Archive for March, 2009
March 31st, 2009
I might have got this wrong â€“ but I reckon weâ€™re in the middle of a games revolution. This is not just a step change – if the technology just announced in the US works, then the way we connect and play has been turned upside down.
The streaming system announced by Onlive promises to deliver high-end games to a new community of people, previously disenfranchised through lack of access to top of the range computers.
The systemâ€™s developers say that it delivers near lag-free gameplay to low spec PCs and Macs â€“ and with an added piece of kit also to your TV. All you need is a fast broadband pipe delivering 1.5 megabits per second (or 5 mb p/s for high definition).
PC and Mac owners using most “entry-level” computers will be able to play with a mouse and keyboard using a plug-in for their browser.
Top publishers such as THQ, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Take-Two Interactive Software and Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment have signed up to develop for the service and there are 16 current PC and console games tested and ready.
The service brings “cloud computing” to games with remote servers doing the heavy work to take the strain off players who can connect with their low-spec computers. OnLive has invested in data centres that can stream the game play with just a millisecond of lag.
The service launches this winter with a US only private beta in the summer. Pricing is under wraps but that, along with the quality of service delivery and new titles, will be crucial in deciding the success of the venture after seven years in development.
The browser plug-in element fascinates me, because it chimes with the extraordinary growth of the casual browser-based games market. Spil Games recently announced that it has become the largest casual game portal network worldwide.
The comScore Media Metrix assessment shows that the companyâ€™s worldwide traffic grew 75% in 2008 which pushed its casual game portal network worldwide ranking up from number 5 to top spot. Spil also reported a 269% increase in traffic in the United States as well as a global revenue growth of 125% in 2008.
For the record, one of our clients, Kerb, has a business relationship with Spil â€“ but thatâ€™s coincidental as the stats from Spil cry out to be broadcast. The casual games sector is something that Kerb MD Jim McNiven is also passionate about – but that’s a story for the near future.
We are seeing a series of earthquakes in the games industry, the like of which I cannot remember before. Markets and movers are being reshaped as we watch â€“ and the ways in which new tribes of players will form and spawn new cultural identities should be a delight. New forms of expression, language and collaboration will come from these fresh groupings of lively minds.
I canâ€™t wait to see the way the big players respond and the explosion of creativity that will come with this seismic change â€“ and to join in the fun as business models mesh with cultural imperatives. There will be a lot for us to learn.
March 27th, 2009
Here is this week’s round-up of my favourite web 2.0 tools and websites.
1. The first site today is called Wiki Rank. Wiki Rank gives you the heads up on what people are looking at on Wikipedia. On viewing the homepage you get the latest trend information and most popular pages read over the last 30 days. You can also do a simple search to find out how many times a particular page has been read. This site has a great look and feel to it also.
2. Skimmer is an Adobe Air application that lifestreams your social media activity from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr and Blogger. This desktop app has a luxury feel about it, and is recommend if you use Flickr a lot of the time.
3. Looking for a tool to suggest keywords for your website? Keywordle might just help. Simply enter your website URL and it will generate a list of relevant keywords. After the report is generated you can obtain the meta data code to use within your site, if you so wish.
4. Next up is a fun site for making storyboards. Story Top lets you create multi-page stories, drag and drop clip art to illustrate your story, add text in dialogue boxes, create storytelling clubs with your friends, and share your stories with others.
5. PDFVue is a PDF editing tool designed to annotate and mark-up PDFs for free. PDFVue allows you to upload any document from any computer. Once you’ve made your changes you can simply download the updated PDF or share the secure PDFVue link. It’s a very useful tool.
More of the same next week, see you then!
March 23rd, 2009
This is the second of, we hope, many posts from our guest academic, Lorraine Warren. Dr Warren is Director of Postgraduate Education and senior lecturer in Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the School of Management at the University of Southampton.
Iâ€™ve just participated in the final meeting of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Councilâ€™s cluster project, New Research Processes and Business Models for the Creative Industries. Â The idea behind this cluster, headed up by the Mixed Reality Lab at Nottingham University, was to bring together interdisciplinary teams to work together across boundaries to deal with the opportunities â€“ and of course the challenges â€“ of the digital economy.
As a management researcher with an interest in technology, especially early-stage concept development, itâ€™s been really exciting for me to work alongside artists, designers, performers and computer scientists to establish new links across the boundaries of different disciplines.
I did expect that some people might be suspicious of me at the start, thinking that perhaps Iâ€™d be more interested in the bottom line than the creative process, but I think they realised pretty early on that I am more interested in long-term value creation than short-term souvenir selling.Â For me, this is only possible if the people involved, from whatever discipline, are able to develop their professional identity and maintain their integrity about what they do.
