Dec 312011
 

Originally published Oct 2011 in Wired Magazine ‘Change Accelerators‘ by Gary Hayes

Image by Gary hayes

Grab some nibbles, pour yourself a drink, and sit down. You’re now ready to immerse yourself in a TV show. And then you notice that CSI Miami is placing Facebook photos of your aunt, uncle, and cousins onto the desk of a perp. Lean forward, and keep your eyes peeled, updates from your Facebook page are about to be incorporated into your favorite TV show’s narrative. (Your best friend becomes the suspect!) As you immerse yourself in the story, the story immerses itself in your social world. In this context, online meets offline and your family and friends will never look the same again!

While this opening scenario sounds like pure fantasy, it’s not. It’s actually based on Warner Brother’s Aim High, an upcoming web series that will integrate pictures, music, and information from a viewer’s Facebook page into the video. One might call it the ultimate transmedia vanity blockbuster, where viewers are watching and playing with their own distributed, but connected story fragments. If this trend continues, soon we’ll be interacting with TV and games mashed up with our own social networks on big and small screens everywhere.

Since 2003, tools that allow people to easily create, upload, and share personal content are now commonplace. With so many people sharing their lives through networks, there is a social story revolution unfolding. There are more photos taken every two minutes today than during the entire 1800s and, as my Social Media Counter shows, most of this new content is created by individuals who used to be called the audience.

Since the late ’90s, the vision of interactive TV has been to meld this viewer-generated content into shows, particularly live TV. Today, we are taking the greatest evolutionary steps in broadcasting since the advent of live TV. In my presentation, “The Gamification of Social TV,” I examine the ways audiences are becoming more and more integrated into media, such as shows, films, games, and live events; first, there is the social level, then the participative, and finally, the inclusive.

Real-time conversation about what’s happening on TV has pretty much been with us since the beginning of mass TV in the ’50s. However, nowadays we have advanced well beyond the cord-tethered telethons of yesteryear. Today, advanced technology, like text voting, allows shows to measure the sentiment of the crowd sitting at home, not just the studio audience, in real time.

Andy Warhol famously predicted, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.” That future has arrived: We can all be stars in our own lifetimes, even if it’s just among our social network. We have become our own entertainment hubs, around which our friends and media circulate. Broadcasters and service providers have caught on to this trend, and now, entertainment-based social networking websites, like GetGlue, allow viewers to check in to movies, TV, and music. These personalized hubs fueled by recommendation and loyalty are allowing viewers to lock their worlds to TV space.

Not surprisingly, marketers are also taking notice of the advantages presented by social storytelling. A recent example is the Rommy Gulla Facebook video campaign run by Panasonic Australia. To demonstrate a new Blu-ray recorder’s ability to store 28 full days of HD content, the company developed a Truman Show-esque, promotional Facebook campaign encouraging input and social sharing.

Other online services, like Hulu, are also allowing users to bring media directly to their networks and take root inside Facebook itself, creating a forum for friends to share video content seamlessly. At the other end of the spectrum, there are options like Beckinfield Mass Participation TV, which takes social media to the nth degree by inviting users to film themselves as the stars and extend the web show format. This concept borrows from the realm of social alternate reality games, such as a World Without OilTruth About Marika, or Conspiracy for Good, which have been allowing users to write themselves into scripts and become the activist hero for quite some time now. Social media storytelling has deep roots in multiplayer role-playing gaming; in fact, the fastest growing game on Facebook at the moment is Sims, the $4 billion franchise game, where players inhabit and merge with social experiences in an alternate character-driven world.

Is alternate character acting the future? The film industry is not far behind in embracing social films. Earlier this year, Toshiba, Intel, and their ad agency Pereira & O’Dell took a gamble onInside, an interactive film experiment starring Emmy Rossum directed by D.J. Caruso. Now some people are speculating about whether or not social films are the next big thing in Hollywood. Will we see a social film revolution where plot dilemmas are handed over to the audience to experience and solve?

When it is done well, traditional storytelling married to social media is very powerful: It takes those people who want to go beyond a behind-the-scenes DVD extra into the story. While we watch to see if integrated social media entertainment will really take off, there are still some issues to consider, such as, is it invasive for characters from shows to enter an individual’s social networks? and Can a TV blockbuster become too personal?

