really need much explaining. Awesome's a word I hate using mainly because there are few things outside natural phenomena that are actually awesome. However I'll make an exception with this.

Introducting Pranav Mistry and his sixth sense awesomeness.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Is peanut butter and chocolate really the perfect combination?

This morning Linked In and Twitter announced that they would be errrr... 'Linking In' with the introduction of Twitter updates into the Linked In status bar.

For some reason the two companies have decided to use a peanut butter and chocolate analogy that sounds slightly weird but hey that's silicon valley for you. Tubs of spreads are close to those guys hearts.

But what of the TwitterIn' combination? At first it seemed to me a rather unholy alliance, but on reflection it's probably an excellent combo with real obvious value for both parties.

Recently Twitter has definitely been striving to be perceived as more of a business tool than it had been previously. The recently added list feature proved this. By integrating with Linked In this seems like the perfect way to connect and demonstrate Twitter's utility to a huge community of social mediaites on Linked In that have failed to see the point of Twitter up until now.

On the flip side Linked In has suffered the opposite problem. It's been stuck in an enterprise user rut and isn't seen as particularly cool. Activity on Linked In can seem like it moves at a snails pace in comparison to other social platforms, but by integrating Twitter suddenly the platform becomes a realtime bonanza.

Time will tell what the impact will be, but this week's most unlikely alliance could definitely prove a winner.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Watch the Wave

Right so first up my invite from Graeme hasn't arrived yet, but then according to @Twephanie it's going to take some time to come through which means Graeme will have to keep on waving at himself for a little while.

However I'm going to start moaning about it already. One of the key features that the development team are pushing is the ability for correspondents to see each others typing in real time.

Cool you may think, but why. How many times have you written and rewritten an email response, or written in haste and thought again or written an email and then changed your mind. Many times I'd suspect and in most of those cases you probably wouldn't have wanted the intended recipient to have seen what you were writing so far not so good.

However my key issue with this functionality and something I posted about on Amelia's blog is it effectively replicates and promotes one of the worst aspects of human communication i.e. that of not listening to what i being said and therefore anticipating what is being said and responding. Online social communications are all about listening, they're about understanding and responding accordingly. Although our browsing behaviour has become increasingly snack like we don't want it to progress to poorly communicative anticipatory otherwise what's the point. Realtime communication while it sounds like the future and may well be, may not be a great leap forward.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Brands under fire, beware Google Sidewiki

Google quietly released a new social tool this week called Sidewiki . Sidewiki is an addition to the Google toolbar, so far, so innocuous. However this could possibly enable the most visible feedback online brands have yet to face.

The Google Sidewiki toolbar allows any user with a Google account to comment, on any page, on any site (and of course I though I'd have a crack with Natwest). It effectively means users have the ability to graffiti corporate sites. Google say they are monitoring comments and have provided a reporting tool if posts are deemed malicious, however if the criticism is constructive, instructive and therefore destructive then the implications are massive.

Over the course of this year there has been a greater and greater demand for brands to listen from consumers, technology companies, agencies, in fact too many voices to list. In a way it's been convenient for companies to ignore it. If it's all going off on Twitter, or Facebook or “some blog” then it's out of sight and therefore out of mind (of course this an absurdity). What Sidewiki does though is bring it to the doorstep and now anyone can graffiti all over your front door. Now it's already been declared dangerous and doomed to fail and simply a way of Google monetising the whole web, but this is a Google beta product and it'll inevitably change and over time integrate Google's other features. And in the meantime the comments are going to start cluttering up the doormat and they're going to be difficult to ignore.

This kind of interwoven peer to peer feedback is the future of the web. It's going to force companies to change the way they operate so once again with gusto. Start listening and start taking heed.

So Natwest can you get back to me on this one.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Could Apple survive without Jobs?

Steve Jobs crash landed back in San Fransisco on Wednesday with a new liver, some new products and instantly breathed new life into Apple. His speech immediately sparked a rally in the company's share price and earned him a standing ovation from his employees. However it begged the question could Apple survive without Steve Jobs?

It's a question that has raised its head many times since his well documented health problems came to light. Commentators have suggested they simply can't see Apple fans flocking to the Apple keynotes without the charismatic frontman. However it looks like Jobs may be planning for succession, he's clearly still not fully fit and although he's back it's almost certainly not full time. So however long he remains he now has the opportunity to transform the company from a one man show to a vibrant employee led organisation (a bit like Google maybe).

There is an obvious need for Jobs to develop a second in command however the way the company embraces social media is becoming a key issue for customer engagement. Apple hasn't run with the pack when it comes to social, they have been notably absent from conversations that they should have been contributing to and unless Apple employees are empowered to start involving themselves and emerge from Jobs' shadow the brand can only sustain it's reputation for so long. Social media needs engagement from brands and Apple ignore it at their peril.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Twitter under pressure

Since its launch in 2006 Twitter has been bombarded by negativity (yes there’s also been a huge amount of positivity as well) from the tech community and on the whole they’ve carried on with business as normal, but is it now time to listen?

