Electricpig » Extra http://www.electricpig.co.uk The only tech you need Thu, 22 Nov 2012 12:13:35 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Bacon Bits: Final Cut Pro’s secret shame: Time to edit Apple out of the picture? http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/31/bacon-bits-final-cut-pro/ http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/31/bacon-bits-final-cut-pro/#comments Wed, 31 Oct 2012 16:36:13 +0000 Adam Bunker http://www.electricpig.co.uk/?p=472203

Joe Patrick, one half of Republic Publishing’s award-winning video team, vents some of the frustration he’s had with Apple’s supposedly perfect video suite, Final Cut Pro X. Are the new updates too little, too late?

When it comes to technology, I’m a creature of habit. Which, in a world of endless software updates, where new features are drip-fed to you as and when they’re ready, can be a dangerous thing.

I’ve been using Apple’s Final Cut Pro since I was sixteen. I’m now twenty eight.

That’s one, two, three…. some years of loyal service to a piece of software that has, apart from the occasional Kernel Panic, served me very very well. Until now…

Let’s start at the beginning of the end.

Back in June 2011, Apple released Final Cut Pro X in all of its not-quite-finished-yet glory – claiming the program had been “completely redesigned from the ground up.”

Its arrival sparked a universal huff from professional editors around the world. For most, it was clear that what was once an industry-leading piece of software was now more concerned with getting in on your Dad’s home movie action. (No, not those kind of home movies, no one wants to see those – again). It was dubbed “iMovie Pro” by many – and rightfully so. It simply didn’t have all of the professional tools we’d come to expect from FCP. You couldn’t even open older projects. Madness.

At the time, I myself was kindly offered a copy of FCPX for review for this very publication, but so convoluted were the installation instructions from Apple (amongst other things, I was required to partition my hard drive because FCP7 and FCPX couldn’t bear to share disk space), and so frustrating were the resultant glitches, that I had to abandon the trial and regress back to FCP7. I was disappointed, but hopeful that the new direction would come good in the end.

So here I am, over a year later, still waiting to make the jump from 7 to X. Admittedly, Apple has released several updates to FCPX (we’re currently on 10.0.6) and the general consensus is that it is listening to user feedback and slowly moving in the right direction. But where does that leave me?

The ‘redesigning from the ground up’ approach is all well and good, but it’s left me curled up in a dilapidated, albeit comfortable, piece of editing software, waiting for the builders to put the windows and doors in at the new apartment I stuck a downpayment on fifteen months ago.

The main problem? I’m constantly having to sift through review after review to see whether it does those core things that I need it to do. Not to mention cross-referencing all of Apple’s ‘updates’ so far, to see if it still does that thing that it didn’t do, but then suddenly did. And at the moment, it just doesn’t.

From a company like Apple, who famously prides itself on user experience, the experience of updating to FCPX has, for me, been catastrophically unacceptable. What should’ve been a seamless transition from one piece of software to its sexier younger sister has turned into an aimless pursuit of a flawed, twitchy, botoxed step-cousin.

And so, it was with with great reluctance that today I googled the words ‘switching from Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premiere’.

There I’ve said it. Now, it may not sound like a big deal and I sure as hell won’t switch straight away – but for the first time in my professional career I’m willing to consider it. Up until now, switching wasn’t even an option, I always had faith in Apple. But I’ve just gotten bored of waiting.

And I need to get on with some proper editing.

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The dreaded double-launch: How to avoid a PR misfire http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/30/the-dreaded-double-launch-how-to-avoid-a-pr-misfire/ http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/30/the-dreaded-double-launch-how-to-avoid-a-pr-misfire/#comments Tue, 30 Oct 2012 16:15:18 +0000 Adam Bunker http://www.electricpig.co.uk/?p=471145

Last night, we attended the launch of Windows Phone 8 – the cherry on the top of an image overhaul Microsoft’s been trudging towards for two years. That’s it now; the second coming of Windows is here – desktop, tablet, mobile and games console all singing from the same hymn sheet.

Thing is, as nice as it all is, there’s no escaping the fact that last night caused a lot of confusion. Everyone in the room shared the same odd sense of Déjà vu, stemming from the fact that we were attending the launch for something that’d, well… that had already been launched some months prior.

It’s called the double-launch effect, and it’s a PR’s worst nightmare…

All just a little bit of history repeating

Picture the scene: It’s a crowded room in a London venue. The tech news pack are in attendance, battling for the chairs that roughly number one for every two people. There’s a brief introduction from Leila Martine, Microsoft UK’s Director of Windows Phone, and then we hand over to the screen, which provides a live feed from the US keynote.

But it’s an odd one. ‘Live tiles!’ says Microsoft’s Joe Belfiore. ‘Personalisation!’ It’s the same message we’ve already heard. Around a brief smattering of minor new happenings (the announcement of some big name third party apps and a few hidden tricks up Windows Phone’s sleeves), sat a strangely familiar message.

We were in that room to attend a launch we’d already been to.

