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“Television is changing and you’re calling the shots ….” reads RTE’s Story Land website tagline. This is a very appropriate description of the transition TV is currently undergoing. While there have been many developments in the video-on-demand sector, e.g. BBC’s iPlayer, and RTE’s own Player, there has less progress made in the audience integration of the production process.

Currently, a television series’ viability is based on viewership figures, however this system is not particularly accurate for gauging audience satisfaction, as the channel could be switched on, but no one in the room may be watching, or people may be watching the show because there is nothing better on at the same time.

Enter RTE’s newest Web based endeavour – Story Land gives audience’s the opportunity to vote for what programmes they would to see continued and funded. I believe that the Web provides a far more intuitive system for gauging an audiences reaction, in comparison with the “luck of the draw” system as demonstrated in Disney’s movie “The Barefoot Executive”.

I see platforms such as Story Land as being the future of television production, where for example a number of executives are given the opportunity to produce a pilot episode of their respective pitches, and audiences can subsequently vote for the programs they would like to continue seeing. I expect that this approach would save broadcasters time and money.

RTE's Story Land Website allows audiences to choose what programmes they would like to see produced

RTE's Story Land Website allows audiences to choose what programmes they would like to see produced

In Disney's "Barefoot Executive" a chimp had the talent of picking popular TV show concepts - a talent few executives consistently have

In Disney's "Barefoot Executive" a chimp had the talent of picking popular TV show concepts - a talent few executives consistently have

In March 2008, YouTube’s bandwidth costs were estimated at approximately US$1 million a day, with an estimated 15 hours of new videos uploaded to the site every minute, and that in 2007 YouTube consumed as much bandwidth as the entire Internet in 2000. While Google, has never made ‘ earnings public, Forbes magazine has the estimated the sites 2008 revenue (from advertising) stands at $200 million. To date YouTube has made a significant loss, and is only being sustained by Google’s enormous profits.

New revenue streams are necessary. In November 2008, YouTube reached an agreement with MGM, Lions Gate Entertainment and CBS which will allow the companies to post full-length films and television shows on the site, accompanied by advertisements. However this will only sustain commercial films and TV series. What about user generated content?

To date, YouTube has utilized Google Adsense to generate revenue, e.g. serving targeted ads related to a YouTube video search, or the title of the video being watched. However, now YouTube is serving targeted ads in a new way – relevant in-video ads.

An acquaintance of mine recently uploaded a home-made video, which contained a licensed song from the rock group “The Bloodhound Gang”. Within a few hours of uploading the video, he received an email from YouTube stating that an ad (from iTunes) would now be displayed in the video as a result of a copyright issue. What I find interesting about this is the use of pre-existing song recognition software in combination with YouTube, in order to deliver targeted digital media relevant ads. This approach is far more effective use of advertising in comparison with Google Adsense, however it is far more intrusive, effectively obstructing your view of the action as it happens on screen. I will be interested to see how this ad serving system develops.

YouTube has recently introduced In-Video Advertising

YouTube has recently introduced In-Video Advertising

While Ireland falls deeper into recession, and the ESRI’s latest quarterly economic commentary saying what is in store for Ireland is the largest contraction any developed economy has suffered since at least the 1930s, it is clear that a new business plan needs to be formed.

First of all I believe that it is incomprehensible that an island nation such as Ireland, based a substantial part of it’s GDP on the exporting of physical good’s and raw materials. As we all knew, the construction boom was unsustainable, and comes as no surprise that we are now the mess we are  in. At present, we cannot compete with the low work costs found in other countries, so what we need is high-level, high-value development.

Resulting from these revelations, I believe this national plan should focus primarily on web-based industry as well as digital content production. While I see many Institutes of Technologies as being early adopters of new industries such as the digital media sector, Universities in Ireland are slowly getting to grips with the concept.

Today sees Trinity College Dublin’s official launch of their new research lab, where “The goal is to stimulate a new generation of arts technologists, of high academic standard and entrepreneurial in spirit, who will be an essential element in the future of Irish artistic practice and the information economy, as part of the next phase of this country’s economic development.”

I personally hope that over the next few years digital media will become a sought after industry for many Irish secondary school leavers, and that the emphasis shifts from manufacturing to digital products.

