TV Apps Kickoff – 3 Things You Need to Know

TV Guide TV app available through YahooThe 2010 Superbowl officially kicked off the Age of TV Apps. The technology has been around for a few years and is already available to many people. But Vizio’s TV app Superbowl commercial was the kickoff heard ’round the world.

So what are TV apps? In a most basic sense, TV apps are like the applications you download for your iPhone. Small, limited-use software that allows you to personalize your hardware.

New stuff that was once only available for your computer — and then for your iPhone — is now available for your television. If you have Direct TV or Verizon FiOS, some of this is already baked into your cable box. Obviously you can get TV apps on the Vizio TV, but also on many Samsung and Sony televisions as well.

You can already use things like Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook on your TV.

Here are three things you should know about TV Apps

1. The technical field is relatively open.
Sure, there are some key players like Yahoo who have already set themselves as leaders, but that can change.  Currently, Yahoo controls the application and administers the software development kit (SDK). Note: From our personal experience, Yahoo was somewhat slow in distributing the SDKs to developers. That’s unfortunate because that could irritate programmers who could create an open-source system that could render Yahoo’s TV Apps technology obsolete. If you have the desire to create apps (or even a completely new OS), the time is now. The tech is in place for you to build the next great widget, gadget, social network, or living room app.

2. TV apps will present design challenges.

Weather TV app available through DirectTV

TV apps will face several user interface challenges. The most notable is that most people don’t have a keyboard on their television remote control. Sure, you can pull one up on the screen, but as you can imagine, typing with a little remote-control button is a pretty poor user experience. If you’ve used a Wii remote to create a Mii character, you know how tedious it can be to type out a long name. Designers will clearly make the difference between apps that succeed or fail. The old design rules will need to evolve to take advantage and address the limitations of a 10-foot interface.

3. Content & marketing opportunities will need to evolve.
The iPhone and other smart phones forced content developers and marketers to rethink the way we package messages. Long-form had to give way to shorter, more relevant messages. If not for mobile communications limitations, Twitter would have never gained a foothold in society. Face it, a 140 character message fits better on a cell phone screen than, say, a PowerPoint presentation. People who mastered the Twitter format (including URL shorteners) emerged pretty quickly as masters of the medium. And the marketers quickly caught on with brand messages. That’s a long way of saying that the new language of TV apps is still in flux. If you want to create content or marketing messages for TV apps, try to figure out what works with this new interface.

If you’re already exploring TV apps, congratulations. You’re probably going to have a head start on this unique and exciting new communications channel. I look forward to seeing what you create.

LINKS, NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS:

7 Tips for Better Flickr Traffic

Since I first discovered the analytics features in Flickr, I have been obsessed with my stats. I just can’t help myself. Stats and analytics fascinate me. (Note: Stats are only available to Flickr Pro users.)

Here are a couple of observations regarding Flickr’s chocolaty goodness:

  1. Post consistently. My stats hovered around a depressingly low number for many months. The key to getting more views on photos was to actually upload photos more consistently. Sounds obvious, but the reality is that people in a social community tend to interact more with people who are contributing consistently.
  2. Give the people what they want. If you know what photos get the most traffic, that means there’s an audience for your work. If people like your dog photos and label them as “favorite” then keep posting your dog photos.
  3. Share timely events. My stats skyrocketed recently when I uploaded 388 photos in one batch. (Thank you Flickr Uploader!). I attended the Long Beach Comicon 2009 and uploaded my pictures within two days of the con. My average views went from 500 a day to over 5,000 per day. That’s a HUGE increase in traffic. Not all of it is sustained, but I have definitely increased my daily views significantly.
  4. Include links to your other sites. The traffic from Flickr to my personal website BuddyScalera.com is increasing. The more people look at my Flickr photos the more they go check out my webpage. I saw a pretty nice jump when I uploaded that batch I just mentioned. Flickr users tend to check out my photo reference books, which is good.
  5. Join groups & create groups. I belong to dozens of informal Flickr groups. Plus, I’ve created two Flickr groups, which has increased my overall photo traffic. Since I have particular photography interests, it makes sense for me to contribute to certain groups. But some of my interests didn’t already have a group, so I created Long Beach Comicon – Official Flickr Group and Comic Book Creators & Pros. One complaint: they don’t give administrators much access to group analytics, beyond giving a list of members.
  6. Participate. People are sharing their photos online because they want the world to see their pictures. Give people feedback on their photos. If you share a comment, people will want to see your photos, which will increase your base of viewers.
  7. Contact ’em. There’s a “friending” feature on Flickr called “Contact.” Basically, it’s like friending someone on Facebook, except you get a feed of new photos that is being uploaded by your contacts. If you like someone’s work, you can check out their work in thumbnails as they upload the images. And unlike Facebook, people on Flickr are uploading photos, so you don’t have to wade through dozens of throw-a-sheep and super-poke invitations.

