Nov 172008

Another selection of my items cross-posted from another of my original blogs, lamp watercooler.

The Ulitmate Mashup Launches – Sport, MMOG & Social Virtual World – 16 Oct 08

Football Superstars is the world’s first Virtual Football World. An entire online virtual world designed by football fans exclusively for football fans, where you can enjoy a massively multiplayer experience on your PC.

A service that I have been keeping an eye on because of it’s skill in combining passionate sporting fan behaviour with sticky gaming and persistent virtual worlds is Football Superstars. As well as the EA sports game type component there is the ubiquitous inworld micro-economy, buying virtual sporting goods ala Second Life and it has enormous potential for advergaming, cross branding, sponsorship and of course cross-reality (real footy alongside virtual – and combined leader boards etc:). I was one of the ones on the beta group and a few days after launch, there are 3000 registering every day with 100 000 already using it. This has been in the planning stages for 4 years and the team of 80 developers are about to make a big splash methinks! From the UK Telegraph

Football Superstars is a cross between Second Life, the virtual world game, and traditional football games such as Championship Manager and the Fifa football series.

Players can download the game and develop their football skills before participating in full 11-a-side games and, if they become sufficiently skilled, being picked for representative games and eventually international tournaments.

Off the pitch, players will be able to socialise and spend their wages in a virtual world of restaurants, bars, clubs and shops.

The Nottingham-based startup, has invested more than £5m over two years in creating Football Superstars with a team of 80 programmers.

Although the game is free to play, players will also be encouraged to spend real money on virtual clothes, boots and cars.

All the players on the pitch will be controlled by real players and they will be able to call to one another in real time using headsets and using 3D sound technology.

An unlimited number will be able to play at any one time.

The game will be another addition to the profitable Massively Multiplayer Online Games (MMOG) market. World of Warcraft, a fantasy virtual game, is the most popular and has almost 11 million paying players worldwide.

More than 100,000 people have registered and the company yesterday claimed that new registrations were running at more than 3,000 a day.

Games such as FIFA 09, produced by Electronic Arts, have recently introduced online elements that allow players on opposite sides of the world to compete against one another.

iPhone as Serious Musical Instrument? – 7 Nov 2008

There have been a few iPhone apps that suggest where things are heading, not necessarily with the iPhone as musical instrument (it is still a small toy) but with musical instruments of the future. The multi touch, inertia driven interface at larger scale is going to be very interesting as well as the proximity and connected element to those around you. I have been using toys like the realistic guitar and various drum machines and percussion effects for over a year now, but do like the new crop of instruments such as the free uFlute and the Ocarina from Smule. The video below shows the ocarina being used in ensemble mode, I am still learning the key combinations to get a decent range on it, but it is starting to feel, musical! Back to my ‘non virtual’ harp, soprano sax, guitars, aftertouch keyboard midi controllers, clarinet etc: yes the real ones!

I must say though one of the fantastic features of Ocarina though is the global view ‘lurk’ mode. When I activated this it started to feel a little like the opening of the film contact – a distant globe rotates and around it hovers music from individual players (in countries around the world) who are using the Ocarina in real time, and given the dreamy, reverberant sound it began to feel like humanities call out into the void…quite special. The video I did above captures a sense of it and it reminds me forcibly of Twittervision and the like.

Ocarina is the first true musical instrument created for the iPhone. Both experts and beginners will be amazed by this innovative player. Ocarina is sensitive to your breath, touch and movements, making it even more versatile than the original. Unlike other musical applications, there are no pre-compiled riffs so musicians will find unlimited opportunities for self-expression. Advanced options allow you to choose between diatonic, minor and harmonic scales. Or channel your favorite video game adventurer with Smule’s Zeldarian mode.

Also, like most Smule products, Ocarina is a social application. Tap on the globe icon and you will see and hear other Ocarina players throughout the world. The globe view will highlight the source of the music. Rate your favorite performances so that others may benefit from your judgment. Name your Ocarina if you want listeners around the world to identify your performances. With this robust application beautiful music is created, appreciated and shared.

Japanese Street Ads Detect You – 26 Oct 2008

A bit Minority Report Advertising beta 0.9a – Using motion detection on the street in Tokyo to advertise a Swedish Reality TV program called Big in Japan. I love the idea that your motion past a full length ad hoarding causes the image to come to life (well it starts flashing cameras and makes you the star) but that incessant screaming – please! No! It wasn’t clear if actual pictures are taken of the unsuspecting pedestrians, but heh it doesn’t really matter – they were famous for 5 seconds at the local bus shelter.

These billboards are equipped with motion detectors and speakers. As people go by they set off crazy japanese fans, cheering and taking pictures of them.

