My tip is to keep an eye out for when Neil Perkin puts out a call to crowdsource one every few years…
A guest post by Lauren Fisher, who specialises in online PR and social media at Simply Zesty – and can be found on Twitter at @laurenfisher.
As we look forward to a brand new year, I’m sure the burning question on everyone’s lips is – what’s going to happen to microblogging in 2010? In a year that saw Ashton Kutcher reach 1 million followers on Twitter and MSN launch their own microblogging service (and MSN China clone Plurk – Dan), the next year certainly has a lot to live up to. Here, I offer a few of my own predictions for microblogging in 2010, with Dan’s thoughts below.
Increased use in organisations
I’m talking here about internal use of microblogging, as a way for colleagues to collaborate and communicate with each other. We’ve seen Google Wave emerge as a tool for professional, organisational use and I think this is the path that microblogging will take in 2010. I’ve already written on here about my thoughts on Yammer (which I still stand by) and I think we will see microblogging tools play a bigger role in internal corporate communications, as an easy and efficient way to communicate with each other. The benefits of realtime will be no more paramount than for businesses.
Dan: Totally agree, although I’m not sure I’d pick Yammer out as the key product in this area – the move is towards integrating microblogging as part of a collaborative and project management toolset – e.g. Salesforce Chatter. The novelty of an ‘internal Twitter’ is fine, but doesn’t convert those who don’t like Twitter, or those happy to DM via Twitter already. Integrated tools give reasons for people to get involved.
I won’t be the first, or last, person to say this but I think Twitter may have reached its height of popularity and I think numbers will start to dwindle, albeit slowly. The love affair with Twitter has been exciting, but it might just be over. The avalanche of spam accounts has a part to play here, but I think that when Twitter reaches its highest point of saturation, is conversely when you start to lose value in the site. It has become incredibly noisy and I am beginning to question the real use of it.
Dan: I agree to some extent. I think some of the expansion already has been down to a huge number of spam accounts, and it’s something Twitter has started to tackle, but will always be a huge problem. The lesson here is to learn from the most popular 3rd party apps – Tweetdeck and Seesmic for example, which allow far better filtering than Twitter itself. The noise levels don’t bother me too much because I’m fairly selective about who I follow (Hard to believe when I’m following almost 2k people!)
Microblogging as customer service
I think that more and more companies will embrace microblogging in 2010, beyond the extent we’re seeing now. Businesses will realise the potential of microblogging as a customer service platform though, rather than a place for sexy social media campaigns. I don’t think there will be many more hashtag competitions, we’ve had pretty much every variation of these! I hope that more companies will realise the value of microblogging to source and, most importantly, solve issues for customers. As consumers, we are expecting everything to be solved in real-time and this is what we’ll expect businesses to cater to. The power of crowdsourcing will also be recognised more and we’ll see more companies opening up product development to the masses.
Dan: Totally agree that almost every company should be using Twitter as an integral part of overall improvements to customer service. I expect to reach any tech company via Twitter, and those that do have an active role tend to respond quickly and get my repeat business!
No to video microblogging
It’s not an area that’s really taken off and I don’t think 2010 will be the year for video microblogging. Some sites have made a good attempt, such as Vidly, but once the initial shine wears off the uptake is slow. I simply don’t think that microblogging lends itself to video. A quick text update is one thing : shooting, uploading and tagging a short video is another. We’re still not as comfortable in front of the camera as we are in front of the keyboard and I don’t think this will change any time soon.
Dan: Damn it – this is an area that comes back to haunt me after I made a prediction on video at a conference that Seesmic’s original video blogging platform would take off in 2009. And I was wrong for exactly the reasons above. I’d say for the over 20s, audio blogging such as Audioboo is more accessible. However, I think there’s a huge group of teenagers who are very accustomed to broadcasting themselves on Justin.tv and Ustream. If someone taps into that market and can lure them away from sites which are heavily integrating with Facebook, Twitter etc, then we may see video microblogging take off in a couple of years. It’s also likely to be primarily mobile, and the odds are people will still video other people rather than themselves…
Location –based microblogging
If Twitter is to continue growing in 2010, I think the answer could be in location-based services. As mobile internet usage rapidly increases, we’re all going to be using location services more. If we can make real connections on Twitter with those that are physically close to us, as a more integrated part of the whole microblogging experience, this could prove incredibly popular. Integrating tweets at real-world events such as concerts and sport events will also become more popular, bringing people physically together.
