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Monday Signal

By - February 01, 2010

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Happy Monday, folks. Today is all about poker. Over the weekend, the buzz was hearsay about Steve Jobs’ distaste for Google and its ‘don’t be evil’ mantra, as well as for Adobe and its Flash technology (this is all second hand reporting from Wired and other sources, repeating what Jobs reputedly said at a Friday town hall for Apple employees. The story became instantly reported “news” all over the blogosphere.)

Whether or not the sources got their quotes right, what’s really interesting is the Texas Hold’em playing out across the computing, media, and Internet industries. Apple, Google, Adobe, and others (including Microsoft) are playing their hands as each market card is revealed. New standards are tested (HTML5), old standards are questioned (Flash), new devices are introduced (Droid, iPad), and old alliances are shattered (Google, Apple – it was less than a year ago that Schmidt was on Jobs’ board, recall?).

I love it. Our industry has never been more fascinating.   

Meanwhile, other interesting headlines:

IPad Can’t Play Flash Video, but It May Not Matter (NYT) See above and my prior Signals from last week…

Google news Jeff Jarvis talks with Eric Schmidt at Davos and reports his findings, including that Google is toying with making AdSense splits “transparent.”

Who is the MVP of the Marketing Bowl: Social Media or Super Bowl Ads? (Forrester) A research note that details how social marketing is finding its footing in large platform plays – IE, don’t spend that money on a SuperBowl ad if you’re not going to amplify it through social media, or, honestly, vice versa: the SuperBowl ad should be a platform for the social media program, not the other way around.

Tesla Files For $100 Million IPO (BI) IPOs filings are starting to appear left and right, but this one caught my attention because it’s Elon Musk (of various Web startup fame) and it’s electric cars/motors.

The Birth of the Virtual Assistant Siri’s CEO quotes a guy name Battelle to show how his new product fulfills the future of search. Clearly the guy’s been drinking over the weekend.

Microsoft to Test Ad Exchange Business (AllThingsD)

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The Friday Signal: Will Apple Flash Us, or Not?

By - January 29, 2010

The news today was still iPad driven, for the most part, with the question of whether Flash will be supported at its core. So far, the answer is no, and Adobe semi-officially chastised Apple in this post: Apple’s iPad — a broken link?. However, a site called 9to5Mac studied the iPad introduction video, and found that Flash must be working on the device, because it’s used on the nyt.com, which was featured in the demo: The iPad has Adobe’s Flash on Apple’s video. This of course is important to marketers, as Flash is pretty much an industry standard for rich advertising. Is Apple really planning a total end around, as IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg warns in this post?

I’m not so sure. I’d wager Apple and Adobe are deep in negotiations right now, and I’d also wager part of it has to do with Flash’s execution in the Mac and associated operating systems. Why? Well, it’s not a secret that Flash is resource intensive and reportedly buggy on the Mac (at least, that’s what developers are saying). Perhaps Jobs is using the iPad as leverage to get Adobe to focus on his platform. Or, perhaps he really is spurning the company’s technology. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, a Google exec (Hal Varian) damns the iPad with faint praise, reminding us all that Google and Apple are circling each other in the mobile device market like boxers calculating their first flurry of punches. And O’Reilly Radar has what I think is the best take on the iPad I’ve read so far: The iPad is the iPrius: Your Computer Consumerized.

Other interesting links today:

“Mommy, Where Does Content Come From?” 11 Easy Ways to Create Great Stuff (Open Forum) Content is critical to marketing in social media, without a doubt.

Social Media Marketing: How Pepsi Got It Right (Mashable) I love case studies. You’ll be seeing a lot more of them at the CM Summit in NY this June.

U.S. Advertising to Rise 3.5% in 2010, Barclays Says (Bloomberg) After a year like 2009, who doesn’t like a headline like that? Online, of course, will grow far faster.

Facebook Develops Conversion Tracking Tool: What’s A Fan Worth? (MediaPost)

Consumers Demand Engagement (eMarketer)

The Thursday Signal

By - January 28, 2010

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The iPad announcement took two months to build up, so it’s not going away in one day. Today’s news is dominated by Monday morning quarterbacking around the device, and so far, the fanboys and tech blogosphere are, by and large, not pleased. The image at left represents a few of the stories I’ve been reading across the web. I’ve filed them away in a folder I call “Predictions Support”, as they all seem to support my thesis that the iPad would disappoint. Time will tell. And I still want one, and I’m not convinced there isn’t a counter story in there somewhere.