The equivalent from Apple would be to host its iPad mini keynote on October 23rd (as it did), and then a second one on the day of launch, some two weeks later. Only it’s not like that, because Microsoft’s initial Windows Phone 8 event wasn’t two weeks ago. It was in June. And there’ve been multiple touch points between then and now for people to see and play with it (including one-on-ones with MS execs and associated handset launches).

Last week we wrote about Apple’s tactic of holding back on info until the last moment, so there’s little need to repeat that sentiment here, but the salient point is that – no matter how secretive you are or aren’t – it’s a very odd move to repeatedly draw attention to the same thing with events similar enough to blur into one.

Double-launch fever

It’s exactly the same as with Windows 8; Microsoft’s desktop OS has also been the subject of two huge keynotes, both eerily similar. But is Microsoft unique in this double-launch debacle? Hardly. The games industry is rife with this kind of thing, too.

The best (or worst) example is Nintendo, which, somewhat hilariously, managed to launch the Wii U in exactly the same way on two separate occasions, 12 months apart. Ninty’s 2011 and 2012 E3 presentations were essentially the same – perhaps a product of the desperate need to laboriously and repeatedly explain the new console’s many bells and whistles.

But Sony’s just as guilty – seemingly launching, teasing and demoing the PS Vita about four times in more and more monotonous ways and under multiple names before it actually landed on store shelves.

CES, the tech world’s biggest expo that flops out all over Las Vegas every January, is a regular festival of double-launches in the making, too. Companies like Asus and Samsung all reluctantly show up to outdo each other for the sake of showing up and outdoing each other, before going away for a good few months and coming back with the same products at their own keynotes.

Just because it feels good…

But just because everyone does it, doesn’t make it right. See, for each of these examples, there’s been something of a backlash from those in attendance. That backlash can range from the mild – confusion and annoyance at a lack of chairs, as per last night’s WP8 event – to the harsh, as with the critics at E3 who panned Nintendo.

The knock-on effect of an online lambasting can be devastating, too. Nintendo, for instance, felt the brunt of reduced shareholder interest after its weird Matrix-glitch of a keynote.

Thing is, people expect something big to have changed in the interim time, when in reality the second event is merely to celebrate the thing being a real, available thing rather than a glimmer. The double-launch sets up your actual launch-launch to be a disappointment. And what’s funny is that it’s entirely avoidable – if you want everyone to be as excited about a new thing as you are, tell them about it once.

Apple’s secret mind games revealed

Tell them about it in full, only once, and then let everyone have at it. Don’t buckle to investor pressure and feel forced to show something that’s not ready, and don’t get so caught up in your own excitement that you imagine everyone else will be just as enthused at the second, third or fourth viewing. Because they won’t – they have lives and families and other things to worry about.

The double-launch is a pitfall, and it’s not necessary.

Let’s put it this way: if you put your holiday pictures on Facebook and your friends give them a half-hearted thumbs up, they’re unlikely to want to sit and go through your printed album at any point thereafter.

Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have to figure out what we’re going to wear for the inevitable keynote for the Wii U’s actual launch – during which we’ll likely all sit on uncomfortable chairs and have the things we already know explained to us again at length.

What fun.

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Want to double your Facebook reach? Dish out free bacon http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/25/want-to-double-your-facebook-reach-dish-out-free-bacon/ http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/25/want-to-double-your-facebook-reach-dish-out-free-bacon/#comments Thu, 25 Oct 2012 10:42:26 +0000 Adam Bunker http://www.electricpig.co.uk/?p=466140

Never, ever underestimate the power of free things. Or, for that matter, the power of a bacon sandwich. What happens when you combine the two? A bit of social media gold.

On Monday, Love Pork took to its Facebook page to say the following:

“Happy Monday folks! Red Tractor pig farmers are thanking the people of Britain in advance for continuing to buy Red Tractor, even though global crop failures and the increased cost of pig rearing means that the price of pork will go up a little. So they’ll be traveling the country giving out free bacon sandwiches, starting in central London on Wednesday. Tell us where you and your workmates will be and they’ll do their best to get to you.”

And, sure enough, the brand’s farmers spent yesterday burning round the UK dishing out free bacon sarnies. Which was nice. Thing is, it did very good things for its numbers on Facebook. Check this out:

Facebook’s Insights tool is a little tricky to decipher because it breaks things down into weeks, rather than days, but since the free bacon announcement, Love Pork’s ‘new likes per week’ number jumped from 25 to 222. The ‘people talking about this’ figure, meanwhile, basically doubled – from over 400 to nearly 900.

Facebook Timeline: You’re doing it wrong

The lesson? The oldest methods are often the simplest. For every impressive competition and elaborate quiz, there’s always a solution far more sublimely straightforward that’ll work just as well. Free bacon sandwiches? Who can say ‘no’ to that?

…Well, apart from vegetarians, obviously.

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Apple’s secret mind games: Why security leaks are worth the risk http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/24/apples-secret-mind-games/ http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/24/apples-secret-mind-games/#comments Wed, 24 Oct 2012 14:20:09 +0000 Adam Bunker http://www.electricpig.co.uk/?p=465228

Apple likes to keep things schtum. When you walk into an Apple Store to buy your brand new iProduct, chances are it didn’t officially exist the day or the week before. This is unusual in the tech world, and that’s probably because it’s pretty bloody hard to keep these things under wraps. Still, Apple tries all the same, because the buzz that a secret generates is impossible to recreate when a launch is long and drawn out.

