Revolutionary Measures

The end of old media?

Ofcom’s annual study into the UK’s viewing, listening, internet and communications habits is always worth a read. This year’s tome is no different, with a headline finding that we now spend an average of 20 minutes more every day using technology devices than sleeping. Apparently the average night’s sleep is 8 hours and 21 minutes – which seems an incredibly long time to me, but then I’ve got three kids and a noisy cat.

A landline telephone

A landline telephone (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is positive news on broadband – there are now 6.1 million superfast connections across the country, making up over a quarter of broadband subscriptions. Given the huge amount of money invested by the taxpayer to push superfast broadband to rural areas, this is promising, but the UK still lags behind other countries on targets and speeds. For example, Finland defines superfast as 100 Mbps, while the UK target is just 24 Mbps. And my new shiny rural fibre broadband doesn’t even achieve that, measuring just 21.6 Mbps according to my ISP (when working).

TV viewing is less than 4 hours a day for the first time since 2010, at 3hr 52 minutes. But before broadcasters start panicking, bear in mind that this is more than the combined time spent on mobiles, landlines and the internet. The vast majority of programmes are still watched live, despite the rise of catch-up services.

As always the Ofcom findings are being used to predict the death of various communication channels by analysing the behaviour of 12-15 year olds and making assumptions for the future. For example, only 8% of this group said they used email and 3% communicated through landline phones, leading to experts to point out the imminent demise of these channels. I can think of three reasons why this is tosh:

1. Demographics
People are living longer, so we actually have a growing proportion of silver surfers (complete with landlines), balancing out the younger generation. If they were cutting the cord and just communicating using WhatsApp things would be different, but no sign of that yet.

2. Why would a 12 year old use email?
In many ways email is a horrible communication channel – complex, clunky and not real-time. The reason most people use it is essentially for work or to do with boring stuff like complaining at utilities/banks. So, unsurprisingly, most 12 year olds aren’t spending their time slaving at the corporate coalface or moaning at companies.

3. Privacy
One thing teenagers have always valued is privacy. I remember having to shoo away parents and siblings when making landline telephone calls at that age – now lucky kids don’t need to as they can just use their mobiles. So, again, why would they use landlines when they can call from their bedrooms?

So, taken altogether the Ofcom findings show that there isn’t radical change happening in how we communicate – a third of people had sent a personal letter in the last month for example. The only sector to worry should be physical newspapers and magazines, with just 2% saying they’d feel their absence. And even then, this seems a little difficult to believe seeing the number of free papers handed out in London for example.

For entrepreneurs looking to set up a business or marketers aiming to launch a new product, the lesson is don’t neglect the old channels in favour of the shiny new ones. Think laterally and improve the experience and you might well be onto a winner.

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August 13, 2014 Posted by | Creative, Marketing, Startup | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do we want smart TVs?

This month’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas is a good pointer to the latest trends in technology. Last year the event was all about tablets, and this year smart, internet-connected TVs were all the rage.

English: Taken at the 2009 Consumer electronic...

Image via Wikipedia

The aim of these machines is essentially to make the TV the hub of the digital home, replacing the laptop or even tablet when it comes to entertainment. The viewers of the near future will be able to use social networks, run apps and play games all from the comfort of their sofa.

Now I’m the first to see the advantages of TVs that can stream programmes through services such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix and even YouTube straight to your screen, without needing to fiddle around connecting your laptop to your TV.

However some of the big claims being made for smart TVs simply don’t yet translate to the real world – often because the misinterpret how and why people watch TV. Here’s my top 5 reasons the smart revolution won’t be immediately televised:

TV is passive
The industry jargon is that TV is a sit back medium (as opposed to a lean forward PC), essentially for the majority of viewers interacting with their TV involves shouting at the screen rather than fiddling with a keyboard. Often people have had enough of interacting with a computer by the evening, so want the alternative of slumping on a sofa.