Meanwhile, there are a few deficits in the iPad that are material to the marketing business. First, the iPad does not support Flash. That’s just silly, unless Apple really thinks it can force marketers to create purely for its own distribution channel (or envisions the iPad as an ecosystem devoid of ads, which is possible). Second, it has no camera, though I’m sure camera devices can be added to it (and probably will be added natively in future versions). Third, as I predicted, it’s another orifice for Apple’s iTunes and App Store, so it’s not an open web device. Then there’s the unfortunate choice of name, which I think will fade over time. There are many other features (or lack thereof) that folks are finding fault with, for more, check this piece on Gizmodo.

My one line summary: The iPad was designed to consume media content in the framework of the social web, and drive Apple’s proprietary platform even deeper into the psyche of the consumer. Don’t count it out. More: Check Mate: Apple’s iPad and Google’s Next Move (O’Reilly Radar).

Other stories of interest:

Google Social Search Goes Live, Adds New Features (SEL) – Watch this space, and it’s the beginning of a sea change in how search works. My initial questions and response from Google: Google Rolling Out Social Search: But Does It Leverage Facebook?

Advertising: A Little ‘i’ to Teach About Online Privacy (NYT) – I am on the Board of the IAB and welcome this initiative. I only hope it becomes actually useful to consumers.

Top 10 Personal Branding Blogs (Lifescoop) – A good list of sites that help you dust off the brand that is you. One thing I’ve noticed is key to success in the media and marketing business is the realization that understanding your own brand is critical to helping others grow. At FM, we’ve helped scores of marketers get promoted, and we’re really proud of that.

Vivaki Ventures Is Done Chasing Equity Deals with Startups (Clickz)

Why Most Digital Ads Still Fail to Work (Ad Age)

The Weds. Signal

By - January 27, 2010

A brief Signal today till I can write later in the day, running to an early meeting:

20 Metrics To Effectively Track Social Media Campaigns (SEL)

Supreme Court’s Devastating Decision | Ronald Dworkin | NYRB | 26 January 2010 (Off topic, but I found this take interesting)

Social Is the Top Priority for Marketers in 2010 [STATS] (Mashable)

Yahoo CEO Eyes TV Ads, Acquisitions (GigaOm, Yahoo earnings spin: We compete with TV, not search!)

AT&T Planning To Launch Yelp-Like Site Buzz.com (SEL, Good luck with that!)

Microsoft, Hearst Join Media Consortium (Worldscreen via IWM, this is about measurement)

Oh, and Apple has an announcement, I hear. (Links)

The Tuesday Signal: Birth of Another Orifice

By - January 26, 2010

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A light day in the media and marketing world, as it seems everyone is holding their breath, waiting for Steve Jobs and Apple to drop the next shoe tomorrow with the launch of the iPad (or iTablet or whatever it’ll be called). Speculation over the device dominates the news, with the NYT pondering its impact on “old media” business models (including its own), and endless rumors about its specs from the tech blogs. (including the apparently faked image at top.)

So allow me a few thoughts on Apple’s entry. First off, if iTunes and the iPhone are any indication, the iPad will be a closed system, controlled by Apple. As with the iPhone, only approved apps will get to play. And as with iTunes, only those who cut a deal with Apple will get distribution on the new device.

Which means, in essence, with the iPad Steve Jobs will create yet another orifice through which value must run.

A bit of background. Five and a half years ago, before the iPhone became, well, the iPhone, Steve Jobs famously decried the carriers’ business model as antiquated and anti-consumer, stating “we’re not very good at going through orifices to get to the end user.” I was at the conference where Jobs made that statement, and was impressed – thinking that perhaps, when Apple inevitably launched its iPhone, it’d have an open development environment mirroring the web. But I was wrong. (Steve left that tactic to Google and Android.)

Instead, Apple is playing to its core DNA, which is to obsessively control every part of the consumer experience, from the operating system and hardware design to the presentation and delivery of content. Hey, it’s worked really well so far, why change now?

