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Ideas

iAds is the system where iOS developers fund their work by letting Apple insert adverts into their applications for the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad.

Google make their money by displaying adverts that are possibly relevant based on what you’ve searched for and the history of how you’ve used Google’s services (search, mail, maps…)

So how will Apple choose what ads to insert into iOS applications? Here’s a quote from their iAds sales site:

And using our unique audience interest and preference data, your ad is delivered to the consumers most likely to respond and buy.

Standard targeting options on the iAd Network include:

Demographics
Application preferences
Music passions
Movie genre interests
Television genre interests
Location

Looks like Apple is using information gleaned from how you use iTunes on your Mac or PC. It might be that those who downloaded iFart and Jiggle(?) might get served different iAds than those that use ‘Shakespeare’ regularly.

Apple could go further. They could also analyse how you use your iOS device. They could profile you based on which books you buy using iBooks and which videos you watch on YouTube and Vimeo. Could they tell your level of education by analysing your spelling and grammar? They could also judge you by your friends (using the social networking features of iTunes, or even from your Contacts list)…

In the long run, Apple might even be able to detect your state on using your iPhone: “Judging by app use, they seem to be working at the moment. Best not to serve frivolous content” or “The Twitter list they are using is a list of tweets by entertainers, no need to show work-related iAds.”

This sort of analysis will be much more accurate than what Facebook offers its advertisers. However much time people spend in Facebook, Apple is able to gather more information about its users by controlling the devices used to access the internet and all forms of media.

In an ideal world I’d see no commercials, but if I want others to fund TV, radio, podcasts and iOS apps, I’ll put up with some ads. If so, they might as well be relevant to me. If I’ve just bought a car, it’ll be a waste of my time and their money for the media to serve me any car ads for a while. However, in return for this kind of convenience, I need to give up some privacy.

I wonder if the default user option for this kind of profiling be an opt-in or opt-out…

PS: iAds might not just be only for iOS apps

An imaginary ‘media payment preferences’ control
An imaginary ‘media payment preferences’ control.

Fun fact: Apple got a patent for inserting adverts into media at playback back in June 2008. I wrote about the implications back then.

In which I describe how Twitter Lists could supply us all with the power of context.

Twitter have just announced that you will be able to organise individual Twitterers into Twitter Lists.

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This makes official the kind of organisation users have be doing with client applications such as TweetDeck – the kind of application anyone who follows more than 500 people has been using in recent months. Instead of seeing every update from all the people you follow, you can view just the tweets from specific groups of people.

At the moment Twitter is selling this new feature as a method of finding interesting people to follow. I might want to curate a List of people who write about post-production for example. By default, user-created Lists will be public. Once this List is known, and favoured by many people subscribing to it (as opposed to those ‘other post-production Lists’), I’ll have an incentive to keep it fresh, so the people that follow the List will have a continually refreshed list of ‘experts in a field’/’entertainers on a topic’/’philosophers of a specific school’/’fans of a given TV show’/’alumni of a school’ etc.

The first side effect of Lists will be that people who follow a couple of hundred others can now follow many more – knowing that these ‘check out their updates every once in a while’ follows can be relegated to a list that doesn’t clutter up the main feed. This will mean well-followed people/organisations will become even-more-followed people/organisations. But being followed by many people more who don’t read your updates very often might not improve your ‘Twitter Authority’ score.

Search

However, once people can limit searches to these Twitter Lists, the results they get back will probably be much more useful. Firstly, they’ll be able to search the text of the tweets of people in a given list. Then they could have the option for that search to include the content found at the site linked to on List members’ profile pages. After that the search could include the content linked to in the tweets, such as TwitPic pictures, Song.ly lyrics, text/images/videos from web links.

If Twitter then saw which link was clicked from the list of results, they’d be able to create a ‘PeopleRank’ algorithm that could stand a very good comparison to Google’s PageRank algorithm. In this case the person/organisation which supplies the best information on a subject will have their content moved further up the list of search results. A new measure of Twitter authority.

Sharing your contexts with the world

I’d also suggest that Twitter set up some default private Lists for each Twitter user that would define which sorts of updates they’d like to receive, for instance:
0. Family
1. Friends
2. Acquaintances/Facebook friends
3. Close colleagues
4. Co-workers/Superiors/Subordinates
5. Industry contacts
6. Work-related pundits
7. Entertainment/Pastime-based commenters and pundits
8. Governments
9. Everyone else

If there were default lists like these, Twitter would become very powerful in many ways.

