Do Androids Dream of Wired Headphones?

Close your eyes and think about what the world might look like in fifty years. You might imagine a city with a Neo-Shanghai aesthetic, decorated with neon, and dominated by the omnipresent skyline of 2067. Our grandchildren carry the natural evolution of our comparatively primitive smartphones…ones that appear to be nothing more than a slab of translucent glass, penetrated only by the sights and sounds that pass through.

headphonesThis image reminds me of a conversation I had with my dad years ago while driving through the oldest district of my hometown. He commented on how all the buildings had been around for almost 150 years, and have never changed, and how science fiction always depicts the world, our world, as being so drastically different just fifty years into the future. What he said rings true. The world doesn’t change overnight into the neo-noir, rain drenched streets of Blade Runner, these things take time. Many of the buildings that towered over men riding on horseback will be standing long after the last autonomous cars have rusted into dust.

One might not think a headphone jack is worth all the strained metaphors and recollections of patriarchal wonderings that have been splayed out in the paragraphs above, but I would argue to the contrary. To get to that brilliant future of wireless convenience, we have to progress through the awkward adolescence of headphone dongles, shoddy bluetooth connections, and the unnecessary duality of charging versus listening to music.

In the following paragraphs, I’ll present four major points to support the eventual adoption of a wireless standard, and hopefully convince you that Apple leaving the headphone jack out of the iPhone 7 will come to be known as a move just as bold and visionary as anything they’ve ever done.

A History of Defining The Future: Apple has a strong history of ditching existing hardware standards, and moving on to technologies that they perceive to be in their springs. Examples include but are not limited to: optical disk drives, the 8-inch floppy, the 3.5-inch floppy, serial ports, wired gigabit ethernet, low DPI displays on mobile devices, Adobe Flash as a basic internet standard, and now wired headphones.

headphones airpodsThese decisions aren’t made to leave invested users in the dust, they are made so that future products can be relevant and useful for as long as possible before the next standard is created. Apple has been around for 40 innovative years so they might have something insightful to say about where things are headed.

The eventual endpoint of all this is that everything can connect wirelessly. Apple is helping everyone get there by eliminating all these standards and just forcing everyone to go wireless.

Size Matters: The headphones jack as we know it is in a static analog connector. It actually can’t get any smaller because the male end of the connector going into the device has to be a certain size. In an age of impossibly thin and light smart devices, the space inside the phone is at a premium, and everything in there is fighting for space. we all want things like larger batteries, better processors, better cameras, vibration motors, haptic feedback engines and stereo speaker systems in our phones, but it’s all fighting for space and at some point something has got to give.

It doesn’t make any sense to leave in a connector that only serves one purpose, and it can’t be changed to something smaller. It also impedes the ability to design water-resistant phones, what more and more users are clamoring for.

headphones airpodsCuration: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have asked for faster horses”, said Henry Ford, the great innovator and world changer of the 20th century.

Part of Apple’s success stems from their product philosophy leaning toward all-in-one designs with few moving parts, elegant form factors, and every faucet of the user experience thought out from beginning to end. The hardware, software, and services you find on these devices are all controlled by a singular vision of the future.

Part of what you are paying a premium price for is the expertise of Apple’s designers, and for their curation in knowing what makes a great product and what doesn’t. They have decided that in their vision of the future, the headphone jack is not a part of that. Some will have faith that Apple will be correct, as they have been for forty years, and some nonbelievers will leap off the bandwagon.

headphonesThe Future: How can you look at the picture above, and not immediately think, “Wow, okay that’s clearly how headphones are going to work in the future”. It’s the most minimal expression of that singular idea. Just a piece of technology dangling from your ear that automatically connects to the device you want to be using it on. It’s effortless, well thought out and insanely cool.

How many times have you had to untangle a long headphone cord, or gotten it caught on something and had the earbuds ripped from your ears. There’s a better way…and Apple is making that happen one small step at a time.

