Last week was the finale of Splash, the US version of the UK TV show Splash!. If you don’t remember, Splash! is the ITV diving show with Tom Daley that was incredibly popular early this year and is returning for a second series in January 2014. This may have come as a bit of a surprise to the plethora of reviewers who tore it to shreds, mostly using jokes containing the phrase “belly-flop” (good work, guys), but considering it had an average of 5.42 million viewers per episode it’s clearly been doing something right.
In case you didn’t catch it, Splash! is Strictly Come Dancing with diving rather than dancing. Gabby Logan and Vernon Kay present, celebrities dive, professional divers (and, er, Jo Brand) judge, the audience vote, eventually Eddie the Eagle was declared the winner.
It might not be highbrow, but it was definitely entertaining. Daft and undemanding, Splash! is family friendly and Tom Daley is charming and inspiring. Some of the Seven League team dove when they were younger so they know how difficult it is, and a prime-time TV show that might potentially inspire more people to take up the sport can only be a good thing.
There have been a few improvements suggested for the second series. Many are suggesting that the celebrities should dive several times each, just like they do in the Olympics, in order to fill the 90-minute episodes. Personally, I’d like to see Splash! work on having a great social media presence.
Although “#splash” was being used on Twitter there was no prompt from the show itself to use this hashtag. This visualisation of tweets during the first episode below shows that there was no shortage of Twitter activity, but Splash! did nothing to encourage, steer or join the conversation.
There’s no Splash! Facebook page, no official Twitter account, no Instagram. Tom has a fantastic social media presence and was merrily tweeting backstage Splash! info, holding Q&As on Twitter, Instagram-ing photos and uploading blooper reels and ‘best dives’ to his YouTube channel, it’s not the same as having something official and tangible with the Splash! brand.
Or maybe that was their strategy – Tom is social media gold so they could rely on him to cover the social media side of Splash!. But if that’s the case why not get Gabby, who has over 250,000 followers, and Vernon, who has over a million, involved too?
It’s not hard to promote a hashtag or upload a few photos to a Facebook page. Fingers crossed that when Splash! comes back it’ll put as much thought into the social media as it does the show. I’ll leave you with this video — an example of just how powerful a tiny prompt to talk about something on social media can be.
Movie marketing in the online world might seem a bit of a tangent for a company that specialises in sport, but we’re interested in what’s good in digital media – whatever the sector. We have some background in film as I worked at the BFI for 18 months, but this post comes from researcher Amy Jones who spotted The Grumblr and couldn’t let it go without digging further. RA. >>
Movie promotion has changed in recent years, to the point where promotional posters are having to be adapted to make sure that they’ve viewable on a mobile device. Increased use of the internet, especially on mobile devices, means that there are a thousand new ways to reach a potential audience, and some movie marketers are exploiting this to their full advantage.
Some, like the people behind 220.127.116.11 and Star Trek Into Darkness are using social media to create buzz around their film. Others are using the internet to target specific groups of people online — such as in the run up to the release of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo when fans of the novels were hit with targeted ads and a specific campaign that tapped into their love for the books. Others, however, aren’t being quite so obvious. They’re taking digital marketing and having a little fun with it, creating some very cool things in the process.
The Grumblr is a Tumblr supposedly written by a Monsters University student. It includes memes, heavily filtered square photos of campus life, chats about essays, GIFs, hashtags, all the things you’d usually find on the social media of a 17-25 year old. Except it’s all to do with monsters.
It’s brilliant, showing the tone and a few snippets from the movie without being blatantly promotional. Plus it links to the website for Monsters University, which is so similar a real academic website it’s almost painful. Apart from the bit where they sell four-armed hoodies in the store, obviously.
The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises
The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises were the final two films in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Batman has such a huge existing fanbase that marketers could have gotten away with the old posters-and-interviews technique. Instead they took the huge, rich world of Batman and made something quite brilliant with it.
