Leica introduced instant camera – Leica Sofort

 

Leica Sofort
Leica Sofort by leica-camera.com

In late 2016 Leica introduced an instant camera, called Leica Sofort. It utilises Fujifilm Instax Mini instant film material and might prove to be another great addition to the recent instant film revival by companies such as Impossible Project, who just introduced their first analog instant camera after selling refurbished Polaroid cameras for many years.

Over the past years I used instant cameras quite a bit and experimented with the Impossible Project Instant Lab and their polaroid compatible film material to create instant images from digital photos. The Fujifilm instant film never was high on my list of priorities because I don’t like the formats they offer. Now might be a good time to give it another look. The Leica Sofort setup looks like a sweet deal.

For more information check out the article by WIRED.

Mentor at Lean Artist – The World’s First Seed Accelerator for Artists

During A/D/A Hamburg I joined new media artist Jeremy Bailey as a mentor for his 3 day Lean Artist seed accelerator workshop. It basically was a boot camp based on design thinking and lean startup principles to create culturally disruptive startups.

lean artist accelerator - Slides

On the first day I joined the selected group of 10 international artists with a cynical review of the worldwide startup economy to promote a more creative approach to generating relevant startup ideas. Jeremy kicked the event off with an accelerated design thinking workshop to generate needs and insights for problem statements. Over the course of 3 days the cohort created startup ideas and iterated product prototypes and pitched their artistic business ideas for additional funding on the last day.

The event also got some media attention on vice.com, so if you are interested in Jeremy’s intention behind the lean artist program, check it out.

How Will We Breathe Tomorrow? – Working with Open Government Data

As mentioned before, Jessica Broscheit is conducting a workshop about air quality and urban data at the Creative Space for Technical Innovations at Hamburg’s University of Applied Sciences. It’s called “How Will We Breathe Tomorrow” and is part of the A/D/A Hamburg 2016, a conference about future utopias for today’s urban citizen. During the workshop people can learn about government efforts to collect and share air quality data in open government data platforms and develop their own air quality monitoring device to experiment with visual, haptic and acoustic ways to explore data.


AIR MASK

Last year I worked with Jessica Broscheit und Hannes Sieg on another project within the “Next Media” master program at the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg (HAW Hamburg), called “Air Mask”. It involved research into air quality data and open government data platforms and lead to the development of a design fiction prototype of an air mask used for monitoring environmental data.

The collected data can be compared globally through a developed standardisation process and local air quality data was visualised on the mask itself in an easy to understand 3-colored alarm system. Just recently, Jessica created a website to document these projects.

Air Mask from Jessica Broscheit on Vimeo.

 

Lean Artist – The World’s First Seed Accelerator For Artists

Lean Artist
Lean Artist – The World’s First Seed Accelerator for Artists

 

Check out Lean Artist – The World’s First Seed Accelerator For Artists. The Seed Accelerator will invest 3000€ in 10 artists to create culturally disruptive startups. The Accelerator is lead by Toronto based New Media Artist Jeremy Bailey, whose work is on exhibition Tate Liverpool, Transmediale Berlin, and Balice Hertling in Paris among others.

The first cohort will start August 26-28 2016 as is part of the A/D/A Hamburg 2016, a conference about future utopias for today’s urban citizen. I was asked to join the cohort as a mentor, so I am looking forward to the event and can’t wait to see what the artists come up with.

Another great event during A/D/A Hamburg I can recommend is “How Will We Breathe Tomorrow”, a workshop with Jessica Broscheit about air and urban data at the Creative Space for Technical Innovations at Hamburg’s University of Applied Sciences.

A/D/A Hamburg
A/D/A Hamburg

How to Start a New Venture in 12 Weeks

While being in Sydney in early 2016, I joined a team to create a food delivery startup as part of a Management & Innovation workshop at UNSW Business School in conjunction with Michael Crouch Innovation Centre. I worked on this project part time while conducting research at UNSW into policy towards entrepreneurship and innovation and drafting a policy review of the Tech Startups Action Plan by the City of Sydney.

The workshop was organised around the structure of typical startup accelerator programs, working on specific challenges while developing a working business model over a period of 12 weeks. It was a 5 person team with local ties in Australia, Denmark, Germany, Spain and the U.S. and backgrounds in engineering, marketing, business and process management.


