BBC’s Digital Olympics: Four Screens, 28 Streams, 2,500 Hours

London 2012 Olympics

“Every sport, from every location.” That is BBC Sport’s mantra for delivering next year’s London 2012 Olympic Games digitally.

“We will have up to 24 simultaneous live streams of sport running across our digital platforms. At Beijing, we had eight,” BBC Future Media’s head of sport product Cait O’Riordan told the Association of Online Publishers’ annual summit in London on Friday.

The broadcaster wants to make its coverage, totalling 2,500 hours, available to users on the “four screens” of desktop browser, mobile, connected TV and tablet, “through whichever piece of glass they choose to watch it”, with these hallmarks…

  • “Immersive video for a more active viewing experience.”
  • “Dynamic curation, delivering unparalleled detail.”
  • “Simple personalisation.”
  • “Optimised mobile browser experience.”
  • “Connected TV experience.”

O’Riordan elaborated…

  • “Catchup in the live experience. If you get home after (diver) Tom Daley’s hit the water, we’ll make it easy for you to jump back to that point.”
  • “Whichever stream you’re watching you can get extra detail.”
  • “Dynamic semantic publishing. We will have a page for all 302 medal events, a page for every country (there are 240), and a page for every single athlete (there are 12,000 of those). We can do a page for a Tashkent weightlifter as easily as we can for Usain Bolt.”

For its Olympics website, the BBC is considering using the same, Windows 8-style grid proposed in the main BBC.co.uk redesign beta, inspired by touchscreen swiping. We’re using the same design pattern deliberately,” O’Riordan said.


BostonGlobe.Com Launches Today; Shifts To Paying Subscribers Only Oct. 1

New BostonGlobe.com requires registration now, money next month.

One of the most unusual efforts to make money from a newspaper web site launches today in Boston, slightly less than a year after plans were announced. For the rest of September, BostonGlobe.com, which went live overnight, will be open to registered users through a sponsored free trial. Come Oct. 1, most of the content from the second-largest New York Times Co. (NYSE: NYT) paper will be available only to print subscribers and those willing to pay $3.99 a week—$208 a year—for online-only access.

Unlike sites that have been open access until a “paywall” goes up, technically BostonGlobe.com launches as a subscription-only site. But the same content has been free until now through regional news and info site Boston.com, which will no longer will house the complete paper. Overall, Editor Martin Baron estimates that about three-fourths of the newspaper’s content will now only be available on BostonGlobe.com.

The goal is to keep Boston.com high traffic by keeping it open, while developing BostonGlobe.com for subscribers. Boston.com still will have fresh newsroom-produced daily content, including 20 new blogs and breaking news, and will feature some articles from the newspaper. (Here’s the FAQ on Boston.com.)

Baron describes it as “two different sites for two different kinds of reader—some understand journalism needs to be funded and paid for. Other people just won’t pay. We have a site fior them.”

The “content rules” that govern what should show up where may be a little complicated but planners have tried for simplicity in other ways. No meters for BostonGlobe.com like its corporate sib Nytimes.com—although it will respect first clicks from social media links, no complicated digital payment plans—and a number of other aspects that make it stand out:


News International Is Launching Mobile Sports and Entertainment Service

Business man holding BlackBerry mobile phone

A new online and mobile service dedicated to sport and showbiz is to be launched in the wake of the closure of the News of the World by Rupert Murdoch’s News International.

Twenty-one jobs have been advertised internally for a new “digital journalism company” with 19 editorial positions—seven in sports, seven in showbiz, three in multimedia and two in production.

Former News of the World staff suspect the company wants to get a slice of the celebrity market that has been successfully exploited by the Daily Mail.

The Mail‘s online offering is significantly different from its print product, with its mix of paparazzi photos and celebrity gossip a huge traffic driver in the past three years. It is now the UK’s number one national newspaper site with 70 million monthly users.

News International’s Tom Mockridge told staff earlier this week that the company was developing a digital business that would create 21 jobs, but he did not expand on what he meant.

It is understood the team is being assembled to develop services for online as well as applications for smartphones and tablets.

One source said, “The online department has been criticized for not being able to build apps fast enough. This could be their attempt to beef up NI’s app presence. So they could do a Mail online-style showbiz app, soccer app etc and come up with one-off apps related to major events, Olympics, royal weddings etc.”

The company refused to say if it was launching a standalone product—the Sun already has a showbiz app for its Bizarre column, so it is unlikely to develop another.


