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Audience Research & Development



by Terry Heaton
Ben BolesEarlier this year, we published a case study of one of our most innovative clients, Ben Boles with the Jerry Damson Automotive Group in North Alabama. Ben is in charge of new business development for the largest auto dealer group in the state and runs what has to be one of the largest media companies in the South. Yes, I said "media company," because that's what more and more advertisers are becoming, thanks to the mostly free tools of the personal media revolution. YouTube, for example, is one of his content delivery networks (and the world's second-largest search engine).

Boles and Damson have now moved to Facebook with a degree of innovation not found in most companies who use the social networking site to market their wares. This week, the company launched the first auto dealer inventory widget that Facebook has ever seen. It turns their Facebook fan page into a search of the company's inventory with a lead generator that notifies Boles' team whenever anyone shows interest.

Inventory widget

Initiating the application launches a video player tied to the thousands of videos he has created to showcase the inventory of five dealerships. And since the videos originate from his server, he can load post-roll ads to each, which further markets the Damson brand. Note the preloaded lead generator to the right of the videos.

Inventory widget opens a player

This is an excellent use of combining everything Damson does digitally with the most popular social networking site in the world, and you don't have to have a lot of imagination to think about what media companies could do similarly.

When we recommend things to media companies, we're often met with the question, "Who out there is doing that?" In the world of original thinking, it's sometimes hard to show an example, because we're often making things up as we go along. Ben Boles has provided one here, and we would all do well to pay attention.

As new media thinker Clay Shirky says, "Nothing will work, but everything might."   <Link>

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by Ken Elmore
The tablet device frenzy has officially begun. Apple has launched iPad, HP has earmarked June for its Slate arrival, and now Verizon and Google are reported to be developing a joint computer tablet.

Apple has proven there is a strong business model, selling one million devices in the first 28 days on the market. Each day there is a new announcement of apps or uses for the tablet devices. Today Vanity Fair releases a $4.99 app for the fashion magazine and you can bet this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Media analyst Gordon Borrell, CEO of Borrell Associates, says people are beginning to use tablet devices much the same way in the early days of the web. "It's déjà vu all over again. People ported the design of the newspaper (or magazine) over to the Web, and now they're porting the design of the Web over to the iPad. Each device has its own limitations and capabilities, but people ALWAYS seem to be more comfortable with incremental change rather than radical."

With that "porting" comes somewhat of a conundrum. Should there be a user interface standards for tablet devices, much the same way the web adopted? For instance, pinch to zoom, finger left or finger right for page turns, or maybe double pinky taps for online searches. At the moment the intuitiveness of an iPad is really left up to the app developer. A double tap on an image in one app might attach it to an email, while another may take you to an image gallery.

Jakob NielsenStandards for online didn't just happen by accident over a few years of trial and error. Enter Jakob Nielsen. He's been called one of the world leading experts on Internet usability. The Chicago Sun Times wrote, "he knows more about what makes the web work than anyone on the planet." Nielsen also holds a Ph.D. in human interaction from the Technical University of Denmark in Copenhagen and is a User Advocate and principal of the Nielsen Norman Group. When Nielsen has something to say about the web, people generally listen.

Nielsen has published a study, iPad Usability: First Findings from User Testing. "The bottom line, while the iPad is a pretty remarkable device, it needs work."

iPad apps are inconsistent and have low feature discoverability, with frequent user errors due to accidental gestures. An overly strong print metaphor and weird interaction styles cause further usability problems.

The 93 page report points to a need for commonality for the tablet device, setting the standards for those on the heals of launching in this portable space.

Here are some of the highlights of the study.

  • "It looks like a giant iPhone," is the first thing users say when asked to test an iPad. (Their second comment? "Wow, it's heavy.")

  • But from an interaction design perspective, an iPad user interface shouldn't be a scaled-up iPhone UI.

  • The first crop of iPad user apps revived memories of Web designs from 1993, when Mosaic first introduced the image map that made it possible for any part of any picture to become a UI element. As a result, graphic designers went wild: anything they could draw could be a UI, whether it made sense or not.

    It's the same with iPad apps: anything you can show and touch can be a UI on this device. There are no standards and no expectations.