Trinity College Dublin today officially opened a new state-of-the-art research facility that aims to combine the disciplines of the arts, technology, and science

Trinity College Dublin today officially opened a new state-of-the-art research facility that aims to combine the disciplines of the arts, technology, and science

Spotify is a downloadable desktop client that allows you to stream music legally to your computer, provided that a) you have paid for a premium Spotify subscription, or b) are willing to listen to advertisements between songs. This blog is looking at the latter scenario.

Spotify‘s UK sales director Jon Mitchell has stated that emotionally relevant ads will soon be in use: “Later on this year, we’ll be looking at targeting by mood. If you’re a brand that needs to reach people in a relaxed mindset – perhaps they’re listening to Ibiza chill-out or Mozart – but we know that 15-24 is in that mindset and therefore you can serve the right brand to them.”

This in my view, is an interesting take on “targeted ads,” because as you have to register with Spotify in order to use the service, the website will already know your age and gender profile, however the advertising server will not necessarily know the attitude/mood of the user. This is particularly relevant to a music distribution platform, because in much the same way Gerry Ryan on 2FM might broadcast ads related to life insurance when their key demographic is 30+, music is a matter of taste.

Ads that are “high intensity” could be used with music containing high BPM for maximum effectiveness, and the opposite ad type could be applied to music with slower BPM. I believe that this mood advertising concept holds a lot of potential for the future, we will just have to wait and see the results that Spotify obtain.

Spotify's Desktop Client allow users to Stream Music to their Computer Free of Charge

Spotify's Desktop Client allow users to Stream Music to their Computer Free of Charge

The launch date for successful console franchise, Rock Band – The Beatles, has just been announced, and it really demonstrates the quickly evolving nature of digital media and the convergence of various content formats.

The game will ship with licensed peripherals modeled on the actual instruments used by the band, as well as licensed songs from the Beatles catalogue. The music industry makes a profit from every game sold, as do the instrument makers who have allowed their brand to be used on peripherals.

Beatles Rock Band will use Licensed Peripherals based on the Bands actual Equipment

Beatles Rock Band will use Licensed Peripherals based on the Bands actual Equipment

Licensing of music, and in fact peripherals, is nothing new, the concept has been used in cinema for many years, but what does make licensing in the new era of digital media important is the convergence.

Convergence, in my eyes, means opportunity, and new possibilities for making money. This couldn’t come at a better time for the music industry as profits dwindle as a result of piracy. The global games market is worth billions, and still has room to grow.

The Music Industry Profits from The Beatles Catalogue Used in the Console Game "Rock Band"

The Music Industry Profits from The Beatles Catalogue Used in the Console Game "Rock Band"

The problem for games developers is that as expectations for games grow, so must the production standard. Many console games now cost millions of euro ‘s to produce, often requiring up to 100 designers, programmers, and 3D artists. Developers have two options: 1) outsource content such as licensed music in order to boost sales (as is the case with Rock Band), or 2) place advertising in the game (as demonstrated by EA’s racing game Burnout).

This, in my view,  is what makes the future of digital media so promising – it is the central platform where all other content types will converge, and the possibilities are infinite.

Obama paid for Advertising Space in EA's "Burnout" during his Presidential Xampaign

Obama paid for Advertising Space in EA's "Burnout" during his Presidential Xampaign

Scientists at the University of East Anglia in England have developed lip-reading software that can not only pick up words based on mouth shapes, but can even figure out what language you’re speaking, an integral part of understanding speech.

While there are obvious security applications for such technologies, e.g. monitoring public conversations through CCTV camera’s, in much the same way Governments monitor Web activity for key phrases such as “bomb,” “attack,” “infidels,” I also foresee wonderful applications for this software in digital media.

One great obstacle this software may overcome is voice recognition inconsistencies. For example when playing a squad-based computer game, and you wish to issue orders to computer controlled charactera, or “bots” software often has difficulty understanding accents, and varying pronunciations of  words. However if they combine existing voice recognition technology and cross reference it against this new lip reading software, the accuracy of the interpretation should be greatly increased.

Also from a user security point of view, users will be able to access their digital content, e.g. internet banking using their mobile phone, without having to speak the words out loud in public – provided the phone has a front-facing camera built in.

While there are many “Big Brother” connotations for such invasive software, I believe that the benefits will outweigh the burdens.

