Cable-Cutting Experiment [Video]

We invited several families to give up their cable and instead use a “connected TV” device for one week following last Christmas. We interviewed them before and after, and left them Flip cameras to record their experiences.

The video is below, and here's the post with background info and a recap of our findings.

Tune Into #TVnext on Friday

@HillHolliday is hosting a conference about the future of television tomorrow (Fri, Jan 28). Tune into our Ustream channel if you have a minute. The speaker line-up is pretty awesome: we are expecting people from NBC, Microsoft Interactive Entertainment, Boxee, GoogleTV, Hulu, Xfinity, FiOS, TiVo, Hulu and many other companies in the field.

I also have a couple of pieces of research going live at the event. One is an experiment about living without cable, and the other one is a survey of TV content availability across devices; they will be presented at the 12.30pm (EST) and 2.30pm panels respectively.

Electronic Blackboard Transmits Writing Over Phone Lines (1974)

"A new, experimental system devised by Bell Labs may make an old teaching tool more alluring. Called an electronic blackboard, it uses ordinary (and low-cost) telephone lines to send writing that is chalked on a pressure-sensitive surface to any remote point for TV-screen display. The audio portion of a lecture or other presentation can, if needed, be sent via a second phone line, using a portable conference phone available commercially. The system is being tried out at the University of Illinois."
-- Popular Science, June 1974

AdLab Featured on Pulse

Pulse, "the iPad's most gorgeous newsreader" praised by Steve Jobs himself, is even more gorgeous this morning because today it lists this very blog among its featured sources. As if iPad weren't shipping enough units already.

If you are a Pulse reader, welcome and here's the kind of stuff you've been missing for the past six years:

- A "Try Again" button for Google
- A lovingly illustrated post on the evolution of ads in sports video games
- 10 tips for ad-supported start-ups
- Mad Men Against The Machine, or how we soon will be advertising to robots instead of people
- Lots of good old media
- A collection of offbeat creative work

-- tweet by @ehunteryoung

Two Alternative Verizon iPhone Commercials

Long before yesterday's Verizon iPhone teaser aired on TV, fans had begun cutting their own ads in anticipation of the great day, some as early as April of last year. Below are the two best ones.

I need service, demands a half-naked girl:

We've got three words:

If you are lucky, you'll fall into a time-space warp and see an AT&T ad for its iPhone served by Google at the end of the second spot for Verizon, like so:

Ten Years Of "This Will Be The Year Of"

"2000 will be the year of free Internet" (IDC)

"2001 will be the year of the Internet appliance." (Chicago Tribune).

"2002 will be the year of the clones." (New Scientist)

"2003 will be the year of the blog" (Instapundit)

"2004 will be the year of the analysis engine." (

"2005 is year of local mobile search" (O'Reilly)

"2006: the year of vidcasting and advercasting" (Steve Rubel)

"2007 will be the year of the widget" (Newsweek, original)

"2008 will be the year of web TV." (Techradar)

"2009 will be the year of the uber blog" (Inquisitr)

"2010 will be the year TV and the web really converge." (Guardian)

Bonus track:
"2001 will be the year that website operators come to their collective senses and start charging customers for service." (Jakob Nielsen)

Things That Should Have Happened by 2011, Edison's Version

As a follow up to an earlier post about old predictions for 2011, here's what Edison thought back in 1911 would happen "a hundred years hence":

"Books of the coming century will all be printed leaves of nickel, so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume. A book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound."

Sounds like Kindle.

-- Paleofuture

Webmasters Share Impressions Of CAPTCHA Ad Programs

Two comments under All Things Digital's write-up about Solve Media left two months after article went live in September:

"I tried this service out and they have *horrible* payout. Around 10 to 20 cents CPM. Except the CPM they refer to is not the amount of captchas served but the amount of captchas solved.
So basically, if you annoy the crap out of 1000 of your visitors with these things, they'll give you, the webmaster, 15 cents on average.
Thats freaking horrible. Normal ad banners have CPMs near that and they dont require visitors to watch a video and type in text."

Michael S:
I am currently using it and experience the same *horrible* payout. When I questioned it I was told that the people typing in the responses where from outside the U.S. and currently they only had advertisers that were targeting U.S. citizens.
Also the payout threshold is a whopping 200 dollars. I am doing the math on what I make and that will take me about three years to reach.
I am still using it with the hopes that things will improve, but looking at my stats over the last thirty days it looks like this.
3,845 Impressions
662 Solved TYPE-INs
$2 Revenue
That's a fair amount of solved Type Ins and so very little in revenue.  And remember that is thirty days of revenue. I make more on two or three adsense clicks. I hope it improves so I am give them a glowing review.