That said, for now, I’m off to watch an episode of House, where I’m the patient!

Jun 292009
 

au·then·tic (ô-thĕn’tĭk) adj.

  • worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact – paints an authentic picture of our society
  • conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features
  • made or done the same way as an original
  • not false or imitation : real, actual
  • true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character

abridged definition from merriam webster

What does it mean to be real online? One of the biggest issues facing individuals and organisations in the new order that is social media (and web 2/3.0)  is the problem of being human, appearing real, having personality and authenticity. Add to this the fact that we all ‘lie’ in real life and the issue of this manifesting online. The question of authenticity is at the core of social media and one that causes much disagreement between old school media/marketing types and those who are attempting to engage more ‘deeply’ online with communities and customers. Whether it is about the integrity of your blogging, the energy of your tweeting or how your overall package of Flickr, YouTube, Facebook etc: this post addresses some of the philosophy and asks practical questions which will hopefully get you thinking about the true value of authenticity.

Continue reading »

Feb 032009
 

rocketoncomedyIf RocketOn grows at its current rate it may be the follow-up to Twitter as a real time, web 3.0, animated avatar, 2D web integrated social application.

It will of course need much more sophisticated friend and group management and the following/followers paradigm would work wonders here. But no doubt the company have lots on the boil along these lines?

I have written for the past year or so about those half-way house virtual worlds, avatars that exist as a layer above the traditional, flat 2D web in posts here and here.

Leader of the pack of these ‘parallel’ virtual worlds (I still prefer layered btw!) by some way is San Francisco based RocketOn which now has 114 000 unique active users of the service that primarily operates as a browser plug-in. CEO Steve Hoffman has told me of some key developments that will lift the service firmly out of beta. First and foremost are six major new partners that will expose RocketOn to more than 2 million potential users.

RocketOn Launches Beta with Comedy.com, Hypster, Online Flash Games, Hotspot, faceDub and Boosh Magazine. Parallel Virtual World Platform Goes Live – “Imagine what it would be like if you could join a virtual world on your favorite site and interact with everyone on that site,” says Steven Hoffman, CEO of RocketOn. “And what if you could also take your same avatar to any other website and meet people there?” The result is a parallel virtual world that spans the entire Internet, where users rocket through cyberspace with their avatars and interact with virtual environments on any site they choose.

rocketontrafficdemoHaving used RocketOn for some time on and off it reminds me of the web equivalent of the flash-mob – adhoc social gathering where you share brief experiences with others, ‘above’ web content, sometimes very compelling. It is fascinating too that there is a strong female demographic (67% in the US) suggesting parallel worlds being seen as (and used) as social vs ‘gamey’ space. More interesting in the stats is the high proportion of 12-34 year olds – often the ages where usage of social virtual worlds tends to dip. So RocketOn is definitely feeding on the traditional Facebook and MySpace network.

So the real time social element is best suited to comedy music, video and casual games where a live, real time’ness is key. Being able to call your friends together for activity and discussion around primary content in this way perhaps turns the back-channel (as in textual chatter) into the front-channel (where physicality comes into play). There is something about synchronous fun (and learning, there is a killer app hidden here for remote learning folks) over full screen video too – so RocketOn over full screen web video starts to remind me where IPTV was meant to be heading back in 2004! Participatory TV via the web back door anyone?

Here is the official press release that is going out today Feb 3rd

rocketonhypsterParallel Virtual World Goes Live

SAN FRANCISCO, CA — February 2009 — RocketOn, Inc., a venture-funded startup located in South San Francisco, is rolling out its virtual world platform by embedding virtual worlds on partner sites. RocketOn’s partners range from comedy, music and game sites to community networking sites and college magazines.

“Our goal”, says Bryan Suchenski, partner manager, “is to build social interaction and community on our partners’ websites, thereby weaving a virtual environment into the very fabric of the Web.”

RocketOn has built a platform for easily embedding virtual worlds into partner sites, allowing their users to interact in real-time with one another. Every partner site is part of the overall community, and with the click of a button, users can take their avatars anywhere they like on the site.

