Thursday, May 29, 2008

The new media ecology

From, tweets from a wildlife protection officer working in the Maasai Mara.

"It's funny we were on BBC World News last week and our hits didnt change, yesterday with our hits went so high."


What would happen if you mashed up twitter with forums?
Forums are about the most ubiquitous form of social network we have. Any 1.0 and above website has one.

What's wrong with forums?
1. The subjects at the top of the page when you arrive may not interest you.
2. Finding stuff that does interest you may involve trawling back through previous pages, or relying on a search.
3. There's not a lot of searching going on on forums.
4. The subjects that might interest you might not be posted on by people you know or care about.

All of which makes you less likely to contribute, and reinforces the powerlaw of a handful of superusers dominating the conversation.

Compare that to twitter. When I arrive at twitter I ONLY see recent posts, most of which are in some way relevant to me because they are posted by people I have selected thanks to our relatively well-fitting metadata.

So what if I could have a forum which recognises who I am, knows my metadata (through profile tagging if necessary) and knows the users I am most interested in joining in conversation with.

And what if it then delivers the relevant posts at the top of 'my' forum.

I think I might like that. I think a lot of forum users might like that.

What do you think - and where can I find this happening already?

Why the next web matters. Asserting who we are

Stowe Boyd has made his NextWeb presentation available on his blog. Worth your time.

Stowe's thinking about flow and the value of connections resonates with me and lives in my own thinking. You'll often hear me quote his: "I am made greater by the sum of my connections, and so are my connections."

At NextWeb he said: "As the edge grows, the center dissolves. Mainstream journalists begin to act like bloggers, editors begin to drop the veneer of objectivism, and immediate, first person voice becomes the standard not some radical minority."

He also has a much more elegant way of describing the importance of sharing our metadata in less and less silo'd ways that I detail in my white paper: Communities of Purpose Are The Business Units of the 21st Century. In that paper I share the understanding that exposing our metadata is the key to allowing us to rapidly form and reform adhoc communities of purpose.

Nutshell: The reason we go online is to connect with other humans. The reason we share our metadata is to make that process easier. Our metadata asserts who we are. The more widely it is shared the more we can connect with others who share our immediate purpose.

Stowe says: "We are seeing the next web start to appear today, away from the heavily annotated and mashed web of pages that is the primary reality today.

"The first glints of that new web is starting to emerge from the lineage of instant messaging and RSS feeds: the development of tools and technologies on top of ubiquitous connectivity that allow the artifacts of conversation between us to flnd us instead of us having to dig through the archives of the web of pages.

"I call this the web of flow.We are seeing an explosion in flow applications -- the Facebook minifeed, RSS streams, Friendfeed, Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and my own Workstreamer project (coming soon)"

I agree. And it's just the beginning. The future is outside of the silos, where we become the mediator and the medium.

What Google means when it says mobile internet ad revenues will outstrip web

When Eric Schmidt says mobile will be the next big advertising platform AND that within a few short years it will outstrip ad revenues from the web, it might be time to take a fresh look at your own predictions and assumptions about what advertising is.

Schmidt is Google CEO. He knows a thing or two about ad revenues, and particularly about those coming from the web. He has deals in place for advertising on MySpace and, of course, ad revenues from YouTube.

He has tricks up his sleeve for new and improved search and, and, and... but what he has identified is that the mobile internet is the right medium for the most personal of advertising. And the most personal of advertising is the most effective.

The mobile is the most edge-in, networked device we currently have. It is what makes it such an exceptional fit with the way the network works, and how groups form. I wonder if it's this that Google has identified when Schmidt says in an interview with Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung:
"Some things work, and others just don't – but the mobile internet always works."

If he's talking about response rate, places where the ad is the content and the content is the ad have a tendancy to high response rates. Where perfected the response rate ought to be 100%.

Google is working towards cost per action models. Where that action is purchase (and isn't that where all measurement is intended to lead?) then you can have 1:1 relationships between ad and content and charge accordingly.

I'll make a wild guess that Schmidt isn't predicting that there will be more display advertising or even more text-link advertising on the mobile internet compared to the fixed line.

He is predicting that ad models that take advantage of the personal nature of this edge-in device, which offer ad as content rather than as interruption, will prove way more valuable precisely because it will be way more effective.

He is predicting that ad models which are a better fit for the networked world will win.

He's not alone.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Why people like you have got time to join in the co-creation revolution

Here's the video of Clay talking about what he wrote about here.
Now this IS TV worth watching!

Cognitive surplus, gin and and why people like you have got time to join in the co-creation revolution

more about "Clay Shirky at Web 2.0 Expo SF 2008", posted with vodpod

All the rest is spam

Scott Karp's post Why Traditional Advertising Formats Fail on the Web paints a bleak picture for those who would continue to interrupt.

What we seek, we want. All the rest is spam.

At the guts of this issue is a big question facing media: What do you do when you don't control the user experience?
Scott quotes Jacob Nielson:

"... when people go online they know what they want and how to do it... This makes them very resistant to highlighted promotions or other editorial choices that try to distract them."

... all the rest is spam.

Users don't put up with being interrupted or distracted. They find a way around the control you would impose. It's a network, not a one-way street, stoopid.

And Scott says: "Online advertising must create value for users or it will create little or no value for advertisers."

Yep. It's time to think of the ad as content and the content as the ad. It's time to think of models which are a better fit with the networked world, rather than the broadcast one.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Faster Future's video picks

I collect videos with vodpod. And here they all are!

Watch videos at Vodpod and more of my videos

My Slideshare shows

My slidedecks are usually made available on slideshare. If you'd like to use any please just offer a credit and a link back. Thanks.

Twitter vs FriendFeed: Conversation vs Convenience?

Twitter has been suffering growing pains in recent days and weeks. Outages aplenty.

