Posts Tagged ‘Twitter’

The Dissolving Hearst Sand Castle vs. the Melting Zuckerberg

April 27, 2009

 

sandcastle2Old media is in trouble, there’s no doubt about it.  Newspapers are closing, magazines are getting thinner and thinner, even local television news stations are in decline. 

iceberg3But what about new media?  Are YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, et al., in any better shape?

Not that I can see.

According to a recent AdAge article, Credit Suisse has reported YouTube’s estimated 2009 losses “at nearly half a billion dollars – thanks to ever-escalating bandwidth costs and nowhere near enough advertising support to pay the bills,” leaving the author to conclude that Google (owner of YouTube) can’t afford more Susan Boyles!

Regarding Twitter, is their exponential growth celebratory or has it metastasized?  How will tweets survive when escalating costs on zero revenue is unsustainable over time?

And what about Mark Zuckerberg’s melting valuation?  Facebook has experimented with several business models, and yet there is still no sustainable revenue and no IPO in sight.  

Which is worse: the shifting sands of failure eroding Old Media or the overheated success melting New Media?

Seems to me that all media must transform, that nothing is inevitable at this point, and that time is running out.  For both sides.

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What this Cartoon can Teach the FriendFeed Team.

April 7, 2009

argylesweater10

I’ve been involved in the cartoon world more or less since 1995.  As I’ve stated before, I think lessons learned there can often translate into the tech world.

This gag is from a comic feature called Argyle Sweater, which was recently picked up for syndication by Universal Press.  Not to dismiss the creator Scott Hilburn and his work, but the comic panel is an obvious derivative of Gary Larson’s The Far Side.  (Btw, the gag shown here clearly needs editing…this was created before the UPS contract.)

Here’s the thing about comic strips and panels: you must be first at captivating the public with a winning concept or you’ll always be an also-ran, a “poor man’s Bugs Bunny,” a “no-hoper”– EVEN IF YOUR PRODUCT IS BETTER!

Another good example of this is Scott Adam’s Dilbert.  After Dilbert became a blockbuster in 1996, many a comic feature about cubicle-dwelling tech guys made it to the ponder piles of syndicates and newspapers, but none of them was ever picked up, even the one or two that were better than Dilbert has become.

The only reason Argyle Sweater in now able to be syndicated at all is because it’s been over 14 years since The Far Side ended, so there is a new generation of readers.  And even at that, Argyle can never hope to come close to the success of its predecessor.

The point here is obvious.  FriendFeed isn’t going to come close to Twitter’s success, even though it’s a better product.  Lot’s of people have been saying that Michael Arrington is arrogant (what else is new?! J ) for writing FriendFeed is in Danger of Becoming the Coolest App No One Uses, but Arrington is right. 

Robert Scoble good-naturedly jabbed Arrington for saying that “no one is using FriendFeed,” but that misses the point that no matter how many people use FriendFeed at this point, the window is closed.  It’s too late.  FF and Twitter could have competed head to head if this new UI had been released a year ago, but Twitter has sense become a blockbuster.  It’s Dilbert.  It’s The Far Side. 

Twitter is the product that has won the public’s imagination.  It’s too late for FriendFeed.

And for all those who say “But FriendFeed isn’t a competitor!  FriendFeed is different!”  Yeah right.  Just the way Argyle Sweater is different.  Just the way all those cloned Calvin and Hobbes strips submitted to my online cartoon syndicate were different.  “But it’s a bear, not a tiger!” 

SIGH  I have known cartoonists who have wasted YEARS arguing that their comic is different.

Use FriendFeed and enjoy it!   I do.  And read Argyle Sweater if you like it.  (I don’t, sorry.)  But let’s not delude ourselves.  The only way FriendFeed has a shot is to do something spectacularly bold and different, such as using the technology to become something else entirely.  My advice to the FriendFeed team (yeah, right…as if they’d listen, but what the hey): Take your skills and start over with a new product in a daring way.  That could work, and there are still original ideas to develop, just like there are original cartoon concepts.  It’s just harder now. 

This new UI, as good as it is, isn’t going to cut it.  And I hate to see talented people waste their time.  Start fresh.  Go back to the drawing board.  Take your tremendous skills and try again.  Don’t be yet another frustrated creator stubbornly stuck on a no-win concept.

When are Tweets Worth Paying for? And how much money would YOU make?

