Bare bones today. Links I found interesting:
I am with my family this week, as it’s the kids’ winter break. So posts will be light, and Signals may be weak. Here’s a roundup of the long weekend’s news, which was dominated by Google’s continued tweaks to Buzz, and ongoing analysis of samesaid social app:
Google Names Facebook, Twitter as Rivals (Dow Jones via IWantMedia) Clearly anticipating social search and the power of social on its business model, as well as the launch of Buzz, Google in its 2009 annual report finally acknowledges what we all have known for some time.
Google Buzz Has Completely Changed the Game: Here’s How (Mashable) A positive take on the service. I’ll call Buzz a success when I feel compelled to use Gmail so as to use Buzz. I don’t think that is going to happen, though, as most likely, Buzz will open up and become part of the larger Facebook and Twitter ecosystem through third party apps (one hopes).
http://docs.google.com/viewer?url=http://waxy.org/random/text/pov_top_websites_1999.pdf (Waxy via KK) Kevin Kelly, a key member of our merry band of co-founders back at Wired, sent me this link. It’s Time Magazine’s top 100 websites for 1999. Kevin wryly pointed out that the site I ran at the time, TheStandard.com, was ranked higher than Google.com. How things change, eh?
Attention Agencies: What Happened To Contact Reports? (Jones&Bonevac Blog) My old pal Casey Jones opines on a practice that seems to have been lost in the world of agencies.
The Power of the Audience (Anil Dash) A fellow well worth reading.
5 Things FedEx Has Learned about Managing Relationships through Social Media (Open Forum) Love to see examples of brands doing stuff well.
How We’re Using Social Media on Our Mobile Phones [STATS] (And more Mashable) Let’s not only focus on the phones, even as this stuff is fascinating.The screen is just where we are now. In a few years, we’ll be thinking about new interfaces to mobile beyond screens.
Yesterday I stopped by Twitter HQ to see Dick Costolo. Dick recently moved to Marin (my home turf) and took Twitter’s COO job. I’d say that taking such a job means Dick’s hair is constantly on fire, but if you know Dick, you know that’s really not an issue. (He’s level headed, he’s a pro, and, well….let’s just say he doesn’t wear his hair long).
Among other things (FM has partnered with Twitter in the past, and will continue to do so), we discussed how Twitter might crack the code around explaining its user base, how those users engage with the service, and how the service is growing – especially given the recently hot (and to my mind not well understood) topic of *if* it’s growing. Dick assured me it is – echoing a recent tweet from founder Evan Williams.
Much has been written around the topic of Twitter’s growth, but the shorthand is this: You can’t rely on Comscore or web-based measurement services like Compete or Quantcast, because they do not measure the entire Twitter ecosystem, which is distributed in nature. For example, these services do not measure use of Twitter’s API, which accounts for more than half of the service’s traffic (through apps like TweetDeck, Twitteriffic, Exectweets or Stocktwits, for example). They also don’t measure mobile usage, and some don’t measure international traffic, which Costolo said in some countries is growing “straight up” – quite like it did in the US early last year.
Regardless, these services do show a flattening of traffic to the US domain, which if not explained, will continue to cause consternation and questions around whether the Twitter ecosystem is indeed continuing to flourish. And when the service begins working directly with marketers, those questions will need to be addressed. Not to mention the issue of inactive accounts – folks who join but don’t understand how to extract value from the service – witness Radiohead, as one example. A lot of folks come to the service, tap the microphone, ask “is this thing on?”, and then leave. Lists and a revamp of “suggested users” was the start of the company’s fix to this issue, and Costolo told me he has a team focused on next steps.
Dick also mentioned that there are a lot of folks who use Twitter to consume information, rather than broadcast it. Those folks are valuable audience members, but it’s hard to prove consumption without a metric to validate it (IE, number of times a user pulls a Twitter feed or visits his/her page).
While I don’t have any news to report on whether Twitter will be releasing its own stats, Dick shook his head emphatically when I asked him if the recent Royal Pingdom post about growth in overall tweets was directionally correct.
According to that post:
According to our research, Twitter is as of December processing more than one billion tweets per month. January passed 1.2 billion, averaging almost 40 million tweets per day. This is significantly more than Twitter was processing just a few months ago.
While understanding “tweets per day” is a fine metric, it’s not very deep. For example, perhaps a very small number of folks are creating most of the activity (a problem that Digg has had, though it does get a lot of “hummingbirds” – folks who come and consume one quick page, then leave). A more valuable metric would be “active users”, a standard that both Facebook and MySpace have promoted over the years (as one might expect, MySpace hasn’t really promoted that particular metric much lately).
Dick agreed, but doesn’t have anything to announce on that measure, yet. We did discuss how having such a metric will be important for the company once it rolls out monetization. (That Twitter intends to work directly with marketers is certainly no secret.)
Other valuable measures we discussed were engagement and resonance – or how a meme travels through the Twitter ecosystem, through influencers, retweets, and co-incidence (IE, lots of folks tweeting the same idea/URL/meme at the same time). Brands are particularly interested in understanding this ecosystem, for crisis management, identification of brand influencers, as well as “listening” (and responding) to the conversation on topics related to their products and services. Many listening/engagement services exist (Radian 6 , Converseon, etc.) but Twitter itself could be doing a lot more to surface useful data that services like these can leverage. (And, btw, if you want to create TweetSense, having these measures will be crucial).
I expect more from Twitter soon on these fronts. If you pay attention to Twitter’s blog, you’ll have noticed a recent post titled “Super Data.” Study this and you see an EKG of sorts for ads during the Super Bowl. At one point, 19% of all tweets were about Doritos. That’s co-incidence for ya.
The post noted: “There is real value in being able to measure the reach and influence of those topics in real time, and we in the analytics team are looking forward to a lot more where this came from.”
If that’s not a hint that more is on the horizon, I don’t know what is. What kind of measurement and metrics would you like to see from Twitter?
Meanwhile, here’s your Friday linkage:
Why Brands are Becoming Media (Mashable/BrianSolis) Yes yes yes. I have been on about brands = publishers for a very long time. Yes.
Should We Clone Neanderthals? (Achaeology.com) Look, sometimes I need to toss one of these in here to see if you are paying attention. So should we?
Survey: 1 in 5 marketers to shift 30% of traditional marketing budgets to social media in 2010 (Socialmedia.org) Again, I just like stories that confirm what we all are eager to see happen.
Lookin’ for Love in All the Wrong Places (AdAge) Brands need to get more emotional in their decisions. I call that being human!
Spatial Search: The Next Frontier (Bing) Cool new stuff from Bing.
comScore Releases January 2010 U.S. Search Engine Rankings (Comscore) And…Bing is gaining share again.
Yahoo Display Strategy Turns To OPA Ad Formats In Effort To Drive Premium Prices (PaidContent) Well, yes, FM adopted some of the OPA standards, and it’s nice to see Yahoo follow suit, but we took those units and made them better by making them social.
The Numbers: Super Bowl Ads, Social Media (MarketingProfs)
The news broke today that Google will be buying Aardvark, a human (and algorithm) powered social search engine that I have written about quite a bit (early last year, most recently, all). I’ve also featured the service’s founders at both Web2 and the CM Summit.)
I’ve confirmed the news in an email with CEO Max Ventilla.
I can’t say I’m surprised by this news. Aardvark’s founders and advisers have strong ties with Google (Ventilla worked there, and a key adviser was at Kaltix, which was purchased by Google).
To me the critical question around this move is this: Will the Aardvark acquisition be a Dodgeball, or will it be a Applied Semantics? With Dodgeball, Google bought a promising startup in a strategically important space, but instead of integrating the technology and committing, it let it languish (the founders left and started Foursquare). Google later determined it must play in the space, and rolled out any number of features inside its mobile, map, and even Gmail products that mimic Dodgeball’s early features.
With Applied Semantics, Google again bought a promising startup in a strategically important space, but this time it successfully integrated the company’s technology and team, driving a crucial new business – AdSense – to become a critical and game changing business for the company.
