Look what we made. This is the first iteration of the StoryStool. It receives phone interviews and audio that’s uploaded to a client’s website and plays them back via the handset on loops for people instore. The next version has a pressure sensor in the seat that triggers a phone ring when people sit down (and it has a surface transducer in it. Because it sounds cool).

UPDATE: StoryStool hits the park

You marketing stuff in 2011?

This small snippet below from Rick Webb (founder of the fairly awesome Barbarian Group) really hits the nail on the head for those thinking about the near future of advertising. I think it’s the critical, simplified challenge for us all.. right now.

Hey Marketers: it’s great you stay abreast of all the discussions: how to engage in social, best practices of conversational marketing and leveraging influentials (buzzword bingo!). The theory of paid/earned/owned media is well played out and it’s not difficult to buy into the rationale. But here’s another big part of your job description: you make decisions.

And this one.. I think.. is what it’s all about in 2011:

That’s it. In a nutshell. You can either wait until it’s perfectly predictable – or shift some expenditure and get in there, measure, analyse and respond.

But be honest: you can’t just “be in social media” – you need to invest in creativity and content creation in that area. It can be a frightening shift, but it’s one that every single major marketer has already made or is in the process of making.

There are heaps of different ways to implement ‘social’ – and creativity is fundamental in being successful in these new environments – it’s not about formats. You have the choice to shift more of the money you’re spending on “buying time and space” over into content/product/utility that warrants and draws attention and involvement. All the other stuff like things going viral, getting in touch with the ‘influencers’, CRM, measurement, authenticity, conversational marketing, engagement etc etc stems from that simple challenge… and that one decision.

UPDATE: Apologies, I’ve been told I should have started this post with “Where has the year gone?”

Welcome to Twitter, this is the news.

It all started when they changed the question from “What are you doing? to “What’s happening?”. Or more likely, the Twitter powers-that-be were addressing a trend they’d been noticing for a while: most people were using Twitter as a news platform, rather than a social network. I’ve heard plenty of people say (in various ways) that Facebook is for people you know, while Twitter is for things you know – ie. the latter being a platform for subscribing to a vertical list of subjects you’re interested in, via people.

Recently, four Korean researchers who collected all of Twitter’s data over a month’s time released their research on it. This is the first quantitative study of the entire Twitterverse. They analysed “.. the entire Twitter site and obtained 41.7 million user profiles, 1.47 billion social relations, 4,262 trending topics, and 106 million tweets.” Impressive. They did this in order to see if the way people use Twitter’s mechanics (follow, retweet etc) set it apart from other social networks. Secondly, they wanted to see if the results demonstrated characteristics of news media.

Continue reading

Viral node location, location, location

In a communications world where the viral imperative is assumed to significantly diminish a brand’s required media spend (media strategy = go viral), a lot of thought has gone into identifying the most influential spreaders. There are many different aspects that can contribute to an individual’s “likelihood to effectively spread”. In specific industries or on certain subject matters these might include the degree to which an individual perceives himself/herself as a voice of authority on the subject (or, hey, even actual authority). Or it might be more about degree of visibility of the spreader’s online voice (Pagerank, Twitterank etc).

But of course one long-time prevailing assumption has been that an individual’s level of connectedness  (friends, followers, inbound links etc) is the strongest determinant of influence. A new piece of research, largely based around looking at the 5.5 million members of, has added a very interesting twist to this. As discussed on, Maksim Kitsak at Boston University has revealed that his research showed that “the most influential spreaders in a social network do not correspond to the best connected people or to the most central people”. Rather than showing that people of the centre of a network with the most connections are the most influential, his research demonstrated that:

“… if a hub exists at the end of a branch at the periphery of a network, it will have a minimal impact in the spreading process through the core of the network. By contrast, “a less connected person who is strategically placed in the core of the network will have a significant effect that leads to dissemination through a large fraction of the population.”

It does kind of seem obvious when you read it like that but if you have a methodology to visualise influence in a given network, this new emphasis on location should affect where you concentrate your communication and reach out effort (read: tactical insertions.

Go read more:

And the complete research piece:

Distribution is king

This is probably the most important aspect of doing work in the digital realm today. From Mediapost:

… I feel compelled to spill the beans about something said by Mike Rich, senior vice president of AOL Entertainment. AOL, he said, has embraced a “distributed content” model: It can no longer rely on consumers coming to it as a destination, but now must distribute its content, pushing it to online users wherever they happen to be spending their time.

Go read.

This topic is central to a lot of conversations I seem to have been having recently (but both the Mediapost author and the AOL guy articulate it much better than me).

It seems you can’t address a client’s marketing objectives by building a micro-site and mentioning the URL on your TV ad. You need to get the content out there where they’re already hanging out. You need to provide interactivity, function and/or entertainment around that content. And you need to listen to and understand the reaction to that content. This is what makes digital complex (and fun!). It’s not set and forget. It’s about creating a consumer-centric strategy that acknowledges and respects context. And it’s about building in an enduring distributed presence that doesn’t die when the TARPs dry up..

The Oxygen Sessions

Recently Pat and I conducted the first two of our newly formatted Oxygen Sessions. The idea is to ‘let a little air in the room’ by covering themes relating to social behaviour, media consumption, online innovators, creativity, technology and trends. Our clients have engaged in these discussions with an encouraging amount of vigor and are hopefully forming their own opinions on the first two topics: “Disruptive Thinking” and “When Worlds Collide”.

To quote Salvador Paniker (as you do): ‘Better than a face-lift, to stay young we need to be permanently in a state of intellectual curiosity.’ More soon!