February 28, 2009

Dawn’s Plan is about making money from your social media activity, whether or not you have a blog.  And with some of this money, you could pay for content to enhance your own offerings (like running a comic strip on your feed) or just for your own enjoyment (like downloading songs or utility apps).

So nobody would have to put in money via a credit card or Paypal or whatever.   The system itself would allow you to earn money and spend money for digital content.  It would be its own economy.  The “digital economy” that people have long anticipated but that has never materialized in any meaningful way, except for Apple and a few others.

Most people would make money via advertising.  That is, they would choose ads that they would like to run on appropriate pages they create.   And as their friends, family and followers engage with the ads, they would earn money.

And then some people would also make more money via other digital content they create, like for cartoons, apps, songs, poems, stories and so on.

But what about somebody like Karl Rove, who is now on Twitter?  Somehow I can’t picture him picking out ads to run next to his tweets.  And maybe you wouldn’t want to do that either.

If songs and apps are worth paying for (and iTunes prove they are), then under what conditions would somebody’s stream (like a FriendFeed or Twitter feed) be worth paying for?

Personally, I’d be willing to pay up to $.25 cents a month for the following feeds (again, out of the money I’m earning via the system, so it’s not coming out of my job’s pocket).

1.      Someone who collects the best information there is about X subject on an ongoing basis.

2.      An interesting inside look into a job or position I’m interested in.  So if my goal in life is to become a cameraman in Hollywood, then I would pay a cameraman in Hollywood to tweet what he does during the day.

3.      Instructional knowledge, like a blacksmith who can tweet (along with photos and maybe videos) how he makes knives.

4.      Vicarious support for something I’m going through, like a woman could chronicle her weight loss progress and feed me tips and motivation.

5.      The “first look” at art and entertainment by some favorite creators – like cartoonists, photographers, animators, etc. – with personal commentary, behind the scenes photos, etc.

6.      Collections for charity – like celebrities Twittering their lives and giving the proceeds to save dolphins, or whatever.

 

If you had 5,000 followers and earned 80% of the $.25 each month, that’s $12,000 a year in earnings.  Not bad.

How would that compare to making money off of advertising?  Again, let’s say you have 5,000 followers. If you put out 3 posts a day (long, short, whatever) with three very targeted “offers and invitations” attached, and the average “engagement rate” to each one pays you $.05 (a conservative estimate) , and 2% of your readers engages with just one of the ads per post (since these ads would be relevant to their lives and most likely entertaining) , that would earn you $5,475 in one year.

Of course, when it comes to advertising, the things you write about and the people you attract would impact your earnings.  Some people won’t pay attention to that and just naturally talk to their friends, family and co-workers, come what may.  Others will see this as a business opportunity and put more thought into it.

The one thing that everybody will have to stick to if they want to be successful, is to only promote the products and services that they actually use and are willing to legitimately endorse.  We each have an average of 150 brands we are loyal to that satisfy 80% of our daily needs.  So most of the ads would be offers and invitations regarding these, as well as our favorite places to dine locally, etc.

So is this crass commercialism that will destroy our enjoyment of social media?  Yeah, some people will think so, but I don’t.  I believe most people will see this as a service.  The truth of the matter is, if our purchasing is guided by people we trust , then we won’t waste so much of our money.   And if we are in control of ad distribution, then advertisers will have to be more accountable to their customers.  Money won’t be enough to distribute ads.  Companies will also need goodwill.  And good ads!  No more sitting through poor, irritating commercials.

Besides, each person can override the “display the highest paying ad” system (similar to AdSense) and decide to distribute an ad no matter what the owner can afford.  This ensures that small companies will have as much access to the market as giant corporations.  Very cool.

My plan gives control of advertising to users, and also lets users own and control their social graph and be compensated for its use.  If that’s “commercial,” then good.  For two hundred thousand years social networks were also economic networks, and they should rightfully be so again.  If everybody participates on an equal playing field, then there is nothing crass about it. 

Personally, I think Facebook and others who throw ads in our faces that are irrelevant and intrusive (and on our own pages that we’ve created!) so that they can become billionaires is what’s crass.

We need a true, functioning digital economy so that people around the globe can earn money with little environmental impact, even those in poor countries with few natural resources.  My plan allows the world to “drill, drill, drill” human talent, an infinite resource.  It also ensures we can regrow the economy from the bottom up by injecting trust and confidence back into consumerism. 

Would you rather work in a factory or create your own works?  Would you rather buy something that will sit on a table collecting dust until its sent to a landfill someday, or would you rather buy something that entertains, enlightens and/instructs?

During this recession that could potentially move into a prolonged depression, do you want to help the individuals and companies you care about survive?

If you think keeping the status quo is worth destroying all these benefits, then I hope you’ll make your case in the comments.

Follow People? Follow Topics? Why not Both at the Same Time?

February 26, 2009

There’s been growing controversy lately about following people on Twitter – debate on why, who, when, how many, etcLouis Gray suggests that it’s topics, not people, that we really want to follow.   I think it’s both.  

How do we know people in the real world?  It’s by the roles that we play: Mom, churchgoer, PTA member, etc.; but it’s also by the interests we have:  blacksmithing, motorcycles, photography, and so on.

What social networks need to do, IMO, is break people down by their “hats” like Marine Mom, Movie Lover, Social Media Watcher, CEO, and so on.  Then instead of following a whole person, you can pick and choose which of their hats you want to follow and then designate which hat you are wearing as you do so.

1) Take Robert Scoble as an example.  Robert and I don’t agree on politics and we’ve clashed because of it.  I’d like to follow Robert’s “tech evangelist” hat, but I don’t want to follow his political hat.  Robert could slice himself down into the different persons he is:  Father, Silicon Valley Resident, Videographer, Photographer, whatever, and then I could pick and choose which Roberts I want to follow.  This takes out all the noise and offensive stuff I don’t want.

2) So instead of tagging every post to make it searchable, the writer simply has to state which hat she’s writing under. 

3) The system could easily keep track of the urls that people are exchanging and aggregate the pieces talked about most often by hat so that popular stuff is never missed.  There could also be a digg-like ranking.  This “group push method” decreases the need to follow so many individual people.

4) Since I would tell the system which hat I’m wearing as I follow somebody’s else’s hat, that person will know what it is I am expecting or wanting from him.  For example, right now Robert is just Scobleizer.    He doesn’t know why different people are following him.  But if people signed up for his feed under their hats, he could get a much better sense of who his readers are.  Maybe some are CEOs, some are IT guys, some are geek-curious…  The first tenet of writing is to know who your audience is.  A breakdown of hats by percentage is a heck of a lot more meaningful than the current blind lists of strange faces we now get.

5) With Twitter (or whatever social network it is) getting thin sliced into varied hats, it would be very easy to find people you want to talk to.  For example, I’m a dog lover.  I could read the dog lover feed which would blast every dog lover’s post, but from that I could select individuals I wish to follow, in order to get it down to a manageable size, customized just for me.  The way I would design this is to have a +1 and -1 ranking, so that when I see something I like, I give it a +1 and when I see something I don’t like, I give it a -1.  The system itself would keep track of who I like best and I would automatically start following those people I respond well to, with the others falling off.  Of course, I could also choose outright to follow certain people and block others.  (Wouldn’t it be interesting if everybody’s Twitter or FriendFeed posts were blind and you started sorting people by +1’s and -1’s according to what they write?  Do you think you’d end up following the same people you are following now?)

6) At some point, hats could be subcategorized so that I could still be “dog lover” but also “boxer owner” as a subcategory.  And hats could be cross-checked.  So if I choose to have a “Hillsboro, OR resident” hat,  too, another boxer owner in the area could easily find me and we could make a play date at the dog park.

7) With this system, there is no pressure to follow particular people.  I myself think it would be better if people could choose to make it blind or not.  Personally, I don’t think it’s anybody’s business who I follow and who is following me.

8 ) Of course, all this thin slicing sets the table for very targeted ads (even local ads!!) so a strong monetization plan is readymade.  Of course, as I’ve written about many times on this blog, I think that advertising should be turned over to users, so that you pick and choose which ads to promote (if any), and you get compensated.   This way, you don’t have to keep a blog to make money from all your interaction.

9) Besides hats, social networks should be divided by space, too – Intimate, Private, Social, Public – but that’s another story.

I don’t think Twitter is a fad, but I do believe all this following-orgy is.  That’s why I designed my own ideal social network a different way.  But with this horrible economy, I won’t get funding, and I’d still like to see this implemented.  So maybe somebody else will go for it.  If Twitter did, I’d start using it.  As it is now, it’s worthless to me.  More pain than gain.

