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August 2007

July 2007

The Day the World Went Silent


Mack over at the Viral Garden brought up a great issue, highlighting one of the most misunderstood subjects in new media, blogging.  Experts have long been predicting the demise of blogging.  Frankly, I'm a bit shocked that Steve Rubel even raised the issue, but I'm more than satisfied with his coverage.  About 6 months ago I was discussing this very concept with Greg Verdino (on a job interview) and while this may not always be the case, I still maintain the position I had back then.

                    Steps in the Evolution
                    GeoCities > Blogger > Twitter > ?

The Great Blogging Evolution
Do you remember about a decade back, before digital marketing was mainstream, when long tail magazines and cable networks seemed to be the wave of the future?  As I recall there were roughly five to six hundred magazines launching every year!  Cable television listings had grown from thirty to eighty channels!  And yet something happened along the way.  Of those 500 new magazines, only a handful are still in circulation. This will happen to blogging, but in a very different way.

Below are my predictions for this evolution:

  • There are literally hundreds of thousands of blogs currently written by high school kids, college students and the elderly.  As they move onto the next stages in their lives, they will likely either
    • stop blogging altogether,
    • launch a new blog, or
    • move their personal social media into another (new?) non-blogging platform.
  • As a generation of tech savvy successful baby boomers retire, they likely will take up blogging as both form of a entertainment (Florida speak for "keeping busy") and to help stay current.  Think of it as the college professor crowd but without the barriers of academic credentials.  All elderly people like share their life experiences, blogging offers a great platform for this story telling.
    • This will also open up a whole new resource to RSS readers, especially those in college and new to the field.
  • Those blogging about nothing in specific will stop blogging.
  • If the blog is a one way communication, chances are you will stop blogging.  Blogging is about conversation and conversation keeps the medium alive.
  • Those who are blogging because it's the shiny nickel (or as Rubel puts it, Shiny Object Syndrome) will stop blogging.  These same people will however, pick up new forms of social media as they become popular.
  • Blogging will become increasingly more interactive, fluid, mobile and dynamic.
    • While I agree with Rubel that mobile will play a part in the blogging evolution, I believe mobile will (for the next 10 years or until they develop mass produced expandable screens) serve largely as a small complimentary audience and as a live extension of the core blog via microblogging.  Until larger format screens become more mainstream, most long form social media will remain a web only experience.  I'm not sure if this is what Rubel meant to say, maybe he can correct me!

Predictions?  Thoughts?


Perspective In todays world of flogs, advertiser-driver poor-quality consumer-generated content, imitation consumer generated video and guerrilla marketing, it often pays to take a step back and examine our own practices.

We all like to beat up on the unethical practices of floggers, and this is a practice that we as an industry need to highly encourage, it's keeps us honest.  But beyond OMMA and WOMMA, where do we draw our own lines in the sand?   How do we as an industry, as a collective of individuals, build a better, safer, more trusted and more reliable industry than the one we are quickly replacing?

At what point would YOU take YOUR NAME off the door?

My entire life I've gone to my father for this sort guidance.  He's an old media exec with old media values.  Honestly, integrity and good story telling are the pillars of his world.  What are the pillars of ours?

Leo Burnett was a brilliant visionary, but more than that, he lends an interesting perspective to the many of us breaking into the New Media World.  Perhaps more interesting that the values he presents, is the emphasis he places on his own personal pride.  His name is his value.  Much like modern day bloggers, he viewed his name as his brand.  In the video below he outlines the values he believed his brand stood for.  What are your values?  Would you leave if these values were compromised?  When would you want your name taken off the door? 

Looking sideways is a great way to crash

Rear_view_mirror_2 On a daily basis we meet with and read about scores of companies that think they will be successful simply because they view themselves as the deliverers of "more".  They "empower" the consumer to "virally" share content with one another.  They "deliver more" content to a larger potential audience.  They have the exclusive! rights to all podcasts targeting typewriter and beeper enthusiasts.  Collectively, these startups waste staggering amounts of bandwidth and manpower in the vain quest for 2.0 nirvana, only to settle in the dead pool of 2.0 failure, all because they were driving while looking sideways.

