5 Predictions for social TV in 2014

Social TV is going to be more than a buzzword in 2014, it will become the essential element many TV viewers need to complete their viewing experience.

Only now do broadcasters have access to the tools that will reach many of the expectations their audiences have built up since Twitter and Facebook began encouraging levels of engagement the networks themselves could not deliver.

Working on the cusp of this is what makes me want to get up in the morning.

Here are 5 ways I see the landscape changing in the next 12 months:

1. Deeper program integration.
As broadcasters become more familiar with social media trends and terminology, expect comments and other content appearing in TV shows to be more useful, seamlessly integrated, less visually intrusive, and, with improved moderation, more relevant (ie. intelligent). The era of seeing Sally from Blacktown’s tweet on screen is nearing an end.

tweets qanda

2. Platform tools
The broadcasters won’t be the only ones evolving. Twitter is sharpening it’s live TV tools –  from targeted ads to trends to ratings. Twitter and Facebook are racing each other to the prize of realtime TV co-dependence. Twitter has an early lead and is eager to have people link the hashtag with the little blue bird. But if Facebook figures out filtering at scale, bringing you useful comments from people you know of or people nearby – all grouped around a hashtag – then the number of people who have never used twitter but have a Facebook account will suddenly understand what TV conversations are all about.

3. New apps and mergers
TV apps that aggregate social content and aim to complement your viewing continue to emerge. Apps can already control getglueyour TV, set your PVR to record and rewind. Zeebox continues to add features and may be snapped up in the next year having made good ground, especially in the UK. In January, Dijit acquired Miso, then  i.TV purchased GetGlue in November, bringing greater legitimacy to the entire category of apps. Cable TV and free-to-air operators will keep developing their own apps – hopefully joining forces where possible so viewers don’t require a new app for every on-demand service. Streaming apps e.g. Netflix, could be the big ball-buster for networks, especially if deals are drawn up directly with cable networks and production companies.

4. Increasingly social newsrooms
As more news desks employ social media editors, engagement experts and audience leads, the last remaining barriers to viewers having a role to play in realtime news; access and verification; will disappear. Some journalists still see this as a threat. The best journos have already embraced it. Expect to see particular users given elevated status to report news. As the lines between on-air and online have already blurred for consumers (think streaming news, tweeted video snippets, shared gifs of realtime sporting moments) media conglomerates will continue snapping up video content tools and agencies to complement their editorial teams. Likewise, web teams will be further blended with news producers so stories and contributed content can be shared ay direction efficiently.
The future - as per Fox News.

5. Big data to smash it all out of the park
In 2013, Twitter bought Bluefin Labs and Apple purchased Topsy. Each acquisition is aimed at providing realtime insights to the owner and surfacing the most relevant content to the consumer. Either way, TV viewers win – there’ll be less guesswork by producers and more accurate coverage, commentary and graphics. Transparency will also rise as the real sentiment of viewers can now be shown in reality shows and during political debates.

TV and sports are widely regarded as the two most popular topics on social media, and with that in mind, Facebook has just got its hands on SportStream. The numbers around much of the success of social networks have themselves been furry so it’s encouraging to see everyone looking to sure up their own turf with hard data. Data will convince the bean counters of a business case for integrating social, while also bringing more useful graphics to the screen for viewers and realtime stats for those using devices. Because no one loves stats during live events more than a true sports fan. Now imagine if these were personalised, changeable and updating live.

For social TV, the future is bright – because the science is only now becoming clear.

 

This article first appeared on TV Revolution

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Vinstagram: social media blessing or curse?

As millions of users jump on the latest social network feature – 6 and 15 second shareable videos – I’m wondering, how will this change the landscape of sharing? The skills needed to make a compelling video seems to be beyond most of us. So will our experience of social media be diminished? Do we actually want to watch these super-shortform videos as much as we enjoy browsing photos? Will our friends’ content be worth the wait to download?

When I heard about the addition of video to Instagram, I thought that Facebook needed to compete with Twitter’s bite-sized-video-sharing juggernaut Vine, but on the other hand, a photo app with video… wouldn’t that be like Twinings getting into the coffee business?