“Imagine what it would be like if you could join a virtual world on your favorite site and interact with everyone on that site,” says Steven Hoffman, CEO of RocketOn. “And what if you could also take your same avatar to any other website and meet people there?”

The result is a parallel virtual world that spans the entire Internet, where users rocket through cyberspace with their avatars and interact with virtual environments on any site they choose.

“What caught our attention about RocketOn is the potential for a new type of real-time social interaction on our site,” says Cahit Onur, CEO of Online Flash Games. “We felt this would help build customer loyalty and extend our brand into the virtual world space. We’re happy to be working with RocketOn and are open minded about new projects and ideas.”

RocketOn is announcing six partners now, with more to come in the near future.

ROCKETON’S PARTNERS INCLUDE:

Comedy.com is one of the Web’s leading comedy sites. It combines the best collaborative filtering tools along with exclusive, original-themed content, best-of-the-best lists, and timely topical material. www.comedy.com
Hypster is a music discovery site, offering Facebook, MySpace and Friendster users a personalized music player and playlists. www.hypster.com
Online Flash Games is a popular Flash games community. www.onlineflashgames.org
HotSpot is a community networking site to meet new friends, where users can store or share photos, create blogs, and share interests. www.98spot.com
faceDub develops fun and easy software that allows users to insert their faces into any scenario.
Boosh Magazine is the newest name in college entertainment. Boosh puts a unique twist on the whole ‘college magazine’ market and comes direct from a network of student columnists across the country. www.booshmagazine.com

ABOUT ROCKETON:

RocketOn is a venture-funded startup that is pioneering parallel virtual worlds. Its management team has worked at top game publishers, including Sega Sammy (SGAMY) and Electronic Arts (ERTS).

If you’d like more information, please contact:

Jul 162008
 

Interesting. I have a screen here at work spiting out various random on the spot blog posts from the Future of Media Summit . Looking at the themes and points coming out forcibly takes me back to the mid to late 90s and even earlier. At today’s conference there is lots of discussion about how media is fragmenting, democratization of distribution, how personalization (your personal media cloud) is really where it’s at, the live web and a plethora of points about how video on the web has erm, generated a new advertising model. Yawn. Now I remember why I avoid ‘Future of…” conferences…

Seems all I have read from the Future Exploration Networks innovative and ground breaking (video link up – really, a video conference link…I did one of those in 96?!) between Sydney and San Francisco are not really exploring the future but each others guess as to what is really happening at the moment – cause no one really has a clue. It is deja vu, a recap of many European/Far East versions of the future from 10-15 years ago. In fact looking at most of my presentations and posts from years ago on this and other blogs cover most of the points, especially about personalised media (oh yes thats the title). For example Ross Dawson’s‚ future of media topics I covered in presentations circa 1999 – a few recents are in my slideshare group which I rarely promote or on this PDF page which has some earlier ones and notably in this fun view of 2009 I did in Perth back in 2000 (compare the two). First here is oft self-promoted Ross Dawson’s vision of what is shaping the Future of Media…

Ross Dawson 2008

Media and entertainment industries growing massively. Seven driving forces shaping media

  1. Increasing media consumption – ‘we want to swim in an ocean of media all the time’
  2. Fragmentation – proliferation of new channels (mobile, video, etc)
  3. Participation – people sharing their stories
  4. Personalisation – of content & advertising, issues with privacy
  5. New revenue models – advertising networks
  6. Generational change – younger people becoming dominant in marketplace
  7. Increasing bandwidth – shifting what is currently being delivered over other channels > iPhone mania

Personal Cloud – content we own and create – From this rains down the ‘precipitation of participation’ – sharing our photos, stories and lives with others – To what extent do we control our Personal Cloud?

