Monday, March 30, 2009

Interactive banners for Nike on Mens Health and Shape in Germany

This is a nice way to make banners engaging:

For a limited time users of Men's Health and Shape (female orientated site) in Germany can send messages to each other through banners on both sites.

For example, visitors to can write a message in the banner on that site, which will then appear within the banner on

Pretty heavy moderation is going on, I'm sure, and this is only live from 1700 - 2100 German time from today until the 6th April.

More info at BannerBlog

10 MPH & DIY film distribution

10 MPH is a US indie film, in which two film makers try to travel across the US on a Segway.

You can watch it on YouTube (above), buy a DVD or download it from iTunes (if you live in the US). It seems to be the closest film making has yet got to the indie ethos of music; they've even written a DIY manual on how to distribute a movie independently. It reads a bit like a film version of the fantastic 'how to have a number one single' book The Manual, which I can't recommend highly enough. (Incidentally, The Manual is currently out of print, and the 1999 re-print is selling for >£40 on Amazon Marketplace. Re-publish, somebody!)

For example, from the DIY Guide:
"When making a movie, your brand often starts with the website. Eventually, if you have the luxury of getting picked up by a big distribution company, they'll control all of this. But when you are distributing and creating awareness for your project, it's critical to make something that looks like it could have been produced by a distribution company which has $30,000 to spend on web design. Because of our backgrounds, we were able to absorb this cost ourselves. If you have no web skills, I'd advise learning them. It's not too hard to hack something together based on a borrowed concept. Or find an amigo who can do this stuff and entice him/her to work on the project with either profit guarantees or some other creative payment scheme."

Buy the DIY film distribution guide if you have any interest in digital media - it's worth $0.99 of anyone's money.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Live tweeting during ITV's Primeval

In what's probably a UK first, ITV has aggregated all tweets with the hashtag #primeval together in one place to allow fans to chatter online during the new series. From what I can tell it's not moderated, but the people participating are behaving themselves.

See it here:

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hard Rock Cafe memorabilia collection with Silverlight

We had a meeting with DotNetSolutions at our office this morning, to show us some of the things that you can do with Microsoft's new Silverlight technology.

One of the examples was this memorabilia gallery produced for Hard Rock Cafe. Visit the site or have a play with the embedded image - it's amazing how close you can zoom in with your scroll wheel! This is just one of the thousands of bits of memorabilia that you can see on the site, but it demonstrates how much detail you can see.

Also, as one commenter has pointed out, there is a very entertaining Easter Egg built in. While you are navigating around, press your 'v' key and see what happens!

You can see other Silverlight examples here

Buy a ticket for No Doubt, download all their music for free

Another good example of a band trying something new. Anyone purchasing a top-end price ticket to No Doubt's summer tour in the US gets to download all of their music for free - seven albums worth.

Details here

They also have a Tour Club ($15) that lets registered fans buy tickets in advance of other purchasers and get other exclusive merchandise. The tickets are purchased direct from the band, and so this bypasses the traditional routes like Ticketmaster.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Liam Gallagher's fashion brand Pretty Green

This is the site for Liam Gallagher's new fashion brand Pretty Green. The aim is to produce clothes that Liam himself would wear, and since he always seemed to see his role as looking the part as much as anything, he's pretty well qualified to pass judgement.

The site is pretty minimalist (the clothes will be unveiled in June), but I like the videos, especially where he answers fans' questions.

Check out the YouTube channel, and also follow Liam on twitter. Typical tweet: "Yes, the Desert boots will be available this summer... LG"

Monday, March 23, 2009

Franco Manca

I still get asked a lot (in a personal capacity) about what sort of websites small businesses should have, and I've got a few examples of good and bad versions. Here are two:

Franco Manca, a great pizzeria in Brixton has this fabulously minimalist site. It gives you the menu, and the address, and that's it. It's all you need. (Created by Codelocator)

Compare with this nightmate in flash by the Indian restaurant Tayyabs. Horrible, although I've heard the food is superb.

