Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Media, education and mumbo jumbo...

Ministry of Education (MinEdu) funds research on children and media (education). For example MediaMuffinssi program has been started with the aid of MinEdu's contribution. Mediamuffinssi is publishing books and other material for parents and children as well as organizing e.g. Pelixi-competition for children and youth to encourage them to make their own games. Anyhow. One of the most recent outcome of the intiative is "Media effects on minors - review of international research and practices of media education and regulation" report (in Finnish only) published today.

It is good that we have some level of discussion around the topic. It is just so sad to notice how far the officers of MinEdu and some researchers really are from the real world. The suggestions are good ones alright but many of them have already been realized! How can you make suggestions when you apparently do now know what is out there already? To put it another way: If the suggestions are not topical anymore - what is the value of the report?

The suggestions:
1. More funding for national research projects (media education, media psychology)
2. Media culture center should be founded (btw. this was suggested already a few years back in another report by MinEdu)
3. Media education for schools (yes -- good -- by whom, when...)
4. Accessible media education (in relation to this: they are suggesting to fund games which are suitable for children to put it short. Guess what? We already have that by Nordic Game Program).
5. Coherent and media neutral legislation
6. Materials for teaching, intervention and precaution
7. Support for parents
8. Virtual (online) youth and mental health work
9. Structural progress to improve wellbeing

The suggestions are nothing new. Certainly there are always more things to be done. I agree but please! For me the event (room full of middle aged women, not a single soul with insiders with of teenagers' online existence) only emphasizes the chasm between "adults" and "youth" and/or "resolutions" and "reality". At such events, meaningless "wisdom" is been spead to the ignorant listeners.

Instead they room full of people should discuss what is currently happening at the online communities from the viewpoint of media education or child welfare or ask from the youngsters. But no -they go around and around the same topic over and again. Elämä on parasta huumetta ry, Pelastaa Lapset, Mannerheimin lastensuojeluliitto and youth workers from 30 biggest towns in Finland have started their online services (SNS) years ago -- in 2002-2005. That must be news for the writers of the report. But is is just sad - just sad.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

“Killing time at the Facebook while doing homework”

When I was reading Tuija’s blog I remembered Business 2.0 magazine’s cover from March 2007. I bought the magazine from SF airport on my way back from GDC where Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo talked about communities, game3.0 and stuff related to the web2.0 hype. Still it was visibly hard to foresee what was about to hit us all some months later.

At that time everything was 2.0 and social media was all over – and still is. In March 2007 Business 2.0 magazine listed 25 hot startups to watch. The list of 25 hot startups includes companies such as: StumbleUpon ($1.5M), Bebo ($15M), Revision3 ($1M), Metacafe ($20M), SoonR $6M), Tiny ($2.8M), Adify ($8M), Vitrue ($5M), Janrain ($1M), SuccessFactor ($45M), Rearden ($100M), Spot Runner ($60M), SimulScribe ($5M)…

A lot of video related ideas –obviously thanks to the success of YouTube. The list contains also a few companies that have been more on the limelight than the others. With Meebo ($9M) users can access all of their instant messaging applications in a single browser window. Meebo is obviously doing conveniently with their localized websites. Also Slide ($20M) is doing very well – thanks to Facebook (and MySpace). Most likely Slide would not be as big without Facebook because the idea of “sharing” has been lifted to another level with FB. Joost ($45M) broadcast-quality Internet television service has at least got a lot of publicity. And Logoworks ($16.8M) got acquired by HP. Congrats!

Obviously the interesting thing is that not even a magazine which is focused on “2.0” was able to foretell the success of Facebook which happened just few months later. Now it is clear that it should say Facebook at the 2007 box. Another interesting thing is that Facebook is also lacking from the list of 25 hot startups. Facebook was founded in 2004 – which is around the same time as some of the other companies on the list. What about Dogster, Dogbook etc. pet-related communities which are doing well? Even in Finland ii2 which is supposed to be one of the most popular online communities for youth (even though many of us have never heard of it…) has a popular service Petsie.fi which is a Hot-or-Not service for pets basically.

Is it really that hard to foretell the future of digital service business? When pondering the future of digital services I remembered a Google video I watched a year ago. It is a panel of university students chaired by VC guru Guy Kawasaki. It is well lead panel but what is even more interesting is what the students say about things (to come). The panel was held in fall 2006, at the time when students were already starting to move from MySpace to Facebook.

Lessons learned from “25 hot startups”. Venture capitalists do not know either. Benchmark Capital funded many of the Top 25 startups on the list and so far only few of them have been really successful.

Lessons learned from the video: youth are interested about the possibilities of digital communication because they just are and because all of their friends do the same. They are active in many ways. They have presence in several online communities, they send huge amount of text messages (one girl sent 4000 SMS a month!). They do not care about the browser or other minor details – but they do know brands like Google and iTunes. They know what they want. They want things to go smoothly and without any extra hassle. If IE doesn’t offer possibility to open Tabs, block pop-ups or suit for their purposes they will switch to Firefox and so on. In general they “do all” with the communication devices and are available 24/7 via various mobile and online channels. Contacts are important thing but it is also fundamental to separate “Friends” from “friends”. These youngsters had 100-700 friends at MySpace or Facebook out of which they pick their “Top 8” or “best friends”.

