From Screen to Screen: Redefining Celebrity

Written by: Jordan Lee
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On an average day, there are roughly four billion YouTube video views. Additionally, YouTube is a social platform of choice for teens, with an 82 percent usage rate in the 14-17 age bracket. With this consumption, there are new stars rising.

YouTube stars have really taken off over the past few years, amassing millions of devout subscribers. Young people line up and wait for hours at conferences to meet their favorite YouTube stars. A plethora of management agencies that specialize in YouTube influencers are creating celebrity on their own terms with book deals, TV appearances, and more.

The newest development in this evolution is Grace Helbig and her new show on the E! Network. We’ve seen YouTube superstars appear on shows before, but this is the first time one has had their own namesake for a show. Just two episodes into watching and my husband walked in asking if I was watching YouTube videos on our Apple TV. I essentially was.

4.16.15

Image via eoline.com

While these stars are exploring new formats, don’t expect them to change their voice. In an interview with USA Today Helbig explains how she is going to keep with the format of her web videos and wants everything to be transparent in the hopes that her young audience will follow her to TV.

Anyone with prior experience partnering and/or working with social influencers won’t find this transparency and dedication to voice to be a surprise. Their voice got them where they are, and fans expect consistency. Many of them are leading successful careers on their primary platform and those who wish to partner with social influencers and YouTube superstars should be prepared to let them take the reigns and share their expertise.

It’s important to consider what this means for television. Cable is already in a shaky place because of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu. While the rise of online videos could be a threat, traditional channels have the opportunity to leverage them in a meaningful way in order to survive. E! has definitely taken a huge risk and everyone will be watching to see if it succeeds. The entertainment industry will need to rethink what celebrity partnerships look like, because these social influencers are steadily becoming the new personality powerhouses. Authenticity and transparency will become a mainstay as this shift happens.

From Screen to Screen: Redefining Celebrity

On an average day, there are roughly four billion YouTube video views. Additionally, YouTube is a social platform of choice for […]

10 Key Takeaways from F8 2015

Written by: Tom Edwards
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I attended the F8 Facebook Developer Conference 2015 last month, and below is a recap of the 10 key takeaways from the annual developer conference that outline the current and future state of plans of one of the world’s largest tech companies.

F8 2015 Top 10

Current State

The primary theme was that Facebook is a “people first” company. Facebook is now positioning its core offerings as a family of applications that are designed to align with how people are naturally using technology to engage and share.

F8 2015 Current State

It was quickly noticeable that each platform now plays a very specific role in the Facebook ecosystem. WhatsApp will continue to be a modest messaging platform, while Instagram will maintain a focus on simplicity and creative expression. Facebook Messenger is quickly being positioned as the primary mechanism for one-on-one communication, and direct connection to businesses and groups continues to be of great importance for 700 million people who want to collaborate around specific topics.

Meanwhile, the core Facebook experience is focused on further extending its video capabilities while setting the foundation for their future — to support more deeply immersive forms of content, such as virtual reality.

Enhanced Messaging

One of the larger announcements from the conference was the expansion of Messenger as a third-party development platform. This is an important move for Facebook, especially since WhatsApp confirmed during the conference that they will not be providing API’s anytime soon on their product road map.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 1

Third parties can now reach and engage over 600 million active users. With the Messenger Platform it is possible to drive discovery, engagement, and attribution through images, videos, GIFs, and sound clips.

Applications can either be stand-alone apps designed to enhance conversations, or it is possible for a brand application to create a workflow to share content through messenger and deep link into the messenger optimized experience in their native application.

F8 2015 Enhanced Messaging 2

Facebook also announced the beta launch of businesses on Messenger, which is how Facebook envisions brands and consumers engaging directly through enhanced customer service. They hope that this will add value to the consumer through templates that can showcase product details and enhanced order details.

Embedded Video

Facebook users are viewing over 3 billion videos per day, and Facebook took another step toward challenging Google-owned YouTube for market share by launching a new embedded video capability.

The new feature supports view-count synchronization, full-bleed video, and includes social actions in video such as “like” and “share.” Also important to note is that the desktop version is Flash-based and mobile is HTML5.

F8 2015 Embedded Video

In recent Facebook briefings there have been discussions about Q3 introducing sequential storytelling into the fold. This is one area where the current embedded video option is lacking compared to YouTube. YouTube currently has the ability to create annotations, and now has “cards” to create connections between assets.