I'd also bet that the Franco Manca site was a lot cheaper to produce. It's a good case of cheaper being better.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Lego Easter building instructions

I don't know how long Lego have been doing this for, but this is pretty inspired -download instructions to make chickens, lambs and bunnies out of Lego, in honour of Easter. Love it.

Google Streetview comes to the UK

Today Google Streetview arrived in the UK. Now you can explore maps as if you were walking or driving down them, at least for he major cities and major streets in those cities.

You can't see my office, because presumably Parker Street WC2 was too difficult to get down (or blocked - there was building work going on last summer when they were taking the pictures), so here's a shot of the map shop Stanfords, in Long Acre. It seemed appropriate, what with Sergey and Larry having met at Stanford University, and it being a map shop.

Also: Nick Burcher has re-created a couple of album covers and been looking for street art over at his blog.

Viral for the BBC Today Programme

This is a really entertaining viral for the BBC's Today Programme (on Radio 4), that captures something of the personality of the presenters.

Evan Davies provides the background on his blog here

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Memo to social media gurus

I got an email this morning inviting me to join a group on LinkedIn. The invite included this text:

"Traditional marketing and advertising no longer works. It's hit and miss. This group specifically focuses on the influencer and the channels they live in (online communities, social networks, micro-blogs, etc)"

A few months ago I was at a conference where one 'name' social media commentator said:

"Just how low do click rates need to fall for people to realise that banner advertising doesn't work?"

To which I say -

Some traditional marketing works. I know of agencies who produce very successful work for clients based on banner campaigns and search campaigns. Or, if you're talking about non-digital media, I know of lots of campaigns that work in lots of ways; one advertiser recently had to cancel some advertising on TV and posters because it was driving too many sales and they couldn't meet demand.

Some social media marketing works. I've seen campaigns & ideas that have become really popular, I've seen virals that have suddenly 'tipped' and got millions of views. I know of campaigns that have created such a fervent core of enthusiasts that millions of pounds have been generated.

I've also seen campaigns that have not worked; traditional campaigns and social media campaigns. Marketing always has an element of hit and miss, as has writing a book, making music or making a film.

Social media gurus - get over it.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Prince site LotusFlow3r to offer annual subscription

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about U2's subscription model; now Prince has announced something similar.

According to Newsweek, Prince's new site will offer an annual subscription of $77, which will allow members to download 3 new albums (two from Prince, one from a protege), plus all sorts of other material over the course of a year. (The picture comes from them too).

There's not much to see on the site so far - it launches officially on the 24th March - but you can play 3 new tracks, including Colonized Mind, which is an excellent slow bluesy thing.

I've been writing about music a lot recently, and there are two reasons for this. The first is that the music industry is now using some very imaginative ways of marketing and pricing, and also of using their communities of fans. We've come along way from Marillion using the internet to get fans to pre-pay for their album, as detailed inMichael Lewis' book Next: The Future Just Happened

The second is that I subscribe to the excellent DigitalMusicNews newsletter, which keeps me up to date with these things. Highly recommended!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The myth of HBO

The UK is currently seeing a bit of a crisis in TV, with major broadcasters seeing falling revenues, cutting budgets, and cancelling shows.

In the midst of this media commentators keep talking about how brilliant the American cable channel HBO (Home Box Office) is, and how that is the way forward for the UK. On Friday night's Late Review this went unchallenged, and a few weeks earlier Greg Dyke (who should know better) made a film for The Culture Show comparing the budgets for the BBC and HBO, and thought that HBO did far better than the BBC with less money.

But it's all a myth. Every time I've been to the UK I've looked forward to watching a bit of HBO. Perhaps they'll be showing an episode of The Sopranos, followed by an episode of The Wire, followed by an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. No such luck. Last time I was there (July 2008) the evening schedule was dominated by Bean's Holiday, the poor sequel to the poor The Bean Movie.

