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The Colorful Bill Nguyen: The Market Will Come

By - May 30, 2011

Bill_Nguyen_headshot_png_100x100_sharpen_q100.jpgIn preparation for our short onstage discussion at CM Summit next week, I recently hopped on the phone with Color founder and CEO Bill Nguyen. Color, ostensibly a social-photo app, is backed by big money and saddled with huge expectations. It launched with great fanfare in March. I wrote glowingly of its potential here. I got a fair amount of sh*t for being too rosy in my estimation of the service’s potential. By April, Color had been written off as a failed effort by much of the blogosphere, and folks moved on to the next shiny object.

None of this seems to bother Nguyen, who’s been around the block a few times more than your average startup bear. He sees a wave rising in the distance, and he’s building Color to ride it. Whether or not others see the wave is not particularly interesting to him. As far as he’s concerned, it’s coming. Folks will get on board when the time is right.

So what is the wave? It’s a pivot in the fundamental organizing principle of how social networks work. He wants to move social past the friend network. Nguyen is certain that Facebook, for all its power, is stuck in a limited model – a poorly instrumented friend graph that you set up once, then run forever. I’ve called this the “instrumentation problem” of Facebook – it simply does not allow the nuance of true social interaction.

To Nguyen’s mind, the next wave of social will be driven by proximity. By that, he means by people who are near other people. If you’ve ever seen that famous video of a festival flash dance, you know how quickly human beings can create social groups. Color is meant to be an app that understands this essential human nature, “appify it”, and add value to it in various ways. His first choice was photos, but that’s really just a proxy for any number of things folks might want to share and relate to as a group (and as members of that group even when not together). Over time, these shared social group objects become intermingled with physical locations, and all sorts of goodness ensues.

However, if you’re going to make an essentially social service, as Color is, you can’t ignore Facebook. Color 1.0 did just that. I expect the next version will not. Facebook is the oxygen in today’s social web. Unless you plan on beating Facebook head to head, it’s best to beat it by joining it.

Nguyen’s goals for Color are very, very big, and getting there will require a lot of work, a lot of capital, and a lot of assumptions that will have to prove out over time. One of them is that Facebook won’t add Color-like features to its service. But while Nguyen told me adding proximity features to Facebook should be “mission critical,” he doesn’t see the social networking giant focusing on it in the near term. He’s probably right.

So why have Color and Nguyen at a conference about digital marketing? Because I see one of our jobs at FM as pushing all of us to think about how the world of human relationships might look three to five years out. Remember, five years ago, Facebook was a curiosity. It pays to pay attention to very smart folks building tools they don’t expect will be fully scaled till the year 2015 or so. Nguyen is one of those folks.

Oh, and at scale, Color would be one hell of a marketing channel. Bill’s got a few thoughts about that as well.

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The CM Summit is just one week away….so register today before we sell out.

Special thanks to our sponsors: Blackberry, AT&T, Google, Quantcast, Demand Media, Facebook, Outbrain, Pandora, Pixazza, R2integrated, Slideshare, Yahoo!, AOL, American Express OPEN, Balloon, BriefLogic, Evidon, Marketing Evolution/Telmar, Mobile Roadie, Spiceworks, and Ustream. And a shout out to our partners at IAB, Mashable, paidContent, ReadWriteWeb, SMAC, and TechZulu.

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The Swan Song of Mich Matthews, Outgoing Chief of Marketing at Microsoft

By - May 27, 2011

mich-matthews-microsoft-marketing-head.jpgAfter a 22-year career helming communications and later all of central marketing for Microsoft – she counts her budgets with a “b”, folks – Mich Matthews, who I admit I’ve grown fond of, is leaving Microsoft later this summer.

For years I’ve asked Mich to sit down with me and endure one of my trademark grillings, and for years she’s demurred, in the main because she believes that the CMO should not be a front person. “You’re an onstage guy,” she told me when we last spoke. “I’m the person pulling the ropes backstage.”

