Monthly Archives: September 2009

Pew Internet and a pocket-sized connection

Future_III_Report_covAs my study continues in the field of interactive marketing and mobile markets, I feel I must take advantage of Elon’s partnership with the Pew Internet Project (aptly titled Imaging the Internet: A History and Forecast) and the impressive amount of progressive research being produced there.

The project’s most recent survey (The Future of the Internet III) invited technology experts and social analysts to produce predictive statements tied to eight compelling considerations for the year 2010. The eight primary topics studied were the evolution of mobile Internet communications, social tolerance, IP law and copyright protection, privacy and transparency, augmented and virtual realities, Internet user interfaces, the architecture of the Internet and the concept of work and leisure.

Of these topics, I will focus most on the development of the mobile Internet for my research (the first topic). Here’s a snapshot of the findings I found to be interesting:

Survey participants were asked to respond to the following scenario:

The mobile phone is the primary connection tool for most people in the world. In 2020, while “one laptop per child” and other initiatives to bring networked digital communications to everyone are successful on many levels, the mobile phone—now with significant computing power—is the primary Internet connection and the only one for a majority of the people across the world, providing information in a portable, well-connected form at a relatively low price. Telephony is offered under a set of universal standards and protocols accepted by most operators internationally, making for reasonably effortless movement from one part of the world to another. At this point, the “bottom” three-quarters of the world’s population account for at least 50% of all people with Internet access—up from 30% in 2007.

Compiled reactions from the 1,196 respondents:

81% Mostly agreed
19% Mostly disagreed
*% Did not respond

Expert respondents’ reactions (N=578):

77% Mostly agreed
22% Mostly disagreed
*% Did not respond

The general consensus here is that mobile Internet devices will increase in popularity worldwide due to factors like cost-efficiency. Do you agree or disagree with these conclusions?

Are you prepared for a world with a pocket-sized Internet?

If you’re not sure, you could gain some insight from the official Pew Internet & American Life report on the 2008 Predictions Study or a visit to Imagining the Internet

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new Nielsen study: social network use triples

Good news for online advertisers everywhere. In the past year, Americans have tripled the amount of time spent at social networking and blog sites.

A study recently released from The Nielsen Company reports that 17 percent of all time spent on the Internet in August 2009 was spent at social networking sites. This figure is up from a total of 6 percent in August 2008.

Vice president of media and agency insights for Nielsen’s online division, Jon Gibs suggests that this growth exhibits a major change in the Internet’s function. “While video and text content remain central to the Web experience – the desire of online consumers to connect, communicate and share is increasingly driving the medium’s growth,” Gibs said.

The chart below, provided by The Nielsen Company, shows that despite a general decrease in online ad spending, money spent in social media advertising is climbing.

nielsen-table

According to Nielsen, online ad spending on social networks and blogs was estimated at $108 million for August 2009, a 119 percent increase over figures for August 2008.

Why are these numbers continuing to rise? It’s simple. Social networks provide a revolutionary ease for engaging with very specific audiences. Potential customers can be targeted down to their very most “private” pieces of information because people are now willingly providing this information openly on public sites.

Most importantly, marketers are able to engage in interactive conversations with users for the first time, generating more enthusiastic and energized customers. Becoming an active part of the dialogue is THE most effective way to reach audience members. To do this, you have to be present where your market enjoys spending time, and you have to talk to them in the same way they would enjoy talking to a best friend, high school crush or co-worker. Because let’s face it, not many people enjoy talking to marketers.

What’s your take on social network advertising? How accurate is this Nielsen study? How does your time spent on social networks in the month of September compare to time spent in September 2008?

Check out Nielsen’s blog for more information about the study.

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Interactive media in my Happy Meal toys

In most instances, the mention of interactive media conjures up images of clicks and hyperlinks on an online stage. And for the most part, this mental image is pretty accurate.

But every once in a while, a McDonald’s toy from your childhood or a classic Time magazine collection will challenge your idea of interactivity in the media. Such was my experience at the Elsewhere Artists Collaborative in Greensboro, a verifiable time capsule jolting me back to the fabrics and underpinnings of a day when concrete things were king.

For the past 58 years, Elsewhere has been building an interactive conversation installation, complete with video, art, sculpture, photography, paintings, sounds, performance- and yes, McDonald’s toys.

