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Oct 2011

Is streaming overtaking traditional content delivery?

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With the arrival of OnLive, the game-streaming technology that’s been so hotly anticipated by those who want to play great games without the cost of a console or high-spec PC, and YouTube’s announcement that they’ll be renting HD films to users, it seems that allowing users to receive a constant flow of data over a delay and a physical copy is rapidly becoming the preferred method for enjoying new media.

But what does this mean for businesses? Digital storefronts have proven themselves to be the consumer delivery method with the brightest future, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s completely reliable yet. Businesses like game publisher Ubisoft have, by using controlling methods of delivery akin to a gun to the head of the user, suffered delays and outages that have permanently damaged their reputations. Users avoid streaming and download services due to the fact that if the servers die, their paid-for content does as well, and this is a valid concern.

The easiest way to battle these concerns is to take the Facebook approach – that any outage must be avoided at all costs, because a single one could scar their brand image permanently. It’s worked for them so far, and it’s certainly possible if you’re willing to invest in the hardware to back up the services you’re offering to your customers.

Streaming content is also something that’s an unproven concept with businesses who don’t have the budget or company size of sites like YouTube (Google now, really) or UStream. Funding it however needn’t be difficult at all – delivering streaming content is extremely expensive, whereas consumers who receive streamed content often get it for free – so there should be a opportunities for income and potential advertising to soften the blow of expenditure on more servers and better tubes.

It’s certainly a new way to run the local Blockbusters, that’s for sure. Especially given that physical rentals, while popular, are something that could potentially be overtaken by offering people the same content but without the hassle of dropping things in the post box every now and then. It’s also a save on the traditional storage space required for all the DVDs and games you’ll be renting out, and you’re also not even using your customers’ hard-drive space.

The challenge for any business looking into digital content streaming will be to out-do the left-right-knockout punch of YouTube and OnLive. Even major television networks in the UK have thrown their lot in with Google’s (arguably) wisest purchase, and OnLive seems set to become the standard in videogame streaming. But it’s possible to hit a niche – Vimeo seems to have done relatively well, despite its on-off (usually off) relationship with my mobile device.

Only time will tell us how well streaming performs, but with broadband speeds consistently rising, there’s little argument against streaming becoming better and easier as we move forward.

It’s odd – I was discussing topics for today with my editor, and we spoke about the importance of a certain individual who sadly passed away this week; one Steve Jobs. It seemed fair to mention him this week, to mark his passing, but it wasn’t clear how. That’s until it hit me that realistically, without Steve and the team at Apple, we wouldn’t have seen a great deal of the inventions we now celebrate as some of the best technology around. There wasn’t a single person with a love of technology who didn’t feel a sense of shock and sadness this week. Whether iTunes intends to pursue streaming is another matter entirely, but consider this a mention with the utmost respect for the wealth of content put out about him this week already.

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Sep 2010

Consumers: biting the hand that Tweets it

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For the most part, social media benefit the majority of small businesses. They are fantastically popular with the public – but what happens when various forms of social media fall out of favour with their users? And what does it mean for small businesses?

Yesterday, social networking giant, Facebook, went off-line, leaving some users unable to use the site for up to two hours (yikes!). Facebook Software Engineering Director, Robert Johnson, reportedly said it was “the worst outage we’ve had in over four years”. Almost as soon as the site was back up and running, the backlash began. Despite Facebook offering a free and largely reliable service, public outrage at the disruption was quickly vented for all to see.

Meanwhile, many users chose to complain about the inconvenience on rival social networking site, Twitter. Customers and clients of any business can be incredibly fickle, yet the rise of social networking makes any such complaints much more public, causing potential damage to a company’s reputation.

The detrimental effect of public opinion was certainly felt by global oil company BP during the catastrophic spill off the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. In this instance, social networking websites were not the victim of negative publicity, but simply the vehicle for it. Perhaps none more so that Twitter, which was host to the @bpglobalpr account, run by a comedian known only as Leroy Stick.

Stick used satirical humour to provide other tweeters with a platform from which to vent their anger at the situation. Whilst the company quickly set up an official account (@bp_america), they received only a fraction of the amount of followers gained by Stick and his fake account. Once YouTube got in on the action, with users posting a plethora of satirical videos on the site, it was game over for the company’s reputation.

Everyone’s favourite search engine, Google, have also faced the wrath of the wrath of ever-changing public opinion this week. First it was Google’s chief executive Eric E. Schmidt who faced the sort of privacy accusations that Facebook are far more used to dealing with. Speaking on US TV show, The Colbert Report, Schmidt was asked if Google was able to store information about its users, to which he jokingly replied “It’s true that we see your searches, but we forget them after a while”. Although a flippant joke, this quickly turned to negative press which could well be detrimental to Google itself. It could also affect those companies which have chosen to use the site to advertise their own business.