Interview: The World’s Richest Soccer Club Is Like A Free Content ‘Startup’

Richard Ayers

The world’s wealthiest soccer club will deploy RFID chips, augmented reality season tickets, online data toys, connected TV channels, Foursquare, mobile remixes and more as it tries to make itself also the world’s best-supported, its digital head Richard Ayers tells paidContent.

Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan has spent £1 billion on Manchester City Football Club since he acquired the club in 2008, including lavishly on player talent that has boosted its Premier League ranking. But, online, the club has clicked “undo” on a paid content strategy and is instead investing in numerous free digital services for fans.

It genuinely feels to me like a startup,” says Ayers, who was hired in January after stints at Trinity Mirror (LSE: TNI), Magic Lantern, Tiscali and others. “We’re running as fast as we can, but under the umbrella of a very sensible ‘VC’.”

Free for fans

Though City, like most English and Scottish soccer clubs, had previously charged fans a monthly subscription to watch its online video through newly-listed Perform’s service, it tore up that strategy after the Sheikh’s acquisition and instead contracted Endemol to produce behind-the-scenes and highlights videos that go out for free through its Poke-built website. About 100 “CityTV” videos and 150 text stories are produced each month, by a total 15-person team.

“You never forget about the football, but we are focusing on audience growth,” Ayers says. “We don’t charge for content - we were the first and may even still be the only club that gives away all our content. Arsenal have started to give away some content for free - but, for 99 percent of clubs, it’s all locked behind a paywall.

“One of the guiding principles we have is about bringing fans closer to the club. With lots of clubs, you devote your life and give money for season tickets and get back the right to buy more shirts.”

Since the change, on-site dwell time has risen from two minutes to an average three minutes and 40 seconds. Although the Premier League itself remains in a court battle with YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) over highlights posted by users, City this month started its own YouTube channel with CityTV’s behind-the-scenes videos. One, of new striker Samuel Nasri’s arrival at the club, clocked 100,000 views in 10 hours.

Not just behind-the-scenes footage; to its own site, City can even post match highlights from midnight on the day after a given game, after Sky Sports’ and ESPN’s TV window expires and after Yahoo’s initial exclusivity on online highlights expires. “On your own site, you can give context and interaction like no other place,” Ayers says. But the club is also seeking a syndication manager to sell much of its footage overseas and will begin implementing geo-IP blocking. And, from the sounds of it, City is likely to launch CityTV on the new range of internet-enabled TVs hitting the market.

A place to experiment

City can likely draw on more owner investment than any other club, but so far ranks only eleventh by revenue and less by actual value.

Despite the club’s moneybags reputation, Ayers says his digital team, which sits both in City’s brand/commercial and its communications departments, doesn’t enjoy bottomless pockets. “Sadly not. I worked at a number of other places where the media budget is bigger than here,” he says. “The financial strategy is solid, it’s pretty strict - they don’t throw money away and give a massive budget and say ‘go and play with this’. But, if you come up with a good idea, there is the vision to go and back it. It’s arguably the best place i’ve ever worked - there’s a can-do, creative environment.”

One example - for the new season, Ayers helped the club rationalise a four-tier club membership structure in to just one RFID-equipped smart card, bearing a QR code and an augmented reality placeholder, without even having a firm idea how to use them.

“We will work out things to do with the combination,” he tells paidContent. “I see that as a huge opportunity. We get 40,000 people who turn up every week, all carrying these cards - if you can’t do something with that, then you’re doing something wrong.” Initial ideas suggest competitions, voting and treasure hunts, and Ayers wants agencies to pitch him with “cool ideas”. The card is already being used to unlock website tools that let fans pose with the FA Cup.



Scoring with ‘data-tainment’

If, as the adage goes, “every company is now a media company”, there appear ample opportunities for Ayers’ City to reach the “audience” formerly known as “fans”.

Another way is with a marriage of data and entertainment Ayers embarrassedly calls “data-tainment”. The data soccer managers take about their players movements from services like Opta and ProZone can be deployed for fans.

“We are going to put in an entire data architecture across the whole website,” Ayers says. “The performance analysis data that the club gets is just amazing; I had no idea - it’s not just how many shots or goals; it’s even the average sprint speed for a particular player in the first half. We can integrate it in to the stories, video, specials, in to games.” Agencies are again invited to put forward ideas.

