So for whatever reason, my hosted WordPress.org site got wiped off all its posts and I have no idea whether or not I can get all that stuff back. I just haven’t had time to look into the cause or possible remedy (if there even is one).
What with me moving house in the next few weeks and a bunch of other important stuff happening, I thought I might as well bring this archived blog back into play, so at least my “academic” posts and my more well-read Audiogalaxy & Grooveshark reviews can still be found.
My hope is that the old blog will be restored as soon as I get chance to look at it but for now, I’m thankful to have at least some old stuff stored away on this site.
In the meantime, if you’ve ever lost all of your WordPress.org content (just posts & pages, my plugins & theme are intact) at complete random, and found a way to retrieve stuff, please let me know.
Audiogalaxy “Genie” mode for streaming your collection; The fate of Grooveshark; What’s next for the digital music industry?
By looking at my stats, it’s clear that there is a lot of interest in Grooveshark, or at least more interest in it than other topics I’ve talked about. My review of it consistently gets hits, mostly from Google searches of people wanting to know more about it; people looking for reviews, people wondering how or whether it’s legal, and a few random technical questions too. So clearly there is interest in its functionality. For those not in the know, Grooveshark basically sources music files from its users, who upload them to its servers, and then lets any user stream these files free to browsers, or to desktops and mobile devices for a subscription fee; it has some licensing agreements with big labels like EMI but counts largely on the “only pay them if they ask” model set out by the DMCA.
Apple very quickly clamped down on Grooveshark’s iPhone app, removing it from the App store, citing violations of the ToS, although it’s argued that it’s more to do with Apple’s digital music interests and iTunes. Apparently it is possible for jailbroken iPhones to install a version of the app. In the past week, however, Mashable reported that Google has also removed Grooveshark from the Android market, much to Grooveshark’s apparent surprise, for pretty much the same reasons; ToS violations and the rumoured development of Google’s own cloud music service. As of right now, the Grooveshark app is still fully functional on my phone; there was talk of the app being remotely removed from phones, but I’m not sure how that would work. Besides which, it’s very easy to install apps to Android from outside the market.
Regardless, this is a huge blow to Grooveshark. I must admit, though, that most of the time it’s not my music app of choice anymore. I’ve been favouring Audiogalaxy, a “placeshifting” streaming music service which runs a “helper” service on your PC at home to pull in your music collection, then streams it through their servers on demand through the website or mobile app. It’s free, but the downsides compared to something like Spotify Premium or Grooveshark are that you are restricted to music files you already have (which must be DRM free to work) and your PC has to be on and connected to the net to stream the music.
In essence, I see Audiogalaxy as being like my old MP3 player; more than enough space for all my songs (they claim that it works with libraries of up to 200,00 songs) as opposed to the 2GB SD card currently in my phone; guaranteed quality of the files and tagging, since they’re mine to begin with (my biggest gripe with the frustrating search system within Grooveshark); plus on top of that, I never have to sync my phone and computer to get new tracks onto my phone. I also love that I can scrobble to Last.fm as well. It’s easy to use, allows you to share to Twitter/Facebook, and isn’t bad to look at, especially on the Play screen, where you can allow the album art to take up the whole screen.
One other thing Audiogalaxy does, in an addition to the mobile app as recent as yesterday (and tweeted to me by their resident Twitterer as the update was applied) is the new Genie mode. My understanding is that it’s similar to iTunes’ Genius mode, which I believe has the same functionality, but I’ve never been an iTunes guy so I don’t know for sure. Anyway, Genie mode is like a “smart” shuffle; similar to the radio modes for Last.fm and Grooveshark, it looks at the song you’re currently playing and queues up a list of songs you will probably want to listen to. The difference from the aforementioned platforms is that this is localised to your collection.
I’ve tried it out a few times, and I have to say that it seems to work well. Playing Baroness causes it to queue up songs by Mastodon and Kylesa, for example. For me this is a great little feature because I often feel in the mood for a certain type of music and so must risk walking into things on the pavement as I set up a playlist on the fly; from now on, Audiogalaxy will do it for me. Maybe you don’t discover new music, like with Last.fm or Grooveshark, but it’s still really convenient.
I’m not sure where the data comes from, be it a database of similar artists like Last.fm, but I have to think this feature has something to do with Audiogalaxy opening up their API to developers. I’ll be interested to see what people do with it.
