peasantThe medium was the message in 2011, a year in which revolution and riot were ignited by social media. The persistent insistence that the internet has come to represent a force for democratisation has come under increasing scrutiny. The # is equated to a symbol of equality and freedom, but the extent to which this parallelogram marks out our personal Hyde and becomes a symbol of our own serfdom is something I have recently questioned.

The similarities between social media and feudalism resonate under closer inspection of the ideologies underpinning the two systems. In announcement prior to the announcement of Facebook’s IPO, Zuckerberg announced "we don’t build services to make money; we make money to build better…” Feudalism, a system based on social interaction, functioned on a peasants willingness to toil to maintain a space in return for protection, nourishment and submission to authority.

The reciprocity of relations in feudalism echoes the reciprocity of relations in feudalism. Social media is reminiscent of feudalism as we work to rent a segment of cyberspace (a Hyde), be it a profile page, a news feed or a channel, from a corporation (or a magnate) ie Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. Like feudal lords these sites (estates) profit through our willingness to work for free and pay for our space through site maintenance. Because we do not give capital for our segment of cyberspace, we pay for it in other ways.

Just as the serfs had no control over their regulating authorities, we too have no space to protest over site updates (for example, the introduction of Facebook timeline). When taken in this context social media appears on an oddly retrograde. It is then that the uprisings of 2011 become the doppelgängers of the Early Modern Peasants Revolution.

Both Luther and Swedenborg were inspired to action partially due to the apparent corruption in the feudal system and the arrival of new media which allowed them to disseminate a message of egalitarianism and revolution. The reformation changed the shape of Europe. However, what has become clear in the wake of the revolutions in 2011 is the difficulty which users of social media have had to impact on any lasting or meaningful change.

@camillaEclarke

Is Facebook a content or conversation source?

Back in May, Matt Locke, Richard Sambrook and I had a conversation about the future of Social Entertainment.  (In case you are thinking “My that’s a wonderfully catchy, if opaque, buzz word. But what on GoogleEarth does it mean?”; Social Entertainment is a term we coined a few years back to represent the idea that as social networks grow to parallel the influence of mainstream media channels, so too would traditional media companies need to progress their content and communications to fully embrace the social sphere).  Not rocket science, perhaps, but we’re interested in the implications of Social Entertainment, especially with regard to how entertainment companies communicate with audiences.

It’s highly probable that no one listened to the podcast back in May (I haven’t asked for the statistics lately, in case my worst fear was confirmed and we had chopped down trees, but no one was around to hear the loud thud of timber on the forest floor).  So if you didn’t, let me summarise: We talked about some meeja things and at the end Matt and I made some predictions for the next 12 months.

The erudite Mr Locke suggested that the talent rather than the media brand would continue to increase in influence and that this posed both a problem for the brand and an opportunity for talent looking to take advantage of the currency of their social profiles.  The case of @ITVLauraK (nee @BBCLauraK) perfectly illustrates this issue.  Both Tom Callow at TheWall and Jemima Kiss at the Guardian sum up the ramifications better than I could.  Congratulations Matt.  You were right.

Back in May, I felt the interesting shift would be the inverse of our original Social Entertainment theory.  I.e. Social Entertainment originally concentrated on how traditional entertainment companies could leverage social channels to engage audiences.  I predicted (again, perhaps not radically) that Social brands would expand to become fully fledged media channels and businesses.  This was based on increasingly professional content finding its way onto YouTube – but I thought that Facebook, Twitter and the like would increasingly become media channels – producing and distributing content, not just hosting conversations around it.

Interestingly, our annual research shows a conflict in consumer perception, here.  As this graph shows, consumers now think of social networks as a form of entertainment.

However, when asked who are the top-of-mind entertainment companies, consumers do not name new social or internet brands.  No Facebook, no YouTube, no Spotify.  Only the old dogs are named (I can’t actually show you the brands, but we do have this info should it be of interest.  Let me know if so).

And so here we are at the 22nd September 2011 and the f8 conference.  Much has already been written about the social updates (I’d recommend the Mashable picture gallery, if you’re looking for a quick summary of what it’s all about).  But I’m most interested to hear about how content companies and entertainment channels are going to be integrated in Facebook. Is this the coming of age for Social Entertainment?  True my prediction, unlike Matt’s, has yet to come to full fruition.  But with the f8 announcement, we may well be one step closer. The integration, assuming the often vitriolic users embrace it, will mean that Facebook becomes a powerful, if not the de facto, promotional channel for content owners and publishers.  This presents an opportunity but also a challenge for entertainment brands.  Content has always driven conversations. But some content is more naturally geared to social conversations and ‘lean forward’ programming than others.  For all entertainment brands, programs and channels, not applying Social Entertainment is, from today, arguably not an option.  It’s a simple dilemma; innovate and  collaborate, or risk not being talked about at all.