Sideways driving is almost as dangerous as driving with your eyes closed.  Sideways drivers look at the cars next to them and gauge their success based on their own perspective, not that of the greater reality.  It is entirely possible that there is a car two lanes over that is outperforming them, but sideways drivers are unaware of this car, as it is out of their view.

Sideways drivers look only at the ebbs and waves of a massive matrix, not at the powers behind these trends.  Sideways drivers see a social media phenomena and launch a flog, see the power of You Tube and post infomercials and pathetic re-purposed 30 second television spots.  Sideways drivers run themselves off the road by failing to see everything happening in front of, behind and beside (on the other side of) them.

Successful drivers recognize the importance of using their mirrors.  Successful driver always keep an eye on the traffic flow surrounding your vehicle, as no one on the road travels in a vacuum.  Successful drivers learn as they move forward, watching those behind them, those beside them, and those in front of them, learning from their success and learning more from their failures.

What kind of driver are you?  Where do you find your inspiration?  Where do you want to be?  Where do you want to go, and what are you doing to get there?  Are your eyes on the map?  Are you watching the road?  Are you using your skill, taking frequent glances in your mirrors and adjusting your strategies accordingly?  Do you have your radio on and are you listening to traffic reports and adjusting your expectations accordingly?

And most importantly, are you even on the right road?

Here's a couple of quick ways to check if you are heading in the right direction:

  1. Why does your target want to use your product?
  2. Why does your target want to use your product in the manner that you are presenting it?
  3. How do you differentiate from the one hundred and one other companies with remarkably similar offering, and how are you communicating this differentiation to both you target users and supporting advertisers?

If you cannot honestly answer all of these questions, you need to pull over for a couple of minutes and ask for directions.  It's ok to ask, but if you keep "moving forward" without checking your mirrors, you're going to crash.

Selling Free Water

Water_subway_eng1_2_2 Dan McGinn over at New Persuasion has a great write up on the NYC Get Your Fill campaign for tap water.  While his points are well taken, and I applaud his efforts to raise environmental awareness around the waste of bottled water (I've since given up drinking Fiji water), there is a greater trend taking place here.

NYC is trying to give away their own free filtered water, and they need advertising and promotions to  help spread the word.   Could it be that the bottled water business has so successfully marketed their product, that consumers don't recognize the value of FREE NYC water that has gone through filters similar to those used by the very same bottling companies they are already purchasing?

Why would someone pay for something they can already get for free, and what can be done about this environmental travesty?

A friend recently suggested that we pay for bottled water because successful marketers have convinced us that bottled water is better.   Otherwise (we must think), why would it be bottled?  As good as marketers are, I don't  believe this to be the truth.

I believe that the answer to this question lies in our societal trends.  We don't fix old VCRs, we buy new DVD players.  We don't fix telephones, we buy new ones.  Think about it, unless you're eating out or particularly concerned with organic whole foods, how much of your dinner is homemade and how much of it came out of some sort of package? 

Gift_2 We are a packaged society.  Everything comes nicely shrink wrapped in an attractive package.  If something doesn't work, we get a new one. 

Given the choice between inexpensive disposable prepackaged water and the prospect of filling a water bottle, refrigerating it, washing it between uses and then remembering to  restart the process all over again  as soon as you get home... it is clearly evident that packaged bottled water is well worth the single dollar price tag (to the average consumer). 

Water But there is hope.  I would like to propose an environmental and humanitarian push against prepackaged bottled water.  NYC can promote their water all they want, but all they are really doing is flushing hundreds of thousands of dollars down the proverbial drain.  Perhaps more efficient, would be to sell "ONLY IN NYC" waterbottles at stores across NYC.  All bottles come prefilled with refrigerated NYC filtered tap water.  All bottles can be refilled with refreshing cold water for a mere 25 cents at any participating  retail location.  Retailers would be making near 100 percent profit while gaining valuable shelf space.  Consumers would be generating far less waste.  Bottled water companies would be forced to move into other markets, like powdered vitamin packed flavor packets and dissolving pills. 