Lip Reading Software

Lip Reading Software

Several companies such as Sony and Philips are currently demonstrating lighting concepts using OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode) technology. The concepts utilize user input, such as motion detection, hand gestures, and sound. I believe that there is great potential for OLED in digital media entertainment, with the possibility of a lighting system that can sense user input such as a users hand gestures, for example in Wii gaming, and the light scheme of the room/display could change accordingly.

Imagine a television screen that could detect a user’s hand’s covering his/her eyes while watching a horror film. The television set could dim the lights during a tense scene and send out a flash of light when a monster burst out of door. This combination of aural and visual cues using OLED lighting could really add to the experience of digital media, whether it be gaming, movies or music.

Also I see great potential for digital art using OLED. For example, if these displays were embedded in walkways in an urban setting, the area could light up in different colours of varying intensity, depending of the volume of pedestrian traffic, and the frequency of passers-by. The motion detecting OLED’s would also benefit the environment, as they would only turn on when a person is within the vicinity. The video below shows a Philips OLED lighting concept:

While touch-screen interfaces have many of advantages in terms of usability, they currently have one major drawback – a lack of haptic feedback. While cybernetics may power humans and indeed cyborgs in the future, Artificial Muscle, the company is focusing on a problem at hand – touch screen haptic feedback. The company has developed a technology that allows silicon film to expand or contract when a voltage is applied to it.

As the video below demonstrates, this technology has a lot of potential, particularly for digital media such as flash games, and educational applications. This technology could also allow users to operate handheld touch-screen devices such as the iPhone without the need to look at the screen. A major issue many users who are familiar with texting on standard keypads experience.

Haptic feedback in digital media is not a new phenomena. Games consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox, utilize “rumble” or “force-feedback” controllers to add more realism to gameplay, e.g. the controller kick back when you fire a gun. This could be the first time however, that haptic feedback is effectively used in a touch-screen display.

The relatively inexpensive silicon film only costs a few dollars, and can be placed underneath a standard touch screen, meaning that it can be implemented in an existing production process in a cost-effective manner. I look forward to seeing this technology develop over the next few years.

I was recently reading a research paper called “The 5 Golden Rules of Online Branding” by Michael Carlon, Dynamic Logic, Marc Ryan, AdRelevance, and Risa Weledniger, 24/7 Media, and in the paper I found an interesting divide between aesthetics and metrics in digital media branding. Below were the findings:

1) Banner Clutter:

Finding: An excessive number of creative elements in a banner reduces its ability to raise brand awareness and limits consumer ability to recall the banner in the future.

Recommendation: Limit the number of elements in a banner. The limited time a banner provides for communicating a message requires that the banner be clear and uncluttered. The number of elements in the banners evaluated range from 1 – 51 with a median of 15. Designers should keep their creative element short and to the point with no more than 15 textual or graphical elements.

2) Logo Size:

Finding: The size of a logo on a banner positively impacts the perceived clarity of the advertiser’s offering.

Recommendation: Use large logos to transmit as clear a message as possible. The logos in the banners evaluated in this study ranged in size from 924 – 14,300 pixels.

For 468 X 60 banners, the median logo size is 4,060 pixels – approximately 14 percent of total banner size. To improve the clarity of the message, logos should be larger than 14 percent of the banner size whenever possible.

3) Banner Size:

Finding: The size of the banner impacts the perceived clarity of the message as well as consumer desire to learn more about the products and services.

Recommendation: When campaign goals include improving branding metrics use larger format banners.

4) Presence of Human Face:

Finding: Banners with a human face increase consumer interest in learning more about the advertised products and services.

Recommendation: The inclusion of a human face may unconsciously connect viewers with the brands being presented. Consider depicting a human face in banners to increase consumer interest.

5) Frequency:

Finding: Banners seen with a higher frequency have a greater impact on brand awareness than banners seen with a lower frequency.

Recommendation: A frequency cap may be detrimental to a campaigns ability to build brand awareness. Do not place a frequency cap of one exposure on advertisements. Available frequency data indicates that awareness may reach its peak at five exposures however the number of exposures required is variable dependent on industry and the creative effectiveness.

I often find it difficult to fathom statistical usability studies, as they rarely provide meaningful guidelines within a design context, however I felt that this research paper has tried to evaluate relevant design issues in the domain of digital media branding, e.g. the presence of a human face. With the introduction of interactive flash-based advertisements in digital media, it is now more important than ever to look at new ways of presenting digital branding in a clear, memorable manner.