Design


So I guess Tron was the pretty much the first film to tell of how a person went into a digital world completed a quest and then returned to the real world. If you know of any other others let me know.

For the launch of our client’s ePrint product we played with this concept firstly using architectural mapping to create an augmented reality display at the South Bank . We then tried to create play with some of the TRON: Legacy imagery to create a visual experience that could be both printed and posted onto the web.

The idea was to highlight how the web is not just encroaching into the external world  but creating links back and forth using wireless printing and posting to social networks. The ‘outernet’ is a phenomena still in it’s infancy but it is certainly fun to investigate. _ABU9234, 9234

_ABU9336, 9336

@naked_pheasant

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Seems like any company with a strong brand and customer base can be a hardware vendor. Hot on the heels of Amazon apparently launching its own tablet, clothing retailer Next is quietly offering a cut-price iPad wannabe.

Amazon has form with the brilliant Kindle eBook but Next has come a little out of left field. It’s all thanks to Android of course, the iPad-baiting open source OS that’s garnering millions of fans and users around the world.

Android’s modus operandi is the opposite to Apple. Android thrives on anyone and everyone playing with it whereas Apple thrives on being a closed shop,  locking users into its hardware, software, content and payment platforms.

Personally I think it’s a stroke of genius. The price point (£180) is massively undercutting the iPad as well as the sprinkling of Android tablets already announced by the bigger technology companies. Next customers get access to a global community of content as well as a (hopefully) decent device for enjoying media. Next gets the kudos of playing in the tablet market and, if it’s smart, a channel through which to pump content and hopefully generate sales. On this point, Next launched its own iPhone app back in February, and you can bet that feedback from that experience led to the development of its own tablet.

It makes you think who else could enter the tablet market. Banks, motoring organisations, football clubs, in fact any brand, company or organisation that has a decent brand, customer loyalty and a sales channel to get the product to market.

So, outside of the big tech hardware vendors, any guesses as to who will be next?

@paulwooding1973

You won’t find journalists declaring the death of the press release

The press release has again been declared dead. This time by Simon Dumenco, at Advertising Age in his column RIP, the Press Release (1906-2010) — and Long Live the Tweet.

With every declaration that the press release is dead, the word “press” is the term most often missing from the conversation. Writers of all kinds, from the mainstream media to bloggers and other content creators, depend on press releases to get the basic facts of a story as well as a company’s official perspective that they can print with some degree of confidence.

Discussions around the future or relevance of press releases tend to focus on new means  of disseminating information rather than thinking about how writers are putting together their stories. PR professionals should think about how they can better meet the needs of their audience (writers) as well as their audiences’ audience (the readers). While we like to show our prowess in developing video content and reaching a wider audience with tweets, they won’t necessarily help a journalist communicate the basic facts of a story with maximum efficiency.

Most journalists are overworked and underpaid. If they are trying to fill space and add information to a story, they won’t necessarily have the time or inclination to watch a video stream or follow a company they are writing about, if that company has a twitter feed.

Dumenco says: “Of course, press releases will probably continue to stumble along, zombie-like, for years to come, because too many PR folks are still heavily invested in grinding them out.”

I don’t think any forward-looking PRs are interested in keeping the press release alive.  They are interested in reaching their target audience with the story that they are representing. An integrated approach that includes traditional press releases as well as variety of content across distribution platforms will be what best delivers a story to a market looking for a variety of things from a news source.

Edelman’s own Kelly McAlearney was quoted in a Mashable story called The Future of Public Relations and Social Media, which acknowledged how PR tools and techniques are evolving,

“Engagement with journalists and consumers has evolved considerably over the past five years, to shorter formats. Often, we find that our most effective pitches are our most succinct. And interactions have naturally become more concise as many brands are in constant, direct contact with consumer audiences and media via online channels.”

It is important to be clear about what you are presenting and to help the writer write his story. If a press release is written with clarity and purpose, it will help a writer to meet his goals and give a brand the visibility it wants.