It will begin with us kicking and screaming into the future, but we will get there sooner than any of us realize. One day soon, an Android fanboy is going to wake up, put in his wireless headphones of choice, and walk out the door while reading an article called, “7 Reasons Apple didn’t really invent wireless earbuds.” He will smile smugly, as he makes his way to his job at a GameStop.

Sam Strajack


Is That a Video, or am I Tripping?: Cinemagraphs are the Next Big Thing

No you are not tripping. Well maybe you are. But what you are actually seeing is not a video, nor is it a picture. It is a cinemagraph. A cinemagraph is a little of both. It is basically a video that is partially frozen so, while parts of it are in motion, the rest is still. While I can go into great detail about the technicalities of this new art form I will be focusing on the marketing and advertising aspect of this new, engaging medium.

Cinemagraphs are perfect for capturing a quick moment of action that can be looped over and over. Though cinemagraphs have been around for a few years, they are just making a big hit in forms of advertising and branding. They are very popular on social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram where users are often times overloaded with content. A cinemagraph is a way to stick out in a sea of content. Because of their automatic play and short loop they are easy to consume and hard to ignore.


Cinemagraphs can be used to create suspense

We are used to seeing photos or videos and often times our minds subconsciously skip over content we know already and by playing a trick on the mind consumers are easily attracted to this new concept. In my digital advertising class we learned about how eye tracking is giving us more knowledge on how people are consuming media. We learned that banner ads are no longer effective because eye tracking research shows that people’s gaze are going directly from the url and AROUND the banner ad to continue reading an article. While I am not able to provide data for eye tracking research on cinemagraphs, it is something that would be interesting to see.

Because of their low production costs, they are great for campaigns and marketing strategies. These are not to be mistaken for a GIF. A GIF is a low quality file and is created for entertainment and humour. There is also no aesthetics to a GIF while cinemagraphs focus more on creativity and art. A cinemagraph also creates an illusion and gets people to stop and stare. That extra five seconds of looking may not sound like a lot but in today’s world marketers and advertisers five seconds is a big deal. Like I said, they are the next big thing.

cinemagraphs house of cards
House of Cards Cinemagraph Campaign

Brands are starting to take note of this new medium to create a new form of storytelling. TV shows like House of Cards are also paying attention. Recently they just promoted a new campaign consisting of cinemagraphs to create hype for their upcoming season. More from their campaign can be found here on their tumblr site. For other examples of brands incorporating cinemagraphs into their social media campaigns check out this article from ADWEEK.

Let’s look at the benefits of cinemagraphs.

  • A new form of engaging advertising
  • Form of media that gets people’s attention
  • Cheap production costs
  • A new trend that is just beginning to take off
  • Creates higher click rate on social media sites
  • THEY’RE  F****** AWESOME!

Ad Age also recently posted a blog talking about the impacts cinemagraphs are making as well as giving some social media statistics. So now that you know a little more about this new art form you are probably going to start googling cinemagraphs, am I right? To make things simpler I am including a hyperlink to Flixel which is a program used by professionals to create visually stunning cinemagraphs. If you know After Effects or Photoshop you can even make your own. These are great for startups and bloggers to get more traffic to their site and make a little more noise in the loud advertising environment we live in.

Josh Berendes

Team Stream: The Beauty of Being Biased

People like to hear what they want to hear.  A simple concept and the foundation for team stream broadcasts. Last year’s NCAA men’s basketball Final Four and National Championship game featured a national broadcast, as well as two different team stream broadcasts, for the first time ever. How effective was this? Well, if you look at the ratings it may appear as a failure, but there is a lot more to it than that.

Bleacher Report’s team stream broadcasts stem from their Team Stream app. The app customizes your content to give you a better user experience based on your favorite sports teams. These broadcasts are created to cater to a  specific fan base. They display custom graphics, music, show packaging, team centric replays and custom halftimes with school features.