The Lean Startup

As one might expect, the workshop was organised around methodologies postulated by Eric Ries in his book “The Lean Startup”. Based on lean principles such as validated learning and innovation accounting, the team worked through several Build-Measure-Learn feedback loops to iterate the main features of the business model, especially the value and growth hypothesis’.

lean methodology diagram
THE LEAN STARTUP PROCESS – DIAGRAM by theleanstartup.com

The team utilized design thinking methodologies, experimented with real life feedback and consulted with industry mentors. While defining and differentiating the product, support and feedback on topics such as design, financials, financing, valuations, growth, IP and pitching to investors was provided by UNSW staff and additional industry professionals.


Business Model Canvas

Key element of the 12 week program was the business model canvas, a strategic management template for developing and documenting business models. It helped the team to visually describe all important elements and to iterate through various versions of the business model while working through the Build-Measure-Learn feedback loop. Also it allowed to sketch and discuss the business model on paper within the group, which made it very easy to discover flaws and potentials for further improvements.

the business model canvas
THE BUSINESS MODEL CANVAS by strategyzer.com

As could be expected, the business model changed from week to week and many apparent problems were eliminated through validated learning and evidence based iteration. By getting user feedback as early as possible and accounting for every change made to the business model, waste of funds while developing the minimum viable product was minimized as much as possible.


Fantastic Five – B2B Breakfast Delivery Service

In week 12 the team pitched the state of the startup, its business model, go to market strategy, key metrics and financial projections to real investors within the local startup scene in Sydney and was offered to talk about possibly joining food delivery startup activities currently active at a local accelerator program in Sydney.

Fantastic Five
Fantastic Five

The pitch was presented during a demo day at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre within a lineup of several other startups with a pitch deck of 1o slides in a time slot of 3 minutes with an additional 3 minutes for questions by the potential investors. The jury was made up by prominent members and angel investors of the Sydney startup community.


How much time and money does it take to start a new venture?

All in all, it was a very interesting experience. Considering the effort put into the project one can only imagine the results if one would be committed full time. I spent roughly half a day to a day per week on this project and expect the other team members to have been involved in a similar or slightly deeper manner.

So basically the business pitched to the investors was the product of 250-500 hours of work with no significant additional budget. All templates and tools used were free and everything surrounding the actual product was designed, developed and tested by the team members.

So as all of you know, it just takes a lot of effort and the willingness to put in the time to ideate something of value. It certainly is feasible to create a venture with high-growth potential within a matter of 3 months. In fact, considering the experience of this workshop, it might be possible to do it a lot quicker if the commitment and skill set of the team members match up.

TOTO – Live at Montreux 1991


TOTO is going to release a new Live Concert Recording on DVD, BLU-RAY, CD and Digital Video in September 2016. It is a recording of the 1991 concert at the Montreux Jazz Festival, during TOTO’s the last tour with the late Jeff Porcaro:

“At the personal invitation of Quincy Jones and legendary Montreux Jazz Festival founder Claude Nobs to perform at the famed Swiss festival, Toto couldn’t resist the opportunity, resulting in Toto: Live At Montreux 1991. “From the perspective of the members of Toto,” states guitarist Steve Lukather, “the Montreux Jazz Festival is amongst the most revered events staged in the world. Our association, as a band, and individuals, is something we are deeply proud of. So much fun, and so much history has graced the ground in and around the lake.” “

Source: TOTO LIVE AT MONTREUX 1991

The setlist sounds promising and includes hits like On The Run (video above), Kingdom of Desire and  Jake To The Bone (one of my favourites). As it seems it is a performance with the all time best setup: Steve Lukather, David Paich, Mike Porcaro and Jeff Porcaro. After Jeff Porcaro’s death in 1992, Simon Phillips became the drummer of the band and David Paich didn’t join the band on every tour. He was often substituted by Greg Phillinganes (who became a regular member of the band for a few years). Mike Porcaro, who died suffering from ALS in 2015, was covered for by bassists such as Leland Sklar and Nathan East over the years (who also was a regular member of the band for some time in the past). So, this is probably the latest recording with most of the original members of the band. I am looking forward to it.

How Recent Changes In The Social Media Landscape Further Compromise News Corporations’ Efforts To Monetise Their Social Referral Traffic

This essay will elaborate on recent changes in the social media landscape, specifically changes in social traffic referrals and the persistence of social media, and their subsequent implications for digital business models of newspaper publishers. Taking into consideration that social referral traffic is becoming the main source of referral traffic for many media and news publishers, changes in the persistence of social media have the potential to largely compromise the publisher’s efforts to monetise their web traffic through advertising.