I must admit to being unusually intrigued by the above headline spotted on Twitter yesterday. Knowing my boss as I do, I can attest to his absolute commitment to, and vision for, influencer marketing through channels such as YouTube.

However, YouTube to “save his career” seemed a bit extreme even in these times of crisis!

Then a follow up headline shed more light on the mystery “Hargreaves to prove fitness by YouTube” . . . . a click on the link revealed a different Hargreaves, England and ex-Manchester United midfielder Owen Hargreaves, who has turned to social media in an attempt to convince clubs of his recovery from knee injury.

Apart from the ease with one can confuse one of English football’s leading proponents of the holding midfielder (formerly “Makalele”) role and Edelman’s European Managing Director of Technology, this story revealed some interesting insights into the use of social media within the workplace.

By turning to YouTube, Hargreaves (Owen) is seeking to convince not merely prospective clubs but also their fans; a vital constituency in any eventual transaction. While no club would seriously rank armchair or bar room insight above that of professional scouts or medical experts, they ignore this community at their own risk as Hargreaves is fully aware.

He will be wanting to remind them of his prodigious past; winning the Champions League with Bayern Munich aged 20 and England performances in the 2006 World Cup (where he was one of the few England players man enough to take and score a penalty in the shoot out against Portugal.

With staff review season fast approaching at ‘Edelman Towers’, how could Hargreaves’ approach be adapted to the workplace in general? Am I about to receive a dozen urls from aspiring account managers highlighting their best pitch moments, the phone call of the year when they secured additional out of pocket expenses, or – even – their network moment of the year when they collared a journalist/prospect in a bar over cocktails?

Perhaps these links will be shared “a la Hargreaves” with the wider PR community as part of a genuine influencer marketing campaign supporting their bid for promotion (“did you see that pitch . . . ? S/he still has it . . . they haven’t lost their touch!”). [although the YouTube pitching stunt by 10Yetis split the PR world; either ingenious or desperate? – Ed]

Football is a distinct workplace given the level of media coverage, discussion and opinion that it generates, but the principles of influencer marketing could still apply in terms of promoting your cause internally. I like to think that we in the PR profession would produce something a little bit more sophisticated that the Owen Hargreaves keep fit video, but the logic of seeking endorsement from a wider community (i.e. beyond that of your immediate line manager) is equally relevant.

I am, therefore, standing by for the creative videos and virals extolling the virtues and professional prowess of my colleagues. Jonathan Hargreaves scoring a penalty against Portugal in the World Cup finals; now that’s a YouTube video I would not want to miss!

@RogerDara

Welcome! This is the first edition of a regular weekly update on all things DERTy (Digital Entertainment, Rights and Technology).

We hope you find some of the weird and wonderful things from this week’s news and Twittersphere of interest. If you have any comments on any of the points below we would love to hear them.

Until next week…

Digital Entertainment

clip_image002Jennifer Aniston and Smart Water
In an area where you see a lot of things branded as ‘viral’, but are in fact adverts which companies want you to pass on, it was a refreshing change to see a company do it really well.  I clicked on the link from Twitter with low expectations but what appeared was Jennifer Aniston promoting Smart Water in a really clever and innovative way.  The campaign has received literally hundreds of positive article, over 4 million views on YouTube and there is a lot of buzz around the campaign on Twitter.  Admittedly they had a high profile celeb to help them get this coverage, but I still think they have hit the nail on the head.  If you haven’t watched it already I strongly suggest a quick look.

clip_image004Intel reinvent art
We’ve been admiring Intel’s creative projects (such as the Creators Project) for a while.  This week the Remastered exhibition was launched “to explore the relationship between art and technology and celebrate its role in inspiring modern creativity as part of its Visual Life campaign”.  Interesting stuff.  Whether or not this art is reimagined or reinvented – a lot of the exhibits look very interesting.  Nice YouTube preview here.


clip_image006Equal Pay Day
People used to forge masterpieces – and Dougal Wilson’s vid for Benni Benassi’s Satisfaction happens to be a masterpiece of Noughties dance vids. So now here’s Raf Reyntjes lovingly-crafted recreation of the video – with an important difference. This time round, the girls are a bit older. Which makes it very funny – or hard to watch, depending on how you feel about seventy year old ladies wielding power tools whilst wearing hot pants. It’s all for a perfectly good cause, thankfully: Equal Pay Day. In fact, it’s a stonking way of highlighting the important issue of inequitable gender wage differentials. In Belgium.