And, more importantly, you love it. The secrecy game twiddles with your brain bits in such a way as to get you out of bed and into line outside the store when you might otherwise not. The question is: is it all worth the effort?

The truth will out

“We’re doubling down on secrecy,” said Apple CEO Tim Cook at this year’s D: All Things Digital conference. And he meant it. On Monday, ArsTechnica posted a feature explaining that sources inside Apple had (somewhat ironically) revealed under anonymity that things were tighter than ever inside the Cupertino HQ. New products now have to be carried around under black cloth, as if they’ll melt in the sunlight.

iPad mini official: Read all about it

And yet, things still leak. Howzat? Well, you can be tighter than the arse on Scrooge McDuck, but if your supply chain resides on a different continent, your grip can’t help but weaken. And that’s the problem here: Apple’s shiny things are made in China, and that end of things tends to be a lot looser in the lip area.

That’s why the iPhone 5 was no real surprise: we’d all seen its chassis and innards months in advance. They sprang up on shady videos and in teardowns. You never know whether to trust these sources fully, but when multiple pics of the same thing start appearing from different corners of China, you can fairly safely assume that you know what’s coming.

Prior to last night’s launch, leaks for the iPad mini had been a bit less concrete, but there were leaks – we all knew that it was coming, and had done for months. And this wasn’t from analyst guesswork – the iPad mini rumours all emanated from the source in China. The iPad mini wasn’t a surprise.

Leaky leaky drums up buzzy

But, all is not as it appears. For every three leaks that Apple wishes hadn’t happened, and every iPhone 4 prototype that stays for one extra pint as its owner goes home, there’s one or two that Apple will have orchestrated.

The Wall Street Journal is the place to go for these such ‘mistakes’: the publication has a special relationship with Apple, akin to the UK’s with America. i.e. No one invades each other, we invite each other round for tea and there’s also a secret club handshake.

For the WSJ, the handshake is an exchange of information for buzz; Apple drip feeds info and the WSJ publishes it, thus seeding the entire tech news world with the same story. Sure, some are red herrings, but enough wild tales are true to keep people chomping at Apple’s bit.

It’s half misdirection and half Pavlovian conditioning, and it ensures that there’s always a healthy stream of tiny particles of news floating about ahead of a product launch.

But… Why?

Ok, so Apple does let some secrets spill, and it keeps others safe. And, above all else, it tries to keep us guessing. Why? Simple, really: you are a human person with a human brain, and you feed on excitement.

Let’s look at the alternative angle.

Earlier this year, Microsoft announced its own tablet: the Surface. It was unveiled at a glossy keynote that took place in June. It’s now late October, and the thing still isn’t on sale.

In Apple time, that four month gap is basically a whole product cycle. It’s madness, but Microsoft is hardly alone in this. Most mobile phone manufacturers, as well as the vast majority of computer and tablet vendors, announce their wares months in advance as standard practice.

And, really, they are fundamentally misunderstanding the benefits in Apple’s methods.

When the Surface debuted, it was a complete surprise. No one expected it. No parts had leaked. No one knew it was coming. But that’s not difficult to achieve when you announce the thing the nanosecond it rolls off the last conveyer belt.

It’s easy to keep secrets on that time frame. If you announce something as soon as you can, but actually release it several months later, what have you achieved? Mild surprise, followed by dwindling interest. And then at the point of launch, a lackluster queue for ‘that thing that they talked about ages ago’ which now feels strangely out of date, even if it’s not.

What Apple does, is to not give that initial interest enough time to burn away. Your interest bubbles because the new iSomething is a secret, and then suddenly, not only is it not secret any more, but it’s on bloody sale next week! Or tomorrow! And you simply must have it! Gaaagh!

The excitable bits of your head get all swept up in the furore. Suddenly, not only do you have to compute the existence of a new thing, you’re watching the adverts for the new thing and you’re having to get in line for it all at once.

The all-powerful buzz

The long and short of it is, well… The difference between the long and short of it – Apple products tend to leak, but that’s because they have a bigger window of time to do so. The iPad mini isn’t only just ready for it’s announcement; it’s only just ready for general release – with all the manufacturing, shipping, pricing agreements and distribution that that entails.

All of that means that Apple devices have to pass through a huge amount of grubby people and grubbier hands, so spilled secrets are inevitable. But the end result is definitely worth it. Apple would rather that you have an inkling of what’s coming, and then have access to it immediately, than to be caught by complete surprise and face a lengthy wait. This is because it knows how the consumer mind works. Or how the brain works full stop.

These delicately maintained secrecy mind games are in place to exploit you, and it works. Apple will continue to run the ‘leaks’ risk forever, because exploiting you always results in huge amounts of buzz, hype and – crucially – sales.

