Monday, July 30, 2007

Emap: Strategic review? Against what world view?

Emap plc is undertaking a strategic review - which roughly translates as 'is up for sale at the right price'.
As a humble employee I'm told to 'carry on - business as usual'. And, to be honest, isn't any and everything up for sale, at the right price, at any time?
Experience of friends who have been through similar strategic reviews in other companies suggest one thing: This process won't be fast. So I'm not putting my seatbelt on just yet.
Latest rumour is this was all sparked by a specific £1.3bn offer for the B2B division.

As usual, when I'm close to a story that makes the mainstream media, I'm completely underwhelmed by the standard of 'professional' reporting. No wonder mainstream broadcast media is characterised as struggling! (and I write as a professionally trained journalist of some 20 years experience).
Take for example the Mail on Saturday's report on emap's Friday announcement. It said emap had done a u-turn only months after claiming the numbers didn't stack up for a sale or demerger. And our expert financial guide in the report thrilled us with the insight that the change in mind was as a result of the share price hitting £8.65.
But, as any semi-sentient would have been able to tell the writer, the share price rose to that level as a result of the announcement on Friday morning. Basic cause and effect. Basic point missed.
No wonder people now turn to each other to create trust. A handful of partially informed non-experts would have spotted that simple error. A co-created version of the story is already ahead on points!
And the moment a report makes a simple mistake like that one - that's the moment I lose faith. Why trust the hotch-potch of suggested buyers tagged on?
A digital communal version of that would have that simple notion revealed- and corrected in moments, faith restored - sensible discourse continued.
No surprise then that NowPublic has just secured another $10.6M of funding.

The Sunday's were little more enlightening (those I saw, anyway, please do share if you found someone who had a sensible view writing somewhere).
One argued that major emap shareholders were getting jittery over emap's lack of a decent digital strategy.
Without context there is no meaning - so to say emap lacks a decent digital strategy means little unless you're going to compare it with what (for example) other traditional mainstream media companies have done or have revealed they are doing.
Off the top of my head - emap has one - is investing heavily in one - and is growing its digital revenues. How does that compare with traditional media rivals? I'll leave that to the time-rich Sunday print journalists to consider.

A strategic review responds only to the stakeholder with the most political power in a system: The City.
The City is conservative in its thought. If it can be characterised in systems terms, it is a hard systems thinker.
To be an effective company in a time of change means operating at the creative edge of chaos. It means having a paradigm shift in world view. It means soft systems thinking.
None of these sit well with the view from the single most powerful stakeholder.
But if The City is genuinely interested in growth, as opposed to comfortable mediocrity, it has to change its world view.
The City wants to see us honing our scissor kick technique in order to keep raising the high jump bar. It's the only way it understands change.
We have to do a fosbury flop. It can't even guess at how that might work.

Make no mistake, the world is changed. Your world view must change with it. A number of key stakeholders will always have an important role in influencing how well any system adapts to that change. Their world view must change too.
It's up to us to make that happen.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Google moves to own the network

There have long been rumours that google wanted to move from providing the content to providing the network.
Rumours of them buying up large swathes of land, thousands of miles of cable and securing vast energy supplies provide the theory with its legs.
And last weekend it emerged the company will be among those bidding for spectrum in the US - with the potential of making it a hugely disruptive player in telecommunications.
With ads served against content (mobile adsense is now in beta) there's every possibility that serving their core business (adwords) is what google has in mind. Free calls and data anyone?
The emergence of Blyk's model is already demoing the model as an mvno.
What could google do with ownership of the network and potentially of device (the google phone is still a very hot tip)
The operators must be sweating.

Why Nokia bought a photo and video sharing site

The common sense view of Nokia is that it is a mobile phone manufacturer. Those who look a little closer note that is about as close to the truth as describing it as a rubber boot manufacturer (which it once was...).

The deal to buy Twango (click here for report) is extremely revealing. Nokia is clearly positioning itself as a media company - the definition of which stretches by the day.

The Twango deal (an image and video sharing site with fantastic mobile accessibility) makes obvious sense when you also consider that Nokia is the world's biggest manufacturer of cameras (yep, the ones integrated in your converged handset).

