On Multitasking, Integrated Social Accounts, and the Future

I know, a very heady and timely topic for someone that posts as infrequently as I do. I've been a little pre-occupied with my Twitter steam and ignoring this blog, but hopefully that will change and I'll be back to some semblance of weekly posting again soon. Anyway...

In the past few weeks there have been two big mobile OS announcements, and both of them have featured (at least publicly) the same thing.  Both Apple's new OS4 and RIM's new Blackberry 6 feature touch-interface based multitasking as well as integrated social networking accounts. Of course there were other things in Steve Jobs' 7 pillars and BB seems to be focusing on appealing to a younger demographic, but as far as consumers are concerned, multitasking and social integration are the big steps forward.

Those of you that follow me on Twitter (or have just glanced at the stream on the right) no doubt know about my feelings on these "innovations" from Apple and RIM. Simply put, Android has been doing multitasking out of the gate and Motorola has this great little UI called Motoblur that does an amazing job of social integration. I won't go into depth here about those two, other than to say that I love my Cliq XT simply because it handles both multitasking and integration so well, and all this before the Android 2.1 upgrade scheduled for this quarter!

What I'd really like to note here is that the adoption of these features by Apple and RIM (in addition to the Facebook announcements from F8 last week) should mean great things for the inter-connectivity of the web. The thing that I love about the integrated social accounts on the Cliq XT is that it allows me to have a true snapshot of my life. If you looked at my old phone, you would assume that I'm a recluse that orders a whole lot of take-out (nearly 30% of my phone book was dedicated to delivery joints in my neighborhood). Now when I look at my phone I see all of my work and personal contacts with an option on how to contact those that blur the boundaries.

Allowing people to feel connected (and indeed reflected) by their hardware will, in the long term provide a greater incentive for sharing and web usage, which is exactly what applications (like Facebook and Twitter) and cloud-based services like Google and now Microsoft want. This is also crucial information for marketers and advertisers to keep in mind.

Both the mobile and social spaces will continue to expand exponentially in the next 2-3 years (I include tablets in the mix here, since I see them more as mobile computing devices than a replacement for the desktop). Mobile gaming and location-based services should be in the front of mind when looking to emerging and new technology. Same with QR and AR, especially if Motorola continues to move forward in 3D tech for mobiles.

These are just a few suggestions for people and agencies to keep in mind when it comes to the utilization of next gen tech. What you do with it is of course entirely up to you.

Consumers don't even trust consumers anymore

Very interesting article from AdAge today on the results of Edelman's recently released Trust Barometer. According to Edelman consumer trust has dropped significantly in the 2009, with trust among friends and peers falling from 45% in 2008 to 25% in 2009. When asked about a "person like yourself", namely a blogger, or average people in testemonials, the percentages from from 45% to 39%. Interestingly though, consumer trust in CEO's had a year over year increase from 17 - 26%.

According to AdAge, "People have caught on to the fact marketers are increasingly behind that influential blog post or tweet. Despite regulations regarding disclosure of marketer-driven efforts, consumers may feel that whatever it is these people are receiving from companies positively influences their endorsements."

What does this mean to those of us who use digital media as a marketing communications tool? Has our field gotten the better of us where we are no longer able to rely on WOM from bloggers?

Perhaps one solution to this situation is to pull an idea from "The Great Schlep", the highly successful social media campaign starring Sara Silverman, and look instead to target those who influence our decision makers. \

WOM continues to be a strong tool, but it is necessary for marketers to remain nimble when crafting a campaign and look to not only the end consumer, but also to those who influence that consumer. Look to the children, grandchildren, co-workers, etc... as an additional tool for reaching your demographic.

Most importantly, be honest with your consumers. In this day and age if there is something that can come out and bite you it will.Toyota found that out the hard way, learn from their mistakes.

Establish trust on all levels and you'll be building the foundation for generations of brand loyal consumers.

Adidas takes a turn on the AR bandwagon

Augmented Reality Turns Shoes Into Game Controllers I'll give serious credit to Adidas for embracing the technology and including AR codes on the tongue of a new line of footwear, but somebody really dropped the ball here, or at least wasn't thinking things through.  How many people are going to want to use a shoe that's been on the ground, subway or the candy/popcorn/soda soaked floor of a movie theater as a game controller?

Perhaps a better option for Adidas would have been to sew two AR tags to the cuffs of a sweater, long-sleeved T, or jacket.  Then have the AR code access a series of games that would tie in with Adidas' various markets.  Have a choice of a Need for Speed: Underground style game for youth, a boxing game to target their boxing/mma demographic and perhaps even tie in with Chevy with a Dale Jr. Nascar driving simulation.

It's not just about embracing the technology and showing that you're "young" and "hip".  The technology should be used to reinforce existing brand identity.

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Is Yelp Growing Up?

Coming hot on the launch of a new check-in function on it's iPhone app, neighborhood ratings giant Yelp is looking to attract private investment in a plan similar to Facebook and Google's past pre-IPO dutch auction style funding cycle. Given that Yelp's new service fared well in Mashable's latest Face-Off, coming in second to segment leader Foursquare (which has been in the news quite a bit in recent weeks), does this mean that a more Professional Yelp is in the works?

New York Times Website May Charge: Will You Pay? [Mashable POLL]

Really NYT?  Are we really doing this again? People are not only accustomed to free news content, they expect it.  Unless you have a very defined niche (see WSJ) pay for news doesn't work.  Any news organization that will be competing with the NYTimes will see an instant increase in online readership when/if the NYT goes forward with a pay plan. I understand that the revenue from online ad sales do and will not make up for the loss of revenue from traditional print advertising.  Print publications need to look towards the expanding possibilities presented by e-readers.  CES this year featured a nearly endless supply of new readers from traditional emerging tech companies such as Aesus to entrenched traditional companies such as Barnes and Noble (with an new/update to the Nook).

People expect for the news to be free, that's not about to change.  However, people are willing to pay for a service that will make accessing that news easier.  A news outlet would be able to charge individuals to have items constantly updated on a reader, especially if it has the opportunity to present itself in a traditional format.

New York Times Website May Charge: Will You Pay? [POLL]

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B&N does it right

Well, Barnes and Noble has officially released it's new e-book reader, The Nook, and it looks like they're the first to really grab a hold of all of the facets of book ownership. In addition to an attractive pricepoint ($259 usd), it includes integrated 3g and wifi (although the 3g is from ATT, not my personal favorite T-Mobile). But really, as far as I'm concerned the real innovation here, the real reason that this particular reader is noteworthy in an increasingly flooded market is the ability for peer-to-peer book sharing. And the best part is that the sharing is irrespective of device: You can share nook to nook, but it doesn't stop there. Using the new Barnes & Noble LendMe™ technology... you will be able to lend to and from any iPhone™, iPod touch®, BlackBerry®, PC, or Mac®, with the free Barnes and Noble eReader software downloaded on it. - via BN.com

Finally, the missing link in readers, the social aspect of reading (well at least until flexible OLED becomes a consumer reality, then we'll get to the really fun stuff). And B&N will do well to continue marketing the Nook based on that social element. Book sharing is a time honored tradition in most families and social circles. The Nook makes it even better, since the book is automatically "returned" when the 14 days are up. No more bothering your 80 year old aunt Mildred for that copy of Anna Karenina you loaned her 4 years ago.

Combined with the ability to scribble notes in the margins, there is little left to distinguish ebooks from their traditional counterparts (that being said, I'll always enjoy reading a physical book).

Good job B&N.  This should be good.