Twitter has come under constant fire since its inception. It's been accused of being unstable, being irrelevant, having no reliable long term business model, that it appeals to oldies and teens just don't tweet. However, each time the criticism is levelled the management team remain steadfastly silent in the main, they don't react but instead point to the numbers - and the numbers can't be ignored - at the most recent count there are over 30 million online users globally and that's just those that are accessing Twitter via the web. It doesn't include those accessing the myriad of applications that utilise Twitter's open API. This week however E-Consultancy published a blog relating to what Twitter needs to do in order not to fail. There are some fundamental criticisms of the view, however how long Twitter can remain on it's single minded mission is questionable.The social networking category is beginning to consolidate and develop additional functionality with which Twitter simply cannot compete. There are other models developing out there that are increasingly challenging Twitter so it may well be time to get off the pot.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Friendfeed accepts Facebook's friend request

I loved the title of Louis Gray's blog title so much I thought I'd nick it it's a tribute really.

On the face of it, it looks like a match made in heaven. The additional search functionality that Friendfeed has (no surprise - it's run by ex-Googlers) - if integrated into Facebook - will make it a very powerful player in the search market and with the Microhoo deal last week it looks like the search market really has hotted up with Facebook definitely now a potential threat to Google search.

There is some disagreement over it's ultimate impact on Twitter, with some suggesting it's a Twitter killer, while others point out that Twitter turned a deal with Friendfeed down some time ago and that it can't compete as single-mindedly as the microblogging service and is therefore simply a vanity purchase on the part of Facebook.

I'm not sure any service is about to kill any other service, however Google and Twitter's total pre-eminence in their respective categories may well be over.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Twitter's down. What do I do now?

So Twitter went down about an hour ago and I felt like someone'd chopped my hands off. So how do I find out what's wrong. I go to trending topics on Twitter of course. Oh no can't do that. So I guess Friendfeed's the answer and lo and behold there they all are - the power users - wittering away and that's when I realised why I don't yet use Friendfeed.

Friendfeed's still just rammed with early adopters and they're steering every conversation that has any sort of momentum. Yes i now know what's going on with Twitter, but in my opinion Twitter has become more democratic. Yes it's getting full of bots and spammers, but if you manage your stream carefully you don't need to worry about that. The power users, say there is more scope for conversation on Friendfeed than Twitter and of course they're correct but two things here a) the conversation seems to be quite limited to the San Fran set and b) Twitter isn't about conversations so much for me, it's for research and educative purposes.

I've no doubt that I'll use Friendfeed more and more in the coming months and years, but at the moment it just isn't ready for me to be too active on there. The other thing I was wondering is with the imminent release of Google Wave will Friendfeed simply get washed away by the Google Tsunami, not only will you be able to have conversations there but you can work outside real time as well. Time will tell I guess.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Do you use LinkedIn and/or Facebook

It's a question I asked on LinkedIn itself the other day and unsurprisingly unanimously the answer was Linked In for business, Facebook for personal. I expanded and asked if others were using Twitter or Friendfeed or any other social network and again the majority response was I don't have time (Now that's a whole different post).

The reason I asked in the first place was I just can't get along with Linked In. I'm a big fan of social networking and in terms of it's educative qualities it's been an enormous addition to my professional development. Twitter has almost completely surplanted my RSS feedreader as a research tool. Friendfeed helps me to understand who influences those that I choose to follow. Facebook keeps me in touch with friends who due to family pressure I don't get to see much and cousins I don't see regularly, you know the score. Delicious and Digg help me to share my bookmarks and content I like.

All of these platforms help me be social and hopefully helpful. They allow me to be myself but also keep on top of business and that's where I part the way with LinkedIn. It's not a social networking site, nothing about it is social. It's about networking, but not the ecademy way, it's more the bad glass of sweet white wine and guard up kind of way. It's not intuitive, it doesn't aid in the sharing of information, in essence it's far too closed.

I concede that it is great at finding professionals and if you are looking for a job, but Twitter and Friendfeed do that as well as everything else and as an added bonus you're likely to understand whether you'll get on with them on personal level as well which for me is just as important.

In my opinion it really needs to step up it's game if it's going to continue to grow, there are rumblings that there is a major overhaul in the planning stage, I just hope it's a significant improvement.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Search just got interesting again

All the talk yesterday was about the long awaited Yahoo/Microsoft search deal, but that was only half of the story when it came to how competition in the search market has ramped up.

The launch of Bing in May finally paved the way for the 10 year Yahoo search deal and the search engine will now be integrated into Yahoo as it's search platform. There is no doubt that the deal furthers Steve Ballmer's insatiable need to take on Google and with just under a third of the search market Microsoft finally look like they could gain some traction.

However, what Google and Microsoft have yet to crack is the newly emergent real-time search model. Two developments occurred on Wednesday that took this into new territory. Twitter relaunched their homepage and switched the emphasis away from followers and into search and arguably turned itself into a destination portal. Some argue that this won't actually benefit users, however as websites become less important to users and the importance of web presence becomes more and more essential the body shift from Twitter makes sense. At the same time the newly launched improved it's already impressive offering by adding an additional layer of search capability with video and images.

Microsoft has got bingtweets in beta and Google launched search options back in May but the improvements in realtime search is going to keep the big boys on their toes. Ultimately the smaller players look like acquisition fodder, but the longer they stay ahead of the curve and hold out against a takeover the more expensive the battle's going to be to win. Certainly Wednesday will go down as a pivotal moment in the field of search and certainly from the marketing community's perspective Wednesday's announcement was music to the ears.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The changing nature of news aggregation

If you've been watching the situation unravelling in Iran you'll probably be aware of the almost complete silencing of journalists in the mainstream media. This has seen the mainstream channels turning to the social channels to aggregate and report the news. Both the BBC and Sky are streaming, Youtube, Twitter and Flickr straight onto their site as well as offering opportunities for individuals to upload their videos directly to their sites.

Twitter has been such an essential part of the information flow out of the country that they and their IT vendor NTT took the unprecedented step on Monday of putting off essential site maintenance for a day to ensure that the channel remained open for Iranians reporting on the ground as their blog outlined. Interestingly it emerged today that it was the US state department's intervention that led to the suspension.

What this starts to reveal is the maturing role of citizen journalism and the mainstream media's willingness to use it as a major contributory source within their own reporting. It may lack quality, it may need far greater verification, but in terms of speed and it's ability to reveal the true picture there has yet to be a more effective medium for information flow.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Why isn't part of Chris Brogan's vision

A couple of days ago Chris Brogan wrote an extremely insightful piece about what the new Media Company could look like. He describes a more dynamic and decentralised entity with an emphasis on collaboration and a focus on developing themes over time. A colleague of mine summed up parts of it nicely 'no narrative should now be definitive'. 

It's a theme that is starting to dovetail with a whole bunch of conversations around the publishing and ongoing existence of content and where and how it should exist online. I wrote last week about Jeremiah Owyang's view of our march towards social commerce a theme he expanded on Social Web TV  a week or so ago. It's relevant here because he is envisaging the need for a structured fragmentation of identities that will allow users to participate in conversations and ultimately transactions wherever they are on the web. All part of the same future collaborative status quo that Brogan is envisaging.

At the same time Adam Ostrow over at Mashable is riffing about the death of the destnation URL. Again it's a conversation about content's existence and where a company should concentrate it's effort i.e. do you want to force customers to come to you or do you go to where your customers already are and collaborate there.

April Dunford wrote an interesting piece about how Brogan's vision should be adopted by marketeers, a view I very much agree with, because the themes are really about collaboration and remaining open to outside influence. As April puts it  'If you are in marketing, you are in the communications business and the way we are communicating is changing, in my opinion, for the better.'

So within this context I was interested to read about the relaunch of the UK men's style magazine. Obviously this is just one publication and not a company, however against a backdrop of increasing collaborative working I wanted to see how it stacked up. 

On first view it really looked like it had hit the mark, it had what I now think of as that 'Wordpressy' blog look, but what about the content. Oh my, no ability to comment. They appear to have launched a blog with no collaborative capability. So I tried a video link, nope nothing there either unless you want to leave the site and participate on Youtube itself. Frankly, it's weird, I've come to expect to be able to converse about everything everywhere, whether I'm interested or not and in this particular sector even more so.

So I went back to Brogan's article and pulled out his proof points to see how Esquire stacked up against them:
  • Stories are points in time, but won’t end at publication. (Edits, updates, extensions are next.) Doesn't look like that's the plan the content's light and some simply looks like straightforward advertorial.
  • Curators and editors rule, and creators aren’t necessarily on staff. Nope that doesn't look like it's gonna happen
  • Media cannot stick to one form. Text, photos, video, music, audio, animation, etc are a flow. They are publishing in mixed media in fairness.
  • Everything must be portable and mobile-ready. (Mobile devices need to evolve here, too). Not great on my Nokia and even on my iPhone it's pretty shoddy.
  • Everything must have collaborative opportunities. If I write about a restaurant, you should have wikified access to add to the article directly. Definitely not, probably it's greatest failing.
  • Advertising cannot be the primary method of revenue. No trashy banner advertising.
  • In-line content marketing, clearly delineated/disclosed/explained is one revenue stream. One of many. Yes this does seem to be the case
  • Contributors come in many shapes: onstaff, partner (how pros like TechCrunch link to Washington Post), guest (for love and glory only), and conversational. Nope just looks like staffers to me.
  • Value-add services are another revenue stream. Why not book hotels and flights from my travel magazine directly? Why not buy how-to information on marketing from Ad Age or FastCompany? This looks like how the revenue model is likely to work or certainly it's set up to be able to do that
  • Collaboration rules. Why should I pick the next cover? Why should my picture of the car crash be the best? Nope that aint happening
  • Everything is modular and linkable. Everything is fluid. Meaning, if I want the publication to be a business periodical, then I don’t want to have to read a piece about sports. Nope it's five sections take it or leave it
  • Paper isn’t dead: it’s on demand. With Esquire I do think they can survive as online inexorably grows and there will continue to be a market for the paper publication.
So in summary it looks like they've got the commercials right, which is nice for Esquire, but in terms of long term value for their readers this has to go down as an epic fail. This is old style print publishing for web, I really thought big publishers would have got over it by now. It seems not. 

In yesterday's NMA announcement Jeremy Longmead Esquire's editor was quoted “It became clear that a well-designed niche website with a cerebral heart would have much more appeal and we’re very pleased with the finished result.” and there in lies the problem. The focus is on the design not the content, or at least not how the content exists in the new world and as an editor that should have been the key issue. Design is becoming less important, yes it's nice to have beautiful design but it always has to be led by the content.

My feeling and it's with sadness I say this because I actually don't mind Esquire is that it will be dead in a couple of years if it doesn't embrace collabortive content generation. I hope it takes steps in the right direction.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Twitter in real life

For me Twitter has now almost completely surplanted my iGoogle RSS feed reader, but for many it sems to be being used as a Facebook extension which just misses the point and so says College Humour.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Getty Images Data fail

I was sent a link to a new Getty Images social application 27 letters launched recently which promised me the ability to track trends in image usage and buzz around specific image generation across the web.

About time too I thought, Getty have rapidly been losing ground to other social image sites such as Flickr for quite a while now and appear to have been clinging to an old print led model. So this promised much and when I first opened the link it looked very promising so I clicked to register and this is when I realised they were still stuck in the old business models.

I was faced with a barrage of requests for my personal information all of which were mandatory and all of which allowed me to open an account with Getty. It was quite obvious that this information would be fed directly back in to their central model and into an existing customer segmentation model.

You have to question the objectives of launching a social application like this. To my mind it should be about developing an engaging experience for as wide a range of customers as possible across the social web. In Getty's case it should be to entice the millions of bloggers and publishers away from cheaper and often free sources of imagery to an often higher quality of image that can really enhance a creative execution.

In pursuit of that it is my opinion that you should provide as open access as you possibly can to your applications, that means asking for as little data about your customers as possible up front and then providing multiple optional overlays to customers to add additional details, profiles and preferences to enhance their experience. This provides an easy route to the content you're sharing.

Once there, it is important that you understand usage patterns and the paths that users take around the web to help build a new prospect data model related directly to usage of the social application. This does not preclude you adding this data to your existing database and possibly fitting it into an existing segmentation model, however it does require that you undertake some development work with your database to ensure that you capture new usage patterns and start to understand new customer engagement.

In short I actually like this application alot and so do a lot of the guys here in the studio, but we're all pre-existing customers. If you're going to attract new users and a new customer base you need to look at new ways of workings. Until that point it's going to be difficult to grow the customer base.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The social web is coming of age

When Tim Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web I doubt he imagined it would be hijacked by the world and his wife to relocate their store front. Thankfully 15 or so years on the internet's moving back to a place where people connect, share and chat, only this time it's got a prettier interface.

Forrester's Jeremiah Owyang recently defined what he sees as the 5 eras of social web with a belief that we will reach an era of full peer to peer social commerce as early as 2011.

Now in reality elements of this is happening already. Meebo for example's got IM under control, Facebook Connect's launch really looks like it's going to revolutionise open ID and indeed Business Week's assessment last week was that social networks will turn the portal model on it's head and become infused throughout the web and become entirely embedded rather than providing a destination point through which everything else flows.

Now I already buy an awful lot as a result of following or being followed on Twitter and I look forward to a time when via open ID I can take my social profile across the web and look for peer recommendation on all sites I visit. However, I also work with clients that simply aren't set up to offer this functionality or anywhere close in the next couple of years. Now many would say that these businesses will simply die, however while I have no doubt that a couple of the less agile corporates may go under, because they fail to adapt to new busines models I refuse to believe we are entering a completely new paradigm. This is a case where Bill Gate's technology innovation quote really stands up. I guess all we can do is wait and see.