Friday, January 30, 2009

How to monetise twitter

Last night I attended a very interesting Mashup* event on Realtime Social Web.

Mashup* events are independently organised and held every two months or so, with interesting people discussing burning issues. While most of the emails I get asking me to conferences get deleted straight away (especially the ones that won't tell you the price until you've got to the third page), Mashup* events cost £25 +VAT for the talk, plus drinks and sandwiches at the end. They attract a good mix of people from media types to investors to techies.

Back to Realtime Social Web; what this means is the speeding up of the web - email is now seen as the new snail mail, rss is too slow, and blogging takes too long. New services like twitter are offering a much quicker experience. Of course it's not just twitter - live video is the most realtime thing that there is online, but inevitably the audience wanted to talk about twitter most.

Towards the end, the panel, including Sam Sethi, Nick Halstead and Alan Patrick, were asked how twitter was going to be monetised, and they came up with 2 very good answers.

1 - Charge for access to the API. Twitter is built on an open source platform, and other companies and applications can access this API regularly to produce other services like tweetdeck, twitterholic etc. In the same way, search engine marketing companies regularly access the APIs of Google to retrieve data (for example to automatically manage cost per click bids), and a few years ago Google started to charge them, because it could see how essential this was to their businesses. So this is the first way to make money for twitter - charge the really heavy use applications.

2 - Use affiliate code in links. Lots of twitter posts contain links to other things online. If you want to recommend a book or dvd to your followers you'll put a link in. Popular user Robert Scoble sent a link to his followers recommending the Kindle to them with a link to buy one on Amazon, but using a link that identified them as coming from his blog. That meant that if one of his followers bought one from that recommendation he would get a percentage of the puchase price as a comission from Amazon. Twitter have the power to do this on a mass scale. Currently they automatically shorten any links that users posts, to keep their tweets to below 140 characters. It would be simple to add an affiliate identifier to these new links, with twitter getting the commissions. As backup to how this could work, alan Patrick quoted stats from Etsy showing that twitter was Etsy's third top-referring site. This could generate serious revenues.

Update: More ideas from SEOmoz, including this one:

"Keyword Purchases - Every time someone Tweets the word "SEOmoz," I, as an advertiser, want two things. First, I want those users recorded so I can message to them in the future and second, I want the word to automatically become a link pointing to the page of my choosing (probably a Twitter-specific landing page for PRO in our case). "

& from one of the comments: "Start off by asking for donations. Wikipedia has 3.5 Million out of their required $6M; not too shabby for a site with no advertising"

So - any other ideas, anyone?

& please sign up for alerts from Mashup - the events are great value for money.

Update - 22nd December 2009 - following search deals with Google and Bing, twitter is rumoured to be profitable... (Alternative link)

Update - 17th November 2010 - Twitter has announced that it is selling access to it's tweets for analysis through a 3rd party company.  50% of all tweets posted would cost $360,000 per year; 5% would cost $60,000 per year.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Walkers Do Us a Flavour - crisp tasting

I've really enjoyed watching the progress of Walkers' Do Us a Flavour initiative.

A quick re-cap: Walkers asked their customers to devise a new flavour of crisps to join their range. They had thousands of entries, via their campaign site, and now six flavours have gone into production. During this phase customers can buy them and vote on their favourite; the winner will go into permanent production, and the person who suggested the flavour gets a cash prize, and a royalty on future sales. This is a birlliant example of a company using crowdsourcing and customer interaction on a large scale. Digital is at the heart of it - there is a website, some Facebook pages, and text voting.
Today I organised a tasting for the office. Six flavours on six plates (Builder's Breakfast, Cajun Squirrel, Chilli & Chocolate, Crispy Duck & Hoisin, Fish & Chips, and Onion Bhaji).

We all tasted and voted. Each flavour was someone's favourite, but Onion Bhaji came out top overall. Builder's Breakfast was my favourite, but came second overall.
So well done Walkers for this, and let's see whether our vote reflects the public's taste. The voting ends on 1st May 2009.

Update - some people are even keener - these guys are uploading videos of themselves tasting each flavour, and putting them on YouTube (Warning - some bad language)

Marley Fetch app for Marley & Me

This is one of the most ingenious social networking apps I've seen so far.

Marley Fetch, produced to promote the movie Marley & Me, finds suitable gifts for friends. The app scans friends' stated interests and favourites, and comes up with ideas for presents; after the search Marley the puppy comes back with the item in his mouth, and there is a link to buy it online. It's available for Facebook and MySpace, but so far just displays prices in dollars.

However... It doesn't work very well if the friend has few or no stated interests or favourites. In this case it generally comes back with a recommendation of QOLF ('pronounced Kwalf'), a bizarre game that seems to be a cross between croquet and golf...

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Heston Blumenthal's ready meals

Channel 4's show Big Chef Takes on Little Chef came to an end last night.

In the show Heston Blumenthal tried to re-design the menu for one restaurant in the the Little Chef chain. He realised pretty early on that the Little Chef staff were never going to be great chefs, however much training he gave them (also a finding in the Jamie Oliver show about school dinners - if the staff wanted to be chefs they would have got jobs in other sorts of restaurants).

Heston then came up with what was effectively a range of ready meals, albeit very good ready meals. It was then more a case of opening a packet and heating up, rather than cooking from scratch.

Watching this, my thought was 'Wow - Heston Blumenthal ready meals - what a great idea. Where can I get some?'

Now we know. In a great piece of opportunism are buying search and contextual ads around Heston's name, and the name of the show, saying 'Who helped out Heston? Try our Macaroni Cheese as seen on Channel 4's Big Chef Little Chef'.

Follow the links to buy Macaroni Cheese & Coq au Vin (OK, we still don't know who made the steak in ale pie or the chilli con carne. Any ideas?)

This is a great, simple piece of media buying. You'd be amazed how many companies don't do this, as I highlighted last year.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Photosynth of the Inauguration

I've written about Microsoft's Photosynth before; essentially it's the ultimate version of that setting on your digital camera that will join different pictures together to make a panoramic view. Photosynth meshes photos of the same event to produce an interactive picture from multiple individual digital photos.

CNN asked people at the inauguration to take photos of the precise moment that Barack Obama was sworn in, and meshed these together into a Photosynth here.

I really like this, but I still find the navigation a bit hard...

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

CNN & Facebook cover the Inauguration

Today was Obama's inauguration, and one of the best media innovations I saw was the integration between CNN and Facebook.

If you were a Facebook member you could watch the live stream (OK - sometimes it buffered like it was 1999, but overall it was reliable), while watching friends' comments, or even all Facebook members' comments, in a window on the right hand side.

It looked great, and worked really well. In fact this is what Joost was trying to do - social online video viewing. Let's have some more of it please!

Update - here are some stats:
-600,000 status updates have been posted so far through the Live Facebook feed
-There were an average of 4,000 status updates every minute during the broadcast
-There were 8,500 status updates the minute Obama began his speech
-Obama’s page on Facebook has more than 4 million fans and more than 500,000 wall posts
-Millions of people logged into Facebook during the broadcast

Also - here's a Wordle cloud of Obama's speech

Monday, January 19, 2009

I Wear Your Shirt

I always think that if I were ever at the centre of a major news story, with paparazzi camped out in the bushes (hard in my street, to be honest) I'd start auctioning space on my t-shirts - you know 'to advertise here call...'

Jason from I Wear Your Shirt is doing a similar thing. For the whole of 2009 he will wear a different sponsored shirt every day. The sponsor for 1st of January paid $1, and the price for a day's sponsorship goes up by $1 per day, so that the sponsor for 31st December pays $365. (The total ad revenue will come to $66,795, plus the extra $1,500 per month for the monthly sponsor).

January 18 - Mouton Noir Wines from Jason Sadler on Vimeo.

Jason will blog every day, and upload photos and videos of himself in the shirt. The logo for the monthly sponsor will appear in the background in some shots.

I live this. It's like a human version of the million dollar homepage, and it'g gratifying to see that it's taken off to such a degree that the whole of Jan-June has sold out already. This page shows the calendar for the remaining months.

Movie Boy for The Sun

This is a piece of work for the newspaper The Sun. To promote The Sun's week of giving away free movies, they have set up a site called Movie Boy where you can watch someone attempt to watch movies non-stop for six and a half days - 156 hours.

There are lots of ways to interact - Facebook, YouTube, MySpace and Twitter accounts have all been set up, and the comment stream is also pretty lively. You can also guess how long he will actually last - the winner gets £1,000. (I'm hoping that he manages to fit in The Tree of Wooden Clogs - L'Albero degli zoccoli - before he finishes)

Today is gangster day, to promote the give-away of A Bronx Tale. Looking forward to seeing what theme they use for the giveaway of Bill & Ted on Wednesday!

Full disclosure - this is produced by Glue, one of Isobar's agencies.

Friday, January 16, 2009

300m online in China

The big news this week was the publication of a new internet survey on China showing that the number of Chinese accessing the internet had grown to 298m in 2008, a rise of 42% year on year.

(Here is a link to the data on my stats blog. On the CNNIC site you can also download a full 170 page report on the data, but so far this is in Chinese only. It usually takes a couple of weeks to the report to be published in English).

I believe that this is a crucial moment in World history. To put the figure into context, the population of the US is approximately 303m, so now there are essentially as many people online in China as are there people in the US, and the Chinese internet population is growing at a rate of 2m a week.

In his recent book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the provenance of when & where someone is born. For example 14 of the richest 75 people to have ever lived are Americans born within 9 years of each other in the mid-nineteenth century (pg 61). Or, in another example, 9 of the titans of the personal computer industry (Gales, Jobs, Ballmer, Joy et al) were born between 1953 and 1956.

