Web 3.0

when a series of tubes go tubeless - the evolving natural web

The Windows Network and Internet icon employs the 'tube' metaphor

Image via Wikipedia

The internet is just a series of tubes, right?

It's a connection, it's a lifeline, that can be turned on and off.  It's a utility.  That's why we need net neutrality, right?

While the world of the internet within the browser or within a dedicated connected application (ex - widgets or Outlook) is far from gone, the time has come for marketers and technologists to look at the internet as more then a channel.  The connected web is the natural evolution of the human experience.

Higher speeds, open platforms, more intuitive development kits, these are all small pieces in a larger puzzle.  There is a greater endgame at play.


  • Social media has evolved via digital connectivity, and it continues to evolve.
  • Video viewing has evolved, and will continue to evolve.
  • Mobile connectivity has evolved, and clearly will continue to evolve.

We cannot look to the future without remembering the past.  The media and technology landscapes have greatly evolved over the past century.  And they will continue to evolve.  But the world didn't turn on a dime, it will not change with a single keynote.

The world is going to continue to change, but without looking through the lens of the historical human perspective, we are doomed to chasing waterfalls.

Dreaming is great for ideation, but insight is what fuels the future.

So what are your insights?  What are the key factors driving tomorrow?

face it: your shoes (content) don't fit

Glass slipper If there's one thing I learned from Cinderella, it's not to trust talking rodents. 

If I had to chose another lesson it would be this: items are best utilized for their natural context.

If the shoe doesn't fit, forcing your way into it is both painful and useless. 

Contextual relevancy (the correct foot) is essential to obtaining the desired value (the prince) out of content (the shoe). 

We would do well to remember this.

Content delivers the strongest value to both the user and the content creator (or brand) when it plays in it's intended environment. 

A 90 minute movie may be enjoyable from the couch on a big screen tv, but it would be unwatchable when viewed a cell phone.  While a 30 second YouTube clip looks great on my cellphone, it is unwatchable on my TV.  Context drives the content experience.

Or as Valeria Maltoni said  "content works best within context".  I couldn't agree more.

And the implications are many.

Marketing Implications

Car lane The Current Dynamic: Content generators (newspapers) give the nod to feed aggregator users (Google Reader regulars), by creating RSS feeds.  These feeds feature the newspaper's existent text content and do not require additional formatting or redesign.  This content works reasonably well in the aggregate environment.

However, even as an avid feed aggregate user, I still prefer to read lengthy articles in their native environments.  There is a tangibly real value in reading content together with the pictures, formatting, sidebars and color schemes it was intended to be viewed within.

The Challenge:  Many brands are trying to live in the context of an aggregate experience (widgets in social pages, Google Reader, podcasts, etc.) by creating mini-microsites in the form of widgets and long form commercials in the form of podcasts.  A magazine ad would perform poorly on television. 

New Channel > New Experience > New Marketing.

The Solution: It's time that marketers began thinking about the aggregate user and the flaws of the strip-and-syndicate model.  We need to be building distributed utility that fits the need of the user within the context of the user, rather than the models that suit the brand low hanging fruit (text).  We need to think strategically within user and platform centric models, ultimately delivering unique utility that drives brand objectives.

It's time we started designing for success.

Technology/UI Implications

The Current Dynamic: RSS strips everything.  It strips the design, the context, the subsequent conversation.  RSS Readers strip much of the richness of the content in favor of the simplicity and ubiquity of pure text.

In a social media environment, RSS often strips even the social out of social media.

The conversational aspect of blogs as I see it, lives in three places -

  1. blog to blog conversations within the blog posts themselves,
  2. conversations living within the comments sections on blogs, and
  3. conversations (many of them public) taking place on external social media channels, such as Twitter. 

Read a blog in an RSS reader and you're only getting 1/3 the social capability of the channel.

The Next Steps

We can and will learn to aggregate and syndicate well.  But a new format is needed.

  • Wouldn't it be great is Google Reader could adjust the tonality and feel of their reader based on the piece of content being viewed?
  • Wouldn't it be fantastic if an aggregator could adjust the UI to the nature of the content (text, video, audio) rather than vice versa?
  • Wouldn't it be neat if Google Reader could display a few dynamic widgets on the page?
    • one containing related posts from across the blogosphere
    • another could contain comments and discussion threads in the blog comments together with the ability to contribute within the reader interface
    • a third would contain related media from across the internet - Twitter, traditional digital media, YouTube videos, etc.

Key Takeaway: Syndicated media need not lack for context.  However, without context, media is often stripped of it's richness and ultimately, value. 

By all means, syndicate and aggregate, but do so with caution.

life in the fast lane : perpetual nascence

On_the_edge_3 The fields of new media and emerging media are not new, nor are they temporary.

Print publishers probably fretted over the rise of the radio.  And radio and print fretted over TV.  And network TV fretted over cable TV.  And TV is fretted over the internet.

The media landscape has always been in transition, the only thing that has changed is the pace of change.

Those of us working in "emerging" media however, frequently misjudge the timing and pace of change.  We advocate advanced social media information mining before our clients have managed to harness most of their own internal customer information.  We speak about IPTV when it isn't even available in most major markets.  We speak about WiMax, Android and Open Social before the true capabilities are yet known.  We are talking about the death of the 30 second spot while most major brands are still investing most of their money on television.

We are living ahead of the curve. 

In the words of one of my teammates, we are living in a state of "perpetual nascence".

And sure, QR codes may make it big in 3 years from now.  But in the meantime, it is far more important that we understand and appreciate the unique position that we are in.  We are AHEAD of the curve.  Preparing clients for the future isn't necessarily about building tomorrow today.  Rather, it is about incremental innovation, setting the seeds for tomorrow, building familiarity and a strong foundation on which we can activate in 3 years from now, when the world has caught to us. 

And you can rest assured, we'll be talking about as yet unknown technologies and platforms, and perpetually planning for the arrival of the nascent lives we are living.

Smart Player > next gen online video is here (w video!)

Header OK, so that title is a bit of an exaggeration.  That being said, I am very excited about Permission TV's new Smart Player.  This is THE FIRST truly interactive web player platform I've seen.

  • It has:
    • user generated in-stream commenting,
    • socialization tools,
    • mashability,
    • plinking (product linking),
    • e-commerce,
    • embedability,
    • content oriented interactivity,
    • smart serving (based on a full suite of demographics, geo-targeting and more), and
    • dynamic content/advertising.

And best of all, it's dynamic and semantic content engine is advertiser friendly with a rich reporting suite to boot.  Video below (after the jump).

note: video removed.  You can see it here.

Some Perspective: This is currently a technology play with marketing potential.  Permission TV's next step has to be around licensing and distribution.  They have to get the right content owners and destination/distribution sites on board if this product is going to see the light of day in-market.

Future Visions: Web interactivity is only the beginning.  As out living room media experiences become more connected via iTV, Digital Cable, IPTV, Gaming Consoles, Media Extenders, DVRs and more, the interactivity of the web will merge with the simplicity of the living room media experience. 

I've been hearing more and more about "The 10 Foot Interaction".  Our media experiences will evolve.  We will interact from our couch, just not from a traditional mouse or keyboard.  It is going to be up to platform providers like Permission TV to build out tomorrow's web experiences today, and to begin thinking two steps ahead towards the living rooms experiences of the 2010s, real soon.

The web was only the beginning.

why is the record industry still chasing waterfalls?

Broken_record Here's an idea!

Never move forward.  Never adapt.  Fight progress.  And above all else SUE EVERYONE who tries to adapt your offering to their needs.

You wouldn't think this business would be worth billions...  but the music industry is.

Sure, they got past Napster and got on board with web 2.0 (more or less).  But they're still stuck in a RECORD industry world. Today's youth and tomorrow's masses aren't about buying the hottest new record and having friends over just to listen to it.  We want to EXPERIENCE it.

Today's user is looking for EXPERIENCES, not just passive music.

When are we going to see audio tracks bundled with Guitar Hero or Rock Band extras? 
When are we going to see the music industry INNOVATE? 

Rather than begrudgingly following users from CDs to MP3s to DRM-Free MP3s, why couldn't the music industry LEAD us into the future rather than chasing long gone waterfalls?

innovation in an ROI driven world

Innovation_connection Over the past year I've encountered dozens of solutions, technologies, sales vendors, advertisers, marketers and futurists, all claiming to embody a single phrase - innovative. Yet to be totally honest, I haven't seen all that much that really blew my mind.  Is this because innovation has been stifled by realism, near term ROI concerns, a lack of vision, or is this a symptom of something greater?

Everyone claims to be pushing ahead, innovating, bringing forth new solutions that are "groundbreaking".

But most of what I've seen looks like everything I've been seeing for the past 5 years, just ported into a new channel.

As I see it, there are two types of innovation:
A) Incremental Innovation
B) Disruptive Innovation

Incremental Innovation is where much of the business world feels most comfortable.  This type of innovation is often referred to as, "the lowest hanging fruit".  This is innovation that takes a process or a concept that is already established and familiar, and builds on it.  It's not about reinventing the wheel, but adding a new feature to the wheel, making them somehow incrementally better.  Think of mobile OLA: it's nearly identical to regular OLA, just on a phone.  It's innovative,  but not yet a game changer.  Nearly all of the innovation I have seen over the past year falls into this bucket.

Disruptive Innovation is far more difficult that incremental innovation, yet the payout is far greater.  Disruptive Innovators are game changers.  They reinvent the wheel.  They are visionaries and big thinkers.  Disruptive Innovation is both risky and difficult, yet the end game payout is tremendous.  Think Facebook and social connections, the iPhone and user experience design and pervasive digital connectivity, Gigya and the widget, YouTube and UGC, Twitter and instant messaging, or BitTorrent and content distribution.  Without these innovators, 2008 would be a markedly different.

Key Takeaway: Most of us are putting the finishing touches on our '07 business and beginning to plan for '08.  If you don't have an innovation strategy or an innovation roadmap already in the books, it's time to do  so.   You won't be successful tomorrow if you don't have a plan for preparing for tomorrow, today. 