I noticed they are trying to control things by switching off some functionality from time to time. And what they choose to switch off indicates what they see of least value.

When times are hard, it is the archive, of previous posts, and direct messaging which get booted out.

Turning off the archive shows that they recognise the primary importance of synchronous communication. You might be interested in what someone said in the past, or what they were asking about in the past, but you can respond less effectively now than you could at the time the request or share was made. Twitter gets that; being prepared to drop anything to assist with a community of purpose is high on the list of useful value creating stuff.
Dropping IM's indicates they also understand that closed communications have less value than open.

This thinking pervades twitter and drips from its architecture.
They are all about the current, right now conversation and connecting people.

Blogs were described by Doc Searls as the best example of the sovereign self. Twitter (distributed microblogging), imho is the best example of our communal selves.

, surely makes that conversation even more communal, with its aggregation and friend-of-a-friend/fuzzy-edged groups form of sharing and distribution?

No wonder some tout it as the next-gen twitter. But I wonder if it is more about convenience than conversation?

Some have described FriendFeed (and I'll add links when I have more time - sorry) as distributed conversation.
I'm not clear that's delivered. At least it isn't delivered in the right-now and in one place synchronous way that twitter values so highly.

What FriendFeed does deliver is the convenience of compiling and redistributing huge amounts of an individual's metadata.

Not only do you get to see what I'm 'doing' on twitter, you also see the feeds I'm reading on googlereader, or videos I post on youtube, or images on flickr etc etc.

So now there's even more reasons for conversations to start.
More metadata on show to each other means more opportunities for us to find we share a right-now purpose and act on it. (Communities of Purpose are the Business Units of the 21s century).

All good. But there's a risk in distributing the conversation. Where ever you follow the flag to, that's where the conversation risks being taken - and silo'd.

Twitter's value is in keeping the conversation open, visible, synchronous and consistent.

Friendfeed is a useful broadcast of our metadata - and potentially a step towards us becoming the url. The key will be connecting the conversations in a coherent human-focused way.

Right now the conversation is at risk of being disrupted more than distributed.

So I'll happily broadcast my metadata through FriendFeed, and have others broadcast their metadata at me, but when the conversation flags are raised where will the conversation be hosted which creates most value for all parties.

For this post, I'm hoping it'll be right here. If FriendFeed were to offer me that control...

More questions than answers I'm afraid.

Friday, May 23, 2008

So you think you own your brand? ( part xxxi)

Brand Tags, where consumers tag brands with the first words that come into their heads.

Look at the size of 'British' in the BMW tag cloud. Or 'assholes' for that matter. 'classy' and 'engineering' are just as big, of course.
Dominos Pizzas, Barbi, Bank of America... most will make you laugh outloud.
Not funny for those trying to 'control' brands though. Not funny, but extremely informative.
Look, listen, learn.

What does your brand mean? What people say it does.

Via Advergirl

Marketing frozen in time

Fun, smart mobby, full of impact (via Media Influencer) but...
At 1:39-1:42... why did they look? That's marketing, right there.

War! What is it good for? Mobile marketing, actually...

Check out this video to get a taste of how the mobile and engagement marketing is changing the face of spicy snack marketing in that there Japan!
2D barcodes, mobile phones, kids who want to have fun, spoken to in their language (and I don't mean Japanese, dude) - and all to get them hooked on a new snack.

The recruitment is a bit 'facebook zombies' but, you know, this stuff works for the short-lived community. And if playing this game is its purpose, then the tool is a pretty good fit. To join in you have to buy a packet of snacks - so kids who can influence end up getting more people to buy, who get more people to buy, etc etc.

The same kids even used other social networks they were already members of to meet and organise battle strategy (there's that latent community thing, see below) - and no doubt to recruit, too.

Genius. Evil perhaps, but it's being explicit (honest and upfront) about that!

This is all about tapping into a latent community (you ain't likely to recruit someone you don't already know), not using a set of tools to build one. It's why it has worked.
It has, as Clay Shirky would request, the plausible promise (it'll be a bit of a laugh, and one you can have with your friends), it has the right tools - and ones which the latent community was using anyway (the mobile phone) and it has an outcome that all parties agree is ok with them (buy the snack, join the party).

Via the genius of Tomi Ahonen and Communities Dominate Brands.

Will they still buy when the war is over? Will they still buy when they are bored of the game? That's the risk - but they will have at least bought and paid for the snack. If they like it they'll stick with it. It's only marketing when all is said and done.

The clever bit would be to take those armies and get them involved in suggesting new flavours, helping to shape the next products - make them an evil army of snack creators.

Now I can hear the evil laughter...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Google's collaboration tool now free for all

Google Sites is now available for all to use. It lets you make a basic webpage, embed pics, docs, pics, and videos and invite others to see or edit the page depending on the access you allow.

It's a simple way people can collaborate (share tasks) either within clubs, companies or beyond silos. Think of wikis made easy.

Here's the video explanation:

Widgets - and the value of them

Just came across this. Sticking it here so I can come back and use it again. You might enjoy it too! One question, does this only measure the first generation of sharing?

Mobile advertising: The brands and publishers view

I was in Cannes a week or so back for MeM where I joined Prinz Pinakatt, head of interactive in Europe for Coca Cola and James Davis (who was also at Mobile Internet Portal Strategies this week) Head of Mobile Commercial Development for News Group Digital on a panel titled: “How Brands and Publishers See the Mobile Advertising Market”.
The panel was chaired by Jim Cook of MobiAd News who has just published what we had to say.
Feel free to comment where you choose.

More from MeM

More from MIPS

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Times Machine

The New York Times is ready to launch Times Machine (via Scobelizer) - a browsable archive of full articles, pdfs. Includes all the news (titanic sinking etc) and all the ads. All the old 'picture sections' are included.
Note amazon tech speeded life up for them - but they already had the 'data'. That's quite a project!

