Friday, May 29, 2015

Vertical Video

One of the most unlikely trends over the past couple of years has been the rise of vertical video - that is, video shot to be viewed vertically, rather than horizontally.

It's come about through the smartphone being overwhelmingly the main method of taking both photos and videos, and people being more comfortable holding the phone as they would normally rather than turn to to shoot in landscape mode.

This chart, from Mary Meeker's most recent Internet Trends presentation shows the rise of time spent with screens that are generally viewed vertically.

At first vertical videos looked a bit ridiculous - and they still do on YouTube.  But with lots of ways of viewing vertically, most notably Snapchat and Periscope vertical video has now found its place.  Snapchat is now persuading brands to make vertical video - users are watching 2bn videos a day - and I'm sure someone will enter a vertical movie to Sundance before too long.  (There have already been episodes of TV shows filmed on phones).

Horizontal video is generally professionally produced, with high production values, and often made for big screens - anything from film blockbusters down to music videos, to TV, to videos you made on traditional digital cameras

Vertical video is generally amateur, user-generated content, and produced exclusively for mobile and on mobiles.

Each has its natural expectations associated with the form, but within this there's scope for expectations to be confounded.

(Instagram and Vine get around this by being square formats, of course)

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Food pictures, and unintended consequences

I take food pics.  You take food pics.  Lots of us take food pics.  I'm such a food pic geek that when I order at some places I ask them to 'make me a photogenic one'...

(I even know a cake company who directs you to their Instagram page when you want to order something from them)

So as a pretty logical, and a good example of 'thinking 6 moves ahead' that Chili's restaurant in the US should tweak its menu items and change ingredients so that the food looks more photogenic.

"Chili’s recently committed to making its food more “shareable.” No, they’re not further increasing the size of their portions. Rather, they’re spending millions to make their food look more photogenic.

Nearly a million dollars for an egg wash to give its buns a photogenic glaze, that “glistens,” to use an adjective from Wyman Roberts, CEO of Chili’s' parent company, Brinker International. A new way of stacking ribs to look better in photos. Sexy stainless steel baskets to fetchingly hold its fries."

You can see some examples on Chili's Instagram account here

I love this example.  I love the ridiculousness but also the logic of it.  But mostly I love how it's rooted in a mass experience, because this is how smartphones have changed the world - fundamentally, but in lots of unintended ways

Watching Paint Dry on Periscope

Every agency that has a DIY or paint client must be kicking themselves - Glidden Paint used Periscope to let people 'watch paint dry' over several hours, complete with a competition to win free paint

They've archived it on YouTube - it looks like it took an hour for each coat to dry:

Brilliant in it's simplicity, and presumably very easy and cheap to do...  I'm not saying that it will have sold much paint, but I'd never heard of Gliddens before now.

More here


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Simple Infographics

A nice simple infographic used by Sky Sports in a promoted tweet

Monday, May 18, 2015

Teasing Taylor Swift's Bad Blood video on Instagram

One of the main trends in 'content' is that people want so much of it.  It's no longer enough for brands to put out occasional ads, pictures and videos, if people like them, people are hungry for lots of things to keep them amused.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in music and celebrity.  One example of this is how Taylor Swift teased her recent Bad Blood video, which was finally released at last night's Billboard Music Awards and to Vevo.

The video is a high production value number, with Taylor as a superhero, Catastrophe, with appearances from the guest star on the song, Kendrick Lamar, plus lots of other celebrities like Lena Dunham, Cindy Crawford, Cara Delevingne and more,

During the two week lead up to the release, pics of the guest start were teased on Taylor Swift's Instagram, each getting around 1 million likes.

It's important to do a series of pics on Instagram, as all content is shown as it appears, like Twitter, rather than through an algorithm, like Facebook, so it's easy to miss stuff.  By posting about 20 times, it increases the chances that each of the 30m followers will see at least one or two.

The stars also posted the pics on their own Instagram - for example Cara here

Friday, May 15, 2015

Kit Kat's YouTube Voice Search

This summer KitKat is being temporarily re-branded as YouTube Break supposedly to celebrate the joint anniversaries of YouTube's tenth birthday, and KitKat's 80th.