There's also a short but recent thread on a web developer Q&A site with a compilation of thoughts on usability and revenue potential of CAPTCHA ads as well as how they defeat their own purpose by creating an additional incentive for spammers.

Will Agencies Become Publishers?

A few years ago, when I was doing presentations about web 2.0, I had a deck about the democratization of media. It was the usual stuff I like to call "media Marxism" (aka social media):  how the means of media production were now in the hands of the proletariat, how content capitalism was giving way to the new order, and a lot of other things I and many other people were discovering at the time.

In that deck, there was this bullet point about how the ones who were going to benefit (that is, profit) the most from this revolution were not "the people" but marketers and their agencies who already had access to talent and would now be able to manufacture and distribute content and aggregate their own audiences at costs comparable to renting them from traditional media.

Over the past week, I've come across a couple of articles that illustrate this evolution as well as the inevitable tension between agencies and publishers:

HuffPo ran a piece by CEO of Story, a digital content shop, who thinks publishers will win: "The extinction-level event for traditional ad agencies is the ad world's rapid uptake of the idea that original content is the new path to engaging consumers. In a world where brands need to create and own original, engaging content, it is publishers -- the people who actually understand and manage content creation -- who are best positioned to profit from selling content-creating services to their advertising clients."  That's in addition to publishers doing the creative work on ads that run on their properties.

NYTimes, in a weekend piece " Publishing, Without Publishers", makes the opposite bet: "Luxury brands have always advertised in the likes of Vogue, Esquire and Architectural Digest and tried to impress their editors enough to get mentioned in the editorial pages, as well. But now companies like Richemont are reaching out directly to consumers — and cutting out the middlemen."  Just last week, P&G launched its Man of The House site (they are even selling ads on it).

In the HuffPo piece, Story's CEO argues that agencies lack the key set of storytelling skills required to create great content: "The traditional ad agencies are going to lose because creating great, engaging content is emerging as the key skill in marketing. And they don't have it." This strikes me as somewhat self-serving (his company says it creates engaging content for hire) as well as inaccurate: one thing good agencies know how to do well (if not always sell to the client) is interesting stories (Coke's Happiness Factory) and enduring characters (Coke's Polar Bears).  What agencies have little experience with is everything else that goes into producing a publication that lasts longer than a typical campaign span, from staffing and planning to subscription management and content optimization. But if there's money in it, they will learn or buy their way in.

Things That Should Have Happened By 2011

When I started to look at predictions for a living back in 2006, I remember how 2011 was this big banner year against which most forecasts were made. I guess partly it was because 2011 was at the end of a five-year horizon, and partly because it was conveniently removed into the next decade. Whatever the reason, I've been patiently waiting for this year to arrive to check back on some of the more feisty predictions made in the outset of the 2.0 boom. And now this time has come.

Some of the stuff below has worked out remarkably -- surprisingly -- well, such as the prediction from Hitachi about commercial availability of mind-machine interfaces (check!). Other stuff -- not so much:  podcast audience was expected to skyrocket  from 11.3% in 2006 to 51.1% in 2010 (eMarketer #084888), but it didn't, lingering instead at 12% by December 2010 (eMarketer #123668).

Above is Gartner's Hype Cycle chart for 2006; you will love how tablet PCs sit at the bottom of the trough of disillusionment. Below are a few predictions made in 2006 or in early 2007.  

"Hitachi: Commercial Mind-Machine Interface by 2011" (Wired, November 2006)

"In 2011 you'll never have to clean your house again. Nanotechnology could soon allow you to sanitize your bathroom with a flip of a light switch." (PopSci, June 2006)

"446m Mobile Phone TV Users By 2011" (IMS Research in Digital LifeStyles, August 2006)

"Segments such as video game advertising, set to become a market worth close to $3 billion by 2011, will result in the further maturing of this industry." (ABI Research in Gamasutra, February 2006)

"By the end of 2011, 80 percent of active Internet users (and Fortune 500 enterprises) will have a “second life,” but not necessarily in Second Life." (Gartner in AdLab, April 2007)

"Online advertising will grow to represent 9 percent of overall advertising spending by 2011, and search will continue to be the driver of growth." (Jupiter in ClickZ, July 2006). Fact check: online advertising's share of total advertising spending was 15.3% in 2010 and is expected to grow to 20.5% this year (eMarketer, January 2011)

"Broadcast and cable TV will pick up $5 billion in revenue from new ad platforms by 2011. That’s the good news. The bad news is TV will lose $12 billion in traditional revenue over the same period, thanks to ad-skipping and other disruptive technologies." (Jupiter in Lost Remote, September 2006)

"By 2011, TV programming delivered over consumer broadband connections will be a "viable alternative to cable." (Forrester in eCommerce Times, January 2007)

"Already worth $1.4 billion this year, mobile porn will be worth nearly three times that much by 2011, or $3.3 billion." (Juniper in Pocket Lint, November 2006). Also, "most people who watch mobile porn are "lads down the pub" wanting to impress their friends, rather than hard core porn watchers."