Ad supported A-list Web Programming at NBC – 9 Oct 2008

NBC have taken a bold step in making it clear that it is ramping up quality programming exclusively for the web reported by AdAge. Although the episodes are in the 4-5 minute range they will have high production values as if made for prime time TV. The whole initiative is seeking key advertisers to be there at the outset to fund some of the costs. From the article…

Big-name talent
Brent Weinstein, CEO of 60 Frames Entertainment, said having more big-name talent attached to more web-based projects has enhanced the appeal of these shows to advertisers. “Given the choice between really good content and really bad or average content, more often than not, consumers are choosing the good. And advertisers are learning it’s a more important way to reach their intended consumers,” he said. Added Mr. Death ( VP, NBC Universal Digital Studio): “Perhaps 12 months ago, A-list talent wouldn’t jump into anything in terms of a web series. But now it’s OK, and in fact they’re coming to us with ideas and projects.”

and it seems like they are attracting big names in heritage media circles pulling top script writers into this new medium which can only be a good thing as in truth the further we move from wannabees or web designers writing stories for the web the better – now onto games 🙂

But unlike a lot of web-based TV shows,’s offerings use name actors and TV-quality production values. The lineup, co-produced with 60 Frames Entertainment, includes everything from reality competition series to scripted dramas from high-profile writers such as “The Bourne Ultimatum” scribe Scott Burns (comedic drama “Love at First Sight & Other Dangers”) “Oz” creator Tom Fontana (crime drama “Men With Guns: The Assassins”) and “Big Fish” screenwriter John August (quirky comedy “The Remnants”).

LOST Extends Virtually into Second Life – 24 Sept 2008


There have been a few TV shows that have offered new and immersive experiences into collaborative virtual worlds notably MTV with Laguna Beach, The Hills, Pimp My Ride and others into as well as CSI and BigBrother (that I wrote about 2 years ago) into Second Life – and lots more. The latest entrant looks far more suited as a match for Second Life, as it more naturally reflects the story environment – being a rather deserted, desert island.

As it says in the video about this more experiential extension to LOST – “explore the island by yourself” – “or with other fans” – “find secret places” – “live like a lostie” – “or help the dharma initiative” etc etc: Couldn’t see a lot of story in this build so I suspect created by a small peripheral team?

More info at SL Lost.

Nov 062006

Are we already past the tipping point? Google’s ad revenues in the UK overtake that of Channel 4s. If that isn’t enough, 16-24 year olds in the UK are watching 7 hours TV less a week than the average.

THe Tipping Point

I am not sure why traditional broadcasters still say that the web is there to support and enhance dominant TV and Radio output. At what point do they sit up and listen. I have been running another LAMP lab in Tasmania and I was surprised when project teams still talk about a big call-to-action for viewers as ‘getting on TV’. This is nostalgia for pre 1995 when mass media was the Goggle box. But now mass media is the Google box. If you dont measure it in falling TV numbers (and no it will never die, just fade out to background radiation) then how about measuring in hard cash, advertising revenues. A couple of articles point out that advertising revenues in the UK for Google are bigger than the TV advertising revenues for on of the biggest commercial channels Channel 4. More importantly at the current growth rate within two years online advertising in the UK will be bigger than the main cFTA (Commercial Free to Air) consortium of ITV who rake in 1.7 billion GBP.

The BBC Article “Who is watching the viewers” suggests that the 5% of total ad revenues that Google picks up in the UK (�900m) is not really that significant. Given that it is more than Channel 4’s total ad income, C4 CEO Andy Duncan in his Reuters interview (covered here in the Age) thinks differently

“(This) reinforces that significant structural change has been going on and will continue to go on,” Duncan said in reference to the UK advertising market. “Some broadcasters have been very slow to realise this. The industry as a whole is frankly rather backward looking and is perhaps underestimating the scale of change that is going on and the pace of change.”

My friend Will Cooper of Informitv reports also on Lord Currie of Ofcom in the UK with some cautionary words for those still doubting the quickening pace.

He said the �on-demand� delivery of services is becoming a reality for younger consumers. They expect to watch television programmes and listen to radio stations which interest them, rather than just accept what is on at the time…this generation will be parents with young children �for whom broadcast television will have ceased to be the lead medium. As broadcast television overtook radio, then newspapers, so internet-delivered video content will overtake broadcast television,� he said. �Advertising will follow suit, causing shifts in traditional business models.�

OK 60% of online ad revenues are based around search and many think that makes it in some way invalid. A bit like those in the 80s who said people would not want to walk around with a telephone or music system attached to them. What this is about is personalization. Relevant ads, based on your interest at that moment, recommended product and not scatter gun irrelevance. I have a personal issue with the irritation and annoyance of TV ads to the point at every break I HAVE to turn the sound down now. Why should I be subjected to 5-10 minutes of ‘noise’, that has no meaning to me. This is a dinosaur about to topple over. The way TV is holding on to its old models, not investing in innovative new web models (and no sticking a bunch of video on the web with embedded ads is NOT innovative) and generally burying its head in the sand reminds me of Al Gore’s ‘frog piece’ from his recent filmed ‘keynote’ presentation (aka as ‘An Inconveniant Truth’).

