27th January 15
Posted in attention
Author: Shib Hussain, Strategist, BBH London
The competition for user attention. (Image courtesy of College Humour)
Attention as a currency has long been discussed. It was brought to the mainstream by the work of Davenport and Becks in the aptly titled book, The Attention Economy. Everything (and now everyone) competes for your attention, however consumers only have a finite set of attention to ‘pay’ to all these competing messages.
Since The Attention Economy was written in 2001 much has changed.
The web has evolved, both in terms of volume and the medium through which it is delivered. Everything demands your attention, mobile competes with desktop, desktop competes with TV – and soon TV will compete with your wearable.
Since The Attention Economy was written in 2001 very little has changed!
A lot of brands are still taking an analogue approach to the web, both when designing experiences and sharing content. Putting the extended version of the ad on YouTube is a prime example of us not taking the lessons of the attention economy on board – there are few ads people want to watch, let alone watching a four minutes director’s cut. And yet we often see online as the opportunity to create longer content, breaking free from the shackles of a 30second TV spot.
Here’s two thoughts that may lead to an alternative approach:
Start with attention, not message
Understand how much time you have first before deciding how to craft the message/experience. Imagine working from a starting point that a user has to be able to completely customise a car in 20 seconds. This would flip the traditional approach of how a brief and the output is approached. Design would focus on maximising ease and speed – not the multiple messages that need communicating. The experience would be rooted in showing the core product story, not the marketing veneer. This leads nicely on to the next key point to consider….
Design for ‘the lazy consumer’
In the words of Stanford’s BJ Fogg, ‘we are designing for the lazy consumer’ (as opposed to brand advocates). This means we may need to sacrifice complex digital storytelling, for a simpler narrative.
Tinder comes to mind as a great example of designing for laziness, it makes finding a match quicker and easier. It chooses to sacrifice extra features and functions and simply focus on the core job a user is trying to complete – find a match. This sacrifice is reflected in the UX and importantly, the data input to begin with. Data input is the key. The onboarding of Tinder is designed for a lazy user. There’s little or no forms to complete and limited choices to make before the user gets to see matches. Dating sites as a category have over the years fallen to ‘feature creep’, adding more layers and therefore adding more complexity to the task.
Although these may seem like two simple things to do, they can easily be overlooked and too much focus put on the brand experience as opposed to consumer behaviour. Thinking about these may help move digital experiences into things that people find useful as opposed to time consuming, something that will be beneficial for all parties involved!
I’ll end it there, as I’m sure there are at least another 10 things screaming for your attention right now….that’s if you made it this far.
9th January 15
Posted in technology
In the January edition of Marketing Magazine BBH London Managing Director and Labs Co-Founder Mel Exon highlighted ten tech trends that marketers could be usefully thinking about for 2015. The original article appeared here on 07.01.15.
Another year, another slew of new technology jargon undoubtedly on its way to a tablet near you. With that in mind, here’s a handy set of ten technological themes for 2015 that may prove useful to marketers this year. Some may just emerge into our consciousness, others become noteworthy, whilst others start to take root in the mainstream.
1. Virtual Reality gets real
”This technology has peeled back a layer to reveal another universe” ~ Lawnmower Man (1992). There is currently no technology that has more potential to break new ground in creativity and communication than VR. In 2015, Oculus Rift, the company that has made most strides in this space, is due to launch a consumer product. Hold onto your hats, it’s going to be a ride.
2. ‘Handmade’ digital design
We’ve been mechanising things for so long, it’s probably high time we humanised things instead for a while. Look out for what Babak Parviz (the inventor of Google Glass, now at Amazon), is calling ‘handmade’ digital design, aided and abetted by the ongoing blur between off- and online worlds.
3. Mobile marketing steps up a gear
So we all know display ads are worse than inadequate and branded apps aren’t the solution to every mobile marketing task. Last year we talked about how Facebook’s re-tooled Atlas was set to make marketing across devices and to ‘real’ people work much more effectively, this year we’ll see that become a reality.
4. The mobile web gets a shot in the arm
Also helping us on our way: revealed at their Chrome Developer Summit in December, Google are making significant investments in improving the performance of mobile web apps, effectively taking steps to bring mobile web functionality up to par with that of native Android apps. Big news.
5. The rise, fall and rise again of wearables
With the Apple Watch fully on the market, promising to put to bed the issues associated with the category (concerns around privacy, sustainable use cases and how stylish they really are), wearables have a chance to move from a sideshow to the mainstream.
6. 3D Printing finds its purpose (for now)
‘3D printing’ has always sounded so goddamn good. But until we can print genuinely usable, mixed material products more cost effectively than we can buy via a regular (mass production or artisan) supplier, we will have to live with the fact 3D printing is still for the few.
7. Networking The Internet of Things
So far the ‘Internet of things’ has been limited to products – the likes of Nest, Hive, August (the smart lock) – that operate as standalone systems. The truly connected home will only happen when different products can connect with one another. We’re starting to see it happen – for example Nest Protect (fire and CO2 alarm) can trigger a flashing red light alarm on Lifx, the connected lighting system.
8. Proximity marketing moves even closer
As iBeacons get installed in retail outlets, bars and entertainment venues up and down the country we can expect to see proximity marketing grow from being an experiment at conferences to a bona fide marketing behaviour.
9. Social feedback loops spin ever faster
More connected devices and sensors available 24/7 will demand faster adaptation and shorter lead times to provide users with data-driven, hourly relevant activity. Global marketing organisations finally make the most of resource in different time zones: the brand that never sleeps.
10. Micro-targeting at scale
Once the preserve of US political parties attempting to tailor unique messages to sub groups of voters, brands like Coke (with ‘America The Beautiful’) and Budweiser are using Facebook to reach a series of smaller audiences with different angles on the same idea. In the process building to scale.
15th December 14
Posted in luxury
In his essay Software is Eating the World, Marc Andreesen listed a whole bunch of industries whose business models had been, were being or were about to be massively disrupted by digital technologies – from photography and music to retail, publishing, health and education. Missing from Andreesen’s extensive list was any mention of the art, fashion or luxury goods industries – businesses that traditionally have relied on mystique, scarcity and exclusivity to drive demand and protect margin.
And at the International New York Times Luxury Conference, held 10 days ago in Miami, disrupters were ably represented by will.i.am, skyping in from Manchester to talk about wearables, collaborations and how not to get screwed by the tech giants while 93-year-old fashion icon Iris Apfel championed more traditional views, bemoaning the ‘great paucity of imagination’ exhibited today.
Things started amiably enough, with Francois-Henri Pinault declaring that technology could, should and would support and renew the way that luxury works. Citing innovation in manufacture and supply chain as well as commerce and retail as reasons to believe that tech and luxury could live in harmony, he then pointed out the elephant in the room; delivering consistent experience at scale is antithetical to the bespoke experiences demanded by luxury consumers. “There’s an emotional quality to luxury that can’t be sacrificed on the altar of innovation,” asserted Pinault.
This was a notion referred to again and again over the next 36 hours, and one that went unchallenged; “People have to yearn for things,” said Apfel, rather wonderfully. “How do we sell our watches? One by one,” said Francois-Henry Bennahmias, CEO of luxury watchmaker Audemars Piguet, who conceded that social media did have some usefulness in entertaining a new generation of luxury consumers, or perhaps the children of their traditional customers.
Technology is wonderful at reducing and removing friction – the market inefficiencies that hamper consumers from accessing the goods and services they desire. But in the luxury industry, friction is reframed as qualification, inefficiency as rarity. As new markets for luxury goods appear in the middle and far easts, creating an industry growing 4-6% to $307billion in 2015, there appeared to be little trepidation about the future among speakers and attendees at the INYT Luxury Conference. Of course, this is not to say that the luxury business has no use whatsoever for digital thinking, more that digital isn’t yet asking the difficult questions of luxury that have challenged other businesses.
So perhaps a different question worth asking is what can the digital industries learn from the world of luxury? A world where every interaction with a brand is carefully considered and crafted for a discerning customer. Why, so often, do digital experiences with brands feel undifferentiated, flat and templated? Shouldn’t we be thinking about treating our digital audiences like the discerning consumers they are? Perhaps the time is right for ‘handcrafted’ user-experience, bespoke digital design that makes every site visitor feel like the most important person in the world. Maybe we shouldn’t expect luxury to go digital, but instead demand that digital gets luxurious.
But as the luxury conference blended seamlessly into the spectacle that is Art Basel Miami, where some of the wealthiest people on the planet vied to buy some of the most expensive art on the market and attend the most exclusive parties happening on earth that week, it felt worth remembering that the star of the International New York Times Luxury Conference was a ninety-three year old woman who has never, ever googled herself.
13th November 14
Posted in Start ups
The first ‘tech’ conference I attended was SXSW in 2007. Screens in every hallway were showing a live stream of this thing called twitter. Everyone had a Second Life strategy, plan or notion. And no-one, as far as I noticed, was talking about Facebook which had only opened up to the general public six months earlier. I met some extraordinary people, I heard some outstanding talks and returned to London having drunk *all* the Kool Aid.
Last week, at WebSummit 2014 in Dublin, among the hundreds of eager start-ups who pay fancy money for the opportunity to meet more money, I saw a number of startups who wanted to be ‘The Tinder for real life encounters’, all using the word ‘spotted’ in their names. There were dozens of variations of ‘A social network/platform/app enabling friends/family/strangers to share photos/videos/plans’. There was even ‘A social network that allows you to share short updates with friends by answering the question ‘what are you up to?’ – something familiar about that particular concept, I felt.
Clearly, then, WebSummit made me feel old, grumpy and nostalgic and I don’t want to be old and grumpy. Not yet, anyway. It’s very tempting to hark back to 1994 or 2004, when the internet was a wide open frontier and everything was up for grabs and wax lyrical about all the big dreams being dreamt. But as Kevin Kelly says, right now, today, in 2014, is the best time in human history to start something. There are “more opportunities, more openings, lower barriers, higher benefit/risk ratios, better returns, greater upside,” than ever before, and the evidence of this optimism, this can-do spirit was certainly present in Dublin, even if the some of the ambition seemed a little slight.
Of course the majority of the startups exhibiting at WebSummit won’t get beyond year one, let alone year five – but all these young people (and these were young, young people) have all started something, raised a little capital from friends and family, worked late nights, called in favours and launched their own thing into the world. And they are keen and smart and committed and will learn from success and learn from failure and make better things and bigger things. And they’ll solve harder problems than what happens if you see someone you like the in the street but can’t find them on Tinder.
And, because they are not tired and old and jaded and grumpy and nostalgic, WebSummit was probably a great experience for them. They’ll have met their peers, discovered new technologies, allies, funders, competitors. They might decide to go back to the drawing board and start again, or refine their proposition, or perhaps decide that they might need some old-fashioned marketing to differentiate themselves from the other startups who are doing similar, but not exactly the same, things.
But I’m sure they won’t stop starting something new. They’re entrepreneurs, startups, founders, dreamers. It’s who they are and what they do. In Dublin last week there was lots of Guinness downed, but also plenty of a new vintage of Kool Aid. At WebSummit both tasted pretty good.
11th November 14
Posted in animation
In what can best be described as a blistering decision, New Jersey legalized online casino gaming in November 2013. Governor Christie was keen to shake things up and he’s no slouch when it comes to applying pressure. Christie’s vision is deeply rooted in the success of his home state, New Jersey. After the once-thriving Atlantic City hit a rough patch following the recession, 4 casinos shuttered and only 8 remain. Atlantic City gambling revenues increased every year from 1978 to 2006, peaking at $5.2 billion. Since 2007 however, it’s been all downhill for America’s favorite East Coast gambling destination.
