Conferences

#DigiDay Recap, Part 1

Last Thursday, executives interested in marketing and advertising in mobile and social media gathered at the W Hotel in New York City for a conference called DigiDay. The first half of the day focused on Mobile marketing and advertising and the second on marketing and advertising in Social Media.

The day started with a conference sponsored by ChaCha. ChaCha is a service where you can text any question and receive a response from one of 55,000 ChaCha guides. These guides, many of whom are work at home moms or college students, have an active community for finding ways to quickly answer any question that might come in. The answers are supposed to reflect information on the web, as opposed to their own personal opinions.

When you text a message to ChaCha, you receive a text message back which includes an advertisement. These advertisements can be targeted by location or topic. Currently, location targeting is done at the area code level. It has been used by over four million people and their surveys get over a twenty percent response rate. Currently, they are receiving over ten million questions a month.

It seems like a great service so I thought I would give it a try. While no registration is necessary, on their website, you can register your email address and phone number. I registered my email address and verified it successfully. However, I never received my verification code on my cellphone.

I thought this would provide an interesting question, and I sent a text message to ChaCha asking why I hadn’t gotten my verification code. The response was unhelpful, simply saying that I didn’t need to use the verification code to ask questions. I replied, acknowledging that it wasn’t required but that I wanted to anyway, and asking how to get it. The second response was as useless as the first.

On Saturday afternoon, while I explored the Hebron Maple Festival, I noticed a car with the State Representative license plates for Assembly District 55. I sent a text message to find out who the State Rep for the district was, and was informed that it is Rep. Pam Sawyer. The message included her phone number and an advertisement for H&R Block. So, currently ChaCha is batting .333 for useful answers. I’ll probably keep using it from time to time.

However, I was also disappointed to receive a text message at the same time informing me that I had used 3 of 5 questions during a 48 hour period and that I could only ask 2 more questions over the next 18 hours. Considering that one of the questions was an attempt to get an answer for the previous question that they failed to answer adequately, and even that answer was not adequate, I was disappointed. Have you used ChaCha? How well has it worked for you? If you haven’t, you can text to their short code, 242242.

After the breakfast, the first panel was “The Mobile Marketer Roundtable: The Elephant in the Room: The Economy:“ Personally, I’m a bit tired of all the gloom and doom discussions about the economy. Yes, the economy sucks. However, there are still lots of people doing lots of interesting things. Tell me something I don’t know.

Fortunately, June Bower, VP of Marketing for Cisco-WebEx did tell me something interesting I didn’t know. There is a WebX app for the iPhone. Over 70,000 copies have been downloaded already and WebX will be coming to other smartphones soon. Another interesting idea from this panel was the cellphone as sales assistant. Someone is going to come up with an easy way for a user of a mobile device to find something he is looking for in a store. That will be a cool app.

There were discussions about ‘click to consume’ and the closest people have come up with so far have been buying ringtones, wallpapers and games. None of these are all that compelling, but they have been lucrative.

The biggest hurdle that members of the panel saw to mobile devices playing a bigger role was getting marketers to understand the role of mobile as part of their 360 marketing.

A final thought from this panel was that to television people, a mobile device looks like a small TV. To computer people, it looks like a small computer. More and more, simple telephony is playing a smaller and smaller part of mobile market.

This was brought home in the next panel, The State of Mobile Media by the Numbers, when Julia Resnick, VP Mobile Media Products for The Nielsen Company spoke about their research. The iPhone is drastically changing the data usage of mobile users and Android and Blackberry Storm are also making data a much larger part of the mobile platform. The other interesting tidbit that she revealed was that the average age for children getting their first cellphone is now 9.7 years. They also revealed that the average teenage sends 2300 text messages a month. That works out to around 75 text messages every day. I guess I’m not that heavy a texter after all.

The following panel, Keynote Panel: The Mobile Platform Implosion, spent time looking at appropriate metrics for mobile usage. Nothing particularly memorable came out of that panel except for the observation that cookies on mobile devices are a problematic stop gap measure. More interesting was a rant about metrics about how each decade has had it’s own ad science, but then about 2005, all that ad science went out the window simply for measurement without a lot of consideration of what was being measured and why.

It was an interesting observation. If you know what you are measuring and why you are measuring it, then you can determine if you are reaching your goals. Yet many people do not seem to have a clear idea of what they are measuring or why they are measuring it.

After this panel, a spokesperson for a company called Mojiva got up and made a sales pitch. It wasn’t all that compelling. What was compelling was the discussion afterwards. During the Q&A, he was asked about Twitter. He dismissed Twitter as diarrhea of people spending too much time online and having no mobile implications. The large community of participants at the channel who were having a great discussion about the conference on Twitter were merciless. They spoke about it as an epic fail, a credibility failure, a debacle, a shame, and some suggested that it is sometimes it is just better to get off the stage.

