October 2007

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Posters and Pasters

 
By and large, the world is made up of two types of people: Posters and Pasters. The former tend to be original thinkers who create and post original content while the latter copy other’s content and make it available.  Copying on the Internet consists of Control C then Control V in the Windows world, and it couldn’t be easier.

Pasters.  You know who you are. You wrote term papers in college with those lengthy quotes that ate up space and long Notes sections behind the bibliography. The easier technology makes it for people to be pasters, the more pasters there will be. 

A kid from England, Nick Haley, developed a TV spot for Apple’s iTouch and posted it to YouTube. ( www.youtube.com/watch?v=KKQUZPqDZb0 ) It was so well-liked, Apple and its ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day took the idea, polished and aired it. The agency is a paster. Nick’s inspiration for the spot was a song called “Music Is My Hot, Hot Sex,” which runs in the background. Nick, too, is a paster.

In marketing today, there is way too much pasting and not enough posting. Pasting provides context and borrowed interest, making the communication and selling process faster. But the best sales pitches are always original. Where’s the beef, pasters?

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Too many widgets!

The rage today in social networking and social computing (my company, Zude, is in the latter business) is opening up APIs to developers with the hope of generating the next killer widget that sends user numbers into the stratosphere.
 
Meebo announced this capability yesterday.
 
Facebook broke the trend earlier in the year and it created a great amount of traction and copy-cat behavior. But, interestingly, we are beginning to feel a hint of fallout from users. Too many widgets! (Check out the Bush Tetras song called “Too many freaks,” when you have some time.) My Facebook site has recently been hit by “tossed cows” and other funky “pokes” which are adding lots of cheese to my page. And I don’t even use Facebook very much. Can you imagine what active users sites must look like?
 
Facebook knows this to be a problem and has put up deletes, blocks and opt-ins everywhere for this stuff. I love widgets, don’t get me wrong. Like good blogs, they are very valuable — but on my terms.
 
Here’s a user comment about Facebook from Hey Nielsen? “It was such a great alternative because it was clean, fast, simple and streamlined. Now I have to deal with the same spam and new annoyances in the form of applications (I don’t want to be a zombie or vampire).” 

Too many widgets!

 

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Siphon.com?


Hulu.com, a joint venture between NBC Universal and Fox, begins limited online service today in the hopes of knocking Google’s YouTube down a few pegs. It is a video service allowing users to watch certain TV shows and films for free, where and when they want.   Hulu shows will be monetize through advertising.
 
It would be my recommendation to sell and schedule the advertising much they way it is done on TV, in pods. Watchers are already used to it this way, and it won’t create incentive for people to watch their favorite shows on computer rather than TV.
 
Were you able to watch The Office online with three rather than 16 TV commercials, it might be an easier decision. But with all ad being equal, the big screen is more convenient and provides a better viewing experience. Hulu wants to build incremental viewers for its TV shows and films, it doesn’t want to siphon off viewership from one vehicle to another, further eroding TV ad revenue.
 

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You ever go hiking overnight? You have to find a campground before dark, build a fire, make dinner? And after dinner there are only two things to do: talk or sleep.  It is one of the few places where there aren’t electronic distractions to entertain us. 

 
Americans use a variety of ways to entertain ourselves when we have downtime. Between video games, iPod, laptops, and TVs we are pretty successful at amusing ourselves, by ourselves. We even use electronics when being social. “Come on over and watch a DVD.”
 
Sony just reported big earning, thanks to consumer electronics. Microsoft’s numbers are strong too, thanks to strong PC software sales. Nintendo’s net is soaring, Acer is up, and the list goes on and on.  Social computing is the rage today, and though that is social, it’s still a step removed from true interactive social behavior. “I’ll give you a Super Poke on Facebook, that should cheer you up.”   
 
Today, for way too many people, consumer electronics replace person-to-person contact. If we allow it to happen for too many generations, we are likely to have a lot more anti-social behavior and down the road the fastest selling electronics will likely be a therapists in a box. 
 

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Facebook, according to some accounts, is growing at either 200,000 or 250,000 new users a day. Thanks to Microsoft and its $240 million investment, Facebook can now go out and but a server or two, a load balancer, and some other stuff to meet the new traffic demands. Keep your eyes and ears open over the next couple of months for some serious performance problems. I predict there will be some outages, sluggishness, blinky apps, and more.
 
No engineer am I, but this type of growth and scalability is not easily done. Plus, now that Microsoft is on board, a good bit of Facebook management time will likely be diverted to non-infrastructure issues. Sit tight and stay tuned.

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Measure This

I finally figured out what business Google will be in 10 years from now: the media measurement business. Google will be the new “data” company known for measuring media habits, advertising effectiveness and purchase predisposition. The company born of search will become the world’s leading marketing analytics company.
 
Google’s work with the Nielson Company measuring cable TV viewership takes TV advertising accountability to a new level. We already know what Google has done with its AdWords program, which is probably only a few months away from being a lot more timely, powerful and predictive. And should they decide to focus on it, digital radio won’t be far behind. Google’s analytics and algorithms will help advertisers optimize ads, and trust me, that is a sweetspot. The only hiccup I see is if someone high up in the company, responsible for this part of the business, decides to venture off before Google completely believes in the effort. 
 