Dan: Totally. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more integration between location, microblogging and special offers, but that’s definitely going to arrive this year – look at mobile social location games like Foursquare, or Google stepping up their location-based efforts. And events are a huge influence on bringing people together on Twitter – the FA Cup, the Superbowl, Eurovision etc as examples…
Integration with sites
As more people will be moving away from Twitter itself, I think microblogging will play a bigger part in existing sites. The new redesign of LinkedIn sees the now familiar stream of status updates with more prominence and I think this is probably the way many sites will go, including email services, encouraging even further interaction between people through short updates. As we become increasingly productive online in 2010, we’ll expect the microblogging functionality to feature more heavily in sites we’re already visiting, than having to go to a separate site.
Dan: Twitter, Facebook and Google are the three services that you should expect to seemlessly be integrated into almost every site you visit in the next 6 months. Each one is becoming very close to the single unified ID many people have talked about…
Microblogging in 2010 – what do you think?
In amongst the turmoil of #iranelection, and the news that Twitter is starting to moderate trending topics, it’s nice to finish the week on a more humourous note.
Which is why I’m chuckling to myself about the huge number of current ReTweets:
‘Worst Daily Mail poll ever. VOTE YES to skew the results and pass it on! http://bit.ly/w4b6Q’
As of 2pm on Friday, it’s flooding the place.
And the reason for all this is the conservative right UK newspaper, The Daily Mail, whose poll of the day really does defy belief: ‘Should the NHS allow gipsies to jump the queue?’
And the effect of Twitter probably explains why the poll is currently skewed to 85% Yes, and 15% No.
I’ve played around with numerous Twitter analytics and statistic applications, and I have to say that Twitter Analyzer seems to be about the most comprehensive in terms of available information.
User stats:- including number of tweets, reach, hashtags, popularity,etc etc.
Friends stats:- including f0llowers growth rate, location, activity and re-tweeting, etc.
Mentions:- including all, social, updates, etc.
Groups:- including by occupation, join date, gender, etc.
And Trends and Fun tabs are apparently ‘coming soon’.
It’s fast after the initial username analysis, and nicely presented, with handy graphs and charts. The biggest flaws currently are that you don’t seem to be able to export the charts and graphs to anywhere else (although there’s a handy ‘Tweet’ option for some of the interesting information you might want to share via Twitter.
It also seems to be limited to the 30 days for a lot of the information, in line with the data and limits that Twitter has. Which is understandable, but also frustrating. If they were able to pull data in on a regular schedule to provide longer timeframes once a username has first been indexed, and enable the ability to export the information for presentations and spreadsheets, it would be a clear leader in Twitter stats and analysis.
I’ve probably spent as much time thinking about the future of print magazines in the couple of weeks since I left the magazine industry as I did when I was in it!
The reason is that newspaper consultant/critic Jeff Jarvis recently asked ‘Are magazines doomed?‘ in an article inspired by the closure of Portfolio magazine just as publisher Conde Nast launched a UK version of Wired.
The comments on his article had an interesting split between those for and against print as a medium generally, as well as a few questions around the revenue streams employed in magazine publishing.
My hypothesis is that print magazines will prove more resilient than their newspaper counterparts, but eventually they’ll share the same fate due to a twin pincer movement.
Their resilience is in part due to the difference in content, and the difference in format. The majority of magazines are providing something in addition/as an alternative to the breaking news that the internet disrupts so effectively. Their strength is not only in providing analysis, insight and features, but also in conveying this information with fantastic photography and design. And by doing so, they can provide a far more engaged audience interested in a specific topic.
