SmoothSpan Blog

For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Archive for September 28th, 2007

Memo to Doc Searles: Why Not Pay For The No Advertising Nirvana?

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 28, 2007

Searles asks, “Why do we continue to take advertising for granted as the primary source of the the Bux DeLuxe required to fund technical, social and personal progress?”

It’s a good question.  ZDNet says its about shifting control from the sell side to the consumer “buy” side.  I have a more radical proposal.  I want to compete with advertisers for my own attention span.  Why can’t I pay the media to leave the advertising out?

Given the web is the medium, it is almost trivial for the owners of the media to publish two versions.  One would be advertising supported, but if you pay the amount your eyeballs are worth, you can have the media advertising free.  Wouldn’t that be nirvana? 

It’s not even very expensive when you do the math.  Using some of the math from Andrew Chen’s recent post on monetizing social networks, the cost for clickthroughs on Facebook is about $4 per thousand clickthroughs.  Now a clickthrough is a gold standard, and there is no way I’m going to do 1,000 clickthroughs if I’m paying not to see any ads, but work with me a moment people!

If I were the best possible ad consumer, how many clickthroughs might I do in a month on a service like Facebook or even Google?  It isn’t a thousand, no way.  Is it 100?  I think that’s generous, but that means it should cost me about 40 cents to escape ads entirely in Facebook.  They have something like 39 million users.  Let’s say 20% opted for no ads at $1 a month.  That gets us to the round number of $7.8M a month or $93M and change in annual revenue they’d take in from the program. 

Now they’ve only sold off 20% of their ad inventory, and they’ve sold the least desireable inventory at a premium price!  By that I mean they’re getting the equivalent dollars of a ton of clickthroughs from a group of people who are voting with their pocket book that they hate ads.  How can that not be a good thing?  Well, my guess is it would scare the heck out of advertisers.  I mean, in any con, consorting with the mark is general bad play.  But the smart advertisers will figure out that they were never going to reach those folks anyway.

How about it folks, would you pay to not see advertising?  Tell me what you think on my PollDaddy poll by clicking here.

Related Articles

Someone else proposing Facebook should let people pay to opt out of ads.

Stop the Advertising, Please!  IBM can quantify how this will turn out.

Make Publishing Plastic:  Remixing magazine content and ads.  But why mix the ads back in?!??

Posted in Marketing, strategy, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments »

Is The Newspaper Model Useless For Blogs?

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 28, 2007

Jeff Jarvis over on BuzzMachine doesn’t like the idea of newspaper blogs:

I mostly find posts via links from trusted peers or through RSS subscriptions. Blogs spread not because they reside on huge sites but because they have relationships with people, because the are viral.  And the way to be viral is to live at the same level as other linkers: blog to blog, brand to brand, person to person.

This piece I wholeheartedly do not agree with.  Yes, newspapers presently have a really screwed up delivery of blogs.  They are bolted on as afterthoughts, you have to dig down through to many levels to get to one, yada, yada.  All those things Jeff says are right.

But consider what’s right about the idealized notion of a paper and forget the poor packaging of today.  Why do people like the Times or the WSJ?  Because of editors.  Editors have selected writers and articles that convey the conceptual integrity that is the “flavor” of the Times or the WSJ.  That’s a value added we should be able to respect.  That’s right inline from Jeff’s finding of posts “via links from trusted peers”.  The trusted peers are just Jeff’s exercise of his own editorial discretion about who he likes to read and why.  Is it so hard to think that we could have someone else do a sufficiently good job of making some of the same choices that it wouldn’t be a value add?  I don’t think so.

In fact, this kind of value choice I will argue is something many are craving.  Why?  Because being your own editor is too hard.  It’s too time consuming.  Your only aid if you take this to its logical conclusion is Google, and it’s not enough because the Web is too vast and you may not know the right question to ask Google.  So we rely on others to help us find things.  We rely on experts who we trust, or whose opinion and style we at least have agreed with in the past.  You know it’s true.  Rabid blog readers love to discover the treasure trove of a new blog that speaks their language.  There are many web properties founded on the “birds of a feather” idea.  Social networks, social bookmarking, and others are all based on the idea that people think alike and if you can only find those who think like you, you will have found a measure of bliss.

