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Archive for February, 2011

All over the world, passive media is becoming interactive. But in America, we tend to ignore trends unless they happen here. In 2003, some five years after SMS was ubiquitous all over the world except USA, American Idol introduced SMS voting. Almost overnight, SMS took off in USA. It took a mass medium to validate what was already obvious to people outside USA. Communications is two way and passive media needs to get with the program.

This week, American Idol announced it was extending it’s interactively to the web with online voting via AmericanIdol.com and Facebook.

Here we go again. You’ve known for some time that passive media is being disrupted by the web, but what have most “passive media” businesses done about it? Apart from a few innovators, most have continued to do what they always have done – because learning something new and taking risks seemed to be the harder option. But now that more old school businesses are doing something about it, being interactive has tipped.

Interactive is the new passive.

Passive media has to connect to the web to be more accountable, and to be where the audience is. And now, it’s mainstream, it’s do or die.

To be more relevant, engaging and accountable, DOOH businesses must connect to real time sources like Twitter and Facebook, Foursquare etc. That means dealing with content curation, moderation and accountability at scale. That’s a big problem to deal with.

LocaModa has been banging on this drum for four years. It’s certainly been painful to be that early – but the advantage has been that we’ve patented solutions directed at connecting DOOH to the web and social streams. Make no mistake, DOOH has it’s own unique challenges – e.g. different screen formats, network ops, granular content distribution and rules – but these have all been solved. So no more excuses.

We think the future is connected. Apparently so does American Idol. Maybe more people will recognize this now.


Well they do say “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” and my first impression of Digital Signage Expo 2011 in Vegas was that much of it might have stayed there from previous years’ shows. Row upon row of screens, PCs, mounts, and content that was indistinguishable from the content that we try to avoid in our daily travels. But first impressions don’t always count. This year was different.

Now I have my own lens on things – and admittedly it might be rose-tinted around anything that dares to be related to Web 2.0 rather than TV 1.5, but the difference I noticed wasn’t on the show floor, it was the multiple discussions driven by DOOH sales opportunities dependent on strategic social media and mobile integration.

When a client needs and asks for solutions that connect to their customers you listen if you want to win (or keep) their business. You can’t pay lip service to being a digital solutions company and get away with a passive product that extends marketing only as far as the viewing range of a screen. So this year, I was encouraged to hear leading DOOH companies asking us to help them address their customers’ requirements for integrated social media solutions.

Transitioning a DOOH business from a narrowcasting mindset into a “connected” solutions business (in the Web 2.0 sense), will be challenging for many – but I’m happy to see a more wide spread desire to make that transition.


Continuing the theme from my last post, the #4 problem (I’m not going to go through all 10 problems here – I’ll post the presentation after DSE) is the fear of social media.

Anyone pitching social media + DOOH will typically hear push back around the issue of moderation and/or losing control of the brand.

Fear of social media is a poor EXCUSE for not deploying it. Good moderation tools are effective and inexpensive (typically less than 5% of media budget). And the tools work. So stop with the excuses – do you want to leverage social media or don’t you?

Here’s a quick check list for a moderation and curation tools:

• Scalable
Make sure it is web-enabled, can scale to thousands of messages and multiple moderators at different sites/timezone if needs be.

• Real time
Make sure the software delivers real time responsiveness. Messages on DOOH screens often (but not always – download the free white paper detailing Passive, Active and Interactive place-based social media applications) need to be time sensitive to ensure the best user experience.

• Filters and “not tags”
Every brand will have it’s own moderation policies and list of topics/words that it doesn’t want to see on its screens or websites. This isn’t just about abusive language, but also undesirable brands, competitors etc.

• Remove web attributes.
Filters should also be able to remove web links, retweets etc – artifacts from the web that really don’t work well on public displays.

Inevitably the issues around moderation and curation can seem off-putting to clients without experience in this area. However, emphasize that these services can be managed effectively and inexpensively. Your clients are coming under pressure to find social media solutions because the market is demanding it and their competitors are moving in that direction. Hopefully the competitive threat outweighs the fear of the unknown.