Here come the pincers…
The first claw closing on the magazine industry is that the online world is evolving far more rapidly, both in terms of community, as Jeff points to, but also in terms of more content-driven websites and blogs. As the market for blogs fighting to break news in niche topics has become increasingly saturated, and coincidentally many more journalists and freelancers are looking outside of print following recession-instigated redundancies, so the levels of insight and expertise available online will increase.
It’s easy to forget in the tech/online bubble that the ‘mainstream’ mass readerships are still located mainly in print, even as they start to move away in many cases. And as much as the online world can criticise traditional display advertising for irrelevancy, digital monetisation still needs to evolve in effectiveness around content.
But the people best placed to effectively make a decent wage online are those experienced journalists and writers who are able to produce specialist books and in-depth articles – those who are also most valuable to print editorial teams. As they increasingly look at digital opportunities, that’s where the biggest content threat will come.
The other pincer?
The other defence of magazines is due to the format – the incredible photography and design which can inspire as it’s displayed on your coffee table.
The problem is that the quality of a format is not a guarantee of it’s survival. While those magazines favoured for their design qualities will doubtless be the most resilient for the future, the fact is that the utlity of digital formats for accessing and sharing information will overcome the quality of the pile of magazines left gathering dust in a box under the bed.
And that’s assuming that technology stays roughly equivalent to what is available right now.
Even as I was about to write this post, a post by Om Malik appeared in my RSS feed – Vogue on Your eReader? New E-paper Tech Will Make It Happen. It happens that a group of researchers at the University of Cincinnatti in Ohio have created a new technology which allows them to recreate the colour and brightness of print. The link has a full explanation, but not only is it much closer to the beauty of print, it also is far more energy efficient than the current Kindle-type displays.
So what’s the answer then?
There are two very likely scenarios for print magazines in the next decade or less. One is that very small run, niche print magazines might survive with subscriptions, display advertising and additional revenue streams due to cult levels of devotion.
The second is that magazines will increasingly follow the ‘digital only’ route which newspapers are being forced into, and we’ll see some find ways to monetise more effectively than display advertising. The others will become marginalised or disappear due to the increased expertise of the new competitors they’ll suddenly discover that have been on the web for years already…
Although hardly newspaper/print apologists, both John Duncan and Martin Langeveld have posted interesting articles trying to compare the print/online split in newspaper readership in number terms. Duncan comes in with online having 17% of page impressions on Inksniffer using the Guardian as a case study, while Langeveld posts that only 3% of newspaper reading happens online.
While I totally agree that it’s easy to overestimate the online figures in comparison to print products, and both articles are good reality checks, I have to say that I think comparing print and online readerships directly in this way is equivalent to comparing the number of people who drive cars with the number of people with vowels in their name.
And touting the eventual figures is very dangerous.
For starters, the readership of print titles rests on research figures for average shared readership of titles. For instance, the metrics John Duncan quotes are:
Average daily UK uniques for Guardian website: 270576 (after discounting overseas readers etc).
Average UK sales of Guardian/Observer: 310788
But then the UK sales figures is multiplied by 3 to take into account shared readership, becoming 932,364, on figures available by the Guardian.
Meanwhile Langeveld refers to an engagement study from the Newspaper Association of America conducted in February 2006, based on 4594 respondents to a survey.
Now shared readership definitely happens, and without being able to actually see what people do, rather than what they claim, it’s impossible to be totally accurate.
If you’re taking shared readership of print products into account, then surely you’d also need to factor in people reading newspaper website content without ever being logged as a visitor to the site?
That includes people blocking cookies, people using RSS, people reading reposts of newspaper content (Great example of the spread of multimedia news by Martin Belam by the way), people reading content via aggregation sites and site scrapers etc, etc.
And by the time you’ve taken into account all the vagaries of print readership figures (which aren’t a bad guide to something so difficult to measure), and then taken into account the vagaries of online measurement (Less inaccurate, but still pretty fairly vague), and using data and research from 2+ years ago (But that’s probably the most recent readily available) it starts to be apparent that quoting a an exact figure is pretty irrelevant – especially when some people will undoubtedly take it as gospel.