More on Flickr in the future. In the mean time, check out 10 Tips to Boost your Flickr Profile. Very good article about increasing Flickr traffic.

Microsoft + Yahoo = MicroHoo Search

The Search landscape is once again changing. With Microsoft’s purchase of Yahoo, there seems to be a new challenge to Google, which currently holds a majority share of search traffic. In fact, Google is both #1 (through Google.com) and #2 (through YouTube, which is not typically thought of as a search engine).

It’s always exciting to see new innovations and changes. To their credit, the folks at Google have not simply sat on their lead. They keep giving us search marketers new and interesting tools for attracting leads and running Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaigns.

Microsoft’s Bing search engine has been showing a lot of promise, and we’re already running campaigns there. MSN search always had some intriguing demographic targeting tools, but they never pulled enough traffic to see if the system would scale.

As they join forces with Yahoo, it will be interesting to see how MicroHoo (that’s Microsoft + Yahoo to you) approaches services beyond keyword search. Let’s see some solid new ways to drive and measure relevant traffic from content, site, and video targeting.

Microsoft and Yahoo have some solid resources and assets. It will be interesting to see if Yahoo can effectively pull properties like Flickr, Delicious, Yahoo Video, or even Avatars into Search. On Microsoft’s side, they have some interesting properties that could be part of Search, including Silverlight, X-Box, Zune, Healthvault, Money, Streets, and Windows Mobile.

Let the (new) games begin!

Picasa Goes Mac Desktop

Most dedicated Mac users I know tend to use the iLife applications that come with a new Mac. While not particularly glamorous, these apps work well together. Apple’s integration strategy makes the whole suite hard to resist.

But as the Mac market share increases, we see more companies developing new and interesting applications for OSX. Google just released a Mac desktop version of Picasa, which is designed to appeal to iPhoto users.

Based on this video, Picasa for Mac has some interesting features, particularly the ability to sync your online galleries.

I use Picasa to share pictures, so I’m likely to try the new Picasa for Mac. Picasa is functional, but not as good as Flickr for sharing pictures.

But considering the fact that Flickr is owned by Yahoo, it may be time to explore other picture-sharing networks. Yahoo’s future is pretty hazy, and they are likely to get purchased by another media company. That means networks like Flickr could undergo some significant changes.

Picasa may not be perfect, but knowing that it is backed by Google helps me have more confidence that my pictures will survive online. And the step to embrace the Mac platform just makes me plain ol’ happy.

Flickr & Picasa Your New Photos

I’ve been posting more pictures these days to photo sharing sites. My two current favorites are Flickr and Picasa.

Picasa (owned by Google) offers some nice sharing features, including the ability to embed your photos inside your blog. It makes it easy to share a gallery…except on WordPress. (Unless I pay for a WordPress upgrade.)

At least I can embed a preview image that links to the Picasa gallery:

Random Photos by Buddy Scalera

Flickr (owned by Yahoo) is also a cool service, but it only allows you to insert a link to your gallery. That’s sort of old school, considering all of the cool things you can do with widgets and code.

Flickr has a really vibrant and engaging social network, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular. I can join groups where I can share my photos and I can track photographers I like.  By comparison, Picasa’s social community is a little weak.

On the other hand, Picasa offers many cool features, including the ability to upload video and embed slideshows. For the same features, Flickr requires you to pay $24.95 to get the premium features, which include basics like the ability create multiple galleries.

If one of these sites offered the right package, I’d certainly be willing to pay. Of course, I want to pay according to my needs. So, I’d pay $12 a year for upgraded consumer services on Flickr. And if I wanted pro-level services, I’d be willing to pony up $24.95. With only two choices (free or $24.95), I’m sticking with free.

On the Picasa side, I’d like to see Google do a better job of integrating their other services. I already use many Google services, so I’d pay extra to have them synchronized. Again, give me some pricing thresholds, and I’ll choose the one that makes the most sense.

