The Apple is opening up

Some companies are known to not participate in the Social Media trend, avoid a conversation with their customers. Dell was one of them, but that didn’t work out that well. Apple is one of the few companies that has a rare  form of customer. Many of these customers don’t see themselves only as a customer, but also as a salesperson, helpdesk employee and evangelist for the brand. I don’t think there is any other technology company which has such a true following than Apple. Many believe that it was this audience which made Apple survive in the mid-nineties (I can confirm that, since I was one of them). And yet, Apple doesn’t seem to communicate a lot with their community.

Recently Apple introduced MobileMe, the successor of their webservice .Mac. The introduction and transfer to this new platform went not without the necessary technological hickups, sort to say. Many people couldn’t access their e-mail and pushing data to the cloud did not work at all. It took them almost three weeks to fix things.

More interesting in this view is how Apple dealt with the situation. We would expect silence. Dead silence. Not this time. Several apology letters and a real blog (well, little blog) were set up to let the customers know what the situation was. Most customers even got one month free of charge MobileMe subscription.

If even Apple is joining the conversation, this whole Social Media thing must be for real…

Rabies, Serengeti and DigiRedo

An exciting trip to Tanzania, twelve hours of footage, hours of postproduction and a few liters of coffee later we are proud to present the first episode of the Afya Serengeti videoseries. In co-operation with TEN10 films (production) we have created this first episode where Sarah Cleaveland explains the situation in the Serengeti, the reason for her being there and introduces the team. In subsequent episodes we will follow the vaccination team in their journey deep into the park to find and vaccinate dogs against rabies, and thus helping the community.

We encourage everyone to share the videos so that as many people as possible learn about this important initiative. We will make sure that videos will come available on YouTube and the iTunes Store.

Can social networking sites make money?

Remember Rocketboom on The Business of Social Networks in November last year?

It’s clear, social networking is the fastest growing activity on the web. We all know about MySpace and Facebook as the two giants in this field with 72 million and 34 million unique visitors a month (January 2008). But also the smaller players see a lot of people: Bebo (what’s small: 22 million unique visitors a month), Club Penguin (5 million), LinkedIn (nearly 5 million) and Ning (3 million). And all are growing.

When realizing that venture capitalists invest huge sums of money (remember Microsoft, who paid US$240 million for a 1.6% share in Facebook) you might think these sites generate a lot of income through advertising. Well, that’s not really the case: this year MySpace will earn US$100 million less than predicted and Facebook will even face a loss of US$150 million. The fact that many of the smaller players do not reveal any of their revenues doesn’t sound promising either. Is there another bubble-burst at hand?

Bryant Urstadt asked the same question and looked closer at this issue in his Technology Review article ‘The Business of Social Networks‘. He notices the low (and declining) CPM rates for ads on Social Networking sites (MySpace US$2, Facebook US$0.15) compared to for instance Mashable (varying between US$7-33) and TechnologyReview (US$70). But even these low rates do not persuade advertisers…

The problem with advertising in social networks is around three main issues: attention, privacy and content, according to Urstadt. Looking at the traditional advertising model, targeting is the key. And that reveals the difficulty; it is not so easy to target a specific group in a social network as it is for, lets say, Google. There people are specifically looking for clearly defined information, which makes targeting relatively easy. Not in social networks, where people are more busy with conversation with friends and can’t be bothered with commercial messages. Even stronger, many of them dislike it.

Getting in between users of social networks is very complicated and tricky, as you do not want to violate their privacy. Facebook tried with their Beacon program but failed (partially) and MySpace has developed its HyperTargeting system. Advertisers are moderately interested. Even stronger, looking at the US ad spending on social-networking sites relative to total US online ad spending, the odds are against social network-monetization.

Still, with all those millions of consumers at hand, their must be a way for advertisers to reach them (and to keep the social networks alive!). Although there is this fear of history repeating (Bubble 2.0), I do not really believe this, not more than a natural selection, a survival of the fittest (say Darwinism 2.0).

Two things to consider. One is that advertisers should reconsider their approach, their traditional targeting model. Maybe there is a more successful approach in cooperative marketing, co-creation and interactivity in relation to social networks. It’s the classical marketing paradigm: talk with them, not at them. Two, new technological solutions will be developed shortly that give way to another approach between consumers and advertisers. How that will look like, I have no idea (yet) but I agree with Bryant that the key is in the balance between openness and control. These new solutions prevent social networks to remain walled gardens, but where we can communicate across the borders of these communities, which opens a whole new ball game for both users and advertisers.

With that in mind, consider Google’s Open Social and the activities of Plaxo: take a look at the interview with Joseph Smarr, chief platform architect at Plaxo.

