Aug 052008
 

Gary Hazlitt, Gazlitt and me take a ‘break’ in over fifty worlds comprising the current metaverse, here is the holiday video…

I am doing a commercial report and curriculum development on the evolving range of social virtual worlds and have recently ventured into fifty of them to review and sample the culture, creative, business and educational potential. On my travels I got out my virtual camera and decided to capture a bunch of small vignettes which quickly turned into a body of audio visual delights – so decided to create a nice seven minute video for posterity.

I thought I would share the video publically as it demonstrates how ubiquitous, popular and streamlined many of these spaces are becoming across the intraweb / ‘cloud’. With over 300 million frequenting or registering for the non-game based worlds and millions of new investment in 2nd and 3rd generation services there seems to be no stopping them…Enjoy the video  (UPDATE: now standing at over 55 000 views!)

75MB MP4 Download available at http://www.justvirtual.com/SVWS_2008.mp4

A few immediate things that struck me on my travels:

  • That there are quite a few worlds now getting their balance on the shoulders of Second Life and really getting to grips with the social networking aspects vs the 3D’ness
  • There IS a balance between a social space and an ‘agreed’ advertorial world – “you give me valid experience, I accept a level of advertising”
  • A few new entrants realise that using a fully fledged, 3D game engine as the client for what is in the end a glamorous 3D facebook and requiring a high spec’d PC is not the best way. Second generation services like vSide have followed a good middle ground
  • As I reported a few days ago the ‘layered-over-the-2d-web’ version of these worlds such as RocketOn Exit Reality and Weblin show great usability and promise
  • Some worlds are demonstrating the precursor to photo realism and smooth motion while others have as much ‘immersion’ by providing intimacy with your friends in more cutesy environments
  • Many of these worlds operate without the hype we have seen with Second Life and have slowly been building up large communities. Beware any world that tries to launch on hype, as most of these worlds are still in adolescence and not ready for mainstream
  • The Metaverse is a world of connected worlds, how/when/if they are connected will be a real challenge from a technical and standardisation perspective. Especially as a few are starting to concentrate on themes, music, sport and probably in the end very defined niches – fly fishing social world anyone?
  • It is important for those who are supposedly representing or blogging about ‘the metaverse’ to get in there and try these services – beyond registering and wandering around for only 10 minutes (I could name several who haven’t a clue!) but…
  • There are not enough hours in the day to attempt to truly engage with each world but it is amazing how adept you become at spotting flaws and innovation when you put the effort in
  • lots more to follow from the official report in a future post…

KZero are turning out to be the best resource on the planet, tracking Social Virtual Worlds and their latent potential. They gave me permission to publish/post this great chart with a great stab at putting many of the worlds in the video across content sectors.

Social VIrtual Worlds Logos - End 2008

Here is a list of the worlds featured in my video in order of appearance:

Video details:

The ‘Social Virtual’ World’s A Stage
A Film by Gary Hayes © Personalizemedia 2008
http://www.personalizemedia.com

“This is not a Game” – Music composed and performed by
Gary Hayes http://www.korkyt.net

Apr 212007
 

360 Award Winners
YAY! Jackie my LAMP cohort and Paul Bennun (a new LAMP mentor on the next lab in Tas) won their development awards categories! more later…Writing this on various jetlagged Europe to Australia plane hops so excuse any fragmentation of style – will be tidying and adding links and speakers quotations (to bring it to life) when I get back to Oz, compiling them on the last leg from Bangkok to Sydney. This is actually posted from the surreal Bangkok international sci-fi tube airport in a bleary haze from the previous cramped eleven hour flight (OK enough boring travel detail)…

This final full day looked on the surface like my ideal conference agenda 😉 Thanks Ferhan. So a delectable mix of seminars like social tools driving formats, virtual worlds (keynote, brands) and games in cross-media entertainment amongst many others! So how did it live up to expectation? First though a few comments about the Ashley and Jana double act the previous evening before Emmys…

BBC Keynote – Focus on-demand

Jana Bennett “We need to be ahead of the audience not behind them, The conversation can be creative, two way and in many cases multi-way. And we are witnessing new creative possibilities open up when many of these ripples bump against each other”

I am not sure what has happened since last year when Ashley gave a rundown of the many and various activities across BBC New Media including the latest broadband and broadcast interactive ‘TV-forms’, interesting new services such as the subtle ARG Jamie Kane (is it real or not) right through to a whole bunch of participatory aspirational and delivered online content. This year though it seemed to be Jana Bennett (Director, BBC Vision) talking broadly about embracing viewer created content and Ashley Highfield, (Director of Future Media & Technology) focussing wholey on BBC on-demand – whether via the iPlayer or a beta timeshifted interface for a forthcoming DTT, PDR (Personal Digital Recorder – wish they would use that rather than a DVR or PVR, which stresses video).