Instagram is a marvel. The simple app reminded us of what we appreciate about the still image, and it arrived just as digital cameras and smartphones seemed to be reducing all our precious moments to a flat, faded and blurry picture.

Now, video looks set to go the same way. With seamless sharing across social networks, we’ll soon be showing our friends where we are with a panorama, not just a single frame. There’ll be crappy, wind-blown audio, dimly-lit party videos and clips of cats being cute.

Screen Shot 2013-06-22 at 12.52.41 AM

Then there is the time limit – 6 seconds on Vine and now 15-seconds on Instagram. Expect to see sentences cut short, holiday panoramas that pan too quickly and people talking at an absurd speed to describe what’s happening.

I find it difficult to create compelling content within such a short timeframe. Vine’s six-second restriction limits any genuine storytelling and instead encourages videos that lie on a spectrum of spontaneous to trivial. Vine seems to acknowledge the challenge by recommending posts which are usually excellent examples of stop-motion animations, a very time-consuming process most of us will never master.

I believe 15-seconds may be the sweet spot. And some reports claim it’s no accident that it’s also the length of short TV commercials. It certainly holds more hope than 6-second movie trailers, like this Wolverine clip (epileptics beware) that WIRED calls a ‘tweaser’.

Perhaps this insanely concentrated format is ideal for a generation bred on 140 characters, acronyms and snapchats. Did you know that on average, nearly 20% of the audience that starts watching a given video clip will abandon it within the first 10 seconds of playback? What’s more, a slow 3G connection kills all the spontaneity. Viewers start to leave after waiting just two seconds.

Working with a brand, I know that brands often need even longer to tease a piece of broadcast content effectively. So I’m loving the extension that lesser known competitor TOUT gives to brands who sign up for their app. It’s well built, offers video uploading from your camera gallery, sharing across all networks and some editing.

I prefer the still image and a caption, personally.

Stop Press: Twinings IS in the coffee business. But let’s not encourage them.

Filtering, favourites, lists and real clout on social media

Filtering

Social networks need filtering. If this issue is not sorted soon, places like Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest could eventually become ghost-towns. (It could happen. Do you really think you’ll be posting this often in the same places in five or ten years?)

Imagine if 80% of posts in your feed were the gold you want to respond to, the ones you’ll laugh at, the posts you actually want to read. Of course, we still need at least 20% to be slightly irrelevant so distract/potentially inspire us.

That’s the well-filtered world we could be living in now, if we could just figure out who to follow, who to prioritise and how to manage it all.

Currently, networks like Facebook present us with more options than a food court.

Friends, Photos, Events, Apps, Lists, Subscriptions, Groups, Pages and soon Timeline Advertisements… It’s an untameable beast.

We require simple, effective filtering to
lessen the burden of just maintaining what was once so enjoyable to engage with.

Clout

To this end, the idea of measuring clout – to show who are the most influential people on a social network – could be endlessly useful.

I’ve seen many stories about why Klout.com is feted as a measure of social capital. And it does seem a vaguely accurate marker – however easily manipulated.

But I have read other claims it’s based on a misnomer. After all, say the critics, “how do you define influence?”

Here’s how… Lists. Twitter Lists.

Lists

Do you add anyone to your Twitter lists who you don’t respect? It takes longer than to follow someone, and you only look at it for a specific purpose, not while window-shopping on your general twitter feed.

I am on about 60 people’s lists, because I have little influence. (It’s ok. I don’t feel bad.)

Barack Obama is listed 170,271 times. And rightly so.

Secondary to how many times you are listed, is who has you listed. Do they have many followers? Are they listed many times? This could also form a way for Twitter to select top posts. Currently, that algorithm seems hooked on a user’s number of retweets and follower numbers.

Mashable says that there’s a need to quantify someone’s ‘reach, relevance and resonance’ to measure their social influence accurately. (Read more of this dubious claim.) However, influence is dependent on subjective reasons too, like likeability – for example, Barack Obama is of much less influence to you if you are a Republican, or if you live in Iceland.

Favourites

Just a quick note on this much ignored feature of Twitter. I love them as a bookmark, as something to retweet or reply to later… They have many uses. But… they’re UNPROTECTED.

