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Smoke on the water October 31, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, technology.
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Image representing Biz Stone as depicted in Cr...
Twitter’s Biz Stone (via CrunchBase)

At the recent Web 2.0 conference, Twitter search deals were announced with both Microsoft and Google, something I was pleased to see given about a week earlier I had made the prediction in Digital Strangelove (slide 178) that a deal was imminent with one of them – turns out it was both.

Twitter’s Biz Stone has gone on the record saying of all the options they are considering for a revenue model, advertising is the least appealing. My feeling on that statement is this: either they changed their minds, or they’ve done a deal to monetise the most natural part of their business while they think about the avenues they’re truly interested in pursuing. It’s akin to having a field of lavender and making a deal with local photographers to let them take pictures, all the while trying to figure out what you really want to do with all that crop.

I could be over-complicating things, an activity that is a favourite of mine as many an ex-girlfriend will attest. Apple CEO Steve Jobs is famous for saying he had little interest in a feature, such as video on an iPod, before revealing it the next quarter. I can’t help but feel the web is so eager to answer Twitter’s revenue question for them that they’ve jumped on the first clue that appeared and cried “Case closed!”

Call me paranoid, this one stays open in my book.

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Calling Social Media Out November 13, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in philosophy, web 2.0, work/life.
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I’ve had enough. I’m done with social media and I’m calling you, you and particularly YOU out on it. I’m nailing it to the wall for the crock that it is. UGC was the first to cop it, social media is next.

I’m looking at what Jules is doing with The Population, my friend Matt‘s work with DP Dialogue, whoever else is out there. Yes, we have the Beersphere tonight, yes I blog, vlog, put music on MySpace, I comment, bookmark with del.icio.us, I use compfight to search Flickr for Creative Commons-licensed imagery, I discover new music via Last.fm and Pandora, and I Twitter. I do all that, and I’m telling you right now social media will be, in the great history of the web, hell in the great history of the next three years (if that long), the 2.0 equivalent of Pets.com.

And here is why.

First, we have to agree on something. You can choose to disagree, and I welcome that, but my stance is this: the web is inherently social. Not for everyone, particularly not for older generations, but from me back to the babies it is inherently, indiscriminately, and unavoidably social.

Next, we have to agree that the web is young. The web is still figuring out what it is, what it wants to be. You know movies? The name comes, need I remind you, from moving pictures. Photos that seemed to come to life, truth 24 times a second. Web 1.0 was moving pictures, we’re now in the Talkies. Imagine if film had stalled when talkies came along and we suddenly found the actors had horrible voices?

That is where we are; social media is “the talkies” of the Internet.

Social media isn’t anything special, it is just the Internet in its current form. All media is social – Julian says this himself. 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.

Not Web 2.0, not new media, not digital media, not post-media and certainly not social media. If all media is social, media must be inherently social and if we agree the web is inherently social then the Internet is, my friends, just a collection of media (we need to separate that idea from the business of media). We have created a new taxonomy in an attempt to somehow describe the “otherness” of this new space, which is itself not a recent development; we’ve separated movies and TV for years even though they showed us essentially the same thing (like FM radio and Pandora do now). Watching video online is no different, and soon we won’t treat it like it is.

In fact, thank God (or Dawkins for the atheists) we’re rapidly coming back around to a place where we’re not stuck on discussions of platforms and mediums; there will only be one platform where everyone produces and, once again, content will be king. That platform is the Internet, and, dear client folk, if someone comes to you with a digital strategy that does not have a focus on creating 1-to-1 connections in your audience, then run for the hills. But do not be caught up in the myth of social media, that is just the interwebs as we know it.

As Iain Tait said much more succinctly than I, digital is not a thing anymore.

Now, let’s talk about something interesting for a change.

**Update** I got the name of Matt’s social media company wrong as he points out below. Apologies to him and the good people at De Pasquale.

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How simple is Web 2.0? November 11, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in philosophy, social media, web 2.0.
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I like making sure we draw lines between simple and accessible, but could Web 2.0 really be as easily explained as this?

Is Web 2.0 really this simple?

The only fault I’m thinking is the x100 – connections are still one to one, just on a mass scale.

Image courtesy of my mate Alex – if anyone knows the original source please let me know so I can give proper credit.

**Update** Turns out I thought the image must have come from someone other than Alex, when it did in fact originate with him. This is not because I thought him not capable of extraodinarily insightful cartoons, more so because, much like Jesus having walked the Earth, the idea deities occasionally walk among us is somewhat hard to believe. There you go. Alex White, genius personified!

