New Music Streaming Ads Being Tested

Music streaming sites are starting to pick up in popularity, and now some of them really want to take advantage from an advertising point, without flooding the site with a bunch of unnecessary ads. SoundCloud may have found the ideal way to do that by introducing a series of new ad products that it believes will draw new revenue for the site, along the same lines as Spotify and Pandora.

Ads from the likes of Red Bull, Sonos, Comedy Central, Jaguar and Squarespace will be available over the next few weeks, as part of a new campaign called On Sound Initiative. With it, promotions will feature the labels and distributors, comedy networks, independent artists and other programming. As mentioned, the ads won’t overlap the interface, and as a result of taking part content creators will receive part of the profits.

The introduction of this campaign could bring about new subscription pricing for the site. “We’re introducing advertising into the service now,” said Jeff Toig, Chief Business Officer at SoundCloud. “In the coming months, we’re going to introduce a subscription offering that allows people to remove ads if they want to remove ads, and it will have other features.” And, as expected, it will be completely optional for those who just want to sit back and chill with their favorite tunes.

As part of the campaign, there will also be promoted tracks, which provide a push to certain content through the desktop and mobile music streams. “Similar to (how a Promoted) Tweet on Twitter is a real tweet, it’s just promoted, these native ads are actually tracks that Squarespace will upload and then we promote,” said Dan Gerber, head of sales over at SoundCloud.

Squarespace currently offers a ten percent discount off its services through the campaign, while Red Bull is highlighting six individual artists through its set-up as well. So it sounds like it benefits quite a lot more than the usual business partners.

Audio ads are also being introduced, and these cannot be skipped, as they play out for about 15 seconds before the start of a song — similar to how YouTube sets up some of its videos. This program has already kicked off, as a few listeners may have already noticed.

What do you think Is this a smart promotional move for SoundCloud

Source: Adweek

Movie Theaters Go Interactive

Interacting with movies isn’t really that big a thing right now, even with Disney’s previous screening of The Little Mermaid where it invited viewers to “tweet along” with what was going on with the movie. However, Audience Entertainment could be introducing a new way to interact with the films people love.

With a new SDK the company is making available, audiences would be allowed to play along together, controlling actions on the movie screen with body motions.

Audience’s founder and CEO Barry Grieff, who brings big-time ad experience with his work at National Lampoon Magazine, Rolling Stone and Interpublic Group, believes that the idea comes from “a sea change in content creation,” shying away from the usual content in favor of better interactivity. By installing cameras that can track motion and sound, he believes that audiences can play along with certain experiences – and it’s not just limited to movie theaters, as concert venues and arenas can also take part.

The company’s software development kit enables third parties to create content for these platforms, which it plans to launch at the end of September during Advertising Week. Those interested in signing up for a kit can do so here.

This is the latest attempt to get audiences to “interact” with their movies, and while it’s too soon to tell if it’ll be any kind of success, it could very well get more people involved when it comes to pre-shows. Audience Entertainment already confirmed that it intends to bring the technology to 3,000 screens worldwide, thanks to a new partnership with digital cinema company Barco. No word yet on which theater chains will pick it up, but you can bet that some parties may be interested.

What do you think Are you ready to play along with the movies, or do you just want to sit back and enjoy the show After all, Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t going to play itself.

Source: TechCrunch

The Oculus Rift Is Coming To Hollywood

The Washington Post did an online piece last week about virtual reality’s possible future in Hollywood. According to the article, recent reports suggest that Facebook is now going after Hollywood studios and directors, asking them to create “Oculus Experiences” specifically for its virtual reality device, the Oculus Rift.

By putting on a virtual reality headset like the Oculus Rift, fans would (hypothetically) be able to interact with scenes or characters within the film, thus creating a more immersive experience for moviegoers.

Well, believe it or not, there have already been rumors that Hollywood directors might be willing to consider the idea. In fact, this past summer’s Comic-Con in San Diego featured “Drift with the Rift” promotions for three different projects — “X-Men,” “Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot” and “Sleepy Hollow.” Fans could strap on an Oculus Rift and experience what it felt like to be immersed in a virtual reality experience.