Leveraging mobile and music

So far, Manchester City has clocked “surprisingly good uptake” of 15,000 downloads for its £2.99 iPhone app, which carried a fee just to dip the club’s toe in mobile waters. “We’ve had a couple of dabbles with mobile,” Ayers says. “We are currently reviewing the strategy because there’s so much more you can do.”

A second version of that app will come, along with Android and mobile web versions, and: “We’re talking to Foursquare about the best way to partner and they’re excited because there’s so much you can do.”

Meanwhile, City will also be rolling out a music remix mobile app based on Bounce Mobile technology that will let fans produce their own versions of tracks including its club anthem Blue Moon. “Man City as a brand is built closely in with the city and its musical life - and not just because the Gallachers are a big fans,” says Ayers. “We’ve developed this app so you have a bunch of tracks for free - Blue Moon is our signature song - but we’re also talking to Doves, Oasis and Mike Pickering (head of A&R at Sony (NYSE: SNE) BMG’s Columbia).”

With all that digital activity, it’s tempting to draw parallel’s with City’s red-shirted Manchester rivals. Ayers says he can’t speak for Manchester United directly but: “People tell me it’s not really a focus for them.”

Ayers, meanwhile, is recruiting for a successor so that he can drop back in to a directing position to spend more time on his new role as a dad.


Bill Simmons Knows How to Fix Twitter

Dear Dick Costolo, Jack Dorsey, Adam Bain, et al.,

You probably know this, but ESPN star Bill Simmonsthe guy they built an entire site for — is a big Twitter user. He has some free advice today about things he’d like changed/added. I concur! Let’s make it happen, ok? Thanks.

Via Grantland:

I can’t believe Twitter hasn’t added one of the following two wrinkles …

a. Adding a checklist to your follower list so you could follow however many people you want, but “check” the ones you want to actually show up in your feed. This would prevent wounded feelings (if you’re not following a friend who’s secretly bitter that you’re not following them, which means either they tweet too much or their tweets suck) and clogged Twitter feeds (if you have a couple of friends who post 40 to 50 times a day and clog your feed up, only you can’t unfollow them because they’re your friends).

b. Adding a button so you can make your follower list private. Do you realize how many more porn stars, strippers and hoochie mamas would be followed by athletes and rappers if nobody could see whom they were following? (Well, not you, Amar’e Stoudemire, you obviously don’t care. I’m talking about everyone else.) Do you realize how much more DM-inspired casual sex could be going down? You’re cheating the condom industry, child alimony lawyers and sports blogs, Twitter. Get your act together.

Bethlehem Shoals on The Classical and launching the Kickstarter way

When the would-be sports site The Classical exploded into the Internet’s consciousness via Kickstarter last week there were, as much as there could be, cries of joy. For writers, journalists, and sports fans of a certain persuasion, it was like learning all your favorite musicians were getting together in a new band. It was The Raconteurs, or Damn Yankees, except with the likes of Tom Scharpling, Eric Nusbaum, David Roth, Lang Whitaker, Pete Beatty, and Bethlehem Shoals on lead guitar.

The Classical is marketing itself as a daily web publication and “a running, wide-ranging conversation between us and our readers about baseball, basketball, soccer, football and fighting, and about things that aren’t sports, too.” The pitch, or Kickstart in this case, is $50,000 to fund the site for a year. As fantastic as this all sounds, and since we’re in the business of the business of news, there’s still a big question to be asked: How is this thing going to work?

They’re aiming for something like The Awl, both in spirit and business model. That’s a noble goal, and perhaps smart since by most accounts The Awl is doing just fine. When I spoke to Shoals, he said they’re being purposefully ambitious but pennywise, since $50K, while a lot of money by Kickstarter standards, is not a large budget to start up a new business. “What is it — you spend money to make money,” Shoals said. “We’re asking for money to make money.”

That money buys time, to figure out a business plan, develop an audience, and try to make good on the big bet they’re asking readers to make. Since The Classical currently only exists in Kickstarter (and Twitter) form, they’re staking the future of the enterprise on their reputations, like saying if you liked us in X (say, on the pages of FreeDarko, where many Classical folks contributed), you’re gonna love The Classical. “We know it’s ridiculous for us to throw out a bunch of names and ask for money,” Shoals said. “But we hope the cumulative affect of our track record speaks for themselves,” he said. Which is why The Awl is such a good example, not just in the voice and variation in the writing (and writers). “I think what we all like about The Awl so much is that, from the beginning, Choire [Sicha] and [Alex] Balk said, ‘It’s not going to be stupid — we have good taste about what makes worthwhile content,” Shoals said. And both Sicha and Balk had established themselves with readers pre-Awl with stints at Gawker and elsewhere.

