How Do You Solve a Problem Like Periscope?

Photo courtesy of Recode.net

For anyone in the business of profiting from live events, I’d imagine this question is making the rounds in many a boardroom. Hopefully forward-thinking executives feel brave enough to speak up and provide the correct answer: You embrace it.

While Meerkat looks like it came out of the gates like a bat out of hell at exactly the wrong time, Periscope offers the same live streaming service for iOS devices (Android to follow), and looks poised to change how audiences consume and share live sports and entertainment content, just as Periscope’s parent company Twitter has.

I read about Meerkat the day before I left for South by Southwest. While psyched to attend SXSW, it also meant I’d miss my son’s playoff hockey game at home in Toronto (insert Canadian joke here ___ ). Problem at least partially solved with Meerkat where my wife, playing producer in a north Toronto arena, gave me a view into my son’s game on her smart phone to mine in my hotel room in Austin. It genuinely felt like the future, but at same time so simple: Mobile phone ubiquity + cheap cloud-based video processing & delivery + giant social media platform promotion.

Folks have pegged Periscope out of the gates as another vanity tool, the ultimate live selfie-enabler (Why wouldn’t all 817 of your Twitter followers want to watch you make a ham sandwich?), but it doesn’t take much imagination to see its broader applications, particularly in the live sports and entertainment realm. Pics from the game or video clips from that epic EDM festival evolve into a truly vicarious, live experience for followers, streaming remotely.

What’s more, sports and entertainment venues in conjunction with major sports leagues have unwittingly aided fans in sharing say, live, restricted NFL video content via Periscope by blanketing stadiums with dedicated WiFi networks and Beacons. That’s only one reason why major organizations such as the NFL, NBA, FIFA and the IOC should look to embrace Periscope by including user-generated content in their social media marketing strategies to grow their fan base.

Major League Soccer has already embraced this approach, where in some cases such as Seattle and Portland, clubs pour the bulk of their marketing budgets into social media, seeding their accounts with photos and videos of game play and fans showing pride in their teams. Fans reciprocate and extend the club’s fan-based narrative by sharing their own updates and content on their MLS team social accounts.  Both Seattle and Portland attribute healthy attendance at games to, in part, to facilitating in-stadium content distribution via social media.

Sports and Entertainment organizations should go a step further by  incorporating Periscope in the main production. Particularly with sports, organizations could easily offer younger fans (and brands for that matter) on digital platforms much added value via alternative mobile phone coverage from the sidelines, or out in the parking lot covering the tail gate party. Ref cam anyone?

As Periscope becomes a Next Big Thing, its usage will evolve. One thing that seems clear though, it is that it’s here to stay and presents live sports and entertainment organizations with a significant opportunity to enhance their products and fan experience. After all, resistance is futile no?

Photo courtesy of Eideard.com
Photo courtesy of Eideard.com

Keep Austin Weird

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Cowgirl on 6th ave. Photo by Dave Carpenter

Well I completed a bucket list item last week. Two actually: 1) Visiting Austin 2) Attending South By SouthWest.

The interactive portion of the conference I attended managed to live up to it’s billing – chalk-a-block with creativity, innovation and an exuberent belief that technology can change the world for the better, or at least for the funner. The endless free drinks, heaping bbq, wandering into a live Spoon concert, and snagging a t-shirt at the Pied Piper booth at the Mashable House didn’t hurt either.

What may remain with me most though, was my wander through downtown Austin the night before the conference kicked off. A taste of the real Austin before the rest of the world fully descended upon it. It’s a charmingly odd place, and people from Austin seem to happily embrace it. You see the ‘Keep Austin Weird’ slogan  on t-shirts and bumper stickers all over.

The city definitely has its contingent of eccentrics from what I can tell, but when they say they want to keep the city weird, I think what they mean is they want to keep Austin from changing into a bigger, more generic version of itself. Weird in the context of Austin really means integrity, and a rallying cry for a liberal enclave amid republican Texas. To have the integrity to embrace endless free music on the 6th street, from honky tonk to crunk. The singularly unique experience of being able to walk up to virtually anyone, ask directions, and find yourself 5 minutes later in the middle of a friendly conversation over a beer and BBQ at Stubb’s (this happened).

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Southern Rock on 6th avenue, Austin Texas. Photo by Dave Carpenter.

Austin has a lot more going for it too in a practical sense . The University of Texas is here. The tech industry is bustling. It’s become a beacon for American upper-middle-class hipsters alongside the likes of Williamsburg in Brooklyn. Ironically, that may spell the downfall of its true inner weirdness as it’s now one of the fastest growing cities in the US. .

Let’s hope it can still stay weird for a little while longer.

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Larry Singleton, United States Marine Corps and friends with Willie Nelson. Photo by Dave Carpenter.

Where have you gone, Katie Couric?

When Katie Couric left for Yahoo! last year, it seemed to herald a series of blows to broadcast news that hit hardest these past few weeks. TV news vet Bob Simon passed, Brian Williams fell from grace and John Stewart announced he’s leaving the Daily Show. My mother asked me a while back who my favourite news anchor was. She thought I was joking when I said Stewart.

