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Independence for Microsoft? No Way. The Thesis Remains.

By - May 07, 2008

Recent rumblings out of Redmond have stated that Microsoft, post the Yahoo axel wrap, will pursue and independent path on the Web. No freakin’ way, is my first thought. That might be refined once I spend some time with their senior management later this month, but if the company is going to go it alone, it means going back on Steve Ballmer’s promise of 25% of Microsoft revenue as advertising. And I really don’t think the company plans to throttle back on its plans to own a major share of the web media world.

Hence the rumors that Microsoft is talking to Facebook again, this time for the whole enchilada.

What I find interesting is the thesis, because all good corporate development must be informed by a decent thesis. The thesis here is simple at a meta level, but near impossible at an operational one: If you have a ton of engaged inventory (ie, people using the web in ways that they value), then you can and should figure out a way to provide marketers access to those people for a premium price that will make network TV look like a blip in the history of marketing.

Google has engaged people. REALLY engaged. For about .2 seconds, you can’t get a more engaged person. But brands are not built in .2 seconds. As I’ve said too many times to count, Google is the greatest harvester of brand equity built elsewhere in the history of media. And kudos to the company for figuring out a way to do it.

Now, the hard part comes. How to build brand equity, awareness, preference, and the like, on the web? It’s one of the largest questions facing the web economy. And while the thesis that Microsoft is pursuing is sound, the proof, well, that’s quite a bowl of messy pudding at the moment. Buying Facebook, or Yahoo, or any other major nexis of engaged consumers is only step one.


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5 thoughts on “Independence for Microsoft? No Way. The Thesis Remains.

  1. nmw says:

    Facebook is almost as slippery, almost as one-size fits-all as Google. But at least there is a much clearer goal in Facebook’s management team than in Yahoo’s — and that is a good sign.

    I look forward to the day when those kids who have been reading you lectures and tutorials — and who have been reading attentively — take over at the helms of leading media companies.

    Then they will view “MySpace” or “FaceBook” much in the same way as “McDonalds” or “CocaCola”….

    But in the meantime China and India will have continued to grow at breakneck speed, and perhaps Baidu may be worth more than Google…(?)

    These brands, however, will be anachronistic relics — much like the vinyl records or glossy magazines you mention. The *REAL* action will be in the *TRUE* language of online communications (I refer to this language as “Dot”). Dot ultimately will replace English as the global language (well, at present, Dot and English are closely related — much like American English and Oxford English). As time progresses, Dot will develop far more pronounced localized dialects (such as .DE and .CN and/or .EU and .ASIA).

    For the foreseeable future, however, international Dot will be roughly equivalent to international English: “Books”, “Movies”, “Homes”, “Hotels”, “News” — these are examples of engaged properties today (it remains to be seen if “Live” can deliver on that promise of not being as stale as yesterday’s newspaper — and I wonder, too, whether “books” will ultimately become as old-fashioned as the paper on which books are printed [indeed: "stories", "poems", "poetry" -- I feel such genre.names will continue to become much more prevalent than they are today]).

    Jerry Yang may have done Microsoft a huge favor — well, that’s if Microsoft realizes that “putting all your eggs in one basket” is not where web 3.0 or web 4.6 is at….

  2. Tom Nocera says:

    So much hinges to content, how content impacts human attention spans. During youth of John’s music-loving parents, the attention spans of “baby boomers” were shortened to approximately 7 minutes. This came about due to the conditioning brought about with the “then new” medium of “free” broadcast tv. Commerical ads were spaced about every 7 minutes…conditioning viewers for those “breaks of engagement” ideal for raiding the refrigerators, going to the bathroom, even focusing on some inter-family communications.

    So today Google conditions new generations for .2 second of rapt “engagement”. Similar to those “shoot or die” decision times in computer games. This conditioning, while useful to future electronic warriors, due to the limits of our human perception approaches the finite end of our human attention spans. So until some mitigation by bionic processing, one could forecast that the pendulum will now swing back towards longer, more fulfilling engagements. But that will depend on the quality of the content combined with the degree of “non-intrusiveness” of the advertising – assuming advertising continues to offset quality production and broadband delivery costs. (John touched on this in getting hooked into a commercial on TIVO due to its using the same castmembers as the program.)

  3. kevindwhite says:

    I think the acquisition of Facebook by Microsoft is dubious. First, it smacks of desperation. As if Microsoft now must make a big acquisition to prove something. Third, the senior staff at Facebook below the C-level is populated by individuals that came from ant-Microsoft companies. The same culture clash people feared with Yahoo would also be an issue with Facebook. Third, the reasons stated for a Yahoo acquisition do not hold true for Facebook. The amount of money to be made by advertising on social sites like Facebook is still heavily disputed.

  4. billyg says:

    smacks of desperation

    Well, Microsoft is indeed DESPERATE!

    MSFT stock has gone absolutely nowhere in 6 years, while everyone else (without the monopoly advantage that Microsoft has) has hit it big.

    Big shareholders are calling for Ballmer’s head.

    The reason that Yahoo can hold out for a huge premium, and why Microsoft is still down 10% from Jan 30 when it made its offer for Yahoo is that from an investment standpoint, MSFT has been a complete failure in the Ballmer CEO era.

    Microsoft is negotiating from a position of weakness and desperation.

  5. Tom Nocera says:

    On my posting above back on May 8th I wrote:
    “one could forecast that the pendulum will now swing back towards longer, more fulfilling engagements.”

    Well, sometimes I surprise even myself. It didn’t take long for that prediction to prove to be correct. And the proof comes from the programming innovators at Fox, no less.

    Today (May 16th) according to the article written by Bill Carter, and published in the New York Times with the headline: “Fox Plans to Run Fewer Ads in 2 New Prime-Time Dramas,” Fox Entertainment’s President, Peter Liguori just announced the decision to introduce programming with significantly reduced commercial time as “a new approach…to keep viewers “hooked” on shows: give them fewer commercials.” Which translates into “keeping audiences engaged.”

    What’s more, Fox is smartly staking out its own “branding claim” on the concept of fewer commercials with the tag: “No Remote” TV.

    Those fewer commercials will have to cost advertisers more, however, my bet is that concepts designed to more completely engage with audiences will with the passage of time prove to be long term smart strategies.

    Kudos to Fox Entertainment – “where less can lead to more.”