Technology

Techno-Disaster Averted


ImageWalking home from tennis with my iPad and my iPhone in my open summer purse.  Saw the lightning…

Quickened my gait.  Felt the raindrops!

Jumped a bus.  Arranged the devices as best I could.  I’ve seen this before…

Pulled the cord.  Leapt to the pavement.

Dashed three blocks in my Pliner wedge sandals.  Running between the raindrops, as my mother likes to say.

Made it home!

Watched the people scurry to safety from my window.  Watched the light show from my desk.

Techno-disaster averted.

The Stroke of Midnight – Will Viacom Go Dark?


As I looked up from my desk today, I saw a news story that caught my eye: DirecTV is threatening to take 26 Viacom channels off the air at midnight.  Gee, I thought, I guess it has been three years since they last were at loggerheads with the operators.  But that was December, and this is July.  That was Time Warner Cable, and this is DirecTV.   That was 2008, and this is 2012.  Is this story new or an off-network airing of a 2008 episode?

I went to the “Always On” archives to see.  What I found was my post from New Year’s Day of 2009.  I recall going out the night before preoccupied with whether Viacom would still be on the air when I came home.  It was a dramatic moment!  Fortunately, as with Y2K, the stroke of midnight did not bring the terrors foretold.

(Ok, so what I mean here is that in 1999, people feared that there would be all kinds of havoc when we entered the new century because our computer systems would get confused – long story – and people prepared for all kinds of hardships including food and water shortages and lack of electricity.)

In any case, my plan this evening – July 10th – was to republish the post below, comment on how this will be a tricky negotiation given that Viacom has had significant ratings problems with Nickelodeon and MTV, reference the fact that Viacom’s stock price is vulnerable to adverse news given these ratings problems, discuss whether these standoffs have become more common, more public, or simply more on my radar screen, and call it a night.

Given that I had an image of the Sponge Bob ad from 2008, I decided to grab one from this summer’s dispute.  That is where the differences became apparent.  The Viacom ads – at least the ones I found – are simple and slick and use Comedy Central rather than Nickelodeon brands.  Somewhat interesting.

But what really struck me was DirecTV’s website.  Clearly planned well in advance, the site maps out DirecTV’s side of the story including a heartfelt video message from the company’s CEO Mike White.  The ability for television programmers and operators to communicate more directly, personally and interactively with their audiences and customers makes 2012 quite different from 2008 – even though the key sound bites: “Viacom wants too much money,”  “DirecTV/Time Warner Cable is taking your channels away from you” may sound the same.

Who”s the Enemy?  Who’s the Friend?  January 1, 2009

Cable operators and TV affiliates complain when programmers put content online. Programmers put content online because that is where viewers are going. Music producers ignored this “where I want it, when I want it” trend, seeking to protect their business model, and were leapfrogged into impending demise by iTunes. NBC Universal cites Hulu as a huge success story, but CEO Jeff Zucker fears that the web will turn “analog dollars” into “digital pennies.” Online ads may garner high CPMs and may be growing at rapid rates, but they are still dwarfed by broadcast.

Viacom, owner of MTV Networks, has for years sought to create a “360 degree” media presence that hinges upon the Internet. They now have a huge army of digital employees. Cable operators complain that hits like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” are available in long form on Hulu. But who is benefiting now?

Viacom is asking for a 25 cent increase in monthly subscriber fees (25 cents more per subscriber per month) from Time Warner Cable across 18 Viacom networks. Yesterday, a crawler at the bottom of the screen for each of these networks warned of an impending blackout at midnight. (I rushed home at 1:20am to see the blank screens, but alas no MTV Armageddon.)

Now I watch Comedy Central more consistently than any other non-premium cable network (I love my Showtime – twisted as it may be), and my loyalty to the two programs above is on par with that for broadcast network programming such as “60 Minutes” – most other programming (“Eli Stone,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Ugly Betty”) comes and goes. I am proud and embarrassed to say that I get most of my news from Mr. Stewart and, to some extent, Mr. Colbert. So, what will I do if Viacom goes dark? I don’t envision doing much.

First, I don’t watch any of the other MTVN networks. I used to admire Viacom for its segmentation strategy, i.e., different networks for different age demos, but now what that means — for me as a single New Yorker, at least — is that I watch only one of their networks. And, as mentioned above, the two programs I count on are available on Hulu. In fact, Time Warner Cable is promoting to its subscribers where they can access Viacom programming online should it go dark on TWC. So, to whose advantage is the online platform now? Ironically, Viacom has made itself less indispensable to TWC – at least in the short term.