    Worse, there are often no perceived affordances for how various screen elements respond when touched. The prevailing aesthetic is very much that of flat images that fill the screen as if they were etched. There's no lighting model or pseudo-dimensionality to indicate raised or lowered visual elements that call out to be activated.

  • To exacerbate the problem, once they do figure out how something works, from one app to the next. Each application has a completely different UI for similar features.

  • Swiping for the next article is derived from a strong in many content apps. In fact, this metaphor is so strong that you can't even tap a headline on the "cover" page to jump to the corresponding article. The iPad offers no homepages, even though users strongly desired homepage-like features in our testing. (They also often wanted search, which was typically not provided.)

The study also point to opportunities to get it right, as well.

  • Add dimensionality and better define individual interactive areas to increase discoverability through perceived affordances of what users can do where.

  • To achieve these interactive benefits, loosen up the etched-glass aesthetic. Going beyond the flatland of iPad's first-generation apps might create slightly less attractive screens, but designers can retain most of the good looks by making the GUI cues more subtle than the heavy-handed visuals used in the Macintosh-to-Windows-7 progression of GUI styles.

  • Abandon the hope of value-add through weirdness. Better to use consistent interaction techniques that empower users to focus on your content instead of wondering how to get it.

  • Support standard navigation, including a Back feature, search, clickable headlines, and a homepage for most apps.

I have been using an iPad for more than a month, and I agree with many of the Nielsen user findings. But there is something being lost here. An iPad is not a laptop, or netbook, and I believe their purposes are different. With an iPad, traditional web browsing is only a small part of the user experience. In fact, I have noticed I will tap an app before the web browser, only because that app is relevant to me, serves my purpose, and fills the niche that the web doesn't supply. This is the power of personal portable computing.

I have said from the start that iPads will be game changers in the portable world. These tablets devices are more personal, immersive and tailored to the individuals needs. The growth and adoption is only limited by the innovation in the apps being created by developers.

Magazines are figuring out the power of the personal tablet quickly, television stations can learn lessons too. It's another emerging platform in addition to print, broadcast and web.   <Link>

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by Terry Heaton
Dan Gillmor literally wrote the book on personal media. His seminal work, We, the Media, is widely regarded as heralding the disruption of personal media that has torn apart the ordered world of professional journalism. He's now director of the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, where a project by one of his graduate students, Jennifer Gaie Hellum, caught my attention. It's an essay on her "Top 12 Tips for Journalists on Using Social Media to Develop a Personal Brand:"

1. Find your niche. Consider your unique talents, interests and personal network and identify a topic you can own. Look for news coverage that make you think "why isn't someone covering this more?" and investigate what has been written about it in the past. Whether you recognize a neglected topic, feel passionate about a beat or possess a specialized knowledge, you can develop a niche and establish yourself as an expert by using digital and social media to your advantage:

2. Do your research. Use bookmarking sites like Digg and Delicious and advanced searches such as Google News, Google Blogs and Google Scholar to find relevant news and people who are concerned about, knowledgeable about and affected by the issue you're exploring.

3. Start a blog and participate on others. Regret the Error’s editor Craig Silverman looked for a topic no one was covering, found it in accuracy and corrections in the news and went live with a blog two weeks later.

4. Establish an searchable identity. Use the "One Voice" principle of public relations to create a consistent identity across your social media and professional profiles.

5. Own your domain name. For a small investment, you can secure your professional name as a domain name for a personal portfolio site. Whether you are employed or looking for work, a portfolio site is your online resume.

6. Create a Google Profile. Like a portfolio page, a Google Profile is your opportunity to present your digital brand and allows you to define the first listing people find when they do a Google search of your name.

7. Tweet. Tweet often. A lot of veteran journalists have resisted signing up for Twitter, believing that the micro-blogging site is a fad and a distraction. In fact, Twitter's power as a means of creating a network and finding story ideas, trends and sources is becoming increasingly more clear.

8. Join a professional social network. Ning groups like Wired Journalists give the opportunity to find and connect with other journalists who are interested in your beat.

9. Seek the input and advice of veteran journalists. Social media has broken down the hierarchy of professional org charts and created direct access to people.

10. Participate in live online chats. Poynter Online has weekly live chats with Joe Grimm aka Ask the Recruiter. Journalism students, professors and working journalists log on each week to discuss relevant topics. Transcripts are posted following the chats and logged on the site.

