Posts filed under ‘media’

Some notes from Stream

Andrew Curry writes:

Stream, WPP’s annual tech ‘un-conference’, held by tradition at a former Club Med resort near Athens, has just finished. I’m going to try to catch a snapshot of some of the things I learned while I was there.

3D printing is a slow train coming
We’ve been talking to clients for a while about the potential of 3D printing, or ‘fabbing’, and a discussion led by Steve Sammartino of Grey got into some of the complexities of this. The principle of 3D printing is that you send the code and a machine makes the object locally – possibly even in your home. Costs are falling quite fast, with the ‘hobbyist’ fabricator kit, Maker Bot, now less than $1,000, although the professional machines used by designers are still above $10,000. The other limitations are materials and time; a machine is set up to use one type of material, and making an object, even a small one, is slow. A designer taking part in the discussion showed a tape dispenser made on his printer which took ten hours to produce. Is this a new industrial revolution? Probably not. But over the next decade it could transform the way we repair things, prototype them, and also change the way we think about manufacturing.

The new high level internet domains will be a lawyers’ paradise
You may not have noticed, but ICANN, which regulates the Internet’s top level domains (.com, .edu, .uk, etc) is quite a long way down the road on a radical transformation of the domain system. Instead of the current relatively constrained architecture, it’s proposing to let people buy words instead; ‘.cheese’, say, or ‘.health’, or ‘.yahoo’. In practice, this means that large companies will buy them, if they so choose, since the application costs around $200,000, and preparing the application another $300,000.

The thing is, it’s hard to see who benefits: the internet becomes a sea of noise, and businesses are faced with a sea of unprofitable competition for domain names. Esther Dyson, who led the session, described it as “a tragedy of the commons”. But intellectual property lawyers should do well for themselves. The only saving grace is that the decision hasn’t yet been ratified; pressure on ICANN might yet prevent the change.

What we mean by ‘news’ is changing before our eyes. The idea emerged from several different sessions. Vice presented data which showed that the average age of the US audience for mainstream TV news was 60-something, compared to the far younger audience for Vice News. Peter Hirshberg, the urban data pioneer, suggested that “you really need to be able to understand data to tell stories in the 21st century”. The Guardian, challenged by its editor, Alan Rusbridger, that “the public is not interested in what’s in the public interest”, is launching the ‘Finance Game’, off the back of an anthropological investigation of the City of London’s bankers, to see if this leads to new ways of understanding, researching, and presenting complex stories (and potentially to different audiences). But in his platform interview, WPP Chief Executive Sir Martin Sorrell observed that if – as a society – “we value professional journalism, we’re probably going to have to subsidise it”.

The picture at the top of this post was taken by Andrew Curry. It is published here under a Creative Commons licence: some rights reserved.

16 September 2011 at 8:24 am Leave a comment

A future of advertising

Andrew Curry writes: I have been meaning to post this for a while, but better late than never. The Wire, which is the in-house magazine of WPP, our parent company, had a feature in its last issue on how advertising would change over the next ten years. 16 contributors, 150 words each, you know the kind of thing. The editor warned us off social media as being too obvious, and I stayed away from data analytics because others in the group know far more about that than I do.

Sadly, the whole piece is behind a firewall, unless you happen to work for a WPP company, although it would seem like a good opportunity to showcase thinking within the group. But here’s my contribution:

Advertising is being squeezed from two sides. The generation of millennials now cresting into adulthood, brought up with screens surrounding them, can de-construct an advertisement quicker than you can say “Roland Barthes“. There’s no trick you can play without them noticing it, storing it, and tagging it for the next time. Governments meanwhile, squeezed for budgets, have noticed that the public purse tends to pick up quite a lot of the costs of private consumption, and are increasingly willing to regulate advertising in an increasing range of categories, darkening markets or persuading companies to darken their markets themselves. Sao Paolo passed its ‘clean city’ legislation which banned outdoor advertising four years ago, and it has huge support from its citizens. Other places have followed suit, if on a smaller scale, an early sign that Adbusters’ Mental Environment Movement is just starting to gain traction. Advertisers will be able to say less and less about less and less. End of message.

The picture of Sao Paulo is from the blog Out of Home Media, and is used with thanks.

