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Apple Makes Its Move to Become the Google of App World

By - April 28, 2010

siri.jpgThis is very interesting news, but not unexpected if you’ve been paying attention. Note in the past I’ve predicted that Apple will not do web search, but will do “app search,” because app search is essentially broken, if you can even call it search to begin with. It’s more like directory navigation at this point.

Today Apple announced acquisition of Siri, a personal assistant app that includes voice recognition and search capabilities. As I wrote about Apple previously:

What Apple needs is a search engine that “crawls” apps, app content, and app usage data, then surfaces recommendations as well as content . To do this, mobile apps will need to make their content available for Apple to crawl. And why wouldn’t you if you’re Yelp, for example? Or Facebook, for that matter? An index of apps+social signal+app content would be quite compelling. What Apple will NOT do is crawl the entire web.

And as my colleague James Gross reminded me, I also said this in a recent interview on SEL:

Look at the valuable information that you can extract from how any one of us interacts with a well-designed application, then create a dataset for that. Say I use the New York Transit application to navigate my way through New York for 3 or 4 days… all of the questions and back-and-forth that I use that app for, which is essentially a structured search session—right? Now, match that against a set of data which is the transit map. I say, “I need to go over here. I want to go over there. I prefer this route over that route,”—that becomes a dataset that should inform other searches that I’m making on things that seemingly are unrelated but may not be. That should be available as metadata for future searches. And figuring how to inform that is as important as parsing the line or the spoken phrase that I’m making in the moment.

Now, if I take that spoken phrase and go and search for “Chicago rental car” four months after interacting with that New York Transit map application, how can we take the metadata from that interaction with New York and inform the appropriate response in Chicago. Perhaps the best suggestions would be, “Hey, you know what? You don’t need to rent a car. You can use the Chicago Transit. Here’s an app for it. You can get from the airport to everywhere you want to go without having to rent a car. Plus, you’ll save $150 which we know is a goal of yours because you’ve been interacting with the Mint application and it said that a goal of yours is that you want to save $200 a month and here’s a way that you do that”?

Tying all that together, that’s the Holy Grail because then it starts to understand you. If you only parse just the query, even if you get the natural language right and the intent right, you’re missing the whole person.

It’s now clear to me that Apple is very serious about being the Google of the post-HTML, app-driven Internet. But so is Google, so is Microsoft, and there are certainly going to be other players to boot. (Er…Like HP, which just bought Palm and plans on “doubling down” on the Web OS.) Game on.

  

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It's Similar to Like

By - April 27, 2010

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Just read this: Discovering pages “similar to” ones that you like – from the Google Blog. From it:

One of the great things about the web is choice. There’s a website out there for nearly everything, and sometimes there are many sites all dedicated to a single topic. But how can you find all the sites that are related to the subject that interests you? This week, we launched a search feature that helps you easily find new websites that are similar to the ones with which you’re already familiar.

If only they’d add a “Like” button to Google’s results. Oh wait….they kinda have.

I do believe Google’s response to the wave that is Facebook’s Open Graph and Like is going to define the company for years to come. The game’s afoot in the search+social space.

Help BigThink Interview…Me!

By - April 23, 2010

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Next week, as part of HP’s sponsored Input/Output series, I’ll be interviewed by the folks at BigThink.  

Here’s the link to the webcast. I hope you’ll join. I’m proud to be part of this program, as past guests have included best selling thinkers/authors like Chris Anderson and James Surowiecki. I’ve got big shoes to fill, and I need your help to fill em.

With my role at Web 2 and the CM Summit, I’m usually the one interviewing folks, so the tables are being turned and I’m the one in the hot seat. This is your chance to ask me anything – whether it’s about my writings here, my views on key industry players, my role at Federated Media, my predictions for the year, or my favorite color for that matter. The interview is focused on a theme, one that anyone who reads this site knows well – “Marketing in the New Normal.” Of course, the new normal is the real time, social, and mobile web.

