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Howcast

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Internet access speeds, lower cost of video equipment, and ease of video sharing has lead to an expansion of video content on the web.

3 former Google employees have launched a site that is positioned as a video based “how-to guide” to pretty much anything. In their words, “Imagine an ever-expanding universe of how-to knowledge, created for you and by you. That’s Howcast“.

The site also effectively uses Wiki technology to encourage collaboration / updates from users.  Examples include “How to clean your ipod”, “How to store an unopened bottle of wine”.  The site is well laid out and designed to capture feedback as well as commentary in line with today’s “conversational web”.  The videos follow a similar format where an instructor explains what is needed to complete the task, followed by step-by-step instructions explained in a voiceover. If users want to write their own “how to”, they can use the Howcast template; scripts are then sent to film school students for production.

The “How To” web market has a number of existing players such as Instructables and Expert Village which have been focused on text / image based content.   

Contributors to Howcast also benefit from distribution deals that syndicate content through other channels such as Joost, Verizon’s VCast.  This is a clever business model as it will enable Howcast to grow quickly. 

I couldn’t help thinking of the possibilities this structure has for mainstream education.  Howcast generates the “learning objects” and then effectively uses latest technology tools for teaching.  All you would need to add is a module that tracks what learning objects you have viewed, and testing to measure both the effectiveness of the learning object and to ensure students have grasp the concept being explained.

Consumers turn the Tide

Super Bowl advertising isn’t cheap, and at nearly $2 million for a 30 second spot it is the most expensive placement you can make.

So if you are going to advertise during the Super Bowl, there are some basic things that you should get right.

1. Create a microsite for the ad and show the URL in your commercial. If you are spending that much on placement, having a microsite is almost mandatory.
This year 84% of ads did this and unlike last year these URL’s led to the right landing pages.

2. Purchase search ads so that consumers can find your site before / during and after the event. 70% of this year’s advertisers did this. 28% purchase Super Bowl related keywords.

3. Call to action. Only 6% of ads had some kind of call to action in their ads. Ads that cost this much to run should link a promotion or competition to the ad to extend the investment. One of the best forms of promotions is one that invites people to interact with your brand.

Proctor & Gamble is doing just that by inviting consumers to submit spoof ads of the Talking Stain ad. The ad features a guy interviewing for a job and a stain on his shirt cleverly translates his comments drawing the interviewers attention. Since the airing of the ad, 5,500 consumer generated spoofs have been uploaded to the spot’s microsite mytalkingstain.com. image

These can be viewed on Youtube here. Free ringtones, and related buddy icons are also available. You can also interact with the commercial by “being the stain” which is powered by Oddcast’s lipsyncing tool.

Reprise Media has a full scorecard on this years Super Bowl ads available as a PDF download.

Frontiering phone interface

Interacting without keyboards has become easier thanks to developments like the iPhone with its intuitive touch screen interface.  During its development, Apple patented every aspect of the proprietary technology, leaving little for other mobile-phone manufacturers to improve upon.
But Nokia has filed for their own proprietary “Touch User Interface”, which measures the hand and finger movements in a 3D space around the device. The Nokia S60 3D Touchless Device Control Interface.nokia s60

Ultrasonic Transducers (USTs) arranged around the perimeter of the display allow the device to respond to hand and finger movements without requiring the user to touch the screen.

So you won’t have to clean your fingerprints off your screen !

Wearing Cause Stories

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Stories are the best forms of communication, and ones that you can wear can be great forms of conversation starters.

For charities, getting potential donors to feel involved with a cause can be difficult.  Rosa Loves facilitates this by selling t-shirts which have both a graphic and a story describing the cause they are supporting. The story is placed on the inside of the t-shirt next to the wearer’s heart to invoke a personal attachment to the cause.

Causes can be as simple as a person in need, or a disadvantaged community, but each one has a specific goal and a defined funding requirement.
60% of the sales from each t-shirt goes directly to the cause.  T-shirts are hand-numbered and created in small batches until the required amount has been raised.

This is a great example of a product serving a growing need for authenticity and personalisation.