This year’s National Championship was not only unique because of the team streams, but also because it was the first time a national champion was crowned on cable. The championship game was broadcasted on three different channels. TBS showed the national broadcast, TNT  showed the UNC team stream, and truTV showed the Villanova team stream.

team stream

Why would such a big sporting event switch from broadcast to cable? Money. In 2010, a 14-year/$10.8 billion deal was made between CBS and Turner. They are scheduled to rotate years hosting the championship through 2024. However, there is the option for adjustments to be made at their yearly meeting if they feel a need for change. After the sharp decline in rating from 2015 to 2016, there is definitely a lot to discuss.

The 2016 championship game averaged 10 million fewer viewers than the year prior. In terms of household ratings, they were down 37% which made for the lowest-rated national championship game ever. There were three outlets to view the game, and it was a great game that came down to the buzzer. There are multiple reasons for the drop off and it sure is not the team streams.

team stream basketball

CBS is available in roughly 116.4 million homes, while TBS is only in about 93.8 million homes. This just goes to show how broadcast ratings crush cable. This was the second most-viewed basketball game ever on cable (averaging 17.8 million viewers and peaking at 22.3 million) but it was a bust in terms of a national championship audience.

Outside of the broadcasting conversion, there are several other elements to look at. Both Final Four games leading up to the Championship were noncompetitive. It is known that lack of momentum will affect ratings, and it did.

Also, the year prior prior had a lot more headlines and star power. It was Duke and Wisconsin in the 2015 Championship, both filled with NBA talent and very large followings. 2016 was North Carolina and Villanova, North Carolina is a big name but Villanova has a fairly small fan base. Last but not least, there was a late tipoff. The game tipped-off at 9:19 PM Eastern Time and didn’t finish until after midnight.

There was some negative feedback about the team stream broadcasts but most of that was simply confusion. People would flip to the first channel that had the game on not realizing it was a customized broadcast and find it “biased”. However, as more and more people become familiar with this process, the more popular it will become. I believe that this is a very unique idea and great moving forward in sports broadcasting. The switch from network to cable really didn’t allow us to get a true measure of how effective it is.

Right now it seems like CBS is taking same outlook as myself. The CBS Sports Chairman had this to say in response to if CBS will be using team streams next championship game “We have some issues to work through, like our affiliates. But I think Team Stream has been innovative. It’s a good way to increase exposure and promote the final weekend.”

Ryan Herring

Defective Disney: Corrupting Your Children Since 1937

Disney films portray many dark themes throughout the years, from Snow White to Frozen and Zootopia. Peter Pan captures and kidnaps children to “Neverland”. Neverland being a stand in for heaven, as the true story of Peter Pan is that he is an angel that guides deceased children to their Nirvana. However, Disney can’t put something quite so morbid into their movies! Can they?

disney arielThe Little Mermaid tells girls to change for men in order to get them to love you, and selling your soul is okay, because it’s for love. But she’s just 16 years old, people! In the original tale, Ariel tries to kill the prince in order to regain her mermaid tail. But she is unable to kill him and dies, dissolving into sea foam in the process.

Beauty and the Beast is a beautiful representation of Stockholm syndrome (falling in love with a captor). It also forces the idea for the need for beauty at a young age, rather than beauty is in the “eye of the beholder”. Yes, Belle falls for the Beast despite his appearance, however the lesson backfires in the end because he turns back into a beautiful prince anyways. This Listverse article explains this further.

disney esmerelda

The “beauty takes all” theme is prevalent throughout not only Beauty and the Beast, but many other Disney tales as well. Take Quasimodo and the Hunchback of Notre Dame. He is in love with Esmerelda, yet still does not get the girl because he is not in the image of Disney’s “beauty”. To add to the Hunchback story, there is the disgusting character of Frodo, who dedicates a whole song (Hell Fire) to lusting after Esmeralda. Disney isn’t looking so innocent now, is it?

evil disney

Why is Disney portraying these dark themes? To stay edgy? To Teach children lessons? Or is it to keep the parents entertained as well?

These questions are a bit controversial. While Disney has never come out and explained the answers, we can assume it is a mix of all three, with the answers depending on the particular movie itself. Commentators on Disney from all over the world seem to be unable to agree to the answer.