Three of the best for Marketers November 7, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in conversation, marketing, philosophy, social media.
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My friend Matt put up a great post – The Ten Best Marketing Tips Ever. I’m not crazy about all of them, but these three are gems:

  1. Make your customer service truly remarkable. No, seriously, you don’t understand. Not good. Not brilliant: remarkable.
  2. Find time to get active in your industry association. Offer to be secretary and do an amazing job. Do extra stuff that no one wants to do and do it really well. You’ll be a captain of industry in six months.
  3. Engage your customers properly, start conversations with them online and offline (you know, like, when they’re in your store) and do it because you want to, not because it’s the latest fad. Smile like you mean it.

Some thoughts:

  • Remarkable is such a good idea, and so under the radar still. Take it, eat it for breakfast. Own it. Be it.
  • I was telling my new friend Lisa, there’s always an opportunity to be a thought-leader, and she’s reaching out to small businesses on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast and making a really positive impact by just being good. If you’re in that area and need a hand, get in touch with her.
  • Passion counts for more than degrees and experience and networks combined. Full stop. Look at my friend Jules for proof of that.
  • Matt references Gary Vee’s brilliant talk from the Web 2.0 conference, which is required reading watching if you’re a reader here (“Stop watching fucking Lost!”). The other great insight from that talk is (and I’m paraphrasing) “Listening is one thing, giving a shit is a whole other thing.”

OK. Go enjoy the weekend.

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This just in: People tend to agree with me May 22, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news, intent, web 2.0.
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I am guilty of opening far more tabs in Firefox than is perhaps advised, I just got to one opened earlier this week. The page loaded is a post from Laurel Papworth taking to task a piece penned by Douglas A. McIntyre titled “Web 2.0 is a bust“. By that, he means his ill-informed view of how it should operate.

Laurel makes a few good points in her piece, it is definitely worth checking out. It also echoes my own thoughts from back in February, where I said the following:

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.

And then there were two… February 3, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in industry news.
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I’ve spent the last couple days thinking about what Microsoft’s play for Yahoo really means for the Wide Open Spaces we call the world wide web, it having changed so quickly and constantly. And just as the dust seemed to settle around a landscape where Facebook held everyone’s attention, the most dominant software company we’ve known sweeps in for a hostile takeover on what was the shining light of Web 1.0.

I remember reading Po Bronson’s seminal Web 1.0 text Nudist on the Late Shift and being enthralled with the chapter on Yahoo!. Bronson framed it around the notion of meeting billionaires Jerry Yang and David Filo, neither of whom were yet 35, which in his eyes made the whole thing seem even more surreal. 13 years after Yahoo! was founded it finds itself mired in lay-offs, under-performing products, and perpetually treading water while everything other than Flickr fails to gain traction, and even that has been outdone by Facebook which has become the largest photo-sharing site full stop.

The play revolves around three things; search, email, and advertsing.

Microsoft have long been the distant cousin in this space. Google dominate the landscape; Yahoo! hold a distant but solid second place. Indeed it can be argued they are the only ones who’ve been able to hold some ground against the relentless force that is AdWords. Microsoft have failed to offer up a compelling alternative to Google, and the end result is an increasing loss of market share in search while Yahoo! bail water out faster than the guy next to them. With the need to compete for second place out of the way, both companies can down-size, hone in on strengths, and be confident that nobody else has the market share to make a play for #2. What they do need to worry about is people moving away from a Yahoo! service who had arrived there in the first place because of a distaste for Microsoft.

Email (your inbox)
Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook founder and CEO) has spent more time than I care to acknowledge talking about the social graph. Simply put, it is a map of the relationships you have with people. Facebook is supposed to represent that, but Google have already pointed out that the social graph is already well represented by email; what you send and what you receive paint a far more accurate picture of your online interactions than a site coined so loosely as a “social network”; email doesn’t rely on the walled garden mentality, and as such maps a more realistic path for social interactions. If one age old rule of marketing is that the most compelling campaigns are formed around trusted sources, then having a solid understanding of who an individual’s sources are is key.

Microsoft & Yahoo! will have a combined online mail share of somewhere between 4 and 5 hundred million users (depending on whose numbers you use and how you skew the data). The sheer quantity of data available and what they can learn about their users is staggering; the task there though is turning it into something meaningful. Both companies have proud traditions of innovation that have somehow been lost along the way; finding that spirit again is key to taking the fight to Google and Facebook.

Interestingly, the key differentiator between Google’s Gmail and the others is Google fails to offer a paid-for premium service and instead is ad-supported based on key words in the messages you send and receive. You would think a competitor to this product would have to be in the works at at least one of the companies; hopefully these products would be finished and rolled out before any moves were made towards a single super service.

