Tag Archives: content

Generating value from social data in real-time, Dara Nasr from Twitter

These notes are from the adtech London exhibition in September 2013. Apologies for any brevity, grammar or spelling mistakes, I did the best I could! Here is a full list of all my presentation notes from adTech London 2013.

How the Jay-Z hashtags are linked by Dara Nasr from Twitter
How the Jay-Z hashtags are linked by Dara Nasr from Twitter

Dara Nasr is the Head of Agency Sales at Twitter, and had an arsenal of amusing, anecdotal case studies about brands on Twitter.

His opening slide was “Twitter: the real time pulse of the planet

Case studies:

  • @policiajun – 3,000 inhabitants in a town in aim. All civil communication handled by twitter
  • “Other companies preach mobile first…” 80% of access to twitter is via mobile, and mobile was truly before the web for Twitter
  • It took 3 years to serve a billion tweets. They now serve a billion tweets every 2 days

Successful Twitter users and brands:

  • Plan for everyday moments. He showed the use of everyday keywords such as shopping, which are cyclical around the days of the week. Time your tweets to coincide with everyday activities.
  • Plan for live moments. E.g. There were 6m tweets around the champions league final.  Nokia’s imitation is the form of flattery was retweeted 18m times when the new iPhone 5 was launched (and I retweeted their tweet because I thought it was funny). Successful brands and users have playful banter between competitors, which ends up successful for both. This ranges from political parties and politicians to CPG brands to sports personalities
  • Plan connected moments… Twitter and TV. Twitter bought Bluefin who connect Twitter to TV adverts. Twitter claim 60% of people use Twitter while watching TV. Dara went through a case study on Jay-Z boosting music sales
  • MTV ran a competition with [a staggering] 166m entries

Answers to questions from the audience:

  1. The brands who use Twitter well try and try again to get it right. Key companies are Samsung, Mondelēz, Paddy Power. They make mistakes, learn from them, and end up with successful campaigns
  2. On commercialisation: There are 3 ways Twitter makes money: from promoted tweets, promoted accounts and prompted trends, i.e. pushing results higher up on all 3 listings
  3. On commercialisation after a potential IPO: Twitter might not change that much because it’s very user focussed, and doesn’t want to do anything users don’t want.

Here is a full list of my presentation notes.

How the Olympics team delivered London2012.com

Click to watch the London 2012 highlights video

The Olympics is like London buses – you don’t see anything about it for a while, and suddenly you get several opportunities at the same time.

On Monday I was very fortunate to meet with Alex Balfour, who was the Head of New Media at London 2012. If you haven’t seen Alex’s summary of London 2012 on slideshare yet, stop reading this and take a read straight away.

So I saw Alex on Monday, who for a man who has had one of the most stressful jobs in Digital Media for the last three years, didn’t look any worse for it (no grey hair or hair loss!); and this evening I was invited to an event hosted by Simon La Fosse where the guest speaker was Gerry Pennell, the CIO of London 2012.

Gerry spoke for around thirty minutes, which flew by quickly, and then there were literally dozens, dozens of questions from the audience. The thing that struck me was how each member of the audience was so polite and started off by congratulating Gerry and his team on such a successful event. This was refreshing because the IT community doesn’t congratulate one another – IT has such a high expectation that if it works, well, it’s expected to, and anything less is something to complain about.

Gerry described how important digital was such a key component of delivering the Games. Actually, he wanted to stick to ‘just’ the huge undertaking of delivering a live events service, but his presentation kept coming back to digital consumers. All wonderfully consumer focussed.

Some of the other key points he covered:

  • Just under a quarter of LOCOG’s budget went to IT
  • It was easy to motivate his team to get things done – everyone knew about the deadline, rather than many other IT organisations who have a degree of lethargy and motivation issues
  • Gerry’s teams had to create their own requirements four years ago, because the rest of the organisation didn’t know what it would want back then
  • Preparation was key. The team prepared via a large number of test events, scenario planning, disaster recovery planning, and so on
  • LOCOG knew that they were going to have a rough time with the press. He told a story about the day that the BlackBerry Messaging service went down, and a journalist in his office blamed Gerry for the outage!
  • The threat of cyber-attacks was taken extremely seriously, and some politicians were involved on this subject. There were six actual significant attacks during the Games which were dealt with, and Gerry was paid his compliments to their Content Delivery Network
  • To resolve IT issues immediately, rather than the usual IT call-fix resolution timescales, they had to ‘saturate’ the stadia with support staff and equipment – they would replace desktops and equipment rather than problem solve
  • Despite all the IT infrastructure, there is still a huge reliance on paper in the stadia – referees and other games staff wanted/ needed to have a sheet of paper. The last two Olympics have printed 50 million sheets of paper, and in London they produced 16 million. A full box of office printer paper has 2,500 sheets, so that’s still almost 6,500 boxes of paper!
  • LOCOG were shocked at the amount of mobile traffic. And this traffic wanted live results. For the first time, London was able to provide point by point score updates (as opposed to game or match results) – and the peak traffic period was the Murray final, where mobile users wanted point by point updates about the match
  • There were 40 university sandwich placements who worked for the LOCOG IT organisation. I had a sandwich placement in my third year at university, and I can only begin to imagine what an experience the Olympics must have been for these once-in-a-lifetime lucky students

