Posts Tagged ‘user experience’

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or living in China, you would have stumbled upon Google’s latest venture: the Google+ project.

It’s funny how many forgive and forget when it comes to Google. One would expect the abysmal failure of Google Wave 2 years ago, stifling the public’s tolerance of giving any Google grown ‘social’ product another go. It seems though the leading search engine provider has succeeded in breaking its novice status with the creation and execution of Google+, now with 25m users and counting. Google’s best kept secret? Not anymore.

Having worked with online products for so long, I appreciate how difficult it is to nail an online platform that hails simplicity and sophistication at the same time. Add to this the already cluttered online community space that is dominated by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn amongst others, it’s quite exciting to see Google+ take the lead in what I would label as social media’s next generation of platforms. Why I draw this conclusion boils down to a couple of factors:

Google+ gives ultimate control to the individual. Unlike Twitter and Facebook where the rights of sharing is dependent on the message recipient’s willingness to connect with the sharer, Google+ allows the end user to freely add Google+’ians into user groups and share messages based on their personalised circles of individuals. It’s asymmetrical in nature, and it’s just what social junkies are looking for.

Google+ evolves the equation of a sticky platform. Think of a restaurant that you regularly eat at. What makes you go back there? It’s a combination of things: the food, the service, the atmosphere, the people you dine with. I used to think that the community for social networks was the primary determinant of a user’s loyalty (the key reason that I gave Facebook another go despite being dubious about its utility in my life). It seems now that being a ‘regular’ in the longhaul also requires a continued investment in keeping features (equivalent to the restaurant’s atmosphere and menu) on the platform attractive. And what’s cool about Google+ is that you don’t need an online tutorial or help tips: the environment is predictable to the end user, the Google+ diet is easy to digest!

Since its launch we’ve seen tweaks in the Circles module and YouTube sharing, driven primarily by screening usage (which is not surprising with Google’s advanced web analytics capabilities) and listening to user’s feedback. Crowdsourcing is a cool way of learning more about users and ensuring users remain engaged on the network.

This approach breathes the importance of iterative development, the importance of being agile with managing a living and breathing platform as more information about your users and their behaviours surface.  Twitter started off with attractive features (the concept of ‘followers’ and @ mentions and RT or quotes) but responded too late to third party applications who offered more convenience in features such as shortened links and in line influence scores from Klout.

It’s great to be reminded that the social media space will never stop evolving and I’m pleased to see Google+ taking a decent leap in the right direction.

What I look forward to? I see a richer user experience across other Google web properties as a result of first hand insights from Google+ users (for example, improved relevancy on Google Search); more functionality on its mobile app, particularly for Android powered mobiles; further integration of video chat properties within its cool Hangout feature and a Google+ API.

Below is a detailed transcript of each Media 2010 speaker:

CEO of Fairfax Digital, Jack Matthews opened the conference with the following remarks:

  • Content is no longer scarce; the ability to diffuse and distribute is now outside the control of the media organization
  • Whilst journalism as a profession has not changed, business models to support the cause has, trending towards being transactions based
  • New media should be considered an opportunity rather than a risk)

CEO of Associated NorthCliffe Digital, Richard Titus (also ex New Media head at BBC UK) spoke about deriving value from service utility in a way that delights end users:

  • The internet is now a huge collaborative copying machine, oversupplied with content. As more permutations of devices used to consume the content increases (which in turn blurs lines between different media types), the challenge is to produce/curate content that is fresh, targeted and ‘social’
  • The ability to connect, mash and mix up data to create bespoke and relevant experiences across these different platforms is key to success
  • His recommendation: use customer knowledge across networks to tailor your product/service and justify charging for it (then make it a frictionless process). This involves sharing information across multiple platforms/networks and building sites with enough scale to respond as required.

CTO of New York Times, Marc Frons showcased the many innovative and interactive platforms on the web in an effort to justify company’s decision to charge for content:

  • As media moves from print to digital, New York Times is transforming from a news to a technology company, a typical day in the newsroom involves close collaboration between Journalists and developers. It recently invested in an iPad app in support of portability, convenience and readability of digital print.
  • The key metric for advertising and future payment models is reader engagement. NYT has a multitude of apps to support the cause. Examples include: TimesPeople provides features to share content across social networks, TimesWire streams breaking news and opinion from the NYT site and Times Skimmer emulates the feeling of a physical newspaper online. There’s even a Times Developer network (11.5k users, 9.8k API keys) that exposes NYT’s structured data to other sites.
  • Advertising and subscription revenue is an essential investment to sustain journalism and to simply survive. NY Times intends to start charging from early 2011 using a bundled approach: free access until users reach a monthly article limit, then charge a single price for web and mobile access.