After all, two years ago, Facebook didn’t have 200 million users, Twitter had just launched, there was no iPhone, there was less broadband penetration in the UK, there hadn’t been events like earthquakes or Mumbai to highlight realtime information, etc, etc.
And there’s a big elephant in the news room: Whoever said that print newspaper readers were guaranteed to only be getting their online news from newspapers?
I can get digital news on my mobile or my PC, via text,audio or video, and via social networks, blogs, websites, link aggregators, RSS, podcasts, videocasts, and from global sources. Whether or not print titles are only seeing a small percentage of their print readership visiting them online is less relevant, than how many of those readers are getting news content online from any source.
So what can you do?
When it comes to looking at the situation now and for the future, the numbers are far less important than looking at data trends. I’d much rather base a theory or business strategy on a few years of data showing a rise in one area and a fall in another. The numbers are rough guides to point towards when the trends are in the same area, but that’s all.
Just to reiterate, I don’t want to criticise John and Martin for doing what is a useful, if flawed, exercise to highlight caution in assuming that online readership is bigger than it really is, or that print readership is smaller than you might think. As I tried to comment on the Nieman Labs site (sadly it vanished into cyberspace after I submitted it), it’s the way the information is being presented that worries me.
One of the blogs I subscribe to, The Blog Herald, recently carried a fairly standard story about an company acquisition. In this case, it caught my eye, because it’s Teens in Tech acquiring The Youth Bloggers Network.
The CEO of Teens in Tech is 16-year-old Daniel Brusilovsky, while 15-year-old Patrick DeVivo runs the Youth Bloggers Network. And they’re offering ad revenue split between publishers and host, custom domains, pro accounts, increased storage space etc.
It’s from the recently published and much discussed ‘Newspapers and thinking the unthinkable‘ by Mr Clay Shirky.
One of the people I was hanging around with online back then was Gordy Thompson, who managed internet services at the New York Times. I remember Thompson saying something to the effect of “When a 14 year old kid can blow up your business in his spare time, not because he hates you but because he loves you, then you got a problem.”
The point isn’t that 14, 15 and 16 year olds are doing these things, which would suggest it’s solely the preserve of the young – the point is that there is no reason why the very young or old can’t become CEO of their own business. I talked with someone recently whose salesforce is way above the age you’d associate with internet businesses, but who is incredibly effective at what he does. It’s about the attitude, rather than skills, and the reason it’s more prevalent amongst the young is due to the access to technology, and changes in culture, which are more familiar, and not challenged by legacy practices.
Which means you’re not just going to face young rivals, but old rivals, middle-aged rivals, experienced rivals, inexperienced rivals, and your existing competitors.
And, as Mark would say, expert predictions aren’t very reliable, so the only real defence is to have a clear vision and aim on how you’re going to best use new and existing technologies and techniques, and start making yourself different right now.
Apologies as I’m a bit tired, and this may descend into rambling, but I wanted to keep the music debate going, especially after some interesting comments on my first post, on why ‘Recording companies are really screwed‘.
I appreciated the comment from Michael, who rightfully pointed out that the most common examples of bands using social media and giving their music away for free are those who have already built a following – while I agree this is the most common case, these are still new tools and new revenue models, and there are some examples of bands coming through the internet – e.g. Soulja Boy. And the precedent comes from the underground hits of pirate radio and dance music, or the spread of 1960′s Stax Atlantic and Motown in the UK, which was mainly provided by soldiers and sailors from the U.S.
What forced me to respond was Eaon‘s valid questions about challenges and options beyond ‘big labels vs internet’. He’s right in saying that major labels are an easy target (not that this means we shouldn’t continue to targte them), but I don’t think he’s right in putting Murdoch’s Myspace against traditional record labels. This isn’t about a social network replacing a record company – it’s about social networks as a distribution mechanism, along with email, forums, blogs, podcasts, video streaming, and every other method of delivering music and entertainment in an electronic format vs the attempts of the traditional industry to retain models and methods that served the physical format.