If users got accustomed to switching between these standard Lists of Twitterers they wanted to see the updates of, Twitter would be able to infer the new context they are changing to. If someone wanted to be entertained, they’d view List 7. If someone wanted to do some background research on their field of work, they’d view Lists 5 and 6. If they were in a frivolous mood, they might view Lists 1 and 2.

Once Twitter knows your context, they can associate your context with the tweets you write, the information you give out and the searches you do. In this way context 2 would allow Twitter to act like Facebook-Lite. Other contexts could implement versions of other social network models: e.g. context 5=Linked-In, context 7=MySpace.

Also if you defined the mode you were in, then the searches you do could supply better tuned content.

It also means the day you spend searching for content associated with work would skew the searches you do when looking something up for a family member.

If users maintained these lists then different groups could get different versions of other information, such as location. When I’m in Family and Friends mode at the weekend, only they get my location information – other lists might get a ‘blurred’ location such as ‘London’. When I’m away at a conference, people in my Colleagues and Industry Contacts Lists would be able to find me on the exhibit floor (or at a specific local bar), while Family and Friends need only know that I’m away in ‘Barcelona’.

Who else would like to know what context we are in? How about advertisers? Imagine if we’d never see an irrelevant advert again. I don’t want to see or hear ads for movies when I’m concentrating on work. When I’m catching up with friends, I won’t be interested in being served adverts associated with my job. I think advertisers would get much better responses if their messages were being presented to people who were in the correct context to receive them.

Given that Google have tens of billions of dollars of cash, maybe now’s the time to buy Twitter – before someone else does…

In which I suggest that making it easy for everyone to show movies and TV shows to various-sized audiences would revolutionise media.

In these days of democratic production and distribution through digital technology, it’s about time we had a look at the exhibition side of things.

In the UK there has been some support for indie film distribution through the Film Council’s Digital Screen Network. They’ve fitted out over 230 screens around the country with digital projectors. This means microbudget films could even be released on DVD to many cinemas around the UK.

How about adding a few thousand more screens to the programme?

I suggest it would be a good idea for the UK government to combine two aspects of movie exhibition to make it simpler for anyone to create a cinema:

1. Some sort of open-source digital rights management scheme, so that content owners wouldn’t be worried about making their work available for exhibition. This would include automatic payment for rights holders by exhibitors.

2. A one-stop licensing scheme so that amateurs can arrange to pay rights-holders, public liability insurance, get permission from local authorities (and whoever else needs to get involved) for a single price.

Maybe by 2011, movies will premiere all over the country on all sorts of screens.

Any person with a room and projector could simply create a permanent or one-off cinema for whatever content they wanted. Licence prices could be banded so that the economics was straightforward based on audience size.

Films could be made available at different screen resolutions. SD for up to 40 people, 2K for larger audiences. Most TV shows would be cheaper to show, unless you want to show the HD version with surround sound. People would then be able to promote screenings, knowing how many people they need to get to watch. You could set up a season of obscure films or have a weekend party based around watching 23 episodes of your favourite TV show (leading up to a final 24th episode).

Indie and short film makers might get their films shown as part of creative double bills. Once this form of distribution becomes common, producers will be able to calculate how many licences at which price points they’ll need to sell to justify producing an idea in the first place.

The easier it is for movies to find audiences, the better it is for the film industry.

Here’s a link to a previous post on charging for content based on screen size, which implies the size of the audience.

In which I suggest a feature for Apple’s Final Cut – a way to create and edit multiclips (clips that can be switched as live between different camera angles).

Here’s another idea for a future version of Final Cut. To make multiclips a lot more flexible, imagine being able to use any (single codec) sequence as the source of the multiclip in any other sequence.

Shooting productions in order to prepare for multiclip editing is a little unforgiving. If sequences can be switched like multiclips, shows with timecode problems could be set up in sequences like this:

Footage from four cameras in a sequence

You can see here that cameras 1, 2 and 3 were started and stopped during the performance. Camera 4 had a sync problem, which was fixed by delaying the audio 9 frames.

Imagine if you could view this sequence as a multiclip. Instead of video layers, you would have video angles. Audio channels would move to be associated with their specific video angle:

A sequence in multiclip mode

All the angles would remain editable as tracks – you could change filter settings, clip positions and keyframes. The extra rows at the top of the display would give you the option to blade to cut between angles, choose which angle to switch to, roll to reposition cuts, add transitions to video and audio edits (but probably not ripple, slip and slide. You could make those kind of changes in the rows in the lower part of the window). You could treat the area as a preview of how the multiclip will appear if it was added to a ‘parent sequence.’