Let’s start in reverse. When the website for The Dark Knight Rises was launched, it was just a black webpage with a recording of men chanting underneath it. However, when the chanting was analysed with a spectrograph a hidden message was revealed — #thefirerises. If you tweeted that hashtag then you’d get a reply from @TheFireRises, who’d link you to another webpage where you could put in your Twitter account and your profile pic would be added to a larger mosaic that formed the first clear photo of Bane.
Even though the photo was unveiled by clever-clogs Batman fans way before the mosaic was completed, it was a cool idea — and it was followed up with a huge website that let fans peek into the Batman world.
But it was nothing compared to the campaign for The Dark Knight. I left it ’til last because it’s quite astonishing, involving treasure hunts that blend the online and offline worlds, over 31 websites, mobile phones with exclusive content hidden in the middle of cakes, an online newspaper, …it’s no surprise that it had over 10 million unique participants in 75 countries. It was a huge, mind-blowing campaign, but this video explains it all very neatly.
There are so many other sterling examples I could talk about, such as Super 8‘s online treasure hunt and the Monsters Foursquare campaign that I wish someone would look at and expand upon, but the point is clear. There are a hundred different platforms to reach audiences on nowadays, and thousands of different ways of using them. You can use digital to create a world that will extend the film experience beyond the two hours someone sits in a cinema, and create some really nifty things whilst doing so.
Let’s be clear: it’s not a holiday.
Every year I come back from SXSW mentally energised and physically exhausted. This year it was worse as I also spent a couple of days working with the great guys at Houston Dynamo, and I was lucky enough to be asked by George Scott and Craig Howe to speak at the NFL digital media summit just before sxswi kicked off in earnest.
Hot topics included editorial impartiality, social controls, second screens, stadium wifi and all the usual challenges around reach/retention/revenue – all things we deal with all the time at Seven League. Those are hot topics in the digital sport community – not so much at sxsw as a whole. In fact, I’d hoped for more coverage of sport at this year’s festival. Last year, when I spoke about Datatainment, it seemed like there was a head of steam building up around digital/sport as a topic, but it seemed to drop off this year. There was the WWE talk on social and then Arsenal‘s excellent Richard Clarke talking us through the challenges ofwalking the tightrope of editorial/commercial/fan vs club when it’s a matter of love, not fandom. But other than that, sessions on sport were few and far between.
But I don’t think you can go to Austin just to focus on your everyday line of work… you get so much more by broadening your mind and soaking up the inspiration around you. In the end I only got to 3.5 conference sessions (every time I go it seems to become fewer, or maybe the schmoozing/meeting/partying just gets more) but they were all well worth it. I got lucky.
The guys from Leap Motion were appropriately geeky… great looking tech and lots of references to star trek.
Elon Musk is ridiculous. Talk about vision without limits – really inspirational stuff talking about Tesla, SpaceX and SolarCity.. and also about his 5 kids and how you can do email while you’re with them (nb. mention of the nanny was a crucial footnote). Only downside of this talk was that half the women in the audience became pregnant just at the sight of him.
And then my favourite, Stephen Wolfram, nailing the audience’ brains to the wall with computational delivery, computational panache and uncompromising computational logic. Nailed to the wall and then sprayed with a mojito – that’s how my brain felt, and I only got to stay for half his talk. I’ve been a long-time follower of Wolfram Alpha… and it was great to see everyone being awed by the scale of the project.Nate Silver left me a bit cold – but then I’m aware of his work and I’ve been so data-obsessed in the last two years, I was always going to be difficult to please on this one.
Serendipity and Sore Throat
The best thing about Austin was, as ever, that you can walk down the street and bump into Dan Hon – grab a coffee for half an hour – and plug into a mate you respect and admire… to talk work and babies. Ok, so it’s not just the inimitable Mr Hon… but he’s a proxy for all the people you connect with. Long-time Portland resident and sports pr expert Charlie Brooks, TechCity’s Pasa Mustafa (over the rugby at the Irish bar Fado, our yearly meet watching Six Nations), hanging out with Evan, Dennis and the wonderful, welcoming foursquare gang, checking in with Will McDonough and the KickTV crowd (at fado again, you see the pattern?), a brief meet with Mark from Spurs, the lovely ladies of Barchick, top Swede Dag Larrson, the partyful personalities of Poke, pitch-winning Makie ladies, the Makerbot masters… you get the picture, I’m sure. The best thing was that none of these meetings was pre-arranged – that’s the serendipity of South-by. My only problem was that, by the time I’d got to the foursquare party on Sunday night I could hardly croak a word. There were those who found this to be a good thing.
