Viral Marketing

October 31, 2008

On average customers will tell at least three other people about a product or service that’s appealing to them.  If you want information about your product or service to spread like a bad cough then you need to understand whats known as viral marketing.  The idea works as follows…

I’m an Internet user and I’m browsing regularly, websites will target me based upon my surfing habits and attempt to provide me with suitable advertising content.  If they do their job well and i become “infected” i may then proceed to pass the information on like a virus to other people who may be interested.  So long as the basic reproductive rate is greater than one, the original information will be passed on and on with the amount of people exposed becoming greater and greater.

In 2008 the makers of the film Cloverfield  engaged in a viral marketing campaign in order to create a buzz around the film.  They released a teaser trailer whilst withholding the title of the movie in order to spread suspense and speculation about the film by word of mouth.

The term “viral marketing” came into existence in 1996 when Harvard Business School professor Jeffery Rayport wrote an article for Fast company called The virus of marketing.  Since the conception of the term things have moved on in leaps and bounds for viral marketing.  Nowadays companies use algorithms in quantitative marketing research in order to target users and maximize the effect of their advertising campaigns.

There are six basic principles to viral marketing.  In order for a successful campaign these conditions must be met…

(1) Free products or services

This is an effective way of getting the attention of users, this is what will draw the user to your add initially.

(2) Provides simple method for transferring information to other users

Obviously nobody is going to spend to much time messing around.  The process should be clear, easy and fast.

(3) Small to large

Your modes and methods must be able to deal with the campaign becoming extremely large in a short space of time.  Using your own mail servers is not always suitable.

(4) Exploitation of common motives

You need to make sure that you are appealing to the basic needs of the user, what are they interested in, why, and how can you exploit this?

(5) Utilize existing networks

People like people.  Use this idea to help spread your virus.  Look at new ways to use popular exsisting services.

(6) Take advantage

Make good use of other service providers, businesses ect.  Affiliate networks can be a good way of spreading information.

All this information will help you orchestrate an effective viral marketing campaign.  Viral marketing is a really effective way of creating hype and generating publicity for whatever it is your promoting!

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Streaming Media

October 23, 2008

In prehistoric times if you wanted to watch a movie online or listen to a song, you had to wait for the file to download onto your computer before you could begin watching or listening.  These days you don’t have to.  Even if you’ve never heard of streaming you have more than likely encountered it.  Thanks to streaming you can now visit the BBC’s iplayer website and get access to video and radio programs without having to go and make yourself a coffee (or tea if that’s your preference) while you wait for the file to download.  Probably the most notorious of services indebted to streaming is youtube.  The site takes videos uploaded by users in a variety of different formats, converts them to Flash format using whats known as the Sorensen Spark H.263 Codec and streams the video to other users using a interface based upon Macromedia’s flash player.  The benefits of streaming are obvious and without it websites like youtube or iplayer would be stuck in the Dark Ages…

Lets take a look at how it works…

First of all you should know that streaming uses up bandwidth, this being the capacity you have to transfer data over a network ie the Internet.  This means that in order to playback media without slowing down your connection the files must first be compressed.

Streaming media storage size is calculated in the following way…

storage size (in megabytes) = length (in seconds) * bit rate (in kbit/s) / (8 * 1024) (since 1 megabyte = 8 * 1,024 kbits)

In reality this means…

One hour of video encoded at 300 kbit/s will be:

(3,600 s * 300 kbit/s) / (8*1024) gives around 130 MB of storage.

Once encoded this is what happens…

You the user, sends a request for a video, lets say Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal.  You do this by clicking on a HTML link.  A player is loaded and requests the data from a media server.  Data is transferred using one of many protocols depending on the particular site/service requirements.  This data is received and held in whats known as a buffer.  Once the buffer has enough of the data to allow you to start watching, it does.  As you watch, the rest of the data is transferred and the idea is that you’ll never know it wasn’t there to start with!

Live Streaming

Live streaming is where things get tricky.  To start with you’ll need to make sure that your web server is capable, not all servers can accomplish the task.  You’ll also need to install some broadcaster software like SAM Broadcaster Once you have configured the software you’ll need to encode the file by using the software to create an SDP file, this is uploaded to your web server.  Once uploaded, start the capture software within your broadcaster software to begin streaming.  Obviously you’ll need some basic knowledge of the web in order to configure your website to house the streamed content but that’s how it works in a nut shell…

Applications

As I’ve already discussed, online streaming has many applications and its visible all over the Internet.  Its an effective way to deliver content quickly.   However, live streaming is costly, it requires a higher degree of technical know how and if you are running a live stream to multiple users then you cant afford to make mistakes.  Youtube has talked about a live streaming service many times and co founder Steve Chen said earlier this year that 2008 would see its arrival, however as of today (23/10/08) it is yet to appear…

Useful Links

http://www.publicsource.apple.com/projects/streaming/StreamingServerHelp/pgs/ss04.html

http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/02/29/confirmed-live-video-on-youtube-this-year/

http://mashable.com/2008/07/15/video-streaming-tools/

http://www.aaronsw.com/2002/howto/stream

http://newteevee.com/2008/10/02/youtube-to-live-stream-live-event/

Music Education: Whats New?

October 22, 2008

Music education exists in many forms all around the world from nursery schools through to post graduate education.   Most societies value musical expression as a vital contribution to culture and in many parts of the world teaching is standardised and has become an important aspect of  the school curriculum.

