Tag Archives: social networking

Nokia Opens Hollywood Research Center

This morning, Nokia announced it has just opened a Nokia Research Center in Hollywood, headed by Rebecca Allen, who founded the Design/Media Arts Department at UCLA and previously held positions a rebeccaallen20041senior research scientist at MIT Media Lab Europe and “3D visionary” at Virgin Interactive Entertainment.

Other universities and research centers that Nokia Research Center collaborates with include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University in the US, the University of Cambridge, UK and Tsinghua University, China.

MobilizedTV interviewed Allen about the mission of the NRC and its potential relationships with and impact on the Hollywood film/TV industry.

MobilizedTV: Tell us a little about your background and how that serves you in your new position with Nokia.

Rebecca Allen: I joined Nokia in July of this year. I’ve spent many years at UCLA where I founded the Design and Media Arts Dept. For another 30 years I have been involved in emerging technolgies, particularly related to media and, as an artist and designer. I approach new technologies through my interest as an artist and designer but am also involved in and have fairly good knowledge of the technology as well. My feeling is if you want to do something creative with new technologies, you have to dig in and understand the tools. The better you know your tools, the more innovative things you can do with them. I also taught from way back that it was going to be important to have artists involved with these new tech were and have some kind of impact and influence on them, which is what got me to dive into research labs.

For me, it was an ideal job description. It’s rare that I can utilize the different parts of my hybrid background, and they were looking for someone with strong academic background in LA and with long-time experience working with media technologies in a research context. And they also wanted someone who was connected to the Hollywood community and that was something I felt comfortable with. And someone with a design background, or some knowledge of the design side. It is so rare to see a job description looking for these multi-disciplinary parts and exciting that I could bring experience to all these different areas.

MTV: What will the research center be doing? What’s your mandate?

RA: Our general mission is to look at what is unique about mobile media and where it might go in the future. Another nice thing, being in research, we’re able to be disruptive- to throw out new ideas and see if we can bring in innovation into the company. One focus we’ll have is “augmented reality.” What is important to me about the mobile space is that it takes us out into the physical world. It’s different from being locked up in a room staring at a monitor, be it a theater screen, TV screen or computer monitor.

With mobile, we’re allowed to be mobile–out in public places in the physical world. How can we have interesting and engaging entertainment using mobile? How can mobile entertainment be different from other entertainment we know? One thing we take advantage is the abilities of mobile devices such as GPS technologies. One idea might be a game where you play the game by going to different physical locations. You can connect that to social networking. We can use mobile devices’ cameras and GPS to, for example, take a picture of a building, have the computer can recognize the building and, in a game situation, it might be a clue.

I can also look at my display and see a virtual object that will give me a clue about where to go next. This is part of the mixed-reality technology where the computer is identifying some object in this space. Once the computer realizes it, it can bring up a fantasy object. The virtual objects or characters are clues that only appear when you’re at a certain location, or if you’re pointing your camera at a certain object. These are all ways to build up the augmented reality experience.

Another big area will be looking at new user interfaces, which is very exciting for me too – I’ve done a lot of work with human bodies, human motion, non-verbal communication. The idea of looking of this for more natural forms of interaction will also be an interesting area for us. When we’re out in the physical world, having a keyboard and mouse don’t make sense so exploring further the interfaces will make that particularly interesting.

MTV: Who are your Hollywood industry partners? How will you be working together?

RA: We haven’t announced Hollywood partners. I’ve been spending a chunk of my time talking to people. In the Los Angeles area, there are numerous interesting groups that look at technology tied in with media, often associated with media companies. We’re looking, in some cases, to collaborate with these media technology companies or even with a company generating media and interested in moving into the mobile space. We’re talking to some people and will talk to more who could be potential collaborators. Also, we’re looking at creative talent in the media industry. In my history, I’ve worked with talented artists who have always wanted to work with new technology, thinking about new ideas for mobile space. But we can’t announce anyone at this point.

Even in research, which is thought of very engineering/technology-focused. it’s crucial in these areas that you have strong creative design input all along the way from the beginning of your research. I’m comfortable with mixing these cultures; I’m a hybrid of these different cultures. This is why it’s important that we’re bringing in creative input from the beginning.