So, help me out – what do you want to hear from me about? Leave your questions here, or tweet them out to me with hashtag #hpio.

I look forward to your input!

On Google's Brand

By - April 22, 2010

all Goog Products.png

Yesterday a reporter from Cnet called and asked me a few provocative questions. He was writing a piece on Google as a marketer, and wanted my point of view. I’m not sure when his piece is coming out (or if my thoughts will be included), but our conversation helped me crystalize my thinking around Google and its brand, so I figured I best get it written down.  

Regular readers may recall one this prediction for 2010:

Google will make a corporate decision to become seen as a software brand rather than as “just a search engine.” I see this as a massive cultural shift that will cause significant rifts inside the company, but I also see it as inevitable. Google, once the “pencil” of the Internet, has become a newer, more open version of Microsoft, and it has to admit as much both to itself as well as to its public, or it will start to lose credibility with all its constituents. While the company flirted with the title of “media company” I think “software company” fits it better, and allows it to focus and to lean into its most significant projects, all of which are software-driven: Chrome OS, Android, Search, and Docs (Office/Cloud Apps).

The reporter’s question let me unpack this a bit. He asked me why Google isn’t doing a major brand campaign, given that most other large Internet-driven companies have – including eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, and Apple.

A few years ago, I might have answered thusly: Google doesn’t need to do brand advertising, because Google’s service *is* the brand builder. But today, my answer is quite different: Google isn’t doing brand advertising because Google doesn’t know what its brand means.

And you can’t do brand advertising if you can’t say what the brand means.

Think about that for a second. Up until a few years ago, it was quite simple to say what the Google brand meant. Put simply, Google = Search. Or, to add a few words, Google = The Best Search Service On Earth.

Now, is that true today?

Well, certainly you could argue that Google still means a great search environment. But the brand also means far more. It’s the brand which stands in opposition to the iPhone – the Android Pepsi to Apple’s Coke. The same is true in the office suite – Google Docs are the Pepsi to the Coke of Microsoft’s Office. Google Chrome? The Pepsi to Internet Explorer’s Coke. And there’s a ton more – photo sharing, blogging platforms, social networking, ecommerce solutions, enterprise platforms, media (YouTube, Knol, etc.)….well you get the picture.

And Google = Search doesn’t cover all that. Nor, honestly, does the company’s corporate mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” You could shoehorn the Nexus One into that mission, but it’s not a comfortable fit.

Until Google figures out what its brand means in a post search world, it won’t be doing any brand advertising. And given who its competing with – Apple, Hulu, Microsoft and Amazon, among many others – I’m not sure that’s a good thing.

CM Summit NYC in June: Agenda Is Live

By - April 19, 2010

Screen shot 2010-04-19 at 12.57.11 PM.pngI’m pleased to announce the agenda of our 5th CM Summit: Marketing in Real Time. I’m excited about of the mix of one-on-one interviews, hand-picked case studies, and focused discussions with leaders from major brand advertisers, agencies, and digital media companies. We’ve also added new networking opportunities so that conversation is at the center of the conference.

Our early-bird pricing is available until this Friday April 23rd, so register today.

Details in our release here.

What: CM Summit 2010: Marketing in Real-Time
When: June 7-8, 2010
Where: New York, NY
Register:
http://cmsummit.com/register
The extraordinary speakers at this year’s CM Summit include (more are coming!):

