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Mar 092006

Great to see that creative energy is still being focused on where the audiences are. A typical example of this is Clickwheel who are aggregating audio comic books – and utilising the fact that millions of people are walking around with quality audio and still image players (namely photo capable iPods). They help users create comics and photo stories that have accompanying music or sound effects. Already in existence since mid 2005, the format is strangely compelling, especially with the right music – much of which is apparently being made on ‘loopy’ Garageband – are Apple behind this? Perhaps. Anyway a new form of media, a simple mix of MP3 and Jpeg/PNG – not ground breaking stuff technically, but in the right creative hands!
Clickwheel comics on iPod

There are many other creative, hybrid initiatives similar to this on PSP’s, PDA’s, mobiles and other small media players – and it is always encouraging to see ones like this grow and gain audiences. Some comics have around 50 000 downloads. I am not sure if Flickr already has a pic exporter yet that names its files serially so the iPod can import them into a ‘clickwheel-type’ show with audio, but it should.

I think the way we share our stories will always be dictated by the common tools of communication we have at our disposal of course. We have come a long way from a world of chalk and caves walls and naturally there will always be a dominance of certain tools over others. In a world saturated with mobile phones, iPods and easy online photo and journal self-publishing one can see a range of hybrid cross media, service models emerging – simply due to strength in numbers. What will be the next story tool/s of choice?

Having had a video iPod for some weeks now I have broke through the ‘wow look a whole film in my hand’. I have almost stopped telling people that I watched the whole of the film ‘Crash’ for the first time on that same device two weeks before the Oscars. Now I am now looking at new innovative ways of using the device – to communicate and be communicated too. I still think that enhanced podcasts have a way to go for example – graphics synch’d to music. Simple stuff, but can be so powerful in the right hands. Now only if someone would get Linux working on Gen 5 iPods that would open up a world of possibilities 😉

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006

Nov 122005

Monument Valley ©Gary Hayes 2005Sorry for the gap in posts, been finding out how and why Australia’s media landscape is the way it is at this years inaugural ACMA (Australian Communications and Media Authority) conference in Canberra. Will post some of my thoughts about it over next few days – needless to say not a bed of roses. Before that though a few catch-up posts. It is always useful to get some real research in-between the hype of new trends. TV and other video content on mobile phones is a key one at the moment and this report from mobinet across 4000 users in UK and 20 other countries suggests this may also not be a bed of roses, in fact demand is very low. The article “Splash of cold water on mobile media” in media life points out

The question is, what will they download? The answer, hardly a surprise, is news. Far fewer will download entertainment.
Further, the U.S. market for downloadable TV is likely to remain tiny for many years, with relatively few cell phone users bothering to take advantage of the feature. As in so many areas of media, the fact that a technology exists to do something doesn’t mean consumers will rush to adopt it. In the case of downloadable TV, they will not.(snip)
The study found that cell phone subscribers in North America were the least interested in TV content. Only 6 percent said they’re willing to pay to download TV clips.

I never suspected the US to be leading in this field – they rarely do, it is often small pockets in Europe or Asia that lead consumer trends in emerging media and the US and Australia tend to lag but follow with new business models and then say they started the trend (ready for flames ;-). The low demand though for mobile downloads may come as a surprise to my many tens of readers but the article does go on to say that downloading shows out of schedule may be undesired but timely news and sports are still in with a fighting chance.

Among all those surveyed, 49 percent said their first choice would be news clips. Sports came in a distant second at 17 percent. Entertainment followed, with music videos at 16 percent, movies, 9 percent, and TV soap operas and reality shows, 8 percent.
“The thing that you need for wireless is content that is time-sensitive,” says Ranjan Mishra, principal of the communications and media practice at A.T. Kearney.
“If you can wait until you reach your office or home, you are most likely not going to watch it on a cell phone. That’s why the applications that are time-sensitive, like news and sports, fit very well. There is a value to that.”
Robert Rosenberg, president of Insight Research in Boonton, N.J., agrees.
“This is an adjunct to a television news service. I find it curious that anyone would want to watch a television clip that doesn’t have a real-time value to it. A sports broadcast I can understand.”