MTV: What would this look like?

RA: One thing I’d like to do is form a nice community of forward thinkers in Los Angeles. I’d like to organize a workshop or set of presentations for people to discuss new ideas. We’re in research, and part of our mandate is also to look farther out, where this will go, what will happen in five years in this space.

MTV: Will you work with the studios or bigger Hollywood institutions?

RA: I’m sure we’ll be connecting. I’m familiar with people at the studios. Even within the Hollywood environment, there are smaller compnies working with the Hollywood studios. I’d like to take advantge of that, to have some interaction with the larger studios but also a lot of work goes on in these smaller businesses. They’re often set up to look to the future. To be able to think and play with these new technologies, I’ll be looking at different-sized industries. Of course we’ll have the relationshp that’s started now with UCLA and USC.

MTV: What will be happening at the research center? What can we expect to see from it in the near future? Will this be open to the public or behind closed doors?

RA: I”m looking to have both public and behind-the-scenes. One nice quality of that in some of our research with the university, it’s intensively open to the public as well as research the university can share with other groups. And there will also be more proprietary work we’ll be doing that will specifically benefit Nokia that I won’t be able to reveal. We see a balance between those sides. By opening up some of the research areas, Nokia believes, it’ll help the whole field move forward. The feeling is that it’s good to keep innovation open to drive the future.

MTV: Where is the center? How many people are or will be staffing it?

RA: We’ve got a location now in Santa Monica where we plan to be for about a year. We’re also looking at a permanent location. Usually Nokia Research Labs are located close to a campus we’re involved with, but since we’re invovled with two campuses, we wanted to make sure we were central to them and a lot of media going on.

We should be at about 20 people, but we also have interns and visitors which will bring it up to probably 30 people . We’re getting staffed up, we’re actually hiring now. I’m looking for people who would come from both a user interface design, user experience and be knowledgeable about the technology and various areas of technology and development.

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Social Networking: Money Maker or a Collection of Address Books?

I think it’s pretty obvious at this point in the game that social networking is likely to be a component of much if not most of mobile content. This panel on social networking was made up of Keith Katz, whose Cellufun company creates games with a strong social component; John Poisson is president of Tiny Pictures that allows users to share photos and videos among friends; Mikael Vinding at JYGY.com, which allows the user to create interactive mobile campaigns, and Christopher Ngyun at Bluepulse, a mobile messaging service dedicated to the mobile web. All the companies are ad-supported except for Bluepulse which is transaction-supported and JYGY.com which offers a mixed model.

Moderator Julie Ask at JupiterResearch noted that most people think of Facebook or MySpace when they think of social networking. She asked how social networking played into what each company is doing. Poisson says it’s defined as going into a community space, whether it’s a MySpace or Facebook type of model. Tiny Pictures is a much smaller version: your real social network, the ones you’ve called recently on your mobile phone. Vinding says he feels that what they does competes with Facebook in terms of an application, although they’ll never beat them at their game; but what his company does is built around the mobile platform rather than the “add-on” that Facebook is doing, said Vinding. “Everyone can create personal clubs online and free,” he said. “Through our service via mobile messaging, you can find a list of people from your torn, for example, and in a safe and anonymous way get to know them.”

Social networks are nothing more than a collection of address books, said Bluepulse’s Nguyen. But when you add mobile into it, the game changes. “Mobile is with you all the time and connections are much more likely to be interactive and maintained,” he said. “Add the 4 billion subscriptions we’re at today, and the really interesting opportunity is the mobile social networking space.”

Vinding disagreed with Nguyen’s belief that social networking is nothing more than a collection of address books. “You can update your status, which is stored and logged and can be data-mined,” he noted. “It’s a whole knowledge compendium of what a person is and what they like.”

Nguyen asked to respond. “Behavioral targeting is already proven as something that can make money, but is no where near as effective as [you think]. The value of looking at your yahoo mail traffic is a hundred-fold more important. The time aspect, not the relationship aspect is what people want, and mobile gives you that.”

