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Another Conversational Economy Milestone

By - March 11, 2009

Found in this Wired piece on Comcast:

Thanks to Famous Frank (here’s Searchblog’s interview), Comcast began thinking about going even further. The weekend that the company published its response to the FCC—outlining how it managed its network and how it planned to change—one of Roberts’ lieutenants suggested something even more radical: having ordinary company engineers go on message boards to answer questions. It was the kind of proposal that violated every tenet of the old cable code of business, and the matter could be settled only at an executive board meeting on the 52nd floor.

Roberts, sitting with his back to the window, listened to both sides. Then he declared it was time to be a bit more transparent. He finally got it. He was turning a page. “I think we should do this, but we all have to have thick skins,” he said. “People are going to vent. But that’s all right.”

Comcast is joining the conversation, and that is a major, major shift for Big Business. It won’t be an easy shift, it’ll be way easier to go back to old habits. But it’s encouraging to see Really Big Companies making the transition to the Conversation Economy.

(Hat tip, @TheJames)

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Pizza Joint Employs Conversational Jujitsu

By - March 07, 2009

This is priceless: (via Boing Boing)

At San Francisco’s Pizzeria Delfina, they know how to own their pain. Rather than wringing their hands over Internet sourpusses who give them one-star Yelp ratings, they’ve printed up tees with excerpts from the most scathing reviews (“This place sucks”) and given them to the staff to wear.

I call this practice “conversational jujitsu” – take the negative force of complaints, embrace them, and use them to your advantage. Just wait until really large companies start to do this. Then we’ll see remarkable change in this economy.

More as … I write the book.

The Conversation Is Shifting

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Search, and Google in particular, was the first true language of the Web. But I’ve often called it a toddler’s language – intentional, but not fully voiced. This past few weeks folks are noticing an important trend – the share of traffic referred to their sites is shifting. Facebook (and for some, like this site, Twitter) is becoming a primary source of traffic.

Why? Well, two big reasons. One, Facebook has metastasized to a size that rivals Google. And two, Facebook Connect has come into its own. People are sharing what they are reading, where they are going, and what they are doing, and the amplification of all that social intention is spreading across the web.

This is all part of the shift from static to real time search. Social is the fundamental element of that shift. What are YOU doing? What is on YOUR mind? Who do YOU want to SHARE it with?

Social search has been predicted (and funded) for years. It’s finally happening. The conversation is evolving, from short bursts of declared intent inside a query bar, to ongoing, ambient declaration of social actions. Both will continue, but it’s increasingly clear why Google’s obsessed with Facebook (and Facebook with Twitter). And they are not alone.

Get Horizontal

By - March 05, 2009


As I think through the major themes of the book I hope to write over the next year, the word “horizontal” keeps coming up, over and over and over.

It comes up in nearly every conversation I have with marketers. More often than not, when you get to the heart of an innovative marketing program, you find a block that can be summed up thusly: “That’s not what we do.”

In other words, “We’re the marketing group. That’s a great idea, John, but it requires we work with the (customer service, IT, business development, human relations, public affairs, product development, legal) department. And while we’d love to do that, well, we’ve (have never done that, have tried it before and it didn’t work, don’t like those guys, been told not to do it, don’t have budgets that cross departments, etc. etc. etc.).”

But marketing is, in its essence, a horizontal practice. (I wrote more about this on the American Express Open Forum site.) Every customer interaction is marketing. Every partnership is marketing. Every employee is a marketer.

And all your data, well, that’s marketing too.

Case in point: Mashery. I had a good conversation today with Mashery’s CEO Oren Michels. Mashery has a smart (and very Web 2) model: It provides API infrastructure for enterprises looking to turn their businesses into platforms. In other words, business who are smart enough to realize they need to join the conversation economy.

But joining the conversation economy means more than skinning your corporate website with Twitter search results (though I commend Skittles for doing it). It means taking your core assets – the data that drives value and knowledge inside your enterprise – and offering it as fuel for the collective intelligence of all your partners – your channel, your vendors, and, ultimately, your customers.

