martes, 31 de enero de 2012

10 new specialist qualifications for the digital industry

Posted 30 January 2012 10:44am by Vivien Underwood with 0 comments

There's a whiff of triumph in the air: ten new specialist qualifications for the digital industry, each seeking to provide the skills needed to become a confident practitioner in disciplines as diverse as Analytics, SEO, UX, and Social Commerce.

Econsultancy's new Graduate Certificates offer an accredited route to mastering the implementation of a range of core digital skills and offer supported learning on the job.

Created in direct response to client demand (and our own findings in the recent Skills and Structures report), these new qualifications are an important development for us.

Not only are they the first UK qualifications to address the needs of specific digital disciplines at this level (as opposed to generalist courses) but more importantly, from the perspective of creating a professional development narrative for digital marketers, they fulfil an important role in the provision of flexible yet coherent education.

In short they're manageable and practical. 

Creating a new qualification comes with a mysteriously archaic process all its own, including an invitation to appear before the validation panel and 'sell' your proposed programme to a group of senior academics.

Gaining recognition for ground breaking subjects which are new to academia is always a nerve wracking process. There is nothing else to do but hope that they see as much value in accrediting your specific subject and structure as you see in gaining their validation.

Granted, at Econsultancy we're becoming old hands at this but happily, as of Monday, our new Graduate Certificates have been given the seal of approval.

To date, we have offered digital education at opposite ends of the spectrum. Attend a one day short course or undertake a full MSc. At six months' part time study, the Graduate Certificates occupy a more manageable middle round, offering a route to professionalization within your chosen field.

Think of them as an extended training session, but with time to reflect and implement what you've learnt whilst receiving support from the experts. They are an ideal fit for those looking to break into the industry, or wanting to formalise their skills in a particular area.

Qualifications within digital are still viewed with some skepticism but the industry is maturing and people like to have a frame of reference for their knowledge progression.

There is, of course, no substitute for experience, but accredited learning that allows you to highlight your professional areas of interest and benchmark your expertise against a recognized set of standards is powerful for both the individual and industry.

The new Graduate Certificates combine an external and globally recognized seal of approval, whilst having a direct and measureable impact on people's day to day working lives. And if you can combine education and experience, so much the better.

The first Graduate Certificates beginning on 2nd May are on Web Analytics and SEO. Applications will be accepted through to March 31, but a £250 discount is available to everyone who returns their application forms before close of play on January 31. 

Polling App Makes Blog Feedback Painless

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

QuipolName: Quipol

Quick Pitch: Quipol is a web application that makes creating and embedding polls on blogs easy.

Genius Idea: Quipol allows bloggers to get feedback from their audiences with a super simple and customizable polling template.

If Quipol were an ice cream flavor, it would be vanilla. It's delicious by itself, but meant to be individualized by each person. Instead of sprinkles, nuts and hot fudge, however, Quipol customization allows for video, pictures and comments.

Think of Quipols as quick polls — extremely pared down versions of online polls (see right). Each poll displays one question with thumbs-up and thumbs-down options. A comments section encourages chatter.

The idea behind Quipol is to make customizable polls as simple and elegant as possible, Max Yoder, the 23-year-old entrepreneur behind the new web application, tells Mashable.

"I think of traditional polls as a hunched-over half ape," Yoder said.

Yoder believes Quipol's two answer options aren't as limiting as you would think because they encourage bloggers to be creative with their question wording. Plus, they force readers to go with their gut and not be wishy-washy with their answers.

Yoder started developing the poll application eight months ago and tested the prototype with the groups that Quipol was meant for — fashion bloggers, avid Tumblr users, political bloggers, entertainment bloggers and tech bloggers. Forbes Magazine was one of the biggest early adopters. But Quipol was made for anyone to use — the average blogger who wants to get feedback about issues they care about.

Looking ahead, the goal for Quipol as a company is to keep the partnerships coming. Quipol is viewed by many as a company that does one thing very well, and big companies and small businesses use its product so they don't have to write out and upkeep a polling dock.

"Building kind of a pared down poll will guide the ship," Yoder said. "We will be here for you for all development, resources and upkeep."

SEE ALSO: HOW TO: Poll Consumers on Facebook

There are many polling software products for online audiences. Toluna also lets users add videos and pictures to polls; Micropoll doesn't require registration to create polls and PollDaddy gives users access to surveys, polls and quizzes on various platforms including e-mail and Twitter.

Yoder's goal for the end of the year is to gain 25,000 users and really improve the product based on continued user feedback. People can already sign in for free with their Facebook or Twitter to embed their own polls. There is also a new video element where they can add a YouTube video directly into a poll (see video below). They can be as creative with the pared-down poll as they want.

Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

Microsoft BizSpark

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

eBay upgrades Motors app to include visual search

Posted 30 January 2012 15:10pm by David Moth with 1 comment

eBay has upgraded its Motors iPhone app to allow users to search for a vehicle simply by taking a photo of it.

Other new features on the app, which is only available in the US, include broadcasts from key racing events in the video section - plus the ability to share your sales activity through Twitter.

The new search tool allows users to identify a car's make, model and year by taking a photo of the back of the vehicle, these are then matched with listings on eBay Motors.

The auction site has long been an advocate of m-commerce and was on track to achieve $5bn of sales through mobile in 2011.

