Monday, 25 January 2010

My Internet 2009 Top 5:'s Interview Project

2009 wasn't a good year for the entertainment sector. I wish it were otherwise, but it's not. When I talk about the entertainment business, I'm not referring to the music industry, which I already discussed here. I'm neither referring to the sports industry which will be the topic of my next post. I'm talking about everything related to film and television.

First the good news: I think the display advertising for films has been really great this year. Video has become something really big on the internet in general, and in on-line display advertising specifically. Of course the film industry benefits widely from this trend, since their main marketing has been releasing trailers. So it's just a small step to put these trailers into a banner. More often than not, these banners are very elegantly produced and they tend to be expandable, with some really special extras, some nice interaction.

Unfortunately, the good news ends here. First of all, too much campaigns are promoted by some flash mini-site: they include long loading times, annoying navigation and they completely lack any relevant content. More than often they have a game, some links to social media, even a mobile application of some sort. It looks like somebody from the studios has heard what is hip today (advergaming - yeah! Social media - wow! iPhone app - sweet), and they just need to have it, without thinking it through. A good example is this site for 2012 – you'll get my point right away. Marketing is not about having the next big thing, it's what you do with it.

More importantly: for as good as the new ways of showing film-trailers might be, it's still old-skool advertising and it doesn't reflect a clever way of understanding what the internet is about.

The entertainment industry should have learned by now that you can't fight the internet, but that you have to embrace it's model and find your way in it. The music industry has been fighting the internet for a long time, and every time a P2P website was closed, another one opened. People wanted their songs available on the internet, and piracy was the only viable option for a lot of people for a long time. Until – at last – something like Spotify or Pandora came around with a good model of a streaming-based music service.

So my question is: when will we be able to watch our films and series on a similar platform? Since I'm on Spotify I haven't downloaded one single illegal song. OK, I also stopped buying records, but if the business model of Spotify works, I've heard my fair share of advertising, and this advertising should generate income for the artists I listen to.
On the other hand I am still watching films and series on illegal streaming or downloading sites. This is basically so since there is no real alternative on-line. OK, there is Amazon where you can buy the DVD's (and before you all want to lock me up, I must say I'm one of the few people I know who still actually buy DVDs), but that's no real option, since you don't have the option to see it streamed in real-time.
There are some platforms showing streaming content, like Hulu in the US, Pixbox in Spain or Joost all over the place, but it all comes down to the same thing: if you don't have a big enough catalogue with a decent share of films and series, you're not likely to convince a big audience. And of course these catalogues are owned by the producers of film and video. So it's a real shame 2009 was not yet the year when entertainment came legally to our houses via our internet connection. And I must say, it doesn't look like it will happen in 2010. So we will have to endure some more time watching bad streaming services with horrible interfaces and bad subtitles. Not because we don't want to pay, it's because there is no legal way to watch content on-line.

Just watching series or films streamed on-line is just one step where the entertainment business is missing out. But we're even farther away of having a mayor production being based on the internet.'s Interview Project is something which might give a glimpse of what the future might be of on-line centered entertainment content.
The Interview Project doesn't aspire to be a whole lot – it's just a team of David Lynch who travel a route in the US and every now and then they stop for an interview with somebody they meet. The interviews of about 4' bring a short introduction into the lives of the people that are interviewed and their ideas and values. It's really David Lynch: you get to see the human being in all it's uniqueness.
David Lynch is a good example of how the film and TV business can adapt to a new medium such as internet. Lynch has been making films and programs for a very long time, long before the internet showed up. But he's been showing for a long time now on that you don't have to loose strength by embracing the new laws of the internet. Let's just hope that the next 'The Wire' or the next 'Avatar' will be developed on the internet. By working over time and count on the collaboration of the people, you can get a new, strong format, and above all: it can be something really engaging. Nowadays, we watch an episode of our favourite series, and there isn't much in between episodes apart from some trailer for next week's episode. In film that's even worse: you just go to the cinema, plunge into a world for 2 hours, and then finish with that world. The best you can hope for might be a sequel in 2 years time. There is so much time between episodes which we can spend engaging with our favourite show, which gets lost right now.
The best thing about the site Interview Project is it's usage of time. On the internet, time is everything. I believe that engagement on the internet comes by using time in your projects: let people come back to your site for a bit more. Reward them for their loyalty. Be fair to them, and give them a voice. Work towards a relationship. Get involved, and don't believe in a one-off.
Interview Project really understands this element of time, and has regular updates, with every time the publication of a new interview. This makes you come back to the site, enjoy it every time a little more.
Last but not least, and also considering the element of time: Interview Project has a very healthy slowness about it, which is pretty unusual on internet. Every episode lets your watch run just that little bit slower, and gives you a welcome break before we move on to our millions of status-updates, or real-time tweets or RSS-feeds.

