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A Funny Coincidence, or a Glimpse of the Future?

By - April 15, 2011

I took a ride today, and it was gorgeous as usual. That’s not my story, but it’s certainly a part of it.

As I rode I used the AllSports GPS app on my iphone to track my progress (guys, if you’re reading, your upload is busted).

I knew I’d be able to see the whole ride on Google Maps later, which is cool. It also tracks stuff like distance, vertical, speed, etc. Tons of fun.

So that’s one signal tracking me all along the way, kicking off tons of data as I went. Some of it I was capturing. Some of it, I’d warrant, was being captured by the app. And, if that app has a deal with Google or others for advertising, some of that data, I’d wager, is going to Google as well. I know this. Not sure most folks do, but they will. More on that in another post.

As I rode, I checked into a couple of trails I was on: Indian Fire, and Eldridge. In fact, I put Eldridge on the map of Foursquare, odd, but I knew it wasn’t on there as I tried to check in before but didn’t follow through on Foursquare’s request that I add the spot.

This time I did. Another app has some of my data now. I’m happy to give it to them, in fact.

After about 45 minutes of good up, I found myself at this vista and sent it to Tumblr:

battelle 2:3 up Eldridge NorthEast Over Bon Tempe et al.jpg

A happy place to be sure. I think I captioned it Beeeeeuuuuttiieee or something. This is the view looking Northeast, two-thirds up the Eldridge trail on Mt. Tamalpais. Oh, and a third app now has my data.

Of course, the iPhone also has all that data, and more. And AT&T has its fair share to boot.

We peaked (checked in natch), ripped on down, took more pics, including a video, and I got home to my new video/music/think out loud room. And I put the map and the pictures and the video up on the big screen, and played a bit of Muppets doing Dance Yourself Clean because, well, it was Friday after all.

My buddy left, and I went in to get something. I came back to check mail, and brought up my browser. Now, my home page is this site, and what do I see at the top of the site, in the ads which at this point had reverted to Google AdSense?

Well, I saw this image:

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Well I’ll be, I say to myself. That looks a lot like where I just was! And this was a Google Maps ad. Holy CRAP! Did Google get some of that data and, in near real time, show me an ad with MY PICTURE IN IT?

Funny thing was, I wasn’t creeped out. In fact, I was thrilled….I love that place, and there it was at the top of my site!

Now there’s much to say about this, but OF COURSE I CLICKED ON THAT BAD BOY.

Here’s what I got:

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The thrill was palpable – was I looking at a Northeast view from two-thirds up Eldridge? Wow! Now that’s conversational media!

Well, no. I was looking at a beautiful vista in Ireland, in fact. Clearly the ad folks at Google thought it was a good shot to use. Packaged goods media.

It was all a coincidence.

But it sure as hell got me thinking.

Why *isn’t* there a way to take all that data, and more, and make experiences that work for all of us? I wrote about this in the “Rise of Metaservices.” I want me some, now. And not just so Google can serve me the perfect ad. The world is so much bigger than that (but if that pays for that world, I’m cool with it, as long as I have a dashboard which gives me control).

More to come.

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Join Us For the Sixth Annual CM Summit in New York During Internet Week

By - April 11, 2011


We’re very excited to announce the theme and initial speaker lineup for our 6th annual Conversational Marketing Summit. The Summit will take place June 6-7th in New York City, at the Hudson Theater and Millennium Broadway Hotel.
Our theme is Finding the Signal. Speakers at our annual anchor event include Laura Desmond, CEO of Starcom MediaVest, Tim Westergren, Founder of Pandora, David Karp, Founder of Tumblr, Antonio Lucio, CMO of Visa, and Judy McGrath, Chair and CEO of MTV Networks. And that’s just for starters…see the full (and growing) list here.
We’ve taken our theme in the spirit of our regional Signal event series. Each Signal focuses on a key new area of digital marketing: Location, Real Time, Content, and Social. Finding the signal in an increasingly noisy eco-system of sites, mobile apps and services is increasingly difficult. At the CM Summit, we’ll cut through the clutter and offer up the very best and brightest for two robust days of case studies, insightful one-on-one conversations and compelling introductions of new products, start-ups and services.
Please join leading agencies, marketers, platforms and entrepreneurs in our industry’s most rigorous and thought-provoking annual gathering, the Conversational Marketing Summit.
Early-bird registration is open until April 22. Don’t wait, this event always sells out.
I look forward to seeing you in New York in June.
A very special thanks to our sponsor partners who make all this rich conversation and exploration possible: RIM, Google, Quantcast, Demand Media, Pandora, R2integrated, Slideshare,Yahoo, AOL, Mobile Roadie, Spiceworks and Ustream.