Ambition fulfilled

I can die happy now. Just checked and this blog is finally the No1 google return globally for the search term 'david cushman'.
A humble ambition perhaps - but one down!

The only thing worth measuring

Bluetooth. Used massively by kids who don't have the mobile phone contracts to go spraying data, mms and email willy nilly from their phones. Dr Ian Wood talked about the way his kids use it at yesterday's MIPS.
My observations of kids - and many adults for that matter - backs that up. They get together in physical proximity and share pictures, music etc via bluetooth.
Which raises questions about how we monetise this. The usual 'stick ads all over it' kind of solutions get chucked around. They lead to the inevitable "But how do you measure it?"

Here's my solution: Don't.

We are getting increasingly hung up on trying to measure how 'engaged' users are, or the pass-on rate of virals (which at least make an effort to understand that the ad is the content and the content is the ad - rather than plastering interruptive ads over 'the content').

The only measure that's real is; does more of what you're selling get sold?
The rest is observing information flows.

Maybe where this leads us is to a place where the creator of the ad message (the viral, the content that carries the message in some form or other) gets paid an agreed sum for the research and the resulting creative that the payee approves and then a % cut of the uplift in sales (if any!) over the next 12 months (that's an arbitrary number of course - meant to indicate over a longer scale than the blitzkrieg of most 'campaigns'. DIY distribution follows a much less explosive, much more organic, pattern).

Imagine if that 'creator of the ad' is a 'user'. There's a disruption. Where everyone is a content creator now, so everyone is also a marketer.

Advertising paid on results? Advertising that anyone can do? Is this a model already being offered or adopted (and I'm thinking a little beyond straightforward affiliate marketing)? Tell us why it's never going to work - or where it has already?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

How many 14 year olds use email?

The deathknell for email has been rung loud and long by the likes of JP Rangaswami. But we (and I count myself among those who have long said farewell to their teenage years) continue to use it.
Who could do without it, we ask?

I spoke at Informa's Mobile Internet Portal Strategies in London today. Chairman Dr Ian Wood reminded us that there were very senior analysts who, not so long ago, had questioned whether or not mobile phones would ever take off - because there were big red telephone boxes at the end of most UK streets.

It's very easy to stick to what we know, and make predictions about the future based on it.

Which brings me to those 14 year olds. I met with Conor Mc Kenna from Taptu today. Forgive me if I confuse the detail, Conor, (and by all means correct me) but the gist of his story was as follows.
A relative of his, a teacher, asks her class of 14-year-old Irish girls who uses email.
Among the 20 in the class the answer came back: 1.
Teenagers are far from backward in adopting social technologies.
A fellow user asked (on twitter last night) for guesses on which application his teenage daughters were demanding was installed first as he set up a new pc for them.
Answer: IM.

I had 20 minutes of free wifi time at King's Cross station in London today before catching a train home. Every one of those 20 minutes were spent deleting spam from my work email account.

I dare say spam can reach me in ways other than email (see this morning's post for a user experience version, for a start). But if you're looking for the president of spam right now, email wins by a landslide.

Tomi Ahonen sent me a gmail last night to say he was at Heathrow. Tomi's a connected guy. I responded by gmail. But the thing that got our conversation reconnected was an sms text.

There's too much wrong with email. 14-year-old girls know this. I'm just trying to catch up.

By the way, Paul Golding presented some brilliant advice for the design of user experiences at MIPS, so I feel comfortable recommending his book.

He also said the nicest thing anyone said about me all day during his presentation.
He described be as: "The UK's foremost evangelist for twitter (probably)"

I'll live with that. Follow me there - it's a better bet than email for a start!

Lessons in UI design. If superfluous content = spam what does misleading content equal?

See that big black button in the picture (left)? What would you expect to happen when you press it?
'Get my change' would be a reasonable answer to that question.
Look, even the little diagram shows where to put your pennies, then which button to 'press for ticket' and then where to look for your ticket to be dispensed.
And the final step in the diagram leads you to that big black button, with its illustration of change being dispensed.
Neat UI.
Except, that in very tiny writing somewhere on this picture are the words 'no change given' (too small to spot at this scale).

Please remove.

Monday, May 19, 2008

See you at Mobile Internet Portal Strategies?

I'm speaking at Informa's Mobile Internet Portal Strategies in London tomorrow.
I'm first up after the intro at 9.10am, so hope I won't be too soporific for those who make it in time!
I've got a couple of meetings lined up during the day, and there are a few sessions I'd like to see myself, of course.
But if you are coming along and want to say hello, might be best to do so via twitter. Find and or follow me here.
In the meantime; here are the slides for my presentation. They give a taste at least.

Sometimes I can be intensely annoying

Thank you Hugh.
Read his post on social objects.
It'll help me waste less time.
But as I posted on Hugh's blog, the metaphor may not be wholly applicable.
What if the dinosaurs are actually collectives of feisty mammals waiting for the opportunity to throw off their dinosaur costume and crack on with evolution.
Digging the meteor from the inside?

Would you like McWi-Fi with that? It's free!