Importance of Advocacy

With all of the talk about Facebook and their other brands’ lack of organic reach, it was confirmed that for users, the News Feed is still what determines the content that is served. This confirmed that peer-to-peer sharing remains the most viable option for content-centric brands.

Another central theme was tied to the sharing of content and, with that, the importance of creating relevant and engaging content that inspires consumers to share. It is also important to create content that is tailored for the specific audience and to utilize the ideal application from the Facebook family delivery and discovery.

F8 2015 Importance of Advocacy

While most social brand personification strategies have taken a back seat now on Facebook’s primary platform due to the shift toward reach and frequency, leveraging consumer and employee advocates — as well as groups — are still viable means to distribute a message outside of paid advertising.

State of Plug-Ins

Social plug-ins have been a staple of the Facebook ecosystem for years. The Facebook social plug-ins team outlined their intentions to redefine the experience of many of the standard plug-ins in order to create a richer mobile experience.

The first step will be to relaunch Facebook moderation tools to allow greater flexibility and an optimized experience for moderation that includes bulk actions and custom lists — and is being rewritten from scratch.

F8 2015 State of Plug Ins

The team also outlined they are testing a new form of comment mirroring that aggregates comments from external news articles to the Facebook page, and vice versa. This is a significant point to consider, as this will align different audiences and shift the potential engagement that happens on-page.

Instagram

The Instagram team reiterated their focus on being community-first, and maintained that simplicity matters above all else when it comes to their product roadmap and the overall experience of the application.

The team confirmed that the Instagram News feed is 100 percent deterministic, meaning that the content posted from your followers will appear in your feed. Based on this feedback, the idea of potentially adding features such as a “regram” button is not currently part of the plan, as the goal is to keep the experience as uncomplicated as possible.

F8 2015 Instagram

They reiterated that Instagram is not a distribution platform for brands. “Likes,” “follows,” and comments will not necessarily drive additional visibility within the platform due to the deterministic feed and the lack of any type of “regram” functionality. For brands, the ideal approach is to curate against existing behaviors, and create a relationship with passionate fans that showcases their view of the brand as the core asset in order to fuel your branded experiences.

Omnichannel

In recent years, Facebook has increased their focus on shopper and direct response capabilities. They stated that they view omnichannel as the future of commerce, and that they are positioning their cross-channel approach as the ideal for brands.

Facebook highlighted the size of their network, the persistence of logged-in identity, and their cross-platform approach as to why they should be considered as a holistic omnichannel offering.

F8 2015 Omnichannel

A key point of discussion was tied to cross-screen attribution without proxies. With their SDK and conversion pixel, they stated that they have the ability to capture accurate measurement tied to their real users.

Future State

The most intriguing aspect of F8 was the insight into the future of Facebook strategy as outlined by Mike Schroepfer, CTO, Facebook. In his keynote speech, he discussed the three core areas of focus for the near future: Planetary connectivity, natural interfaces, and immersive experiences.

F8 2015 Future State

In the near future, services that scale and planetary connectivity are key areas of focus for Facebook. One of the key initiatives is tied to the Aquila, their unmanned solar drone. The drone is designed to stay aloft for three months at a time, in order to deliver connectivity for remote regions.

Information overload was also an area of discussion for the future of Facebook. The goal is to build contextual systems that deal with information overload. One approach is the use of artificial intelligence built around the concept of convolutional neural nets that essentially create deeper associations between content elements at a faster rate than a simple algorithm.

The last of the three core pillars of the future state of Facebook is tied to the importance of creating and enabling the consumption of immersive content such as virtual reality. One of the crucial direct points was the fact that 3D spherical videos will be supported in the Facebook News Feed. This is setting up for the immersive virtual reality experiences that are to come.

Parse + IOT

Facebook’s Parse was also a primary area of focus. Facebook acquired Parse in 2013. Since then, they have been working to leverage the platform as a service that offers to provide additional rapid development services to mobile app developers, such as user management, push notifications, and analytics at scale.

F8 2015 Parse + IOT

Now with over 400,000 apps built on Parse, the Facebook team is extending Parse to connect Internet of Things experiences. Facebook wants to make it easier for developers to leverage data from connected devices into their applications.

