Friendfeed and GigaOm announce closures as Apple launches new products

While Apple launched new products including MacBooks and Watches, two pioneering services announced they would be closing. Friendfeed was a useful social network which combined short updates similar to Twitter with the ability to easily collect and aggregate your content from a huge variety of sources, into one feed. It launched back in 2007, and the service and team had been acquired by Facebook in 2009.

FriendFeedLogo

There’s no official news beyond the April 2015 closure date, but there is some unofficial code on Github to export your data if you wish.

And at the same time, one of the first big independent tech blogs has ceased operations. GigaOm originally launched in the mid-2000s, and became a full time job for founder Om Malik in 2006. It since acquired PaidContent, launched a paid Research area and various events etc.

GigaOm Logo

It’s sad news for those of us who have followed the site closely for 8+ years, and for the team of around 70 employees, although it may be wound down, acquired or who knows what else. It is known that the latest $8 million round of funding took place 12 months ago, but it has ceased operations due to being unable to pay creditors.

Whilst it’s unfortunate for all involved, including the millions of readers, it’s important to remember that the closure of GigaOm is more a reflection of the economics of an individual business. FriendFeed, meanwhile, reflects the trend for social network acquisition by the big players in the space – Facebook obviously went on to pick up Instagram and WhatsApp with far, far larger userbases and bigger brands.

Lessons from a Google Hangout – State of Digital’s Future of Search

The Future of Search was discussed in a live Google Hangout organised by State of Digital today, and I was honored to be one of the people involved in the debate.

It was great to be chatting with Dixon Jones, Gianluca Fiorelli, Krystian Szastok, Russel McAthy and Tim Stewart.  And Bas van den Beld did a great job of organising, hosting and moderating it all, including feeding in some good questions from people watching the hangout live. The ‘behind the scenes’ chat also helped everyone to cover all the topics raised, as well as distracting the less confident among us from worrying about our appearance or occasional fluffed sentence over the course of 90 minutes.

So overall it was great, I learned a lot just from chatting with everyone else involved, and I’d love to do more.

But having written a quick guide to Creating and Sharing Videos Online, there were some obvious mistakes I made in preparing…

 

 

Google Hangout Guide:

The organisation was handled by State of Digital and Bas, who did a good job in herding us all into the right place at the right time, and managing the muting of mics for everyone who wasn’t speaking. It’s important to make sure everyone involved turns up a little bit early to make sure they get access, have functioning video and audio (e.g. Tim’s blurrycam), and they also know how to access any backchannel, such as Google Hangout’s chat functionality.

What could I have done better?

Appearance:

Overall, I didn’t do too badly. I’m no Tom Cruise, sadly, but I’ve found it’s vital when speaking live or on video to feel confident in how you look and what you’re wearing. In this case, an Open Rights Group T-shirt which remained out of shot…

The other thing to remember is to check for all potential embarrassments such as unwanted nose or ear hair, errant bogeys, bits of lunch etc, etc.  Five minutes before shooting can save a lifetime of internet mockery.

Lighting:

Fail here. Despite the fact I know how important lighting is for video, and I actually rent my house from a professional video editor, the lighting in my home office is crap for filming. It’s easily solved with a couple of decent and cost effective lights. And now I have the impetus to invest, as I did look slightly pale and blue. Fine for an extra in Buffy The Vampire Slayer, but not ideal…

You can spot the people who put a little more thought into their lighting arrangments (Bas, Gianluca, Krystian).

Posture and Seating:

Not too bad. I was basically using my laptop on my desk and sat in my office chair. So it was serviceable, but not necessarily comfortable or relaxing – I think it was Gianluca who moved to a sofa part way through the hangout.

In the future I’d aim to have a more comfortable and relaxed place to sit, and somewhere where I’m not looking down at the camera (I wasn’t the only person to pick up on the inherent risk of a double chin looking down). It also meant I was only seen from the neck up, which was fine for this particular chat, but might be rather boring if I was hosting something on my own for a few minutes – all you’d see is my head, without any body language or movement.

