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5 best CD-quality digital music services

Posted in News on 31 October 2014

Audio is getting an upgrade. After the convenient but bleary MP3 era, hi-fi has seemingly found its mojo once again, offering better than ever resolution and higher quality streaming options. High-resolution audio, isn't actually new. Audiophiles have been experimenting with high-resolution music files for years, pimping their laptops and extolling the virtues of Wasapi and ASIO. Thankfully today's higher resolution music is a mainstream proposition, far removed from such PC chicanery.

Sony has been an early evangelist, launching a range of hardware under its High-Res Audio logo. Much of it has been quite high-end, such as its £2,000 HAP-Z1ES hard drive player and matching TA-A1ES integrated stereo amp. The tech has also reinvigorated Sony's Android-powered Walkman music players, and has trickled into the Xperia smartphone line. Other brands have been quick to claim similar high-end audio ground.

Bandwidth is booming

With fast 4G and unlimited data plans, streaming higher quality music services and enjoying high-resolution music on the move is eminently more practical. But what is high-res audio and why should you care? It's certainly not a standardised file format, codec or wrapper; high-res audio is simply an umbrella term for any audio that's better than 16bit/44.1kHz CD, typically 24-bit 96/192kHz. The bit depth effectively relates to the resolution of the music, while the sampling frequency is indicative of the accuracy of the digital-to-analogue process.

Debate continues to rage in some corners of the internet as to whether 24-bit audio genuinely sounds better than 16-bit, however why this should make anyone's blood boil is a mystery. If you can't hear a difference, keep your money in your pocket and move along. (For the record, 24-bit 192kHz FLAC clearly sounds better than CD if your equipment chain is up to it.) It's important to note that there are qualitative differences between high-resolution file downloads and the growing number of higher-spec streaming audio services; the former sound significantly better than the latter.

Downloading FLAC

When it comes to file downloads, 24-bit audio can manifest itself in various forms. Studio master recordings encoded in FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) or ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec) offer greater detail and clarity than low bit rate MP3 and AAC, and occupy around half the space of a WAV file. They also have superior metadata support. Device compatibility is high. The other high-res audio file option is DSD (Direct-Stream Digital). Originally developed for Super Audio CD, DSD 2.8MHz is growing in popularity with audiophiles. Also known as DSD 64, the standard uses a 1-bit/64 times over-sampling process able to achieve 120dB within the 20Hz - 20kHz band. Device compatibility is somewhat more limited and file sizes are substantial, which makes a DSD library a challenge to store and transport. Perhaps it's just as well that legitimate sources of DSD files are few and far between.

While streaming services are similarly upping their sonic game, none offer the clarity of 24-bit and the potential sonic benefits are more debatable. No streaming service offers greater than 16-bit resolution, for compatibility reasons. Instead differences manifest themselves in the bitrates used by the various streaming services. iTunes streams at 256kbps, while Spotify offers 320kbps. By way of comparison, newcomer Tidal positively gushes at 1411kbps.

The real value of hi-res audio downloads for mobile use may well be dictated by your listening habits and not your hardware. If you use bog-standard earbuds you won't benefit from the extended frequency range available on hi-res files and if you typically stream music from your mobile to a speaker over Bluetooth, then you'll be limited by the Bluetooth connection itself. Even the Bluetooth aptX codec brickwalls at 352kbps and streams as 16bit/44.1 kHz.

Alternatively you might want to consider a dedicated audiophile grade player, be it a £549 Sony hi-res audio NWZ-ZX1 Walkman or something altogether more exotic, such as the £2,199 Astell & Kern AK240, a reference music player with native DSD file support. Alternatively, you can upgrade your existing mobile device or laptop with a hi-spec DAC. The £1,400 Hugo DAC from Chord electronics integrates a high quality headphone amp and is designed for use on the move, be it the daily commute or transatlantic hop. It offers five digital inputs, supports aptX Bluetooth, has DSD file support and can be partnered with a laptop or smartphone.

So what high-res audio services are creating a buzz right now? Here are our top five picks...

1. HDtracks

Web: www.HDtracks.co.uk

Prices: variable. Bulletproof Picasso by Train is £17, Led Zeppelin's debut album is £24.50

Available formats: AIFF, ALAC, FLAC and WAV

Streaming / download: Download only

One of the early pioneers of HD downloads, US-based HDtracks, is now available in the UK. The content selection is broad, thanks to major label support from Sony Music Entertainment, Warner and Universal, and covers classic releases, such and the remastered Led Zeppelin collection, as well as more contemporary pop and esoteric classical recordings. There's also a selection of downloads in Binaural+, CEO David Chesky's 3D surround audio format. Formats include Apple friendly ALAC and AIFF (Audio Interchange File Format), as well as FLAC (Free Lossless Audio Codec) and WAV (Waveform Audio File Format). Resolution varies depending on original source material. Michael Jackson's BAD is a 24-bit 96kHz download, while Prokofiev's Chout (also known as The Buffoon) is 24-bit 192kHz. When you register with the service and you receive a free 96 kHz /24-bit sampler, comprising of an assortment of jazz and classical tracks. The storefront itself is pretty approachable, with genres and new releases readily accessible to browse. The downloads themselves can seem pricey. Wilco's The Whole Love (a combination of 96/24 and 44/24 tracks) is £24.50, while the deluxe edition of Oasis' (What's the story) Morning Glory, which consists of the band's remastered first album plus a comprehensive collection of b-sides and rarities, is £28.

2. Qobuz

Website: www.Qobuz.com

Prices (streaming): 16-bit/44.1kHz streaming service £19.99 p/m subscription, 320kbps service £20.

Prices (downloads): Variable. Bulletproof Picasso by Train is £11.99, Led Zeppelin's debut album is £19.64

Available formats: FLAC

Streaming / download: both

Qobuz is both a music streaming service and download store. Originally launched in France, it's now available in the UK, offering high-res Audio music streams in 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC. The Qobuz hi-res subscription will set you back £19.99 per month, alternatively you could opt for a £9.99 320kbps service, although here it really fails to match the breadth of Spotify.

There are Qobuz apps for iOS and Android devices. The player is also embedded in Sonos, Samsung and Astell & Kern hardware. Overall audio quality is excellent.

Artist depth is also good, although a fair number of store downloads are only available in 16-bit resolution. Those downloads labeled as Studio Master releases are available in 24-bit 44.1, 48, 176.4 and 192Khz, depending on available assets.

Prices are on the right side of acceptable, but there are some real bargains to be had here. Big City Plans, by pop punks Guerilla Monsoon, is a mere £5.99 for a 24/96 FLAC download. American Idiot, by Green Day, is £14.69. While there are no samples to download, you can sign up for a free 15-day trial of the FLAC streaming service.

3. Linn Records

Website: www.linnrecords.com

Prices: Studio Master 24-bit album downloads, such as Clair Martin's Time & Space, are typically £18

Available formats: ALAC, FLAC

Streaming / download: Download

Linn Records is arguably the original Pioneer of high-res audio downloads. Part of the larger, high-end hi-fi Linn clan, the brand offers 24-bit Studio Masters downloads up to 192kHz. The label once offered a wide range of mainstream artists and albums in native 24-bit, but has now severed ties to charting studios and instead offers own label recordings.

While you may struggle to find artists you know, you can be sure the quality is immaculate. The library is a particularly good place to sniff around for jazz and classics, but you won't find too much with a hard edge.

It's worth looking out for the many and varied free download promotions that come along though, as these are a handy way of unearthing new talent. File downloads can be had as either as FLAC or ALAC. Prices vary from £18 for a new album to compilations for £7.50. The store itself is easy to navigate and the dedicated Download Manager works flawlessly.

4. Tidal

Website: www.tidalhifi.com

Prices: £19.99 p/m subscription

Available formats: 16-bit/44.1kHz FLAC

Streaming / download: Streaming with offline download functionality

The newest high quality music streaming service to launch is Tidal. What makes the service significant is that it's partnered with 16 audio hardware brands to ensure its platform is as accessible as possible from the get go. These include Sonos, HEOS by Denon, Bluesound, NAD and Meridian. With a launch catalogue of 25 million-plus tracks, Tidal clearly intends to make a big splash. The service streams at 1411kbps, four times that of 320kbps rivals, and sounds terrific. If you need to reduce this to accommodate a more limited data service, it can be toggled to AAC at 320kbps or AAC+ at 96kbps, but the quality drop is significant. TIDAL also allows offline listening of albums or playlists on mobile devices – just look for the offline switch on any album or playlist page to store this content on your device.

The service offers a good deal of curation, with generic playlists and recommendations. It's also very slick to use. Tidal has a simple graphical way of creating playlists, just star the track you like, with drag and drop editing, to add tracks or change the order of your queue. There's also an extensive genre collection, and broad label support. The monthly subscription is £19.99. Apps are available for iOS and Android devices.

5. Bowers and Wilkins Society of Sound

Website: www.bowers-wilkins.co.uk

Prices: Annual membership £33.95, which entitles subscribers to two albums a month. Individual 24-bit album downloads are typically £15

Available formats: ALAC and FLAC

Streaming /download: Download

This subscription service from the renowned loudspeaker company is left field but interesting. With a library curated by Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios and the London Symphony Orchestra you're certainly not going to find Mike Read's Ukip Calypso here, but there are classics aplenty. Each month, two albums are added and two removed.

Annual subscriptions cost £33.95. B&W also operates a download store, which isn't related to the members club. The choice here is limited, but prices are keen. Current offers include the Maria Callas catalogue remastered in 24/96 FLAC (£15.99) or Apple Lossless (£13.99), or Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells in Studio Quality FLAC (£20 for both stereo and 5.1 FLAC mixes as well as a CD grade copy).

What else is available?

Neil Young's Pono hi-res music project has become synonymous with HRA since it was first mooted over three years ago. Quite how it will pan out remains to be seen (or rather heard), but at the very least the musician has become a highly creditable poster boy for 24-bit audio. Major label support is said to be coming from Warner, Sony and Universal. Releases will be in FLAC format. Acoustic Sounds Super Hirez offers music downloads in a variety of 24-bit FLAC iterations from the Warner catalogue, as well as rare as hens teeth DSD downloads. The latter includes back catalogue gems as Michael Jackson's BAD, Beck's Mutation and Boston's More Than a Feeling, all created from the original Sony Super Audio CD cutting masters. Unfortunately, they're only available to residents of the USA and Canada (or those hiding behind a VPN).

Pro Studio Masters is another US-based hi-res audio store, which has a number of albums available in a variety of file formats, from PCM, AIFF, FLAC and DSD. The album choice is a little limited, although there are some intriguing back catalogue items, such as Sinatra and Swinging Brass, in 24-bit 192kHz.

Often vintage recordings sound more immersive than those from recent decades where the CD and or radio play seemed the main mixing criteria. If your tastes are more eclectic, then Blue Coast records is renowned for its own label recordings, which predominantly cover acoustic and folk. The good news is that there's a selection for trial downloads and the quality is superb.

 

 

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How Google Manually Rates Your Website

Posted in on 31 October 2014

Over the years, Google has made reference to its stable of human raters used to determine the quality of sites, helping to improve the algorithms used for search. Those raters use the “Human Rater Handbook” to check for a wide variety of things Google has dubbed important, and they rate sites according to how they fulfill all that criteria.

Sounds like a valuable tool for SEOs to get their hands on, huh? Well, in July a copy of the handbook leaked out onto the Internet, and people have been trying to glean insights from it ever since, looking for the key to rising through the Google ranks.

The truth is, there’s no one magical key. This document doesn’t deliver any earth-shattering revelations about how Google decides its rankings. But it is a good reminder about what Google considers important, and for that reason it should be required reading for SEOs.

Of course, the document itself is also super long, 160 pages, so if you’re looking for the Cliff’s Notes version, read on for a quick primer on what we can learn from Google’s “Human Rater Handbook.”

The Role of Human Raters

But first, a quick summary of the role of human raters. Google uses algorithms to deliver what it believes are the most relevant results to people doing searches. The human raters give input to ensure that these are, indeed, useful search results. Their job in a nutshell:

Determine the effectiveness of search results

Test changes to the algorithm

Analyze the quality of different websites

Assess a site’s reputation

Note a site’s supplementary content

What Are Some of the Most Important Points in the Quality Rater Guidelines? The quality rater guidelines are long and very in-depth, touching on dozens of different things raters should keep an eye out for. Here is a summary of the most important and most relevant takeaways for SEOS.