Many other tech heavyweights are investing in IOT data solutions. Apple, Google, and recently IBM have all been vying to unlock the key to leveraging IOT data.

Facebook’s approach is to connect devices and software that share common elements in order to increase the probability of systems working together. This could then lead to Facebook becoming the data aggregator between devices, software, and data used to create unique experiences across devices.

Virtual Reality

Virtual reality played a key role throughout F8 2015. Facebook referenced virtual reality as the next evolution of content experiences.

They showcased different applications from their teleportation stations that showcased what was happening in Menlo Park, as well as their more immersive Crescent Bay demos that showed off the full capability of the Oculus Rift.

F8 2015 Virtual Reality

Facebook also spent a portion of their presentation simply showcasing the physiology associated with virtual reality, and why the timing is now right for progression in the field: The cost of technology to create affordable consumer products is feasible, the experience is compelling, and there is broad industry participation as well as a long-term commitment to advancing the technology.

Facebook did a great job of balancing the short term vs. the future state, while ensuring that they are bringing their developer partners along the way. By shifting toward the family of apps strategy — as well as building toward connected devices and immersive experiences — Facebook is in a position to remain relevant well beyond whatever happens with the core Facebook platform.

 

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360 and check out this post on iMedia Connection.

10 Key Takeaways from F8 2015

I attended the F8 Facebook Developer Conference 2015 last month, and below is a recap of the 10 key takeaways […]

Amazon Launches ‘Home Services’ To Take the Guesswork Out of Booking Goat Grazing Services

Written by: Rita Mogilanski
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Amazon recently launched Home Services, a portal that allows users to find, schedule, and purchase professional services through Amazon. The services that are currently provided include appliance repair and installation, home cleaning, music lessons, iPhone repair, and so much more (including Goat Grazing).

Why Use Amazon?

Amazon handpicks the service providers to assure quality by performing background checks and verifying insurance and licenses. They remove most of the risk associated with choosing domestic help by suggesting only verified vendors and giving customers standardized, prepackaged prices. Amazon will match prices if customers find a lower price for the service provider elsewhere, and you are only charged after the service is completed.

4.1-1This service will prove helpful for users making purchases that need installation. When shopping for an air conditioner, I was served a link to book a professional to install the appliance. This seamless integration relieves much of the stress around installing major appliances. Consumers already trust Amazon and will be willing to go with the professional services the platform recommends to expedite the process.

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How is it Changing the Industry?

Other similar platforms like Angie’s List and Yelp provide users with trustworthy reviews. Unlike Angie’s List, there is no membership fee for Amazon, and unlike Yelp, you can book directly through the site. Competing platforms may choose to increase the services they provide to be more robust in order to compete with Amazon’s one-stop shop experience.

TaskRabbit, which is a platform that provides services very similar to Amazon Home Services, has partnered with Amazon in such a way that allows Amazon users to hire fully-vetted “Taskers,” or TaskRabbit’s service providers, through Amazon.

Small businesses that rely on the local community may feel the pressure of competition from businesses listed on Amazon. For professional services looking to get their business on the website, they can apply here. Businesses pay Amazon a portion of the profits, and Amazon handles payments and customer complaints and issues, taking some of the stress off the professionals as well as the customers.

If you’re looking to take the risk and guesswork out of booking professional help, Amazon Home Services is a great tool. They are currently making life easier for customers and small business owners in most major US cities. For similar platforms, however, the competition just got real.

Image: Amazon.com

Image: Amazon.com

 

Amazon Launches ‘Home Services’ To Take the Guesswork Out of Booking Goat Grazing Services

Amazon recently launched Home Services, a portal that allows users to find, schedule, and purchase professional services through Amazon. The […]

The More You Know: Yik Yak

Written by: Jordan Lee
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If you don’t know about Yik Yak, chances are you are a functioning, stable adult. So, what is Yik Yak exactly? It’s a careful formula that combines Twitter, Reddit, and Whisper into one ticking time bomb.

Users are geofenced into a 1.5-mile radius. They then post whatever is on their minds. Annoying professors? Check. Barista who spelled your name wrong? Check. Deep thoughts about time being a flat circle? Check. Other users in the area can then comment or vote on the post. Users are given a numerical score based on their upvotes or downvotes called their Yakarma  it ultimately lets you know how successful you are in the app. Dying to know what’s happening on the other side of town? You can Peek at that area to view the yaks, but not comment or vote.