8 June 2011 at 10:30 am 2 comments

If you’re not paying, you’re being sold

Andy Stubbings writes:

One trend we’ve been monitoring for a while, as readers of this blog will know, is the rising level of concerns over data privacy and security to do with social networking.

We recently came across this chart (and shown above: it’s US data) which suggest  astonishingly low levels of trust in the ability of social networks to look after personal data. They are trusted less on this than banks, credit agencies, or government departments.

This is consistent with other data we’ve seen on the topic, such as this year’s Edelman Trust Barometer, which also finds that technology is the most trusted industry, and media the least trusted. It would seem from this that, although social networks such as Facebook occupy a blurry position in consumers’ minds, we are probably more likely to think of them as media rather than technology brands.

As it turns out that makes a big difference. There is a saying in media that “if you’re not paying for content, you’re the product being sold”. I think consumers know this viscerally, and therefore expect that social media sites which are free to use are going to play fast and loose with their personal data, particularly those that are thought more of as corporations rather than associations or amateur networks. It is difficult to position yourself as a tech company and benefit from the associated halo of trust if you are actually in the business of selling your audience.

14 February 2011 at 9:08 am 1 comment

Myth comics

Anand Rao writes:

There is no escaping it. Religion has always been the zeitgeist in India and despite the strife it causes, it is beloved to the Indian psyche. India’s unique proposition is as the home of spirituality, the place to go to get a soul. Caricature aside, religion and mythology are also a popular business proposition in India – and in a good way. Companies use religion to appeal to consumers and this is not considered a negative thing in India.

Two epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharataboth are collections of stories about life and death, about morality and ethics, governance and corruption, about love and warfare, and much more – have always been the mainstay of Indian mythology. Stories from these epics have been produced in every medium of communication throughout the ages in India, including the comics industry. While the Indian comic book giant Amar Chitra Katha (ACK) has illustrated stories from these epics for Indian audiences for years, it has now attracted interest outside of India, with a £4 million investment from the London-based private equity firm Elephant Capital.

New entrants to the Indian comic book industry have been creating content based on new interpretations of these epic stories. These include Ramayan 3392AD, a fantasy interpretation set in the future, and DevaShard, a comic based on stories from the Mahabharata.

I caught up with Vijayendra Mohanty on Twitter, a popular blogger and writer, who recently started writing for Level10 Comics, a new comic book venture in India. Mr. Mohanty, ‘Vimoh’ in the Indian blogosphere, is also writing a graphic novel called Ravanayan – a fresh take on the pivotal characters from the epic Ramayan. He told me:

“Ideas from Indian mythology are deeply ingrained in all of our daily lives. Comics are a pop medium. They tell stories, just like Bollywood does. But comics in India are not as pervasive as movies are. So comics as a medium can ride on the reach of mythology as a language that every Indian understands.

“On the other hand, stories and ideas from Indian mythology haven’t really had the ‘pop’ treatment until recently. Comics dealing with mythology, both as retellings and as reinventions, can expose people to a whole new way of looking at our thousand year old stories.”

While comics and graphic novels are still mostly an indulgence in India for urban, metro consumers, they are growing in popularity. Because of the inherent appeal of mythology and religion in India, it won’t be long before smart marketers figure out how to use the mythology comic medium to reach out to their audiences, and across the rapidly growing mobile platform.

The image at the top of the post is from the videogame Ramayan 3392 A.D., based on the comic, and is used with thanks.

19 December 2010 at 10:00 am 1 comment

Losing interest in Facebook

Andy Stubbings writes:

“If you want to know how people will use technology tomorrow” a popular saying goes, “look at what young people are doing today”.

To add to the bubbling anti-Facebook resentment that we have discussed here before, we’re seeing growing signs of disenchantment and dipping enthusiasm for Facebook amongst younger people. One survey of teens by gaming site Roiworld shows one in five are using Facebook less; the main reason for this is ‘lack of interest’. After the buzz around ‘defriending’, there seems to be more interest on ‘deactivating’ or leaving the site – apparently quite an exhilarating experience, at least according to this account of a ‘post-college calibration’. And there are earlier discussions of why young people leave social networks – there’s too much drama, it’s not their space anymore, and people prefer face to face interaction where possible.

