Archive for the ‘Society & Culture’ Category

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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Over the last two years of explosive social media growth, I have written several times about the growing issue of information and inbox overload, and the dunbar number and ambient relationships. I’ve observed a segment of consumers going on social media diets, if you will, eliminating social media from their lives or at least restricting it to limited networks and a limited amount of time.

Enter SuicideMachine.org, a service that automatically deletes your social media life, in some instances with no possibility of reinstating it. Facebook is taking them seriously enough to ban the service from accessing their servers.

I’m still not sure how much of this is parody and how much is serious. The service itself is for real, but is this a trend that taps into consumer desires? Are that many people this fed up with social media infringing on their “real lives”?

“My internet life is dying, but my real life is starting”

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Picture1Many of my readers may already be aware of my life outside of the digital marketing industry. As publisher of a burgeoning niche digital media business, I have been experiencing the other side of the proverbial coin – producing and curating content, providing rich consumer experiences, developing a loyal audience, and managing a practical revenue model.

Our audience is a very unique and interesting one –  the growing global underwater photography and video communities. One of the roles of our editorial team is to keep our audience up to date with all the new photography equipment that may be relevant for underwater use. Needless to say, we receive tons of press releases and PR pitches, and ultimately our audience relies on us to provide relevant information on what’s new and hot.

Tapping Into A Meme
You can imagine my marketing-geek excitement when I received an email from the Olympus marketing team about Olympus teaming up with Tom Dickson – a.k.a. the “will it blend? guy” – to produce a very clever video promoting the new Olympus E-P1.

The background story here is what is so interesting – a marketer, turned meme, co-oping with another marketer. Blendtec is a company that otherwise sells one of the more unsexy products imaginable – high power blenders.  Their Will It Blend? series of videos (and microsite), where they blend everything from an iPhone, to golf balls, a ‘toilet flusher thingy’, even a can of Spam, has catapulted to internet meme status over the last few years. Now Olympus has tapped into that meme-dom, but will this trend continue? Sure – as long as blending ridiculous items continues to engage and capture the attention of consumers, Tom Dickson is going to need more products to blend, and everybody involved might as well benefit. Then we all move on. But for the time being – the first official (or at least recognizable) product marketing tie-in to the Will It Blend? series of “viral videos has this marketing strategist smiling.

We all grew up with TV commercials vying for an emotional or otherwise memorable place in our hearts and minds, yet it’s rare to find online executions that do the same. When online marketing executions achieve this, it is a feat in and of itself, and hopefully we’ll see more of this in our digitally creative future. Blendtec’s videos are as authentic as they are clever, but to cooperate with other product marketers in the process makes it that much more of a success story. So kudos to Blendtec, and kudos to Olympus for approaching them with the idea and pulling this off.

A couple of other examples of advertisers capitalizing on memes:

Geico recently did it with the Numa Numa guy:

Toyota also pulled it off with their 2007 Leroy Jenkins spot:

Tapping into memes is easier said than done of course (and creating a meme is the online equivalent of wiriting a blockbuster movie or best selling novel),  but keep the memes on your radar screen, and when it’s appropriate to your brand, make the magic happen. There’s a little luck in the process – but luck is occurs when preparation meets opportunity.

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I had to report this video that I saw on TechCrunch today – thank you guys for making my day!

I remember being in elementary school and using a Tandy computer and a phone cup modem to logon to what eventually became the internet. Ah, those were the days….well, not really.

Maybe this was the report of the beginning of the newspaper industry’s fate being sealed, not to doom per se, but to a massive transition that those who ignored would be damned. From a 1981 KRON newscast in San Francisco.

“Imagine, if you will, sitting down to your morning coffee, turning on your home computer to see the day’s newspaper. Well, it’s not as far-fetched as it may seem.”

Too many one liners in there to even attempt to pick a favorite!

If you didn’t see “Become A Master of The Internet” (1997),  it’s a another classic.

Hey sometimes we just need to laugh…Enjoy!

Over the last 5 years or so I have been keeping an eye on the growth of the internet is international markets, particularly in Asia. comScore issued a press release today that sums it up quite well. First, as of December 2008 the internet reaches over 1 billion people globally. The majority (41%) of the internet users globally are in the Asia Pacific region, and China specifically had been on a trajectory to surpass the US for sometime now. Notice how the main search engine in China Baidu.com, sometimes referred to as “China’s Google”, and Tencent, a network of Chinese internet properties and services, has earned their spots as two of the top 15 properties in the world – yes globally.