DMC World



Aldon and DMC, originally uploaded by Aldon.

Could virtual worlds become a new platform of choice for musicians? If Darryl McDaniels (DMC) is successful, it will be. Later this month, he will be launching DMC World, a virtual world running on the Worlds.com platform. He was at Engage! Expo along with Thom Kidrin, President and CEO of Worlds.com, to talk about what their new world might be like. One person who viewed it summarized it saying, “This is Club Penguin for Hip Hop”. That’s a cute summary, but I suspect it could be much more than that if they do it right.

The Worlds.com platform is highly scalable and one goal is to be able to have concerts in DMC world. Fortunate musicians might also get the opportunity to jam with him online. Yet what is perhaps more interesting is that DMC hopes to sell not only his own music there, but the music of emerging artists that catch his interest as well.

There are already good venues for buying music online, from iTunes to Snocap. You can find new artists on sites like MySpace. DMC World could take this to a new level.

Will DMC World have what it takes to succeed? There are various issues that need to be addressed. The client is a relatively small download, compared to the size of other virtual world downloads. Yet it is still a download and not yet browser based. On top of that, currently, it only runs on Windows. A MAC version is expected in about six months. It should have many of the other features that Second Life users have come to expect such as the ability to build, as well potentially the ability to upload and download content. Worlds.com is also part of the virtual worlds interoperability committee, so progress on that front will hopefully make its way into DMC world as well.

Additional features that are in the works include a port to mobile platforms and the ability to chat from DMC world to phones. All of this presents a further challenge to the existing models of music distribution. In essence, each artist has the opportunity to become their own technologically savvy micro-label, facilitated by DMC World. Will it be successful? Time will tell.

The Ned Lamont Narrative

Three years ago, a relatively unknown Greenwich Businessman challenged Connecticut’s Junior Senator and the Democratic Party’s former Vice Presidential candidate in a primary because he believed that the U.S. Government was wasting taxpayer dollars in an ill conceived war in Iraq. To the surprise of many, he won the primary and changed to discourse about the war across our country.

Last week, the New York Times had an article about Ned Lamont considering a run for Governor of Connecticut. It has been followed up by an editorial in the Journal Inquirer.

As a former staffer Mr. Lamont’s Senate bid, I won’t comment on the editorial’s views about Mr. Lamont’s political savvy or the quality of the staff. Instead, I want to focus on this key section:

Connecticut doesn’t need progressive government. Not exactly. It has pretty much had that forever. It needs rethought government, restructured government — a progressive government its citizens can actually afford. Because we can’t afford this one.

That might mean, for example, less top-heavy and top-down government and more actual service: lower taxes, less bureaucracy, fewer state-employed bodies but more help with health insurance, and small-business development, and college costs for people who make less than $30,000.

Is it possible?

Can we at least talk about such a hybrid?

Is anything remotely like this in Ned Lamont’s head?

I don’t have any inside insights into what Mr. Lamont is thinking, nor recommendations about how he can best get his voice heard. Is his work with former legislator, state budget chief and chancellor of the Connecticut State University system, William J. Cibes Jr. on the Blueprint for Connecticut’s Future the best approach? Would running for Governor provide him a better soapbox to talk about how we can address the financial difficulties our state faces? These are issues that Mr. Lamont needs to work out for himself.

Yet Ned Lamont is exactly the person who can lead us in a serious discussion about the issues raised in the Journal Inquirer editorial. He needs to decide what venue is best for him to call us into that discussion and we need to decide if we are ready for such a discussion. I sure hope we are.

Beyond leading the discussion, could Mr. Lamont be an effective chief executive officer of our state? His role as head of Lamont Digital, as well as his previous work as chairman of the State Investment Advisory Council during previous rough financial times for our state leads me to believe he would do a very good job. Everyone talks about the importance of small business in addressing our state’s financial problems. Maybe we need someone who has run a small business to lead our state.

Most importantly, there is the old saying that only Nixon could go to China. Perhaps something is similar today. Perhaps only a successful small businessman with progressive political views from Greenwich can get us to address the financial issues that our state faces. Let us hope that Ned Lamont can help us change the discourse about our state finances the way he helped change the discourse about the war in Iraq.

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#FollowFriday after #digiday

@JasonDPG @ggertz @LorenDavie @JennKim @chaimhaas @RobWilk @ScottyMonty @sweetbitters @jasonbreed @ckieff

As I did last time, I’m writing a blog post talking about whom I’m following for #FollowFriday and why I’m following them. This post will get picked up by TwitterFeed to become a Tweet and will then get passed over to Facebook and beyond.