What the newspaper does in the ideal world is package up a collection of these blogs and ensure they hang together and continue to speak the same language.  They are simply trying to do this in a systematic and professional way, as a business.  That’s no knock on others: we need all these mechanisms to make sense of the vast cacaphony that is the World Wide Web. 

So maybe Jeff isn’t throwing the baby out with the bath water when he says, “The blogs may be getting more plentiful and they are getting better. But now they’re ready to move out of the house and find homes of their own.”  Maybe it isn’t the blogs that need to move out, but the newspaper’s other dowdy web presences that are just in the way.  Newspapers can still provide a valuable role if they’ll just adjust to the medium and quit trying to reproduce wood pulp with great fidelity.

Posted in strategy, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments »

Apple’s Greatest Strength and Weakness: They Are Control Freaks (aka Beware Proxies for Success)

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 28, 2007

Sometimes a company or individual becomes fixated on a particular idea or process that is “almost right”.  By “almost right” I mean that the idea or process optimizes something that is very close but is not exactly what the world wants optimized.  Growth is an “almost right” for the stock market.  The market really wants earnings, but it will take growth almost forever as a proxy because it knows (or thinks it does) that with enough growth earnings are inevitable.  I call these “almost rights” Proxies for Success.  What is particularly difficult about proxies is they’re generally not seen as such.  Rather, they’re seen as the “reasons for success”.  Cause and effect become confused.  And when the old “reason for success” quits working, or worse, causes problems, then it really gets confusing, and often bitter and confrontational.

Having impeccable taste in user interface and being a total control freak in imposing the resulting vision is Apple’s proxy for Great User Experience.  As we’ve discussed before, the World wants Great User Experience. 

Apple has always had this quality of being total control freaks about their usually brilliant notion of user experience.  It stems from Steve Jobs, and it has infected the culture to an extent that its probably irreversible.  And let’s be clear, we don’t really want to reverse it.  The proxy results in fabulous products time after time when other companies struggle just to release a bit of UI face lift or a new OS that’s way better (Microsoft will be extending the availability of Windows XP in case you were worried).  But let’s also be clear that emphasizing total dictatorial control over a vision for how it should be is only a very near proxy to Great User Experience.  Any time you pursue a proxy rather than the Real Thing, there comes a time of disappointment and perhaps failure.

I’m watching in horror the logical conclusion of that close-minded proxy in action as Apple is systematically bricking iPhones in an attempt to ensure that anyone with the temerity to try to exert a little control outside Apple is soundly flogged.  As Fred Wilson says, “They’ve gone from being the cool company to being the evil company.”

The Times says, “There is something futile about the way Apple appears to be fighting some of its most ardent fans.”  Futility is the ideal word to describe what happens when a proxy goes wrong.  It is futility because the chief protagonists who are employing the proxy believe it is the one true way to success, and they will futily continue to press home their proxy with all their energy until that success comes back.  But since it is only a proxy, the success may not come back.  Futile indeed.

The lawyers are, of course, telling us that Apple is 100% within its rights (forget that this isn’t right).  Lawyers and negotiators employ proxies as a strategic weapon quite consciously and intentionally, so it makes total sense to them.  But then, the Great User Experience has seldom been felt at the hands of a lawyer.

Even if one wanted to agree on some level to support Apple on this, perhaps out of some sense of loyalty to past glories of the proxy, the idea that they’ve only given a week of warning before dropping the bomb is unconscionable.  How many people would’ve already gone too far past the pale to turn back?  Why not make available a “relocking” solution directly from Apple? 

Scoble is quite right to say that Apple has a PR nightmare brewing.  There’s not much more to say on this one, but I would expect the floggings to continue until morale improves.  One does not give up one’s proxy easily.

Posted in business, Marketing, strategy | 5 Comments »

%d bloggers like this: