While I was in New York at the Web 2.0 Expo, I ended up taking several walking trips through Times Square, something I never really did even when I lived in the city. The amusing thing about Times Square is how we simply accept it, but it's also a metaphor for the information overload that many people point to when talking about Web 2.0.
Each time I talk about Google Reader, RSS feeds, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, the mobile Web or anything else coming down the pike, someone shakes their head and says "too much information."
Just look around Times Square, there is simply too much information coming at us. Signs blink, move, talk and do everything but physically grab and shake us (though I'm sure that's coming next). Yet, we have a natural filter where we can quickly get used to this sensory input. We block stuff out, take in what we need and just walk onto the next block.
Yet, even with the multi-million dollar ads shining down from above, commerce still happens with cold-hard cash on the street. There, below the constantly flowing newsfeed from ABC News and the right-wing talk show hosts from Fox News and the Broadway show ads are simple newsstands selling papers, magazines and candy.
In his keynote today author Clay Shirky talked about the fact that we aren't experiencing information overload, but the failure of our filters. In fact, he goes back to the invention of moveable type and points out that by the year 1500 more books were printed than any literate human could read in a lifetime.
That was information overload. But what happened was that filters developed. Publishers started filtering what could be printed for "quality" and people learned to pick and choose what to read.
The same process has happened all through the information age. The problem today is that the old filters don't work in the new environment, so we need to develop new ones. That's coming.
In my opinion what's happening is a shift from someone else deciding what's important to putting the power in our hands to decide for ourselves. I'll write more on this later.
While at the show I met a guy from a company that turns Web content into audio content. One of his customers, the International Herald Tribune, takes things one step further, letting people run searches on different keywords or topics, then creating a customized podcast that can be automatically downloaded every morning. So, in a sense, rather than picking up the paper or even loading it in a browser, you, as the user, receive the information you want in your iPod, then listen to it on your way to work.
That's just one example of the filter and while it's great for conquering information overload, it makes our job as PR people that much more difficult. It eliminates the "discovery" of finding a story in the paper that you didn't expect but still like. That means people need to be looking for what we're selling, not just finding it in order to get our stories.
But these filters aren't just technological, they're human. A person who you follow on Twitter may lead you to great content. A blogger may say something you agree with, you may follow a specific reviewer for good movies or meals. They're all examples of filters and we'll all learn how to use them.
Tags: times square
, web 2.0
, Web 2.0 expo
Posted by Chuck Tanowitz on September 26, 2008 at 1:35 PM
Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Picture the scene. 3GSM 2006 and there's murder on the showfloor. It's the USA's MediaFLO versus Europe's DVB-H in the broadcast mobile TV platform war to end all platform wars. Bloodied and bruised, Qualcomm, in the MediaFLO corner, sure wasn't going to lose another technology holy war to Nokia, on the opposing flank. At least that's how the media reported it. The mobile operators, meanwhile, were set to roll-out mobile TV as the Great White Hope that would save them from the commoditisation of voice and text, and ever falling ARPU.
Amid all the excitement of this intense competition - who had the more profitable business model, clearest picture, most capacity - it is arguable that the industry lost sight of the real difficulties of rolling out broadcast mobile TV. More than three years on and mobile TV has failed to fullfil those outlandish expectations, being commercially deployed in just a smattering of territories globally. Has the experiment failed and what's next for the industry?
Mobile TV isn't new of course - network operators had always envisioned using the extra bandwidth of 3G technology to deliver video. Indeed, companies such as MobiTV and ROK enabled operators worldwide to deliver both excellent programming and high user penetration in the early part of the century. But delivering video to the masses over the cell network comes at a cost - it is expensive per bit to deliver and (potentially) clogs up the network with video traffic. The new concept was to deliver endless live video - or TV - without impacting on network performance, and in a more cost effective way by broadcasting it much in the same way that television has been for a century.
Over the subsequent years a number of rival broadcast technologies were developed to solve this perceived problem. Early solutions, deployed in Japan and South Korea, included ISDB-T and two flavours of DMB. In Asia millions of early adopters took to watching their favourite shows on two inch screens, at average resolution, with patchy reception and unacceptably long buffering while switching channels. And while impressive user penetration rates looked promising at first glance, a deeper dive into the economics of mobile TV showed a loss-making, state subsidised model. Indeed, the story of mobile TV to date is not one of commercially successful, mass market roll outs.
In Europe, the DVB-H project, backed by its principal champion Nokia, launched a wave of user trials across the continent and further afield. DVB-H, which is a hand-held derivation of the commonly used terrestrial 'digital video broadcast' TV standard, seemingly had the backing of the entire industry. The results were positive too - users wanted mobile TV, and they wanted it now, with 72% of trialists saying they'd pay for a commercial service in the next year. It's a pattern that was repeated in three years of user trials.
There were commercial deployments too - first in Italy, where commercia broadcaster Mediaset bought a tranche of spectrum and launched a service with Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) and Vodafone Italia in 2006. Meanwhile, 3 Italia claims to have signed up more than 600,000 DVB-H users on a part free-to-air, part pay TV model despite anecdotal evidence or poor indoor coverage and a limited range of available handsets.
But there were huge problems. In Finland, home of Nokia, for example, the commercial roll-out of DVB-H was delayed because of arguments about the commercial rights for re-broadcasting TV content on mobile. Not only was the failure an embarrassment on its doorstep, but it was a fatal flaw in the vertical business model developed by Nokia for free-to-air DVB-H based services, according to those in opposition to the Finnish behemoth.
In the USA there was the roll-out of the aforementioned MediaFLO technology from Qualcomm, via its MediaFLO USA (MUI) subsidiary and backed by $800m of the company's money. First Verizon Wireless and then AT&T Mobility launched commercial pay TV services off the back of MUI's wholesale service.
The market for mobile TV in the USA was clarified by regulator FCC's decision to auction spectrum from the 'digital dividend' - where spectrum is released as analogue services convert to digital - for mobile TV in the lower 700MHz UHF band. The 'technology neutral' auction meant that the San Diego chipset giant was able to buy a swathe of nationwide spectrum for just a few million dollars in 2005. The company then doubled its spectrum holding in 2008, for a considerably greater sum, although since more spectrum equals more services, the economics of the purchase would seem to work.
The picture in Europe is far less clear, however, with a fragmented spectrum market no nearer to the pan-European harmonisaiton that many feel is necessary for widespread commercial adoption of mobile TV services. While some regulators, such as OFCOM in the UK, have advocated auctioning digital dividend UHF spectrum (the band which exhibits the best coverage and propagation properties, therefore the most commercially attractive) on a technology neutral basis, others, including the European Commission, have pushed hard for a single Europe-wide technology. Indeed, the Commission's threat to mandate DVB-H was all but carried through when the technology was adopted as the "preferred" choice, seemingly at the behest of Commissioner Viviane Reding. The argument being that the adoption of a single technology would accelerate the development of the mobile TV market by removing fragmentation and lowering costs. But it's a move that would appear to have had little commercial impact to date, with Qualcomm having bought 40Mhz of L-Band spectrum at recent UK auctions anyway. A win that many predict will lead to the roll-out of MediaFLO in the UK in partnership with BSkyB.
Taken as a whole, the global mobile TV market has stagnated, with commercial deployment hampered by arguments over spectrum allocation, technology deployment, regulation and content rights. First it was the 2006 World Cup, then the 2008 Beijing Olympics that were supposed to stimulate the market and drive consumer adoption. It hasn't happened. But while spectrum remains the biggest roadblock in Europe, many in the industry will gather at Mobile World Congress 2009, and and ask whether the Verizon and AT&T deployments have garnered the mass consumer interest that suggests mobile TV is commercially viable in the long term. Cynics might ask why overall user numbers have never been disclosed; the industry is still betting on a hope.
Tags: Mobile TV
, Mobile World Congress
Posted by Ed Barker on September 23, 2008 at 1:03 PM
Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
I just returned from the Web 2.0 Expo in New York and my head is spinning with all the things I learned and the ideas I'm dying to try out. But what struck me most was Tim O'Reilly's keynote, one he's delivered before, in which he called on the best and brightest working in technology to cast aside silly little viral Facebook applications and focus instead on something important.
He ran through a list, including climate change, income inequity, slavery, energy, etc. and everyone smiled and nodded. Then we all went back to our jobs trying to push viral Facebook applications to test our friends on their knowledge of 80s movies. I did quite well on that quiz, by the way.
I thought about this again today when I read a New York Times story about a soon-to-launch startup that aims to capture the voices of students to help high schoolers choose schools. It's a pretty typical story about the power of social networks, including the obligatory clueless marketer:
“I’ve got to be honest with you,” Christopher Gruber, a vice president who oversees admissions at Davidson College, told me. “I’m not spending a ton of time navigating those student-driven sites. It’s too much to manage. My sense is that the traditional big players, like Princeton Review, are the major sources for online information too, in part because those are the names that parents still recognize. Those are the names that are going to have greater panache, and so those are probably the ones that will be turned to. The ones that we supply information to are the ones that we spend the most time on, filling out surveys for them to make sure that that information is accurate.”
Then, as the story reports, we find out that about 1/8th of the Davidson student population has already submitted content to the site. Good luck Mr. Gruber.
In any case, the reporter eventually asks how this can be a "grass roots" kind of thing when it's lining the pockets of major investors. This is commerce, pure and simple, masquerading as social change.
Tags: new york times
, public good
, Web 2.0
, Web 2.0 Expo NY
Posted by Chuck Tanowitz on September 22, 2008 at 11:14 AM
Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)
One of the major themes at Mobile World Congress 2009 is that of "openness." It's a long held belief within the mobile industry that 'open standards' are a good thing. Certainly, many are attached to the dogma that openness allows new technology or services to be adopted faster, with lower costs and greater interoperability between platforms and hardware. It's a path that, arguably, has enabled GSM and its evolutions to become the defacto mobile communications standard over the past 20 years. Yet, a nascent part of the industry -- mobile social networking -- is growing in a highly fragmented way as a plethora of different systems and approaches develops.
MWC 2008 was a showcase for many early stage start-ups who were hoping to attract new users, investment and partnerships with their take on a mobile social business model. The range of models on offer included subscription based and advertising funded services, off deck and on portal, incorporating, video chat, dating, location and peer review.
It's a sector that the industry is placing many a bet on. The 2008 Global Mobile Award winner for social networking, for example, was BuzzCity's myGamma.com, a free service that allows a global community of users to exchange messages, photos and update their 'status' in much the same way many fixed line social networks do. Equally innovative were services such as JuiceWireless' JuiceCaster, which launched its European version at the show, and allows users to swap videos on the go. Meanwhile, another start-up GyPSii announced that is was integrating location with social networking, enabling users to find people, places and events in their local area. Elsewhere, off-deck services such as Mocospace, Go Fresh's Itsmy.com and Peperonity have reached huge mobile only audiences, while Bluepulse, Zannel, QIK, Shozu, Whrrl and many others each have their own take on community, video, pictures and location respectively. Others predict that messaging and aggregation services such as Fring, Xumii, or Nimbuzz will come to the fore.
Despite the range of viewpoints, there is one certainty - the coming year will bring changes that will create a vastly different landscape by MWC 2009, as the inevitable shake out of failed models, market consolidation and even the odd unforeseen success unfolds. And while the innovative start-ups shuffle for position in a crowded market, lurking on the horizon are the big hitters of the internet social networking industry, together with mobile operators and handset vendors, who are each seeking their piece of what the industry hopes will be a lucrative pie.
Even with the erosion of the walled gardens of mobile content over the past year, operators remain integral to the mobile content industry, and the services they choose to integrate into their portals will inevitably shape the industry as a whole. The world's second largest operator, Vodafone, makes much of its support for Bebo, MySpace and Facebook in its advertising but perhaps more significantly it is building its own technology too, having bought Zyb for more than 30m euros earlier this year. It's a pattern followed by others in the industry -- 3 UK has seen conspiculous success with SeeMeTV, a kind of YouTube for mobile. Meanwhile, O2 is making a major push with its rebranded eyevibe suite of services, which is set to include chat and games as well as video. Indeed, both operators have partnered with Bauer group subsidiary YoSpace as the technology behind the service.
Meanwhile, fixed-line social networking giants MySpace, Bebo and Facebook have all launched m. extensions of their websites. With more than 90m active users internet users, Facebook remains the 800 pound gorilla, and their relationships with some 15 global operators means that their presence will continue to be felt in both off and on deck worlds. Despite the company's troubles, Yahoo! remains an innovative player, with oneConnect offering a messaging and community aggregation service, and much excitement being generated by the launch of Fireeagle, a location enabled service.
Handset vendors too are keen to retain brand equity with the younger audiences who use social networks. The world's largest handset vendor, Nokia, has been strategically morphing into a services-oriented company over the past two years, and has built social networking elements into its photo sharing platform MOSH, launched a synchronisation service Ovi, which promises to bring flickr and iTunes-like functionality to the mobile phone, and bought German social networking company Plazes. Meanwhile, the Apple Appstore promises to turn every iPhone purchased into a user's social networking hub, perhaps negating the need for fixed line or operator portal services at all.
While operators and handset vendors each seek to extend their reach, the question of openness remains central to the development of the industry. The ubiquitous Google, whose own foray into social networking has been limited to the somewhat 'under-the-radar' purchases of Orkut, Zingku and social messaging pioneer Dodgeball cannot be ignored. Perhaps the biggest question on the industry's lips is where Android fits into the picture. While the open OS is yet to take any kind of significant market share, the internet pioneer is sure to see the adoption of the platform on upcoming handsets such at the HTC 'Dream', as an opportunity to integrate some OpenSocial functionality into mobile. If Google's goal continues to be to provide information to its users via whatever medium they can access the internet then the Mountain View, CA, behemoth is sure to be a major player in the mobile social space.
Whatever the approach, the principal questions for all these players are, as always, monetisation and scale. The m. extensions of Facebook and others offer a huge ready-made community of potential mobile social networkers, while many of the aforementioned niche services will acquire what advertisers like to call 'premium' communities until they are bought or go bust. But if openness -- and not the walled garden -- remains the future of the sector then it is the adoption of the full internet on the mobile, through the Safari or Opera browsers for example, which may provide the greatest clarity to the eventual direction of the industry.
Tags: Mobile Social Networking
, Mobile World Congress
Posted by Ed Barker on September 9, 2008 at 9:46 AM
Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
Following almost two years of nothing but positive media coverage – from the outlandish predictions ahead of launch, to the army of live bloggers at 2007's Macworld, to the endless stream of rave reviews – the reputation of the ubiquitous iPhone has been tainted in recent weeks after a glitchy second coming. Yet despite this, and reports of his untimely passing last week, Steve Jobs has a new reason to be happy – the App Store.
The first iteration of the iPhone was a revelation. With its large screen and intuitive user interface, not to mention Apple's uncompromising pitch to network operators, the device turned the industry on its head. It placed the emphasis firmly on user experience, focussing consumer interest on the device, and the content it enabled, rather than the price of minutes and texts.
The release of the iPhone 3G in July 2008 was greeted with a similar fever pitch – queuing on Fifth Avenue for a week, anyone? But since then, it hasn't been the device itself that's made the ripples – it's been the App Store that came with it.
Indeed, considering its predecessor had achieved near sacred cow status, the iPhone 3G has already come up against its fair share of criticism. There's been the outages of new synch service, MobileMe, several mysterious firmware updates designed to fix unnamed bugs, and ongoing problems with 3G coverage – the cause of which, after much debate, seems to be the device's power control.
