Tuesday 7 October 2008

Stacked Media Consumption with Internet Protocol

Picture the scene.  Person sits at the TV, some music station, with significant other who’s playing a game on Xbox with the headphones on.  The mobile is on the arm of the chair, and the laptop on the lap.  (S)he is downloading music, transferring them to the iPod on the iPhone while checking the Bebo page, changing the flashbox for the new Kaiser Chiefs vid, answering mails, (emails that is) and scribbling on the wall (on the social network, not the actual wall.  OK?)  (S)he also uploads some pics from the night before that a mate MMSed to the public email account. (S)he got them on the phone that night ffs.  What a laugh.  Select list: Friends: Send.  Then, they’re done.  She waits till he’s killed and then shuts the lappy, kills the telly but hits record for later and the partner stops and drops the console on the shelf.  They head off for a walk by the sea, hand in hand, sharing the newly downloaded album, one earpiece each. Ahhh.  Sweet.

This is a true story, it really happened, just the other day, and just like I told it.  But what does it tell us?  It tells me that the way we see media consumption is totally out of date.  Radio.. one measurement.  One type of consumption... ¼ hours.  TV... one measurement... OTSs.  Newspaper... One measurement and daily slots.  And, then comes the Internet.  Don’t get me started.  Other non-Internet media see their consumption in a vacuum.  You are watching TV, and not doing anything else, like reading the newspaper, or checking your emails, or texting, or having the radio on at the same time.  As if we are back in the 1950s when whole families would sit around and listen to the wireless because it was the only medium in the house.  Those days were over in the 1950s

But now all of these media can be delivered over IP, and it doesn’t matter what physical client was used to deliver the message.  It is just media consumption.  Not Internet.  Not audio-visual.  Not multi-modal.  If it’s news, it’s not TV news or radio news or newspaper news.  Though it might be each of these.  And what is Internet news exactly?  All of the above?  It’s just news....  The barrier between the different delivery vehicles for the message have got so blurred, they’re largely irrelevant. 

Worked example: Let’s think of TV news.  TV over the TV, or the TV on the PC streamed or podcasted, or recorded TV, which isn’t the same as Video or DVD or PVR or PPV.  Is it WiFi?  Ariel on the house? Cable?  3G? Broadband? Or is it good old analogue, with rabbit’s ears sitting on the top of the box as we use in Galway three channel-land (one is in Irish though L).  And what about TV over the iPlayer, or TV news on my 3G iPhone.  It that no longer TV?  You say potayto, I say potahto.  You say it’s TV, I say it’s mobile video 3G news content from RTE.ie with text and video delivered over my local WiFi broadband hotspot for free. Oh, and I went to irish-times.com as well and sent a webtext.  Ah, let’s call the whole thing off! 

Does it matter?  Does it make me different if I have a different way of receiving the message?  Does it make the message different?  Em... No.  It doesn’t.

The truth is that all of the different delivery mechanics for the TV news are getting confused with the physical boxes used to consume them, the signals and codes they are communicated in, the methods of paying for them, the way they are watched – recorded or live and where they are watched – stationary, on the move, work, home, car etc...  So confused, they are almost un-researchable, and un-countable.... unless they are all over IP.  And, in a short time, this will be the case.  IP can tell if the TV content consumer is mobile, interactive, recorded or downloaded, or pay per view because IP all comes from servers, with ads and creative’s that are requested, sent and tracked, counted and billed.  It isn’t simple stuff mind.  The exact opposite in fact.  But IP will win out in the end of the day, because IP knows what is requesting the content, where, and in what form.  IP is the only ‘it’ that knows this.  Analogue will never know it.  DAB, digital audio band, knows it, because it too is digital and IP(ish).  IP doesn’t know everything, but it knows a lot.

So.  Questions:  What is the Internet?  What is on the Internet?  What is it used for?  Where is it used?  What about people consuming Internet and other media at the same time?  Well, these are all kind of the wrong questions.  The Internet isn’t a thing, like TV, or radio or a newspaper.  It’s a vehicle for things like TV, radio and newspapers, and a whole lot more, like social nets, email and phone calls.  When we measure the Internet what do we count?  Answer: The lot.

The truth is that it is possible to measure what media people consume, even if they consume lots of different media at the same time, but, we’ll have to do it in a whole new way.  Not with the existing structures of national media measurement, because these are out-moded and obsolete, and imply a way of living that isn’t the case anymore.  They are pre-digital.  They also imply nationally bounded media consumption, something that hasn’t existed now for many years and will never exist again.  Sadly, this is also the rationale behind the Joint National Internet Measurement, as if the Internet were a nationally bounded entity rather than being something that contains all of the other media, and is global.  It’s kind of the whole point of the net I would have thought.

Anyway.  Back to my two friends.  The modern media consumers.  Well, they don’t care about any of this stuff.  Music?  Free.  Video? Well there’s online, TV, iPhone, iPod, Video Pod, laptop, PC, Cinema, DVD, PVR, SkyBox, iPlayer.... and who cares.  News is just news, whether it’s print, on paper, or on a screen, or aertel, or a text, on the RTE website, or a newspaper site, or an RSS newsfeed, or an email subscription, or a paper flyer.... and again, who cares.  They don’t.  But they do care about the news, and sometimes they even know where they’ve seen it, but that isn’t the point.  They don’t say, I saw the new Kaiser Chiefs video on the analogue TV the other day.  They say they saw the new video.  They say ‘did you hear the news’, and often don’t remember where they heard it, exactly... because they were doing loads of other things at the same time, and it doesn’t matter where you heard it, as long as you heard it.  The delivery mechanic, the medium... isn’t the messag.e in a digital world.

