Posts Tagged ‘digital media’

Emile Zola famously stated back in 1901, “In my view, you cannot claim to have really seen something until you have photographed it.” Today, some make a similar joke: “it did not happen unless it is posted on Facebook.”

For those who use Facebook, whose friends are on the site and logging in many times a day, we have come to experience the world differently. We are increasingly aware of how our lives will look as a Facebook photo, status update or check-in. As I type this in a coffee shop, I can “check-in” on Foursquare, I can “tweet” a funny one-liner overheard from the table next to me and I can take an ‘interesting’ photo of the perfectly-formed foam on top of my cappuccino. It is easy; I can do all of this and more from my phone in a matter of minutes. And, most importantly, there will be an audience for all of this. Hundreds of the people I am closest with will view all of this and some will reply with comments and “likes.”

Simply, I have been trained to see the world in terms of what I can post to the Internet. I’ve learned to live and present a life that is “likeable.”

Many have rightly criticized Facebook over how the site turns the unquantifiable beauty of human experience into something that fits into a database , or how Facebook misuses that database to earn fantastic profits. These are valid critiques; however, my concern is that the ultimate power of social media is how it burrows into us, our minds, our consciousness, changing how we consciously experience the world even when logged off.

Atlantic editor Alexis Madrigal wrote about how technology changes consciousness. For example, the invention of the railroad changed our perception of speed. He writes, “humans had to learn to look at the landscape, instead of trying to focus on the foreground.” The photograph Zola spoke of did the same. Invented some 150 years ago, photography caused a global sensation around the new possibility: to document ourselves and our world in new ways, in greater detail and in lasting permanence.

Today, social media has also provided a new, more social way to document ourselves, lives and world. Never before was it possible to record and displayto all of our friends a stream of photos, check-ins and status updates filled with our thoughts and opinions in such quantity and with such ease. The transformative power of social media surely is of similar magnitude and consequence as the invention of the photograph.

The photographer knows well that after taking many pictures one develops “the camera eye”: vision becomes like the viewfinder, always perceiving the world through the logic of the camera mechanism via framing, lighting, depth of field, focus, movement and so on. Even without the camera in hand the world becomes transformed into the status of the potential-photograph.

Today, we are in danger of developing a “Facebook Eye”: our brains always looking for moments where the ephemeral blur of lived experience might best be translated into a Facebook post; one that will draw the most comments and “likes.”

Facebook fixates the present as always a future past. By this I mean that social media users have become always aware of the present as something we can post online that will be consumed by others. Are we becoming so concerned about posting our lives on Facebook that we forget to live our lives in the here-and-now? Think of a time when you took a trip holding a camera in your hand and then think of when you did the same without the camera. The experience is slightly different. We have a different attachment to our present when we are not concerned with documenting.

Today, social media means we are always traveling with the camera in our hands (metaphorically and often literally); we always can document. When going to see live music I notice more and more people distracted from the performance in order to take photos and videos to post to Facebook and YouTube. When the breakfast I made the other week looked especially delicious, I posted a photo of it before even taking a bite. The Facebook Eye in action.

Susan Sontag once wrote that “everything exists to end in a photograph” and today we might say that more and more of what we do exists to end up on Facebook. The tail of Facebook documentation has come to wag the dog of lived experience.

A great read from Nathan Jurgenson at the Atlantic on how social media changes the way we perceive the world.


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A Statement from Louis C.K. (December 13, 2011)

People of Earth (minus the ones who don’t give a shit about this): it’s been amazing to conduct this experiment with you. The experiment was: if I put out a brand new standup special at a drastically low price ($5) and make it as easy as possible to buy, download and enjoy, free of any restrictions, will everyone just go and steal it? Will they pay for it? And how much money can be made by an individual in this manner?

It’s been 4 days. A lot of people are asking me how it’s going. I’ve been hesitant to share the actual figures, because there’s power in exclusive ownership of information. What I didn’t expect when I started this was that people would not only take part in this experiment, they would be invested in it and it would be important to them. It’s been amazing to see people in large numbers advocating this idea. So I think it’s only fair that you get to know the results. Also, it’s just really cool and fun and I’m dying to tell everybody. I told my Mom, I told three friends, and that wasn’t nearly enough. So here it is.

First of all, this was a premium video production, shot with six cameras over two performances at the Beacon Theater, which is a high-priced elite Manhattan venue. I directed this video myself and the production of the video cost around $170,000. (This was largely paid for by the tickets bought by the audiences at both shows). The material in the video was developed over months on the road and has never been seen on my show (LOUIE) or on any other special. The risks were thus: every new generation of material I create is my income, it’s like a farmer’s annual crop. The time and effort on my part was far more than if I’d done it with a big company. If I’d done it with a big company, I would have a guarantee of a sizable fee, as opposed to this way, where I’m actually investing my own money.