1. High-Quality Content is King

What you have heard is true: content is indeed the make-or-break part of search. Google rates sites with the best content the highest. This means content that is not only useful to people searching it out but also written clearly and easily understood. The best thing your web site can do, based on these guidelines, is hire a professional writer to ensure you have the best content.

2. It’s Key to Link to Other High-Quality Sites

Google has its raters be on the lookout for links to other high-quality sources on the web. The logic is if your site is reputable, you will be linking to other reputable places and not to spammy sites that are just looking for a sale. High-quality sites include trusted resources such as The New York Times or The Wall Street Journal. Low-quality sites include link farms and places where anyone can give “expert” commentary, such as Yahoo Answers.

3. Updating Your Website Regularly is Critical

SEOs have been telling their clients for years to keep their sites updated with fresh content. These rater guidelines remind us why. Google puts a high value on information that is up to date, and for good reason. When you do a search on, say, “latest SEO guidelines,” you don’t want to read resources from two years ago. They are dated and unreliable. As a consumer, you want the fresh stuff. This is one thing SEOs and Google can agree on.

4. Including Contact Information Can Boost Your Site

Google hates spammers; this we all know. So anything that makes your site appear less-spammy is going to play well with the human raters. This includes putting contact information on your pages, so that people can get in touch with you. Leaving such information off is a hallmark of webspam. Include your information under a heading such as “contacts” or “how to get in touch.” This way it’s obvious to the Google team you are legit.

5. Positive Reviews Can Make a World of Difference

The Google human raters have been trained to be wary of sites that receive negative reviews. While they will not necessarily punish sites without any type of review, they will crack down on those that have complaints logged against them. And they will reward those with positive reviews. Monitoring your reputation online is thus all the more important, because not only do you not want negative reviews coming up in queries about your company, you also want to boost your search results.

6. Supplementary Content Is a Helpful Tool

The human raters at Google are always looking for ways that websites can help out their users. That is why Google rewards sites with supplementary content, such as resource pages or informative articles, with better search results. To give your site a lift, think about what other content might be useful to visitors.

7. Beware of Your Ad Placement

Advertising can be a hindrance when it comes to search rankings. Raters are told to keep an eye out for any disruptive advertising that distracts from the content of the page. Sites with lots of ads at the top or ads that are hard to ignore will be penalized.

In Google’s Own Words

What better way to figure out what Google is looking for in a web page than to hear it from the company itself? The good news is the leaked guidelines largely confirmed SEOs have been taking the right approach with most of our search tactics for years. If you are getting good results, there’s probably no reason to change what you are doing.

 

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Sony replaces mobile chief and slashes smartphone sales forecast

Posted in News on 31 October 2014

Sony's attempt to become a major player in mobile has hit another speed bump. The company now expects to ship 41 million smartphones in its current fiscal year — that's down from a forecast of 43 million units in July, which was itself a cut from the 50 million projected in April. Although Sony's mobile division brought in ¥308.4 billion ($2.83 billion) in revenue from July to September, around a 1.2 percent increase on a year ago, the company is writing down ¥176 billion yen of the business' value.

Kunimasa Suzuki, the president and CEO of Sony Mobile since April 2012, has been replaced by Hiroki Totoki, until now a senior VP in charge of corporate planning. Suzuki will become executive VP at Sony Entertainment and move to a group executive role at the wider corporation as of November 16th.

Overall, Sony reported a net loss of ¥136 billion ($1.25 billion) off ¥1.9 trillion ($17.4 billion) revenue in its fiscal Q2, with an operating loss of ¥85.6 billion ($785 million); all of this means the company lost 593.9 percent more money than in Q2 2013. The PlayStation 4 made a strong contribution to Sony's 7.2 percent year-on-year increase in sales with the game division bringing in 83.2 percent more revenue than this time last year, and the weakening yen helped the company's bottom line because most of its sales are outside Japan. Sony puts the swing to operating loss largely down to the mobile division's ¥176 billion impairment charge, which it last month warned investors to expect after a reassessment of the current smartphone strategy.

Sony has received some critical acclaim for its smartphones, but has struggled to make inroads in the critical US market. The current flagship Xperia Z3, for example, is only available on fourth-placed T-Mobile and, although number 1 carrier Verizon has recently agreed to sell a model called the Z3v, it's a watered-down version of the Z3 with cheaper hardware design.

While Sony's own phones might not be doing well, the company does have significant presence in the mobile industry in a way most users might not expect: its camera sensors, used by Apple and other leading manufacturers. Sony's "devices" division, which handles component sales, saw revenue increase 23.1 percent and operating profit increase 148.7 percent year-on-year due to an increased demand for image sensors and camera modules in mobile products. It might not be the mobile success Sony is hoping for, but it's nonetheless a bright spot in some otherwise gloomy earnings.

 

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Wearing the Microsoft Band, the next big thing in fitness tracking

Posted in News on 31 October 2014

I've been wearing it for two hours, and I'm still acutely aware that it's there. This is the first and most unavoidable thing you should know about the Microsoft Band: it's big, and it's heavy. It's not an object with a strap, like a smartwatch or a Fitbit; there's technology in every part of this rigid rubber band. It's not terribly uncomfortable, per se, it's just there. I don't think I'll ever stop noticing it.

The Band is, of course, Microsoft's first fitness tracker, the physical actualization of the company's grand plan to be the source of all the world's health data. The Band is part of the plan, but it's not the whole plan; the whole plan involves cross-platform apps, a machine-learning system that turns your data into "insights" about how to live better tomorrow, and a vast ecosystem of hardware and software developers collecting data and delivering insights. The Band is the first device, but it won't be the last, not even from Microsoft.

The Band looks and feels a bit like a prototype, a relatively unadorned wristband with a clever sliding clasp (so you can change how it fits without taking it off) and a 1.4-inch, 320 x 106 display on the front. There are two buttons below the display: one for waking the device, and the "action button," which you use to scroll through data or start and end a workout. I quickly paired it to my iPhone 6 via Bluetooth, downloaded the beautifully minimalist Microsoft Health app, and was off. It automatically started tracking my steps and heart rate, funneling the data back to the app every time I hit sync.

Everything you do on the Band lives in a series of icon-sized tiles, off to the right of the screen. One screen shows me email, text, and phone call notifications (which seem to be stored until you look at them all). The next has my calendar, run information, and sleep data. You side-scroll through everything, only seeing a little at a time: I can't imagine doing very much with the Band, other than wearing it and letting it do what it does. Plus, contorting my hand to read the horizontal screen is already growing a little tiresome. It feels a little better on the underside of my wrist, but I don't really like banging a screen onto every surface I touch either. On the other hand, the interface is zippy and smooth, and the screen is very responsive; the hardware isn't terribly impressive here, but the software certainly is.

There are a few basic settings and a lot of notifications hidden among the tiles, but the Band is mostly a workout tool. I scrolled to the run icon, tapped the action button, turned on GPS, and was off. Doing the same with workouts was easy; I even downloaded a 14-minute ab workout to the Band and set out to get ripped. It worked well, tracking my movements and vitals, except that I don't know what a V-Up is. I'm pretty sure it's not "stand awkwardly and stare at your Band for eight sets of 20 seconds," but that's what I did. The Band did its job admirably, I just didn't do mine.

Throughout it all, notifications were coming in — text messages, emails, calls — and vibrating my wrist powerfully enough that there's no way I'm going to miss it. I couldn't do much other than dismiss them, since the Band doesn't connect to Siri the way it does Cortana on Windows Phone, but leaving my phone across the room is certainly nice.

I've only just scratched the surface of what the Band and Microsoft Health can do. We'll be reviewing the Band in much more detail in the coming days, but a couple of things are already clear. The Band is very much a first-version device, one that will benefit tremendously from refinement and improvement in the coming years. (Not to mention all the ways other developers will find to improve on the experience.) And much more excitingly, it's a remarkably powerful gadget. It knows my steps and my heart rate and Starbucks card information. It knows I'm doing a sit-up, it knows I'm not doing a V-Up, and it knows who's calling me. And it's going to do much more than that really soon.

 

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Android creator Andy Rubin is leaving Google

Posted in News on 31 October 2014

Andy Rubin, who co-founded the Android project, is leaving Google. According to The Wall Street Journal, Rubin's departing to create an incubator for hardware startups. His role heading up the company's robotics will be taken up by James Kuffner, a research scientist at the company and a professor at Carnegie Mellon University.

In a statement, Google's CEO Larry Page thanked Rubin for his work. "I want to wish Andy all the best with what's next," Page said. "With Android he created something truly remarkable-with a billion plus happy users. Thank you."

Rubin originally joined Google as part of the company's highly secretive acquisition of Android in 2005. In the years that followed, he helped turn it from a startup project into what's now a cornerstone of Google's business, and the most dominant mobile operating system in the world. Prior to Android, Rubin was working at Danger, the company that created the Sidekick mobile phone. He also had stints at Apple, General Magic, and working on the WebTV project (which sold to Microsoft).

The move is, perhaps, not a total surprise. Last March, Rubin left the Android group and was replaced by Sundar Pichai. His latest project, as detailed in a lengthy New York Times report in December, was creating robots for a project outside of the company's Google X lab, something that dovetailed with Google's shopping spree of robotics companies. In 2012, there were also rumors abound that Rubin planned to leave for a stealth-mode startup called CloudCar, though they were vehemently denied.

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Halo Group join forces with Night Tales’ to transform the Red Market site on Old Street

Posted in on 31 October 2014

This winter award winning production agency The Halo Group join forces with Night Tales’ award winning pop up organisers Background Bars to deliver a Christmas creative that will transform the Red Market site on Old Street into a “7-week celebration, hosting the best of London gastronomy, music and bar culture”.

This years creative direction from The Halo Group brings their vision of an enchanted winter hang out to the heart of London. Using their unique two tiered structure as a center piece this temporary installation will be clad with mixed tones of wood & brought to life with festive foliage, lights and production elements to tie the overall theme together in a cohesive aesthetic like nowhere else.

Upstairs, additional seating with views over Night Tales will provide comfort for guests enjoying the organisers feature bar, which will support local drink producers from across East London. The more inquisitive will discover a magical winter garden – providing an oasis of refuge tucked away within this urban setting. Blooming with silver birches, twisted willow and bathed in colour washes at night, this very special set design will feature bespoke seating booths with table service – all set against the background of hanging lanterns, twinkling lights and much more.

Night Tales promises to be THE hottest pop up this Christmas with food and beverages from the likes of Patty&Bun, Rum Kitchen, Voodoo Ray’s, Morty and Bob’s and Yum Bun and entertainment music and more from underground promoters such as You Are We, Low Life with Bill Brewster, Frank Broughton & special guest Justin Strauss and a DJ set from Django Django amongst others.

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Blackout Goes Starry Eyed At Lords Bicentenary

Posted in News on 31 October 2014

Drapes and rigging specialist Blackout helped Lords Cricket Club celebrate its 200th year in style, transforming a temporary marquee installed in the iconic grounds with an LED starcloth ceiling, 8th-19th October 2014.

The marquee allowed guests to make the famous walk through the Long Room, down the steps of the Pavilion, through the Players’ gate and into the stunningly- decorated venue which played host to banquets, invitation-only events for local residents and a two-night run of live music from Roxy Music star Bryan Ferry.

Blackout’s team supplied one of its first LED starcloths of the winter season; a huge 30m x 20m installation into the marquee’s roof, adding a magical and festive feel.

Blackout’s project manager Tom Lambert said: LED starcloth is the ideal solution for a temporary venue like the one installed at Lords; it helps to create a more permanent feel and offers acoustic absorption properties perfectly suited for events with live music. We’re quickly heading into the Christmas season and this is a great example of how LED starcloth can add atmosphere to any event or venue. ”

Blackout’s LED starcloths are manufactured from an innovative, light weight molton trevira – a modern alternative to the traditional wool serge – and fitted with energy efficient, low maintenance, long life LED lamps.

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First Class Service For First Direct Arena

Posted in News on 31 October 2014

The 13,000-capacity Arena celebrated the first birthday of its opening when Jake Bugg recently performed his unique blend of indie, rock and folk.

It was a special occasion which also marked a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the venue’s sponsor, the Leeds-based bank, first direct.

From the outset, Showsec were contracted by SMG Europe to provide their specialist services for the Arena and have made an important contribution to many memorable events including the hosting of the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

The Arena’s General Manager Ben Williams commented: “During the launch year of the first direct Arena, SMG have relied upon the scale, expertise and professionalism delivered by Showsec.

“As a company, they have not only embraced but pro-actively committed to the venue’s vision to put the customer at the heart of everything we do.

“The first direct Arena has quickly established a reputation as a friendly, customer-focused environment for event-goers and Showsec have contributed significantly in achieving this.”

He added: “We look forward to working closely with them to continue to improve our service provision over the coming years.”

As well as the anniversary event featuring Bugg, the first direct Arena has played host to many other international artists such as Elton John, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Kasabian, Michael Buble, Miley Cyrus, Ed Sheeran and The Kaiser Chiefs.

Throughout that time, Showsec have worked closely with SMG and the Arena’s management team to provide a customer-focused service.

With Sam Hodkin now operating as the Arena’s Head of Security, the Company has developed a strong team of experienced supervisors, SIA professionals and stewards to help the venue enhance its reputation for top-class entertainment.

“The emphasis has been on ensuring that the experience for all visitors to the first direct Arena is the very best one and the fact that we have been to deliver that level of service is due to the tremendous commitment and professionalism of our staff,” commented Julian Kumah, Showsec’s Area Manager for Yorkshire.

“We have received some very positive feedback from customers and clients, which only spurs us on to raise the bar even higher.”

He added: “The development of our service at the first direct Arena has involved us being innovative in order to create the best possible operational systems in line with the design of the venue and to use the latest technology.

“This gave the staff the confidence and ability to fulfil their roles, and the upshot of that is a very customer-focused approach.”

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Central Hall Westminster launches ‘Event Technologies Challenged’ campaign

Posted in News on 31 October 2014

Following the success of its 2014 ‘Meet the Future – Event Technologies Explored’ campaign, Central Hall Westminster today reveals a new campaign focused on the challenges of effectively improving event experience through technology. The campaign launch follows research showing that 82% of delegates do not fully engage with event content.

The new campaign, ‘Meet the Future – Event Technologies Challenged’, will be driven by a series of hybrid and live events and social media engagement to ascertain concerns of event organisers and offer ideas and solutions through shared best practice and content. The first event of the campaign will be an interactive hybrid event on February 5th 2015, involving a panel of experts, planners and an online audience with an open discussion about delegate engagement at events. The specific content for this event will be crowd-sourced, based on the key issues brought to light by event professionals in initial surveys.

Maria Schuett, Marketing Manager at Central Hall Westminster, says: “Meet the Future is about addressing the key challenges, concerns and opportunities for event organisers. Following the success of the 2014 campaign and the overwhelming feedback from delegates at our June interactive conference, our next campaign, Event Technologies Challenged, seeks to delve deeper into how technologies can truly enhance an event experience and become an enabler. In order to do this we need to address challenges and barriers faced by organisers to discover solutions and create new opportunities for richer experiences.”

 

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Central Hall strikes GOLD at MIMA Awards

Posted in News on 31 October 2014

Central Hall Westminster won the top prize for ‘Best integrated marketing campaign’ at the Meetings Industry Marketing Awards 2014 last night!

The award was in recognition of the ‘Meet The Future’ campaign, a twelve month campaign exploring how event technologies will change the way conferences and events will be organised in the future. The multi-faceted campaign included creative design, advertising, events, PR, social media and multimedia content, culminating in a large interactive conference attended by a select 300 senior event buyers.

Reviewing Central Hall Westminster’s winning campaign, the MIMA judge Viki Stapleton from Schroder Investment Management commented that the campaign was well thought out, performed against a clear set of objectives and achieved in promoting Central Hall as a tech-savvy destination of choice.

Maria Schuett, Marketing Manager at Central Hall Westminster and Conference Production Manager, commented: “It is fantastic to see the industry recognise the creativity behind ‘Meet the Future’. Many months working on this campaign have really paid off and we’ve established a president for technology events in this industry”.

Central Hall’s PR agency Mexia Communications was also awarded gold for their contribution to the social media campaign that accompanied the campaign.

 

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