This week’s pick of some of the most exciting digital stories, including the UK animation industry in peril, the Mobile World Congress 2012 and stepping back into Twistory. Read on for more and share your thoughts with the comments box at the bottom.
Paul Mallett, Managing Partner
The launch of the Rasberry Pi is undoubtedly the most significant event in digital for decades.
A better graphics chip than an iPhone, a free OS, HDMI outputs and SD card storage, credit card size and all for £25.
While the world has been obsessing over the potential of smart phones, a bunch of Cambridge engineers have been quietly plotting the real revolution. Just like the ZX81 and BBC micro democratised coding in the ‘80’s, the Rasberry Pi promises to put the power back with the people and away from the walled gardens and protectionist app-stores of Apple.
Although it was conceptualised as an educational tool, its instant popularity with the geek-o-sphere will see it being used everywhere. Its size lends it to wearable applications, its cost lends it to disposable applications. The only problem is getting hold of one. I tried to buy one at 6am on launch day ; the servers continued to be down until lunchtime, selling out in 2 hours.
Vive la Revolution, we have nothing to lose but our chains.
Leah Kayles, Social Media Editor
It was announced this week that companies will soon be able to mine Twitter archives as far back as January 2010, where previously it’s only been possible to see the last 30 days of tweets with certain tools, and seven days for most users.
Unsurprisingly, this has thrown up a few questions and created a fair bit of noise online. Essentially, Twitter has sold two years of tweets that we thought were long gone.
But really, did we think they were long gone? When we say something rash or ill-thought out on Twitter (which probably describes 70% of my tweets) or make a mistake on a professional/brand Twitter account, it only takes someone to screengrab it and pass it round for it to live on forever, even if you delete it. The majority of tweets are not deleted of course, and are left to rumble on in the great cavern of tweets that flood the internet every day (roughly 250 million). And if something is retweeted, we have even less control over how far it goes and how long it lives for.
So does it really matter if it’s now easier for companies to look back on what we’ve tweeted? It might well feel invasive; we might think of our tweets as passing moments, fleeting thoughts, but they aren’t really; they’re things we say openly in a very public arena that can, and may, be used against us!
When you look at it, with any free service like Twitter, like Facebook, you are not the so much the customer as you are the product. The real customer is the advertiser and social media channels like Twitter have to monetise the only product they really own, our data, in order to continue to provide us with a free service. We don’t pay in money, but we do pay in information.
It’s a pretty good deal though if you ask me; in return for info (that we freely choose to give) about what we like, think and do, we get the chance to communicate with people from around the world, share news like never before and spout our opinions to anyone who’s listening. The moral of the story is simply not to spout something you’re not happy with everyone seeing.
Gillian Ball, Head of Digital Client Services
Earlier this week Facebook unveiled Timeline for pages. Inside Facebook kindly posted an overview of the new features.
Timeline brings a combination of design elements and moderation features that give organisations the controls they need to maintain an effective presence on the social network. In summary:
• More unified look and feel
• Cover photo to convey a brand message (certain restrictions to stop them looking like ads however!)
• Larger stories presented chronologically
• Ability for page owners to display only engaging posts (without deleting them to avoid losing important data)
• More user relevance with ability to pin a post to top of a page (for 7 days)
• Friend activity box
• Admin panel at the top of the page to give snapshot of insights, likes and notifications
• Pages can accept direct messages from users (taking sensitive issues away from the wall)
• Activity log useful for sorting items by year/type of story and editing posts
• More prominence for favourite page tab apps – select 4 to display
• Restriction on default landing tabs (Facebook seems to be waning pages off tab apps; the vision being for Facebook to be integrated more into sites and mobile apps).
Page owners have a month to redesign and publish their pages until 31st March when all pages will automatically switch to the new format. Better get our skates on …
Craig Goode, Digital Designer
As a digital designer, animation plays a huge part in my job and most jobs I do involve animation in some form, ranging from the Hacker & Dodge Pup Stars game for CBBC, to the 3D Berry Mixer game for Ribena, and even down to the way HTML5 Menu’s move and slide.
The UK animation industry is in big trouble at the moment due to foreign tax breaks and other factors making it cheaper to work abroad.
In France, government funds and tax breaks account for almost 20% of production budgets, while Irish tax relief is worth up to 28%. In Canada, tax credits and other public support accounted for 47% of budgets in 2009/10.
Animation UK, a lobby group backed by prominent studios, has met Chancellor George Osborne to urge him to introduce tax breaks to help maintain the industry and keep the talent in this country.
The UK has a very strong history of producing some of the best animation in the world and creating talented animators who work in the film, TV and digital industries. It would be a massive blow to the current industry and new animators who need to grow their skills in UK studios if this worrying trend continued.
Read an interview with Oli Hyatt, chairman of Animation UK.
Tim Downs, Head of PR
The Barcelona-based Mobile World Congress 2012 finished this week and covered some interesting news and trends:
Android is on fire: 300m activated Android devices, 850k more every day and 1bn app downloads a month.
Windows 8 is launched hoping to unify desktop, tablet and mobile. Moves from touch to keyboard to mouse very well apparently. Microsoft claims that the scalability of an operating system is the key to greater success.
Nokia says its new Lumia Windows phones are the way forward and will take a chunk out of Android sales, then plonks a 41-megapixel sensor on a phone with the old Symbian operating system that no-one uses.
The global tipping point for everyone having a smart phone is apparently a handset cost of $100, no contract and more reasonable data charges. Google hopes to get handset prices as low as $30 one day to open up new markets.
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt says its focus is definitely mobile not desktop, and foresees a time when you can use an app to create a hologram to virtually attend a rock concert.
Handset-wise, bigger is better with larger screens being the order of the day for LG, Samsung, HTC and Sony. Also, they all included dual-core and quad-core processors in their top-end models and in doing so have essentially created super phones that attempt to bridge the gap between tablets and smart phones. Samsung also stuck a projector in one of its models, the Galaxy Beam, for those times when you feel absolutely compelled to give a presentation.
The Chinese are coming: ZTE, a Chinese manufacturer, launched a slew of smartphones and tablets that might soon be making an impact in the West.
Apple didn’t go.
Why is any of this important? Because although we may think of the mobile phone and access to the internet as a human right rather than a privilege, access to this technology on a global scale is relatively low; about two billion people. This means that the size of the opportunity is a further five billion people and, for many of them, the first and only way they will be able to access the internet will be through a cheap, durable smart phone.
A slice of that market is a prize worth fighting for and as marketers we need to understand that is also an opportunity for us.