It also announced that more than 1m listings were made each week through its mobile platform.

eBay identified Motors as one of its core sales categories alongside homes and gardens, fashion and electronics, and it currently sells around 2,800 vehicles worldwide each week through its mobile platform.

eBay spokesman Clare Moore-Bridger said the popularity of buying and selling cars through mobile had been surprising. "People don't expect our customers to be willing to buy cars using their phones, but we have sold Bentleys and Porsches through mobile in the UK."

She said eBay is the most popular site for online car sales in the UK, largely due to motor enthusiasts and those renovating cars searching for deals or spare parts.

The app's new video section reflects eBay's assumption that a lot of mobile shopping is inspired by what shoppers see while they are out and about.

Live content was streamed from a Daytona race event last weekend to raise awareness of eBay Motors among racing enthusiasts.

Moore-Bridger said that the idea was to put the auction site front of mind with racing fans so if they saw an interesting item at the event they would use eBay to try and buy it.

Using this same logic, eBay opened a shop near London's Oxford Street in December to promote the site as a destination for Christmas shopping.

When shoppers are inspired by an item or an event we want to make sure that they use their phone to shop for that item on eBay."

As well as video content, the Motors app includes a 'custom garage' feature that finds suitable parts for your vehicles.

eBay says that this provides a richer experience, encouraging them to come back regularly instead of simply focusing on the transactions.

The company has also launched an exclusive range with designer Derek Lam to promote a separate fashion app in the US.

The items included in the collection were decided by a vote among eBay customers, with the most popular item on sale exclusively on mobile.

Moore-Bridger said eBay is investigating the possibility of securing exclusive fashion lines in the UK in 2012.

Fashion is very important for us, it's an area of growth and we are increasingly seeing returning customers. The aim of our Fashion Store is to highlight that you can buy new, designer items on eBay, it's not just about second hand or discount goods."

David Moth is a Reporter at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter

The big tip for 2012: convergence is here

Posted 30 January 2012 14:31pm by Caroline Morris with 0 comments

Multichannel strategy has been on the agenda for the past few years, it is not a new phenomenon.

Whether marketers have reached multichannel nirvana is up for debate, but we've no time for that now, we've moved on. 2012 is all about convergence.

Consumers are multi-tasking, technology savvy, interactive individuals these days. They don't differentiate terms such as channels or devices like marketers do, they are just engaging.

I might be chatting to friends online about a wedding invitation I've just received via my laptop, receiving a text message on my smartphone all whilst watching TV. Channels are converging due to new technology and a shift in consumer behaviour, and we need to keep up.

The concept of the second screen is an interesting one, and a major contributor to the convergence debate.

Let's look at TV as an example. Broadcasters used to have our undivided attention, now they have competition. Rather than battle against other media and channels, TV is all about convergence.

Game shows are beginning to encourage convergence, inviting viewers to play along at home via the internet. For example, 'The Million Pound Drop' allows a viewer to play alongside the live broadcast, which allows the broadcaster to share the statistics of how the viewers at home have been scoring throughout the show. 

And of course the new kid on the block, Zeebox, is exploiting the fact that consumers are browsing the internet while they are watching TV by bringing social and traditional media together.

The service requires the user to select the programme they are watching and presents them with a screen showing general information about the show, related links, and a Twitter panel.

This provides a platform to tweet and view tweets about the show in real time. This service is also connected with the users Facebook account.

Zeebox shows the user 'Live Zeetags' (things that are currently being tweeted about via the platform). This is very powerful and may even persuade the consumer to switch channels if they see a trending topic of interest.  

Convergence can support interactivity and ultimately drive engagement, but how do marketers tackle this?

Four top tips for dealing with convergence:

No channel is a silo

Convergence defies traditional marketing structures. With so many channels communicating to the consumer, it is crucial that the marketing teams join up to ensure they are transmitting the same message.

That's not to say we don't still need experts or specialists, but these experts now need to consider the wider marketing mix and consumer activity.

It's nice to have options

Every internal part of the organisation should be concerned with the customer; the customer is king.

If you're not 'linking up' and diversifying the channels you communicate through, then you're missing a trick. Utilise channels, enable channels to converge and encourage consumers to interact.

Collect data

Data allows companies to gain greater insight into their customers' behaviour and improve channel interaction.

If you don't understand which channels you're customers use, when they use them and how they use them then optimising channel interactions will be a challenge.

Don't sit still, it's moving fast

Technology and strategy are moving at an exceptionally fast pace. No company can afford to 'just sit still'. Lewis Carroll wrote about this in 'Through the Looking Glass' (1871) during a dialog between Alice and the Queen:

'Well in our country' said Alice, still panting a little, 'you'd generally get to somewhere else – if you ran very fast for a long time, as we've been doing.'

'A slow sort of country!' said the Queen. 'Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!'

Even if you are at the top of the industry, you must keep moving otherwise you may be overtaken by a competitor. A company needs to run in order to stay in the same place, and sprint to move ahead. 

Caroline Morris is Innovations Director at Sky IQ and a guest blogger on Econsultancy. 

Clear To Do App Has Some Surprising Design Inspirations

It's increasingly difficult to build buzz around new mobile application studios, especially when the first app on deck is something thousands of others have attempted, like a "To Do" app. Yet that's exactly what Phill Ryu and David Lanham, the two masterminds behind Impending, Inc. have managed to do.

Ryu and Lanham are longtime members of the Mac and iOS development communities. Ryu's past projects include MacHeist, The Heist and his work at tap tap tap. Lanham is a visual designer and artist, creator of the famed Twitterrific icon and is well-known for his work at the Iconfactory.

