From a desert, from the driest continent, from this land at the opposite end of the globe ...

... as remote as could be in the hockey world ...

... came one of the world’s oldest winter sports trophies.

A cool tradition, a dream of champions, and a story we owe it to our children to tell.

Legends of Australian Ice.

[ DESIGN ] User-generated content

Social media's brave new visually-oriented world

There is nothing hotter in the world of marketing right now than user generated content (UGC) campaigns. Advertising agencies and brands worldwide are trying to tap into the immense power of their fan/customer base and use their authentic and original content to power their marketing campaigns.

THE EXPANSION OF FAST BROADBAND networks and the availability of software, hardware and recording equipment have broken down the barriers to the production and distribution of audiovisual content. Large quantities of multimedia materials are flowing onto the Internet and into the archives every day, and all over the world ambitious projects are digitalizing heritage collections. Sites like Vine, where short videos are uploaded and shared, and Snapchat, where photos disappear after only a few seconds, have changed the game for businesses, requiring them to rethink their marketing campaigns.

In our last article on design we talked about Disney. They are a good example of a company that has done a great job of fine-tuning its marketing strategies over the years. The company launched its Vine page with a contest titled Vine Your Disney Side, inviting users to create videos showing their Disney side for the chance of winning a Disney vacation or $1,000. The winning entry received the trip and also $10,000 to create an extended Vine series that further promoted the company to other Vine users. Their latest Vine offering is Haunt your Disney Side.

Yet, the market for a sporting league's content is not just fans, and the content is not just video. Publishers everywhere are trying to meet consumer demand for more and more visual assets, and so you would expect organizations such as the AIHL to have a media repository that included, say the best images and sound bites, in addition to the short- and long-form video content.

Once that is in place, it really is relatively easy to give fans and other potential customers subscription-access where they sign-up once to download any number of photos or videos available for publication. All of it can be made available in a variety of packages. For instance, subscriptions to suit users who want less online transactions, and VoD to suit occasional users. Many fans will only want to view classic games but now there are good commercial reasons to offer content that fans and publishers can embed, as we shall soon see.

Fandom today cuts a lot deeper. Many fans are themselves producers, sharing, appropriating and remixing content, overcoming the old regime of top-down broadcast media. They have formed a new wave of voluntary alliances online. Their blogs, wikis, social networks and user-generated-content  tools are sweeping away traditional media, with little respect for the stranglehold of monopolizing corporate regimes, especially in the guise of not-for-profits. How should sports leagues deal with these new social and economical paradigms? How do they develop sustainable online archives in the relentless instability of digital technology and the Internet?

Today's consumer is less swayed by owned media, and more influenced by real people. In fact, 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family and 70% trust online reviews, while the vast majority view paid online advertising with deep suspicion. The solution for marketing your brand with all the believability of a real person is simple: actively collect and utilize user-generated content.

Today's socio-technological dynamics are generating many challenges, but it makes sense to reinvest at least a little in back-content by setting it up properly while the task is still very manageable. Content needs to be quick to browse and searchable which means tagging and metadata, categorizing and grouping, and that shouldn't be a stumbling block. Currently the content is small, relatively targeted and specific. Semantically describing it for quick access is not labour intensive, yet it will add value, making the archive more attractive to both fans and publishers. It should at least be searchable by team or player. A self-sustaining system would provide incentives for future content producers to meet a reasonable metadata standard, or even an online archive system that provides for user-generated tagging and folksonomy.

Recent research has found commonly agreed sets of tags describing content (like keywords) show up over time in large folksonomies. Now it is even possible to devise mathematical models of collaborative tagging. A secure website and a good archive search plugin would do the rest. Subscribers choose from targeted content matching their search term. That's it, you could just leave it there, and hope users take it up. Or you could make it irresistible. Take the NHL, for example. Everyone knows gaining access to a vault is kind of cool, right? Especially if there is something valuable inside. That's the way the NHL branding went when they added 150 full-length classic games to in 2010; free to GameCenter Live subscribers and a monthly standalone subscription for others.

Terms like "back catalog" should be saved for a good idea you want to kill. For when you want to invoke adding machines the size of a house powered by large vacuum tubes. Emphasize something else instead. Terms such as AIHL Media Express promote speed and accessibility. AIHL Trove or AIHL Time Machine invoke the excitement of buried treasure and time travel. A successful design strategy for themes such as that would not just be built around a simple interactive search field. They would be designed around a visual history timeline or a treasure map in which users can immerse themselves, browse and discover.

1. Nielson, April 10, 2012, Global Consumers' Trust in "Earned" Advertising Grows in Importance. Online

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