Casino revenues have been dropping for 7 straight years from the $5.2 billion high in 2006 to $2.8 billion in 2013. Overall, that represents a drop of 53% with more to come in 2014. The 2013 slot win was a fraction over $2 billion and the table win was $798 million. The big man – Christie – had to counter with hard-hitting policies to stop the haemorrhaging, and that’s precisely what was done with new regulation aimed at legalizing online casino games. It’s no mean feat finding the biggest names in the business and getting them to fight it out for online gaming supremacy. But that’s what CaesarsCasino.com did when it went toe-to-toe against the competition in New Jersey.
Owned and operated by Caesars Interactive Entertainment (CIE), Caesars Online Casino now offers a virtual gaming platform featuring an impressive array of HTML 5 compatible games. The beauty of the online gaming platform is that players can enjoy the self-same casino excellence that has come to signify the Caesars brand. For over 30 years, Caesars has dominated traditional casino-style entertainment, and online gaming is the new frontier. The no download gaming platform offers no holds barred action. The games come at you fast and furious, direct off your browser and there is no respite from the adrenaline loaded entertainment. It’s akin to the electric atmosphere of being ringside at an MMA punch-up, as the big boys and big girls fight for glory.
Stepping into the Gaming Ring: Caesars Online Casino Hits Hard!
New Jersey is known for its rough and tough attitude, but there’s also a compassionate side that locals often allude to. At CaesarsCasino.com players across the Garden State can register, and play for real money. However, there are strict qualification requirements for all players: only players aged 21 and above can play real money games at Caesars Online Casino and all players must be physically present in the state of New Jersey. After lots of tweaking with the technology, geolocation tracking can now accurately pinpoint a player’s precise location.
It’s been a slugfest getting to the top, but this online casino is a brawler. In just a few months, the brand became the most respected name in online casino entertainment in the state of New Jersey. Players can easily make deposits and play real money casino games online. There are multiple convenient payments options including the Caesars Atlantic City cage, bank wire, Visa credit card, MasterCard, ACH, Neteller, and PayNearMe. There are 3 withdrawal methods including Neteller, check and USPS for players to use. Provided you have the funds available in your account, and provided you have met the wagering requirements, you’re free to withdraw your money.
Gaming Variety for High Rollers and Low Rollers
There is plenty of gaming variety for players to enjoy, including table games, slots games, video poker, roulette and everyone’s favourite casino card game, blackjack. To get players in the mood, there is $10 free for all players who register an account. Plus, you get to enjoy a dollar for dollar matching bonus up to $300. This is plenty of bankroll firepower to try your luck at any of the fun-filled slots, table games and skill based games like blackjack. Top titles include: Quick Hit Platinum, Cats, Chilli Gold, Monopoly Plus, Cleopatra and 5 impressive blackjack variants. Whether you’re a novice or a pro, blackjack is definitely the game to beat. It offers a low house edge, and players of all skill levels can go toe to toe against the dealer for the ultimate glory.
Blackjack Micro Limit 10, Blackjack Micro Limit 25, European Blackjack, Sidebet Blackjack and Vegas Blackjack are available. Each of these games ramps up the excitement with big winning potential on every hand. Players can employ basic blackjack strategy to improve their winning chances against the house. A great way to gain experience without wagering any real money, is to practice online blackjack games for free. Once you gain a level of proficiency in your game, you can switch over to real money mode and start raking it in.
Caesars Online Casino includes a complimentary blackjack strategy chart in each and every game. Players can use this chart to help them make statistically sound decisions in each of the hands that have been dealt. Games begin with players being dealt 2 cards face up and 1 card being dealt face up to the dealer. Players must base all of their betting decisions on what is known. You can choose to hit – always a favourite with MMA fans –, stand and take whatever punishment is being dealt to you, split, or take insurance if you suspect the dealer has blackjack.