Netbooks, MID's, and the future of the mobile internet

Not too long ago, the mobile internet was a poorly rendered WAP version of the real deal. This didn't bother me too much, as I still remember AOL on a 386. But for those who don't remember the mid 90's and the glory of being able to click a link then go make a sandwich and pour yourself a glass of iced tea before making your way back to the computer to find your new page still loading, this was a major problem. Laptops are fine and dandy, but really that's still a fairly sizable machine you're hauling around, not ideal for web surfing/portable email/applications. With the move to smartphones came a move to a proper internet, or at least a scaled version of the internet. Now, we finally have real browsers that allow for a decent internet viewing on BlackBerry, iPhone, HTC and other cell phones. But all, and I mean all, of those solutions don't really give you the full internet. Pages are rendered properly of course, but most are scaled down to a smaller resolution to fit on the smaller screen. Netbooks and MID's solve that problem. Both are portable (obviously MID's are more portable than netbooks) and both allow for a full resolution webpage to be viewed. This becomes important in the world of social networking as it allows us to become entrenched in the process of managing our online personas. What exactly do I mean by that? As we get to the point that technology allows for a universal internet, with things looing the same and with the user experience, the more fluid our actions on social networking sites will become. This will result in the experience becoming more finely ingrained in our daily life. After all, it wasn't too long ago that you couldn't check your email on the beach at all.

Hyperlocal News? As long as it's professional.

CNN.com has a wonderful piece on the emergence of "hyperlocal" news organizations. Thinking about the rise of focused, local news organizations certainly makes me happy, much like thinking about the farmers market at Grand Army Plaza makes me hungry. Certainly this can be a great boon to not only local news outlets (which, lets be honest, need it), but also to general knowledge around the world. The advent of wiki's and truly mobile computing (Blackberry, iPhone, etc...) has turned everyone into a expert on everything. Many years ago when I was graduating from high school my guidance council had some trouble giving me a good recommendation for college because I was a "renaissance man" in his mind. I knew a lot about a whole lot of things, but I had no real advantage in any field. Wiki's have compunded this problem into an international issue, with a general knowledge of almost everything made available at the push of a button (at a recent night out we used Wikipedia to remember the villains from several Hanna Barbera cartoons). Of course the problem with this knowledge is that it's never completely trustworthy. Wikipedia and the like can be edited by anyone with internet access, and has been shown as a result to be easy to tamper with. History is certainly written by the winners, but facts are facts and should remain so. This is why it is still inadmissible to use a wiki as a source in a publishable paper of any kind.

So what exactly am I getting at here? While I'm excited about the possibility of an increase in hyperlocal news organizations such as chitowndailynews.org Id' like to echo the sentiments of Jane McDonnell, the executive director of the Online News Association. "...there's less journalistic oversight over what is being disseminated and distributed and created." So basically news outlets will turn into wiki's. This is the danger that these hyperlocal outlets create. Journalists go through school and training to prevent (or at least try to) the distribution of un-sourced, unreliable news. My greatest fear is that these organizations will reduce newspapers to wiki's (and who will kids quote in school papers then?).

Personally, I like aggregators like Everyblock. Sourcing established news outlets (both local and national) as well as government agencies (again, both local and national), seems to be the best and most reliable way to generate hyperlocal news. Of course that's just what I think. In the end, I fear, that this will be decided by money and if hyperlocal news organizations are the wave of the future, I can only hope that they are well staffed and well trained.

Digital Piracy or Missed Opportunities?

Today's NYTimes brings up an interesting problem facing the film industry that I had been meaning to talk about. An article titled Digital Pirates Winning Battle with Studios brings to light the challenge that at one time faced the music industry in the guise of Napster and other peer-to-peer services and is now being faced with by the film/television industry. While the music industry faltered by limiting access to digital content before allowing for legal options, the film and television industry is already making headway by posting content online (particularly television). Just look at NBC or ABC for good examples of how to share content with viewers. Or look at the tremendous job that Monty Pyton has done with posting free content on YouTube rather than pursuing expensive (and often pointless) litigation.