For example, you could pretended you were a pilot of one of the massive 250-foot-high Jaeger robots in “Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot.”

 

You could have also experienced a scene with the Headless Horseman or Ichabod Crane from “Sleepy Hollow.”

 

Or, if you were a fan of “X-Men,” you could have experienced a three-minute, virtual reality presentation involving Professor X and Mystique.

Image Courtesy Of The Washington Post

 

 

The important factor to take away from all of this is that fans could potentially become part of the storytelling experience, when real-world actions are transformed into virtual reality actions. 3D films were designed to make the movie experience bigger and more real. If virtual reality ever came to be, it would blow 3D out of the water–allowing actual interaction with characters and plot lines.

According to the Washington Post, Facebook could potentially get people to buy the Oculus Rift headset and then follow up with a steady stream of video content offerings, transforming the Rift from a pure gaming device into a video entertainment device.

This being said, virtual reality is still not ready for its Hollywood debut. The only current steps being taken to integrate this innovative technology into the movie business is discussions of developing companion shorts for feature-length films (similar to the way Guillermo del Toro did with “Pacific Rim: Jaeger Pilot”), as well as creating other types of shorter-form entertainment content designed specifically for the Oculus Rift.

In short, virtual reality could change the moviegoer experience entirely as well as create a big leap forward in long-form video storytelling experiences.
Source: Washington Post

OUYA Brings Games Service To China

While the OUYA has struggled to find footing in the ever-growing video game console market with its affordable Android console and game service, there’s no question that there’s potential for growth. One recent indication to this is the company’s recent news that it’ll be bringing its game service (but not its game console) to China, through a forthcoming partnership with Xiaomi.

Ouya has teamed up with the smartphone seller to bring its library of independent and popular games to living rooms, through Xiaomi’s streaming devices and smart TV’s. Xiaomi has been rapidly gaining market share in China, with many describing it as the Apple of China with its emphasis on design  — much of it based on Apple’s clean design language, but built around Android.

The deal benefits Xiaomi as well, since it just made its way into the TV and set-top box market last year, following its heightened success with selling smartphones.

OUYA chief executive Julie Urhman said details are still being worked on before the deal will be closed, but in the end, the service is likely to have its own devoted channel through Xiaomi software, available for installation on the devices. From there, gamers can shop to their heart’s content and try over 600 different titles available. Ouya’s titles have been optimized for use with a game controller, giving them an advantage over standard Android games that only work with touch screens.

“For the likes of Xiaomi’s MiTV, its set-top boxes and other Android set-top boxes that are entering the market, this could be a turning point … in bringing great content and developers to gamers and into a region that they have never had access to before,” Uhrman told Reuters.

As part of the deal, Xiaomi will probably play a part in marketing OUYA games as well, possibly opening up a large new revenue channel for the company, assuring its success moving onward. It needs every bit it can get, as the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One still take up a majority of the market with their respective next-gen hardware.

Considering the growth of the Chinese game market ($14 billion last year alone), this is a partnership that’s sure to pay off over time. “The whole industry is still in a very early development stage,” said Uhrman. “There is an opportunity for both” companies, she believes.

Source: Recode.net

Instagram Gives Brands Campaign Data Tools

When Facebook bought Instagram back in April 2012, it was hoped that Instagram would very soon get the robust tools and access to data that marketers were happy to get from Facebook. It appears the time has finally come for brands to get these tools on Instagram as well, a growing platform that has become something of a marketer’s best friend. The platform boasts some very high engagement rates, quickly catching up to Twitter in terms of users in the U.S. With only 71 percent of the Interbrand 100 brands on the platform, this may be the extra nudge that was needed to rope in the other 29 percent. After all, the ads have been proven to get some great results for a typically elusive audience.

The data is available in real-time and will give marketers access to figures like impressions, reach and engagement on both paid and unpaid posts. Marketers will also be able to preview ads before they even run to ensure quality.

Instagram discussed the new tools in a blog post yesterday: “An advertiser will now have access to a real-time campaign summary and data showing how their target audience is responding to each of their sponsored photos. Also, brand marketers will be able to better understand the best time of day to post a photo or video.”