The user experience
It may appear basic to the titans of Silicon Valley, but TVs are simple and intuitive to use – even if you have hundreds of channels to surf through. And that’s what people expect – while lots of the smart TVs were voice and motion controlled this needs to be better than the remote if viewers are going to switch.

The TV replacement cycle
TVs are normally the most expensive consumer electronics device in a house – costing more than a phone, tablet or most PCs. So people don’t tend to replace them that often, which has two main issues for smart TV adoption. Firstly, it will take time to build up an installed base of smart TVs and secondly people are going to be wary about investing in a set that will potentially become obsolete in a year or two. Maybe this is the time for a revival of the concept of TV rental?

The internet by other means
There are already lots of ways of accessing the internet in your living room. Aside from laptops, you can get connect using games consoles, blu-ray players and a host of other devices. These all tend to be cheaper than a whole new TV so provide a simple method of getting online without breaking the bank. 

Competing standards
We’re used to different standards and technologies when it comes to technology, but the plethora of competing approaches – whether Google TV, Linux or the much-mooted Apple iTV could lead to fragmentation. The last big standards war was in first generation video recorders – and no-one wants to invest in an expensive TV that turns out to be the new Betamax……..

Don’t get me wrong – I think that the breadth of content on the internet and the ease of delivery mean that the future of TV is connected. However it will take time and a bit more industry-wide thought and collaboration if it is move to the mass-market and beyond the early adopters.

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January 17, 2012 Posted by | Creative | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Google killed the TV star?

Image representing Eric Schmidt as depicted in...

Image via CrunchBase

Last week Google’s executive chairman Eric Schmidt gave the prestigious MacTaggart lecture at the Edinburgh Television Festival, making him the first person from outside the broadcasting industry to do so.

As well as some crowd-pleasing attacks on Alan Sugar and a call for greater UK focus on technology innovation he used the platform to talk about the forthcoming launch of Google TV. Already out in the US, this allows viewers to access the internet while watching TV programmes and search content across both.

Google TV is a logical move for the search giant, and the desire to be the gateway between the TV and the internet is a major reason for the recent purchase of Motorola, which has a big business in set top boxes. Google exists as it is able to collect and analyse vast amounts of data and use the outputs to deliver up targeted content and adverts, and, given that bugging people is illegal, the TV is the one untapped area of our lives that they don’t currently have access to.

But I don’t think Google TV is going to have as easy a ride as some may think, for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the TV experience is still about content and this is something produced by broadcasters first and foremost, whether it is live, accessed through catch-up services like iPlayer or streamed, rented content from the likes of LoveFilm or Hulu. So Google needs to take the industry with it, hence the partnership tone of Schmidt’s Edinburgh speech.

Secondly, the TV market is still conservative and slow moving. In my experience people buy PCs/tablets more often than they change TV and, even then, normally buy from trusted brands. The aim for Google is therefore to become part of the ecosystem, such as through Motorola set top boxes and inclusion in new TVs. However this will take time, particularly to reach a critical mass of mainstream consumers.

Thirdly, there is a lot of competition. At a basic level you can have your laptop on your knee to access programme information while you are watching or hook your PC to your TV to see downloaded or streamed programmes. The advent of the iPad has given you the chance to add a second screen to find out more information and share it with your family and friends quickly and easily. And a whole range of other manufacturers, both technology players such as Apple and Microsoft and existing electronics brands are bidding to be the portal linking your TV to the internet. Winning the trust of consumers and getting on as many platforms as possible will dictate who wins this war.

Finally, there are a number of differences between how people watch TV and surf the net. One is public and the other is (we like to think) very personal. If Google combines your online search history with your TV viewing habits to serve up personalised ads, it may not work make for harmonious family viewing. Just imagine your partner’s reaction if Coronation Street is interrupted by adverts for dubious sites that you’ve ‘accidentally’ surfed to, while on your own………….

Overall, this is shaping up to be an intriguing struggle to control the TV, but Google will need to think smart if it wants to win its place in our living rooms…………

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September 2, 2011 Posted by | Creative | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment