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October 2008

iTunes Vs. Hulu

Competition iTunes

  • Vs. Hulu

Sure, it's great to watch TV on the go.

  • But then again, it's great NOT to have to pay for it.

Sure, it's great not to have commercials.

  • But then again, it's great to have new shows consistently available the next morning.

Sure, it's great not to have commercials.

  • But then again, I won't really miss the 2 minutes of my life spent watching 15 second spots on Hulu.

Sure, it's great to "own" content for future viewing.

  • But then again, I only watch most tv shows once.

Sure it's great to have an end to end ecosystem.

  • And Hulu doesn't have one.

So why can't Hulu offer downloads with unskippable ads or iTunes offer a free, ad-supported product?

- Conclusion -

When the latest episode isn't yet available on iTunes, I might as well wait until tonight and watch it on Hulu.  Saves me a couple bucks, right?

Key Takeaway

  • I pay for the convenience of iTunes, not the content. 
  • In a world of increasingly democratized online content distribution, I can't help but wonder why this isn't changing in the downloadable sector.
photo credit here

seth godin taught me/us a lesson... for free

Tribes Yesterday I wrote a post

I was confused.  Because it was yesterday.

I was operating in pre-today's mindset.  But as of today, I have learned something incredible, and I'd like to thank all of you for helping me learn this valuable lesson:

If content is good enough, if we believe in an author/contributor strongly enough, if we subscribe to a leader's philosophy in a powerful enough manner, we will accept their change in our status quo. 

We will change our expectations when remarkable things happen.

Changing the status quo is a dangerous game.  More will fail than succeed. 

But if what you're doing is good enough, if your merits, your status as a leader, and your community's invested equity in your leadership is strong enough, they will adapt their expectations to the new dynamic/market you, the leader, have proposed (or created).  Especially if we (the community/tribe), think that we are getting the better end of the deal.

Yesterday, I thought that Seth was pushing the envelope into potentially dangerous waters.  Today I learned that markets and dynamics are not as hard and fast as I had previously believed.

The proof is in the pudding.  Seth Godin is a tribal leader will with an incredibly loyal tribe.  Seth flexed his power, and the community by and large embraced his maverickitude.  Dozens of people blogged about Tribes the book and possibly even more about Tribes the free audio book.  Countless comments and discussions took place around Seth's innovative marketing tactic.   And few people had many complaints. 

I have made my peace and accepted the new dynamic. 

Please feel free to read, comment and share my blog, free of charge.

2 week to go and burned out

Election 2008 With just 2 weeks left to the election and all of the debates come and gone, both candidates will most likely jump into high gear, pushing every last constituent to vote and every potential swing voter to swing in their direction.

Now is the time to activate Facebook. 
Now is the time to get count down widgets blaring across the internet. 
Now is the time to re-ignite the passion of the public.
Now is the time to demonstrate that each candidate is compellingly personal.

It's crunch time.

Yet twitter conversations seem to be slowing and based on my observations, there looks to be some real market fatigue.  Most voters have already decided on a candidate and with little new fodder for discussion (post-debates), many have already lost their passion and excitement.

If you were a candidate, or a member of a candidate's PR/Marketing team, what would YOU DO?

seth godin's marketing mistake (?)

Tribes UPDATE: for an updated perspective, click here

A couple of months ago I pre-ordered a bunch of marketing books on Amazon. 

Like the faithful drone I am, I pre-ordered Seth Godin's upcoming/newly released book titled Tribes.

I'm part of a tribe - a Godin follower.  I generally enjoy his work.  I think he's an overall brilliant marketer.  The early reviews of the book looked positive.  I was glad that I finally had the foresight to pre-order the book everyone would be talking about. 

But today, the venerable Seth Godin made a marketing mistake. (He's human!)

Much to my surprise, this afternoon the wonderful Ann Handley (@marketingprofs on Twitter) tweeted the following:

The same day that the book I paid for was released, it was given away for free as an audio book!

  • How am I not supposed to feel used?

  • How am I supposed to react?

  • What kind of brand loyalty/relationship equity is this supposed to foster?
-  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -  -

BTW - I pre-ordered this book together with a few other books that have not yet been released, and so have not yet received my shipment from Amazon (and can still cancel my order of this book at any time).  If the audio book is THAT good, I'll keep my hardcopy order in place because I like to have physical books on shelves for later referance, refreshment and inspiration.  Nevertheless, I had expected more from my favorite marketing guru.

attention is not the endgame

Labslogo Max Kalehoff recently posted an interesting study by HP's Social Computing Lab.

