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When honour is at stake, this vow I will make November 29, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in advertising, business strategy.
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I’ve been thinking a lot about The Three Musketeers – my framework for business models which places them (perhaps overly simply, but simply none the less) into two baskets: All-For-One (self-serving pursuit of value) or One-For-All (pursuit of value for an ecosystem). The former is business as usual up until the advent of Google, at which point things seem to turn, and we see more and more businesses cropping up and being successful by creating value

I had, for the longest time, felt uneasy about Facebook. My sense was that it was founded with All-For-One principles, and I have a hard time viewing it as a business that seeks to create value for an eco-system; it is, to my mind, the second coming of Microsoft rather than the second coming of Google.

I say that, but I also now can’t help but acknowledge the market they have developed for small and local businesses to target customers, and the platform they have provided for brands to interact on a more personal level with fans. In some ways, it lessens the role of the ad industry, which to my mind has a hard time justifying itself as even remotely One-For-All, and so can only be viewed as a good thing.

Your friend and mine Umair Haque takes aim at Facebook in a recent Harvard Business blog: over the Farmville debacle

Once, banks held debt till maturity. The great unnovation was being able to sell it to the next guy, who sold it to the next guy, and on and on and on. What was once a simple, short value chain lengthened to the point of absurdity. Exactly the same value chain pattern is surfacing in media. Ads used to be bought and sold through a short value chain. Facebook ended up serving toxic ads because they were sold through lengthening chains of intermediaries — each of whom shifts the buck to the next guy.

The argument does and doesn’t hold water in places – to my mind it swerves dangerously close in places to the kind of opinion that states ISPs are responsible for their customer’s illegally downloading music. The overall point stands however, which is sacrificing the end-user for the man with money is a short-sighted strategy.

We need to spend more time creating things that user wants in the first place.

That is what One-For-All is all about.

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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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Doc Searls
Image via Wikipedia

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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I feel the earth move under my feet October 28, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, intent, social networks, strategy.
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There’s so much talk about platforms – Facebook-this, Twitter-that, more specific but no better than loose conversations about blogging or podcasts. I overheard someone say “It’s OK, there’s a slide on Twitter in the client deck”, which stopped me in my tracks. These tools are not the kinds of things that make sense when being described; who in their right mind would want to tolerate 140-character updates among a sea of people you barely knew? It in no way describes the vibrancy of using Twitter, nor the opportunities inherent in it.

Your friend and mine Tim Beveridge has a great saying: in order to understand change, you have to be part of it (it probably isn’t his saying, but I’m not sure where he got it from, so it’s his now).

The point is the best way to explain Twitter to somebody is to take 30 seconds to sign them up, another two minutes to follow some people they might be interested in, and then sit back and let them have at it. On the (often false) assumption you have a strategic reason for using Twitter, if your client doesn’t already use it then paying it lip service is not going to get you anywhere. Only by engaging  do people actually understand, or as I just commented over at AVC, being heard is not enough, you must also be understood.

Starting a strategy conversation by talking about a platform is a recipe for disaster. It is like deciding what kind of house you are going to be build based whatever hammer you have handy. It needs to begin with intent. Every. Single. Time.

For those who’ve just joined us here by way of Digital Strangelove, thanks so much for stopping by. We’re going to keep talking about intent for a bit, at least until the rest of the world starts to understand the power of it.

Image courtesy of onkel_wart, with thanks to compfight.

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You gave you away October 21, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy.
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A few days ago I posted a presentation on where I think this space is headed. On slide 191 (yes 191) I mention something called The Three Musketeers rule, All For One or One For All. The former is siloed value creation, the latter creates value for an ecosystem.

I realised in the shower last night (keep it clean people) I had actually been thinking about this since November when I drew the below image:

I believe the Internet is, on a DNA-level, structured to create value for an ecosystem, and I believe this is why we’re seeing traditional business having a hard time playing in the new landscape, with models being destroyed and a new kind of value creation making waves.

This is also why I’m still on the fence about Facebook over the long term. Nobody can deny their growth or do anything other than applaud getting to profitability. But I feel on an instinctive level the model is All For One, it’s old media dressed up in shiny new threads, it’s a system that creates value for Facebook alone, and it’s questionable if any value is created outside of its walls.

In the presentation I included a slide of companies who are operating with a One For All approach:

Looking for a model?

Looking for a model?