So which is Aardvark? I’m not sure anyone at either company is sure, but Google is spending a reported $50 million to make sure no one else can find out. I do know Max well enough to say that his goal would be to see Aardvark integrated into the main search interface, such that when you ask Google a question, it would give you the option of “asking a human” through the ‘vark service.
Now that would be pretty cool.
Not to mention, ‘vark uses Facebook Connect as its core social graph for question answering. I certainly hope that will stand as the company integrates.
The parties can’t speak on the record about this yet, but another hope I have for this acquisition is that some of that ‘vark DNA about humans being critical to search – not as data points, but as part of the solution, connecting one to the other – will somehow infect the Google genome. We’ll see….
I’m a bit reticent to jump into this, as I’m not sure you all care that much, but I’ve got a decent reason for writing about Buzz (yesterday’s piece) again today.
First, I’ve seen a piece (Calacanis) proclaiming Buzz the second (third? fifth?) coming of social. Facebook will “lost half its value” due to Buzz’s arrival, Jason opines. I think this is silly. Then again, I seem to think a lot of things are silly. Pretty soon, I’ll be chasing kids off my front lawn, the way I’m going. And I’ve not used Buzz, nor will I, as I’m not a Gmail user nor do I plan on becoming one. So don’t listen to me if you are a Gmail addict who wants to recreate your entire social experience in that medium. Go nuts. I’m all for more options.
Anyway. The larger issue to me has to do with Google’s approach to customers. The Google mantra has always been “we design for our customers.” Here’s the official declaration on Google’s corporate philosophy page (the first two points are also in the image above):
1. Focus on the user and all else will follow. Since the beginning, we’ve focused on providing the best user experience possible. Whether we’re designing a new Internet browser or a new tweak to the look of the homepage, we take great care to ensure that they will ultimately serve you, rather than our own internal goal or bottom line.
For the most part, Google has hewn closely to this strategy. But it has a major blind spot when it comes to Facebook and Twitter – Facebook in particular. I can understand ignoring Twitter – one could argue it’s not ubiquitous and therefore can be left off the feature set of new products. But ignoring Facebook when it comes to social search and status update is akin to ignoring oxygen when it’s time to light a fire: it’s silly (there’s that word again).
Furthermore, it’s not designing for your customer. Just about every one of Google’s customers has invested significant time and energy into their Facebook social graph. Launching social search (my take here) and Buzz with the pretension that Facebook doesn’t matter can not be explained away (at least, Google isn’t trying). What Google customer wouldn’t want at least the option to have their Google searches filtered through their Facebook social graph? And what Google customer wouldn’t want to at least have the option to import their Facebook connections and data feeds into and out of Google Buzz (not to mention publish into Twitter)?
Google made a clear decision to exclude Facebook from both social search and Buzz, and to my mind, that decision was made due to competitive issues – the company’s “own internal goal or bottom line.”
Now, tons of companies make similar decisions every day of every week. Fine.
But if you’re going to claim to be a different kind of company, one that is unique in philosophy and management approach, you can’t continually chip away at your core philosophy and not expect to be called on it by the very consumers that built your brand in the first place.
Oh, and by the way, it might be time to take a look at the second point in that Corporate Philosophy: “It’s best to do one thing really, really well. We do search.”
…and Nexus One, and Android, and Docs, and Doubleclick, and YouTube, and broadband and wifi networks, and blogs, and music, and books, and shopping/checkout, and Buzz, and Gmail, and…..anyway.
I think Google is an extraordinary company. But as I predicted way back in January, it’s time for it to mean something besides search, and for the company to own up to acting, well, like a company that protects its own interests, even ahead of, at certain times, the interests of its customers. It’s not like any of us are paying for Gmail, after all….
Onwards to the linkage:
IPG Goes with Microsoft’s Atlas for Ad Management (ClickZ) The politics between Microsoft and Google continue to play out in the agency holding company battlefield.
Making the Most of Earned Media (eMarketer) Content is key to platform-based marketing programs.
Needed: A New Science For Valuing Content (AdAge) And content companies need to figure that out.
MySpace CEO Van Natta Was Fired by News Corp. Digital Head Miller in Late Afternoon Meeting (D) I like Owen. I like Jon. I don’t like news like this. Bummer all around.
TV Ads Less Effective, Budgets Shifting Online (MarketingProfs). Well, sometimes it’s nice to just sit back and watch it happen.
Live From Yahoo SearchSpeak 2010 (TC) Yahoo’s not given up on search, despite the Microsoft deal. The company is still innovating.
Love Stinks: 5 Parodies of Google’s Romantic Super Bowl Ad [VIDEO] (Mashable) You know, this is why I love them interwebs.
Whoa cowboy, yet another massive industry Google will try to reinvent? Apparently.
From a blog post announcing the initiative:
We’re planning to build and test ultra high-speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the United States. We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today with 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections. We plan to offer service at a competitive price to at least 50,000 and potentially up to 500,000 people.
Here’s the Very Cool part:
Openness and choice: We’ll operate an “open access” network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers. And consistent with our past advocacy, we’ll manage our network in an open, non-discriminatory and transparent way.
And if those trials work out? Comcast is not going to like it. Sounds like Google will OEM the network to third parties to market to consumers. IE – compete with your local cableco. Innaresting.
So Google went and did it – it integrated a whole mess of social and local features into Gmail, wrapping the whole thing into a product burrito it calls Buzz (Yahoo has got to be fuming, if it has any more fumes left, that is).
The first-day response is somewhat positive – mainly due to the huge installed base that Gmail brings to the party.
However, I am not so certain this is going to work. And my reasons remain the same:
1. Buzz does not let you publish out from Gmail to Twitter or Facebook. So for this to compete, you have to build yet another network of followers/friends – and do it through Google services. Not many of us use Google services for social purposes. That’s a mismatch.
2. Related, but worth repeating: Buzz does not let you do pretty much anything at all with Facebook. Buzz tries to find your friends and connections through algorithms that watch what you do on Google services, then lets you add more, but through the lens of Gmail. There are two things wrong with this: Algorithms, and email. Facebook didn’t depend on either to create its initial value. Instead, it let humans pick other humans, which honestly, is what social is all about at its core.
(The images are from streaming coverage of the Buzz event from Cnet.)
The reality is, Facebook has won the social graph war. Google taking on Facebook for the social graph is akin to Facebook taking on google in web search. IE, silly. Google should incorporate Facebook Connect into Gmail/Buzz asap, and then build on top of it with its powerful services and algorithms. THAT would be a win.
In fact, one very well informed source of mine inside the non-Google socialsphere (IE, one of the major competitors) tells me he thinks Buzz will in fact play out, over the coming months, as *good* for his and other similar companies.
Well, time will tell. Meanwhile, there’s plenty of stuff worthy of your attention this Weds. morning (and I’ll include some tasty stuff about Buzz as well):
Introducing Google Buzz (Official Google Blog)
With Buzz, Google Plunges Into Social Networking (NYT) Plunges in? Well, for the fourth or fifth try…
Google Buzz? MSFT, Yahoo Say ‘Been There, Done That’ (SEL) Yep. And they failed.
Google Buzz re-invents Gmail (Tim O’Reilly) Tim is a big fan. This is meaningful to me, as he’s my partner on Web 2.
Twitter: Now more than 1 billion tweets per month (Royal Pingdom) Twitter continues to grow in usage.
FM Audience Takes Off – Now #4 in Conversational Media (FM) We’re behind just three others – Facebook, Myspace and Blogger. Look, I get to promote FM on my site to a certain extent. And I am very proud of the company’s growth and financial performance. OK, enough said.
Social Media Top Online Priority in 2010 (Marketing Profs) Yep. This is one of the reasons FM is so well positioned.
A Touch of Romance (Adverblog) I may well do this for my valentine – create your own romance novel cover.
The Man Who Looked Into Facebook’s Soul (RWW) I am a very big fan of academic research based on large social data sets.
Management Secrets Of Grateful Dead (The Atlantic) Are you kidding me? Finally, they get their due.
Tuesday, we hope, things will get back to normal after Super Bowl fever had subsided. Google is set to turn Gmail into a status updatin’ machine, which positions it to compete directly with Twitter. I’ll be posting this Signal an hour or so before the details emerge. I have an FM Board meeting this morning, (don’t fear, it’s all good…). So click this link for news of Google’s Gmail moves.