In Max's review, he summarizes as follows:

Attention is the ultimate currency of crowdsourcing, or, really, any active user contribution. Attention is scarce, and the few active, most valuable contributors in your immediate or extended community are hardwired to seek it out. Marketers should factor this not only when creating incentives for contribution, but in driving overall engagement. Because to grant attention is to acknowledge; and acknowledgment is the basis of all relationships.

Attention While I cannot discount the overall truthiness of this theory, I would like to explain why this study lacked depth, and therefor arrived at a flawed conclusion.  Before I question the conclusion, I would like to present you with HP's Abstract:

The tragedy of the digital commons does not prevent the copious voluntary production of content that one witnesses in the web. We show through an analysis of a massive data set from YouTube that the productivity exhibited in crowdsourcing exhibits a strong positive dependence on attention, measured by the number of downloads. Conversely, a lack of attention leads to a decrease in the number of videos uploaded and the consequent drop in productivity, which in many cases asymptotes to no uploads whatsoever. Moreover, uploaders compare themselves to others when having low productivity and to themselves when exceeding a threshold.

Critique 1: Firstly, the HP study monitored a series of You Tube users, analyzing this environment semi-extensively, and deriving assumptions about crowdsourcing and the social dynamic as a whole based on this analysis.

Rationale: You Tube is but one "channel" in a far broader social dynamic.  While it is true that low engagement may discourage many, engagement on YouTube is not necessarily driven within the YouTube environment itself.  Blogs, emails, social network embeds, presentation at a conference - these are all steps that can lead to "virality" or attention.  By analyzing YouTube as a stand alone environment, this study was nearly flawed from the start - because they didn't recognize the value of Worth Of Mouth in a video channel.

Critique 2: This study viewed attention as the end-game for most users.  However, attention is only a bridge to further engagement. 

Rationale: While it is true that attention is the starting block (if your video has 5 views, you may not be thrilled with your success), attention is not the end metric.  Social equity is. 

Case in Point: Millions may watch a high schooler slashing a broom as if it were a light saber, but that doesn't encourage this user to upload similar videos.  In this case the attention was negative.

Case in Point: Some videos are created as "viral" tactics, hoping to drive a user to a URL.  In this case, attention (views) alone would be considered a failure had these views not converted into clicks.

Critique 3:
Furthermore, this study assumed that YouTube was built as a sharing house of good content.  They therefor regularly refer to The Tragedy of Digital Commons as described below:

What makes crowdsourcing both interesting and puzzling is the underlying dilemma facing every contributor, which is best exemplified by the well-known tragedy of the commons. In such dilemmas, a group of people attempts to provide a common good in the absence of a central authority. In the case of crowdsourcing, the common good is in the form or videos, music, or encyclopedic knowledge that can be freely accessed by anyone. Furthermore, the good has jointness of supply, which means that its consumption by others does not affect the amounts that other users can use. And since it is nearly impossible to exclude non contributors from using the common good, it is rational for individuals not to upload content and free ride on the production of others. The dilemma ensues when every individual can reason this way and free ride on the efforts of others, making everyone worse off—thus the tragedy of the digital commons ...
And yet paradoxically, there is ample evidence that while the ratio of contributions to downloads is indeed small, the growth in content provision persists at levels that are hard to understand if analyzed from a public goods point of view...

I hesitate to think that there is a group of people on YouTube working towards a common consensus.  They are there for themselves.  However, facets of their behavior may reflect a group's shared affinity or goals (creating a common social good).  For example, I enjoy Common Craft's simple explanations of Web 2.0 properties, but that doesn't mean that I don't enjoy watching junk videos as well.  I am not there as part of a community, I am there as an individual - who's behavior may at times reflect the common social good.

Critique 4: YouTube attention must be put in context and cannot be viewed as a universal success metric.

Rationale: YouTube is a fairly open environment.  Their embeddable players are regularly viewed all across the internet.  Analysis of views alone lacks context, and therefor delivers a flawed conclusion.  As we said earlier, views be negative. 