Another appealing element of the Awl model is its editorial independence. They want the ability, Shoals said, to do whatever they and the audience likes. “The thing about Kickstarter we like is it basically guarantees our independence,” he said. But another reason Kickstarter may be good in this case is as a proof: It sends a message (to potential advertisers, to other writers) that there are people out there to support what you’re doing.

For that $50,000, they’ll be running a tight ship, with that money splitting between the costs of setting up and running the site and payments to a couple of editors and to writers. They have a business person and a shadow publisher (who hasn’t been publicly ID’ed yet) guiding the early development of the site. “If you look at the names on the list, you can’t reasonably expect to have a legitimate web publication with those people writing regularly with no money coming from anywhere,” Shoals said.

That doesn’t mean fat checks for writers — $50K only goes so far — nor does it exclude the possibility of people writing for free. They’re planning to use a portion of that first-year budget in hopes of landing some big-name guest writers if possible. But writing for free, as Shoals and many others on The Classical’s roster know, is part of the new reality when it comes to online publishing. You do it for fun, for friends, for recognition, and for the idea that it could lead to taking that next step or next job. It’s a freelancer’s hustle: Give enough to get your due, but make sure the checks still come in. “The myth of the free internet is dogging us in the worst way possible,” he said. “Yeah, you can always do stuff for free, but it won’t be as good as possible.”

In order to do the things they want with the site, Shoals said they have to think like a business. Part of their first year (if they get the funding) would be committed to audience development and studying metrics — finding out the relevant data to take to market. Then they’ll begin to take on advertisers and, hopefully, have a better idea of the true cost of operating the site. It’s a business plan that might have seemed bizarre a few years ago, but it’s almost neotraditional by now: The startup money comes from the audience instead of investors with big checks. Which is why it’s so necessary to try and connect with an audience and give them reason to show a little faith. “It really is about being able to suggest to people that there is a light at the end of the tunnel somewhere,” he said. “That you have an audience and this might be something that will eventually lead to money.”

All of this may sound funny coming from a guy who ran a beloved blog that was long on great writing, but short on a readily identifiable business model. Of course, over its lifetime FreeDarko published two books, not to mention scads of fun merch (much of it designed by Jacob Weinstein, who created The Classical’s logo). Shoals said FreeDarko was an experience that offered plenty of lessons in both writing and the business of writing. Finding people to write because they love a blog — easy. Finding people to write consistently (and for free) — tougher. That experiences helped create the incentive to to nail all the little details of getting The Classical off the ground.

“Basically, FreeDarko taught me if you’re going to try and have something that is more than just a blog, you do need to have stability, structure, and commitment,” he said. “It takes money to do that.”

Former Tremor CEO founds social TV startup for sports

Less than a year after stepping down as CEO of Tremor Media, executive chairman Jason Glickman is working on a new company. The appropriately named startup Connected Sports Ventures, while still in stealth, looks poised to change the way people watch sports, by connecting their social activity on second-screen devices with what’s happening on the big screen.

Glickman stepped down from the CEO role at online ad startup Tremor Media after the company merged with competitor ScanScout late last year. He handed the reins over to ScanScout CEO Bill Day, who handles day-to-day operations, while taking the executive chairman title. But Glickman has been working on Connected Sports since April, according to his LinkedIn profile.

We reached out to Glickman to find out more about the new startup, but he didn’t provide very much detail, except to say that the company will release product in beta by the end of the year. But here’s how the Connected Sports website explains what they’re up to:

“We build cutting edge applications for Connected TVs and second screen devices that turn watching live sports into an interactive experience. By combining real-time social and gaming functionality with the TV broadcast, we blur the line between watching and playing. Your living room will never be the same!”

We were also able to piece together some additional details about the company, based on publicly available information from around the web. For instance, joining Glickman at Connected Sports are co-founders Tim Walling, who previously worked as a software engineer for Brightcove; and Bertrand Navarrete, formerly VP of acquisitions and venture partner at Internet Capital Group.

Based on job postings at Startuply, Connected Sports currently has eight employees, split evenly between Princeton, N.J. and Cambridge, Mass. It’s currently looking for a lead UI designer, as well as JavaScript architects and engineers.

According to AngelList, Progress Ventures General Partner Nick MacShane is an investor in the startup. MacShane had previously invested in Tremor, as well as Mediamath and Media6degrees, among others.

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