Everybody can win.  Thoughts?

My my, that guy in mirror IS good looking!

Man_in_the_mirror_5 Here's to you Media Exec!

You know that guy in mirror?  That good looking guy who greets you every morning with a brilliant smile?  My guy looks nothing like the one pictured here, but if I worked in traditional media I would probably have his picture pasted on my mirror, after all, if he's on me mirror, then this is who I truly am. 

This may sound preposterous, but with the aid of some skewed research, this could be true! 

And here's how:

3 easy steps to getting the research results you always wanted:

  • Rather than speaking with anyone outside your own industry, poll those doing exactly the same thing as you.  Wonder of wonders, results will most probably fit those you've predicted.
  • If those outside your immediate circle must be included in the research, only include response options that include your current offerings.
  • If survey questions must be open ended, force study participants to interact in manners far more suggestive and meaningful than their real world counterparts.

So here's to you NBC, for suggesting that users who were asked to focus on commercials in fast forward were similar to real world users who just don't pay attention.  And here's to you OPA for telling us that out of 15 and 30 second preroll and postroll spots, 15 and 30 second spots are the favored ones. 

Hey, do you know what my  favorite number  between 1 and 3 is?  I'll give you a hint:  ask anyone to  tell you what that number it is, and they'll tell you it's 2!  I guess  everyone agrees with me!  We must all be very smart.

Diet Coke and Mentos

Sometimes it pays to build off of the buzz of others. 

Kudos to Wieden + Kennedy Amsterdam for putting this together!  Way to take someone else's craze, and build off their hype.  While this may seem "normal", this actually marks a significant evolution in  traditional message flow.  Parodies like the one above serve to highlight a sublime cultural shift from professionally generated mass experiences to prosumer/consumer generated mass experiences.  Early You Tube popular videos were often copyrighted content, parodies of professional videos or mashups of the two.  W+K has embraced the new dynamic by creating a professional parody of UGC!  The river finally flowing upstream.

Lets face it, the explosive marriage of Diet Coke and Mentos has become part of our cultural lexicon.  Diet coke shooting into the air and college kids screaming and running for cover - this is the image that describes where we are as consumers.

Any Thoughts? 

It's no wonder nobody votes anymore

When more votes are cast by clicking, digging and rating online on any given day than there are in a presidential election, what does this say about our society?  It says that we want real power.  We want to be heard.  We want to be part of something great, something significant.  We want to see our votes added to the pile, see how we are changing the world one click at a time. 

Of course we care more about our War in Iraq than Will Ferrel's daughter demanding the rent, yet wehen crunch time comes, we simply don't vote.  Why is this? 

CNN and YouTube are hosting their own new format debate series where the people submit the questions. Jeff Jarvis applauds this effort, and I would like to congratulate him for taking this bold stance.  While the criticisms and critiques of many are true (that this is not truly a democratic process as CNN [and not the community] is choosing the questions to be answered), this nevertheless represents an amazing shift by a traditional media outlet towards recognizing consumer control.  For the first time, people will be empowered with potential participation in a presidential debate. 

But to take this a step further, how much more meaningful would this be if the candidates were to continue this debate on both and YouTube by posting their replies to one another?  Why not include an online video editor in the package and empower users to not only follow the give and take, the ebb and flow of the debate on an ongoing basis, but to insert their own commentary into the news? 
Bringing the people to the table as a prerecorded snapshot of a moment-in-time works only so well, but how much more impactful would this experience be if the debate were truly brought to the people?


On a completely side note, has anyone realized that we  have been calling this The War on Terror, The War on Drugs, The War in Iraq?  Can someone please tell me why the government and mass media have been framing these efforts as abstract absolutes and not personal statements of earnest caring?  I know I certainly care more about MY country, than THE country.

New Beginings

Hello World!  With the birth of my first child (hey Ari!) I have been given a new perspective on life in general.  Following in the footsteps of established dady blogger Joe Jaffe, I would like to take these moments of reflection and share them (the professional ones at least) with you all.

