Oct 192014
social media services like facebook have fan pages

The story of Whisper and the betrayal of its users continues to roll on, but the real problem is the way social media services are desperately trying to recreate the dead business model of print advertising.

Whisper’s problems with The Guardian continue as the company tries to salvage its reputation but the irony for the service is that it was trying to shoehorn its business to fit the print publishing model that the internet started to erode twenty years ago.

It’s not just Whisper; almost every social media business from Facebook to Twitter wants to be an advertiser funded publishing company, just like the newspapers of thirty years ago.

A few weeks ago I wrote about LinkedIn’s pretensions of becoming a publishing platform and this week Forbes tells of Pinterest’s adventures at the Cannes advertising festival as it sells its marketing services.

Every social media service has some sort of angle that harks back to the golden age of newspaper publishing where print advertising was a deep river of gold. Most of them want to become publishers themselves.

It would be hard to think of a service less suited to being a media company than Whisper; but then there’s Yelp whose main business of reviewing eating houses and bars seems to be totally at odds with newspapers of yore.

On the Salesforce PayPal Media panel last week, Yelp! Founder Jeremy Stoppelman was asked if he saw the restaurant review site as being a media company, his response was “sure, it’s a blogging platform.”

So we have new media aping the old media business models where these platforms try to lock users into information silos; in the same way that a London Times reader would never buy the Sun.

The problem with that is the internet broke down the geographic barriers and today a Sun reader in London can just easily find celebrity gossip on TMZ and the broadsheet reader might find more thoughtful analysis in the New York Times.

Certainly someone browsing the web for restaurant reviews might find a better site than Yelp while a bride researching wedding dresses could just as easily find ideas on Facebook as much as Pinterest.

In reality, social media sites have nothing of the stickiness of the old fashioned newspapers in the days before the internet.

Of the social media services it might be that Facebook is the best placed to succeed as an old media publishing service with its advertising smarts pushing messages to its diverse and deep user base but that isn’t certain given the widespread user dissatisfaction with its news feed.

For the social media services much of the problem – -particularly for Facebook – lies in their contradictory aims; they are trying to be identity services, buying platforms, publishing services and advertisers.

For publishers that balance between content and advertising was always a delicate one; and one that shifted over time. For online services that balance is far more complex and the future far less certain.

One thing that is clear Is those contradictory aims aren’t going to be easy to reconcile and the quandary may prove to be insurmountable.

What’s clear though are the advertising models of the future are still waiting for a David Sarnoff moment.

Oct 132014

One of the saddest things in life is the company that bleats ‘but we thought of it first’ when overtaken by a smarter or more credible competitor.

Since the release of the iPhone 6, the knives are out for Apple with Samsung, HTC and even Sony poking fun at the new product pointing out the features already in their products.

The problem for Apple’s competitors is the market isn’t listening to the attack ads. In China alone a million iPhones were sold in first hour they went on sale.

For companies competing with Apple they have to find a compelling product, not be sniping at the market leader. For Samsung in particular with its falling revenues it needs to be generating some excitement in the market, not depressing its customers.

Here’s the Samsung ad; while it’s pointing in the wrong direction it’s good in that it holds the critics to account but it makes not a spit of different to the marketplace.

Oct 122014

A  cute little story appeared on the BBC website today about the Teatreneu club, a comedy venue in Barcelona using facial recognition technology to charge for laughs.

In a related story, the Wall Street Journal reports on how marketers are scanning online pictures to identify the people engaging with their brands and the context they’re being used.

With the advances in recognition technology and deeper, faster analytics it’s now becoming feasible that anything you do that’s posted online or being monitored by things like CCTV is now quite possibly recognise you, the products your using and the place you’re using them in.

Throw all of the data gathered by these technologies into the stew of information that marketers, companies and governments are already collecting and there a myriad of  good and bad applications which could be used.

What both stories show is that technology is moving fast, certainly faster than regulatory agencies and the bulk of the public realise. This is going to present challenges in the near future, not least with privacy issues.

For the Teatreneu club, the experiment should be interesting given rich people tend to laugh less; they may find the folk who laugh the most are the people least able to pay 3o Euro cents a giggle.

Sep 302014
management and executive training, workshops and keynotes for technology

Over the last week new social media service Ello has been in the news as the ‘anti-Facebook’ that doesn’t collect user details or push advertising onto feeds.

Certainly Ello has touched the zeitgeist with reports claiming the service is getting 30,000 new signups every hour. It’s clear social media users aren’t happy with the existing services.

