Today I attended a mix of sessions, from storytelling, to the 12 month sports season, China’s booming Internet! And did some celebrity spotting.
So I spent this morning channelling Mike Barry and being consumed by storytelling.
I saw a brilliant session on Storytelling on the New Screens which I wrote a separate blog post on, so you can read all about it at Storytelling and The New Screens. The basic view was in the not too distant future we won’t need to rely on screens to tell stories, and that in a connected city almost anything can be a part of the story.
Then I saw four very talented storytellers from different mediums talk about the future of storytelling. The looked a lot like the cast of The Big Bang Theory, and we’re just as technical.
I liked the thought that when you write something down it becomes dead language. You lose all intonation, facial expressions, gestures, etc. Technology enables us to make stories more human, like being around a campfire, and this is what we need to aim for.
They believe the future is about creating immersive experiences that focus on audience participation in stories, as this will provide something meaningful and relevant for each person.
To do this start the story building process with interactivity – think ‘how can we make the story interactive?‘ Interactivity will open up emotions and empathy from the audience as they immediately become part of the story. Take cues from gaming which is naturally interactive, but apply this to other mediums.
It is important to offer people meaningful choices – if they can’t immediately see how the story changes based on their actions, they will disengage very quickly. Make it seem like the stories are endless, make it clear the readers choices determine the story. It has to be clear what you just did and how it impacted the narrative. They referenced the Pepsi interactive video from the last World Cup as a good example of a brand using interactive storytelling well.
There is a universality when it comes to emotions – everyone has the same emotions. You can still control the story as an author, as it is your story. But you need to use emotions as a way to deliver the story differently for different participants.
And they talked about letting the story dictate the medium. Start with the story you want to tell and then select the most appropriate medium.
Finally they gave their take on the future of storytelling, which they believe is about letting the reader experience the story from a sensory point of view. The view was VR or live action VR is the future as it makes you feel like you are there, in the story. So if the story is based in Mongolia, the story can make you feel like you’re in a Mongolian village. It gives you a sense of presence, and can give you the perspective of different places, different characters, etc. There is also a sense of vulnerability if you are there in the story
The 12 Month Sports Season
This session discussed sports and being always on throughout the year, not just during the season. It included a view from a sports league (the NBA), a sports club (FC Bayern Munich) and a sports agent.
Some key points:
- Sport is now global, so all teams, players, leagues need to serve beyond local time zones. Some content can be global, but some needs to be adapted/specific to market. E.g. Some markets are more sophisticated in relation to your product than others
- Listen to what fans want, try to adapt what you do to give it to them, but you can not control the conversation, and there’s no point to even try
- Brands can get on this too. Brands are helping to tell the stories of players, even when they are not playing (offseason, injury). Players like this as they can tell their own story not the one the media wants to tell, and fans love it because it’s something they don’t get elsewhere. This lets the brands build their connections with the players/sport and the fans
- Telling a story on different channels, e.g. Twitter, Instagram and website, are very different, so social media managers need to be able to tell stories on different platforms, and do it quickly
- For social video we look at what is right for the platform. Start with the content you’ve got – games highlights, training, get to/from game, player insides, lifestyle stories, etc. and test what works best in which channels. What’s best on Vine, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram video, etc.
New technology that will impact sports:
- VR will let fan in and make them feel like they are in the stadium when they are at home e.g. Someone in China will be able to feel like they are sat court-side in a US stadium
- In arena/venue experience will change with mobile payments
- Meerkat and Periscope are new video companies enabling better use of video
China’s Booming Internet
You may look at this and think ‘not relevant for me’, I wondered the same, but it was really interesting to understand how the other half of the internet works.
We all know the web well, however the web is also booming in China, but they have a completely separate digital ecosystem to the rest of the world.
China is the world’s largest online market with 650m internet users (twice the entire US population) with 56% under the age of 30. There are 520m smartphones, and many people are mobile only, having completely skipped PC due to lack of infrastructure.
China is the largest ecommerce market worldwide with 360m online shoppers in China, and over $US420bn in ecommerce in 2014. Over 55% of the online audience shop online. The forecast for online sales is $US1trillion a year by 2019 (nearly 20% of all sales) – this will make it bigger than the rest of the worlds ecommerce sales combined.