It seems that every week dozens of new startups are launched, most of them to die a silent death within a year or two.  Many have suggested that the current level of VC funding has put us in a "2.0 Bubble", but this is nothing more than a misunderstanding of the fundamental shift we are undergoing as a society.

Tim O'Reilly defined web 2.0 as, "the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform."  Tim O'Reilly is a very smart guy, put in this case he missed the mark.  Web 2.0 is not a business revolution, but a shift in consumer technology trends.  Web 1.0 was about the technology.  Web 2.0 is about the consumer.  Today's thought leader is still part of "the establishment", but the power of the People First Revolution is quietly (and at times not so quietly) overtaking professional opinion and leadership. 

Web 2.0 is no more about businesses supporting consumer behavior than the television viewing experience is "all about the advertising".  Web 2.0 is the mass adoption of a dynamic lifestyle.  Web 1.0 was the shift in user/consumer lifestyles from the analog to the digital.  Web 2.0 is about far more than handing over the keys to the car, it's about breaking down walls, removing barriers, it's about choice.  This shift will never go away.  There will be no web 3.0, there can only be web 2.1, 2.2 etc.

Web 2.0 told us that consumers are no longer sheep to be herded, but people with dynamic and powerful voices.  Web 2.0 empowered consumers to choose what they want, where they want it, and how they want it.  Web 2.0 changed the dynamic of business.  Web 2.0 is not about business, but about people.  Web 2.0 and the technologies powering a revolution, creating the most fragmented audience oriented offering in the history of mankind.  Web 2.0 brought all media to the consumer.  Our lives have been changed.  Our lives are increasingly going digital, live and always on, and they will never go back.

So no, we are not in a 2.0 bubble.  The VC bubble we are currently experiencing is not a 2.0 bubble,  but a bubble of irrational exuberance.  Bubble 1.0 was brought on by irrational investment in businesses with dreams but without strategies, markets or consumers.  Businesses failed and markets fell, all because the market looked at the web as a vast potential market, not as a collection of consumers. 

Consumers have been empowered.  Content now comes to the consumer how and when they want it.  This is the 2.0 world.  Investors may loose their shirts, but  the consumer facing market 2.0 is not going away.

We established earlier that there will be no web 3.0. The coming years will never again see a digital revolution, rather they will see a digital evolution.  This evolution has begun, we are already at the beginning of the future.  The future will see a convergence of technologies and the creation and adoption of new technologies centering around consumer and societal behaviors.  It is through this lens that we can understand why it is that web 2.0 is about more than the web, it is about society 2.0.  The Social Web, Metaverses, iPhones, Joost, Second Life, BitTorrent and Technorati signal a movement of the web beyond borders, a digital life, a digital society without walls.

The iPhone didn't change the game, it changed consumer sentiment around technology.  Web 1.0 was about more, web 2.0 is about the why and the how.   Venture Capitalists may be funding more and more technologies, and many will fail, but the changes of web 2.0 will never go away.  Much like democracy, once consumers experience and expect power, it cannot be taken away.  The revolution has already taken place, and it cannot be bottled or contained.  Predicting a 2.0 bubble suggests that we are nearing the end of an era. and this is in fact true.  We are at the end of an era, an era of irrationality, an era of corporate control, an era of walls.   

Everyday tens of thousands of college students and other harness technology to illegally pirate, distribute and download network television content.  Thousands of consumers want to view your video content so badly that they have worked out a way to illegally share it with one another.  This network is more efficient and powerful than any existent legal distribution channel.  Networks respond to this demand by suing their loyal fans who so badly want to view the content that they break federal laws to access it.  Web 3.0 will never happen, as web 2.0 already shifted our lives into the digital realm.  Web 2.1 however, is going to be about breaking down our walls, changing our business models and embracing the consumer.  I don't purport to know how, but I sure am going to enjoy being a part of the show.

Thoughts?  Please feel free to comment below!  Thanks for reading, and please tell your friends!