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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Five big things in media

We at Essential were having an internal discussion yesterday, over what we think the five major things to happen to media and communications will be over the next 12 months within the UK.

We all know that trends are notoriously difficult to discern and predict, since they are gradual rather than binary. Something like Digital Switchover might be the exception to the rule (when implemented correctly), but generally these things tend to sneak up on you.

Take the “Year of Mobile” as an example. Although Mary Meeker’s definition of a mainstream inflexion point as being 20% penetration (slide 8 of her latest trends report) would suggest 2010 is the Year of Mobile, I’ve noticed a large shift from people saying “Next year is the Year of Mobile” to “Last year was the Year of Mobile”.

So with that in mind, I spent five minutes thinking about various issues and came up with the following five trends

  • Location-based information gains traction among a niche – through tools such as Foursquare Layers
  • Narrowing distinction between broadcast and web-based offeringsYoutube Leanback, Project Canvas and multi-platform media players from the likes of BBC and Sky blur the boundaries between delivery mechanisms
  • Persistence of the blockbuster – despite media fragmentation, the social aspects of media and entertainment mean blockbusters are becoming even bigger to compensate – whether The Lost Symbol, Avatar, X Factor or Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2
  • Decline of critic proof content – This will be a gradual affair, but eventually rotten offerings will become more visible earlier due to social media. For instance, Sex & The City 2 did considerably worse at the box office than its predecessor
  • PR becoming more proactive – Twitterstorms are showing the dangers of trying to sweep things under the carpet. Ask Trafigura or BP

The big caveat is that this took me five minutes. It was therefore things from the top of my mind, and is probably a bit skewed towards recent announcements (Foursquare Layers and Youtube Leanback having been announced within the past week).

If I’d spent a bit longer, I’d have probably mentioned privacy/personal data – though reading Scott’s post earlier, it would seem that this isn’t such an issue for the general public.

As a quick thought exercise, I’m fairly satisfied with what I came up with, though they are so amorphous and vague that it might be difficult to say whether these trends have progressed at all. Nevertheless, I’ll revisit these in 12 months to see if any movement has been made


Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/barkbud/4165385634/


Recommended reading – 30th April 2010

This week, I am mostly recommending:

Will Humphrey on the differences between PR and advertising, having now worked in planning departments for both sides

Bud Caddell presents a very thorough overview of the Theory of Planned Behaviour. Not a bad basis for questionnaire design in certain instances.

Sam Page has an excellent analysis of Jeff Francouer’s swing which shows how powerful statistical evidence and observational evidence can be when properly combined. I promise I’m not planning to post a Baseball link every week, but this is a really strong piece of work, and should be readable for all irrespective of sporting preferences.

Tom Slee’s eloquent rebuttal to Clay Shirky’s Collapse of Complex Business Models. I like Shirky as a writer, and I don’t mind the occasional extrapolation of anecdotes if they prompt further discourse and discussion, but some excellent points are raised.

Ken Auletta has a long, thought-provoking piece in the New Yorker on how Amazon versus Apple are lining up in the battle of the book business.


Links – 9th January 2009

Enjoy your Friday


  • Jon Canter rants against the rise of personalised copy on product packaging. “We’re the couple who love to make crisps.” It sounds like a personal ad in Snackmakers Weekly: a couple seeks another couple who also love to make crisps, in the hope of meeting up in a car park in Colchester. (Comment is Free)

Social Media

  • Rick from Eyecube rails against the personal branding phenomenon. He argues (correctly, I believe) that it is about value and not chasing numbers
  • Alan Wolk talks about “Scoble blindness” – something which I strongly believe in. People within the tech bubble live complete different lives to the average member of the public, which often creates a disconnect between hype and reality. Even now, Twitter hasn’t crossed over (though @wossy, @the_real_shaq and @stephenfry may change that)

Consumer Insight

  • More Intelligent Life argues that rather than society dumbing down, we are in an age of mass intelligence – societal fragmentation has allowed niches to grow and flourish

Online resources

  • Getty Moodstream allows you to filter images and videos on a variety of settings

I would particularly recommend 10 constituents of the WOW factor, The rise of the personal media platform, “Scoble blindness”, How behavioural ad targeting punishes web publishers and The science of shopping

And check out my Tumblr for a few more links


Bad research: Compromising the value of PR

NB: The inspiration for this post is Ben Goldacre’s excellent Bad Science column in the Guardian. The book came out this week (here is the Amazon link), and the Guardian has serialised chapters on the MMR jab and miracle pills.