Well, maybe because she’s leaving, and maybe because she’s exploring what comes next (she honestly doesn’t know, but has an inkling), Mich has finally agreed to speak her mind on stage, and if our prep conversation earlier this week was any indication, it’s going to be one hell of a swan song.

Mich opens Day Two of the sixth annual CM Summit in NY just 10 short days from now. And she’ll have some serious stories to tell.

For example, it was Mich in the wings as her boss Bill Gates arrogantly defied the US Justice Department in a disastrous videotaped antitrust deposition in the late 1990s. Not very many people saw that video – but imagine, as Mich certainly has, if that video had gone viral on YouTube. “Thank God YouTube didn’t exist,” Mich told me. Today’s leaders in key areas – search and social, for example – are headed for equally fateful outcomes if they don’t heed the lessons of how the USS Microsoft foundered on the shoals of government policy.

Mich, who in private has always been extraordinarily candid, is ready for her next chapter. When I asked how she felt, she told me “Like I just got a degree in awesome from the University of Awesomeness.” It’s not that working at Microsoft was terrible, but rather that after putting in more than two decades, she had earned the right to look at the world from a new perspective.

It will be that point of view I”ll be asking about first, and then we’ll get into some history, as well as some prognostications about the industry in general. Lest we forget, this is the woman responsible for taking Bing and marketing it to a more than 100% share increase in less than two years. The person responsible for fighting off Google in office apps, Apple in mobile, Sony and Nintendo in gaming, Oracle and scores of others in Enterprise, and, and, and…She’s got war stories, and she’s got lessons learned.

In fact, I’m thinking about giving her opening session more time, as I know we’ll run out of it too soon.

Oh, and PS – Register today before we sell out. It’s getting close!

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Special thanks to our sponsors: Blackberry, AT&T, Google, Quantcast, Demand Media, Facebook, Outbrain, Pandora, Pixazza, R2integrated, Slideshare, Yahoo!, AOL, American Express OPEN, Balloon, BriefLogic, Evidon, Marketing Evolution/Telmar, Mobile Roadie, Spiceworks, and Ustream. And a shout out to our partners at IAB, Mashable, paidContent, ReadWriteWeb, SMAC, and TechZulu.

On the Future of Media: Starcom MediaVest Group CEO Laura Desmond

By - May 24, 2011

ThDesmond_PREFERRED_1.jpge sixth annual CM Summit is just two weeks away, and that means I’m knee deep in prep: thinking about the major themes driving our industry, and in particular, those driving media and marketing.

This is why I’m so pleased that our opening conversation will be with Laura Desmond, the CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group, one of the largest buyers of media in the world. SMG recently made news by winning Microsoft’s lucrative business in the US, and counts P&G, Walmart, Coca Cola, and GM amongst its all star roster of clients.

In short, Desmond has a front row seat to the changes happening in media and marketing today, and from the notes I took in our prep call earlier this week, our onstage conversation should be compelling. Some of the topics we’ll be covering:

- The “consumerization of IT.” As technology becomes integrated into all of our lives, large business to business marketers like Microsoft and Oracle are contending with changing demands of their customers in the workplace. Conversely, the large consumer packaged goods companies like P&G must become IT companies, as consumers demand they respond as nimbly as the Amazons, Googles, and Netflixs of the world.

- Brands as publishers. This is the theme I’ve been writing and preaching about since the founding of Federated Media in 2005, but it’s taken center stage with major marketers this year, according to Desmond. Brands need to become curators, filters, and providers of consumer experiences, she argues, and they need to work in new ways with traditional publishers to get there.

- The shift of media budgets from television to digital. This is the elephant in the room everyone can see, but no one can shoot. While the big five digital platforms command nearly 80% of digital budgets, the truth is, television brand dollars still rule the roost. Why? Desmond has some answers, and expect to hear a call for the end of “market mix modeling,” a practice which began in the 1950s and has barely changed since.

- The role of demand side platforms, real time bidding, third party data, and exchanges in today’s evolving market, an issue which dominated the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual meeting and conference earlier this year.