So, over the past six months, Iâ€™ve been working closely with colleagues in the cluster on practice-based pilot projects, learning whole new vocabularies about building interactive soundscapes and working with sound in real-time motion capture studios.Â The question now is – what next?Â These projects are crossing the boundaries between art and science, bringing new perspectives and producing some amazing work.Â
Perhaps more importantly, new relationships based on trust and respect for different expertises have been established.Â Yet while we are looking ahead to potential new business models, a leap to customer revenues is unlikely at this stage!Â What we have achieved is a new combination of ideas and people that in the medium- to long-term could be developed in many directions as market opportunities arise in a fast-moving environment.Â
If our ideas are to translate into some part of a robust digital economy, we need to be able to develop a trajectory â€“ whatever our career path or discipline, we all need to demonstrate that once we have successfully carried out a small project, weâ€™re ready for something bigger.Â Itâ€™s not enough to develop horizontally and keep amassing a constellation of small projects that may or may not add up into something that makes sense one day.
We need to deepen and develop our pilot projects, build prototypes, build market relationships, keep working on new ideas.Â This isnâ€™t just the inevitable cry for more funding â€“ the EPSRCâ€™s Digital Economy initiative is ongoing â€“ but letâ€™s make sure we can maintain momentum on what we have already achieved. We have some great new groups now, but inevitably if we canâ€™t find vehicles to work on together soon, this will erode, as people find other things to do.
March 23rd, 2009
Iâ€™ve just had to pinch myself very hard â€¦ on hearing that sci-fi virtual world environment Entropia Universe has been granted a banking licence.
The gameâ€™s developer, MindArk, has received preliminary approval from Finansinspektionen, the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority which allows the companyâ€™s Mind Bank, which serves as a central bank for all of the different virtual worlds within the Entropia Universe, to function fully as a commercial bank.
Entropia Universe has a cash-based economy and players can exchange real money for game currency at an exchange rate of 10:1 (ten in-game dollars to one US dollar). Last year, the virtual economy generated nearly Â£290 million across hundreds of worlds on Entropia.
Itâ€™s an extraordinary time to be launching any new banking institution, let alone one that is virtual and real – at the same time. This conjunction is slightly bewildering and leaves me feeling more than a little dizzy. In one respect, itâ€™s not that much more different than any online banking offering, but in another itâ€™s very weird indeed, in that the goods and services being bought and sold are just code – zeros and ones. They exist virtually – and in transaction records.
Deposits made into the Entropia central bank will be under strict European banking regulation with continuous monitoring and audit by financial authorities. Customers will be backed by Sweden’s Â£41,000 deposit insurance and the Mind Bank will offer interest-bearing accounts have direct deposit options and let players pay bills online. The company will also be able to offer loans to customers and issue bank cards.
Iâ€™m not suggesting that there is anything amiss here, simply that a financial institution supporting economies that work in the virtual space is a little mind-boggling.
But I suppose that when players can reverse out of an in-game economy and exchange their virtual wealth for cash in the real world, the threat of inflation from lack of controls is present â€“ but maybe not as much as in hermetically sealed virtual worlds, where weâ€™ve seen hyper-inflation and serious economic malpractice by players. MindArk believes the bank will help to control inflation by regulating the economy.
I hope the instruments they use will be more acutely tuned to the changing needs of the economy than those weâ€™ve seen deployed in the real crunched up world. Itâ€™s good to know that while Sweden is in recession too, the countryâ€™s banking system and financial leaders are considered very sound. President Obama cites Sweden as a potential model for resolving the current banking crisis, based on its highly successful handling of the previous crisis in the early 1990s.
If Mind Bank replicates the sound financial judgements that have helped to keep the Swedish banking system away from the worst excesses weâ€™ve watched unravel, then Entropia should be a sound investment environment – certainly more appealing than the current crop of banks.
And it also underlines again for us in PR the need to keep pace with the rapidly maturing and economically significant virtual spaces where people will be buying, selling, investing and engaging.Â
March 20th, 2009
Hi all, here is this week’s installment of my favourite web 2.0 tools and sites of the week.
1. News Sift is a specialised news search portal for business news provided by The Financial Times Group. – Great for research and locating coverage.
2. This is a first for Five on Friday, the next tool is actually a wordpress plugin that I thought looked interesting. It’s a heat map plugin that tracks user clicks on your blog. - Track Your Blog User Clicks Heatmap using WordPress Heatmap Plugin
4. Sign Pad is a neat little tool that lets you add the service updates from your blog feed, Twitter and other similar sites to your signature. Microsoft Outlook is currently unsupported but coming soon.