Upon entering the museum, guests can transport back in time to their grandmother’s living room or maybe their parent’s back porch.

Elsewhere boasts that guests “encounter an ongoing happening produced by artists that interweaves intention and chance, artists and artwork, museum and everyday life.”

Rather than packaging art in clear-cut frames lined neatly in a gallery, Elsewhere allows audience members to constitute art from the framework of their minds. I can walk up and down the halls and abstract what is meaningful and obviously intentional to me, something that will differ drastically from anyone else’s experience.

A glimpse of an age-old black and white photo next to an ancient tea cup, a dusty Barbie doll and shelves of musty things called “books”—this is my personal collage. The collaboration between artists has created something entirely new that I can appreciate in a way that no one else can. For once, I can construct my own story from my very own tactile experiences and interactions.

This is the rudimentary beginning of what is today’s fancy flash sites and high-tech videos. I would encourage anyone interested in interactive media or design to visit Elsewhere, or somewhere like it – to keep in mind the physical beginnings of a world that is slipping deeper into our figurative imaginations.

Visit Elsewhere’s Web site to read more about this unique museum experience.

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I’d like Google on the side, thanks

The next time you Google a new car or search to see if your roommate’s bug is contagious, you might find an entire community waiting to swap stories with you.

This week, Google released the Google Sidewiki, an add-on for Firefox and Internet Explorer that allows anyone to comment on the sidebar of any Web site.

I know what you’re thinking. In such an open forum, there’s bound to be a lot of useless information. Google is tackling this issue with the use of algorithms to keep the most relevant entries at the top of the page. It also takes into account your previous entries and any feedback from other users. Keep in mind that any comment you make will be applied to any site where that same text excerpt can be found.

This add-on is by no means a new discovery, but it could produce major waves with the weight of Google behind it. The potential to make the browser double as a social network for information sharing is making quite a few people feel anxious, especially bloggers who could end up loosing traffic.

In response to this concern, a Google spokesperson said “Google Sidewiki’s features complement those of existing commenting systems, and provide a way for users to share helpful information with others for sites that don’t already have commenting in place. The increasing number of sites that enable commenting shows that there is genuine demand for allowing users to engage with sites more deeply and to contribute to the Web.”

On the other hand, Google also plans to find relevant blog posts and other sources that relate to pages so that users can find helpful information more quickly. This could in turn help to drive traffic to hard-working bloggers. Only time will tell.

If it takes off, it will definitely foreshadow a heightened value of collaboration and interactivity on the web.

Do you foresee Google Sidewiki transforming the nature of the search engine? Learn more from Google’s official blog here: http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/09/help-and-learn-from-others-as-you.html.

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Like sand through an hourglass, these are the days of our lives

The beauty of our Web 2.0 world is rooted in the reunion with our innate yearning to discern and to create for ourselves. Whether it be through Web sites, tweets or blogs, “non-media” members can now assume the coveted press badge from years gone by. We can all profit from collective intelligence thanks to the groundswell. Now, this revolution has its advantages and disadvantages (misinformation for example), but at its heart, it should be celebrated as an advance towards better, liberated choices.

In the media world of recent generations, creators funneled information down to a consumer. Communication theories of the 1940s, such as Harold Lasswell’s model and the Shannon-Weaver Mathematical Communication Model, both use one-directional lines that do not illustrate the ability of today’s consumer to also act as a creator.

Needless to say, those models just won’t cut it in a world where Google is a verb. And eventually the shift in our way of thinking and communicating will need to be reflected in a revised communication model that accounts for new non-linear interactive media.

Here’s a suggested adaptation. The Hourglass Model of Communication below focuses on the three major elements of communication: the creator/consumer, the media and the message. The creator/consumer is the focal point of the hourglass. When it is turned over, it is still the center of the model, suggesting the two personas are interchangeable axes in the flow of communication. The media is the device through which the message is filtered. If you flip the hourglass over, the flow of communication remains the same, though the roles of creator and consumer may switch. Regardless, both roles have the malleable ability to receive, transmit and process information.

Hourglass Communication Model

Hourglass Communication Model

Today, this model is a more appropriate assessment of the communication process at work in 2009. What will it look like tomorrow? I guess it’s up to us.

