NEON TURQUOISE WILL NOT BE THE NEW BLACK: THE DIGITAL DELUSION OF TIDAL

62653_10153208291309402_2956050366320333502_nAnd so, the Tidal wave came, the neon turquoise sweeping across the social media landscape. For all intents and purposes, it was clever enough. Within minutes of first seeing it, my newsfeed pulsated with the burning question of our digital day; “Why has Coldplay changed their profile pic to a colour?”

“I don’t know,” I replied, “But Madonna’s changed hers, too.”

This same conversation played out across the globe. Something was up with a bunch of stupendously famous people. They were joining together in what was quite clearly to be some sort of unified digital campaign. But what the campaign was for, nobody knew. Unfortunately, when the answer materialised, the phenomenon’s cleverness exponentially vanished with our growing awareness. Did you remember that small music streaming platform that Jay-Z purchased? Me neither. But he had assembled a group of similarly out of touch megastars-come-entrepreneurs, and goddammit, they had come to not just take their music industry back, but to change life as we know it.

This would happen primarily because we would all be so inspired by their creatively directed faux-doco videos, we would hand over more money to them than we currently do to streaming services that are cheaper and actually popular (looking at you, reasonably priced spotify). And of course, we won’t. But hasn’t it been fun watching them wage their crusade, completely separate to the world us consumers live in – the real one – in the bizarre and fragile galaxy that is a popstar’s deluded imagination?

Something about higher sound quality (despite us rather clearly being in the era of access to high quantity of product over trivial concerns of product quality). Something about Rihanna’s horrible new single being available on the platform a few days before anywhere else (despite it being openly available on any torrent site). Something about how artists have been pushed to the background until Jay-Z and his rich friends joined their Shazaam rings together and turned the whole thing around.

“This is, like, the beginning of the New World,” mused Zen Master Kanye.

“This will change the course of history,” agreed his new Tidal boss, Jay-Z.

And by the end of the day, the world’s richest performer and capitalist-spritualist, Madonna (she sure does love a Revolution™), jumped on facebook to share with us the “wisdom” of her Rebel Heart™: “Nothing is free! Everything must be paid for by someone! This is universal LAW!”

And the thing is, underneath our sniggers, the truth of what they’re saying is completely lost. Some of it is true – underneath… well… all of “that”. Artists really have been strangled by a perfect storm of the kings of the digital distribution platforms, the digital “theft” of file-sharing technology, and, to be frank, a cultural shift that has reduced the importance of art to transient hits of mainstream escapism (sometimes in the form of music, but increasingly just in the phenomenon of celebrity that music may, or may not be, attached to). The suits control the art, and they have slowly killed it. They give the podiums to models who mostly couldn’t create art (or even sing) to save their empty LA souls. And people have shifted with it and obliviously consumed what modern culture dishes up for a (mostly online) transaction. If culture matters, then the world is sick. And a cultural revolution that plays in the very realm culture has been devoured by – big business – would be lovely. But look at who has got together to hold this revolution?!

Admittedly, on the one hand, it’s difficult to see another way; these people are the ones heading a stab at a new model ironically because they are rich and powerful enough to. And suffice to say, it is not the rich and powerful superstars who are suffering. Hello. But we’re all supposed to feel sorry for Chris Martin’s art? We’re supposed to sit there watching a sullen looking superstar DJ wearing a giant mouse head, and be moved by his creative restraints?

The bigger problem, simply in terms of messaging – or the messengers – is that at the end of the day, all these people are crazy. They’re crazy in a whole host of horrifying ways that have nothing to do with their ill-fated belief in Tidal. And that’s okay – they’ve been so famous for so long, we simply cannot expect Kanye et al to be in any way in touch with reality. People know this. They will give their stars frightening authority in dictating what to wear, what to eat, or how thin they should be. But they don’t listen to their silly revolutions. Even Bob Geldof has been reduced to knowing that a million people will show to a good line-up onstage but give not a second’s credence to the idea of saving the planet from anything at all. And musicians daring to sing about politics and societal issues are no longer canonised with Lennon and Co, but lynched en masse and even driven out of countries. Even if Tidal did hold any promise in a basic business sense – which it doesn’t – the Era of The Popstar Revolution is long gone. People do not look to Beyonce to change the world. And yet, Beyonce shrugged: “If everybody can see that this is from us, then it’s…. you know… done.”

Silly Beyonce. Tidal fails on both accounts. They’ve got nothing decent to sell – because they don’t have anything anyone wants (cheaper product). And while the marketing channels were theirs to own (they’re famous – we were happy to at very least take notice), the content they delivered, in sickly messianic tones, was a terrible, terrible idea. And not a single Yes Man with an MBA had the guts to tell them otherwise.