The development of the website, which needed to be a very robust, reliable and carefully constructed website, was around $32,000. We worked for a number of weeks poring over the site to make sure every detail would give buyers a simple, optimal and humane experience for buying the video. I edited the video around the clock for the weeks between the show and the launch.

The show went on sale at noon on Saturday, December 10th. 12 hours later, we had over 50,000 purchases and had earned $250,000, breaking even on the cost of production and website. As of Today, we’ve sold over 110,000 copies for a total of over $500,000. Minus some money for PayPal charges etc, I have a profit around $200,000 (after taxes $75.58). This is less than I would have been paid by a large company to simply perform the show and let them sell it to you, but they would have charged you about $20 for the video. They would have given you an encrypted and regionally restricted video of limited value, and they would have owned your private information for their own use. They would have withheld international availability indefinitely. This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want, and you can watch it in Dublin, whatever the city is in Belgium, or Dubai. I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.

I really hope people keep buying it a lot, so I can have shitloads of money, but at this point I think we can safely say that the experiment really worked. If anybody stole it, it wasn’t many of you. Pretty much everybody bought it. And so now we all get to know that about people and stuff. I’m really glad I put this out here this way and I’ll certainly do it again. If the trend continues with sales on this video, my goal is that i can reach the point where when I sell anything, be it videos, CDs or tickets to my tours, I’ll do it here and I’ll continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, keeping as few people between you and me as possible in the transaction.

(Of course i reserve the right to go back on all of this and sign a massive deal with a company that pays me fat coin and charges you straight up the ass.). (This is you: yes Louie. And we’ll all enjoy torrenting that content. You fat sweaty dolt).

I probably sound kind of crazy right now. It’s been a really fun and intense few days. This video was paid for by people who bought tickets, and then bought by people who wanted to see that same show. I got to do exactly the show I wanted, and exactly the show you wanted.

I also got an education. And everything i learned are things i was happy to learn.

I learned that people are interested in what happens and shit (i didn’t go to college)

I learned that money can be a lot of things. It can be something that is hoarded, fought over, protected, stolen and withheld.

Or it can be like an energy, fueled by the desire, will, creative interest, need to laugh, of large groups of people. And it can be shuffled and pushed around and pooled together to fuel a common interest, jokes about garbage, penises and parenthood.

I want to thank Blair Breard who produced this video and produces my series LOUIE, and I want to thank Caspar and Giles at Version Industries, who created the website.

I hope with all of my heart that I stay funny. Otherwise this all goes to hell. Please have a safe and happy holiday, and thank you again for all this crazy shit.


Louis C.K.

Buy The Thing

I absolutely love how Louis C.K was brave enough to forsake a guaranteed payout from a studio and offer his material online (without any copyright protection) for a measly sum of $5. And it has paid off brilliantly! Sales have already crossed half a million in 4 days and I won’t be surprised if it passes a million very soon. Louis has been kind enough to share the details in an online statement pasted above which acts as another proof point to the disruptive power of digital.

It is interesting how counter-intuitive A/B testing results can get. One of the best examples of that counter-intuitiveness is a recent A/B split test. This test was done by a Visual Website Optimizer customer Vendio, an company that specializes in providing free e-Commerce stores to its merchants. They have special landing pages for the free store signup and the objective of this test was to increase signup conversion rate on one of those landing pages.

A/B test details

Their original landing page (control) combined marketing content and registration fields in an attempt to reduce the number of clicks for a successful registration. This is how it looked:

Original Landing Page (with embedded signup form)

Note that it uses the so-called “best-practice” of embedding the signup form in the landing page itself. They had long been using the layout of the original page because as a best practice they presumed that reducing the number of clicks for a registration increased conversion rate. Although the page was performing relatively well, they wanted to make sure the included registration fields weren’t too aggressive or limiting us in any manner.

So, the variation that they tested had somewhat similar imagery and content but the page didn’t include any registration fields and had slightly different styling. Clicking on ‘Signup Now’ button simply took the visitor to a page with signup form. In other words, Vendio added an extra step in their conversion funnel. Not a smart move, huh? This is how variation looked like:

Variation (no signup form) – 60% increase in signups!

A/B test results

Guess what? The page without the registration fields performed better – much better – to the tune of a 60% increase in conversions! Here is what Vendio had to say about the results:

Best practices are NOT always true! It’s still hard to believe, but the numbers don’t lie.

So, that’s the biggest lesson here and it is worth repeating: “Best practices are NOT always true”. If you do changes on your website or landing pages without A/B testing them, you are actually flying in the dark. Another lesson here is that it is it is worth testing radically different ideas – which, on the first glance, may appear not-so-smart (like removing signup form from the landing page!).

Multi-variate Testing or A/B testing is a very important tool for any performance campaign. As the article shows, best practices may not always be true for your campaign. We successfully used this approach in a performance campaign for a leading bank last year and found the ‘winning’ webpage had a CTR of 20% more than the average.