What the big players are cooking up
For now, Audiogalaxy is still kind of under the radar, which may be a good thing after looking at Grooveshark’s outlook (the models are different, yes, but your music files still go through Audiogalaxy’s servers on their way to your device), but I’ve seen it mentioned a few times lately in the comment areas of blogs regarding some future developments from the heavy hitters. By this I mean Amazon Cloud Player and Google’s potential music service. The recently released Amazon service, currectly only available in the US, links up with the Amazon MP3 store as well as users’ own collections to Amazon’s Cloud Drive service, allowing users to play their music on the go. This is sort of a hybrid of Grooveshark and Audiogalaxy, where your files are stored on a remote server, like Grooveshark, while only allowing access to your own files, like Audiogalaxy (although you won’t need your PC to be constantly running to access your tunes).
Amazon has already come under fire from record companies, which was kind of predictable. It seems like record companies want two pay days here: One for you buying the music from them, and one for you using Amazon to play the music you already bought. Google seems to be on the brink of similar “discussions” with record companies as it develops its own cloud service for music.
So who will survive when the dust clears? Will Grooveshark ride the rising waves surround it, especially considering it will be much harder to get new (or keep old) subscribers to a service not even available in the market anymore? Will Audiogalaxy be crushed under bigger companies offering similar services; or will it rise in popularity due to advocates (like me in this blog, I suppose) raising their voices as the functionality is brought to the mainstream? Would this mean the service would no longer be free? Or will Apple shrug off all this competition like it has repeatedly over the past decade regardless of these outcomes?
What do you think?
I’d like to know what you think about this, so please take part in the poll below, adding another answer if none of those supplied applies to you. Leave a comment if you have more to add. Spread it around a bit by “liking” and tweeting this page below this post. I’m seriously intrigued as to what people think will happen!
P.S. Pre-empting people mentioning Subsonic: I’ve tried it, and I don’t like it for the following concise reasons: It’s too complicated to set up, it needs you to open ports to get it to work (Audiogalaxy doesn’t) and it ignores metatags in favour of looking at the folder structure of your collection, which I don’t use. It’s also not free, even if it is very cheap. So if those things don’t bother you, try Subsonic.
I recently read a book by writer, blogger and marketing guru Seth Godin called “Permission Marketing”. Originally written in 1997, it makes many predictions about how the Internet will become more and more important for marketers. In his introduction to the 2007 edition I read, Godin acknowledges that some of the ideas in the book are now outdated due to some things not happening in the ways he anticipated, or indeed some things happening that nobody saw coming (I can think of a few examples, like the completely destructive new technologies of Facebook, Twitter and even Google dominating the Internet landscape). One thing he was right about, however, was that the Internet is the perfect tool for delivering (his mantra of permission marketing) “anticipated, personal and relevant” messages to people who want to receive them. In this post I’m going to lay out exactly where I think Social Media fits in with Godin’s idea of “Permission Marketing”.
First let’s look at the basis of Permission Marketing, as Godin defines it. Traditional marketing (TV ads, print ads, spam emails, cold calls) is mostly referred to in the book as “Interruption Marketing”, where the marketer steals away the consumer’s valuable time in order to try to sell something to them. They try to reach as many people as possible with each message in order to maximize the value of the message, which is usually very expensive to run. This means that in most cases most of the people who see the advert are not the target market for the commodity being sold; those who are in the target range might not get the full message within one advert; and in most cases a single advert is quickly forgotten about. With “Interruption Marketing” in context, “Permission Marketing” is the concept of only talking to people who want to be talked to, when they want to be talked to. This means you aren’t wasting time trying to sell to people who aren’t likely to buy. It means spending your advertising budget on frequency over reach (run the ads in a small/focused market many times rather than once in a large, vague market). To get across the basic reasoning for this, I’ll quote the book:
Frequency [leads] to awareness, awareness to familiarity, and familiarity to trust. And trust, almost without exception, leads to profit… But before frequency turns into sales, it turns into permission. Permission to communicate, permission to customize, permission to teach. And permission is just a step away from trust.
So basically, Godin says that you get best results from nurturing relationships with people to turn them from strangers to people aware of your brand, then into friends, and finally into lifetime customers. It is cheaper to keep old customers than it is to attract new ones. If a customer trusts a brand, they are very likely to keep buying from them instead of going to rival brands. People no longer trust adverts; they trust peer recommendations. An example using social media: the Facebook “like” button, which can be placed on any web page and, when clicked, will automatically send a recommendation for the relevant product/person/anything to your friends, who know and trust your tastes and standards…
Godin often mentions his company at the time, who specialized in email marketing; the basis of this method is to build a list of emails of potential customers, who you have permission from to send emails that are anticipated, personal and relevant to them. Godin explains that email is cheap (or free), customizable, and “the main reason most people use the Internet”. This is where the book starts to feel old. According to Socialnomics, Generation Y and Z consider email to be “passé”, and social networking has become the number one use of the Internet. I’m not saying nobody uses email anymore, or that it shouldn’t be used in permission marketing; I’m saying that you can reach many more people effectively if you tap into social media too.