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Bacon Bits: Mutton dressed as lamb? Why it’s time to dump the digital mag http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/23/bacon-bits-digital-mags/ http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/23/bacon-bits-digital-mags/#comments Tue, 23 Oct 2012 13:13:17 +0000 Adam Bunker http://www.electricpig.co.uk/?p=464155

Republic Publishing’s Nigel Brown, magazine stalwart-turned online journalist and Managing Editor of Humans Invent, thinks that tablet magazines have already had their day. Is it time to concede that websites are the better all-rounders?

Don’t get me wrong, I love magazines. I started my career in consumer mens mags and I will always have a deep affection for them. I love the smell, the touch, the carefully curated approach, and of course, the frantic scanning to check the sub hadn’t spelt my name Nigel Broom.

 

But, since the growth of tablet culture there’s been an obsession with translating this experience online – the digital magazine. And I hate to burst this bubble, but they simply don’t work. They are expensive, fiddly, difficult to navigate and miss one key intrinsic characteristic that makes a magazine special – its tangibility.

I ask you – what can a digital magazine do that a website can’t?

A few years ago I launched a digital magazine on the Ceros platform for the desktop. It was fantastic (in my opinion) and I loved the environment. We had Marco Pierre White on the cover smoking, people walking across the page, lingerie peep shows and all the interviews were filmed and written – so the readers had the choice in how they viewed the content.

Now, forgive me for speaking out of turn iPad mag fans, but surely a website can do the same thing? And more importantly, a website is more flexible as it can be accessed on more devices and is more open to forward thinking and creative designs – it’s not a planned trip for the reader.

The sell

The concept for a digital magazine that you’ll have been sold on is that it’s a beautiful environment in which to curate outstanding photography, words, multimedia and playfulness in an online arena that has a clear start and finish. The idea being that the user journey is controlled and monitored from cover to cover, unlike a website. But the point that it misses is that the nature of how people access content has changed.

People’s digital attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. The idea of trying to get someone to read a 60-80 page magazine cover to cover online is unrealistic.

On the flip side, a website can be customised, designed to meet your needs and tailored to create a similar feel, but more importantly, with a back catalogue of content that’s easily searchable and there forever. It’s the modern equivalent of your magazine back catalogue, except most sites now publish every day, rather than weekly or monthly. People want their information, whether it be beautifully curated or not, today, not at a designated time later this month.

Let the magazine become specialist

My view is, celebrate the traditional values of a magazine but leave them in the offline world. Keep it as a classic craft – one of arranging words and pictures into an aesthetically pleasing design that takes the reader on a journey. Simple.

This is still an extremely powerful publishing experience for the right publication or brand, but it offers something very different from a website. I’m really not convinced the digital environment offers any redeeming features for the magazine form.

Magazines need to be touched. For me, that’s one of the most important factors about what separates a great magazine from a good publication – the dexterity, the density of the paper, it’s thickness, and the power of the cover.  This is an important call to arms, but it’s also a reminder that, when I pin my colours to the mast, not everything works online.

One thing that does, however? The website. And don’t forget it.

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Time redesign: Should editorial be different on different devices? http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/22/time-redesign-should-editorial-be-different-on-different-devices/ http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/22/time-redesign-should-editorial-be-different-on-different-devices/#comments Mon, 22 Oct 2012 10:32:58 +0000 Adam Bunker http://www.electricpig.co.uk/?p=463033

Is print dying? It’s certainly on the shrink. While the two sides of that particular argument continue to shout at each other from across the room, something important is largely being forgotten: digital editorial is a whole new kettle of fish. But, has Time – one of the biggest publications in the world – just foreshadowed a new era for online publishing?

“The reader is probably not going to read a 5,000-word article on the iPad, but they might look at the news feed,” says Time Magazine’s Richard Stengel, speaking about the future of the publication on multiple devices.

Stengel’s comment was in relation to the redesigned website that Time has just rolled out. The new site is scalable, meaning its furniture adapts to fit whichever screen size it lands on. As well as that, the site now scales to best fit mobiles and tablets of all sizes. That’s a step in the right direction in terms of navigation, but is there more that can be done?

Fiddle with Time’s redesign here

Seems like there’s two schools of thought here, both coming from within Time itself. “It [the redesign] was really about the consumer experience,” says Time’s general manager Craig Ettinger, “because of all these consumers who were coming to Time.com from different devices. They’re using those as a surrogate for a desktop computer. They want to see everything we’ve got to offer.”

Or do they? Stengel’s got other ideas. “I actually think there has to be tailor-made content for each platform. This is just a very smart first step.”

Different content for different platforms? Sounds like an editorial nightmare, but it’s probably not a bad prediction of the future.

Last week we reported about new mobile news app Circa, which shrinks stories down into digestible chunks. That works well on a phone, but not on a computer, so maybe there’s something in the notion that online and mobile content need to differ?

One thing’s certain: if that’s going to start happening, it’ll probably take a publication as big as Time to get the ball rolling.

Source: AdWeek

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Rise of the Twitter Monkey: How the office junior can make or break your brand http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/18/rise-of-the-twitter-monkey/ http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/18/rise-of-the-twitter-monkey/#comments Thu, 18 Oct 2012 14:00:55 +0000 Adam Bunker http://www.electricpig.co.uk/?p=459141

“This is Gary. He’s the new kid. He’s gonna just sit in the corner and do the Twitter stuff for us.” If that sounds at all familiar, we’ve got some news for you: your brand is about to be bombarded with invidious, hateful slander, and you’re all in serious danger. See, it turns out Gary is the most powerful person in your team. Gary could destroy you.