There’s a world of issues to cover off in our opening conversation, and with more than 30 speakers from GM, Visa, Sony, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and more joining us on stage across one and a half days, our goal is to give CM Summit attendees a high-level look at the business of marketing, in a rapid-fire conference that will keep folks on the edge of their seats.

Register today before we sell out. And if you have a question you’d like me to ask Laura, leave a comment here or join the conversation on the #CMSummit hashtag. See you in New York!

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Special thanks to our sponsors: Blackberry, AT&T, Google, Quantcast, Demand Media, Facebook, Outbrain, Pandora, Pixazza, R2integrated, Slideshare, Yahoo!, AOL, American Express OPEN, Balloon, BriefLogic, Evidon, Marketing Evolution/Telmar, Mobile Roadie, Spiceworks, and Ustream. And a shout out to our partners at IAB, Mashable, paidContent.org, ReadWriteWeb, SMAC, and TechZulu.


Initial Web 2 Summit Lineup Announced

By - May 11, 2011

Today we announced the first tranche of speakers for this year’s Web 2 Summit conference, Oct. 17-19 at the Palace Hotel. It’s a great group, but we’re really only getting started. I’m mixing up the programming approach quite a bit this year, with no panels and a lot more short, impactful High Order Bits and data visualizations. Right now we have 26 or so speakers confirmed, but I expect we’ll be at nearly three times that by the time we’re done. The program is going to be BANG BANG BANG, not that it dragged in the past….

One new thing I’ll be doing as well is forming an advisory board. More on that soon, but my goal is to gather input on the program from a diverse set of voices. This is something I did way back when we started in 2004, it felt right to do it again.

You’ll notice the lineup has a fair share of the industry heavyweights you might expect me to interview (Steve Ballmer, Dick Costolo, Steven Elop, Michael Dell, etc), as well as some names that perhaps you have not heard of (Intel anthropologist Genevieve Bell, “The Information” author James Gleick, etc.). In the coming months, I’ll be announcing new additions pretty frequently, mainly through Twitter, so if you want to stay on top of them, follow me or the Web 2 Summit handle.

Below are the speakers in visual form.

Registration is open, if you want to come, now’s the time, as you get a far better price. We’ve sold out registration every year since 2004.The link at left includes the discount, which lasts, if I recall, only for a short time. Hope to see you there!

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Building A New Map And I Need Your Help: What Are The Key Categories of Data In Today's Network Economy?

By - May 04, 2011

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Many of you probably remember the “Points of Control” Web 2 Summit Map from last year, it was very well received. Hundreds of thousands of folks came to check it out, and the average engagement time was north of six minutes per visitor. It was a really fun way to make the conference theme come to life, and given the work that went into its creation, we thought it’d be a shame to retire it simply because Web 2 has moved on to a new theme.

As I posted last week, this year’s theme is “The Data Frame.” From my updated verbiage describing the theme:

For 2011, our theme is “The Data Frame” - focusing on the impact of data in today’s networked economy. We live in a world clothed in data, and as we interact with it, we create more – data is not only the web’s core resource, it is at once both renewable and boundless.


Consumers now create and consume extraordinary amounts of data. Hundreds of millions of mobile phones weave infinite tapestries of data, in real time. Each purchase, search, status update, and check-in layers our world with more of it. How our industries respond to this opportunity will define not only success and failure in the networked economy, but also the future texture of our culture. And as we’re already seeing, these interactions raise complicated questions of consumer privacy, corporate trust, and our governments’ approach to balancing the two.

How, I wondered, might we update the Points of Control map such that it can express this theme? Well, first of all, it’s clear the game is still afoot between the major players. Some boundaries may have moved, and progress has been made (Bing has gained search share, Facebook and Google have moved into social commerce, etc.), but the map in essence is intact as a thought piece.

Then it struck me – each of the major players, and most of the upstarts, have as a core asset in their arsenals *data*, often many types of it. In addition, most of them covet data that they’ve either not got access to, or are in the process of building out (think Google in social, for example, or in deals, which to my mind is a major play for local as well as purchase data.) Why not apply the “Data Frame” to the map itself, a lens of sorts that when overlaid upon the topography, shows the data assets and aspirations of each player?

