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June 2012

Liveblogging and Morse Code In The Livestreaming Era

Io live  Liveblogs are fantastically artificial experiences.  In an era of live, streaming video there is little reason to experience a live event through periodic pictures and text updates.  Who would read a printed news ticker when there is Twitter and CNN?  Who would send a telegram via morse code when there is Facebook?  Why shouldn't Google livestream Google IO?  Aren't Microsoft and Apple absurd for not livestreaming their recent press events?  Wouldn't a live audience bring greater attention and interactivity to an event?  Maybe.  

Maybe not.

Liveblogs are an artificial sweetener that makes press events oh-so-much-fun.  Liveblogs create an air of exclusivity for attendees, as only the most coveted are invited to attend.  Liveblogs provide the tech media with an exclusive experience, an owned experienced that the tech faithful gather around like kids in a candy store.  And when the tech media's audiences flock to these liveblogs, the PR team wins.  

Liveblogs provide the audience with bits of information, small snippets of text and hastily composed pictures that leave the audience salivating for more, watching the screen for the refresh and scrolling down to try to finish reading the last sentence while the new one takes its place.  Liveblogs provide very raw initial editorial reactions alongside tiny bits of news.  Videos are reduced to pictures and eloquent speeches to sound bites.  Liveblogs are morse code.  Liveblogs are the "It is high, it's far, it's is........ Out Of Here!" for the tech world.

And liveblogs lose all of their appeal when there is a live video feed available.  

Liveblogs are part of the tech culture.  They have defined many press event experiences for the faithful who want nothing more than to attend in person or dream of a video feed.  But by providing that video feed.  The artificial limitations imposed on the event enhance the event experience.

Is Google making a mistake by livestreaming instead of withholding and thereby prompting liveblogging?  

I don't think so.  Eventually the liveblog will go the way of the telegraph.  And as much as we love it today, I'm not sure we're going to miss it when it goes. 




A Dose Of Strategic Transparency From McD's Canada

Actual-fast-foods  I love it when brands take on their memes and urban legends head on.  While many assume this to be a dangerous game, the right content and messaging can change the conversations and the perception of a brand.  And I believe McDonalds Canada may be doing just that.

The reason that the Fast Food In Real Life meme has been so popular (see image on the right) is because it rings remarkably true.  Who hasn't opened up a boxed burger and laughed at the image before our eyes as compared to the image on the illuminated displays above the register?

This experience becomes all the more laughable at the fast food joints where they have an open or semi open kitchen design.  The popular design theory is that showing all of the fresh ingredients and food prep makes the food feel less "fast food" and more healthful.  In a few more modern chains, this imagery is further augmented by flat screens displaying slow-motion glamor shots of ridiculously perfect wet tomatoes being sliced and soft, warm, perfect bread being sliced.  Yet when we open our boxes and plastic containers the same sad looking salad or burger stares back at us.

I once heard an experience designer write this entire experience off as a cheap and effective elaborate manipulation of the consumer's fast food experience.   The consumer smells their food, tastes the crunch, and for the most part sees a better looking product on displays all around them.  Is this reality or web conspiracy?

I can't imagine that very many fast food brands would have an acceptable answer to this challenge.  We experience a different product than they present on a regular basis.

While many brands would hesitate to share what could be considered a poorly presented dish, McDonalds bucked the trend by posting a fairly thorough overview of their food photography process.  The short video below demonstrates that (a) regular food in McDonalds does not always look as bad as the meme suggests, and (b) that there is little evil in putting on your best possible face.  

After watching this video, the consumer in me relates to the food photographer and the creatives at their agency who make their food like oh so good.  While I don't know that I now feel like their food is any more healthful or much more appealing (I am kosher observant), I am willing to bet that this video will have a healthy shelf life on the web, serving as a rational counterpoint to one of the web's most popular memes.  

Kudos to McD's Canada for showing the world how social is done right.

Hat tip to the always resourceful Mitch Schneider for sharing.  Go Electric!

Microsoft Tablet Predictions

Imagining-Nokia-iPad-destroying-Windows-8-tabletIt's no secret that Microsoft has invited the world's leading tech bloggers and journalists to an event taking place in just a few hours.  While no one knows what the topic will be, the consensus is that this will be a tablet event, quite possibly the launch of product stemming from the Barnes and Nobles / Microsoft joint venture.