If a frog jumps into a pot of boiling water, it jumps right out again, because it senses the danger. But the very same frog if it jumps into a pot of luke warm water that is slowly brought to a boil, will just sit there and it won’t move. It will just sit there even as the temperature continues to go up and up. It will stay there until.. until.. it is rescued. It is important to rescue the frog. The point is this: Our collective nervous system is like that frog’s nervous system. It takes a sudden jolt sometimes before we become aware of a danger. If it seems gradual, even it is really adapting quickly, we are capable of just sitting there and not reacting.

OK so the media ad pot may not be boiling just yet, but there are bubbles forming on the bottom. The question is what happens when online ad revenues are bigger than commercial free to air TV. Are the broadcasters sitting in hot water, waiting to be rescued. How will the quality of TV suffer in the meantime? Also will the money dry up so quickly that investment in alternatives are left too late? Again from Reuters, Andy Duncan…

…said he expects the TV advertising market to fall by 6 to 7 percent for 2007, and broadcasters needed to put an emphasis on quality programming to prevent viewers from drifting to other forms of media. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB UK) said last month that online advertising spending in Britain had jumped 40 percent in the first half of 2006 compared with a year ago, taking a market share of 10.5 percent.

But that comes back to my point again. At what point will ad revenue fall off mean that there is just no money to invest in new form programming, more immersive ‘game-like’ services, experimenting with inventive cross-media services and creating more than, value-add web services. I think that being complacent and waiting for the Commercial Free To Air ad drought before any kind of ‘meaningful’ action is a very dangerous game and back to the metaphor, like global warming, we are already past the tipping point.
Posted by Gary Hayes © 2006

Oct 162005

Hello there – back after a stimulating week in South Australia helping producers create a ‘personalized’ future. Will post a little about LAMP 1 in the coming week. For now though…

Remember these times because here comes the stampede to the ‘broadband well’ – the start of the big transition from traditional broadcast to broadband has begun. It had to happen sooner or later of course. The traditional dominant broadcasters have finally noticed that their audiences are moving to “greener, more user generated pastures”. What to do? Buy the “greener pastures” of course – while you still have a chance.

Announced yesterday MTV have just invested $49mill in iFilm aiming to deliver its brands and advertising across the current 10 million users of the iFilm site. Let me see $49 million divided by 10 million…roi, roi… One can imagine where they will take iFilm as MTV also recently launched an internet only channel called mtvU – aimed squarely at the 730 subscribing university campus’s. As one might expect MTV is running a traditional peer-review model and encouraging users to upload student band videos. If it gets voted the best it could end up on the multi-platform show “The Cut”. There is also the traditional vote for the best Film Short and potential TV outing.

As reported by my old friend William from Informitv this week we have another ‘dinosaur’ namely News Corp’s Sky in the UK wielding £1 billion trying to find the next toy – Sky buying broadband TV operation. It is fun watching Sky putting its hand in it’s deep pockets and no takers, as yet – one can see a time when all the shelves are empty and there are still a few at the back of the queue – I think News Corp will be queue hopping quite a bit over the next year 😉 It would make sense that Sky would start to leverage it’s dominance of the UK digital content market as it has been far too reliant on purely Digital Satellite distribution and as its PVR is only around 10% of its nearly 8 million subscribers – VOD and broadband TV are attractive toys on the shelf. If it did get a service like Homechoice (the worlds first just turned to MP4 broadband TV operation) then as well as IPTV triple play services it could begin to offer broadband delivery to its Sky+ boxes, albeit in the London area, but no doubt Sky would like to begin its foray into Home Media Centers before microsoft or even now apple start to move in.

UPDATE: Sky acquire Easynet

It is not just av centers. As you may recall last month News Corp also bought IGN Entertainment one of the biggest online games companies for $650mill. We are also seeing a range of aquisitions not necessarily in the broadband video area but certainly aimed fair and squarely at user generated content. Led by the $580m purchase of MySpace by News Corp I start to wonder what is driving this and where it is headed.

I can’t imagine just yet that News Corp are that scared of Google or Yahoo! not yet surely? Are MTV threatened by a few amateur music video sites? Is News Corp’s flagship satellite broadcaster worried by video-on-demand take-up in the UK making broadcast satellite redundant ? Well actually I can imagine it and my only concern is that rather than allow time for new business models to emerge and smaller players to build up momentum towards true democratisation of content distribution – we will have the old models trickle over, acquisition by acquisition. I just hope that the creative thrust that started these peer-review and blogging enterprises doesn’t get squeezed out by corporate man-handling. I suspect this flurry of broadband and community acquisition will continue unabated for the next few years until we have a handful of dominant players locking up the internet, over-branding, saturating everything with ads, making profits with cheaper dumbed down content, reducing the amount of content we can get at a higher price – hold it, that’s today’s model. Theres nothing new under the sun.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005