Spotify on iPhone: Official

27 08 2009

Two days ago this blog reported that rumours were circulating that Apple was about to approve the Spotify app for the iPhone.  Yesterday those rumours intensified when the iPhone app store removed the Spotify descriptor from three applications, which meant that they did not appear in searches for Spotify.  This prompted speculation that Apple was preparing for the real deal.

This evening ‘’ broke the news that an Apple spokesman had confirmed that the application had been approved and would be joining the 65,000 other iPhone applications.  This is a massive step forward for the music streaming site as only subscribers to the premium version of Spotify (currently £9.99 per month) will be able to use the iPhone app.  In a few short months they have broken the mould for paid music content and distribution.  They have also leapfrogged the major social network sites by monetising their business model almost overnight.

Spotify’s online PR strategy has been exceptional.  They built interest in the App by teasing it on iTunes as early as January. They also created interest in an Android version which put added pressure on Apple to approve.  Ultimately Apple was bound to approve.  Spotify had already achieved a phenomenal brand equity in the few months since it was launched.  The app will sell iPhones because it is so good and Apple makes more from devices than it does from the iTunes store plus music streaming uses a lot of bandwidth and ultimately that’s commercially good for Apple and their partners.

It will be interesting to see is how long it takes Apple to turn iTunes and its store from a pay per track model into a subscription based streaming site that competes directly with Spotify.

Apple Approves Spotify for iPhone?

25 08 2009

Rumours are circulating that Apple is about to announce that the Spotify app for the iPhone is approved and will be available for download within days.  If true, this will fundamentally change the way that we listen to and pay for music.

Spotify has already had a huge impact on music listening.  It is now poised to revolutionise the financial model with its ‘fremium’ offer of an ad-funded free service and a premium subscription offer (which will be required if you want to listen on the iPhone).   In its native Sweden it appears it has already overtaken Apple’s iTunes store.  The head of Universal Music in Sweden, Per Sundin has said that  “in 5 months from the launch Spotify became our largest digital source of income and so passed by iTunes.”

Spotify mobile is a key development because it reaches an important demographic group that listens to music mainly on the move.  The eighteen plus generation who live at home or in shared accommodation want their music on a portable player – be it an iPhone, dedicated MP3 player or another smart device.  With an Android version of Spotify waiting in the wings rejecting the iPhone app could harm iPhone sales.

There is no official word yet and almost a month has passed since the app was submitted, but if the rumours are premature then could this be another salvo in Spotify’s sophisticated social media PR campaign?  By posting videos on Youtube showing the interface, blogging about the mobile versions for iPhone and Android, the Spotify supremos Daniel Ek and Martin Lorentzon have ensured the buzz is constant. 


Holiday Post

21 08 2009

In May 1995 I was asked by Tony Murray, the then editor of the marketing title Adline to write an article on the subject of e-mail for the magazine.  When I was researching for the book “Public Relations and the Social Web’ (companion to this blog) I discovered the article on an old disk.  It was reprinted in full in the book and shows how much has changed in a decade and a half.  Here is an extract. 

“So is E-mail a waste of time?  Emphatically no.  At the moment it is a bit like having one of the first fax machines.  The quality is a bit dodgy and no one else seems to have one.  In ten years time if you don’t have E-mail your business won’t be taken seriously.  For the PR industry in particular E-mail will change the way we work.  You will send a press release for approval and get it back maybe minutes later.  It can then be sent directly into the computers of all of your target publications, in seconds.  You will even be able to attach a high quality photograph in a format ready for the paper or magazine to drop straight onto a page.  All this without leaving your desk.  Better still you could do it all from a gite in the south of France because unlike a fax or phone your E-mail address number is portable, it goes with you.”

The reason that I wanted to refer to the article is that I am currently in a gite (well an old moulin to be accurate) in the south of France.  I can e-mail from my blackberry and as this demonstrates I can post to a blog. This is in a part of Gascony that just a few years ago had no mobile coverage.  I think when I wrote article I envisaged being able to spend endless weeks of summer in the sun, instead the holidays are the same length but work sneaks in.  That’s progress …I suppose.

How to Spot the Bots

7 08 2009

It has been widely reported this week that 24% or nearly a quarter of all twitter messages are generated by accounts controlled by automated ‘bots’ and the robots are on the rise.  The research was done by social media analytics specialists Sysmos

Some of this automated traffic is from useful sources but much of it is spam and as previously discussed here, spam is polluting the social web to an alarming extent.

There is a way of dealing with this.  Don’t follow in the first place, but more importantly if you find a bot block it.  If an account is blocked numerous times it will be suspended by twitter.   Some of the bots and spammers are obvious, the avatars are usually a dead giveway for the porn spammers but many are becoming more sophisticated. There are still ways to weed them out.  Here are some tell tale signs of bot behaviour:

  • Too many tweets – bots often but not always pump out 150+ per day.
  • Tweeting famous quotes – this is a technique increasingly used to make the bot look real.
  • Lot of homilies for the same reason.
  • Duplicate messages – some bots pump out exactly the same streams of messages.
  • A high Follower to Following ratio.
  • No @posts or @mentions. Bots don’t do conversation.
  • Exclamation marks next to a link!
  • Tweets seem disjointed and unrelated to each other
  • The tweet source – this can be a dead give away, for example if the tweets are from ‘API’ be very wary.