Yes these are and have been shaping the future of media for the past 15 years at least – and then 2) my slightly cheeky predictions…drum roll…Future of Media in 2009 (from 2000’s Small Screen Big Picture)

Gary Hayes 2000

The World in 2009

  • Every individual can become a producer of content which is available to everyone else – if they want it.
  • Now anything is available on demand from anywhere over vast broadband networks.
  • Everything is ‘pulled’, only personally relevant content is ‘pushed’.
  • Everything can be made portable & kept forever
  • The home becomes a personalised entertainment and life system where everything is centralised – games, video, shops, audio, text, email & vmail & banking.
  • CD collections, home movies, personal photographs are stored here too
  • ‘Open Standards’ killed off all proprietary platforms in 2005 and the large ‘trusted’ traditional broadcasters collaborated and produced one navigation system that all companies adopted
  • All ‘content programme brands’ have elements in all of the above
  • The words ‘TV’ ‘radio’ & ‘internet’ disappeared from our vocabulary. Even the word ‘interactive’ went – everything is now interactive
  • The World Wide Web of early 2000 is regarded as a ‘low resolution’ pilot
  • Scheduled ‘live video’ becomes a special group shared event – there is only one broadcast channel in each country – these events generate most online discussion
  • True to all predictions the ‘interactive’ fridge becomes the most popular, connected device in the house

OK as with all “Future of Media” conferences we come to expect lots of waffle, fluffy guesses as to where Social Media or New Gadgets (iPhone, yawn) will really take us. Most talks I did for TV-Anytime and BBC around 2000-2003 covers most of the discussion around future of privacy, targeted ads and personal content systems. But bottom line it really it is about paranoia on the part of traditional media makers able to afford turning to high fee ‘futurist’ consultants who rarely produce anything apart from a ‘compelling’ stage presence and a book or two to sell. OK I am possibly being cruel but if the content industry is going to grow up it should stop looking for shiny jewels from crystal ball gazing, web trawling, big picture, space cadets and look to hands-on strategists who live and breathe this stuff. Most of the former are jumping on any myth/hype they can use to leverage interest in their ‘expertise’ but it is rarely about the future and often about regurgitating the past within the boundaries of this fresh new high bandwidth, on-demand, two way network. I have talked long and hard in the past about the separation between commentators and producers around cross-media and I have also pointed out academia needs to up its game. I don’t bother to win friends, as you can tell.

Unlike several folk at the Future of Media conference I rarely self-promote as being worthy of title of visionary (and any one up pens their own websites with those words in the title should be seriously steered clear of). But to be like them I thought I would throw in a bunch of my own quotes I normally pull out for wall stickers on LAMP courses: (Some others here)

“If you are not passionate about the empowerment potential of your interactive creation or find something new in it yourself at every turn, you should not call yourself an interactive producer” Gary Hayes 2005

“True interactivity should require users to give something of themselves and for the ‘system’ to resonate with that. If all you ask them to put in is selecting a series of vacuous pre-built options, their engagement is minimal and all they will truly get out is a series of vacuous outcomes.” Gary Hayes 2005

“Over a 15 year, medium term broadband future terms such as Film, TV, Radio & the Internet will start to disappear from our next generation’s vocabulary. Audiences will interactively share & access video, audio and games across a sea of devices, partly oblivious of appointment-to-view in the 20th Century.” Gary Hayes – Snr Producer, BBC. 2000

“The ‘My Media Generation’ are experienced multitaskers. They are used to browsing, jumping between devices and physical locations. Services that do not integrate this in to the design will be lost in the noise. One must create story that permeates their world, playing with the fact that they are already enjoying self-induced, parallel experiences.” Gary Hayes 2005

“The future may be cross-media but it is also interactive multi-modal devices at home and on the move that connect to every source and every media type” Gary Hayes 2005

“Just as humans eventually were unable to tame the complexity and scale of the physical universe so it will be with our media universe. The only course of action will be to send personalised intelligent agents, reconnaissance drones, deep into the content cosmos to capture relevance. The personalized future will be a world where rich audio visual and game media orbits around the digital you – occasionally being sucked into your ‘realm’ like stars pulled by forces unknown into black holes” Gary Hayes, Space Cadet 2004

We are all guilty of Weasel Words when we are asked the ‘where is it all heading question’ but there are others who base their careers on them. Typical ones heard in many a consultation session, “Social Media has enormous implications, it will change the business forever” or how about “Video on the web will produce a sea change of advertising models” or “These social virtual browser based web worlds could be very important for your brand” – client: yes we guessed that, but please tell us how it will in detail, what we need to do to change, in detail and by the way, have you ‘lived’ our business.

But lets make this post interactive, which one are you hands-on strategist or space cadet weasel word waffler?

 

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