Ashley Highfield “Coming to a platform agnostic device near you soon. Our trials show that the BBC IPlayer counts for 10% more of BBC TV viewing in broadband homes…with this level of nascent demand we want to make BBC iPlayer as widely available as possible across as many platforms as is feasible. Were starting with the biggest available audience the 22 million who are broadband connected in Britain, The next biggest audience will be the 3 million cable homes. After that its Max, Media Centres, smart handheld devices and once we’ve done all of that we are going to turn to the really tricky platforms like digital terrestrial using PVRs or internet hybrid boxes”

Anyway so a little dissapointing from a ‘innovation’ perspective but encouraging as finally a culture of manifesting the TV-Anytime vision (which was not really about standards but about the many rich services that broadcast and broadband delivered audio visual enable – just wish people would read the flippin’ business models documents for phase 1 and 2, cause it covers virtually everything I saw at Milia when function, form, creativity and business models are discussed around on-demand (especially personalisation, mobile PDRs and targeted ads). Anyway, a long way to go it seems for the BBC as the 1000 clips/programmes is not a big enough pot yet to try the really cool stuff, such as ‘Buried Alive’ from last year. Hats off to Phil Jay and others for producing a nice carousel interface for the BBC PDR, subtle hints of Dale Herigstad work and even the very first Digital Text prototype I made that had a genre carousel selector – but that was nine years ago 😉

Back to the final full day. I attended in post Emmy wobblyness a Marc Canter breakfast. Marc is sold as a “techno rabble rouser, with an operatic voice”. In 1984, he co-founded MacroMind, which became Macromedia in 1991 but that is long, long ago. We had an informal chat with croissants and coffee, before his talk and it became a trip down memory lane of using Macs at the dawn of interactive creation, made me and a couple of others involved feel very old. His talk eventually got to his new passion – merging his multimedia heritage with social networks, creating what he calls ‘digital lifestyle aggregators.’

Marc Cantor “I believe that every single brand wants to have an audience relationship with us. Not now but within 10 years. Nowadays the notion is about digital lifestyle aggregate. Three fundamental principles. First is integration…if you could have your IM, with your blogging with your social network with your shopping all in one interface that would be an integrated environment, easier to use. Second, aggregation. Bringing all your information into one place. Third…customisation…”

He loves the word convergence and hates labels, especially Web 3.0, his focus is close to my heart and that is transparent interoperability between social networks and technology – a long uphill battle. In fact I had asked a similar question of Dr Yoo of Cyworld, could MySpace and Cyworld and all the other ‘profile’ based SocioNets ever be compatible so you can move info around instead of endless maintenance of all of them. Dr Yoo said extremely difficult, Marc Canter has the energy to at least trigger some strong thinking in the area it seemed. Brian Seth-Hurst as usual moderated the session and a quote will follow.

Video super panel TV 2.0 Meets Web 2.0
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This was almost a clone of last years panel which was one of the better ones but with the addition of a comical Steve Billinger (now leading CBC Digital) and a more serious Henrik Werdelin (of the new kid on the block Joost). It had Mr Google UK Patrick Walker there representing the big brother, the black hole and lots of jokes about them buying the rest of the panel at some point.

Ken Rutkowski (moderator) “Google literally trying to take over everything from the desktop etc: and not in a negative way, a postive way, Everyone used to call Google a search engine it doesn’t even resemble a search engine anymore, there is so much content that is out there. How do you now take advertisers and help them get their brand in front of everyone. For example on YouTube there is no advertisement inside the video, like Revver does something that is post-roll, and others are doing similar things. Where do you highlight an advertiser inside the content?”
Patrick Walker (Google) “ Well the advertising business is based on the ad words, the websearch side of things. It is a very robust business and we share a lot of revenue with partners. We are also introducing new forms of advertising looking how to play video ads, display ads on 3rd party websites. Were experimenting we have a very successful and major business thanks to the partnerships we have with advertisers and websites. So we are able to experiment on websites like Google maps and websites like YouTube where we don’t want to rush in and throw in a bunch of ad formats that maximise revenue but destroy the user experience. We have an engagement model that comes with advertising and so we will slowly introduce ads, we will experiment and get user feedback. At the end of the day if you can deliver ads that are relevant and are interesting and specific geographically then that itself becomes interesting content”.

But the panel showed that things are maturing very quickly and I pointed out that Patrick and Andy Grumbridge (Managing Editor C4 UK) were sat next to each other and asked about my tipping point observation that Google ad sales are now ahead of C4s. Andy kind of resigned to the writing on the ‘bottom line’ saying that C4 were still good at doing video ads so will be around, albeit ‘never’ again to overtake Google.