11. Be a true multimedia journalist. Take the steps to learn basic skills in video/audio editing and photograph. Become familiar with social media sites that feature them and create your own content.

12. Stretch yourself intellectually. Keep on top of what's new in social media by reading Mashable and pay attention to personal branding experts.

This is terrific advice whether you're just beginning or whether you're a seasoned veteran. Personal branding IS your future, and as I tell my students, the only person who really cares about you is you. Take control of your future and grow your brand.   <Link>

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by Terry Heaton
No beginning. No end. Continuous.Much has been written in this newsletter about the AR&D strategic platform known as Continuous News. Our definition of the concept was first articulated in my 2007 essay, News is a Process, Not a Finished Product," and it's a chapter in our book, Live. Local. BROKEN News. Continuous News IS the future of online news, because it is designed for the online audience for news, which is Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

We can and should stunt all we like in creating rich content portals, niche verticals, microsites, full local advertising solutions, ad networks and hundreds of other options, but if we're going to be in the online news business, we must be presenting a Continuous News service. We're having some truly wonderful success stories with our clients, but we still run into people who want to fight about the core assumptions of the concept.

While we believe strongly, for example, that Continuous News should be presented in blog format, with the latest entry at the top, this is a difficult concept for many to grasp, largely because it's so different from the "lead story" or "banner headline" of finished product journalism. In the old form, completed stories are presented in ranked order of importance, a ranking determined by the skill, training and intuition of an editor or a producer.

The paradigm of ranked presentation is what the newspaper industry dragged with it to the Web in the mid 90s, which was then copied by the television industry, because, well, that's the way media companies did it. While it's an oversimplification to blame industry woes on how news in presented online, the reality is it hasn't exactly blossomed as a viable replacement for traditional forms of media. Meanwhile, the people who built the Web moved in an entirely different direction, in part, because they knew something media companies didn't — that the Web is a real time database, not a transport system for content.

And so, from the very beginning, media companies were going up the down staircase, and the results are not surprising. The analogy of pouring new wine into old wineskins is appropriate, with the predictable result of exploding wineskins.

The database-driven, real-time Web doesn't play well with traditional news items, because the values of the Web conflict with the values of what we call "finished product" news, that which we publish in our newspapers and deliver in our newscasts. Speed, transparency, authenticity and unbundled ubiquity are quite different from that which is bundled, carefully constructed, fully vetted, and complete. It is no surprise that the individual blogs of many media company employees are providing the online oomph for their employers. These are designed for the database-driven, real-time Web, and make no mistake, there is no other kind of Web.

So the conflict between the traditional and the new is innate and deep. Try to convince an old-timer that online news should be presented differently than offline news, and you'll generally get a harumph and horizontal head movement. The resistance can be extreme. We've run into media properties that try to promote a hybrid model, with the "top stories" presented in a block at the top, followed by the continuous news stream.

The perceived assumption with those who resist Continuous News is that people both want and need to have everything summarized for them in one place. We would argue that this is elitist, contrary to evidence, and contrary to the established trends of the Live Web (Seth Godin, Google, Wikipedia-Semantic Web) and social media. The creation of an online finished record, therefore, is a throwback to the days of the Static Web and the logic and reasoning of the late 20th Century. For broadcasters especially, transitioning from the static to the live is difficult, because our instincts and traditions tell us to "gather" an audience. However, television news people understand the word "live" better than other traditional forms of media, so the execution of a vibrant Continuous News strategy can be almost second nature.

Let us also note that "the stream" of information in the Live Web is much bigger than that which any website can produce, which is why we need a strategic approach to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Think of it as a giant funnel through which flows a massive flood of information and data that is much bigger than us. Figuring out how to curate the stream is a problem that many are currently working to resolve, but that should not prevent us from shifting our focus to "live," because we want to be rightly positioned for where things are going, not for where they have been. If, for example, Facebook becomes "the Web within the Web" as some predict, we will be prepared to adapt to the environment. Too much is fluid today and too much is at stake for us to remain in a Static Web mode.