And here is the original http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5bYDhZBFLA – Spot the difference?

clip_image008Spyro the Dragon gets real wings.
We’ve been a fan of Spyro for a long time (in a former life Luke worked on the little purple dragon of joy and can often be found wearing a purple dragon costume at the weekend).  So it was with fiery excitement that we read about Activision’s real-world tie-ins for the new Spyro game.  There’s a great overview on the Telegraph.  The box copy of the game will ship with real-world peripherals that unlock features and interact with the game.  Interesting stuff – and not unlike the chess scene in Star Wars (in our heads’ anyway).  This demonstrates that particularly for youth audiences digital entertainment is not just virtual but is also tangible.  Moshi Monsters are illustrating a similar approach with a range of real-world products that unlock items in the virtual environment.

Rights

clip_image010

Warner Bros bring film to Facebook
Those living Stateside will soon be able to rent films through Facebook thanks to a new deal between the social network and Warner Bros. Users in the US will first be able to rent The Dark Knight for $3/30 Facebook credits – and there lies the interesting bit. At the moment Facebook credits don’t mean much to the majority of users, but with the Warner Bros. deal sure to be the first of many, we might be about to see Facebook’s virtual currency step up a gear. It also brings into play everything people have theorised around ‘social viewing’ as now people will be able to easily integrate all of the usual Facebook functions around movie content. Sounds like an exciting test bed, watch this space.

Technologies

clip_image012Well Funded Birds
The company behind everyone’s favourite mobile game – Angry Birds – today announced a $42m round of funding to expand its franchise and develop new titles. This comes in the same day that it was announced the game was also heading for Facebook. Considering Rovio claim to have already made $50m from game sales, they must have some big plans up their sleeves. So prepare to be watching Angry Birds the movie and getting an Angry Birds soft toy in your stocking come December.

Tweets from the team

· Transmedia alive and kicking it seems RT @powertothepixel: Fourth Wall Studios raises $15m for cross-media productions http://lat.ms/goM1ft

· Fear and Rango in Las Vegas. Uncanny resemblance…http://bzfd.it/gg55S2

· Black Swan trailer – the Habbo cut. Very cool (Habbo a client) http://youtu.be/ggQa-5T5UqQ via @juzu17)

· Interesting RT @mashable:Who’s Really Scanning All Those QR Codes? [INFOGRAPHIC] – http://on.mash.to/i5bio3

· Never commit a crime in Strathclyde http://bit.ly/hl0oeI (via @shortlist)

A wildcat strike by Spanish air traffic controllers that paralyzed Spain’s airports and stranded hundreds of thousands of travellers this past weekend deflated the tourism industry’s hopes for a big start to the holiday season. Cancelled flights led to empty hotel rooms and rippled out to the restaurants and shops that depend on tourist spending.

But while families fumed about lost holidays (it was, after all, a long holiday weekend for the majority of Spaniards), and the airline and tourism industries decried hundreds of millions of Euros in losses, there were a couple of sectors that didn’t fare so poorly. In fact, retailers saw their sales climb a modest but welcome 2% compared with the same period last year. People, it seemed, were determined to enjoy their leisure time and if they couldn’t do so at a resort then the department stores were a good alternative.

The media also saw their numbers of viewers and listeners soar as people tried desperately to understand if and when they’d be flying. The word ‘controller’ became an important Trending Topic in Twitter, with more entries than ‘Obama in Afghanistan’ or ‘Wikileaks’. One out of every 200 messages sent worldwide through this social network between Friday, December 3 and Saturday, December 4, referred to the strike. Social networks were crucial channels during the crisis; users from all across Spain uploaded their video protests on YouTube or airlines such as Vueling and Spanair contacted their clients through Twitter as their websites collapsed under the avalanche of requests.

Air traffic controllers have been grumbling about their pay and work conditions for at least a year, but didn’t become global news until they left their control towers. Media such as the Financial Times, BBC News, and Reuters have echoed the situation that Spain and its citizens lived through as air traffic came to a screeching halt.

For now people can live with the ‘state of alarm’ decreed immediately after the wildcat action, which moved the nation’s air traffic control system under military supervision. They can probably also live with the on-going political disputes over who’s to blame and what should be done. And just maybe they’ll forgive disobedient air traffic controllers, a privileged group of 2.400 people who earn an average of 300.000 Euros a year, a very handsome sum by any standards but particularly princely during recessionary times. But Spaniards won’t forgive more lost vacations.

It’s interesting to consider how this developed over Christmas, with the weather this time being the prime cause of concern for those looking to get away over the festive period. Hotels and restaurants eagerly await visitors and diners, and retailers hope shoppers will stay in the holiday spirit. Essentially it comes down to this: if the planes take off, everything else is on.

