Thursday, November 26, 2009

Belief, rock'n'roll and the danger of fans

I went to see New Model Army last night - the result of sitting next to lead singer Justin at a restaurant at Luton airport in the summer.

Wasn't on the guest list or anything, it was just that the chance encounter inspired my wife and I to go.
NMA have been touring in varying line ups for 25+ years. Their latest album was released this year.

And I think the reason they have been able to continue is they give their fans something to believe in. They stand for something. Something anti-establishment; for the common man - against the city. They were even once denied visas to tour the States. A feather in the cap indeed.

NMA also believe. It's what motivates them to play on a Wednesday night in Cambridge - rolling out Poison Street one more time. It's what kept them going despite the death of a prominent founding member.
It's what keeps the same fans coming back - dressing the same ways - and spreading the good word to their friends.

Belief has - I hazard a guess - made them happy, made them fulfilled, made their lives meaningful.
But it hasn't made them millionnaires.

And I wondered about that.

Not everyone wants money. But certainly NMA would like more believers (more in The Family).

So here's The Message. Don't be defined by your fans.

David Bowie was a big UK glam rock icon. Then he made a disco album. And went global.

Bowie fans are defined by Bowie.

Apple fanboys are defined by Apple.

Not vice versa.

You can be very successful by all kinds of measures by following your beliefs. But to take success beyond the silo of your current followers you must be prepared to redefine yourself on your own terms.

If NMA could have brought the Stop The City message to a wider audience by getting a haircut and playing the samba music they secretly hanker after (I'm making that up) would/could they?

True belief gives you the tools to go beyond your current hardcore, often at the risk of disappointing your current hardcore (imagine the delight of long-haired Bowie rock fans when They got Young Americans home).

Bowie's hardcore was not in his glam rock musical genre or in the style of his hair or clothes. It was in the permission to be different, to experiment and innovate that he gave fans.

And that attracted more people than sticking with what he knew was succeeding, ever could.

The DNA is in the belief - not in its latest expression

NMA's DNA is not in the music or the dress code of the fans. Nor is the DNA of any belief-based business wrapped up in its latest trappings.

Cling on to the DNA at all costs, but lose the trappings whenever you feel right - no matter how many of your current fans look at you as if you are drowning kittens.

Oh, and for the record NMA were great last night. And so were their fans.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Video and slides: A new era for specialist media

As promised, here's the video of me presenting my keynote on 'A New Era For Specialist Media' at SIPA 09 (Online Marketing and Publishing Summit) in London, last week.
It's shot on a flipcam - and mangled to add to vimeo (at sub 500mb for almost an hour of video) so don't expect a TV experience!

Topics covered:
• Why the internet-powered long tail of demand is a disaster for traditional broad mass media models but a huge opportunity for specialists
• How fragmentation means you can never hope to target all emerging niche communities - and what you can do to counter that
• Why the control of content production, distribution and user experience is now in the hands of everyone - and what that means for publishers
• Why we need to think of specialist content as 'social objects' to discover where the ROI will come from when nobody wants to pay for content and no one clicks on the ads.

You can download a WMV version here. The link is bottom, right of that page.

Below the video I've placed the slideshare slides, so you can play click-along-a-david if you choose.
Thoughts and comments all welcome.

A new era for specialist media from david cushman on Vimeo.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Putting people first remains the winning strategy

 For many a long year, sensible CEO's have recognised that their greatest asset is their people.

Certainly it was something drummed into managers back in the day when emap was growing fast (I worked in what started as a few East Midlands local papers and ended up as a North American and European empire before it hit the great structural media slow down experienced everywhere else).

"Our people are our greatest asset".

The fact that we are undergoing huge structural change does not diminish that truth. The networked world doesn't mean that suddenly our digital towers of tech are our greatest asset, or anything similar.

No. People remain top of that list. The shift is that the ones creating the bulk of the value aren't necessarily 'ours' any more.

So lose the 'our'.

"People are our greatest asset".

Because successful businesses are now far from limited to the power of the people within the silo, those that, traditionally, they pay the wages of.

Now everywhere the crowd can touch your processes and supply chains, people both external and internal are your greatest asset.

Think of any supply chain within your organisation. What could be disrupted or improved on by the crowd - by people coming together online and from both inside and outside the silo to provide a wikifix?

There are far more external assets available than internal.

Adapting to the connecting, real-time power of social technologies means better connection with those external assets; greater contribution from them.