Google also ran into trouble this week regarding their Street View technology. Google’s ability to provide panoramic photographic images of roads up and down the country has proved particularly favourable with small businesses those looking to encourage interaction with those outside of the company, as it offers increased accessibility.

However, there are clearly those who do not welcome the idea. This was soon discovered by Google’s camera-cars as they took to the Channel Island of Guernsey with the intent to collect image data for the area, which is yet to be included in the Street View mapping. The cars were found with their tyres slashed and cables cut – not exactly a subtle indication of the hostility that some residents feel towards Google’s mapping plans.

Meanwhile, it seems that even those businesses who are not affected by the public’s fluctuating relationship with social media platforms might be suffering from technological mishaps this week. In France, thieves took advantage of the ‘pneumatic tube’ system used to transport money from supermarket checkouts in a way that is, supposedly, secure. By drilling a hole in the tube, they used a powerful vacuum cleaner to simply siphon the money out of the system…

The general popularity of various social media platforms means they are likely to remain an overwhelmingly popular and successful means for small businesses to connect with clients and customers. However, they often serve as an example of the volatile nature of public opinion, especially that which frequently accompanies the anonymity which they themselves provide – and this is certainly something which many businesses can learn from.

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Jun 2010

The World Cup will score with social media

Posted in Social Media | 0 Comments

The World Cup 2010 is exciting for a number of reasons, firstly we all love a good game of footie and pretending that England is in with a chance, secondly because of the wags, they have all been banned this year, ha and lastly because it will unite the world of social media with the masses.

If you think back to the last World Cup 2006 (I know it wasn’t that long ago but many of us spent it in a drunken stupor) the concept of social media was pretty unformed.

In fact most of the things we use daily now, didn’t even exist. We had YouTube but it wasn’t used nearly as much as it is today. Facebook existed but wasn’t open to the general public until that September, and Twitter, well that was just an apple in it’s mother’s (or Jack Dorsey’s) eye.

So, basically it just didn’t really exist. There was no updating your status every time someone scored a goal, no tweet about who played well and definitely no revealing the squad before it was officially announced. It’s not like today where 50 million tweets are sent daily and Facebook boasts more than 400 million active users.

A few days ago the Twittersphere was going crazy. The Football Association’s website crashed due to the number of desperate fans trying to find out the squad. So where did they turn? Twitter to speculate and spy.

The Daily Express’s Matt Law was one of the first to break the news of Walcott’s omission “Walcott out of England World Cup squad,” he tweeted. “Gutted for him.” Naughty naughty, this was before the FA or Fabio Capello had made an official statement. It wasn’t long until other members of the media tweeted about who was in and who was out.

Not a good start for the FA but it clearly shows the way that football commentary for this year is going to go.

CNN recently poitned out that the World Cup is the biggest thing to ever hit Twitter, Facebook and Youtube. Every website these days has links to their social media pages, so whenever the World Cup is written about this year, it will lead to major traffic and huge usage of the sites.

The head of new media for FIFA told CNN “Football is the world’s biggest sport, so the world will practically stop for the month of the World Cup. There will be so much more media consumed, used and published in 2010 than in 2006. Social media can bring fans closer together and give fans more opportunity to communicate with each other,”

Robin Sloan, who works for Twitter on media partnership confirmed this saying: “Our notion is that [the World Cup] will eclipse everything we have seen so far [on Twitter] including the U.S. election, the Oscars or the Super Bowl, simply because it is so international.”

And lets not forget it’s won’t only be the fans using social media during the World Cup. It is thought that advertisers will use it for marketing rather than more traditional methods.

Callum MacDougal, the director of global marketing partnerships for Sony Ericsson, the official handset makers of the 2010 finals tells “We have made the conscious decision to steer away from the traditional branding route… Instead we are going straight to online fan communities through popular social networking channels.”

And if you think about it, why wouldn’t they use it? It’s much cheaper than more traditional advertising, it’s current, it gets the public involved and it is proven to work.

So, those of you who love football and love social media this is a match made in heaven. If you aren’t a big user of social media this may be the time to get involved, especially if you like football because it is bound to be the best way to keep up to date with what is going on and to have your say.
It’s officially the summer of social media and South Africa. Come on England!

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Jan 2010

Social Media Lends Haiti a Helping Hand

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There have been a lot of faith-restoring stories coming out of the social media world of late. Last week I wrote about the Facebook campaign that has helped save the life of young British student Philip Pain who fell seven-stories in Mexico and was in desperate need of blood. This week I want to acknowledge the huge effort made by social networking pages to help the people of Haiti.