-> tl;dr


A definition of social media

In order to classify changes in the social media landscape it is sensible to define the term for the current state of its development. For the purpose of this essay this can be done without illustrating the historical evolution of aspects, features and characteristics. Since social media have changed drastically over the past years, many attempts of defining the term have been made. Due to the ever-changing landscape and the rapid technological development of social media, many of these definitions seem out of date or imprecise. For the purpose of this essay the definition by Carr and Hayes (2015) will be used, since it provides an accessible explication for the long-term future, considers recent changes in technology, interaction and organisation as well as anticipates future challenges in social media. They define social media as follows:

“Social media are internet-based channels that allow users to opportunistically interact and selectively self-present, either in real-time or asynchronously, with both broad and narrow audiences who derive value from user-generated content and the perception of interaction with others.”

(Carr C T and Hayes R A, 2015)

This definition allows to include a wide variety of services, ranging from obvious social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, business networking sites such as LinkedIn, video sharing sites such as Youtube and Vimeo to live streaming services such as Twitter’s Periscope as well as old and new messaging services such as WhatsApp and Snapchat among many others. It also allows for future social media services to be included, as long as they are user-centric and interactive channels organised around content sharing, characteristics that are shared among all social media channels to date.


Changes in social referral traffic

One industry relying heavily on shared social media content is the media and newspaper publishing industry. Newspaper websites are largely monetised through advertising and rely on visits and page impressions on their actual web property (Ju, Jeong and Chyi, 2014). The sources for such website traffic can ruffly be divided among direct traffic (users accessing the website directly by entering the url in the browser) and referral traffic (users accessing the website through search engine results such as in Google or through a link on another web property or within social networks). Every user visiting a publisher’s usually free to use website generates page views while accessing different resources on the web property. With every page load advertising inventory will be displayed for the user to generate advertising revenue for the publisher. In conclusion publishers’ digital business models rely heavily on page views and ad impressions to monetise their inventory.

Over the past years the importance of social referral traffic for media and newspaper websites has changed dramatically. In August 2015 it was reported by FORTUNE that traffic analytics firm Parse.ly’s data showed social media as the largest provider of all website referral traffic with about 43% of the total traffic, while search traffic through Google accounted for just 38% (Figure 1). Facebook is by far the largest provider of social referral traffic in this dataset with close to 40%.

To emphasise the dramatic trajectory of this change, Facebook’s share grew rapidly from just 20% in January 2014 (Figure 2). For larger news and media sites, more than 50% are reported to get more traffic from Facebook than from Google (Ingram, 2015). This development could very well be considered a tipping point for the dominance of Facebook as the main source for news content on the internet.

Figure 1 - Top Traffic Referral Source May - July 2015
Figure 1 – Top Traffic Referral Source May – July 2015

 

Figure 2 - Parse.ly Network Traffic from Google Versus Facebook
Figure 2 – Parse.ly Network Traffic from Google Versus Facebook

With social referral traffic accounting for such a large portion of traffic for major news and media websites, it is clear that the monetisation of this traffic is crucial for the publishers’ business model. Unfortunately for publishers, recent research by Ju, Jeong and Chyi (2014) showed that users accessing news websites via social networking sites provide fewer page views and higher bounce rates than other website visitors. The authors examined 66 U.S. newspapers’ efforts to distribute their content via social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter and the effectiveness of these services as news platforms. The social media presences of the newspapers were analysed and the impact to the newspaper’s website traffic and therefore their advertising revenues examined.

The results of the efforts to drive social referral traffic have proven to be largely underwhelming, despite the hype about the business potential for newspapers (Ju, Jeong and Chyi, 2014). The research clearly illustrates the limitations of creating new advertising revenue streams through social referral traffic for newspapers. With an increasing number of visitors being referred through social media, the average page impressions per visit are shrinking on publishers’ web properties. This development has direct impact on the publishers’ ability to monetise their web traffic and is consequently accelerating at the same pace as the amount of social media referral traffic is increasing.


Changes in the persistence of social media

An important element of social media has been the persistence of content, may it be used in real-time as in Twitter’s Periscope or asynchronously as in WhatsApp. For many years it has been a crucial aspect that any content within the social media landscape remains persistent (Dewing, 2012), meaning accessible and searchable via the web for ever, even if the users’ practice focuses more on the shared present (Hogan B and Quan- Haase A, 2010).

Although the persistent element is still existent in lots of social media channels, recent services like Snapchat introduced channels which delete content shortly after consuming it (Carr C T and Hayes R A, 2015). There are more and more new services focussing on the “present moment” and deleting content after its consumption, e.g. Beme, Tiiny, Vine or Wickr, to name a few.

In conclusion non-persistent content is already an established element of the social media landscape at this stage. The result of content not being accessible after the “present moment” has direct implications for publishers’ business models relying on monetising of shared and long-term accessible social media content.