Once you are happy with the sequence, you could then add it as a multiclip to a parent sequence by holding down a modifier key as you drag to the canvas:

Dragging a sequence to the canvas as a multiclip

Once the multiclip is on the parent timeline, it would be editable in the same way as it is today.

In which I suggest that Apple could use their expertise in creating an App Store for the iPhone and iPod Touch to create a store for post-production professionals.

Now is the time to start guessing about the new features Apple might introduce in the ProApps that will make up Final Cut Studio 3. Most people are guessing that new versions of Final Cut Pro, Soundtrack Pro, Motion and DVD Studio Pro will be launched around the same time as the next version of Mac OS X. Snow Leopard is expected to be announced at Apple’s Worldwide Developer conference in May, with availability in June.

Some people say that Apple have had more and more problems dealing with Final Cut’s aging codebase. Fixing faults that have been around for years has proved too costly, however much they get in the way of long-time users. For example it is possible that Apple wanted to add draggable markers in the timeline, but implementing them caused too many bugs and unpredictable effects elsewhere in the application. It was probably easier to add features such as multicam.

This means that it might be that the best Apple could do with Final Cut would be to rewrite the whole application to fit better with the technology of 2009. It would probably take a few programmer-years to rewrite it all with no new big features. Experienced users would upgrade if all those little niggles were fixed, but Apple Marketing would have a problem with the ‘All new Final Cut Pro 7: Now works like it should have done for the last few years. Part of the new Final Cut Studio 3. Upgrade for only $499.’

Faithful Studio users are starting to request new features for their favourite apps, but it is likely that the feature list was frozen a little before Studio 2 was announced.

So, what would I add to Final Cut Studio 3? A built-in store for Final Cut Pro, LiveType, Motion, DVD Studio Pro, Compressor, Color, Soundtrack Pro, Aperture, Shake, Logic Pro, and MainStage.

Imagine having access to extra software and help from directly inside Apple ProApps. The Apple ProApps Store could also provide instant download access to plugins for Final Cut, Soundtrack, Motion, Compressor, Color, Aperture, Shake, Logic Pro and MainStage.

The economics of the App Store for the iPhone has changed the way people expect to be charged for their tools. Instead of buying large collections of royalty-free content, people could download just the parts they need. This would apply to clip video, livefonts, sound effects, music loops, and templates.

This would give people direct access to extra tools and help. This would also give tool makers access to a large community of users. As a Final Cut plugin creator, I would gladly give up 30% of my fees for Apple to handle distribution and billing for my software. They could even associate my plugins with specific serial numbers of Final Cut Pro and Motion. I could also provide free plugins, tutorials, footage and fonts to those who want them.

The Apple ProApps Store could also give access to freelancers who could provide personal tutorials, instant help and workflow consultancy. Sound designers, motion graphics professionals, typographers and programmers could make themselves available for commissioned work. Not many editors have created a professional environment for colour correction. Via the ProApps Store, freelance Apple Color graders could even colour correct a few representative frames from a series of shots in a difficult scene.

The Store could also provide a special search facilities that index external forums that might provide help when things go wrong or ideas when inspiration fails us.

Access to the store could be arranged through the Help system of each application. Version 1 could use a special version of the iTunes application. That would make the software engineering relatively simple given the huge effect this would have on the ProApps community.

If there was an Apple ProApps Store, what would you provide on it?

In which I provide some feedback to the UK government on their Digital Britain report: a place to build and democratise access to the internet.

From ‘two birds with one stone’ part of my brain, I’ve come up with an idea for the government that will head off complaints that Post Offices are being closed all over the country and get rural areas connected to the rest of the world.

Lord Carter, the UK Government minister for Communications, Technology and Broadcasting recently presented the interim version of his “Digital Britain” report. He talked about it this morning. Here’s the blurb on what he has to say:

In his first major speech since the publication of the interim “Digital Britain” report, Lord Carter outlines how he believes industry and government can work together to put the UK at the forefront of the global digital economy. Lord Carter discusses the implications and recommendations of the report, and focus in particular on how to deliver the infrastructure for next generation networks and universal access to broadband.

You should have a listen, it’s great to hear how informal, yet informed a member of government minster can be.

The headline summaries of the report usually mentioned his suggestion that it would be a good idea of everyone in the UK to access to at least 2Mbps broadband connections in the next few years. Most people think that this is woefully unambitious.

My idea is to create an intermediate sort of nation-wide access until the infrastructure can reach every home: a Digital Village Hall for every community in the country. Imagine a small building with a large room and a few meeting rooms where local people will be able to share a 2Gbps connection to the rest of the world. This would be where the community would meet, be educated, where retired people could care for toddlers, where people would get access to government (post office-type) services.

