Tag: mobile video

Empowered Media, Mobile and why @mashable is Wrong

Mashable founder & CEO Peter Cashmore (who I hugely respect) declared in his recent CNN column the death of privacy and has also found the culprit, i.e he spotted

social media hold the smoking gun.

With all due respect, this could not be further from the truth (although, to be fair to him, he really only used it as an opener).

The term “social media” is self-referential and, hence, pretty meaningless.

The term “social”

refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence.

Media is the plural of medium, which means

something intermediate in nature or degree.

Therefore, media in the context of communication is – by definition – a tool (sic!), which connects one (human) being (also kown as the publisher) with another (also known as the user, recipient, reader, consumer, …). When “media happens”, one therefore looks at (at least) two (human) organisms interacting, which is – again by definition – social behaviour. QED.

Thou shalst not blame a tool.

To “blame” social media is akin to blaming a shotgun for dead people (and a regular reply to the latter argument would bear “interesting” implications on the former indeed, namely result in advocacy for censorship!).

When Peter Cashmore claims that social media was to blame for the loss of privacy, what he really means is that the (relatively) new tools interactive media provides users with and – maybe even more importantly – the cost of these tools (or rather the lack thereof) has led to an explosion of “publishing” activity by every man (and – PC calling – woman) and his/her dog. The published opinions of all these men and their dogs lead to the creation of something like a “meta-opinion” (which need not always be true of course: cf. the example of billions of flies eating excrements).

The core of it then is people (and lots of them) grouping their proverbial voices to create a storm. This has often been seen and some stories like the one of the Stolen Sidekick have made history. Was Sasha’s (the girl who stole the Sidekick) reputation killed by Evan’s (the guy who published the story) website? What did it then? The server? A script? Some lines of HTML code? Hardly. What it did was the overwhelming response of the public (all those men and their dogs) reacting to something Sasha (the person) had done (stole the Sidekick). And – just as a reminder – stealing something is bad!

The Tube to The Power of Mobile or: the Rise and Fall of Ian

A more recent example concerned a (now unemployed) fellow named Ian. He is a guy who appears to have a problem with anger management. Unfortunately, he worked in a customer-facing job, namely on the tube platforms in London. He lost it and had a “little” rant at a passenger (“I’ll sling you under a train”). Happens every day. BUT: it should NOT happen. Not every day, not any day!

This time, something was different, namely there was a guy standing next to him who filmed it on his mobile. He then posted this to YouTube, blogged it, twittered about it and, soon after, it was on the front pages of newspapers, online and on TV. Ian never saw it coming. Admittedly, he was particularly unfortunate that the guy filming happened to be Jonathan MacDonald, one of the more prolific and knowledgeable “social media” gurus. Suffice to say that Jonathan has a good handle on how to get word out.

Reactions to this (as well as to the Sidekick story before) were wild and (sometimes) violent, in all directions. One common outcry was the one of “trial by social media“. Hang on. What did Jonathan do? He used YouTube (which is open to everyone, including Ian), he used a blog (dito), he twittered (dito). Via Google (or any number of other tools), everyone can get the Twitter handles of newspaper editors, TV news anchors and everyone else in the “professional” media in minutes (Ian, too). A trial is one where one side (the prosecutor) prosecutes and the other side (the defendant) defends. The person that decides, however, is the judge (and/or the jury depending in which country you live).

Therefore, even if one would slap the nasty tag of “prosecutor” on Jonathan, he still was only a little piece of this. And he was NOT the judge! If there was a “trial” by any media, one could/might/wish to look at the “professional” media who picked it up although I understand that they actually have been speaking to Jonathan but also tried to get word from TfL (the tube operator) and Ian. No reply, it seems. Which is whose fault precisely?

He could have responded. TfL could actually have used this publicity to turn it around: Ian has apologised (now), TfL could have shown that they do not tolerate this AND that they are constructively tackling issues when they know of them. Jonathan even offered his collaboration in that. Alas, all London mayor Boris Johnson had to say was that he was “apalled by the video”. He did it on Twitter, mind you. How very 21st century. The tool maybe, the reaction not.

Don’t Be Evil

Google’s famous motto “Don’t Be Evil” was first smiled at as being “quaint”, then hailed as revolutionary and then queried in the face of the company “balancing” acts e.g. with a view to their self-censorship in China).

As a general motto, however, this is what is at the very heart of society. It is the motto we are all (hopefully) being brought up with. Don’t do wrong. It is, I would pose, a fairly broadly supported smallest common denominator of society.

Back in the olden days, a true gentleman would be good for his word. He would stand up in the face of evil and would defend the poor and defenceless. Honourable. And men had to be responsible for their own actions and inactions. At its core, it is all about this:

Self-responsibility is the ability to respond yourself.

Then it all went South (or so said my late grandma).

Empowered Media

Grandma would be delighted though: for we are now in a position again where the straight-forward “man and his word” (and indeed woman, too) can be re-ignited. And the driver (or, in Peter Cashmore’s words, smoking gun) is a variety of newly empowered media.

Empowered media describes the causes and effects of what we are witnessing much better than “social”: digital media become empowered by the tools (devices, software, etc.) that can be deployed to help communication – of fact and opinion – from people to people. Period.

Distinct to the ancient past of newspapers, the number of people able to “publish” has vastly increased because the costs of doing so has decreased to virtually zero. The same is true for the receiving end (which can instantly also turn into a publishing side itself). Very powerful. Also a little intimidating maybe. Well, at least if you have a problem with anger management or need otherwise a broad shoulder to hide behind.

That broad shoulder, the “excuse” by reference to some foggy higher-ups, gods in the clouds, “superiors”, etc is being removed by the ability to record and report fairly accurate accounts of actions and inactions of basically everyone. It empowers everyone (including Ian) to respond: we just re-gained the ability to respond ourselves.

Mobile is the Most Empowered

Mobile is the most powerful tool in the armoury of digital media: it is with you at all times. It is switched on at all times. It is connected at all times (well, the new generation is anyway). It can record audio and video. It can transmit audio, video and text. And it’s yours, and yours alone. And whilst it is so personal, it opens a gateway to potentially 6bn people. That’s a lot of power.

And it’s in your hand!

AR: the next acronym to watch out for?

AR GameAR stands for Augmented Reality and it is one of the dreams of game developers: merge the virtual and real worlds in a game and explore new horizons. This has been a pretty futuristic feature until recently: shown off at trade shows but never really seeing the (commercial) limelight. And even in the brave new world of the iPhone, it doesn’t fly – yet.

A dozen or so AR game developers have now launched an initiative to make Apple allow them to manipulate live video feeds (which they need to in order to run their games). The respective API is currently missing (developers are not allowed to use private APIs under Apple’s publishing guidelines). They threaten to otherwise go to Android. Hmm…

So far, AR games are few and far between and they haven’t really left the scholarly confines of Georgia Tech and other ivory towers, simply because there is no market for them as yet. Many people place their faith for the next big thing in mobile gaming on AR but because the necessary parameters (video feeds eat lots of bandwidth) have not been met, they cannot really capitalize on their wares. Go here for a good overview of the status quo (featuring the Georgia Tech apps and others).

So, is it there yet? I’d like it to but I doubt it: it is not only Apple but – possibly more importantly – the carriers: what do they have to gain if a few people consume a disproportionately high amount of bandwidth to play their games? Very little under the current costing framework of the industry. Little short-term chances I would therefore say… A pity that!

Orange UK: Mobile Broadband Roars!

Orange UK, one of the large carriers in the country with 15.8m mobile subscribers, has released its “Fifth Digital Media Index”, containing a set of interesting numbers on the data uptake on their network, and it makes for intriguing reading!