If I were Microsoft, here's how I would play this:

  • A new tablet is unveiled, and early models are given to every attendee ala Google IO.
  • This tablet runs Windows 8.
  • This tablet shows off everything Windows is planning for Windows 8 including full Office integration and a deep streaming media offering.  
  • Release this tablet into the market well before the general Windows 8 release date, or at least in time for back-to-school.

Here's why this makes sense:

  • Windows 8 looks and feel like a tablet OS.  There has been a good deal of speculation that the Metro UI will not be as natural of intuitive on a desktop or laptop experience.  Show the world why it rocks before they have a less native or enjoyable experience in a more traditional environment.
  • Apple is mid-cycle on iPads and Google IO is around the corner, possibly bringing a new OS to the table.  This is perfect timing for a big Microsoft unveil.
  • Nobody outside of Microsoft knows just how well Office will port to a tablet.  The demand for Office on iOS is incredible.  Releasing Office for this tablet will give it a strong enterprise market advantage.
  • iOS is fantastic for watching movies residing on the device.  Microsoft is already a streaming partner with Hulu on MSN and Xbox, and works with pretty much everyone on XBox.  Streaming media and a windows tablet are Microsoft's peanut butter and jelly-like angelic media solution.
  • Calling the tablet experience a beta or preview experience, with updates to come will create early-adopter cache while giving Microsoft license to issue updates to improve the experience over time.  
  • There will be plenty of third party manufacturers building poorly designed and implimented Windows 8 tablet.  If Windows wants to win, they need to start out by setting the quality bar.

Why Google Needs To Bring Turn-By-Turn To iOS TODAY!!!

Maps_gallery_overviewApple is taking back control of their ecosystem, and removing Google Maps as the default maps provider in iOS 6 was the long anticipated next step.  And while Google is about to lose their pre-bundling and deep integration for iOS, there has never been a better time for them to step up their iOS maps product.  For years there have been rumors of Google Maps with turn-by-turn navigation coming to iOS.  And there has never been a better time than now to make this rumor our reality.

In a few short months Apple will begin rolling out their new homegrown Maps product to iOS devices.  However, the full product experience will only be available to units using an A5 or newer processor.  In other words, the hundreds of millions of iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS users out there are not going to get the complete iOS Maps experience.  As older devices, most of these units will be eligible for a subsidized carrier upgrade in the next six months.

Putting the most incredible Google Maps experience possible on these millions and millions of handsets would open up an incredible new potential market for Google's Android OS.  Let Apple's million of non-fully-upgraded customers experience as much of Android as possible.  It's time for Google to encourage switchers through non-native-OS product sampling.

On that note, Microsoft would likely be well served to do the same.


The Challenge And Opportunity Of Apple Obviating The Need For Your Branded App

Ios6iOS 6 promises a rich new range of functions and features.  As with iOS 5, a number of features previously found in popular apps are now integrated into the operating system.  This poses a tough challenge for app developers who have invested in developing a solution, only to find their solutions obviated by a free and integrated alternative.  Many developers feel wronged.  

This morning many mobile teams at ad agencies across the globe walked into work with that same feeling.  They spent the past three years convincing clients to build robust mobile apps, with commerce, ticketing and loyalty as core revenue drivers.  But fear not, because the best may be yet to come.

What should an airline to do when the apps core value - mobile tickets - are now part of the OS?  How does this shift future investment in planning in the app?  Let's look at what's changed.

For marketers, the biggest bull in the iOS 6 china shop is Passport.

Passport promises to centralize and digitize nearly everything that requires a ticket or card.  From tickets to events, airline tickets, loyalty cards and potentially more, every ticket and reservation now reside in one centralized app.  This app offers users an arguably superior user experience, as the user can store (and possibly purchase) tickets in a single app, receive event updates such gate change updates, receive relevant notifications of nearby sales, as well as reminders before the event.  As a user this sounds fantastic.  As a marketer... let's talk about it.

What is a marketer to do?

The most important exercise you can do today, is to determine and build towards your true mobile brand value to users... beyond tickets and cards.

