Hugh Reinbolt: Opinions and thoughts on emerging and cutting edge trends in technology, digital and social media that inspire me.


Sunday, 13 December 2009

Up in the Air - The Future of Digital Promotion & Consumption

I have recently opened my eyes to an extremely interesting and innovative new technology ('runtime') being used by developers to create amazing desktop internet applications - Adobe AIR. I guess it is not so much the technology itself which I find so intriguing, more the way it has been put to use - particularly to create a whole new way in which music and film are starting to be promoted.

The first AIR application that I took notice of, and took for granted, was Tweetdeck, the widely used Twitter application. More recently I noticed an application that really caught my attention - Fanbase, which has been developed by Atlantic Records/Warner Music:

Fanbase is a free 'desktop application' for music fans that has been branded to several music artists (and a certain movie) and gives users a richer and more interactive experience of that particular artist. The application, which allows fans to receive fresh content from their desired artist in a single download, consists of an audio player, chatroom and a live feed of news, videos, photos and tour information. Now, providing an artist is active, this is an exciting method for keeping fans engaged. Fanbase is supposedly available as a mobile application, although was unavailable from iTunes UK at the time of writing.

Fanbase sits nicely on your desktop with a simple and visually stimulating layout and design. The application allows you to receive continuous updates from a range of artists and switch between them via a simple drop down menu. You can also minimize the user interface so you can keep it running if you want to multi-task.

Fanbase is sort of similar to the new iTunes LP in that it creates a far more visual and interactive experience with a digital product by adding value with multimedia content  - thus making the intangible tangible. It comes across as a music player (although the Bloc Party application I tried out was severely lacking in audio), however it is a lot more functional than a mere album sampler and has the potential to be as rich in multi-media as you can imagine. The integration with a live chat function is brilliant and if enough people are using it, it would be a great way not only for fans to communicate with each other, but for the brand owners to discover what these fans are saying in real-time - whilst 'experiencing' the music. I believe that the future of commercial music as a commodity rests on how interactive music companies make their 'product'. The demise of the album format and the rise of digital is forcing change in how music is both consumed and promoted and Fanbase seems to offer an alternative that puts the two together hand-in-hand. If such an application can co-exist on one's personal computer and mobile phone/iPod/portable music device, with access to unlimited artists and repertoire then the possibility of Fanbase being a primary route to market is extremely high. I would be interested to know how popular this application is in terms of worldwide downloads, but it's the principle that is significant.

If that isn't cool enough, this really blew me away when I discovered this online -- and far be it from me to not mention the word 'Avatar'...... It seems those guys are striving to innovate. Also utilising Adobe AIR, 20th Century Fox have recently released the Avatar Interactive Trailer:

This desktop based application combines the full legnth trailer for the movie with clickable 'Hotspots' at regular intervals. The 'Hotspots' reveal more about the movie and the world that it is based in, featuring great videos of 'character profiles' and 'design' of the creatures and technology within the movie - as below. Once you have viewed one of the 'Hotspots', the trailer resumes from where you left off:

This is fascinating, not only because it is so unique and cutting edge, but because it really makes me think about what else is possible with the interactivity of film. The interactive trailer provides fresh content unavailable elsewhere and gives the viewer further insight into the film before it is released in the cinema. It goes beyond the traditional trailer by opening it's pre-release doors and allowing the consumer to look slightly further into the movie, characters and world before seeing the film itself.

I wonder what is next - could this be paving the way to fully interactive movies, where the viewer is in charge of making decisions for the characters within a film; putting them into the character's shoes and enabling them to explore the world of a movie directly themselves? Or is that too far fetched and expensive a concept? It might happen one day, why not? But what is inevitable is a surge of interactive trailers like this, which could serve as a source of unique and exclusive content beyond more traditional-digital media. I wonder if bonus material like this, released before a film has been released in cinema will have a strong impact on box office takings. Time will tell.
Another great aspect of this promotional tool is that the application fully integrates social media, and you can click betwen the trailer and live feeds from Flickr, Twitter and YouTube:

Here content and news are centralised so the user can see exactly what is going on around the movie and discover new content without having to click between different websites. This is an awesome strategy - 20th Century Fox have spread content across the movie's official website, social networks such as YouTube, Flickr, Facebook and Twitter posts, and now via a brand new channel in the form of a next-level trailer, which integrates social media channels. This application would allow the news feeds from myriad sources to reach the user in a single place, therefor letting them pick and choose what to read and what to click through to with minimum effort. As social media becomes more and more important in everyday life, amalgamating the information people receive from the various networks is logical. Why make the user think when they don't have to?


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