Tag Archives: Advertising

On Instagram the Users are the Product

The outpouring of rage over the upcoming change of terms and conditions at Instagram, the mobile based photo sharing application snapped up by Facebook for $1bn earlier in the year, has been so big that the story ended up on the main news bulletins here in the UK. But is the change really a surprise?

The Guardian explained what has happened:

Instagram this week changed its terms of use to make clear that it will be able to display your “username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take” in connection with advertising without you being notified or reimbursed.

The entire legalese is, like the finest legal writing, somewhat vague and ambiguous. But essentially it means that Facebook, as the owner of Instagram, can use your pictures to promote anything from famous landmarks to food brands or festive onesies without asking your permission each time.

But think about it for a moment. On Instagram, as on Facebook, Twitter or Foursquare, the users aren’t paying anything for the service. These services have to make money somehow in order to pay their employees, pay for their servers, pay for any other costs involved with running a business. With Foursquare the company is building a database of locations across the world – users are encouraged to leave tips alongside check-ins or take pictures, so for example other applications can buy access to this Foursquare data for their own location aware applications.

With Facebook and Twitter the model is advertising. Regular Facebook users will notice adverts coming up in their feeds, sometimes associated with their friends. Based on pages you have liked, Facebook will show your friends adverts paid for by the owners of the liked pages but with your name alongside it, so be careful what you like!

Other photo sharing applications and sites try to make money through selling additional filters or photo storage – for example the excellent Camera Awesome charges extra for filters, but is also trying to encourage users to make use of the SmugMug photo sharing site that the application developers also own. Similarly the grandfather of modern photo sharing sites Flickr makes it’s money through paid options for photo storage, alongside targeted advertising.

Alongside news of the change, the Guardian presented details of some of the options for people who want to switch.

Having accounts on Instagram, Flickr, plus a couple of other photo app sites like EyeEm it has been interesting watching what has been happening the past couple of days. A rather unscientific look at what has happened with my contacts is that aside from a couple who have appeared on EyeEm those people who are switching are going for Flickr. I’ve had ten contacts in the past couple of days open Flickr accounts and in a lot of cases dump all of their Instagram pictures across before in some cases closing the Instagram accounts.

Instagram has always been able to cross-post pictures to Flickr, so in my case most of the shots are on there anyway. As yet I haven’t decided whether to switch, but longer term the Flickr model of paid storage seems a lot more sustainable that putting pictures on a free service. The fundamental point to remember is that if you’re not paying for a service you’re providing something else to the owners that they are able to sell. Instagram may have rolled back from the latest change, but they have to make money some how. If you want to try out Flickr instead of Instagram check out this set of ten tips for their excellent new iPhone app.

What’s Going On With The Site?

You might have noticed a few changes around here. Aside from the theme change, you’ll see that the site URL has lost it’s “www”, and you may well have noticed the entire site vanish entirely for a few hours a couple of weeks back.

Basically with the arrival of Sam, I’ve been keeping an eye on the finances, and thought that I should try and at least cover the hosting costs for our various sites. As a result I have been reading ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income along with the associated blog looking for tips on how to earn a little bit of money – the book is quite clear that most people don’t earn vast amounts from their blogs, but covering the hosting would be just fine!

One of the key points that the book drums home is that blogging in niches is better for building traffic and audience than the rather eclectic mix I’ve had up to now. With the arrival of WordPress 3.0 which unites the multi-blog and single blog versions of WordPress it’s now possible to switch across and host multiple blogs without too much problem, which is what I have done.

The family news/general type stuff, and anything that doesn’t fit into any other category will remain here, but I have now added Soap Box for all my opinion type stuff, Picture Book to highlight some of my photographs and Pomum Sermo for Apple related stuff. In the future there will probably be others, most likely for anything Church related once the Anglican Communion start taking chunks out of each other again, and maybe a programming related blog. Beth is also looking at hosting her blogs Et Uxor and Displaced Moose as child sites here as she can do some of the things she hasn’t been able to do on a hosted platform. I’ve also added some hopefully not too intrusive advertising bars showing Google Adsense adverts, Amazon links and iTunes affiliate links, which I hope will gain a few clicks to help cover the hosting costs. There is also an Amazon search box in several places which gives us credit if you use that to search rather than going direct to Amazon – any clicks and searches much appreciated.

So hopefully normal service will continue, indeed I’ve actually written rather more posts than I have of late to get the new blogs going, and if you’re interested in the subject areas of the niche blogs, please point your browser/RSS reader to the new sites!