Watch This Space: The Next Generation of "Social Networks" Won't Look Like Facebook.

By - April 07, 2011

Lately in talks and private conversations, I’ve been thinking out loud about the role of Facebook in our lives. It’s an extraordinary service (and company), and deserves its extraordinary valuation. But its approach to our “social graph” is limiting, as I and others have pointed out quite a bit.

While in Mexico I had the chance to sit with a couple of entrepreneurs who have an idea I feel is deeply *right* about social networking, and it couldn’t be further from how Facebook works today. I can’t outline what the idea was, but I can say that it hit the same nerve, that we are on the precipice of entirely new ways of thinking about our relationship to others as leveraged over digital platforms, and while Facebook may well be the oxygen or the landmass of this ecosystem, it won’t be the entire ecosystem itself.

To that end, this piece in TNW hits on some parts of what I’m on about. In it, the author writes:

Just as Google had early dominance in lighting up a portion of the web, Facebook has early dominance in lighting up a portion of the world’s social graph. But much like the Dark Web, there exists network upon network not yet graphed by Facebook, waiting to be mapped, organized, and optimized for communication.

I agree, and think there are many, many new places to create value here.

Google "Head End" Search Results: Ads as Content, Or…Just Ads?

By - March 30, 2011

GoogHeadEndSearchAdEditRatioBattelleMedia.png

Today I spoke at Sony HQ in front of some Pretty Important Folks, so I wanted to be smart about Sony’s offerings lest anything obviously uninformed slip out of my mouth. To prepare I did a bunch of Google searches around Sony and its various products.

Many of these searches are what I call “head end” searches – a lot of folks are searching for the terms I put in, and they are doubly important to Google (and its advertising partners) because they are also very commercial in nature (not in my case, but in general.) Usually folks searching for “Sony Tablets” have some intent to purchase tablets in the near future, or at the very least are somewhere in what’s called the “purchase funnel.”

I was struck with the results, so much so I took a screen shot of one representative set of results. In traditional print, we used to watch a metric called “Ad Edit Ratio” very closely (as did the government, for reasons of calculating postal rates). Editors at publications lobbied for low ad edit ratios (so they’d get more space to put their content, naturally). Advertising executives lobbied for higher Ad Edit ratios (so they could sell more ads, of course). We usually settled somewhere around 50-50 – half ads, half editorial.

Google is way lower than that, on any given search. But not for head end searches. In fact, as a percentage of actual “editorial” (organic search results) versus “paid”, it’s pushing towards 35/65 or more, at least when you measure the space “above the fold” on a typical screen.

Then again, in the case of AdWords, one could argue the ads are contextually relevant and useful.

Just felt worth pointing out, if for no other reason as to add a page to the historical record of how the service is evolving. Once “media” adwords start taking over, this picture may well change again, and it might not be a change that folks like much.

Everbody Forgets About the Power of Intentional Declaration

By - March 23, 2011

I love that Facebook is testing real time conversational advertising. In short, the idea is that the right ad shows up on someone’s Facebook page when they declare some intention. As the Ad Age coverage puts it:

Users who update their status with “Mmm, I could go for some pizza tonight,” could get an ad or a coupon from Domino’s, Papa John’s or Pizza Hut….With real-time delivery, the mere mention of having a baby, running a marathon, buying a power drill or wearing high-heeled shoes is transformed into an opportunity to serve immediate ads, expanding the target audience exponentially beyond usual targeting methods such as stated preferences through “likes” or user profiles.

Sounds great, but hollow – kind of like a 4/4 beat missing a bass drum. And what’s the bass? It’s the consumer, of course.

Allow me to explain. If I’m a consumer in Facebook’s real time advertising world, and I notice that the ads change based on my status update, I may decide to intentionally declare my desire for a pizza, or a pregnancy test, or some cool shoes, because I know the ads/offers/coupons/deals are going to come my way. In other words, it’s advertising’s version of the street finding its own use for technology. Advertising isn’t one way, Facebook. It’s conversational, and the biggest mistake one might make is to assume your consumers won’t game that system for their own uses. In fact, I’d suggest you design your product around that assumption.

If you do that well, you just might have a hit on your hands.

