US elections: convergence of social and big media coverage

The 2008 elections will be the first major test of the tentative convergence of social and big media coverage. As US elections in essence have become campaigns in the micro management of narratives, the potential impact of the social media component shouldn't be underestimated.

The New York Times is planning to begin running citizen videos about the US presidential primary elections on the paper's web site in the next couple of days. The videos will run on the Op-Ed section of the site until February 5, so-called 'Super Tuesday' when a large number of US states hold primary elections.

Meanwhile, ABC teamed up with Facebook and MTV will be launching a “Street Team” comprised of 51 young, amateur journalists from each state to cover the election. Members of the Street Team will begin appearing in January on a new mobile site as well as the existing MTV Mobile, ThinkMTV and other websites as well. The content will be a conglomerate of blog entries, videos, photos, podcasts, and animation. A middel of the road or 'pro-am' initiative is "Off the Bus".

Google created a gadget for the personalized homepage iGoogle tracking the elections. You can select the candidates you want to read about, and then toggle between YouTube video news, mainstream news via Google News, blog coverage, and a Google Maps tab. Part of the gadget data is coming from Slate.com, which also features a section on campaign ads analyzes.

Techpresident.com is doing good overall work covering "How the candidates are using the web, and how the web is using them", social media data/stats included.

Posted by Jean Scholtes in Mobile, Publishing | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack


Mobile Podcasting – The Road Ahead

The cellular industry has repeatedly attempted to port popular consumer services to the mobile environment. Despite the investment of billions of dollars in data networks, spectrum, devices, and marketing campaigns, very few services have ported successfully.

Yet digital music and podcasting prove that users will go to great lengths to mobilize entertainment, including actively connecting a media device to a PC and transferring to it content downloaded from the internet. But can podcasting become a cellular service enjoyed on handsets? Given the prevalence of mobile phones, coupled with the ability to deliver content directly to the handset without any user action required, the mobile industry might be hard-pressed to explain a porting failure. This post outlines a few of the critical issues that must be addressed if mobile podcasting is to see even minimal mass-market penetration.

The manner in which mobile users discover and receive content will have a huge impact on the nature of the service. There are two alternative models: network-based solutions and client-based solutions. Network-based solutions like WAP offer podcast menus on the Operator's Portal. Users, locate the appropriate podcast, then initiate a download.

WAP has failed to appeal to the mass-market user. The click and wait, menu-intense experience of Mobile Internet has proven unappealing. Furthermore, given the relatively large size of a podcast file, adding a lengthy download wait to a cumbersome Portal experience will kill the experience all together.

Podcasts can also be streamed off the Portal. Here, however, in addition to the cumbersome Portal-Pull issues, the user-experience becomes dependent on consistent and sufficient data transmission during the stream. A user listening to a podcast while commuting by train will frequently lose coverage. Securing bandwidth in peak-hours or in congested areas is very difficult. Thus streaming can not deliver an acceptable level of service.

Whether downloaded or streamed, obtaining content via pull assumes that a user will regularly poll for content. Not only does the active user concept runs counter to the Podcast model of automatic content delivery, but a compelling mobile experience must be simple and automated. One must consider that the potential mass-market mobile user is not as "early-adopted" oriented as a current podcast user. Thus, the user-experience on mobile user must be as good, if not better than the iPod experience for the mass-market to accept it.

Client solutions reduce the amount of browsing and provide a more immediate, user-friendly experience. The first type of solution involves a client that displays a catalogue-list of available podcasts. The user scrolls down the list and selects one, which initiating a content delivery session. Content discovery is easier than in Network-based solutions, as WAP browsing to the portal is avoided. However, real-time delivery is required, which means consumption delays. Also, a consumption decision must be made daily.

The second type of client solution involves automatic, subscription based podcast delivery without any user involvement, for example overnight. Fresh content is available for immediate consumption with no network access required.

People are clearly taking their entertainment with them. Will the mass-market, which holds mobile phones rather than other media-devices, be willing to adopt and pay for services which deliver personalized audio content to them? One barrier might be the perception that podcasts are and should be remain free. Whether users are willing to pay for podcasts on their mobile will depend of factors such as easy of use, content quality, and price. But it is quite likely that people will pay a small premium in order to receive Tier 1 content.

One thing is certain: the operator is keen to see the success of such operator-provided services. First, from a revenue perspective, operators subsidize the handsets, yet see no revenue when a user transfers music to it from the PC. Second, should the mass-market adopt iPod-like devices as their device of choice for media consumption, the mobile handset will be marginalized and viewed only as a tool for voice-calls. As these competing devices develop Skype-like internet telephone functionality over WIFI, operators will lose voice as well. It is thus imperative for the operator that the mobile phone claim a stake as a media device.

Mobile podcasting, however, poses a few challenges to the operator. First is the fact that mobile networks are inefficient in terms of data transmission. Transmission rates are slow and there is much less overall capacity. Thus, cost to the operator of transmitting data is high. While a user might pay 20 Euro/month for unlimited internet on the PC, the same user might be charged 1 Euro/MB for mobile data. As the average 30-40 minute PC-based audio podcast approximately 15 MB, the operator can not justify charging of a few Euros a month for a mobile podcast service, when a single Pull-downloaded video clip can generate a Euro or two.

Mobile podcasting can be made more efficient. First, content files can easily be reduced in size by simple content transcoding. A 30 minute podcast can be reduced to 1.5MB, without impacting sound quality. Furthermore, the delivery frequency of a podcast service can be reduced. (Delivering shorter podcasts is an option, but Tier 1 podcasters will not create "mobile-versions" of their programs unless it makes economic sense).

Second, the podcast files must be delivered during off-peak hours, ideally overnight. During peak hours and in congested areas, the cost of data delivery is at its highest. Delivery of large data files to a moderate number of users during peak hours will chill operator enthusiasm. Conversely, during off-peak hours, the network is empty, minimizing the cost of data transmission. This requirement would appear to point to a push service model, with scheduled off-peak delivery.

One final issue is that of billing and revenue. Mobile users will only adopt podcasting if the pricing structure is clear and reasonable. A transparent monthly subscription fee for the service, without any additional data charges, is mandatory. In terms of additional operator revenue potential, one point worth noting is advertising. As audio and video advertisements are easily included in podcasts, the potential for generating advertising revenue is significant.

Now it remains to be seen whether attractive services are deployed and enjoyed.

Monte Silver

Monte Silver is Director of European Sales and Advanced Data Services at BamBoo Media Casting. They launched MediaToob, a mobile podcasting solution.

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Rabble : Promising Mobile Social Software and Blogging Application

Rabble is in beta and generating favorable feedback.

Rabble enables a new kind of self-expression that informs, entertains and connects people through the media they create. Create your channel and post location-based media - your favorite places, photos or an up-to-the-minute newsworthy event. It's like putting virtual sticky notes on the world around you. Then connect with your world. Tell Rabble where you are and it will show you who is around you and the media they have created. Through bits of location-tagged media, find and interact with other people and get information you won't find in the yellow pages. Part blogging, part location-based personal networking, Rabble connects you with the world in a unique and intuitive way by turning "users" into "producers" and creating a marketplace for mobile user-generated content.


Technorati: Rabble
Del.icio.us: MoSoSo
The Social Software Weblog: 'Phling! takes P2P approach to MoSoSo-ing'
Wired: MoSoSo

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Shinkuro: Collaboration and Social Networking Tool

Once in a while you hit on a product that does all the basic tricks you need. But then, complications: cost, learning curve, platform .. Not so with Shinkuro. When you are looking for a collaboration tool with build-in networking capability, look no further. Joi Ito just reviewed it and shares my enthusiasm:

"It's basically a very cryptographically robust, cross-platform collaboration tool. It allows you to create groups and share folders of files, has a shared chat space (like IRC) and allows you to share your desktop screen with other members of the group (yes, across platforms). The shared files are transfered in the background and edits to files are sent as diffs which can be accepted into the original by the recipient. There is also standard IM with your buddy list. The great thing is that all of the traffic is encrypted. 256 bit AES and 2048 bit RSA keys. Each message is encrypted with a unique key, and the key is transmitted under the RSA key. This is very important since I know for a fact that people sniff IM and other traffic at many of the conferences and public places. The folder in the groups is really nifty. You drop files into a folder and you can see who has received the files and see any changes that are waiting for you. This seems so much more organized than the tons of attachments and updates I receive before board meetings and conference calls. It seems similar to Groove in some ways, but is more lightweight and most importantly cross-platform. (Mac, Windows, Linux.)"

One thing he doesn't mention is its build-in social networking capability. You can ask your collaborator, 'friend', who his/her friends are. So you can switch from a collaborative session to a social networking chat and, if needed, start a new group and collaborate with that person and others.

Shinkuro uses a relay server to pass files and messages from one person to another. When the recipient is offline, the files are stored on the relay until the person reconnects. When you are on the same LAN, but for whatever reason not connected to the relay server, Shinkuro will automatically discover all other Shinkuro users and connect directly to them. This has the added benefit of being able to build an ad-hoc collaboration network even if no internet connectivity exists.

What about WiFi? Well, just set your WiFi to ad-hoc or peer to peer mode. Any other Shinkuro user running the same way will discover and connect to you.

The interface needs a polish, but otherwise it's really a fantastic tool and free for now (all indications are that prices will be another plus). By the way, 'shinkuro' is the Japanese word for 'synchro'. My id: 'jean!shinkuro'.

For more, check Gillian Kerr and Robin Good.

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Customized Podcasting: Cerado.com starts Podcast Service

Customised Podcasting is an excellent information tool for businesses and organisations. Paramedia is currently working on related projects and the interest is growing rapidly. The biggest pro is mobility: listen to the info on a MP3 device when and where you need it or suits you. In the States, Cerado.com started a Customised Podcast Service as a companion to their existing (Competitive Intelligence) briefing documents. More here. Thumbs up Cerado!

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Paramedia mobile site :: winksite.com/paramedia/mob                           WINKsite

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Location Based Services (LBS) and Podcasting:

A few weeks ago I mused about the possibilities of 'location based services' through podcasting and GPS. At the moment though only a tiny fraction of mobile handsets are GPS-enabled.

That's why this press release from seekerwireless.com in Australia caught my eye: "Seeker WirelessSeeker_web_1 have developed capabilities that use existing GSM, CDMA and 3G handsets to enable the location of a mobile subscriber to be made available as an opt-in, permission based service to help drive the adoption of mobile marketing and mobile content offerings.(..) Key to the adoption of LBS services in Australia by Seeker Wireless is the use of an ‘opt-in’ model where a mobile phone user’s location is only made available with the user’s consent. This is easily achieved by sending an SMS, or updating the user’s website profile."

Based on the momentum of both developments, automated, subscription based A/V content distribution (Podcasting) will soon meet automated, location based services (LBS) for handsets. A very promising encounter.

Also posted on Podcasting Avenue.

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