Peeking at yaks of my former alma mater lets me know more about what’s going on than the alumni newsletter. The anonymity allows users to speak their minds freely. This is especially entertaining at college sporting events, where the yaks flow generously.

However, there has been some debate around the anonymity causing more harm than good. Several schools have noticed issues with discrimination. However, according to Yik Yak these kinds of posts are in violation of their terms and are subject to removal at any time. Plus, Yik Yak has taken measures to quell bullying on the app.

It should go without saying that if something is starting to get banned at schools, its popularity will only grow. With the addition of the national spotlight the app has received and the kickoff of its Spring Campus Tour, there’s nothing left to do but yak about it.

YikYak

Source: Obviously anonymous Yik Yak user

The More You Know: Yik Yak

If you don’t know about Yik Yak, chances are you are a functioning, stable adult. So, what is Yik Yak […]

Emotive Robots Key to Unlocking IOT Potential

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Over the 15 years of my digital career, I have witnessed significant technological innovation and massive shifts in consumer behavior based on the impact of innovation. Highlights include the evolution of the personal computer, the now ubiquitous smartphone, and the explosion of consumer-centric social media.

Apple-iPhone-generations

Looking to the near future, the current rate of exponential technological advancement will continue to accelerate, and we are primed for another significant leap forward; the concept of emotive computing is about to enter the lives of early adopters and has the potential to shift our behaviors once again.

During SXSW 2015, the personal side of robots session presented by Dr. Cynthia Breazeal caught my attention. Her session focused on the potential impact of emotive computing as the next wave of computing innovation.

emotive computing

Emotive computing is based on systems and devices that can recognize, interpret, process, and simulate elements of human behavior. The key to the concept is the alignment of both emotion and cognition as the drivers of adaptive behavior.

I have followed Dr. Breazeal’s work at MIT since the late ’90s when I first heard about the Kismet project. Kismet was designed to be one of the first socio-emotive AI. The core focus was to move past simple cognitive skills and align psychosocial elements into the robot’s ability to understand and treat people as people.

MIT Kismet

During the session, Dr. Breazeal discussed the evolution of Kismet to the next iteration of the AI, Leonardo, as well as how emotion + cognition should be the basis of intelligence and adaptive behavior – which is key to creating an emotive AI.

leonardo ai

The advancements made with Kismet and Leonardo have set the foundation for a new type of consumer device that is focused on delivering multiple levels of utility while also demonstrating adaptive behavior.

Reviewing the current landscape of personal robots, we see mostly single utility or cognitively-driven robots. They enhance our lives by the tasks they complete but are weak in their ability to conceive emotional engagement.

personal robots

This is where I begin to consider the current product/market fit for socially emotive AI. When you start to consider the Internet of Things or the Internet of Better Things, there are key components missing that would unlock new levels of value, which would lead to mass adoption. Most of the current ecosystem is comprised of single-utility solutions that are neither interconnected nor adaptive.

Internet-of-Things

Initially, my assumption is that the IOT would benefit from a central hub that is built to scale. The basis for the hub has already been approached by Amazon with Echo. But the current technology tied to virtual assistants is built around search and retrieval based entities with limited capabilities to learn.

virtual assistant

With the rise of emotive computing, it is feasible that the core hub for the connected home could be an emotive AI. Toward the end of her talk, Dr. Breazeal revealed that her current initiative as founder and Chief Science Officer of Jibo is to deliver such an entity into homes sooner rather than later.

Jibo is being touted as the first “family robot” and positioned as a support and an enhancer to humans. The IndieGoGo crowdfunded robot raised over 2.2 million dollars and the first run is currently in production. Jibo can see, hear, speak, learn, assist, and relate to individuals, and is going to be the first mass-produced emotive AI.

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 4.35.10 PM

Jibo is also going to be built on a comprehensive developer ecosystem. With toolkits and a full SDK available, the focus is on creating a scalable content delivery platform.

Jibo SDK

I have talked a lot about how the IOT needs to be navigated with the consumer at the center, and I have shared my view of the #databaseofyou as the key to unlocking marketing value from the IOT, but little did I know that the database would actually reside within an emotive AI.

Evolution of Social Marketing Future - Tom Edwards

From a marketing perspective, I am very interested in the adoption and advancement of Jibo. If an emotive AI becomes the primary hub for the connected home, then it also becomes a potential content delivery platform that is the key connection between brands and consumers in the connected home.

