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Archive for November 19th, 2007

How Do We Say, “I Have No Friggin’ Idea”, And Still Sound Smart?

Posted by Bob Warfield on November 19, 2007

Evidently the 5 big questions some marketing types have about Social Computing are:

  1. Does it integrate with our existing marketing strategy?
  2. Does it build our brand?
  3. Does it drive profitable business results?
  4. Can we measure it?
  5. Will it scale?

Am I the only one that read that and felt like if those were the best questions one could ask clearly it meant someone had no idea what they were dealing with?  You hear this kind of well-intentioned hand wringing from stodgy CxO types all the time.  These are the moral equivalent of presenting the CEO with the next great business idea and hearing him come back with, “But will it make us money?”  He doesn’t care to understand the idea, only it’s consequences.  But do you ever really understand the consequences if you don’t understand the idea?  This is the sound of water running like the Niagara Falls through the Chasm.  It’s loud, and it’s scary.  There is a lot of violence in the Chasm.  Crossing the Chasm is usually presented as a problem for the entrepreneur, but there is a different Chasm.  The one I’m speaking of here is even scarier.  It is the Old School failing to keep up with powerful new disruptive forces.  It is the use of the Chasm as a competitive weapon where those on the right side of it have huge competitive advantage over those who are afraid to cross.

If companies can’t depend on their marketing to boldly explore the other side of any disruptive Chasm, who can they count on?  Instead of those bland 5 questions, how about asking these:

1. How should we be changing our existing marketing strategy to deal with an increasingly Web 2.0 world?  What is the competition doing with these new channels and what are the dangers they’ll steal an important advantage on us?  Do we have the right people and talent on board to even understand how to proceed? 

2. How do we leverage Social Computing to build brand?  How has brand building fundamentally changed while we’ve stuck to our traditonal knitting?  How did Google and Facebook get ahead of us so quickly with their brands?  Do we understand viral branding on the web? 

3.  How can we shift marketing from tired old channels to new strategies and save money to increase profitability?  Why are we spending so much money on old style marketing that is hard to measure and hard to associate with real business results.

4.  Now that we can measure what’s happening with programs on the web, how do we use those measurements to drive results?

5.  How fast can we scale our own understanding and expertise in these new messaging channels to get ahead of our competition without getting bogged down on execution?

Beware the Chasm.  It cuts both ways.

Posted in saas | 4 Comments »

Kindle: Big Money if Amazon Gets it Right

Posted by Bob Warfield on November 19, 2007

As you must have heard, Amazon is reinventing the book with an electronic device called the Kindle.  I want one.  Why?  Because a lot of my books are throwaways: cheap paperback novels.  I was at Borders the other night and couldn’t remember all of my current favorite paperback fiction author’s names nor exactly which of their books I’d purchased.  I would love to have Kindle and get it to add value.  Why not a Kindle book of the month club?  I could use a few new authors and Amazon is great at analyzing recommendations based on past preferences.  Why not let Kindle remember which books I already own?  Hopefully it will even understand which wood pulp editions I’ve bought so I don’t duplicate a paperback.

My initial reaction to Kindle was worry about the display quality and usability.  This is where they have a chance to really fall down.  I was impressed to see they’re using some pretty fancy e-ink technology there, but I’ll have to see one.  Eventually, I concluded it doesn’t matter for the kinds of books I’m likely to read with it.  You understand the kind of books I’m talking about here, right?  Spenser for Hire?  Tom Clancy?  Michael Crichton?  These are books that are consumed and discarded.  I often go through one in a single evening.  I tried keeping them, only to discover that I can’t reread them.  I can pick one up I bought many years ago: 10 or 15 years or more for an old Robert Ludlum.  I may get a few pages into it, but suddenly the whole thing pops into my head and I remember it.  These books are disposable to me.  For this kind of reading, the display needs to be contrasty and legible, but there is no color.  I want to be able to see it in bright sunlight by the pool or beach in Hawaii, but I don’t need to render coffee table book-quality photos.

The form factor is ideal for travel too.  We recently took the kids on a Med Cruise, and the stack of books my wife and I dragged along was ridiculous.  We read every single one, wished we had more, and abandoned half of them in the stateroom when the cruise was over.  With Kindle, it’s easy to pick up more books along the way.  They weigh absolutely nothing after all. 

Now I’m wondering if I’ll have to bring my laptop as well based on how much laptop functionality Kindle can provide.  Strangely, nobody is asking whether it can do MP3’s.   Huh?  I can buy CD’s at bookstores.  Might I not want a little music while reading?  Ryan Stewart wants to know why it doesn’t do PDF’s.  Good question.  It will be great to read blogs on Kindle, although wow, the fees for the blogs seem ridiculous.  99 cents to 1.99 a month per blog and I read 171 blogs as of this writing.  Mathew Ingram is right when he says, “Pay to read blogs? WTF?”  The economics make no sense for that, and I’ll have to bring along a laptop or perhaps an iTouch/iPhone for the blogs and MP-3’s. 