Perhaps in an effort to stay fresh and edgy, Disney feels the need to push the limits with every movie they produce. There is also the idea of lessons. Alice in Wonderland taught us not to eat random food we find places (more importantly, don’t do drugs, kids!).  Peter Pan taught us to never grow up; an idea Walt truly idolized. Bambi, The Lion King, and Big Hero 6 taught us that life goes on after death (There is an in-depth analysis of these ideas found here). The fluffy-good feeling lessons are endless, even though they may be bursting with sadness as well, which this article articulates.

Lastly, there is the proposed idea that Disney is edgy to keep parents entertained, because really, how many kids really understood Hans’s foot-size joke in Frozen? Surely, that was thrown in for the parents.

Is Disney changing to lighter themes? Or are they simply getting better at hiding the themes?

To be fair, one would think Disney seems to be on the rise for the lighter side. What with the masterpiece that was Frozen, perhaps they have risen above their darker phase? Not quite. While Frozen portrays a strong sense of girl power, they still manage to keep it a little edgy (See Hans’s foot-size joke above).

Inside Out, Zootopia and Big Hero 6 seem less edgy, however they push the lessons to a more serious side. Props to Disney & Pixar for being brazen enough to cover topics like Depression, Social Classes/Racism, and Death/Grieving respectively. Perhaps this is a new era in which the fluff is over, and we start getting serious about educating our children about real problems.

disney bye

If Disney is changing, why are they changing? Are they trying to stay at the top of the game? Or could it be due to a new helicopter-esque style of parenting, making Disney nervous to push its limits? Could it be as simple as to teach children different lessons? What do you think?

Madison Steffen

Fantasy Sports: More is Being Drafted than just Beer

Like many other fantasy sports fans, I too am sick of seeing advertisements for weekly fantasy leagues hosted by sites like DraftKings & FanDuel. However, I’m not annoyed by the volume of these commercials so much as my inability to participate.

Iowa, along with nine other states, have strict laws regarding sports gambling. In the eyes of state legislators, cash payouts for fantasy sport wins are considered gambling, and thus illegal. Many fantasy sport organizations, players, and myself agree that sport gambling laws should not apply to fantasy sports because fantasy sports are much more than just a double down at a blackjack table. This game requires skill to win, not chance.

fantasy sports

Fantasy sports have even caught the attention of the current election cycle, with the Clinton campaign purchasing banner ads that were displayed on the ESPN fantasy football homepage the day before the first evening of debate.

Journalist Andrew Bucholtz argues that a display ad feels more permanent than a video in an article discussing the ad . Screenshotting a video is practically useless because you wouldn’t be able to get a sense of the message the video is trying to convey. But a banner ad such as this conveys the entire message in a still image. In my opinion, ESPN should just #sticktosports.

Let us take a step back for a moment and examine fantasy sports as a whole. The first fantasy sport game took place in “…the latter part of the 1950s, in which each player selected a team of professional golfers and the person with the lowest combined total of strokes at the end of the tournament would win.” Fast forward to 2016, and there over 57 million North Americans playing fantasy football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey.

Fantasy sport players also tend to be “…younger, better educated, [have] higher household incomes and are more likely to have full time employment…” according to studies conducted by the Fantasy Sport Trade Association (FTSA).

If only I could make a little money off of this hobby right? DraftKings alone has paid out over one billion dollars in cash prizes to numerous winners.

fantacy sportsUnlike Iowa, California just recently passed a bill that allows daily fantasy betting to take place. In fact, several of the state’s professional sport teams such as the Clippers, Lakers, Kings and 49ers rallied in support of the bill.

“Team representatives said daily fantasy leagues have helped make professional sports more interactive and interesting to fans” according to an article written by the LA Times.

The support by professional sport organizations for bills such as these should not be misconstrued as an opportunity to rig games. Audience engagement is an absolute must for modern media companies to survive today. With ratings continually dropping for ESPN’s most popular program, Sunday Night Football, one could only imagine what ratings for less popular programs look like.