So here’s where you come in. If we’re going to add a layer of data to each player on the map, the question becomes – what *kind* of data? And how should we visualize it? My initial thoughts on types of data hew somewhat to my post on the Database of Intentions, so that would include:

- Purchase Data (including credit card info)

- Search Data (query, path taken, history)

- Social Graph Data (identity, friend data)

- Interest Data (Likes, tweets, recommendations, links)

- Location Data (ambient as well as declared/checked in)

- Content Data (Journey through content, likes, engagement, “behavioral”)

Those are some of the big buckets. Clearly, we can debate if, for example, identity should be its own category, separate from social, etc, and that’s exactly the kind of argument I hope to spark. I’m sure I’ve missed huge swaths of landscape, but I’m writing this in a rush (have a meeting in five minutes!) and wanted to get the engine started, so to speak.

I’m gathering a small group of industry folks at my home in the next week to further this debate, but I most certainly want to invite my closest collaborators – readers here at Searchblog, to help us out as we build the next version of the map. Which, by the way, will be open sourced and ready for hacking….

So please dive into comments and tell me, what are the key categories of data that companies are looking to control?

Announcing Web 2 Summit 2011: The Data Frame

By - April 25, 2011

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If you’ve been reading my musings these past few months, you may have noticed an increasing fascination with data. Who owns it (the creator, the service, both? Who has access to it – ISPs? Device makers? Marketers? The government? And how are we as an industry leveraging data to create entirely new classes of services?

Well, expect a lot more musing here, because (finally!) we’re ready to announce the theme for the Web 2 Summit, 2011, and it’s this: The Data Frame. From my overview, just posted on the site:

For Summit 2010, we noted that the Web ecosystem had shifted into something of a battlefield, with both major players and upstarts jockeying for lead positions around key “Points of Control.” Looking back at our theme one year later, it’s clear the game is still in its early phases – most of the major players have held their ground and continue to press into new territory. Meanwhile, the cycle of startup creation has intensified and compressed.

Given all this, we’re tempted to simply declare 2011 “Points of Control, The Sequel.” But we’ve noticed a constant uniting nearly all the battles around these strategic regions. That constant? How companies (and their customers) leverage data.

In our original Web 2.0 opening talk, as well as in Tim’s subsequent paper “What is Web 2.0,” we outlined our short list of key elements defining the emergent web economy. Smack in the middle of that list is this statement: “Data Is the Next Intel Inside.” At the time, most of us only vaguely understood the importance of this concept. Three years ago we noted the role of data when “Web Meets World,” and two years ago, we enlarged upon it with “WebSquared.”

This year, data has taken center stage in the networked economy. We live in a world clothed in data, and as we interact with it, we create more – data is not only the web’s core resource, it is at once both renewable and infinite. No longer tethered to the PC, each of us bathes in a continuous stream of data, in real time, nearly everywhere we go.

In the decade since search redefined how we consume information, we have learned to make the world a game and the game our world, to ask and answer “what’s happening,” “what’s on your mind,” and “where are you?” Each purchase, search, status update, and check-in layers our world with data. Billions of times each day, we pattern a world collectively created by Twitter, Zynga, Facebook, Tencent, Foursquare, Google, Tumblr, Baidu, and thousands of other services. The Database of Intentions is scaling to nearly incomprehensible size and power.

Of course, this fact raises serious issues of consumer privacy, corporate trust, and our governments’ approach to balancing the two. As we learn to leverage this ever-shifting platform called the Internet, we are at once renegotiating our social, economic, and cultural relationships – and we’re doing it in real time. How we interact with each other, how we engage with our government, how we conduct business, and even how we understand our place in the world – all has changed in the short two decades since the dawn of the commercial Internet. And all of this is described through a matrix of data, the power of which our culture is only beginning to recognize.