Digital piracy is going to happen. People are going to steal copies of movies and television programs no matter what the stuidos do, unless they stop making movies all together. So let's look at this in a fresh light. Why not take this opportunity to do some positive PR and ad some advertising revenue to the budget? Studios should provide BitTorrent sites with officially liscensed versions of their movies, but throw some advertising in before the movie. Moviegoers have obviously accepted this in the theater (just try going to a movie today without seeing an ad for Pepsi, or the National Guard), so why not extend the reach to the internet. Television studios are alredy doing this (see the above mentioned sites), and according to the article "Heroes" is being downloaded at an average of 5 million downloads per episode. So why not sell that ad space? True they can be skipped over, but the ads in the theater can be ignored and those on the DVD can be skipped completely in some instances.

It seems to me that this could be a great positive all around. Studios will see increase ad revenue and exposure, while basking in the glow of positive word of mouth. BitTorrent websites will be able to sleep at night and see increase viewership. Brands will get their message out to a new audience. And consumers will have another option for viewing.

Random thoughts on new techonologies

As new mobile communications technologies emerge, we're beginning to see the reality of real honest-to-god augmented reality (AR). Now I've never been one to go in for the VR/gamer version of AR. I'm more of an overlay/heads-up/constantly available encyclopedia kind of guy. Seeing the possibilities simply beginning to be explored with Google's Android platform and it's grab bag of GPS/accelerometers and other goodies of course brings one to think about the future of marketing and advertising. Previously sci-fi only visions of individually projected advertisements are beginning to become possible. If you can now identify landmarks and buildings via RFID tags and semantic visual searches, how long can it possibly be before there's a Pepsi advertisement plastered at the bottom of your cell? And is that really such a bad thing? From a marketing viewpoint it would be possible to truly target/segment your audience. Already in Asia and Europe purchases can be made through a cell phone via RFID, why is it improbable that you phone can/will/does store your purchase information and use that as a filter for your new AR advertisements? This would conceivably allow companies/organizations to develop even stronger engagement with their customers, even if this means seeing a Slurm ad while touring the Vatican.

SNS, kind of

NYTimes has implemented a new "service" called TimesPeople.  Not really much to see right now, but apparently you'll be allowed to "follow" readers and see what your friends are reading.  

This, to me, seems to be even more of a harbinger of saturation than the infant SNS.  Think about it this way...
There's already several ways to accomplish this end.  Hell, NYTimes itself allows you to send to individuals and post pages to Facebook, Digg, Delicious, etc...  I'm not convinced that this new application fills a need.  And I know, we've reached the point that people are now looking at applications replacing applications in the user sphere, but this NYTimes application should have a higher usability built in to it.  You can update from your e-mail server, but what about having a built in/automatic suggestion based on the entry page?  At the very least NYTimes should actually be set to initally import your "friends" based on past usage.  After all, the application is introduced to Times members, we wouldn't be too surprised to see that NYTimes has been doing some data mining now would we.

New SNS

Well it's probably about time, no? NYTimes has run a trend piece on SNS for newborns. Twittering before learning that your feet are attached to your body, if you will. Personally, I'm of the belief that kids should be involved in online networking (of course offline networking should come first). But in this instance, could it be damaging for the children to grow up later and see what their parents have said in their own voice.

""It does feel a little funny to personalize it in his voice and be connecting to other babies as him,” said Kristin Chase, 29, Cameron’s mother, who updates his page at least every other day." Indeed.

CIA's A Space Social Network

So, the ODNI is ready to launch A Space, a Facebook-like social networking site for Intelligence Analysts. It seems like a good idea on the surface. Use crowd psychology and an open network (obviously only open to those with proper clearance) to help integrate the dozen or so US intelligence networks. The only problem (other than the fact that every anarchist hacker alive will now have a giant bulls-eye on the network) is that the agency is planning on tracking usage of the network to determine that none of the users are double agents.