It reminds me a bit of our strategies in the middle east. We train the enemy of our enemy, even though that force was or could become our direct enemy. A bit of an extreme comparison, perhaps. But the question remains – to whom is the Internet a greater threat and for whom is it a greater advantage? Programmers? Distributors? Both? Neither?

Business minds around the world have not yet come up with a way to turn the enormous value of the Internet into a tangible, substantial monetary value. True, digital broadcasts of the Olympics, of SNL (Tina Fey) and of prime time programming do drive stronger TV viewing of these programs — something that was not necessarily anticipated. But, what is the long term business model? How can the television industry identify and transition to a new business paradigm? And, how will they accomplish this in light of existing carriage contracts and – even more specifically — Most Favored Nation (MFN) clauses that make change even more cumbersome?

I Want My WiFi Free


I recently flew to Atlanta on Delta Airlines to attend orientation for my new role as Managing Consultant with Capgemini Consulting.   I must admit that I was not looking forward to flying Delta. Given the choice, I typically fly JetBlue or, when the occasion presents itself, Virgin America – the Apple of air travel.

The last time I flew Delta was coming back from Florida. The trip was uneventful but somehow stressful.  I had flown JetBlue there and even though they lost my luggage for a day, they handled it so nicely, I went away with a really good feeling – a good customer experience.

The time before last I flew Delta to Las Vegas, and I recall spotting a mouse in the waiting area. So, my expectations were not high.

When I arrived at the Delta terminal, however, I was blown away by the technology.  In the waiting area of the gate was a high white table with what looked like iPads, available for passengers to use, as well as plugs for charging their own devices. It looked like something you might find at a trade show or conference. Very slick and modern.

When we boarded the plane, we were informed that there would be in flight wifi available. But not just available. Free. What?  You’re giving me something free on a domestic flight?  I promptly booted up my new iPad to check it out. Aha. The free wifi was sponsored. Brilliant. A much better business model than asking passengers to pay $15 or $20 for access. And a much better consumer experience. After all, I’m telling all of you about it.

And as for the advertiser, well the advertiser got a captive audience that visited a sponsored web page to activate the coverage.  Moreover, the page had an opt out lead generation component so that users would be added to the company’s mailing list unless they unchecked the box.

In addition to this on screen and direct marketing component, the advertiser had a short promotional video incorporated into the in flight television entertainment.

All in all, I thought it was an excellent program. A win win for all involved, And a reason to give Delta a second look.

Playing with Pinterest, Tallying with Twitter


I finally spent an evening (ok late night) playing with Pinterest, and I can see why it’s so addictive. So many beautiful images. It’s visual decadence and indulgence.

It’s uplifting. A great way to spend half an hour… or more. It’s also extremely easy to use with an overall positive vibe (or tone, as Pinterest would say). People are sharing things they find uplifting or attractive or thought provoking, in a light hearted way. As of now, no disturbing images. And wonderful production quality. I wonder how they control for that. Images come from the Internet, so they’re not really user generated – though they are user curated. That maintains this highly polished experience.

But what’s especially nice – it’s all about the details – is the email you get when you sign up: “Hi karenlevine,” it says, “YOU are the newest member of Pinterest, a community to share collections of things you love. We’re excited to have you as a member and can’t wait to see what you pin.” Now that’s just nice.

Twitter, of course, is also addictive, but in a different way. On Twitter, I find myself almost unhealthily aware of how many followers I have. Am I loved??? Am I respected?  It’s like they days when you would come home and rush to see whether you had voicemails.

Every time I post something on Twitter, I watch to see if it leads to more followers – in that vast community of hundreds of millions of people I don’t know. Someone out there shares a topic I am interested in and felt that what I had to say merited following me.

Of course, I also look to see whether I have been retweeted, the ultimate compliment. Or retweeted my multiple people, a real head rush.  And then there are the responses. The exchanges you have with someone you don’t know at all. At social media week, it was truly fun to watch people who had somehow ended up following or corresponding with each other meet in person. And because the avatars are typically photos, it makes it that much easier.

Social Media, Reese Witherspoon and Pinterest


Last night on Chelsea Lately, Reese Witherspoon admitted that she “doesn’t get” social media.  Twitter, she said, “scares me.”  And, although she knew she had a Facebook page, she thought, upon Chelsea’s suggestion, that the address is likely www.reesewitherspoon.com.  (It isn’t.)

This adds credence to Terri Li’s estimation during a Social Media Week panel entitled “The New Ghostwriter” that 4/5 of celebrity twitter feeds are ghostwritten.  Terri is the Chief Operating Officer of Bre.ad.  It’s no surprise, of course, that Reese does not manage her own Facebook page.  However… the point of this comment, and the part that is (ironically) interesting is that Reese exclaimed in the next sentence that she LOVES pinterest.