I’ll be talking about this issue and many other at DSE next week on two panels and two workshops. You can find the details of these events at LocaModa.com/news Hope to see you there.


Digital Signage Expo is coming up next week in Las Vegas and I’ve been asked to speak on a couple of sessions as well as give a couple of “lunch and learn” workshops. (You can see the various upcoming events that we’re involved with here.)

One of those sessions (S29 for those of you wanting to come) has the catchy title “The 10 Biggest Problems and Solutions for DOOH Networks Flirting with Social Media and Mobile Applications” and I thought I’d post a few slides and comments here.

#1 “Connected Audiences.”

It’s remarkable in this day and age that so many companies in the DOOH market don’t really appreciate the extent to which connectivity will define their future. I still get asked if social media is a fad. Really!

Twitter is an easy target for nay sayers. It’s easy to assume that Twitter is for time wasters – just like it was easy to laugh at the web when it first emerged. But that perspective is blinkered and shows a lack of understanding for the power and disruption of social platforms. Look no further than the events in Egypt last week to see the potential of social connectivity.

An average 20 minutes on Facebook in 2010 gets over 15 million posts, 10 million comments and 2 million photos. (Source: AllFacebook.com
Social networking isn’t just for teenagers – even though Justin Bieber has more than 6 million Twitter fans and over 1 billion YouTube view. Social networking site usage grew 88% among Interent users aged 55-64 between April 2009 and May 2010. (Source: Pew Research)

The fundamentals are that human beings like to connect – and any technology that makes that connection richer is likely to succeed. The opposite is true – i.e. technologies (or regimes) that cannot leverage the richest connectivity are marginalized and eventually fail.

It’s not a leap to apply this thinking to place-based networks – it’s common sense. We have an amazing potential to leverage connectivity to social media, displaying it in places where people shop and socialize, to influence sales, marketing and user experiences – and in the process, grab attention and keep our screens relevant.


“Dark Star”

As a founder of Symbian, I’ve been thinking a lot about last week’s series of missteps from Nokia – the CEO’s letter about burning oil rigs that must have demotivated the entire company, then the announcement of their Microsoft deal that literally had the workforce walking out.

Symbian was Nokia’s hedge against commoditization of the user experience. In the late 90′s, the threat was Microsoft, today it’s Apple and Android. But unlike a strategy that actually dealt with the threat for a decade, Nokia’s strategy of an MS partnership cannot succeed. They are betting on overlaying services on a commodtized OS – but this is the very strategy that they have consistently failed at. No, if it has any market success with MS, it will be MS’s win not Nokia’s – the UI will belong to Redmond, and multiple hardware companies will be able to undermine any lead that Nokia might gain. And that is a best case scenario.

The event that triggered the Symbian strategy was David Potter waving his ticket to Redmond, telling the Psion executives “When a steam roller is heading for you, you get out the fucking way.” Unlike the Nokian executive team, the executive team at Psion didn’t except that lame strategy, and so we fought and won a better option.

Unfortunately, last week, Nokia’s CEO didn’t see any better alternative than jumping from his “burning oil rig.” Nokia went back to the steam roller, which was forgotten and rusting. They painted it and gassed it up – and once it’s engines are warm, it’s going to steam roll over them. Because, underneath it all, MS is still MS.

So what could Nokia have done? They needed an ecosystem, desirable phones and a respected brand. They have the brand, and can make desirable phones – but the ecosystem doesn’t come as a guarantee with MS – not in the handset market. So that’s where the focus had to be and there might have been two better alternatives – neither of them are easy or guaranteed – but might have been better than what they’ve announced:

1. Fund a $1 billion (affordable when looking at the alternatives) Symbian spin out. Armed with new leadership, a commercially motivated mandate and (until last month) the largest platform base in the industry, Symbian should still be viable – (this should have been done 5 years ago – but should have would have doesn’t help us today).

2. Team up with the one other company that also needs a hedge against Apple and/or Android – RIM. A RIM/Nokia alliance would be an able third player in the market and they have a better ecosystem at RIM than MS for phones.

It’s sad, but I suspect Nokia has jumped off the burning oil rig into the burning seas. I hope they have enough time to put out those fires.