Please don’t let Gary destroy you; read this instead…

Still in its infancy

About three or four years ago, the job scene began to change. Searches involving the words ‘media’, ‘marketing’, ‘online’ and ‘journalism’ began to throw up positions for ‘social media officers’. And nobody was really sure what this was – not even the people hiring.

Social media officers were people like Gary, who joined on the premise that people with more experience couldn’t be bothered to sit staring at Tweetdeck all day responding to people. And so for a while, Gary just sat there trying to do what he thought he was being paid for, keeping quiet and trying not to get fired.

See, as genuinely mainstream forces, Facebook and Twitter have both been around for about five years now. In the world of business and branding that’s still an incredibly short time, so it’s understandable that, even now, nobody really has the slightest clue what they’re doing.

Breaking the rules

But the fact that nobody knows what the hell is going on, or how to ‘do’ social media is exactly what’s exciting. Earlier this year, author Neil Gaiman gave a speech to the 2012 University of the Arts, in which he said the following:

“People who know what they are doing know the rules, and know what is possible and impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can.

If you don’t know it’s impossible it’s easier to do. And because nobody’s done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone doing that again, yet.”

(Watch the whole thing here)

The same is completely true for brand-based social media. There aren’t any proper rules, and the people in charge are free to take the job and run in whichever mad direction they like. Thing is, when you let people run in any direction they like, they tend to pick one of two paths: really very good, or really very bad.

Or, to put it simply, it’s now becoming apparent that there actually is a right way and a wrong way to do social media, and it’s entirely dependent on whether you’ve hired the feckless Gary or his media-savvy superior… Erm, Andy. Let’s call him Andy.

The good, the bad and the brave

So Gary’s sitting in your company, tweeting things and occasionally responding to messages on Facebook. But he never thinks on his feet, or rises above the level of basic Twitter monkey. And occasionally, this garners abuse.

Andy, on the other hand, reports some messages to his managers, asks if they can do something out of the ordinary and, as a result, generates headlines, or does something that ends up on the front page of Reddit, or gets shared in your Facebook feed.

There’s something in the air at the minute: over the past seven days there have been three huge, news-making cases of social media-ing – two by the proverbial Andy, and one by Gary. The difference in response between the two? It could seriously be enough to make or break a brand.

Last week O2 UK made headlines by responding to a near illegible tweet from a street-speaking ManDem (customer) in the exact same lexicon. It was crazily daring, because it could easily have come across as one of the UK’s biggest companies being patronising in the face of a legitimate customer complaint.

But, thankfully, the tweet stuck to the wall – the exchange was picked up by the national newspapers, the PR blogs and everything in between.

Whether that caused a ripple in the PR world, or was completely unrelated, it was only a few days later that Bodyform knocked this masterpiece out of the park:

If O2 was being bold, Bodyform just completely threw out social media’s (first draft) rulebook. That video is genius simply because of how unexpected it is. Whoever was behind it (we doubt they were called Andy), obviously has the kind of gumption and gusto that every social media officer now needs to demonstrate. They saw a ranting Facebook post and decided to take it high enough up the ladder until there was suddenly a video team in place.

Predictably, it’s been well received across the board, with voices from all corners of the web calling for the now viral smash to garner awards. Rightly so; it’s just about the pinnacle of what you can do with a snarky post from a customer/user/troll. It’s a response to a Facebook post that’s probably done more for Bodyform’s brand than the past 20 years’ worth of screechy jingles combined.

But enough of this week’s good stuff; what’s been going on in Gary’s corner? Well, he’s been inadvertently ruining Thomas Cook’s public image. Yesterday the web aggregators were alive with the sound of an enormous missed opportunity.

A man by the name of Thomas Cook decided to ask the holiday company of the same name for compensation for the bullying he’s received, in the shape of a gratis holiday to Paris. And thus, Thomas Cook (the company) learned a valuable, if a little painful, lesson about the internet: if you don’t do something, somebody else definitely will.

TC turned down TC’s request. Gary there, not thinking smartly enough about the opportunity at hand. Shortly thereafter, TC (the person) received an offer from a rival holiday firm for a free trip to Paris – for a full week. And… Boom:

This wouldn’t have been an issue, were it not for the fact that the exchange landed on the front page of Reddit. But then that’s sort of the point here: you always have to aim for ‘viral’ – your social media team have to act as if everything will get picked up by the web writ-large.

Head to Thomas Cook UK’s Facebook page now if you want to see a torrent of unsolicited advice, like the frank but earnest ‘Sack your PR team.”

The most powerful seat in the house

Do you see where we’re going with this? That job listing from 2009 for an office junior to sit and make sure the Twitter feed doesn’t fall over now has one of the most powerful positions in the company.

Joe Public has two huge, very public points of contact with their brands now, and that puts a lot of responsibility on whoever’s monitoring them.