Last week, the pair formally launched Impending, their new app venture, alongside a teaser for their first app, Clear. Clear is a new to-do list app for iPhone and iPod touch that they're developing in conjunction with the team at Realmac Software.

So why is Clear getting so much buzz? Check out the teaser video that has already racked up 312,000 plays in just four days:

Clear features a unique new UI and interaction scheme that raises the bar for mobile apps. I've been beta testing it and can attest that the video is an accurate reflection of the overall experience.

We had a chance to talk to Phill Ryu about Impending, his plans for the future and the design inspirations for Clear.

On His Future at Tap Tap Tap

"Well you know, John and Scott and I are still good friends and I am still a partner at tap tap tap. But there's no question Impending is my focus right now. I think you will see some really cool stuff out of tap tap tap and maybe even some neat things in collaboration, but Impending is definitely the place for me and David to work on some more personal projects.

Tap Tap Tap is its own steam engine right now and David and I want to take a break in a slightly different direction, and you are going to see some really cool things come out of it."

Design Inspiration

What separates Clear from the crowded space of to-do list apps is its design and overall user interface. According to Ryu, the Impending team was influenced by Push Pop Press's work on the Our Choice app, Loren Brichter's work with Tweetie and Microsoft's Metro UI.

On the subject of Push Pop Press, a company Facebook acquired in August, Ryu tells us:

"They did some amazing things there, and you can see a lot of its influence in Clear's lack of UI chrome and reliance on intuitive 1:1 touch and dragging interactions. And of course you can see an even more literal inspiration in iBooks textbooks."

One of Push Pop's engineers was Austin Sarner, who Ryu describes as becoming "completely obsessed with springs" thanks to his work on a proprietary physics engine while at Push Pop.

It just so happens that Sarner is also one of Ryu's roommates and was able to provide his own feedback on the app.

Another developer who inspired Clear was Loren Brichter. Brichter created the iPhone app Tweetie. In 2010, he sold Tweetie to Twitter and the app became the official iPhone client. Brichter was also responsible for Twitter for iPad and Twitter for Mac.

Although Brichter left Twitter in late 2011, his influence is still visible in many parts of the site and in the new version of the iPhone app. Brichter's greatest impact on the wider iOS developer ecosystem was the invention of "pull-to-refresh." Ryu calls Brichter "a creative thunder ball" and pays homage to the developer in his app.

"In Clear," Ryu explains "we have a color heatmap that shows your item priorities. Well, sometimes you need to put in an item in the middle of the list, and to do that in our app you just pinch the list apart, and in pops a new item. That's our homage to pull-to-refresh. We call it pinch-to-insert."

Perhaps the most surprising influence is Microsoft and its Metro UI.

According to Ryu, Clear co-creator Dan Counsell's first UI mockup of Clear was "a more directly Metro inspired visual style." "Over time," says Ryu "we pushed away from it to settle in our own sweet spot of fit and form and function, but you can see parts of it there, and we're proud of it. Metro is great. Clear is just better."

Ryu has an open invitation to anyone on the Metro team to the Clear beta.

Ultimately, Ryu says that the goal with Clear was to "build on the shoulders of some of the best parts of our favorite cutting edge interface designs" and to "add our own stuff where it made perfect elegant sense." The net result, according to Ryu, is "something truly from the future."

From my time with the app, Clear has a great look and more importantly, a great user interface. We look forward to seeing what Clear and the Impending team have planned for the future.

What are the digital marketing opportunities Down Under?

Posted 31 January 2012 01:01am by Jake Hird with 0 comments

The shifting digital econony is something I've written about in depth previously, with the main focus of my thoughts being mostly towards the BRIC countries and other parts of Asia.

Recently, though I'm seeing growing evidence pointing towards the fact that Australia should probably be given an equal amount of due care and attention as these other countries in the coming few years, by marketers both inside and outside the country.

There's rapidly growing opinion within the financial markets that the strength of Australian currency is going to be long-term, as is the country's healthy overall economy, which forms a key factor behind my change of perspective. 

The second element is the emerging state of the digital industry in Australia. Fuelled by readily available technology and Government initiatives, consumer digital adoption is at an all-time high, and arguably the digital industry is struggling somewhat to keep up. 

During the creation of Econsultancy's State of Digital Marketing in Australia report (in association with Marketing Magazine), identifies various complexities in the current digital environment of the country, but at the core of this, one theme in particular emerges. 

This is the predominate fact that although consumers are increasingly becoming highly active online, but digital marketers in the region are finding a challenging marketplace.

This is due to a number of reasons which are explored in the report itself, such as a lack of leadership from senior management and widespread digital skills knowledge gaps. 

Consequently, this forms into two two different areas of opportunity, as in any emerging digital economy:

1. The need for internal marketers to adopt a rapid "do-or-die" approach to the marketplace to take advantage of online adoption among consumers.

2. The opening for external marketers to take advantage of a relatively insular marketplace, where hisorical barriers of entry are being lowered by associated technologies. 

The first point is pressing, especially in relation to second. Without national organisations in the local online space, consumers are turning to international sites. 

This in turn is resulting in these companies identifying gaps in the market and to start moving quickly to secure their place, often using other independent platforms such as eBay to establish themselves. 

Currently, there are a  number of recognised brands tactically moving sights of Australian consumers and even Amazon is rumoured to be eyeing the possibility of setting up a fixed base, which potentially could strike a huge blow to national retailers. 