Tim Armstrong – CEO, AOL* Henry Blodget – EIC, The Business Insider * Joanne Bradford – CRO, Demand Media * Deanna Brown – President and COO, Federated Media * Chris Bruzzo – VP, Brand, Content & Online, Starbucks Coffee Company * Dick Costolo – COO, Twitter * Dennis Crowley – Co-founder, foursquare * Seth Goldstein – Entrepreneur, Stickybits * Omar Hamoui – Founder & CEO, AdMob * Tariq Hassan – VP Worldwide Marketing, Imaging & Printing Group, HP * John Hayes – CMO, American Express * Curt Hecht – CEO, Vivaki * Bradley Horowitz – VP, Product Marketing, Google * Tony Hsieh – CEO, Zappos * Arianna Huffington – Co-founder & EIC, Huffington Post * Ann Lewnes – SVP of Corporate Marketing and Communications, Adobe * Bob Lord – CEO, Razorfish * Joel Lunenfeld – CEO, Moxie Interactive * Mary Meeker – Managing Director, Morgan Stanley * Mike Murphy – VP, Global Sales, Facebook * Rob Norman – CEO Group M North America, IAB * Adam Ostrow – EIC, Mashable * Amy Powell – SVP, Interactive Marketing Paramount Pictures * Avner Ronen – CEO, boxee * Chris Schembri – VP Media Services, AT&T * Hilary Schneider – Executive Vice President, Yahoo! * Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. – Chairman, The New York Times Company * Omar Tawakol – CEO, BlueKai * Tuan Tran – VP Imaging & Printing Group, HP * Ken Wirt – VP, Consumer Marketing, Cisco * Susan Wojcicki – VP, Product Management, Google * Dennis Woodside – VP, Americas Operations, Google
Hope to see you there!

Twitter's "Public Interest Graph"

By - April 18, 2010

Twitter with WHing.pngIt’s been a few days since Chirp, and I’ve had some time to digest all the news that broke last week. Certainly we’ll have another meal this Weds. with Facebook’s F8, where it’s already rumored that Facebook will both reveal its new “firehose” of public data (a la Twitter) as well as new approaches to monetization (see this piece from The Next Web, for example). I doubt we’ll hear that Facebook is ready to create a syndicated network on the back of Facebook Connect – a la AdSense – but one never knows, it just might.

But while we have a few days, one thing really stands out for me in Twitter’s announcements last week. As you might expect, I’m going to focus on the advertising platform, though I think the annotation and othe r news will prove important shortly, when developers figure out their true power.

But let’s focus on the money for now. To me the most interesting concept Twitter introduced last week was how they planned on tuning their ad platform to something Twitter COO Dick Costolo, in an interview with me on stage, called “the public interest graph.”

More likely than not Dick’s been talking about this for some time, but so far not many folks have picked it up. The first mentions of “public interest graph” (as related to Twitter) first appear on Google April 15th – the day Dick mentions it. On stage, I was taken aback, because the concept struck me as pretty powerful.

Dick first mentioned the interest graph when asked about how Twitter’s new “Promoted Tweets” platform will determine the relevance of a promoted tweet to a user’s Twitter stream. Costolo pointed out that Twitter has a lot of powerful information about each of its registered users; in particular, it knows what that user Tweets about, who he or she follows, and what the folks he or she follows Tweets about.

In short, Twitter knows who you are connected to, and what you (and they) are interested in.

Fashion that into a graph – the same kind of graph that powered Google’s graph of web links, or Facebook’s social graph – and all of a sudden you have a pretty powerful organizing principle for relevance in the Twitterverse.

And when you can decode relevance in what was previously an extremely noisy environment, you can build platforms that connect marketers to users in a fashion that adds value – because the ads are natively relevant. That’s what AdWords did in the environment of search, and that’s what Facebook Ads did in the environment of social.

That’s why for me, the most important thing to watch as Twitter develops its admittedly very nascent Promoted Tweets platform are any developments around the Public Interest Graph. I’ll be watching, for sure.

(BTW, I did ask Dick about whether positioning Twitter’s “graph” as public was something of a shot at Facebook, which can quite legitimately claim to also have access to an “interest graph,” albeit one that, until recently, was predominately considered to be made up of private information. He didn’t take my bait, but if I were running sales and marketing at Twitter, I’d sure make hay on that distinction, at least at this moment…..)