At the heart of teaching is communication.  The communication of a system from one person to another and what I’m interested in is looking at how the Internet can and is being used as a tool in the pursuit of musical enlightenment.

To do this I’m going to take a look at whats happening online…

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Online Resources

www.musiclessonsonline.co.uk declares itself the Uk’s number one music tutor directory.  According to the website it has over 20,000 visitors per week all using it’s facilities to search for a tutor in their area.  The site houses plenty of resources including information on exams, qualifications, courses and  music theory.  There is information on genres, instruments, studio production and the history of music.  Users can subscribe to a newsletter or utilize RSS feeds.

www.justinguitar.com is a website set up by professional guitarist Justin Sandercoe.  Justin has written tracks for Katie Melua, played at the Brit awards and had many other professional appearances.  His website hosts a wealth of resources for guitar playing including links to his youtube channel which provides instructional videos.  You can find tips on songwriting and composition, scales, arpeggios, rhythm and various different techniques.  You can join the mailing list, visit the site on myspace or post comments in the forum.

www.nowplayit.com allows users to view video tutorials made by artists who write popular songs.  You can view tips and techniques performed by artists such as Supergrass, KT tunstall and Blur.  Tutorials on the site are split into three categories…

full Tutorial

A full 15/20 min video lesson with the artist.

Recap – For guitar based tutorials.

Play through – Video lesson with tablature overlay.

Lite Tutorial

Play through – Video lesson with tablature overlay.

Recap – Less detailed.

In House Tutorial

Same as full tutorial but performed by an in house tutor.

Full tutorials cost £3.99 each and lite tutorials cost £1.99.  There is also a section which provides free downloadable content.  You can connect with other people by setting up a profile and using forums.

www.djtutor.com/index.php contains a large selection of video tutorials for aspiring Dj’s.  There are instructional videos on how to mix records, scratch using turntables ect and there are loads of videos on the basics of Dj equipment.  Users can log in and post comments on videos, subscribe to email and RSS feeds and even contact the site via skype.

There are many more examples of websites who aim to provide browsers with access to a wealth of educational material.  From Guitar, piano and voice training exercises to turntable, Midi and studio tuition, there are a host of websites that provide video content and modern features such as RSS feeds and user comments.  However these sites all feel like they are missing something.  Web 2.0 has the ability to enhance the way we share and learn musical knowledge and this opportunity has yet to be fully realised.

Creative Commons

October 16, 2008

If your a media producer and you haven’t heard of Creative Commons then now’s your time…

Creative commons is essentially a copyright issue.  It applies to most sectors of the creative industry like film, photography, music, art, and design and It’s a reaction to existing copyright laws which have an “all or nothing” policy.  Creative Commons allows for artists to open up their work to the public whilst still maintaining a degree of control over how it’s used.  It bridges the expansive gap between exclusive copyright ownership, and the public domain.

The organization was launched in 2001 with the first set of licences released towards the end of 2002.  It’s the brainchild of Harvard Law School professor Lawrence Lessig.  Lessig is the founder of the Centre for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School and he worked on Creative Commons with a number of professionals from within the creative industries.  He also enlisted students from within the law school to work on the project.

So how does it work?

Creative Commons licences are drawn up under a combination of four basic conditions.  Lets assume that i’m an artist and i’m applying for a creative commons licence for my painting.  This is how it works…

(1) Attribution – Expressed as (BY)

This means that any person is granted permission to use my painting for whatever purpose, so long as they name me as the original author and display a link to the licence.

(2) Non Commercial – Expressed as (NC)

Non Commercial signifies that a person may use my work so long as they are not benefiting from it financially.

(3) No Derivative – Expressed as (ND)

This means that others are free to distribute and display my work only in its original form.  They are not allowed to alter it in any way.

(4) Share Alike – Expressed as (SA)

Others may produce derivatives of my work so long as they are released under the same conditions as the original work.

Combos

Usually works are licenced in line with a combination of the above conditions.  Some examples are as follows…

(BY)-(NC)-(SA)

On a simple level this licence means that you may use my work so long as you (a) cite me as the original author (b) don’t make any money from it and (c) release any derivatives under the same conditions that the original was released to you.

(BY)-(NC)-(ND)

This means that you may use the work providing that you (a) cite me as the original author (b) do not benefit from it financially and (c) only present it in it’s original form.

Once your application for a licence has been granted it is expressed in three ways.  A commons deed is issued which explains the terms of the licence along with a copy of the legal terms and an electronic translation designed to increase the licences online accessibility.

Who’s up for it?

According to the creators there are currently several million websites which are licenced under Creative Commons as well as numerous films, publications, images, music compositions and other creative works.

A notable example is the Industrial band Nine Inch Nails who released the album Ghosts I-IV under a (BY)-(NC)-(SA) licence.  Upon it’s release the album was dubbed as “remix friendly”.

So there you have it…

Now you know all about Creative commons and how it works.  All that’s left is to go out and produce something.  Any information you need to licence your work can be found At www.creativecommons.org

Useful Links

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35297-2005Mar14.html

http://icommons.org/articles/why-bloggers-should-use-creative-commons-licences

http://www.boingboing.net/2008/03/03/nine-inch-nails-goes.html