Gary “It is interesting that Andy and Patrick are sitting together C4 and Google because I think it was this time last year when for the first time in history Google ad sales were bigger than Channel 4 and it sent shockwaves running through the industry. I am just wondering if you see that as some kind of tipping point?”
Andy “We are quite good at doing video ads so we think that’s a good opportunity to get back in the game. I am not sure we will ever be as good as Google again. What was interesting though was that was achieved not through video advertising but through ad keyword display”

The panel talked again long and hard about ad funded video, the tidal wave of viewer created and the difference between aggregators and content makers. I will follow with some quotes below that tackle some of these head on. I mustn’t forget the final speaker Anthony Lilley, CEO, Magic Lantern Productions and William Linders, Executive Director Digital Media, Endemol who represented the content side of the discussion.

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The virtual world keynote from Phil ‘I-try-to-be-a-reluctant-benign-God’ Rosedale” – a 101 for the fascinated hoarde.
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We had to put up with this strange passport style image of Philip all week starring at us from various promo billboards around the palais – but it seemed to draw interest and it was a packed hall for this keynote. I had had a quick chat with Phil at the Emmy’s about things such as branded registrations into Second Life and the national mix but his talk to this noob audience was really a quick intro combined with some good metaphors about why SL is significant. The most poignent and resonant point he made (again for me at least!) was about real time, collaborative communication – Second Life represents people being online in the same space at the same time in a user generated environment (vs the abstracted’ness of 2D web interfaces, time shifted comments via blogs, or time shifted edits on wikis and so on).

Phil Rosedale “Nobody jumps into a new medium as an organised controlled strategy where their trying to deploy business advantaged content on that platform, it never happens. A bunch of virtual reality companies were too early in the 80s and 90s simply approached the space, the whole idea wrong. All new mediums, instant messaging, the web itself, email, television they started with whimsy, fantasy, vanity, artistic self-expression, they didn’t start with business applications, they didn’t start by trying to market real world products”

A packed crowd in the Esterel Auditorium therefore had a basic intro to Second Life and it was a shame they didn’t see the thousands of other things it represents and why Phil had to pull out images of Angshe yet again? – money talks I suppose. He did mention the many developers that are around to hand hold potential brands and TV properties into SL (including MUVEDesign of course) but referred specifically to Millions of Us and Reuben Steiger in the panel following.
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“Second Life is still hard to use on a lot of machines doesn’t run well on a lot of laptops. Open sourcing was a big piece of this, were building out our team as we become profitable and are able to get many more engineers working on R&D on this. Expect Second Life to run a lot smoother, it should just work like a browser” Phil Rosedale

More significantly he was asked about the User Creation percentage referring to the 1% creation and 99% voyeur on YouTube…

“This is a point that the world of broadcast medium is really something to really think carefully about. When we started with Second Life, of course everyone spent all their time making things. Well the reason for that was the world was basically a sand block with palm trees, so if you wanted a house you better, make a primitive and paint it and sit there with your friend, it was the only thing to do. We always said as this matures as Second Life gets mainstream, whatever that means, we will see that number drop down. We looked at the number about 2 years ago when Second Life was 25 times smaller and about 30% of peoples time was spent making stuff. Now we have grown more than an order of magnitude and guess what the percentage is now, about 30%. I suggest this is the reason. We believe that people want to be entertained by passively consuming content, we have always believed that. I think that this is one of those cases where we are mistaken in why we believe that. We think because it is in human nature , most people just want to sit and be entertained, I think that is wrong. I think what we are missing is that in the past 50 years the only way we have been able to distribute great content to people is by a centralised, single point distribution mechanism which reduced costs to a reasonably point. So we believe we are passive entertainment consumers only because technology has let us do it that way. If people want to be creative 30% of the time then everyone had better rethink the nature of media and what that means”

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Here we see Phil showing the audience his inworld identity – I was thinking at the time shouting out that ‘hey, you should get a good skin and hair, your embarrasing the hardcore avatars” (he looks like a noob for the uninitiated) 😉 But he made some introductory remarks about the nature of identity in Second Life and the usual audience ‘gasps’ when he started to fly, yawn, but hey all they had seen up to that point was him rezzing a bunch of powerpoint slides on the beach! Even so I had lots of folk say later ‘ooh we must buy an island and do x, y and z’ – and as usual I had to point out that certain of those things were not the most engaging for an SL audience, which was excellently covered in the next panel.

One statement from Phil that brought another few gasps was his rather matter of fact way he delivered the following line when Ken asked him about his role within the world, president, dictator?

Ken Rutkowski “Your the president of Linden Lab and so there are several million people in this environment, so are you the president…of this world? Are you seen as a president, a dictator, what are you?”