Determining Your Mobile User Value

  1. Carefully consider the core user value presently offered by your app, as well as the potential secondary values currently offered.  Rate the degree of user value these components offer on individual level from 1-10.  This means that you should rate your mobile ticketing separately from your remember where I parked features.  How valuable are each of these components on their own to users?
  2. Brainstorm the true meaning of mobile to your brand.  How can mobile reinvent your user experience beyond tickets, loyalty and transactions?  What does the mobile phone offer as a product extension beyond serving a wallet replacement?  How can you mix the key ingredients of location, mobility, social dynamics, a phone, payments and content with your real world assets such as support, staff and services to build something entirely new and unique?
  3. Rate the projected user value of your blue sky brainstorm ideas from 1-10.  Again, each concept should be considered on it's own.

You now have a picture of your current and potential mobile app value.  Now let's look at what this means to your continued investment in building, maintaining or supplying mobile apps to brand marketers.

  • If you cannot develop an experience that rates above a 7 on the user value scale on at least one attribute, it's time to lower your investment or go back to brainstorming.  Three 3s do not make a 9, they make a poor overall user experience on three separate occasions.  
    • This doesn't mean abandoning your app or killing all future funding.  It's perfectly rational to let your previous investments become transactional gateways to an Apple experience.  Keep a maintenance budget in your back pocket, as you will likely need to invest a minimal amount over time to keep your app operational on future screen sizes and iOS iterations.
  • If you have found a user experience greater the a 7 on the user value scale, make it happen.  This is your mobile raison detre, and while you may have been more focused on chopping wood transactions, it's time to make something beautiful.  Thank Apple for showing you the light.

 There is no sense crying over spilled milk.  Get over the past, because you now have the gift of the summer to build your all new mobile solutions.  Because there just may be incredible value you never knew you had license or budget to explore.


7 Great iOS Facebook Integrations For iOS6

Ios6With Tim Cook clearly hinting at an upcoming integration of Facebook into future Apple products, what is this going to look like?  What could a rich Facebook integration into iOS6 entail?

Below is my wishlist.

7. Integrated Address Books

Facebook already has all of my friend's phone numbers and email addresses.  Why not pull them together?

6. Media Sharing   

When I take a picture, I want the option to post to Facebook just like iOS5 enables Twitter sharing.  The same can be said for all the usual status updates - I just bought a song, I just watched a movie, etc.  I'm combining these as they seem to be very similar low hanging fruit. 

However, in a more innovative lane I would love to see Facetime for Facebook.  Facetime could finally become a viable product.  I never know which of my friends have their wifi turned on, but if they are already online on Facebook I would love to be able to instantly start a video chat.

5. Smarter Content Recommendations

I want my book store, app store and iTunes recommendations to provide data from my participating Facebook friends.  What did they buy?  What did people like me do?  What apps can Facebook and Apple recommend based on my behavior and my social graph?

4. Calendar Integration

Facebook events should become calendar events.  

3. Birthday Integration

This sounds silly, but it would be nice to have an optional meeting type alert on each of my friend's birthdays.  This should be easy to turn on and off.

2. Facebook Apps As iPhone Apps

From a technical standpoint this will take quite some time to work out, but I want to see a world where app developers build one core experience that lives in different interfaces as an iOS app, Facebook desktop app AND as an experience in the Facebook mobile app.  Brands and developers need a better solution for making their apps more meaningful on mobile, particularly as more Facebook users shift to mobile.

1. Wow Me

Please, do something totally new.  Do something I never would have considered.  Join mobile and social to create an entirely new dynamic that will open new worlds of innovation.  I’m getting tired with the same old predictable tweaks.  I don't know, maybe throw in something totally crazy involving a new Facebook search that integrates Siri.  Bottom line: make it wow.


Relative Poverty

Would you consider a 7 year old company valued at $60,000,000,000 to be a failure?

Would you scoff at the future of a website with "only" half a billion active users because the other third of accounts aren't active?

Would you consider one of the world's top mobile sites to be "failing" because they haven't yet cashed in?  And let's remember, mobile is rapidly evolving in the tablet and feature-spec space by the quarter.

Facebook is a healthy company.  They are still learning how to make a business out of connecting people and their advisors may have over-reached with their IPO.  But this is not a company struggling to provide value to users, nor is this a company struggling to maintain their massive user base.  

You may have had higher public trading expectations.  But I would consider a sixty billion dollar valuation, a user base measured in percentages of the global population and strong user-loyalty on the fastest growing web platform (mobile) to be a damn good place to call home.  So please, let's cut it with the Facebook desperation posts and commentary.  

Institutional investors may not be happy.  But this is a very healthy company that is actively transforming our world.