So, people will keep stealing their music, because it’s there and it’s free, until they are finally, actually, stopped. They will keep streaming music on spotify and youtube and soundcloud, because it’s cheaper and they don’t have Niki Minaj’s bank account. They will ignore these stars’ narcissistic rants about changing our world, until Jay Z and Co go back to making the records we get drunk to, because that, at the end of the day, is what they do for us. Tidal will be washed up in months.

by Aaron Darc

WHERE ARE WE NOW? The Digital Evolution In Numbers

So, what are the numbers showing us?

1. GRANDMA AND GRANDPA ARE ONLINE

Anyone implementing a digital transition has heard the staple resistance; “But lots of our customers are old and don’t use computers.” But a quick look at the stats show that older citizens – and even the Golden Oldies – are leading digital lives.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics has investigated Australia’s online behaviours and found that whilst there is a decline in digital usage with age, this decline is only significant after 64 years of age. 78% of persons between 50 and 64 years of age are online. However, even when that decline finally sets in, 46% of Australians over the age of 65 are online. If your audience are over 65 years of age, you could argue there is still a need to place equal emphasis on both digital and non-digital communications, sure – but otherwise, we have now reached a point in our digital evolution where every age bracket is officially digital. If your marcomms strategy targets under 65 and is not weighted towards digital, it’s not your customers that are old… it’s your marcomms strategy.

ABS

Need more convincing? ACMA (The Australian Communications and Media Authority) then looked at online frequency – a more in-depth indication of the difference between “using digital” and “being digital”. OK, so older Australians can use a computer or a smartphone – but are they really integrating online into their daily lives? Yes. 40% of Australians over the age off 55 are online more than twice a day.

ACMA twice a dayAnd what are they doing online? Surely, nothing too complex, right?

Wrong. The only thing older Australians are not doing in great numbers online is downloading music and videos, or playing online video games. Included in the ABS findings is that 66% of men over the age of 55 do their banking online and that half of women over 55 years of age use online for social networking.

old personsAnd while we’re on the subject of age, it is worth considering that at the other end of the generational spectrum, ACMA found that in 2013, 92% of children under the age of 2 had a digital shadow (meaning they have somehow interacted online – whether on mum’s laptop or the family iPad). Anecdotal amazement from parents who watch their toddlers using home devices is commonplace, and now the data backs it up as a new norm. Your audience today may be predominantly digital – but just wait til you meet your audience of tomorrow!

2. THE BUSINESS SECTOR HAS FALLEN IN LOVE WITH ONLINE VIDEO

It’s important to Forbes, one of America’s largest business media brands, to understand the business and entrepreneurial mindset. Their annual insights are always worth reading.

We have known for a while now that the business world loves its digital – time-poor and information-hungry, it’s not exactly a surprise that budding wolves of Wall Street rely on the advantages of the digital age. Past statistics showed us that they were particularly fond of tablets and apps (what killed the Blackberry); and Forbes’ latest numbers show another trend also catching on in the boardrooms…. video.

75% of executives watch work-related videos on business websites at least once a week. And moving beyond the business media brands and into the more mainstream channels once thought unrelated to the digital lives of business leaders, 50% watch business-related videos on Youtube.

What is fascinating about this shift is that the phenomenon of online video was originally correlated with concepts like poor literacy – in fact, many commentators are now even blaming online video content for further diminishing literacy amongst the masses. But here we have one of the most literate demographics,  largely residing in older age brackets, and who have traditionally been seen as heavy readers. And yet ultimately, 59% of executives told Forbes they would rather watch an online video to obtain information than read text.

So, it is wise to remember that wise people are at the forefront of digital! In fact, here in Australia, the Bureau of Statistics found a direct correlation in education with digital use. The higher educated the Australian individual is, the more digital they are.

australia educted

3. ONLINE VIDEO RESPONSIVENESS IS HIGHEST IN PLACES YOU MIGHT LEAST EXPECT IT

We often think we are more advanced in comparison to other cultures than in truth we are. This boils down to good old western arrogance – a kind of colonialist superiority embedded in our cultural psyche – and spills over into what we think we know about the digital era. I saw this on a recent trip to South Korea, where a group of Australians I shared the airport shuttlebus with wondered if South Korea would have “okay internet” (it has the very best internet in the world!).

Suffering from this kind of twisted logic, many Australian businesses presume the recent dominance of online video is yet to hit the wider world. But American statistics giant, Statista, have compiled global response rates to commercial online video (that is, online video produced as a commercial call to action) in the first quarter of 2013. Latin America is the region most responsive to online video advertising with positive response rates of a staggering 70%.

online video worldwide stats

However, even though North America and Europe are the least responsive regions to online video, these numbers are impressively high across the board when compared to those of digital formats like eDM, which now generally linger around 29% impact at their best. And considering the steep curve upwards of online video trends, it is worth noting that these numbers would by now be considerably higher.