At the Web 2 Summit 2011, we’ll use data as a framing device to understand the state of the web. We know that those who best leverage data will win. So who’s winning, and how? Who’s behind? In each of our key points of control such as location, mobile platforms, gaming, content, social – who is innovating, and where are the opportunities? What new classes of services and platforms are emerging, and what difficult policy questions loom? And what of the consumer – will users become their own “point of control,” and start to understand the power of their own data?

These are some of the questions we’ll be asking and answering at the 8th annual Web 2 Summit. We look forward to exploring them together.

Web 2 Summit 2011

The Palace Hotel San Francisco

Oct. 17-19, 2011

Registration is now open, and an early line up of speakers will be announced shortly (we already have ten amazing names, but I’m holding off till we have at least a baker’s dozen). Stay tuned, and join the conversation.

* And yes, we’ll be updating our “Points of Control” Map with a new layer – the Data layer, naturally.

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Preliminary Agenda Is Live For CM Summit, Sign Up Now, It Always Sells Out…

By - April 20, 2011

hudson theater_image.jpg Federated Media is proud to present the sixth annual Conversational Marketing Summit, June 6-7 at the fabulous Hudson Theater in the Millennium Broadway Hotel in Times Square. The preliminary agenda is now up, more is coming, but you can get a pretty good sense of the lineup – it’s amazing.
This year’s CM Summit will bridge the conversations of FM’s regional Signal conferences on one stage, bringing together the topics of content marketing, location services, mobile, data, and the real-time web onto one stage.

See our initial agenda, now live on the site.

The rise of digital platforms present massive opportunities, but one significant challenge: finding the signal in an increasingly noisy ecosystem of sites, apps, and services. Audiences fragmented between usage on Facebook and Twitter are constantly faced with new services like Groupon, Foursquare, Color, and SimpleGeo. How can we, as marketers, help our customers find the signal that’s right for them? CM Summit we will dive into a day and half of rapid-fire case studies, insightful one-on-one conversations, and dynamic High Order Bits that will help brands, agencies, and marketers better understand consumer trends, experiences and industry signals.  

Join the conversation! This event always sells out.
REGISTER TODAY and get your early-bird pricing, available only until this Friday, April 22. Special thanks to our event sponsors: RIM, AT&T, Google, cms2011-register-now.jpgQuantcast, Demand Media, Facebook, Outbrain, Pandora, R2integrated, Slideshare, Yahoo!, AOL, Mobile Roadie, Spiceworks, Ustream; and our partners: IAB, Mashable, SMAC, and paidContent.
We look forward to seeing you this June 6-7 in New York!
Please visit our site for hotel booking details, a full list of speakers, and more event details.

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.

+1: Google Figures Out a Way To Leverage Search.

By - March 30, 2011

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Google today did something smart in social – they offered a human way to do something they had already offered – the ability to indicate your approval of a search result. Previously, you could push a result up or down, but that action was not social in nature. Now you can “+1″ a search result, so as to indicate the result was good and/or valuable to you. That recommendation is then translated to others in your social graph.

Cool! But I sure wish it integrated with Twitter, at the very least. And man, it’d sure be powerful if it worked with Facebook. Wouldn’t it, now?! But from what I can tell, that will NEVER happen.

Instead, “+1″ is going to become Google’s version of the “Like” button from Facebook – the post is very direct about this:

But the +1 button isn’t just for search results. We’re working on a +1 button that you can put on your pages too, making it easy for people to recommend your content on Google search without leaving your site.

Because it’s directly tied to Google’s most powerful asset, search, I think this move has some serious legs. Site owners will want to put the button on their site – even if they have no idea how or even *if* those “+1s” will aid ranking in organic Google search. I can tell you this: Spammers will have a field day with this one, though I imagine the button will be gated in some way (perhaps to push it, you have to be logged into a Google account). In any case, it’s a smart way to leverage Google’s core strength.

Game on.

(BTW, over at Boing Boing, we’ve used “+1″ as a way to indicate agreement in email threads for years, a remnant of older email systems long since forgotten. That practice is alive and well at FM as well. Funny how Google picked up on the same notation.)