Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Coupons often play an integral role in marketing strategy. They provide consumers with an incentive to purchase a product or service and open up additional revenue streams for businesses. However, the act of finding relevant coupons and cutting them out inhibits many consumers from taking advantage of the discounts.

Shooger aims to change all that. Available as an application for iPhones, Blackberrys or Androids, Shooger allows users to access deals by location, category or search. Consumers can then redeem the coupon in-store via their smartphone, share with friends on Facebook and Twitter, or clip, print and cut out for later use. In exchange, merchants can interact with highly engaged customers in a quick and cost-effective manner.

Although I believe Shooger will be successful, there are a few obstacles it must first overcome. As a young application and service (it was first introduced in 2009), Shooger does not offer many discounts. While using Shooger, I was able to find only one merchant (Buck’s Pizza) offering coupons in Madison. In addition, many deals do not offer enough of a discount to encourage use. In order to become successful, Shooger must incorporate more businesses with better deals.

However, although I foresee this application becoming successful, I do not believe it will reach critical mass. Shooger simply does not exhibit the characteristics or uses of other critical mass technology like Facebook and Twitter. Whereas Facebook and Twitter allow people to interact with family and friends, customize their online experience and have fun, Shooger merely offers people discounts. While everybody loves saving money, Shooger will not change people’s lives as significantly as other critical mass technologies that enhance information, engagement and interaction.

Monday, September 27, 2010

In the Loopt

With the proliferation of social media, we have increasingly allowed our lives to be read like an open book. We update our thoughts, feelings, activities and more. We have a constant connection with people even when they’re far from us. However, with every form of technology, it evolves and morphs into something new. It seems that the new is here now with Loopt.

Loopt is a mobile application that is described as “a social-mapping service that lets you use the location of your phone to discover the world around you.” It’s similar to Foursquare (in fact Loopt and Foursquare were founded and developed within a year of each other). Users can connect to their friends and see where they are in relation to themselves, what they are doing and share information. The goal is to become connected with the world around you with the people you choose. Friends can share ratings of places and events they have visited as well as photos, Facebook and Twitter updates. The company now has a suite of applications for users including Loopt Star, similar to Foursquare, Loopt Pulse for iPad users, and Loopt Mix, which allows users to look for new people  with similar interests and message them instantly.

Loopt, and applications like it, seem as though they would be the logical next step after our social networking sites that took off on the Internet. If we really want to be connected, we can use applications like these to truly connect with our friends by finding them and meeting up face-to-face.

However, with competition and the nature of the product, I’m not sold on how far Loopt will go in the process of becoming a popular social media application. With more popular competitors like Foursquare, Loopt may very well die out while its competitors become the go-to applications. Also, some people are turned off by this kind of technology; it’s essentially a GPS to find the people you are connected with. I personally find Foursquare and Loopt a little creepy – I have no desire to let people know exactly where I am (directions included). However, audiences even younger than the college-aged set may latch onto this media, grow up with it, and make it the next big thing.

Although the future of Loopt is unclear, it is clear that mobile location-based are the next trend to watch for. Our own age group is slowly adopting them, and it will be interesting to see where the next age groups take them in the years to come. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

QR Codes: making use of that camera on your phone

Maybe you've see one of these odd collections of black pixels in a magazine, on a flyer, or perhaps even stretched across the side of a building (unlikely unless you've regularly visited Times Square or Japan). Every time that you walk into College Library you pass one, but have you ever bothered to learn what the image was all about?

QR or Quick Response codes, like the one pictured to the left in Times Square, are 2-D bar codes readable by smartphones and other cell phones with cameras. The code can be linked so that when mobile phone users snap a picture of the code they are brought directly to the intended URL, video, image, or text. By integrating both the camera and web capabilities of mobile phones, QR codes mark a "new" mobile technology.