3rd November 14
Posted in Creativityforgood
Author: Damien Le Castrec, Strategist, BBH London
One type of post shouts out above the noise of our crowded social timelines: good causes. The Ice Bucket Challenge and #nomakeupselfie have been hard to ignore in 2014.
Social media is a fertile environment for good causes. They give users the opportunity to look good by spreading good, and for organisations to promote themselves.
Although ‘clicktivism’ and ‘hashtag campaigning’ is a relatively fresh move for charities, it has a lot in common with a more traditional model: interruption marketing.
Interruption marketing stops people while they’re consuming content in a broadcast environment, to “force” them to watch commercials. As social media platforms shift towards a ‘paid for’ model, behaving more like broadcast media, it is only natural that marketing attempts to interrupt content consumption here too.
But a few weeks ago we launched a new charity campaign, with a different take on interruption marketing.
The recent fame of these social media campaigns means that other forms of digital marketing are sometimes overlooked. There is a digital environment where causes can find more than a short span of attention and where they can tap into ‘The Database of Intentions’. It’s search.
We share more with Google than we do with our closest friends, and as any good friend, search engines have the opportunity to influence these shared intentions.
Social media gives causes mass attention and a burst of fame, while search offers specific intentions and the power to influence them. Search might not make the cause as famous in the short term as a broadcast burst; by definition, it is only targeting a limited group of people. But it can unlock genuine change and perhaps allow for a more prolonged campaign.
One million searches for elephant riding take place every year. We designed a campaign to interrupt this intention.
STOPPING TOURISTS FROM SPENDING ON ANIMAL ENTERTAINMENT BEFORE THEY BOOK
Our idea was to give tourists information about animal entertainment when they are in the mindset of planning and researching a trip. So we created a search-led campaign that intercepts the million queries for elephant riding, to reveal the suffering that takes place behind the scenes.
This is a media behaviour that tour operators already leverage to promote themselves through paid search advertising. We decided to outbid them to bring the truth to the top of tourists’ search results pages.
To outbid real tour operators, we behave like one: buying the same ads, promoting the same kind of experiences, but with a difference: we tell the truth about animal entertainment.
Thanks to a carefully crafted bidding strategy, our search ads promoting “an authentic elephant ride” are the first result holidaymakers see. The link takes them to our fake tour operator video who reveals the way elephants are trained to force them to get used to the unnatural act of being ridden.
Tourists who could have been part of the problem can then become part of the solution by funding the search bidding (on a CPC basis, £3 will educate 280 tourists). Their donations will help to hold our video at the top of search results to educate more tourists like them.
SEARCH: A NEW TAKE ON INTERRUPTION MARKETING.
- Media consumption vs. active intention: Interruption marketing is traditionally based on interrupting people’s media behaviours. But search gives us the ability to interrupt the intentions we’re trying to influence.
- Fame vs. relevance: Interruption marketing is usually an awareness-driven model where communications perform when remarkable. But in a search environment, the focus is on relevance.
- Short-lived vs. long-term: Interruption marketing operates with a traditional “launch and forget” mindset. But with search, ads are triggered as long as they have a purpose.
Search offers new opportunities for creativity and performance, whether for causes or commercial brands. Let’s hope our industry isn’t too hooked on fame to embrace them like it should…
14th October 14
Posted in culture
Last week we were lucky enough to be invited to speak at Belgrade Design Week – a fabulous event in an exciting city to visit.
Finally getting the opportunity to use William Gibson‘s great passage on bohemias (‘where industrial civilisation went to dream’) from All Tomorrow’s Parties in this most bohemian of cities, we compared physical and digital enclaves to see whether digital bohemians could learn anything from the decline of alternative subcultures in the real world.
As always, let us know what you think in the comments below.
14th September 14
Illustration for Griffin Farley’s Beautiful Minds, by Kate Moross, Breed.
Recently I’ve been perplexed why a debate still rages in the marketing ether around whether code can truly be creative, so I’m going to try to put a simple point of view down here and see how it goes.
Clue: if you’re already convinced the answer is yes, you can stop reading now.