What's especially interesting about this partnership is that it includes a voice search element - if you say the words 'KitKat YouTube my break' on an Android phone, then it takes you to a specially curated selection of 4 tending videos from YouTube.

It almost feels like the 'AOL Keyword' footers that used to appear on posters over ten years ago, but it's a very clever thing for YouTube to be able to sell to clients!

Full details here

Friday, May 01, 2015

Favourite Podcasts

Lots of people are getting into podcasts, thanks to Serial, and I've been asked a few times for recommendations, so here is a list of my favourites:


Radio 4 Media Show - very good wekly magazine programme, with lots of interviews with very senior people

The Media Podcast - Spun out of The Guardian's Media Podcast, this is a pretty good fortnightly listen, using a round table discussion format, covering all media

KCRW's The Spinoff - A fortnightly discussion programme about the business of US TV.  now better (I think) than The Business, the film show it spun off from

The Bottom Line - BBC show about business - one topic discussed each week, e.g. 'gold' or 'queueing', with media and tech topics covered quite regularly

Monocle's The Stack - All about magazine publishing, from a very 'Monocle' perspective

Private Eye's Page 94 - A fortnightly look at stories in the magazine.  It's just 4 episodes young, but seems to be finding its feet well


a16z - Tech news from the VC firm - the ones with Benedict Evans talking about mobile are especially good

ReplyAll - A weekly show all about quirky internet stuff - e.g. Marnie the Dog who has over 1m followers on Instagram, and the 'LarryShippers' One Direction conspiracy theorists

Exponent - A weekly discussion of Ben Thompson's Stratechery blog posts about tech issues.  Takes a while to get into (or rather it did for me) but very informative and entertaining


Studio Audience - Weekly London-based art & design news as a discussion between the staff at the It's Nice That studio.  Often very funny

Kermode & Mayo's film reviews - A weekly show of film reviews and interviews.  It might take a while to get used to them, and it's long, but it's a good way to keep up with what's out

Front Row - Daily BBC arts programme - Almost all major releases in films, TV, books and music are covered - fast fwd to the things you're interested in.

Blokey Banter (you've got to be in the mood for these)

There seem to be lots of podcasts devoted to blokes chatting to other blokes (usually blokes).  among my favourites are:

The Nerdist - An American weekly - with recent editions featuring Adam Buxton, Nick Frost (always an amazing interviewee), and Benedict Cumberbatch

WTF - LA comedian Marc Maron interviews (mostly) other comedians.  Again the Nick Frost one is excellent, and also look out for the ones with Louis CK, Mike Judge and Chrissie Hinde

Richard Herring's Leicester Square Theatre Podcast - British, weekly for series of ten or so, interviewed in front of an audience.  Some great ones include the ones with Stephen Fry, Steve Coogan, Rufus Hound, Russell Brand and Sue Perkins

Ones I wished I liked

Freakonomics - Good, but the endless background music makes it too hard for me to listen to

Stuff You Should Know - Wish it was weekly rather than daily, and scripted, rather than a loose discussion.  I could love it as much as Reply All (see above), if it was like that

TED Radio Hour - Good in parts, but I'd prefer to be able to just have the audio of the original TED Talks

What am I missing?  Please suggest others to me in the comments or via Twitter (I'm @dancall) 

#DoritosRoulette on Periscope

Periscope, Twitter's live streaming app, is getting quite a lot of use from brands, but Doritos new Roulette game is the most creative so far.

As part of their #DoritosRoulette campaign (some chips are hotter than others), they are running a live game on Periscope at various times, as well as on Twitter, with winners being announced on Vine.  The game on Periscope involves a spinning roulette wheel - I haven't managed to find any archived videos yet.

"For the live game show on Periscope, all users must do is tune in on the app to automatically become eligible to be a contestant on the game. There will be a Roulette wheel, which the game show host will spin, leaving contestants to win prizes based on where the wheel lands."

Monday, April 20, 2015

'We Put A Chip In It' - Relatively pointless IoT devices & ideas

We Put A Chip In It is a great collection (Tumblr) of (pretty) pointless IoT ideas like Smart Socks, Smart Beakers, Smart Yoga Mats, Smart Suitcases, Smart Cooking Pans and more.