"We're building [a] mechanism to alert that behavior. We call that, for lack of a better term, the MasterCard, where someone is using their credit card in a way they've never used it before, and it alerts so that maybe that credit card has been stolen," Wertheimer said. "Same thing here. We're going to actually do patterns on the way people use A-Space." - see the CNN source

Note to the agency...you're doing it wrong. The reason that networks like Facebook and LinkedIn work so well for distributing information is that their users have at least the impression of freedom. While it's true that FB recently had a coding problem that had people thinking that they were tracking users, they've never come out and declared that as their intent. In fact, the official party line from FB is that the glitch didn't reveal the usage information at all. By telling their agents (who are undoubtedly used to feeling followed and tracked as only a intelligence analyst can) that their usage of the site is going to be tracked and analyzed the agency is prematurely limiting the effectiveness of what could be a very valuable tool.

Hasbro vs. Scrabulous

Well, what I never thought would happen has happened. Scrabble manufacturer Hasbro has sued the creators of the Facebook application Scrabulous for intellectual property infringement. They've also asked Facebook to remove the application. This of course follows the creation and release of a Scrabble application on Facebook by Hasbro.

This brings up a number of very touchy subjects, mainly those of IP and free/bad publicity. It's been pretty obvious from the beginning that Scrabulous was a bootlegged version of Scrabble designed for Facebook. Even the most ardent fan can attest to that. But the question is, has Hasbro shot itself in the foot with this lawsuit? Internet groupies can be pretty petty, and can hold a grudge for a long, long time. While Scrabulous has nearly 500,000 registered users Hasbros new app (created by EA) has less than 10,000. And to be honest I'd be surprised if it grows past that. Hasbro came late to the party and then kicked out its competition. I'd personally like to see Hasbros sales data over the past 12 months. I'd bet that Scrabulous has served as pretty nice free PR for Scrabble sales. Hasbro might have avoided some serious bad sentiment by simply partnering with the Agarwalla brothers and let them continue to provide this service to them.

Long time, no post

So it's been quite some time since I've posted anything here. I figured that I should post an update.

The reason there has been precious little movement on this blog is that I have a new job. I am now the Internet Communications Associate at the Actors Fund. I've been working there since April, focusing on increasing the viewership of the Actors Fund website through strategic use of existing social networking services. So yes, I'm officially one of the few people in this country that is doing what they went to school for. Crazy. Things are going well and we're in the process of going live with a new e-commerce section of the website, all new territory for me, but fun nonetheless. And viewership is up, ~10% since I came on in April, although the most exciting news is that average and median visit duration is up (10.47% and 48.39% respectively) in only three months and following a dip of 4.97% and 21.19% in the previous three months.

So I'm happy, healthy and pretty tired. But it's worth it.

Google, Networking or Data Mining?

Google seems to be considering another venture into the social networking world (see NYTimes blog). From the looks of it, they might be missing the boat though. Social networking needs to be a collaborative effort on the behalf of users. User created content is the backbone of these networks and Google is going over the heads of its users and creating these connections for its advertisers without user input.

Facebook drops in the UK

The Guardian is reporting that in the UK Facebook has posted it's first loss of users (article), down 5% from December 2007 to January 2008. While certainly not a sign of the end of days for online social networking, it will be interesting to see what Facebook's response will be. Why were the nearly 400,000 members lost? MySpace and Bebo also posted user losses, but Facebook was hot on a 17 month spree gaining 712% in the previous 12 months. Could a push from more specific networking sites undermine the dominance that Facebook currently enjoys?

First Post - About me

Well, the first post is often the hardest to do, so don't expect too much:

I am a two-time graduate of New York University (B.S. 2002, M.A. 2007) and an alumnus of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts (2003). While in graduate school I developed an interest in online social networking, which led into a thesis project looking at the effects of these networking sites on existing offline networks and relationships. This work led to the development of a very important project for me, Project Bike. To date we have raised over $7000 for various cancer related charities including the Youngs Survival Coalition and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I have been utilizing social networking services and social media to raise money for non-profit organizations for 5 years, and I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoy what I do.

Aside from education and work I live in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn with my wonderful wife Beth and our cat Toby. My family has been in the New York metro area since the 1920's, so I think it's safe to say I'll be here for a while.

Well, it's not much but it's a start. In the future I will be posting opinions of new media communications tools and online social networking. But for now, I think I'll end before I regret it.

-Daniel