I particularly enjoy the columns where he remorselessly picks apart a PR piece containing some level of human interest, but one that is entirely based on spurious research. This deconstruction of Jessica Alba having the perfect wiggle is a fine example of the method.

A doctorate-for-hire is commissioned to create a formula out of thin air. The story generated then gets picked up by the press. The sponsor is named in the article, and they conveniently have some tenuous link to the subject. The PR pays back the research cost.

The most depressing thing about this endeavour is that there is no conclusion in sight – they just keep on coming.

I work in a Research & Insight department. More often than not – and I include myself in this – the insight is dropped and it is simply referred to as the research department.

This is fine, but it is important to note that the two functions are distinct. Insight is about finding new things out and threading pieces together to form fresh conclusions or intelligence. Research is providing evidence to support a theory or hypothesis.

(Note that these are my own personal definitions informed in the most part by the way in which my job operates. Wikipedia defines them differently)

Both are necessary, but both can be compromised. Problems with insights tend to be more innocent – flights of fancy where the new findings (intended or otherwise) don’t justify the expenditure invested in producing them.

Problems with research are more sinister. The answer is already known. The end truly justifies the means. The research design, the wording of the questions and the data cuts providing the analysis are contorted to ensure that the correct answer is given.

In reality, this doesn’t (well, shouldn’t) happen. To take a form of research I am familiar with; advertising effectiveness studies don’t always produce positive results. If results are bad, the client and agency are informed (albeit with any silver linings accentuated), and the study is swept under the carpet.

The major problem is when the research resembles, but doesn’t match, the pre-ordained conclusions. Then the temptation seems to be too great to resist. So, the results are tidied up. The supporting evidence is hidden behind hyperbolic headlines and the announcement is made.

For all intents and purposes, the evidence may as well be removed. It only gets in the way of a good story.

Canon – “world-leader in office imaging solutions” – recently came up with a doozy. As you may have been aware, the Beijing Olympics recently occurred. Did it inspire office workers to emulate their sporting heroes and get fit and healthy? Of course not, and Canon has data to support this claim. Apparently officer workers spend “the equivalent of a staggering 34 working weeks per year”.

Fortunately for us, “Canon has teamed up with health professionals from the fields of dietetics and ergonomics to develop an ‘Office Olympian’ guide. The guide includes independent expert advice on a range of topics such as keeping active in the office, healthy nutrition advice and perhaps most importantly, correct posture for employees who spend long periods working at a computer”


And for just the cost of a few questions on an omnibus survey, press coverage is acquired.

But let’s take a closer look:

  • The 34 weeks number comes from office works spending, on average, five and a half hours of work per day at their desks. In what conceivable way is this staggering? On average, people only have 90 minutes worth of meetings and toilet breaks per day?
  • Time with friends and family, exercising and chores are sacrificed when two thirds of office workers work beyond their contracted hours. The frequency and length of this overtime isn’t elucidated upon. I can only assume it is regular and extensive
  • The work-life balance is destroyed because a fifth of workers spend 7-8 hours a day in the office. Because with the 2 hour each way commute and need to get 12 hours of sleep a night, there really is no time to have a life outside of work
  • 20% of workers don’t consider their health when in the office, despite spending the majority of their time there. Firstly, health is generally only considered when there are negative repercussions, so that would imply 4 in 5 are healthy. Secondly, how does five and a half hours a day for five days a week over 47 weeks a year constitute the majority of my time?
  • This is my favourite one; Only 19% use the tea run as an opportunity to take a break and just 28% regularly leave their desk to pick up documents from the printer – an ideal opportunity to stretch and exercise. See how Canon’s world class imaging solutions help improve your life? Because I don’t drink tea and have no need for my rubbish non-Canon printer, I have no need to leave my desk. Outside of the 90 minutes I spend away from it of course. I think Canon missed a trick here. Consider the downtime involved in going to the toilet – surely some stretches and exercises could be incorporated into that?
  • A couple of rent-a-quotes are then wheeled out for the coup de grâce.

Just writing the above has actually made me quite angry.

Perhaps I am too cynical? There are no doubt some good intentions burrowed beneath the marketing effort, and some people may genuinely gain benefit from the tips on diet and ergonomics.

But when the advice is packaged up in such a moronic fashion, it completely destroys any appeal that the campaign may have instilled.

At some point, either the press must resist publishing these “stories” or the sheer ridiculousness of their claims must be exposed. But in the meantime, there appears to be no respite.

I eagerly await the next release on anger management.