By leveraging the full SDK and potentially certifying content, brands could provide contextually valuable experiences delivered through Jibo, or potentially new skills that extend the utility of the robot.

This is obviously speculation on how to potentially leverage emotive computing to create marketing value, but it is important to begin understanding that a significant shift is coming and that it may have just arrived in a small robotic form.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Emotive Robots Key to Unlocking IOT Potential

Over the 15 years of my digital career, I have witnessed significant technological innovation and massive shifts in consumer behavior […]

TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series, feat. Tom Edwards

Written by: Digitally Approved
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Tom Edwards, the executive vice president of Strategy and Innovation here at The Marketing Arm, was recently invited to be a guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on the digital marketing landscape. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner, explores a variety of business and technology verticals through conversations with industry leaders.

Edwards joined Buckner to discuss modern day digital, social, and mobile innovations, the importance of bridging technology and marketing, and the four core elements that bring a campaign to life.

Below are a few of the highlights from the conversation:

TA: Tell us about what life is like at TMA and some of the projects you work on every day.

Tom: At The Marketing Arm, we’re really a consumer engagement agency, so that touches a wide range of project types – everything from digital to promotional to talent to production. A number of different types of projects come across my desk on any given day.

I’m a part of the digital engagement division and we service about 16 core clients, everything from ExxonMobil, to GameStop, to name just a few organizations. So over the last 15 years, my role within the industry has really shifted from starting more on the technology side, and really kind of incorporated being that bridge between technology and marketing.

As digital continues to progress, we’ve seen it all: the end of the dotcom boom, massive portals, the rise of consumer social. All of these different types of trends we’ve seen definitely had a hand in touching and guiding different project types across multiple platforms and different routes of sale. It’s been a fun, interesting ride and it continues to get better. 

TA:  What suggestions do you have for a team trying to compare and find the right marketing automation vendors? What should they be looking for? 

Tom: Portability. If I’m able to either leverage a tool that can aggregate content, redistribute, visualize – things where there is a seamless flow, whether that’s through an API or through an SDK or whatever it may be, that’s what I’m ultimately looking for now.

I’m looking for, “How can this one piece fit into the larger strategy that I’m trying to deploy and continue to add value without adding additional barriers or additional layers?” That’s really the key piece for us as we’re moving forward, because we’re touching so many different channels, everything from top line awareness via digital all the way down to shopper and point of sale. 

So, making sure that we can have programs that can work in scale. Scale is another key piece for us, too, and the data considerations depending upon local versus global, so there are a lot of different pieces that we look at when we’re evaluating. But for me, it’s how can whatever tool that you’re leveraging best provide value for everything as a whole, versus just one specific piece or one specific function.

***

Connect with Tom on Twitter @BlackFin360 and follow his blog at BlackFin360.com/blog. Be sure to also follow @TheMarketingArm.

Listen to the entire show above in order to hear the full conversation, or download the show to listen later. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud, in order to get alerts about new episodes.

***

This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Clark Buckner.

TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series, feat. Tom Edwards

Tom Edwards, the executive vice president of Strategy and Innovation here at The Marketing Arm, was recently invited to be […]

2015 SXSW Interactive: 5 Things That Stood Out

Written by: Jake Schneider
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Thanksgiving, SXSW, Halloween.

Those are my favorite holidays, in that order. 2015 marks my 9th year attending the annual conference and as TMA’s resident Austinite, nothing excites me more than hearing the words “Film,” “Interactive,” and “Music” categorized under one event within walking distance of my downtown home.

In years past, I’ve seen the transformative launch of Twitter, watched Kanye perform at the Power Plant – now home to Under Armour Connected Fitness – and taken in many great films and parties.

Last year, while there were still significant highlights like Edward Snowden’s session that I found fascinating, the 2014 version felt bloated and unmanageable.

2015, however, felt like a shift or transition probably aided by the fact that there wasn’t one super strong theme that overpowered everything. This led me to be open to the serendipity that is part of the very soul of SXSW.

With that, here are five things that stood out for me at this year’s conference:

1. Meerkat: If there was a clear winner for 2015 SXSWi, it would be Meerkat. Every single human being at badge pick-up was talking about and using the app that allows you to live stream video directly into Twitter.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.05.25 AM

Meerkat was everywhere around Austin. It felt like SXSW activities and experiences were being streamed all over the place.