An Open Letter to Apple Regarding The Company’s Approach to Conversation with Its Peers and Its Community

By - April 17, 2010

cover5_06.gifDear Apple:

We miss you.

Once upon a time, back before you got real popular, you used to take part in the public square. You may have been less forthcoming than most, but at least your employees would speak at industry events, have unscripted conversations with journalists, and engage in the world a bit here and there.

But over the past few years, things seem to have changed. You pulled out of MacWorld and began hosting your own strictly scripted events. You forbid any of your executives from speaking at any public conferences (save one victory lap with Bill Gates a few years ago). Employees blogging, posting to social networks, or offering academic papers for public comment is actively discouraged. In the words of an employee of your one of your former partners : Apple essentially bans “things that we at companies with an open culture take for granted.”

Your relationship to the press is famously combative, those who do get access start their articles with phrases like “we fanboys are pathetic, I readily confess.” Not exactly the kind of press that pushes boundaries or keeps a company honest. And that makes us honestly nervous – we’ve seen what happens when large American corporations create cultures that worship secrecy and refuse to answer to the press. It’s not pretty. (Possibly to your credit, your CEO does seem to randomly respond to emails , but so far no one at Apple will actually verify his responses. Very clever, that!)

Despite the gorgeous products and services you’ve created, we worry that you’re headed down a road that may lead to your own demise. Apple is no longer the underdog living in the shadow of a Microsoft monopoly. Increasingly, Apple is a dominant player in any number of critical network services and points of control – from mobile devices to media access, payment systems to Internet browsing and advertising platforms. In short, we believe Apple is far too important to continue its role as the Howard Hughes of our industry.

So we’d like to publicly invite you to step into the light, and join us on stage at this year’s Web 2.0 Summit. The theme –“Points of Control”- is quite topical, we believe.

Yes, this invitation is certainly self-serving, but let’s just say we’re in good company when it comes to that particular instinct, and our primary goal is to serve our industry and our conference attendees.

Over the past seven years, Web 2 has become an important platform where the Internet industry has had critical, open exchanges of conversation that move the economy forward. It’s where AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts have faced their critics and countered charges of network discrimination. It’s where senior leaders at Google, Microsoft, Facebook and Twitter debated their battle plans around real time and social search. It’s where Newscorp CEO Rupert Murdoch defended his acquisition of the Wall Street Journal, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg explained his approach to user privacy.

In short, Web 2 is a place where the leaders of the most vibrant industry in the world interact with 1,200 or so of their most important partners, critics, and supporters, in a forum that is open to blogging, tweeting, conversation, and debate. This debate informs and enlightens our industry, moving it forward and keeping all parties honest in the process.

Won’t you join us?

We eagerly await your response.

Sincerely,

John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly, Program Chairs and founders, Web 2.0 Summit

Tynt Gets Funding, Searchblog Gets Tynt

By - April 16, 2010

TC broke the news today that Tynt, a search interception and user behavior data company, got a big round of funding from Panorama Capital, which is also an investor in FM. I’ve installed the Tynt service on Searchblog and I’d like to get your response. I think what the service does is quite clever and useful both to publishers and users. However, it does create new user experience for those of us who cut and paste on sites, and I’m interested if folks find the new approach worthy.

The service works like this: when you copy a snippet of text from a site with Tynt, you’ll see that Tynt appends a unique URL into the pasted text (for example, see the graphic below where I’ve copied and pasted a snippet from a Searchblog post into an email).

Screen shot 2010-04-16 at 5.35.08 PM.png

This URL both redirects readers back to the location from which the snippet was pasted, as well as notifies the Tynt service of the actions taken. This gives Tynt a database of user behavior – a signal of intention – that could become quite valuable. At scale, this means Tynt can, for example, build a Digg-like view of the web – without ever having to create a Digg. It all works based on behavior most readers do all the time anyway.

