Monday, 26 July 2010

Google Set Top Box and Ethernet Port enabled TV Sets

The article "Hollywood: Google TV would put us on board big pirate ship" talks about the Google set top box and its issues with content piracy.

What's the fuzz all about? Some TV brands are already offering ethernet ports, and it's not going to be long until they can properly decode direct internet data.

I promise I'll start writing proper posts in this blog again someday.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Avatar - How to explain to your Gramma what the world has become

I've never been a big fan of Cameron, but there is something in Avatar which flirts with brilliance: the way he managed to include many of the current pop affairs disguised as metaphors in the movie storyline.

It's a lot easier now to explain to my folks (Dad is 77 now) how the internet works, and mostly, what collective intelligence is. I'll have surely to skip the part where he should hang a USB plug from the few silver hair remaining on his head, but apart from that, the big network Pandora is built upon is a beautiful analogy to the networked society we live in now a days.

On top of that, ecology is big on the flick, and Pandorians are truly tree huggers, bringing to the audience a not so subtle message of hey-we-should-stop-what-we-are-doing-and-save-the-world-now.

Cameron never hid the fact he is for the masses, and being so, the way the content is translated to the target is magnificent.

Make it beautiful and not so obvious. Pulverise a pop message with a little poetry. Your Gramma will eventually get it.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

BarCamp London 6

Last weekend was fully dedicated to geekiness.

I adventured myself into another BarCamp, this time, at The Guardian Headquarters, near Kings Cross station.

Nice view from inside the Guardian/Observer building

For those of you who don’t know, a BarCamp is defined as an unconference, in other words, you apply for tickets, then you show up, you host one of the sessions (if you feel like doing so), and then you hang around, meet nice people, learn a lot, eat good food, get some freebies, play games, go home and spread the word.

It was not my first BarCamp, as I presented a session on TV III Branding at the SocialMediaCamp 2008, organised by Vero Pepperrell , which was also fantastic.

BarCamp London 6 was organised by Emma Persky and friends, and it was the closest to what the ideal barcamp should be.

Our group (Euston) making the letter R

The crew innovated in many moments, such as calling the rooms by tube station names, or starting the first day with a collective Lego session. Our badges displayed a sticker in the back displaying one of the tube stations names. At the end of the introductory session we were told to meet in the room with the same station name shown in our badges. Once in the room (Euston), we were instructed to build a letter R with loads of Lego stored in a bucket, and at the same time, of course, socialise with other fellow participants. When all the groups submitted their collective master pieces we could see that all letters together spelled the word BARCAMP. Very ingenious. But the pinnacle of innovation, I’m afraid I have to say, was in the pies. Lovely Square Pies. That was surely a hit.

Our quasi-constructed R

BarCamp made of Legos (photo by Ade Oshineye)

This time, I noticed many more techie sessions then in other BarCamps I’ve been to. Anyway, you can always learn something new. But I’m particularly more interested in sessions covering market changes, user behaviour and new business breakthroughs. Perhaps for this reason, I enjoyed the Sunday sessions better.

On Saturday, one of the highlights was The Guardian’s Open API session, sharing with us an overview of the new Guardian’s API. This will certainly shake the structure of the British newspaper business. However, my favourite (probably because of its relevance to my area) was the session on URIPlay, by Chris Jackson. An open media metadata aggregator which seems to be the answer for some of the challenges I’ve being facing to accomplish my world domination plans. Not to mention Chris’ presentation was made with Unfortunately Prezi won’t give me a membership :( Bad for them, I’m an efficient bee.

One of the sessions on Saturday

I don’t remember the exact order, but these are the sessions I attended on Sunday:

1. How We the Internet Generation Are Changing the World by Ben Reyes
I really enjoyed myself watching a clash of generations in this open discussion about how the Y generation is so different (or not) from us (I passed the borderline, I suppose). It made me wonder why everybody in most of barcamps look 30ish, or at least around 25. Where are all the kids? Perhaps they are immerse in the new digital world, but are they really conscious of it? You know, like how fishes acknowledge water. Here are some books and a suggestions that came out of this session:

2. Lateral Thinking Innovation, BarCamps & Hats, by David Sharrock

Interesting session based on DeBono’s theories of Lateral Thinking and the method of The Six Thinking Hats.