Remember HBO is Home Box Office. It's primarily a movie channel, which produces some of it's own content.

Perhaps I got a bad night. What's on today? According to the online schedule, tonight we have Ocean's Thirteen, followed by a drama Big Love, followed by Flight of the Conchords. Tomorrow we have Real Time with Bill Mather, Eastbound and Down 05, and more Flight of the Conchords. On Tuesday we have Nim's Island, and then Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel. Wednesday seems to be devoted Big Love (3 episodes in a night), Thursday has Juno and a Will Ferrell show, Friday has Jumper, a plug for Monsters Vs. Aliens, and more Bill Mather, and on Saturday we get 2 movies - What Happens in Vegas, and Knocked Up.

Overall it's about 60% movies, 20% drama, and about 20% other stuff, including Flight of the Conchords. Ages ago I wondered why HBO didn't allow people from the UK to subscribe to their service - this would be very easy to do - but they won't because they only own the US rights to the films.

Now let's move onto the programmes. Yes, some are excellent. Yes, you've got The Wire, The Sopranos, Sex & The City, and Deadwood, but you've also got Real Sex, G String Divas (pictured), Cathouse - the Series, and Boxing After Dark. They've produced some brilliant shows, but also some terrible shows.

HBO succeeds because they are in America, and have a potential subscriber base of 300m. Just as the US is a big enough market to sustain putting TV show characters into successful films (Waynes World for example), a model that cannot work in other countries, they can also offer a premium content channel and get enough money to make some excellent, challenging drama and comedy. That does not mean that we can do this in the UK.

So please - let's not think of HBO as something that British TV should or could aspire to. If you're a viewer, subscribe to something like LoveFilm instead - it'll be better value. Personally I value BBC Four far more than I would HBO.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Coldplay's Oracle

Coldplay are another band who are doing interesting things online. (Again, like U2, maybe more interesting online than on record, but again let's not go there)

They currently have 235,000 followers on twitter, they have a roadie blogging the world tour, but best of all I think is the Oracle.

The Oracle is a question and answer service for fans. Fans ask questions, the Oracle answers them promptly. For example:

"Q. Hi Oracle, Do you really read all questions? What does Chris say at beginning of Til Kingdom Come?... "Wantoo?"
A. Yes I do. He's saying one, two. (I made a little rhyme there see?)"


"Q. Dear Oracle!I'd like to go to Italy (Udine) to the Coldplay concert but I don't understand the "ticket's names" 'coz I didn't learn Italian language.So please help me! Which is the standing ticket?
-Tribuna Coperta Numerata Intero
-Gradinata Numerata Intero
-Prato Non Numerato Intero
-Curva Nord Non Numerata Intero
thank you for your help
A. You'll need to buy the "Prato" tickets."

& even

"Q. Chris and Will were both wearing (very) cool duds last night in Melbourne. What's the label with the "V" on the long sleeve tees?
A. Do you know I think there's strong possibility they're both from Topman! The V was painted on though it's just a customized tee so you could technically get one from anywhere but if it really is, as I suspect, Topman then affordable to all - hoorah!"

OK, not rocket science, but I can't think of any other companies that do this in such an engaging way, let alone other bands. review for MediaWeek

This is a review of the new that I wrote for MediaWeek magazine: attracts 4 million unique visitors a month, with more than 150 million page views.

Data from comScore for the UK in January - for the previous version of the site - shows it had an average of only 1.1 visits per user and the new design is intended to increase this.

New and improved sections include fashion (revamped and combined with GQStyle), taste (restaurant reviews, recipes and so on), entertainment and a special section dedicated to the magazine.

Content is targeted solidly at upmarket men, with clearly laid out sections and straightforward navigation. There is a lot to read and explore, and it creates a great environment for advertisers to showcase their products.