As the longevity of social media news shortens dramatically by recent shifts in persistence within social networks, meaning content being accessible and shareable for shorter periods of time, the time to generate social referral traffic for news sites is getting shorter as well. The long tail effect (Andersen, 2004) for news articles in this category may be diminished completely if the content is no longer persistent within the social media landscape. With social referral traffic only being generated on a short term basis, a large portion of monetisation potential is lost for older news articles. This increases the pressure on publishers to refinance their articles on a short term dramatically.

Things might get even worse for many publishers with Facebook’s latest publishing feature, Instant Articles. Instant Articles allow publishers to display content in its entirety directly within the Facebook stream (Groden, 2016). The user does not have to leave the Facebook platform and can consume an entire article, including videos and interactive elements, seamlessly within the Facebook experience.

Although this makes sense from a user’s perspective, it increases the publishers’ dependency on Facebook drastically. With Instant Articles the amount of off-website content and with it the difficulty to monetise this content is increasing. Publishers may sell their own advertisement for Instant Articles but in the end Facebook is in charge of the platform (McAlone, 2016), a drastic difference from the publishers’ own web properties. As well as it may be a chance for smaller publishers with no large sales force in place to use Facebook’s ad sales in Instant Articles, it may just as well be a huge problem for larger media and news publishers.

With these developments in mind, many publishers would have to change their social media strategy drastically if they decide to change their business model from free websites with advertising revenues towards closed websites with paywalls. Since news content tends to be free within the social media landscape and certainly will remain free within Facebook Instant Articles for the time being, it is doubtful that publishers can drive many users into their paywalls through social referral traffic.

Especially with content being integrated in platforms like Facebook in better ways, the lock-in effect for most users is increasing. This development makes it more and more unlikely that users are willing to tolerate a disruption in an otherwise seamless social media experience just to consume content elsewhere, not even considering paying for it.


Conclusion

Summarised it can be stated that social referral traffic in general is worse for media and news publishing websites than other kinds of traffic and leads to fewer page views and higher bounce rates. This leads to a direct threat to advertising revenues for most publishers as the percentage of social referral traffic increases. As a result the current business model of many media and news outlets is in jeopardy.

With recent changes in the percentage of social referral traffic as well as in the persistence of social media content, the pressure on publishing companies to find alternative ways to monetise their inventory increases rapidly. If content is no longer available within social media after it has been consumed in the “present moment”, the potential to drive traffic with this content is very limited and short-term.

Additionally with Facebook latest publishing feature, Instant Articles, many users are kept out of the publishers’ web properties. Therefor it seems unlikely that the quality of social referral traffic, meaning its page views per visit ratio, is increasing for publishers’ any time soon.

Taking into consideration the rapid growth of the percentage of social referral traffic over the past year, it is clear that the pressure is increasing for many media and news publisher with no deceleration of this trend in sight.

Lastly, publishers’ actual or conceivable efforts to erect paywalls for compensation of underperforming advertising revenues on their websites might be compromised by new publishing features such as Facebook’s Instant Articles, which largely contribute to keeping users within the social network and off third party web properties.

Since the illustrated parameters have a tremendous effect on the bottom line for news websites and tend to change very quickly, it is more important than ever for publishing companies to act swiftly if they want to avoid impairing their market position any further.

Unfortunately, all attempts as of today do not seem to provide evidence for any extensive success. Therefor a prosperous step into the future requires rapid and substantial business model innovation.


tl;dr

Due to recent changes in social referral traffic to news websites and in the persistence of social media, current business models of digital news publishers are in jeopardy.


DISCLAIMER: This essay has been written for the seminar “Online and Mobile Media” during an international research exchange at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, within the “Next Media” master program at the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg (HAW Hamburg) in 2016. For more information or any questions please contact me at mail@moritzrecke.com.


Figures

Figure 1: Top Traffic Referral Source May – July 2015, Parse.ly Authority Report 8, The State of Tags in Digital Media

Figure 2: Parse.ly Network Traffic from Google Versus Facebook, Parse.ly Authority Report 8, The State of Tags in Digital Media

 

The Future Is Here… Don’t Be Afraid!

Zuckerberg VR
Mark Zuckerberg at Samsung’s Mobile World Congress event – Facebook

When Mark Zuckerberg walked towards the stage at Samsung’s Mobile World Congress event in early 2016, one of the most discussed technology innovations became very real: Virtual Reality. Over the past years virtual reality seemed to be around the corner as the next big thing in media consumption. Suddenly, it arrived.