Chief Scientist at Reuters, Nic Fulton took us through the evolution of printing press from the Gutenburg days to the present with mentions on potential use of new technologies such as Augmented Reality:

  • The remit of Reuters Labs is to innovate products by roadtesting technology that may potentially improve user experience, brand positioning and enable new business models
  • Fulton sees the available opportunities for the news organization as endless: taking the Augmented Reality concept, remote controlled media coverage without necessarily being physically present at the place in question (e.g. Iraq since it’s dangerous!)

Adrian Holovaty from MSNBC.com enlightened the crowd with 3 big media concepts that he unraveled whilst transforming a rich database from Chicago Police to an easy to use, visually attractive mashup of information about ‘your neighbourhood’ – Everyblock.com

  • Idea 1: Reorganise free, publicly available information to your end user. Once data is captured across different sources (particularly via the government), the creativity lies with browsing and presenting this data in a way that explores the serendipity of content discovery and makes the overall experience compelling.
  • Idea 2: ‘Living’ information as infinitely relevant, available and evolving. ‘Reading the newspaper is like starting to watch TV show mid season’. Notes from the UN Climate Change conference demonstrates how assumed knowledge erodes the value of the end product. The Wikipedia version is a lot more digestible, using an encyclopedia description + article update approach
  • Idea 3: Taming streams. With the heightened web activity and ease of contributing opinion (i.e. consumers are now also producers), the challenge comes with identifying the nugget amongst the noise. Commodity news is ubiquitous yet difficult to monetize. Participatory mashups are becoming the medium of choice for internet user and advertisers

I love a bit of controversy, and that was what Frederic Filloux brought to the morning. As Editor of Schibsted in Paris, Frederic sees the need for a new advertising model to sustain quality journalism

  • Whilst global time spent on social networks has gone up 82% YoY to Dec 09, time spent on news sites have declined from 42 mins to 30 mins (Nov 06 vs Nov 09).
  • The challenge posed to the audience is protecting revenue levels whilst readership value declines: a web reader is worth 16 to 20 times less than the print reader. For example, a Techcrunch reader is valued at USD$0.85, compared to New York Times at $8.
  • Creativity is required to ensure reader engagement – content is the new advertisement

A different tact was taken by Oliver Reichenstein, CEO of iNformation Architects in Japan, taking the floor to talk about his ambitious streak with challenging the norm behind best practice web design. His ultimate goal? To help people find and enjoy the world’s premium content, when, where and how they want it.  He sees content as still king but what makes a web site stand out is with simplicity (one click mentality) and beauty, he ‘obsesses over every pixel from metadata to picture quality.’

Following Riy Minty’s visit to Sydney to Media140, Al Jazeera’s Head of New Media, Moeed Ahmad reminded us of the great work that the company has been doing with implementing a community based media distribution model, most prominent during Gaza.  The company’s ideal focuses on freedom of speech specifically for the Arab world.

  • Taking on a ‘distributed distribution’ approach, Al Jazeera has a Creative Commons portal that allows citizens to submit crisis updates on location.
  • This is a good example of a crowdsourcing model that disseminated valuable content in real time and relying on a ‘virtuous circle’ community to endorse content to other people

Suzanne Stefanac from American Film Institute, Digital Content lab and the associated innovations is only successful with vision (stepping outside of your comfort zone) collaboration/engagement, and raw guts.

With 22.5% of 97m U.S citizens choosing to timeshift the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and 3-7 hours of video watched on the Mobile (Dec 2009), the challenge is being able to:

  1. Accommodate for all the platforms of consumption
  2. Attract attention and enable easy content discovery

Ming Chan from The1stMovement discussed the changing role of Advertising agencies in today’s new media landscape and seeing the co-creator nature of consumers as the driving force behind this change:

  • As co-creators of product, consumers are actively involved in defining product and driving company’s priorities. The diversity of products are a good representation of the complexities of our demands. E.g. iPod’s range of products
  • Chan referred to Pepsi who took extreme measures to reduce advertising spend from $142m (2006) to $60m (2008), followed by a radical move with dropping Super Bowl ($30m) from its portfolio and instead investing in a $20m social-centric campaign for 2010.
  • This power shift to the consumer is also consistently matched with a heavier focus on Internet based ad spending to $60,Chicken before the egg.
  • Case study: Pepsi $142m on advertising (2006). Reduced to $60m in 2008 (30% of total ad spending). BBDO out in 2009, TBWA/Chiat out in 2009. In 2010, Pepsi moved to a social campaign approach spending only $20m for the whole year