As one respondent to the survey succinctly put it: 

It doesn't help that the Australian dollar is so strong, as this is encouraging international online shopping behaviour.

I realise that these points are broad generalisations, but the evidence does currently point towards these factors and is equally apparent in the Australian State of Digital Marketing report. 

However, it looks like any international marketers wanting to cut a slice of the pie in the country will increasingly have their work cut out, as the marketplace appears to have reached a tipping point, where digital is climbing to the top of the agenda.

When asked if they were planning to increase marketing budgets over the coming year, a massive 70% of client-side marketers intend to up their digital budgets, comapred to less than a quarter (24%) who cited the same for traditional, offline budgets.  

Supply-side respondents also demonstrate a similar picture, with 81% saying that their client's digital budgets will increase, contrasted with 14% who say that the offline budgets of clients will rise this year. 

Findings in the report also show that the digital landscape in Australia is rapidly shifting, as local marketers are aggressively planning to seize the low-hanging fruit that can be found, again meaning that outside organisations may struggle in the future to find their footholds. 

Overall, the emerging digital economy in the country won't be on the same kind of scale as is visible in the likes of China, Russia and India, nor will it follow the same pattern of development. But it is full of opportunity and promise, and given various factors, should certainly be an area for digital marketers around the world to watch closely, at the very least. 

Review: CNN app for Symbian

Published by David Gilson at 7:47 UTC, January 30th 2012


Getting the latest news is one of the most basic needs of an always connected smartphone user, whether through an app or the mobile web. 'CNN app for Symbian' provides news in both text and video across a varied range of topics and geographical regions. It also supports the emerging field of citizen journalism by integrating CNN's iReport service. How well does it all fit together?

With only two navigation tools, the CNN app has a refreshingly simple layout. There is a toolbar across the bottom with context sensitive icons, and a horizontally scrolling list of news topics across the top.  From the homescreen, the toolbar has icons for news headlines, iReport, and videos.

The topics covered by CNN are Top Stories, US, Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East, Business, Sport, Entertainment, Tech, and Travel. This horizontal list is present in both the text-based and video sections. Given that CNN is a US based news service, UK residents may well be disappointed by the lack of focus on British news.

The CNN app and its news headlines.

While viewing text stories, the toolbar icons change to show only "Back" and "Share" – somewhat staying within the Nokia Belle style guide. The Share menu launches all the options I consider mandatory for this type of application: SMS, Email, Twitter, and Facebook. Each news story leads with two bullet points that give context for those not familiar with the background of the story – as a reader, I appreciated this.

CNN articles and sharing options.

Video story lists are presented clearly in either portrait or landscape orientations – just like the text based stories. However, the landscape mode presents large thumbnails in a horizontally scrolling carousel that really sells the content.

While most applications that stream video opt to use Symbian's internal player, CNN has a custom player, which streams in high quality. Tapping the screen while videos are playing reveals controls for volume, timeline, pause, and back (to video selection). There's no way to share a video though, which is a shame.

Video story thumbnails.

The CNN app has a homescreen widget and supports push delivery of breaking news. However, during my testing neither appeared to work. This was either due to connectivity issues at my end or something that will no doubt be fixed in the next version.

Breaking news settings and homescreen widget.

This app isn't just about content delivery though – CNN has an initiative called iReport which embraces the emerging field of citizen journalism. As the name implies, this is where members of the public can contribute reports, photos, or videos from the scene of an event. Other, more open, platforms for citizen journalism include Blottr and Wikinews.

Once in the iReport screen, the toolbar changes its icons to Back, Featured, Assignments, and Submit. "Featured" gives a list of stories and photo essays submitted by readers. Meanwhile, "Assignments" contains posts by CNN requesting specific subjects for iReport features.

Selecting your content to upload.

The first step in story submission is selecting or creating a photo or video.  You then select which assignment you're submitting to, and finally enter a title and type your story. You'll find the current version (1.3) is a little out of date as it does not support Symbian Anna's split screen keyboard, so navigating large bodies of text will be tricky. Instead, I suggest you type descriptions in another application, such as Notes, and then paste into CNN.

Choosing your assignment and telling your story.

You obviously need an account, and you can create one if it's your first time. There's no guidance on creating a password though – I had several failed attempts before reading iReport's desktop website. Apparently, the maximum password length is 10 characters, and I typically use more than that!

I was impressed with the CNN app – the text and video news are very well presented, and you can submit your own news! I'm glad to see a news service inviting the public to contribute, and I hope other services, like the BBC, will follow suit with similar apps for Symbian. You can download the CNN app from the Nokia Store for free.


David Gilson, 29th January 2012.


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6 Ways to Give Your App a Leg Up on the Competition

Paul Baldwin is the chief marketing officer of Outfit7 Inc., a subsidiary of Out Fit 7 Ltd, the leading entertainment app developer. Paul has more than 17 years of experience developing, marketing and monetizing digital entertainment content.

Spend a few minutes browsing through both the Android and Apple app stores and it's easy to see the fierce competition for user attention. The number of apps has grown to more than 1 million, each vying for downloads and market share.

The app development world is still very top-heavy, with a very small percentage of developers controlling the majority of downloads and revenue. But that in no way means that a newcomer can't build a successful app that captures the hearts and minds of consumers, and becomes the next big thing.

Since the app stores themselves control which apps are elevated and highlighted, how can you ensure your app gets time in the spotlight and the attention it deserves? Here are six tips drawn from experience.