I can look at your favourites, you can look at mine. This astounds me. Can you see my browser bookmarks? No. Yet, without even logging into Twitter , I can see that;

  • Demi Moore has added to her favourites a string of tweets about cheating and moving on from mistakes
  • TV Newsreader Pete Overton likes to add a favourite star to compliments of himself (admittedly, something many of us probably do).
  • PM Julia Gillard used to save criticisms of her staff
  • Singer Rihanna favourites 140-character profane mantras (to turn into songs?)
  • Broadcaster Mark Colvin (@Colvinius) stars what are probably research for future stories
  • Model and TV personality Sarah Murdoch has two favourites – and one is just creepy.
  • ABC Managing Director Mark Scott saves stories related to the changing face of journalism
  • Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has saved just one tweet to his favourites – and it is one of his own. “@ozleaks Didn’t see the programme but, yes, humans have evolved”

That awkward moment when Social Media appears on TV

If the addition of social media to a broadcast is not intended as a distraction to the main game, why is that so often the outcome?

This is something I have wondered as I look at Australia’s attempts and those by networks around the world.

I thought it was self-evident that viewer opinions, when integrated into a television programme, are there to enhance the primary content. But perhaps the pendulum has already swung too far.

Why is it that many shows that have tried out social media on-air are not using innovative techniques, not conjuring up their own clever use adaption of this new community, but instead throw up some clunky graphics or even use the frustrating ‘stop/read a tweet/continue with show’ method.

Exactly who benefits from that?

Poor implementation risks offending both sides. It shows those on social networks that you don’t understand how the stream flows relentlessly on, while those who’ve never signed up for Facebook or Twitter are peeved that their show has new awkward, trendy interruptions.

Good implementation can keep viewers hooked and boost ratings – The Voice in the US is seeing a great response from their use hosts and judges live-tweeting and responding personally to viewers.

One reason TV shows should and are trying to bring social media into the foreground is fear. It’s the fear of any switched on executive producer that the social media stream will become more entertaining than the show itself. People will watch their second screen (mobile devices) more than their first (TV).

Certainly, there’s no better influence for you to switch channels than if all your friends and those you follow are tweeting about #TheVoice.

Hence, broadcasters all over the world are battling with how to bring the social stream into the live TV event. They need to show viewers they are listening to their views, but some integrations of Twitter, especially, are wearing very thin.

I like the UFC‘s approach – use social media to build up hype for the event a week out. Have your main talent interacting with viewers on various platforms throughout the day and then following the event. They understand that owning the conversation is more about taking people in behind the wall of the TV screen than it is the chance to display a highlight reel of the sharpest or fastest tweeters.

Sadly, I think Australia’s one-time leader in this area is now dragging the chain.

QandA is making a mockery of what has become known as Social TV. The show, which can still command large audiences, has long held the torch for social media integration in our country.

Several programs still limit their social network integration to a back-announce of their hashtag as the show ends. (Bit late guys!)

(Lateline is the main offender there, but, I should say, I like the show’s latest idea to give a political or topical personality the reigns as ‘Guest Tweeter’. If you’re going to tell people to “join the conversation”, it makes sense to lead it. This limits carping and provides a loose thread people can join if they wish. If not, your hashtag is just an invitation for everyone to ‘Shout! Now!’)

But back to our beloved QandA.

Each week, an increasingly silly list of tweets are flipped up on the screen.

These days, it’s hard to spot any comment that adds to the discussion. Intelligent questions? Fact-checking? It’s more a procession of punch-lines that would never be appropriate to be read out loud on the show.

It’s more a ticker of sniping, witty retorts and clever word plays that often denigrate a guest. Cardinal Pell was a good example. As was John Howard…

It’s a technique that’s not showing the best side of Twitter, nor is it helping boost engagement for the audience watching at home.

Viewers, as a result, must now tolerate these tweets interrupting the actual debate, on top of Tony Jones’s regular interruptions of panelists (something he’s long been known for). Who benefits? No one but the wise guys who – no doubt – congratulate each other on their televised tweets the next day over the ad agency water cooler.