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Sunday, 10 January 2010

My Internet 2009 Top 5: Spotify

If you live in a country where you don't have Spotify, then I feel sorry for you. Of course it's not your fault, but it's a real drag. Spotify has really been the new launch of 2009, a web-application that I can say changed my daily life.
For those who don't know it: spotify is a web-based application which you
download on your computer. The application gives you access to a huge amount of music. It works with streaming, so you can only listen to the songs, you don't actually 'have' the music at any stage. So you can't upload it onto your mp4.

The good things about spotify are:

There is a massive amount of music to listen to. It's not all there, but you can find as good as anything.

You can listen to exactly those songs you want to hear. So it's not like LastFM where the app is only recommending music to you all the time.

It's free. Spotify gets funded by advertising which is heard while you put on your songs. You hear about 1 spot every 20'. There is also display advertising on the application.

It's legal. Spotify has made deals with the 4 majors and some other labels to get the rights for the music. It looks like Spotify is paying the labels for each subscriber or for the streaming of the catalogue.

You have the possibility to make your lists with favourite songs. These lists are linked to your account, so if you log-on to another computer with your account, the lists will be uploaded there as well. You can share these lists with friends. You can even make collaborative lists, in which you can make lists together with your friends.

The user interface is really nice. And the streaming of the songs is flawless. So it's not like watching YouTube videos where the streaming is still pretty lousy.

Spotify has been launched at the end of 2008 and therefore it's still very young. But it did manage to get 1 million of subscribers in 1 year in Spain. That is in a country where internet penetration hasn't exceeded 60% yet. The rise and the value proposition of Spotify has been so important that the BBC included it in his list of the cultural elements which defined the passed decade.
In a more broad sense, spotify is just a part of a long story about how the internet changed the music industry. And it's an important story and one which hasn't finished yet. It's a story about social networks like MySpace, piracy, P2P file-sharing sites like E-mule and Napster and about new opportunities for music fan, artists and business, like the live streaming of a U2 concert on YouTube.

Since I'm on spotify, I have bought just 1 CD. That was a birthday present. So spotify actually stopped me buying music, which could be seen as something bad for the music industry. But at the same time I have to admit that I haven't downloaded one song from illegal sites this year. So that's a good sign for the music industry too. During the same year I have spent quite some euros on concert tickets. Since the prices for these concerts have all gone up, I'm still spending my fare share on music. And since we all have expensive iPods, we can't say that we're not paying anymore to listen to music. We've just made a shift from paying a lot for software (music albums) to paying a lot more for hardware (mp4 players).

Another good thing for spotify, is that I have discovered a lot of new music. Some people argued that Spotify didn't have the recommendation algorithm like LastFM. First of all this isn't true: Spotify has a very decent player, in which you can build your own radio, depending on type of music and the decades of music you want to hear. Second of all: I must say I haven't discovered so much new music for a very long time, and this even since I don't use the player of Spotify. The good thing is that you have a whole catalogue of songs and artist at your disposal and you can find almost any song in no time. You read an article or blogpost mentioning a song, and within seconds you can listen to see if you like the song. You also find a lot of music because of the nice search function within the catalogue. So, if you want to know who has a version of 'Thunder Road', the search function will give you the whole list of every artist in spotify who sings this Springsteen classic.

Last but not least: spotify works as a very good social media platform. It combines genuinely on- and off-line interaction with your friends. This looks like the real power of social media, and spotify gives a good value from this point of view. Spotify is enabled with direct share-functions so you can publish songs in facebook of twitter. But is has also the collaborative list in which you can build a list with your friends. For my birthday party this year, we had such a list and the invitees could upload the songs they wanted to hear on that list. When the party kicked in good, we put on the list and people could dance to the songs of their choice.

So where will it take spotify from here on? Since spotify has been on-line they are continually adding songs and artist to their catalogue. This is of course a good thing, and is quite the opposite of what happened to, where since the launch they were continuously taking of songs. Various artist have also been presenting their new albums on spotify. Alicia Keys had her latest CD a week before the official release date on spotify. She's not my favourite artist, but I listened to it, even if I wouldn't care for it otherwise. But having it exclusively on spotify had me to give it a try.

