Archive for April, 2010

With the announcement of the Open Graph, Facebook has once again provided an evolutionary leap for the entire industry. Publishers, brands and consumers alike will benefit from “a smarter, personalized web that gets better with every action taken”, as concisely described by Mark Zuckerberg at yesterday’s F8 conference.  With Facebook’s critical mass (nearly 500 million members as of today), the Open Graph is poised to become the most powerful move the company has made so far – if successful it will revolutionize the web as we know it and propel Facebook into a position to compete with Google for the throne of dominance.

The Open Graph – We Like

Facebook is already fairly ubiquitous among consumers. Facebook Connect has extended that ubiquity to sites outside of Facebook, but the process for consumers, publishers and marketers was not seamless. While successful, Connect was not the technology that extended the social experience of Facebook to the entire web. But that is exactly what the Open Graph will do. Facebook has simplified the process of implementing the code for developers and for sharing and connecting with content and brands for consumers. It is truly a win-win-win. One line of code (an iFrame for those who care), will enable publishers to include a “Like” button, which will facilitate social actions anywhere on the web. As long as you are logged into Facebook, your cookie will allow your social graph to augment the experience on any site with the code. Bret Taylor said it best during F8  yesterday that “Lowering the friction of sharing will increase the volume of sharing”.

Vaults of Data

Facebook already sits on a data goldmine, but these vaults will become far deeper with wider ranging application as the Open Graph further connects social graphs of individuals, brands and publishers around the web. For now the targeting opportunities resulting from the additional data will be limited, most likely providing marketers the opportunity to target interests “liked” for the time being. But the potential of the data applications are profound – think Minority Report-like, as mobile and geo-location converge on the Open Graph.

Privacy

Inevitably there will be some privacy backlash, as all forms of behavioral data applications are under severe scrutiny by the FTC and advocacy groups. Of course Facebook thought about this too – and they will be rolling out a new simplistic privacy panel where you can opt out of the Open Graph. Ultimately there will be collection of an amount of non-personally identifiable data at a scale that we have never witnessed before, and the proximity and ability to connect it to personally identifiable information will most likely become the issue at hand. But the benefit of the Open Graph adding significant value to the overall consumer experience, and the affinity with Facebook as a trusted brand powering the collection, storage and usage of the data will trump any privacy backlash. Make no doubt about it – there will be some backlash – there always is – but we will get past it rather quickly. The social web is here in a big way, and our lives have been changed forever – and soon everyone will realize it.

A Monumental Day

For marketers, in the short term this turning point will make it exponentially easier to turn fans into advocates, identify new prospective customers, and drive peer influence through the coveted Facebook newsfeed. In the long term, the potential is far wider reaching and as mobile and geo-location (Facebook is launching their own geo-location service as well) converge with the Open Graph, this may be the catalyst that soon connects the online and offline world. It is truly a monumental day.

You can see the F8 conference videos here.

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cloud computingFast forward a generation … the concept and delineation of what is “TV” or “online” or “mobile” content will have not existed for some time. What we once referred to as a “media channel” will be irrelevant, and content ubiquitous. We consume what we want anytime, anywhere, on any device. We interact with others and enjoy collective social experiences that are not separate from our content consumption. We shop when we are influenced or reminded of a specific need or want and can do so easily and securely on any device without whipping out a credit card. Consumers have unlimited options and access, and marketers integrate into the experience. It’s an exciting future, and we are well down the path of this reality.

With media, evolution is constant. Old technology, and often the old guard, gets displaced and disrupted by the next big shift. The shift to on-demand has been long underway, and the tipping point is just ahead of us.

While we have all declared 2009 and 2010 the ‘year of mobile’, what we now need to shout from the rooftops is that the convergence of mobile, social, commerce and cloud computing together have created something far more profound.

Mobile connectivity, high quality video and social actions are becoming the standard in our lives. As access to the cloud becomes a reliable always-on connection from any device, content, social objects and commerce surround us, all the time, everywhere. I find myself hopping back and forth from my PC to my iPhone to my iPad at different times, for different reasons. Entertainment, communication, productivity and commerce all feel different on each device, and we tend to gravitate towards a preferred device for specific needs. But ultimately we can access pretty much anything we need from any of them in a pinch.

The Status Quo Has Fallen and It Can’t Get Up

Ramifications for the media industry are significant, and the ecosystem has been adapting. There will always be a creator -> distributor -> consumer ecosystem. The consumer only cares about the end result – immediate satisfaction. Content creators are at the other side of the ecosystem and they seem to get the short end of the stick as the value of each media asset decreases with the increase in options and access. However, the market does grow in aggregate, and distributors benefit from the wide variety and massive volume. We have witnessed the separation of content from media channels affect different traditional distribution networks in different ways – newspapers, and magazines getting hit harder and earlier than TV networks and MSO’s for example. But the shift is affecting all traditional channels. The new regime is led by Apple (iTunes) and Amazon, and consumers are paying for content and applications in droves, but the market is wider reaching.

Marketers are becoming more reliant on technology – the data and ad exchanges – in order to reach specific consumers in relevant environments, at the right time. The ad models are evolving, but still in their infancy. Search has become an effective direct response staple of most marketers’ arsenals, but the brand dollars have not followed at the same scale. We have oversold targeting to marketers for years, making the process of buying and managing digital marketing a significantly laborious task. We have currency discrepancies as compared to traditional media. But as the device-specific walls dissolve into a media-everywhere world, as what once was “TV” now becomes content accessed across various devices, the media mix models become a very different beast than ever before. We are about to head into uncharted territory. It’s early in the game, and many winners will emerge. The biggest of all are consumers of course.

This past weekend I found a little downtime (a rarity) and conjured up my inner couch-potato. Interestingly after browsing my DVR, I opted to access Netflix via my Wii and picked up from the point in a TV show where I paused during a long cab in traffic earlier that day, when I was watching on my iPad. This is the cloud, and on-demand, at their best.

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