The upcoming General Election has been branded ‘the social media election’, with many claiming that this is the first British Election where social media will make the difference. Although we must be careful not to overstate the importance of ‘the online debate’, the use of social media has really come to the fore and is bringing a whole new audience to politics who might not have previously engaged before. It was social media that was credited with being pivotal in the success of Barack Obama’s 2008 US election campaign. The direct connections that Obama was able to forge with voters added extra depth to an already strong candidate.

Now for the first time ever, the general public can ask party leaders questions directly via their favourite social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. People can post articles, YouTube videos and photos which can be distributed much more widely and quickly through social networking sites. Facebook and Twitter can be thanked for an increase in the number of people who have registered to vote this year.  There is even a Facebook application that allows people to write or film questions for Gordon Brown, David Cameron, or Nick Clegg. Feeling more personally connected to the party leaders is helping to break down some of the barriers that have long-existed which make people feel very separate from their politicians.

Increased transparency of information has become something that people are demanding and the web is the perfect forum to store and share what the people to demand to see. The internet presents us with an enormous wealth of information about the election and its candidates, with new widgets available for example the BBC widget that allows you to compare party policies side by side. Power has seen a shift from the party and politician’s control and that of journalist and newspapers over to the public and how well they can interact with their people via social networking sites. Now that the potential for engagement is enormous those politicians who ignore it or are less active than others do so at their own peril.

@natfut

A frightening precedent was set in Italy last week, which outside of the country itself seemed to have nominal impact in the press, but which could undermine the ‘net as we know it, at least as far as content hosting and delivery is concerned. The initial incident in question occurred in 2006, when an autistic child was bullied at school and the subsequent video put up on GoogleVideo – thankfully for the video to shortly be taken down after being alerted by Italian police. Google worked with the police to help uncover the person responsible for posting the video, and the perpetrator and several schoolmates in the video were subsequently charged.

But, last week the Italian courts convicted three Google executives (who received  suspended sentences) of failing to comply with Italian privacy codes. Now, bear in mind none of the executives were in the video; condoned the content; nor knew of it until being made aware by the police and once that happened, worked with the police to ensure convictions for those responsible. 

What this conviction raises is the prospect of platform owners being responsible for the content being created and put on them by users – the implications for the likes of YouTube, Twitter, MySpace and Facebook are massive. Essentially, this means that hosts can no longer disclaim responsibility for content, and thus be held responsible for illegal or reprehensible content whacked up on their sites.

How can this work in the long term, especially if it is replicated outside of Italy – how  can a host network possibly monitor everything posted online without hugely deteriorating from the quality of service, and without massive investment in resources, if everything has to be checked rigorously?

More to the point, if hosting now includes responsibility, where does the line get drawn, given what might offend one person may be acceptable to another? I personally swear like an Australian in some of what I put online, but if this offends someone, should my content be taken down – and what makes their morals ‘better’ and more acceptable than my slightly sweary ones? Who is the judge in all this?

This conviction throws up some very worrying precedents not just for the internet hosting companies and content distributors, but for everyone associated with content creation as well.

@wonky_donky

There’s been substantial interest in the news this week about the Stateside launch of Vevo – an online music player that is being dubbed MTV for the 2.0 generation, and perhaps rightly so. Firstly, the service has the buy-in of three of the major labels (at present, EMI, Universal and Sony), and has done so by novel means; EMI has gone down the tried and tested licensing routes, but interestingly the latter majors have gone for equity in the business. This equity approach shows a robust confidence of the service and perhaps also suggests the licensing route is perhaps going to wane in entertainment industries if major labels can instead get a share of the profits outright.
 
Secondly, what Vevo looks to have solved was the perhaps fundamental flaw in
Google’s high value acquisition of YouTube, with many analysts and industry commentators at a loss as to where the return on investment was really coming from, given the vast majority of content on YouTube is poor quality, grainy and often filmed from another medium in the first place, such as a TV or is a skateboarding cat. Would record labels want to have their brand next to a poor quality music video – pretty much no, and YouTube continues to flatter to deceive with regards giving Google back the billions spent to acquire it. That YouTube is powering Vevo however could resolve this; Vevo will be a branded, dedicated player with high quality content that will interest advertisers much more than current video quality – its CEO has suggested phenomenally strong rates as high as $25 – $40 per 1,000 views, an incredible jump from today’s norm of $3 – $8.
 
What’s more, if this content really is as high quality – and in the long term potentially exclusive or streamed live – this will encourage more people to share it and thus drive traffic even further; a solution to monetising peer-to-peer sharing (in the friends sense, not the technological sense). So is Vevo the saviour of the entertainment industry? Initial reaction has been very positive and it will be interesting to see how it rolls out in the States before hitting the UK sometime next year. Fingers crossed.

@wonky_donky

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