While QR codes are still working there way into the American mainstream, they have already been utilized in some unique ways. The first major use of QR codes have been for advertising and commercial uses. Some magazines have begun placing QR codes in advertisements (e.g. Elle magazine) to promote ad sales. Advertisers see this codes embedded in ads as a direct link to their website and thus an added opportunity to reach their targets. Billboards like those in NYC use the same concept.

QR codes have also been utilized for their ability to link to content unavailable anywhere else. For example, powerpop band We The Kings worked closely with Microsoft Tags (Microsofts version of QR codes) to offer tickets and unique music downloads to their fans both online and through codes handed out at concerts. I think that this use of QR codes holds the most potential for guerilla marketing and social organization.

They can also be used for more formal grassroots political and social movements such as Women of the Storm's use of QR codes to organize support around restoring the Gulf after the BP oil spill.

One of the latest uses of QR codes comes from Mogotix who has used the mobile technology to replace physical event tickets. Instead of carrying (and perhaps losing) the paper tickets, Mogotix send people who buy tickets a SMS version of their ticket that can then be scanned at the event in lieu of a physical ticket.

This technology obviously has the limitation of only being available to compatible mobile phone users, but I believe that the ubiquity of smartphones and mobile phones with cameras means that QR codes are the way of the future. QR codes future will rely on the trend of users switching to camera-equipped phones. I have no doubt that soon enough even my parents and grandparents will have to surrender their first-generation cell phones and upgrade to a camera-equipped phone or a smartphone.

I am Foursquared out....

<----(photo documenting horrible Foursquare dedication and usage)

The key to quality advertising is involving the consumer and providing them with some sort of payoff, while also helping businesses make a profit. Many people believe the new social networking application, Foursquare, is the answer.

Foursquare is a location-based socially networking website and mobile platform that allows users to “check-in” to various locations and events. The intended incentive to checking in, at this point, is the ability to gain various “badges” and points for accomplishing certain undisclosed foursquare tasks. If a user "checks in" to a place more than anyone else, they can become "mayor" of the location. Users can also follow friends to see where they are, where they have been, and what they think about the certain places they have traveled. (for more information, read Leia’s post below J )

But will foursquare last? That is the question on the minds of tech-savvy social networkers. Foursquare is essentially in the same place Twitter was about 3 years ago: there are around 2 million users, only a select few have even heard of the application, however many believe it could be a major game changer. Tech Crunch states, “The early adopters have started to drink the kool-aide, but for the most part it remains a service completely misunderstood, and even mocked from time to time.” The important piece of the puzzle determining Foursquare’s lasting power has to do with a user generated function: rewards. Company’s have begun to grant rewards to the mayor’s of their establishments, such as drink specials or performance discounts at select venues. Others have decided to disregard mayorship altogether and allow any Foursquare users who check in to get discounts. With this system, everyone is happy. Not only does the reward system draw users to the respective venues, but it also attracts more users to join the social platform because of potential discounts. It is essentially the ideal form of advertising: good for the consumer and the business.

How Foursquare capitalizes on the reward system will be the determining factor of the social networks existence. In the next edition, or upgrade, of Foursquare, the application plans to alert users if there is a special offer or discount near your check-in with some sort of banner, says co-founder Dennis Crowley. The user will then be able to tap the banner to learn more about the promo info. In order to get the discount, the user will then pull up a “special screen” to show the bartender or waitress.

In theory Foursquare rewards are genius, however I have little faith in the popularity of Foursquare catching on. The majority of my friends and family view me as a crazy social networking master for the sole reason that I am an active Twitter user. When I tell them I Foursquare they look at me with a confused look and ask “Huh?” And…to be honest, I have found little value in using using the application for the past few months. I have yet to find a quality payoff for “checking in” that is something other than the status provided by mayorships and badges. I think the location based application will be latched on to an already established network like Facebook and Twitter before it takes off as its only platform.