5. Feed Weaver lets you splice multiple feeds into one RSS feed. This is a very easy to use site, check out the demo on the home page.
March 19th, 2009
In case you missed it on Tuesday, there was an interesting PR story on Press Gazette, titled: the indiscreet charm of Lord Bell: Boom times continue for PR industry by Peter Kirwan.
Unlike many other recent articles that have prophesied a long downturn for the PR industry, this piece cites examples of positivity. An example quote from Jon Slattery’s recent Guardian piece on redundancies in regional press, confirmed that journalists are turning to PR as a safer bet for employment, most specifically former regional journalists going to PR jobs in local councils.
Furthermore, Lord Bell is also quoted from an original FT piece confirming that Chime Communications reported organic growth of 10% last year. Lord Bell commented: “In 2008 we clearly had results that were extremely good in an environment that most people said was extremely bad. January and February have also seen growth.”
At Liberate Media we have also seen continued positivity in the PR sector, although decision making around new business seems to be greatly extended. However, the opportunities are still very much there and we are optimistic about the year ahead.
In fact, just the other day I had this very discussion with a client who asked how things are in the PR industry. This was before I had seen the Press Gazette piece. The client mirrored the points in the latter stages of the piece confirming that although advertising budgets are being cut, PR investment and especially investment in social media will continue as the value proposition is much clearer and can be translated to the ultimate decision makers with increasing ease.
So, do I believe the PR industry will continue to flourish in the current economic downturn? Well, yes and no. As I’ve said on many occasions previously, PR needs to change. The traditional PR agency will find the current economic climate puts additional pressure on an already threatened profit margin. However, those agencies and consultants that embrace more suitable working models, open communications, and as a result social media, or at the very least the theory behind social media, will benefit in the long term.
PR isn’t recession proof, far from it. But those agencies and consultants that are evolving their services inline with the developing communications environment will fare better and come out much stronger when recovery begins.
March 18th, 2009
Respected blogger and Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang came in for a bit of a battering yesterday when he published a blog post about social software company Mzinga, claiming he’d received multiple reports (“over four direct messages or emails”) that the company was in trouble. Please read the full post by Jeremiah.
The post has received 75 irate comments (at time of writing), and Jeremiah has since been compelled to write a full public apology to Mzinga which has stirred up a further 35 comments.
The incident is an important lesson to every blogger/journalist, and raises a big question mark over whether Twitter should be considered a reliable source of information, or indeed any social source.
Trained journalists are taught to use multiple sources – as a rule of thumb, I was always taught to corroborate a story through a minimum of two to three trusted sources.
According to Wikipedia, examples of sources include “official records, publications or broadcasts, officials in government or business, organizations or corporations, witnesses of crime, accidents or other events, and people involved with or affected by a news event or issue”. I haven’t been able to find any up-to-date industry guidelines on how journalists should treat social media sources – if you know of any, please share!
In my mind, the mistake that Jeremiah made was to not wait for an official response from Mzinga. He linked to a Twitter reply from the company’s PR manager, in which she wrote: “@jowyang Sorry to not reply sooner. Happy to talk about what you’ve been hearing. Will DM you to set up a time to chat”, but decided to publish before having had this conversation. A journalist would never have been able to sneak this under the nose of an editor!
Respected bloggers have a responsibility to their readers, and it could be argued should be bound by the same ethical and liable rules as journalists. Twitter is an unmoderated platform where anyone can say anything, and if it is to be used as a story source, my feeling is that the rule of multiple sources should be at least tripled before a story can be corroborated.
If any journalists are reading this post, I’d be interested to hear whether their editorial guidelines are the same for their newspaper/magazine as their company blog, and whether they relax rules for a personal blog that they might write.
March 16th, 2009
Here are some of the questions asked and answers given:
In a world riddled with ADD are PR agencies still relevant?
Solis – Twitter is changing everything – an opportunity as communicators / brand managers.Â Real-time flow.Â Is it distracting? Where do people go from Twitter – they click out and go to a load of new and different places – discovering information.Â building a network around context.Â Engage with people who are interested in you curating interesting. As a PR person you have to not share what you’re having for lunchâ€¦..
you should curate information – you are the brand that you represent. information.
I agree with what Brian Solis says here especially the bit around Twitter conversation:Â As a PR person you have to not share what you’re having for lunch…
You often see top 10, 20, 50 Twitter PR lists and it’s not until you drill down into the list, that you realise a lot of the conversations are not informative/helpful but simply represent – me time!