1. Focus on Product

The best way to get your app noticed is to build a unique and engaging product. Although that's an article all on its own, let's sum it up in a few key points.

Know your exact market and who you're competing against. This will help you understand your target user — what he expects and likes and who else is offering apps to him.  

Great apps are also usually the first in their category, or apps that completely reinvent existing categories. A big sign that you have a great app is when you start seeing copycat apps. Embrace them and use them as motivation to continue.

Another element that great apps have in common is fun. You want to make your app something that users will come back to again and again, rather than a one-time, disposable thrill. Whether that means creating lovable characters or tapping into the human desire to compete, remember to deliver fun the first time and every time after.

Also, great apps are simple. No user guides should be necessary to participate, and there should be nothing to "figure out" from a user standpoint. They are intuitive and immediately easy to grasp.

Finally, the last big hallmark of a phenomenal app product is the ability for users to make the app personal through customization features. Today's app audience is constantly wondering what's in it for them. Allow them to make it theirs and they'll more likely become instantly enamored.

2. Allow Users to Engage Others with Your App

These days, more developers are using social media as part of the app as a major key to its success. Your customers' word-of-mouth multiplies your network a hundred times over without costing you a dime, so be sure to put mechanisms in place that allow users to talk about the app and share experiences with friends.

For example, if your app enables users to create fun videos, make sure they can share those videos with others. This type of direct experience sharing will go a long way in spreading the word about your app.  

Caveat: Don't "over-viralize" your app with too many social features that don't make sense.

3. Get Media and Blogger Attention: Make It Simple

Media attention and especially reviews of your app can really help to spread recognition. To get that kind of attention, though, you have to have a solid app to begin with, a great story around your app, and it absolutely must be easy to talk about.

The tendency is to come up with the most ingenious, compelling app, filled with loads of features but none that really stand out. This is called "feature creep" and usually spells disaster. Remember, the launch is just the beginning. Successful apps are always adding new content months after launch. If reporters and bloggers (and users for that matter) have a hard time explaining what your app is, what it does or why they like it, they're less likely to talk about your app. Keep version one simple.

To make your app easier for media to cover, provide materials like press kits, beta codes (if necessary) and reviewer guides. It also helps to identify technology and pop culture trend stories that your app can fit into.

4. Continue Your Marketing Efforts

When your app launches, you'll definitely want to have a marketing strategy in place to seize your launch window of opportunity, but it's also important to continue marketing long after launch.

Many developers find pre-launch strategies helpful for grabbing attention. This includes creating a "coming soon" page that teases your app a bit, collecting emails for those interested in the first look, and even extending first invites to target publication audiences.

Make sure you exhaust every "co-marketing" opportunity out there with other app developers. Some major publishers will trade their app installs for your app installs. Everybody is in the same boat, in the same huge ocean of apps. You might be surprised to find that other developers are more than happy to participate in reciprocal marketing.

The important thing to remember is that app marketing windows are perpetual, meaning you should establish marketing vehicles that you can trigger at your discretion over long periods of time. That means plan, plan, plan.

5. Use Analytics 

When developing apps, you have all kinds of data at your fingertips to evaluate how your app is being received. Use analytics to monitor your ranking and as a marketing tool.

Become a student of the Android and iOS category rankings (e.g., entertainment vs. games). Each category has its own nuances for determining "top" rankings, so be sure to evaluate each one. Understand why the app moved up in the rankings in order to iterate and improve your own ranking over time. Additionally, if you have a good sense of what is moving the bar for your app, you can also learn from what the top developers are doing.

More importantly, in my opinion, is that you leverage the wealth of analytics available from your app to make your app better over time. Not only will the data help you iterate and improve your app from a technical standpoint, but it will also allow you to create the right content to which users connect. Once the app is live, analyze the data to update your release schedule and product roadmap.

You can also learn when your customers are willing to "rate your app" or be pitched another app in your portfolio. Analytics can shed light on how frequently you should attempt to cross-sale or suggest another item for purchase.

6. Prepare for Success

This tip may seem a little strange at first — who wouldn't be thinking about success? But in reality, many apps start strong then fade and fizzle. Preparing for success is as much about your product as it is about the team behind it.

It's crucial to structure your team in a way that supports hyper growth. It's good to rely on a more fluid and dynamic network of expertise and project teams than a rigid structure.

Think of your app as a brand that will enable you to leverage brand extension opportunities. Build your apps to welcome future cross-promotion opportunities, rather than intrusions on the user experience.

The best way to prepare for app success is to constantly focus on keeping your users engaged. Give them more than just product updates once they've downloaded and become fans of your app. Give them instant fun, addictive experiences that they will want to share with friends.

Whatever your secret sauce is or has been, be sure to nurture it to keep your users wanting more — and deliver your app in a way that surpasses user expectations.

Image courtesy of iStockphoto, svariophoto, Flickr, ItzaFineDay

How would you improve the Nokia N8?

Published by Steve Litchfield at 10:46 UTC, January 30th 2012


It's somewhat amazing that the Nokia N8 remains in the top tier of smartphones a full 16 months after release - it's fair to say that this is almost entirely due to its camera, with perhaps build quality and gadget-complement contributing too. But no phone can go on forever. If you were Nokia and wanted to produce an "N8 mark II", what would you add/tweak? What's practical? What's worthwhile?