And if they bring you greater efficiencies and greater rewards through those contributions it is wise that we consider how they can be rewarded and what they seek by way of reward.

It may not (always) be cash. It may be the value and power of becoming part of something they care about.

But they are not there to be exploited.

Just as sensible CEOs always placed value on their people, so now must sensible CEOs place value on all the people their organisation interacts with and shares in the production of value with.

Putting people first has always been a winning strategy - the better connected world of the network just writes that large.

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

A new era for specialist media?

I'm doing a keynote at SIPA's (Specialist Information Publishers Association) online publishing and marketing summit this morning. As is my custom, I like to share my slides beyond the silo of the room :-)

This is my brief, on the subject 'A new era for specialist media':

Media fragmentation and social technologies are opening the door to a new era for specialist media – find out how to adapt to a world of global mass niche publishing.

• Why the internet-powered long tail of demand is a disaster for traditional broad mass media models but a huge opportunity for specialists
• How fragmentation means you can never hope to target all emerging niche communities - and what you can do to counter that
• Why the control of content production, distribution and user experience is now in the hands of everyone - and what that means for publishers
• Why we need to think of specialist content as 'social objects' to discover where the ROI will come from when nobody wants to pay for content and no one clicks on the ads.

So, here here are the slides (below); hope you'll see a few #SIPA09 tweets (my guess) as we go.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Measuring the real time web

Luke's Monitoring Social Media 09 event in London on Tuesday was an absolute triumph.
The venue was packed (literally standing room only) the speakers excellent and the vibe businesslike rather than echo-chamberesque.

Luke (one of our collaborators at 90:10, by way of disclosure) asked me to chair a panel on the ROI of social media monitoring, on which I was ably assisted by Chris Quigley (co-founder Rubber Republic), Matt Atkinson, CEO EHS Brann, Tomi Leitonen, CEO Whitevector and Jon Moody, Market Engineer (nice title Jon) at ASOMO.

I threw in a thought, without much consideration for how it could be answered. It is this; that social media monitoring is, in its current incarnation, somewhat behind the curve of the real-time web.

I think of it like this: we are becoming increasingly good at taking photographs of the web, but can't workout how to view its streaming video.

Perhaps it is that we are only able to make sense of it as still photographs - snapshots which we can pour over with a magnifying glass and make pronouncements upon?

Most of those of us who go in for this kind of monitoring and measurement have long understood that one set of tools is far from enough. We adapt and compile, create our best set of tools to give us the deepest and broadest understanding of the landscape. But it is for the most part a landscape in which nothing is moving.

It is helpful for broad strategy, to identify where the conversations are happening and whom they involve.

But how much more valuable could the right-now monitoring of live interaction be.

For example, it is useful to know where the conversation has happened, but it is much more useful to know where the conversation is happening right now, how it is moving, at what speed and in what direction.

It's becoming increasingly important as we understand the value of the connections over the node, of interaction, of the things people do with each other together (network), compared to the things we would have them do at our bidding (broadcast).

In other words, wouldn't it be wonderful to monitor and understand the flow of the flock.

Of course wonderful is one thing, useful another.

Not only do we need a new set of tools to understand, to even see the flow, we need a new set of tactical responses and processes to give that knowledge value.

Like I say, lots of questions. Not so many answers.

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The King of advice, alerts and assistance

I was fortunate enough to attend #140conf as one of the 'characters' at the O2 in London yesterday (courtesy of @jeffpulver).

I was therefore able to witness the crowning (quite literally folks) of one @stephenfry as 'King of Twitter'.

Stephen spoke brilliantly about many of the themes I hold dear and bang on about myself - though clearly not as well as the great Danceciser himself.

"It's up to business to accomodate itself to (the human shape) of twitter, not for twitter to accomodate itself to business," among the many bon mots.

Which I why I'm delighted to share this video of his talk, thanks to beegod (who shot it and posted it on his blog).

And if anyone recorded JP Rangaswami's wonderful words on twitter as a peer-to-peer information service at #140conf (for alerts, advice and assistance) please do point me - I would love to share that too.
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Monday, November 16, 2009

The impact and the etiquette of social media

Here's the slides I presented to the 157Group last week.
The 157Group are the marcomms pros from the UK's leading colleges (judged by size and quality).
I'm hoping I was able to help.

