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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Primetime Podcasting - US Talk Radio Giant Starts Podcasting

Almost 1 year after the first podcast, Rush Limbaugh, the Giant of American Talk Radio, started podcasting. Subscribers to his website can download a podcatcher and receive the show of the day in 3, 1 hour mp3's, manual downloads are available too. The files will be up within 2 hours after each show. Limbaugh announced it to his audience of 20 million(!) under the banner: "Rush 24/7: A Huge Day in EIB History: The Rush Limbaugh Podcast Debuts". This marks the beginning of US 'Primetime Podcasting'. Up next: iTunes. Whatever happened to Howard Stern?

(also posted on Podcasting Avenue)

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Podcasting Suite: Comparing Tools, Formats and Protocols

The well orchestrated hype surrounding the 'arrival' of Odeo's podcasting suite raised many eyebrows. An all too familiar scenario from the bubble era seemed to make a chilling comeback: declaring a winner and throwing a mainstream media party before the game had even begun, what's more: before the 'player's' skills and qualities had even been closely identified and tested.

Naturally, a negative buzz from the blogosphere followed. Odeo got the message, turned down the volume and Odeo founder Evan Williams declared "It's not that I'm not interested in the business model, startup thing .. but the bigger picture is let's make it easier, let's take it the next level and a business will come out of that."

One of the central critics was Dave Winer, the godfather of rss and podcasting. In his latest contribution, Winer tries to identify and discuss the central technical and functional aspects of a podcasting suite: its tools, formats and protocols. Here are the 'Feature/comparison chart for Odeo' and the comments.

(also posted on Podcasting Avenue)

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Submitting your RSS feed to multiple RSS search engines

If you want to submit a RSS feed to multiple RSS search engines/directories, try Feed Shark. It's very convenient: just enter the URL once and click to submit the feed. 21 RSS sites are listed. Of course, Daypop, Feedster, Technorati and PubSub are included. Give it a try, it worked fine for me.

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Study: 'Gender, Identity, and Language Use in Teenage Blogs'

"This study examines issues of online identity and language use among male and female teenagers who created and maintained weblogs, personal journals made publicly accessible on the World Wide Web. Online identity and language use were examined in terms of the disclosure of personal information, sexual identity, emotive features, and semantic themes."

Interesting implication:

"The results suggest that teenagers stay closer to reality in their online expressions of self than has previously been suggested .."

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'The Podcasting Network' launched

Adam Curry and Dave Winer mused about the concept of a commercial Podcasting Network for some months, but their commercial partnership never materialized. So others walked the talk and the 'The Podcasting Network' opened its doors yesterday. Its run by Mick Stanic and Cameron Reilly, the duo behind G'day World Podcast. "The Podcast Network will be the best collection of podcast’s available anywhere that are managed and aggregated under the one roof". They currently offer 3 shows: G'day World, The Gadget Show and The Mobiles Show. The 'Business' and 'Lifestyle' channels are still up for grabs. "Unlike a directory, all of the content available on The Podcast Network will be managed by a central production team ensuring not only the quality and consistency of the actual content itself but also of the audio quality and the file tagging." Not to mention the PR value of being part of this Network! (By the way: the timing of their interview with Steve Rubel was excellent). Their initial source of revenue is sponsorship and advertising, but "Over time, some premium content may be developed that will require either registration, a small one-time-only purchase or an annual subscription fee."
(also posted on Podcasting Avenue)

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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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Word of Mouth Marketing 101

Womma (Word of Mouth Marketing Asssociation) published a concise 101 on the subject. The positive strategies listed in the paper are closely related to blog strategies:

  • Encouraging communications
  • Giving people something to talk about
  • Creating communities and connecting people
  • Working with influential communities
  • Creating evangelist or advocate programs
  • Researching and listening to customer feedback
  • Engaging in transparent conversation
  • Co-creation and information sharing


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Testing 'Jotspot': Application Wiki

Today we started testing the much talked about Application Wiki 'Jotspot': "JotSpot makes simple web applications simple to build by combining wikis and web applications in an easy-to-use hosted service for workgroups." First impressions are very promising. The most interesting feature is the application gallery. Applications can be loaded into a wiki with one click, such as:
Jotspot Application Gallery

  • Projectmanagement
  • Blogging
  • RSS Feed Aggregator
  • Documentation
  • Event Calendar
  • Recruiting
  • Task Manager
  • CRM
  • Help Desk
  • Company Directory
  • Issue Tracker

Another feature that stands out is the ability for collaborators to email contributions which are then appended to the page (wiki) in question.  Text, mail and documents (Word, Excel) are fully searchable and WYSIWYG editing is standard (advanced editing capabilities for ASCII markup and XML are also included).

Free beta accounts can be requested, but it takes a few weeks due to overwhelming interest. I'll post an evaluation in a few weeks.

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