This week, I attended Engage! Expo on Tuesday and Wednesday, and then DigiDay on Thursday. I followed quite a few new people and picked up quite a few new followers. As of my writing of this, I am now seven people short of following 1600 people on Twitter and six people short of being followed by 2000 people. I don’t pay much attention to these numbers, but 2000 is such a nice round number.

What is more important is the conversations I have with my online contacts. I use Twitter Search and PeopleBrowsr to keep these conversations straight instead of sounding like a cacophony. I weed my lists and find new people to join the conversation with.

DigiDay was particularly good. I followed a bunch of new people and had some great conversations. @JasonDPG did a great job of emceeing the show both at the podium and on Twitter. One of the first people I met online at DigiDay was @ggertz. He was providing some good play-by-play twittering. Yet at one point, his laptop started losing power. He asked if anyone had a Dell power supply that he could use to recharge his laptop with. My laptop is a Dell and so he recharged off of my power supply a couple times during the conference. In addition, he’s doing some interesting work building websites, and was one of the people that talked about working with Social Media and CRM.

@LorenDavie @JennKim and @chaimhaas also did some great play-by-play tweeting of the conference and I’m glad to have connected with them as well. One discussion that was particularly interesting was about how new people can discover interesting people to follow. #FollowFriday is a good starting point. @RobWilk of ChaCha and @ScottMonty of Ford were two of the speakers that did especially well.

Two other people that deal with CRM and Social media are @sweetbitters and @jasonbreed . However, @sweetbitters Twitter comment about deciding about whether to try and get in the Emerging Artists Showcase at Falcon Ridge particular caught my attention. I need to follow up with several of these people.

The last person on my #FollowFriday list, this day after #DigiDay is @ckieff. I’ve met him at other shows. He works for Ripple6 and I think both he at Ripple6 really get Social Media. I’ve talked before about Ripple6 and Gannet. I think it is a great combination and I’m looking for future news about what they are doing together. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get any good information from #ckieff about what might be in the pipeline, so my next post about that will either have to wait or may have more conjecture and suggestions than hard facts.

So, that is it for this weeks edition of #FollowFriday. Let me know whom else you are following that you think I should follow.

#engageexpo Day 2 Recap – Interactive Sense Making

I spent much of the second day at Engage! Expo like I did at the first; taking notes and tweeting during the sessions then heading back to the press and speakers room during the breaks to recharge my batteries and compare notes with friends. In many ways, it was an interactive way of making sense of the conference, which seems somehow appropriate, because the most important theme to me of the second day was interactive sense making.

It started off with a fireside chat with Jack Buser, Director of PlayStation Home. Jack was enthusiastic about his subject, almost to a fault, but when you got past the superlatives and the ‘That’s a great question’ responses and when you got past the lack of enthusiasm for Home by some PlayStation gamers, PlayStation Home is really an interesting idea.

Forget for a moment the comparisons to Second Life and the concerns about being able to create or upload user generated content. The real message of PlayStation Home is that gaming is a social activity. It used to be that it took place as gamers brought their consoles to friends’ living room and spent the evening gaming together. Now, with PlayStation, you can play together over the Internet without all those incontinences of travel. Yet something is lost, all the out of character discussions of which game to play, which strategy to adopt and the spilled cans of Red Bull.

PlayStation Home seeks to bring that back, so that people can gather virtually, talk together about their plans and then launch into the game. Yes, perhaps some people still gather in living rooms. Yes, perhaps some people gather on Skype or IM to work out their strategies, but Mr. Buser maintained that the three dimensional virtual world of Home is better suited for it. He pushed this further to talk not only about planning a campaign, but also to listen to music or watch videos together. He started off by talking about PlayStation Home as a social network, instead of as a game or virtual world. In that context, Home is compelling and provides an interesting opportunity for interactive sense making.

The first session after the chat that I attended was Sally Schmidt, Executive Producer of Circle 1 Network, talking about how to ‘Tap Into the Emotional Triggers Of Tweens’. They had done a study for the top sites for engaging tweens, and came up with Club Penguin and Neopets leading the list.

Looking at what made these, and other sites engaging, they came up with their Five Cs of Engagement:
Creativity, Collection, Caring, Community and Competition. Tweens want to create their look and the environment. They want to collect virtual goods. They want to care for pets in virtual worlds as well as donate to causes or find ways of being more caring for the environment. They want to be part of a community and they want to compete at games, on leader boards and so on. Ms. Schmidt noted that different sites focused on different mixes of these five Cs.

She was followed by Ted Sorom, CEO of Rixty. Rixty presents itself as “an alternative payment system for today's online youth” and Mr. Sorom presented the statistics on why Rixty was needed. There are close to 26 million youth in our country, spending $30 billion a year. $12.8 billion is spent on education, which works out to be about $10 a week per youth. So, where are youth spending their money, and how do you get them to spend it in your virtual world?