N8-X??I should stress up front that I've no knowledge of Nokia's plans for 2012. We know that it is committed to Windows Phone now, as well as Symbian, the latter in 'franchise' status (a term I still find confusing), but I for one am still optimistic for a couple of last great Symbian smartphones announced this year. Is it possible that one of these could be high end and succeed the amazingly popular N8? Of all the Symbian^3/Anna phones, it's the only one that has really made waves, the only one that has endeared itself to millions of users.

So... sitting down with the N8, how would I improve it? And yes, I know that product timescales dictate that this very (hypothetical) thought process would have had to have taken place inside Nokia a good year (or more) ago, but the exercise is still worthwhile here, if only to recognise that even the mighty N8 has shortcomings and to consider practical ways that it could have been bettered.

Let's call this imaginary new device the N8-X...



Form factor

There's general agreement that the N8 form factor is just about perfect, in terms of size and feel in the hand. The use of metal is uniformly praised, the device is very tough (I've dropped mine countless times) and I'd class the N8 as 'reassuringly heavy'(!) The screen bezel on the N8 is such that a 3.7" or 3.8" display could be squeezed in fairly easily for the N8-X, taking the phone closer to the 4" screen 'sweet spot' of today's  competing Android smartphones (plus the upcoming 'iPhone 5' is rumoured to be around the 4" screen mark).


At (say) 3.7" diagonal, Symbian nHD (640 by 360 pixels) would still work quite well in terms of pixel density. If Symbian was still being developed with a high budget and many future devices, I'd suspect that we might see pixel doubling to 1280 by 720 displays on 4" and 4.3"-screened devices, but even with Accenture on board for development now, I think it's a little late in the day to radically overhaul Symbian's basic screen resolution - so nHD it is.


The N8, famously (along with the C7), missed out on the ClearBlack Display revolution, being specified just a few months too early in the grand scheme of things, so the N8-X would have CBD, making for clearer, higher contrast visuals, indoors and outdoors. In fact, there might as well be an oleophobic coating as well - this worked well on the C7.

It goes without saying that the N8-X should have Gorilla Glass - the N8 was pioneering here and the technology is now more or less standard in the smartphone world.


Symbian Nokia Belle, of course, the latest iteration of Symbian, with the most 2012-friendly touch UI yet. Some of its design points are a little alienating to long-time Symbian users, but I reckon it's well worth getting over these points in order to gain the performance improvements under the hood and in main applications. Plus increasing amounts of software, both utilities (latest Nokia Social) and HD games are appearing and requiring Belle as a minimum.

Combined with a slightly larger and even clearer AMOLED screen, Belle should prove quite palatable on an N8-X, even set against the eye candy of huge 720p displays on some of the (significantly larger and less pocketable) Android competition and the 'retina' iPhone 4. Display technology certainly won't lead the world (though CBD is nice), but it'll easily be 'good enough'.


Processor, memory

Although Symbian is generally pretty good at multitasking, there's no doubt that it could be snappier. Belle will help with this, of course, but in the N8-X I'd be looking for the same 1GHz chip as in the 701, together with its faster GPU and the 512MB of RAM (double what's in the N8, of course). 

The N8-X, like the N8, should also have the best of both worlds in terms of mass memory and expansion via microSD. I don't think the current '16GB plus card' arrangement should be touched, to be honest - every time Nokia has moved to 32GB mass memory we've hit performance problems and they're simply not worth it. With the card expansion as well, anyone who needs an extra 32GB can simply pop in a card as needed.



As good as the N8's camera is, with a huge 1/1.83" sensor and Xenon flash, the very fact that anyone appreciates why it's good will see them wanting even more. Although the best of the competition just jumped to 16 megapixels that kind of resolution on a sensor in a phone isn't really warranted - the law of diminishing returns definitely hits somewhere around the 12 megapixel mark, even with 2012 sensor technology.

So what would I want from the N8-X's camera? To be honest, not a lot extra. Maybe the sensor could be made larger still, perhaps 1/1.5" - which in turn would mean that 16 megapixels would actually make sense. The optics are already excellent, but I would ask for basic camera glass protection, as on the N95, N82 and N86 - hang the extra millimetre, not having to wipe the glass free of fingerprints before every photo would be a big convenience for me. And there's the really nice feature that opening the sliding protection could start the Camera app, just as on the older models quoted.


And yes, I realise that a larger sensor and camera glass protection would necessitate a slightly thicker 'hump' on the N8-X's back, but this is a specialised smartphone and every purchaser will hopefully know exactly what they're buying - not everyone aspires to a phone that's razor thin.

Having a proper Xenon flash, 100 times brighter than LED, was a major feature of the N8 camera but it was let down ever so slightly by being dimmer than that on the N82 (for example). It's all relative, but I'd like a bigger Xenon unit, something which could light up a room like that on the N82 could, rather than just nearby subjects. With the extra camera hump thickness on the N8-X, fitting in a larger Xenon flash module and capacitor should be no problem.


Definitely a change needed here. The 'integral' battery system of the N8 simply doesn't work, in my view. Although brave souls can change the BL-4D battery if armed with the right screwdriver, running out of power for most people means having to wait until the device can be charged again. All of which I don't understand, since the N8's twin sister device, the C7, with identical core specifications, manages to have a battery door and removable battery and yet its body is still a good millimetre or so thinner.

In short, there's no reason whatsoever why our hypothetical N8-X shouldn't have a metal battery door, C7/701-style, and the savvy photo-centric user can simply pop a charged, spare battery in a pocket in case power runs out after a lot of shooting while out and about.