They also believe themselves to be manufacturers of computers (yep, once again, that converged device somewhere very close to you right now).

And the appetite to see themselves as a media company is clarified when you note that Gerard Wiener, is the company's vice president of multimedia mergers and acquisitions.

A Nokia phone user can snap photos or videos while at a sporting event and have those images integrated with their online photo collection at Twango's Web site. It works the other way too - so you can view images from your pc on yoru mobile (a la Orb).

And all deployed through your (Nokia) Widset for fast internet access perhaps? And with Nokia Adservice ads against it?

Make no mistake, Nokia is in the game.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Church of Brands and the marketplace of the people

I'm indebted to an emap colleague for some sticky thinking. A metaphor he used while explaining information architecture to me has set me off on this (often meandering) journey. It will end at the wisest destination if you join me in its conversation...

As media brand owners, we have an overwhelming desire to build our information architecture in the style of churches: We want the congregation to look up to us. We design to impress, to leave the congregation looking up, to dominate the landscape, to bring a body of people together, line them up and preach at them. Ideally we'd prefer it if they only ever read one book - ours.

That's the deficit-thinking approach to the notion of brand as church. It would be wise to try the strength-based channel of thought at this point.
Churches are trusted, Churches have strong values, Churches build communities, Churches are led by people who care about their flocks, Churches help the most vulnerable, churches are a force for good, they speak out against the threat of evil. They offer moral guidance.

Perhaps these are the things (in their wider senses) media brands should consider if they wish to continue with the Brand as Church approach to information architecture.

I have to declare at this point that I believe the Church model was at its most effective in a world of controlled information. And that this applies to brands, too. And I believe that world of centralised control is over.

Think of the pre-printing-press world of information. Life before Gutenburg was life informed by the church. Alan Moore often refers to this (see Communities Dominate Brands)

The resonance with the control of information enabled by mass communication of the mass industrial world won't escape you.

Let's flip the thought channel again. Let's apply a little Common Sense Thinking. What do you tend to find next to any church? Think about your local one. Generally, marketplaces have grown up around them.

Apply a little insight to that. The marketplaces grew up around churches because church was once very important to the same people who go to the market. The group of people who went to church - whose lives were dominated by church and the information it disseminated - were the same people - the same size of popluation - as those who went to market.

This is no longer the case.

It's no longer the case in the real world of bricks and mortar shops and churches (think of the rise out of town retail that sucks the heart out of towns). If the groups were still one and the same it's fairly obvious that each Tesco Extra would come with a chapel.

Shops today get built where people go. Ancient marketplaces were located where people went - therefore, next to the church. Now the shop itself is the draw. Which came first?

Again, there are obvious parallels to be drawn with the digital world.

Time for some re-integrated thought (ie trying to bump ourselves out of the binary world of either/or).

Can a church be a marketplace? Can a marketplace be a church?

Can a media brand take the positive things that have made it successful and build on those to create a place people will want to be once more (with the market following)?

Or is the solution closer to taking a marketplace and infusing it with the best elements of the church of brands?

Dragging ourselves back into the re-integrated channel - must this be an either/or?

A marketplace was always somewhere where information was exchanged (distinct from a church, where information was broadcast), where people were entertained (churches once did that - and media brands would certainly contend they master this) and where people could both buy and sell. (Churches/Brands, well they might set up a stall at the back to sell you postcards and tea-towels... but...)

Apologies - I've now introduced quite a powerful image with sticky potential. Media Brands sell tea-towels and trinkets while the market gets on with the business of business. And taking the image still further - we used to be able to control the market - we sold the pitches and charged rent.

The world that's emerging is one in which the traders set up where they wish and don't need us to bring them trade.

It would be easy to now equate the idea of the Church of Brand with the sale of a few bits and pieces to people who have more interest in the history of the building than participating in its community.

Where does that take us?

To switch thought channels once more... how do the stakeholders feel about this. Does the person rooting through the history books and picking out postcards want anything more than this distance relationship with the Church? Are they hoping to connect with something warmer when they walk through the door?