One of the reasons I work in a creative agency is our shared ambition to, well, create. That word is loaded with meaning: to give birth to, to produce, to make, to originate something new. How that gets done inevitably changes over time, as tools and methods rise and fall. But mankind has been drawing pictures, writing and making music for millennia, and, it’s fair to say, we’ve got pretty damn good at doing all of the above. What’s more, art, copy and audio are so highly valued we don’t question them: all are taught in schools, with music, art and books sold in galleries, shops and gigs the world over.
In purely creative terms, of course code is in its infancy by comparison. And with the notable exception of gaming, what we’ve been able to create for mass consumption with code has lent itself first to utility: for example, allowing us to invent new forms of message transmission, news sharing sites and, indeed, provided us with new ways to distribute all that delightful art, copy and sound.
Yet I’m certain that the best new expressions of creativity are born of art, copy, sound and code, together.
Why? Because at the root of all creativity is a burning desire to create something original, to offer something better than the thing that came before. With code added to the creative canvas, we can achieve this in ways we have never experienced before. In other words, the opportunities to be original and different have exploded, whether you’re in film, fashion or fmcg.
So you may be reading this and thinking, ‘ah yes, more opportunities for originality, sure, but will it be any good?’. Can code move people to feel something, to make them laugh or cry, or suddenly to see a situation differently? Or is code still just about new ways to distribute the photography, writing, music and film we know and love?
I was a member of the Cannes Lions Cyber jury this summer where, sure enough, some of the best work showed a strong grasp of how to use digital to drive performance (where the definition of performance goes beyond ‘effectiveness’ to the pro-active planning, deployment and optimisation of brand activity – all enabled by technology).
By way of illustration, Volvo Trucks’ “Live Test Series” understood that YouTube’s algorithm rewards ‘total watched time with a channel’ and this helped the brand build a relationship with its audience over time. ‘Epic Split’ was a phenomenal piece of film content, but it was also the sixth in a series. Millions had watched other live tests and clicked to watch more, creating a virtuous circle where the brand earned the right to show up in more related videos. As Matt Locke puts it so succinctly some years ago now: “design for circulation, not distribution”.
However, the very best interactive work won this year because of something else in addition to well-drilled performance.
The likes of 24hoursofhappy.com for Pharrell, ‘Sound of Honda/Ayrton Senna 1989’ ‘Scarecrow’ for Chipotle and BBH New York’s own ‘Greatness’ for Playstation are simply great ideas, crafted with immaculate and loving care. Other examples include the creation of a credible, artificial child (‘Sweetie’) by Terre des Hommes Netherlands as part of its campaign to track down webcam paedophiles, and ‘Killing Kennedy’ for The National Geographic Channel which interweaves the stories of both Kennedy and his killer as one seamless and immersive online piece.
All break new ground in technological terms, all are ideas where code plays an essential part. But, above all, they evoke a powerful emotional reaction which creates a relationship with the brand. That, I would wager, is the very definition of creativity.
Three more examples of this in action if you’re looking for inspiration:
1. Digital Revolution exhibition @ Barbican in London, 3 July – 14 September 2o14
Includes astonishing displays like Umbrellium’s interactive 3D laser light field, ‘The Treachery of Sanctity’ by Chris Milk, as well as DevArt which incorporates four brand new installations commissioned by Google and Barbican to explore creative uses of code. If you’re in London, go see it before it closes in September.
Closer to home and mentioned before on this blog, Google’s ‘series of experiments to reimagine advertising’ including Burberry Kisses and most recently Nike Phenomenal Shot. The initiative’s inspiration comes from the creative revolution of the 1960s when art directors and copy writers were paired up together, having previously sat on separate floors of the print agencies where they worked. As they put it: “Today, we’re in the midst of a second creative revolution, driven by technology. Code is being added to the core creative process.”
