Sunday, 22 November 2009

The cusp of media

So Murdoch says that Google and their ilk are 'content kleptocrats', "stealing" news from news makers. Then we have Google Books trying to "steal" copyrights from established publishers.

It all sounds very similar to Napster "stealing" music from music distributers in the early noughties. That industry has shifted fairly well. Fundamentally, I think, because they realised that 'the customer is king' was not some ropey business school mantra, but, in the age of social media, business critical. Gone are the days when the company is, de facto, better informed about the market than its consumers. In fact, with social media flattening all that marketing persuasion, the savvy companies are realising that they are outnumbered and that trying smother off-message consumers is not only uncool but also potentially very damaging.

While this is all very disruptive to modern business models, think about the raw substance for a minute. A musician creating a tune. A journalist investigating a story. A novelist creating a book. Surely the true measure of value is the time taken to create the content times the popularity of that content.

Content value = creation time x quality factor(copies sold)

This was undoubtedly the case before recorded media: the printing press, the phonograph-CD, the photograph-movie. In fact the historical precedent in the music recording industry was sheet music: have a read about the fuss that recorded music caused the sheet music industry. There's a fascinating case of one industry devouring another and now, decades later, being devoured.

So the modern argument against my little equation above was Marketing. Big bands/authors/movies couldn't be big unless there was huge expenditure on media events: launch parties, adverts, hype etc. The fundamental assumption of that argument is that consumers cannot inherently choose for themselves - they need to be guided by some Marketing Machine that tells them what is cool and what is not cool.

Yet, ironically, the most attentive consumers of any given media/brand/band/author/director studiously ignore the marketing hype in favour of valuing the content for itself - the quality factor in my equation above. Now, before social media, the loudest voice was the biggest, so the attentive consumers could easily be smothered by the Marketing Machine. But now the attentive consumers have the tools to fight back.

I don't know about you but whenever I research any buy online these days, be it books, music, consumer goods or holidays, I always look for the best and worst opinions. So not only is consumer king, but, from the content creation perspective, contrast is king.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Football decisions

BBC Sport - Football - Roy Keane has no sympathy for Republic of Ireland exit - I'm with Roy Keane on this one. The rules state that the referee's decision (not matter how bad) is final. This has always struck me as being completely at odds with football players' (at all levels) attitudes towards referees: they shove the ref, swear at him, shout at him. This is such a stark contrast to rugby, where, at all levels, the ref is rarely given abuse, and when he is the player is dealt with harshly: at least moving the penalty 10 yards forward, and at worst an early bath.

Video refereeing would never really work in football: there would potentially be too many stoppages, or the griping would switch from 'whether it was a foul' to 'whether the ref should have used the video ref'. In rugby it works because the ref only really uses it for try scoring, which can be a messy affair (bodies piling over, or a touchline tackle). In football, the goal is usually much more clear cut: ball over line and in net.

Maybe the solution is multiple referees, like American football. Or maybe simply more powers to the linesmen to advise on referee decisions. Or maybe just more powers to the ref to impose player discipline and command respect. Adversarial team sports are not democracies (unlike boxing, diving or gymnastics), with good reason: fundamentally it's about subjective judgement and timely decision-making.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Apple's Apps

Arguably, the reason Apple computers never took off in the same way as PCs did in the 80's was because you could only use Apple-approved peripherals with your Apple IIe or whatever. So even though there were better HP printers around, or better Sun mice, you couldn't use them with your Apple because they weren't approved. The pro-Apple lobby simply put this down to quality control: Apple didn't want to risk tainting an 'insanely great' user experience with sub-standard 3rd party products. The cynics said that Apple were simply being greedy control freaks. The result was that these 3rd party products became as good, then better than Apple, and users left in droves - they found more choice.

Here we are, twenty-something years later, and it seems like Apple are crossing that line again: their App store vetting procedures are pissing developers, partners and users off. If they are not careful, the open source Android army will simply outflank iPhone apps and push them into a niche.

My solution? 2 tiers: one Apple-approved, one Unapproved, with appropriate disclaimers.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Skype the Social network

How Skype Can Quickly and Easily Become a Social Network (and Clean Facebook’s Clock) : this is an interesting piece on the features of Skype that lend it to being a social network.

It's an interesting proposition, if only from the conceptual sense of having the full spectrum of realtime voice and video to IM to status updates and wall postings to messages and email to bookmarks and recommendations to games and apps, all under the same account, and available from most devices. Tantalisingly close to a fully converged communications platform: no more phone numbers or email addresses, just your name and a whole bunch of privacy settings to ensure that, while you're available anywhere, anyhow, it's only to the right people.

Skype already offers many of those things (I only found out recently that it did games), as does Facebook, of course. In fact, on reflection, the overlap looks so obvious - why doesn't one buy the other? Skype could do a nice client integration with Facebook. Both have their own walled gardens (skype audio/video technology is proprietary; Facebook owns any data you put on there). Seems like a perfect match.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Cell Size and Scale

Cell Size and Scale - neat animation showing relative cell sizes. I believe it was the great Wayne Campbell, of Wayne's World, who said "Whoah! Extreme closeup!"