And then I haven’t mentioned the virtual worlds…but let’s talk about that another time

Video on the internet is getting ‘popular’

In April, ComScore measured the online viewing of videos. It turned out that during this month, in the US alone about 11 billion videos were watched. Of the 11 billion, 35% were viewed from YouTube.The 11 billion views corresponds with about 82 views per internet user in the States.

Other findings of the study:

  • 71 percent of the total U.S. Internet audience viewed online video.
  • The average online video viewer watched 228 minutes of video.
  • The average online video duration was 2.8 minutes.


Olive Riley, the world’s oldest blogger, is gone…is she?

Olive Riley “passed away peacefully on Saturday, July 12”, according to her blog. Olive was 108 years old and therefore the oldest blogger on the planet. Yes, indeed, she blogged. Started in February 2007, encouraged by her friend Mike, Olive (or Ollie to her friends) posted regularly about her life, now and in the past, on her blog. Or blob, as she calls it.

Amazing, A woman, who experienced two century changes (remember, she was born in 1899), keeping a blog. And not only that, she has a large audience too! Thousands of people all over the world followed Ollie’s live.

“People ask me why I do this blob”, Ollie says in her 8th post on March 21st, 2007. “It’s because I can lie in bed just before I go to sleep (that’s when I do most of my thinking) with a smile on my face enjoying about all the things that have happened.” At her age, reading a computer screen is difficult, therefore she does the talking and Mike, her helper, does the typing.

Her posts are full of pictures and every now and then a videoclip (which are put on YouTube, of course). She talks about herself, her family, the changes and developments in the world over the years, stories about the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge in March 1932 (see “The Coathanger and the Big Fella”) to a funny story about some of her friends that “peed over the fish”…

She made friends with Maria Amelia Lopez, Spain’s oldest blogger (96 years old), even though Ollie doesn’t speak Spanish and Maria knows no English!

All in all, apart from her age, nothing spectacular or fast or flashy, but very authentic and engaging to a lot of people. No matter what she posts, she receives dozens of comments on all of them, over and over again.

I am touched by this, for many reasons. First, that Ollie stood open for these new and innovative way of communication. No offense, but in all honesty, my parents (who could have been her grandchildren!) hardly understand what a blog is, let alone managing one. But most importantly, I can imagine that, with all the limitations someone has at 108, this kept her going and gave joy to her life. And to many others! It proofs that the internet is ageless, that blogging is ageless and that the (online) world is our community.

Now Ollie is gone. Physically that is. Online she is still on-air, thus alive. So those who want can still enjoy her.

Size doesn’t matter

As content producers we are always on the outlook of devices that improves our production value, either by time, processes or handling. For our video productions we use a Canon XL 1s, one of the most used professional cameras around. We are pretty happy with this camera, and it always amazes us how many people ask us info about the camera when we walk around on congresses.

Although our Canon certainly looks impressive, sometimes you want to go a bit more ‘guerilla’ shooting (not to confuse with secretely recording of people without their knowledge, which is a big NoNo). Hence I started looking around for a small and handy device that could suit these needs.

Since we want to expirement with High Definition too, the camera should meet the following requirements:

  • Small (so no tape)
  • High Def, at least 720p
  • External mike
  • Mac-compatible, plug and play
  • Cool looking (hey, we’re gadget freaks…)

We found the solution of most of the above requirements in the Sanyo Xacti HD1000. With the ability to record in 1080i we thought it would be a bargain for €600.

There are many reviews found on the internet, so I’m not going to repeat these. I will only describe a few of our own findings:

First of all, it certainly looks cool, especially if you attach a wireless mike receiver on top (check two requirements). It records on a Flash and with 8 GB you can record about 1 hours and 20 minutes HD material. Be sure to buy a high performance SD card.

Secondly, the quality is relatively good. I read on the blogosphere that some users experienced bad quality, but with good lighting it’s OK. Having said that, I do realize that the small size and low price is a trade-off to the more expensive cameras which no doubt have a better quality. And AVCHD is not the best quality codec.

Working with the Mac is another topic. In the first instance I thought everything would be fine, since one of their demo movies could be found in a .Mac gallery (check here). Not so.

When I attached the camera to my Mac nothing happened in iMovie or Final Cut. When I dragged the files from the SD card (recorded 1080i) on the desktop, all I saw was a green picture. Turned out that first I had to  install an extra Quicktime plug-in (mp4vEncoder). OK, now at least I could see something. Unfortunately however, my Mac (not the cheapest MacBook Pro, 1 year old) couldn’t handle the 1080i. When I switched to 720, all seems fine.