Sadly lots of the links seem to be broken on the site - presumably the companies linked to didn't like being there, but there are lots that do work.

I'm not saying that all these things are necessarily bad ideas, but like the smart fridge and smart kettle just because you can make something 'smart' doesn't mean that there's necessarily a real need for it, or a big demand for it.

Also - the Tumblr discussed on Metafilter

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A return to walled gardens

Back in the last century we laughed at walled gardens, saying they were the bad old past, and how the web, with search and openness would kill them off.

The original walled gardens, like AOL,com saved you from the dangers and confusion of the world wide web by offering a carefully curated selection of content, like news, travel, sport, shopping and more.  However search engines like Google made it easy to find the best content in each area, and people realised that the web wasn't all that dangerous, and they'd rather choose their own content from everything out there, rather than what AOL or the other portals thought they'd want to see.

Now walled gardens, or things like them, seem to be back in fashion, particularly on mobile, where a pre-determined content, with no need for fast connectivity to move to a new place, can be a good idea.  It also works well in-app, because the app is tailored to your device more efficiently than a web experience, particularly with Apple.

The often-used stat that apps make up 86% of time spent online reinforces this - if you're spending time with apps, it's easier to stay within the app rather than to move onto the wider web, so apps are trying to drag content into their property rather than to send people off elsewhere.  (Years ago portals (briefly) didn't like search because it took people away from the site.  In the desktop world Google used to boast about how little time people spent on Google).

Here are some examples of the new walled gardens -

Snapchat's Discover area, with content pre-loaded by professional content providers seems to be working well for them, and ads that appear in the content generate revenue for both the content creator (like MTV) and Snapchat.

Twitter's cards, with extra content like the summary to a story, a video or a voting link being kept within Twitter.

Child-friendly Apps like YouTube Kids, and Vine for Kids - again we mocked AOL for being so child-friendly in the 2000s, but it makes a lot of sense, and many apps are naturally self-contained.

Finally, Facebook can be seen as 'the new AOL' (something people have been saying for at least 5 years) especially with the recent rumour that it was suggesting some news companies stories to be hosted in Facebook.  Again, it cuts down on navigating time, and a recent survey suggests that a lot of people don't think they are on the internet when they're on Facebook...  As with the Snapchat model, the content creator would share ad revenue with the host.

"Facebook intends to begin testing the new format in the next several months, according to two people with knowledge of the discussions. The initial partners are expected to be The New York Times, BuzzFeed and National Geographic, although others may be added since discussions are continuing. The Times and Facebook are moving closer to a firm deal, one person said.
To make the proposal more appealing to publishers, Facebook has discussed ways for publishers to make money from advertising that would run alongside the content."

Finally, it's the idea of a closed system, or a simpler system, that some users seem to like.  The ultimate manifestation of this is Amazon's 'commerce' button - a physical button that is being tested in the US that lets Prime users re-order items like washing tablets by just pressing a button that can be stuck to the washing machine.  Or another example - the 'Netflix' button now appearing on physical TV remotes for smart TVs, making it easier for people to watch Netflix.

If walled gardens are now back in fashion, what else from the early days of the web is likely to return?

Update - Chris Dixon of Andreesen Horowitz on Open vs Closed systems (He thinks open will ultimately win)

EasyJet's Low Fare Finder

A great bit of user-friendly data visualisation.

See easily the current cheapest price for a flight by month, and then, when you click on a month, by day.

Apologies if it's been around for ages, but it's new to me!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Marketing with Giphy & Facebook Messenger

Giphy is one of the apps that is now integrated into Facebook Messenger.

Giphy is, as the name suggests, a search engine for gifs, and has pretty much anything you can imagine from pics of places and celebrities, to brands.

The integration with Facebook Messenger makes it easy to add these to your conversation to amuse or annoy your friends.

Fox has put lots of Game of Thrones gifs on Giphy to promote the new series.  If you search for #CatchDrogon (not a typo - Drogon is the name of a dragon) on Giphy you see pictures like this:

Which you can share in Messenger like this:

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