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Then somehow (perhaps through the Force), Twitter felt the surge of usage and, in realizing they recently purchased a competitive app called Periscope, put Meerkat in a chokehold by cutting its access to their social graph.

3.23-3

The significance of Meerkat’s emergence this past week is that streaming content is here and it is embraced. This type of channel opens up doors to publishing experiences and helping users and brands become their own networks.

2. Verizon’s #ATXunite: For those Austinites who attend SXSW, the experience is amazing. For those who don’t, it can be downright frustrating, or so I’ve heard. There are three things we love to complain about in Austin: traffic, crowds, and traffic. Verizon took a different route this year with #ATXunite, a social campaign focusing on aiding Austin locals with survival kits featuring everything from Yeti coolers, Bose ear buds, and Philips Hue light bulbs to exclusive lunch experiences at Franklin BBQ just by following and tweeting Verizon and #ATXunite.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.06.16 AM
Verizon nailed it with this activation by bringing the serendipitous experience of SXSW to those locals who can’t or don’t attend. Or, in this case, by bringing it to me and my coworker, Zane.

3. Virtual Reality: We are so close. You remember that part in Jamiroquai’s video for Virtual Insanity where Jay Kay, after spending so much time getting further away from the frame, comes as close as possible and stays there to finish the video? That is where I feel we are right now. So close, and from here it is all mainstream. SXSW definitely had its share of VR experiences and installations. From Interstellar’s setup for their Blu-ray release to Google’s Cardboard viewer, VR showed it is ready and the demand showed that we are ready for VR.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.06.25 AM

I am, in fact, giddy at the possibilities that VR presents for brand experiences in the entertainment, automotive, fashion, and retail industries.

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There is demand – as you can already pick up Google Cardboard on Ebay.

4. Big Data and Social: Finally Big Data, you have arrived. There were tons of panels on utilizing and the importance of Big Data this year, and rightfully so. Big Data is no longer a nice-to-have, it is a need-to-have. Understanding your audience and gaining that competitive advantage has never been more important to brands. How to make it actionable, how it and Audience Intelligence can work together, how to use it to drive engagement – it was all on display during SXSWi. Audience Intelligence platform People Pattern even made a cool persona infographic on SXSW:3.23-7

5. Curiosity: There were plenty of speakers on hand this year, and the two that stood out most for me both focused on the value of curiosity. The first speaker was TV & Film Producer Brian Grazer, who created Imagine Entertainment with Ron Howard and has created exceptional films like “Backdraft” and “Apollo 13.” Grazer was discussing his book written about his life philosophy of having “curiosity conversations” with different and interesting people every two weeks. He uses these conversations to guide and inspire his work and build relationships.

The second was with Henry Rollins. I’ll be honest: Rollins is a personal inspiration of mine – I was initially just happy to be in the room. He was there attending and promoting his new film, “He Never Died.” Rollins covered his life travels and experiences; however, the gravy was poured when he talked about his life philosophy of how anger fuels his curiosity. The anger is what makes him curious, and the curiosity, in turn, fuels the anger. The result, he states, “makes me want to do stuff and live vigorously.”  I left both of those talks inspired.

Screen Shot 2015-03-23 at 10.07.14 AM

I clearly had better seats for Grazer than Rollins.

SXSW has been a great success for me. For anyone that is considering a future trip, I would highly encourage it. There is something for everyone. You’ll leave here more knowledgeable and inspired.

Follow Jake Schneider @jakeschneider

2015 SXSW Interactive: 5 Things That Stood Out

Thanksgiving, SXSW, Halloween. Those are my favorite holidays, in that order. 2015 marks my 9th year attending the annual conference […]

YouTube Rolling Out “Cards” to Replace Annotations

Written by: Hannah Redmond
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This week, YouTube announced the release of a new product called “Cards,” which will eventually replace annotations on videos. Keeping with the trend of mobile optimization across its products, cards will work across screens, including mobile. Currently, in the annotations category only InVideo Programming annotations work on mobile devices.

Source: YouTube Creators Blog

YouTube says this is a response to feedback from YouTube creators for the need of more flexibility with annotations and the need for them to work on mobile. They said in the YouTube Creators Blog:

You can think of cards like an evolution of annotations. They can inform your viewers about other videos, merch, playlists, websites and more. They look as beautiful as your videos, are available anytime during the video.”

There are 6 types of cards: Merchandise, Fundraising, Video, Playlist, Associated Website, and Fan Funding. You’ll now be able to find the “Cards” tab in your Video Editor to create and edit them at any time.

3.18-2

As mobile media consumption continues to increase year over year (note the graph below on mobile data traffic), it makes sense for YouTube to extend the benefits and functionality of annotations to mobile devices for content creators.

Similarly, as brands continue to increase the amount of content for the digital space, the consumer’s mobile experience needs to be kept in mind. Marketers need to ask: “How will these cards help my consumer while they are on their mobile device?” There is a difference between “standing out” to a consumer and “disrupting” a consumer’s experience. The trick with these cards will be using them in a unique way to stand out that still adds value to the consumer.

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Source: We Are Social

Visit the Cards Help Center to see more detailed descriptions about, and examples of cards.

YouTube Rolling Out “Cards” to Replace Annotations

This week, YouTube announced the release of a new product called “Cards,” which will eventually replace annotations on videos. Keeping […]

The More You Know: Cyber Dust

Written by: Sarah Shapleigh
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Cyber Dust

The world of social media is a constant cycle – as soon as people get comfortable and used to the way things are, a new movement begins. Prior to the launch of Facebook, people would communicate online via email or instant messaging, with ambiguous usernames like GreenBayFan56 or CutieKate16. Then, with Facebook, people were no longer anonymous and hidden behind these online identities. They used their real names and provided specific details about their lives online.

Now as we move into 2015, a new movement is taking shape. As people share more and more personal information online, there is a growing level of skepticism about the security of that information. People are starting to shift back to the anonymous days of the pre-Facebook era. This is evident in the growing popularity of networks like Snapchat, Whisper, Secret, and more.

SnapChat CD11

There are many companies trying to emulate the success of Snapchat and Secret. One of the latest ventures comes from entrepreneur Mark Cuban with his app, Cyber Dust. Cyber Dust is a cross between WhatsApp and Snapchat, with privacy and security being the main priorities. Similar to WhatsApp and Snapchat, it allows users to communicate directly with friends using disappearing text, photos, or emoticons.

Upon opening the app for the first time, users are greeted with a welcome screen emphasizing the simplicity and security of Cyber Dust. As creator Mark Cuban explains, “I wanted to have a means of communication that is analogous to face-to-face – where you can speak openly and honestly. That is why we created Cyber Dust.” The main screen echoes this sentiment stating, “Every spoken word isn’t recorded, why should your texts be?” In Cyber Dust, messages delete based on their length, and last from 20 to 100 seconds.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 1.24.38 PM

Cyber Dust also shares their data policy with app users, which reemphasizes the data privacy issue.

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Once you have created an account, the app lets you connect to social networks or scan your contacts to find other people who use the application. Once you have added some friends, you are able to start sending messages.

There are three different types of messages you can send: dusts, group dusts, and blasts. Dusts are messages between you and one friend. Group dusts let you message with a group of up to 12 people. The group dust is a new phenomenon because it not only lets you send a message to a select group, but also allows everyone in the group to see each person’s response. Blasts let you send messages to all the people you select. Blasts also let you add a location by choosing your current location or a nearby place. If a user taps the location, they will be taken to a map view and can also be directed outside of the app.

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The overall functionality of the app is very similar to Snapchat, where you have a list of friends you can send “snaps” to or you can share your snap story with your full list of friends. Users also have the option to “pin” their own sent messages in order to remember the conversation. If you pin a sent message, it will remain at the top of the chat room until you leave.

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Cyber Dust gives you the option to follow celebrities including founder Mark Cuban (blogmaverick.com). Cyber Dust users that are on iOS devices also have the ability to take screenshots since it is a key function of the device; however, the app will send a notification to the other user (as seen below). 

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Overall, Cyber Dust is very similar to Snapchat but one of the main advantages is that you are able to share pictures from your photo library, whereas on Snapchat you need to take pictures within the app itself. Instagram launched its video capabilities with these limitations; however, a little over a month later, they announced that you could upload videos from your phone’s media library and share to Instagram regardless of when they were captured.

