for what it’s worth

stories and stimulus from a consumer insight consultant

Location Based Services In Europe: An Interview With Socialight London

socialightSocialight, the location-based community platform that delivers user-generated information through geo-tagged ‘sticky notes’, have just launched a location-aware search service for London, offering hyper-local, custom-filtered content on your phone. The site is currently in Beta for the UK so, for PSFK, I caught up with Simon Davis and David Belnick from their London team to find out more about the state of the location-based services market that they’ve just entered.

Everyone’s been talking about location-based social networking services, how do you see this working for the future?

Location-based services got a very bad name with the initial offerings, what you would get wasn’t worth it. Everyone’s wanted it but it’s never been delivered. But tons of people have got great location-based content, it’s just very difficult for those people to know how to develop a mobile service to put it on their phones. With Socialight we can go to companies like Time Out and offer them another channel for communication.

The idea of Socialight is that it offers different types of content for different types of people broken up by the channels, and through either bookmarking it or texting specific words to the short code it will pull you in to different kinds of content. To us, the user-generated aspect is very important in terms of having people interact with the service and improve the quality of the data, but we have also built up some channels through buying in and commissioning content, in particular Late Night London which is loaded with opinionated content created by musicians, DJs, artists and people who are out late! We’ve tried to make this an open platform so that anyone with appropriate content can also create these kinds of services.

As well as the usual networking comments and tags, we envisage you creating lots of little communities around specific types of location-based content. As the channels grow there’s the possibility of collaboration and communication with those that are all interested in the same thing within that channel, plus there’s the ability for whoever created the channel to then communicate with them. It’s a way of creating communities around people’s content and existing content. It is community created, but it’s not community for community’s sake.

How do you see your revenue model working for the future? Are you able to support it as a free service?

Yes we are currently a free model but I wouldn’t rule out the fact that we might charge for some services, where the advertising revenue wouldn’t generate enough to subsidize it. We’d love to be a much better version of a directory service. Currently people pay £1 to talk to 118118 or Texperts to get a single answer to a single question in a single location, if we charged 50p and for that you received the full, rich directory data, and you didn’t get one listing you got the closest 400 places sorted around where you are, we think it’s a much better directory service and the way our service is designed we can potentially charge a lot less for it.

But then what we would do is use those services to continue running services that are free like the general Socialight social networking service or niche services like Late Night London, stuff that’s interesting and edgy and exciting, but also social. So we think there’s going to be a mix of paid services and free services. That was the reason we built this open platform with channel capability.

Our preferred model is obviously advertising supported. We think mobile services will go the same way as the online model; free services ad-supported, it’s just what to do in the interim process.

How far do you feel the advertising industry is from utilizing these mobile opportunities?

The problem with WAP ads is that they are in their infancy. Although they’re growing exponentially, the pool of advertisers is currently limited to ringtones, wallpapers or services that can run on a handset. What we want is for the ads to be part of the service, relevant to the location-based services, when this happens an ad-supported model is definitely going to work across all these services, but we’re not there yet.

Currently there’s nothing stopping someone going into Socialight, creating a note on their business and offering a special offer/ advert that it will serve as a piece of content, as a sticky note. People already do this, but in terms of serving ads, the big companies don’t provide any mechanism for say Joe’s Café to place an ad that’s going to be delivered to a mobile user around them, the targeting is just not there, they can only send it to a particular handset or country. The current ad networks aren’t geared to support these services with ads, but we’re thinking about that too, we’re building our ad service that is specifically geared to these types of services.

Within Socialight you can also have any channel you want and attach any value to that channel in terms of sponsorship, branding and specific demographic. Because if the content is valuable the people will consume it, and sometimes even be willing to pay for it.

How do you find the state of location-based services in Europe versus the U.S?

The UK the market is much more mature for this. Here it’s quite easy to launch a service with a call-to-action that involves a short code, everyone’s used to that. In the U.S you often can’t get a cross-carrier short-code because there are so many carriers. There is no aggregation in the US so location-based services don’t work. Plus there’s a huge installed GPS handset base in the US, about 50% of the handsets there have GPS chips, so we think there you’re likely to see the take-off of java application with GPS rather than any network location stuff.

This UK model however transports very well to Europe, to South Africa, and to most of Asia. Socialight already handles content created in all different languages, we’ve made sure it supports all the correct character sets so you can get notes right now in Italian, German, even Korean. The underlying technology in Europe is the same as here so with the right partners we could definitely move into different territories, but right now we’re focussed on the UK.

Thanks guys!


Filed under: mobile lifestyles

Zopa Listings: Personalised Social Lending

Zopa, the clever UK-based social lending service that enables people to lend and borrow money from each other, thereby completely redefining the traditional banking model, is about to get even more personal with the launch last night of Zopa Listings.