I’m a PC

Microsoft are in a strange position. Despite still producing the operating system that holds the dominant position in the market, still producing the office platform that holds the dominant position in the market, and still producing the dominant web browser, they are seen as being under threat. The reason? Their share of the market held by their products is not as high as it used to be, as the competition is making gains. More than that being the dominant platform they are the prime target for a variety of viruses and malware, and if they aren’t being criticised for the security issues in their software, it is their business practices that got them to the dominant position in the first place.

Being pragmatic you could argue that with the position they held about the only way their share could go is down, putting aside the interventions of the EU and the US government, even in a market that they dominate quite as much, competing companies can still come out with innovative products and change the balance. For example Google came out of nowhere and Microsoft were left scrabbling to compete. However you could also argue that Microsoft themselves have caused some of their problems. Vista was very poorly recieved by many people, both in terms of performance where it was visibly slower than XP, and from simple usability where the security features were downright obstructive. So many professionals ended up sticking with or rolling back to XP. I can also show you a number of end users who are continually frustrated with their Vista machines who wished they could have XP instead. The latest Office wasn’t quite so bad but the ribbon bar didn’t go down well, nor did the new file format – for example one member of the church regularly has to send round documents twice because he is using Office 2007 and his documents are incompatible with the older versions in use by other people.

Probably the most high profile perceived competition to their core product is the ever resurgent Apple. While it is certainly not making much of an impact in the corporate world, Apple is certainly making inroads into the home PC market. Whether it is thanks to their advertising, the much vaunted halo effect from the iPod, the distinctive design of the products, or a combination of all three, Apple computers are selling in larger numbers than they ever have.

Looking at the Apple advertising campaigns that directly targeted the PC market, first off we had the switcher campaign. This consisted of a series of real, sometimes celebrity users talking about their experiences and why they switched to the Mac. The Microsoft response was frankly an embarrassment, with them being caught faking a Mac to PC switcher.

Since then we’ve had the Get a Mac campaign. All the adverts follow the same general structure, opening with a relaxed looking casually dressed man introducing himself as a Mac, and a more straight laced man in a suit introducing himself as a PC. The advert then compares some aspect of the PC with the Mac, including crashing PC’s, changes in Vista, and numerous other perceived issues with the PC platform compared to the Mac.

Interestingly, Microsoft haven’t repeated the direct attack on the adverts as they did with the old switcher campaigns. We’ve had a bit of a mix, including most recently the criticised Mojave Experiment. Even with their latest campaign, it didn’t seem they were going to do that, as they started off with two adverts featuring Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld that were frankly bizarre, before moving on to phase two.

Phase two for the first time seems to directly attack the Get a Mac campaign, opening with someone who has obviously been cast to look just like the PC in the original adverts (although certain people seem to think he looks a lot worse) and then follow that up with a large variety of other people, including celebrities again, who also say they are PC’s.

Interesting things to note are that there are Microsoft employees in there, whose e-mail addresses are posted on the screen during the advert, but also note that Vista isn’t mentioned at all, and also that aside from addressing the stereotype in the Apple advert, it doesn’t address anything else in those adverts – the message of the advert is basically that lots of different people use a PC.

It has to be said, that after the fallout from the Mojave Experiment, and the bemused responses to the Jerry Seinfeld adverts, the response to this advert has been pretty good, and I’m pretty sure that given that the Get a Mac campaign has been going for two years it will bring a new campaign from Apple in response. But then is the new Microsoft campaign saying anything other than lots of people use PC’s?

Update: A little post-script to this story – a revelation that has caused much merriment amongst the Mac faithful – the advert may show lots of people who use PC’s, but the people who made the advert aren’t one of them, as the advert was put together on a Mac.

Artistic Adverts

atishu!I don’t know whether the producers of The Apprentice make a note when they are picking candidates, or whether there is some strange kind of symbiosis between getting on in business and being a frustrated actor or director, but whenever Sir Alan dusts down the advertising task there are always one or two candidates willing to step up to the mark with an attempt to showcase their movie making talents into thirty seconds, and missing the whole point of the task.