Meanwhile, the UK's Advertising Standards Agency banned an Apple TV ad last week, which claimed that "all the parts of the internet are on the iPhone", after two complainants pointed out that the device doesn't support Java nor Flash – rendering a vast swathe of the Web out of bounds.
The App Store is more than making up for the bad press, however, and already looks set to do for mobile content what iTunes did for digital music – bring it to the masses.
Coupled with the previously released iPhone SDK, the App Store heralds a shift in the balance of power between the three traditional stakeholders in the mobile content value chain – operators, handset manufacturers and developers. Where once the business of selling mobile applications, games or widgets was an uncertain one for the latter party – do you go direct to consumer or hope for the best on an operator portal? – the App Store has brought new clarity. And with it, consumers!
Since launch, 60m applications are said to have been downloaded, garnering around $30m in revenue, approximately 70% of which goes to developers themselves. In fact, the small games shop, Pangea Software, is estimated to have taken $1.2m for its puzzle download Enigmo in one weekend alone.
If imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, then it's no surprise that the wireless industry's biggest guns are lining up their App Store rivals. Nokia, of course, launched Ovi – its music and gaming portal – months ago. T-Mobile USA was the first carrier to announce that it would open up its deck in App Store fashion. And now Apple's largest rivals, Google and Microsoft, look set to roll out similar offerings for their mobile operating systems, known as Android Market and Skymarket respectively.
Even so, the App Store hasn't all been a bed of roses, with controversy over the I Am Rich application – a $999.99 download that places a glowing red gem on the iPhone's interface, which proclaims "I Am Rich"!
And recently, discussions amongst the MoMoLondon networking group have centred on a clause in the Apple Developer Agreement that bars Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) functionality from applications, so – if the leak is true – the company can include Skype-like functionality in an update of its Wi-Fi enabled iPod Touch and take it to new carriers, avoiding conflict with its existing exclusivity deals.
What lies ahead for the App Store and its competitive clones is an intriguing topic – and, no doubt, one that will be high on the agenda at Mobile World Congress 2009.
The success of iTunes, which dominates the digital music market with a 70% share, is due to the fact that the iPod quickly became the defacto device in an emerging market. Conversely, the iPhone is a new entrant in an established market and will remain a niche device for some time yet, leaving the playing field for mobile apps wide open.
But what is clear is that as rivals adopt the App Store paradigm and "iPhone killer" devices become cooler, the way we use mobile handsets will fundamentally change. Much like Nintendo's DS and Wii have created hoards of "casual gamers", ease of use and the new-found ability to discover compelling content, will make mobile applications the preserve of the everyday consumer, not just that of the archetypal mobile geek.
Tags: Android Market
, App Store
, Mobile World Congress
Posted by Luke Nava on September 2, 2008 at 5:24 PM
Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)
A week from today, I will be the featured speaker on a national PRSA Teleseminar "Winning Over the Executive Suite: A practical guide to social media campaigns" on September 9 at 3:00 p.m. ET.
I will address how to convince the C-level suite to surrender some control and begin to engage social media. This teleseminar will provide concrete recommendations and case studies highlighting practical initiatives any company can implement to begin to engage social media and secure executive buy-in.
Participants will learn:
- Seven tips for securing buy-in from senior management. (Note: I actually give more)
- The five most common pitfalls companies make when first starting to engage social media.
- Suggestions and recommendations for effective, quantifiable ways to begin conversational public relations.
- Real world examples of the good, the bad and the ugly.
There is still time to register here. I have been told my presentation is a must listen event. Even if you can't make it to the call, PRSA is keeping it archived for two weeks.
I will also be speaking on September 11 at the PRSA Northeast District Conference on the topic of Social Media ethics. If you are near Buffalo, it is shaping up to be a great full-day conference, and I hope to see many people there.
, social media
Posted by Mark McClennan on at 4:50 PM
Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)