Archive for May, 2008

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© Jake Goretzki

30 May 2008 at 12:21 pm Leave a comment

Buying viewers’ attention

Andrew Curry writes:

The combination of the FA Cup Final – the last for a while on the BBC – and the epically overhyped Champions’ League final on ITV sent me to some recent interesting data (above) from BMRB Sport. They measure both the total interested audience for sport on TV, and also a “passion index” which captures the quality of the audience, assessed by their level of interest in the sport. The passion index seems to me to be a reasonable proxy for ‘attention’ – that increasingly important, but often elusive, quality sought by traditional media owners.

Broadly, the passion index is higher for football, and doesn’t correlate strongly with overall audiences, which leads to the thought that commercial terrestrial broadcasters need both scale and passion to make their rights investment pay off, in terms of advertising and sponsorship revenues, whereas a public service broadcaster can justify its investment by the breadth of the audience. And with next season’s rights to Formula 1 moving to the BBC (ITV couldn’t afford both F1 and the FA Cup), the BBC’s sports properties, if you include the Premiership highlights on Match of the Day, now include five of the top seven sports by breadth of audience, but only one (those Premiership highlights again) by ‘quality’ or interest levels.

And there is some good news for the BBC here. According to BMRB, Formula 1 has climbed steadily in the popularity rankings over the last year, from seventh to fourth, on back of Lewis Hamilton’s successes.

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23 May 2008 at 11:42 am Leave a comment

All together now

Jo Phillips writes:

When she spoke at the Booksellers Association conference last week Michelle Harrison, one of our Directors, implored the industry to think harder about how to sell books to consumers who are showing signs that they prize collective experience far more than they used to. This extends beyond valuing such experiences over material things (e.g. a book) to valuing the shared experience above the individual experience (e.g. reading a book in the bath). Whereas five years ago people were telling us what they wanted most was a bit of ‘me-time’, now it seems above all what we value is quality ‘we-time’.

As we move into the summer season in the UK this desire to get together is evident in the huge growth in festivals of all kinds and scales – last year there were over 550 of them and nearly two thirds of adults have attended a live music event in the last three years. Booksellers are in on this act – the Hay Festival, which starts today, grows larger every year (new for this year is a link up with a prison broadening its base further). Book clubs are also growing in popularity. But these are still niche audiences among book-buyers.

The need for social innovation is a challenge to many industries that have focused on benefits for individuals. It may call for turning the category on its head, as Nintendo Wii did by sidestepping the industry competition for faster, bigger, better graphics to focus on enabling living room fun between friends, or through product innovation, as Walkers Sensations did by creating the sharing crisps opportunity.

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22 May 2008 at 5:37 pm Leave a comment

Dubai and the cities of the future

Andrew Curry writes:

I chaired a session this week at the Building FuturesFutures Fair‘ at the RIBA in London at which Reinier de Graaf, of the architectural practice OMA, talked about the development of Dubai – and some of its implications. The city has grown (been grown) from nothing in 15 years, and every significant architectural practice in the world, OMA included, is building something there. de Graaf described the city as a “multitude of competing theme parks”, as the “monotony of the exceptional”. He added that “there are as many billboards as buildings, and the billboards hold the promise of the finished city”.

The city is – famously – building out into the sea, and before long more than half of the population of Dubai will be living on sea rather than land. This isn’t because of a shortage of land, for there are miles of desert inland. de Graaf observed laconically:

One prefers to make projects in the sea, because they are more expensive and more difficult, and therefore more marketable, because one markets their difficulty.

But this isn’t just a story about urban ostentation. The development of Dubai followed a long-term decision by the Emirates to reduce its dependence on oil, and the last year in which oil contributed more than half of national revenues was in 1985. The three property companies which are building Dubai are each half-owned by the UAE Royal Family, and the men who run them all hold positions in the Emirates government. Property is now one of the Emirates’ biggest exports, and its property companies are now building in all of the fastest growing cities in the world, from Morocco to the Philippines. As Reinier de Graaf noted, ‘the Dubai model’ represents a challenge to our received wisdom that democracy represents the best guarantee of economic prosperity.

17 May 2008 at 12:27 pm 1 comment

The power of ‘we’

Becky Rowe writes:

I’ve been in Australia for a few days for a client project and one of things I have noticed (aside from the jetlag and great weather) is the constant reference across all kinds of public communications to ‘us’, ‘we’, ‘together’, ‘you’, and ‘community’.