By the way, I'll be at the #140Conf at the O2 in London tomorrow mostly to see Stephen Fry, Andrew Keen and JP Rangaswami speak. Wanted to say a big thank you to organiser Jeff Pulver for my ticket.

Can't be there all day, I'm chairing a panel at Monitoring Social Media in central London at 12:30pm.

See you at either - or both!

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Friday, November 13, 2009

The UK's most influential comms professionals - on twitter

Edelman has used its TweetLevel tool to name yours truly among the UK's top 10 most influential comms professionals on Twitter.

You can read all about it in PR Week.
I'm a sucker for these things - which means Edelman's TweetLevel gets the requisite mention on this blog (which is kind of the purpose of these lists... PR types do a lot of this).

Can I recommend it to you?
Well, it apparently takes 30 stats that Twitter makes available to score influence, engagement, trust and popularity. And it churns out a top 10 that has me in it. So it can't be all bad then, can it (it's likely that those of you who do trust/engage with me may agree - that's the communities of purpose thing in action.)?

The power is in measuring within the niche. And at the moment creating a niche (top 10 of most influential comms pros in the UK and on twitter, for example) is a very manual process. So as a tool on its ownsome - little use. When some manual labour is applied? Potentially helpful - but don't underestimate the labour intensity.

Me? I'm still looking for someone to build Trends Among Friends. Any takers?

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

How to make more pegs, more round, more often

Providing things that people need/want is at the core of any business. If there are round holes, you provide round pegs. That's the plan.

Trouble is, life is a little more complex.

The holes are rarely consistent in size or roundness. The pegs become best approximations.

So we take the hammer of advertising and marketing, mass media lowest common denominator comms of all forms, and bludgeon away. (image courtesy)

Sometimes some of the pegs even appear to fit. Hit enough, hard enough and long enough and - hey presto! Demand met.


Ok, more like supply supplied, then. All very wasteful. And noisy.

The fitness landscape of any complex adaptive system (from evolution to the economy) requires something, well, more adaptable.

It requires something more maleable - more open to change - to make a better fit.

If the pegs can be reshaped to fit the holes, they just drop in. No mass media hammering required. No energy wasted.

Businesses have always used the tools available to them to make the best approximation of those round pegs - market research, focus groups, the black-sweatered CEO's gut feel.
Those whose approximations are closest to round, find they need less hammering.

Now we have access to better tools - the social technologies that enable groups to form. That is, better access to people.

Now groups can form to wikifix a problem they share - such as your peg not fitting their hole.

Now you can let them, together, reshape your peg so it drops beautifully into place.

But it will only happen if you accept that the best people to shape a product or service to any fitness landscape you encounter are those who make up that landscape.

Advertising isn't (just) the tax you pay for being unremarkable (some products inspire such excited human interaction that the fitness landscape changes to accommodate them) it is also the tax you pay for trying to fit square pegs in round holes.

Hang up your hammers. Start opening your doors.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Citizen journalism - and whose facts are they anyway?

Had a lot of fun on Jon Hansen's BlogTalk Radio Show on November 10, 2009.
His subject was, How will journalism survive the internet age?

Joining me on the international panel were Cenk Uygur, the HufPo writer (who gets 13m views for his Youtube channel), Baby Boomer agitator Ellen Brandt and, author and publisher Sherrie Wilkolaski.

We covered citizen journalism, news vs relevance, friends as filters, fact checking (crowd vs pros) among much else

Listen for yourself here:

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The future of journalism. Blogtalk Radio. Today

This evening (8pm uk, 3pm EST) I'll be joining a panel on Jon Hansen's Blogtalk Radio show to discuss what journalism becomes - if it can exist at all - in the Internet age.

Interesting question always, of course but with an added piquance in a week when News International's Rupert Murdoch talks about removing 'his' content from search engines.

Listen live here.

And if you're opn a mobile:
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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Alan Moore on the 'the toxic tail end of the industrial age'

On November 17 I will be speaking at Monitoring Social Media in central London. Which is nice. If you're in London or anywhere close-ish, you should come.

So will the author of Communities Dominate Brands Alan Moore.

Alan, a very good friend of mine, and a collaborator over at 90:10, is also speaking at London's MIT Enterprise Forum on the same day, following in the footsteps of Guy Kawasaki, among others. There you go - two good reasons to be in London that day.

For the detail, go here.