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Surely it will come as no surprise that Google is by far the largest site in the world, with 77% reach against the global online audience.  It is  important to point out that three of the top 10 properties are social media sites – Wikipedia, Facebook, and MySpace (represented via Fox Interactive numbers) are included in the top 10, and this has been the case for some time now.

We often don’t see the forest for the trees…
The trends of Amazon and eBay maintaining such dominance over the years proves that the web’s ability to fuel commerce will only continue to grow (no surprises there). Apple and Adobe’s place as a top global internet powerhouses proves that technology, and experiential services can trump media & content plays for consumers’ mindshare and time (which are both limited). The leading social media properties moving up the list reflects the power of relevant collective and participatory experiences. The fact that two of the top global properties are Chinese in a world where Chinese is not a global language indicates the size of the opportunity in this market if you have the wherewithal to expand and operate there. China has the largest population on earth and with an evolving culture and economy it was only a matter of time before the internet population surpassed all others. The BRIC markets (Brazil, Russia, India, China) are hot. To a degree the internet has made global borders irrelevant. Business culture, ideas and innovation, if not actual commerce, pass unabated from country to country. The ability to expand your business into emerging markets can be hampered by entrepreneurs in these markets spotting the trends and launching similar products and services. Have you thought that far ahead? Does it matter to your business? Is this part of your strategic planning?

I’d love to hear your stories of BRIC expansion!

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Jan 20, 2009. What an amazing moment in history. Our first black president, renewed hope for our deteriorating morale, and recuperation of our stature as a productive participant in the global society. Oh yeah – and the online coverage and engagement were astronomical.

Watching today’s history unfold for me was a unique experience. I had to go to the hospital for some testing, and was sitting in the waiting room as Obama gave his inauguration speech. We all huddled around the TV and watched one of the best (if not the best) political speeches in my lifetime. It reminded me of some of the powerfully emotional and motivating speeches from before my time, from a breed of politician all but extinct until this campaign and election. I also had my mobile phone handy Tweeting, blogging (in fact, I stated this post on my mobile phone) and scanning the reactions from others – what would turn out to be millions of others. CNN’s Live coverage via the first really kick ass Facebook Connect integration, topped 1.5 million Obama-related status updates during the inauguration day coverage. Watching live TV on Facebook and discussing it with your friends – truly triumphant!

Additionally:

– Obama’s page on Facebook has over 4 million fans.

– CNN.com itself streamed over 21million streams of the inauguration, and generated over 136 million page view.

– At exactly noon, the Obama administration relaunched WhiteHouse.gov, right on schedule.

– An Obama administration run SMS program provided valuable info to the 2 million+ fans who attended the inauguration

– Our executive government understands integrated communication and is also part of  the proverbial conversation. Kudos all around.

Folks, the water cooler has come to the internet! Live television met social media in a truly impactful way and the implications are far reaching. There’s a huge revenue model in there somewhere, and surely we have watched history unfold in more ways than one.

yelpFile this under ugly…

Recently a lawsuit was brought against a consumer who felt he got ripped off by his chiropractor and posted a negative review on Yelp. While the outcome of this suit can set precedents for the future tonality of blog posts and negative reviews, there is a bigger issue here for us marketers to learn from. Businesses need to finally learn that social media reflects reality, and cease and desist letters and lawsuits are not the tools to use to solve your problems. What used to be little problems pre-social media turn into major bouts of damage control today. One truth of course that has not changed,  is that businesses can afford more legal services than the average consumer, and these types of cases can often be looked at as bullying for settlement (incidentally this case was quickly settled, but the details are not disclosed). This case has a few gray areas, but generally a consumer is being sued because he expressed his opinions about a vendor who he felt was not honest. He has a right to fell that way and a right to voice his opinion about it. I think the issue in the case is exactly how he voiced his opinion about it, but that is not the point here.

Evolution Of The Need For Damage Control
While the case is pending, the original post was removed, but can be  accessed via the StandForSpeech.com website created by Christopher Norberg as a result of the suit. Although the original post is gone, there are now hundreds if not thousands of conversations and blog posts about the situation (as this post). Even some mainstream media picked up the story. The slough of review and comments on Yelp show both sides of the story, but seriously, I can’t imagine even the good reviews convincing anyone searching for Dr. Beigel’s background  to ever do business with him.   Especially when they are intersperesed with comments like:

“I have never seen Dr. Biegel, but you can bet I would never see anyone who would sue someone where it concerns free speech.  Shame on you.”