What does that look like? Well, Mashery has plenty of examples, including the New York Times and Best Buy. It’s late and I wish I could write a lot more, but let me sum it up this way: Companies that create platforms which enable customers to leverage internal data with collective intelligence will win. Those that don’t, will lose.

Oren had a very telling insight, one that plays to the issue of “horizontal versus vertical.” Most enterprises see his services as “IT”, and push him to “talk to the CTO.” But most CTOs don’t care about creating new channels of distribution, new business rules, and opening new markets. They see their job as servicing that which already exists. That’s a recipe for epic fail.

Mashery is not an IT play, it’s a business development play. Smart companies understand that.

More on this soon.

Comcast and Tivo: The Model Is In Ads as Service

By - January 29, 2009

Yesterday at the NAPTE show TiVo CEO issued a call to action to the television business: get a new business model, or suffer the same fate as the newspaper.

I think he’s right, and I’ve got some ideas about what that model should be. I’ll be posting more on this, but the short overview is this: Television should respond to the exhaustive knowledge it has of our viewing habits, and create a model that trades value for engagement. I sketched this out a while back in my post “TV and Search Merge” but that was more than four years ago. A lot has changed, and I’ve learned a lot more about how marketing works. So look for another Friday sketch, tommorrow, outlining my more considered thoughts on the subject.

Hirschorn on the End of The Times

By - January 07, 2009

Michael Hirschorn, who I have worked with on failed print endeavors (Inside, the magazine, back in 2000), writes a thoughtful piece on the end of print journalism, and in particular the New York Times, in – irony alert – the Feb. issue of the Atlantic, which – double irony alert – I read online and would never have seen otherwise, given I no longer subscribe to the print version.

The NYT Co. is an investor in my company. I wish them only well. But I do differ somewhat with Michael when he writes:

Regardless of what happens over the next few months, The Times is destined for significant and traumatic change. At some point soon—sooner than most of us think—the print edition, and with it The Times as we know it, will no longer exist. And it will likely have plenty of company.

I believe the print edition will continue, but in a very different form. Print, as I’ve been saying since the days of Wired, will continue in the digital age, but it will have to pass new tests of value before it can survive. Print has to justify the costs associated with print, now that there are options for information beyond print.

The key issue Michael raises is “how will great journalism get done without institutions like the New York Times?” He goes on to answer that the model of journalism itself is due for an overhaul, and I cannnot agree more. In fact I’d go way, way further than he’s gone. More on that in an upcoming post.

15,000 Words You Might Have Missed

By - December 31, 2008

Book Open-8

One of my readers noted that I’ve written a lot of off-blog stuff, and I’m rather proud of it. And I’ve noted (in my “How did I do 2008” post) that I did not really make the progress I wish I had on my book. But working with partners like Amex, I wrote nearly 20 column-sized pieces – around 15,000 words – and nearly all of them are sketches toward the book I hope to write. Here are some of the pieces I wrote elsewhere this year:

American Express Open Forum Blog

It’s Time to Put This Myth To Rest

In which I argue that marketing works in social media.

Leadership In Troubled Times

When things go wrong, take responsibility.

As The World Turns..Inside Out

My opening post on the economic troubles this past Fall.

Think Local, Act Conversational – It Just Might Save Your Business

How conversant is your small business?

Product Development IS Marketing, And Vice Versa

The title says it all.

Take 48!

A new policy we put in place at FM, picked up on by the WSJ.

Every Great Business Is An Argument

What’s your argument?

Three Steps to Becoming A Web Conversationalist

Some tips on getting conversant.

More On Search and Your Business

A few “Search 101” tips.

Linking Search, Conversation, And Your Site

How it all fits together.

The Successful Business Owner Is a Great Conversationalist

How good are you?

You’re In the Media Business Now.

