Today I answered a question in email for a reporter who works for Wired UK. He asked smart questions, as I would expect from a Wired writer. (Some day I’ll tell you all my personal story of Wired UK – I lived over there for the better part of a year back in 1997, trying to make that magazine work. I mostly failed – but it’s up and running strong now.)
In any case, one question in particular struck me. The writer is preparing a piece on the future of search. (I’ll link to it when it comes out). What big problems, he asked, still plague search?
Way back in the spring of 2010, when Twitter was constantly under siege for “not having a business model,” I co-hosted “Chirp,” Twitter’s first (and I think only) developer conference. This was just two and half years ago, but it seems like a decade. But it was at that conference, in an interview with me, that then-COO (now CEO) Dick Costolo first laid out the vision for “the Interest Graph.” I wrote about this concept extensively (here, here, here), because I felt that understanding the interests of its users would be the core driver of Twitter’s long-term monetization strategy.
Fast forward to now. Twitter today announced its “promoted” suite of ad units may now be targeted by user interest, which to me is a long-expected move that should clarify to anyone confused by the company’s recent announcements (cue link to recent tempest). Twitter’s statements around its decision to sever ties with Instagram and Tumblr couldn’t be more clear:
We understand that there’s great value associated with Twitter’s follow graph data, and we can confirm that it is no longer available to (insert company here)…
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about data recently. It’s not just reading books like The Information or Mirror Worlds (or Super Sad True Love Story, a science fiction novel that is both compelling and scary), it’s my day to day work, both at FM (where we deal with literally 25 billion ad calls and associated data a month), and in reporting the book (I’ve been to MIT, Yale, Amazon, Microsoft, Facebook, Google, and many other places, and the one big theme everyone is talking about is data…).
We are, as a society and as individuals, in the process of becoming data, of describing and detailing and burnishing our dataselves. And yet, we haven’t really joined the conversation about what this all means, in the main because it’s so damn abstract. We talk about privacy and fear of big brother, or big corporations. We talk about Facebook and whether we’re sharing too much. But we aren’t really talking – in any scaled, framed way – about what this means to being humans connected in a shared society, to be in relationships, to be citizens and consumers and lovers and haters….
There are so many wonderful micro conversations going on about this topic, spread out all over the place. I’m hoping that when my book appears, it might be a small step in joining some of these conversations into a larger framework. That’s the dream anyway.
…from those of you in the marketing business out there. How many of you would love to promote your product on the home page of Google, in this fashion?
It’s arguably the web’s most valuable ad placement, it’s not for sale, and no one knows how much traffic or conversion it drives save Google itself.
Just one more sign that the Internet Big Five are girding for a massive fight to be the platform for your life. And if you’re shocked, don’t be. Remember when Amazon launched Kindle? The first thing you saw when you went to amazon.com was….what again? But then again, the Kindle was just another product Amazon was selling, right? At least, it seemed that way.
Now, when Facebook does a home page takeover with its own hardware device, then the battle will truly be engaged. Though I’m not convinced the young company has that move in it….Regardless, here we go….
It’s been a while since I’ve posted images and such from the other side of life. It’s been a rather strange, disjointed, fast-paced summer. No long breaks, no monumental family vacations. A lot more work than I’d like. But time for riding, mountains, and wine…and pictures of same. So to them:
My family has been going to Mammoth Lakes, California since the 1960s. My mother has a place there, and this is her dog, who lives to swim after sticks in Sierra lakes. Not a bad living…That’s Crystal Crag in the background for anyone who knows the area.
This is one of the many single tracks from the top of Mammoth Mountain down – this is the backside of the mountain, looking out toward the lakes and across to the Southern Sierra. That’s my son on the trail. We had a great day riding the mountain, which included some pretty ridiculous technical stuff, even some man-made nuttiness where you get essentially sideways, to wit:
I’ve written up an overview of the lineup at FMP’s second annual Signal:Chicago conference over on the FMP site. Highly recommended, it’s a very good event.
Speakers include Andrew Mason, CEO of Groupon, Scott Howe, CEO of Acxiom, Laura Desmond, CEO of Starcom Mediavest Group, and Carolyn Everson, VP of Global Advertising for Facebook.
If you’re anywhere near Chicago in September, or even if you’re not, this is one that’ll be worth attending. We’re exploring the role of data in marketing, as well as my favorite topics of mobile, real time, local, and social, of course. Check it out.
Both these posts tackle the emerging world of “stream”-driven content, painting them as opposite to the format we’ve pretty much used for the past 20 years – “page”-based content (like this page, for example). An established, at-scale business model exists for page-driven content, and it’s called display advertising. And anyone who’s been reading this site knows that display advertising is under pressure from two sides: first, the rise of massive platforms that harvest web pages and monetize them in ways that don’t pay the creators (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest) and secondly, the dramatic growth of programmatic buying platforms that do pay creators, but the payment amounts are too low to support great content (second generation ad networks called DSPs, backed by agencies and their marketing clients).
Earlier in the week I was interviewed by a sharp producer from an Internet-based media company. That company, a relatively well-known startup in industry circles, will be launching a new site soon, and is making a documentary about the process. Our conversation put a fine point on scores of similar meetings and calls I’ve head with major media company execs, content startup CEOs, and product and business leaders at well known online content destinations.
When I call a producer “sharp,” I mean that he asked interesting questions that crystalized some thoughts that have been bouncing around my head recently. The main focus of our discussion was the challenges of launching new media products in the current environment, and afterwards, it struck me I might write a few words on the subject, as it has been much on my mind, and given my history as both an entrepreneur and author in this space, I very much doubt it will ever stop being on my mind. So here are a couple highlights:
* We have a false economy of valuation driving many startups in the content business. Once a year or so, an Internet media site is sold for an extraordinary amount of money, relative to traditional metrics of valuation. Examples include The Huffington Post, which sold for a reported 10X annual revenues, and, just this past week, Bleacher Report, which sold for even more than that ($200million or so on revenues, from what I understand, that were less than $20mm a year).
My goal was to draw a straight line from a Twitter bot to the real, live person whose face the bot had stolen. In the daily bot wars–the one Twitter fights every day, causing constant fluctuations in follower counts even as brands’ followers remain up to 48% bot–these women are the most visible and yet least acknowledged victims…
There it was, tossed in casually, almost as if it was a simple cost of doing business – nearly half of the followers of major brands could well be “bots.”
It’s been building for weeks – Friday marks the first day of the fifth annual Outside Lands festival here in San Francisco. Despite the demands of work and family, I try to get to as many festivals as I can – so far, I’ve managed to see Bonnaroo a few times, Coachella once (I’ll be back!), Austin City Limits, and a few others. Outside Lands is local to San Francisco and therefore much easier to attend – this will be my third. Compared to your average festival goer (who tends to be single and about half my age) I’m a punter, but I’ll take it.
Why do I go? In two words, serendipity and joy. When you gather with tens of thousands of like minded, smiling people, unexpected connections are made, and bouts of pure happiness break out all over the place. Who wouldn’t want to soak in some of that?