How does the priest feel? Is he desperate for them to stay long enough to listen? Is he ready to walk over and start a conversation? Is he ready to change what he does in response?

What does the parochial church council feel. They are working like mad to keep the church in good order, having to do more and more distasteful commercial things to keep a roof over the vicar's head... Are they happy about this - are they fearful for the future? Do they blame the vicar for poor sermons - or the out of town store for dragging the heart out of the town?

What is god's point of view on this? (apologies, this isn't meant to offend anyone. In this case perhaps God equates to the shared passion that the community gathers around - we are personalising (or deifying!) an idea).
Does he like a huge but empty house? Is he saddened by the failure of the congregation to congregate in the church. Or impressed that they still have any faith left in the circumstances? What do you feel his preferred solution may be?

Does he care how he gathers believers together? Would he prefer a nice big community or a nice big (usually empty) building?

Whichever results in more believers?

Bring this back to the real world of business (to flip channels to common sense thinking once more): Which ever results in greatest profits.

We live in a post Gutenburg world. The blog is one example - anyone can publish. The Church of Brands is no longer in charge of the disemmination of information.

There is less reliance on 'The Word' - more faith in each other. The trends towards co-creation of content and the inherent disruption of the value of mass produced, centrally controlled content that brings, are a solid example of how the relationship between the Church of Brands and the marketplace of people is changing.

The marketplace of the future will be at its strongest where the principles of peer-to-peer transacting and co-created products/services/content are easy to produce, easy to share (in).

If the Church of Brands understand this and become part of it, they can be part of their communities, their communities part of them.

But they must understand that the new marketplace communities do not want to be told what to do, or where to do it. They will appreciate it if you join with them in shaping how best to do, where best to place. The Church of Brands has as much right to be trusted as any other member of the community - but no more.

That doesn't mean it can't earn more trust by doing the things a Church is good at (see list earlier) which may give it a powerful position of influence in the community. But that influence must be earned as a respected, high-reputation member of the community - not demanded, by virtue of the fact that we're the one in the pulpit.

Where does this metaphor describe for you? What's your view? What other options emerge for you? How might the possible outcomes make the stakeholders feel?

Join the conversation. It is far from over.

Friday, July 20, 2007

I blog, therefore, I am! Give us humans a break!

Apologies for the delay... Google's (blogger's) spam-prevention robots decided to lock my posts until I'd proved I'm a human being.

Apparently the process of proving this, involves a human being taking a look at my blog and making a judgement on whether or not I'm one, too.

Therefore, if you ever get to read this post you should regard it as compelling evidence that I am in fact human.

I blog, therefore I am. What would Descartes make of this, I wonder?

Hurray for humans. A computer programme couldn't possibly deal with this as well... could it?

The voice of Blogger tells me:

"Blogger's spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What is a spam blog?) Since you are an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy and we sincerely apologise for this false positive.

"We received your unlock request on 20 July 2007. On behalf of the robots, we apologise for locking your non-spam blog. Please be patient while we take a look at your blog and verify that it is not spam.

Find out more about how Blogger is fighting spam blogs."

That's the message I'd clicked to read. Blogger appears to me to be saying that the simple act of responding to the message, that I've been locked out, is a pretty good indication that I am indeed human.

So how about giving us humans a break, Blogger? How about releasing my posts from draft purgatory the moment I clicked to respond.

And if you wanted to double check - how about auto-generating a message to your bank of humans that maybe they should come by and check my blog just in case ( the less likely scenario, by all accounts) my blog is actually spam-tastic.

Google/Blogger, please, repeat after me: "humans are your friends... spam blogs are not".

Now start that customer service excercise again. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

O2 to ditch its mobile internet service? Hmm, sort of

On the face of it, reports today (O2 to ditch its mobile internet service due to lack of take up) could be assumed to mean the mobile internet revolution ain't about to happen - or at the very least is likely to happen much later than the likes have me have been banging on about.
But the stories I've read miss a few salient facts. Such as:
1. O2 has failed to launch a widely available and publicised fixed-rate data plan.
2. The clever money is backing O2 to get the I-phone in the UK.