If over time it transitions into One For All it will be interesting to watch. As it stands now, I can’t help but feel it is organised against the natural order of the Internet, which is open and connected. We’re seeing what happens when you do that across all kinds of industries, and it being an Internet darling does not exclude it from the same principles.

Even Rome fell people.

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I just called…to say… August 26, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in social networks, technology.
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I have Skype running pretty much constantly on my computer due to being a long way from home. I like being able to talk for free to any of my friends back home, or indeed any friends in other part sof the world, and I look forward to a day when ubiquitous Internet access makes ridiculous carrier plans a thing of the past and blows the communications space wide open, with access for all.

Until that day however, we make do with what we have. And as I was doing this last night a message came in over Twitter from my dad back in Australia. We went back and forth and then I asked him why I never saw him on Skype. He responded with this:

dad-twitter

Now, you can argue Skype provides an entirely different service to the above or you can argue that it crosses over in a few really key places. It isn’t hard to imagine Facebook implementing its own video chat service, and this was heavily rumoured back in May. Add to this ongoing concerns about the future of Skype’s underlying technology, and what we have left is a legacy of arguably Europe’s biggest VC success story (in 2005 eBay ponied up ~US$3.3 billion) winding up in the hands of a company that had no idea what to do with it (and may soon go the way of Pets.com).

The ultimate take-away is, for me, about sticking to what you do.

Or put another way, the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.

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Let’s give them something to talk about July 6, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, technology, work/life.
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So while waiting for Toronto‘s subway system to get its act together this morning, I caught Clay Shirky‘s latest online lecture, given as part of the TED series. The title, “How Twitter, Facebook and cell phones can make history” does a lousy job of conveying the depth of information and the ideas contained within. Back in November I touched on issues around social media and the gross misunderstanding of what was important in this new revolution, making the following statement:

It is a period that will forever be known as a time where it became as easy to create content as it was to consume it. THAT is the important part of what is going on.

Now, I’m on the record as being a fan of smart people agreeing with me, and in this case, Clay’s latest talk is bang on the money.

The moment we’re living through is the largest increase in expressive capability in human history.

He says it far more eloquently than I, granted, and the rest of his talk is loaded with fantastic insights and examples of how technologies, once ubiquitous, develop interesting uses (and not the other way around). The TED Talk is below. Enjoy, then go change the world.

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All I wanna do is to thank you June 16, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, business strategy, conversation, marketing.
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Readers who recall my 5 step marketing mantra will remember point 5 stated the most remarkable thing you can have is exceptional customer service. We’re sadly still in a place where a number of organisations don’t get this, due in large part to the customer service departments being seen as a necessary evil, a cost of doing business. As a result, the people staffing these roles are not empowered to simply solve problems and instead are hamstrung by rules designed to elicit the bare minimum of support; enough to keep the customers at the table but not nearly enough to actually make them happy to be there.

The contrast between the great and the not so great was rammed home for me recently thanks to a lousy experience with one of the world’s largest magazine publishers and one of the world’s smallest cafes. Those who know me know my love for coffee is wholly unbridled, bordering on obsessive. They will also know the outright contempt I hold for the Starbucks of the world, suffice to say North America is not David-friendly when it comes to my dark master.

Reach out and touch somebody

Reach out and touch somebody

Thankfully here in Toronto I have found Balzac’s, an independent coffee house which roasts its own beans and makes, quite simply, the best coffee I’ve had here so far. Having fallen in love with the store-bought goods I began ordering online, and when the first batch showed up, I was greeted with a hand-written card, offering up a 15% off code for my next order and a note about their Facebook application.

Let’s review that people:

  • I already love the product
  • They’re making it cheaper for me to get
  • AND they’re offering me another way to interact with their brand.

Contrast this with Conde Nast, who told me, when my issue of Wired failed to appear (while my co-workers waltzed around with their’s) that I needed to wait 2 weeks before they could fulfill a missing order. Having waited patiently, I contacted them at the appropriate time to be told:

We are sorry to inform you that the issue you requested is no longer available.

To be fair, they then told me my subscription would be extended by an issue, but this is not the point. I understand magazines are having a hard time of it lately.

Can I suggest though the ways to innovate in your business model are not to deprive people of the thing they desire in the interests of saving a couple dollars.

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Standing on the rooftops, shouting out June 4, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in blogging, branding, conversation, digital strategy, technology, work/life.
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I think I need to start a competition amongst readers to see who can pic the song each post’s title is from. Here’s a hint:

Anyway, your friend and mine Tim is fond of saying “To understand change, you have to be part of it.” Now, he perhaps didn’t come up with that himself, but I am always reminded of him whenever I think of it, which is as good an exercise in branding as you’ll find.