I was in a Mcdonald's near my home in Huntingdon, Cambs, at the weekend and noticed something I regard as significant.
No, there isn't a deal on Big Mac's that needs your attention. It's the free wi-fi.
It's been there since October last year, but I'm not sure how widely known it is because I don't see many laptops and I-phones being used in my local Maccy D's.
And when I bemoan the lack of free wifi in London with the occasional tweet, the response I get is to point me to one of a handful of pubs in the area of Wardour Street.
Well done maccy d's. I'll be popping in for a coffee pretty regularly from now on.
May be risky for my proposed 'fat-off' with Ivan Pope and Russell Davies.
Find participating restaurants here.
If this is a global play (and I'm told it's free in some US MacD's but available at a charge in others...) it's a really big step towards ubiquitous computing where the 3G footstep fails to reach.
Dunno about you, but I never seem to be too far from a Maccy D's. That used to bug me. Not any more.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Google friend connect - as google describes it

Filling the structural holes vs Proving the pudding

A lot of what I do could be described as filling structural holes. In fact, 'acts to fill structural holes' is in my current job description (note, where it reads emap, it should now read Bauer Consumer Media).
I've long thought it's important in any organisation. Social tools, no matter how good, can't forge the connections - people's use of them does that. And people who are the connections between tighter networks of separate interest groups fill those structural holes.
Nice to see Clay Shirky pointing at hard evidence to support this view.
To quote Clay:
"Information, beliefs and behaviors are more homogenous within than between groups. People focus on activities inside their own group, which creates holes in the information flow... structural holes.
"People with contacts in separate groups broker the flow of information across structural holes. Brokerage is social capital in that brokers have a competitive advantage in creating value with projects that integrate otherwise separate ways of thinking or behaving. Brokers create much of the value we associate with innovation."

As Ron Burt of the University of Chicago puts it: "People who live in the intersection of social worlds are at higher risk of having good ideas."

The question is can I make even more effective connections by doing the innovation myself rather than by brokering it?

Is it better to seek an AND solution rather than an either/or.

The proof of the pudding?
Access to loads of great ingredients opens ways to recombine them into wonderful puddings. Offering recipes gives a series of suggestions on what puddings should be made. Ultimately more puddings of different tastey varieties get made.
Alternately use that access to make one or two puddings with the ambition that others think they taste so good they are inspired to go looking for recipes to recombine themselves.

Your brand is along for the ride

The relationship is not between the brand and the consumer. The relationship is between people.
What people do to each other is more important than what you try to do to them.
Stop trying to understand the individual (own their data) and watch the dynamics between people.
Brands as social lubricant, as Mark Earls puts it.
The Herdmeister speaks.
Thanks to Peter for the link from comments here.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Your instant guide to better management

Less process, more output. Er, that's it.

Searching for Powerset? Now in public beta

Powerset has gone live with a public beta - at just about the time talk is brewing that Microsoft plans to acquire it.

Powerset Demo Video from officialpowerset on Vimeo.
One thing is for sure, it's going to need cash to burn to move from the indexing of wikipedia it has achieved to the 20billion web documents it has ambitions to cover.
But try it for yourself - it's the latest attempt at the New Search.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Social Network to Internet = Phone to phone lines

A little more on this.

Tools are important things. The telephone didn't change the way we communicate until it was in the hands of the majority - and until that majority was comfortable using it.

It moved from being an odd piece of high technology (left, Alexander Graham Bell with the one he patented) to being a familiar tool. We certainly needed all the phone lines in place for this to happen. But we also needed a really easy way for us to understand how to use them - an interface.

Once we had both, everything changed; from how fast news travels through networks, to how widely it gets distributed, to how many bank clerks and insurance salesmen need to be employed (witnessed through the dread edifice the 'call centre'). Emergency services, journalism, military activity, shop delivery systems, politics... you name it, the ubiquity of the telephone as a tool alongside a wide network to make that tool useful, changed our world.

Telephone wires aren't a tool, they are the medium. The handsets are the tools.

Ok, so what difference does this make? Well, I'm starting to wonder if we haven't been a little bit guilty of heralding the new era wrought by the internet a little too early. What we really meant was the new era ushured in by the ubiquity of the tool that is making all the difference - the social network.

What I'm suggesting is that social networks are to the internet what the handset is to the wires of the phone network. And just to avoid confusion - I'm talking about the fixed line phone for now. They are the interface which allows the majority of people to access the disruptive power of the network.

I know that email 'newslists' and forums have been with us since deep into last century. But there was a reason people who used them were considered 'geeky' and 'nerdy'. You had to be of a particular type to early adopt. They were flat two-dimensional implementations brought with us from a flat broadcast world.

Social networks have been spluttering into existence since about 1995 but they certainly weren't ubiquitous back then. It took lesson-learning and the explosion of broadband to move them into the 'familiar tool' category.

By 2005 MySpace was clocking up more page impressions than google.
This perhaps marks the watershed in the move out of 'geek' and into 'familiar tool' for social networks.

Social networks reveal to the users the new and very disruptive low overhead cost of forming groups. Easy-to-use social networks reveal this, and allow large numbers of people to experience this, in ways that previous connecting software and technologies could not match.

And as more and more people become more and more familiar with the power of the network through the familiar tool of the social network, so the disruption will bite deeper - the one that will remove the mediators in supply chain after supply chain as new networks form supply and demand webs.

You could argue people were using social networks before. But the difference may be that users of YouTube, eBay, whatever were not explicitly using them to form groups of purpose - they were a byproduct of their primary activities (sharing videos and buying and selling).

The 'familiar tool' social networks (of which facebook appears to me the easiest to use and best at revealing its group forming nature) do a different job. They put group-forming at their heart. They allow the user to dial D for disruption the moment they start a group.

How fast does the change happen when ubiquity arrives? I spoke at EPublishing last week, where Vin Crosbie gave the keynote. Vin showed pictures of a London street just before the internal combustion engine became ubiquitous. Streets filled with horses, a transport infrastructure to support all those horses, how far and how fast people goods and ideas travelled controlled by those horses. 20 years later the horse was all but gone from London's streets.

What do you expect the pace of disruption to be in the digital space in the 21st Century?
Consider this. YouTube launched from scratch a little over 3 years ago. How differently do we think about TV three years on?

Friday, May 09, 2008

Your flat-rate data plan is a sub-prime mortgage crisis waiting to happen

Here's a few highlights from the off portal vs on portal panel at MeM today.