Case in Point: A co-worker uploaded a video of his child in the bath a few years ago.  Cute kid, 2 years old, smiley and bubbly personality.  He meant for this video to be kept "private" (family and friends) but did not properly set the privacy settings.  A week later this video had thousands of views and a handful of disturbing comments.  He pulled the video immediately.  Not only did this co-worker not want this video viewed in public, he uploaded it with the hope that it wouldn't generate mass attention.  All he wanted was to share a piece of content with a SMALL and SELECT group.

Critique 5: You Tube View Counts are not Crowdsourcing.

Rationale: YouTube view counts do not reflect the crowdsourcing phenomena.  Crowdsourcing via wikipedia and others, is about collaboration, and yes, recognition.  YouTube view counts are an engagement metric, not a driver of further views or a reflection of a common effort.

Critique 6: Video is linear.

Rationale: Crowdsourcing is at it's best when there is a back and forth, a low level and of entry and strongly diverse population building collaboratively.  YouTube is a poor example of Crowdsourcing.

My Point Of View

HP did a tremendous service to the community, they got us talking.  However, I fundamentally disagree with this study and it's conclusion.  I believe (theorize) that we participate in the digital social dynamic because it delivers personal equity.  In the case of crowdsourcing, we may do so for personal gain, but attention alone is the the driver of this engagement. 

My brother was a professor at a local college, and he edited his college's wikipedia page because it contained untrue allegations about the founders of the college.  He received no attention for this edit.

This same brother participated in a college film festival, where he played an outlandish character.  This video was then posted out of context on Google Video (in the very early days of online video) and quickly generated tens of thousands of views.  He was recognized in the halls, at meetings with professional associates, on line at the supermarket, and even by students at an academic conference overseas.  He did not want this attention, as it could potentially tarnish his career as a professor of advanced religious studies.

Key Takeaway: Attention is not the social driver, it is a step towards a result - desired social equity.  We do not participate or contribute in search of single metric, we do so for a wealth of subjective reasons. 

photo credit here

10 hours from judgement day: time to reflect

2041476314_200b99b860_o Yom Kippur, The Day of Judgment is just 10 hours away.

The totality of my actions over the past year, my good deeds and bad will be weighed and decisions will be made... Yom Kippur is just 10 short hours away.

If any of you have ever been 10 hours away from a major trial, you know what I'm experiencing. 

Your year flashes before your eyes.  Your accomplishments, your misdeeds, your successes, your efforts and your failures all swim through your thoughts as you contemplate your place, your role, where you've been and where you hope to be going.

So I would like to take this opportunity to thank those who, over the past year (and more) have helped me continue to facilitate my growth, both personally and professionally.

Social Thank Yous

  • I would like to thank Craig Daitch for his guidance and direction both in the office and beyond.
  • I would like to thank Greg Verdino for turning me on to blogging and helping me launch this blog.
  • I would like to thank Chris Brogan for his amazingly effective link-love and never-ending inspiration.
  • I would like to thank Ardath Albee for being the first to "tag" me, making me feel part of this wonderful community.
  • I would like to thank Om Malik for his constant availability and help navigating this crazy place called the web.
  • I would like to thank Scott Monty and Guy Kawasaki for including my blog on AllTop.  The recognition is much appreciated.
  • Though I cannot list all of you by name, I would like to thank the entire community for the your support, subscription, readership, dialogue, inspiration and support.  This blog is only 15 months old, but through this blog, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook, I have made friendships that will last a lifetime.  While I hope that I have contributed to the dialogue, I have gained far more from your perspectives than I have added on my own.  Thank you.

Professional Thank Yous

  • I would like to thank Carl Fremont and the entire team over at Digitas, across virtually all accounts and offices, for making this year amazingly successful.
  • I would like to thank the entire team over at VivaKi for their patience and appreciation for everything social has to offer.
  • I would like to thank the innumerable vendors and partners who have made my accomplishments possible.  You know who you are.  Thank You.

Personal Thank Yous

  • I would like to thank my father for his constant support and experienced agency-man perspective.
  • I would like to thank my wife for her never-ending patience, devotion and dedication.
  • I would like to thank my son Ari for always knowing how to make us smile.
  • I would like to thank my family for supporting me through what has at times been a roller coaster of a couple of years.

