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 22.214.171.124 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.
We’re delighted to announce that we have begun a unique collaboration with top sports lawyers, Couchmans LLP.
Over the next few years we think there are going to be fascinating, challenging and complex developments in sport around the use of social media – whether at fan, player, club or governing body level. This collaboration will enable us to enhance our offering to Seven League clients by pooling our commercial, strategic and operational skills with Couchmans’ undoubted legal expertise.
There will be projects where it makes sense for the client that we work closely together, and others where we simply advise where necessary. The beauty of this relationship is that, in an ever evolving world of digital media choices where legalities are developing equally rapidly, this kind of collaborative approach makes a lot of sense.
Couchmans LLP: Nick White
Seven League: Richard Ayers @richardayers or info[@]sevenleague.co.uk
This post was originally uploaded to Richard Ayers’ personal blog.
Thanks to Robert Andrews for the interview and write-up on paidContent where we went through a whole bunch of the digital and media strategy for Manchester City FC. Of course, any one of those things could have been explained a lot more – but maybe that’s for another time.
Only one thing to add to the interview.. I want to make it clear that I’m well aware that ‘datatainment’ is a horrid horrid word. I promise not to come up with more like that.
Also, Joe Weston… the answer’s clearly a very very loud ‘No’: Is Richard Ayers the most influential man in sports and social media? It’s kind of you, but definitely still ‘no’.
And then there was the Guardian blog post and back-page of the sport section last Saturday where Scott Murray wrote a rather remarkable, entertaining and, frankly, odd piece about MCFC’s approach to media. “Manchester City’s film should get an ‘X’ certificate“.
I was alerted to the post at about 10am on Saturday morning and once I’d picked my jaw up off the ground, I emailed my boss and the communications director to ask for the ok to make a comment on the blog. What amazed me was how pseud0-intellectualised the piece was… all those arty references to cinema… and how much he’d got carried away. I should add that I thought it was a good blog post – entertaining, well written, bombastic, opinionated and, of course, not based in any truth at all. Because it was a Saturday and even communications directors have lives, it took quite a while for me to get signoff on the comment I wanted to make… but by 10.39pm we were there and I was able to respond. (it’s on page 4 of the comments).
We think the video’s great. But then I would say that, as it was my team that made it.
Our club and editorial policy is about giving fans access to the club and that means behind the scenes material is perfect. We know the fans love it because we’ve done loads of things like the Tunnel Cams and the picture galleries of Today at Carrington – and the response is really really good. You can also be sure that if the fans don’t like something, then I hear about it pretty quickly.
Part of my job is to try new things – to innovate in ways that will mean that the fans get more of what they want. And what they want most is access to behind the scenes at the club – access to players. Some things don’t work, of course, but I’m happy to say we’ve done lots that are greatly appreciated as a lot of the comments here show.
As for our visual style – well, cinema is orchestrated, but reality tv is much more free-form and that’s the style we go for. Which, to be honest, is why it can look a bit awkward sometimes – but then we’ve had enough reality tv over the last 20 years or so to know that, haven’t we?
I guess there’s something here about editorial taste. I like the video. The BBC like the video – that’s why they got in touch and ran it on the BBC Sport site. As I write this, 383,081 people have watched it on youtube and some of them must like it. Then there are those that watched it on our website first. But you didn’t like it – and that’s fair enough.
Equally, fans liked the ‘Nasri scores’ image from EA. A bit of fun that nicely shows off the game’s amazing graphics. That’s an approach the FIFA game playing audience would appreciate, I think.
I’d be more than happy to talk to you or the media team and explain our digital and media strategy in detail.
In the meantime, as this is a blog with comments I’d just like to add that you missed off the best ever steadicam shot… in the opening sequence of Point Break.
ps. we put another one up, do let me know what you think: Inside City: Nasri’s First Day Training
You should have seen the first version of the response – it had a lot more sarcasm and bombast of my own. It started with “I love blogs. Mainly because they’re not journalism and have no requirement for accuracy, contacting the people you’re writing about or even a suggestion of reporting the truth…”. Probably best that what I commented was a lot more moderate. The main thing was that Mr Murray seemed to be writing from a pre-internet time – with no sense of modern media. In fact I’ve since talked to a couple of Guardian media reporters and they thought it was odd too. Oh well, each to their own.