Meanwhile, the past 24 hours has brought, as usual, all manner of linkworthy schtuff:
Loopt and Mobile Spinach Team Up for Location-Based Deals (Mashable) I’m watching this space. Hence the next item….
Beyond The Badge: Big Media Brands Strike Foursquare Deals (AdAge) It’s early yet in this space. I expect a significant acquisition by one or two of the majors. Foursquare, for those of you playing at home, was started by folks who sold Dodgeball to Google, watched it go nowhere, left and started over. Of course, if they or others sell, it will retard (yes, I said it) development of a truly native marketing medium. Which would be sad. But not atypical. (Also, see this Bits post, and my post on “checking in” last week.)
Even After Super Bowl, Google Plays the Reluctant Advertiser (ClickZ) Look. I know I promised to write more about this earlier, but I kind of lost my zest for the topic. Google laid its cards on the table. Now lets see if it decides to keep playing the game. I doubt it.
Social Today Feels Like Search A Decade Ago: Lots Of Noise And Lots Of Spam (TC) Indeed, a good point. But not entirely apples to apples. The larger observation is entirely correct: There is a large, very large, opportunity in uniting all these competing platforms. However, it means folks have to play a bit more nicely. The way it’s playing out right now, I don’t see it being solved in the near term. NB: I don’t think the regular joe six degrees pack has the same spam problems as Mike. That could change…
‘Conversationalists’ Climb Social Technographics Ladder (MarketingProfs/Forrester) (image at top left) Jeez, conversationalists? Whodathunk.
Social Media Marketing Best Practices (eMarketer) A plug for their paid report, but hey, the post is worth reading even if you don’t want to pay.
Super Bowl Ads: Hulu’s Winners and Losers [STATS] (Mashable/Hulu) Google did pretty well. So was it worth $6 million? Even Google can’t tell you that.
Google leaps language barrier with translator phone (Times of London) Fun. Early. But fun.
That’s the rumor (BI via WSJ). The idea is to let Gmail become your portal into status update.
It won’t work, period, unless it connects to Facebook and Twitter. And so far, as I’ve pointed out before, Google won’t do that, at least, not yet, and and certainly not in the way it should be done.
Google is simply not understood by consumers to be a place where they can connect with friends and colleagues. If it intends to become that, it has some DNA mutation in its future.
This one should be interesting.
We didn’t set out to do a Super Bowl ad, or even a TV ad for search. Our goal was simply to create a series of short online videos about our products and our users, and how they interact. But we liked this video so much, and it’s had such a positive reaction on YouTube, that we decided to share it with a wider audience.
If there’s one thing Google’s consistent about, it’s the company’s approach to PR: it always sounds reasonable and intellectually defensible, but it’s never really the whole story. Google didn’t set out to run a Super Bowl ad, that’s for sure. But somewhere in the last five or so years, it became the kind of company that would. And that’s the point. I mean….is Eric serious when he implies somehow he needs television to find a “wider audience.” I mean, seriously?!
I’ll have more thoughts on Google the Super Bowl ad runnin’ company after the Monday hoo-ha of meetings ends. Er….stay tuned.
Meanwhile, some other news worth grokkin’ as you sip your Monday morning beverage:
Enhanced Cooperation with Facebook on Search (Bing blog) – Or, put another way, Facebook and Microsoft Cancel Display Ad Relationship (ClickZ).
Moms on Facebook Are Savvy to Marketers [STATS] (Mashable) Well what do you know, Moms and marketers are a match, and what do you know, Facebook Emerges as News-Content Provider (Marketing Profs). Facebook is ubiquitous, folks. The question now, is what they do with that fact….perhaps a Super Bowl ad? Meanwhile, there are now books on the company (NY Review).
How To Get Our Democracy Back (Larry Lessig, the Nation) A rather outrageous proposal from one of technology’s best policy minds.
Plentiful Content, So Cheap (NYT) Carr marvels at Demand’s model.
Physicist Discovers How to Teleport Energy (Technology Review) Just cool.