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On the BBC iPlayer, as well as watching TV from recent days or weeks, you can also listen the output of national and local radio stations. Most music shows can only be heard for seven days. The podcast versions cannot include any commercial music. For example, I can listen to the Adam and Joe show on BBC 6 Music in full (three hours long, in a format relatively difficult for people to keep on their computers) or the podcast highlights on iTunes (mp3).

Imagine if audio (and video) broadcasts and podcasts were combinations of the broadcasters’ and local playlists. If music cannot be licensed for more than seven days, the podcast playing application could insert music from the playlists on the listener’s device. If tags were added at times when music is played stating the title and artist, it could play from the local device if present. If not, similar music could play. In Apple’s iTunes 8, the Genius system is designed to create playlists of similar music. That system could find replacements in a listener’s library to follow the mood of the show.

If you were listening to a combination radio broadcast/local playlist ‘live,’ there could be user-interface item to how much music content was from the radio station playlist, and how much is local:

music-choice-prefs

This could be the way that future radio stations work, each listener could configure the shows they way they want. They could choose how much control they have over the music, whether they hear news, weather or traffic reports. Different shows might have different settings depending on the music choice or the kind of things the DJs say between the tracks.

Listen to the most recent Adam and Joe radio show using this RealPlayer location. Listen to the highlights podcast via iTunes.

It would be interesting to imagine a similar system for visual content.

What if my visual feed was similar to my audio feed – the way music is played on radio. What if media organisations had playlists that I subscribed to?

Maybe the visual channel that I will tune into will be made up of four to five minute vignettes. Longer than traditional previews, they’d be excerpts from dramas, comedy shows and documentaries. Entertaining and stimulating on their own, but with the option for me to wait for the next ‘track’ to come along, or for me to choose to see the rest of the play, film, documentary, documentary series or comedy show. Like singles on a radio station, I would expect high- medium- and low-rotation pieces. They could be designed to be re-watched.

Movies, TV shows and documentaries usually include ‘set-pieces.’ These are the bits that you talk about afterwards without reference to the plot. The sections excerpted in the better review shows: ‘Remember the bit when they were trapped in the trash compactor and the monster with the one eye attacked them?!’ ‘What about that bit when he had to stab her in the heart with the adrenaline needle! Wow’ ‘I didn’t cry when she told that story about how her owner forgot about her when she grew up and left her to be sold by the side of the road… it just got a little dusty in the room!’ These are the set-pieces that could be included in a visual station feed. Each could have simple intro to explain the stakes for those who hadn’t seen the source film or show. If you register that you have seen the source, the big moments from the second half could also be included in the playlist.

It may be that not everyone will want to pay the full £6 for the 2 hour film, or £18 for the complete 24 part series. They might want to pay a little less for a set piece or two. Just as people today pick the best tracks from an album as opposed to the whole work.

Imagine if short films and animations could get included in the mix. What would a TV channel be then – a filter to prevent you being taken over by the massive flow of content out there? What about shared experience?

We’ll see.

Some radio stations are different from others. They can be divided into two groups: entertaining and stimulating. On the entertaining stations, the vast majority of the tracks I hear, I like. On the stimulating stations, things are less certain. DJs who care about music more than the musicians. People who are still DJs (instead of the industry term: ‘presenters’), who know who they are is less important than the music they choose to play.

I’m not always in the mood for the stimulating choice. Sometimes I even want to have music on that I can ignore at some level. But sometimes I want to hear stuff that I might not like. Then there is a better chance that I will hear something else – one track later – that I would never have heard before. If I followed my demographic and listened to a radio station that played music from my youth, I’d find that entertaining. Just not very stimulating.

That’s radio. How does that translate to the visual medium…? To go in another direction: how can I integrate my media with that broadcast from elsewhere?

Here is a post with the my first set of notes posted via http://twitter.com/alex4d – I’ve made a very few changes (enclosed in brackets):

Session 1: Networks and not-works. A taxonomy of social media platforms and how they help and hinder communication.
Benjamin Ellis of http://redcatco.com/blog/

The way Social Media Platforms (SMPs) are constructed is important

SMPs are at the stage the telephone was in 1880s

Corporates say that SMPs are less efficient than email conversations

Remember that Facebook is the face of SMPs

Media = content in general: photos/videos (not TV/Press/Radio)

Different people use the same tools in different ways. Twitter for my friends, my job, my career, my hobby

Twitter. Started as status. @ use by community changed it. DM changed it again

SMPs engage two senses: vision, audio

Add time to media makes it linear

Whereas text can be skipped and scanned it is counted as non-linear

Linear media requires bigger investment in time for community

If an SMP only allows links, people have the option whether to access additional media

Initially, the quality of the community you adopt is more important than the quality of the SMP you create to support it. (That may be so, but watch out that a better SMP may come along and take the community away from you)

Twitter followers are fans. You don’t want the star to know about you, so you follow them, not friend them. (A distinction from Facebook)

Following: Publish and subscribe. Subscribers can choose how much they get. Much better than contacts pushing their content via email.