Sports executives are beginning to run out of ways to drive audience engagement and repeat consumption. Fantasy sports certainly will not be a saving grace, but could certainly keep the door open long enough for the next era of live sports consumption to be ushered in. I’ll keep a spare forty dollars in my wallet when Iowa decides to change its mind.

Cal Gruening

Cameras for Video: Wrong on Purpose?

Since photography became popular in the mid 1950’s, two major brands, Canon and Nikon, have held the top spots in the consumer camera market. But with the start of the new millennium, many users want more from their digital camera, including video capability. Within the last 5-7 years, more companies have gotten into the camera game and excelled at video. Canon and Nikon, along with Sony and Panasonic, have released cameras where video and photo abilities are of equal importance. Let’s see who is winning the video race as of Fall 2016 and what may come in the near future.

camerasCanon, Nikon, Panasonic and Sony all make great cameras for video, Canon’s top contenders are the newly released 5D Mark IV and 1Dx Mark II. Nikon has its D5 and D500 and Panasonic’s top cameras for video are its GH4 and G7. Sony’s top cameras for video are the A7s II, the A7r II and the A6300. These cameras have different sensors, both in size and megapixels, different bodies and features, and different lens compatibility, all of which make them good contenders for top quality cameras for video in 2016.

Each of these cameras have different features and specs that put them in different spots in the market. Canon’s two cameras have 4K video recording, Canon’s Dual Pixel Auto Focus. Audio in and out, as well as the ability to external record video, but only at 1080p. Externally recording video has its benefits, which can be seen here.

Nikon has similar features, but with some key differences. You still get 4K and audio in and outs, but the autofocus in video movie is not as developed. You also get to externally record, but at full 4K resolution, which is a plus.

Panasonic also retains similar features seen in both Canon and Nikon. You still get 4K video, audio in and out, and the ability to record externally in 4K, but there are some extra features as well. You get things like Zebra stripes, slow motion video and picture profiles. Video professionals insist on having these features in their cameras, so Panasonic did the right thing in including them.

Sony, the final manufacturer making moves in camera for video also includes many features for video in the above mentioned cameras. 4K video, autofocus in video mode, picture profiles, audio in and out, external recording in 4K and slow motion. A comparison with some of the cameras mentioned earlier in this article can be found here

There is more that sets these cameras apart however. Canon, Nikon and Panasonic all have a flaw that can prove fatal for those looking to buy an awesome camera for photo and video. All three of these manufacturers crop the video in order to record 4K content.

cameras  cameras

Sony is the only manufacturer to execute 4K recording properly, without the need for cropping. So it begs the question. If it is possible, why isn’t everyone doing it? A possible answer to this could be that these manufacturers do not think their consumers care enough for it. Another reason could be that the issue can be worked around, therefore it is OK that the crop is present. This article looks at the reasoning from a technical perspective.

If I were to pick a camera to user personally, it would more than likely be a Sony. The A6300 and the A7s II are my favorite. They both do everything I look for in a camera for video. There are many other aspects besides technical specs that go into the purchase of equipment. It will be interesting to see if these shortcomings will be enough to get video professionals to switch brands.

Chris Dummer

Explicit Faith: The Christian Rap Industry

Christian rap

Rapper NF boldly proclaims in one of his songs, “When I die, put my ashes in a trash bag. I don’t care where they go. Don’t waste your money on my gravestone. I’m more concerned about my soul.” This is a message one could call atypical of the rap genre, but starkly characteristic of the Christian music industry.

christian rap NF
NF performing at the Sonshine Music Festival. Photo Credit: Leziga Barikor.

The rapper Nathan Feuerstein, better known for his stage name NF, had his newest album Therapy Session reach the top of the rap charts this spring. The growing integration of Christian rap into the secular music industry is an important step towards the refinement of the rap industry as a whole into a more respectable music genre.

