X|Media|Lab Melbourne: Marcelino Ford-Livene, Intel digital home

Marcelino confesses that he is a couch potato. He works a hard day, and he wants to come home and lean back and be a passive consumer. He is passionate about TV. He asked: To lean, or not to lean, that is the question.

What is a ‘lean back web TV’ experience? Is PC/laptop compelling enough? Will this work for all? What will it take to become a global reality? Who are the stakeholders? Consumers, regulatory agencies, content providers.

Mega-trends and projections:

  1. The internet has seen a huge transition over the last 18-24 months. Traditional sites moved to video on demand, UGC, social networking and broadband TV.
  2. Today almost 37% of TV households have broadband. By 2011, more than 98m will have adopted broadband TV.
  3. Broadband video is here. The web will continue to provide a great vehicle for independent creators to get discovered. (WSJ, Aug 2007). The web is a great playground for indy creators to create content. Nearly two-thirds of consumers want their televisions to link to the internet.
  4. The industry is responding. Big players are entering broadband video. There is a slew of acquisitions and distribution tie-ups. New entrants are focused on delivering traditional TV experience plus connected interactive experiences.
  5. Next year in the US, the early upfront estimates from BlackArrow. Americans will spend 376 billion hours watching linear TV less DVR and VOD. Television still matters. Online video is only 8 billion hours in comparison. Home internet use minus video will be 71 billion hours. DVR viewing will make up 93 billion hours, time shifted 40, and the rest live viewing.
  6. Continuous advertising growth is 17% with internet ads in video rising at 30% a year.
  7. OK, busy slide. But look at Asia for growth for online video. In Asia-Pacific, online video users will grow from 5.3b in 2006 to 146b in 2012. Western Europe will grow to 82b in the same time, and North America will grow to 72b. More than 300b online video users by 2012 with the greatest numbers in Asia.
  8. Broadband TV sweet spot is programme length a little longer with medium quality. More ad units in longer form content.
  9. Lion-share of traffic go to ad supported sites showing premium content. (Premium quality, not premium as in paid content.)

By 2011, the Diffusion Group predicts that 36% of broadband video will arrive video game consoles, the next highest portion will be hybrid set-top boxes followed by networked digital TVs with 24%.

The uncompromised internet will come to the pocket, he said pointing to the iPhone. Smaller, faster, more powerful chips the size of a US penny will arrive. Better power consumption will allow better mobile devices. Video will be important across several platforms from mobile phones, mobile games, laptops, PCs and networked digital TVs. There will be more cross-platform marketing opportunities.

Key points:

  • Consumers like free premium content on their own terms. Ad supported content still is dominant.
  • Broadband video is still growing, but TV still matters.
  • The TV experience is evolving.
  • Internet video advertising is experiencing 30% continuous annual growth. Ad standards are needed. Pop-up ads in internet video?
  • Distribution models are evolving. Protect versus distribute.
  • Smaller, faster chips are here. In the next two years, there will be new host of devices based on these more powerful, more mobile chips.
  • Retailers still matter.

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X|Media|Lab Melbourne: Brian Gruber, Fora.tv

Brian Gruber is doing an overview of online video, and “as a Jew, I’ll do the 10 commandments of online video”.

He introduced Fora.TV. The site starts with a very simple premise: We aggregate the best public event content in the world whether business conferences, arts and culture events. The content started off with mostly US content but is increasingly international. They have some impressive content partners including C-Span, indy bookstores like Politics and Prose, publications like Foreign Policy magazine and think tanks.