Given that, this is more likely a repositioning in preparation for the launch of a major mobile internet offensive by O2 - not a withdrawal.
And given the name of the internet service it has been running (I-mode) and Apple's preference for control over anything with the letter 'I' in it... a requirement to rename the service may even be in the contract!
That's my best guess anyway. If anyone knows anymore... please share.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The tendency to deficit thinking.

I've been giving a bit of thought to thought recently. Most recently of all I've had a nudge around the idea of deficit thinking - the way we will in some circumstances look for the negative.
It's generally a defence mechanism - it protects us against risks and dangers.
The phrase"Why is this lying bastard lying to me?" springs to mind.
This way of thought becomes a little too automatic - and becomes endemic in the average corporation.
Examples include the way you'll always find plenty of people on the team to tell you what's wrong with your organisation - but few who will tell you how to make it right.
Cynical, critical, looking on the bad side, glass half empty - no matter how pejoratively we describe it, we get so comfortable using it we find it hard to stop.
One real life example of why we should make the effort came across my radar recently (and no, we're not talking about the company I work for...).
One organisation measured its absence-through-sickness and found the average days off per person a year ran at (let's say) 4 days. The national UK average is closer to 9.
It didn't seem to occur that there might be some lessons about what they are doing RIGHT to be be learned - some carrots to be considered.
No, they went straight for the stick. If you're off work for x amount of time you have to be interviewed by your boss. The idea (actually expressed as such internally) is to scare staff away from swinging the lead. And the best way to make things 'better' is to make sure managers are doing those interviews.

It doesn't exactly communicate trust.

Of course, you probably need a bit of both. But to have a bit of both, you have to think a little less negatively - with a little less emphasis on the deficit - a little more on the trust.

Here it comes: Google Adsense for mobile!

Regular participants in this conversation will know I've long been an advocate of the idea that the long tail will shake the mobile internet dog (much earlier, and therefore acquiring significantly more influence, than it did on the fixed line web).
Google Adsense was the critical driver in the explosion of content on the fixed line web (it's one thing to create content left right and centre - quite another to get paid for it).
So the wait for google adsense or its equivalent to deploy on mobile has been pregnant with anticipation.
Well, now it's here.
A very reputable source told me on Friday (July 13, 2007) that in fact it had been available for a couple of weeks. And a quick scan around the blogosphere this morning reveals it is just starting testing with invited mobile content publishers (try here).
In my view, this is a very significant moment (please share what you think by adding a comment).
In combination with the arrival of the I-Phone and Youtube going properly mobile (in June) I think we'll end up looking back at the middle of 2007 as the tipping point of the mobile web.
Admob has already shown how taking the marketplace approach and making their code easy for publishers to deploy - gives long tail content creators a way of earning revenue for their efforts. As a result they are busily co-creating the new value emerging from the mobile internet (4billion ads served so far and currently adding around 1billion more a month).
And their biggest revenue earners are the likes of peperonity, itsmy... in other words User Generated Content in the classic long tail model.
But Admob can't serve in-context related ads. Yet (I'm told a version 2.0 is on its way...)
It's very hard to do for all sorts of very interesting technical reasons. So that makes their ads, despite their text-link design, more interruption than engagement. (though, to be fair to Admob, you can select which sites you want to serve on - and with increasing specialisation (into niches) that may well give a decent approximation of engagement).
However, if google adsense has cracked in-context, related (as it does on the fixed web) then there will be a better match between the 'advert' and the content. It closes the gap between the two. It makes it more engaging.
Both Admob and Google Adsense learned an early lesson many website operators would do well to consider - banners don't work. Text links do. They become part of the (albeit stilted) conversation. Translation: Interruption doesn't get response, Engagement does.

So now we have the staggering marketing power of Apple and the I-Phone, PLUS the global call to action (get a fixed rate data plan - get a 3G phone) of youtube to speed up the charge to mobile (pervasive if you prefer) computing.

AND on top of that there's now an easy-for-everyone AND engaging revenue model, too (Adsense).

Just watch mobile internet go now!