Normally I just line up a few conversations myself, but with Seven League growing in reputation and size, we entered for a SXSW and UK Trade and Industry government scheme to get some help with lining up meetings… and it went really well. With much thanks to the ladies of the UKTI, in particular Una and Tracy, I had an excellent couple of hours on the British stand in the conference centre (the only time I went in there) with four fast-track business-speed-dating meetings. All very interesting, some very useful. If you’re thinking of doing something like this next year, then it’s the Platinum Service you want to apply for.
And if you do all these kinds of things and more next year… then I can thoroughly recommend the restorative powers of South Congress Massage. Keep it weird Austin, that’s the way we like it.
I was given an award for being ‘Individual of the Year’ against some very distinguished and successful other nominees. Thank you those of you who tweet-voted and thank you to the judges.
Still, it was odd. Good, but odd. Being given an award for yourself is a strange feeling. Clearly I wouldn’t have achieved anything if it hadn’t been for the excellent backing of my boss Ian Cafferky and the support of my team this year, so I owe them big-time. Oh, and especially Victoria Stansfield, our Digital Delivery Manager, I owe her too, for nominating me.
We’d all been having a good, entertaining night at the DADIs in Leeds’ Savile Hall… and thankfully the 15ish category award winners didn’t have the opportunity to make a speech. So when I went up, slightly stunned, shook hand, accepted glass gong, had photo taken… and then, as I was heading off stage I was stopped… and asked to make a speech. I burbled some surprise, some thanks, made a comment about it being beard-related (or maybe ginger quota?) and remarked it’s‘Deeeecent’. But mainly I was a bit lost for words. Now that’s odd too.
But oddest thing at the very end of a long, good, night was in the bar at the top of the Mint hotel.
Conversation had shifted away from my son’s baptism (the next day) and had us drunkenly doing a Who’s Line Is It Anyway with the aforementioned, rather phallic, gong. Doorstop… Mobile phone… Weapon… and then the young lady beside me goes further.
[imagine a broad Leeds accent]
“I can imagine a few things you could do with that. If you know what I mean.”. Yes, I think we know what you mean. The gestures weren’t needed. And then, as it passes to the next person, she leans closer and, lowering her voice, mutters aggressively “I fookin’ loooove beards.”.
Now *that* was odd.
Best bit of this video is my interview, just over 1min in, where I manage to use the words ‘year’ and ‘gear’ quite a lot.
This post was originally posted on Richard Ayers’ personal blog.
It’s Friday afternoon. The page has been prepared, it’s live on the web, only no-one knows it’s there.
Maybe I could just quietly leave it there for a while, unpublicised, and no-one would ever see it… then I could go on working here, having a fine time, and I’d never get replaced. Hold on… that’s not the plan. So I write the tweet and hit send.
“This is a very good job. Really. I should know, I’ve been doing it for 6 mths. You want it?http://bit.ly/kOuV1W #jobs”
<gulp> The I go to linkedin and do the same. <gulp> There’s no going back. I’m making yourself redundant.
Once, twice, three times redundant…
Making yourself redundant is a bizarre experience. Even though each time it has been part of my plan, it’s always weird.
I’m not talking about the “looking for a payout” redundancy that The Idler so deftly advises, nor the “I’m a Director, how can I make myself redundant” advice that’s needed for financial and legal reasons when you’re shutting down or selling a company.
No, I’m talking about when you make the “Right” move because it’s right for the business… and because you’ve done your work, delivered what you planned, and now need to take a step backward.
At Magic Lantern Productions we decided to restructure the company and as the MD I was in the odd position of planning to reduce headcount – including getting rid of my own position. Felt odd, and (of course) it was a move full of concern for my financial future – but without a doubt it was the right thing to do for the business.