Foursquare is “part friend finder, part social city guide, part nightlife game,” according to its Facebook page. It’s essentially a social network where you join, find and add friends, then begin “checking in” to different locations. You can check in by installing the Foursquare app on your Smartphone then searching for places nearby. The more you check in at a location, the closer you are to becoming the mayor of that place. You can also earn badges by checking in where lots of other people also checked in, or going out several nights in a row.

Foursquare officially launched in March 2009 at the Interactive portion of South by Southwest Music & Media Conference & Festival (SxSWi). The launch of Facebook Places this August was expected to shake the foundation of Foursquare, but instead Foursquare saw record sign up rates after the Places launch.

Dennis Crowley, co-founder of Foursquare, says the purpose of his company’s efforts is to “help make cities easier to use and the world more interesting to explore.” I can attest to its usefulness after living in a new city – Chicago – this summer, and using Foursquare to find out where the next great tapas bar or pizza place was.

As 2010 has progressed, more businesses have begun to offer Foursquare specials. This summer retailers like the Gap and Kate Spade used Foursquare to reach consumers in a whole new way. I got 10% off the bill at one of my favorite restaurants just for checking in and showing my server. And my boss made it a point to check in each time he made a trip to the Starbucks downstairs from our office just so he could get the mayor special.

And just recently, Foursquare launched its universities program that’s meant to help college students explore their campuses. Mashable also put out an article on how location-based apps can help universities in a variety of ways, fostering school spirit and driving revenue being just two of them.

However for every positive there is a negative, and one thing about Foursquare that irks some people is broadcasting their locations to the world at large. This has led some people to believe that location-based services put people in a position to be robbed or stalked. Foursquare combated that by saying they give users the option to push their whereabouts to more public forums like Facebook and Twitter (on Foursquare you can only see a user’s check-ins if you are friends within the network). This is a detailed layout of what Foursquare shares with your friends and with the wider Foursquare community.

It’s hard to tell if Foursquare has reached ‘critical mass’ yet, but it seems to be the most popular of all location-based apps. The social implications of Foursquare remain to be seen – it could be used as a powerful tool in propelling great causes, but it could also become insignificant as something new quickly takes over, as was the case of MySpace and Facebook. Only time, and the evolution of technology, will show us if this rapidly growing tool can hold its own as new players emerge on the location-based tech scene.

Monday, September 20, 2010

How the iPhone is Changing Video Chat

I've never been a fan of webcams. People can easily get distracted with web surfing while chatting, you're rooted to one place in front of your computer, and Skype has frequently produced technical problems for me. I even became so adamantly against webcams while abroad that I refused to video chat with my parents (I ended up calling them through Skype instead).

Although I had stayed away from video chatting, things quickly changed when I purchased an iPhone 4. The new iPhone comes standard with a feature called "Facetime", which turns your mobile device into a webcam. Suddenly, all the qualms I had with webcams disappeared.

Instead of having to haul my computer around, I can enter a wifi zone, pull my phone out of my pocket, and easily connect with other iPhone owners. There are two high-quality cameras on the device, one in the front and one in the back, with the option to switch between the two. Now when I reference something I am seeing, I don't have to lift my computer around but push a button to flip the camera view. I can now see what my camera is pointing at, as well as my family's reaction on the screen.

As opposed to computers, video chatting on the iPhone is convenient because phones are on us at all times. The iPhone's instant accessibility and ease of use also make video chatting easier and quicker. When my dad spontaneously calls to video chat, I can be away from my computer and still jump into a conversation. No longer do I have to go through the hassle of downloading or updating programs on my computer or worrying about compatibility issues. It's all there.

Having to hold the iPhone has also kept me constantly engaged in the conversation. I can no longer get away with multi-tasking on my phone and the ability to switch the screen dimensions and camera positions allow for some creativity while talking.

Although video chat can't solely run off AT&T's 3G network, I have experienced better video and audio quality then with Skype.

Now I use my computer to make calls and my phone to video chat. Ironic.