In SMPs, a brand broadcasting to people is OK – a back channel can be available rarely in special cases for people to chat back

Small brands may not be able to scale their property of remaining in a conversation with customers. SMPs might be able to help

SMPs make money when they give brands access to individual private conversations (But some don’t dare to do this or they will lose their community very quickly)

SMP taxonomy comes from the kinds of links between people. Friending vs. Following.

SMPs don’t yet support the polite decay of relationships

Technology representation of social network may be inaccurate because we don’t want to face up to stopping relationships (in offline relationships we guess when they are over, it’s OK. There may lots of inaccurate parts of people’s social maps that show relationships that are dead – SMP long tail)

Inverse power law – famous people become more famous because they are famous (i.e. we follow people who have lots of followers, which gives them more followers etc.)

SMPs give us insights into our contacts’ social networks – unlike in the real world

(A more evolved marketing policy:) sell to those with the right contacts, not the most contacts (People with few links who bridge between large groups of people)

Facebook want to help app developers connect the discrete social networks we are connected to – not via us

Dunbar says that the size of the neocortex in your brain determines the size of the group you can handle being part of

He says people can generally handle being in communities of 100-250 people.

(With modern technology) People have tiers of relationships. We use friends of friends for outer tier – for up to 1000 members of our community

SMPs need to maintain constructive feedback and not break links between tiers

Session 2: Will PR inherit the social media earth?
- A discussion amongst attendees moderated by @JanetParkinson

@blogtillyoudrop and @sylwiapresley do Word-of-Mouth marketing: engagement with potential ambassadors to maintain long-term relationship with brands

PR usually try star bloggers to create content on SMPs.

Gemma: it is difficult to get our PR clients to give us approval to go beyond star bloggers

@JanetParkinson Brandseye: an online reputation management tool

PR clients don’t know enough about SMP

Clients will buy SMP expertise from those who already do it for themselves.

Not all brands should be in Social Media – some aren’t conversational

Bigger PR agencies need to be careful. A Twitter policy was needed. Personal comments seen as official. (By agency clients)

Clients find it difficult to deal with the idea of people external to their organisations trusting that Tweets are personal

@blogtillyoudrop a freelancer felt less free when she realised that some blog entries would be in conflict with clients

Start with firefighting, risk management. There is bad PR out there in SMP, so you need to be there to deal with it. Go to a new client and show them what people are saying on SM, here’s what we can do to manage it.

PR are trying to hire SM experts. How can you measure that expertise?

An SM danger: Don’t listen to a very vocal minority. Dell lost money by listening to Linux activists

Don’t forget that huge numbers of people aren’t part of SM

Session 3: A DIY approach to online monitoring
- A discussion amongst attendees moderated by @rachelclarke

What tools are we using at the moment?

Distilled have a reputation monitoring tool – http://reputation.distilled.co.uk

http://www.brandseye.com/ gives you a single score for reputation – searches each hour – includes sentiment and context.

Attendee http://www.localmouth.com/ uses Google alerts and Yahoo inbound links

http://www.backtype.com twitter search

http://tweetbeep.com/ – Google alerts for Twitter

How do you set up a instant response chain of command?

Kneejerk responses can cause problems. If you respond wanting to know more, you engage without committing, which is safer.

Clients want their Reputation Managed on SM first while being educated, they want to take the task on themselves after a while

Clients know they should us RM, but don’t know why.

If a PR agency uses a paid service to do Reputation Management, they can pass on the agency (their supplier) case studies to their clients

Free tools can’t deal with 400,000 mentions a day.

Brand discussions happen in ‘private networks’ – not catalogued by search engines.

RM tools make correct guesses about comment sentiment 70-80% of the time

Surveys are about attitude. (Give them what they need not what they want.)

RM terminology: SM = Sentiment Monitoring

SM tools can send specific ‘important messages’ to PRs – from ‘high-reputation’ posters

If you work for a large brand, monitor the effects of what other agencies (working for that brand) are doing – you can get kudos for RM if bad things happen (e.g. If a press ad is causing uproar on SM)

(Individuals) can do your own RM – do you try and influence people’s opinion – actively or reactively

On twitter recently, if you mention a brand their competitors follow you.