Dumenco says,

“Legend has it that early PR man Ivy Ledbetter Lee issued the very first press release in 1906 on behalf of the Pennsylvania Railroad, after a derailed train plunged into a creek in Atlantic City, resulting in 53 passenger deaths; The New York Times printed it verbatim.”

Dumenco really points out the power of the press release and I don’t see why this wouldn’t happen today. It does. Rather than asking what can or will replace the press release, we should look at how we can best make use of the distribution channels available to us while meeting the needs of the media and clients.

@Matthew_Whalley

Augmented reality is set to drive a deeper wedge in the digital divide.

According to Internet World Stats, only 28.7% of people in the world are online. In simple terms, that means if I have five kids only one gets access to the internet. As I sit in a developed economy in Western Europe, the digital divide is not always well recognized or understood. That means that four of my kids aren’t seeing any internet content and getting the benefit of the largest knowledge sharing network the world has ever seen. One child will be given the advantage of the world’s information being organized and widely accessible while the others will be have to get by with what they can access locally.

Most recession-affected countries have proposed some sort of broadband stimulus project to increase the number of people using the internet and develop their digital economy. Emerging markets are rolling out infrastructure to increase uptake and bring more people online.

Discussions around the infrastructure side of the digital divide leads to a lot of trolling through stats and not much understanding of what the gap means. In developed markets the digital divide often means that the less money you have the less likely you are to be on the internet, own a smartphone or enjoy tablet computing. This is a divide between the rich and the poor and Russell M Davies proposes in his Wired column “Imagine the worst bits of Facebook, only they’re everywhere” that augmented reality could lead to a kind of “premium reality” for those that pay for better versions of everyday life.

Augmented reality offers users the opportunity to access information or alter landscapes through digital imagery on mobile devices that interact with their surroundings. Davies notes that this has so far amounted to pizza vouchers and works of art. As the potential of augmented reality is just beginning to come into focus, it illustrates how pronounced the digital divide can become.

Today it means that if you don’t have access to a smart mobile device you are being denied access to some less than essential information but as the technology develops it could mean that you are only seeing half the picture that others are. Once the technology has seen widespread adoption this could mean aggressive advertising models shaping the world you see through your mobile device.

Davis sees this world evolving along a similar path as television broadcasting with advertising cluttering the world of poorer users while those that can pay accessing premium content. He says:

“…businesses will pay to target the rich and end up only addressing the poor because the rich have paid extra to avoid being targeted. So if you’ve got enough money, your world could look like HBO on a Sunday night — high quality and commercial free. If you don’t, it’ll look like the nether regions of your guide — softcore chat offers and lawyers who’ve paid an actor to assure you that they really are lawyers. Which would be fine, except these people won’t be on your telly;  they’ll be in your world.”

This means that the one child in five who gets to enjoy the riches of the internet still might not be getting an optimum experience and getting every advantage the web has to offer.  As augmented reality technology proliferates we will see how access to these new means of information sharing evolves.

@Matthew_Whalley

In the early days of RSS I spent some little time scouring the web and a little less time trialling a series of different RSS readers. Few have come as close to ‘home’ for me as SharpReader. clip_image001Simplicity itself SharpReader’s display is crystal clear; the updates arrive at regular, definable intervals; it is devoid of the advertising noise typically associated with RSS aggregators and the application size is low so it doesn’t hit your PC performance unlike leaving a web-based aggregator open throughout the day.

Subscribing and unsubscribing to feeds is a simple right and left click. By supporting OMPL (Outline Processor Markup Language) SharpReader makes your reading easily transferrable between aggregators or devices for those with a wandering eye or work location.

Some of my favourite features:
• Drag and drop feed subscription enabling you to consume the output of simple syndication or complex Boolean search algorithms for the Jonny’s of the world
• Grouping – to easily follow similar resources or discussions
• Manageable pop ups
• Sits in the system tray so I can grab it when I snack on news
• Images appear quickly within the same interface

@mattwarder

In a scene reminiscent of the 90s cult classic ‘Lawnmower Man’, it is understood that Jonny Bentwood – pioneer of the celebrated Tweetlevel online popularity contest – has been consumed by his own Twitter algorithm; in the process becoming the first human being to become physically socially networked.twitter all

Concerns were first raised when semi-digital manifestations of Bentwood appeared on computer screens thoughout the company, during prolonged physical absence from his desk alongside the Edelman Technology team – concerns that were confirmed when he disappeared altogether and became wholly digital.