At Trinity Mirror, I was the first Web Publishing Director in Regionals… so on an interim role to see if it worked, set up the strategy, be an agent of change, get things going… and then hand over to someone so they could run it full-time. It was supposed to be for 6 months and ended up being for 20.
And now, at the wonderful Manchester City FC I am going through it again. City is at a wonderful point in its digital growth and the job is, quite genuinely, the best I’ve ever had… good people, clear decision making/focus/audience/subject matter, passion and a load of good business to do around the club. What’s not to like? Only one thing… I think you need to be in Manchester and run full-pelt at this stage in the company’s growth. And I’m going to become a father in London very (very!) shortly… so I don’t want to be spend nights a week away from all that. (or maybe I’m mad and it would be the perfect way to get some sleep…hmmm..)
Let go, be happy (and effective)
Management books often say you should aim to make yourself redundant – and it’s often credited to Henry Ford – but whoever said it, I believe in the epithet. It means you train people to do what needs doing better than you can do it as part of your role. It means you hire people who are brighter than you and work hard to make their work easier. It means you set yourself free to look upward and outward and to spot the next new, exciting thing to work on.
As Bre Pettis of MakerBot said to me the other day:
“If I spend more than an hour a day on it, then it should be someone’s full-time job. So I go get someone.”
Of course, the downside is that you have to be live through the insecurity and the network’s reaction.
Friday evening saw a deluge of tweets, emails and texts from people saying “so, you’ve decided to move on? why? what’s wrong?” or “Why aren’t you doing it, if it’s so good?”. It’s easy to see how people get the wrong end of the stick. Which is why I thought it would be a good idea to write this up. Although I hope to stay involved with City from a distance, I don’t have the next (non-parenting) project lined up. I have no doubt that I’ve done the right thing (again) but that doesn’t stop me being jealous, already, of the person who gets the job.
10 years experience – too much?
Speaking of which, let me give a little context on why I’m asking for 10 year of experience in the role profile. City’s inestimable HR director asked the question :
“Why is it so important to have 10 years experience… with technology moving so fast, does it really matter?”
To which I answered:
10 years is important because …
1) everyone claims more experience than they actually have – so if we set the bar at 10, then people with 5 will still apply but also, much more importantly,
2) ten years ago the .com bubble burst… so what i’m asking for is people who were around *before*. Why? The people who were involved in the first wave of growth of new technology then had to live through and deal with the aftermath of over-excitement. they were the ones who learnt to adapt and be flexible with creativity, technology, commerciality. the people who came later didn’t learn those skills of adapting which are so key to the stage this business is in.
3) Ideally we want someone who has similar skills and experience as I had 5 years ago… and I’ve been doing this 16 years, so 10 is about right.
You’re right, the technology changes fast. But that’s why it’s essential you get someone who has long and hard-won experience of driving a business while dealing with / adapting to change. It’s not that there aren’t good people out there who have 5 years experience – it’s just that there are lots of charlatans and I wanted to set the bar high.
If you’re applying for this role, thank you and good luck.
Full role profile and job application details here: www.mcfc.co.uk/joinus
In case you arrived at this page looking for some good advice on redundancy, then here are some useful links:
Employment lawyers I can highly recommend: Audrey Onwukwe at Levenes (UK, London and Birmingham offices)
This post was originally published on Richard Ayers’ personal blog.
“You should see my four-year-old with an ipad / mouse / iphone / tv remote / [insert relevant period technology]“.
This is one of the phrases that winds me up most when I’m at a conference, listening to someone speak about the internet with the new-found fervor of the recent convert. Don’t get me wrong, I love converts and their enthusiasm. I love tech-savvy four-year-olds – but I don’t want to be sitting in an audience being lectured about a 10 year old behaviour pattern they’ve only just discovered. That’s stage 1: zealotry. Tonight was all about stage 2 but more of that in a minute.