Certainly, you can’t go chucking free holidays or cobbling together viral videos left, right and centre, but you do definitely need to think about who it is that’s sat in that seat a lot more than most companies probably are.

Now, perhaps it’s time you had a chat about Gary?

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Bacon Bits: Why Kickstarter videos need a kickstart http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/16/bacon-bits-why-kickstarter-videos-need-a-kickstart/ http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/16/bacon-bits-why-kickstarter-videos-need-a-kickstart/#comments Tue, 16 Oct 2012 13:51:03 +0000 Adam Bunker http://www.electricpig.co.uk/?p=456865

Electricpig’s Associate editor Ben Sillis waxes lyrical about the eerie familiarity that now runs through the majority of Kickstarter’s promotion videos. Time the formula had a shake-up?

You’ve probably heard of Kickstarter, the darling of the crowdfunding scene. Designers, engineers, singers, writers and all sorts of creative types up rock up, cap in hand, asking for money.

Sometimes, a star is born: the open-source games console that bagged £8million for development, or the $429,000 (£266,000) pledged to create a dress shirt with a thermostat built in. Yes, really.

Of course, for all these successes, there are lots of failures too. This week, I’ve been looking into Kickstarter projects that didn’t quite make it, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s not always because the idea isn’t up to snuff. Instead, I think Kickstarter pledges have become a cliche in themselves.

The project I’d been focusing on was Silverball Studio’s bid to bring Pro Pinball back from the dead and onto the iPad, in HD. It failed, but it did unusually well, picking up almost half of its $400,000 ($248,000) campaign goal – usually it’s all or nothing. Here’s the video:

Seem a bit familiar? That’s because it is. We’re starting to see a recurring structure in Kickstarter campaign videos, and one I’m not convinced always works. Tim Schafer started this on Kickstarter with his hilarious (and successful) bid to make a new point and click adventure game, in the same vein as the hit Monkey Island games.

The recipe works a little like this:

  • Take a much loved retro property.
  • Have the person behind said property walk through their HQ, explaining the concept.
  • Hijinks and deadpan comedy moments ensue.
  • Money rolls in.

Schafer didn’t mastermind this though. I blame the guys behind Dollar Shave Club, the American start-up that picked up venture funding earlier this year with this here pitch:

As you can see from the Silverball video, the concept is wearing a little thin by now. Once the CEO of Valve turns up in one, making jokes about the absence of Half Life 3, it’s all over. It’s like watching Taken 2, knowing that, deep down, Liam Neeson knows it’s a terrible concept for a film but goes through the motions nonetheless.

Gabe Newell may not be the nimblest of men, but when he appears, the shark has been well and truly jumped.

With Kickstarter, visibility is a huge problem. It can make finding funds easier, but the PR machine required to get it is just the same as always. Contacts. Elbow grease. Cold calls. Luck. And I’m no longer sure a viral video is the solution.

In fact, so long as the product is a good idea, a clear and simple video laying out the pitch still works. It worked for Ouya, and it worked for the team behind the Pebble smart watch.

The plan for Pro Pinball is a good one. It just needs to lower its funding targets, and just focus on the game in any future video.

Has anyone found the same to be true for categories other than games on Kickstarter?

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Making viral video better: The smartest interactive video campaigns ever http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/11/making-viral-video-better-the-smartest-interactive-video-campaigns-ever/ http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/11/making-viral-video-better-the-smartest-interactive-video-campaigns-ever/#comments Thu, 11 Oct 2012 14:29:41 +0000 Adam Bunker http://www.electricpig.co.uk/?p=448924

Sit still for a minute; we’re about to crack your head open and readjust some stuff. First of all, work your mind muscles around this madness. And now, while you’re all confused, this: the idea that watching a video can (and, in many cases, should) be interactive.

Yeah… Crazy talk, right? Kind of, but it’s often the crazy ones that make things better. Just ask Apple. Sometimes, if you toy with the status quo, you can make things an awful lot better. Granted, sometimes you end up with something insane like this here pizza burger, but sometimes things do end up drastically better. Case in point? Viral videos that let people play with them.

Here are the best ever interactive video campaigns from the far flung corners of the internet machine …Although mostly from YouTube.

The hero

You are Swedish company Radiotjanst. You want to get more people to pay the (optional) TV license fee. The best way to do that? Massage each viewer’s needy, starving ego. It’s like the video equivalent of one of those metal things that goes over your head and makes you fall over with pleasure. Go to http://en.tackfilm.se/ to make yourself a hero.

Old Spice Muscle Music

Old Spice Muscle Music from Terry Crews on Vimeo.

We like Old Spice, because it’s managed a total transformation from ‘that stuff your Dad used to spray himself with’, to something that da yoofs can get behind. Largely, this has been achieved through a prolonged campaign who’s sole focus is loud noises and surreal imagery. Whatever that says about today’s kids is irrelevant, though, because this is one of the best internet things ever. Click that link to go through and play it in all its glory.