Cellufun’s Katz said it boils down to the definition of social networking. “Social networking can be a group that has an interest in something and come together in large groups to pursue that,” he said. “We have millions of people into playing casual games on their phones and have learned it can be more fun doing it with a group with similar interests.” It would be hard to describe any part of a group that gets together with similar interests as not being social networking, added Tiny Pictures’ Poisson.

How do you monetize social networking? asked Ask. “You have to have a lot of folks doing it to make it work,” agreed Katz. “We have a pretty simple way of making money which is through display ads. We also do things that we can do because we’re more than a portal. We have a virtual economy, to play games or buy various goods. We’re now incorporating real brands into that mall. So you have to have a lot of people and find other ways of advertising aside from banner ads.”

Most of the growth of his business has been word-of-mouth, said Katz. “There’s also the stickiness factor and that becomes a more compelling message to advertisers.” “The nature of our business is based on the intimate nature of the phone, and it’s naturally viral because you have to get your friends to sign up,” said Poisson. “But you’re much more likely to come back because if I don’t send photos or comment on my friends photos, people will wonder where you are. It’s built into the nature of what we do. People get into the habit of checking every few hours. We’re a totally free, advertising-supported site.”

Tiny Pictures' Poisson talks; Cellufun's Katz looks on

Tiny Pictures' Poisson; Cellufun's Katz looks on

The most interesting revenue-creation model in his world is to be able to deliver sponsored content into the stream; the user could opt into a “Tropic Thunder” channel, which gave them behind-the-scenes footage of the movie in addition to their friends’ photos. Then consumers had a conversation around that comment. “That speaks to what these media-rich devices can do,” he said.

Social networking is like a big distribution channel, said Vinding. The vast majority of revenue on a Facebook is advertising. Yes, advertising is an immediate thing that can be done now, he said, but don’t just look at this as a social networking site on a PC, because the mobile is also a payment device, especially with premium text services that exists in every country. The third prong they’re looking at is media polling or surveys.

“You make money from the verbs not the nouns,” said Nguyen. “Facebook is a big noun, not a verb; it’s in the action that people express an intent and that’s where the money is to be made. We’re perfectly happy not to have our own social network. I fail to see the significance of social networks as a major money maker; it’s a collection of powerful address books.”

Will social networking on the cell phone be an extension of what goes on on the PC, or something quite different. “I think it’s a very different experience, with the always with you factor, the constant connection,” said Poisson. “Sharing bits of information with your friends all day long, engaging on the go is very different than what’s on the computer.”

Ask noted that teenagers and young adults want that constant checking-in. Will this kind of social networking be limited to youth, or to vertical communities? “I think it feels most relevant to the youth market: they’re comfortable with the technology and comfortable sharing,” said Poisson. “I would never have told my parents what I was doing every day, but my 25 year old sister is constantly texting, calling, sharing. And my mom is now sharing what she’s doing. It spreads from that.” Vinding said he’s seen vertical applications of that, from automotive to medical. “It’s around a specific interest or condition and it expands from there, incorporating all ages,” he said.

Why is the immediacy of the cell phone important for this kind of vertical content? “You can stay in touch, if you’re going someplace,” said Vinding. “The method of access is also important. Not everyone has a PC. Everybody has a mobile phone. If you were doing something where people needed an easy way to update everyday, it’s easy and it’s in your hand. It’s not just immediacy–it’s accessibility.”

“Immediacy is the one thing that’s different with the mobile phone and not on the PC,” agreed Nguyen. “It’s something that you just don’t want but because everyone else has it, you have to.” Do we really need things immediately? “Let’s not conflate immediacy with urgency,” said Poisson. “There is something about immediacy that strikes us all as wasteful or ridiculous. The best example with the younger generation is text-messaging which seems like a stupid, stupid way to communicate. But it has by all measures supplanted every other form of communication for this generation. It doesn’t interrupt you (although you can argue that) but a big part of its value is its immediacy. It’s not about urgency, it’s about now.”

Nguyen said “I think people will die without this stuff.” “I agree with John but I’d push the point further. Immediacy does mean urgency. Let’s say we need to know the population of Zimbabwe. A few years ago, it was reasonable to come back with an answer in a few days. Today, if you can’t come up with an answer in 5 minutes, you’re gone. In the future, if you can’t come up with the answer in 5 seconds, you’re gone. Immediacy is fundamentally transforming media.”

“What the iPhone does is – the UI is completely different which encourages more usage, people who use it are more likely to use gmail mobile and the WiFi platform: all those things conspire to say that we’re at an interesting shift,” said Nguyen. “I don’t think that in a few years we’ll dispute whether you need that piece of information in 5 minutes. You’ll need it.”

Ask asked the panelists if location play a role in social networking services. “We’re trying to figure that out,” admitted Katz. “We’re creating a world travel game, and what we’re doing is implementing a guide system so that if you live near that city you can be a guide and earn extra points for doing that. We think that will create more of a bond. We already see that people with sub-interests beyond gaming are forming their own groups on the site. For example, on their own, hundreds of people are participating in a site on mobile pets, virtual pets, that people are feeding. We’re trying to find ways that can help our users forge alliances based on geography which we think will increase the stickiness of the site.”

Vinding said that location is fun and interesting but in terms of social networking, one of the great benefits is that you can talk to people around the world. “I don’t necessarily want to talk to someone near me unless it’s dating or meeting local people to have beers,” he said. “We don’t see a lot of demand for location-based demands.” The scale and scope issues of location often aren’t discussed, said Poisson. “Location has the potential to be industry and experience changing but there’s a big difference between regionality and sitting in Conference Room 1 at the Marriott. Even with my closest friend, that’s a tough value proposition to get. People don’t even want their close friends to know where they are.”

One-quarter of teens want to track where their friends are, said Ask. They don’t want to be tracked, but they want to be able to track. “If I have taken 10 pictures in a restaurant in San Francisco and Ian and ten of my friends also take those pictures, maybe we’re at the same birthday party and put those pictures together,” said Poisson “I think that’s a lot more interesting than Where’s Ian right now?”

It’s not new to know where you are, said Nguyen. “If you’re late for a meeting, you’ll be able to give a status update,” he said. “Occasionally information about time will be useful but won’t add much to the transactional basis.”

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Miss Playboy Mobile: First Step in a Global Mobile Strategy

In April this year at CTIA Wireless conference in Las Vegas, Playboy Mobile announced Miss Playboy Mobile 2008, sponsored by THQ Wireless and Viva! Vision.

With carriers in control of content, adult content has been largely shut out of the mobile content game in the most obvious way. Yet, without fanfare, Playboy has expanded its reach in mobile, in 50+ countries and well over 80 carriers.

Playboy Mobile took a much higher profile here with the April announcement about Miss Playboy Mobile. I spoke with Ed Lang, SVP and GM, Mobile and International Online, Playboy Enterprises and a veteran in the wireless industry, to find out how Playboy can both maintain its brand and meet the PG-13 requirements of the mobile platform.

MobilizedTV: How do you stay true to the Playboy brand in a mobile environment that restricts adult content?

LANG: We do have an interesting split in how we distribute our content. International strategy is different than U.S. strategy. Some countries are more conservative, the U.S. being one of the most conservative countries. Here, they only allow PG-13 content, which disallows even models modeling clothing in a particular way, anything at all sexually suggestive. A lot of territories in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, and the Middle East are also conservative. Europe is the most receptive to that content. They allow streaming XXX content in those territories. The bulk of adult business is in Europe.

How do you promote the Playboy brand in the U.S.?

We knew we needed to focus the brand into its more traditional and aspirational areas, which is the lifestyle side it’s been over the last 50 years, the lifestyle associated with someone who’d buy the Playboy magazine. We created a Playboy experience, with fashion and design elements.

That decision was made a couple of years ago and we initially weren’t leveraging the full breadth of the brand in our digital media. The company realized there were other areas to be competitive in in the mobile space, rather than being pigeon-holed. I realized the editorial voice of Playboy is so strong and we demonstrated the depth and breadth of the brand in the U.S., not just to consumers but to carriers. We felt we didn’t necessarily have to fall in the stereotype; there was no reason why we should accept the brand positioning being set by other people.