Part of this discontent is due to social media’s growing pains as the platforms search for the business models to justify their massive valuations, with the consequence of users finding their streams being polluted with invasive and often irrelevant advertisements.

Social dilemmas

For Facebook in particular this is a problem as they have to balance the service’s relevance to users against the demands of ever desperate advertisers who want to post as many ads as possible into the feeds.

Adding to the discontent is suspicions on how the existing social media services intend to trade users’ information. While many internet mavens may claim ‘privacy is dead’, most people are concerned at how a history of their likes, friends or conversations could hurt future relationships or job prospects.

Which ties into Ello’s manifesto.

Your social network is owned by advertisers.

Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.

You are not a product.

While Ello’s founders are right that Facebook, and to a lesser degree, Twitter are advertising platforms at present it may well be that social media’s days as a marketing tool are numbered as the business models mature.

The evolving social media model

Facebook’s announcement that it is going into the payments field is an indication that the businesses are maturing beyond the broadcast advertising model that worked so well for television and radio while Twitter’s struggles to shoehorn the old marketing tools into its business continue.

The most successful social media platform to date is LinkedIn which makes less than a quarter of its revenues from advertising — down from 30% two years ago — with the company building revenues in its corporate talent finding services, something that makes LinkedIn’s ambitions to be a global content publisher somewhat strange.

So it may well be that Ello aims to solve a problem that may not exist in the near future.

Ello could turn out to be the ‘Facebook killer’ however the odds are stacked against it, what is clear though is the social media marketplace is telling the industry’s leaders that consumers aren’t happy. It’s something the marketers staking their future on social media need to keep in mind.

Sep 082014

This post is the final of a series of four sponsored stories brought to you by Nuffnang.

Boring is the comment often used about business websites, however smart companies are using blogs to spice up their sites and boost marketing, customer retention and employee engagement.

A blog can make a company’s website more dynamic and a destination for visitors, it’s an opportunity for an organisation to demonstrate its depth of expertise and the qualification of its staff.

Best at this are the big global companies like GE, Cisco and IBM that have large pools of experts who can contribute to the company blog. These enterprise blogs are sprawling sites that cover multiple markets and industries which the companies operate across.

More than a marketing tool

For smaller tech companies, particularly Silicon Valley startups, their blogs have become vital marketing platforms where they often describe the company’s journey and new features being added.

Some companies, like Uber and Nest, use the company blog as their press channels with entries acting as media releases. This is particularly useful for smaller businesses without a PR agency or in house communications people.

At a more tactical level, blogs can be used as a weapon in a fight for marketshare. One of the toughest battles on the internet at the moment is going on between accounting software companies MYOB and Xero and their blogs are at the forefront of this fight.

In this battle MYOB are the incumbent with over a million users in the Australian business accounting market and a small army of Certified Consultants to help clients with using the software while Xero is the well funded cloud computing service that grew its Australian customer base by nearly 50% to 147,000 so far this year.

Small business thought leadership

So the battle is intense with both companies using their blogs to show their thought leadership in the small business space. Both of the blogs illustrate each company’s strengths and weaknesses.

MYOB’s blog is the longest standing and is more of a generalist overview of small business and accounting issues while Xero’s focuses on the new features being added to the product, both have fiercely passionate followers which shows in the comments fields of their blogs.

Blogs though need not be about pure marketing or advertising functions, in fact the best small business ones are those that just tell their customers what’s on. These are particularly good for the hospitality and retail industries.

One plus with business blogs is they help employees understand their business better, particularly when staff are invited to contribute.

Blogging isn’t just about lonely geeks or bored mums sitting in their spare rooms. A well thought out business blog can be a great tool for engaging existing customers, motivating staff and building new markets.

Aug 152014

Gartner’s Hype Cycle has been a favourite of this blog as it’s been pretty accurate at describing where various technologies are in the tech media’s eye.

This year is the twentieth edition and the most notable aspect is the Internet of Things is shown as being right on the peak of industry hype.

Other sectors struggling on the cycle are cloud computing, big data and machine-to-machine technologies; all of them are tumbling into the trough of disillusionment.


In itself this isn’t a bad thing for these technologies as the ‘trough of disillusionment’ is where the true business cases are found, certainly for the Internet of Things this will not be bad for a sector that’s clearly overhyped.

There’s also the thought that not all troughs of disillusionment are the same as some concepts – such as Big Data – are actually trends which means they aren’t subject to the whims of corporate marketing departments.

How the hype cycle will look in five years will be fascinating as things like brain-computing interfaces and the quantified self start to take form. When they reach the peak of the hype cycle we can expect many of today’s disillusioned technologies will be on the plateau of productivity.