When doing your own RM, wait a little for followers to manage your reputation. (You many have people in your network who will go to bat for you)

Sometimes it is good to respond during RM by stating errors in fact – and that’s all

(In Telegraph newspaper) Innocent accused of Greenwashing. SM sprung to their defence

(As RM tools don’t search) forums, be careful – get to know the social scene too.

PR clients may not care about negative comments on Digg and YouTube – they like the traffic (if all they count is traffic)

You need to check the quality of traffic from Digg and YouTube – unless you are ad-supported

In pitches companies promise ’10,000 positive comments in the blogosphere’

Agencies set up thousands of blogs with fake cross-references to generate ‘positive comments’

‘If our crap business has lots of SM traffic, all will be well’ – the KoolAid for the next five years

@alex4d – (People seem to be saying, for RM) Forum handling: Lurk, groom, bribe

i.e. forums of fans of a brand

Online people forget that many brands are predominately offline. Imagine if they got in touch with you when you aren’t in brand mode.

Out of hours RM – respond quickly to say that you are sorry, but you cannot respond until later

Apple seed support forums so the community will support itself, then leave them to do all the work

Be honest during RM – (A carefully worded response): http://www.macysbelieve.com/

Wouldn’t it be great if you never saw or heard an advert that you weren’t interested in? Imagine those who pay to tell you stories, be they multinationals, governments or the local shop, only talking to you if their message is relevant to you. Combining a register of interests with a deeper understanding of your state at any moment are steps in this direction.

That is why combining a future Google with a future Twitter (or Indenti.ca) will be a powerful combination.

However, once ‘perfect advertising’ is achieved, we might have to get used to a world with less media – unless we are prepared to fund it ourselves.

Here’s how banks work: People lend banks X, banks lend out 3X – knowing that it is unlikely that the people lending them money will want all their money back at once.

Here’s how advertising works: People who sell things want to inform others that those things are available. They pay the media to produce content that an audience wants to consume. While consuming the content, the audience might also take in the salespeople’s messages. Note the word ‘might’ – you have to spend a lot on the off-chance that people will pay attention.

Currently advertisers need to spend 10X to communicate with their audiences, although they would only need to spend X if their messages only were delivered to those they specifically want to communicate with. To paraphrase an old saying: ‘At least 9X of my 10X ad spend is wasted, I just don’t know which 9X.’ TV programmes are too general. Specialist publications can’t deliver the audiences they once did.

Once advertising is perfected, there are three possibilities. The amount of money spent communicating with audiences will stay the same, rise, or fall. This sum influences the amount of media there is in the world. If advertising becomes more efficient and cheaper, there will be less money for people to create TV shows. We may end up with a tenth of the commercial TV we are used to. Alternatively, our availability to advertisers may support more TV, radio and (dynamic) print.

We might be able to decide how much TV we’d like in the world.

It may be that a future tech will create the world of perfect advertising. When that comes along, individuals may be able to discover exactly much any communication strangers want to have with them is worth to the market. They might be able to set their technology to negotiate with the advertisers for admission.

How much will they be prepared to pay for a world of perfect advertising?

[ a post inspired by my trip to tomorrow's Media Camp London (#MCL2) ]

Over the last few years media companies have been scrambling to avoid what was seen as inevitable: that Apple would steamroll video content owners into giving up control over pricing their programming on the iTunes Store. Commercial TV and movie studios didn’t want to be caught napping like the music industry.

On both sides of the Atlantic an ‘anyone but Apple’ solution has become successful. In the US, NBC and News International launched Hulu:

cloudhulu

It is an advertising supported site for U.S.-based viewers to watch TV shows and films from Universal, Fox and NBC amongst others:
cloudhuluvt

In the UK, the BBC has had great success with its iPlayer service. It is a catch-up service structured around the schedules of their TV and radio stations:
cloudbbc

As the BBC is funded by the TV licence system in the UK, the service is free for British citizens.
cloudbbcvt

The problem with the BBC getting large numbers of people to watch TV on their catch-up service has made things difficult for advertising-supported networks to get the same kind of figures. ITV, Channel Four, Five and Sky TV have their own services, but far fewer people use them. They have much less money to spend on their services.

The UK commercial networks are facing the same problems that TV stations all over the world are facing: more entertainment options available to their audiences and a reduction in spending by major advertisers. Some of the networks have been calling for a share in the money the government raises for the BBC.

Instead of sharing any of that reliable stream of cash, the BBC would rather maintain the future of UK Public Service Broadcasting by creating partnerships with other organisations. In a document published today, they state:

The BBC is today launching a series of new partnerships that could deliver more than £120 million per annum by 2014 to PSB beyond the BBC, including sharing the iPlayer with other broadcasters and bringing it to the television set.