But for a taste of the thinking... here's Alan:

We are witnesses to a structural and transformational change in society, what many describe as the toxic tail end of our industrial, mass consumer, mass media era. The tragic legacy of the last 150 years is that humanity has been thin sliced and deconstructed almost to the point of destruction. Human beings have become little more than individual units of capitalism – pawns of economists and unfettered capitalism.

But the fact is, “I needs we, to truly be I,” wrote Carl Jung, and this is why we as a species are at the barricades of a communications revolution, in which humanity is renegotiating the power relationships between; people, organisations, and even governments. As social philosopher Richard Sennett argues, we want to, “recover something of the spirit of the Enlightenment on terms appropriate to our time”.

The tools of the revolution are digital communication technologies, but the drivers are about human connection and human identity. Technology does not come out of nowhere, it is indeed a human invention in the first place, and these technologies succeed to the extent they meet fundamental human needs. The rise of the networked society is no accident, and a new philosophy is needed now to enable individuals and organisations adapt to a new way of doing, trading, educating, living.

Therefore, our imperative is to de-school ourselves in a philosophy and a way of thinking and acting that has delivered us into a cultural, ideological and economic cul-de-sac. We need to liberate ourselves from how we were once taught to think and live our lives, stemming from the ethos of industrialisation and the mass consumer society.

Don't miss him.

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Monday, November 02, 2009

90:10 - Open For Business

Today I can finally announce I've embarked on a new journey - as Managing Director and co-founder of a new business: 90:10.

It's a journey that emphasises a meme close observers will have seen emerging in my work for quite some time (it's described in my Communities of Purpose paper written in March 08).

That is, that in order to truly benefit from the power of the network we must think less about media (social or otherwise) and more about how and why people organise to get things done.

90:10 takes that to its logical business-oriented change-empowering conclusion. 90:10 is aimed at enabling efficiency, innovation and transformation through social technologies.

Efficiency - the big why

Efficiency is important to us not just for the obvious reason (the payback to the benefitting business's bottom line) but for the same kind of reason that quality is important to outdoor clothing maker Howies.

Howies believes in quality (read Mark Earls' Herd for the full story) because it makes their stuff last longer. If it needs replacing less often less resources are required to keep Howies fans clothed. It's better for the environment, better for all.

Efficiency is important to 90:10 because when people connect to wikifix or co-create something new we do so because we want that thing to exist. We want the outcome.

This closes the gap between supply and demand. In its final iteration, as a planet, we will only create what we need - with zero waste and zero need to 'create' demand.

In a world of limited resource plundering the things we have in abundance, to make the most of the things we don't, has to be the right thing to do.

Our creativity, our desire and ability to connect, to be social beings, these we have in abundance. Tapping them is both exciting in its potential and wise as a strategy for success. It is what 90:10 does.

It ultimately means there will be more of what all of us need. All of us.

Efficiency that is better for all.
Efficiency for a bigger reason.
That's why we believe in efficiency. Driven by innovation - leading to transformation.

It's not about the tech, it's about the people

We understand the tech doesn't perform the magic. People do.

The tech is simply the tools through which the business of new business (and new organisation) is done. It is the tools the crowd, this we species of ours, the edglings, us, are using to build our self-organised tomorrow.

I don't want to build the next Twitter, Facebook or Google (though I'll happily consult on how they could and should monetise) - I'm interested in what emerges from them and what comes after them - what communities of purpose can and will do with these tools.

Connecting people who care about the same stuff gets that stuff done better. It innovates best-fit solutions and gets to those best-fit solutions faster and cheaper.

It's Wikifixing. It's global. And it's because people give a damn - if only you'll let them.

As I detailed in Social + Media = Change, I believe the real RoI of social media is unleashed by the way it enables adhoc communities of purpose to form; This is what the money has been waiting to follow.

These communities exist. They want to make stuff better. They want to join in creating the things that matter to them.

Recently, inspired by Clay Shirky, I wrote: Media that publishes without a comment box, publishes broken

That is, publishing without being open to contribution, is the wrong model for the networked world.

There is a version for business - in fact for all organisations:
'A business that operates without a comment box, operates broken'.
That is, a business that fails to open up to the riches it could share in through the feedback loops, real-time co-creation and wikifixing of the power of the network is a business that is in peril - at risk of being disrupted and defeated by those that are.

Next to those from the self-organised, open future, it is broken.

90:10 is all about fixing that - becoming truly and effectively Open For Business.

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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?