"Shipments of the tiny [tablet] PCs could rise to 7.8 million units by 2011." (In-Stat in CNet, May 2006)

"When Chairman Bill Gates first outlined the notion of an ultramobile PC at a hardware conference last year, he talked about a device that would weigh less than 500 grams, have all-day battery life and could cost less than US$800, possibly as little as US$500." (CNet on Microsoft's Origami project, March 2006). See the Origami Project page on Microsoft's website (with devices scheduled to ship in 2008).

"By 2011, 28 million cars in the U.S. will be iPod-ready, up from just under one million in 2005." (Telematics in Motortrend, May 2006)

"Podcasting to Generate $400 Mil. in Ads by 2011." (eMarketer in MediaWeek, February 2007)

"Over the next five years video game advertising will grow at a compound annual growth rate of nearly 23%, reaching nearly $2 billion by 2011." (eMarketer in Gamasutra, April 2007). eMarketer's recent forecast for the year: $1.1B

What Happened When I Said "iPad" on Twitter

My instant popularity among Twitter's robotic women was brought to me by this tweet. (Where do all these userpics come from?  Harvested from other, human, users?)

Re: On Infographics and Chartoonery

Just saw Noah's post about infographics where he is writing about "the entire phenomenon of turning a whole bunch of information into a pretty, but mostly incomprehensible, picture and presenting it to the world."

I've done my share of data collection and presentation;  some of the stuff is fairly complex with hundreds of data points packed in one image, other stuff is more like this classic parody from Flowing Data. What I have found out is that both forms have their place. The latter, or as Tufte put it, "chartoonery", has been useful when:

-- When I want my data to make a point quickly, and when I want the data to be self-sustaining and not require someone's voice-over.
-- When I have a presentation and the pages of supporting data are customarily stuck in the "appendix" that nobody ever reads, a "chartoon" works as a lot more attractive and usable summary of the findings.
--  When I have data I want people to share with others, they are a lot more likely to pass around a single image than raw tables or decks with pages of Excel charts.  "Chartoons" are also easier to embed into a blog post.
-- When people want to keep a set of data handy for continuous reference, they are more likely to print out (and even hang on their wall; true story) a "chartoon" poster than a bunch of PowerPoint slides.
-- When I am sick of looking at raws of numbers, fumbling with fonts and laying things out on a page is a  calming exercise not unlike doing dishes.

So it's about the end justifying the means, really.

Fundamentally, I don't disagree with Noah. It's amusing and mildly irritating that some of the shallowest, ugliest and often inaccurate junk that is passed for infographics these days eclipses in popularity the truly outstanding work (here's one example) that may take weeks to build. But that really shouldn't influence how we choose our own tools, right?

Speaking of tools, have you seen It's like Wordle on steroids.

CES Awesome: Angry Birds, Fingernail Printer, iPad Guitar and More

I'm at CES today and posting some impressions over at Hill Holliday blog (the first installment is about TVs), but as I was going through my pictures from the day I found a few I wanted to post here.

First things first: Angry Birds are going to be a table game, courtesy of Mattel. Promised to arrive around summertime.

Vibe Attire is a "wearable device that transforms standard audio input information into a vibro-tactile experience"

You dreams of turning fingernails into a scalable ad medium are coming true courtesy of this wonderful fingernail printer. It can even take your picture with a built-in camera and paint your likeness onto your thumb. And your pinkie.

I finally got to try one of those wearable display glasses. Not impressed.

These guys missed their flight to CES 1985.

This iCade arcade cabinet with iPad was one of ThinkGeek's awesome April Fool's jokes that turned into a real product. Coming pretty soon for about $100.

I have no idea how these Gigafast plugs work, but what they do is they run Internet through powerlines in your house.

Pure magic (and a projector sitting on the top of a glass pyramid).

An iPad built into a stringless guitar called Kitara.

A robotic massager that vibrates and rolls around your back without falling off.

The most charming thing about this shameless iPad knock-off is the "with Google" label on the side of the box.