In fact, with virtually the same width and thinner than the C7's BL-5K, I can't see why the 'hero' BP-4L Li-Poly battery shouldn't be used in this new device (hey, why not shoot for the moon)? With 1500mAh, I don't see why the N8-X would ever really run short of juice before the end of even a busy day.


The N8 comes with a loudspeaker that's a cut above the rest of the smartphone pack, with a larger cone and a power amplifier similar to that in the likes of the old Nokia 5800 and X6. While good enough, while we're redesigning the N8, why not put in an extra speaker, matching the two older music phones? After all, the N82 (the N8's spiritual predecessor) had loud stereo speakers, so let's put the same units either end of the new N8-X. You'd be surprised how often having a decent set of speakers helps in a phone...

2012 must-haves

Aside from the remarks above, there's not that much else the N8-X needs to hold its head high in the 2012 phone world - NFC is the big omission in the current N8, explained by the device's specifications being set in stone before NFC was available to the designers, no doubt. So the N8-X would have to have NFC, for tapping to share, pair, and so on - NFC in Symbian Belle is more advanced than on any other mobile OS, so it's a shoe-in on our hypothetical device.


So there we have the Nokia N8-X, my personal wishlist for what Nokia could create in an N8 successor. Not that anything I've said here will have any influence of course - as I said earlier, for an N8 successor to be announced this year, the design would have been set in concrete way back at the very start of 2011. But I can still dream....

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 30 January 2012

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The death of press release distribution services: the expert's view

Posted 30 January 2012 12:01pm by Vikki Chowney with 4 comments

The press release distribution service sits in an odd place within the world of communications. 

For a journalist, wires can highlight stories from abroad, or from niche industries that wouldn't normally be on your radar but turn out to be interesting. However, getting the balance right is difficult. Signing up to receive email alerts opens the door to a flood of unrelated, badly-pitched releases. It's a tough call.

For a PR, these wires are a reliable way to send out the releases that might appear dry, but your client insists on putting out - or need to be for financial reasons. You still need to write the story well, and tag properly, but it's a quick and painless way to get the word out.

However – as Google alerts, social networks and online communities grow in strength and accuracy when sourcing stories and building relationships – what becomes of the wires? Do they become less important? Do they cease to exist?

We reached out to several newswires to hear it straight from the horse's mouth, with the addition of one voice of reason to provide an unbiased viewpoint. Here's what they had to say.


What's the current state of press release distribution services? Are they as popular as they once were?

Tim Whitlock, co-founder BrandfeedWe're in the middle of a shift from the old fashioned notion of 'distribution' as one-way broadcasting, toward a more modern 'pub/sub' model; where content is pushed to us, but on our terms. Journalists expect not to be 'broadcast at' and want better control over the content that reaches them. For brands and PRs, we expect the web to make distribution easy; so good tools that aid our workflow without annoying journalists should remain popular.

Daryl Willcox, chairman DWPub: Yes, they're definitely as popular, more so if anything. What has happened is the market has got a little crowded, with a number of new services launching in the last couple of years. This means people have a lot more choice when it comes to release distribution services, though still only a handful offer true direct distribution to UK media in combination with significant online visibility.

Adam Parker, chief executive Realwire: It's a crowded marketplace with a plethora of service providers. They include the high cost traditional wire services, specialist services that are focussed on particular sectors or media, database and platform providers - and free services that a recent analysis exercise by Vitis PR demonstrated have generally very little or no value. With the current challenging economic climate meaning that there is often less good news to announce in the first place, the fact that we have seen volume levels still increase suggests services have retained their popularity. This may also reflect experienced users of distribution services being more selective with which service they choose from the array of options on offer.

Stephen Waddington, MD Speed Communications: The public relations industry is embracing social media and slowly moving to direct relationships where relationships are built via direct engagement. It's a long haul that will take a decade to work out. In the meantime wire services provide a short cut and though diminished will continue to have a role whilst these changes work through. The press release has become a general purpose document that an organisation publishes on its web site and issues via a wire service, not to inform the media of a news event, but typically to reach broader audiences and more often than not to satisfy an internal audience.

Wire services will always have a role in the financial market where a legislative framework demands that information is communicated simultaneously via prescribed channels.

Adam Cranfield, part of the digital communications team at Mynewsdesk: Good PR is about relationships, and carpet-bombing people with generic releases has never been a good way to start a relationship. Influencers in your sector are not just an email on a list – you need to engage with them on their terms, listen to what they are saying and measure how they respond to your content. Brands are starting to realise that they can offer so much more to journalists and other influencers than a dull, text-only press release every two months that goes out to every Tom, Dick and Harriett.

Journalists want news and content that is relevant, interesting and timely. Many 'news wire' services have a weak reputation for meeting those needs. Scattergun PR doesn't work, so communicators are choosing smarter ways to engage influencers online, such as social media newsrooms, multimedia content and real-time interaction enabled by social listening.


Is this a dying industry - or an evolving one because of the benefits to search? 

TW: Like any industry, this will survive as long as it keeps up with change. Services that embrace the way the web is changing our attitudes at work will thrive; those that don't will probably be left behind. Search isn't dead yet, but people need to trust the sources. Discovery and recommendation are more modern forms of search that the industry would do well to crack. 

DW: The search benefits of online release distribution have certainly revitalised the industry over the last five years. Now that the driving force is social media, as online press release distribution can be an affective way of reaching bloggers and other influencers. With the current enthusiasm for content marketing, release distribution is very complimentary to such effort. This is an evolving industry, no doubt about it.