Alibaba turned 11 Nov into ‘singles day’ which was set up as a big ecommerce day (like cyber Monday), and in 2014 sold over $9.3bn on that day.
Three companies dominate the web in China:
- Baidu – owns search and has over 80% of mobile search
- Alibaba – owns ecommerce and has 57% of online sales. As well as traditional ecommerce you can book flights, order movie/concert tickets, order takeaway food, buy anything and pay using their integrated payments system
- Tencent owns chat through WeChat, in addition to chat it also has Twitter type functionality, you can play games, read about what your friends are buying and shop, use message boards, etc.
These 3 companies represent almost 60% of time spend on mobile by China’s mobile users. They all have fully integrated systems (not multiple apps like Google, everything is in one), and are all moving into fully integrated cross category ecommerce, communication and social. As an example of diversification all three companies have invested in taxi companies to let people book taxis through their apps. Didi taxi went from 350k daily rides to over 5m after being taken over by Tencent.
China is big on digital innovation, with a particular focus on mobile. Examples of their innovations include:
- Micropayments – these were big over a decade ago – lots of freemium games and digital goods (e.g. Emojis) are sold for small amounts but in large volumes
- Live e-sports
- WeChat have embedded personal banking, shopping assistant, food delivery, grocery delivery – they are much more than a messaging company, they have made themselves a part of people’s everyday lives
- Leapfrogging with mobile commerce – especially with social discovery and commerce. 95% of products shown on social (eg. Pinterest equivalent) are purchasable through the apps, and this is a very common way to buy and to see what your friends are buying
- QR codes are huge in China, you can use them to add friends, over 70% of outdoor ads have a QR code and in many cases this has replaced URLs. People pay directly using QR code rather than swiping a card – it’s linked to your mobile wallet
- Same day delivery is massive and is almost expected, down to tracking package in car to see exactly when it will arrive
Integrating Payments and Financial Services
Mobile wallets are linked within the big apps in China, with Alipay (Alibaba) processing 49% of online payments. Alibaba now also offers investment products, with 149m users in 18 months and $87bn funds under management. Tencent also does it.
Tencent has now been granted a banking licence and have launched WeBank accepting deposits and providing loans. All of this is done online and they have no branches. The interest rates charged are a fraction of that of a traditional bank due to a lower cost model. Alibaba will follow soon.
These virtual payments are infiltrating all elements of life. At Chinese New Year small red envelopes containing money (Hong Bao) are given to family members. On Chinese New Year Eve 2015, Tencent distributed over 1bn digital red envelope transactions, and Alibaba had 250m.
Voice based navigation and products
Voice based input and search are very common in China, much more so than in the west. 10% of Baidu’s searches come from voice based search, and voice activated search is built into most of the major apps.
Accuracy is much better than in the west, with over 81% accuracy in noisy environments, which is much better than the 65% accuracy achieved in the US.
Voice recognition is also important for another major pastime – karaoke! ‘Change’ a is leading karaoke mobile app with 100m+ downloads.
While most China companies have been focussed on just China currently, they are becoming more global and more focussed on international distribution. Some examples:
- Hardware – drones (DJI worlds leading drone operating system),
- Mobile software – 5 of worlds top 10 companies for app distribution are Chinese
- Actively investing in overseas based businesses
I also did a couple of celebrity sessions, because I could
I saw Malcolm Gladwell interview Bill Gurley. Bill is a venture capitalist and he and his partners led the early venture investments in Uber, OpenTable, GrubHub, Snapchat, Stitch Fix, Twitter to name a few. They talked about healthcare, Uber and the arms race. It was a bit random but entertaining.
And I saw Jessica Alba and her business parter Brian Lee talk about their company The Honest Company. In 3 years it has gone from nothing to $150m in annual sales, and is thought to be valued at over $1 billion. Their main driver in starting the company was to help create a non toxic world, and a healthier world for people. They talked about the journey to get to where they are today and how they are planning to grow.
Today I was added to the Twitter group ‘badasses of SXSW’, my life is complete.