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Tell the whole world the truth is back November 15, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in intent, work/life.
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3 comments
Doc Searls
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I’ve spent the last couple years talking about intent in various guises. Sometimes related to marketing, sometimes to business, but always, always at the heart of what anyone is doing. It has become an intrinsic part of what I write about, as anyone who has been with me for a little while will attest.

In February 2008 I penned a piece looking at Facebook’s advertising ecosystem (things have changed dramatically since) and referenced a piece by your friend and mine Doc Searls on The Intention Economy. This phrase showed up again in a presentation I did called Digital Strangelove, and I realised just today, after stumbling across Doc referencing that presentation (tremendous honour and incredibly humbling) that despite spending a long time making sure the appropriate references were in place and credits given, I had not tipped my hat to Doc and his original article which clearly made an impression on me.

Thankfully the medium within which we work allows for easy retraction, correction and re-dissemination of correct information – if we choose to take advantage of it. I have updated my deck with a link to Doc’s original piece in the credits, and wanted to take the time to acknowledge the source of that phrase. Additional credit I can only add by stealing from Sir Isaac Newton: if I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.

Thanks Doc.

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New businesses reside in the linked economy November 11, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, creativity, intent, strategy, technology, web 2.0.
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5 comments
Threadless

 

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I spend a lot of time with friends thinking about where tomorrow’s businesses lie, and I’m on the record that great content with good intentions and an open philosophy will be at the heart of the real money-makers in the next decade.

With that in mind, I’ve just read a fascinating post from Mark Ury who is an Experience Architect at Blast Radius. Mark ties together a few loose strands of thinking and comes out with something entirely his own. I particularly love the below principles he borrows from Jeff Jarvis

Can applying “link economy” strategies work for “traditional” companies? Here are Jeff Jarvis’ four principles. And below is a modified version, applied to companies in pursuit of innovation:

1. All companies must be transparent. Your talent base and IP must be exposed and connected. They’re not useable unless they’re linked.

2. The recipient of IP and talent is the party responsible for monetizing them. The more you enable the flow of IP and talent AWAY from you, the more it comes BACK—with greater value and skills to monetize. Just watch how Hollywood operates.

3. A porous organization is the key to efficiency. In other words: do what you do best and link to the rest.

4. There are opportunities to add value atop the IP and talent layer. This is where one can find business opportunities: by managing abundance rather than the old model of managing scarcity. The market needs help finding the good stuff; that curation is a business opportunity.

…which he applies to Threadless during the course of the post…

The result: a business that manages abundance (t-shirt ideas), provides value through transparency (the audience becomes both editor and consumer), and values the flow of IP and talent through them—rather than by them. (Doc Searls calls this kind of value “a shift from “making money with” to “making money because.”)

Great piece. And it contains some links to some other fascinating reads on “the linked economy”. Mark also takes the time to talk about opportunities that exist around monetising the aggregation of information and content, of which Threadless is a prime example (as is Flickr, YouTube, MySpace etc.).

The idea here is this: find the verticles in seemingly well-mined markets, and you will open up doors the rest of us never knew existed.

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Opted In vs. Engaging In May 7, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, digital strategy, marketing.
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I was having a chat this morning with Simon Chen, and those readers who’ve been with me a while know I can’t say enough good things about the man – even if he doesn’t get Twitter yet. One thing we were talking about was having a large email database vs. a smaller database that was actively engaged by your offering.

I was reminded of this while reading Doc Searl’s blog just now, him talking about a piece Chris Anderson (editor at Wired) wrote on recognising a real if untraceable cost that stems from subscription cards placed in magazines:

They fall out of magazines when you pick them up, forcing you to bend over to retrieve them and find a trash can in which to throw them away. This is a real negative cost that hurts our relationship with our readers, but because we can’t measure it directly, it’s an externality and thus mispriced at zero in the economics of the magazine industry.

I find it particularly ironic blogging about this given I’ve just started writing for a magazine which, like most other publications on the planet employs just such a method for adding subscribers. The example Chris gives above is admittedly minor, but flows on to a brilliant presentation from David Armano on micro-interactions.

In his presentation David argues brands have moved from dictating perception to being the sum of their interactions. In other words, you can no longer tell people how to perceive your work, you will be judged on actions and not words.

So what’s the follow on from subscription cards being removed from magazines? Do publishers and editors really think their offering is valid enough to drag people to a news stand once a month? Do they feel the caliber of their contributors (and I’m one of them) is great enough to make that happen?

For a lesson in micro-interactions outside of a marketing space, read this article from Fast Company on the future of TV shows and the branding around them. If there’s anyone who understands micro-interactions, its these guys.

Facebook; advertising heaven or hell? February 26, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, intent, marketing, web 2.0.
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15 comments

I read somewhere recently – I think Seth Godin said it – if you were to set out with the express purpose of creating the worst possible environment online for advertising, you would wind up with something pretty similar to Facebook. I’m not entirely convinced that’s accurate, but I’m also not entirely convinced it isn’t. While you certainly have millions of pairs of eyeballs, what you need is an intention economy:

The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. It leverages the simple fact that buyers are the first source of money, and that they come ready-made. You don’t need advertising to make them.

The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don’t need marketing to make Intention Markets.

The Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don’t have to fly from silo to silo, like a bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase. Simple as that.