Now, there are two settings in the 720 mode: 30 fps and 60 fps. When you use 60 fps and import via de import fucntion in iMovie, you get only half the time of the clip. Funny, if you copy the files from the SD card to the desktop and then import it in iMovie, it seems fine. The combination 30 fps and 720 seems to work. Strange.
In FCP you need to import manually, since the Log and Transfer does not recognize the camera.

To have the best result I recommend to use a ProRes setting in FCP and export in with at least 30 fps. You then avoid the ‘shivering’ image when doing a pan, something AVCHD is notorious for. That leaves all iMovie and Final Cut Express users in the cold, since they can not set the timeline in ProRes.

Overall I can say that, once we know what to do we are pretty happy with our new toy. It’s light, handy and you can even extend the lenses with fish-eye or tele (there’s even a scubadive case). We have done a fast and dirty comparison of the image quality with our Canon, and the first results are definitely in favor of the Sanyo. We will do some barebone testing later.

Now we are in dubio for our next camera: HD or SD (keeping in mind that most of our work is for the web, 640×360 max). Any ideas?

Again National Marketing Day

As mentioned earlier, the recently National Marketing Day in The Netherlands was a great success and there will be a next version in 2009. Based on what we have seen definitely worth a recommendation.

Here a short impression on some of our (and others’) experiences…

Relationships are changing

It’s a bit of an oldy, but I think it perfectly tells the story of the changing relationship between the advertiser and the consumer. This couple, he the advertiser and she the consumer, doesn’t seem to understand each other very well anymore. Both went their own way, apparently.

To save the relationship, like in the real world, start conversating.

Sandflies caught on tape

Meet Bob. Professor Bob.

Bob knows an awful lot about sandflies and a devastating disease these little mosquito-like creatures may carry: leishmaniasis. The disease is caused by a little parasite and the dog plays a significant role in the reproduction process of this parasite.

We went to see Bob in the south of France, to make a video-series about all things biting your dog.

In two days we shot 10 videos about several subjects related to parasites on your dog (hence the title of the concept will be ‘What’s biting my dog?’). Bob explained in clear and understandable terms the technical aspects of parasitology, a rather complicated subject. Bob did this in such an engaging way that we are confident that this series will be a hit.

Also for Bob this was new. “Finally, after so many years I have the ability to talk directly to dog owners”, Bob says. “We, the scientific community, is often accused of not being able to communicate clearly what we are doing. It all remains high level. With new technologies we can reach many people with so little effort”.

We had a great time in France, also thanks to the hospitality of Bob and his wife. The main production is done, up to the post production.

The production team with the host (left to right): Erik, Remco, Bob, René

Amazing Moments 6 – Croc attack

I still owe you something…this Amazing Moment in the Serengeti. I will not say too much, just watch:

Professional nature filmmakers spent hours and hours, often waiting in difficult circumstances, just to get that one shot. It took me only 5 minutes (and lots of luck). With that in the back of your mind, take a look at the video below…(if you haven’t seen it yet).

It’s no surprise that this video has been viewed 34,690,615 times (and counting). It’s spectacular, authentic and an unbelievable story with a happy ending. On top of that, it’s one of the most viewed videos on YouTube and winner of the YouTube Eyewitness Video Award. It even has it’s own website: And it’s made by an amateur.

David Budzinski, a supply manager from Chevron in Houston, made the film during his first visit to Africa in September 2004. Just a tourist on safari in the Kruger National Park. They encountered a group of lions sunbathing close to a watering hole when a herd of buffalo’s passed by. The tour guide suggested to observe the group for some time. After an hour the spectacular scene took place. It was breathtaking. “At the moment the crocodile and the lions were fighting for the poor calve, I wanted to turn off the camera”, Budzinski said in an interview. “I didn’t want a bloody mess.” Luckily he didn’t and a feel-good story was born. Someone suggested to Budzinski that he sould try to sell the video, which he did. He contacted several stations like National Geographic and Animal Planet but everywhere he received the same reply: “We don’t accept footage from amateurs”

Until the video took off on YouTube. Millions of people watched it and shared it with friends and family. After more than 30 million views National Geographic contacted Budzinski in order to purchase the television rights of the video (price unknown). On top of that, National Geographic sent David Budzinski back to South Africa to make a documentary on the video: Caught on Safari, the Battle at Kruger, which National Geographic recently broadcasted. And with that Budzinski set another record: the first hour-long documentary that was inspired by a YouTube videoclip.

Poor professional sods, still lying there, waiting in the mud or in the burning desert, surrounded by flies and other annoying flying and crawling creatures, persistent and motivated by just that one comforting guarantee…”they will not accept any footage from amateurs…”

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