Audio/Visual:

Not too bad. My Creative ChatMax HS-720 Headset worked well considering it’s under £30. And if I’d picked a better angle and lighting, the actual quality of the video feed is reasonable.

For shooting more videos, I think it will be worth investing in a good quality external webcam, so I can be more flexible with where I place it, and potentially a good quality external mic as well – the ChatMax works well for chats like this where I need to hear the other people, but if I’m recording a screencast etc, I’d like to have a little more audio quality.

Plus I keep meaning to record myself playing guitar etc to see if I’m improving, so that’s another reason for an investment…

 

Google Hangouts: Worth doing?

I’ve talked to a couple of clients about organising Google Hangouts with experts in their respective fields and I definitely think it’s worthwhile. One of my earliest jobs online was to organise celebrity web chats in a text only chatroom – the ability to have a panel of speakers, and easily sharable recorded video, makes this much easier and more effective.

As long as the content is interesting, the production quality is secondary, and by having multiple people involved it seems to average out the best and worst.

In the tech world, Hangouts have become a staple part of internet content. And the blogging community has also picked up on them as a great way to connect, discuss and share conversations and content.

Creating and Sharing Videos Online – Quick Guide

The cost of creating videos has dropped dramatically in recent years, leading to an explosion in the footage being shot and uploaded across the web. From webcams and smartphones to RED cinematic cameras for motion pictures, the possibilities have never been more open. And the launch of Vine for videos via Twitter, and Instagram Video, means that short 6 or 15 second video clips have become viable tools for sharing ideas, content and marketing.

We’ve worked with talented video producers and helped with creating and sharing videos online for many years, and have achieved success with a number of brand channels. We also have plenty of experience in planning video production and distribution to get the most mileage from what can be expensive, and is often a time-consuming way to generate content.

 

Video Set for Episode 02 (Camera)

 

Creating great videos:

The most important aspects of great video content are simple to prioritise:

  1. Great content
  2. Production and Editing
  3. Marketing and Distribution

 

1. Great Video Content:

The definition of great video content is not an epic Hollywood script and production. Sometimes huge audiences are simply the result of being in the right place at the right time, but often it’s the result of creating content which is interesting, informative, entertaining, shocking or funny.

The key is to have your objective at the front of your mind. If you’re looking to sell a service or product, your aims and content will be different to someone launching themselves as the next great comedian on Youtube.

With each video, you should have a clear aim – is it primarily to build awareness, encourage people to click to visit your site, or help them to better understand and use your product?

The legendary Charlie Bit My Finger grew into a business after becoming immensely popular, simply by being entertaining.

Keep the viewer in mind at all times. Unless there’s a dramatic reason, you want them to see and understand the reason for watching your videos as quickly as possible – if you need to include company branding etc, there are better ways to do it than a huge introduction clip, which is a slight fail for the famous ‘Will It Blend’ series – but the hook is enough in this case to suffer through it:

Do your research – check out what is popular and successful for your immediate competitors. How would you improve upon what already exists and offer something better?

Enthusiasm is vital. Who hasn’t watched a screencast or software tutorial delivered with all the flair of a tax audit?

 

 

2. Production and Editing:

While you don’t need high production values to achieve success, they’ll definitely improve your odds. Beyond an adequate camera or webcam, the two biggest problems with most videos are lighting and audio.

Audio can often be solved by investing in equipment such as a decent cabled lapel mic or a Bluetooth remote version for presenters. Or a decent microphone for recording to your computer for screencasts, webinars and more.

Meanwhile lighting can be solved by thinking carefully about location, and potentially using some cost-effective solutions to add some illumination to the subject.