How did that position evolve?

About one year into my job we made the decision to go out to the direct-to-consumer market and prove that theory. Rather than direct carrier deals, we launched initiatives relating to consumers. Really, the greatest effort to demonstrate the lifestyle was to launch our model search. Other people had done similar things, so we had the benefit of looking at that and thinking of how we could differentiate ourselves. Last year, we launched an ambitious project around Miss Playboy Mobile, to find a non-nude contestant who would the crown winner.

Amber - contestant and ultimate winner

Amber - contestant and ultimate winner

We crowned her at the April CTIA Wireless conference. It was well attended and we demonstrated the ability to pull off a gender-friendly event with a viral component. It also went cross-platform, starting as mobile initiative and moving into social media on the computer.

Miss Playboy Mobile contestants

Miss Playboy Mobile contestants

Miss Playboy Mobile - the winner!

Miss Playboy Mobile - the winner!

That led to a partnership with mywaves. We’re expanding the strategy of syndicating our content with social media on the phone, so you’ll hear about more deals in this space. Mywaves is Playboy’s first ad-supported, mobile-content distribution deal to handle syndication of a content channel.

I understand you also came out with an iPhone version of your WAP site?

Yes, when the iPhone came out earlier this year, we launched a WAP site optimized for the iPhone that will leverage the 3G version of the phone. That will stay a one-off decision. I’m not interested in optimizing for multiple handsets. But there’s a “thing” happening around the iPhone and we didn’t want to be on the sidelines.

The iPhone site features an immersive experience including “Playboy-on-the-Scene” footage from lifestyle-based projects. iPlayboy contains mobile-specific features such as “Battle of the Sexiest,” “Playboy Radio,” and “Scout,” a blog on sex, dating, and other lifestyle topics. iPlayboy is an ad-supported site which will be upgraded continuously to include social/community involvement, a content storefront, and other feature introductions, integrating the iPhone experience with Playboy Mobile’s PC experience.

What have you learned from the Miss Playboy Mobile experience?

Our three-pronged approach is our mobile internet site; syndicating our content out to mobile social networks, and a yet-to-be-announced comprehensive messaging strategy. Basically, we’ve done enough deals with enough depth to do both free, ad-supported content and premium content, with every type of messaging solution you can have. This will be a big deal for us, because previously we’d only done short code. We’ll integrate messaging between how we syndicate our content out, our mobile site, and how we interact with it online and with social media. The idea being that every one of those places that people can interact with the brand, they’ll be one click away from our messaging strategy, which will lead you to discover everything in the network.

When do you expect to be able to monetize the mobile portion of the strategy?

We’re already making revenue from ad sales on the mobile site. When you monetize what we’re doing across product offerings, we think this will work from an ad-generating place alone. Each one of these three prongs will eventually have a premium area with an up-sale for more premium service or content. What Playboy is aspiring to do is deliver value. We’re in the process of coming up with unique content offerings that people haven’t seen before. We are trying to push the envelope by bringing out things that we believe haven’t been done in the past.

One example is that we recently decided to go into the mobile original content area and we have our first series we’re going to put out. The way we approached it is very different. We figured out how to integrate the divisions of the company, ranging from TV to the magazine and our sponsor ad partners. How we’re releasing it is also unique. We thought about integrated marketing. It won’t be video with a pre-roll or post-roll. We said, Let’s go for integrated marketing, product placement, just like TV, and that’s the elements we did.

To finish it off, we just announced that we’re in the planning stages of taking the Miss Playboy Mobile competition global. I have no less aspiration than attempting to pull off something that’s never been done before. We’re ambitious in the number of territories, the interactions, to integrate sponsors into the competition and the abilty to run it on online and mobile with a heavy social media element. We set our sights on the bigger campaigns and want to improve on it. We have localized partners that produce products and content for us: 26 local magazine publishers that publish local editions, TV stations that add to our broadcasts, digital partners who represent us in certain regions. Leveraging those partnerships allows us to customize and localize for the global Miss Playboy Mobile. Localized competitions feed into the regionalized and then ultimately global competition. There are sponsorship opportunities at each level and we continue to target both men and women. We look at top social media networks in all the different global regions and we’ll try to extend a widget or application to those, in the native language. It’s an ambitious project and the targeted time frame will be Q1 2009 with target party at CTIA Wireless in April.