This data is also surfaced to publishers, which can help them improve their editorial and user experience, among other things.

Tynt also has a pop up service (see graphic below from TC – I have not implemented this yet and until recently the company did not disclose this service publicly) that identifies when certain cut and pasted text is likely to be a signal of search intent. This is based on examining the string of words that is copied. Short phrases – of a few words, for example – usually means the reader is doing a search – they are cut and pasting the text into a search bar or another search browser window.

Screen shot 2010-04-16 at 5.50.20 PM.png

Think about that behavior – probably something you do a lot (I certainly do). What happens? Well, you are reading a story, and come across a term or word you don’t understand, or want to research more. You highlight it, go to the search bar (or open another tab with Google in it), copy the text, paste it into Google, and find yourself on another page (the Google search page.)

Who wins in this scenario? Well, usually Google does (or whichever search engine is used). They get the search, and the probable revenue from that search (as we know, many folks click on paid search links!).

Who loses? Well, the publisher, because some number of folks who execute this behavior will leave the publisher’s page and never return. And the publisher never sees that search revenue either, even though it was the publisher which sparked the search intention in the first place. One could argue that the user loses as well, because they often run off into a back and forth search game that distracts them from their initial focus on the article they were reading.

Tynt changes this game, in that it both keeps the reader on the page, and intercepts the search behavior (and potential revenue). This I find quite interesting (as does Google, I am sure, and Bing, which I bet would love to power those Tynt searches which otherwise might go to Google…). For its major partners, Tynt splits revenues with publishers, bypassing the search engines. The company already has deals in place with scores of major publishers representing billions of page view a month. It claims to be doing 100 million searches. That makes it a player, one the major engines will have to deal with.

One to watch.

Funny: From Chirp, "I Don't Get…"

By - April 14, 2010

Ev Williams, CEO of Twitter, from stage today, notes this funny Google search suggest image….Twitter clearly has work to do …

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Twitter To Roll Out "Promoted Tweets": Initial Thoughts (Developing)

By - April 12, 2010

starbucks-tweet-041210-1.jpg(image from Ad Age) The NYT has broken news of Twitter’s initial version of its native ad platform, which it is calling “Promoted Tweets.” I will acknowledge being briefed on this news prior to its breaking, and I did promise to withhold any comment until the news had been publicly broken.

Now that the Times has provided me with a reason to sound off, here are my initial thoughts on the program.

First the details. I’ll stick to what has been publicly reported, as that only seems fair. Obviously I’ve been thinking about this for some time, given I first theorized “TweetSense” back in 2008. But as to what the NYT has reported:

The advertising program, which Twitter calls Promoted Tweets, will show up when Twitter users search for keywords that the advertisers have bought to link to their ads. Later, Twitter plans to show promoted posts in the stream of Twitter posts, based on how relevant they might be to a particular user.

The news is not so much that Twitter will show sponsored tweets in search results – after all, we’re pretty used to that, thanks to AdWords. The real news is the second part: Twitter will include sponsored tweets in the “the stream of Twitter posts, based on how relevant they might be to a particular user.”

Read that sentence again. And think about what it means.

Let’s go to the basics of marketing, which have to do with attention, message, and return on investment. First, attention. Where is the attention on Twitter? Well, truth be told, more than 70% of it is not on Twitter.com. It’s on third party applications that drive traffic through the Twitter platform. Of course, Twitter has a huge amount of attention on Twitter.com, and with its acquisition of a popular iPhone app, as well as creation of a semi-official Blackberry app, it will have even more “owned and operated” attention out in the mobile world as well. But the majority will remain out in the developer ecosystem, with apps like TweetDeck, Seesmic, and Brizzly. This platform will drive ads out into that previously anaerobic ecosystem. That is a Good Thing.

Regardless of where Twitter users consumer their Twitter feeds, the reality is this: Twitter’s new ad platform will mark the first time, ever, that users of the service will see a tweet from someone they have not explicitly decided to follow.