Make sure you are looking in the right direction (towards UGC) or you won't see it coming until it's way too late...

Friday, July 13, 2007

Listening to the wrong people?

This image, from Kathy Sierra's blog, sums it up for me:

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Can't make money with content? Make money because of it.

I read the following on 'Confused of Calcutta' (see recommended blogs, left)

"When something that was originally scarce starts becoming abundant, something strange happens. You find that you start making money because of that thing rather than with that thing. That’s the Because Effect." Click here to read it in its original context.

Based on Doc Searl's original thinking, is there a clue here as to what to do with all the expert-created content traditional media companies are heavily geared towards producing?

When it was scarce we made money with it. But now that great content is abundant, we have to move to making money because of it.*

In the case of Prince and his Mail On Sunday new album giveaway, he understands that great content (music files) are abundant. The scarce resource he has is his concert tickets. Because he has an abundant thing to give away, he is working on the theory that this will engage a level of fan commitment that leads to the purchase of concert tickets (and, presumably other merchandise).

What is the equivalent in the world of traditional publishing models?

There are authors (eg Cory Doctorow) who offer their complete novels for download and sharing. And they see the sales of actual books rise as a result.

I'd guess people who read the downloads become fans, who then evangelise others to buy. And some of the original downloaders decide that even though they've read the download, they want to own the product - to put on their shelf - to have and to hold. The content is abundant - the product itself is scarce.

So where does that leave your thoughts on what to do with all that content your media company is producing? Could a free DVD or download activate people to go the movies? Buy merchandise (games, toys, go to see the next film in the series..?) Maybe?

And where does this leave periodical publishing? Could it be as simple as putting all your content online as the initial draw for the formation of communities of shared niche interests (aggregation of vast audiences... if you must), leading to the opportunities of "We Media" (Communities Dominate Brands)?

The challenge here is working out, or even recognising, what the scare resource we have to sell is? Perhaps its experiences, events, engagement marketing opportunities, co-created services and products that will emerge as values from the network of the community we'll be part of.

New rules apply. Persuading your stake holders of the value of these may be the toughest part of all.

* Corrected with the kind assistance of JP Rangaswami - 'Confused of Calcutta'

The most pointless example of web 3.0?

For years, high concept action films have been sold to movie studios with one or two line pitches which encapsulate everything worth knowing. For example, for the film Days of Thunder, "Top Gun meets Nascar".

Whenever anyone talks about the next step for the internet, and new technology, it's good practice to use the same rationale. For instance, web 2.0's Wikipedia "An online encyclopedia everyone can contribute to'.

Web 3.0 seems to revolve around an online world in 3D, but noone seems to have come up with any reason why 3D would be preferable to 2D for anything other than gaming.

And the best example of this I've found is 3DMailbox, which you can see in more detail on TheWayoftheWeb, here.

If it isn't easier, quicker, better, or more fun, then why do it?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wanted: Head of marketing at emap Television

Thought some of you may be interested in the following job. Don't apply to me! You'll find the relevant email address at the end. Good luck if it interests you!

Company: Emap Television (The Box, Smash Hits, Kiss, Q, Kerrang!, Magic TV, & The Hits. Music Television)
Job Title: Head of Marketing
Description: Head of Marketing – Emap Television

The Box, Smash Hits, Kiss, Q, Kerrang!, Magic TV, & The Hits.

Emap Television has a superb opportunity for a dynamic Head of Marketing reporting to the Managing Director for TV and working across it’s market-leading music TV channels with responsibilities for all external communication, brand development and research.

The brief includes:
• Developing & implementing marketing strategy for Emap’s TV channels
• Liaising across Emap media platforms to develop the on-air brands; briefing & managing on-air TV identity.
• Marketing & PR communication to drive viewing & build brands
• Third party relationships and TV websites
• Management of TV research team
• Liaison with trade marketing and sales teams on information and ideas

You will be a highly motivated, dynamic, natural leader with:
• A solid track record in marketing, preferably TV-based but certainly with experience of developing campaigns across platforms and ideally in handling a multiple brand portfolio.
• At least 2 years experience in team management and subsequent ability to demonstrate strong leadership and management skills including coaching and development of individuals.
• A keen understanding of insight and research, with proven experience making clear recommendations based on that information.
• Excellent communication skills.
• Fresh ideas and an enthusiasm for making a difference to our business.

