Haworth is now in comfortable new surroundings at 45 South 7th, and we’re not the only thing that’s been moving. Fresh developments in the worlds of social media and tech deserve a closer look, so read on:
1) London’s Summer Olympic Games are in full swing, putting a spotlight on the role of social media in general and Twitter in particular. This is nothing new, especially when it comes to London — coincidentally, we’ve covered Twitter’s role in the Royal Wedding and the 2011 London riots in previous issues of Digital DNA. But now, with Twitter fully mainstream and an ocean-wide time delay separating England from the U.S., Twitter has become both a blessing and a curse.
On the positive side, NBC has put up an official news page that features tweets from network presenters and specially-curated tweets from fans, while the London Eye was bathed in spotlights that changed colors based on the overall emotional sentiment expressed in Olympics-related tweets. On the negative side, the sheer volume of tweets getting pushed through the network during the men’s road cycling race overwhelmed the local data capacity, prompting an International Olympic Committee spokesperson to tell users to “take it easy” on the tweeting.
The latest dust-up is a standoff between Twitter and British journalist Guy Adams. When Adams vocally complained on Twitter about the quality of NBC’s coverage (and urged that users email an NBC executive with their displeasure), Twitter suspended his account. While Twitter’s terms of service clearly state that they can suspend any account they want to, critics have seized on the action as a troubling sign of censorship. Twitter, in fact, has become something of a symbol of free speech due to its ability to spread decentralized information, something that made the “Arab Spring” uprisings possible. So for many advocates, this has quickly become a debate on the merits of corporate vs. public speech.
2) Katie Chozen uncovered something interesting in digital audio. SoundGecko is a service that will convert any online article into a listenable mp3. Give SoundGecko an article URL and it will strip out the text (dropping formatting and page elements) and produce a text-to-speech computer recording. Within 30 seconds the mp3 is sent to your email address, or made available via an iPhone app.
With more and more of the workforce making a daily commute, and with commute times getting longer and longer, a market is emerging for something besides podcasts and audio books. The fact that SoundGecko isn’t offering a prerecorded library but rather an infinite amount of content that anyone can create on the fly is encouraging.
Just as long as the output doesn’t sound too much like the robot from Lost in Space.
3) The location-aware app Foursquare has been around for three years, which is an eternity in startup time. So it’s not surprising that they’ve begun to mature into an ad-friendly platform. “Promoted Updates” is Foursquare’s latest effort.
Back in June, Foursquare added an Explore feature to suggest nearby places for its users. Promoted Updates will be featured within that environment, showcased right at the top (just like paid search results on Google, or promoted tweets on Twitter). Participating advertisers can offer a special to Foursquare users or just push out a news tidbit.
The interesting thing about this is the targeting. These Promoted Updates will only show up to users based on their proximity and their previous check-in history. So if you can’t stand spicy food, you’re not going to get served a listing for that Thai place on the corner.
The feature is still in beta mode for now with heavy Foursquare partners like Best Buy and the Gap. And the deals have supposedly been structured on a cost-per-action model. It will be interesting to see whether user engagement is heavy enough to make it worthwhile for both client and partner.