Mt. Sorom said that most youth spend money in the form of cash at local stores or malls. Much of this is because there aren’t good options for youth to be able to spend money online. Less that 3.5% of teenagers have credit cards and only about 13% have checking accounts. Even for those that do have accounts, these accounts are typically set up and monitored by parents. Youth want to spend money the way they want without being monitored by parents and spending cash at the mall is much less controlled.

The session ended with Jouni Keranen, President of iLemon talking about International Strategies: VWs Around The World. The key message was know your audience and act appropriately. He noted that the average revenue per user (RPU) in China was about 20% of the typical RPU and that Japan had very high RPUs. He spoke about the importance of having mobile as part of your strategy in Japan and being prepared for surprising sub-cultures taking over your community.

These sessions all seemed to focus on knowing your audience, but did not talk a lot about interactive sense making.

I had to leave early for a client meeting, so I only made it to one more session.

It started off with Jesse Cleverly of Connective Media talking about Narration And Engagement In Virtual Worlds: The Future Of Narrative. It was a fascinating talk. He spoke about the importance of narrative, especially as we move into a post-television era. He said the speech he was giving was very similar to one he had delivered eight years ago at MIT and that things really haven’t changed all that much. He touched on his days at the BBC working on storytelling after television.

He talked about the importance of the story and maintained that if you get caught up in the technology, or the RPUs, you are not going to be engaging. He talked about good story tellers not changing the outcomes of their stories based on what people in the audience asked for, and those same story tellers not asking the audience to make up the rest of the story.

He talked about how film had started off focusing on the base emotions in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and only over a hundred years getting to the higher levels and suggested that perhaps it may take a long time for virtual worlds to make the same progression.

He touched on the idea of the universal stories and how stories help us make sense out of the gossip. He talked about the importance of developing the characters and choices that a character makes under pressure. Then he told a story and questioned how that story could be told in new media.

As I listened to him, I thought of Neil Postman and building a bridge to the eighteenth century. If the technology isn’t helping us grapple with the fundamental issues of life, what good is it? He was a great speaker and I appreciated much of what he said, but something didn’t seem right to me.

Mr. Cleverly was followed by Philippe Moitroux, CEO of TAATU. Mr. Moitroux spoke quickly and far from the mic. He was hard to understand, and was in the unenviable position of speaking after Mr. Cleverly. He asked the question, “Can old media be the pain-killer for new media?” It is a good question and one that I want to write more about. I think it applies very well to what is going on with newspapers. Blogs, Twitter and other online tools can provide ways to increase engagement in newspapers. It also started to crystallize my reaction to Mr. Cleverly.

Mr. Moitroux was followed by Daniel Buelhoff, Head of Business Development and Community Management for sMeet. Like Mr. Moitroux, Mr. Buelhoff spoke about people gathering in community to interactively make sense of what they were encountering in the traditional media. This is where things started taking more shape. Mr. Cleverly was talking about interactive narrative and how it was failing in virtual worlds. Yet perhaps it isn’t interactive narrative that matters but the interactive sense making, which includes reacting to narrative, that matters in virtual worlds.

I asked him what he thought about this idea and he responded that virtual worlds currently have no stories in them to make sense out of. He compared them to fancy movie theatres with no movies in them. Instead, he believes virtual worlds should have stories that can be explored, perhaps like Brave New MOO so many years ago.

A key concern for him was to have the story teller control the story. Yet when I tried to look at this from a larger perspective, it raised the underlying question. Do we believe that we control our own stories, or are we simply the victims of fate? As I thought more about it, I thought of the anthropologists trying to capture stories in the wild. Their presence and efforts to gather the stories, change the stories. Perhaps this fits to stories told in virtual worlds. Perhaps, by telling the stories, we change them. Perhaps this is part of what motivates political activism, the hope that one can change the stories.

There is much more to explore about this, but for now, I want to end with a final thought. Perhaps virtual worlds should be nothing more than great theatres with no stories. Sure, they can provide a stage, costumes, props and the like, but the people themselves come and act out the stories, just as we act out the stories in our daily lives.

Perhaps, Mr. Cleverly’s desire for the storyteller to maintain control over his own story is little different than the desire that we all feel in trying to control the stories of our lives.

How do we interactively make sense out of all of this? I’m not sure. Writing this blog post is part of the process, as will be responding to any comments or emails I receive. The discussions on Twitter and in the press room are all part of this same interactive sense making and by focusing on interactive sense making, that might even change the stories, perhaps we can come up with a better response to the engaged existentialist.

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