Currently in Beta, Zopa Listings allows borrowers to make their own specific loan listings, display their own credit information, and invite lenders to bid against their loan requirements. Within this, each Zopa listing can include a very personalised request with photos, and in the near future video, highlighting exactly what the money will be used for. Sections within listing pages include ‘Why I’m borrowing’, ‘Why I’m a safe pair of hands’ and ‘The state of my finances’, and borrowers are rated on a 5-star system displaying their credit score, affordability and stability.

Feel like lending to Drew to help finance his honeymoon to Vietnam or help SailorBoy pay for a car for his partner and new baby? Just ‘bid’ on a listing, showing how much you are prepared to lend and at what rate. These details will also appear on the listing page which , Zopa hopes, will encourage competitive bidding among lenders to offer the best rates.

This open, personalised system is not for the black coats out there, but by turning the premise of established banking on its head and putting the control back in the community, individual social lending can only go from strength to strength. As Giles Andrews, Managing Director of Zopa explained:

“Our launch comes at a time when more and more people feel let down or even failed by their bank and indeed the ‘old system’ as a whole. The results for our borrowers and lenders over the last two and a half years has proven that people are better than banks – that Social Lending can be a better alternative for people seeking to borrow, or to find a more attractive return on money they have saved. Zopa Listings adds new levels of individuality, personal control and choice, extending the appeal of this innovative alternative to the banks even further.”


Filed under: visions of the future,

Otetsudai Networks: Mobile Jobs by GPS


otetsudai2Looking for the freedom and flexibility of part-time work over salaried security, Japanese youth can now turn to Otetsudai Networks for instant daily employment wherever they are. Once signed up to the service with a mini-cv illustrating skills and focus, they can take a daily GPS reading on their phone and just hang out waiting for offers. Businesses looking for immediate staffing or individuals looking for specific help can send a request to Otetsudai Networks and receive a list of available potential employees within the area alongside their qualifications and ratings from previous employers within minutes. Business themselves are rated on a per-manager basis for the potential workers to see how their peers have rated working for them, and the network even offers the chance for bargaining the pay-cheque!


Currently with a network of about 45,000 users, and growing at a rate of 1,000 new users per week, this idea could have the potential to fill a very important gap not just for Japan but in the global workforce. Imagine if wherever you went you could offer your skills through the network for daily employment and eradicate the need for the current work structure?

via smartmobs

Filed under: collaborative working, ,

Green-washing or Greenwashing?


Street Advertising Services has taken the idea from reverse graffiti that we’ve been seeing around the world and established what they call ‘a professional provider of Street Art and Advertising’ that creates eco-friendly branded graffiti. This literally is green-washing in the most positive sense: a street team turns up at night with a pressure-washer to blast a stensilled advert onto the pavement using only the cleaning power of water. As this only constitutes street-cleaning the process is legal and therefore can be used to target any area, which sounds great for brands, but slightly less appealing to the residents. Lets hope someone stops and thinks about the visual implications of this before we have Starbucks adverts on every paving slab!

[via Threeminds@Organic]

Filed under: ads that caught my eye, stuff on the streets

Newtoon teaches Physics on your Phone


A mobile phone and web-based gaming activity that embeds physics learning into the core of its application, Newtoon is a collaborative project between UK-based Futurelab and Soda Creative that is designed to encourage children to create, play, edit and share micro-games based on Newton’s laws of physics.

By motivating children to make use of their own phones for learning and encouraging mobile applications within the classroom, the project aims to offer teachers an engaging and exciting new tool for education, as well as hopefully inspiring students to involve science into their lives outside the school walls. There are two key aspects; the ‘microlab’ which allows teachers to demonstrate and explain physics principles, and the ‘microgame’ allows pupils and teachers to create their own games based on these principles, explained in the scenarios give on their website:

Scenario 1

A science teacher is anxious about KS3 Unit 8J: Magnets and electromagnets. She wonders how she can excite her pupils about the world of magnetism. The teacher launches Newtoon on the whiteboard and searches for a tutorial on ‘magnets’. She opens a research microlab and by moving and rotating the bar magnet, she demonstrates that the ferrous bar always attracts while the bar magnet both attracts and repels depending on polarity. On their desktops, the pupils then select ‘dog’s dinner’, a micro-game which explores magnets. Racing against the clock, the pupils steer a dog towards the bone, avoiding the magnetic forces.

Scenario 2

During the science lesson, all the pupils’ games are collected into a game-carousel at the Newtoon website. At home, a pupil, Laura loads the game-carousel onto her mobile phone and challenges her family to play her creations. “How does it work?” her mum asks. Laura explains that her game, ‘dream-date’, uses magnetic variables to make her game characters attract and repel each other depending on how ‘cute’ they are, using pictures she has imported from the internet. She then shows her mum that her game has been the most played by her classmates, and that she has improved in her understanding of physics

Having been prototype tested in schools around the UK already this year, and with trails due to launch any day now, this is an exciting new system for the future of learning that may finally begin to bring about the materialisation of the much-deliberated re-think to the tenets of teaching.