Eaon also said that the broad strokes of my previous post didn’t work for him, and I can understand that, but I’m a big fan of reducing things to their most basic, and starting with the essentials. And that tends to result in the broadest picture, but also the clearest view of what’s really necessary. So to take that to it’s ultimate conclusion:
- Music is created. Either recorded or transferred into a digital format.
- Music is published on the internet. Possibly with a video to accompany it, or a blog, website, Myspace page, Facebook fan page etc.
- People who like the music download it, and if they like it enough, share it with friends and contacts via email, social networks, blogs. More mainstream media will gravitate towards that which gets a significant following.
- The creator is rewarded with an audience of some size. Monetisation could follow with a physical release, gig tickets, merchandise.
That’s about as simple as it gets! Speaking as someone whose music career was limited to messing around with a 4-track home studio and a couple of sessions in a ‘proper’ studio to record a couple of EPs which never saw the light of day to my knowledge (perhaps fortunately), I’m hoping the more musically experienced will take a look and point out anything I’ve missed, but this seems the simplest, most direct, and most robust music creation, distribution and consumption model.
And I know it’s easier to say in a blog post than to achieve, and that the music labels still retain enough pull and advertising budget to be able to theoretically make every stage easier, more polished, and potentially more far reaching through their ability to book advertising in mainstream media and invest in the physical media and distribution with ready cash – but increasingly those days will fade. There’s no need for me to track down a rare vinyl album to establish my musical credentials with my peers as we pore over the cover and inner sleeve – unless I’m DJ’ing, it’s quicker, easier and just as good for my reputation to email an mp3 or a link to someone obscure or new. And whether you believe in influence, or emulation, if the conditions are right, that content will continue to spread, with or without support.
For instance, Youtube phenomenon OK Go had already achieved success via a major label and broadcast appearances – but did that do more than the $10 video released without record company knowledge that got seen 9 million times? Or the follow-up, which has now been seen 40 million times on the official profile on Youtube alone? (In case you missed it, here it is!)
For a more recent, homegrown example, check out Ben Walker’s Twitter Song and the story behind it.A fun ditty aimed at Twitter users as a bit of a social media experiment gets viewed 272523 times at the time of writing, and leads to interviews on national radio!
And from a financial point of view, I’ve tried to find the quote that stuck in my mind as an aspiring musician, from guitar legend Joe Satriani. He revealed that although his major label albums had brought him more fame and publicity, it was his independently recorded and released records that brought him the income he needed.
I don’t think the record companies will cease to exist this week or this month. But I think the angle of decline will increase to terminal velocity pretty soon, and I can’t see any label making the moves needed to avoid it or even flatten it out. Instead I see sites like Slicethepie, Amie Street, Sellaband etc. And there’s the romantic notion that it revisits the idealised days of Stax Records allowing people to come together for the music first and financial rewards second. After all, the people with access to recording booths and vinyl pressing plants have had the power for long enough. If they don’t offer consumers and artists anything of significant value, they become redundant.
So who’s going to help me keep shaping this into a more in depth vision of the music industry? Where is the future taking us, and are there more examples of internet delivery and fame creating new success?
It feels weird to publish a post effectively blowing our own trumpets, but this was too good not to share. A quick look around for other interesting sites covering microblogging revealed 140char.com is the #1 return for a Google search for ‘microblogging blog’.
That would be the almighty Wikipedia below us!
To justify the post a bit more, I did a quick bit of playing around for the following searches:
‘microblogging blog’ 1,250,000 results.
‘twitter blog’ 41,600,000 results. (And we’re nowhere near as high!)
‘jaiku blog’ 3,830,000 results.
‘pownce blog’ 2,570,000 results.
‘plurk blog’ 2,460,000 results.
‘identi.ca blog’ 392,000 results.
‘yammer blog’ 258,000 results.
A quick look at Google Trends echoes these results. I won’t embed the graph because Twitter skews it so far that everything else is just a blurred line at the bottom.
It’ll be interesting to see whether open source microblogging and services which can be manually deployed behind the corporate firewall is demanded as much as enterprise options set-up and hosted by a third party. I suspect the current data is skewed somewhat by the mentions of Yammer winning the TechCrunch 50!