No matter if it is augmented reality, implemented by Google Glass or Microsoft Hololens, or full fledged virtual reality, implemented by Facebook’s Oculus Rift, it seems clear that many major corporations are investing heavily in what they consider to be the future.

Apart from some very few media corporations such as The New York Times, who experimented with VR with a specific mobile application, most publishing companies have not yet committed to the VR trend. In fact many publishers still seem to struggle with the transition from print to digital media. Not only are they struggling to establish working business models for their websites, they also seem to be behind on the shift to mobile media as well.

With the ongoing acceleration of the technological revolution this is yet another reason to worry about the media and news industry in general. If these companies keep moving at an old economy pace, it is doubtful they can keep up with current developments. The next big thing might be around the corner even before they start to adapt to then already outdated technologies.

No matter if they are trying to protect their current business as long as possible or if they are just afraid of the future, there is no time to wait any longer. Since the exponential acceleration of the technological development is a fact, publishers should start facing the digital future without fear if they want to survive.


 DISCLAIMER: This post has been written for the seminar “Online and Mobile Media” during an international research exchange at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, within the “Next Media” master program at the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg (HAW Hamburg) in 2016. For more information or any questions please contact me at mail@moritzrecke.com.

The Art Of Telling No Story – Data-Driven Journalism

311 calls New York
There were 34,522 complaints called in to 311 between September 8 and September 15, 2010. Here are the most common, plotted by time of day. Illustration: Pitch Interactive

Recently I wrote about data-driven journalism and whether it is worth the effort in regards to their monetisation potential for publishing companies. Although there are definitely great and interesting stories to be told with large data sets, it seems unlikely that the immense costs involved in the process of creating these stories can be justified within the current framework of digital business models within the publishing industry.

Still many data-driven stories and corresponding data visualisations seem interesting (e.g. in form of infographics) or even insanely beautiful (e.g. in form of maps or graphs). There is one problem with some kind of data visualisations in terms of storytelling though: they tell no story.

Consider the prominent visualisations of the 311 calls in the city of New York for instance. Although immensely beautiful and acknowledged by design experts around the globe, it’s hard to find any substantial story within the data or its visualisations. As shown above a plot of 311 calls by time of day with different colors for different types of complaints surely leads to a beautiful image, but there is no real story behind it.

The facts that there are more calls during the day, complaints about street condition seem to drop during the night and noise complaints are on the rise during the evening are hardly surprising. Even if these calls are plotted on a map, an attempt also explored with the 311 data, things do not get more interesting.

Still, the visualisations of the 311 calls not only look awesome, they received high praise and are on display at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. I am not disputing the aesthetic qualities of the visualisations, but in terms of data-driven journalism or data-driven storytelling, there is not much to be found here.


 DISCLAIMER: This post has been written for the seminar “Online and Mobile Media” during an international research exchange at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, within the “Next Media” master program at the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg (HAW Hamburg) in 2016. For more information or any questions please contact me at mail@moritzrecke.com.

Is Data Journalism Worth The Effort?

The Wikileaks War Logs (The Guardian)
The Wikileaks War Logs (The Guardian)

Data-driven Journalism is grounded in calls for open access to information and transparency and has strong links government related open data initiatives, making public data available in standardised and open formats. It aims at the process of filtering data and telling new and interesting stories with conditioned data sets rather than just using the data as a source.

The most prominent example of data-driven journalism is the case of The Guardian and Wikileaks, where data has been transformed into interactive visualisations to allow a exploration of the data by the user itself.

It is clear by the amount of data alone, that these interactive visualisations can not be created manually. They need to be created with designers and developers working hand in hand, automating data processing and filtering to allow for the story to be explored by the user. This is a complete game changer for most news publishing corporations who traditionally had only journalists and maybe illustrators or photographers telling stories.

Ever since data-driven journalism became a mainstream element for many major stories, the newsroom process became much more technical and complex. This has also risen the cost for the newsroom staff to create the content for the publisher’s website. Since developers are in high demand all around the world, it is safe to assume that the costs for publisher’s grew substantially in this regard.

Considering the difficulties most publishers have to monetise their digital efforts successfully, it is doubtful that expensive data-driven stories will be able to compensate for that. As desirable as great stories such as the Wikileaks example might be, it is hard to find evidence that it is helping publishing companies to find new and working business models on the internet.


 DISCLAIMER: This post has been written for the seminar “Online and Mobile Media” during an international research exchange at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia, within the “Next Media” master program at the University of Applied Sciences Hamburg (HAW Hamburg) in 2016. For more information or any questions please contact me at mail@moritzrecke.com.