Consider this example, in which audio is a key part (note the microphone in shot), the lighting is serviceable, but by combining shots together it achieves a great result without adding anything unnecessary:

When it comes to editing software, the choices range from free open source programs to professional video editing suites. But it’s not what you use, it’s how you use it:

  • Brevity and clarity is key
  • Make sure intros or overlays are as short as possible, and consider using clear, readable text to convey information to shorten the length of videos.
  • Use overlays to also cover links for more information.
  • Film in sections for longer videos, which allows you more editing freedom, and to change location etc to keep an audience interested.
  • Hide cuts with transitions such as full screen graphics, jump cuts etc, but don’t overdo it.
  • Editing will always take much longer than you first imagine, so leave plenty of time in your schedule.
  • Try to pay attention to the techniques being used in your favourite and the most popular, videos.

 

3. Digital Video Distribution:

Although Youtube is the most popular video channel on the web, there are several other locations which can also attract an audience. If you plan to cut and share content across these channels from the start, you can deliver far more mileage for your investment.

Video sharing sites:

  • Youtube
  • Dailymotion
  • Vimeo
  • Metacafe
  • Vine (6 second clips via Twitter)
  • Instragram Video (15 second clips)
  • Facebook

Uploading each individual to multiple locations can be time-consuming, but you can also utilise services such as OneLoad from TuebMogul, which lets you upload once and then automates delivery to multiple platforms.

For each site, ensure you have set up your channel with the correct avatar and profile images (We have a guide for social network images)

Think carefully about how you title your video. Ensure it is clear and contains the relevant keywords for search.

Optimise your description to build on the information in the video – include relevant links and supporting info which doesn’t need to clutter the video itself.

Add relevant keywords, including your brand name. By including your brand name as a keyword, it encourages video sites to include any other videos from your channel as related content.

Finally, make sure you’re sharing your own content across the various channels you have access to. Blog about it, and make sure you use it when it’s relevant to answer customer questions to lower your customer service time and costs, for example.

 

More video tips and advice to come:

As video has become an integral part of what we do for clients and our own sites, we’re planning a full series of more in-depth articles in the future, including more details guides to production, editing and more. To keep up with our content, feel free to follow us on your choice of social network or via RSS etc.

Why your business must own its content

Businesses can hire office space from as little as an hour of time, can lease hardware or make use of cloud computing solutions, and can compete on a relatively level playing field online with just a cheap hosting account. But conversely, it’s never been more important to own the central location where you’re creating and publishing your content.

There’s a timely reminder of the terms and conditions for LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook by Luke Brynley-Jones, which highlights the extensive agreements you make when signing up to a social network for yourself or for your business. For example you grant LinkedIn the rights to distribute and commercialise:

any user generated content, ideas, concepts, techniques or data to the services, you submit to LinkedIn, without any further consent, notice and/or compensation to you…”

At the same time, those companies are also looking to attract more users from search and other social networks in exactly the same ways as you are. Check out this insightful post by John Battelle – Portrait of Twitter as a young media company. And consider the widely reported launch of Facebook’s Graph Search. Or how Google is unifying everything around the Google+ backbone – business pages, local map listings etc.

 

Leverage external sites, but own yours:

We actively advocate the use of social networks, and assist companies in making the most of those opportunities. But quite often we’re asked why a client should bother running a blog, website or their own community?

Not only are there risks in relying on a third party to always be available (See the current uncertainty over the future for Posterous for a good example), but in a time where content and content marketing are becoming ever more important to business, do you want to be allowing a variety of services the opportunity to distribute, commercialise and benefit from your content?

There are benefits in allowing people to access, use, and re-use your content – this blog, for example, is licensed under Creative Commons, but that was our choice to make, and not pushed onto us by any terms and conditions. It also comes with the restriction that any distribution has to be accompanied by attribution, and is non-commercial. That attribution means that sharing will help this site benefit in terms of inbound links and search engine optimisation.

In terms of business assets, you need to own your content, and the benefits that will come from it . It’s more important than a nice office for attracting customers, and changing your perspective will encourage you to devote the time and effort required for high quality articles which will help you rise above the coming content marketing deluge.

And if you’re struggling with how to start tackling that challenge, we can help break down the website set-up, content and social media strategy, and the tactical implementation, for you – or even supply high quality articles which are prepared in conjunction with you, to ensure they’re exactly how you want to portray your business, and exactly what your customers want or need to read.