Monday, November 28, 2011

Is the PS Vita good enough to bring Augmented Reality mainstream?

I rather quickly wrote off the PlayStation Vita when I first heard about it. Why? It's just another handheld gaming console and I really do believe they face almost impossible odds against mobile phones.

You even have mobile phones that are gaming consoles - like the Xperia.

However, I'll also admit whenever I see any demo (or even trailer footage) for the PS Vita I raise my opinion of it. It's far more powerful than mobile phones are today and it doesn't have quite the same pocket sized concerns.

I've written about augmented reality before on this blog because I see it as a way of bringing the goodness of the internet to the real world. It's something that I watch in my role as Media Innovations Director at bigmouthmedia. In fact, it was only late October that Volkswagen Canda caught my eye with an impressive Beetle AR ad.

Companies like Layar and Blippar are worthy of the interest they attract.

AR is not yet mainstream, though, and it feels like there is a long way to go.

Take a look at this new trailer for the PS Vita and pause to ponder the impact it could have on "casual AR". I would suggest that anything you might see happening down the pub or friends mucking around with together has the potential to go mainstream. Games like FlickBall certainly look like that'll get people playing.

The PS Vita will need more than power in order to perusade people to play AR games. The games themselves will need to be fun. It's certainly a development I look forward to.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Get a Chromebook for the holidays" - Google dribbles the ads in

Google started promoting their Chromebooks via the Chrome browser dial screen a few days ago - but I've only just seen the message arrive in the UK.

It's both an obvious thing for Google to do - promote their hardware; as the promotion is needed - and a surprising one. After all, I think Google is busy trying to persuade people they don't use their platform to promote their products (well, perhaps that debate only applies to search).

The link goes to this page which shows off a range of Chromebooks. The buy button to a landing page that kicks off with Amazon, PC World and John Lewis buttons. It's the sort of landing page Google would give an awfully poor Quality Score to if someone pointed a PPC ad at.

As Google would have expected the results of the "ad" appearing aren't always pleasing. There is already a help thread of people asking how to remove it and at least one user has uninstalled Chrome, the browser, as a result.

Google Music is barely blocked in the UK

I was pretty disappointed to discover that Google Music launched with only United States access. Google can be annoyingly slow in acting like a global media company at times - Google Voice still isn't over here. Despite my disappointment I understood why Google Music wasn't available in the UK.

Damn those licensing rights. This is what took Pandora out of the UK and kept Spotify from the US.

That's why I've been surprised to see Google Music in my Google+ stream. American users can share snippets of what they are listening too. Teasers. These aren't geo-targeted at all. Not only do people in the UK see these teasers but they can listen to the sample too.

What does that mean for the licensing rights?

If you're curious - you can geo-target your status updates in Facebook. Maybe this needs to come to Google+.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Google drives Search and Social together

For a long time now Google News optimisation has been one of my favourite areas and I've been lucky enough to do work for companies like the FT, Trinity Mirror and Telegraph. Not to mention that bigmouthmedia is also in Google News.

As a result I've been able to see just how powerful Google News can be. In Google Web search people need to search for you. They need to know to search. They need to find the time to do it. With Google News that's not true. Google News suggests content to people. It's not just about all the traffic Google News can generate (lots and lots) it is about Google News' ability to put your content under the noses of people with a high propensity to link and share.

Today, Google's announced more powerful +1s on Google News. There's a new feature on Google News for anyone signed in - I have it already. The established "Spotlight" feature has been expanded so that it shows you what your friends (Gmail contacts and Circles) are +1'ing.

The homepage "widget" works as Google describes. You can see it in the screen grab with this blog post.

You can click on the Spotlight header, though, and if you do you'll wind up on a page like this. That's interesting. At a glance I can't decide whether that's content generated from +1s or not. I certainly not see any connections or recommendations annotations. That's a bit of a shame as that Spotlight page has an RSS. I'd love an RSS feed of my friends recommendations.

The title of this blog post is about driving Search and Social together.

Modern SEO needs to look at a large number of signals; not just titles, h1 tags and links and more than just adding social signals in there too. It's very clear that social signals are impactful. SEO campaigns are at their best when they can show content worthy of sharing to people with a tendency to share.

This is exactly what the +1 progress is doing here. It's ever more important to produce content that people want to +1 publicly.

This Google News integration also show cases how simple collections of sock puppets won't successfully game Google. Sock puppets won't read Google News and react to shares from their Circles. Only real people will do that.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Using IFTTT to cope with @breakingnewsuk

Last night the famous Twitter account @breakingnews (circa 3,300,000 followers) launched in the UK.

This is Breaking News' first international expansion. The local (London) team are @Journodave (Dave Wyllie) and @TomMcArthur (Tom McArthur). They will both trebble their Twitter followers in 3, 2, 1 ...

Interestingly, Breaking News UK has launched in partnership with MSN and you can see the scrollbox on their UK site.

This gives me a challenge. I'm addicted to news. I follow too many people on Twitter to be sure to get the BreakingNewsUK tweets at the speed I would need to get the news while it was still super hot and Twitter breaking.

Should I set up SMS alerts? Each Tweet the account gives - I could get an SMS. I wouldn't miss much then. Only Edinburgh Airport has that relationship with me so far. A glance at BreakingNewsUK makes it clear that SMS is not the way forward. It's too active. My phone would buzz too often.

I turned to IFTTT. I love that site. If that happens then this. A rule based response to the internet.

I've created a rule that feeds each tweet from BreakingNewsUK to me via a Google Talk message.

The output of that rule depends on whether I'm looking at Gmail or Google+ or not. If I have a tab open with one of those two then I'll get an alert message.

If they're offline then I'll get an email summary.