Dedicating all of your efforts to incremental innovation may satisfy the bottom line, but won't make you into a category leader.  This is true no matter regardless of the business you're in.  The time to begin planning for the future is now. 

If you've got any questions around innovation planning, PLEASE feel free to reach out to me via email or by commenting on this blog.  Karl Long just posted a great piece around the challenges and costs of getting innovation in-market.  If you'd like to learn more about innovation in business, check out any of the many fantastic blogs in reading list to the left of this post. 

Thanks for reading and as always, looking forward to your comments!

shouldn't new media = new marketing?

Warning: this is a long one, but I think a good one.

Take a minute and think about how brands are activating in new media.  They are placing banners, building microsites, building mini-microsites in the form of widgets, they are placing pre roll, post roll and interstitials. The "savvy" brands are having conversations.   This seems to be as far as we've gotten.  This is sad.  Putting traditional media practices into a new media environment is the equivalent of placing a print ad on the television. You may be communicating a message, but you're missing out on the essence of the platform!  So why are we stuck in this innovation rut?

Because our industry is overwhelmed.  Our current industry structure is not suited to holistic new media activation.  In the interest of efficiency we all to often go after "the lowest hanging fruit". Rather than thinking about new media solutions for everything they can be, we're looking at everything we already have in the can (be it assets, messaging or marketing know-how) and porting it over into the new digital realm.

It has been a long time since I saw anything truly new in media.  Call it a rut, call it a slump, call it maturation, but there really isn't all that much blowing my mind lately.  Crayon did some cool stuff in Second Life, but I feel like this was just a first step in next gen social activation.  I'm hungry for more.

Digital Media is revolutionizing the way we interact, they way we humanize, the way we live.  Marketing is changing.  But I'm still waiting for the next innovation, the next messaging oriented communicative step the ad world will take.  I'm not talking about embedding interactivity or clickability in video, I'm talking about a fundamental change that rips through the entire marketing engine at major corporations.  I'm talking about an overhaul of everything, from the content delivery to the end user experience.  I'm talking about FREE ad supported itunes AND NBC content streaming directly to my television.  I'm talking about an end to the fluff that is buzzwords and a shift towards substance.

I've had enough of hearing about streaming HD when we really mean streaming in HQ (because our computer screens aren't HD!).  I'm talking about a Zune 2 dock that allows me to sync my Zune2 with my DVR AND use the wireless connectivity in the Zune to stream internet content to my TV - all brought to you as an add on by a brand (Microsoft, are you reading this?).  I'm talking about holistic solutions that work.  I'm talking about ads that target users by cross-pltform behavior, not by an invading of private user interactions and conversations.

Traditional media is going to take a dive in 2009.  When the spike of the Olympics and the Presidential Race are over, there will be enormous amounts of ad revenue available for digital media.  The time to begin building out a holistic digital solution is now. It's time to stop thinking about interrupting and start thinking about living.  It's time to stop selling and start delivering.  It's time to take everything we know about sociology, psychology, ethnography, user behavior, marketing, advertising, messaging, creativity, business development, research, analytics, reporting and experience design, and build out solutions that work.

New Media isn't about eyeballs, it isn't about impressions, it's about meaning.  Seth Godin always says that he doesn't want sponsors, he wants attention.  He drives attention by delivering value that WE need.  If you build out a solid consumer solution, the creative monetization solution should eventually follow. 

There is so much that we can do as an industry. 

Let's stop activating against yesterday's users and starting thinking about what we can do tomorrow.

ad agency futures in a white spaceless world

Digital media eliminated much of the white space once known as ad inventory. Some have tried to generate additional "artificial" white space by creating interstitials and spill-over ad units, but at the end of the day even the most compelling message running in these spots is an unwanted obtrusion in the digital media user experience.

Ad_man_2 So what's an ad man to do?

We evolve, we grow, we build out newer and better capabilities.  We become marketers, we become promoters, we become biz dev specialists, we become experience designers, we become public relations-esque community oriented social engineers.  We become everything beyond ad men and advertising.  As for the advertising - we'll do that too!

In this world of cross-capability mastery, what does the agency of the future look like?  Will it be a dynamic mesh of disparate capabilities or a series of departments and silos with cross-silo communications?  I would like to think that successful agencies will operate as a series of capability and specialty hubs with a strong focus on inter hub communications both within the agency and with the client marketing and communications teams.  There is no room for walls and lines in a digital world.  Future agency success won't be measured in units displayed or gross impressions, but the quality and cross-channel consistency of interactions.

This may seem like idle chatter, but if you think about the changing dynamic of the linear and digital ad worlds, we need to lend some serious thought to building a successful scalable structure.

Ad Agencies will no longer be creative shops or buying shops, rather they will be Consumer Communications Marketers.  As we shift away from white space or interruptive advertising and into a content and user experience centric model, we need to rethink everything we know about media operations and agency structure.  The future does not herald the death of the ad agency, rather it will see an evolution bringing new dynamics and capabilities to brands, publishers, platforms and users.  And ALL of us, be it as marketers, agency people, technologists or media consumers will be along for the ride.