Flickr & Picasa Your New Photos

I’ve been posting more pictures these days to photo sharing sites. My two current favorites are Flickr and Picasa.

Picasa (owned by Google) offers some nice sharing features, including the ability to embed your photos inside your blog. It makes it easy to share a gallery…except on WordPress. (Unless I pay for a WordPress upgrade.)

At least I can embed a preview image that links to the Picasa gallery:

Random Photos by Buddy Scalera

Flickr (owned by Yahoo) is also a cool service, but it only allows you to insert a link to your gallery. That’s sort of old school, considering all of the cool things you can do with widgets and code.

Flickr has a really vibrant and engaging social network, which is one of the reasons it’s so popular. I can join groups where I can share my photos and I can track photographers I like.  By comparison, Picasa’s social community is a little weak.

On the other hand, Picasa offers many cool features, including the ability to upload video and embed slideshows. For the same features, Flickr requires you to pay $24.95 to get the premium features, which include basics like the ability create multiple galleries.

If one of these sites offered the right package, I’d certainly be willing to pay. Of course, I want to pay according to my needs. So, I’d pay $12 a year for upgraded consumer services on Flickr. And if I wanted pro-level services, I’d be willing to pony up $24.95. With only two choices (free or $24.95), I’m sticking with free.

On the Picasa side, I’d like to see Google do a better job of integrating their other services. I already use many Google services, so I’d pay extra to have them synchronized. Again, give me some pricing thresholds, and I’ll choose the one that makes the most sense.

Which 1,400 search engines do you use?

Okay, sharpen your keyboards, and get ready to search. Which of the 1,400 top search engines do you use?

What? You only use Google? Pfeh! You mainstream, conformist, follower. (Use Yahoo? Don’t gloat, it’s not exactly “indy.”)

By industry estimates, there’s over 1,400 search engines floating around these days. Really. Here’s the Top 100 Alternative Search Engines.

And that doesn’t even include http://www.cuil.com, which recently launched.  (It’s pronounced “cool.” Yes, really.)

Some of the others have equally creative names like ChaCha.com, Twerq.com, Twingly.com, Famhoo.com, and Mahalo.com.

So why so many search engines? Well, most engines have highly specialized search parameters. That’s a fancy way of saying that they narrow searches to a specialized audience.

Again, so why so many search engines? Well, if you’re Summarize.com, it’s for profit. Twitter.com bought the Twitter-only search engine Summarize.com for a cool $15M.

Search is big business and it’s getting bigger. Hey, I have a great idea. How about a personal search engine for everyone in the world? I’ll make billions!

What? Oh yeah, they already have that at Rollyo.com.

That’s clever web-speak for “Roll Your Own.” Oh…how cuil.

Free Isn’t Really Free

Lots of people, including me, use free applications. This blog is on the free version of WordPress.

But free really isn’t free. There’s always a price.

As Google grows, more people register to use their free tools, including GMail, Google Documents, YouTube, and this little tool called “Search.” Yes, and it’s all free. We love free, right?

Google is a for-profit company that has a responsibility to it’s shareholders and employees. The smart engineers who write the code for these free applications…well, they need to get paid. Everyone needs to get paid.

So how does Google make money? Well, right now, they leverage the immense amount of data that they capture every time we do a search. Or they monetize the content of our emails. Or our social networks. Or our video viewing habits.

And it’s all legal and completely above board. It’s right there in their privacy policy, if you choose to read it. It’s really not Google’s fault if you dont read the fine print. Google is an exceptional company, creates a lot of great of amazing products and does a lot of wonderful socially responsible things. But all this is made possible because they also run a hell of a business.

Google, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, WordPress and others offer free services with the hopes of getting a LOT of people to register. Then, they monetize it by selling profiling data about how we use their free services. (Note: Broadcast television and radio work in similar ways. Newspapers charge a fraction of what it costs to print and deliver the paper. It’s all fueled by advertising.)

Many people are thrilled that there’s a free alternative to Microsoft’s Office suite. But when you buy their software, you get a certain amount of protected anonymity. Microsoft isnt data mining information from your private Excel spreadsheets, but free services like Google Documents and Zoho can. The front end of these services are free, but they need to find a way to earn a profit. And currently that’s done by aggregating user behavior and selling it to advertisers.

There’s really no such thing as free. And with Internet applications, free is a temporary concept. Eventually, we will all have to pay.