This time it was Raef and Michael, who having discovered a shared interest in amateur dramatics launched into scripting their advert before the team had even decided on a brand for their box of tissues – the choice of product for the advertising task this year. Fellow team members Claire and Helene were pretty well left to get on with designing the box, putting together the press advert and the final presentation, while Raef and Michael recruited Siân Lloyd for their advert and produced a beautifully shot fifty second drama to try to win the task. The problem? It had to be thirty seconds, so they cut the in-your-face product shot, and cut their start turn down to a blink-and-you-miss-it moment, leaving mainly a sequence with two child actors sharing a tissue, but without the product box in sight. Claire pulled together a slick presentation, and a nice tasteful box for their “i ♥ my tissuesâ€? line, almost in spite of the lack of leadership from Raef.

Over on the other team, Lucinda was having creative differences with Alex and Lee as they produced a garish bright yellow box covered in pictures of people sneezing, and a cheesy, not very well shot advert that blatantly placed the product in shot multiple times, and repeatedly mentioned the equally cheesy product name “atishu!�. The creative differences scuppered the presentation, with Lee seeming pretty embarrassed at the lousy performance he gave.

So when it came to the boardroom, Raef and co seemed a picture of confidence, the opposition had produced a lousy looking add and a garish product, and his team had put on a slick show. But they’d missed the vital point, however good the production values, the advert didn’t show the product. Subtle advertising is not what Sir Alan is about. He never wants artistry, he wants to shift merchandise, so it was Raef that was shown the door, like a number of other budding Apprentice directors before.

The moral for next years candidates – when Sir Alan hands you a video camera, don’t forget the purpose of the film…

Nice Work if you can Get It

Scoble has highlighted again Markus Frind and his PlentyofFish online dating site, after an article about the site appeared in the New York Times.

The site is probably the kind of business that most internet entrepreneurs wish they had. It continues to be a massive success – the NY Times article states that it is earning Markus $10 million a year, for about ten hours work. He has only one permanent employee, and his users don’t pay anything to use the site – it is entirely advertising driven. Most of the support is provided by other users, for free, as is the administrative tasks of vetting the online singles notices.

When you also realise that the site was written in the first place as a programming exercise because he wanted to learn ASP.Net, and he’s kept the site free almost as an exercise in seeing how long he could go before it got too much to handle. The site won’t win any design awards either, but much like Craigslist the site is successful, seemingly despite the acknowledged failings in the web design.

Perhaps all of that is an indication that with all the snazzy design and grand plans in the world, being a success on the internet is just as much about having the right idea, and shed loads of luck as anything else…

The Fastest Way to Brussels

You can always rely on Ryanair and it’s charismatic boss Michael O’Leary for some entertaining news stories. After discriminating against disabled passengers by charging them for a wheelchair, winding up the green lobby and sitting right at the bottom of the pile as the worlds least favourite airline, today it lost out in another battle over one of it’s adverts, this time claiming that it in a comparison with Eurostar it was the fastest and cheapest way to get from London to Brussels.

In order to make this comparison, they compared the time it takes the train to get from London to Brussels, with the time for their closest route, which flies from London Stansted airport 30 miles north-east of London to Charleroi Airport 28.75 miles from Brussels. The Advertising Standards Authority ruled that the comparison of both time and cost were misleading because the comparison did not include the time and additional cost to get to and from Stansted or Charleroi.

The response from Ryanair was typical – they said that time and costs involved in getting to an airport or railway station were irrelevant as they applied to both modes of transport – they also said that “no stupid rulingâ€? could hide the success of the airline.

Not surprisingly, I don’t agree – if I’m wanting to go somewhere, the time taken for the whole journey is the most important, as is the convenience of the schedule. Last year when I went on a day trip to Brussels I made exactly that decision. For a start, Ryanair didn’t get a look in – flying from pretty well the opposite side of London to somewhere miles outside Brussels it was a non starter. We did consider the Eurostar, but that lost out because to get to the terminal we needed to spend an hour on South West Trains to get there and back. In the end, thanks to our close proximity to London Heathrow, and the much closer location of the main Brussels Airport to the city compared to Charleroi where Ryanair arrive, we opted for a BMI flight instead.

The basis of the Advertising Standards Authority ruling is that comparing the time from central London to central Brussels is a fair comparison – in which case the Eurostar wins easily as it’s only a short hop on the respective city metro system to the terminal rather than a much longer and more expensive journey out to the airport. Put simply, they are saying that the only fair way to compare is to pick a start and end location and compare the whole journey. Having said that, Ryanair would probably pick Stansted and Charleroi and add the time to get to each airport to the time for the Eurostar

Eurostar originally uploaded by Boxley.