Imagine the real-life equivalent; You’re in a pub trying to enjoy the footy but you can’t hear the commentary because all the biggest smart-arses in the room have lined up to whisper their witty interjections in your ear.

Tweets that flash up and then disappear only adds to the distraction. (It’s very hard not to look at them. I tried hard and only skipped two. Tell me how you go.)

How about a ticker that continues scrolling in the bottom third – that way I can dip-in if I wish?

But how about some more creative uses of social media?

Get your hosts to tweet LIVE on air and ask for responses.

Give characters in a drama series real-life accounts, updated mid-week, to add to the storyline – and intrigue. (Packed to the Rafters recently started a character blogging – an interesting move.)

Contests can be easily managed via social media. Tweet your trivia answer to this hashtag… Find and LIKE our hidden Facebook page for the next clue… Start a Pinterest and name a Board after our show (Microsoft and Harrods have each tried something similar)

Philosopher Alain de Botton said that the main challenge of smartphones is for us to be more interesting than they are – to stop people’s eyes drifting back to their tiny screen.

The same goes for TV.

There are many ways we can take this Australia. Let’s not leave it as it is. Please?

Pretty soon, my second screen will be much more interesting than my first.

Gripes of wrath – My first look at The Global Mail

I was up late so I switched on the new Australian bastion of Independent Journalism, The Global Mail (TGM).

The website only went live last night but after twenty minutes or so I felt I had a good enough grasp of their plans to share my thoughts. And all my thoughts were about sharing. Because that’s what we do.

During the next day, today, I have seen some nastier reviews of TGM. This kind of spontaneous chatter, the fleeting engagement that social media elevates into conversation is still worthwhile and I am confident the editors won’t see the negatives as carping but as people wanting to be proud of a standout moment in our media culture, to make a good thing great.

My email to the editor went something like this.

Hello,
Thanks for launching your new venture – it has already kept me up past midnight so that can’t be a bad thing.

Having read a few articles, each of which I appreciated, I found myself wanting more, more links to topics raised, more options for looking at the source material and a chance to delve further into the life of the author. Sadly, none of these options are present on your site. My hopes were that TGM would bring a fresh new look to independent storytelling – which it does, I am enjoying the interface and typesetting – but also that it would nail the sharing mentality that is now spearheaded by social media. As for me and my generation, this is how we consume media; it is second nature to ping our friends as we read a story, to tweet a thought, to grab a quote (preferably out of context) or to drag a photo to show our followers.

I hope that your site is already aware of these trends and plans to roll out such solutions in coming weeks. It is, after all, our first night together and I realise it’s unfair expecting everything to be just right.

So, how about it? How about a Google+ button, hyperlinked issues within stories, article tags and photos that link to more photos from that event or photographer. Right now TGM feels to me like a broadsheet copied onto a website.

I look forward to seeing where else you take it – and where I can take it.

Cheers, Luke.

TVs are the new old librarians [updated]

20110928-151559.jpg

My recent experience of buying a new TV should have delivered me immense satisfaction and loads of testosterone as I made the biggest decision a married male can make on his own.

But somehow, my purchase of a Smart TV” left me feeling much dumber for it.

I work in TV but live most of my life online so in my humble opinion, my new “connected TV” should allow me to do both;

I want to tweet while I watch a show. I want to read my Facebook but keep streaming the news. I want also want to be able to browse the web using a keyboard and trackpad and it doesn’t seem ridiculous to me to expect a TV to be easily able to stream videos on my much smaller-screened Macbook.

But no. For the ten years since plasma TVs came out – and I have been biding my time – the best TV makers have developed is a pretty pixelated digital picture that is thinner and uses less energy.

3D-enabled or not? 50hz or 100hz? Internet-ready? Wifi-connected? What? Why??

Why are we way back here, deciding on small variations of nothingness when even the most sophisticated TV will still only deliver me a dodgy web browsing experience.

(Massive icons, a keypad on the remote with arrows to move the cursor around like a first generation Blackberry. And on most, you enter a URL using numbers like your first NOKIA in 1995!)