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One Web. For All.

Interactive Media Graduate Program Hosts One Web Day North Carolina

Interactive Media Graduate Program Hosts One Web Day North Carolina

Today is the day to celebrate your ability to read my blog. Or check your e-mail. Or market your online product to a buyer who is 3000 miles away from the your home office where you’re dressed to the nines in your favorite fuzzy slippers.

In case you missed it, today marks the fourth annual OneWebDay, an annual global event that celebrates the power of the Web to create positive change.

My interactive media master’s program, along with the Imagining the Internet Center, had the pleasure of hosting the North Carolina OneWebDay gathering this morning at Elon University. After promoting the event, we gave a short survey to the crowd. These were our results:

47.4 percent of respondents said the World Wide Web was proposed by Tim Berners-Lee in 1980. In actuality, it was proposed by Berners-Lee in 1990.

50.79 percent of respondents said Internet security was the most important issue for the future of the Internet.

40.8 percent of respondents said that 25 percent of the world has Internet access, which is accurate.

35.5 percent of respondents said that 61 percent of North Carolinians have Internet access in their homes, which is an accurate figure. North Carolina ranks 41st among all 50 states in home Internet access.

This year, the day’s theme is centered on digital inclusion, due to the increasing importance of Internet access in our Web 2.0 era.

Let me explain.

The Internet has revolutionary power. In its short existence, it has changed the way we communicate, form relationships, travel, learn, play and especially work. No other technology has the capacity to instantly connect an executive in Houston to a client in Johannesburg. The boardroom and the chat room are now one and the same. The Internet is more than just a new tool for business. It is business.

Thanks to high-speed Internet connections, we can browse, barter and bank from halfway around the world. More and more people are turning to their laptops and phones to compare prices and make purchases. Not only that, but more people can easily actualize new business start-ups with the cost reductions facilitated by the digital world.

In fact, despite a troubling economy and declining overall retail sales figures, online sales are projected to rise 11 percent in 2009 to reach a total of $156 billion. This is just two percent points down from 2008’s total. Projected totals for 2009 expect online sales to generate seven percent of overall retail revenue. This is a one percent increase from 2008’s total.

Global barriers are dissolving and reasonable competition and pricing are emerging. Fair and free access to the Internet is important to preserve in the future for this very reason. The Internet increases choice and availability as the cost of inventory decreases and more stocked items are becoming available online than offline.

No other invention or technology will transform the globe more than the Internet. By addressing issues like the Digital Divide and working towards increased free Internet access, more people worldwide will have the chance to grow and profit individually. THIS is why we celebrate today!

To learn more about OneWebDay and important issues facing the future of the Internet, visit http://onewebday.org.

OneWebDay’s blog featuring my video post: http://onewebday.org/2009/09/16/freeman-onewebday/

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Get grounded

It has been predicted that the future of the Internet will bring us such delightful creatures as ubiquitous robots, intelligent fabrics and cloned humans – all within the next ten years.

Whether you these forecasts or not, believe the predictions he feasibility of these developments is at the very least intriguing. Wouldn’t you enjoy invisibility cloaks, immersive virtual reality shopping booths and mood-sensitive home décor? While these technological fantasies may sound appealing, it’s important to remember how long it takes your mom to change her voicemail message and how long it might take your grandfather to send an email.

The rapid development of technology that we are experiencing is a beautiful thing. And it’s something people should hopefully benefit from and enjoy. As marketers seize the new and shiny technology of today, a key component of their strategy and decision-making should revolve around the social technographics profile. Should we market our new tennis shoes using Twitter? Can we fundraise using YouTube? These questions are in the forefront of every marketers mind in the midst of the groundswell.

The term groundswell, described by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff in the book Groundswell, represents a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.

The social technographics profile helps dissect technology consumers into categories based on participation in groundswell activities. Instead of descriptions based on age, race and gender, online participants can be described as creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators or inactives. Targeted messages should reflect how audience members fit into these categories. Messages and tactics are useless without some insight into current consumer conversations.

To learn more about the social technographics profile, visit Forrester Research http://blogs.forrester.com/marketing/2009/08/social-technology-growth-marches-on-in-2009-led-by-social-network-sites.html.

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