Cyber Dust taps into the anonymous messaging trend and brings a few competitive advantages to the table, including the group dust feature and the ability to use photos from your phone’s photo library. However, the social app landscape is constantly changing. With the Snapchat hack last October, Whisper being attacked for tracking personal data, and even the Sony email hack, people are starting to get nervous. Time will tell whether some of these security/privacy breaches are enough to drive people away from these messaging apps for good.

The More You Know: Cyber Dust

The world of social media is a constant cycle – as soon as people get comfortable and used to the […]

Extending Virtual Reality at SXSW 2015

Written by: Tom Edwards
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Another year, another SXSW Interactive is in the books. Each year I look to get inspired, reconnect with publishers and 3rd party partners and look for new or incremental innovation that can add value for my clients. This year, one of the areas that caught my attention was the advancement of 3rd party integration and applications tied to virtual reality experiences.

In 2014, one SXSW exhibit in particular received a lot of attention for creating an immersive Virtual Reality Game of Thrones experience courtesy of Oculus Rift. 2015 did have its share of branded experiences tied to Oculus, see Samsung below, but a majority of 3rd parties were focused on showcasing how they create value through integrating VR and mobile devices as they prepare to go to market.

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Samsung – I had the opportunity to experience the Samsung Gear VR headset while at SXSW. The Samsung Gear VR is powered by an Oculus Rift headset that integrates with the Galaxy Note 4. The approach of serving as an extension of an existing device that can scale through various media and applications is the right approach to allow optimal personalization of experiences through devices and media entities that consumers already consume.

The #GalaxyLife VR exhibit was a rich experience that I definitely enjoyed. My tour featured a Mountain Dew branded snowboarding adventure. There are pros and cons to the experience as it was immersive, although the audio was a bit lacking. If you have not tried the core Oculus Rift experience and this was your first foray into VR it is an impressive experience. For the average consumer, consuming media, be it VR cinema, gaming or 360-degree experiences can all be achieved through the Samsung Gear headset.

This type of VR experience is ideal for branded integrations as the experiences are tied to the mobile device and with the right SDK, it is possible to extend immersive content experiences through the Samsung Gear VR.

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Google – One of the more unique takes on a similar premise to the Samsung Gear VR came from Google. Google Cardboard is a simple, inexpensive way to enjoy VR-based experiences through either Android or iPhone devices. When the Google team handed me the device, it was about the size of an iPad Mini. After a few minutes of folding I had an instant VR viewer that I could view media from VRSE or other Google Cardboard supported applications.

As with most things Google, there are Android and Unity SDK’s available to easily integrate Cardboard into existing VR applications to ensure that it is supported. The experience is surprisingly rich and the fact that it is inexpensive and also supports iPhone VR applications is a plus. Google Cardboard is a great tool to introduce younger audiences to enhanced VR experiences. It definitely passed the test with my crew of 12, 10 and 7 years of age. And with the simple design, I am not concerned about how they would handle the device.

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Intel and 3rd Parties – The SXSW Gaming Pavilion featured multiple extensions of the Oculus hardware with various groups working to create new integrations that could bridge the gap between traditional gaming and VR. Intel and CybertronPC showcased one of CybertronPC’s gaming rigs that supported an Oculus experience. This experience drew quite a crowd as onlookers wanted to catch a glimpse of PC gaming + Oculus.

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Another 3rd party that caught my attention was Sixense’s STEM System. This was a Full-Body Presence VR system vs. just an Oculus Visual experience. The system provides motion controls, haptic feedback and additional spatial awareness in the VR experience to create a full-body controlled experience in game. The demo featured a lightsaber duel, think Microsoft Kinect in terms of open-space, body-controlled motion but with a fully immersive Oculus Rift visual experience.

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We are inching closer to mass consumer availability and I have been impressed how much has been developed within a single year. I still have my doubts as to whether or not Facebook’s Oculus Rift based experiences as they exist today will appeal to the mainstream consumer. We are still at the nascent stage of the technology and I do believe that augmented, virtual reality and digital overlays will become a part of our lives as some point in the next 10 years – it just may not be a bulky headset, it may be something as simple as a bionic contact lens.

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I definitely enjoyed playing with the new hardware and look forward to what the future may bring at SXSW 2016.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Extending Virtual Reality at SXSW 2015

Another year, another SXSW Interactive is in the books. Each year I look to get inspired, reconnect with publishers and […]