Artists like NF who reach secular success often find themselves having to make distinctions of where their faith comes to play and where it doesn’t. The simple explanation is that these people are simply musicians who just so happen to be Christians. But this is unfortunately where they lose most of the crowd.

The paradox that Christian musicians can find themselves in is: non-Christians don’t want to listen to Christian themed music and Christians don’t want to support artists who refuse to brand themselves explicitly as “Christians.” For rap in particular, there is the added struggle of trying to find acceptance in two starkly different cultures.

“Being an outspoken Christian in the music industry means always feeling out of place,” according to Lecrae Moore in his autobiography Unashamed. He goes on to recount a visit to a mainstream radio station where he was told “we just don’t play Gospel here,” but it just got worse as he was informed that their sister station that did play Gospel music “don’t want to hear rap.” Lecrae is the biggest name in the Christian rap industry today, but even throughout his rise to fame and now, he is still faced with this challenge.

Despite the heavy culture collision, it is undeniable that artists like NF and Lecrae are breaking through to the secular divide. The truth is that the Gospel has been influencing the rap industry for a while now, most recently with Kanye West. Now having Gospel influences in music does not a Christian artist make, but rather, it is the faith the artist professes off and on stage.

A niche within a niche, the Christian rap industry is not losing ground yet. In fact, the entire Christian music industry as a whole has made huge strides since its inception amidst the Jesus Movement. For talented musicians, why should it matter if their message is founded in their faith? Besides making good trivia for gossip magazines, the motivation behind the music shouldn’t limit the acceptance.

So why does your favorite music matter to you? Does it resonate with your life story, or is the beat easy to dance to? Christian rap is one side of a broad category of Christian music that covers everything you could think of. Maybe with the growth of Christian rap, people can expect to see the growth of respect for rap itself as medium of expression. These artist are unashamed and here to stay, so there’s only one question I have left for you — what do you think about Jesus music?

Leziga Barikor

Innovation or Inevitability?: The Future of Selective Music Pricing

There aren’t many business models that would ever propose you let the consumer name their price as low or as high as they want for a product or service, yet that’s exactly what the artist Pretty Lights (Dereck Vincent Smith) has done with his label Pretty Lights Music.

In an ever-changing digital music market, the artists and music producers of today face overwhelming odds when it comes to distributing their music in a way that differentiates them and appeals to consumers, especially in a world of torrenting and mp3 conversion.

music pricing torrentDereck Smith and some of his fellow producers such as Griz and Gramatik of Grizmatik think they’ve found a solution through selective pricing, giving far more power to the consumers in the way they can freely access music.

When it comes to the consumption of music, the early 2000s marked a strange time in the Industry with the emergence and rise of illegal downloads through torrenting. Since then, it’s safe to say illegal downloads have become a regular means of obtaining music with millennials and younger generations in general. As early as 2006, Pretty Lights sought to adapt to this drastic change in consumption by adapting the way his music was priced along with two of his friends and fellow producers Griz & Gramatik.

pretty lights music pricing

“There is no escaping that reality” according to Gramatik. From artist Gramatik’s standpoint and the standpoint of many, the issue comes down to the idea that in music consumption there are two types of people; Those who will pay for the music they love no matter what to support those artists, and then there is now individuals who avoid paying for music as much as possible.

The shift in consumption has been partially because of the technology available for obtaining music, and much of the change is simply due a strong disinterest from millennials to pay for all of the music they have such easy access to.  With the rise of digital distribution and streaming services, the amount of music millennials find themselves having access to compared to older generations is staggering.

Though there have been those who have shown a fair amount of success through choosing to distribute their music through a selective pricing options , there remain many skeptical of the direction of selective pricing. Some believe selective pricing doesn’t offer a large enough portfolio for artists, putting them at a disadvantage against other artists by not providing a large enough portfolio of music at a consistent and predictable price.  But observing the success of artists like Pretty Lights, it seems hard to deny that selective pricing may become the primary distribution channel for artists to reach consumers.

Tom Randolph