Instagram has ramped up brand activity on the platform significantly recently, with a 49 percent year over year jump in brand posts with nearly 3 times as many actions on those posts than on similar posts on Facebook. Some concerns have been raised recently that with this significant brand activity growth, there is also the negative side effect on overall quality of the platform as brand imposters are also flooding the platform. We may soon see verified accounts on Instagram similar to Twitter and Facebook to solve this issue, but in the meantime brands are policing their reputations on the platform.

A look at Instagram's new brand insights dashboard.A look at Instagram’s new brand insights dashboard.

Source: AdWeek

‘Yoga Retreat’ Having A Real Effect

Yoga can be a great exercise to get into, even though not everyone “gets it” or has the effort to keep up with it. However, a new mobile release could inspire more players to get into it, as part of a way to get into the action.

Yoga Retreat is available now for iOS devices {link no longer active}, and serves as the “world’s first yoga-themed mobile-simulation game.” Developed by Finnish team Gajatri Studios, the game combines animated instructional yoga videos with a management simulation system that lets players design their own special yoga retreat on a tropical island, complete with smoothie station. (Lightweight smoothies, obviously.)

With this station, players will be able to manage their resort down to the last detail, while assisting would-be customers and expanding their resort to even greater heights.

So far, the game has done quite well getting people into the spirit of yoga in other markets, with 20 percent of players reportedly taking part in the activities that are featured within the game.

“Our goal is to be the healthy choice for mobile gamers worldwide,” said Tiina Zilliacus, founder and chief executive officer for Gajatri Studios. “This product will evolve both as a fun simulation game and as a casual health experience.”

Zilliacus is no stranger to yoga, as she’s certified in the exercise and helped put together the game to attract a female audience, even though males can play it too. Female audiences are big in mobile games right now, especially with Kim Kardashian Hollywood raking in over $200,000 on a daily basis.

“Once I started to look around (at) what mobile apps and games are available, I found the female games audience to be poorly understood and under catered with topics women are really interested in,” said Zilliacus.

The game is available now, and free-to-play, with in-game microtransactions for additional items. You can check out the trailer below to get an idea of how it works. Stretch!

 

#MustReads for August 22

Here’s some of the interesting stories we found this week rummaging in the odd corners of the Internet. There’s some deep thoughts and a laugh or two for you to digest this weekend:

The Internet’s Original Sin: It was advertising, according to Ethan Zuckerman, one of the architects of this. It’s a long piece that’s thought-provoking. What should the Internet be like

Social Media Marketing is Dead: Jeff Fromm has an interesting take on this. Don’t be wary of the headline. Social media marketing isn’t dead, per se. It’s just a component of your ‘content excellence’ strategy.

Swing Copters, clones and the dismal failure of the ‘open’ app store: Ben Kuchera at Polygon tells it like he sees it. The trouble with an ‘open’ app store is the variety of attempts to mislead consumers trying to find the real game.

Ad of the Day: Bryan Cranston and Arron Paul Reunite in Audi’s Hilarious Emmys Promo: One of the best ads we’ve seen in a while, with a great twist at the end.

Does Journalism Have A Future : Something to consider when you think about the future of media.

GameStop Rides The Next-Gen Wave

GameStop has had a wild ride in the last few years, with its fortunes tied so closely to the console business. The company bumped downward as consoles and console games decline in the years since 2008, and many observers wondered if GameStop was going to be the new Blockbuster Video, a victim of the evolution of the game industry to digital distribution.

Well, the naysayers are apologizing today as GameStop turned in a quarterly performance that beat its own estimates. Total global sales for the second quarter of 2014 were $1.73 billion, a 25.1 percent increase compared to $1.38 billion in the prior year quarter. A key performance indicator for any retail store is how well stores that have been established for more than a year did compared to last year; GameStop saw that consolidated comparable store sales increased 21.9 percent.

When it comes to profits, GameStop saw them more than double. “GameStop’s net earnings for the second quarter were $24.6 million, a 134.3 percent increase compared to net earnings of$10.5 million in the prior year quarter. Diluted earnings per share were $0.22, a 144.4 percent  increase compared to diluted earnings per share of $0.09 in the prior year quarter,” the company said.