Phil Rosedale. “Depends on the day or the nature of the last software release…I try to be a reluctant benign god within the virtual world.” (sniggers from the audience) He tried to justify this statement “Theres a deeper point there. Second Life could not be successful if it were centrally controlled. If our position was that of editorial content arbiter for example I can guarantee you that it would not be as successful” and added earlier “We dont make deals directly with broadcasters or content owners; were a level-playing field platform”


Marketing in Virtual Worlds

Promised to be a great panel but I think a concentration on just Second Life and not on other less immersive avatar based psuedo 3D services would have been better. Even so we got great insight from BMW (Jens Monsees) and Millions of Us CEO Reuben Steiger gave an inspirational look at human evolution and why we are moving into virtual worlds – a proper quote to follow but he talked about the basic human need to build and make things, rather than passively consume media.

Reuben Steiger “What we say to brands coming into Second Life one of the first things we say is you have to be culturally relevant. Secondly brands need to relinquish control. Very tightly scripted, formulaic experiences don’t work they miss the mark completely…Brands need to embrace an element of user creation and chaos and the brands role is to really set the stage around their brand but to give users things to do and ways to change their experience – to give pens to their users. The brand has to write the first page of the first scene and its up to the brand to have the bravery to hand pens to their audience and let them write the rest. That is the only way to be successful.”

He also had a good array of what brands and properties should be creating for the community of Second Life – like Phil Rosedale before him tripping off the standard line ‘you must add value to the community’. I added in a question at the end that brands/properties MUST be prepared to put a lot of effort into post build with human resources too, everyone agreed. Other speakers and more quotations, especially from BMW’s experience of the virtual society to follow below..

“Our typical campaign the results are very very dramatic. Within second life our average client will get between 30 and 50 thousand users over a three month period, coming into direct contact with the brand. For our clients that is a rounding error they don’t think in terms of these numbers. Here’s where it gets interesting. The average engagement ranges from 20 minutes to 5 hours! That’s off the charts. If they do it in the way were describing it here that’s imaginative and user generated and somewhat chaotic, the experience leaves Second Life and the conversation moves into the blogosphere, they take photos of themselves interacting with the brand and upload them to flickr, movies to YouTube, Impressions in the blogosphere are between 1 to 10 million the same as in mainstream media. So the experience happens in Second Life with a core community and all the reach is on the net”. Reuben Steiger, CEO Millions of US

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Eileen Bastianelli, Managing Director, Shake Content/BBDO (France)
Bas Verhart, CEO, Media Republic Development (The Netherlands)

Games for Cross-Platform Entertainment
(I can see people shifting down to gate C3 so will just quickly type a few lines to be developed later). This panel really stood out against the rest of the more integrated (for TV folk panels). Deftly and expertly led by Matt Costello (who had too many things to contribute to really be a moderator) it felt though a bit too much a look ‘inside games industry’, under the bonnet and a bit disenfranchising for TV folk. Some were drifting out as they talked about the detail of games design and not really about true cross-platform integration but Matt did mention some interesting parallel and cross-over, mixed reality formats between shows and virtual worlds that caught my ear (especially as I am involved in a few both in LAMP and in the commercial sector).

Deborah Todd “With CSI the people who worked on the game, the developers, they had their own writers but they worked very closely with the CSI writers in LA. So yes it does make sense (to integrate the show writers into the game production). The gaming world is very collaborative and I think it makes a lot of sense for us to get as much input from people as possible. But just because you have somebody who is familiar with the show doesn’t mean they can think in a non-linear fashion. Its very dangerous to think that your script writer on the show is going to be just great at coming up with your game. There are design elements that come into play, character development and sometimes you have to create backstory, puzzles, things for players to do etc:. It is better at this point in time to hire someone who has that capability and who can hit the ground running”

Most of the focus though was on sticking the game on different platforms rather than parallel or linked services. Also, although they broached it slightly, they missed the chance to talk about cost effective it is to enter customisable MMO’s like Second Life for new entrants – after all there are plenty of MMORPG like worlds inside Second Life (Midian, COLA etc) and no one even mentioned the L Word or Laguna Beach as TV property brand examples. Anyway Matt and Gina Jackson (Head of Business Development: New Media, Eidos Interactive Ltd.) and the knowledgeable Deborah Todd, (Independent designer, writer, producer) kept the hardcore games folk happy – just a shame it was over the heads of many there. More detail to follow…

Tools creating new media forms
A great idea for a panel but at the start there should have been a real overview and context as to what we were about to see and their relevances and scope! More to follow – here are the speakers
Mark Bole, CEO, Shozu ( USA)
Justin Bovington, Creative Director, Rivers Run Red Europe (UK)
Suranga Chandratillake, CTO & Founder, Blinkx (USA)
Olivier Dufour, CEO, SkemA (France)
Petteri Koponen, Co-founder, Jaiku Ltd (Finland)
Claire Leproust, VP Marketing & Content, Eyeka (France)

Lifestyle media future panel
Must admit to falling asleep for a bit in this one only to be awakened by a power cut (a Milia first? – perhaps as the produced Zapping Show was being rehearsed upstairs)…here are the panellists for now and another quote from Marc Canter who really was the only forward looking speaker…