I’m no economist and forget what the exact data point is, but advertising and marketing is somewhere over 20% of the U.S. GDP. To be the company known for optimizing that chunk of change is a reachable goal for Google…and a truly focused mission, which it smilingly lacks right now.
 

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The company capturing the imagination of the world in consumer electronics – Apple (sans Computer) — has one hole in its portfolio. TVs.  Close your eyes and imagine what an Apple television would look like sitting in your den, living room, bedroom or kitchen. Its rounded corners. Sleek contours. Flat in a way only Apple does flat. And how about a TV monitor in your conference room with an Apple logo on it?   I can think of a media company, ad agency or two who might be willing to splurge.
 
With Apple’s computer sales spiking, doubling the market growth rate, and new flatter monitors having an impact, it’s only natural that Apple will try to steal some share in televisions. If you can see it, hear it, or digitize it, it is within Apple’s domain. The only question is when?
 

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Done-gone-away

I have followed Yahoo and its marketing efforts for a while, and watch with great interest as executives try to right the ship. The latest evidence Yahoo still faces challenges is the departure of CMO Cammie Dunaway.  I have said as recently as last week that Yahoo’s market strategy lacks focus. They have made some repairs to the brand, but still seem to be casting about for a direction. 


Not too long ago, and this is one of my favorite stories, I was in a planning meeting with board level officers at billion dollar home healthcare company. The CEO went around the room asking the other officers “What business do you think we’re in?” I knew we were in for a long day. Please read the internal memo (thanks ValleyWag) discussing the organization of Yahoo post-Ms. Dunaway, and tell me what business you think Yahoo is in.

Yahoo! Network Marketing
The following teams will now report into the Yahoo! Network Division (YND):
*       Audience “Go to Market” team led by David Riemer
*       Direct Marketing led by Nick Besbeas
*       Consumer/Customer Innovation led by Karin Timpone
*       Customer Care led by Laura Narducci
We will take the next few weeks to determine the head of a new YND Marketing organization. In the meantime, David Riemer will continue to be the point of contact for YND marketing efforts.

Strategy and Insights
Given the important role of insights to our company strategy we are aligning the Customer Insights organization with Corporate Strategy so we can better leverage insights across Yahoo, globally. Therefore, Peter Daboll will now report to Gerry Horkan, head of Corporate Strategy.

Customer Experience Division
The following teams will now comprise the Customer Experience division:
*       The Brand team led by Allen Olivo. Jorge Consuegra will report to Allen and focus on Brand Marketing for international.
*       Policy and Editorial team led by Ninj.
*       Central UED led by Larry Tesler.
According to this memo the Yahoo business is marketing, strategy and customers. Someone in the executive suite needs to find a business to be in.  Maybe then Yahoo will start gaining back momentum.
 

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There is a Rock and Roll Jesus…and it isn’t Bruce Springsteen. Kid Rock may be a bit of an acquired taste, but he certainly is genuine. As a father of two who might have a teen in the car at any time, I alternately giggle and cringe at some of his lyrics, but the man has some serious soul. Yeah, some self-references and bawdy rhymes are a bit overdone, but to hear him sing “Portrait” with Cheryl Crow, or rhymes like “I’m in it to win it, like Yserman” or “I’ve slept in dumpsters, got high with kings” puts Kid, in my mind, up there with others who sing from the heart. Ever been to Detroit? This dude is Detroit. Ever hear David Allan Coe sing?
 
Hard edged musicians who write from the soul can lose focus and edge when they become rich. Green Day is no longer a punk band, but their music has grown and refined. It still rocks. Kid Rock is driving nice cars but he’s still hanging with the “people.” That’s his “idea.” Bruce, still rocks I guess, but his focus is on larger world things and his past. He lives in a gated community, I’ll bet. Enough said.
 
This week, Kid Rock sold more albums than Bruce, rising to #1. There is a new Rock and Roll Jesus in town. And he made the floor boards bend at Irving Plaza last Tuesday. It’s been a while since that has happened.
 

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Yahoo…Some Focus?

Jerry Yang the CEO of Yahoo has just articulated for investors the company’s three pronged approach for success. 1. “Become the Internet starting point for the most consumers.” At Zude we call this the “start page” strategy. The start page is your default browser setting – the page that appears when you first log on. 2. “Become a ‘must buy’ for the most advertisers.” That translates into being the marketshare leader in advertisers. 3. “Become an open technology platform for developers.” (No superlatives in this statement; just a policy change. 

 
These are all wonderful, smart business goals; goals with ballast as far as the investment community is concerned. My fear is they are not in alignment. One can certainly gain advertising marketshare by being the leading “start page” provider.   Those two work together one can argue. But start pages are not the cash cows that heavily trafficked social nets purport to be — places where users spend scores of hours a month. And then the notion of opening up the APIs to developers – well that has been done by Facebook and, soon, by MySpace.  It may work to help Yahoo provide more robust and sticky start pages, but I still wonder about its ability to gain time share (just made that up) of user’s online activity.
 
 
Much of Mr. Yang’s analyst presentation, I believe, was intended to communicate focus. I’m not so sure he delivered.
 

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