Panel members:
jens begemann cop jamster
ray anderson ceo bango
russell buckley admob
paul meyes acme mobile
andrew bud, mef /mblox

Your flat-rate data plan is a sub-prime mortgage crisis waiting to happen.
Andrew Bud suggested that there is an inherent flaw in the mobile internet business model for operators. While they can offer unlimited voice and realistically expect there to be an upper limit on use, or unlimited text and assess their maximum exposure with some accuracy, the same is not true of data. If they sell you all-you-can-eat flat-rate data there is only an upwards spiral with no limit in the costs they will face to satisfy your never-ending demand for more and more data. And this, at the same time as the pressure on price pushes it ever downwards. Effectively the man selling you a flat-rate deal today is writing cheques that can't be cashed into the future.

Two responses from me:
1. The more people use data, the more operators can monetise the services they can offer to content providers: such as LBS, ID, payment mechanisms. If they offer that stuff for free, yes they'll be in trouble.
2. There is an assumption in Andrew's assertion that the cost of carrying data can't fall as fast as our desire and ability to consume it. While I appreciate that we are seeing something of this in the ISPs response to BBC I-player, Youtube and other bandwidth consuming services, isn't it possible that this is just a technology-playing-catch-up hic-cup.
The cost of delivering data has consistenly fallen in the past - why shouldn't it into the future?
The crisis Andrew predicts is also one predicated by who controls the pipes and their own particular business models. If their model was more driven by deriving value from connecting people with people and people with content the picture looks different. (Consider my white paper, communities of purpose are the business units of the 21st century by way of further exploration of that?)
Depending on the economics, far from leading lemming-like to content providers being billed for having their content delivered by the pipe owner (Andrew's prediction), a pipe owner with a a more networked-world business plan would simply welcome each and every additional node.

Q: When operators will switch to open: Services will migrate to the edge of the network. Numbers mean off portal will win and is already winning.
All operators can do is impede this. They cannot stop it.
Operators have to provide services which are useful to content providers and sell that instead (eg the lbs, payment and id stuff we referenced above).
Operators providing content is about growing revenue - but often by losing money. Services which enable off portal activity are about margin. As soon as the operators care more about margin than growth the switch will be instant.

Ray Anderson: 75% in the UK is already off portal, 25%. In the US it's already 50-50, in Japan it's all going off portal. The battle is already won.

Russell Buckley: The winners in mobile are not from old media or the internet, but from the likes of mobile-first businesses such as itsmy and pepperonity. Mobile is a different environment. We have seen huge growth of off portal driven by countries that surprise.
Half our users come from the US. They have adopted the mobile internet like you wouldn't believe.
Serbia has highest per capita consumption of mobile web pages. They are leapfrogging the pc generation. Where this is succeeding they all have flat rate data pricing which grows off portal revenue for all.

Ray Anderson: "Its the internet, stupid, you can't fight about it."
The opertors will win by providing services which connect you anywhere you go. they can offer services by taking payments, knowing id and location, they need a way of getting this to content providers efficiently.
The operator home page won't last very long just as it didn't on the internet.

Russell Buckley: If operators are to offer third party data services to admob etc they need to get on with it. We will find other ways. We already have teams of phds working on solving the issue.

Andrew Bud: If they sit on their backsides long enough and force the content community to work around them they will themselves destroy the future of their own business model

MeM Cannes: Why Robbie Williams loves mobile

Robbie Williams manager Tim Clark, of ie music ltd was the keynote this morning at MeM in Cannes.

Some highlights for me: The £80m Robbie deal never was. They just leaked that amount to the Sun and the rest is legend. It was a good deal. Just not that good.

“digital technology has driven a panzer division through copyright."

And to make the point Tim says there are stories that itunes has 2 per cent of the download market, the rest is free. What the percentage actually is, is unknown. But the chances are his guestimate may be conservative.

"We have to find ways of valuing music because if artists aren't paid something there will be no music, I don't just mean the huge megastars, but also people like King Crimson, who I worked with years ago, and who are still touring and making a living. We all have artists like this who have played a part in our lives and they are the bedrock of music."

"The record companies world is changing. I don't care if they can get the digital revolution or not, I work for artists. I have to find the best way possible to get the music from the artist to the fan."

What Tim is driving at here is how record companies are being disintermediated. The role of the artist (the creator of the content) - as represented in this case by the artist's manager is becoming a more important relationship.

Now there are ways to distribute that content more easily, more cheaply and more effectively.

The mobile part in this mix? Well it interested me that Tim revealed Robbie Williams had made five times as much money from his deal with T-mobile Sony Ericsson in one year than he had from his record label. He made most of all from touring (the because effect in full effect!)

Interesting also that Sony Ericsson spent six times as much promoting Robbie's latest album in Australia than EMI did.

The change in who enables the flow of content is making huge economic differences across the globe right now.

Where once managers primary relationships were in connecting artists and record companies now it is in connecting artists with handset manufaturers and operators and social networks.

MeM Cannes: Who are you innovating for?

zeemote won two awards at last night's meffys. It's a really trixy bit of tech which functions as a wireless control through which to play games on your mobile phone.

Not exactly part of the thrust towards the converged device then.

I can imagine it selling well – and then being left gathering dust on shelves as it gets constantly forgotten or thought of as just a little too much clutter to carry. At least I can see that scenario in the wealthy west.

But. What if you don't own a games console? What if you don't own a lap top? What if you have no pc?

There are vast tracts of the world for whom the mobile phone will be the user's first contact with the game playing experience.

Considering that reminds me how easy it is to focus on the needs of the people around you when considering innovation. There are very many more opportunities just over your horizon.