Marc Canter, CEO, Broadband Mechanics Inc.(USA)
Eyal Hertzog, Founder and Chief Product Officer, Metacafe Inc. (USA)
Joe Michaels, Senior Director, Entertainment Business Development, MSN, Microsoft Corporation (USA)
Joanna Shields, President, International, Bebo UK Ltd (EMEA)
Michael Werber, Managing Director, FiveWorks GmbH (Germany)

Marc Canter “One thing that it is important for the crowd here to understand is that the other fundamental shift that’s happening is that the traditional world of media puts themselves in the middle. Theyre the copyright holders, theyre the investors, theyre the company…they are important, the paraparazzi shoot them and that’s the centre of their universe. They have this concept of customers, they will take what we give them. That’s pretty much mainstream media. Now I want you to flip it. I want you to imagine that the number one most important thing is actually your customers. Imagine that I/me are the most important thing. The number two most important thing are my friends and family. They are the people I care about, consumers don’t care about a company. In fact we should not even call them consumers, they are not ‘born to buy’. Think of this as concentric circles. You are in the centre, then friends and family surround that and finally the brands and companies surround these people, trying to reach into their pockets to turn them into consumers…technology and the software that runs on it is social…and people are the most important thing.”

Zapping Show
The closing ceremony of Milia (vs Mip) as the 360 pitching folk, eight teams this year, are given their big cardboard checks and a development deal. The show itself was not as good as last year mainly because the 30 sec pitches were a bad idea – listening to 24+ of these was tiring especially as they all came out very vague and samey after a while. Would have been much better to have a few visuals and something about the personality of the teams. Ray Cookes was his usual cheeky Cockney self but the highlight of the evening for me was when Jackie Turnure won the Ogilvy/AMEX pitching comp (really the hardest category being overtly advertorial) – she seemed genuinely surprised to win, but very well deserved as the project, a Diamond Heist ARG, has most potential. Other notables was Paul Bennun (from Something Else – and a mentor in Tasmania for us in a few weeks) and a LAMP alumni Kate Crosse who was showing off the Deep Sleep project, which I believe would have won the BBC award had she not been Australian. Shame.

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(The plane is being called now!) I will provide more feedback on the 360 pitching comp later, why dont they have WiFi in economy class ;-( But I will talk about Patou Nuytemans from OgilvyOne Worldwide and others comments about the process on the Friday morning review session later too…Phew, now wheres my boarding card!!

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2007

Apr 192007
 

A great 3rd day at Milia and a much broader spectrum of issues discussed around the many Milia halls. It started with the world’s most advanced broadband nation with Dr. Hyun-Oh Yoo giving us a rare insight into the worlds most culturally integrated social network – Cyworld in South Korea. This was the first time he had shared some of this information with a European audience (almost dwarfing the impact from and Asian perspective, Peter Li’s IPTV talk later in the day). Fighting through a hay fever Dr. Yoo talked in a gravelly voice about the ubiquitous infrastructure, and how it allows Cyworld to be accessible across the super-broadband fiber pipes and always-on wireless networks. The figures surrounding the service, particularly penetration make MySpace look like a niche activity, well not quite. But here goes:


20 million subscribers
40% of TOTAL population
96% of 20-29 year olds use Cyworld regularly
20 billion monthly page views and 22 mill monthly unique visitors
$300 000 in sales of digital items daily
100 000 video uploads daily
210 million songs sold, currently 6 mill per month

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That last figure makes it second only to iTunes for volume of music sales – who says social networks don’t have business models. Dr Yoo also presented a slide that compared the service to some of our more recognisable web 2.0 brands – it is interesting how Second Life is up there with YouTube and flickr, more so as the Cyworld virtual reality is extremely Habbo in style vs true 3D.

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A refreshing follow-up to this talk was an uncomfortably titled “The Future of Interactive TV”. Eloquently steered and captained by Brian Seth-Hurst (who is also the key enabler also for the International Interactive Emmy Awards of course– see later) it became apparent that labelling TV services that have an interactive component as Interactive TV is now too limiting and emphasises TV too much – perhaps if the service ‘€˜only’€™ appeared on the one (TV) screen and all interaction took place there fine, but these are really in the minority and most are via mobile sms, telephony, stretched out across many platforms (TV is a part of the mix) or synchronised with online. There were some great new kid on the block examples of iTV and ones that started to merge media . Kim Lindholm from Motion Avenue in Finland showed something on the edge of my “mixed reality” continuum (a soon to be published post) a game/quiz show from Vietnam that has viewers appear as avatars in a virtual audience who get knocked out if they get answers wrong – of course the audience pays per question. He was followed by the grandfather of iTV Robert Chua who presented a more philosophical view of iTV. He questioned the definition of iTV as a relevant term when the same type of services are controlled by or fed to PC, mobile and TV via broadband pipes. The second panel in this session looked at enablers like Microsoft and OpenTV who themselves appear to be struggling with the melding of broadcast and broadband, games and linear.

