25 June 2008

Kluster's crowd naming rights and wrongs.

In naming a product or service, it's great to have the benefits of a large focus group, but everyone who works in naming knows that it's even better to have a focussed outcome based on a good brief.

So when US based crowd sourcing company Kluster launched their recent Namethis service, DIFFUSION was both interested and abhorred all at the same time.

Kluster philosophy is based on crowdsourcing, meaning if you can get a group of passionate people working together you can get better solutions for almost any decision-making problem than with a single person. Whether its writing an online encyclopedia like Wikipedia, designing a new logo, or creating a new product or a new name, the people at Kluster think the power of the crowd is a better way to do it. They may be a little off the mark.

While there is much debate about the ethical, social, and economic implications of crowdsourcing, it's a popular outcome of Web 2.0 but not without it's detractors. I'm going to join the critics.

Firstly, what's interesting about the whole naming proposition, is the idea that naming can be made simple and the result usable. It's a very clear three phase process that includes a company or individual paying the $99 fee, posting it up for 48 hours and letting people put their suggestions and then what is described a ssome" fancy math machine" makes some decisions (?) and payment is apportioned out to the crowd.

Sure, there's some good names in some of the suggestions but the outcomes seem bizarre and, in many cases, unusable. A case in point. An organic skincare company gets the name Altitude. The brief:

A unique combination of pure, natural and organic ingredients from the Swiss Alps that is USDA and ECOCERT certified natural and organic skin care. Rare medicinal plants plants found at very high elevations are combined with essential oils to nourish and protect the skin from losing moisture and keep the skin beautiful and healthy. The high elevations and exposure to extreme temperature and humidity changes and high UV has resulted in plants that have developed protective factors that have proven to be beneficial to our skin.

The result is 275 names including Altitude, of which 12,523 watts of power were invested in the project to come up with the name. Or by my calculations 576kWH. or around $172, depending on how much energy costs per kWH where you live.

Now the energy usage is all very well for green credibility, but the actual cumulative time taken by the 275 respondents could be something close to something like 91 hours, if we say that each individual spent on average 20mins on this project within the 48 hour deadline

Now if you want to attach a real monetary value for the project, it's close to three working weeks for a single individual. Or approximately $31,000 worth of value on global brand consulting naming rates (yes, I know what the rates are!) for a single consultant without any add on rates or taxes.

While it looks like incredible value and it is, what's troubling about social media being used as product naming avenue is the fact that the process, intellectual and economic value is being completely undermined.

In the case of Altitude, there's no real attempt to validate the name beyond possible domain name registration. I did a quick Whois.net check and the name Altitude is registered for the major TLDs. Forget any trademark or company name checks and any other legals registrations in whatever territory or country you wish to operate in.

With a single search engine check and I can come up with at least two global companies (Napoleon Perdis and Swiss Army) using the name Altitude as a product name. And I'm not even sure whether they have registered this name.

The likelihood of its use by the project sponsor is subsequently likely to be low, because really the exercise is just that..a exercise. Even the "winning graduate" as they are described, is unlikely to have any rights to the name if there annexure has been buried in the fine print. Sure there might be the opportunity to come up with some great names but really, Kluster proves crowdsourcing works but it doesn't prove that it's right for everyone. So far the Kluster people have come up with 10 names. The value of this $999. And to Kluster, $200.

So you see what the value is.

03 June 2008

See this is the future of television. So why haven't the networks seen it?

Three events in the past two weeks have convinced me traditional television and traditional television viewing is being e radically transformed.

On Friday German publishing giant Axel Springer and Dutch consumer electronics producer Philips announced they had developed a system that will make it possible for television viewers to create personalized channels from their favorite TV and Internet video content.

And last Tuesday Sony, along with six of the biggest US cable operators Comcast Corp, Time Warner Cable, Cox Communications, Charter Communications, Cablevision Systems Corp and Bright House Networks, signed a deal that enables US consumers buy digital televisions that can receive a cable service without a set-top box.

Finally, last week a syndicate of Japan's largest electronics manufacturers announced that it may have reached agreement on a standard for a new internet television and new set, which will let users browse websites and watch streaming programs at the touch of a remote control, could be on sale as early as March 2008.

In each case, the opportunity was clear to all but those in what is now called "heritage media". Traditional network based and free-to-air television is being increasingly forced into a wider choice set that sees the television screen as a portal for all content and interactivity - both linear and non-linear - global, national and local.

Add to this increasingly expanding opportunities for delivering content to mobile, laptop and gaming devices, and you can see why brand owners and television network owners are fast becoming small fish.

The new Phillips software-based system, called TV Digital Personal, will be available on Philips television sets in Europe in time for Christmas. It will also be available for free download onto personal computers and can be used on digital video recorders and mobile devices.

TV Digital Personal is based on Springer's digital TV guide, so in effect another walled garden with yet another EPG. The software called APRICO is not unlike TIVO and automatically learns viewing preferences and suggests additional programming based on what has already been chosen by the viewer enabling the viewer to build their own channel.

Advertising could possibly be microtargetted according to viewer selections with an opt out permissions. This will be in addition to the regular TV commercials already embedded in programs.

The Sony announcement establishes a new US technological standard to be adopted by 2009 that will enable a new generation of TVs to include video-on-demand, digital video recording, interactive programming guides and other services.

By adopting a Java-based application called tru2way as a US interactive standard, it will enable the adoption of new "plug-and-play" interactive devices that can be used with TV sets.

The technology will also make it easier for consumers to receive the full range of cable-based services on other devices such as laptops, MP3 players, and cell phones.

Japan's new internet television is the brainchild of the TV Portal Service Corporation founded in July 2007 by Matsushita Electric Industrial Co, Sony Corp., Sharp Corp., Toshiba Corp. and Hitachi Ltd, set up a TV Portal Service with So-net Entertainment Corp., a Sony-affiliated Internet service provider and shareholder and is backed by the Japanese Government.

The companies aim to establish a global standard for the service and its portal, operating under the name acTVila, connects TV users free of charge to various web sites that provide consumer-oriented services, such as news and shopping.

From July Sharp will also sell TVs with an additional internet portal that offers access to Yahoo! Japan - the country's most popular website - as well as digitized print magazines and high definition video-on-demand.

In the end all of these announcements are still announcements but what they signal is indefatigable - television screens can no longer be viewed as just technology but as the conduit for an increasingly complex dialogue between media and content owners, producers, users, viewers, technology makers, brand owners and their agencies. And, if all the talk is right, the traditional television industry is showing all the signs of being undone by technology and its users just as the music industry was late last century.