3. More Profit in Less Time, by @proactivepaul

Paul is in accounting and gave us some of his insights on the improvement of business performance by keeping focus on getting cash, the system and on people. He also recalled some of Michael Gerber’s (author of E-myth) strategies about how to develop a system, delegate functions and replicate the model. Lastly he emphasises the motto “Keep on keeping on”, establishing perseverance as a crucial asset. Some reading he suggested:
4. How to Organise a BarCamp, by Emma Persky

I have plans to organise a BarCamp in Brazil, if I ever go back. So I decided to attend to this one where Emma answered all participants questions which basically revolved around attention to detail, time spent, money issues, nature of sessions and ticketing strategies. It seems to be a lot of work! But it definitely pays off (in satisfaction, not cash, apparently).

5. Gestalt Principles Using Knowledge from Cognitive Psychology into Design, by Daphne Haltas

Last session of the day. Daphne is a user experience researcher for Yahoo! The session was quite academic, but it raised so many questions and discussion that eventually we ran out of time. A nice lecture on Gestalt.

Who wants BarCampLondon 7 next week?

BarCamps are always a great experience. I’m looking forward to the SocialMediaCamp 2009, in the end of the month. I’ve already got my tickets (these too sold out in seconds) I’m planning to do a session, but it is quite unlikely I’ll get everything done by then. Fingers crossed.

For more info on barcamps:

More BCL6 in these Blogs:

I love Kittens
Tobias Huber
Sylwia Presley
The Hodge
Travel Innovation
Mirona Iliescu
Adam Cohen-Rose

Here is the Saturday Grid. (photo by Ade Oshineye)
And the Sunday Grid. (photo by Ade Oshineye)

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Monday, 12 January 2009

Top 3 Pitfalls of Cross-Platform Placement for TV Content (Brand Equity through Cross-Platform placement)

First post of the year. I’m back from a two week boiling hot-liday in Brazil, and I never thought I could actually miss the London weather. I just wasn’t expecting to come back to a near -10ºC.

As I’ve relatively procrastinated the explanation of the remaining elements in my TV III Branding Schematics in behalf of fresh comments on current digital affairs, I’ve decided it’s time to get back to focus.

The TV III Branding Schematics

From all the three TV III Branding constituents, I fully covered the first one (aggregation), and explained the first attribute of the second constituent (placement). So here I continue, now writing about brand equity through placement in TV III, more specifically about cross-platform strategy.

Attributes that have been covered in this blog are in yellow

So now that you are situated, let’s move forward.

All new american TV series have a website, most of them have a mobile presence, the edgy ones have an ARG to burst its launch and loyalty, of course, they have a soundtrack available on iTunes for download (now DRM-free and with variable price), popular ones have a book with big pictures and little text at Borders, perhaps a board game, or even characters available for interaction on twitter. This is the era of transmedia. Content crosses all platforms, be everywhere, the more the merrier. Well, not really. You’ve got to know how to do it. Properly.

Cross-platform placement is a natural necessity in times when the competition for audience attention extravasates the TV domain and viewers become users, sometimes players, diverging their eyeballs to social networks, video games and whatever media that attempts to rival the supremacy of the old rectangular screen.

1. Cross-platform is not a reduced version of the same thing

Having content spread in several platforms means new entry-points to the narrative of your show and to your channel brand. However, it shouldn’t be beneficial only to new audiences, it also must function as a retaining element for your current viewers. This is why content, when placed across platforms, shouldn’t be a mere reduction of the original programme, a simple version of the same thing. Prospective viewers should be lured to sample bits in a secondary platform and then converge to the main show (and to the main sponsors). For them, a minor version of the programme would probably work, but your retained audience needs something new, something else, something to put them in a circular motion so every time they feel inclined to leave they come across something fresh in the next platform, which adds new facts to what they already know, and sends them back to the main screening, and so forth and so on.