On another Social Media Week panel, Jon Steinberg, the president of buzzfeed said of pinterest: “I think it’s going to be one of the most powerful business models after Google.”  Wow, that’s big.  What happened to the days when social media and other sites took years to figure out how to monetize themselves?  In fact, Google itself took 5 years before hitting the lottery.

Images below: reesewitherspoon.com (top) and Reese’s Facebook page (bottom)

Pinterest: The Newest Face of Social Media


This is the newest face of social media.  It’s the site that no one knew much about a few months ago and everyone is talking about at Social Media Week today (February 2012).  Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that lets you organize and share all the beautiful things you find in your life.

(It’s a good thing they started with the word pin board rather than cork board or bulletin board… When I was a teenager, I badly wanted my parents to turn one of the walls of my bedroom into a bulletin board!  When I got to college, I learned about the magical powers of tape.)

The key element of pinterest is the focus on images.  Like Instagram, it showcases one of the most important aspects of social media today – sharing photos and other images.  It seems to me that Facebook has become not only Flickr but those emails you used to get with humorous graphics.  It makes the site a fun place to stop off before bed.


 

Geolocation: What Art Though to Me? Part VI


Each day, geolocation has a unique impact on my life as I watch the way it influences my city, myself, and increasingly, my world. A few months after joining foursquare in 2010, I decided to keep a journal of my new life with geolocation.

You have now entered Part VI this ongoing tale – tracking the personal, sociological and historic milestones associated with the rapidly growing service/game/application. Click on the Geolocation tab for the full story or check my archives for Parts III,  IIIIV and V.

 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Eureka!  I’ve rediscovered specials and – in a way – trending on FourSquare.  And, in the process, I happened upon a tie in with Groupon.  It’s all so incestuous, these frenemies.  In the images below, please note: (a) “Special” next to my local designer pizza joint Freddie and Pepper’s  – tied in with Groupon (b) little person image next to the Beacon that shows that 12 people have checked in (c) This is new to me – “Show” icon next to the Beacon.  I’ll have to investigate that further.  Something GetGlue-ish???

Just arrived home from a phenomenal meal at a restaurant in Chelsea called Westville – an amazing meal thanks to all the people who left me tips on foursquare, from the scores of them who recommended the four market sides for $14 to a non anonymous stranger named Frank, who recommended the chocolate pecan pie.  My friend Nancy and I thank you all.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

It seems that my taste in primetime television is on par with other GetGlue users – and that the app (which is not actually geolocation but was initially positioned as the foursquare for people who stay home..) is gaining serious traction.  I checked into “New Girl” along with 7,173 other viewers and joined 14,682 other Glee fans when I checked into that show.  I watched both via DVR.  Keep you eye on this one.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Have you checked out Square’s Card Case app. You should. If only to experience the art of what’s possible. You can pay for things by simply giving your name to the retailer.

Ok, so I’m working my way through Mary Meeker’s 2011 Internet trends and discovering all kinds of treats and terms along the way.  Many of which are mobile, and many of which are location based.  (I’ve even adopted a new phrase: “Geosocial networking.”  Nice.)  Here’s one I find intriguing: Shopkick. And here’s what they have to say about themselves:
“shopkick gives you awesome deals and rewards simply for walking into your favorite stores. You can collect your kicks™ rewards at millions of stores in America, and great deals at many of the top national retailers.

Collect walk-in rewards: Have you ever gotten rewarded simply for walking into stores – yes, just for visiting? Now you can collect boatloads of kicks™ in the kicks Reward Program and unlock awesome exclusive deals at your favorite stores. Just walk into 1,300 Best Buy stores in all 50 states, and hundreds of Target stores, Macy’s, American Eagle, Sports Authority, Crate&Barrel, West Elm, Wet Seal and the largest Simon malls! Open the shopkick app on your iPhone or Android phone in the entrance area, and wait for a few seconds. Your shopkick app will reward you instantly.  shopkick is adding more stores in more cities every month.

Get exclusive deals: Discover and unlock awesome deals in the shopkick app at dozens of national stores, many of them are exclusively offered to shopkick users only.

Collect scan rewards: Collect additional kicks rewards by scanning barcodes of featured products with your phone at 250,000 stores across the United States.

Redeem your kicks™ for rewards! Get rewards like iTunes gift cards, restaurant vouchers, Best Buy/Target/Macy’s/American Eagle/Sports Authority instant gift cards, Facebook Credits, movie tickets, or if you go all out, a 3D 55″ Sony Bravia HDTV or a cruise around the world! And if you want to change the world, donate your kicks to 30 different causes!”

Friday, November 18, 2011

The next (current) phase in location based services is Near Field Communication (NFC).  (I call it a LBS because the two devices need to be near each other.) Here’s how wikipedia defines NFC:

NEAR FIELD COMMUNICATION, or NFC, allows for simplified transactions, data exchange, and wireless connections between two devices in proximity to each other, usually by no more than a few centimeters.  It is expected to become a widely used system for making payments by smartphone in the United States. [Gosh, it seems like decades ago that I read about Japan doing this.  Oh right, it was.  It was commonplace as long ago as early 2006 when I did my first mobile study for BusinessWeek.] Many smartphones currently on the market already contain embedded NFC chips that can send encrypted data a short distance (“near field”) to a reader located, for instance, next to a retail cash register. Shoppers who have their credit card information stored in their NFC smartphones can pay for purchases by waving their smartphones near or tapping them on the reader, rather than using the actual credit card. Co-invented by NXP Semiconductors and Sony in 2002, NFC technology is being added to a growing number of mobile handsets to enable mobile payments, as well as many other applications.

And, here are some of the applications (by applications, I mean uses) – again, from wikipedia:

(1) Social Networking

NFC simplifies and expands social networking options:

  • File Sharing: Tap one NFC device to another to instantly share a contact, photo, song, application, video, or website link.
  • Electronic business card: Tap one NFC device to another to instantly share electronic business cards or resumes.
  • Electronic money: To pay a friend, you could tap the devices and enter the amount of the payment.
  • Mobile gaming: Tap one NFC device to another to enter a multiplayer game.
  • Friend-to-friend: You could touch NFC devices together to Facebook friend each other or share a resume or to “check-in” at a location.

(2) Bluetooth and WiFi Connections

NFC can be used to initiate higher speed wireless connections for expanded content sharing.

  • Bluetooth: Instant Bluetooth Pairing can save searching, waiting, and entering codes. Touch the NFC devices together for instant pairing.
  • WiFi: Instant WiFi Configuration can configure a device to a WiFi network automatically. Tap an NFC device to an NFC enabled router.

(3) eCommerce

NFC expands eCommerce opportunities, increases transaction speed and accuracy, while reducing staffing requirements. A Personal identification number (PIN) is usually only required for payments over $100 (in Australia) and £15 (in UK).

  • Mobile payment: An NFC device may make a payment like a credit card by touching a payment terminal at checkout or a vending machine when a PIN is entered.
  • PayPal: PayPal may start a commercial NFC service in the second half of 2011.[15][16]
  • Google Wallet is an Android app that stores virtual versions of your credit cards for use at checkout when a PIN is used.
  • Ticketing: Tap an NFC device to purchase railmetroairline, movie, concert, or event tickets. A PIN is required.
  • Boarding pass: A NFC device may act as a boarding pass, reducing check-in delays and staffing requirementsFr.
  • Point of Sale: Tap an SmartPoster tag to see information, listen to an audio clip, watch a video, or see a movie trailer.
  • Coupons: Tapping an NFC tag on a retail display or SmartPoster may give the user a coupon for the product.
  • Tour guide: Tap a passive NFC tag for information or an audio or video presentation at a museum, monument, or retail display (much like a QR Code).

(4) Identity documents

NFC’s short range helps keep encrypted identity documents private.

  • ID card: An NFC enabled device can also act as an encrypted student, employee, or personal ID card or medical ID card.
  • Keycard: An NFC enabled device may serve as car, house, and office keys.
  • Rental Car and hotel keys: NFC rental car or hotel room keys may allow fast VIP check-in and reduce staffing requirements.

The future (or past…) is here.
Sunday, December 4th, 2011

I’ve checked into the Central Park Tennis Center 88 times and into my apartment building 726 times.

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

On Monday of this week, Gowalla was acquired by Facebook.  That’s huge.  What impact will this have on foursquare?

Friday, January 13, 2012

The American Express tie-in with Foursquare has been simplified and is quite nice.  When you check into a participating location, you are notified of an AMEX special.  If you use your AMEX card there, you get a $10 credit on your statement.  Nice.  I’ve used it at a restaurant and a nail salon.  It’s a good promotion because it encourages you to use your AMEX card to pay – at the time and point of purchase.  Moreover, it gives you an incentive to spend at least $10, a requirement I met easily with my yummy chicken parmesan and lovely pedicure.  What will be especially valuable is to use it for an $11 manicure…

If you’d like to read more of my thoughts on geolocation, click on the Geolocation tab or check out Part V of this series.