AP: It's not a dying industry, but the services that haven't evolved must certainly be feeling the pinch. Search has been just one of the areas pushing services to evolve. Social media and the all too frequent (unfortunately) practice of poor targeting have also been drivers for change. 

SW: During the downturn there has almost certainly been an increase in demand for wire services as a catch all means of ensuring that a press release reaches as broad an audience as possible. It's often an issue of scale for large international organisations.

The online search industry has recognised the opportunity that press releases and wire services offer to build inbound links as a tactic to improve keyword search rankings. Faux news content is often distributed via a wire service with the goal of securing widespread coverage around target keywords and web links on editorially driven web sites that are ranked highly by search engines. It's a mechanical process to game results that is a flawed strategy that creates confusion and can result in reputational damage. Wire services need to innovative and work out their relative to information flows as media continues to fragment and social media develops. Those that recognise these changes and figure out how to continue to be relevant by embracing social media will thrive.

AC: Public relations is more vital than ever, but the days when you could convince a handful of journalists to spin a story and think 'job done' are gone. Search engines and social media make everyone an investigative journalist, so all brands need a plan for getting favourable content seen on Google, Facebook and Twitter. The fundamental strategy is to grow your network of influencers and to keep nourishing them with valuable, rich, shareable and original content.


What's the best practice in terms of using wire services? 

TW: If it's not targeted, personal and relevant to your audience - then you're doing something wrong. It's debatable whether you can blame the tools for that. Just yesterday somebody told me they were annoyed by the daily recipient limit in Gmail. Apparently unaware of MailChimp and such, they wanted to send the same message to 100 journalists. Sure, we could build you a tool that will do that, but we won't. We want to help the sender and the recipient, or rather - the publisher and the subscriber. That's the long way of saying: find a tool that makes your life easier without compromising the quality of what you're distributing.

DW: In all honesty I think many brands under-utilise press release distribution. There are so many benefits - not just the obvious wider reach to media and search benefits but also social media pick-up, direct to consumer communications and more - but some of this is quite subtle and only really works well as part of a concerted, long-term PR or content marketing campaign. Best practise I would say would be to identify what your real objectives are - whether that's gaining online visibility, reaching the media or both. This will help you to select an appropriate wire service. You also need to consider where your customers are. Many people are mistakenly drawn to international wire services as it gives them the perception of broad coverage, but you have to question the real value of the results you get.

AP: They should be used where they can add some value and increase the likelihood of achieving your objectives and that's all about relevance. Relevance in functional terms - if you have multimedia content to include then ensure the service can cope with this and doesn't charge exorbitant add-on costs. Relevance to you or your client's business - make sure the wire you use has an understanding of the sectors and areas of interest you are trying to target. Finally, relevance in terms of the approach to outbound distribution; do they only target potentially interested recipients? Beware claims of reaching tens of thousands of people.

SW: Align the service with your audience as closely as you can.

AC: News wires aren't the answer and press releases shouldn't be used in isolation. If a release does its initial job of piquing interest, the likely next step for a journalist or blogger is to search for further information. This is when you want to be the best source of information about your brand, by providing a fully integrated social media newsroom, multimedia content and multiple ways for them to connect with your brand.

Patriots Player Uses Spotify, Facebook to Share Pre-Super Bowl Mix

Ever wonder what athletes blast in their headphones to get hyped before big games?

Well, wonder no more thanks to a Facebook post by New England Patriots running back Stevan Ridley.

"Super Bowl Pre-Game Mix!!" Ridley wrote on his Facebook wall on Monday, accompanying a 12-track Spotify playlist. Ridley's New England Patriots face the New York Giants on Sunday in Super Bowl XLVI.

Ridley is active on Facebook and Twitter, frequently interacting with fans and posting reflective updates like, "Fake friends will never ask for food. Real friends are the reason you never have any…" But his Spotify playlist offered a unique window inside a professional athlete's life.

Now let's take a closer look at what gets an NFL gladiator pumped for the biggest game of his career.

The mix is all hip-hop. A decade-old song by Outkast — "So Fresh, So Clean" — is the one relative classic. It joins more recent tracks by artists including Rick Ross, Drake and Wale.

Up first is "You The Boss," in which Nicki Minaj repeatedly tells Ross that he is, in fact, the boss. Ross confirms that multiple times in the verses, at one point mentioning that he has 40 cars.

In the playlist's second song, Jay-Z offers that he "balls so hard mother****ers wanna fine me."

In the third song, "Legendary," Wale reveals that his "only fear is mediocrity" and that he's just "trying to be legendary."

It shouldn't be a surprise if you're sensing a theme of ambition and success here. Ridley's list is short on introspection and emotional tenderness. But would you listen to anything else if you were preparing to butt helmets with the Giants' fearsome defensive line?

You'd probably want to feel more like Kanye West when he asks rhetorically in the mix's eighth song, "Who gonna stop me? Who gonna stop me, huh?"

Ridley's Spotify playlist includes only edited versions of the songs. But we doubt that the censored tracks are what Ridley will actually be nodding his head to for a pre-Super Bowl lift.

Did you enjoy seeing what an NFL player listens to to get hyped up? What would you include on your pre-game playlist? Let us know in the comments.

BONUS GALLERY: Who to follow on Twitter for the Super Bowl XLVI scoop

Image courtesy of Stevan Ridley's Facebook profile