It was Jon Williams of the BBC who raised my heckles. “Twitter is nothing new, it’s just like another tips line” he said, clearly feeling no need to put any qualification around that, and “social media doesn’t replace journalism, it complements it”. Of course he ended the discussion saying “we are privileged to be reporting such extraordinary moments” but only after he’d sidelined twitter as just another source. In fact, it was left to Jon Snow to be excited – to point out that the difference with twitter is that one comment can lead to another and another from multiple sources which can lead to links, data, pictures and video – and all within seconds because the scale and range of the network is so huge in comparison with anything we’ve known before. Sadly this glimmer of excitement and enthusiasm quickly faded as he realised that he was supposed to be chairing – but it seemed like he knew more about social media than anyone else on the panel.
Stage 2: Ennui.
‘It’s nothing new. We’ve seen this before. The story isn’t the technology, it’s the people. The technology is just a platform.’ These are all phrases with enough truth about them to cause plenty of damage to a media organisation. They cause damage because they breed complacency and they downgrade awareness of and investment in new technology.
At this point, I should caveat that I don’t know Mr Williams (@WilliamJon). In fact, I used to work with Sky’s Sarah Whitehead (@swhitehead1) when she was at the BBC, but other than that, I don’t know the panellists and I haven’t worked inside a news broadcaster for 10 years – so there’s a chance that last night’s panel wasn’t the best representation of what goes on within the BBC, Sky, ITN, Al Jazeerah, etc. But seeing as the second half of the evening was supposed to be dedicated to debating whether social media had been shown to revolutionise broadcasting in the case of the Arab Spring, I felt we didn’t even scratch the surface. Ironically, but not surprisingly, there was no hashtag for the debate, but thanks to @IanKearney for tweeting.
The stories on covering conflicts were impressive, harrowing, fascinating. The journalistic credentials were unparalleled. But the level of digital media debate was low. Perhaps I was in the wrong place, but it’s not just that I wanted to hear more geek talk. It gave me genuine concern that a lack of discussion might cover a lack of knowledge or interest…
Stage 2: Ennui is what happens when Media Executive A has gone through the excited digital stage. In fact, they’ve been through fear, opportunity, hope, excitement, over-excitement, disappointment… and now they’re just bored of the excitable digital-types who used to invade their newsrooms (publishing offices, media centres etc etc). Now they know all the TLAs, they’ve been on all the digital media courses, they know the difference between a follow and a retweet – and to the bosses on high (who know they don’t know anything) they sound digital. Or digital enough.
The panel was made up of hugely experienced and esteemed journalists with long and decorated careers in journalism and broadcasting. Sadly, there were no other voices involved – none that could have talked through the importance of social media. Oh for a Clay Shirky or Jay Rosen or Jeff Jarvis or Emily Bell or Aleks Krotowski or Kevin Anderson or any of a long list of others. Steve Herrmann (@BBCSteveH), the BBC’s News Online Editor would have had an interesting perspective, perhaps.
There was no discussion of ‘twitter to break the news, facebook to organise, youtube to share’. There was no mention of journalists being held to account by online communities who know the subject matter better – and by the impact of that on working processes – how being part of an ecosystem or a conversation has revolutionised reporting at the Guardian and other media institutions. Yes, I could have spoken up – but questions from the floor by digital media practitioners always end up sounding like rants – and that never helps the cause. The debate itself needed to be more balanced – or at least more focussed on the practice of using social media in newsgathering. Yes, there were interviewees in the VT piece about social media who knew what they were about, like Alex Gubbay (@alexgubbay) (formerly, BBC News social media chief, now moving to Johnston Press), but these weren’t the voices on tonight’s panel.
There was some good conversation stimulated by @stewartpurvis around impartiality. But there was scant discussion of anonymity and the essential and interesting place it holds within internet-based discussion. And there appeared limited awareness of the fundamental scale of social media and the power of the scale of the network.
Second source? How about hundreds?
There was mention of getting a second source – but this wasn’t extended into the idea to get multiple sources – that scale means mass-corroboration as well as mass-collaboration. I’ve always found an important premise is to understand a user’s provenance online – their history and profile within the community and conversation ecosystem where they reside.
