The Big Issue : Edition 458
THEBIGISSUE9–22MAY2014 43 “What happens when you cannot communicate between users in this social-media world? And what happens when you are producing something but have no control over who will see it?” Anonymous sharing apps like Whisper and Secret, which allow anonymously posted images overlaid with often confessional or gossipy text, or Snapchat, which allows users to share an image with select group for a defined period of time (up to 10 seconds) before the image is deleted, have enjoyed surging popularity in the past two years. But Rando folded almost exactly one year after its launch. In March this year, a 20-year-old Russian developer flooded Rando with 50,000 identical images, undermining Rando’s give-one, get-one ethos. He was banned, but, as Rando is a truly anonymous platform, was able to open a new profile seconds later and LAUNCHED A YEAR ago, Rando was at the vanguard of an app- development movement that was inverting the idea of social media. Dubbed ‘antisocial media’, Rando promoted anonymous sharing with strangers via the social connectedness offered by Facebook, Twitter and Google. Rando users submitted a photo, which the app delivered to a randomly selected user (a stranger) and received a photo from a third stranger in return. Users were not identified and could not be followed, and there was no way to react or respond to photos with likes, comments or reposts. Photos were mysterious missives from anyone, anywhere. Rando was built by ustwo, a Swedish development company that wondered in its launch blog post: repeat the hack. Rather than back down from its antisocial manifesto for the app, ustwo chose to close it down. Rando might have been more inclined to hack-proof and maintain the app if it had a more confident understanding of its value. As it turned out, anonymity is hard to monetise. Kenny Lövrin of ustwo told Natasha Lomas of TechCrunch that “applications are sold [to investors] based on their data...but even if we have a lot of data, it’s anonymous and it’s random photos. It’s not evident what it actually could be used for.” While Rando attracted 1 million users, it had only about 15% retention. Consequently, ustwo wondered: “Are users still going to be incentivised if they have no way of patting each other on the back with likes? Are you going to be engaged if you can’t follow specific users?” The answer, for now, appears to be ‘no’. by Jen Breach (@jenbreach) had of getting an audience was at a set time on a Sunday night, for instance, they had to throw all the drama and suspense into the ad itself – voiceovers booming things like “This Sunday, a beloved star of Cop Doctor will die... Who will it be?” Then, in grabs of less than a minute played over a week, we’d basically see the entire episode play out. There’s a theory that we actually benefit from spoilers: they enhance the viewing of an episode, because they build the anticipation of what you hope for: a plot twist or something else unexpected... yet expected. So maybe the commercials that did this kind of almost-spoiling weren’t as crass and insensitive as they seemed. Maybe they just understood that we want to witness the drama and the characters and the plot twists as we do every episode, but we want to be sure there is a plot twist. We want to know it’s not worth missing out on. EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT if you’re an episode behind in your favourite TV show, you do not, under any circumstances, go online. The expression ‘spoiler alert’ has probably been around for just over a decade, but now it’s considered as important as certain legal disclaimers, at least in TV nerd circles. There are podcasts, blogs and episode- recap sites full of spoilers (I recommend Slate’s Spoiler Specials and the AV Club episode recaps for starters). The internet is exploding with people wanting to talk through episodes they can’t discuss around their loved ones for fear of being slapped in the face. But here’s the thing: there were always spoilers, and not just in the form of people at work talking about a show you taped the night before. In the age before on-demand viewing, TV commercials were often the worst spoilers of all. Back when the only opportunity network execs MEDIA TELEVISION ENJOY THE SPOILS SOCIAL MEDIA THE GREAT UNKNOWN In this way, the tip-toeing around spoilers that happens online and in today’s media- saturated universe is often a show’s best marketing tool. It’s a form of word-of-mouth that includes another thing we humans enjoy: a secret. This has certainly become the case with the rise of subscription channels and Netflix, which survive not on advertising placements, but on the reputation of their shows among subscribers and their friends. For all that TV producers and network executives moan about the internet piggybacking on their products, the advantages of the spoiler-alert culture are certainly not doing the marketing arms of shows like Breaking Bad, Madmen, Game of Thrones, or True Detective any harm. Spoiler alert: this is a win for quality shows that audiences are engaged by. That’s a happy ending. by Lorin Clarke (@lorinimus) OFFSPRING: YOU KNEW...BUT YOU WATCHED ANYWAY!