Why Color Matters: Augmented Reality And Nuanced Social Graphs May Finally Come of Age

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I read with interest about Color, a new social photo app that was much in the news today. The main angle of coverage was the size of the pre-revenue company’s funding – $41 million from Sequoia and Bain. Hell, the company isn’t just pre-revenue, it’s pre-product….at least for now. Tomorrow the actual product launches.

If it works as advertised, it may well be the first truly execution of augmented reality that truly scales.

I for one hope it works.

The service’s founder, Bill Nguyen, is the real deal. He has a particular ability to see around corners, and is a veteran of more than half a dozen startups. So why am I fired up about Color’s service? Because I think it bridges an important gap in how we use the web today. And please know that my definition of “the web” is in no way limited to “PC based HTML”. When I say web, I mean the digital platform through which we leverage our lives.

OK, now that we’ve clarified that, what does Color actually *do*? Well, let me explain it as best I can, based on a great piece here by Bruce Upbin (OK and this piece and this one too).

In short, Colors combines the public social graph and instant sharing of Twitter with the “capture the moment” feel of an Instagram or Path. But the real twist is in the service’s approach to location. To my mind, Colors has the opportunity to be the first breakout application fueled by the concept of “augmented reality.”

Now, let me back up and remind readers of my oft-repeated 2010 maxim: Location is the most important signal to erupt from the Internet since search.

OK, that said, what Colors does is offer up a visual public timeline of any given location, in real time. Every single image captured at any given location is instantly “placed” at that location, forever, and is served up as an artifact of that location to anyone using the Colors application.

Put your brain to that idea for a second, and you realize this is one of those ideas that is both A/ Ridiculously huge and B/ Ridiculously obvious in retrospect. And pretty much every idea that passes those two tests only has to pass a third to Be Really Big. That third test? Execution.

Wait Battelle, you may be saying. What are you on about? I’m not getting it?!

In short, if Color is used by a statistically significant percentage of folks, nearly every location that matters on earth will soon be draped in an ever-growing tapestry of visual cloth, one that no doubt will also garner commentary, narrative structure, social graph meaning, and plasticity of interpretation. Imagine if Color – and the fundaments which allow its existence – had existed for the past 100 years. Imagine what Color might have revealed during the Kennedy assassination, or the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East, or hell, the Rodney King beating?

But that’s just the stuff that’s important to us all. What Color really augurs is the ability to understand our shared sense of place over time – and that alone is mind-bendingly powerful. Back in 2008 I was struck with a similar concept, which at FM we turned into Crowdfire – a fleeting, early antecedent to the Color concept focused on music and festivals.

To me the key here is plasticity. By that I mean the ability to bend the concept of “social graph” beyond the inflexible “one ring to rule them all” model of Facebook to a more nuanced set of people you might care about in the context of place or moment. I love these kinds of steps forward, because it’s just so damn clear we need them.

Trust me on this. If Colors fails, it will be due to execution, and someone else will get it right. Because the world wants and needs this, and the time is now. (By the way, I’m not encouraged by the website, which focuses on group sharing and such. I think the service is way bigger than that. But I guess you have to start somewhere…)

Oh, and note to Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare: If you don’t get this feature into your service, pronto, you will more likely than not be rueing the day Color launched.

A Report Card on Web 2 and the App Economy

By - March 18, 2011

As I noted earlier in the week, I had the opportunity to speak at a GM conference today. I was asked to peer into the future of the “app world,” and deliver any divinations I might discover.

I like a challenge like this, as it forces me to weave any number of slender threads of my current thinking into a more robust and compact narrative.

Below is an updated version of a slide I presented today. As I thought through why I have a negative gut reaction to the world of apps as they currently stand, I realized it’s because they violate most of the original principles of what makes the web so great. And when I thought about what those principles are, I realized that a list already existed – in the opening presentation Tim O’Reilly and I gave at the first ever Web 2 Summit, in 2004.

Tim codified those principles in his seminal paper “What Is Web 2,” first published in 2005. For my GM speech, I extracted the core values which comprise the underpinnings of Web 2, then graded them in two categories: The Web, and The App Economy. For each I have a check or an X, depending on progress made since we originally outlined those principles seven years ago. A check means that, in essence, our industry has solidified its commitment to the principle, in particular as it relates to the most important party: The person using the web or the app. An X means we’re not there yet (and perhaps we won’t ever get there).