The wide-ranging proposals cover the production, distribution and exploitation of content. One partnership—to develop a common industry approach to delivering on-demand and internet services to the television—is already being progressed by a group including BBC, ITV and BT.

Other proposals announced include helping support regional news beyond the BBC; BBC Worldwide working with other broadcasters to develop new revenue streams; and the BBC sharing technology and R&D to create a common digital production standard.

(Emphasis mine)

They plan to bring a standard user interface for catch-up TV to UK TVs that will be able to play content from any channel. This might include content from the huge archives of the media owners.

My second highlight shows that they suggest that their technology could be used to create an open-source digital production system for programme-makers. The PDF specifically says:

The BBC is exploring how it can adapt its own significant digital production investment to help create a common digital production standard for the sector: bringing together the UK’s creative industry and technology vendors with ‘software as a service’ that adheres to agreed industry standards, including:
A digital archive tool: creating a shared repository for the industry allowing content to be more easily stored and accessed by producers and broadcasters in common
A digital production tool: enabling new material to be combined with archive material and moulded roughly before craft edit begins, and which allows content development to be shared more easily by producers, editors and others.

If you are worried about the power Apple, Adobe, Avid or Microsoft may want to wield over the future of post-production, this might be good news.

In order to keep the licence-fee money, the BBC may be forced to act as an honest broker in the UK to make sure all applications will be able to interoperate using open standards. This will take the risk out of post production technology investments, make collaborative production simpler and cheaper and will open up the market to small production companies:

These services would not be constrained by geographical boundaries: a small independent producer working on a commission in Scotland could save money by paying to re-use rushes recently shot by a different production team in London rather than reshoot that material. Craft edit and graphics could be delivered via service providers on the platform with multiple remote online review points. Finally, the finished product could be delivered digitally in file form to the commissioning broadcaster, conforming to agreed standards and ready for cross-platform publication.

(from the detailed BBC document on partnerships)

Another step towards the day when all footage will be stored in the internet ‘cloud’ and creative people will be able to collaborate to make films no matter their location or financial resources.

Here are some links to PDFs of relevant BBC R&D:

File-based Production: Making It Work In Practice

Business-to-business metadata interchange: Requirements for transport and packaging

Standardising media delivery in a file-based world

Open Technology Video Compression for Production and Post Production

PRISM (PeRvasive Infrastructure and Services for Media) is the BBC Research project for storing footage and programmes in the cloud.

Over the last twenty years I’ve designed many books on Systemic Thinking and Solution-Focused Brief Therapy. It has been my most consistent graphic design job over the years. I was around when desktop computers took over from traditional typesetting. It looks like the next book I design will be my first in a new generation of books: produced to be downloaded and printed on demand.

Recently my father pointed me in the direction of an article on a company called Blurb. Blurb offer anyone the chance to have the books they create available to the public using a print on demand model. This model is a very good idea if you want your publishing to be at all profitable.

Even with the help of Mac-based pay layout software and very fast digital printers, it still takes at least 6 months for traditional publishers to turn an author’s finished manuscript into a printed book. If a talented individual writes and designs their own book, it still takes weeks for traditional printers to produce a small number of copies and they charge a great deal for short runs. That means you need to sell more than half of a print run of a hundred books before you go into profit.

Once you submit your artwork, it takes two weeks for Blurb to produce copies. They are much more flexible when it comes to print runs. If you wanted to print 100 copies of your 400 page hardback novel with a four-colour dust jacket, Blurb would charge you £14.36 per copy. If you wanted just 5 copies, the price goes up to £15.95.

Of course it is tempting to order 200 copies so that the price goes down to £13.56 per copy. If you were selling it for £18.95 that would mean a larger profit. However the whole point of print on demand is that you don’t need to keep stock. You don’t need to worry about getting the money together to pay for the initial order. You take no risk by making the book available online. You take the order, Blurb fulfill the printing, and you are immediately in profit.

This is just one part of how print on demand will change the publishing industry. Eventually it might save the high-street bookshop. Currently these shops are being squeezed by online alternatives. Why go to your neighbourhood bookshop when they probably won’t have the book you want. If they do it’ll cost more that it is on Amazon. If they don’t have it in stock you’ll have to wait a week or more to get it if they order it.

Contrast this with the problems that local photo developing shops have. Their specialised services are now available to anyone with a photo print at home. Who shoots pictures onto 35mm negatives any more?