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Abigail’s X-Rated Teen Diary: It’s not what you’re thinking…

First, don’t let the title fool you: “Abigail’s X-Rated Teen Diary” is really G-rated. But the “X-rated” got your attention, didn’t it? That’s exactly what creator Hayden Black intended. Abigail is a teen-aged girl who has ‘Bloomberger’s disease’, which makes her look like a 30-something bearded guy (kind of like Hayden Black). Her signature phrase – awkward turtles! – and her optimistic and cheery cluelessness has endeared her to a largely female 12 to 24 year old demographic.



Launched in October 2007, the 1-minute videos have garnered well over 1.5 million hits a month. They’re also going mobile, via BuzzWire and MyWaves.

If the name Hayden Black rings a bell, it’s probably because of his earlier venture “Goodnight Burbank,” a spoof of evening news that launched in 2005 with a cast of TV/movie actors and starring Black as a supercilious newscaster with a cast of characters.

MobilizedTV spoke to Black about Abigail’s popularity, how studios fail at interactivity, and

How did you develop the idea of Abigail and her diary?

The last time I had spoken to a teenager was when I was a teenager. I wanted to see what they were like instead of how the media portrays them. A friend of mine has a teenage daughter and the three of us sat down and I started talking to her and asking her questions and we emailed. “Goodnight Burbank” also has a huge [teen] fan base on MySpace who I got a lot of feedback from. The idea was to get to what kids are thinking. The first thing I noticed was how cynical, jaded and sarcastic they were. And I had completely forgotten how cynical, jaded and sarcastic I was as a teenager. Although they’re portrayed as anything but on TV.

I think that’s why Abigail works, because of how cynical and jaded a lot of kids are. None of them has grown up in an era where they don’t know TV. They’re been marketed to from day one. When I used to work on promos for the TV networks, listening the way they talked about promoting to the kids was a joke. They talked down to them.

For example, Miley Cyrus announced she was embarrassed about the semi-topless pictures she had taken. I looked at the pictures and girls go out to nightclubs wearing less. Of course she’s not embarrassed. It’s all publicity and marketing. The people behind her, the industry machines, assume that by saying something is true, kids will believe them. Kids are far savvier than that. We are far savvier than that. I immediately recorded an episode – I improvised in one take to the camera – with Abigail screaming and crying that she was embarrassed for Miley. The adults watch it and say, that’s what the kids think. But the kids watch it and realize I’m making fun of the machine and the people behind that. They know it’s all an act.

I spent six months developing Abigail. A lot of shows on the Internet could be improved a thousand fold if some development went behind it and some writing.

Who’s watching Abigail?

The vast majority is female aged 12 to 24. We have both anecdotal evidence, seeing who writes in. And we did a survey on the website and it’s about 75 percent female.

Right now, on the Internet, you have two crowds watching: the post-college work crowd looking for a distraction during work. They’re looking for things that are quick and easy to get to. Then you have your high school crowd, and they’re looking not just for a distraction but to get involved. They’ll much more easily interact with your storyline, whether it’s emailing you directly, sending their own videos to you, checking in on other fans. I’ve watched people on Facebook who have submitted videos to Abigail and then become friends with other fans on the show. So that network spreads.

How have you grown the interactive elements of Abigail?

If you’re looking to do something interactive, you need to engage the fans. If you look at start-up production companies like mine, I get to invest time in making sure that the interactions fans have with Abigail are organic, fun and original. Someone wrote me back, with smiley faces, saying, “Yay, you’re not a robot.” And that’s because they’ve run into robots before on Internet shows. Obviously these kids can tell.

Studios have to overcome their inability to be personal. They have to move forward out of corporate-speak and these bland responses they may offer and truly engage these people with writing.

