One Year of Direct Mail

I’ve just moved into a new flat, and it has prompted me to think about projects which last 12 months, the length of my contract in this place. The first project was waiting on my doorstep before I even moved in.

Junk Mail.

I’m going to capture the entire body of direct mail which I’m sent whilst I’m in this place.

Stuff which is anonymously door dropped, stuff which is marketed directly at me. Stuff which is incorrectly sent to me. I’m interested in seeing how long it takes for my details to appear on marketing lists, how targeted and relevant the content is, and the sheer volume of paper pushed through my door.

I’m not sure how interesting it will be to follow, but there might be some interesting data from the back of it.

You can follow the project at its tumblr, http://oneyearofdirectmail.tumblr.com and I’ll be tweeting project related tweets via #1yearofDM

ryn

Sounds of Spotify – August 2014

August’s playlist from my Spotify hugging.

Notable mentions to Icona Pop for brightening even the dullest mornings, the Churches remix of Hurricane, and the discovery of Echosmith.

The highlight of the month though was this little love-in with the “amazingly talented and no doubt going to be massive” Ryn Weaver (I think the rule is.. if you’re collaborating with Passion Pit, you’re going to do well), Kate Boy and me:

I’m heading to see Kate Boy live at XOYO in November. Super excited.

market

Probonobo

About two years ago, I wrote this proposal – a concept for a marketplace which matches charities with talent, to support them with their digital and communication needs. I called it Probonobo, a dirty portmanteau of Pro-Bono and a joke about an infinite number of monkeys.

Apart from the fact that most of my ideas are based upon puns, the infinite monkeys aspect is really important – an infinite number of monkeys may well produce Shakespeare at some point, but charities cannot afford the (infinity-1) failed iterations until success appears – it cannot be random, it has to be well directed, because people’s free time is valuable, and charity’s work is important.

I’m posting the idea here for two reasons:

a) All good ideas which have sat in a drawer for longer than six months should be free and public, so a busy originator doesn’t become a reason for the idea to not be realised

b) Re-airing the idea gives me some focus and reflection upon what was good about it, and what was too complex. I’m learning in recent years that simplicity over all else is critical. If you’re trying to get across three points, reduce it to one, and start from there.

The idea is great, but it takes too much to get off the ground. The initial idea could be as simple as “create a place where briefs can be shared and improved”. The delivery piece can come later, the heart of the idea is about getting to better briefs (or rather the right objectives).

So, inspired by a conversation over dinner on Thursday night, I’m airing the idea publicly, and this might lead to something happening.

Retail

Facebook Buy – frictionless innovation

Facebook’s recent introduction of a ‘buy’ button, allowing users on desktop and mobile to buy advertised products with just one click, and without leaving the social network, is yet another demonstration of social platforms looking towards monetization beyond display advertising.

The new feature, which so far has only been tested by a few small and medium-sized businesses in the US, is Facebook’s most recent innovation in the realm of frictionless commerce and will help the social network be less reliant on advertising.

It isn’t just Facebook exploring direct and affiliate revenue. Twitter has just announced the acquisition of CardSpring, a payment infrastructure, that enables retailers to connect to publishers to create online-to-offline promotions; Pinterest, meanwhile, has teamed up with Shopify, an e-commerce platform for more than 100,000 merchants, which ensures that all pins of their products include valuable information such as pricing and stock availability.

These approaches enable platforms to become more insular experiences, almost like shopping malls – allowing users to socialise with their friends, grab a coffee, find and share new content, search and purchase products, all without leaving their space. Whilst Amazon has huge capabilities in commerce and fulfillment, they lack the social dynamic – and social platforms integrating commerce means you can have a more enjoyable ‘browsing’ experience, without having to leave the space.

The rise of media convergence, driven not least by the unprecedented growth of mobile device usage, is increasingly bringing commerce and content closer together. The constant assault of new technologies, whether Facebook’s ‘buy’ button, Amazon’s FireFly or examples like PowaTag, which allows consumers to instantly purchase products via QR codes, are continuing to break down the old models of what, where and how retail is defined – e-commerce is now becoming ‘everywhere’ commerce.

