Category Archives: Ideas

Snowed out: Testing ISP Speeds on a Snow Day

What happens when the internet, the backbone of our high-tech economy, is down?  That’s a question recently brought to the forefront of the public’s attention, between the debate over Net Neutrality, hacking attacks, and President Obama’s recent proposal to expand broadband options.  Despite years of gains,  millions of Americans lack broadband access, and even where it is available speeds often lag other markets.  Yet we’re also more reliant on the web than ever before, constantly connected whether at home, at work, or anywhere on the go with smartphones. It’s easy to take for granted the benefits of fast, reliable broadband internet – at least until we lose our own connections.

Snow crossing signDuring the recent hurricanes and winter storms which managed to shut down major parts of the U.S. East Coast, there were numerous reports of internet service outages and website downtime for major hubs like Huffington Post and Netflix.  Some of these issues could have been caused by infrastructure damage from the storms, but at least some downtime was attributed to servers buckling under the load of millions more Americans simultaneously logging-on while stuck indoors during the inclement weather.  In fact, even during normal nights Netflix can account for as much as one-third of internet traffic during the peak evening hours, straining web servers and ISP networks.

Knowing these trends I formed a hypothesis: local ISPs would crumble during last week’s storm (Winter Storm Juno) under the heavy load of snowed-in users. To test my hypothesis, I recruited a simple network sample, emailing my friends across the New York metro area to run speed tests at the same time: around 9 PM EST on Monday, January 26th 2015. For the methodology we used SpeedOf.me to gauge speeds, while I collected details about each participant’s ISP and connection type, attempting to rule out as many variables as possible.  So here are some results from our little experiment: Continue reading Snowed out: Testing ISP Speeds on a Snow Day

Defend the web: Why I Support Net Neutrality

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: internet service providers want to create a “fast-lane” for certain websites (namely those who pay for the privilege) at the expense of effectively slowing down other websites. If it seems like we’ve Matt Hurst loadingbeen defending the principles of Net Neutrality for at least a decade you’re not far off (myself included during my early blogging days), but telecom companies continue to spend millions of dollars every year to lobby for policies designed to create an uneven playing field from which they profit but at the expense of consumers.  Today I’ve joined thousands of bloggers and websites by participating an Internet Slowdown protest, simulating the same slowdown we might experience if ISPs are able to remove Net Neutrality rules set by the FCC.

First let’s make sure we understands what Net Neutrality is: a guiding principle of the internet that the web should be open and level-playing field for all websites.   For the uninitiated, talk show John Oliver has an excellent primer on Net Neutrality and why it’s important: Continue reading Defend the web: Why I Support Net Neutrality

Media Universe: Exploring Consumers’ Expanding Use of Digital Devices

Media device ownership in 2013

Today consumers own more devices than ever before, and the greatest growth comes from digital devices, many of which didn’t even exist a few years ago.  If fact, according to Nielsen’s recent Digital Consumer Report (full disclosure: I helped research and create this report) not only do the majority of Americans now own smartphones, but during 2013 time spent accessing the internet using smartphone apps (34 hours per person on average) surpassed time spent surfing the web on computers (27 hours on average).  Whether consumers using the devices to access media or connect with one another, advertisers and marketers must follow consumer’s eyeballs as they jump across multiple screens and platforms.

So where do consumers spend their time and attention when using media? Continue reading Media Universe: Exploring Consumers’ Expanding Use of Digital Devices

Late Majority: How Smartphones Matured the Mobile Market

In 2012 smartphones became the majority of mobile handsets in the U.S. for the first time, keeping hundreds of millions of Americans constantly connected to the mobile web and increasingly using apps. This was a change many had anticipated, including yours truly who wrote about best practices for the mobile web way back in the first month of this blog circa 2009, naive to the changes smartphone apps would have on consumer’s daily activities. As far as predictions go I missed the mark a bit, though hardly as far off as Steve Balmer. It’s another example of how it’s hard predict how consumers will embrace and use technology until it’s in their hands.

Back in 2009 I was just another early adopter hoping on the iPhone’s bandwagon, and like many early adopters in Roger’s diffusion of innovation model I found new ways to make my smartphone fit my internet enabled lifestyle; none of which would pursued my parents to buy smartphones of their own. But it was clear which way the wind was blowing in digital: the future would be increasingly high-speed on mobile, and smartphones would reshape how we use the internet.

We can use this same approach – measuring the trends in mobile – to anticipate what’s next in the market. Today smartphones make up nearly two-thirds of mobile phone owners (65%) in the U.S., putting these devices in the “late majority” phase of adoption. That means the exponential growth we’ve seen in mobile is likely to begin tappering for smartphone makers, though providing more opportunities for publishers and marketers alike in the years to come.

To help tell the story of how the smartphone market has reshaped mobile and visualize the current state-of-mobile, I built an infographic (see below). First a disclosure: I created the infographic using publicly posted data published an industry-expert source (Nielsen) who are also my employer, though the ideas shared on this blog are my own (see my policy page for full disclosure): Continue reading Late Majority: How Smartphones Matured the Mobile Market

What is Public Relations, and Why It Matters in the Social Media Age

It’s been said that Public Relations has a “PR problem”; while the majority of people aren’t sure exactly what a PR does, almost all of them seem to have a negative impression of my profession. So when people ask about my career and I tell them I work in communications and marketing, their natural follow-up is usually “what does that mean?” Contrary to one popular misconception working in PR is not synonymous with the “Press Release”, which is just one tactic in the arsenal of a Public Relations professional. In fact working in PR has so many connotations that the PRSA led a rebranding effort in attempt to help redefine our work, or at least clarify what we do in the most transparent way.

Working at my desk with my tabletop robot

Most would call my work in Public Relations, although depending on who you ask, you might get a different answer; in grad school we called it Public Communications, which helps distinguish our responsibilities are not limited to working with the press. If only my colleagues knew that calling myself a PR rep was the best shorthand for all the work our profession does: everything from researching public opinion, to crafting marketing strategy and crisis communications plans, to writing press releases and blog posts, to media relations and publicity which our profession is best known for. Continue reading What is Public Relations, and Why It Matters in the Social Media Age

Hitchhiker’s Guide: Mapping the Consumer Media Universe

Mapping the Media Universe as a solar system of devices
(click to enlarge the Media Universe infographic)

The media universe is constantly expanding, so as consumers adopt more devices and gadgets their usage of how they watch, shop, and connect continues to evolve; today the media universe revolves around the consumer.  As the media landscape changes, PRs, Advertisers, and Marketers must navigate this new media universe, understanding not just all the gadgets consumers own, but also how they use media across devices to form their own behaviors.

Working with Nielsen’s data to provide insights into cross-platform media usage, I helped design the 2012 Consumer Usage Report from concept through completion, including the above inforgraphic meant to help navigate the media universe just in time for CES in January 2013.  Using the common marketing metaphor of the “universe”, meaning all people in the target audience, this visualization provides a snapshot overview of the US media market.  Visualizing the media universe as a solar system of planets (devices) which revolve around the sun (consumers), this infographic maps consumer ownership of digital devices (computers, mobile, tablets, etc) and devices connected to the TV (cable/satellite, game consoles, etc).  Pulling these devices together is gravity, illustrated by how are consumers spending their media time, and some may be surprised that the overwhelming majority of time spent (150+ hours per month) is watching traditional and time-shifted TV.

At the same time consumers’ media habits are rapidly changing, and the media universe continues to expand to incorporare new devices akin to a technological big bang.  During 2012 smartphones became the majority of mobile users in the US for the first time, and nearly 1 in 5 households now owns a tablet computer.  Social media usage continues to grow, and while many more consumers are using it on the go most still connect to social networks using their home computers.  And for cord-cutters like me who get much of their viewing through online stream sites, it may be surprising to learn only 4% of households own IPTV sets, but with 56% of homes using video game consoles it seems likely at least a few are watching video on Netflix and Hulu on their TVs as well.


To learn more about the how consumers use tech and media in their daily lives, please download the full report from Nielsen’s website.  And to see more examples of infographics and data visualizations I’ve worked on, check out my portfolio on this site.

Blogger’s Dozen: My Top 12s of 2012

As another year comes to a close, I wanted to take a look back at the media that shaped my life during 2012, or at least a few of my favorites.  Like most bloggers I love makings lists, and since my career is in communications and marketing I spend a lot of time watching, listening, reading, and playing with the latest media across devices; I’d like to think I’ve developed some critical experience (if not expertise), enough to make a few recommendations   While this blog has written more about measuring my own media usage and the quantified-self, these lists take on more qualitative measure to rank what ideas were most interesting and useful over the last year.

Top 12 Memes of 2012

Top 12 iPhone Apps of 2012

  • Best New App: Timehop. While most of social media emphasizes the daily pulse of online buzz, Timehop makes your past posts useful again by bringing you daily doses of nostalgia.  I’ve been using Timehop for the past 2 years over email, and now it’s even more useful as an app by giving the ability to share old updates with friends.
  • Most Improved: Facebook.  Recently upgrades to Facebook’s iPhone app, which made it into a native app rather than universal, have improved the app’s functions and increased the rate of upgrades to the app.
  • Notable Mention: Aereo.  It may not replace a cable subscription, but it will help you watch TV on whatever device you want, including on the iPhone.  It’s not strictly an app, but the mobile screen first approach for this great technology merits a mention in the
  • Other apps considered: FitBit, Pris, Sonar, Untappd, ScoreCenter, various Subway apps, CinemaGram, Movember, and GetGlue.

Top 12 Mobile Games of 2012

  • Best New Game: Turf.  This Kickstarted project turned Location-sharing iPhone app turned my daily routine into a real-life game of Monopoly.  Picking up where Foursquare’s gamification left off, Turf is an addictive game with creative pixel-art graphics that won me over in 2012.
  • Most Improved: Pocket Planes.  This pixel-art inspired spin-off of the Tiny Tower franchise makes simulator games fun again, by making players into owners of their own airline empire.  I started playing the game over the summer, and many tweaks and improvements (including one update doubling the maximum amount of cities you could own) kept me playing through the beginning of 2013.
  • Notable Mention: Draw Something.  The first few months of 2012 belonged to a game called DrawSomething, which put a Facebook-connected game of Pictionary into the hands of millions of smartphone owners.  Like many others, I’ve found myself playing this game less as the year went on, but it was fun to play with my friends.
  • Other games considered: Game Dev Story, Tiny Wings, “Zombies, Run!”, Ghostbusters, Sonic Jump, Tetris, Epic Win, Sonic 4, and Tiny Tower.

Top 12 Social TV Apps of 2012

  • Best App: GetGlue.  This isn’t a new app, but GetGlue continued to be the best to discuss TV, Movies, and more with like-minded friends.  Upgrades to their app this year made GetGlue into a program guide, using your own checkins to recommend new shows, and creating new tools for shows to interact with some of their most engaged fans.
  • Most Improved: IntoNow.  Another popular app for Social Tv already made checkins a breeze with its audio fingerprinting, but the app added several new social tools.  My favorite new addition allows you to use stills from the episode to write your own LOL captions.
  • Notable Mention: Olympics Apps.  If 2012 was a breakout year for Social TV, then the Olympics was it’s coming out party.  When NBC released a series of apps which allowed for viewing and engagement during the games, it encounted some backlash from experienced digital natives, but it also brought new casual sports fans to the social TV party
  • Other Social TV apps considered: Miso, Viggle, SocialGuide, Yap.TV, Tunerfish, Zeebox, Clicker, Hulu (kind of), and Boxee.

Top 12 Music Albums of 2012

How I listen to music changed significantly during 2012, as streaming music services like Spotify and Rdio made a bigger portion of my time spent listening to music. As a result I had the chance to listen to more new releases, but also to explore older albums of favorite artists and making new discoveries of my own. Still this post is about what was new and great in 2012, so here are tracks from my own top 12* albums in 2012:

Top 12 Gadgets of 2012

Continue reading Blogger’s Dozen: My Top 12s of 2012