However, I'm not wholly sold on it for two reasons. Firstly, much of the content is still old in internet terms - that is, it wasn't published in the past few days. I'm writing this on a Thursday and many of the sections have no content from this week. Websites really have to update several times a day.

They're missing an opportunity to be current and forward-looking. How about telling us what's happening today at the magazine, who's come in to be interviewed, what launches they're going to - and generally promoting next month's magazine?

Secondly, the makeover is like social media never happened.

I understand GQ probably doesn't want to feature user-generated content, but what little interaction there is (posting comments, e-mailing responses) feels very dry.

Why not encourage readers to talk to each other? And why aren't there any feeds or content that can be embedded elsewhere?

It is a good place for advertisers to reach affluent and upmarket men, but the challenge is to build this into a community where people would return regularly. Update at least daily, tell us what's going on at the mag and get the readers more involved.

What's good?

What could be better?
More frequent updates

Would I book my clients into this?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Augmented Reality for Topps Baseball cards

This looks so good I thought at first that it must be fake.

Augmented Reality allows 3D images to be embedded on flat surfaces, to be activated in webcams or other display technologies. Other prototypes and examples I've seen do things like display 3D pictures of shoes on the outside of the box.

These ones go far beyond that and absolutely brilliant uses of the technology.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

YouTube blocks music videos in the UK

Last night at six o'clock it was announced that YouTube would be blocking all premium (i.e. official) music videos to UK viewers, after failing to reach a deal with the Performing Rights Society. The PRS represents the writers and performers, and in the UK any broadcasters, live events, shops that play music and even cafes puts and hairdressers need a licence to be able to play music that people can listen to in public.

Currently YouTube is taking videos down, or blocking them for UK visitors, but in my (brief) search I have yet to find any that have been blocked. I expect this issue to be sorted out pretty soon - they're having a meeting today, and as far as I can see YouTube hold almost all of the cards. The PRS is pushing for a huge increase in the licence payment, because use of YouTube has grown so much since their last negotiation in 2007, but YouTube are resisting the increase.

In their blog YouTube argue that beyond their deal with the PRS they compensate musicians in other ways "In addition to various advertising options, we recently introduced a click-to-buy feature that enables fans to purchase downloads of their favorite songs. We're also proud of our Content ID tools that help rights owners identify their content and even use the power of our community to increase advertising and revenue potential."

Update: Mark Mulligan of Forrester states on his MusicIndustry blog that Google are arguing that the PRS cannot provide a comprehensive list of all of the artists that they represent.

In the meantime, one side effect is that other content that YouTube take down is now showing freely. YouTube presumably don't have the manpower to take down all the football clips that get illegally uploaded, so this morning 10 of the 20 most viewed clips in the UK are rights-protected football videos.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The enduring popularlity of SimpsonizeMe

SimpsonizeMe was a site produced for Burger King in 2007 as a tie in with The Simpsons Movie. Visitors could upload their own picture, play with it a bit, and make their own personal portrait, in the style of the show. The portrait could be printed, sent to friends, or embedded elsewhere. It was very popular at the time; it seemed that for the next few months everyone had one pinned up on their desk, or as their Facebook picture.

One of my colleagues asked me to revisit it earlier this week, to see if it was still live. The answer was yes, very much so. In 2008 it had an average of 296,000 unique visitors each month, according to data from comScore MediaMetrix. Currently it's the 3rd largest website globally for Burger King (same source). A great example of the enduring power of a great idea online.

AdLogic - a broadsheet newspaper ad network

We had a presentation today from AdLogic, a new ad network that uses inventory from broadsheet newspaper sites.

There are two really innovative things about this.

The first is that they have identified their segment very clearly, and just take inventory from 5 top news paper sites in each of the top 5 markets in Europe. They won't tell you precisely where your ads appear, but you know that it won't appear outside this list of 25 sites. This is potentially great for reaching an upmarket audience online.