After visiting two or three stores, it became obvious that the coolest, $5000 LED-LCD TV won’t yet let me flick between websites, track tweets while I watch a show in the other part of the screen, post on Facebook while I continue watching my favourite show… you know, do what my notebook computer does.

When I went to university and completed my Applied Science in Information Studies, I knew the internet was going to change everything. But that’s all I knew. And the lecturers, who were clouded by years of teaching how information sharing worked the old way,had only just begun accepting essays via email.

TVs are now the librarians of old. The rusty Citroens choking up the info highway, delivering info as they always did and resisting new developments that threaten its mainstay.

It’s no wonder nearly 50% of teens now spend more time on their computers than watching TV. [citation coming]

Looks too me like televisions are an overheated area of glitzy marketing with pretty minimal delivery. There’s lots of jargon, stickers and selling points but I am getting a TV which does little more than the mournful, cumbersome CRT I now have sitting on my living room floor like an orphaned elephant. Yes, a white elephant.

Lucky for me, one clever thing my TV can do is turn itself off if it detects no movement in the room for thirty minutes.

And so far, to Sony’s credit, this has only occurred twice during my favourite show.

——-/——-
UPDATE!!

Unbelievable.
Now that I have finally received the WIFI dongle (which had to be transferred from another store) I find that the Sony WIDGETS work on my TV model and one is for Twitter!

This means I CAN have a twitter feed in the right of screen as the show – form any source – plays out on the left of screen. Joy of joys. And my apologies to Sony.

The interface is limited but hey, it’s all a step toward real social TV. Using Sony’s rather good iPhone app ‘Media Remote’ you can type and navigate the screen as good as one might hope.

Why Google+’s grass is looking greener every day

Facebook gets away with a lot because we are just so used to it screwing up our privacy settings and it’s not the first company to share our info but at least we like using its service (unlike banks, for instance).

But two experiences I had today – yes, In just one day – have me very offside.

1. My mobile’s phonebook appearing online.

I didn’t really pay attention to this until I saw it pointed out that Facebook has accessed my mobile phone – without asking.

A list of all our friends’ and associates’ cell phones is now online. This has been possible before but we have never had an organisation go and pilfer it unrequested.

Facebook revealing my phone's contacts

http://www.facebook.com/friends/edit/?sk=phonebook

The dilemma we should all have with this is that not just our own privacy has been breached but our friends’ and family’s too.

If my Facebook account is ever hacked – and let’s be honest, most of us use our passwords in more than one place and it doesn’t look like this “jhsdy8643kh4k4” – then the hacker now has access to not just my personal details but all my friend’s. There is no White Pages for mobile numbers, so all these phone numbers could immediately be sold to spammers and telemarketers and so on.

It’s dire.

And oh look.. since I started writing this, an Iain Wood in Newcstle, UK, was found to have hacked the bank accounts of his friends and neighbours using their Facebook accounts.

“He would make friends with people on Facebook and have their usernames he would try it on the bank websites, on the basis people use the same passwords. (Read more – Fraudster used Facebook to hack bank accounts – Telegraph http://j.mp/o8Qkr8 )

2. Photo tagging – by corporations
Secondly, I am no fan of Facebook photo-tagging but brand using it to ensnare new fans is a painful new development.

Yesterday I received copious emails that people were commenting on a Ekka photo.

I was baffled. I barely know what Ekka is. (Ekka is a country-comes-to-the-city festival in Brisbane.)

Turns out that Ekka, via its Facebook page, was encouraging people to tag themselves AND THEIR FRIENDS on a photo they put up to enter a competition.

Sorting this out took about as long as throwing out junk mail I get on my letter box. But for that, I can put up a sticker NO JUNK MAIL. For my emails I have a spam filter. For telemarketers the government provided donotcall.gov.au

But I am inside Facebook’s forcefield.

I didn’t give them much. I don’t even use my own name. I post to limited groups. But it doesn’t matter.

As they court brands and advertisers, they can bypass my futile efforts and even use my ‘Friends’ to get to me.

It is awfully close to the last straw for me.

Google+ may be no better in the long run, but right now, Google’s grass is looking much greener.

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