10 rules for online video:

  1. Banality will win out – Paris Hilton, YouTube, 50 years of LCD. There are 4000 videos of YouTube of men lighting their farts. We have 50 years of building our schedule around the idea of scarcity.
  2. Filters make the good stuff easier to find. Search engines. Forwarded (or recommended) content. Content aggregator sites. “Infinite Choice=Overwhelming Confusion
  3. Shift in value to aggregators. Declining production costs has led to a vast increase in content sources. Need for new filters.
  4. Technology drives down costs. The cost of shooting, posting and delivery are in decline.
  5. From destination to hyper-syndication. There is a shift from ‘my site’ to being an open presence. We’re going from control of the user to a viral network. Fora.tv have developed a range of content partners.
  6. My competitors are my collaborators. We were worried about YouTube. They put a three-minute clip of their longer form content on YouTube. Take a bit, put it on YouTube. They do ad revenue sharing with YouTube. C-SPAN (the US cable industry’s public affairs network). TED distributes their content on Fora. Media sites, such as Salon, give them free promotion.
  7. Go Global. We don’t want to be a US-centric site. We want global audiences because we’re going after global ad brands. On Christmas week, their highest sources of traffic was Teheran and Riyadh. They are looking to global sources and ‘ideas that transcend borders’.
  8. Media consumption is not only about viewing but also about participating. They show you related content so if you find content that appeals to you. They also chapterise the content. He showed a presentation of a conversation between Brian Eno and Will Wright about Spore. (Suw wants to know what’s happening with Spore. Anybody know?)

    They also have a transcript search. Click on the search results and the video jumps to that spot. Wow. You can download video formats such as mp4 for iPod or PSP or a PDF transcript. You can also, of course, link or embed the player. Even the embedded player has the chapter, search and transcript features.
  9. The FORA Ecosystem. Brilliant ideas. Content partners and tools for participating and navigating.
  10. It’s a wonderful life. He studied interactive media years ago but only now is the reality that his professors promised becoming real.

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X|Media|Lab Melbourne: Jason Roks, the Real News

Real News is a non-corporate, non-government funded news organisation. They rely on a $10 a month donation. I’m just going to link the video on YouTube. There are some pretty heavy hitters behind this project: Gore Vidal, Tom Fenton and Robert McChesney, just to name a few.

Jason is a technical advisor, and instead of talking about the editorial proejct, he wanted to show the technology that makes this possible. RealNews is done by print journalists with video elements added to the stories. Distribution is an important part of the equation. Jason mentioned about the network caps, and there was a knowing laugh from the audience. It sounds as if the models in Australia is similar to the UK in that you can have fast broadband, but many accounts are capped at only a few gigabytes per month.

Flash 9 video and peering help RealNews, and MPEG-4 has become the standard.

He then touched on User-Generated Distribution. The next step beyond user-generated content will be recommenders or as Malcolm Gladwell called them, the connectors. He demonstrated an XML feeds and a service called OnYa. (Jason e-mailed me to let me know that Onya was just an internal code name. A similar service is set to launch soon.) They have built scrapers that go through 200 video sites online. People can search those sites and create a custom channels via XML. They can publish the XML files to Apple TV or Windows Media Player.

He finished with a video about Net Neutrality. SaveTheInternet.com

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X|Media|Lab: Kim Dalton, head of TV with Australian Broadcast

There is a tectonic shift, said Kim Dalton, head of TV with the Australian Broadcast Company. At ABC, we are in the business engaging audiences of creating communities. Audiences come together around content, and communities come together around ideas. (The ABC press office has the full speech online.)

In the analogue world, Australians saw Australian content. In the digital world, the analogue model is under threat. He returned to this threat not only to the analogue model but also the public policy that had supported it and Australian content.

We have three ideas around TV. There is the TV as a device. The device is the centre of battle between broadcasters and telcos. Alternative devices are proliferating with PCs, PVRs and DVDs, but the TV still holds place.

The second idea is TV as content from documentaries and drama and new forms like reality-based shows. The third idea is TV as a revenue model. Australian public policy has created and maintained a specific revenue model, a model that is under threat.

Time and place shifting is tipping the balance to deliver a very personalised TV experience. A significant part of networked content will be delivered online. There are those who question the place and role of a public broadcaster in the new digital world.

He rigorously defended the public broadcasting model and the ABC as part of the national conversation. He said it was part of the social glue. Public broadcasting provided a place for Australian voices and stories across platforms. The ABC played the role of the trusted guide and voice and also an innovator. He said that there have have been 5.3m downloads of ABC content this year. Online was especially good for children’s programming.