More from Cannes Mobile Entertainment Market later.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

MeM Cannes: Making money from social networks

Here's a few hasty notes from the panel that Gerard Grech of Orange led this morning in Cannes. The topic was communities and social networking and making money from them.

Panel includes Marco Argenti from Dada, Olaf Kroll from Myspace, Antonio Vince Staybl, itsmy and Mark Curtis, from flirtomatic and Arunachulam Nagappan, Newbay.

Question: Is there a difference between old social networks going mobile and starting mobile.

Antonio: mobile only social networks have advantages: itsmy's average age of uploaded content is within the last 24 hours.

Gerard: the more mobile the community the more instant and fresh?

Mark: mobile users log in 8 times a day, web users 3 times a day. usage patterns re times are similar, more use when travelling on mobile.

Mark; 40% have added their location to their profile with no prompting. Only 15% on the web.

Olaf: the big social networks can rely on their user base. myspace on mobile is used for basic communication. pureplay mobile have to add features like easy upload and lbs, which are pretty tricky and won't take off for a while, but that's the value add that the new guys can give.

Antonio: mobile is a new world, we have new isps, we have new operatiing systems, we have new companies.

Mark: It is because you (Olaf/MySpace) are seeing mobile as a subset of users is why you are going to struggle for the next few years. The revenue models are there from mobile social networks. Fixed line social network guys are still trying to find the revenue models to fly!

Marco: we believe the sustainable business model for social networks is a mix of mobile and web.

We make more money than facebook, and facebook is about 100 times bigger. Ads on community have lower click thru rates on line. on mobile the powerful micropayment mechanism works well.

Olaf: we started with a subscription service. didn't work, we then moved to ad-funded model. The cpms are much better, double or three times on mobile compared to online.

antonio: our main revenues today are advertising.

Mark: basic usage is free and we sell premium services, extra fun that people want to pay for. 15% paying for this on mobile - way higher than ads.

Ad models change when a new medium emerges. Internet advertising is currently the model we are using on mobile, it cannot be the end medium. we need to innovate and experiment. Hard to do because the advertisers aren't sold on mobile full stop yet.

Arun: operators were good at making lots of money, they did this even when people knew they could get stuff free on the internet. The big internet players are slowly getting into mobile. When the big boys come in and make everything free the small boys are going to have to change their models.

Mark: when a new medium emerges new companies emerge. there will be new champions. when you go on to an old medium you tend to design with the old medium in mind. facebook myspace etc will get it wrong in the first few iterations but finally will get it spectacularly right.

Re viral: Antonio: With mobile we have the first screen people can show to each other anytime anywhere - that's the real viral power of mobile. We can show what we are doing right there and then and rave about it.

In short a great session. And I'm on Mark and Antonio's side for what it's worth!

Mobile Entertainment Market: Cannes - first update

I'm at the Mobile Entertainment Market in Cannes and would be posting live tweets BUT once again there's no free wifi in the conference room.

To be fair, there is in the lobby – but that's not where the speakers are. I think the word I'm looking for is doh! No back channel here!

So here's my compromise – a few highlights from the first session. I know it means you can't join in with the conversation but at least you can latch on to the broadcast of ideas and maybe join in the comments here. Gah! I'd rather be twittering.

Anyways a few highlights:

Lee Fenton COO at Jamba reveals his animated rabbit ringtone has become the biggest sellng physical cd in Germany.

Love to know what the demographics are. My daughter is 3 and pesters for princess comics. I'll make a wild bet she won't buy her own newspapers when she's older.

Jamba is also going to offer downloads from MySpace artist pages.

Jamba spends $100m on marketing. Less than 10% is spent marketing on mobile yet it is their most efficent ad channel. They'd do more but they can't get the inventory.

During Alistair Mitchell's (RIM, ie Blackberry) keynote someone pointed out how poor the Iphone is for typing (and therefore text). Much prompting about a touchscreen blackberry with a keyboard led to no confirmation.

Interesting to me this fascination with typing – given the increasingly less text heavy internet and increasing numbers of new mobile users globally who can't read, much less type their queries. I guess that may not be relevant in the business user smart phone world?

Brief discussion of the long tail of places people seek content from makes me think that this alone should make operators tear down their walls.

What do operators make money from? Conversation. What prompts conversation online, peer-to-peer, by voice or text or IM or etc? Content.

It's another example of the because effect. Operators can make money because of content but not with it.

Finally, BBC's controller of mobile Matthew Postgate says Beeb is both a content and and an engineering company. Early adopters are into news which is why its popular on mobile internet. Mobile will be mainstream for Beeb before too long.

News translates well across different platforms. Drama may not (on tv well shot and lavish, etc) take that and put it on mobile and it can't elicit the same emotional response). It will take time for people to use the medium most effectively in its own right.

BBC has about 17m uu on fixed line a month, 2.8m on mobile. He thinks 40% are a new audience which they hadn't reached before.

He says Beeb is planning to roll out the iplayer on mobile and that devices like the iphone bring the fixed and mobile internet closer together.

A version of iplayer is in beta on iphone and itouch. Plan is to roll it out on more handsets this year.

Beeb worked closely with the isps for iplayer to be "sensitive to their issues" about demand on bandwidth, that same dialogue is going on with the mobile operators.

"We can create demand, which drives Britain towards a digital economy," says Matthew.

More to come later today.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Social networks and the broadcast conversation starter

I spoke at EPublishing Innovation Forum in London today and it was fun. The brilliant Vin Crosbie was doing the keynote and I'm delighted to say he came by to say hi after my presentation because I'd reminded him of some important stuff that he usually forgets to say - the why of the internet is people reaching out to find other people. And we had a great conversation.

That highlighted something for me: presenting makes you the deliverer of content - this waves a flag for the start of conversation. As a presenter the audience has acquired some very useful metadata about me and my purpose and that triggers conversation galore once the broadcast (me speaking from the stage) is over. There's a lesson in here about the value of content in a broadcast mode which media could get something from. I'm going to think about this some more.