2. Cross-platform can damage your brand identity

The brand identity of your programme goes beyond its lettering, title, casting, characters or storyline. Brand identity resides in an overall aesthetic perception the audience has of your show. Aesthetic elements translate into shaky handheld cameras, dreamy foggy backgrounds, gradient illumination from dark to light areas, fast on screen movement in action scenes, open wide establishing shots, and any other recursive visual and style aid that sets the mood and the personality of a TV show. Not so coincidentally, the elements I’ve just cited couldn’t be more prohibitive when adapted to the small screen of other platforms, some due to digital compression issues, others because of the human limitations of our eyesight. A conversion nightmare.

The bottom line is: if you take a show with the elements I mentioned before, and adapt it to the mobile screen, it will look like rubbish. You’ll be able to notice compression squares in the image and won’t have a clue of what those tiny little actors were doing in that wide shot scene.

On the other hand, if you shoot a mobile version by eliminating the shaky cameras, the fog, the gradient light, the action scenes, and turn everything into a big close up, I’m sorry to inform you, but you’ve got yourself now a complete different show. You’ve lost many of aesthetic elements that constitute your brand identity in the mind of viewers. They might even not be able to articulate what made them to disliked it, but deep inside, unconsciously, they’ve noticed it. And if it’s not appealing, you break the circular motion. You lose your viewer.

It sounds like some sort of an impasse, I know. And this is why cross-platform placement should be planned ahead during production. My suggestion is, when possible, always choose redaction over reduction. It’s best to create new material of an existing content than to adapt it and risk to get your brand identity “lost in conversion”.

3. Cross-platform is not tossing content:

Grandmas often say: A place for everything and everything in its place.

You might be part of an incredibly vertically integrated media conglomerate. Even then, hold your urge to place content everywhere. Shelly Palmer presents a very simple categorisation of TV content according to each type of viewing and distribution life span on his book
Television Disrupted. I’ve contributed a bit with the list down here.

Emergent Content:
  • News, sports and live events.
  • Short shelf life.
  • Better for linear viewing.
  • Some might be suitable for reduction.

Evergreen Content:
  • Sitcoms, Movies, Dramatic Hours and Documentaries.
  • Long shelf life.
  • Perfect for on-demand.
  • Better redaction then reduction.

Disposable Content:
  • Talk-shows, service shows, infomercials.
  • Medium shelf life.
  • It is in the mid range of linear and on-demand.
  • Some are suitable for redaction, others for reduction. Common sense doesn’t exist, but the ones who have it are truly blessed.

In the following posts I’ll discuss other placement attributes such as intra-textual, intra-brand and extra-brand placement. The more we advance, the more these concepts overlap. Quite interesting.

Any other cross-platform pitfalls come to your mind?

Have you ever been driven to a TV show by a secondary media platform?

Do you consume extended content in other platforms?

Have a good week.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Us Now and Media Camp London 2008

I've been absent for a while (visitors in town), and on top of that I've spent some time doing research about the appropriation of TV brands, which eventually became a collaborative post in a friend's blog while he was on holidays (sorry, only in Portuguese, but you can give google translate a try), but which will soon be translated/adapted and posted in this very blog.

I've just come back from the great Prince Charles Cinema, which was holding an special screening this evening organised by NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts). The documentary is called Us Now - a film project about the power of mass collaboration, government and the internet, which was directed by Ivo Gormley. I won't go into a deep discussion about the movie here, but I'd like to say it's worth the hour spent.

The film revolves around a series of interviews, comments and case studies about how networked technology is changing humanity by supplying massive collaboration tools to almost everyone. From a football team managed online by its fans to new governmental systems ruled by a truly participative democracy, collaboration seems to be the most relevant buzz word in the years to come.