They are moving to multiplaftorm content and communities. And he returned to this idea of Australian content. Australia is a small, English-speaking country that might not support domestically-created content without public policy support. The media debate is dominated by commercial interests, he said.

And he seemed to be arguing for an extension of that public policy model into the digital world to maintain the availability of Australian content on digital platforms.

He presented some interesting statistics that showed that TV viewing was up with the over-40 audience (zTam figures). With youth, they were doing a lot of activities concurrently such as listening to music (their number one leisure time activity) and going online (the fifth most popular activity). Their second most favourite activity was watching TV and hanging out with friends.

He argued for a continued role of the ABC as a provider of free, national content, but he said that ABC needed to change how it measured success. Their content was available on a number of platforms including airports, airplanes, DVDs and on demand. Silos had to be broken down in the organisation. People had to think and cooperate differently. Where do they need to save money, where can they make money and where can they allocate resources.

Quoting publicity material for the X|Media|Lab, he said, of content is king, the king is dead, and the audience is a new sovereign, but he said that this was an over-simplication. The analogue public policy model that ensured Australian content had to move forward and keep the same assurances in the digital era.

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X|Media|Lab Melbourne: Dale Herigstad and new television

There was no WiFi in the hall at X|Media|Lab so I’m going to tidy up these posts and publish them over the next few days. The day started with Dale Herigstad with Schematic.

Dale Herigstad, the Chief Creative Officer with Schematic, has done with work with the BBC and iTV, and he wanted to talk about the ‘new television’.

Rich digital content on any screen, any where.

He talks about distance in terms of different types of video experiences, from the 3-10 foot traditional experience to the 2-foot experience on computers, iPhones or personal video players. He also talked about the 200 foot experience on large screens – either movie screens or large public spaces.

He moved through different types of paradigms from print, photography, television and film and now interactive media. Schematic works with EA Sports in Vancouver. He talked about pre-game space – the things that happen before the game actually loads. They are bringing in live feeds from ESPN ticker and video streams on an internet connected XBox 360. Broadband content is always in the game space. On the left hand of the basketball game is the interface for the game itself, but on the right hand is broadband-delivered, real-time ESPN sports content. The line between the game and traditional video content is blurred.

Dale talked about ‘new time’, about navigating not only by channel but also the line between now and next, between programming that is on air at the moment and ‘catch up watching’. Further back there is the archive, and further in the future, there is the promotional material.

He showed the blending of programmed content on discs – whether that is games or HD-DVDs – with dynamic IP content coming in over a broadband connection. He showed off the Miami Vice HD-DVD, which featured a live interface to Google Earth embedded in the player so that you could track the characters as they moved through the real world of Miami. But he emphasised that this was not simply embedding a web browser or web application into the DVD or cable TV experience. This was elegantly placing live, real-time information objects in the interface.

The content can also be advertorial content, and he showed off Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. You could ‘click’ on the phone that he was using in the film and see ordering information. At the end of the film, you could see your shopping cart or bookmarks in the film.

Schematic also did work with Microsoft Surfaces and a connected XBox 360 to navigate programming. The programmes all had additional information such as who had been ‘fired’ from the Apprentice. He showed off some prototypes for ABCs on demand player. They not only had the programmes, but they also had interactive ads embedded in streams, understanding that people using on-demand video also would expect interactive ads.

In closing, Dale said: New time. New space and new opportunities.

Postscript: Dale works with Ball State University on design for new television interfaces. He says that he also has a lot of ideas about news projects and presentation. I’m going to try to catch up with him over coffee and brainstorm.

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Guardian Changing Media: The future of media?

Session Chair: Nick Higham, correspondent, BBC News

Andy Duncan, chief executive, Channel 4

Tom Loosemore, project director, Web 2.0, BBC

Alan Rushbridger, editor, The Guardian

Ok, I’ll be have be on my best blogging game now with the Editor – as he’s simply known as at the Guardian – speaking. He started off with one of his famous abstract presentation images – think Kandinsky does PowerPoint – that showed the blue line of depressing, falling print profits, the red line of rising online profits and an amorphous green bubble where most media organisations are. A little star in the bubble showed the current location of the Guardian with respect to the profit decline, profit growth curves.