If you have what it takes to join this high-achieving team and relish a challenging and exciting new future, please apply by emailing your CV, current renumeration package, a short assessment of all our on air brands, and a covering letter outlining three reasons why you’re the only person we need to see.

Email to: stacey DOT knowles AT

Sprint Nextel reject customer feedback - and customers

When is feedback of negative value?

You know the right answer. US mobile operator Sprint Nextel does not.

This from Communities Dominate Brands:
"CNN has just a few moment ago reported that Sprint Nextel, in its infinite wisdom, has sent 1,000 of its customers a letter informing them that because they have placed too many calls to the calling center asking for help or complaining about the Sprint/Nextel services, they are terminating the customer relationship."

So if you have had an issue that's unresolved - and you keep on calling because they still haven't resolved it - ta ta!

Sprint Nextel could have saved themselves a lot of time and trouble by cutting to the chase - and sending every customer a letter saying: "We don't care what you think. If that bothers you f**k off now."

Other end of the telescope? If Sprint Nextel regarded itself of part of the community of Sprint Nextel users, what would it have done?

There is an argument that if these particular 1000 customers were having a disruptive and damaging influence on the community as a whole there should be some form of sanction - and ultimately exclusion.

But I'm told these are good customers, fully paid up etc. So what if you have an issue with Sprint Nextel? Are you meant to consider carefully whether or not you should share that with them?

"I'm sorry to trouble you, master, but is there any chance you could take your foot off my head?"

It's the best way I can think of to prevent two-way flow. No dialogue. No debate.

No customer relationship = no customers.

See also:

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Ideas Marketplace

In this post 'Content sucks - if that's all you sell' I discussed the lessons we might learn from the collapse of content vendors in the music business.
In considering their dilemma (and the media industry's) I thought about how digital communities have better replicated the marketplace experience than bricks and mortar stores have chosen to.
And that made me question how ideas are 'exchanged' in corporations, in particular.
The mass industrialised mindset of Corporations tends towards hierarchy and the silo effect.
And that emerges (in corporate idea-exchange models) in the propensity towards broadcast of information: Centralised, one-to-many flows. eg "I'm here today to tell you about my great idea" echoing around an aircraft hangar...
I believe ideas are improved by more intimate two-way flows - conversations and challenges.
As Alan Moore likes to say "People embrace what they create". Confucius has effectively been saying something similar for 2500 years: “Tell Me and I Will Forget; Show Me and I May Remember; Involve Me, I Will Understand.” (Confucius, 450 BC).
So I'd like to see how ideas might evolve and new ones emerge by applying the model of the marketplace, rather than that of broadcast.
A traditional marketplace does three things:
1. Allows people to buy (AND sell)
2. Allows the exchange of information
3. Entertains
How might we take those elements to create an ideas marketplace within a corporation?
I have some vague ideas about literally allowing people to set up their marketstalls in a selected venue, putting on some related entertainment, and inviting everyone to just wander in and wander around, having conversations (ie not being broadcast at) with people with ideas/information to 'sell'.
It could be how someone wants to change how your IT department works, or loves a book they've read they want to market to their peers, or has a plan for a fantastic new digital play but no one in his/her silo has wanted to know...
But this is a first draft - an early iteration.
I'm bringing the idea to the digital version of the marketplace. Let's talk?

Communities Dominate Facebook

Regular readers of this blog will know I'm an advocate for the book and blog Communities Dominate Brands.

And I've been spending a little time recently using and thinking about Facebook.

I do believe that to understand the value of the network you have to be part of it. So if you are someone who reads this blog - please, start thinking about starting your own or at the very least, taking part in the conversation here (by posting your thoughts/reactions/comments).

In that spirit, I've started a Facebook group for those who've read CDB. I'm fairly confident I'll be able to get the authors to join it, so... you know the drill. Perhaps it's an example of an emergent value... we'll see.

