thomas friedman

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I play Google like a Stradivarius. But it helps top blog a lot. Actually blogging is foundational to how I play my violin.  I was reading Thomas Friedman today and in his Op-Ed column he suggested readers Google “power drills to the head and Shiite militias in Iraq.”  Please don’t, I‘m just making point.  Mr. Friedman knows how one can direct people about the web by simply offering key words or key phrases. I’ve been doing the key phrase thing for years. And key wording them in my daily blog for years.  In many cases, in the branding world, they have become memes.

It’s heaving lifting and takes commitment. It’s also cleaner than white or black hat SEO manipulation. When I direct people to my definition of branding as “An organizing principle for product experience and messaging” they find me.  When I tell prospects to Google “social media guardrails” they find me. “One claim three proof planks” is indexed by Google straight to me.

Are you hearing that violin? Back pat, back pat.



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One of the problems with many brand planners is their laser-ike focus on the now. On the current tactical objective. And who can blame them?  Stuff has to work. And be measured. But true brand plans are for the long term, setting direction for all the tactical efforts. The micro measures of success as it were.  Think of a brand plan as the architecture of the house and the individual tactical projects as the decorated rooms. The architecture is the real strategy; the business-winning, business building proposition or organizing principle that drives commerce.

One of the reasons I love Thomas Friedman, an Op-Ed columnist, is he looks at geopolitical, geo-religious problems before and after the now. He delves into what history has contributing to getting a region where it is (a rearview mirror approach well-worn in brand planning) but also looks into the future. With Syria, for instance, he wonders what the country will look like after the conflagration. He goes straight to a reasonable result and lives there in his mind. Brand planners don’t do this enough. Once you see the future, it helps create a more contextual present.  So the future of healthcare is what? The future of the energy drink category is what? The future of the mobile device operating system is what?

I’d be a gypsy if I promised the future as a brand planning. But I’d be a goober if I didn’t operate there on behalf of my brands. Peace.

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Here’s a marketing challenge:  How do we get the smartest of the smart thinking about renewable energy sources? Michelle Obama has us focused on childhood obesity and is doing a good job. The rest of the government is focused on war and debt and the crisis of financial confidence.  For good measure you can throw in a little healthcare. Sellers of consumer and business goods are “all up” in the digital world trying to leverage Facebook, Twitter and mobile geo services.  Kids are still loving sex, fun and music.

So who is looking out for the planet?  Who is focusing on the fact that we’re literally draining and burning the core of the earth — denuding it of fossil
fuels.  Where’s the water coming from in 5 thousand years?

Pop Quiz.  Name one person in the U.S. that cares the most about the planet? Al Gore is probably the answer. Sad.  Much sad. (God bless him, by the way, but he needs some help.)

Here’s what we need: A VC firm with eyes on the planet prize. Might it be Fred Wilson? John Doerr? Paul Oliver?  Who?  Until that hero emerges, and until the pages of the Wall Street Journal, FT and New York Times start writing about him/her with the alacrity that they use to cover digital tech, we’re screwed. As Thomas Friedman says oil is a destabilizer.  Who is going to step up?  Who dat? Peace!

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There was a time when breaking news only came from radio, newspapers and TV. Then the Internet arrived and it became immediate. Mobile phones and Twitter apps introduced us to big news events reported in seconds from virtually anywhere.


News is free. It may be ad-supported but the horse has left the barn when it comes to making money on news.  Breaking news (the best kind) is no longer appointment-driven. It hits us in real-time over the closest device. Technology has made news 1s and 0s. It’s information. And free.


Analysis, on the other hand, is where the money is. A well turned, well contextualized story, is worth paying for. Hearing Steven Colbert’s fun spin on something is worth an appointment. Reading Thomas Friedman’s analysis of Obama’s Cairo speech is not like hearing about it from your neighbor (not that there’s anything wrong with neighbors).


As the news reporting business evolves and changes thanks to the Internet, I think we will begin to see two forms: generic, aggregated news (free) and in-depth, bi-lined, star-value analysis (paid). 


Content is still king and as we mix the great content in with the chaff — and offer it for free — it loses value.


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What’s the idea with Yahoo?