Subservient Chicken

One of the web’s oldest interactive video campaigns, this. Burger King wanted to promote its latest chicken sandwich by employing a man in a chicken suit to act out your sick and twisted ideas on demand. Well, 300 pre-recorded ones, anyway. Sadly, it’s no longer in operation, which either means that the bloke in the costume is dead, or has moved on to bigger and better things. Like trying to fit his entire fist in his mouth for a fiver.

Tippex bear hunt

Oh, this hunter’s about to shoot a bea- NO WAIT! He’s just reached out and grabbed that Tippex from the advert on the side! And it was amazing before YouTube redesigned its pages enough to make this now look outdated! But never mind! It’s still very creative! Exclamation mark! Link!

Matchbox 20

360 videos are confusing to watch. You drag them around nonstop, just because you can, all the while trying to figure out how this should be possible, and worrying that you’re missing something. They introduce a much needed element of stress and uncertainty to watching online content, and for that they should be commended. This one – a music video for the very, very American-sounding Matchbox 20 – is good for using the tech but is actually a bit tame, so for something a bit more brain-dribblingly amazing you should check out this Laax snowboarding video.

BooneOakley

BooneOakley is a creative agency that’s more creative than you. Why? Because they decided to have a series of YouTube videos for a web page. Just ‘cos. But it’s not just a web page: it’s a cartoon webpage, complete with a little running story, different website-style sections and even a bit where someone called Billy gets shot to death. Yeah, now you’re interested.

Give this bloke a job

Seriously. Like, he’s got a job now, but if he ever doesn’t have a job, then someone should give him a job.

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Five killer engagement secrets web publishers should learn from porn (SFW) http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/10/five-killer-engagement-secrets-web-publishers-should-learn-from-porn-sfw/ http://www.electricpig.co.uk/2012/10/10/five-killer-engagement-secrets-web-publishers-should-learn-from-porn-sfw/#comments Wed, 10 Oct 2012 13:55:58 +0000 Adam Bunker http://www.electricpig.co.uk/?p=447308

Porn is the internet’s unlikely master. Stop your snickering; adult websites are websites like any other, only in a lot of cases they’re much, much better. Much better than even the biggest names on the web, in fact. They have to be – there’s so many of them, so the need to be the best is paramount. Sound like a familiar situation?

Question is, then, what real, useful insight can you learn from the virtual smut peddlers? Lots, as it turns out.

Porn sites embrace changes in tech, are pioneers of (ahem) ‘engagement’, and know more than a thing or two about how your filthy, filthy brain works. And they need to: they take care of around 30 per cent of daily worldwide web traffic – about 29 Petabytes monthly.

Thankfully, a good fistful of the tactics that keep the porn industry thriving can be lifted straight out of their smutty settings and applied to a myriad of online publishing styles. So let’s do just that.

Note: If you happen to be our mums, we have never once looked at porn. Never. Honest. Stop looking at us like that. 

1. The value of thumbnails

Video is a moving medium. While we all enjoy a good bit of fine cinematography, it’s a generally accepted idea that it’s a touch tricky to sum up a piece of film with just one image. It’s bizarre then, that YouTube – some seven years after its birth – still hasn’t seen fit to improve its thumbnails. Even in the face of obvious leaps and bounds elsewhere.

And that’s sloppy, because the porn industry unravelled the key to doing thumbnails properly some years back. Upload a video to YouTube, and it’ll let you choose the thumbnail you think is best from a randomly generated series of about four or five.

Is porn copyright-proof?

In the world of adult entertainment, the system is radically different – mouse over the tile, and it’ll cycle through a chronological slideshow of thumbs taken from the clip in question.

So that’s handy. But the handiness doesn’t stop there. Oh no, Sir. Some sites, such as the hilariously frankly-named ‘Spankwire’, marks these thumbnails with subtle icons that act as hyperlinks to that part of the video. Now, obviously as a site owner you want users to spend as much time on every page as possible.

You’d therefore think that letting people jump to the middle of a video is bad, but they’ll generally stick with you longer anyway if the site is a usability masterpiece (more on that later).

This is something Youtube still hasn’t figured out, despite its success.

2. Getting in bed with mobile

The porn industry is no newcomer to tech. It has habitually been the driving force behind emerging standards, as it’s forever looking for new and enticing ways to drag you in. Blu-Ray? 3D? Mobile video? Porn, porn and porn, we’re afraid.

That last one’s key. Seeing how the porn industry has weaved and worked its way around the various constraints of mobile has been awe-inspiring in its speed. HTML5 is the most obvious adapt-to-survive example from the past few years. When Apple started slinging ‘Yo Mamma’ jokes at Adobe Flash, there was a major fallout. This resulted in a fragmented web – one that wouldn’t work on some mobiles but would on others.

The answer was to move fast and adopt whatever the hell future technology would take Flash’s place, on an almost ‘overnight’ timeframe. The porn industry did so almost too quickly. “We are waiting for browsers to catch up,” said Digital Playground founder Ali Joone in 2010. “As soon as they are ready, we will move everything to HTML5.”

It was a move that most porn sites have since made, for the sake of letting iPhone and iPad owners everywhere get their rocks off without hitting any barriers.