If you combine these two models, you get the One-hour bookstore. Imagine a device the same size as an old-style photo developing machine that can print, cut and bind a book within an hour. It won’t be very long until such a device is available. When it is, readers will have the option of getting the book they want within hours instead of waiting for Amazon to deliver within days.

One day the public will see books in the same way as they understand pictures and music: as abstract ideas. There is no such thing as a music recording or a photograph any more. Pictures and music are stored and transferred as files that can be printed onto photo paper or transferred to a portable player.

When books are seen the same way copyright-holders may have the opportunity to get paid for their work without having to risk so much money in holding stock and distributing content to places near the buying public. That will lower the entry costs of publishing for everyone.

A little revisionist history tells us that the general public eventually turned from VHS to DVD when they realised how much better the picture quality was. Consumer electronics firms hope that impulse will convince people to trade in their old DVDs for movies in HD stored on Blu-Ray disk.

Firstly, people chose DVD because it was convenient: you don’t have to rewind the movie to see what you want to see. The CD-like disks are more resistant to the depredations of children and other family members. They also take up less space. Secondly, most people didn’t have a problem with VHS picture quality – pre-recorded tapes looked as good as TV.

HD quality on Blu-Ray is neither here nor there for 80% of the population. The quality difference is not worth re-buying DVDs that look great on SD TVs and scale up well enough onto HD screens.

The other two advantages of Blu-Ray over DVD are enhanced interactivity and increased capacity.

In the case of interactivity, I think the majority of movie fans just want to get access to the extra information: the pictures and supporting documentaries. Not many will step through scripts screen by screen. Few played the hide-and-seek games found on early discs. Few modern DVDs use the interactivity features of the format, specified more than 10 years ago. How many recent discs have the graphical buttons that overlay the screen during key scenes giving the option to find out more? It’s been a long time since I’ve heard of a DVD that offers alternative camera angles for a movie.

All we have left then is increased capacity. You can store a great deal more content on Blu-Ray discs. Hours of documentaries, commentaries and soundtracks, or whole TV series. Yet now we see that features are being released in dual Blu-Ray packages. It turns out that marketeers think that consumers would rather buy a pack with two discs half filled with content than a single disk filled with features.

Looks like DVD will be the last consumer hardware format. What do you think?

According to The Economist, a development at the US Federal Communications Commission is taking us a little closer to ubiquitous media:

After four years of deliberations—and staunch opposition from television broadcasters, makers and users of wireless microphones, and mobile-phone companies—the federal regulators voted unanimously on November 4th to allow a new generation of wireless gizmos to access the internet using the empty airwaves (“white spaces”) between television’s channels 2 to 51.

The FCC could have auctioned off those frequencies—it raised $19.6 billion in March 2007 by auctioning blocks of frequencies above 700 megahertz that will be vacated when television switches from analog to digital broadcasting—but to its credit it opted to make them freely available.

The special features of these wavelengths of radio spectrum is that they can get to the hard-to-reach places that wi-fi signals have had difficulty getting to before. They can carry more data over longer distances without being affected by metal in walls and the vagaries of the weather.

This is a step towards the availability of any media on any surface. I imagine that within 10 years the idea of a specific device for showing 2D (and stereoscopic 2D) imagery will seem quaint. We will probably expect most permanent surfaces to be linked to a worldwide network and be able to display whatever we feel like calling up at any time.

That means nearby picture frames, blinds, wallpaper, painted areas, tables, plates, floor coverings, ceilings and buildings. This would progress to flexible digital paper, carpets, clothing, curtains and fabrics …eventually ending up as digital tattoos!

Apple have had their success with iTunes partially because the pricing model is so simple: 79p per track, £7.99 per album. They delayed launching video because they wanted something as simple for movies and TV shows.

People don’t want to have to remember more than one price for a TV show or a movie. When they are about to choose which to buy, they want to be sure how much they’ll be paying.

To those owning the films and programmes, they want to charge more if they think they’ll get people to pay. Recent releases are worth more than catalogue titles. Recent releases need to be paid for too.

However I think there will be a market for pricing based on the size of the potential audience of the video. A video kept for reference and watched every once in a while by an individual could be priced lower than one shown to over 200 people at a private club.

If that is so, why not charge based on screen size instead of resolution. Imagine paying less for a video than can only be shown on an iPod Touch or iPhone than one that that those devices output to TV.

The tradeoff between the content owners and consumers could be based on the implied audience size associated with a screen size. It would be uncomfortable for many more than one person at a time to watch an iPod movie. Not more than 30 would want to watch a consumer-based HD display at the same time…

I vote for cheap movies for people with no friends, they deserve something to make up for the loneliness!

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