Then a day of pitching started. Top and tailed by commercial entities that sandwiched a swathe of public service BBC 360 panels. My LAMP friend and colleague Jackie Turnure was pitching in the most defined session being Cross-Platform Brand Marketing. The three propositions trying to fulful a tight brief from Ogilvy and American Express were in brief terms, 1) an amazing race clone, 2) a chroma key ‘card ride’ and 3) an Alternate Reality Game. Without showing any bias I personally thought the ARG from Jackie the much stronger in terms of reach and originality but more importantly having a story (we shall see tomorrow who won).

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These and many of the pitches that followed from the BBC panels seemed very light on narrative and most were function over form, without clearly defined structure or focus. There is a sense that many ad agencies and traditional broadcasters (as I said in the last post) are seeing Emerged Media as a way to allow users to participate, sometimes I feel to the detriment of the actual integrity of the proposition. We may be creating too many empty shells for viewers to fill without really drawing them in first with a great story. Frank Boyd again led key BBC folk though some less than enticing pitches. I thought the first two panels one on 360 docs and the second on 360 participation actually seemed interchangeable. All the doc props involved viewer input and the community ones were themed around documentary topics like the environment. So more blurring of labels as form, function and genre meld.

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By the afternoon I was suffering from conference fatique, that moment when panels and panellists start to blur into one another. Luckily the IPTV vs Internet TV was a great idea and Justin Hewlett and others showed off a great cross section of the new walled garden TV, data and telephony services. After a while though all the badly designed interfaces started to blur into each other too. It became apparent in these sessions that penetration for many pockets of services around the world in the 50-100 thousand audience range is still very low and not significant due to two key things:

1 You can get most of the IPTV offerings via traditional TV distribution channels, so nothing really new to entice viewers (it was cited that 50% of subs were actually for the telephony and data elements and not the TV!)
2 The topic of the panel, the wild west internet is now delivering a much broader and compelling range of audio, video content.

The panel topic echoed a talk I gave to an IPTV ‘hyped’ audience in Sydney nearly two years ago (and cited on a few IPTV info sites) – the main premise being, the cats out of the bag, Internet TV (or broadband TV as I called it), the wild west way to get your TV morsels means IPTV may only have another 12 months or so to deliver on its promise, or be gone for good. As mentioned earlier I found Peter Li, the VP from BesTV in China illuminating if only for the stats he presented as context to IPTV potential in China.

CNNIC report for China July 2006 Internet users 130m. 40% growth for past 6 years Broadband users 80m Youth: 18.5 hrs/wek online vs 6.7 hrs/wk on TV Over 220 online video portals, 500 000 clips uploaded daily Concurrancy of viewers watching video online 500 000. ADSL 2.0+ goes to over 10 million users

The keynote of the day, after I managed to rush out and get my glad rags from the dry cleaners, was Jana Bennett and Ashley Highfield. I would like to give this more time and the awards so will leave that until the next post. For now though a taster shot of the BBC keynoters.

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I was lucky to be a judge again at the Interactive International Emmy Awards and invited to the splendid evening session at the Carlton Ballroom. Only three awards up for grabs (and a special prize this year to BskyB -€“ well done). The event was excellently organised in the tradition of all the A-list ceremonies and I was lucky to be on one of the front tables, with the interactive programme folk. Also managed to grab a chat with Phil Rosedale who leads Linden Lab (Second Life) in the pre-award cocktails, which was a treat for me 😉

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To the awards. Great to see the BBC finally win for their BBCi all emcompassing eTV and 24/7 service (I remember the days when it was called Digital Text – but wont go there now!). Great to see my old cohorts Nick Cohen and Phil Jay with big grins on their faces for the rest of the evening. Canada took the second award, Interactive Channel, for BITE Television a slightly anarchistic, irrelevant channel. The most exciting award of the evening though for me was the interactive programme award and I was siting between two of the nominees on a distinctly Canadian table 8. Three of the four nominees were Canadian! But I had Aaron from the Zimmer Twins on one side and Patrick Crowe from Regenesis on the other (Zinc Roe Design and Xenophile respective companies) – and it was a surprise to all, that they both won! Yes a two-way tie and a table creaking later with the weight of two Emmys 😉 As one would expect both teams were delighted and it was wonderful both for Canada (and the Bell fund that partly helped Regenesis) but also for the interactive form as both services are innovative and pushing the envelope. But will write more later (congrats to Evan Jones and Tony Walsh also who were major parts of Regensis) – for now a picture I took of the double winners. A busy and even more exciting day tomorrow (well actually today now as I finish this).
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© Gary Hayes 2007