Particularly, I'm very interested in the subject. I even posted something about it here and here. And I'm quite sure I'll hear a lot about the subject this Saturday at the Media Camp London 2008. Unlike the previous bar camp (smclondon08) I attended, I won't be presenting this time. But I'll be tweeting like a maniac, and you can follow me at willprestes.

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Monday, 17 November 2008

White Spaces: New Intermediators in The Platform Era

White Spaces

On the 7th of this month I tweeted about the FCC’s approval of a conditional unlicensed use of the White Space television spectrum, asking followers what would they do with their own white space.

White spaces are unused parts of the TV airwave spectrum, usually kept that way to avoid transmission overlapping and interference. On 17th of February 2009, the US will stop broadcasting analog TV, becoming purely digital, which will free up even more electromagnetic frequencies.

White spaces have been referred to as “Wi-Fi on steroids” (not Asteroids, I know, Charlie), because it is possible to build a broadband connection that, contrary to wi-fi, has a more robust signal capable of crossing concrete walls and many of the obstacles that weaken wi-fi transmission.

Atari's Asteroids

Perhaps, Wi-Fi on “Asteroids” (a consequence of the mix of a momentary drunkenness and my Brazilian accent) refers to the unimaginable myriad of new options that White Spaces can bring to the networked society. At the moment, discussions and ideas spin around possibilities from bringing broadband to digitally unreachable rural areas to arranging the urban traffic system by collecting data from vehicles, meaning, your car slows down automatically when the one in front of you breaks. But this is less than a grain of sand in the desert compared to what’s about to come. This is big, and we still have no clue how huge this will be.

Here in this blog, I often mention the term TV III, which refers mostly to the radical changes in the distribution link of the media industry value chain. Disintermediation is the buzz word that’s been a constant character in the nightmares of many CEOs of broadcasting networks. Many media conglomerates rushed to acquire digital bridges to desperately fill the gap in the broken value chain, some with more success than others. Some companies spent millions in digital companies with no clue whatsoever of what to do with them. Others, cleverly used their new digital endeavours to expand the reach of their televised content, adapting programmes to become new touch points to the company’s branded confinements. Fewer of them even managed to create a participatory viewer culture creating a legion of fans around branded communities. But those who are most likely to win the TV III race are not the broadcasters, but the digital companies who saw beyond reach and found the gates of the Platform Era.

International Business Machines

In an older post I touched upon how I’ve been seeing the evolution of the computer industry and how, at its third stage, it blends completely with the media business.
First, there was The Hardware Era, when the machine was the holy grail. Faster machines, make them smaller, the dream of a personal computer (who would care to use one of this things? In the kitchen? Anyone?). The Hardware Era land was reigned over by kings like IBM and HP. And then the “hippies” joined the party, with their dreams of mass computing and interface metaphors, and thus the second era began: The Software Era. It doesn’t matter what machine it is, as long as gives me the tools I need. Bow to Bill Gates, Windows and Microsoft. And then the years progressed, the internet was born, a connected society started to rise, and all of a sudden, neither hardware, nor software really mattered anymore. Of course, we all heard about the “war of the browsers” that's still being fought, but whoever wins it it doesn’t matter much, as long as it works as a reliable gate to the platforms, the place where people can express themselves thorough user generated content and where companies can thrive their businesses. In the past we had an economic structure made of costumers, retailers and wholesalers. But in The Platform Era, platforms are the wholesale of the wholesalers. Platforms are the atmosphere where the whole digital business ecosystem breathes in. In the Platform Era, Google has been leading the way with successful experiments like Google Ad Words and YouTube.

There is always a bigger fish

The word disintermediation should be applied more carefully. Incumbent distribution gatekeepers have lost some of their power, but at the same time, a new category of intermediators has risen, and I say they are even more powerful then the old ones. I’m not anti-Google. I believe platforms are very effective artificial marketplaces. It is just that intermediation reached another level. Companies and individuals are now allowed to talk to the world and make business in ways never imagined. But frankly, this is not real freedom. It’s like that story of the fish that is unaware of the water. And on top of that, there is always a bigger fish.