In the Continuous News model, everything is a breaking event. There is no "lead" story, for the only thing that matters is the time. Bits of stories are sufficient and they can be tied together through search, tags and a "more coverage" button, if we believe that's necessary. Belief that the audience can't figure out what's going on — what's important — is tied to our finished product news genes, but it's an insult to empowered consumers. Creating news for the Web that appeals to the lowest common denominator is a broadcast mindset. If we challenge people to move ahead and create an environment in which THEY are in control, we will be rewarded by their loyalty. People "get" Facebook's "News Feed." People "get" Twitter. And the numbers for both are northbound, so it isn't really too much of a stretch to make the assumption that they will "get" what we're trying to do in the Continuous News world as well.

And beyond all of that is the need to fully understand that this "real time" stream is where all of the news business is headed downstream. It's much, much bigger than simply a discussion of whether our website output should be a part of it. The Semantic Web itself will be able to harvest all kinds of database files simultaneously to provide facts, context, understanding and knowledge. We must be a part of the stream, and the time to begin is now.

ASIDE: I just learned that Albritton's new online news venture in Washington D.C. will be presented in a form of Continuous News. Note this quote from the Broadcasting & Cable article:

"TBD will never be a finished product," wrote Director of Community Engagement Steve Buttry in its inaugural post April 28. "We'll always be in motion: constantly updating, improving and evolving. We'll be a place you visit to watch the news unfold in real time."

Here's a caution for Mr. Buttry. The online audience for news is generally at work, so be careful with hot audio on all that video. We don't want to disturb the guy in the cubicle next door.   <Link>


"Give us the steps we need to take to show we're a viewer advocate."

That's a common request as stations move from meaningless or mushy brands of journalism to brands viewers want. In fact, no matter your station's branding line, viewers appreciate multimedia journalists who go the extra step, watching out for them. It's far more proactive and distinctive than simply reacting to the news of the day. You still need to do that, but all stations do.

You may want to use this as a guide.

three steps to become a viewer advocate

When seeing this, one news director commented, "This is common sense. It's what all multimedia journalists should do. They just don't know the steps."

Learn more by clicking on these links:


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by Ken Elmore
KOCO-TV Oklahoma City, OKWhen tornadoes ripped through Oklahoma City this week, it was all hands on deck for the KOCO newsroom. Reporter Linda Mares was en route to cover the storm, when all of a sudden the storm came to them. Not able to stop and shoot with the ENG Cam, Linda instinctively pulls out her Blackberry phone and starts recording. She captured about 30 seconds of center of the tornado, while the winds shattered her car windows . Here's a link to the clip.

Great thinking in a moments noticed captured riveting pictures for KOCO5. Camera phones are a staple now and are something every newsroom should be equipping not only the news staff, but everyone in the station with. You never know when that great story or video is going to sneak up on you, and it pays to be prepared - just ask Linda.

HTC Droid IncredibleHere's a rundown of what I think are the best five camera phones on the market today.
  1. HTC Droid Incredible - 8 megapixel camera, auto focus, 2x LED flash - $199 (Verizon)
  2. Motorola Droid - 5 megapixels camera, LED Flash, shoots 720 x 480 VGA, auto focus & image stablizer  - $199 (Verizon)
  3. HTC Nexus One - 5 megapixels, LED Flash, 2x Zoom, shoots 720 x 480 VGA - $529 (Google - unlocked)
  4. Apple iPhone 3GS - 3 megapixel camera, shoots 640 x 480 VGA, auto focus and geotagging - $199 (AT&T)
  5. Rim Blackberry Bold 9700 - 3.2 megapixels, 2x Zoom, shoots 352 x 480 VGA, picture stabilizer, LED flash - $149 (t-Mobile

The Incredible is a brand new phone from Verizon and runs on Google's open source Android platform. You might find a demo model in the Verizon store soon, Verizon expects to ship the Incredible to customers beginning on May 31. You are going to hear a lot about this phone. I will review for you right here next week.   <Link>

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK In Facebook, we get to create our publics. In Twitter, we decide which publics to join. But neither is the public sphere; neither entails publishing to everyone. Yet Facebook is pushing us more and more to publish to everyone and when it does, we lose control of our publics. That, I think, is the line it crossed. Jeff Jarvis on the problem with Facebook's stretching the limits of privacy.

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