[alert: incoming personal anecdote confirming experience of conflict reporting and internet heritage]
When I worked on the Kosovo Special Report on BBC News Online in 1998, there were 3 of us in the team. I handled what we’d now call the data journalism of updating the daily record of allied bombings. But if social media had been around I could have corroborated those stories – I could have shown pictures of schools bombed-out when Nato said it was an armoury. However, this also highlights the issue of scale again: with twitter, facebook and youtube – and the need for broadcasters’ representatives to reside in the online community so that you can know the reputation and reliability of a source, or to use mass-corroboration as your principle – you need resource, huge resource, to be able to effectively operate as a broadcast journalist body. It’s a manpower challenge.
What worried me most about Mr Williams comments – and the rest of the panel – was that there seemed to be no sense of being in a media revolution. As Clay Shirky says (and I paraphrase)
“In a revolution, no-one knows how it’s going to play out – not even the revolutionaries”
But if you think twitter is just like another tips line – then you might not have your eyes on the horizon. You might not realise that we don’t know what the next massive step will be in the digital impact on how we report news, cover elections, reflect revolutions. And if you’re not constantly adapting and working on changing your organisation to the next technological thing that comes out, then you risk missing the nuances of revolution because all you can do is react to the barrage of voices that hits you when massive news stories break.
Why does any of this really matter? The panel all agreed that our journalistic purpose is to uncover truth – to go, to see, to tell what we see – but my worry is this: if you’re not alert to the nuances of technology; if you think that we’ve been through the digital revolution and we’ve got it covered; if you think that all your journalists are more than capable and digital-enough then the risk is that the authorities, like those in Bahrain, will learn to use the internet and social media in better and more effective ways – and truth will just become increasingly difficult to find. Complacency about the need to be alert, to invest and to adapt our media organisations to the ever-moving point in the revolution of digital media felt heavy in the air tonight. I hope that digital revolution in these companies is still going on and that we haven’t slowed it down into a complacent, bored, regressive stage in broadcaster evolution.
It would be a mistake to judge an entire organisation by the one person who was picked (or available) to speak on a panel. I’m sure there are some excellent digital people in those companies and I would ask Bafta, next time, to get them in on the debate.
Tonight’s panel was chaired by Jon Snow ( @jonsnowC4) with
James Brabazon, Freelance Journalist & Trustee, The Rory Peck Trust – @james_brabazon
Ghazi Gheblawi, Libyan Author and Blogger – @Gheblawi
Bill Neely, International Editor ITV News – @billneelyitv
Jacky Rowland, Senior Correspondent Al Jazeera English – @jackyaljaz
Sarah Whitehead, Head of International News, Sky News – @swhitehead1
Jon Williams, BBC World News Editor – @WilliamsJon
This post was originally published on Richard Ayers’ personal blog.
What a day.
Everyone from MCFC is exhausted. The build-up has been unbelievable (as Micah Richards would say – it’s his only adjective) and then you add the adrenalin, the pressure, the happiness… and I don’t really think it’s sunk in for them all.
When I left the Mandarin Oriental at midnight, there were a smattering of stragglers, but the majority of the party had made its way to bed. No hijinks, no madness, none of the high-rolling scandal the papers might talk about. This was a bunch of people who are knackered and genuinely over-wraught.
As one said to me, her first game was in 1977, when she was 6, and the last win had been 1976… so it’s been all her life – all of it – that she’s been waiting for this moment. The emotion was palpable. Several times people talked me through how it felt and nearly came to tears. Bless him, but the match-day operations director has, in the last 10 days, become a father again, seen the club he’s worked for for 14 years reach the qualification stage of the Champions’ League… and now win the FA Cup. Remarkable.
The digital media team have done me proud as well. 16 pieces on video which will make more than that by the time we’ve edited and divided it into chunks, text stories, picture galleries, fan reaction, twitter commentary, Match Day Centre live coverage,…
One of our guys has followed the cup all the back to Manchester on the train.
We had 20 minutes IN THE CHANGING ROOM! which is unheard of and will be great viewing.
And, as Garry Cook said in his emotional, inspirational speech – it’s just the beginning of more great things to come…