New building projects mention ‘helping our communities grow stronger’, while ‘no alcohol’ signs on the beaches explain why it is beneficial to everyone if you don’t drink your beers on the beach. The taxi rank at the airport had a large sign which communicated clearly and simply what you could ask of your taxi driver, and what he could expect of you (you are entitled to ask your driver to turn on or off the radio or aircon, and to take a different route, but you aren’t allowed to be drink or eat in the cab).

The prevalence of these signs, the explicit wording, and clear reference to shared responsibilities, all communicated in a friendly and understandable way, somehow surprised me. In some ways I found them a bit patronising, but I also found it refreshing to have ‘the rules’ of ‘good citizenship’ made clear.

Knowing the rationale behind an apparently bureacratic or even irrational rule can make all the difference to compliance. I think the UK has something to learn from the Australians about how to behave – and how to get people to behave.

15 May 2008 at 9:29 pm 1 comment

Sharing data with the government

IIPS data and analysis

Michelle Singer writes:

People in the UK feel far more comfortable about sharing their personal data with government if they are also allowed to share in the benefits. This was the conclusion drawn from new survey research presented at last week’s IIPS briefing: ‘How concerned are citizens about data and privacy in the public services?’ (The Institute for Insight in the Public Services is a joint initiative between Henley Centre HeadlightVision and its sister company, BMRB Social Research, which provides a thought-leading insight forum for those working across government.)

The chart at the top of this post shows that, firstly, citizens’ first reaction is one of extreme wariness – no doubt exacerbated by recent media stories about data that has gone ‘missing in action’. However, when requests for personal information are sweetened by the promise of “better service”, the picture changes dramatically. Over two thirds of citizens are then happy to provide their details to government departments.

Amongst those who remain sceptical, a significant barrier is that they do not understand why government would want to gather their data, let alone to share it with other government departments. The policy concept of ‘joined up government’ has evidently not yet been sufficiently well explained to its public stakeholders.

While these findings have direct relevance for the government’s public service transformation agenda, they also reinforce a broader insight about shifting power relationships: consumers nowadays are far more likely to recognise the value that companies and organisations derive from their personal data and information (as well as the risks entailed in handing over control); as a result, they are demanding both justification and recompense, as well as reassurance that their information will be stored securely.

9 May 2008 at 9:42 pm Leave a comment

Time as a ‘social surplus’

Andrew Curry writes:

The new media analyst Clay Shirky caused a bit of a stir in blogland last week with a compelling talk in which he described leisure time as a ‘social surplus’ which had been pretty much wasted over the past fifty years through watching TV. Actually, the argument was a bit more complex than that – his idea was that people had watched TV while we got used to the idea of having more leisure time, and now that we’d got used to it, we were starting to use bits of this time more productively, for example by building socially useful online applications.

There’s some interesting data in the talk. American TV watching (as a whole) takes up about two billion hours of time each year. And he calculates, with a little help, that building the whole of Wikipedia so far has taken about 100 million hours. American TV, in other words, takes up 2,000 Wikipedia projects per year.

Now the notion of time as a currency is one we talk about quite a lot round here. And it’s clear that there are different sorts of time. There’s work time (paid or unpaid); maintenance or ‘chore’ time (what you have to do to maintain your role); there’s recovery time (which is mostly where the TV watching comes in). And then there are the types which take you out of the work-eat-sleep cycle; ‘discovery’ time, or personal exploration time, and ‘identity’ time, which tend to be the places where personal roots are found.

I’m not sure about some of the social history in Clay’s talk, if only because, pre-television, there were rich social activities despite our having less leisure time (the huge 1930s ramblers’ campaign for the right of access to the countryside, for example), but I am persuaded by the underlying idea. It doesn’t take much of a switch from ‘recovery time’ to ‘discovery’ time to change the balance of social energy. This might not be online; book clubs, I think, would also fit the prospectus. But as he says:

It’s better to do something than to do nothing.

Futurismic has a video of Clay making his argument.

Photograph © Peter Curry 2008

7 May 2008 at 9:58 am Leave a comment

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The Futures Company was created through the merger of Henley Centre HeadlightVision and Yankelovich in 2008. This is the blog of the new company - but the former posts from the former Henley Centre Headlightvision blog still can be found here.

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