Next, Alan pulled out an electronic reader from Illiad. It is a screen that has wonderful resolution and looks like paper. They are wonderful things, but it’s impossible to predict what form journalism will be delivered in the future.

One year on, and the depressing abstract graph has moved on a little bit. And then he showed that the Guardian is competing not just against the Telegraph and the Times but against the New York Times, Yahoo, Google, Oh My News and just about everyone. And the move has been from one platform – print – to a multiplicity of platforms. We’re also mixing sources of content from our own journalists to a broader mix of content from users and our communities.

Ten years on, we hope the increase in online profits then surpasses the declining print profits. Although Alan showed this a lot better than I did – aging a few media moguls with a little Photoshop magic and the addition of white hair. He also wondered out loud what media organisations would fade as their owners aged, and their children took less interest in running media businesses.

Next up, Tom Loosemore. I have only met Tom a few times, but I really like his ideas. I remember Tom, Nico Flores and me sharing lunch with Jeff Jarvis last summer. It was one of the more interesting lunches I had at the Beeb.

Tom said that the BBC is cutting itself some slack, especially when it comes to be in the middle of Alan’s green bubble. Many of the assumptions that we built our business around are gone. The ability to copy digital media perfectly has fundamentally changed our models.

We are right at the top of the hype curve when it comes to Second Life, but it’s not crucial to focus on technology but on behaviours, especially people we used to find were our audience. When you look at young people, technology doesn’t really exist until they are 15.

When you look at the young early adopters, you see amazing changes. They see media as self expression, identity and empowerment. They use media on their terms. If it is not on their terms, they either nick it, ignore it or make it on their own.

What has changed in media is who is charge, who is control. I think we need to be honest on how much previous popularity of media was down to quality and how much was down to control. There used to be only so many channels. There is only so much room on newstands for so many newspapers and magazines. Was that content that good?

This is a generation that will not give control back. At the BBC, he says they have to balance the needs of his great aunt who thinks that BBC 2 is a little risque and his son. If he really wants to punish his son, he doesn’t take away the TV, he unplugs the router. The BBC has to succeed in making the licence fee payer believe that £130 a year is really good value.

We’re in a state of flux, but this is not the death throes of media. Those that win will take the long term view. Those who win will give up control gracefully.

Andy Duncan of Channel 4 spoke next. I’m not going to waste space writing up his talk. He spent the first 5 minutes making a pointless rebuttal of an article in G2 that asked: “What’s the point of Channel 4?” What was the point of his talk, more like. Obviously he sees a future in government, because after that he launched into a content-free mumble notable only for its cliches about progress and the role of media in the future of the British economy. It reminded me of Kang’s speech in the Simpsons when he and Kodo take over the bodies of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole and run for president:

We must go forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling towards freedom.

That’s about the level of vision and inspiration that we’re talking about here. He of course spiced up his ill-prepared, or at least, ill-delivered comments with a few buzzwords like UGC and mobile community, oh and, of course, a radio station in Second Life. But that really was it. “We’re in a multi-channel world.” Duh? “Competition is growing.” Duh? Ben Hammersley and I liberated a couple of bottles of beer early from the drinks reception just to deaden the boredom.

Maybe he was playing it close to the vest lest he give away his strategy to his competitors. That would be the generous interpretation. Maybe he is just a poor public speaker. Maybe he’s just clueless. But I was left thinking to myself: What exactly does it take to become the chief executive of a media company?

Ok, back to your regularly scheduled round up. Nick Higham asked Tom: Well, the BBC surely can’t cede control, can it?

Tom responded by saying that this generation was much more media literate than we were giving them credit for.

Trusting content because of the means of distribution is over.

Nick asked whether the reader comments on Comment is Free would blow the Guardian’s brand proposition “out of the water”.

Alan said that journalists are struggling with the fact that they are not the only ones who know things. There is a danger that it might capsize the brand, but “there is something about the way the community moderates themselves”. And the Guardian did some internal subjective review of the comments, rating them on a five star scale, and most comments were in fact, high quality, with ratings of four and five stars.