So a bit like the early days of interactive TV where the first service I made was in fact a timely 1000 pages of news, graphics surrounding the TV service – a dip in, dip out, get the updates and go, type service. Seems this will be the same on mobiles for the first few years. Sport will always be a big driver across all ‘interactive’ platforms, because there is often so much back-story (stats, gossip, prediction) that you need to contextualise the experience. There still needs to be work done now though in documentary, entertainment and drama for mobile delivery that breaks the current trend to just download a whole episode of a TV show. It really bugs me when people wander round showing off an episode of ‘Desperate Housewives’ on a mobile phone or PSP. Really bugs me. Reminds me of those sort of people in the 80/90s who used to show me how their laptop could play a CD/DVD disc, or how their PDA could play a violent animation – wow, clever stuff. Engaging, not. We need to create innovative new form services that cross platforms and engage, the mobile phone is only one part of the jigsaw. There may be some time left yet though:

Still, the advent of TV shows on iPods and new video-on-demand services from CBS and NBC suggest that the market may be ripening for cell phone services to offer downloadable television clips and commercials.
Moreover, the number of cell phone subscribers using non-voice features is dramatically increasing. Mobinet found that 48 percent of subscribers in this country, versus 53 percent worldwide, now have third-generation phones with multimedia capabilities such as internet access and cameras. That is up from only 37 percent last year, when penetration in the U.S. trailed the global average by 12 points.

Emerging media creatives need to get ahead of those who will disenfranchise the market by simply dumping the same content that we get on broadband, TV, DVD, video across to mobiles. Demand will only be as strong as the perceived experience users will expect – here is the simplest analogy “Would you expect people to buy bottles of tap water?” – I suspect maybe there will still be a crazy 8% who would, but I hope you get my point.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2005

Sep 132005

Commuters in Oxford St, London © Gary HayesA friend sent me this link this morning “Format wars over mobile TV” A safe BBC article on how TV on the move is still very much in its infancy (really!) that markets are still immature and technically the two main standards DVB-H and DMB are the new VHS and Betamax for mobTV. Not a particularly deep or analytical piece from the BBC but it does raise again the current practise of ‘mobile use’ second guessing – how long will someone look at something on a small screen while they go about their business – commuting, socializing and of course spending far too much time in the restroom. The part of the article is that trots out the same sentiment again

Analysts say the key message about video programming for mobile phones is to think short and limit content to 90 seconds.

Why on earth do we think only short form content will work – certainly in places with heavy commuting perhaps there is some reasoning – but I can’t recall many 90 second commutes, they tend to be a little longer! In fact I used to spend at least 3 hours a day commuting around London for 20 years. It would have been wonderful on some grey, busy mornings of having the option to watch a few of my favourite TV programmes – captured on my interoperable PVR/PSP system, oh you lucky next generation. There again I was ahead of the curve, and this will sound a little geeky, I did spend a year watching video CDs (on a small VCD player – the same size as a normal CD portable) using – wait for it, video glasses.

Yes I was one of the few people on the planet around 2002 sitting on public transport with video glasses and earphones on a crowded commuter train. After a couple of weeks of this totally anti-social activity, people got used to it/me. But I ran out of media – at least the drive to keep capturing, recoding and burning. I also had for a while one of those early mobile TVs, a Sony handheld grey thing (the colour matched the London weather) – yes mobile TV has been around for a long time, remember analogue? The few times I used to take that on the train I used to get lots of interest in the ‘what is that’ or ‘how much’ camp – and crowds gathered around me watching cricket or comedy. This didn’t last long as I stood out – I decided to wait until everyone had one. Now that is getting just a little nearer isnt it readers!

My point is I was happily copying some of my legal DVDs and home movies onto VCD disks and watching them on the move. I am not suggesting I see a future of thousands of people walking around, crashing into telegraph poles, or being mugged with their surround experience video glasses but, I just wish commentators would stop running the safe, conventional ‘short form only on mobile’ line. Sure to make money at the moment the marketers are flogging the short cartoons and risque clips that get people holding their mobile in friends faces saying ‘look at this’ – part of the campaign of course. We are just at the beginning of a new era of personalized content at home, on the move and hyper-distributed. Here we go again, that radio with pictures thing will never take off.

Posted by: © Gary Hayes 2005