Will Dogster be the hot online application in 2008? Most likely not but what will be the next big thing? We have seen friend-lists services where you get in touch with your idols and publish your music (MySpace), share your photo archive with the world (Flickr), have your 15 seconds of fame or put up illegal copies of your favorite TV series (YouTube) and create own applications, poke your friends, send gifts and write or draw to your friends wall (Facebook). Maybe it will be something to do with mobile virtual communities, 3D music shop, intelligent recruiting service, TripAdvisor 2.0? Something appealing to general public and be linked with people’s basic needs in some way.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Diggs for the "wrong" purpose

Rating and ranking things, videos, sites, news... is one thing very central to today's social media. Finland is full of digital knowhow and inspiring people: When Finland would be scoring at the Digg for some positive news?

Friday, November 09, 2007

Mobile SNS -- Google vs Nokia?

I attended 'Social Networking Services - Hype or Money Spinner?' seminar earlier today. Hall of fame of Finnish SNS developers (managers, researchers...) plus "SNS gurus" Scott Rafer and Joseph O´Sullivan were talking about SNS: case studies, revenue models, SNS eco-system and way to build value for user community/brand/media.

I do not have the full coverage from the event because I couldn't stay for the afternoon. Anyhow, I would like to share some of my notes from the event. Also some videos will be available at: http://station.goodmood.net/finpro

For SNS developers efficient utilization of networking and social "doing" is a must (obviously). Developers should ponder whether to focus on vertical, horizontal and/or exlusive communities. Meaning: do you build your own SNS, utilize existing service(e.g. FB) or focus on specific niché or exclusive group of users (Smallworld, vampire freaks, doctors network and such).

Nr. 1 revenue model still is advertising, which is boring. Sulake and other online game(ish) services have done a great job in developing novel revenue models, e.g. selling virtual items, in game advertising etc. Despite the case, majority of SNS seem to focus on increasing their subscription rate or number of active users in able to sell more banner ads. Yihaa!

Business people seemed to be really excited about the new networking activities happening within various business networks. They were eagerly telling how they use LinkedIn or Facebook. That is great alright, but from a youth researcher's viewpoint it is funny to notice how little "SNS gurus" know about youth and their media use. They acknowledge that 0-25 year olds haven't experienced a world without the Internet. Then why is it so difficult to follow what the kids are doing online. These web2.0 trends are definitely a cultural issue. It is not just about Myspace or Facebook, it is about a paradigm shift from homepage driven static web to dynamic social hint networks where it is relevant to leave your own mark, rank and rate things and build your reputation which is not your online reputation, it is YOUR reputation per sé -- nicely blending web presence with the real world one.

It was also entertaining by Nokia's presentation. Nokia is trying to expand their business from mobile phones to "online company". That is totally cool, a thing they really should get a hold on. Nokia has been restating their approach which currently is: 1) providing interface to mobile internet, 2) creating mobile services and 3) renewing the way of working by focusing on "tribes" inside the company and with partners.

The development surely is interesting and very worthwhile as it is already now starting to be less relevant if you are logged in via PC, PDA, iTV, PSP or mobile phone. As long as you are logged in and communicating within your online communities often as long as it is convenient for you. Most of you know that where as Nokia is expanding from mobile to the web, Google is expanding from web to mobile. Who would succeed? Both? If I would bring to a head I'd say this is a race between an elephant and a chameleon. Of course that is not totally the case. Instead of size it is more about grasping the moment, understanding the mobility at its best, make it simple, NECESSARY and act fast! Nevertheless the race between Nokia and Google will be an interesting one.

Google basics: offices in 26 countries, 15,916 emplyees (~10 new employees per day on average), 158 domains and more than 100 languages, R&D in the USA and Bangalore, focused on buying expertise and companies, "Open" approach, selling advertise space (AdSense).

Slogan: "Don't be evil"
Mission statement: "To organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful."

Known products or services: Gmail, Google earth, Google search, Google alert, YouTube, Blogger...

Nokia basics: R&D presence in 11 countries, production facilities in 9 countries, offices in 30 countries, 68 483 emplyees, "Closed"approach, selling mobile phones and appliances.

Slogan: "Connecting people"
Mission statement ("sort of" because I couldn't find the official one if there's any): "Dedicated to enhancing people's lives and productivity by providing easy-to-use and secure products like mobile phones, and solutions for imaging, games, media, mobile network operators and businesses."

Known products or services: N-Gage [sidetalking;)], Nokia phones, Nokia networks, MyNokia?

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Mobile gaming revenues 9% down, but generally doing well

"Mobile-gaming market suffered a reversal of fortune in the second quarter of 2007 as revenues for title publishers declined by 9 % sequentially, compared with 11 % growth in the first quarter." [iSuppli Corp].

iSuppli suggests that because the current crop of mobile games is centered on casual players, one way to encourage a new demographic to play games on their mobile handsets would be to develop titles that support networked and/or multiplayer gaming.

Despite the short-term setback, mobile gaming revenue is expected to nearly triple by 2011, growing to $6.6 billion, managing a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 23.2 percent from $2.3 billion in 2006.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Game software sales up to 52% in Finland

According to Finnish Game software and multimedia association Figma, game software market has gone up ~52% in Finland. Last year the sales (January-September) were 30,7 MEUR where as now the sales have gone up to 46,6 MEUR. Console games generated 61% ("third" generation console games 23%, "second" generation 32% and handheld games 6%) and PC games 39% of the market.

1,3 million games have already been sold but the typically over 50% of the yearly sales is done during the last quarter! I wish Finnish game developers get a good share of sales as well.

I guess the biggest thanks goes to Shigeru Miyamoto's "Wife-o-meter" approach to game design, social games for all (Buzz, Singstar) on PS2 and WoW.