4. WHERE AND HOW WE ARE WATCHING VIDEO IS CHANGING

Let’s start with one of the most crucial statistics I have for you. The dominance of facebook has been a sore point for a great portion of the marketing and online industries. The more facebook monopolises the market – which it has done by creating an ecosystem people no longer need to leave at all – the more external businesses and parties are being rendered obsolete. Because of this, an incredibly deceitful PR campaign has been waged against facebook by a variety of online channels and businesses, and the web is full of articles heralding facebook’s supposed post-peak fade in relevance. Most use data that shows teenagers are less facebook-driven than young adults (because they share their social media time with teen fads like snapchat and instagram), and from this build what amounts to a smear campaign against facebook. They are agenda-ridden exercises – carefully spun prophecies by those who are financially benefited by facebook losing its hold over the modern digital user.

Google in particular is sweating the shift in search culture to internal facebook searching (which is now used by younger users more than the classic search engines). And google’s beloved youtube, whilst certainly still a dominant part of our contemporary digital lives, has finally fallen to the rise of facebook. In 2013, facebook overtook youtube for social network activity. So take no notice of the “facebook is finished” brigade. Facebook has never been stronger.

facebook youtube

Facebook had closely trailed youtube for a number of years now – so was there anything in recent behavioural trends where we can see something tip the balance in Zuckerberg’s favour?

A comparison of video-view statistics by Commscore may have the answer. As youtube’s video numbers began declining (and let’s remember that, unlike facebook, video-views is literally all youtube “is”), facebook surged. The trend continued beyond the moment in early 2013 when facebook overtook youtube activity, to an even more astonishing feat. In August 2014, more videos were watched on facebook than on youtube. Videos on facebook were viewed an incredible 12.3 billion times, compared to only 11.3 billion on youtube (that’s just in one month, and on desktop computers!). That would have been a somber day in the google offices.

facebook vs youtubeMoving away from simply the format of online video and the software and channels we use to watch them “through”, there have also been some interesting insights into the hardware (devices) we watch them on. However, before we look at this, let’s familiarise ourselves with what people are generally using to connect to the internet. With the incredible rise of mobile platforms, there has been a valid rush for businesses to be mobile – but often at the expense of the broader perspective. The Global Web Index has the numbers. PC’s and Laptops are still the most common online hardware.

device

Owned by 47% of internet users, tablets are now also an important part of your marcomms. Tablets have partly increased importance thanks to the explosion of online video. Smartphones are often used as the quick go-to device for information, but stats show that users will turn to their tablets for more in-depth engagement – such as video.

In 2013, Visible Measures explored one of the most debated factors of online video: content duration. The question we’re all asking is “How long do people watch each video for?” When it comes to online advertising videos, the answer seems to depend on what the user is watching the content on. Even more intriguing, there was a visible difference between users on apple and android operating systems! The average time spent watching each video was:

Desktop (PC/laptop)         2 minutes

Phone (iPhone)                 2.4 minutes

Phone (android)                4 minutes

iPad                                    5 minutes

This data supports the recent shift towards longer video times. Originally, online video was modelled off traditional above-the-line advertising where “short and snappy” was the order of the day. But over time, we are learning that users engage online video as a more substantial content experience than, for example, watching a television commercial. And this is great news for us! It means we can communicate more to an audience who are more receptive.

5. SOCIAL MEDIA HAS USURPED CONSUMER AUTHORITY

The traditional website continues to struggle, whilst social media continues to thrive as the trusted source for consumers. 2013 research commissioned by digital.gov.au found that 49% of Australians used social media at least once per day. In terms of commercial integration, 59% of Australians said they use social media to engage brands.

The era of authenticity that social media ushered in has drastically changed the nature of the relationship between consumers and brands. We now live firmly in the age of Peer Review. Social media has effectively extinguished the traditional models of marcomms where brands carefully constructed restrictive, non-interactive, and largely inauthentic messaging as the dominant communications engaged by the consumer. Today, online has allowed your customers to trust not what you’re telling them, but what your other customers are. Search engine journal found that 72% of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

But despair not! When asked to compare posts by friends and posts by companies on social media, all was not lost…

socmed influence

Rather, the ultimate take away here is that social media is now at the forefront of consumers’ investigations. People trust social media. Remember that to flip those numbers, only around 20% said they were not influenced by social media posts in their purchasing decisions.

And while these surveys were conducted in America, ACMA (The Australia Communications and Media Authority) found similar numbers. It is also worth pointing out that contrary to the ideas some digital naysayers assert in regards to the dangerous negativity of the online space, most Australians were engaging in positive social media relationships with brands…

acma socmed

So, there you have it. Don’t presume that just because your business crossed over into digital space, it can sit on its electronic laurels. The question isn’t just “Are we digital?” but “How are we digital?” The world is moving fast. Keep up.