This is my core argument for all businesses, regardless of industry.

Future of Search – Sponsored by Reuters

Is Microsoft Cashback the Future of Search?

Where Microsoft got it right, and wrong.

A Search Is Not Just A Search

Toward a new interface in search.

Thought Leadership Series – Looksmart

Shifting Search from Static to Real-time

My Twitter moment.

Algorithms and Community: Voice Wins

At the end of the day, we’re people first.

What We Lose As Search Gets Personal

A case for a common search experience.

On Marketing in Social Media, and Meals

By - December 29, 2008

Pete Spande, who runs the East for FM and therefore toward whom I am favorably inclined, has written a brief but very true post on the myth that marketing in social media should somehow be free. It’s not free, just like throwing a great social event isn’t free, but it can be very efficient and it can certainly help get marketers to their goals, if done right.

Social Media Marketing is like entertaining in the physical world. If you want to share an experience with a group of people (either personally or professionally) you need to go to where the people are and get their attention or entice them to come to you. In either case, you have to invest something to get a return.

Pete argues there are various ways to get this done. Many marketers take his first approach (pull out all the stops), usually by attaching themselves to well known celebrities (come hang with LeBron in our Officially Sanctioned NBA social media play! (ooops, this site is no longer active!).

This approach (have the Foo Fighters play! Let folks know Britney will be showing up!) usually fails, and has given social marketing a bad name inside many major brands. “Hey, we tried a deal with (Facebook, MSN, Google, etc) and while a lot of people showed up, no needles really moved, and it all seemed to dissipate as quickly as it started.”

That’s because this approach is pretty much more of the same old sh*t – create a social media execution that has very little value as an organic community, pay a large site a fair chunk of dough to push traffic at it, and then watch as the traffic bounces off it as if it were a heat shield.

There’s another way to do it. A few in fact. I’m particularly a fan of two approaches: First, finding the true leaders of a community you care about, and engaging them in a dialog about how best to join the conversation they lead. What you come up with just might be something like HP’s VoicePosts, Intel’s embedding code and support of BB’s OffWorld, or American Express’ Open Forum.

Secondly, I like the approach of determining you have something valuable to add on your own, and you might become a publisher in your own right, as long as what you build is truly valuable. That’s how you end up with Microsoft’s CrowdFire, or Asus’ (or come to think of it, American Express’ Open Forum again.)

Social media marketing is about brands acting, well, social. Which means they need to show up to the party with a nice bottle of wine, if that’s what the party calls for. They need to come ready to have a dialog, and add value to the event. Of course, if they show up with Britney, we won’t complain, if she respects the vibe of the community. If she can’t, well, she probably shouldn’t come in the first place.

A Biosphere of Minds

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From the wonderful Kevin Kelly:

While we have not yet made anything as complex as a human mind, we are trying to. The question is, what would be more complex than a human mind? What would we make if we could? What would such a thing do? In the story of technological evolution – or even biological evolution – what comes after minds?

The usual response to “what comes after a human mind” is better, faster, bigger minds. The same thing only more. That is probably true – we might be able to make or evolve bigger faster minds — but as pictured they are still minds.

A more recent response, one that I have been championing, is that what comes after minds may be a biosphere of minds, an ecological network of many minds and many types of minds – sort of like rainforest of minds – that would have its own meta-level behavior and consequences. Just as a biological rainforest processes nutrients, energy, and diversity, this system of intelligences would process problems, memories, anticipations, data and knowledge. This rainforest of minds would contain all the human minds connected to it, as well as various artificial intelligences, as well as billions of semi-smart things linked up into a sprawling ecosystem of intelligences. Vegetable intelligences, insect intelligences, primate intelligences and human intelligences and maybe superhuman intelligences, all interacting in one seething network. As in any ecosystem, different agents have different capabilities and different roles. Some would cooperate, some would compete. The whole complex would be a dynamic beast, constantly in flux.

Make you think of anything?