Someone in the audience asked about the huge amount of data that LOCOG had collected during the summer, and whether there was a Big Data opportunity. Gerry answered that the team was disbanded straight after the Paralympics, so there wasn’t much of an opportunity or business desire (because the business was dismantled as well!)

We are seeing a world where the value of content is continually diminishing – there are so many sources of content that it’s easy to move to someone who’s giving it away for free as soon as one source starts charging. Technology also makes it easy to bypass traditional content funding models – such as the ability to fast forward during adverts on pre-recorded TV programmes.

Sport will continually increasing in value though. By its nature, it’s time sensitive, so it’s usually watched live. This makes the advertising much more valuable – for instance, think about the infamous Super Bowl ads.

This in turn makes the content more valuable – and one of the key reasons why the English Premiership’s rights rose 71% this year to over a billion pounds per season.

Sport – it’s only a game. Really???

How to get help with online marketing for small businesses


Last week I was invited to a networking event hosted by Rob Tyson of The Tyson Report and Triberr.

As regular readers will know, I am interested in small UK businesses, mainly because my grandfather started a small shop in Camberwell shortly after the war, which my dad looked after until retiring some five years ago.

I’m acutely aware that small businesses need as much help they can get, and in some ways the Internet has created a level playing field, but small businesses struggle with the complexities of the Internet and it takes too much time to research the necessary material.

Step forward Rob Tyson. Rob has created a subscription based website which helps small businesses understand the nuances of Web marketing.

His website is based on a freemium model – a lot of content is free, the first month costs £1 and thereafter it’s £19 a month.

I spoke to Rob at the event, not for as long as I’d like because there were lots of others there, and he seems a genuine guy who wants to help small businesses. I asked him what his long term plans are, and whether he would help large companies, and he said that he wants to focus just on smaller companies at the moment – usually less than a dozen people, running a business as well as a website.

At the networking event was a wedding photographer who has reduced his marketing spend (at one point he was spending 50% of his revenue on marketing) through Rob and a charming lady who is setting up a London tour guide business and needs help promoting it online.

I’ve read Rob’s blog, and it’s straight up, direct content. There’s no fluff, and something to take away from every post.

If you’re a small business, I recommend following Rob on Twitter and taking a look at his site.


Who will pay for content?


One of the meetings I had in New York was with NBC – one of the biggest media and entertainment companies in the world.

We had an interesting conversation ranging from world instability to the economy, sport and the army before we moved on to technology.

Since arriving in the US on the Sunday, I had heard many people explain how they no longer subscribed to TV networks (cable or satellite) and were now consuming all their content from Internet services. These services ranged from LoveFilm (subscription), Hulu (free, and advertising funded) and the amazing MLB.com to illegal streaming services (mainly for sport).

We agreed that this shift will accelerate. It will plateau – I don’t think all users will migrate from TV services, but we will see step changes, literally hundreds of thousands of users stop paying for subscription services as they move to Internet services.

I heard from another broadcaster while I was in New York that the only content that advertisers wanted to purchase is sport because of the evidence of users TIVO’ing (Sky+ or BT Vision recording) and missing the adverts out. Sport has become so dominant with advertisers because most of the time it is watched in real-time, and you can’t skip the adverts. So this broadcaster now sells packages to advertisers where sport is part of the bundle. You can’t just buy a sport advert slot any more. You have to buy the documentary channel at 3am if you want to buy the Sunday afternoon American Football slot. Brilliant!

That helps with the funding gap for advertisers. There will always be enough advertisers desperate to cover sports adverts. However, as users start to migrate to Internet services and spend less money overall on content, we are going to see a rapidly shrinking investment bucket for original content elsewhere. What will fund the new CSI, House, Heroes or documentaries? The broadcast networks are working hard to solve this problem at the moment.