It is a great deal easier keeping a single link to well set-up computers in a single location than dealing with sorting out access for hundreds of households.

The large room could be used to link communities together via conferencing technology during the day, or as a place for youth groups to meet in the evening. Smaller rooms could be used by people needing private access to the net, or for digitally connected meetings. Corporations who value employees with a good work-life balance would benefit from an intermittently connected workforce.

Imagine what a single very fast connection, three or four well-trained members of staff and the correct good value equipment in a few rooms would be able to do to keep children, freelancers, home workers, retired people connected and involved with the rest of the country and the world! I think that older people would be much more confident on dealing with the government through the web if they were led through it by a considerate human being.

Remember that Village Hall is a kind of branding, there’s no reason why these Halls couldn’t be set up throughout urban Britain too. It will also make sure that people still leave their homes and get out to meet other members of their ‘village’, wherever it is in the UK.

The Digital Village Hall is the place to introduce us all to the future of the internet and Digital Government.

In which I use the social media element of a UK advertising campaign to demonstrate how clients and agencies will need to learn how to trust unsupervised copyrighters with their brands.

If you’re interested in the future of advertising, maybe you should follow Aleksandr Orlov on Twitter or Facebook.

To anyone who’s ever been in interminable edits with a directors, copy writers, art directors, agency people and people from the client, you might not believe the following: with social media, you’ll have to find writers that you can trust.

Given the small number of words and images used in any given TV ad campaign, that doesn’t stop the script being endlessly taken apart an criticised by everyone involved. Given that eventually most campaigns will need to have a social media element, imagine how many more words and images will need to be created and distributed… and approved by someone.

This sort of micro-managing won’t work for social media.

A month ago, a campaign started to promote a car insurance price comparison site called ‘comparethemarket.com’ – it features a meerkat character who wants the audience to understand the difference between that site and the site he runs: ‘comparethemeerkat.com’:

An ad I don’t mind seeing when it comes up on TV, but didn’t feel the need to find out more.

On Monday, writer, actor and TV presenter Stephen Fry got his 100,000th follower on Twitter. On Tuesday, he was up to 110,000. That made him the third most followed (after Barack Obama and CNN) on Twitter. On Tuesday, he also got stuck in a lift for a while with a few other people. While waiting for the engineers, he took a picture and uploaded it to twitpic.com:
People trapped in a stuck lift

Twitpic is a site used by Twitter users to share pictures in updates. The update that linked to that picture looked like this in Twitter: ‘Here we are x http://twitpic.com/1bgnt”

Over 65,000 people have seen this picture. A few hours later ‘aleksandr_orlov’ posted this on twitpic:
Picture of Orlov the Russian meerkat stuck in a lift

Over 3,000 people went to TwitPic to see this image. A day later I wanted to catch up with what Stephen Fry had been doing since – I thought that his getting stuck in a lift would be one of the random events that gets Twitter that bit closer to the mainstream.

Stephen Fry is considered a national treasure in the UK, he is becoming one of the first people British people follow when they sign up with Twitter. That means that some of Stephen’s updates don’t make as much sense as others – they are replies to messages from followers. You need to see the message he’s responding to.

In this case Stephen had posted this update: ‘@alboreto I thought there was someone else in there…..’ – on Tweetree I saw that @alboreto was retweeting the post from @aleksandr_orlov – I didn’t recognise the name or the new character pasted into the lift picture.

I then checked out @aleksandr_orlov’s Twitter profile. Here are some of his recent updates:
@Aleksandr_Orlov's updates

Aleksandr_Orlov is a puppet character from the Compare The Market insurance comparison website UK TV campaign. He has almost 2,000 Twitter followers and almost 200 updates in the last month. Interesting how most of the posts are responses to messages from other Twitter users. All his updates are consistent with the way he is portrayed in the advert. His bio explains his Russian accent and links to his Compare The Meerkat website.