In a way, though, it’s easier for John Stewart to win the best anchor award because of his parent company’s revenue model. Stewart’s job is to entertain cable subscribers, who provide most of The Comedy Network’s revenue, which gives him more latitude to shine a light, and his talent, on the real story behind the headlines, and the news makers themselves. Fox and CNN are in the business of pleasing brands first, who are courting particular demographics via ads. I wonder if Fox’s personalities aren’t chuckling right along with Stewart’s barbs at the Fair & Balanced news network. You’ve got to think at least some of them are aware of the game.

But the game isn’t paying off like it used to. Broadcast news ratings have tanked for years, giving rise to the type of desperate, ratings-grabbing journalism that feels more like a bad Hollywood script. If only those downed Asian planes had snakes on them too.

Media blogger Jeff Jarvis raises a lot of admirable points when he recently railed against the current state of the evening news. Jarvis calls on NBC news to use Brian William’s 6 month shame-cation as an opportunity to throw the tired-old script away and report on unique and nuanced stories that encapsulate the broader issues of the day. Sound overly optimistic? That’s pretty much the template for the news arm of Vice, the multi-platform media darling with a ton of eyeballs (sans-cataracts) whose value Rupert Murdoch himself pegged at $1.4 billion.

And platform may present an even bigger issue for broadcast news than authenticity. Even if television news changed up the script to court an audience that’s not currently in the process of dying, would a generation of millennials, weened on ‘mobile-first’ social-media powered news entities such as Vice, Buzzfeed and Business Insider even notice?

As a Gen X-er I’m caught in the middle, wistful for 60 Minutes and the New York Times in print, but young enough too have succumbed to the lure of technology that births a raging river of instant news choices in the palm of my hand. I’m not sure who wins now that the future truly seems in the here and now, but I think the broadcast news script is already written.

Art Deco at The End of the World

RC Harris Treatment Plan. All Photos by Dave Carpenter

If you played the video game Myst back in the day, the RC Harris Water Treatment Facility at the east end of The Beach may seem strangely familiar. Standing on its grounds, you can feel like you’re the last person on earth, having stumbled upon an elaborate operation of vague purpose and wondering what happened to its occupants, and if they’ll be back.

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Main building: RC Harris Treatment Plant.

Built throughout the 1930s by little-known architect Thomas Canfield Pomphrey and named for the public works commissioner at the time, the facility still supplies Toronto with about a third of its drinking water, pumped all the way up from the middle of the Lake Ontario, treated, then pumped all the way north to Markham and west to Rosedale. It’s an eerie place, and one of coolest examples of art deco this side of the Don (and granted National Engineering Historic Site status in 1992).

Photo by Dave Carpenter
Main building, RC Harris Treatment Plant.

I live near the treatment plant and spend a fair amount here, walking the dog or going for a run. The facility’s main buildings and intersecting road sprawl over a 2-3 block stretch at the end of Queen street, a.k.a., the end of Toronto. Imposing as a fortress, the largest building stands guard atop a hill over Lake Ontario, as if scanning for enemy yankee ships bound from Rochester. There’s a real dash of style to the place too, exemplified by the elaborate and repeating artwork and statues etched within the stone walls of the complex’s three buildings’ and the expansive, rising windows that look out on to the lake.

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Lower Building, RC Harris Treatment Plant.

 

Peering through the windows at the rows of antiquated valves, tanks and gauges, with nary an employee insight, compels you to find a way in and explore some more. Apparently that’s not all that difficult, or mysterious: you can go on a tour of the facilities, when the doors open to the public once a year (count me in). Check out out, at the end of the world. Or for the lazy and still underwhelmed, here it is in 90-seconds.

 

 

One Book to Rule them all

I’ve come across a couple of interesting / alarming reads in the last while on the rising dominance of Facebook over all media, not just the social kind. If you want to peer into a crystal at the potential future of digital magazine and news publishing, you may want to give them a read. Hint: say goodbye to bookmarks.

One article is from Salon , and another by the NY Times’ David Carr.  Both essentially report on how F-Book’s tremendous reach, equally tremendous algorithms and successful transition to a revenue-generating, mobile-first destination is supplanting Google as the equivalent of Sauron or St. Nick, in the media world, depending on who you talk to too, and who’s willing to talk openly.

Maybe it’s my newshound roots and I’m sure I’m not alone, but if I relied heavily on reading content my friends shared on Facebook as the main mechanism toward shaping my world view, it wouldn’t contain many angles. The secret lives of cats, or babies, or babies and cats in listicle format, or communal outrage over the next crazy conservative that got elected provides a kind of self-fullfilling echo chamber. On the whole, your Facebook friends are your friends because they are like you (except for the odd ‘truther’ outlier, we all have one or 2 of those), which makes it  the perfect place to socialize online, but not as a destination for all the news that’s fit to print.

I like to think I read the news online not to confirm my beliefs on how the world should work, but to gain exposure to new ideas and nuances that challenge how I thought things and people operated.

A future with One Book to Rule Them All seems dull and dangerous.