At the risk of being a broken record, let me say once again that all of these problems (and more!) could be avoided if technology wasn’t the only thing that VCs and CEOs cared about when designing sites and applications.  It’s SOCIAL media, after all.  Bring in the social scientists and others who understand vital issues besides coding, and the Web will be a much better, more efficient and more peaceful place.  Not to mention a whole lot healthier financially, too.

Friend Limit Frustration Exposes Tech World’s Weakness in Social Science

February 15, 2009

Debate about friend limits has once again erupted, this time started by Louis Gray on FriendFeed. 

This is yet another great example of the problems that have been caused because social networks are created by tech guys who know little to nothing about social science.

Out of all the different social networks that have been launched, not a single one is architected to the way human beings naturally function. 

Here’s a tip guys: divide online space the way we all divide our offline space, into Intimate, Private, Social and Public. 

This hell-bent desire to dump sales and promotional activity into SOCIAL space is exactly why none of the current social networks will make it to the IPO finish line.  Advertising and PR should be a part of PUBLIC space.  Obviously, Facebook et al don’t know the difference.

Of course, I’ve been saying this for over two years to Robert Scoble and other thought leaders in the tech world, even to the creators of Twitter and FriendFeed directly, but nobody has yet aligned social networks to the realites of social science.  Design anthropology isn’t something Silicon Valley has shown any willingness to even listen to, much less submit to, much less invest in.   So I won’t hold my breath that these frustrated arguments caused by anti-human-nature design will cease any time soon.

The Web Needs a For-Profit Consortium

February 5, 2009

Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed… they are all going to fail and go away if the Web isn’t made economically sustainable.  Each thinks they can independently find their own path to riches.  It’s highly unlikely that this will happen.  And it’s unlikely your Web startup will make money either.  Why?  Because the underlying Web culture and potential economics models are misaligned.

Yesterday, I proposed creating a for-profit consortium to realign the way the Web works so that

1.      online non-search advertising finally works so that it can generate the wealth needed to sustain Web 2.0

2.      individuals can earn money online expressing their talents and passions

These two things will create numerous gains, including improving the economy, the environment, world understanding, our individual wallets….  I will be outlining the many benefits my last “Part 3” post soon.

I expected at least some positive response to my article yesterday even though it was long (sorry, but the problems are complex…I’ve tried to make the solution as simply expressed as possible).  All I got back was a couple of “What the hell is a for-profit consortium?” pokes.

Okay, that’s fair.  They’re very rare, after all.  Here’s an official definition of Consortium:

A group made up of two or more individuals, companies or governments that work together toward achieving a chosen objective. Each entity within the consortium is only responsible to the group in respect to the obligations that are set out in the consortium’s contract. Therefore, every entity that is under the consortium remains independent in his or her normal business operations and has no say over another member’s operations that are not related to the consortium.

Consortiums are often used within the non-profit sector, specifically with educational institutions. They often pool resources such as libraries and professors and share them among the members of the group. Several groups of North American colleges and universities operate under consortiums.

For-profit consortiums also exist, but they are less prevalent. One of the most famous for-profit consortiums is the airline manufacturer Airbus.

For the purposes that I’ve outlined, our “Square Triangle Consortium” would be made up of existing companies or startups in the tech space, and preferably some input from established media, too.  We would negotiate how much each participant’s relative contribution is worth, create stock and then divide the stock accordingly.

The purpose of the consortium is to turn the economic quagmire of Web 2.0 in a hotbed for economic growth that will explode out to many sectors, benefiting everybody who is dependent on adverting – be is companies with something to sell or media.

Okay, so if you think of Web 2.0 as largely a bunch of different companies floundering around in search of sustainable business models, then what our consortium will do is align all stake holders’ interests – social network users, advertisers, developers, investors, media – so that ultimately each company can do its own thing. 

Our goal is to make technology, advertising, media and entertainment work together again.  The Internet broke a lot of the synergies between these sectors and we must get them back.

Okay, so I know my posts are a lot to absorb.  But I’m right about this.  I hope people will start taking a bit of time to understand what I’m saying and react to it, even if it’s negatively.  I’m sure there are flaws in my plans that I haven’t recognized.  That’s why we need a lot of divergent brains to come together and act for the Web’s common economic good.

There is much at stake here, Folks!  Finding economic success for Web 2.0 is not just about making VCs happy.  It’s about making sure social media survive and grow into Web 3.0 and 4.0 and on and on.