Investors drove GameStop shares higher on the news, with the share price up over 5 percent this morning. They may be feeling a little better about the company’s prospects, but navigating the turbulent waters expected over the next few years is still going to be difficult. Although GameStop had a great quarter, it did not lift its guidance for the full year. The company is being cautious, watching so many big software titles get pushed out to 2015 — and it’s still not clear just what the long-term sales level will be for this new generation of consoles.

Analyst Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities is still positive on GameStop, looking for the shares to hit $60 (they are currently a little over $42). Colin Sebastian at Baird Equity Research is positive as well, looking for the shares to hit $52. Both analysts see GameStop riding the wave of next-gen well, and continuing to expand into technology businesses. “Q2 mobile sales were $112.1 million (up 85 percent from last year’s $60.6 million), with Technology Brands accounting for $70.1 million (roughly 63 percent) and $7.1 million of the company’s operating income (roughly 19 percent). The contribution highlights how important the new business will be to the company’s profitability in quieter periods for the video game industry,” Pacheter said in his note to investors.

GameStop’s terrific results were driven by mainly by next-gen hardware sales, which were up 125 percent. As well, new software sales rose 15.6 percent, which was roughly twice the growth of the overall industry. While that was great, GameStop also did well in other areas. “For the quarter, our digital receipts rose 18 percent, with console digital increasing 13 percent and PC digital increasing 24 percent,” said president Tony Bartel. “On a year to date basis, we have grown our digital receipts by 13 percent, which is essentially in line with the mid-teens digital growth rates of our top four publishers.”

Software sales for next-gen consoles are building as key titles make their way to market, albeit more slowly than anyone would wish. “The attach rate is still building, as publishers release more new titles. GameStop’s attach rate is now above four, which is 75 percent higher than the rest of the industry,” said Mike Hogan, EVP of strategic business and brand development. “In the nine months since launch, category-wide sales of next-generation hardware are 70 percent higher than the same period following the PS3 and Xbox 360 launch, and GameStop’s sales are plus 140 percent. During the same timeframe, category-wide next-gen software sales are plus 26 percent versus the prior generation launch and GameStop’s are plus 103 percent.”

Hogan also noted that GameStop is doing very well with its games division, both online and mobile. “In the second quarter, Kongregate, our mobile and casual games platform, hosted very strong results, growing plus 123 percent over the prior year,” Hogan said. “We currently have 12 games active on the IOS App Store and Google Play Store, with a total of 20 games expected to be launched by year end. We have multiple games running above a $10 million annual rate, and expect Kongregate to be a top-10 third-party mobile games publisher this year.”

All told, it looks like GameStop is growing its range of businesses very well while it rides the wave of next-gen consoles as far as it goes. The Technology Businesses (buying and reselling mobile devices, opening retail stores like Simply Mac) has been growing rapidly, and provides a hedge against a downturn in console sales. Perhaps most importantly, GameStop has been able to significantly capitalize on selling digital goods in-store, which many deemed a near-impossible task. It turns out, though, that knowledgeable advice at the retail point of sale is a great way to sell additional content for games.

While digital distribution is growing, GameStop is doing what it can to be a key place for gamers to get the info (and products!) they desire. Yes, we can now order a game through our console. But when we want advice on which one, or whether or not a map pack is worthwhile, maybe a trip to GameStop s indicated. And hey, if I need some money for a new game, I can sell some of my old ones that I’m really not playing any more. Besides, whenever I go into GameStop I always see something cool that I didn’t even know was out there, right

GameStop has many challenges ahead, but keeping a focus on the customers should help them through it. The GameStop Expo is in Anaheim in a few weeks, where GameStop will bring all of its managers together for a look at the hot upcoming titles and to get ready for the holiday season. Then GameStop throws open the doors to consumers, where tens of thousands of eager fans will get a chance to go hands-on with the big titles coming for the holidays. The [a]listdaily will be there, and talking with some GameStop executives to get their insights into the market ahead.

