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On Google Glass, Snapchat and iBeacons: STIBO Accelerator

The Stibo Accelerator, a member of WAN-IFRA’s Innovation Hub, is teaming up with University students and researchers to stimulative creativity and explore future possibilities for the media industry. Angelique Lu explores the latest projects in motion within the Denmark-based operation.

by Nick Tjaardstra nick.tjaardstra@wan-ifra.org | November 21, 2014

The Stibo Accelerator exhibited three major projects at WAN-IFRA’s Amsterdam Publishing Expo last month. It is part of the Stibo network, which includes CCI Europe, Stibo systems and Stibo printing Division.

The Stibo Accelerator partners with post graduate students from their networks in the Danish city of Aarhus. “We’re actually also solving a problem on their side,” Lasse Chor from the Stibo Accelerator explains. “Finding real life cases when you do your thesis is also very difficult for students when you don’t have the network,” he said. “The universities [are] … super happy to have us on board to facilitate this central contact point for these students.”

Projects showcased by the Stibo Accelerator in Amsterdam included Google Glass and changes it will have the way people consume news, whether Apple’s iBeacon technology can bring more advertising revenue with its location based capabilities and whether Snapchat can be considered a news platform.

The Stibo Accelerator provides mentoring, structure, infrastructure networking opportunities and possibility of capital for the projects it undertakes. “If we can help to accelerate innovation in the news industry then we have done everything we can to keep ourselves in business as well in the long run,” Kim Svendsendirector of the Stibo Accelerator said.

When Svendsen and Chor presented their projects in the Stibo Accelerator at the Amsterdam expo, the response to their work was positive. “People realised that potentially this technology could add an extra outlet and extra opportunity in our industry,” Chor said. “That’s why we as the Accelorator find it an incredible opportunity to do this because then we, when [innovations] come…we have presented them at an early stage to the industry, the industry is more ready than.”

“And of course it’s about having fun,” Svendsen added. “And we do have fun.”

Google Glass

Google Glass has made headlines in recent days, where investors and developers have reportedly abandoned the device, some owners having sold their devices online for half price. Being such a new and untested product, is it a gamble to investigate the technology? “No not at all,” Lasse Chor said. “No matter if its going to be Google Glass or anything else, it’s a question of, what is the new opportunity that this wearable technology generates?”

We don’t even care if it’s Google Glass or anything else but it’s a new paradigm,” he said. “We’re now dealing with a new technology, a new paradigm of technology that we need to understand – both the challenges and especially the new opportunity.”

Google Glass and other wearable technologies present new opportunities for readers to interact with content. “But what type of content? How do you put this content there and how do you structure it?,” Chor asked.

“You can’t just do mobile to wearable technology and expect it to be an easy transition. That’s why, no matter if it’s going to be this (Google Glass). We’re now opening up a project of smart watches which is also an interesting wearable technology.”

“It’s important to understand that what we’re exploring is not the specific product technology it’s … the paradigm that’s really important for us.”

Snapchat

Another project currently being explored by the Stibo Accelerator is testing whether news organisations can direct news to young people through Snapchat, an instant messaging service that ‘deletes’ 10 second content bites after they’re viewed. Anders Kongstad, a researcher from the Danish School for Media and Journalism in Aarhus is investigating whether Snapchat is an effective way to engage young people with the news. In the first five weeks of his project, he gained 1500 followers on the platform. “It’s a super simple way of doing news content,” Chor explained. “What he’s actually exploring is different ways to show different types of content,” he said. “But since he’s dealing with young people, he’s really found a way of doing quick news that is relevant for this specific target audience.”

The targeted demographic of Kongstad’s content is an advantage, Svendsen said.

“One of the things that media organisations are really struggling with is … when you try and target everybody it would be relevant to none,” Svendsen said.

The hugely popular Snapchat platform, a combination of social media and messaging service, means that it was an obvious area to explore. “Often the messaging service is used as, ‘Hey, here’s what I’m doing right now.’” Svendsen explained. “You either send it to one specific person or you send it to your entire network of followers.”

“That’s what Anders is really doing, he’s really succeeding in making it interesting, to go through the personal snaps as part of the personal message stream that becomes the news broadcast,” he said.

Major news organisations have expressed interest in the findings at the STIBO Acclerator about the Snapchat research. “It’s a news stream but I think what [Kongstad] is finding is one of the reasons is that other really big news organisations are keen to learn is that the old farts like us we just don’t really understand what kind of news the youth want,” Svendsen said.

“They’re used to getting news from Facebook and Twitter and from their friends and so on, and what is news to a media corporation is not necessarily news to a 15 year old.”

While Kongstad has an in-depth understanding of the news young people want to consume, the STIBO Accelerator has nurtured his research by giving him access to resources. “He does have statistics,” Chor said. “I wouldn’t call him a fully launched news outlet. He’s currently in the research project trying to see what makes sense. That’s where we can be supportive to because he doesn’t know anything about statistics and what he’s doing right now is really experimenting.”

iBeacon

“If you look at the current paradigm of advertising, banner ads are still one of the most widely spread for this,” Chor said.  The traditional banner, widely used by media organisations but proven to be ineffective, faces additional difficulties on mobile devices. “When you look at a news article on your smart phone the banner ad unit is just one fifth of the screen than the real estate that you have for your actual content, to the annoyance of the user.”

According to Chor, iBeacon technology has the potential to overturn traditional models of revenue raising in the media industry. “How can we, instead of making advertisement something that’s actually annoying, use new technology to create an experience that’s a totally different shift in how we think about advertising?”

Apple’s iBeacon technology, low energy bluetooth, provides location based information to devices. Small physical beacons are cheap Bluetooth transmitters, these signals are picked up by phones as they are within range.

“So for example let’s say you are on the beach one day,” Chor said. “These iBeacons know the temperature if it’s above 25 degrees. It would – through the application of the media company – know that you’re maybe interested in former ‘purchases’ that you’ve made. Then it can say, well you know, you’re probably one of the ones that would like an ice cream at the moment here’s a coupon for an ice cream at the nearest kiosk.”

The location function in iBeacon technology Chor said, has huge implications for the media industry. “Even though papers are something that people bring around, you don’t know where they are and so you can’t really make content relevant that you’re advertising.”

The ubiquitous nature of smart phones means that the media has an opportunity to tap a new market. “That’s why the media companies have an incredible opportunity because they already have a tonne of applications in people’s pocket,” Chor said. “The traditional paradigm of banner ads, all statistics show that they’re going down the drain. So we need to find new ways of keeping this advertising revenue in your pockets instead of just sending to Google or something like that.”

Native advertising, Kim Svendsen explained, compliments the iBeacon technology. “Imagine if you could tell the advertiser that ‘okay, you’re paying for native advertising for a story written about your product’ what if the reader could be targeted the next time they walk by your store? ,” Svendsen said.

“A specific reader that spent more than a minute, for example, on reading your article sees a pop up on his phone saying there’s an offer on a camera that you read about right in here, so walk in and you’ll receive a coupon.”

The Washington Post announced that iBeacon technology “could change the world forever.” However, little is known about how the  general public will respond to the new possibilities. When, for example, will the information be considered useful and at what point does it become spam?

“That’s a great point,” Chore said. “That’s what the guys are researching. How can we feed more advertising to people but when would they be okay getting an advertisement?”

“Not just okay,” Svensden added. “When would they consider advertising actually valuable?”

The Stibo Accelerator were presenters at the Digital Media Summit in Singapore last weekend.