E-mail is another thing I might wish Kindle could do, but pretty soon I’ll have a full tablet PC.  Maybe Apple’s rumored device will steal Kindle’s thunder before it ever gets rolling too fast, much as devices like the Nomad MP3 player (I had one and loved it) got crunched by iPod.  This can happen when so many people are calling Kindle UglyBubblegeneration says:

As a product, Kindle’s no great shakes. It doesn’t have the disruptive value proposition that an iPod or iPhone did – in functional, aesthetic, or emotional terms. Yes, the screen is nice. But the storage is weak, and the aesthetics are…awful.

Functional, aesthetic, and emotion terms are important for a sexy potential Christmas gift.  Never underestimate the power of Apple’s Uber-coolness.

The economics of reading blogs on Kindle says a little about why I think this is Big Money if Amazon gets it right.  Consider my beloved paperbacks.  $9.95 a pop.  I’m guessing there may eventually be a premium for novels still in hard cover so as not to dilute those sales.  A brand new copy of Robert Parker’s “Million Dollar Baby” costs (drumroll please) $9.95 plus shipping and handling.  With Kindle, I pay the same money.  But, and this is a big but, Amazon paid very little.  They’re selling bits now, baby.  Just bits and no wood pulp.  Authors get 15% or so.  Publishers will have negotiated with Amazon.  It’ll be interesting to see how those economics play out, but I can’t see why this ends differently than it has for the record industry.  Kindle is disintermediating many aspects of publishing, though certainly not all. 

The bottom line is that Amazon could wind up with a bigger piece of the overall pie for a book sale.  Moreover, they have a mechanism that can much more effectively drive further revenue by signing you up for grander programs.  How about the Spenser for Hire book club?  Amazon will buy every novel Parker publishes and I’ll have it on my Kindle before I even knew it was out.  And what does Kindle do to ordinary bookstores?  How much of their revenue comes from these paperbacks?  Are they relegated to the high end ghetto of coffee table and other such books that aren’t satisfying on Kindle?

Still more questions than answers.  Amazon has a lot of work here to realize the promise, but I want a Kindle!

Posted in Web 2.0 | 15 Comments »

Web Familiarity Breeds Contempt?

Posted by Bob Warfield on November 19, 2007

Fred Wilson writes a cautionary tale of Techmeme.  He’s watched his own and other blogs written by individuals fall off Techmeme to have their place taken by professional news services and other aggregators.  He has some concern that part of it may be his writing isn’t as interesting as it was when it was on the Techmeme leaderboard, but he also sees that he is not the only one to fall off.  There are just a few individuals left: Nick Carr, Scoble, and Mathew Ingram. 

Those three, incidentally, are great bloggers, but they are really one man aggregators more so than essayists on things genuinely new.  Nick picks up most of the memes that buzz around Techmeme and works his own inimitable style of wry humor into writings about them.  Scoble is a one man aggregator reading 800 or 1000 different blogs and blasting out content about them.  Not so much as he was a year ago, he seems more focused on videos these days.  And Mathew is also in a similar category.

I think the real problem is that Fred is missing something, some essential juice or vitality that used to be out in the blogosphere that services like Techmeme homogenize right out.  As I’ve mentioned in the past, I subcribe to Techmeme, but I read it last.  I’ve pruned most of my feeds so that if all they’re doing is parroting Techmeme, I don’t continue to subscribe.  I read Techmeme last because it tells me whether my intuitions about what’s interesting match the world at large as depicted by Techmeme.  On rare occasions, I get to read something new on Techmeme that I hadn’t seen or suspected from the rest of my blogs.  That’s when I get excited about something there, otherwise it’s just more of the same and I spend very little time with it.

The feed pruning I mentioned freed up valuable slots for me to read more innovative posts that don’t make it onto Techmeme much.  That’s a good thing for what I want to get out of the blogosphere which is creative stimulation and awareness.  I can only keep up with 150 to 175 blogs in the time I’m willing to alot, so the more concentrated is their fire, the happier I am.  No time to read the same stories over and over again, and no point to it either.  If I write about one of those same stories myself, I always do a blog search and go read all that’s out there so I don’t miss a perspective.  Otherwise, I’m on the lookout for new things.

All of this blogging behaviour, the trend towards homogeneity, is something I’ve written about before.  The Internet is nothing more than an evolutionary system, and it experiences periods of punctuated equilibrium.  There is a line, the expanding wavefront of memes.  On one side of the line things are homogenized.  Across that line are the blog aggregators:  Techmeme and all the rest.  On the other side are idea originatiors.  I want to surf that ragged edge and avoid the conformity because that’s where the real juice is.  The closer to the line you go without crossing into aggregator space, the more you’re witnessing the birth of significant new ideas on the Internet.  That’s what the blogosphere is all about.  Anything else and I’ll just read a newspaper.

Posted in strategy, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments »

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