Well, because I think this model will lose, in the end. Apple is right to obsess on user interface and design, but over time, open wins. As Tom Evslin put it back in 2007: “Despite his genius, Job’s biggest failures come when he forgets the value of letting other brains in.” Elegantly curated collective intelligence will always trump individual genius (at least on the web).

My partner in Web 2, Tim O’Reilly, has framed this discussion as a simmering “War for the Web.” I think he’s framed it right: everyone now understands that the web is *the* platform for business, and many are now busy applying very old school business models to this new platform: control distribution, control content, control identity, control any place where value accrues. It’s the orifices all over again, with Apple leading the way.

I think this is going to be a major theme for 2010 and beyond: how will the web be controlled? Or will it? Is the era of the messy-but-open web coming to a close?

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Other links of interest:

Playing Games With Customers: Is Foursquare The Future Of Local Search? (Search Engine Land. It might be. It sure is interesting to watch…)

Google releases new Google Voice for iPhone (Reuters. Google is using HTML 5 to go around Apple’s refusal to let its iPhone app through the orifice)

Apple’s Tablet and the New Splintered Web (Ad Age. Points out how devices are forcing all manner of new approaches to web dsitribution)

Facebook Finally Lands “The World’s Biggest Marketer” (P&G to open office in Silicon Valley. I’m on P&G’s Digital Advisory Board and can attest to the company’s strong instincts to reach out beyond its traditional approaches).

Apple to Sell Ads on iPhones, iPods and iTablets? (Chasnote. This, IMHO, will be Apple’s undoing if they approach this wrong. It’s not in their DNA. Remind me to write a post about company DNA…)

Risk Avoidance and the ROI of Social Media, Insurance, Guitars and Tires (Forrestor. Money shot: Social Media is like corporate reputation insurance. You pay premiums in the form of building relationships, listening, responding, creating widgets, and building communities. And because you’ve done so, you’ve earned protection that can help should a PR disaster strike—you have an existing group of people who have affinity for your brand and an existing channel in which to reach them.)

The Monday Signal

By - January 25, 2010

Quite a weekend in marketing land, with a blast from Jason C. directed at Comscore. Sunday’s feeds were alive with responses (I think this summary from TheNextWeb is a good place to start), but it boils down to this: Jason fired off an angry shot at a easy target, but with a bit more nuance, one can see that this is not a simple issue. If it were as black and white as he lays it out, Comscore would have been out of business a long time ago. Measurement is not as easy as most folks think it is, and Google Analytics has trained nearly everyone to think they have more people coming to their sites than they really do. Certainly, Comscore will probably learn from this tempest and possibly change its tactics. But the company has a right to charge for its services, the market will decide if its approach makes sense. (Caveat: FM – and its partners – are Comscore customers).

Meanwhile, Comscore reported global search market trends for 2009. Money shot: The total worldwide search market boasted more than 131 billion searches conducted by people age 15 or older from home and work locations in December 2009, representing a 46-percent increase in the past year. This number represents more than 4 billion searches per day, 175 million per hour, and 29 million per minute. The U.S. represented the largest individual search market in the world with 22.7 billion searches, or approximately 17 percent of searches conducted globally. China ranked second with 13.3 billion searches…(makes one think about Google’s China decision, no?).

I found this NYT post on “controlled serendipity” worthy reading, it furthers a working thesis I have about how the social web is changing search, in particular discovery of content. While the premise is a bit shopworn (we’re all both creators and consumers of content!), it’s nevertheless true.

Other links:

Digg to Undergo Drastic Overhaul (Mashable)

Twitter Launches Location-Based Trending Topics (Mashable)

How Google Ranks Tweets (TechReview)

Death Of TV One Step Closer — YouTube Signs Live Sports Broadcasting Deal (BusinessInsider)

Factery Labs’ New Fact Engine: Just What Real-Time Search Needs (SEL)

Reaching Out to Conversationalists (AdAge/Forrestor)

App Usage to Soar in 2010 (eMarketer)

Today's Signal

By - January 22, 2010

Why Do People Follow (or Fan) Brands? (eMarketer) This link has been passed around a lot this morning in marketing circles, despite the fact that the insights are pretty thin (people follow brands to learn about deals and “learn about new products, features or services.”) We’re all eager to understand what it is that might lead a person into “branding” themselves online. It’s certainly a new form of currency – even AdWords has products you can use to drive Twitter followers. But what are they worth, in the end? I’d love to see more substantial research on this. I think people follow brands because they feel connected to them for some reason. Same reason people engage with them in real space. And value creation creates connection. So create value for folks in the context of social media, and they’ll fan or follow you. Then keep giving them value.