‘The evolution of a gaming community has the potential to invoke an interactive and collaborative classroom culture with doing, debating and deliberating science at its heart. This will involve exploring the possibilities of a 21st century science curriculum.’

Futurelab: Newtoon

Filed under: education, mobile lifestyles, products with a purpose

StyleShake brings bespoke fashion online

styleshakeNewly-launched online fashion site StyleShake aims to bring the art of bespoke fashion to the web, in what creator Iris Ben-David describes as a ‘UGC meets ecommerce’ fashion brand. The site enables UK users to create their own individually-designed dress from an online stable of shapes, colours and fabrics inspired by the latest catwalk trends, which is then tailor-made to their chosen size and delivered to their door in just 10 days.

For PSFK, I caught up with former new media and online advertising professional Iris, who highlighted the importance for her of building the StyleShake community which invites users to display and share their designs to be rated and critiqued by other wannabe fashion designers. Aimed at being a truly collaborative brand, Iris explained “The community has a major role. We would like our users to express themselves visually and verbally, share their ideas and thoughts. Since we see our visitors as designers we would like to hear from them what kind of ‘building blocks’ they would like to see on the next collection. They are more than welcome to email their ideas.”

Iris also emphasised that “We are making our best to make sure that our suppliers meet the ethical standard. We take great pride in the fact that we manufacture in London, not Far East sweat shops, and this also reduces our carbon footprint.”

All sounds pretty good, and for a site that sells itself on being “as close as it gets to haute couture in front of your computer” they have even created their own sizing guide, based on a calculated average from all the leading retailers and graded ‘in-house’.

Each budding designer has their own ‘designer’s page’, although with very limited information given (many are completely devoid of anything save a name), and a rather cheeky blog section which lists an array of blog titles that once clicked lead to a ‘coming soon’ page, we have to admit to feeling slightly dubious about StyleShake’s true community. However if you can believe what you read the site seems to already be successful among teen girls across the UK- though whether they go on to order their designs at £160 ($330) each is something we’d love to know. It would be great to see some real photos of the final outfits being worn, faceless mannequins just don’t do enough. And for something so pricey a decent idea of how each fabric will change the final fit and form would definitely help.

That said, the site is easy to navigate, fun to use, and with already over 1,000 unique dress designs uploaded to the gallery there is definitely a lot to inspire any budding fashionista who likes the idea of being able to declare ‘oh this thing… it’s just something I designed’!


Filed under: creative ideas, , ,

Perfume to help you smell rich

Perfume and accessories, once the links to luxury brand cache for the lowly masses, have been growing in price considerably over the past couple of years. Now you’ll be lucky to find a designer handbag under $1000, and as for scent- you can thank Tom Ford for his help in raising perfume from the lowest form of brand association to the ‘limited edition’ exclusivity and ridiculous prices we see before us.

What this means of course is that brands are stepping up the competition to bottle the scent of money luxury. Whilst smaller perfumers offer bespoke fragrances at prices upwards of $8000, for larger beauty brands the price tag has only been pushed tentatively. However Estee Lauder (the company behind the Tom Ford Beauty range) are about to change all this with their new Private Collection fragrance called Tuberose Gardenia which will retail exclusively at Harrods, costing a whopping $400 for 30ml.

Talking to, Aerin Lauder described the new fragrance as fulfilling a market need: “When my grandmother launched the first Private Collection scent in 1973, it was all about quiet, personal luxury and I think that’s something there’s a really strong market for today. The modern consumer wants something fast and easy and cheap, then she’s mixing that with something very high-end and luxurious. That’s where this scent comes in.”

[via Vogue]

Filed under: brand extensions, Luxury

The Death of Trends

Two articles in UK newspapers yesterday caught my eye for their different explanations to what many of us noticed during the recent fashion circus; the sudden demise of catwalk trends.

Amol Rajan at The Independent highlights the loss of seasonal trends, as companies swap fashion trend consultants for climatologists, whilst in her summary of Paris fashion week Jess Cartner-Morley over at the Guardian talks of a season of only micro-trends and mini-trends, opting out of the impossible task of banding these collections into overarching themes.

To anyone who has been following the shows for the past month, neither of these statements is a great surprise, but they beg the question what will the high street retailers do now? This season’s abundance of celebrity-designed ranges may offer temporary sales success, but a much deeper re-think might be for the future.

Unpredictable weather ‘means seasonal fashion is now obsolete’- the Independent
Fashion for all- The Guardian

Filed under: creative ideas,