So, we need to start counting messages, not media, and then work backward and infer, with probability the medium they were consumed on, by, for example, counting the media that a person has access to, and their propensity to use them.  And what happens to measurement then?  Audiences increase hugely for content, but maybe individual media audiences are vulnerable, because maybe, in truth, they are dropping.  This is the case for newspapers for example.  In the fullness of digital time we’ll know more about the media used when we look at IP.  We won’t know everything but we’ll know a lot more than we do right now and it will stack up.  And, when the content is consumed, over IP, from servers, will be able to track where it’s consumed, and measure the efficacy of the broadcast... just like we do in Internet land every day.  Simple (kinda).

Friday 3 October 2008

Economic Downturn Impacts on Irish Online

Purchases of Goods & Services - New Report
Drop in quantities of products and services bought online since 2007

Online research for products down by as much as 10% for some goods

Fall in online purchasing activity linked to decline in economic activity

Dublin, IRELAND - September 22nd 2008: Irish shoppers are spending less money buying good and services online and are spending less time on the Internet doing research on their favourite products, according to a landmark report that has just been published by Dublin-based digital communications consultancy, Net Behaviour.

The Net Behaviour Report - the most extensive research that has been carried out on Irish internet usage - contains the Net Behaviour (NB) Consumer Index, which looks at the propensity of Irish people to research and purchase goods and services online.... read more

How the Internet is Changing the World

OK. I’m indulging myself here... so, sorry if it’s boring. These are just some ideas, so skip this post if you’re looking for a quick hit of Irish net data.

Take yourselves back, 2300 odd years and Alexander's conquests have expanded the size of the known world from Europe east to India, Afghanistan and beyond. New trade routes, language, communication and the opening of the library at Babylon are the result. 2000 years and the Roman’s are building roads all over their Empire, and walls and aqueducts - paths for language, culture, post and armies to travel upon. 1700 odd years and Emperor Constantine’s coinage has the invincible sun on one side and the Christian holy labrum on the other.... (perhaps the first mobile marketing campaign) bringing together diverse peoples behind common symbols. The Renaissance and the Europeans re-discover the classical age after the desert of the dark ages, and printing begins. The 20th century and things speed up apace. Trains, planes and automobiles combine with post, telephone, Marconi’s radio and TV... all shrinking the world. And then comes the net.

The net may be more important to the growth, development and perpetuation of human civilization than all of the other changes mentioned combined. I’ll give five reasons, though there will be others...

  1. Global communication of ideas, instantaneously... across media. No need for roads, or tickets, post or paper... and (almost) everyone can use the net. The democratic idea generation and dissemination much feared after Gutenberg almost 600 years earlier, has finally arrived
  2. Central publishing and self publishing makes social and political control and ownership of ideas and knowledge almost impossible. Even powerful knowledge like how to make a neuclear weapon requires merely access to Google. Government propoganda has never been so difficult and may indeed become largely obsolete
  3. Mobile internet makes idea generation and dissemination instantaneous and moves them from the post office to the pocket. 
  4. Learning and idea generation speeds up by perhaps a factorial of 10, every six months. Wikipedia is 7 years old, has 10 million articles (at least) and it’s updated every day by thousands of authors. Brittanica takes a lifetime to write and the paper edition at least is a little bit out of date even before it goes to print. There’s a quality difference, but still...
  5. Internet protocol takes the best from all the media that have gone before, and centralizes them seamlessly. The medium isn’t the message, and neither is the format. The message is the message and anyone can produce one. Listen, read, see online or on your mobile... regardless of whether the initial content producer worked for a TV station, radio, newspaper or was a blogger. And then readers can comment on the message for all the other consumers of the message and the comment... a whole new broadcast message. And with web 2.0 this is only the beginning...

The net is the warp drive for human exploration, idea generation and communication, where TV was merely a pulse. Blogs carry the Gutenberg revolution to its extreme, while mobiles democratize the moving images of TV, and turns them into moving images on the move generated by the mover. Need to see pictures from Mars? Need results from recent medical trials? Need to say I love you to someone on the other side of the planet? Need to secretly broadcast a war in some far off corner? Need to develop a new idea with experts scattered hither and yon? Need a pizza? Enter the net. And anyone can do these things all by themselves.

I really think we live in incredible times and we take them for granted because we’ve got too used to amazing changes in the way we live, how we learn, how we talk to each other and how we listen. We suffer from Internet exhaustion as it’s too difficult to keep bothering to pluck up the energy and see the implications of the newest gadget. The iPhone is the latest... but there’s another gadget along every six months. And most of us are just too busy with the buzz of everyday life to sit down and play with these machines and see what their very existence implies. But it is truly awesome, inspiring and humbling stuff and once in a while I think it’s just good to sit back and soak up some scale.