So getting back to the White Spaces. The word is on the streets and it’s on the news: white spaces are destined for greater things. Things the internet failed to accomplished, such as the creation of a real uncontrolled environment, with no governmental or industrial ownership. Mobile phones that connect with each other directly without the use of operator companies, affordable broadband to everyone, the creation of free networks for education, and many other innovations to come.

Free competition, no control, disintermediation. A perfect scenario to implement a platform to bring all lose ends together. There is a reason why campaigns such as Free the Airwaves are sponsored by Google, and I bet you won’t find Newscorp Inc., or any other giant media conglomerate on the list of companies behind the Wireless Innovation Alliance, the coalition for companies behind the lobby for the unlocking of White Spaces.

Sponsored by the "don't do evil" Google

Whilst broadcasters frown upon the idea of a new massive competition, Google prepares the soil to seed a whole new land of search ads on browsers, android and whatever innovative tools they’ll come up with to support and spread the Google ads system.

Even if the White Spaces generate millions of new TV channels in a very long tail, Google is the most prepared enterprise to herd audiences to their content. As a platform, at the end of the day, Google could easily become The Matrix.

Apart from that, White Spaces still have a long way to go in terms of engineering and even ethics. Take for example how hard is to track some pedophiliac websites, and how harder it may get in the uncontrolled White Spaces.

At least we know that ARGs will find new cool places to hide their puzzle crumbs. New branded touch points for everyone.

Thursday, 30 October 2008

The Plus Ones (+1s) and Catch Up Services (Brand Equity through Non-Linear Placement in TV III)

So it’s about time to continue my evil theories about TV III Branding. After all, Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand have been seriously implicated for a rather funny prank call. The moral burden of the British public service. Who am I to say anything? I’ve just set foot in this country. What do I know?

But hey, let’s keep it going. In this post we get back to the TV III Branding schematics, aiming the big spotlight on Placement (= scheduling for the digital age).

For all these years scheduling has been about four things mostly:

  1. Compatibility: meaning, try to match your content to your target audience routine;
  2. Habit Formation: be consistent for long enough, and the audience will turn viewing into a habit;
  3. Control of Audience Flow: Depending on how you arrange your programmes, viewers tend to move from one show to the next, and so on;
  4. Conservation of Programme Resources: programming is scarce and expensive, so you juggle shows within the schedule to make the most of your content. This includes repeats, re-runs, special blocks, marathons, you name it.
And then, here it comes, the digital times. Viewers are now more like users, and they have a lot more independence. So what happens when scheduling becomes placement:

  1. Compatibility: as TV III viewers are free from the tyranny of schedules, consuming media as if they were in an all-you-can-eat buffet, we have to come up with cleverer compatibility tools than dayparts or demographics. We are talking consumer behaviour and automated referencing systems. We are talking about knowing less about people, and knowing more about their data traces. I reckon this has to do with Chris Anderson’s next next book (I mean, the one after the next one about Free). The one about causality vs. correlation.

  2. Habit Formation: I believe that for some people TV will always be a passive medium. That doesn’t mean programming will reach their TV sets the same way it’s done today. New compatibility tools will take care of it. And new habits will be created, individually and collectively, as one’s individual preferences are based on others with similar interests. But I want to talk about something simpler and completely contemporary: +1s and catch up services. Something I simply call non-linear placement.
Habit formation has been basically about time consistency. Viewers would embrace TV shows as part of their daily routines, and they knew that there was a certain place (channel) and time (slot) where the programme would be aired. The best example that I can think of are the three soap operas aired by the biggest Brazilian TV network Globo (and the fourth largest in the world). Globo hasn’t changed their evening schedule for over 30 years. The perception of Globo’s evening schedule in the Brazilian viewer’s mind is so solid that the schedule is as strong a brand as the soap opera’s title itself. Around the watercooler, Brazilians never ask work colleagues whether they saw "Soap Opera XYZ’s" last episode. They ask: “have you watched 8’s soap last night?” or “are you following 7’s soap?”. I’m not talking here about a mere practical definition of time as a reference for a show. When Brazilian’s refer to soap operas by their airing time, the reference is full of significance, just like any proper brand is filled with attributes.
Rede Globo's logo
Any Brazilian unconsciously knows that:

6’s Soaps
  • air around 6PM, and not 6 o’clock sharp.
  • often have historic themes;
  • or a light and romantic narrative;

7’s Soaps…
  • air around 7:30, and not 7 o’clock sharp.
  • are contemporary;
  • have a more comedic edge;

8’s Soaps…
  • air around 9PM (although, people still calls it “8’s soap”), and everybody knows it airs after the national news.
  • have often a polemic nature;
  • often portrait characters from minority groups in society;
  • often shows demographic extremes: rich and poor living in the same diegetic world;
  • have higher ratings and hence bigger sponsors.
Now, don’t be surprised if you hear a Brazilian saying he or she will catch up the 8’s soap on VOD. Even if it’s Sunday, 11AM. That is the power of a brand built upon habit formation, driven by consistent scheduling.

Particularly, I believe that, contrary to scheduling, which is about time consistency, placement is about consistent flexibility.

Consistent flexibility sounds a little paradoxical, I know. I’ll try to illustrate it with a very British example: BBC iPlayer.

BBC iPlayer

I like to watch Jonathan Ross on BBC 1. I know it airs on Friday’s around 10 and 11PM. I’m not completely addicted to the show, so I don’t go that far to set alarms to remind me. And even if I was, I have a life, so there is a big chance I could never make it home on time. In the past, If I happened to miss my appointment with Jonathan Ross I’d be brand punished. The Jonathan Ross’ brand (don’t confuse it with Russel Brand, he is another Brand, and another brand as well) will beat me with a dead cat saying: You fool, you missed my show. Now you won’t be able to share all the funny jokes I made on the show with your friends”. So this is what I call brand punishment. Viewers were punished for missing their appointment. Sometimes, they’ll get so frustrated, they wouldn’t even bother following the show anymore. The less episodic the show is, the more likely it is for viewers to abandon it, in a situation like this.

However, in modern times, BBC is consistently flexible, so viewers know that even if they miss the show, the brand will spare the spanking, and instead, unroll the red carpet leading the way to BBC iPlayer, where they can catch up with the show at anytime (as long as they watch within a week). Viewers know they can ALWAYS do that, so they value flexibility, because it is consistent. And as they now know they can always go and catch up, a new habit is formed.
Channel 4 has even something special for those without broadband, and who missed their show by a bit. Their E4 channel has an one-hour time shifted twin named E4+1. So if viewers missed the beginning of a show, they can tune in E4+1 and watch it from the start. When viewers acknowledge the consistency, they value the flexibility, and incorporate the habit.

E4's ident

The wonders of non-linear placement bring major benefits for TV networks. I was talking the other day with a friend of mine who works with content distribution, H.K.. I was really curious to understand how the +1s deals are closed. Do channels pay distributors more for the extra broadcasting? Do sponsors pay double for their ads in the time-shifted channel? It seems that each case is a different case, but at the end of the day, the networks are having a ball. The bottom line seems to be pretty much like this: TV Networks acquire rights from distributors and the +1s airing is included in the package at no extra cost. TV Networks claim ad revenue has come down due to audience fragmentation, and negotiate with distributors for extra repeats (+1s included). On the other end, TV Networks charge advertisers for every slot, as if +1s were different channels. And they add up the audience of both channels to make total ratings.

Conclusion: +1s are a hell of a good business for TV networks.

3. Control of the Audience Flow: Obviously, linear scheduling techniques are no longer good enough to herd viewers through shows. We’ll talk more about TV III flow strategies in future posts.

4. Conservation of Programme Resources: The ubiquity of content sort of contradicts this postulate. But there is a reason why BBC iPlayer content is only available for one week. Release windows have been drastically reduced, but they still exist. So conserving your programme resources still is a good practice.

Have details of other +1s deals to share?
Please let me know.
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