Twitter Changes How It Suggests Users – This is an important step, but Twitter isn’t there yet in terms of really harnessing the power of its own ecosystem.

GOOG reports “strong” earnings, stock sags – Google is considered by nearly everyone as a bellweather company, as goes GOOG, so goes the USA. So even though the company reported a strong Q4, the topline revenue number did not crush Wall Street’s expectations. (It only beat them). Stock’s down 20 points as a result, reflecting concerns that perhaps Google can’t grow as fast as folks wish it would. Notable: Eric Schmidt says Google’s next huge growth business is display advertising. Always wondered what Google really means when it says that. Display does not equate to brand, mind you…

Hilary Clinton Speaks Out About Free Speech and China – Along with a number of other California based journalists, I was invited to come to DC to see this speech in person. I was eager to go, but just could not make the trip. As I have written many times in the past, I think this issue could become quite significant historically, and Google’s moves only increase the odds.

An Overview of Facebook’s “Brand Ads” (TBI Research) – Provides a good overview of how Facebook’s direct sold ads work, what the products are, pricing, etc.

Signal From Noise

By - January 21, 2010

Media and Marketing stories that interest me today:

Kindle Will Get App Store (NYT) – I’ve been on about this for a while now, and finally, it seems Amazon is getting a clue. I’m guessing the impending launch of the iTablet, which certainly will have an app store (like the iPhone does), is pushing Amazon to open its doors to developers. About time. For marketers, this ideally will become a new channel into which you can extend your app-based platform ecosystem, assuming you do it in a way that adds value.

A Twitter Tracker for Jersey Shore (clickz) – What, Battelle likes Jersey Shore? Not really (though I have watched, astounded on so many levels). What I think is worth pointing out is the concept of Twitter tracking in general. Curating and adding value to conversations around brands is a skill all marketers must have going forward. Witness the first (and one of the best, I’ll submit humbly), Exectweets, and one of FM’s latest, Amex Open’s Pulse.

The Top 10 Fastest Growing Sites on Web, 2009 (Comscore) – I’m proud to say FM is one of them. Others of interest: Kodak (!), Nintendo, UPS, Hallmark. Interesting that several of them are brands, not media properties.

Rock Band Opening Up (Mashable) – It’s not quite what I predicted earlier this month, but there’s 11 months to go and this is a step in the right direction.

Report: Kids and Their Screens (Kaiser Foundation) – It’s worse (and better) than you thought. “Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.”

A Slew of Interesting Publishing Tidbits

By - December 17, 2009

Worth mentioning…

Videos showing traffic patterns at the NYT.com

News on Gravity, seems to be an updated take on forums/groups from ex Myspace folks.

Yet another reader from the publishing industry, this one called Mag+. They get this part: “Let the Web be the Web.” Indeed.

New AOL editorial chief Saul Hansell late of NYT explains how AOL is a journalistic enterprise and has some words for how the sausage got made at the Times.

Briefly Noted

By - September 22, 2009

Tim A. – who I will interview at Web 2 next month – says the future of AOL is in content. This is a drum he’s been beating for some time, and I still find it intriguing that the man responsible for advertising at Google, a famously technology-driven company, is now a content nut.

The Chair of the FCC has reawakened the net neutrality debate and Comcast and Larry Lessig have already weighed in. Guess who loves it, and who is not so thrilled? Larry came last year, Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast, is coming to Web 2 this year.

WPP Chief Sorrell says he cannot keep pace with the decline in ad revenues. By keeping pace, he means firing enough staff.

MySpace, long quiet in this space, makes news with its plan to integrate Twitter. Jon Miller, to whom MySpace CEO Owen Van Atta reports, and Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter, will both be at Web 2.