One possibility is that Google or Apple (or maybe Microsoft but I think they’ve experienced enough losses from Xbox TV and film services to put them off) will become so successful at a closed-loop network that TV viewers will keep spending money through their content-stores and that will keep revenues high for content producers.

Photo of CSI: Miami writer Tamara Jaron and writer/co-producer Matt Partney at National Academy of Sciences booth, USA Science & Engineering Festival, Washington, DC, courtesy of Adam Fagen on Flickr

Amazed at the SOPA protests


I watched the SOPA protests closely last week with complete amazement.

In summary, SOPA is a proposed anti-piracy law in the US which would help prohibit illegal content on websites by imposing harsh penalties on sites that host it. 

Protests were held by some of the highest traffic websites on the Internet including Google and Wikipedia and were reported by the TV news.

Remember that Google own YouTube, which allegedly hosts many videos of illegal TV broadcasts (broadcasters and content owners can upload it to YouTube if they wish).

That’s one aspect of SOPA. Another aspect is that many websites that show illegal content use advertising as a source of revenue. SOPA wants networks which provide this advertising to become liable for where they are used.

If you took the Google search algorithm and posted it online, Google would take you to court and try to shut down any sites that host the illegal content. Yet Google refuses to be held accountable for the thousands of allegedly illegal videos it hosts on YouTube. These videos are illegal because they are TV recordings and violate copyright. Either Google does, or does not respect copyright. 

Google are rumoured to be bidding for the Premier League rights. It will be interesting to see if Google win the rights and then watch their lawyers report websites which contain illegal footage. Will Google remove these websites from the search results? Will Google remove their adsense and adwords accounts?

And the same applies to Wikipedia. Whilst I’m not suggesting that you actually do this, if you set up a website tomorrow and wrote a script to copy all of Wikipedia’s comments to your site, would you expect a legal letter from Wikipedia? Of course you would, because we understand copying content without permission is illegal from our school years onwards.

The value of content has been steadily fallen and the Internet has accelerated this. I don’t want people to copy my content illegally, and I respect the US for trying to help protect content.

Photo courtesy of KierDuros on Flickr


Why Publishers and Broadcasters need to change

It’s been absolutely crazy busy at work for the last few weeks, mainly on the new business front. I’d like to add this is a report, not a criticism. Anyway, when it gets this busy at work I often remember Bill Gates’ book The Road Ahead where he discusses how future business will all be conducted by electronic systems exchanging data with each other.

The truth has turned out to be quite the opposite – customers want ever increasing levels of detail before signing up to a product or service.

I did get a chance last week to go to an interesting technology event run by Vizrt. The event was aimed at their large publisher and broadcaster customers – many of the broadsheets and tabloids use their system (or similar competitors) for creating content for their newspapers or TV news snippets. We were there because we work with some large publishers, integrating their systems together.

One of the speakers at the event was Morten Holst who is a Product Strategy Manager for Vizrt, and raised some interesting points which are paraphrased below.

Morten’s first point was to wake up the audience with the following video:

His point was that whilst the video is amusing – a baby who knows the iPad interface so well that she can’t use a paper magazine, and even checks her finger to see if it’s her finger that’s broken – this baby is going to be a consumer in ten years. Publishers and broadcasters need to wake up and realise their consumers are changing very quickly.

His next demonstration was a comparison of a web site 10 years ago and nowadays. I’ve used the BBC News website as an example below.



Look at the two homepages for a few seconds, and you can see many similarities. In fairness, over the ten years, not a huge amount has changed.

I’m not particularly targeting the BBC (it’s still my favourite news site). The point here is that publishing hasn’t actually changed very much in 10 years.

Now look at another entertainment industry over the last ten years. Look at the video below – if you can, try to watch it in HD.

Morten’s point here is that 10 years ago these kinds of graphics and sound effects were considered motion picture quality. Now they are considered the acceptable standard of computer games – this year’s Battlefield 3 (the video above), FIFA 12 and Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3 are good examples.

The video games industry has recognised a number of times that it needs to push the boundaries of user interfaces, presentation and design – think of an Xbox 360, the revolutionary Wii controller, then the revolutionary Kinect controller. To put that into perspective, the Xbox and Wii were launched within the last 6 years.

His final point was about comparing printed content to digital content. If you read paper magazines, the photography is usually outstanding – full, double page and high quality. That same image will be shown as a 2 inch square on the web, and won’t get a second glance.