These were the people born at just the right time to take advantage of a massive change in technology and society, the people old enough to exploit it, but young enough not to be too settled and established to take risks and work 20 hour days.

I think that the new elite may be the people currently aged 10-14 in China, discovering the internet for the first time, with hours and hours to devote to learning how to do things, and lots of friends all wanting to do the same thing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Special offers via twitter

I came to Twitter pretty late on; this time last year I couldn't see the point in it at all.

Now it's getting much more popular, and it is good for all sorts of useful things. (It's fun to see how the mainstream media report it at the moment. They just don't get it, so they mock it. See also the early reaction to punk, multichannel TV, and the internet to name but 3.)

I'll look at entertainment later on, but here is a great example of twitter for special offers (tying in nicely to one of my 2009 predictions).

Amazonmp3 has an offer of the day, which they promote via twitter. (Generally) One album per day, at greatly reduced prices. For example "Daily Deal: Elvis Costello's classic debut, My Aim is True. Everyday: $7.99, today: $1.99"

See also: the twitter bot for Woot

Incidentally, if you want to follow me on twitter, here I am

This is brilliant!

Friday, January 09, 2009

Bebo's b-box

If it rocks, it's in the box

Bebo's version (kind of) of MTV's best week ever. Weekly magazine show featuring the best of the site.

Sony CES Site aggragates all show content

I like this new site to aggragate all the content that Sony are showing at this year's CES in Las Vegas.

It groups together trailers and other content from the main Sony releases, including this trailer for the game Little Big Planet.

My friend Simon is becoming obsessed with this game - see the posts on his blog here and here - and I've promised to myself that I'll write about it more at a later date.

Anyway - good site, and thanks to Sisu for the tip off.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Word Magazine Festive 50

This is a brilliant example of how magazines can perform better online than in print.

This year The Word magazine asked readers to nominate their favourite tracks of 2008, and called it their Festive 50, a title lovingly stolen from John Peel, who used to do this in December every year on Radio One.

It's the sort of list that music fans love. However, thanks to a tie up with 7digital, you can now read and download the list in one place.

Lots of explore, given that I only know about 10 of the songs (I know...) there's lots of good stuff to look forward to. Really excellent work!

Friday, January 02, 2009

Predictions for 2009

These are personal predictions for the media year ahead:

There will never have been more: people online, minutes spent online, people using social networking sites, time spent gaming, people using the mobile internet, videos watched online, goods bought online, and so on. This is a given. But beyond this it will be a year of closures and mergers, discounts and coupons.

Closures - The internet will kill off a number of offline businesses, particularly those that target audience groups that are very high users of the internet. We have already seen the closure of magazines aimed at teens (e.g. Smash Hits), and the expected fall in ad spend in 2009 is likely to kill a few more off including other music magazines, men's monthlies, and women's weeklies. Shops that compete directly with the internet will also suffer, including music shops, book shops, and shops selling electronic goods. Much of the core audience has stopped buying these items on the high street already.

Mergers - There are too many players in some sectors. For example, there are more than 6 TV listings magazines in the UK, and the newspapers print listings too. Many of these are likely to merge. By the same token, there are many local review sites, telling you the best bars, restaurants etc, all competing for the same audience, and the same reviews. Expect to also see some of these sites merging.

Discounts - There will be sales everywhere. Mobile phone users will routinely be checking prices of goods in stores with online prices, and some stores will try to ban this, or somehow compete with it (see 'closures' above). Also, the book to read this year will be Free by Chris Anderson, which will explain how many businesses now give away core products and services for free (free newspapers, free handsets if you sign up to a contract etc). No one will want to pay full price for anything.

Coupons - The next generation of coupons is socially shared coupons - effectively the coupons that firms encourage people to send to friends. so far these have mainly been used for Christmas promotions, but firms will soon be rolling them out for other events too - Valentines Day, Cup Final day and so on. 2009 is a year without any big media events like World Cups or Olympic Games, so companies will try to create smaller, more local ones. Similarly these will be shared on Facebook and other social networks - 'join this group for 50% off at x restaurant' - and similar.

There will be a big rush to monetisation for social media sites with huge audiences but so far comparatively low revenues. Expect to see lots of new ad formats and ways of monetising these audiences. Twitter will attempt something, and its users will get very annoyed, having been spoilt by a wholly free service, with no ads, thus far.

There will be a lot of competiton in online video, with one or both of iPlayer and Hulu going outside their native territories. YouTube will expand it's showing of full length features.

& finally mobile internet use will continue to rise. The iPhone will have had a brilliant Christmas, but new Android and Symbian phones will also be very popular over 2009. We may also get to a position where mobile apps start to put websites out of business.

Very doom and gloom on the closures and mergers, I know. Let's hope I'm only partly right.
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