Apr 182007
 

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(Thanks to Rory Sutherland of Ogilvy for that image). A brief, as at mid conference, ones mind is too distracted to put together a reflective, long format piece for a media blog (well I suppose that’€™s the nature of blogs!) -€“ and also there is very little time to sit back and write this stuff (yes being in Cannes is not all free parties and hanging around the beaches ‘€“ well for sad people like me’ it isn’€™t 😉 ). End of second day from Milia and the week is panning out as last year into very well defined areas focusing on burning issues:

The tension between traditional TV and broadband alternatives ‘€“ several online video superpanels.
What the heck should we do next ‘€“ The pitching panels demonstrating that companies like BBC have less and less in-house creativity that can truly engage the new audience
How to reach the audience ‘€“ a good second half to Tuesday looking at new forms of marketing and advertising
Are new platforms really offering opportunities – The usual cursory look at mobile and innovative broadband web

Any way onto some things that resonated with me ‘€“ these come across as negative on re-reading, perhaps suggesting things are maturing – a sort of things to tweak as opposed to the surprise one gets when…’€œwhat TV folk are starting to think about this stuff!’€

We like to play
Before I start with these little nuggets I must say I am staggered to see the lack of acknowledgement in many of my private discussions, keynotes and panels on the impact of online games ‘€“ whether virtual world or MMORPGs. The dominance of the TV market 2 floors below in the ‘€˜car boot sale’€™ environment of MipTV suggests that until games are brought back into Milia then all the ‘€˜new’€™ stuff will be focused on how to deliver TV (programmes and commercials) to online and mobile. This is manifest in the format of the week. OK a nod to virtual worlds in a keynote and short parallel panel, but I have only once heard for example World of Warcraft mentioned and that was me in a question! Please, please organisers to ignore such a rich seam of audience activity doesn’€™t make sense. A panel called ‘€œRole of Games in Cross-Media Entertaintment’€ (featuring the switched on Deborah Todd) will I hope suggest, that TV producers will only be ready for this new world when they understand and more importantly play games themselves.

Lack of BBC Vision
The new creative director of BBC Vision (Richard Williams) actually clearly showed the BBC has little vision for future services by playing a trailer in the Commissioning for all Screens, that was circa 2003. How many times do we have to see Walking with Beasts interactive (and other tired red button apps like Death in Rome) shown as an example of the BBC responding to change? WWB iTV is actually circa 2001 when Tim Haines and I took it to the then Controller of TV, Mark Thompson but at least Richard talked about a few ‘€˜listen to the audience’€™ projects which is very hard for the BBC – “have you considered the problems of moderation?” that oft line put to projects pitched at them. Another thing that is hard is finding a way within the organization to both creatively ‘€˜grow ideas, commission and produce (to quote Richard’€¦)

‘€œ’€¦this is the first time that the BBC has actually split up its commissioning and production of new media content’€¦a fairer system, I personally think the old system was pretty fair but this is going to better we hope’€’€¦

The 360 pitching sessions are being steered by the laid back and passionate Frank Boyd. He is also running lots of Innovation labs, with apparently half of the submitted projects getting some further development ‘€“ not surprising as the submissions into the labs are likely to be all the cross-platform ideas coming into the BBC! This may suggest as I said last year, an openess and willingness to work with external producers but it also pangs of a lack of direction – I shall feedback on the pitching sessions and final evening winners in a coming post. But the BBC’s current narrow focus on a way for its audience to get at video content (eg: iPlayer and YouTube) seems to be addressing only a small part of what needs to be done and endless restructuring and shuffling of the same people (or those so-called enlightened ones from other traditional departments) will not move them forward. I get the feeling that most of the true creatives have been swept out of BBC New Media leaving ‘trusted’ producers and ‘€˜audience figure’€™ managers? I hope though to be wowed by the quality of the pitches today, Wednesday, for the various BBC categories and of course by Ashley and Jana Bennetts steerage keynotes later in the day.

We know we can deliver video online!
I attended a few of the ‘€˜online’€™ video/TV panels, but little has changed since last year and I think Ferhan should cull the video over web and mobile back a bit. The most interesting thing to come out seems to be the polarisation caused by viewer created content. It falls into two camps ‘€œits all crap and we don’€™t need to worry about it’€ or ‘€œviewers are spending more time watching this crap rather than ours!, so lets worry’€. Most folk now trip out the oft said business model mix of a bit of subscription there and a bit of ad funded here as a catch all to how the online video biz is being monetised.