Godin says that the web is a fundamentally anonymous medium, which is bad for permission marketing; the challenge is getting consumers to give up their anonymity so the marketer can begin to build trust with them and customize their messages. While this was true in 1997, it’s no longer the case in 2011. As my fellow former Salford Uni student/current social media blogger Mark Ledden put it, “On Facebook, everyone knows you’re a dog”, which was part of his post highlighting how the Internet has changed since 1993, when this cartoon by Peter Steiner was featured in the New Yorker:
Mark pointed out that, in the pre-”Web 2.0″ world of the Internet, people could be who they wanted to be, making up “cool” nicknames and signing up as whoever they wanted to be. This did no favours to permission marketers, because in order to really know anything about anyone, they had to ask, and even then, people were not inclined to give away private or personal information over the Internet. Over time though, we have learned to trust the Internet with our personal information. Mark points to Facebook as the best example of people giving up their privacy and anonymity on the Internet and being encouraged to present themselves as their true identity. For better or worse, the majority of people are now willing to sacrifice their privacy in order to connect with other users and customize their online experience. We allow Google and Yahoo! to remember what we like to search for and recommend other things to look at accordingly. We willingly tell LastFM what music we listened to, when and where, so that it can customize a radio station for our individual tastes. We even let Amazon keep track of our buying habits so that we can easily find other products likely to be desirable to us. All of this happens automatically. And it all relies entirely on our willingness to sacrifice our anonymity. Going back to Facebook, even the adverts on each page are tailored very specifically for you, based on what you’ve shared with the world that you “like”! If the permission marketers of 1997 knew about this, they would do a jig on their desks.
I think at this point it’s important to say that I think just because there is a lot of personal information mined about each Facebook user online, this is not a free pass for marketing companies to knock on your door with a sales pitch about golf clubs just because you clicked “like” on Davis Love III’s fan page. Remember, this is permission marketing. Looking back at Seth Godin’s mantra of “anticipated, personal and relevant“, the lack of anonymity on Facebook helps interruptive marketing in the form of web banners and sidebar ads become more relevant to each user. This does not make them personal or anticipated, but Godin points out that even permission marketing must start with an interruption to start the ball rolling.
When you authorize an app or third party service to access your Facebook or Twitter login, you are asked to give permission for that service to access certain information about you. In most cases you will click “accept” because you are willing to trade this off in exchange for the functionality of the service. It would be tempting for the aspiring permission marketer to think “Wow, an open door to send this person detailed personalized marketing messages!” But this is not at the heart of the concept; it’s creepy. Instead, it should be used in a respectful way, as delicately as possible so as not to “put off” the consumer. The usefulness of this personal information is to be subtle and gently nudge potentially suitable consumers towards a particular consumable. From here you can open up a dialogue with positive respondents, and this is where Social Media really changes the game as far as permission marketing is concerned.
Godin and many other marketers advise that it’s important for the consumer to “raise their hand”. This means they are following a call to action; making it known that they are interested in your company or product. They will be anticipating a response. Social media is the perfect platform for consumers and brands to interact. If a company you “like” on Facebook asks its fans a question, and you respond, well, you just raised your hand. If you follow them on Twitter and @ mention them with a question or comment, that’s the perfect example again. You’re demonstrating that you pay attention to what the company has to say. From there, a savvy company will nurture you with further interactions, bit by bit; remember, frequency leads to trust. If you know there’s a real person working for a company responding personally to your tweets, your trust in that company is likely to be pretty high. Everyone loves a mention on Twitter!
So whereas it’s quite normal and expected for emails to be automated, even if they are generated for individuals via mail merges, it’s much more effective for social media to be person-to-person all the way. The clue is in the name – social media! There are all sorts of ways companies can engage with their followers and encourage brand loyalty through social media platforms, person by person. Yes, it is time consuming. Yes, it is long term. And yes, it is effective. The challenge as I see it is managing all of these customer relationships, or that old elusive social media mystery, metrics. Not automating interactions, but keeping track of who we’ve talked to, what we’ve said and what we have learned from each conversation.