Only minutes after the devastating earthquake floored the tiny Caribbean nation last Tuesday, the online world was mobilised and ready to help in any way it could.

One of the organisations leading the way was The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) who have now raised over £25 million after their appeal was announced on Twitter on last Wednesday.

The DEC has utilised Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and YouTube over the past week and their Chief Executive, Brendan Gormley, has publicly praised the significant role these social media sites have had in their campaign.

Mr. Gormley said, “Social networking has proven itself as a valuable addition to the fundraising machine. I’m thrilled that we have been able to quickly communicate and engage the UK public, who have in turn responded with tremendous generosity to help the people of Haiti who so urgently need our help.

“Their donations mean our member agencies can continue to source and deliver the emergency supplies needed like safe water, shelter, medicine and food. We hope people will continue to give their support so that more emergency aid can be added to what will be a massive humanitarian effort.”

DEC reported on Facebook that Flickr has been used to host images from the DEC’s member agencies, with 34,000 views of the DEC account on Friday, while a video of the DEC broadcast appeal has attracted nearly 4,000 views on YouTube.

Not only has social media been an outstanding tool to stimulate aid and increase donations, it has also played a vital role in spreading news and remarkably, locating victims.

This is the first example we’ve seen where that sense of global community has been expressed in action, for example using social media technology to get the story out faster, to locate victims, and to give instantaneous donations,” said James Norrie, a media professor at RTS’s School of IT Management. “That’s an amazing use of a social media tool.”

The events in Haiti, while both shocking and saddening, have reinforced social media’s undoubted ability for social good.

I think Tom Brown, writing for The Burlington Free Press, captured it well when he wrote, “I’ve heard critics of social media say that users of communication tools such as Twitter and Facebook only want to talk to, and about, themselves and their friends. The earthquake in Haiti might help change the minds of some of those critics”.

“When people can respond that quickly and in such numbers to help their fellow man, then there certainly is hope”.

To make a donation to the DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal visit or call 0370 60 60 900, donate over the counter at any post office or high street bank, send a cheque made payable to ‘DEC Haiti Earthquake Appeal’ to ‘PO Box 999, London, EC3A 3AA’ or text GIVE to 70077 to donate £5. £5 goes to DEC. You pay £5 plus your standard network SMS rate.

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Nov 2009

Full HD to make YouTube profitable?

Posted in Business tactics, News, Web 2.0 | 0 Comments

YouTubeHD-verticalGoogle’s much-publicised efforts to turn YouTube into a profitable entity may be nearing an end with the company announcing that 1080p full resolution HD videos are on their way.

Earlier this year Credit Suisse analyst, Spencer Wang said that he believed Google was on course to lose $470.6 million this year mainly because of YouTube’s inability to generate revenue from advertising.

Surely YouTube’s irresistable global presence is enough to make Google an absurd amount of cash via advertisements? Apparently not.

According to the advertising experts, it is YouTube’s video quality that is holding it back in the advertising world.

At a recent press conference that hosted some of the leading minds in advertising, CEO of marketing giant GroupM Interaction, Rob Norman, put it bluntly when he described the technical quality of YouTube, and sites like it, as “complete crap”.

Media agency executive Robert Davis of OgilvyInteractive viewed it similarly, saying, “If somebody put that on TV looking that way, they’d be fired…Why is that acceptable online?”

Last week YouTube blogged the news that should change all that.

“We’re excited to say that support for watching 1080p HD videos in full resolution is on its way. Starting next week, YouTube’s HD mode will add support for viewing videos in 720p or 1080p, depending on the resolution of the original source, up from our maximum output of 720p today.

As resolution of consumer cameras increases, we want to make sure YouTube is the best home on the web to showcase your content. For viewers with big monitors and a fast computer, try switching to 1080p to get the most out of the fullscreen experience.”

While YouTube’s announcement focus’s on the benefits for its users, there is no doubt they will be licking their lips at what the change will mean for them.

Advertisers have applauded YouTube’s latest move. After hearing the announcement, Mr Davis told Beet TV that “this is very good news for the industry”.

“As the visual experience becomes more satisfying, the greater the interactive potential becomes for brands ready to play in the content space. For years, we have been forced to build interactive experience around severely limited, technologically inferior video. Not any more.”

So YouTube has given advertisers what they’ve asked for. Now, can they turn this phenomenon into the cash cow it probably deserves to be?

Check out one of YouTube’s full HD videos below

Or click through and watch the Official Toy Story 3 Teaser Trailer in HD

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