The first question came from Patrick Smith of the Press Gazette and asked if there was still a role for the journalist. Alan said that there was still a place for an ‘unpolluted supply of journalism that people can trust’. But he added that it was not right to think that people in newsrooms in Wapping, Kensington or Farringdon were the only people who knew things.

Tom said that journalists now had a fantastic range of new sources, but he added that great editors had become more important not less.

Suw and I are considering writing a little round up of our thoughts. We’ve noticed a few early interesting items in our trackbacks asking why the conversation seems to have stalled or is getting a bit repetitive. Hugh Martin asked why I blogged here and I didn’t blog on the Guardian blogs, seeing as I’m the Guardian blogs editor. I have responded on his blog, but he has approved my comment yet so I’ll respond here.

I blog on Guardian blogs when I go to conferences, but if there are other Guardian staff blogging, then I usually write here. Also, Suw and I tend to write notes ‘with the eye of a stenographer‘ or ‘amazing near transcript quality‘, which is a bit different than the Guardian blog style. And I hope our little public service makes up for what this blogger felt was too high of cost for a ticket, shutting out citizen journalists and others.

Now, Hugh’s point is taken when it comes to my relatively low profile on Guardian blogs, and as I said in my as yet to be published comment, I’ve spent much of my first six months behind the scenes working on the tech, making sure it’s ready to support our editorial goals. But, I know that I need to be involved in community, not just poking at servers and software in the background. That will change soon enough.

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Rethinking video, rethinking journalism, rethinking priorites

I love blogs for the distributed conversation that they engender, and one of the discussions over the last few weeks has been about online video and how it is fundamentally different from television. There has long been a post in the back of my head that newspapers should focus on creating video and not recreating television.

Paul Bradshaw beat me to this post in calling for newspapers to stop trying to make television – it’s video. He makes some excellent points on how the grammar of TV does not translate directly to the web. For instance, on the web, why have an anchor pass to a video reporter?

My view is that TV shovelware not only translates poorly online, but adopting television production methods cedes the competitive economic advantage that newspapers now have over television. The argument for a 24-hour live broadcast television news operation is economically and journalistically dubious. Rocketboom’s daily downloads equal or outstrip the viewership for many cable news channel programmes. But I wonder how much more is spent per cable news programme versus Rocketboom’s production costs? OK, that analogy isn’t completely fair, but on-demand video divorced from television’s high overhead will begin to pressure rolling news channels. That is where the opportunity exists for newspapers and other non-traditional sources of video, not in jumping from one threatened business model to another.

Paul Mason, business reporter for the BBC’s Newsnight, actually read out an obituary for rolling news. Paul wrote:

In addition, the limitations of rolling news as a news medium are beginning to block its ability to set the pace in terms of design. When it first started, the bosses consoled themselves for the low viewing figures with the promise that, once viewers saw what they were missing – all those dramatic sound stings, breaking news straps, crawling text, blinking arrows and massive sets – they would be drawn to this visual feast. Today the feast is to be found online – and it is not just visual. It is the immersive experience of interaction in real time with real people that compels users to stay online for hours – whether on eBay or World of Warcraft.

Note, both Paul and I make a distinction between 24-hour live broadcast television and 24-hour newsgathering. I found Paul’s arguments really compelling, not least because he knows the business, but also because he was saying that the workflow and grammar developed for 24-hour rolling news operations didn’t necessarily provide compelling material for 24-hour on-demand news operations.

Adrian Monck has a great post based on a piece he wrote for the BBC College of Journalism. Check out the bullet points, Monck’s Maxims. I really took note of this line:

So, a quick review of video online tells you newspaper guys are still in charge of newspapers, and TV and radio people at the BBC control the commissioning strings for the content that ends up online.

Ah, the commissioning budget and old lines of editorial control. The bottom line is that as economic priorities shift to online, commissioning priorities for original journalism also have to shift in that direction. That’s a long term process. In the near term, media companies have to radically revamp their development process, but that is another blog post. Suffice to say, new media development cycles have to become incremental, iterative and measured in months, not in years.