Might confuse a few smartphone photography apps…
Yesterday, Monday 21st March 2011, I received my 2,000th hit to this blog since I started it on February 3rd 2010. To be a bit open about these stats, here’s a quick look into my analytics:
Busiest day: February 17th 2011, after posting “Using a blog as a log book in academia”, with 35 total site views
Top referrer: Facebook, accounting for 104 views
Top post/page: Home page (871 views), but in terms of actual posts, More on copyrights & Digital Economy Bill with 184 views
Top search term: flight of the conchords robots
Hmmm. Oh well! In honour of this achievement I’m going to post the following:
Howdy y’all, first of all some good news. I received the results from my dissertation yesterday and I’m very proud to say that I’ve achieved an MSc with merit in Professional Sound & Video Technology! Special thanks to the University of Salford and Alex Fenton at the Hive for helping me get there. I might have another project to add to my Hive space soon; and on a related note, onto the main part of this post…
How do you encourage users to interact and contribute opinions and content to a network?
As part of my dissertation, I wanted to know the feasibility of people using their phones to contribute UGC online from an event; this was, for the most part, a technical exercise to see whether or not the technology was “there” and usable. However, I was always wondering what the best way of fostering these interactions would be. Obviously it’s not something that happens overnight, but there has to be a space in place online for this content to aggregate. For my specific project I was most interested in speed over quality; but what is the best platform to let users (customers, fans, advocates etc.) have their say, communicate with the brand and each other, and post content? And how would one go about fostering these actions?
The role of Facebook
OK, so using Facebook for this kind of thing is so obvious that it’s almost embarrassing to bring it up. To me, this seems like almost a lazy way of doing it, but if you think about it, it could be powerful if done correctly. Facebook is part of most internet user’s everyday life (if you believe this infographic posted on Mashable.com), and utilising a Facebook fan page is an easy way to casually feed information to “fans” – although “fans” are really people who happen to have clicked “like” once. It’s an easy way to spread the word about contests, promotions, news, and of course foster discussions on the page itself.
But how loyal do you really have to be to click “like” on Facebook? Are you ever likely to pay much attention to all those updates or ever really visit the page? Maybe, but nevertheless, it’s still stuck within the walls of Facebook and to me feels a bit uninspired. To me, it seems like a dedicated site or network running in parallel to Facebook would be a better demonstration of the brand’s dedication to its fans’ opinions or contributions.
Saying that, I can’t help but call upon trusty World Wrestling Entertainment to counter my own point; they created a dedicated social network in late 2008 called “WWE Universe”, with the capacity for users to have discussions, post blogs and so on. However, the WWE launched a fan page on Facebook and encouraged its wrestlers to use Twitter in early 2010; these have proven so popular (15 million fans on Facebook) that the WWE Universe site was closed on January 1st 2011. As someone who occasionally looked at WWE Universe, I have to say it wasn’t the most engaging website in the world; it was pretty cluttered. There must be something better out there…?
White Paper (Software as a service) vs. Standalone Software
In setting up a social network, without scripting the whole thing from nothing (something I’m certainly not qualified to do), there are two main paths to go down. You can either use an all-in service who host your network for a monthly subscription cost, as well as developing the software it runs on (like WordPress.com, which is what this blog runs on… although, yes, WordPress.com is free), or you can download the standalone software and upload it to your own server, or integrate it this way into your own site (like WordPress.org, which is more flexible than WordPress.com).
In the first category, where the company hosts the site for you, the market leader with hundreds and thousands of networks under its belt is Ning. It features many customisable base themes and seems easy to modify. Competitors include Kickapps and Wall.fm, which offer different benefits based on the ease of customisation and so forth.
In the other category, where you host the software on your own server and the software itself is free and in most cases open-source, leaders include Drupal, Elgg, BoonEx Dolphin and Buddypress. I think the advantage here is that, if you already have a site in place, these can be used to add the social media network functionality into them, especially since your own site usually equals your own pre-existing web hosting service.
As it stands, I’m currently most interested in Buddypress. It’s built upon WordPress, as the name might suggest, except with more community-based features added in. A good example is Ooizit, a music-sharing network for bands and fans. It allows people to make connections, similar to what something like MySpace eventually became, but with a cleaner, WordPress-ised feel and functionality.
Considering the power of WordPress, and the fact I have a degree of experience using it, I am favouring BuddyPress right now. I would love to play around with it and see what’s possible. And going back to the role of Facebook – well, one could always use Facebook Connect to allow users to log in with their Facebook account and share links to their Facebook walls from a separate (BuddyPress-based?) social network.
Next time I’ll hopefully have more developed thoughts and talk more about how these tools can actually be used to get people to contribute!