The biggest threat to retailers now comes from standing still.

Not exploring and experimenting with new distribution channels will open up opportunities for new forms of competitors, enabling them to steal ‘share of time’ and even poach customers – a dangerous scenario that retailers can no longer ignore. Now is the time for retailers and brands who exist in retail spaces to work with their partners, and understand how they can use these technologies to redefine their retail experience, and redefine how media can deliver business value.

(Originally posted on Retail Week)

tube-crop

Edges of London – the numbers

I generally like to look at the data of the projects which I work on (mostly so I can see what nonsense I’ve signed myself up to).

chart

Whilst I am clearly lacking in terms of ability to visualise interesting data, here’s a chart I’ve created to show myself the journey times from shortest to longest from my common starting point of Richmond for the Edges of London project.

The rule is simple – travel only by the tube network (i’m including DLR and overground), no buses, no cheating.

The closest, naturally, is Richmond, of 0 minutes travel time.

The furthest is Chesham, with an estimate of 110 minutes (although as I travel most on weekends, that is probably an underestimate, Amersham was a solid two hour journey).

In total, I have about four days of travel ahead of me.

The scale of the project is clear when you look at the tube maps against a geographical map of London.

Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 02.05.14

 

As you’ll notice, the map when laid out geographically bears practically no resemblance to Harry Beck’s heavily stylised map of the network.

The edges of the map stretch way way out beyond what would traditionally be recognised as London – with Amersham and Chesham in Buckinghamshire,  and Epping up in Essex. Even Richmond station, my ‘Station Zero’ for the project is in a borough made up of parts of Middlesex and Surrey.

I’ve used the excellent CityMapper as my guide, and I’ll be logging more data as the project unfolds.

The raw data is here if you want it, and i will try and keep it all within the same structure/sheets.

(I’d love to find an visualiser who can help me with making these aspects of the project more appealing to look at too).

An image from my new project - Edges of London.

Take a look at http://edgesoflondon.tumblr.com/

Edges of London

My new project “Edges of London” launches today.

I’m building a slowly growing photographic collection of visits to the end of every tube line.

Over the course of the next 12 months or so, I’ll be travelling to the 35 stations on the London tube network which are the end of a line, and capturing the conversations I have with folk, as well as anything interesting I spot visually.

The first station was Amersham.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Twitter for Strangers

I have a growing sense of unease about what I do and who I follow.

Reading introspectively about what our industry does, new technology, new applications of that technology, new behaviours – it all feels like a meta-exercise.

I don’t want to read about what my peers are doing.

I want to read about what people I don’t know are doing.

I need a type of twitter for people who I don’t follow.

Every day, my feed would be created of new, interesting, passionate folk, who I’ve not met and don’t know what they do, talking about their day, and their work, in every field of life.

Imagine it like a magazine or podcast, with that wonderful editorial curation that brings you new ideas, but rather than long form articles, just their passing thoughts and whimsy.

An exercise in serendipity perhaps.

tv tricolour dots

Open in my browser right now…

Tabs open in my browser right now:

Gmail (natch)

RINGLY | Smart Jewelry and Accessories

Use Sparingly

Cotton Bureau – Build for Love by Noah Jacobus

Outdated Browser

How To Survive NYC – Business Insider

swissmiss | Tattly + Rifle Paper Co

Shiner

swissmiss | Playing Card Deck by Debbie Millman

swissmiss | Remember to Drink Water

Freedom – Internet Blocking Productivity Software

Alain de Botton on Pessimism – YouTube

 

All courtesy of swissmiss – the never underwhelming design blog

#AmazonCart

Amazon have launched their latest exploration into frictionless shopping – #AmazonCart (or #AmazonBasket for UK audiences).

Their latest concept allows consumers to add items to their Amazon basket without leaving the confines of Twitter. If they see an amazon product link, tweeters can simply reply including a hashtag #AmazonBasket, and the item will be automatically added to their shopping cart, waiting for when they next check-out, no doubt fuelling impulse purchases, and helping spread amazon product links organically too. Even if the consumer doesn’t checkout, Amazon will be hoarding interest data on which links are gaining traction at an individual and segment level.