As is customary at this time of the year, I would like to ask all of you for forgiveness if I ever wronged you in any way.  If you have any particular gripes, please feel free to email me and I will make every effort to make amends. 

Thank you for reading.  I look forward to another year of collaboration and progress, of a year of substantiated work/life/social balance and a year of productivity.

Have a great year!

photo credit here

social: why one size never fits all

  • Tim goes to the concert because his wife wants to go.
  • Liz goes to the concert because she's had a hard week and wants to let her hair down.
  • John goes to the concert because of a sense of nostalgia towards the music.
  • The college kids go to the concert as part of their course requirements for Classic Rock 101.
  • The sales guy goes to the concert in order to build a relationship with his sales prospect.
  • The sound engineer goes to the concert because it pays his bills.
  • I go to the concert because I like loud noises.

Concert All of these people attended the same concert, listened to the same music, participated in the same event at the same destination.

Yet few of them have much in common.

If I were to bring these 20 people to a focus group and ask the researcher what they have in common, I doubt that he/she would conclude that they had all recently attended a classic rock concert. 

  • Because an action does not define a person.
    • We are defined by the totality of who we are. 
Rarely is this totality a "we", more often than not it as an "I".

In order to achieve scale, businesses often force users into fairly arbitrary boxes based on "big box research".  But these boxes rarely fit the individual, they simply speak to the masses.

Social success is not about speaking at, it's about conversing with.  You cannot converse with the 20 above mentioned concert attendees in a one-size-fits all manner. 

You can speak at them via an event sponsorship, but you cannot converse with them around their apparent commonality.  Social success requires flexibility and adaptability.  Social success cannot be one-size-fits-all.

Key Takeaway: Social is more than MEDIA.  Social is a DYNAMIC.  Harnessing the full power of this dynamic requires real human interactivity based on insight and understanding.

photo credit here

rethinking branding - and the kitchen sink

Branding This morning Chris Brogan posted a truly thought provoking piece on rethinking branding.  Inspired by Jonathan Baskin's Branding Only Works on Cattle, Chris wrote:

Baskin left me thinking hard about two major points. The first was that money spent on marketing should be money spent on shifting a buyer’s behavior closer towards buying. Yes, I realize that this is fairly basic and fundamental in one light, but if you look at how far from this perspective marketing efforts seem to be drifting, especially only, it seems to me that maybe we should poke people on the shoulder and point out the basics again.

I highly encourage reading this post in it's entirety to gain a true sense of his perspective.

My Question is: how did this happen and what should we be do about it?

Part 1: History
Branding has gone haywire.  Mass media allowed marketers to cut corners and market to masses of "cattle" rather than to people.  We identified a need, an emotional trigger, and we joined them in an unholy matrimony in an effort to drive awareness, association and ultimately, purchase.

However, somewhere along the line (right around the decade when that loud guitar music "fad" became big) this shortcut became the norm.  Mass media drove your brand while direct marketing lit up your cash registers on an as-needed basis.

However, the explosion of the interwebs changed everything.  These tubes not only rapidly connected us, but evolved our society and culture.  And marketing has rapidly changed as a direct result.  And now, one can wake up to an epiphany, that yes, branding only works on cows, when way back when, we kind of knew this all along.

Part 2: So What?
Branding still has it's place - largely in the upper funnel, but with the unique upper funnel ability to impact lower funnel behavior.  Branding is a positioning tool.  Branding can build association.  Branding can build relationships.  Branding can build affinity.  But branding can not replace marketing as a practice.

A sound marketing strategy must go back to the basics, the four Ps and Ds.  A sound marketing strategy must encorporate search as a driver, as a gateway to discovery.  A sound marketing strategy should consider Twitter as a facilitator, a gateway and a relationship marketing tool.  A sound marketing strategy should include OLA and branding, while featuring offline media in it's integrated place.  A sound marketing strategy should consider both online an offline relationship and socialization as a marketing tactic and strategy.  A strong marketing strategy should focus on the business' goals and objectives, delivering real and measurable results based on 360 strategy.

Four Key Takeaways

  1. Marketing strategy hasn't changed.  The market in which we practice has.
  2. Branding was never the solution, it was an available shortcut.
  3. Branding will forever remain a powerful tool (in it's place).  But branding cannot replace marketing.
  4. Personal branding is as alive and kicking as ever... so long as it is personal.