3. New Revolutionaries (Decoded & BBH London event)
In late June this year we co-hosted with the good folks at Decoded an evening event at BBH London that we hope to repeat in future. It was designed to bring together and celebrate the polymaths and collaborators who are transforming their industries through creative uses of technology and vice versa; featuring installations and talks from the likes of Brooke Roberts, Yuri Suzuki, Framestore, Onedotzero and more.
Jeremy Langmead (newly appointed Chief Content Officer at Christie’s, ex-Mr Porter) opened the evening in conversation with Wired UK Publisher, Rupert Turnbull. Jeremy spoke openly about category naivety allowing you to break new ground, noting that any new leader has to be able to invite people with radically different skillsets into a room and to have the flair to multiply technical and creative skills together.
Framestore’s Mike McGee then told the backstories to their work on Gravity and Audrey Hepburn for Galaxy chocolate (the fact actors can now be essentially re-created led him to muse how it may become the norm in future to ‘licence’ their image for films created long after they’re dead…), as well as their astonishing ‘Ascend the Wall‘ work for Oculus Rift for Game of Thrones.
Above all, both speakers were interesting and interested. Whether you’re a creative-tech polymath or a collaborator capable of pulling different skills together, in many ways, it struck me, it doesn’t get much more complicated than that.
Jeremy Langmead (Christie’s) & Rupert Turnbull (Wired UK) in conversation at New Revolutionaries
Mike McGee talking through the creative technology involved in creating ‘Gravity’
28th August 14
Posted in Rants
I am happy that I’m not going to indadvertedly click a link on twitter and find myself watching a video of the beheading of James Foley. But the removal of this video and other content from Google, Twitter and Facebook raises important questions about media, freedom of expression and control of information.
In the digital age, we are nearing the point where an idea banished by Twitter, Facebook and Google all but vanishes from public discourse entirely, and that is only going to become more true as those companies grow even further.
As is pointed out here, this is not a question of censorship. Rather it is an editorial decision, made on perfectly reasonable moral and taste grounds and at the request of the family of James Foley. And while we might completely agree with the decision in this instance, are we happy for Facebook to delete content created by Syrian dissidents? Or not remove videos of other gruesome actions that do not involve Western journalists. Or allow the publication of live tweets of IDF military actions against Hamas? These complex religious and geopolitical issues are throwing up new moral, social and editorial challenges for technology companies. But as these companies morph into not just media companies, but media itself, it is becoming important to ask what precedents are being set? What actual policies are at work?
We have no rights beyond what the companies give us in their terms of service, where quaint ideas like the First Amendment have no application.
The huge centralized web services such as facebook and google, the Stacks as Bruce Sterling calls them, are making these editorial decisions because we’ve both asked and allowed them to. They are incredibly useful services and incredibly convenient services and incredibly free services to use. We might not pay with our wallets, but instead we pay with our views, our content, our shares, likes, retweets and our profiles. If you’re not paying for it, you’re the product being sold. We know this. Facebook and Google and Twitter ultimately can decide what goes through their pipes – if we don’t like their decisions we can take our cat photos elsewhere, however inconvenient that might be.
So, if we’re the product, who are the customers? Brands, obviously, who love the convenience and the scale and the data and metrics they get from their paid-for relationships with The Stacks. And brands too, make sacrifices when they embark on these relationships. The world of brand microsites was one of variable quality, but vast variety. Today’s uniformity of branded voice and imagery, the identikit, out-of-the-box formatting solutions provided by tumblr and facebook and youtube can almost induce nostalgia for the visual assault of the World Wild Web. Again, google and twitter and facebook have the right to design their pipes their way – if brands don’t like the formats on offer they can take their content elsewhere, however inconvenient that might be.
I am relieved that my kids can watch youtube without clicking on a thumbnail and seeing James Foley’s horrific murder. But I am also telling them that if they want a place on the internet where they are not the product, a place where they are the editor, where they set the precedents and make the policies, a place that is theirs, then they will have to own it and pay for it and make it. They’ll have to buy a domain and manage some hosting and create some content and establish their own digital identity. And they’ll have to deal with the inconvenience and freedom that comes with it.