The other thing is that Vin's keynote covers much of the theoretical framework I'm interested in so I kind of adapted my presentation on the hoof.

I floated an idea I've been toying with in recent days - that perhaps we were guilty of over estimating the impact of the internet before the arrival of ubiquitous social networking.

Social networks have only gained currency in the last five years or so. Is it a coincidence that this has been the same period in which broadcast media has seen its revenues dwindle and its audiences shrink?

The real ease with which groups of purpose can organise in social networks is something that wasn't so easily enabled on forums and in newsgroups of emails.

When new tools become truly ubiquitous change happens. In this case I'm suggesting the new tools isn't simply the internet, it's the refinement of social networks (networking for the masses?)

The process of using social networks has educated a new and huge generation in the value of real-time synchronous communication which is the guts of the formation of communities of purpose.

Just a thought at this stage, and one lashed down at speed driven by battery run-down fear! Your input welcome.

I'm on my way to Cannes now, for MeM and the Meffys. More from there as live as I can make it!


I had lunch with the Herdmeister last week - Mark Earls, the clever bloke who wrote Herd.
Mark points out that we are not rational creatures, we are post rationalisers, ie we do stuff and then reason for ourselves why we did it, after the event.

My own experience backs that up. We duck because everyone else does. We go the wrong way at a busy tube station because we're following the crowd rather than rationalising which direction we should head in, the examples are numerous (of me doing something without thinking about it, that is...)
This has lessons for marketing and communications of all hues.

Mark also has something of a challenge for the evolutionary model of groups in group forming network theory that I describe in Communities of Purpose are the Business Units of the 21st Century, in that massive opportunities to create difference, in theory, appear to lead to homegeneous results in practice.
He points to the way every high street in the world, every shopping mall, is becoming more and more uniform as we pour more and more diverse products and services into them.

We do what we find useful.

Nutshell: we find useful what other people find useful.

Whether or not those examples transfer in all cases and particularly in all digital cases, remains to be proven.

But whatever the case the basics of how new stuff gets spread through populations remains challenging - that it is less about what we do to people (ie what we 'market' at them) and more about making the best of understanding the transmission mechanism.

I'm obviously a big believer in engaging with communities, enlisting their support by providing tools for a pre-existing community rather than thinking I can use tools to build one from scratch.

But this all brings us to the question of who are the influencers, what kind of people are the people who change behaviours in the herd? Are the hubs - those around whom many connections congregrate - the key. Or is it more likely to be those who forge the connections between distant hubs. Who are most critical to virality? (my best guess, for what it's worth, is the latter).

So I've started having a stab at who it is that is likely to have the greatest influence on the spread of an idea, of the take up of a service or a product.

And this is very much an idea in progress...

I'm going to call them 'Recogs.'

These are people who are:
Recognised by their peers as worthy of copying.
Recognisable: easily found because they are well connected (in two-way flows).
Recognisers. They can identify quickly what is useful to them from the myriad new things emerging
Recogniscient: Me stretching an idea... okay, what I'm getting at here is that they are good at passing on what they've identified; they are good at re-expressing what they know in a language others understand and will respond to (ie helping the next person know what they know in a process of repetition and amplification recog = reknow... told you I was stretching a point). They are very effective communicators (in ways which are valuable within their particular communities of purpose).

I see one immediate question. If identifying what is useful is important and what is useful differs for each diverse group, why is it that we see this tendancy towards homogenity? Is that pattern repeating in the digital world. It feels to me like it is not - hence the huge profusion and confusion of options and opportunities in digital space.

But I only seek to start the ball rolling so please do give it a prod in the next direction!

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Unfinished symphonies

I met with a group of media and journalism students at Birmingham City University last week. It's something I'd like to repeat. I was interested in how they look at the career ahead of them (entrepreneurial or corporate and or how they could be mixed) and in the approach of people who are genuinely digital natives when it comes to building web services which serve the community first.

But my greatest learning came when we discussed working practices.
I've often heard research quoted about how digital natives, those who have grown up with multi-channel experiences all around them, are able to 'cope' with several different streams of information all at once.
For example, in the UK, the place you are most likely to find mobile television consumed is in the home, often in front of another TV, while the user is also browsing a magazine, listening to music and indulging in an IM chat with friends on their laptop.
The argument goes that this ability to multi-task in this respect is hard-wired in to us as we grow up and can't be changed later no matter how we juggle.

But what I found in conversation with these students is that they ALL (including switched-on course organiser Paul Bradshaw) find it necessary to tune out when they want to really focus on completing a task.

For example, when writing a dissertation (against a deadline) they all agreed that they have to turn off email, IM, TV, radio, music... everything.

Which is nice, because I find that's true of me too. And I'm 42. Perhaps it is universally true?
For example, recently I had to complete a presentation from scratch to finished powerpoint in two hours. I shut down email and twhirl (my twitter client of preference), detached myself from google reader etc etc.
And I got the job finished.

And that's the revelation for me.
When we need to complete, to finish, to put a full stop on, we need to focus... to get the job done.

And we all understand this. We all see the value in ending the process, in getting a final result. I guess we like to complete.

But that's not the way the networked world works. And it's not the best fit with the networked world. It therefore is not the best way to release value in the network.

The networked world is about collaboration, sharing, being connected, evolving an idea not hunting it down, putting a bullet through its head, stuffing and mounting it.

Perhaps this is why I can have other channels open while I write this blog post. A blog post is never finished. If other ideas feed into it, even while it is being written, they are welcome and add value. A blog post is less mine than it is ours. Your comments, interpretations, links to and from, create what it really IS on the network. I just provide a stub. It is always unfinished. It is always evolving.