I think the results speak for themselves. After the image (and a quick break), I’ll offer some thoughts on each.   

web 2 report card.png

* The Web Is A Platform. There is no doubt that this is true on the open web (by this I mean the legacy HTML web). Anyone can put up a site, without approval by anyone else. This is simply not true in the Apple app world, though it’s more true for Android. I could write further pages on what it means to be a platform – certainly iOS and Android are platforms – but what we meant by “The Web Is A Platform” went deeper than the idea of a closed ecosystem controlled by one company. The beauty of the Web was that anyone could innovate on top of it, without permission. This is simply not true in the App World, for now.

* You Control Your Own Data. I have a very long post in me about this, and I spoke about it at length today at GM. But suffice to say, I don’t think either the web or app world have checked this box. But I see it as coming, very soon, projects like The Locker Project and others are hastening it. It’s my belief that soon consumers will demand value from their data, and that the web will be a place where that demand is met. Apps? I’m not so sure they’ll lead here. But they will have to follow.

* Harness Collective Intelligence. I believe the web has delivered on this concept, in spades. But I believe App World creates islands of disconnected experiences, most of which fail to share APIs, data structures, or insights.

* Data Is the New Intel Inside. I agree with this concept, which is truly Tim’s innovation. But I don’t believe either the Web or App World have delivered this power to us as consumers. As with “You Control Your Own Data”, I think the Web will lead, and Apps will follow.

* End of the Software Release Cycle. The Web has totally checked this box – when was the last you checked what version of Google you were using? Meanwhile, we still have to update our apps….

* Lightweight Programming. The web has excelled here. Apps, not so much. I have a lot of hope for Telehash, however.

* Software Above Level of A Single Device. When was the last time you wondered whether the web worked on a particular device? Oh yeah, when you tried to use Flash on an Apple product….enough said.

* Rich User Experiences. This is where apps kick the Web’s ass. And man, it’s a compelling ass kicking, so compelling we may be willing to give up all the other principles of Web 2 just to have a great experience. But I believe, in the end, we don’t have to compromise. We can have our App chocolate, and get our Web peanut butter to boot.

What do you think?

Signal Austin Conversation: Best Buy CTO and Geek Squad Founder Robert Stephens

By - March 16, 2011

It was fun to open last week’s event with Robert Stephens, who has grown Geek Squad from 2 people to more than 20,000 in the past 15 years. Highlights include his view of advertising (“a tax for poor products”) and his confirmation that yes, every Best Buy employee will, in fact, get a tablet sometime soon.


Signal and SXSW: What Should I Ask WordPress Founder Matt Mullenweg?

By - March 08, 2011

Screen shot 2011-03-08 at 6.34.10 PM.pngOn Thursday at Signal Austin, and then again on Friday at SXSWi, I’ll be having an onstage conversation with WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, who continues to be the driver of the WordPress community. WordPress is a unique platform – Matt works for Automattic, a for profit company that owns the rights to the hosted version of WordPress, at wordpress.com. There’s also WordPress.org, which is an open source, not-for-profit foundation that boasts a vibrant community of developers and hackers who merrily create hacks, plugins, and any number of patches to the WordPress code.

When WordPress.com was split off into the for-profit company, many were concerned it would quickly become clogged with ads, but Mullenweg and his partners have been extremely careful in how they’ve introduced marketing into the community. Experiments include FoodPress, EcoPressed, and others in partnership with my company, Federated Media, as well as one-off sponsorships with Microsoft around IE9, and some clever use of Google’s AdWords and other ad networks. Clearly media is a business WordPress will get into more, especially with the traffic and uniques it attracts (see chart at bottom).

Instead of advertising, so far WordPress has focused on tools – including a “freemium” model for key plug ins such as backup, polling, and spam protection. But as the platform has grown, it has taken a considerable amount of investment capital, and those investors will at some point demand a significant return. Furthermore, WordPress has earned the dubious honor of being large enough to become a target for hackers with less than honorable intentions (not to mention ongoing battles with black hat spammers).

I could go on and on – I am fascinated by WordPress, as well as by the publishing platform space it inhabits. The same habitat is populated by a clutch of super interesting companies, including Tumblr, which recently surpassed WordPress in pure number of pageviews (though not engaged uniques) and of course Twitter. It’s my sense these three companies are due to run into each other in the marketplace over time, in particular as the independent web matures into a real media play (more on that another time).

But rather than have me ramble on about WordPress and Automattic, instead let me put the question to you: What would you have me ask Matt at Signal and SXSW? Please leave your questions in comments, or tweet them to me at @johnbattelle with the tag #FMSignal or #SXSW. Thanks!   

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