I say: Good on you for getting on board, but make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons, not just because everyone else is! Let your followers know what information you are reading, the tools you’re trying and the links that you are bookmarking. Afterall, you’re bookmarking it for a reason, and chances are others will think the same too.
How are PR agencies redefining themselves for SM?
Shankman – Press releases will be dead within 24 months.Â The smart agencies are realising that they have to play in this world and anyone can now play in itâ€¦.. 70k people are doing their own PR using these tools. Â Dedicated people read the blogosphere just like you used to read magazines.Â The beauty is that young PRs have been doing it already. Search twitter.com find ways to get involved – don’t try to own the conversation, engage and listen.
This is another view that Liberate Media is onboard with, hence the creation of Pressitt, a social media news release creation and publishing tool.
To sum up:
How can a PR firm engage a skeptical audience?
Rebecca Caroe – A firm should have familiarity with the tools and should work hand in hand with their clients.Â Be upfront if you are writing a blog for your clients and you are an agency.Â Be transparent.Â If you are teaching the client how to use this stuff it ‘damn well better be the CEO’ because if you get caught you are sunk.
Twitter doesn’t make sense for all brands – but you should use it as a search tool.Â A focus group for free.Â If you are a brand, report back on jounalist work and get the news out on the social mediasphere.Â Ask your agency to report back on it.Â Peoplbrowser tracks a range of conversations on different platforms – a dashboard that’s free on the web. Each one has a different culture.Â This will tell you how to engage in each one and the language they use.Â Be a genuine participant in the communities.
The me-too syndrome is huge.Â Everyone tracks useful information.Â Agencies are not dying – but some will close.Â You have to be traditional and also adapt these tools.Â Mass-spamming emails of press releases is the wrong way to use these tools.Â If you claim you are an SM expert I’ll check how many twitter followers you have to see if you are saying interesting stuff that others want to read.Â If you are an expert in your industry people should find your talk engaging.Â Before we didn’t have the ability to track.
Another comment Liberate Media concurs with, a lot of Liberate Media’s time is spent on social media R&D and every Friday afternoon is utilised for solely updating each other with the latest social media happenings, new tools, latest conversations, and forming of new ideas to increase our client’s online visibility.
The main problem at the moment is that lots of traditional media are stuggling, and as a result they are reshuffling structures and increasingly moving into the online space. If PR’s don’t do the same they will also be left behind, and I fear PR’s agencys without any digital knowledge, as they will be the ones to suffer first.
March 13th, 2009
It’s Friday, so here is my weekly top five sites and web 2.0 tools of the week.
1. Plum allows you to add groups to your website, giving visitors to your wesbsite a place to talk and share ideas about themes and topics surrounding your site.
2. UberVU is an easy way to track, start and respond to conversations, even if they take place across multiple sites and services.
Today conversation around online stories takes place across an increasing number of services and networks. To give an example, you might upload a video to YouTube that then gets embedded in a blog post. That post receives comments and it gets posted on Twitter, where it also gets some replies. The Twitter post gets to FriendFeed where the conversation continues.
All of this is part of a single conversation, but you can’t see it because it’s trapped inside different services. That’s where uberVU comes in.
3. Whos Talkin is a great social search tool. It searches across many blog services, news sites, social networks, video sites, image sites, forums and via tag sites such as WordPress.
5. surchur is a little like Whos Talkin, apart from the fact that it boasts to be the ultimate ‘what’s on the web now’ dashboard. Search any topic and Surchur will pull in feeds from a multitude of different sites and sources. One cool feature of Surchur is the Surchmeter, which shows you how popular a keyword is on different sources: surchur, blogs and twitter. A 10 means the keyword is super hot and a 1 not hot at all.
March 12th, 2009
PR firms are usually the ones pitching and seeding news stories, not creating them. So it’s great to see PR firm Waggener Edstrom creating a new tool called Twendz. Twendz is a Twitter tool that pulls in the latest tweets on any given topic, and shows you what the overall user sentiment is, be it positive or negative. A great idea and definitely something the PR industry needs to help the measurement quest.
PR firms are typically the ones who come up with the ideas but hardly ever get any credit for them, so maybe the tide is turning. Will we see more PR companies creating tools themselves, via partnerships or by building new development arms within their companies?
It’s good to see the likes of Waggener Edstrom develop Twendz, and earlier this month you may have seen that at Liberate Media we launched our own service called Pressitt which allows the creation and distribution of Social Media News Releases. It just goes to show that PRs want to evolve and be thought of in a different breath.