The most wonderful thing was that, by the time the post had been up even a very short time, a whole bunch of commenters had responded. And what responses they were. Blogger Steven McInerny‘s comment was great and said a lot:
Or you know, maybe it wasn’t an over-the-top dramatisation of his signing, and it wasn’t tightly choreographed and maybe it wasn’t an attempt at projecting self-importance …maybe, just maybe it was quite simply a video that they thought that I, like many other City fans, would find incredibly interesting to see. And I did. I really did. I quite enjoy seeing what goes on behind the scenes.
Because that’s what it was. I really do think it was as simple as that. A behind the scenes look at what happens during a transfer. If anything it was pretty mundane, despite your valiant attempts to dramatise it and paint it as something it wasn’t, Mr Murray. There was no grand entrance. No music. No paths lined in gold, and Garry Cook certainly didn’t have an office and a place to call home glamorous enough to please Scaramanga. It all looked pretty normal. It didn’t pretend to be anything other than that. Perhaps too, Patrick Vieira was simply hanging around to say hello to a friend. Not just to lurk seedily in the shadows and do his best impression of a mobster waiting for the call from the big man. It’s pretty possible that maybe your cynical nature has taken over here, and i’m aware it’s in vogue to laugh at City, but sometimes I think people look a little too hard.
To be fair though…Garry Cook is a bit of a tool. Bless him. He always will be though. It’s just in his nature. So yeah, laugh at him as much as you want, and though silly, the FIFA thing was nothing really either. But you can have that one too if you want.
But please, leave our extra content alone. I enjoy it. It gives me something to watch. It makes everything seem normal, and it definitely goes along way to destroying some myth that a huge wall exists between them and us. If anything it makes the fans club feel closer to the club and I salute that.
And so it went on… comment after comment talking about content, clubs and their approach to media – and lots and lots of them were very supportive of City’s approach and rather circumspect about the blog post. It was a great moment for the club – to have so much support – and in particular, for our media strategy. Syndication is a new thing for a club to do – and it worked. Responding quickly, like a news/media organisation is a new thing to do – and it worked. Even posting an official comment on a blog is a new thing to do.
I wanted to add a post-script to this…
The original video that Mr Murray picked up on was this:
And although there are currently over 1600 comments – the vast majority of them being inter-club abuse – there are a few that are a credit to the Club – and I’ve never seen a bunch like this before. Jim, our Endemol Sport exec producer highlighted these to me:
I support Manchester United but I love this! It’s fantastic to have a insight to the ongoings at a football club, even though they are our rivalsfes9371 1 day ago 4Arsenal fan, and I love this. I’m not bitter, kolo and Samir are great footballers and good people. I am angry at wenger, not them.tAcTiCaLnUkE118 1 day agoI’m a Chelsea fan but this is far better than there channel, and kolarov is a legendgreat videos/channel, very interesting to see what goes on behind the scenes hope the videos keep coming throughout the season. kolarov seems like a right character!!saros08 2 days agoI can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m starting to like Man City.Amino2 2 days ago 7i wish liverpool did thisYOUNGMr1996 2 days agoThumbs up for MCFC for putting videos on Youtube now. Some cracking videos have been made in the past two years since the site was relaunched, many better than the MUTV and LTV crap that gets put out if I’m perfectly honest which normally just features a second rate past player just eulogising and stating the bloody obvious.mancity1000 3 days ago 7Love it. Also not a City fan, but looking how it all looks on the inside of the club, its just great.VolverinBVB09 3 days ago 5
So, thanks for the comments, the interaction, the abuse and the plaudits. Here’s to more content and more engagement.
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 originally appeared on Richard Ayers’ personal blog.
Two cracking articles on our need for stimulation, searching and satisfaction – and what our use of t’internet does for/to us.
Is Google making us stupid? by Nicholas Carr in The Atlantic