So, okay, I'm not geting the breaking news at Twitter speed all the time - just when I'm ready for it. Let's see how the experiement goes!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Beyond the Search Box

Last week Criteo ran a fantastic event in London that looked at the evolving Display landscape and how the media mix was changing.

The opening note came from Russell Davies, Head of Planning at R/GA London, and was fantastic. He ran through a handful of thoughtful examples of the expanding connectivity the world offers.

In particular, I found the colour stealing robots in the window of Uniqlo to be charmingly cute in their theft. Those robots feature in a 4 minute video from Dentsu London. Hmm, okay, perhaps some of this video is rather deadpan in presentation but I think the whole thing is worth a watch (the Uniqlo bots are towards the end).

I've put my own collection of slides up on Slideshare. Not sure how much sense they make without heavy notes but I think the overall suggestion of a vision is there! I was asked to talk about search beyond the search box and how to get more value from your search campaign if your own efforts had started to plateau.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

The future digital agency: Catvertising

I write about the future of digital advertising on this blog. Sometimes I write about search, sometimes about affiliate marketing, display, TV, AR or something else new and shiny. There's nothing newer and more shiny than catvertising.

I can walk you through the stats myself but this video - which features and Cannes Lion - does a much better job than I ever could.

Ask yourself; does carvertising feature in your marketing mix? No? You've done it wrong.

Some of my favourite stills from that video are:

The new face of PPC

I was testing to see whether Google+ Pages create annotations in Google's search results.

They do.

The screen grab I'm including in this blog post starts with a geeky blog entry I wrote about a cake that looks like a NES. You can see my author markup all around it. Below that you can see that Geek Native shared the post. That annotation shows up despite the fact that the post comes from the blog associated with the Google+ Page in the first place. You could argue the annotation is redundant. Does this mean that just having a G+P can positively impact your clickthrough rates?

That's not the reason for this blog post, though. There's still plenty of testing to do with G+Ps. The reason for this blog post is the presence and position of the PPC ads. There are three of them for this SERP.

None of the PPC ads appear at the top of the page. None of the PPC ads appear at the side of the page.

All of the PPC ads for this search appear at the bottom of the page. Wow. Isn't this a very different Google?

What's the logic here? None of these ads are good enough to show on the side but Google will squeeze them in at the bottom of the page anyway? Are their bidding software out there who think they've got ads in positions #1, #2 and #3? They're in for a shock.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The incomplete Google Direct alphabet

Google Direct could be huge. It could train millions of searchers to put a +sign before a brand term and speed their way directly to an official Google+ Page.

Google Direct has been out for less than 48 hours, for many people, at this point in time. It's perhaps a little too early to check out the Google Direct alphabet but I thought it would be interesting to see how it unfolds and whether it'll be a first-come-first-win battle.

Some disclaimers: these searches happened on, from an Edinburgh UK IP address and with personalised results on.

As you can see - there are some big letters that are still to score a single Google Direct connection.

Fox News and Phoenix Suns are the current leaders. Geeks will notice that DC Comics aren't in the top two for D (they're third) but Marvel makes it in for M. Let the very rough comic wars continue!

Happy hunting!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Did Google break the most important site on the web?

I live in Google Reader. It’s my most important site.

Sure, search is important and I use Google web search a lot - a captcha inducing amount. If Google web search breaks there’s always Bing. If Gmail breaks then I can dust off my old but still paid-for Hotmail account or go play with Yahoo Mail.

Google Reader has no such powerful alternative. They all died trying to compete with old Google Reader. My Google Reader follows me from work to home and everywhere I travel. It syncs with my Google account. It’s the home for my dozens of custom built RSS feeds. My Google Reader is connected to my account.

My Google Reader lives on my Android mobile. As I read posts on my mobile they’re marked as read on my web client.

It’s this portability and interoperability together that have me conclude Google Reader is not replaceable. It is home to hundreds of feeds.

I knew a reskin for Google Reader was coming up. I knew we would lose the social sharing functions and I was prepared for it. It would be a shame to lose the curated findings from gaming and digital thought leaders I followed – but at least I’d still have Google Reader. It would be a shame to lose the ability to share out via RSS – but at least I’d still have Google Reader. It would be a shame to lose the ability to mark items as “liked”, only because I liked following the feeds of interesting discoveries – but at least we’d still have Google Reader.

After all, this new Google Reader was supposed to integrate with Google+ and that could well turn out to be useful. I’m a fan of Google+.

Sadly, we seem to have gotten the worst of two options. For a start the new Google Reader is not integrated with Google+. We may no longer even have a functional Google Reader.

You cannot add authors discovered in Google Reader straight to your Circles. You cannot even click to their Profiles.

There is no social sharing in Google Reader. Yes, there’s the +1 button but that’s a basic integration that was already available by Chrome extensions or Google Reader’s in-built “Share with” option. In fact, the black bar nav has a sharing option too.

I’m prepared to live with the fact that the new Google Reader does not look as nice as the old and that it seems less able to present data in a clear and clean way.

What bugs me the most about the new Reader is that as I scroll down through posts they’re not marked as read. Click the up and down read arrows has equally no effect. Posts remain unread. I’ve turned my Chrome extensions on and off. I’ve re-set and set settings.

I’m just not clear what Google was hoping to achieve with this ‘upgrade’. Wasn’t the sharing data valuable for improving their algorithms? Wasn’t the connection data between users who wanted to share and read discoveries useful for Google+? Did they want to loose the "shared in Google Reader" annotations from their natural search results?

Why is it so hard to mark a post as read in the new Google Reader? Surely this must be some conflict I’ve yet to nail down despite all my testing.

One messed up Google Reader

Update: I've continued my testing and I think it's the OneTrueFan Chrome extension that's stopping the read count from working. OTF was bought by BigDoor a few months back so I'm not expecting them to resolve this issue.