In the networked world this is true of everything. It's why clever businesses regard themselves and their products as 'always in beta'. Being 'finished' suggests it is the best it can possibly ever be. That no one else can improve on it. It's a kind of thinking built on the centre-out, broadcast/mass industrial hegemony.

Blogs and wikis allow documents to always be in beta. Open source allows software to always be in beta.
Keeping our channels open mean our ideas can always be in beta.

Kind of fits the human condition - and particularly our identity - we're all in beta too.

That doesn't mean you never act, you just act knowing you do so on the latest best guess and not that it may change later but that it WILL change later.

It also raises questions for how we reward. Instead of rewarding greedy introspection, how can we better reward and encourage thinking outloud? In companies and in our educational establishments?

We've placed a great deal of store on 'ownership' when it comes to taking responsibility within organisations. How far has that infected how ideas and often projects are treated?

Thursday, May 01, 2008

It's not how famous you are, it's how relevant

I feel a little like the limbless knight in the Holy Grail. I want to take the extremely tooled-up Clay Shirkey to task over his assertion that 'Fame Happens' (in his book Here Comes Everybody).

And if I pick fault with this particular idea it does not mean I think his whole house of cards comes tumbling down, far from it. I'm a big fan of the book and of Clay's thinking in general. I don't subscribe to the Cartesian notion that ideas are like apples in a barrel – one rotten one does not turn the rest to mush in my view.

Clay asserts that two things have to be in place for someone to become famous – “he has to have a minimum amount of attention, an audience in the thousands or more”.

Second “He has to be unable to reciprocate the attention he receives.”

Clay reasons that we have a cognitive limit on how much attention we can reciprocate.

But this is a tautology.

Fame – in the terms Clay defines it - is the product of mass media. It is the result of a broadcast world. You can't have fame without broadcast.

In fact, how many people are 'famous' from the pre mass media era? The odd philosopher, king, religious leader, scientist... the people we have heard of and who remain 'known' have been selected for us by who controlled the information. No one gets to do the controlling anymore. The Fame quotient ought to be really high for dead folks, since they can't respond at all!?

No matter how you acquire an audience, the moment you can define the people you are communicating with as an audience you have moved into broadcasting at them. Communities communicate. Audiences consume.

Someone who does not communicate with me becomes less relevant to me, someone who does becomes more important. If what they have to say becomes less relevant, the ties weaken. This seems to me true of human behaviour both on and off line.

The communities of purpose I describe and the communities of practice Clay describes himself make the point.

He says Oprah Winfrey can never respond to all the people who would covet her attention. But she only gets that attention because she's operating in a broadcast medium. I don't want to contact her. She is for the lowest common denominator, I have tools with which to find relevance. Why would I ask Oprah for help with network theory? She's not relevant. And to quote Morrissey, she says nothing to me about my life.

There is a very small subset of people and subjects for whom it would be relevant for Oprah to engage with in a group forming network world. (people trying to lose weight who share her lifestyle, outlook, genes even, for example...)

Relevance has always mattered.

I bumped into the German Chancellor once in a street in Hamburg. Didn't recognise him. The guy I was with did. He was blown away by this chance encounter with fame. But he was German. I was left pretty much underwhelmed (though a mass media kind of 'I ought to be impressed cos lots of other people regard him as famous, residual afterglow was there.)

And that's in the physical world.

In the digital world we can indulge our need for relevance completely. In the digital world a degree of fame is easier to come by for everyone. Something you do, say, think or can achieve is of primary relevance for someone else. The tools of the digital world will enable you to find one another.

Which brings us to Clay's second point – that fame requires an imbalance of attention. In twitter terms more people follow you than you follow. Each time you make an utterance more people hear than you are prepared to listen to in response. Which makes you a broadcaster.

Again, in this we find the idea that you have to be a broadcaster to be famous. That broadcasting is intrinsic to being 'famous' in Clay's terms.

This is a measure that defines that more people know you than you know.

Again, that is a restraint of the physical broadcast world and one that does not exist in the digital networked one.

Clay would say – but there are limits to how much knowing (reciprocating of attention) any human being can do.

There are, of course. But I don't think we've reached them – and using the tools we have available to us offers us the opportunity to experience attention as flow rather than directional arrows.

All the large mass niche communities that have exploded globally are communities, not gatherings of audiences. Within them are groups, groups for whom members are 'famous' to each other.

They are 'famous' to each other in my terms not because of an imbalance in attention but precisely because the relationship is closer to 1:1 – where conversations can happen. They are relevant for each other.

When someone gets out of balance (and starts broadcasting) their value in the network world diminishes.

There's one particular blogger I used to read who is very highly regarded but who never responds – to me at least.

Now his reasoning may be that my questions aren't relevant enough or I'm not relevant enough, so he selects to ignore.

And that's fine, he's likely to be in very regular conversation with many other bloggers and others who he has joined in a network of trust. And he's likely reached his cognitive limit.

My response is to visit his blog less often, to be less likely to consume his content. He is both less famous (as measured by everyone) AND less relevant (to me) as a result.

There are others who are using the tools of flow to extend that cognitive limit – I think of stowe boyd and Robert Scoble. Both have large numbers of 'followers' and could be regarded – at least in the niche of the social media blogosphere as 'famous' in Clay's terms.

But they aren't. They aren't because they respond, they engage in conversation with the nodes that join with them in networks. They treat themselves as part of a community, not a broadcaster into an audience. They make themselves continuously relevant to those for whom it matters.

This is a very different kind of fame and it is the one I am referring to when I talk about it being better to be famous for 15 people than for 15 minutes.

15000 any-old eyeballs, any-old where are of demonstrably less value than 15 people who, right now, want to help me make a difference because they share my purpose.

So Clay, stop being famous, for 15 minutes, and come and join this conversation?

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?