Many of us have been waiting for Yahoo to make a move. The appointment of Carol Bartz as CEO is part of that move, but now the strategy must change.  Were I Ms. Bartz, I’d block all calls to Redmond on the corporate PBX and announce that search will never be sold. Never! My goal would be to become the #1 content site on the web. Like the New York Yankees, I’d create a hit-list of the world’s best writers, bloggers and social media experts (e.g., Perez Hitlon, Robert Scoble, Seth Godin, David Carr, Thomas Friedman, Beppe Grillo, etc.) and pay them big bucks to sign on.

Advertising is not a strategy, it’s the price of doing business, it’s infrastructure.  Content is a strategy. Yahoo needs to be the world’s most sought after content site. It once was and can be again. I would put the money into content and the search and ads will follow. Peace!

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Thomas Friedman wrote today how the next American administration should focus on E.T. (energy technology.) Economic incentives should be created for companies investing in energy R&D and manufacturing in the U.S.  Companies buying energy saving technologies should get tax credits. New limits should be established for utilities to create improved clean power generation.  And the president’s inaugural parade should be on foot and/or in cars getting 30 MPG to signal our commitment. E.T., according to Friedman, should be the new IT. Great points all.


But who is to lead the charge?  The Sharp Corporation is already betting on the future by investing in solar panel manufacturing technology in Japan. They are the largest manufacturer on the planet.  Sharp should announce a U.S. manufacturing arm and break ground right away. They should then spend a good deal of their ad budget promoting leadership in solar power. This leadership that will elevate Sharp from a low tier 1 TV manufacturer and create new luster for the brand. And it will do so in a meaningful and important category.  Leadership is needed in E.T. If not Sharp, who? How about GM or Ford?


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Thomas Friedman reported today in his New York Times Op-Ed piece that freedom is diminishing around the globe. For the first time since the cold war “almost 4 times as many states — 38 – declined in their freedom scores as improved – 10. The freedom score is a construct of Freedom House.


If you have been following this blog or in the press and blogosphere, you’ll note that one of the major tenets and brand planks of Zude is “freedom.” Zude competes in the social media, social networking sphere, a broad user-generated content category, born of open source and “sharing” doctrine. But as the category matures, I’m seeing big evidence that freedom is waning.


Zude is not perfect, and our so-called “Webertarian” ethos cannot in every case be preserved, but our hearts are in the right place. The Electronic Freedom Foundation and others should applaud our efforts in data portability. And our desire to give everyone the ability to have a free, customizable web presence, especially the underserved portion of the population (non-coders, poor, boomers,) is more than noble.


Competitors in this space, I feel, are drifting backwards in user freedom. More rules, more constraints, a tightening of the communities in favor of the “haves” are all seeping into this world. The category, like the globe, is moving backward and it’s a shame.


Zude’s tagline is “feel free” and please know we will keep fighting the fight.

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We the people.

I do my very best not to make a running commercial out of my blog. But as they say, if you love what you do… 
Today, I read with glee of a new social network for geezers. I’m a “geeze,” so please don’t take offense.  Don’t mention AARP is the motto of this new community, called TeeBeeDee, which stands for To Be Determined.  This may be a smart business decision for its builders and investors and I wish them well, but I am so happy not to be in the community building business. 
Zude, you see, is a platform not a community. We don’t build Levittown’s and ask people to move in. We give them the hammers and materials and ask them to build their own residences. Because Zude allows users of any technical ability to build and customize their web presence, we have lots of 50 year olds and 15 year old users.  And they are all getting along just fine, thank you. There are no social barriers on Zude or neighborhoods gerrymandered by age, education, sex or ethnicity. It’s just a place where people “feel free” to express themselves. It’s like Queens, NY — the world’s greatest example of happy, healthy diversity. 
We built a platform…the people are building the rest. All the people. Thomas Friedman would be proud. We are flattening the world.      

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News should be free. Opinion should be free. The Web should be free. This is America. (“Feel free” is our marketing mantra at Zude.)   Here’s some good news. At midnight tonight The New York Times is going to make free a good deal of the content it once charged for under its Times Select program.

Once again Nicholas Kristof’s Op-Ed pieces will be free. As will those of Thomas Friedman and David Brooks.  
The advertising vs. subscription model continues to favor advertising. The Times earned $10 million last year in online subscriptions, yet still realizes the potential of the online advertising model. Search engines help drive 13 million unique visitors to NY and all but 750,000 may be turned away if they want to dig deeper into the site.  
Are you listening Wall Street Journal. I expect you will roll-over within 2 months. And I can’t wait.

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