Curiously, this also tallies with a general trend that we have picked up with our Global Monitor survey this year – when asked, people in almost every country overwhelmingly expressed a preference for a small number of quality connections they can rely on rather than a large quantity of connections they can call on (levels of agreement are practically the same across all age groups as well – which you might not necessarily expect from those gregarious Millennials). Facebook’s business model is built on the opposite assumption – that people want to continually add as many contacts as possible (and then lump them all together in the same group as their ‘friends’).

There has been attention given to the fact that the average age of Facebook users is increasing, often arguing that this is a sign that the site is broadening its appeal by going mainstream. However, I’d suggest, tentatively for the moment, that a fall in engagement amongst younger people – and in this context the leading edge – represents a decline that will eventually ripple out to a mainstream made up by mainly by over-30s, a decline that will accelerate as soon as a genuine alternative to Facebook emerges.

Facebook isn’t growing up; it’s growing old.

The image is from the site of the web designer Sharath G, and is used with thanks.

2 August 2010 at 9:55 am 4 comments

Making it real

Andrew Curry writes:

It’s become a cult on the web since Tiger Woods crashed his car in mysterious circumstances last weekend, but this CGI-enhanced report from Taiwanese television of the possible chains of events, embedded above, is certainly worth watching.

Leaving aside some of the aesthetic issues (such as Tiger’s South Asian appearance, doubtless hung off an existing CGI wireframe) this does raise some interesting questions. The first is whether such reconstructions are more or less plausible than the traditional ‘news’ alternative of filming a reconstruction. Probably less so: we can see that this is a CGI reconstruction, so it’s been made up. But this will become less true as the technology improves.

Second, is whether it will become more common – to which the answer must be yes. News producers need pictures – when I was trained as a TV news journalist I was told always to check the pictures before I started writing the story – and news reporters inevitably have to describe things which weren’t seen and where events are still contested. Making up your own pictures seems too good to be true, but it’s no more ethically challenging than having a reporter describe what might have happened.

The most interesting question is about ownership. The BBC used CGI reconstruction of the goals in the European Nations Cup in 2008 on its website because it didn’t have the rights to show video there. But who owns the digital reconstruction of an event? On the face of it, no-one. But begging to differ, here come rights lawyers and privacy advocates in their gowns and wigs. Another digital battleground is opening up in front of us.

4 December 2009 at 10:36 pm 1 comment

Sporting tw**ts


Oliver Wright writes:

Humans have always been predisposed to gossip. French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville once said “If an American was condemned to confine his activity to his own affairs, he would be robbed of one half of his existence.” In this vein, celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Stephen Fry have done themselves no harm by revealing the minutiae of their day to day activities to the masses.

Celebrities, of course, usually have a slick PR machine on their side to ensure that potential pitfalls are avoided. The new wave of sports tweeters (twits, if you prefer), however, seem to lack this essential facility. Where the sporting media may have previously traded on snippets from a group of closely guarded sources, they can now rely upon a host of tweeters for a steady stream of bitesize stories.

These messages left on social networks and microblogging sites have the nasty habit of transforming tittle-tattle, hearsay, and rumour into cold, hard evidence – often supplied by the protagonist. Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen cyclist Lance Armstrong show his hot headed reactions to Alberto Contador’s comments on his teammates after the latter claimed the Tour de France’s yellow jersey. Also tweeting regularly (and with a little more restraint), was fellow cyclist Bradley Wiggins, who quashed media speculation regarding his team affiliations next year half way through the tour. After the tour’s epic climb up Mont Ventoux, he later paid tribute to Tom Simpson, a British rider who collapsed and died on the stage in 1967.

More recently, Australia’s Philip Hughes let slip that he had been dropped for the 3rd Ashes test due to start that morning – inadvertently informing anyone studious enough to notice of Australia’s batting line up, which they didn’t have to divulge until much later. Darren Bent also fell foul to his emotions on twitter (and later apologised), perhaps leading us to be thankful that most footballers’ 140-character musings are usually confined to the pitch.

Of course, sportsmen and women aren’t the only ones adapting to new media. As politicians have taken to using Twitter, Whitehall has released a rather lengthy guide for ministers thinking of using the service, no doubt in a spirit of public dialogue. Thanks heavens that British caution is not shared abroad.

5 August 2009 at 8:37 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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