Whilst coverage of the new approach has discussed this being a result of a partnership between Twitter and Amazon, this technique doesn’t at all rely upon any relationship between the two technology giants – any brand could build this based upon Twitter’s open API without their intervention, which raises questions about how easily Twitter can be excluded from revenue opportunities using their platform. Twitter have previously attempted to launch pay-by-tweet mechanics, such as their partnership with American Express in early 2013, and even earlier than that twitter-commerce platform Chirpify offered a ‘order via a tweet’ mechanic – but both have so far met with limited success or consumer adoption. News of a potential partnership between Twitter and online payment provider Stripe surfaced in January of this year, although that has yet to be seen to provide opportunities for the social network.

Amazon are a relentless innovator when it comes to omnichannel retail and rethinking how purchase journeys exist, both building upon existing digital consumer behaviours (like regular purchases via their Amazon Subscribe and Save concept), or sparking new ones (like showrooming).

Personally, I feel Amazon always lose in the ‘browsing’ stakes, their online experience delivers nowhere near the joy of wandering around a bookstore or physical retail environment, so it makes sense that they’re branching out in order to find different ways of consumers stumbling across or browsing their product catalogue, whether it be through a gap in the fridge (Amazon Dash) or this latest addition of your friends and network mentioning products.

Other retailers should absolutely take a leaf out of Amazon’s book, in exploring how other platforms outside of their direct control, like Facebook or Twitter, can be turned into transactional channels utilising simple techniques like this, and constantly look for new consumer behaviours along the entire purchase journey – not just at the point of consideration or purchase, as the businesses which make the most of effortless action to add an item to a basket, or at the very least register your interest, will lead in the next phase of multi-platform retail.

A week without Facebook

It’s been about one week since I deleted all my friends on Facebook. And I’m still here.

(Read my original post about the reason behind leaving facebook)

I wasn’t able to delete my account. For a number of reasons, I manage a handful of pages or communities on Facebook, like Disposable Memory Project and The 100, and deleting the account would have meant I had to hand over control to another user, which isn’t the right thing to do right now. Additionally, I use Facebook Authentication for SO MANY services that deleting my account would have been painfully disruptive.

So, I removed all of the friends.

What is left behind? Nothing but page likes and advertising. Facebook without people is sad place.

It is a really poor portal with streams of content from brands that you once had a passing engagement with.

As a result, I haven’t checked Facebook once this week.

So the immediate result is that I have freed up a great deal of time which I spent browsing through updates and social content. I mostly miss this on train journeys or whilst waiting for things. I have seemingly replaced it with increased use of:

a) Podcasts – I am now listening to more content
b) Feedly – I am reading content and articles, rather than updates and comments
c) Messaging – I’m responding to more emails and sending more WhatsApp and SMS
d) Music – listening to more music
e) Nothing – I seem to look out of the window more often

As far as connecting to my friends in a more meaningful way, I’m not sure that has happened yet.

Why? Because Facebook teaches us to interact with our social network in a frictionless way.

In two forms:

1. Post to your network, and see who is interested.
2. See what your network is posting and react to what is interesting.

It feels like the lowest effort possible, you’re throwing out something that MIGHT interest SOMEONE, and you’ll get a response.

Rather than thinking about who might be interested in the specific thing you’re doing, and telling them.

It also makes me think more about what i am doing that I would share.

“i’m making cheese on toast” – i would happily post that on twitter/facebook/instagram, but would I write to a friend and tell them that? No, probably not.

“i’m thinking about you” – i would happily send a message to someone about that, but would I write it publicly on a wall? No, probably not.

And finally, I’m only making cheese on toast. I have very little interesting content to truly interest my friends. So I need to do two things:

1. Ask my friends what they are up to (because I don’t know ambiently any more)
2. Do more things that are interesting in order to have things to talk about

Also, I got sick, and I lost my voice this week.

I don’t know if that is related, but losing my voice seems apt.

I hope I will get it back next week.

Happy Easter.

Downloads from the messy head of Matthew Knight.