The carrier recorded a whopping 4,125% (!) increase in data use over dongles using their mobile network in the last 12 months with dongle subscriptions growing by 504%. Data use from handset increased by 108% and that, I might add, without the help of the iPhone (which is exclusive to O2 in the UK). The increase from dongles will be connected to a big push this offering has seen in the UK (as in other countries) over the past period. Carriers have been and are promoting these aggressively, helping uptake of mobile broadband significantly.
Here are some highlights from the report:

  • Music and video downloads increased both by 38%.
  • Games only grew by 8% (but at least they grew; anecdotally, some other carriers recorded sometimes dramatic drops in take-up) to a total of 770,000 downloaded games, which equates to a market share of 23% of all UK games downloads (the total UK games market would hence be 3.35m downloads for the year with Orange claiming top spot). From the top 10 downloaded games in 2008, 8 were part of the carrier’s embed programme, which shows – again – that users appear more comfortable if they can try it out before (embedded games normally are trial versions).
  • Social network use over mobile increased by 129% in page impressions per month and 48% in unique users. The monthly average number of pages per user was 397. In terms of popularity of social networks, Orange’s Mark Watt-Jones (@MWJ) fed us additional bits via the Twittersphere: Facebook dominates, Bebo is significant, MySpace less so and Twitter grows very quickly (what was the Oprah moment in the UK?)
  • An average of 386,000 GB of data have been transferred via dongles and handsets per month.
  • Mobile search grew by 120% with 45% of the results being “off-portal”, i.e. outside Orange’s domains.
  • Good old SMS still looking good, too: 19% growth with 1.7bn sent every month.
Another key point Mark brought us via Twitter: 99% of access to social network sites came from non-smartphones. This is quite noteworthy indeed as it arguably shows that mobile data usage now transcends beyond the power users on sophisticated handsets and also that content leads the uptake: give people compelling content, and they’ll use it. Mobile data for the masses seems to have arrived!

Twistbox on the money

Twistbox has announced it has raised a healthy $19.5m from ValueAct Capital (rather secretive firm: you require a user name and password even for accessing the “overview” section of their site) and “other strategic investors”. It also announced that former Vodafone Global content supremo Graeme Ferguson has joined its board of directors.

Twistbox was the result of the acquisition of German developer Charismatix (authors of e.g. Anno 1701, Taito’s Arkanoid, etc) by (predominantly) mobile adult (which they call “late night”) content provider Waat Media from LA (who work with the likes of Private and Vivid)After a lot of buzz around them a while ago (and every year again at 3GSM when everyone gets gibberish over their licensees’ parties – no, no scantily-clad girls there worth mentioning, ever…), it had gone a bit quiet. The last we heard was a deal they signed with Fashion TV.

Presumably, the new money and director will get them out into the public eye a bit more again. According to the release, they plan to use the funds to launch web-to-mobile storefronts and play-for-prices games. They also want to push into advertising (but then, who doesn’t?).

We all suspect there’s money in this “late night” content but little has been seen to quantify the opportunity. Juniper said in 2005 it was $1bn. Forbes didn’t quantify in 2006. I have seen analysts who put the share of erotic games to 12% of the total mobile gaming sector, ranking them above racing and arcade games (7% and 5% respectively) but that’s somewhat unconfirmed. Moreover, video and pics will presumably be even hotter sellers – if and when they get through the varying publishing thresholds in the different countries (from PG13 in the US all the way to “behind-the-curtain” adult content in some European countries. An overview on various attempts to put a number to that market can be found here (courtesy of adult mobile pioneers, Cherrysauce).

As it will in general still be arguably safe to say that sex probably still sells, we might expect Twistbox to go on to further strengths. Just get your parties up a notch, guys… 😉

Finally, a note to all you dear readers: this post contains links to adult sites. Do NOT click if you are offended by adult content.

Crazy numbers: mobile marketing worth $19bn by 2011?

According to ABI Research, mobile marketing will be worth a staggering $11bn by 2011. Apparently, by the end of this year, it will already be a rather honourable $3bn market.

Now, I don’t have the means (or inclination) to buy the underlying report but at least they divulge that the amount is to include proceeds from mobile search and mobile video, and I suppose one could predict that, in 4 years time, there may well be more advanced devices that will actually make it fun and worthwhile to use them for more elaborate surfing and rich media consumption. Not very specific though. Other than some foggy reference to the wealth of data carriers sit on and “due in part to mobile broadcast networks’ presence in all major markets” (doh!), all the rest is apparently, well, apparent…

To me, it’s a whole lot crystal ball-type assumptions.

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