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A surprising number are quick to totally dismiss pay-per-play as an effective model? This seems odd when we still live in a blockbuster age. What happened to the old keep 80% of people honest and they will not drift over to the dark side of bit torrent or pirated DVDs ‘€“ make it easy for them to stay honest. Apple/EMI strategy was given the ‘€˜ummm lets see’€™ by many yet all agreed DRM is a waste of time. In the Broadband Video Explosion SuperPanel Rick Sands (COO of MGM ‘€“ and who sounds a bit like Nick Cage) was most entertaining for the fact that he was clear that the industry is still broken into distinct parts. The Pipes, as he called them ‘€“ looking at the CEO of Joost, Fredrik De Wahl (who showed an impressive vid over web demo) ‘€“ should stay clear of content. They don’€™t understand, for example, advertising which for the most part is made by an industry where perhaps 25% actually know what they are doing’€¦which leads nicely onto’€¦

‘€œThe audience is fragmenting, fragment with them.’€ © Joseph Jaffe
Now where have I heard that before 😉 Through Tuesday afternoon a series of presenters and panels looked at new form advertising and marketing. I loved Rory Sutherland’€™s (Vice Chair Ogilvy UK) presentation which on one hand showed a disconnect ‘€“ he came across as a Lord of Advertising looking down on the sprawling proletariat hoard but on the other hand seemed very understanding and sympathetic with audience needs. I suspect those are the two key qualities of a great marketing person ‘€“ empathy combined with arms length. Other people in the marketing field though are less approachable and seem to be very nervous about what is happening, behind their thin veneer of public confidence.

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I was also struck by the alternative marketing methods that many were tripping out too. Lots of talk about longer form video across all platforms, viewers doing their own satire videos on existing media (and how we should not touch them “copying is the best form of flattery”?) or keeping an eye on what the audience is saying about them BUT as I mentioned earlier there was little talk about ‘€˜play’€™ or immersion. Branded playful adverts were hardly touched on so the whole field of ARG’€™s, Scavenger Hunts and In-Game advertising was not even skimmed over. To disregard a human’€™s desire to play seems odd for an industry aimed at fulfilling need ‘€“ this especially resonated with me when I went along to the ‘€œFreshTV presentation’€ post lunch. The WIT fronted by Virginia Mouseler presented what she/they think are the best new TV formats around the world. Not surprisingly most were cross reality/games – a new term I developed during the sessions ‘€˜Gality Show’€™ (yes it is late writing this) ‘€“ but back to advertising. Some speakers said commercials and advertising are separate ‘€“ so pay for good content and leave it alone (do not product place or steer the editorial), this seems again very odd in a world where some of the most widely viewed content is reality the most seen on-demand being ‘€˜users reality’€™ (as in user generated video about their lives) – again not referred too. So surely advertisers need to work around, within and alongside what TV is turning into. Most TV in less than 5 years will be reality focused and that means ‘€“ Sport, The Audience, Reality Game Shows, News and Reality Drama (yes endless CSI’€¦). One of the marketeers who falls into the keep ads and programmes separate is’€¦

Joseph Jaffe who delivered a nice theoretical keynote based on his now old-in-the-tooth, marketing book ‘€˜Life after the 30 second spot’€ ‘€“ already three years old. Again I often think back to the endless work/discussions that TV-Anytime and I did with advertisers circa 2001 when the impact of the PDR (Personal Digital Recorder) was documented in many forms. Much of what we see in marketing today is simply based on anytime, anywhere, anyhow media ‘€“ and more significantly how to respond to that ‘€“ this was coming over the horizon for many a decade ago, yet the same noises are still being made and combined with the obvious impact of social networks consultants have lots of work in the coming years. Something that stuck out from Joseph’€™s assertive diatribe then was that everyone in marketing, including Joseph himself, are floundering to implement real world, effective marketing strategies. How to reach out and allow audiences to reach in and knowing what to do, actually – to use his expression when describing the many media and product based companies he has talked to ‘€œhelp us understand what comes next’€. He came across as passionate about the area but the content became overtly theoretical with lots of semantic juggling and an over reliance on power ‘€˜points’€™ ‘€“ eg: the four c’€™s, acronyms EPIC, play on words Return on Experimentation (ROE) and so on. Here is a little quote that resonated

‘€œSponsor your Consumer. A lot of people talk of consumer generated content and the thing that I constantly hear is that the quality is crap, they are not producing really high quality pieces of content. But I don’€™t think consumers care. If they are producing quality or low quality commercials or content why not help them. Send them a producer, why not actually raise the collective tide and make the work better. Even if you don’€™t do that remember that consumers aren’€™t creating this for you they are creating it for themselves. Heres a good example I call sponsoring your consumer. Instead of sponsoring the Olympic Games why not sponsor that one consumer that is really passionate about something’€

I suppose like most consultants he was advertising himself (this person seems to know what they are talking about lets give them a go) without revealing steps that work. I did warm to him when he answered my question about in-game marketing and he cited a couple of reasonable examples and also gave me a copy of the book which I will virally distribute via a local library I know without a copy. There is a second book coming out called ‘€œJoin in the Conversation’€ likely about marketeers becoming part of the global discussion about everything and anything – which shows there is life after the book’€œLife after the 30 second spot’€

© Gary Hayes 2007