Find the Communities Dominate Brands Facebook group here.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Mobile Advertising: Will Hype Give Way to Real Business in 2008?

I promised a link to the notes from the Nokia Mobile Advertising Thought Leadership Meeting I attended in London last week.
They are now available online, along with 10 industry predictions arising from the meet.
Find it all at
And you're welcome of course to comment either here or there!

Selling content sucks - if that's all you do...

The difficulties facing yet another vendor of content marks another milestone (gravestone?) along the road to the new media ecology.
There are lessons for all of us who sell content. There may be lessons for everyone who sells.
Fopp - one of the UK's biggest music store chains - is the latest to be hit by what is reported by the mainstream media as an issue that's all about competition from downloads and online supermarkets:
"All specialist retailers of CDs and DVDs have been hit by growing competition from online downloads and supermarkets. HMV today reported a 70 per cent fall in profits. Music Zone’s demise was blamed on the same factors..."
Supermarket competition impacts at the mass end of the business. Smaller retailers can respond to this. It is not to go head to head with the high volume - top 50 sellers. It is to serve the long tail and respond to local (community) needs. It is to provide a very different experience.
When I was a kid the local record shop (and even the small town where I grew up had one) was one-part youth club, one-part information exchange and one-part market place. I could sell old records I no longer wanted, order something obscure (they couldn't carry everything!), hang out, load up on some vicarious cool, share what I thought, form a band, etc etc
How far removed is this from the experience of buying in a supermarket?
Online vendors of downloads have (where they succeed) replicated this far better than bricks and mortar rivals.
They have understood that communities form around music - communities who want to share (is that the new marketplace of buying and selling secondhand records?) information, recommendations - and just spend time together discussing what they love and why they love it - and marketing their favourites to each other.
But that's not to say a music store couldn't capture much of the same. And by facilitating the physical meeting of communities they could take what online retailers have discovered and make it still more engaging.
Perhaps they have to accept two things:

1. Turn yourselves into a music marketplace - where people can come together to exchange information, buy (and sell/share?), and be entertained (God forbid, perhaps they could even put on the occasional gig?)
2. Offer downloads. Seriously - it is the disaggregation of digital content (the ability to choose which tracks you want, rather than buying whole CDs), that's driving download sales. Convenience is important, price is important. But serving of long-term diverse choice is the biggest factor. And it's the part of the market that is emphatically NOT served by supermarkets.

Fop, HMV, chains in general... seem to have forgotten that the marketplace was always about much more than buying your goods.

Mobile Social Networking - the course

I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural University of Oxford CPD short course on Mobile Social Networking yesterday. Now I'm one of 16 people who has a certificate in it. Now you know it must be going mainstream!
Led by 3G strategy consultants and authors Steve Jones and Tomi Ahonen, and engagement master (and author) Alan Moore, it was packed with insight and inspiration.
I can't tell you the whole story, but here's a few insights, facts and figures that emerged:
1. 2% of the world's GDP (rising to 3% very soon) is spent on mobile
2. email use is actually falling among teenagers as they reject it in favour of sms and IM.
3. Wondered why school-age kids don't want clamshell phones? cos you can't text on them while they are hidden up your sleeve.
4. Non sms content on mobile is worth $31bn in 2007 - that's bigger than all content revenues online, bigger than revenues from Hollywood and bigger than the entire music industry.
5. 100:1 is the ratio of UGC contributions to paid content consumption on the mobile. It's 1000:1 on the internet.
6. 33% of US youth have already uploaded images to Flickr from cameraphones.
7. 43% of Japanese mobile users have clicked on an advert on their mobile phone.

And here's Steve Jones' how-to-have-a-successful mobsocnet application:
1. Phone itself has to be easy to use (the user interface has to be delightful - ensure you reduce apparent complexity)
2. The application has to be emotionally rewarding (facilitates and strengthens peer-peer communciations).

Combine those with Tomi's 6M's and the conclusions you ought to be drawing from the Communities Dominate Brands' boys concept of mobile as the 7th Mass Media - and we start to get a framework to succeed in.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?