The second is that they use very innovative technology to target the right ad to the right page. Their ad server produces a word cloud of the page the ad is to appear on, and matches that closely to keywords that you have give AdLogic to help define your campaign. You can also use negative contextual targeting to ensure that ads don't appear in content that you specifically want to avoid.

Building on this, they will produce a word cloud of the top words on the pages where ads that were clicked appear - so in effect identify the sort of content that people were reading when they clicked on the ad. I know that click throughs are certaintly not everything in online marketing, but this is very clever stuff!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Share Spotify playlists

Spotify is the new online music streaming service that lets you listen to a vast range of songs in exchange for about 2 minutes of advertising an hour. Spotify allows you to compile playlists so that you can cue up hours of music that you want to hear. Downloading is not allowed, but you can listen to songs as often as you like. The owners of the music (artists and publishers) recieve payments based on the number of plays that their tracks get.

I've known Spotify for a while because I was one of the people they had early informal discussions with, to get feedback on their concept from a media agency. I'm pleased that their growth is going well; they report that so far they have over 1m users in Europe, with the largest proportion (64%) aged 15-34. In terms of advertising they're getting up to 1.4% click through rates for display campaigns on their site, and up to 1.6% for audio.

The ultimate sign of success in this day and age (& medium) is for someone to use your service in their own creation, and this has just happened for Spotify with the site ShareMyPlaylists. Users submit playlists that they have created, and others can then listen to them. So far 99 have been submitted, but in anticipation of many more it is arranged in genres, and people can rate playlists that others have submitted.

Update: Spotify think that it's great that people are creating these sorts of sites.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

New Cursive album costs $1 more each day

This is another way of pricing music. Nebraska indie band Cursive [does Harry Hill style shrug] have just released their new album Mama, I'm Swollen for download, prior to physical release. On day 1 the album cost $1, day 2 $2 and so on, up to the 10th March, when it will go officially on sale for $10. You can also pay more for physical versions if you want.

I love this because:

1 - It rewards the fans, who can get the new album for $1
2 - It attracts new fans, and potential new fans, who can get if for a bit more, but still at a heavy discount
3 - It's brilliant in its simplicity
4 - It generates buzz

(To order from outside the US you need to enter some text - e.g. your post code - in the box under where you have selected 'Outside US'. Annoying, I know, but it seems to work. You then make the payment by PayPal)

Here's the single, From the Hips, which is excellent. Sounds a bit like Uncle Tupelo to me (which is a good thing)

Update: It's certainly worked in driving the buzz. Here's a video of them on Letterman last week, their first ever appearance on the show:

Monday, March 02, 2009


TV-Add is a proposition currently advertising on TV. Aimed at small to medium sized businesses it is a one stop shop for brands to get on TV. It's part of the Media Curcus Group.

Companies get in touch with them, and for about £75,000 (minimum package) they will take a briefing, make an ad, buy the media, and get the brand on TV in front of 10m people. The aim, I think, is to make advertising on TV as easy as advertising online, by removing the traditional agency functions. They show some examples on the site (for example an ad for but they won't allow embedding or deep linking, unfortunately. Subscriptions

I'm very interested in new ways bands find to make money in the digital age. One I've just found - which may have been going for quite a while - is the U2 subscription model.

U2 are a band who always understood CRM (customer relationship management). My sister used to get their Propaganda newsletter back in the early 80s. (People forget that U2 had zillions of young female fans in the early days, and I can still remember one of her friends describing the 'Pride' video in breathless terms for about 5 minutes, particularly the boots Bono was wearing). So it's no surprise to see them doing interesting things online. Arguably more interesting things online than in the studio, but let's not get into that debate.

When you subscribe to for $50 per year you get lots of exclusive content, a premium message board, advance notice of tours, and now, and exclusive, limited edition 2CD set of studio out-takes and remastered B-sides.

I'd love to know the subscriber numbers; I'd guess that it's very profitable.
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