The iPad is encouraging publisher’s to think more creatively, by designing beautiful interfaces. In truth there’s no reason the iPad can encourage creativity and a web browser can’t. However the iPad has been disruptive enough in digital terms to make editors want to push the boundaries.

So, on to the future, Morten encouraged the audience to start pushing the boundaries, to stop doing things the same way because that’s how they’d always been done. The functionality has moved on enormously, yet the editors aren’t using the new features, yet.

How I would Yahoo!


So, apparently Yahoo! is up for sale, and even better, Google are willing to help fund it’s resurgence. This sounds so familiar – in 1997, Apple were having serious problems and Microsoft, their once main competitor, invested $150 million in the company, and now Apple is worth more than Microsoft!

Back to Yahoo!, it’s amazing how many people are so dismissive of Yahoo!’s (that’s a lot of punctuation) value.

Here are the high level stats:

Yahoo has over 500 million unique visitors each month, around the World, in over 30 languages.

In the UK alone, adults spend over 3 hours a month just on Yahoo! Mail.

To build that audience of 500 million would cost a HUGE amount of money (and time), so in my opinion there’s never been a better time to Yahoo! Stock is set at a very reasonable price, and Google are willing to invest a significant amount of money.

Here’s what I would do if I took over Yahoo! tomorrow:


  • An Internet content portal above all else. In terms of competition, Google provide mail to compete with Yahoo! Mail however there is no one with similar a traffic size which provides the level of content as Yahoo!
  • Generate a cost/revenue model for services such as Yahoo! Mail and Flickr to see if it’s worth selling these on or keeping them and reinvesting.
  • Create a cloud development service model to compete with the likes of Amazon and Microsoft – turning a cost centre into a profit centre


 Work out where my users are coming from – is it mainly from PC manufacturer-set-browser-homepages which haven’t been updated for 5 years? In fact, I’d probably do most of my initial work on the analysis of who uses the individual Yahoo! services to ascertain the users’ value, or even try to derive an ARPU (Average Revenue Per User).


Yahoo! strikes me as a company which is struggling to innovate. How many new services of note have their launched recently? I would look at why this has happened – have they all left to go to competitors? Internet companies need to have innovation at the centre of their philosophy, vision and corporate structure in order to keep users returning. I would reignite this passion for innovation immediately.

And finally, I think I’d rebrand Yahoo! to drop the exclamation mark! (Pun intended).


A look at New York Times digital revenues



Digital businesses include NYTimes.com, BostonGlobe.com, Boston.com, About.com, other Company Web sites and related digital products. In the third quarter of 2011, total digital advertising revenues decreased 4.5 percent to $74.8 million from $78.3 million. Digital advertising revenues at the News Media Group increased 6.2 percent to $50.3 million from $47.4 million due to growth in retail and national display advertising. Digital advertising revenues as a percentage of total Company advertising revenues were 28.6 percent for the third quarter of 2011 compared with 27.3 percent in the third quarter of 2010.

In the first nine months of 2011, the Company’s total digital advertising revenues increased 0.9 percent to $242.9 million from $240.7 million. Digital advertising revenues at the News Media Group increased 12.2 percent to $162.4 million from $144.7 million. Digital advertising revenues as a percentage of total Company advertising revenues were 28.2 percent for the first nine months of 2011 compared with 26.3 percent in the first nine months of 2010.

Paid digital subscribers to The Times digital subscription packages, e-readers and replica editions totaled approximately 324,000 as of the end of the third quarter of 2011. In addition to these paid digital subscribers, as of the end of the third quarter of 2011, The Times had more than 100,000 highly engaged users sponsored by Ford Motor Company’s luxury brand, Lincoln, who have free access to NYTimes.com and smartphone apps until the end of the year, and approximately 800,000 home-delivery subscribers with linked digital accounts, who receive free digital access. In total, The Times had paid and sponsored relationships with over 1.2 million digital users as of the end of the third quarter of 2011.

Source: The New York Times Company

My interpretation

  • In the last quarter, there were 1.2 million registered users, of whom 324,000 paid something, and 100,000 were paid for by Ford (a great subscription model as long as there are no catches for either party) and 800,000 were covered by their print subscription. In other words, they have a churn of about 25%.
  • The site has 45 million unique visitors per month as of January 2011 – it’s interesting that they use comScore to quote that 45 million. ComScore use an estimated data model, as opposed to NYT using their own actual data.
  • Anyway, 45 million unique users and 324,000 have paid something – that’s a conversion rate of less than one percent, however paid for content is still very much in its infancy.
  • Those 45 million users probably don’t include Smartphone users or e-readers (hats off to ComScore if that can get that data, however I suspect they can’t).
  • Doing some extremely rough sums, subscriptions are 99 cents for the first 4 weeks and then $3.75 per week thereafter. Let’s ignore the special offer price and let’s assume Ford pay a full $3.75 per user. Ignoring the print subscribers who get the digital edition for free, that’s a total revenue of $1.59 million per week. Let’s assume NYT earned this revenue throughout the entire quarter (12 weeks), that’s a total of $19 million for the quarter.
  • Digital advertising across the group (and this includes a number of other websites and newspapers) generated $74.8 million.