More recent developments have been centred around their advertising. They've created new and innovative formats for display ads. It's understandable that they focus on this area, since they have to focus on creating revenue for this start-up.
But I would be more happy if spotify centered more around their innovative aspect. Like I said: they have a very good and powerful social media tool. So why don't they try to develop this more? Youtube shows that people like to add comments to their favourite songs, and that a reliable count of how much I listen to this or that song, gives an extra dimension to the platform. So if my favourite brand makes a list together with it's customers, it would be nice to see how many times this list has been played.
This year U2 broadcasted a concert on YouTube, which had an enormous impact on thousands of fans and had a lot of press in social media. If I were spotify, I would think on this example. Artists look ready to innovate, and being spotify you have the audience and the platform to start building something really powerful.

Here's maybe my favourite list on spotify: Songs for a roadtrip through Arizon from the Coca and Lola Blog.

PS - If you you live in a country where you can have spotify and you need an invitation: pop me an e-mail, and I'll see if I can help you out.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

My Internet 2009 Top 5: Reading

During the first part of 2009 I spent time doing a masters. I was working during this time, so I didn't have that much time to see friends, to sleep in or to go out. But I must say, the master proved to be very enriching and I would tell everybody to consider the option of doing a masters. It's very rewarding and gives you a lot of energy and insights in a very short time.
The master I did was in Marketing Intelligence. We learned different methods to use data in order to make better business decisions and to optimize our marketing budget. To put it in another way: we learned how to turn faith-based decision making into a data-driven business culture. It wasn't a master specialized in on-line marketing, but we've seen a lot of internet-based examples. And you'll understand that when I read a post like this, I get reminded a lot of what we studied during the master .

In our master we learned a lot of hard techniques. We did a lot of SAS and SPSS to really crunch those numbers and databases. Of course we also used a lot of excel, because, you know, excel has it. So we learned how to apply stats and maths to get the numbers right and deduce the right marketing decisions from this.
Besides these 'hard' methods in which we learned how to work towards a data driven business culture, we also learned a lot of, say, 'soft' methods. One of these softer methods were our professors. It's amazing how a experienced professional can get so much out of a couple of hours teaching. A second 'soft' method of learning are the other students. It's equally great how much comes out of a group of professionals spending some months together, everybody with his views, his ideas, his experience.

Another 'soft' method for learning how to work something like on-line marketing is reading. During the master we had to read quite a lot, but I must say since the master stopped, my reading list has actually exploded. It looks like I can't stop.

First of all the books: since this year, my Amazon orders have started to change. A while back, they had some CDs, some copy of The Wire and a couple of novels. Since this year quite some business books have appeared on my order lists. Of course I have some catching up to do, like reading The Long Tail. But also new stuff like Avinash's 2.0 are waiting for me to be read. My interest for reading doesn't come alone: I've read quite some 'Reading lists' in blogposts the last couple of months. Next on my list are of course Avinash and Cult of Analytics by Steve Jackson. But let me first finish Actionable Web Analytics by Burby and Atchison.

Favourite Business Book 2009
Scoring Points by Humby, Hunt and Phillips. It first came out in 2003, a second edition came in 2007. It's about Tesco and the huge CRM strategy they launched with their Clubcard. Tesco and their data-crunching consultant Dunnhumby are still the reference when it comes to use
business intelligence and turn it into marketing actions and profits. A must read for everybody who's looking to use data in their business.

Reading blogs has been a more chaotic history. In 2008 I just read 2 blogs. In 2009, I've got 15 RSS feeds on my netvibes, I receive various blog updates in my e-mail and read several blogs daily thanks to retweets or other references. When I start reading a blog, I open at least 3 links of other posts which are included into the post I read, checking twitter gives me at least 5 new posts I want to read, and by the end of the day I tend to end up with a browser full of tabs with posts-I-should-read.
The good thing is that there is so much out there. Everyday, you can read so much info which is shared all over the internet. It keeps you up-to-date, and the way a constant discussion is held is very enriching.
The only problem is the overload I sketched earlier on. There is too much going on, and you just can't read everything that is out there. Sometimes my browser with those various open tabs of post I need to read, get just shut down. There is only so much time to read everything.

Favourite blog post of 2009
A lot of amazing posts this year, of course, but this might just be my favourite: A comparison between 2 commercials, one by GM, the other by Toyota. It gives some great insight on how we can connect with women in advertising. Just go on and read it, and say, just like I did: 'Holly Buchanan, you're so right'.