“God awful practice! From his treatment to his obscenely high and unjustified pricing, you are going to come out of here hurting physically AND financially.
His service was rushed and his treatment did nothing but generate more pain. To top things off, his billing practices add insult to (literal) injury.
AVOID THIS CHIROPRACTOR.”

“Why are you suing someone for posting their opinion to a site?  Yelp makes it very clear that people posting to their site are posting their personal opinions and experiences. The cruel irony you’re going to find is that refuting this one negative post, you’re now getting an unimaginable amount of bad press.  Way more than the one post ever solicited.  ”

“Shame Shame Shame.  Suing over a review.  If Dr. Beigel knew anything about yelpers, it would be that we have brains in our heads.  One negative review out of many 5 star reviews would have struck me as an oddity and I would have likely gone anyway.  Not now!  I have a feeling that many others are feeling the same way and will steer clear.”

Not all the comments are bad, in fact there are plenty of positive comments about Dr. Biegel:

“I just felt I had to defend Dr. Biegel after having seen his suit in the news. I wanted to say that I had NO problem with his billing practices. Unfortunately, the treatment itself was useless, and actually aggravated my pain, so I don’t feel that I can give him more than 2 stars. But I do want to say that the costs/insurance were very upfront, and I’m sure he did the best that he could.”

“I’ve known Doctor Biegel for many years and I’ve rarely met a more honest and forthright person. I trust him completely. The assertion that Dr. Biegel is suing this guy because of a bad review is simply wrong. This guy is being sued because he made false claims accusing Dr. Biegel of committing insurance fraud. That’s called ‘libel’ not a ‘bad review’.  Look it up.”

Of course of the reviews that came as a result of this entire fiasco it is impossible to decipher truth from passionate frustration. But when browsing earlier comments and reviews, it seems like the Dr. Biegel had far more positive reviews sprinkled with a negative one or two here and there.  As of this post, there were 56 reviews.  Most of the negative reviews were a result of the lawsuit, not as a result of the doctor’s service or practices. Proof that the suit is going to hurt the good doctor more than the negative review did in the first place. There’s a message to marketers in this madness.

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The positive reviews like…

“Thanks Dr. Biegel for fixing my back problem!  I owe my pain-free days and restful nights to you!  I heard you charge more than other places, but the service is all around great so I don’t mind letting my insurance pick up the extra cost.  I love walking into your office knowing that I can relax and enjoy my adjustment.”

…are now being upstaged by the controversy and the negative reviews that are associated with what was not the best course of action to deal with the situation.

So, Why Am I Posting This?
Yes I care about the free speech issue, but that is not the point of this post. Legal prowess and deep pockets or not, a marketer has many avenues of putting out social media fires prior to the level of escalation we see in this case. Consumers will make those feelings heard. If you provide a quality product and good service, the community will often come to your aid and defend you against the intermittent backlash from the odd customer who slips through the cracks and has a poor experience. It happens to the best company, you can’t please everybody all the time. You can also participate in the community, listen and learn from customers, earn their respect, and engage them appropriately – both the positive and negative. Respond, don’t react. In this instance, I have no idea how transparent the doctor was about pricing ahead of time, nor the effort the doctor made to reach out to Norberg to try and amicably resolve the issue (the statement below may shed a little light here), but like all relationships, business or personal, a lack of communication is often the culprit.

The Verdict here was a settlement, the details of which were not disclosed. All we can do is interpret from Norberg’s post-settlement post on Yelp:

“A misunderstanding between both parties led us to act out of hand. I chose to ignore Dr. Biegel’s initial request to discuss my posting. In hindsight, I should have remained open to his concerns. Both Dr. Biegel and I strongly believe in a person’s right to express their opinions in a public forum. We both encourage the Internet community to act responsibly.”

Who Won?
Unfortunately, nobody but the lawyers.  Biegel’s claim that the post was libelous and caused him to suffer “loss of reputation, shame, mortification, and hurt feelings,” as well as “injury to his business and profession,”, sort of pales in comparison to the amount of damage that the suit itself and all the negative press has caused. A philosopher would throw the case out on those grounds alone. The legal expense and stress on Norberg must be fairly extensive. Was the settlement a blow to bloggers and reviewers? I don’t think so. I think there were some gray areas in the language Norberg used, and ultimately neither party wanted to drag this case out any further. But let it be known that lawsuit  won’t stop consumers from sharing our thoughts, feelings and opinions about the products, services and practices of the companies with whom we do business.

So what do you think? Was Norberg being libelous or just expressing his opnion? What do you think about the settlement?