But in this video discussion, it was great to see my former colleague Alf Hermida’s (new, at least new to me) blog post push this discussion a little further and call for some thinking outside the TV news box.

What I find surprising is that the industry is still having this discussion. It reflects how people in broadcasting and print have failed to realise that the internet is a new medium. It shows the deep lack of understanding of digital journalism and its potential.

Rethinking how we do video online is a start. But we need to rethink journalism for an interactive and participatory age.

Andy Dickinson thought that Alf was calling for a focus on journalism and not the medium. Andy, I might be respectfully disagreeing, but I took away from Alf’s post that the industry needed to rethink journalism in light of interactivity and participation. I might just be misreading Andy’s post because it looks like something I’ve heard over the years that journalism is journalism no matter the medium, which I have always disagreed with.

Regardless, I think Alf is spot on in calling for a rethink of journalism that considers the opportunities of digital journalism and multimedia storytelling. These days, I focus on the interactive and participatory possibilities. That still escapes most broadcasters and publishers. They don’t really understand the social dynamics and psychology of social media because in most part they don’t understand how media can be social.

I think at the end, the opportunity for video exists, not in replicating television, but in:

  • Taking advantage of the disruptive economic potential in pro-sumer video production, not in trying to replicate TV production methods.
  • Developing a workflow that supports on-demand video not rolling television news.
  • Developing an editorial voice and grammar that works in an online, on-demand world, not one that apes CNN and other rolling news channels.

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Set-top box and game console as stealth RSS adoption tools

Recently, I’ve been devoting too much of my quality time to twiddling with my MythTV setup. It gives my old Dell Latitude CPx PIII machine something useful to do. After getting the system up and running, I went the full monty and installed the Myth plugins, which turned a neat little free TiVo-esque setup into so much more, like a media centre with RSS goodness. I just wish that I could have my TV or radio playing in a small window as I do that. And the Myth weather centre with the great satellite animation beats anything I can easily get on any UK website. (The BBC site is getting better, but the navigation is a mess.)

UPDATE: Just as I was thinking about RSS on set-top boxes, I found this story about the Associated Press creating an RSS news feed for the Nintendo Wii. Wow. Except, it’s not RSS. I assumed news feed, meant it was powered by RSS. No, my gaming friends tell me. Still, an interesting way to syndicate news, no matter what the technology. Gizmodo has some screen shots. Nice mash up. Wii owners, let us know how this works.

People talk about RSS being an edge case activity, but that really misses the point. RSS is a powerful tool in its own right, but now, we’re seeing how RSS really unlocks your content from your website, opening up a world of syndication opportunities. It will be the applications where RSS is invisible to the user that really drive adoption, and media companies are only now beginning to scrape the surface.

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Monaco Media Forum: Creating video online

There is a theme running through the first session this morning: There are a lot of companies gunning for GooTube. Douglas Warshaw showed off Motionbox which definitely builds on YouTube. Just yesterday as I was uploading video to YouTube, I was wishing that they had some simple editing tools. All I wanted to do was to ‘top and tail’ the video, cut off the bit where I told the person I was interviewing that we were recording. Motionbox allows that.

The web is truly becoming a platform, and these new video services definitely show that. Motionbox generates a series of thumbnails that make scanning and editing video easier.

Douglas was pitching Motionbox to media companies who wanted to set up a service to take in videos from their audience. One of the most problems that companies face in opening up to a lot of video is evaluating all of the material. Creating a stream of thumbnails allow editors to quickly scan video.

Rodrigo Sepulveda-Schulz of vpod.tv allows companies or people to set up their own online TV channel. The tools were very elegant, especially when you consider that it was all done within a web browser. It’s was like embedding iMovie in a web browser. Before broadband, this would have been impossible, but it also showed how far interface design online is evolving.

Video clips are just drag-and-dropped into a channel schedule. Sites on vpod.tv can be ‘reskinned’ at the click of a button, just selecting a drop down menu, the entire look of the site changes. These tools are going to allow a lot of entrants into the online video business.

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