Advertising & the future of online
There have been nervous mutterings recently around Google’s advertising intentions. In September last year they hired Andy Berndt who was President of Olgilvy & Mather in New York, and two weeks ago announced the Publicis Group had been brought on to assist with their creative. While this is a coup for Publicis, people don’t seem to understand that Google have been the dominant force in online advertising ever since the introduction of AdWords; they have been in advertising for years, the traditional media folk just didn’t pick up on it because it didn’t look like the advertising they were used to.

Google’s presence coupled with its now approved purchase of Double Click means it wields an influence not seen since the months before Microsoft began being probed for anti-competitive tactics. People are still so worried about a giant in Redmond that Google was able to quietly go about its business and snap up anything and everything that made its search offering stronger.

Last year Microsoft finally caught up in a public way, purchasing a series of companies to kick-start its advertising play. Yahoo! had also been on a spending spree and now a single entity gets the fruits of those labours. This page shows a period of two years over which acquisitions were made leading up to mid-2007; all the serious plays are around advertising and search, regardless of company. Steve Ballmer would have been fuming that they didn’t land Double Click, the move for aQuantive was a no brainer after that.

If and when this deal goes through, Microsoft will own a handful of also-rans, but in addition to Yahoo!’s mail offering they will also have del.icio.us and Flickr, two of the most prominent and popular Web 2.0 sites. Facebook still lurks out in the ether, its next move known only to a handful of its executives. If anyone stands to gain from this, I think it is them – they can operate in exactly the same fashion that allowed Gogle to become quietly dominant. This move puts the spotlight on someone else, it allows Zuckerberg to spend some time thinking about where he wants the business to go and to focus on executing that vision rather than putting on the media darling suit that doesn’t quite fit.

Google have recently reached a point where they can do whatever they please, when Microsoft reached that spot it rapidly became the least interesting kid on the block. Google need to show they are hungry, that they have the fire and the stamina to win. 2008 is going to be a phenomenal year for online, and that is without even touching the launch of Android, Google’s mobile platform, the 700MHz spectrum bid, or Open Social, its vision for a completely open socially-networked web. Once Microsoft hammer this deal out, it makes for two massive fish in a (thankfully) endless pond. That’s just the kind of environment the Facebooks of the world need, one where they can hide away and get back to what made them great in the first place.

And the wide open spaces just got a little wider…

Let’s see how far we’ve come… December 18, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in web 2.0.
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I twittered this morning about how there were two books being read, one newspaper and a magazine but I was the only one reading from a BlackBerry on my way to work, a timely reminder that if you don’t pop your head outside the bubble (no, not that kind of bubble…) every now and then, your perception of reality can be so far off as to be unrecognisable.

ANYWAY, cue quote: “We have built this from a brand owner’s perspective.” Paul Hurley, CEO of Ideeli, quote found by way of GigaOM. No. No no no. No no no no no no no. How many times do we need to go through this? To shamelessly mis-quote Bono, the war is over, we don’t need your help, the brands are waging war on themselves. I saw a great quote yesterday I wish I could remember where, it was essentially “Newsflash – we’re not markets, we’re people.” I was somewhat disheartened to see they had raised capital while spouting utter crap like that, but $3.8 million doesn’t actually get you all that far these days, so I welcome a post in the not too distant future from Mike Arrington announcing a descent into the deadpool. I don’t ever wish failure on anyone, unless their thinking is so far behind that some sort of Darwinian theory for business must be invoked.

Making me feel better though is this and this. The former taking Web 2.0 enhancements with you wherever you go (equal parts crucial and awesome) and the latter an ode to the 60-year old transistor and a pondering of how long Moore’s Law can hold out. Both take us closer to a mobile future, and my experience on the tram this morning will surely become a thing of the past sooner rather than later. We’ll then find out if you can indeed have too much of a good thing.

LinkedIn – Increasingly relevant, struggle with “cool” December 10, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in branding, marketing, web 2.0.
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Just checked out the latest entry on the LinkedIn blog which I stay ontop of due to working in the online job space. There is a video showing them chilling out and relaxing by playing a game called Four Square. What I don’t understand is why they have all donned LinkedIn polo shirts for the video. IT IS ON YOUR BLOG GUYS! We see the logo at the beginning of the clip! For a company trying to be at the forefront of Web 2.0, you should be treating our audience with a little more grace; seeing you in a LinkedIn t-shirt on a cheesy PR piece doesn’t make me want to buy one, it makes me want to use LinkedIn less.