With this in mind, I have spent some time this morning trying to bring my own silos of conversation together. My marketing self tends to exist only on this site, but my musician self is spread across Facebook, MySpace, iLike, YouTube, and God knows where else. Oh, not to mention another website of his own. Now, I do my best to keep my two selves separate, but bear with me for the purposes of this conversation.

It goes without saying that nobody working full time has the means to update all of the above sites, let alone engage the way we all insist we should. On top of that, there’s a requirement for authors who establish these sites to get a little more versed in the nuances of the technology than they’re otherwise compelled (or able) to do. What it means is more time spent tweaking the various underpinnings of a site or service and less time doing the things you started a site for in the first place. Cue frustrated creators and audiences in silos.

David Jones (a person, not the store) is a guy I’ve come across here in Canada. I spotted him tweeting one day “Don’t tell me what you would have done, tell me what you did.” – and that really struck a chord. Talk of best practices is all well and good, but evidence of how you’ve implemented it for yourself and others is much better. For the time being, until the big players in this space decide to make their platforms talk to each other, we all get to take part in a zero-sum race to a dead end.

Now I can understand each platform’s desire to control the artist dashboard, as the eyeballs are currently what gives them value. The reality however is if the smaller players don’t make it easier to pick up syndicated content, they’re going to see a reduction in usage.

I want to make it easy for people to consume my content in whatever manner best suits their existing habits. Turning that into a reality however currently means an ultimately unsustainable adjustment to my own. Something’s gotta give.

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Let me see you do that switch-a-roo May 29, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, technology.
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This week: Microsoft unveiled a new search engine, and Google unveiled a new approach to email. This is akin to Cadbury launching softdrink and Coca-Cola creating chocolate bars.

Microsoft’s Bing

Google’s Wave

Ok maybe not that drastic, as Microsoft and Google already play in each other’s spaces, what I find interesting is each company’s desire to innovate in the other’s space, potentially at the expense of the things that got them to where they are.

I have a number of clients at Microsoft and I like to think I challenge them regularly to try and build new markets as opposed to steal other people’s; if Google is going down the same path then that disappoints me greatly. What I do find interesting about the above scenario though is Google’s new email idea, called Wave, doesn’t seem to have monetisation built into it beyond advertising, whereas Microsoft are obviously making a big bet on increasing search revenue via Bing, their new search engine.

Google’s play seems to be closer to an idea where everything is contained in a single space, a move I like, away from distinct destinations. Much like Facebook, they’re seeking a single dashboard from which they can control a user’s experience. Microsoft meanwhile are chasing a better mouse trap. It could potentially be a more lucrative mouse trap, but I don’t think it aligns with where user bahviour is going.

And as we all know now, disruption is never about a better mouse trap.

Go see Tim O’Reilly for more on Wave.

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Saddle up your horses, we got a trail to blaze May 27, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, technology.
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Over at Mashable I caught site of a service called RT2Buy (from company Twitpay) which is hooked into Twitter and PayPal, allowing purchasing and money transfer over the space of 140 characters. In exposing platform upon which people could build services early on, Twitter made a very savvy move which puts it head to head with the likes of Facebook, Microsoft etc. in more ways than one.

While people continue to duke it out at a site level, I’m super-bullish on the browser-as-platform. Instead of waiting for traffic to reach a site before it is meaningful, the experience remains with you regardless of where you travel to online.

I commented over at AVC acknowledging the barrier to entry that exists for browser extensions, and said perhaps application developers for Facebook, Twitter and other platforms will find interesting ways to extend the experience into the browser.

My thinking is a popular game on Facebook could potentially be extended into the browser and played when not actually on the site. Yes it is the long way around, but I think the fix will arrive via a combination of it being relatively easy to do AND having it heavily incentivised. Games, photo-sharings apps etc. already with a large audience on Facebook seem to be like the most direct path at this point.

This ties back to my whole thing about seeking out great digital work that is uniquely digital; that is to say, taking advantage of the things you can do with digital platforms that you can’t do with any other. There are ways we can open the browsing experience up that will appeal to a mass audience.

Whoever figures that one out is going to have a handle on a wide open space that leapfrogs everyone.

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Image courtesy of Eduardo Amorim with thanks to