Tuesday, September 15, 2009

MGM Grand at Foxwoods Unveils iPhone Application

September 11, 2009: summarized from Casino Journal -- MGM Grand at Foxwoods has announced its foray into the consumer technology space with the impending launch of a mobile application that will live on Apple’s iPhone platform. The application is under development and will be released to Apple in the coming weeks. It is expected to be available to consumers later this fall.

“We are very excited to launch an MGM Grand at Foxwoods-branded iPhone application that brings us new ways to reach our loyal consumers,” said Michael Speller, president of Mashantucket Pequot Gaming Enterprises. “Our goal is to continuously dazzle our guests with cutting-edge gaming and entertainment, and this state-of-the-art technology is the latest example of that. This application will help us promote our world-class offerings, from entertainment to dining, nightlife to spa, gaming to golf, and everything in between while affording our customers the opportunity to interact with our brand in a unique and compelling manner.”

This first-ever branded application in the casino gaming category will boast a “game play” feature, allowing users to try their hand at an MGM Grand at Foxwoods-themed games using ‘play money.’ The game will simulate all the sights and sounds of an actual casino, creating a virtual environment that will immerse consumers in the MGM Grand at Foxwoods experience.

Another element of the application is the “resort experience” feature, which gives users the opportunity to take in-depth property tours, complete with virtual visits to hotel rooms, restaurants, retail shops, spas and more. This element will also provide users the opportunity to book spa appointments and receive tutorials on how to play the various table games that are offered at the property.

More at: http://bit.ly/jqDAW

Places, Please: How Location Changes Digital Marketing

LM Comment: If you’ve been thinking about mobile marketing, this article helps sort out where the real value could come from.

September 14, 2009: summarized from AdAge.com -- You're freezing your fingers off on the corner of 43rd and Lex, just east of Grand Central. It's cold and you're clumsily typing your coordinates into a Google search box on a palm-sized keyboard. Your stomach growls. Where the heck is that sushi spot you read about in the Times?

Remember this miserable scenario -- it's a dying breed. In its place will emerge a new world where virtually every digital interaction is tied to a location and the information you're seeking will be at your fingertips, whenever and wherever you're looking for it. The key for marketers is to understand what kinds of information people want when they're tied to a certain place.

"Simply put, location changes everything," said technology writer Mat Honan in a Wired magazine cover story earlier this year. "This one input -- our coordinates -- has the potential to change all the outputs. Where we shop, who we talk to, what we read, what we search for, where we go -- they all change once we merge location and the web."

OK, that sounds admittedly lofty. And there are plenty of reasons why it won't move fast enough to satisfy the mobile soothsayers, from pricey data plans for the average mobile subscriber to the fact smartphone share is still dwarfed by less sophisticated so-called "feature phones." But it is hard to ignore the manifestation of the long-predicted geo-local revolution. Consider that 70% of the 30 million U.S. iPhone users already use GPS and, in the next five years, smartphones equipped with GPS will overtake stand-alone personal navigation devices, such as TomTom and Garmin, predicts research firm iSuppli. Already nearly every marketer-built mobile app taps into GPS.

To understand why people are so excited, look at the impact other digital innovations have had. Search, for example, solved a big part of the "what" problem -- helping you find what you're looking for. And while search didn't know much about our social filters, social networking came in and offered up a "who" filter. Now we're looking at the "where." And it's the combination of these filters that have the potential to change consumer and marketer behavior.

It's also the first time developers have been able to play with location-based data, which is why there's a rash of new services available, said Kevin Slavin, CEO of Area/Code, which builds mobile games and is starting to incorporate location. Every phone has always known where it is, because it can triangulate its location based off cellular towers, he said, "but we've never been able to get that data until now."

The real lure of location-based marketing, said Rahul Sonnad, the CEO and founder of location-based services company Geodelic, is not finding the nearest WiFi-enabled coffee shop via your phone's mapping application, but combining a person's location, inferred intent and personal affinities to aggregate and deliver relevant information about the real world surrounding them at any given moment. He calls it the "global mobile web."

Geodelic's Sherpa app, available on Android, aggregates many consumer mobile experiences -- Yelp and CitySearch for customer reviews of restaurants and destinations, Zillow for real-estate information, Google Local for business listings -- and associates them with locations that are relevant. The idea is to see everything around you on the screen in your hands. It's largely navigational today, but that's not the end game, Mr. Sonnad said.

"Everybody's got a website, but nobody has a mobile experience right now," he said. "Next year, probably the end of next year, if you pull your phone out and you're in the Hilton hotel and it doesn't tell you information about the Hilton, either your phone is broken or the Hilton's broken. If you, as a business, own a location, you've got an interesting shot at reaching your customer."

That's a bullish prediction -- more bullish than most mobile experts would make -- but Mr. Sonnad is building his business on the premise. He sees the "mobile experience" as something every hotel chain, big mall owner, theme park, or convention center will need, as well as an opportunity for more traditional marketers. Think about a credit-card rewards program, he said, and what it could do with a better understanding of its customers' travel patterns.

The promise lies in the realization that mobile isn't just an ad play but an extension of the services and products businesses already offer. And location is one of the most important contextual clues a mobile phone can provide. "Mobile marketing will move beyond promotions and advertising," said Kenneth Parks, senior VP-managing director at Digitas in Stanford, Conn. "It'll be about mobile services that might be marketing but they'll feel like services."

Faris Yakob, exec VP-chief technology strategist at McCann Erickson, calls this "geo-utility" -- the idea of "making something useful for where you are right then." Mr. Parks cited what should be possible for airlines (Delta is a Digitas client), such as being able to receive seat-upgrade information via mobile, or learning what other flights are available if one shows up to the airport early. "Mobile makes brands look at the customer's ecosystem and ask how does a brand's mobile solution fit into the world of a customer, not vice versa," he said.

Right now, the most-hyped location upstart is Foursquare, a mobile game (it runs as an app on iPhone and Android) where it's possible to earn points and badges for "checking in" from public places like restaurants, bars, parks or museums. You can also see where your friends are and create semi-serendipitous meet-ups. Because you tell it where you are, it's more accurate and contextual than most location-based mobile services, said co-founder Dennis Crowley.

"There's a big difference between location, which is your latitude and longitude, and place," he said. "When you move from location to place you get the context for free. If you're at a bar called The Magician on a Friday night at 8 p.m., I have contextual clues that just aren't there with latitude/longitude."

He points out that on the web, you can see where people come from when they arrive on your site -- and where they go after -- but no such thing exists with physical spaces, and that could be of huge value to businesses. He also said there will have to be important opt-ins and value offered to users in such a scenario, things like geographic triggers that unlock pieces of content or the ability to know what's around the corner before you turn it. But he concedes that's still a ways off. For now, location as a filter is one of the biggest consumer benefits, and the ability to check-in -- or not -- gives the user control over the information they're sharing.

"There's no such thing as information overload but filter failure," said Mr. Crowley. "Location is one of those big filters we've been missing in a lot of stuff." Location can be combined with other filters, especially social ones: Already you can follow tweets emitting from your immediate area and see what Flickr photos were taken nearby -- imagine targeting people through Facebook based on their location. "FourSquare isn't necessarily a response to information overload but it's meant to make what you're doing in New York City easier," Mr. Crowley said. "It happened to spread to whole a bunch of other cities and that's great."

Read more at: http://bit.ly/RfhyT

In Twitterville, The Details Of Your Life Do Matter

LM Comment: Some interesting insights into the role of social media in today’s world.

September 8, 2009: summarized from CNN.com -- Shel Israel is not the kind of person you'd expect to find on Twitter all day. He's 65.

But Israel has been using the micro-blogging service longer than most. In fact, he gave up his lifelong habit of reading the newspaper every day about four years ago and turned exclusively to social media.

He now knows how to use Twitter, how not to use it, and how to benefit from it, and he says Twitter has changed his life.

To Israel, it's the mundane details of one's life, shared through tweets and status updates, that matter. He believes that tweeting about what you had for lunch can actually help build a meaningful personal or business relationship.

Israel also says that who you follow on Twitter is much more important than the number of people who follow you. That's because the people you follow become "your newspaper -- the way you get the information that you see, that you digest, and that you use."

Here is an edited version of the conversation.

CNN: Your timing in writing this book seems perfect -- Twitter just blew up. Did you see this boom coming?

Israel: Yeah I did, but not with this great prescience. I just thought it was going to get bigger and bigger, and I thought there was a value to Twitter that no other social media tool had.

What are those values you mentioned that only Twitter has?

There are two values and they're closely intertwined. The first is that Twitter lets people behave online more closely to how we behave in real life than anything that ever preceded it in history. It's kind of past now, but there was this whole wave of admonition of nobody cares what you had for lunch, and to be honest that's absolutely false.

If I said that I was in a restaurant in Atlanta, [Georgia,] you'd say, "Oh, where did you go? You didn't by chance try the..." and we have a conversation that way. We care about the details of life. When you bring this into business, I don't think many members of your audience ever bought or sold anything from a conversation that starts with, "Are you going to buy something?" It begins with small talk.

And that brings us to the second point. The brevity creates an interaction that no other media tool allows. Until now most social media is I write or create something, and you read it and comment back. In Twitter, it's so brief that no one is the lead conversationalist, really. And it isn't about what you post in 140 characters, it's about the number of spoonfuls of content that you feed people who are interested in eating it.

Why are you so fascinated by Twitter? Most people your age don't use social media at all.

I was born too soon? (Laughs) I don't know what it is about me, but it's what drew me to Silicon Valley in the first place -- I just get turned on by new ideas and new trends. I am extremely curious by nature. I like meeting people who think and act differently than I do. And that I think keeps me young, along with the fact that I spend much of my time with people younger than me. And they seem to value the fact that this older guy has some wisdom, but they don't understand how much I'm learning from them.

You tell a lot of specific Twitter anecdotes in your book. Do you have a favorite character?

I have a few real favorites. [One is] Janis Krums, who was the 23-year-old guy taking a ferry to New Jersey when a funny thing happened -- the US Airways flight 1549 landed [on the Hudson River] a couple of football fields away from him. He whips out an iPhone, uses a 30-day-old product called Twit Pic, and takes a picture.

Twenty-seven minutes later he's on national TV, the photo he took is the backdrop, and his voice is being heard nationally through the iPhone that he used. I asked him how his life had changed by becoming the most famous citizen journalist of at least 2009. And his answer to me was, "You know, I didn't plan to be a citizen journalist, I just wanted to go to New Jersey." And that might have been my single favorite answer to any question.

You also describe why certain strategies work for particular organizations in your book. Are there Twitter marketing strategies that wouldn't work for some companies?

Yeah, I talk a lot about changing of eras. We're going [away] from the broadcast era -- that's when content is sandwiched by messages to pay for the experience, and those messages are in the form of advertising or PR or other marketing tactics. And most people don't like them anymore, and we use our Tivo and our spam filters to avoid as many of these messages as possible.

In social media, if companies come up and try to treat [Twitter] as just an extension of their marketing solutions, they will fail. What they need to do in social media is join the conversation rather than start the conversation, and not make it about themselves. They need to tell what they're doing rather than sell what they're doing. And that's a fundamental change. We're going into a conversational era, which is bi-directional.

What would you say to employers who don't let their employees use social media like Twitter and Facebook during work hours?

Whenever something new comes into the marketplace, there are companies that are really in love with the way it's always been done. When you start banning things, you're showing a natural distrust of your employees, which is, even in tough times, not an intelligent way to treat your employees. And the second thing is they're banishing the state-of-the-art communications tool.

What's the future of Twitter, in your opinion?

A year from now, Twitter will be more of an everyday experience -- the need to meet up, to talk will move on to something that we don't know about yet. My vision for Twitter is that employees of your age coming into the workplace will be shown a desk, a computer ...[and set up their social media accounts] and then be told to go to work and use [Twitter] how they see fit to get the job done.

Read more at: http://bit.ly/kzWtq

888 Soars After Signing Gambling Deal With Harrah’s

September 11, 2009: summarized from Bloomberg News -- 888 Holdings Plc rose the most since December in London trading after signing a contract with a unit of Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. to provide online services, paving the way for a possible re-entry into the U.S. market.

888, the U.K.’s second-largest online gambling company, climbed 14 percent. The company’s Dragonfish business-to- business unit will provide poker and casino services to Harrah’s in “a multimillion dollar” deal, 888 Chief Executive Officer Gigi Levy said today in a telephone interview.

Harrah’s, the world’s biggest casino company, is lobbying Congress to allow licensed gambling operators to accept online wagers from people in the U.S. 888 is investing in business-to- business services to gain a quicker foothold in the U.S. if online betting is legalized there, Levy said.

“It’s going to be the big U.S. players that take advantage of the situation,” he said. “The easy entry for us, being that all these companies require infrastructure and services, is on the B2B side.”

Companies were barred from operating Web-gaming services in the U.S. after Congress stopped credit-card companies from collecting payments to online gambling sites in October 2006.

888, along with other online gaming companies, pulled out of the U.S. then. Half the company’s revenue came from U.S. clients, 888 said at the time.

The shares climbed 12.2 pence to close at 97.5 pence in London. The stock is little changed this year, giving the company a market value of 336.9 million pounds ($562.6 million).

888 will offer support services in gaming and payment software for Harrah’s World Series of Poker and Caesars Casino brands in the U.K., the company said in the statement.

“The real massive boost could be if Harrah’s partner with 888 in the U.S.,” said James Hollins, an analyst at Daniel Stewart & Co. in a telephone interview. Hollins today raised his target price to 125 pence from 101 pence.

Hollins said it was surprising that Harrah’s chose to partner with a company that has so far declined to seek a settlement with the Department of Justice over its operations in the U.S.

PartyGaming Plc agreed in April to pay the U.S. government $105 million to settle claims against the company for providing Internet gaming.

“The environment is not very clear for the need or visibility of signing such a deal,” Levy said, adding that attempts to introduce new legislation “had positive implications.”

888 is also discussing additional business contracts with a “few other U.S. companies and not just in the field of casinos,” Levy said. He also anticipates making an acquisition for the business unit “in the coming quarter.”

Read more at: http://bit.ly/PZ7AR