Archive for July 2009
Is journalism a charity case? It's beginning to look that way: the Bureau of Investigative Journalism will launch in the UK with a £2m donation from the Potter Foundation, while the Huffington Post has started a nonprofit investigative unit funded by $1.75m in donations. The new Texas Tribune will fund coverage of the state capitol from gifts from a local venture capitalist and friends. The New York Times has even confessed to discussing the idea of seeking funding from foundations for its reporting (though in fairness the company is looking under every possible rock for revenue). And this newspaper is supported by a trust. Will the tin cup be the sole support of journalism? I'm not ready to surrender the hope that news can be a sustainable business.
If you're at all lucky, you'll spend at least part of this summer far away from spreadsheets, reports, ad consoles, and bid management software. While there's nothing wrong with single-mindedly focusing on all the granular data associated with search, too much data, all the time, can rot your brain. With this latter point in mind, this week's column attempts to wrestle with some large-frame issues that I think deserve attention, because, as we learned from the financial crisis, it's often the most basic, most obvious issues (such as whether all subprime mortgages that were being issued could possibly ever be repaid) that can blow everyone out of the water. In other words, just because nobody's talking about something doesn't mean that it's not real enough to kill you.
To really incite the full range of customer reaction to a brand -- and by full range, I mean everything from bitter rage at the low end to fantastic appreciation at the high end -- traditional advertising is not the way to do it. In these postmodern times, where every interaction with the customer is a marketing event, the real crunch point comes when the customer meets your customer-service department.
Why should we fear Google? There's an easy, obvious answer to that, particularly if you're a media or marketing person: because Google is killing us. It is, duh, blatantly steamrollering the business models of countless business sectors, from Madison Avenue to print media. (Despite all the Bing hype, it appears that Microsoft's refreshed search engine -- er, decision engine -- isn't making a dent in Google's dominance.) Annoyingly, it's a cute monopoly -- with a cute logo, a cute motto ("Don't be evil"), cute executives and a cute corporate culture -- that bewitches a lot of people into somehow doubting that it's a monopoly, and prompts even otherwise cynical media people to be unnecessarily polite about it.
Rich Becker has a thought-provoking post about the Amazon-Zappos handling of the news of their deal. CEO Jeff Bezos chose YouTube and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh chose a blog post to break the $807 million* acquisition. He observes how both CEOs decided to handle the news-breaking themselves with the tools at hand - and distribute the information directly to their audiences.
The Washington Post reports that “in the past year alone, the Postal Service has seen the single largest drop-off in mail volume in its 234-year history…. That downward trend is only accelerating. The Postal Service projects a decline of about 10 billion pieces of mail in each of the next two years, going from a high of 213 billion pieces of mail in 2006 to 170 billion projected for 2010.”
Over the years, I’ve actively called for Twitter to contribute to its own culture and direction by leading instead of following. It would effectively serve as a source of inspiration and orientation for consumers and the businesses hoping to connect with them, which would ultimately increase the alarming 40-percent user retention pattern. I suggested that the company actively define user scenarios and offer a quick-start guide for the unique groups of users seeking guidance in order to not only increase user retention, but also accelerate adoption and the evolution of the service. If I had a bit more time, I would have gladly written a series of educational and instructional guides for them to own and publish on their site. But now, with the help of Sarah Milstein, Twitter is on the right track and is showing signs of a company that is ready to once again lead us to new digital and sociological terrain.
Baby boomers changed the world, ended a war, created a new culture of values and morphed our style and politics with every move of the Beatles. In the end, it was all rock and roll to us. We won the right to vote, and then turned around and voted for Nixon. We baby boomers have been puzzling ourselves and the rest of world since then. Who are we? As we enter our 60s, we have to answer that question ourselves. If our high point was when we were 19 or 20, what will be our second act?
A recent Nielsen study revealed that people most trust what their friends say about stuff, and that they trust generic online consumer opinions as much as they do branded communications. I think this has more to do with the contextual reality of the expectations than it does with any inherent trustworthiness in a particular communications medium (or lack thereof).
I want to love my cable company – honestly, I do. They bring me things I love and depend upon. I love TV. I really, really love the internet. (The phone? Well, I love that, too – but unfortunately for the cable company, it’s my iPhone I adore.)