Comcast to Launch Internet TV Service For College Kids (AKA ‘Cord-Nevers’)

by Sahil Patel

What’s the biggest thing scaring the cable companies right now? The growing — and it is growing — threat of “cord-nevers,” otherwise known as millennials who have never paid for television, and as a result are not likely to once they are living on their own.

It’s a serious issue. According to a recent study by nScreenMedia, 19 percent of millennials currently live without pay-TV, and 98 percent of those have no intention of signing up in the next three months.

To date, most attempts by the cable companies to combat this issue has come in the form of TV Everywhere services, which allow customers to stream content across a number of digital devices — as long as they still pay for those channels. Some companies are also attempting to launch “internet TV” services, which would offer a smaller bundle of TV channels over the web at a cheaper price.

In essence, TV companies aren’t willing to let go of the TV model.*

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, that the latest attempt to get millennials to pay for TV is the same story, but in a slightly different packaging.

Comcast, the largest cable company in the US, is launching Xfinity On Campus, a new service that will let college students watch live and on-demand TV programming across web-connected devices like laptops, tablets, and smartphones while on campus.

The service is launching with several colleges on board, including Bridgewater College, Drexel University, Emerson College, Lasell College, and the University of Delaware, as well as others like the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Hampshire that are “trialing” the program with students in the fall.

Xfinity On Campus will offer approximately 80 channels, including every major broadcast network as well as cable favorites like AMC, Bravo, Comedy Central, ESPN, FX, and MTV. Students will also be able to check out TV shows on-demand via Xfinity On Demand, as well as upgrade to premium channels like HBO, Showtime, and Starz.

And if students happen to be off campus, they will be able to use their university credentials to authenticate and access TV. Everywhere apps like WatchESPN and FX Now. Soon, Comcast will also launch a cloud-based DVR service that will allow students to record and watch their favorite shows on devices, as well as “check-out” recordings by downloading them to the device for offline viewing.

Students won’t have to pay for the service — at least not directly; it will be included as part of room and board for those living in on-campus housing.

The hope, rather obviously, is that these students get accustomed to having cable TV as part of their daily lives, and will continue that practice once they leave college.

The party line is that services such as this are in response to viewing habits among younger consumers. “Xfinity on Campus lets students watch TV on their own terms,” said Marcien Jenckes, EVP of consumer services for Comcast Cable, in a statement. “With this younger generation, more and more viewing is happening away from the traditional TV set and we have evolved our products and services to better engage them.”

But the truth is, the issue isn’t delivering content to the devices that consumers are increasingly on, but getting them to continue paying the way they always have been.

* Because that’s still where the money is.

This article was originally posted on VideoInk and is reposted on [a]listdaily via a partnership with the news publication, which is the online video industry’s go-to source for breaking news, features, and industry analysis. Follow VideoInk on Twitter @VideoInkNews, or subscribe via thevideoink.com for the latest news and stories, delivered right to your inbox.

Brands Are Beginning To Show An Interest With ‘The Whistle’

The sports-focused multi-channel network The Whistle celebrated its recent success of accumulating 6.7 million subscribers earlier this month by opening a brand new studio in Dallas in addition to their existing offices in New York and LA. This YouTube allstar has garnered over 1 billion views, has a carefully curated network of 135 partner channels, and is now pushing to conquer the YouTube sports platform even further by attempting to team up with Xbox.

Last Friday, The Whistle launched its own free native app for Xbox featuring exclusive video content from their partner networks. The Whistle holds partnerships with some of the most popular sports creators on YouTube and has even configured deals with most major league sports, including the NFL, MLB.com, MLS, the PGA Tour, NASCAR, The Harlem Globetrotters, Major League Lacrosse and the Association of Volleyball Professionals–all of whom are scheduled to provide content for the app.

Considering Xbox and the Whistle already share a similar target demographic, with a platform that is also known for sports gaming, the potential crossover is highly appealing.

According to The Whistle’s EVP Brian Selander, the company’s goal is to “bring compelling sports content to the platforms where fans are spending their time.”

Brands are already showing interest in The Whistle’s new community. For example, Subaru has decided to sponsor the launch of the app, as well as collaborate with Whistle partner and Ultimate Frisbee star Brodie Smith on a video that will be featured on the platform to promote the launch.