But if you’re the head of a studio, you don’t have the time to sit there and write. Even the writer doesn’t have enough time to write. You hire college interns to respond for you in character, but then you’re giving away the keys to the kingdom. If they say something offensive or wrong, you’ve hurt your brand and then it’s not just that particular show that suffers but all the shows the studio produces. The studios do have a lot more to worry about. Their responses and interactions will be a lot blander and more corporate because it’s all that structure can allow for.

Do you have plans beyond the Internet and mobile platforms?

We’ve done a deal with HeavyBag Media and RealTime Matrix. They’re building a widget for Abigail that will be cross-platform for fans on Facebook, MySpace and Bebo. It’ll have all the videos plus exclusive greetings you can send to your friends. What makes it unique is you’ll be able to talk in real-time to someone using this on MySpace or Facebook. It’s like a cyber chat room. You’ll be able to text-based chat to people on other social networks. HeavyBag is doing the social networking and advertising and RealTime Matrix is building the technology and infrastructure and will also help with advertising. For fans, the more they interact, the more their status improves. They go from BFF to BFF@evs (best friends for ever and ever)

We’ll also try to give away prizes. An author of a book has given us three prizes to give away. Two authors of books big with females are looking for press and publicity, so we’ll give those books away.

It seems that Abigail would be easy to monetize with merchandising.

As far as merchandising, we’ve talked about books with Abigail’s little pieces of prose in the margins. We’re talking about an Abigail bubble-head doll. We definitely see the potential for a TV series, which was again one of the things sketched out in the beginning. It wouldn’t be the same but the same things would be at the base.

The idea is that anything that I develop has legs to be able to go to TV and features and various merchandising. Otherwise, what’s the point? It’s great to be able to come up with a quick, cheap easy idea to produce for the Internet, but in the long run that doesn’t get you much. I think it’s about finding unique original stories and concepts and developing them.

What makes this premise different from “Ugly Betty”?

“Ugly Betty” is an adult. This hits the universal theme of issues with self-esteem when it is at its rawest. Certainly with females, the body is changing, they’re being looked upon like an outsider, they feel like outsiders, and Abigail is there to make it all right with naivete, silliness and a joke and overall goofiness. I think this is what fans are responding to. We’ve had you’re putting a voice to the unloved, the unwanted. Abigail through accident and design has become a character who is influencing peoples’ lives.

What are some of the anecdotes you’re hearing from fans?

One girl wrote to say her whole family is gathered around the laptop. So, yes, the family watches together. We occasionally flirt with a PG joke, but very rarely – and then it’s only a flirt. We don’t go there. There’s no reason to. I police it myself to make sure we don’t go too far.

We heard from two teens who, when their teacher misspoke, said “awkward turtles!,” which is Abigail’s way of being understanding when someone does something embarrassing. He didn’t get it and put them into detention. Later, he looked up Abigail, figured it out and apologized to the two girls.

Abigail is responsible for a fan getting engaged. We do an occasional Dear Abby segment. One was from someone who wanted her boyfriend to propose to her before Christmas. Abigail responded with a silly reply, the girl showed it to her boyfriend who laughed and proposed 24 hours later.

Any surprising fans?

We had an email from a unit of Marines in Iraq who said, we enjoy your show, would you give us a shout out. I asked for their names, and did a whole episode, using the names of their unit. From Abigail’s skewed perspective of course.

How does Abigail work on the mobile platform?

Abigail is perfect for that. Everybody says the perfect length for mobile is x or y. No, the perfect length is until it gets boring. Abigail works great in minute-long chunks because it’s a monologue. If we were taking it not just as a monologue but interacting with schoolmates and going to the mall, you’d have longer episodes. But a monologue- at 30-seconds you’re done. Now we’re branching out and having “Abigail’s X-rated Interviews” where she does interview for her high school newspaper with celebrities. The first was with Carolyn Lawrence, who is the voice of Sandy Cheeks in the “SpongeBob SquarePants” as well as Orel Pupppington in “Moral Orel.” It’s Ali G-esque because it’s from Abigail’s perspective, but the guests know what’s going on. Those will be edited down to about four-minutes. Abigail just went up on Glam.com. We’re also going to do an Abigail special in England, where TV celebrities will appear in 1.5-minute episode. To them it’s a cameo, for me, but for me, it’s a starring role.