If you want to see social media copy writing in action, visit his profile on Twitter. You’ll see how each answer is tailored to each question from other Twitter users:
Aleksandr_Orlov's conversations

Aleksandr Orlov has almost 80,000 friends on Facebook. Some Facebook notes are directly part of the campaign:

All my friends,
I have made new TV advertisement!
It seem some people still visit my site looking for car insurance deal. So this time I have make absolute clear difference. Only mongoose could not understand.
Please enjoy sneaky preview at http://www.comparethemeerkat.com/tv-ad.html

This note got some comments playing along:
Facebook responses to Aleksandr's note
Other Facebook notes maintain the character:

On Friday, I am travel to Miami, USA to see artist Celine Dion perform in ‘Taking Charge World Tour’! This will be 6th time I have seen Ms Dion live perform greatest movie song of all time ‘my heart will go on’. Magical. I will put up story of my trip when I return. I am excite!
Please do not be to much jealous

His channel on YouTube is quieter, but he still makes friends with YouTube users and has extra information about his character:

Movies and Shows: Baywatch, Antiques Road show, Meerkat Manor, Top Gear, Titanic
Music: Tchaikovsky, The Beach Boys, Shania Twain
Books: War and Peace, The Meerkat Mongoose Wars: A History

This sort of quick response to members of the public from the personification of a brand requires that the client trust the ad agency and the ad agency trust the copy writer(s). If someone makes a mistake they can delete a tweet, but they cannot edit it. Deleted tweets look suspicious too. The writer needs to maintain a consistent character 24 hours a day, using the principles of standup comedy and improvisation to respond to other users of Twitter, YouTube and MySpace etc.

The only caveat is that although a campaign may be entertaining for audiences and useful for the CVs of the people involved, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. This will only be a positive case study for the future of advertising if it improves the fortunes of Compare the Market.com – we’ll see.

15 years ago I wrote an essay called “What if Media was Media?” It was based around an idea that might interest others, but I wasn’t sure what to do about it. As I wasn’t on the internet back then, all I could do was print it out and give it to a few people who might be able to help me…

The core point was that people may come to understand copyright more deeply because computer file formats will have layers of rights information built-in. In 1994, people hardly ever referred to contents of computer files as ‘media.’ I was imagining a system where all movies, TV, radio and music was created, distributed and delivered in digital forms.

I saw that the flexibility of digital media would make it much easier for old-fashioned media to be copied. To facilitate ubiquitous distribution, I thought it would be interesting if the file format itself included information on the rights-holders.

Imagine buying a video camera, before you first use it, you enter unique contact information (possibly pointing to a .tel registry entry). The camera would then encode your ID into all the footage you shoot. You might even choose a default copyright statement too: ‘©2009 Alex Gollner – For rights see fee table at alex4d.tel’

Once the rights information is included with the footage, then every time the footage is played elsewhere, the playback software will determine whether the person watching the footage would want to pay a one-off fee, or license to watch as many times as they want. Of course they could get an advertiser to pay on their behalf:


An imaginary ‘media payment preferences’ control.

They would also choose whether they want to watch on their own, or play it to larger audiences:

The system could also take into account times when footage is incorporated into other productions. If you witnessed the feel-good story of the week – when a talented and brave airline pilot saved passengers and crew by landing his stricken plane on the Hudson – and shot footage that news organisations all over the world wanted to show, they could upload it from your camera. If media rights were encoded into the file, each time the news item is shown on TV, from an archive, streamed on a corporate website or even embedded elsewhere, you would get a cut of the fees paid.

It’s a dilemma. On one hand ‘the little guy’ would automatically get paid. On the other, everyone who has a camera pointed at them will want to know what’s in it for them…

For the last thirty years people have been trying to come up with clever ways to make TV interactive. In the early 80s, we had Teletext services. We later had phone votes. These days digital TV users know that they can get more content – such as games, documentaries and commentary tracks – by ‘pressing the red button;’ whichever method they are using to watch TV.

On the other hand, more devices can be modified to act as remote controls for TVs. Eventually all phones will be able to interact with nearby TVs. They’ll start by being able to switch channels and record to a DVR. Soon TVs (and computers) will accept text and multi-touch input from phones and remotes.

Maybe it is time for those designing the future of TV to take into account the essential nature of watching content on TV. What makes it different from going to the movies? Or watching DVDs and downloaded movies on computers and phones? The fact that you watch TV with one or more people that you usually know well. Phones and computers are usually used by one person at a time (unless the computer is being used as a TV replacement). When you are at the cinema, you may be with hundreds of people, but you know no-one but those you came with and you don’t spend time during the movie interacting with anyone (unless your primary reason isn’t to watch the film…).

Given that before the invention of the remote, anyone who walked over to the TV had control, maybe it’s time to plan for TV broadcasts where each person watching can control and interact with TV content. Instead of using a child as proxy remotes, as I was, the person who usually holds the remote (still typically the man) should be encouraged to share with others.

The future could be made of every individual consuming media on their own terms – on their own. It’s the interaction between those watching TV that makes it special. If TV improves and changes those interactions, it will keep groups of people together for a long time to come.

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