This is a conversation I have very regularly with folk who want to PR the hell out of every little development. There was a great post on TechCrunch a few days ago with 10 tips from Loic Le Meur on start-up success. One that really stood out for me was “Don’t plan a big marketing effort. It’s much more important and powerful that your community loves the product.” So, so true, and something I am trying to incorporate into the DNA of the people I work with. People, just let your work speak for itself; nobody believes the LinkedIn guys wear those every day, and if they do, why? I’m a big believer that the conversations happen without you, so all you should be doing is focussing on giving people positive things to talk about.

…one day at a time…

So maybe we’re not the centre of the universe after all… November 29, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in digital strategy, web 2.0.
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In 1543, a book called “De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres)” was published, authored by Nicolaus Copernicus. He died with the first copy in his hands, having set in motion what would come to be known as the Copernican Revolution, the notion that the Earth was not at the centre of the universe.

I’m working on a comprehensive digital strategy for my company, funnily enough because that’s a big part of what I was hired to do. I’ve just drawn up a large diagram on the white board next to my desk (you guys remember white boards, right?) which had started by me writing the word “site” in a box in the corner and then putting things around it, with arrows going in all sorts of directions.

I did a core dump of ideas then stepped back to assess what was there, and see what I’d missed. The thing that leapt out at me though was purely accidental, yet hammered home something I had read plenty of but hadn’t actually understood until now. By putting my company’s site in the corner and expanding diagonally to the right, I had wound up with a white board full of scribbles, and at the core was a large box, inside it written “social media”.

As I looked at the diagram, I realised that only a handful of things had arrows pointing back to the site, but everything flowed to and from the social media box. And at that point I suddenly understood the notion of a de-centralised web, what that means for my company, other companies, and how that fits together. Makes me wonder if one day in the not too distant future companies will cease to have websites and will instead just have web-based applications that promote their services…food for thought.

For more on this, check out Jeremiah Owyang’s Web Strategy blog, it is a great piece of work.

Candid Conversations November 2, 2007

Posted by David Gillespie in branding.
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It has been the week for breakfast meetings, I had another one today. Now, I am to mornings as Superman is to kryptonite, but the company I can keep over a morning cup of coffee makes it worth my while to get out of bed a little earlier, despite having crashed out at 2am the night before. I can recall being 22 and getting no more than 6 hours sleep every night, and somehow this was always fine. These days I can barely get out of bed after 9 hours, which says more about poor lifestyle choices and particularly a penchant for that extra glass of wine I imagine. Regardless, I found, to my utter astonishment, that not only did I arrive on time for the 8am meeting, but that there was actually some fantastic dialogue to be had.

I’m a firm believer in there being no monopoly on good ideas; indeed it can often be the people least savvy with a particular medium who arrive at the best outcomes; they’re not bound in any way by what has gone before them. That statement has nothing to do with breakfast however, as across the table from me sat a good friend whose ability to think critically and objectively about a given situation I really admire. He hit upon a very interesting point, and one that particularly resonates with work I’m doing right now: much less does my company’s brand resonate with its intended audience, but does my audience, frankly, really care? The site exists to provide a particular service. And, provided this happens for the people who come to use it, what impact if any can the brand then have on the individual? More to the point, does it need to?

We talked about Google and how they are so intrinsically linked with search that the noun has also become a verb. We now google using Google; I’d be curious to know if anyone has ever heard of someone saying they googled using a competitor such as Yahoo or MSN. But I digress, the question was asked: does Google’s brand actually resonate with its users? Do people feel an affinity for it? I’m not so sure. I think people have feelings towards Google as a company, which is based on their admiration of either an ethical approach to business, or the appreciation they have for a core function (search), which in turn spurs their core product (advertising). I certainly wouldn’t wear a Google t-shirt, but then I don’t wear any clothes with overt branding on them, which speaks volumes about me and nothing about Google’s brand.

It begs the question though, if a brand fails to resonate with its audience but still delivers on a core service, will people still use it? What does that say about traditional marketing and branding? How does that change the rules online? If I want to book a flight, I go to WebJet and find the best price on any airline. Qantas resonates with me as a brand, but JetStar and Virgin resonate with my hip pocket, and that speaks far louder. The point at which the value of the company’s service eclipses the power of the brand is an interesting thought – does that then mean, as I mention in a post below, a company can no longer affect mass change in the way a brand is perceived without alienating the people who use it?

Or in simpler terms and to touch back on a comment I made earlier, there is no monopoly on good ideas. But once that idea gains mass acceptance, perhaps you forfeit the ability to affect change in that idea; that is left to the users.

Of course when your share price heads north of $700, I imagine you have other things on your mind…