Lessons to take away from this quarterly statement

  • The premium digital content model still has a way to go – advertising still generated four times the revenue as subscribers.
  • ‘Wholesale’ or ‘sponsored’ user bases are key drivers for the number of paid for subscribers – Ford pay for 100,000 users and NYT have 324,000 paying individual subscribers. Think of the effort that goes into the Ford deal compared to the direct to consumer sales effort.

Free news is [probably] fake news


In case you missed it, there was a news story that developed over Twitter yesterday where a “Canadian research company” announced that users of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser had a lower IQ than users of other Internet browsers.

The story was found to be a fake after a few hours, and highlighted my concerns over citizen journalism.

In the past, we tuned into TV news services such as the BBC, CNN or ITN as well as newspapers and radio stations. We knew whether a media agency was biased towards one political persuasion or another, and made up our own mind how much to “rationalise” the news.

With “citizen journalism” where anyone can tweet 140 characters and be taken genuinely for other users to retweet and spread the message, our news sources have become unknown, which means we probably shouldn’t trust them. The public’s insatiable appetite for instant news means that news sources can’t be verified before shown on international news stations. The Internet Explorer story has highlighted this.

The problem facing news agencies is the requirement for second-by-second news and how to monetise quality, authentic reporting. Otherwise the news industry will become more unmoderated, unverified and will lead to more extreme and fake reporting.

Photo courtesy of Chris Metcalf

iPad review – at last


I’ve been pretty vocal about not-seeing-the-point of an iPad and so Alex Day at Endava lent me his iPad for a few weeks to see if I’d change my mind.

I’m now ten days into iPad ownership (more like borrowingship) and here are my thoughts.

It doesn’t replace any previous gadget. The thought of taking an iPad into work, or not taking my laptop home to do some late night work is frankly ridiculous. To open a Word document or PowerPoint requires buying some apps and I doubt they support some of the features we use at work (track changes, comments and Sharepoint integration). So it doesn’t replace my laptop for a moment.

I’m checking email much more often. One of the first things I did was to wipe the data (sorry Alex) and synchronise my personal email and work email. Which means the iPad alerts me when new calendar requests come in, etc. Now I realise why Alex lent it to me…

I’ve totally stopped having spare moments since the iPad came home. My wife and I charge our iPhones in the kitchen near the kettle, and every time I make a cup of tea, I’ll play on the iPad for a minute or so, rather than wait around doing whatever I did before the iPad.

The one app that excels above others on the iPad is FlipBoard. Flipboard takes your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and other accounts including favourite RSS feeds, and converts them into a beautiful magazine style format (see the screenshot above). It takes images from links inside Tweets from people you are following and shows them as part of the article. It is the neatest form of personalised content I have seen anywhere. Content publishers should take note of this app as a glimpse into the future of content publishing. When you look at the Flickr feed on FlipBoard you need to remind yourself that this is user generated content – the quality of the photos and the screen are excellent.

And while we’re on the positive points, the battery is excellent. Alex’s iPad doesn’t have mobile coverage, just WiFi, which is fine considering it never goes outside of the house and office. I’ve only charged it twice in ten days. I guess that’s why the device weighs the same as a hardback book.

Everyone in the family is playing much, much more games. Despite owning a Wii and Xbox (with kinect) and 2 Nintendo DSs (DSes?) the iPad is the preferred device, especially for Mrs H. The graphics and general playability are superb, and that’s just on the free games we’ve downloaded.

And that’s why in think that I don’t get the iPad. I want it to replace my laptop and paper notepad, but it’s not that type of device at all. It’s not about productivity, it’s about entertainment. It’s a media device. It is a large iPod not a replacement laptop.

Yes you can convert it into a productivity tool, by buying £50 worth of apps and using the rubbish on-screen keyboard, which will probably give you RSI within five years, you can suffer whilst telling everyone you abandoned your laptop years ago. Ten years ago you were probably saying the same thing with a Palm V.