Thanks Doc. Let’s look at that for a second. The Intention Economy grows around buyers, not sellers. Ok, so we need buyers. Are people buyers on Facebook? Have you ever purchased anything from it? I haven’t. I’m not in a consumer mindset when I’m there, at least not one that involves me parting with my hard-earned. There’s certainly an argument to say Facebook users are consuming any time they are logged on, but I question the notion that can be monetised; I’m consuming social interactions with my friends, I’m not viewing it as a platform for purchases.

Contrast that though with businesses who are advertising, are they viewing the Facebook ecosystem as a marketplace? I don’t have hard data to back this up but I’m willing to say yes, based on moves a little-known start-up out of Redmond, Washington made last year. Marketers are seeing the numbers and frothing at the mouth to turn that in to revenue. How one does that and even IF one does that aren’t being considered at all.

The Intention Economy apparently comes ready made, it doesn’t require advertising to manufacture it. What would Facebook be without advertising? Aside of course form hundreds of millions of dollars poorer?  Probably much smaller, since it would have had no way to foot the bill for its massive growth, save for taking on more cash from VCs worried about missing the next Google. And if it was much smaller, how many fewer radars would it be on? You lose the Fast Company, Newsweek, Business Week. You are suddenly still collegiate and walled and not innovating at the pace your market capitalization (suggested or otherwise) allows you to. Facebook’s growth is built on the promise of an Intention Economy in spite of the fact all evidence points to the absence of such a thing.

Lets continue: The Intention Economy is about markets, not marketing. You don’t need marketing to make Intention Markets. This again takes us back to the core issue of how people behave when it comes to commercially consumable goods on Facebook. If I have missed the train on this I look forward to finding out, but I don’t see a dip in Amazon’s trading, I don’t hear about slumps in eBay’s number of auctions (not ones that aren’t brought about by their own ineptitude anyway). Contrast this with little known but rapidly growing Etsy, a site built around the trade of goods that are 100% hand-made. Commerce is core in its business model, coupled with a feel-good, natural vibe that is hard to come by online. I don’t want to talk about it too much, suffice to say the service is brilliant and should be visited (right after we finish here).

Etsy doesn’t need to risk disenfranchising its user-base in order to move towards profitability; the inherent small-business nature of its offering allows it to grow organically, improve and expand as it needs to. I was at a wedding recently and a friend was talking about a marketing plan, saying “Give me$20 million and we’ll achieve “x”, $10 million and we’ll achieve “y“, but $5 million and we won’t even get off the ground.” Facebook needs to grow at its current pace in order to achieve its goals, it needs an Intention Economy to be established and fast, lest the rest of the world pick up on the fact that there currently is no profitable business there, at least not on the scale they are currently operating on. Etsy could stay its current size and be a success, and I imagine that’s quite alright with everyone involved.

The Intention Economy is built around truly open markets, not a collection of silos. In The Intention Economy, customers don’t have to fly from silo to silo, like a bees from flower to flower, collecting deal info (and unavoidable hype) like so much pollen. This one goes without saying. Facebook are making moves towards an open platform, surprisingly still sitting out in front of Google who, for the first time perhaps ever, was caught sleeping. The same way Microsoft missed the internet, Google seems to have missed the promise of social networking and what an open playing field can mean. They are of course a little more concerned with owning your phone than your MySpace page, probably because they already have all the access there they need.

Regardless, while Facebook slowly makes moves away from being a silo, they are still being very careful to make sure they remain a focal-point for your interactions. Using an Amazon Facebook application which you’ve plugged in to your Bebo page isn’t a negative for them; continuing to use Amazon as you are, or using an application that runs via someone else’s network is. If Facebook’s usage levels or visitation starts to decline or even just level off as it eventually must, look for some dramatic moves on their part, particularly if the Intention Economy is still nowhere to be seen.

Lastly, In The Intention Economy, the buyer notifies the market of the intent to buy, and sellers compete for the buyer’s purchase. Simple as that. Right now we don’t have that, we have sellers competing simply for the buyer’s attention. This seems simply ludicrous when you consider:

  • A Facebook user’s attention not up for grabs, not by sellers anyway. They are here for social interaction. Before we get into notions of what constitutes a ridiculous notion of “proper” social interaction (which people usually take to be face-to-face), the rules are different now. The key take away though is the rules aren’t just different for people under 30, people 50+ are interacting in this way too, ith plenty of them getting married. The web has enabled this sort of interaction, the song however, remains the same.
  • There is no intention to buy. Ever see teenagers at a shopping centre, hanging out and not buying anything? Look for this behaviour to continue (funnily enough). Marketers looking to capture that intention are going about it in the wrong capacity. Yes, a person is a fan of the TV show Lost. Yes, you have that on DVD and you can sell it to them. No, they do not want to buy that now. They want to buy it when they want to watch it, so you had better make sure you know enough about your audience to be in the right place at the right time (Hint: the right place is not Facebook, the right time is when they are not on Facebook).
  • Imagine for a moment that Facebook was actually a readily monetisable and viable market place; sellers would be competing purely with the rest of a user’s wall. Vampires, Texas Hold’Em Poker, travel widgets, pokes and haggis being thrown, videos playing and songs streaming from iLike. What could your product possibly offer that competes with all of that?

The ironic pat of it all though, is you cannot afford to not be a part of it, if only because if you’re not, your CEO is going to hear about it from his kids and consider that a mandate for action. Social media runs much wider, and there are opportunities inherent in it. But Facebook? Setup a free fan page and see if your audience finds you. If they do, then that’s a conversation worth having.

As we all know now, markets are conversations, and you get to fight another day.

(P.S. I would love to hear from some folk who have tried monetising FB and what their experience has been.)