Necessity is the mother of invention, but it’s also the mother of some seriously rapid workarounds – the likes of which you don’t tend to see outside of the porn industry. As it stands, the porn industry will be remembered as a key stalwart champion of HTML5’s evolution.

3. Adapt to survive

Sometimes, it’s not just enough to change tactics. Sometimes you have to make huge changes to the fundamentals of your business. More than enough companies have faded and died because they haven’t seen that point come and go, but the porn industry has managed to succeed, or at the very worst limp on in difficult times thanks to its willingness to roll with the punches.

The outbreak of ‘Tube’ sites, which ape YouTube with gratis streaming on demand, was a kick in the porn industry’s teeth. Up until then, the web had been kind to the sex peddlers. It’d been a window to a world of subscription-based profiteering without the need to muck about with costly videos, DVDs or magazines.

Porn Bunker blueprints revealed

When the free sites came crashing in, though, things buckled. And when faced with such extreme competition, you’ve got to change your ways. So that’s what they did. Pornhub (one of the biggest studios in the game) decided on an ingenious three-way attack:

First, it made shorter versions of its content  to divvy out for free, and uploaded them onto the Tube sites itself as a way of luring people into the premium subscriptions. Then it got all cosy with those streaming sites by way of ads heading in both directions – to and from the streaming sites.

And then it opened its own: YouPorn. To top it off, Pornhub now boasts its own content partner program, which pays dividends for producers uploading exclusively through Pornhub’s channels.

That all took place over the course of about a year. For any such large company, that’s an unprecedented change of business model, but when needs must, it’s another example of how porn sites across the industry don’t fuck about. They just change to fit the current climate. And they do it fast.

4. Keep me here

Xvideos, YouPorn, Tube8, and Pornhub all make Facebook, Reddit and Google look like minnows, but it’s not just the 4.4 billion page views Xvideos garners per month that’s impressive; it’s the length of time users spend on porn sites in general.

Porn sites keep people within their sinful gates for three to five times longer than any other type of site. How? They hammer related content and tempting next steps down your throat, often at the expense of parts of the page that other sites traditionally value more.

User comments for example, are hidden one click away on a lot of the web’s biggest porn sites, such as Youporn and Redtube. This sounds like an engagement nightmare, but here’s the logic: if people are compelled to comment, they will comment. Commenting itself is an effort, so one extra button click isn’t going to drive anyone to despair.

USB stick tracks ALL the porn

Moving people from one piece of content to the next, however, is difficult. Whether it’s porn or not, users who think they’ve had their fill – who’ve got what they came for – are inclined to bugger off. It’s your job to make sure they don’t.

And the way you do that is to make the rest of your content overwhelmingly available. If you can tear your eyes away from the video at hand, you’ll notice that every major porn site classes related and suggested videos highly enough to give them pride of place – to the side AND at the bottom of the video. Comments and the like are secondary.

By contrast, YouTube offers only a side-panel of related items, which is a sparse enough smattering to make people blind to it.

Oh, and the porn gurus also starting to learn where’s best to share. While the idea that the normal porn viewer will want to share their tastes in adult culture on Twitter is still laughable, the Reddit alien has started to filter into that mouse-over ‘share’ space, and that’s a much better fit – people on Reddit are anonymous and, often, a little bit rude. Again, it’s about adapting to your audience’s needs.

5. Content first

And that brings us on to the single biggest thing you can learn from porn: put your most important content first, and slam it in the most obvious place. Every one of the web’s biggest porn vestibules refuses to muck about when it comes landing pages, and it’s for good reason.

True, it’s an audience looking for instant gratification, but… Well, that’s every audience online, isn’t it? The attention span of web users is akin to your average celebrity marriage – it’s measured in the nanoseconds. Porn pushers know what works here: making people do one click more than is necessary will irk them. Making them hunt for videos is a mistake. In many ways, the average porn site is better designed than Google’s YouTube.

Since YouTube’s recent redesign, its suggested content is strung out on the homepage in one long vertical line. Finding anything engaging is difficult – you have to know what you want to find. The result? Youtubers land there to look for something specific, rather than to look for inspiration.

Porn sites uniformly employ a grid design that gives the user instant access to 20-40 videos on one page, all without too much scrolling. It tells you what you want to look at before you know yourself.

Its call-to-action techniques and labels are brutally obvious, too. Where YouTube has the weak-sounding ‘Recommended’, ‘Trending’ and ‘Browse Channels’, its pornographic equivalents have ‘Most viewed’, ‘Videos being watched’ and pinned lists of the most popular search terms (we’ll let you imagine what these are).

This extends to the adverts you see plastered about the place, too; they’re brazen. It’s not that porn ads can innately afford to be straightforward, though. It’s that they choose to be. An advert that reads ‘Fuck Date’ tells you what it’s offering and acts as an invitation with just two words. The imagery obviously, well… stands out, yes, but not mincing your words goes just as far.

The climax… 

The world of online porn is, in numerous ways, streets ahead of the web’s biggest non-sexual names. It has had to be to survive, but it shows that nimble innovation, adaptation and tailoring your content to your users is possible even when your operation is big enough to suck petabytes of bandwidth.

So what excuses do you have?

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