The first unexplained phenomenon was the appearance of a series of seemingly motivational – yet slightly unsettling – Twitter related posters (right).  These were followed by ghostly bangings from the server room, alongside muffled, digital screams about ‘influence’, ‘popularity’, ‘engagement’ and ‘trust’. White-noise and repeated yells of the word ‘retweet’ have also been heard in what is being dubbed a ‘polterzeitgeist haunting’ by experts.

It is now feared that Jonny has used his integration into the Twitter portal to access other online territories, with the Edelman server under attack, and traditional media lists being erased from client files to be replaced by an audio file of someone reading out complex and often nonsensical algorithms and laughing maniacally.

"At this stage we’re at a loss as to what to do," commented a spokesperson, "this is entirely without precedent and we’re unsure whether to eradicate the threat; monitor and analyse it; or whether this is in fact an innovative route to influencers not seen before, which we can exploit and use to bypass newly evolving platforms being used by early adopters. Harnessing Jonny’s new digital access and power has the potential to put us so far ahead of the curve we may well rebound back onto ourselves and BECOME the curve."

It is understood several Helpdesk tickets have been raised, and allocated to a member of the IT team to handle; although an unnamed IT member said that they were unsure as to how to tackle this threat other than "turning something off and on again and hoping for the best"

Zynga, the fast-growing maker of Facebook games like FarmVille and Mafia Wars, has been called by the New York Times “the hottest start-up to emerge from Silicon Valley since Twitter and, before that, Facebook.” This week, its CEO, Mark Pincus, is profiled in the story, the second in two weeks, highlighting the company’s recent success (though not without its fair share of controversy).  Among other things, the article profiles Pincus as a fearless entrepreneur and visionary aiming to build an online entertainment empire as important to the internet “as Google is to search.”

While Zynga will cite profits and player numbers as success criteria, it is another recent trend Zynga is pioneering that has caught my attention; advertising through social gaming. Zynga came under fire recently for allowing advertisements into its games. Some ads, for example, signed up players for subscriptions to costly text-messaging services. This caused a PR headache for the company with TechCrunch, the technology blog, calling the practice “ScamVille,” after some users filed a class-action lawsuit.

But with 211 million players every month, according to AppData.com, Zynga is perhaps well on its way to making social gaming as important to the internet as anything else thanks to a new partnership with an American food manufacturer, (also covered in the New York Times recently).  Cascadian Farm, an organic farm in the U.S. and subsidiary of General Mills, is using one of Zynga’s more popular games, Farmville, to reach a growing customer segment through advertising. Instead of your bog standard click-through ads a la GoogleAd Words however, the Cascadian Farms content will be integrated into the gaming experience.  

In Farmville, you participate, create, build and manage your own farm. You gain experience points by visiting your friends’ farms and lending a virtual hand. From next week, players in the U.S. will be able to purchase (using farm bucks) and plant, an organic blueberry crop from Cascadian Farm.  In doing so, FarmVille users will learn about organic farming and green living through standard game play, and at the same time, earn additional points to grow fruits and vegetables or raise animals on their virtual farms. Cascadian Farm executives said in a New York Times article that they hope that the company can expand its food niche and make itself better known by increasing awareness among FarmVille’s audience – that’s 221 million players a month. Users will also be able to access a $1 off coupon.

It will be curious to see just how successful Cascadian Farm is on Farmville. Will the strategy work to attract and educate potential customers through participation and content or will it back fire just like the imbedded ads? While integration in game play gives the user unique exposure to content in an experiential manner, will users see through the stunt and reject it as advertising or is this campaign just clever enough to work?   
 

@jacqui_cooper

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