Videophones are for Business, Webcams are for Fun

Soon after he invented the telephone, Alexander Graham Bell began theorizing about face-to-face telecommunication. His ideas inspired others, and in the years since, two dominant technologies have emerged: the videophone and webcam. Whereas videophones are better suited for the work environment, the webcam has been adopted as a casual form of interaction and entertainment.

Although the videophone was envisioned as a replacement for the telephone, the business community has utilized it to increase efficiency in the workplace. Before the widespread dissemination of the Internet, businesses had difficulty sharing information and resources in a timely, simple and economical manner. The videophone addressed these needs as it allowed multi-person conferencing, reduced the need for travel, complimented discussions through visual aids and promoted access to records and information (Dickson and Bowers, 98-100). In addition, businesses are more ideally suited for the videophone because they have built-in networks and are able to afford the equipment and service. Ultimately, the videophone has allowed businesses to ease operations and decrease inefficiency.

The webcam has evolved into a means of communication and enjoyment between friends and family. Unlike the videophone, webcams are inexpensive, easy to use and rely upon existing infrastructures (the Internet and computers) that are readily available and popular. However, due to the intimate and exclusive nature of webcams, they are primarily used between close friends and family. Indeed, when people are homesick (a common occurrence during freshman year of college) or want to talk to a long-distance relative, they often use webcams and applications like Skype. Among friends and family, webcams have become a legitimate form of face-to-face communication.

References- “The video telephone: Impact of a new era in telecommunications” by E.M. Dickson and R. Bowers.

“Anatomy of failure: Picturephone revisited” by A.M. Noll.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Smiling at a Screen

Looking at my computer, the last face I would expect to see is my tubby, czecholslavakian grandpa or “papa” smiling back. Since I’ve attended college I have become accustomed to the Friday night texts from my dad requesting me to “Go on skype” cause they are having a family dinner. And, sure enough, when I open up my computer I see the jolly face of my papa who in no way understand the legitimacy, or history of webcam technology.

The moment the webcam technology came out my dad got one…cause it was the cool thing to do. Then, when it came time for me to get my own laptop for college, the webcam was built into my computer. So why did the webcam take off and become an acceptable way to communicate, yet the videophone, first developed by Dr. George Schubert in the 1930s, failed miserable? Many would argue that it was the price to use the videophone technology that stopped it from becoming “mainstream.” The initial cost was $16 per three minutes and the device was set up in public booths in large cities. However, I argue that the video calling stalled in the 60s because it was not fully integrated into the communication methods of the time.

The videophone was a singular device that did not double as anything else, not even a normal telephone. A computer allows users to utilize multiple applications at different times, the webcam being one of them. Webcams were able to flourish because they were integrated with the current functions of computer, which had become the primary hub for communication. The technology was an extension of the computers current technology and was added to already popular communication methods such as instant messaging, group chatting, and email. The webcam had a built-in audience – the millions of mainstream computer users.

And although I wouldn’t necessarily consider my grandpa “mainstream”…he still finds time to say hi to me via a webcam.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How to Land a Career in Digital Media

I thought you might find this article useful--How to land a career in digital PR.
Although the title says "Digital PR", it discusses a strategy to get a job in digital media area in general. A couple of highlights:

* Take any and all new technology classes in communication (if you are in communication major)

* Take a course emphasizing innovation, not technology per se.

“You can take a class on how to use Twitter (Twitter) or Facebook (Facebook), but soon there will be something else to come along and replace it. So understanding technology shifts can give you some insight to how things may change. It’s about forward thinking, but understanding the history of how it happened can be a big help." ~Dave Levy, a senior account executive at Edelman Digital

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


Welcome to J676 Blog.

You will need to sign up for two topics for writing leading entries. Blog questions are posted on the class website. I will ask you to indicate your preferences in Thursday's class (9/9). Do NOT indicate your preference here on this blog!
I will announce your assigned topics on this blog by next Tuesday.

Other than assigned topics and comments on those leading entries, if you have any interesting story on new media you want to share with the class, please feel free to post it here.

Let's make the blog informative and entertaining!