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Big Brother Goes Mobile

On July 13, when CBS debuts “Big Brother 10,” it will also debut “Big Brother: Live TV Challenge,” an interactive component to the show.

Big Brother splash

Big Brother splash

AirPlay, a company that’s been creating multi-player TV games since 2005, specializes in connecting mobile devices to U.S. television households (the company is backed by Qualcomm, Motorola, JK&B Capital, Onset Ventures and Redpoint Ventures).

“Big Brother: Live TV Challenge” allows users to use their mobile phone, or the Internet, to earn prizes and communicate with one another, while they’re watching the program. The premise rests on the well-established fact that teens and young people are two-screen viewers, always on the Internet and/or mobile phone while they watch television. AirPlay’s interactive game makes the most of this demographic’s natural tendency to social networking while TV watching.

In addition to social networking, viewers can compete against one another through predictions, “Pop Polls,” trivia and memory of past show events. This season’s prize to the top Big Brother interactive champion is eligibility to win a trip to the live season finale in Los Angeles.

To try out AirPlay’s Big Brother: Live TV Challenge, log onto CBS, AirPlay or text BB10 to PLAYTV. The game is available on AllTell, AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless.

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ManiaTV’s Move to Mobile

If you haven’t gotten quite enough of Red Hot Chili Pepper’s Dave Navarro in your life, now you can bring him with you wherever you go…on your cell phone.

Online TV network ManiaTV just announced it’s going mobile, with content from all its franchised shows, which includes Comedy-on-Demand (hosted by the National Lampoon Lemmings) and Navarro’s Spread TV. Since all these shows include shorter-form segments, said ManiaTV CEO Peter Hoskins, those are the segments that will make up Phase One of Mania’s move to mobile. The mobile service is powered by Transpera, which allows users to access online video content from any video-enabled phone, via mobile browser at http:/maniatv.com.

Phase Two will be made-for-mobile content, written, shot and produced for the cell phone screen. Hoskins revealed that the company is in the process of testing different formats that will create an interactive component by utilizing some of the interactive functionality provided by platform partner Transpera. Those include Send-to-Friend, which allows a user to send the mobile video to a friend, automatically optimized for that friend’s handset, and Send-to-Mobile, which allows a user to pick a video on a website and send it to his/her handset by inputting the phone number (pretty cool, it must be said). Those functions will launch next quarter, said Transpera CEO Frank Barbieri.

Transpera deliver video via the mobile web, and Barbieri has plenty to say about the efficacy of this delivery method. “We’re seeing users are treating the web on their phone just like they do on their computers,” he said. “And we make those sites work.” Proof of the pudding: Transpera also powers video on break.com, CBS News, Associated Press’ mobile offering (see MobilizedTV.com article on AP’s mobile site).

The challenge now is to take those creative functionalities for the mobile device and marry it convincingly with content. Hoskins told MobilizedTV that they’re experimenting with such interactive formats as contests, voting, and the ability to choose a storyline. Social networking, of course, also plays a role, and Hoskins praises Transpera’s “progressive” offering that includes Twitter integration and bookmarking. “We’re working with Transpera to co-develop that platform which is supportive of the kind of content that’s right for the mobile space,” said Hoskins.

“The big message, which we’ve made first online, is that we made content for the internet, not formulaic sitcom on the internet,” he continued. “It’s important to do the same thing on mobile.”

Regarding synergies between online and mobile content, Hoskins pointed out that the fragmentation of audiences means that “the way to aggregate audience is very different.” “We program for the various platforms, and storylines will interlate between one platform and another and alternate storylines on each platform,” he said. “All that is to expand — not cannibalize — the entertainment opportunity and grow the aggregate audience.”

How will that play out on mobile? Wait and see, say Hoskins and Barbieri. “The nice thing about working with an online video innovator like ManiaTV is that we have a lot of fun conversations about how to integrate mobile into their programming,” said Barbieri.

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