OK, get ready to block.

The Dead Twitter Sketch

6 08 2009

Twitter came under a ‘Denial of Service’ attack today less than 24 hours after I bemoaned the proliferation of spam on the micro blogging social network.  The site was down for well over an hour as the result of a probable malicious targeted assault on the company’s US based servers.  It isn’t yet clear where the attack came from.

From launch up until a few months ago twitter went down on a fairly frequent basis and the so called ‘fail-whale’ screen was a  familiar site to early users who would wait anything from a few seconds to in some cases a few hours to get back on stream.   Since then twitter has gone mainstream,user levels have accelerated and it is gaining ground as a bona fide marketing and PR platform, amongst many other valuable uses.

Whilst there is still no agreed model for monetising the site’s success it’s future value will be hugely affected by its ability to keep itself up and running.

Trendjacking and the Twitter Bugs

5 08 2009

The UK retailer Habitat brought the practise of hashjacking or trendjacking to the fore when it used interest in the election protests in Iran to try to sell lampshades, tarnishing its own reputation somewhat in the process.

When a word is used frequently in posts on twitter it will ‘trend’ and show up in applications like twitscoop, twazzup and on the twitter site.  These applications create clickable links so we can all see what the fuss is about. 

Increasing numbers of users users are hijacking these trending terms to sell at us. As I write a twitter user has managed to get Cory Aquino, #iranelection, Paula Abdul, Bill Clinton and North Korea into one 140 character message.   The amount of spam that now finds its way into twitter is one of the reasons that some seasoned PR practioners are seriously questioning its value.

Spammers are getting more sophisticated, setting up believable accounts with convincing tweets.  For example @mgimina and @askanditsgiven both look credible but they are sending out identical tweets at the same time and with alarming frequency.  There are at least half a dozen accounts also automated to send out the same stuff as these two.  If you do look at them take the time to block them (you don’t have to be following to do this) which will help twitter to identify the accounts for closure.   Twitter needs to clean up its act but we all need to do our bit to clear out the garbage.

5000 Up

4 08 2009

The twitter presence for this blog@SocialWebPR passed the 5000 follower mark earlier today.  Thanks to all for following and to @MallorcaNews for being the 5000th.  The blog launched on November 29th 2008 and the twitter feed on December 1st.  Both are companions to the book ‘Public Relations and the Social Web’ which was published by Kogan Page in the Spring of this year.

Observer Closure Just The Start

4 08 2009

We should have seen the writing on the wall when the fish and chip shops started to close and more still when they abandoned yesterday’s paper in favour of plain wrapping.   Yesterday the Guardian Media Group (GMG) admitted that it might close The Observer in an attempt to reduce debts, which are approaching £90 million.

The review of the Guardian’s products is being by led by editor in chief Alan Rusbridger with a decison planned to be taken by the autumn.  It is difficult to see how the paper can continue when much of the editorial team has already been integrated with the Guardian and management have already intimated that it may go.

The existence of Trusts (GMG is owned by the Scott Trust) and proprietors that are prepared to shore up losses mean that a rationalisation of the UKs national newspapers is well overdue.  We have seen the process start with pressure on regional titles and with the big circulation city titles in the States.   I always believed that the Sunday People would be the first to go and that no-one would really notice.  Whilst we have seen short lived nationals like Today and The European close The Observer has been around since 1791 and its demise would be unprecedented.  It looks now like it may be the first major national newspaper to close.  It won’t be the last.

Archbishop Pontificates On Social Networks

3 08 2009

Is the leader of the Catholic Church in England and Wales using his opposition to social networks as a way of building his own profile?  Archbishop Vincent Nichols has argued that MySpace and Facebook are the basis of “transient” friendships and can be a factor in suicide among young people as a result of relationships which have collapsed.  The truth is that young people are vulnerable to relationship issues wherever and however they occur.  

If the Archbishop, who was enthroned just two months ago as successor to the high profile Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor wanted headlines he got them.  He wouldn’t be the first Catholic cleric to capture column inches via Facebook.  Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe of Naples who openly takes a very different stance on social networks opened a Facebook site in November and within a few weeks gained  5,000 ‘friends’.  

A more useful contribution from the cloth came from Giles Fraser, the vicar of Putney who on the BBC Radio Today programme this morning, described social networks as “thin communities” which allow for freedom and social diversity where young people can “keep friendships alive”.  

I think the important issue here is the relevance and importance of the expertise.  When it comes to understanding new technologies and emerging communications channels we simply shouldn’t be turning to religious (or political) leaders for advice.

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