And that marks an important departure for the young service. One that I think is both defensible, and, if done well, could be seminal to both Twitter and to its partners – both new (marketers) and old (developers). More on that when I come back….

(Posting this, taking a break to get kids to bed, will update soon.)

OK I am back. So I pointed out what I believe to be the major shift in Twitter’s ad platform – that its users will see stuff they’ve not elected to follow. The key question then becomes, as it was with Google’s AdWords – will that which they see be relevant, useful, valuable?

Twitter Dick Costolo responds to this question in the Times piece thusly:

Twitter will measure what it calls resonance, which takes into account nine factors, including the number of people who saw the post, the number of people who replied to it or passed it on to their followers, and the number of people who clicked on links. If a post does not reach a certain resonance score, Twitter will no longer show it as a promoted post. That means that the company will not have to pay for it, and users will not see ads they do not find useful, Mr. Costolo said.

In short, “resonance” is Twitter’s quality score, its measure of whether an ad is useful (Google uses clicks on ads in a similar fashion). That Twitter is including this feature is, to my mind, crucial – it means advertisers have to add to the conversation that is Twitter, or face losing their ability to insert commercial messaging into the Twitter stream.

Initial response to this program – at least in my own Twitter stream, chock full of new media pundits and marketers as may be – is mixed. @Scoble isn’t convinced, but he’s open to hearing more. Others have praised it, and predictably, some have claimed they are forever done with Twitter if it forces ads into their streams.

My reaction is this: This is to be expected, even welcomed, in particular by developers. The initial program is very limited – there are only six initial advertisers – but Twitter has set some pretty clear parameters. First, the ads will be clearly marked as such. Second, the ads will have to perform – and that performance is determined by Twitter’s users, as understood through Twitter’s own algorithms. And third, the ads will be delivered in the grammar of the service itself, not secondary to it.

Sounds an awful lot like the parameters that made AdWords a major success, if you ask me.

I’m not predicting Promoted Tweets will travel the same path, but it sure would have been dumb to ignore the lessons of the most successful digital advertising format in the history of the Web.

Just saying.

Now, on to why I think this is good for the developer ecosystem (I’ll get to whether this is good for marketers next). My initial sense is yes, this is a good thing. Twitter will almost certainly roll this system out through their API, allowing developers to run the same ads in their own curations of the Twitter firehose. And while, as with AdSense, Promoted Tweets may not allow developers to cover 100% of their costs, it sure will help. And as the system develops, and more advertisers join, developers will start to understand how much revenue they might expect from the platform, allowing them to plan for investment and value creation on top of the base dollars they can expect from Twitter.

Again, we’ve seen this movie before, and the web is better for it.

Now, as to marketers.

Unlike with AdWords, which launched in 2001 to minimal fanfare and with a base of mostly small business marketers (the kind who might have spent with the Yellow Pages, or the kind who understood how to game GoTo back in the day), this new system is launching with major brand advertisers who have already committed to “being in the conversation” that Twitter represents.

It’s a safe way to start, free of the wild west, gray market early days of AdSense/AdWords. But to truly scale, Twitter is going to have to open up their platform to anyone with a credit card and the desire to buy their way into the dialog. That’s both scary and potentially very powerful.

Twitter is already open to anyone with an account and something to say. But only those with money can buy a Promoted Tweet. I look forward to the day when the system evolves to let pure capitalism work out its kinks in real time, through the Twitter universe. The key, to my mind, is the concept of resonance. If Twitter gets this right, only “good” ads will make it into our Twitter streams. That will force marketers to mind what they say when given the privilege of being inserted into our feeds. To think hard about adding value to the conversation that surrounds their brands.

And honestly, isn’t that the kind of behavior we’d hope for?

What do you think of Promoted Tweets? I’m eager to hear. Leave a comment or hit me back on @johnbattelle. I’ll be listening.