Media Influencer

helping people break out of pigeonholes since 2003

Quote to remember

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Organizations will work tirelessly to de-personalize every communication medium they encounter.
- Seth Godin in The first law of mass media

Disintermediation of minds?

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Commenting on the false rumour that Twitter is going off Rails, Tim Bray hits the nail on the head. Again.

If you want care about Twitter, follow @biz or @ev. If you care about Rails, follow DHH here or here or here. If you care about Sun, read what the people at Sun say. Same for IBM or Microsoft.

The internet is about disintermediation, and about zero distance:

The Net is a giant zero. It puts everybody zero distance from everybody and everything else.

One of the things that underpins what I do is getting across to individuals and companies that they don’t need the media. They can put their side of the story out there and do their best so that people follow them and hopefully trust them. The internet levels the playing field, power law notwithstanding.

One of few things that unites bloggers is linking to others and to their sources. So for any opinion, rumour, news or guess, there should be linkage supporting that view (only rants are excused from this requirement). Even most media commentators – after years of bashing from the blogosphere – are now linking to sources of their stories.

So given that we can follow the source(s), not just be at the mercy of the journalist or the commentator, why don’t we?

If you care about the Big New Thing that’s going to change your life, wait till it comes and touches your life. Then you’ll know what it’s really about, not what some overworked underslept Bay-Area meme-promoter thinks.

Perhaps now that the internet has disintermediated media, we need to disintermediate our minds. We rely on aggregators, top 100 rankings, meme generators and promoters. Sayz Tim:

The other problem with the aggregators is that there are a lot of smart, hungry, imaginative people working really hard to game them and get noticed. Sometimes it works.

Yes, we need to manage the flow of information that is growing by the day. We need some way of filtering the bits that we are interested in from the noise. But aggregation is not the same as filtering. Our way of handling information still dates back to the era where authority and approved sources made it easier, if not better in terms of quality of information and complexity. I have mainly media in mind here. We used a range of sources, not unlike a radar scanning a designated area, to see if anything new came up. The effort was considerable but limited by the scope and number of sources. Once that got out of hand, we started to lose the battle to contain the information – we either keep scanning faster or throw hands in the air saying that there is just too much information.

radar_information.jpg

The internet is a network, so why not use its nature for information handling. Instead of a delineating a radar field, we can build a spiderweb of sources that will ’shake’ the web and alerts me when there is something of interest. Our feedreaders could be constructed that way – the nodes in the web, sources that filter for us and the points in between insider sources that we might be occasionally interested when something happens in their sphere.

information-web-spider_sml.jpg

There has been a proliferation of tools that help me aggregate but there are still very few tools that help me filter. Part of the reason may be that the human mind is the best filter of all but, surely, there is room for tools that can help me to it easier and better.

Note: I covered this more visually here (about 6 minutes into the video).

Quote to remember

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It’s not about the money, it’s about ALL the money.
- description of the entertainment business in Wired article Myka: One Set-Top Box to Rule Them All?

Quote to remember

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[H]umans are copying machines. We learn by imitating one another. That’s how we learn to speak. That’s how we learn social norms. That’s how culture happens. Everything we do is an invitation to copy. And now, thanks to digitization and the Internet, we can express that in ways that we couldn’t before. The Internet is the ultimate copying machine, and it’s affecting many business models. There are times when piracy is a great idea and there are times when it’s not; that’s why I call it a dilemma. The point is, though, it is not a dead end. It’s in the interest of all who deal with the buying and selling and sharing of ideas to confront piracy and its implications now — that is, to reevaluate their business models so they include ways to capitalize on a freer flow of ideas and on more sharing of information and content.
- Edward Baker in We are all pirates

Observer’s world’s 50 most powerful blogs…

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I am not sure what methodology the Observer line up uses to establish the ‘powerfulness’ of a blog but perhaps I shouldn’t scratch it given that Samizdata.net ranks 39 on their list of the world’s 50 most powerful blogs.

But I will given that our ‘blogfather’, Glenn Reynolds is missing from the list. And probably a lot of other blogs that I’d consider more influential.

To me it has always been about who reads your blog (and shares your ideas further), not how many that makes a difference. Of course, having an audience to start with helps. :)

Content is for container cargo business

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Doc Searls on content in 2005:

The word content connotes substance. It’s a material that can be made, shaped, bought, sold, shipped, stored and combined with other material. “Content” is less human than “information” and less technical than “data”, and more handy than either. Like “solution” or the blank tiles in Scrabble, you can use it anywhere, though it adds no other value.

And again in 2007:

Stop calling everything “content”. It’s a bullshit word that the dot-commers started using back in the ’90s as a wrapper for everything that could be digitized and put online. It’s handy, but it masks and insults the true natures* of writing, journalism, photography, and the rest of what we still, blessedly (if adjectivally) call “editorial”. Your job is journalism, not container cargo.

Content is media industry term. The number of people talking about content grows every day as they assume roles that before only media could perform. With more tools and ways of distributing, photos, videos, writings, cartoons etc. are being ‘liberated’ from the channel world. Alas, often sliding into the platform and silo world. As far as I am concerned there are only two platforms – the individual user and the web.

The curse of the platform or advertising is not a business model

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I must agree with Alec’s post Twitter Business Models / Calacanis is Bonkers? where he calls Calacanis barking mad crazy for talking about in feed advertising and SMS advertising for Twitter. I am surprised that in this day and age anyone would consider advertising a long term, or even medium term, way of making money online. I can only hope that Hugh was being deeply sarcastic.

Sayz Alec:

At best they may maintain some control over their half-life – how long it will take to lose half of their users, and then half of what remains – but decay is inevitable and will be rapid. Maybe they could milk some cash out of it on the way down, whilst they are pissing-off their userbase? Not a good plan for growth…

Indeed, especially as Calacanis believes in scale and this underscores his recommendations to Twitter.

It’s about scale. When you’re playing in the big leagues with unlimited access to capital you shouldn’t worry about revenue BEFORE you have critical mass.

Here is industrial age thinking translated into online environment. And true enough, to the extent that the mindset still rules our behaviour online. But there may be another way, in the ‘channel world’ scale is in aggregation. In the networked world, scale is in distribution. That is why people from the former build platforms, people from the latter build applications that help distribution. It is not platforms that are bringing the media industry to its business model knees but P2P-eed teenagers, networked bloggers and applications that increase the individual’s ability to produce, share and distribute.

The curse of the platform is that although it may initially bring users value, as time goes on it is hard to sustain, let alone make money as the cognitive dissonance about who your real customers are increases with time. At the start, when building a platform, the platform owners consider themselves, or at least behave as if, serving the users. But the moment they decide to start placing adverts or otherwise ‘monetise the eyeballs’, their real customers are the advertisers. There’s not many of them wot gets it:

Craigslist had been approached about placing text ads on the site. “We’ve had the numbers crunched for us,” he said. “The numbers are quite staggering.” But, no, the site wasn’t interested. “No users have been requesting that we run text ads, so for us, that’s the end of the story,” he said to the befuddlement of the crowd. “If users start calling out for text ads, we’ll listen.”

Another unspoken question presents itself – Is making x gazillion $$$ within a finite amount of time a business model? Or is an exit strategy with $$$ in the bank a business model? Both are certainly a way of making money but a business model is something more fundamental. It is about creating a way to create value, to maintain and grow it. The aims is to make enough money to keep doing just that. I don’t see much of that in Web 1.0/2.0. But I may be old-fashioned like that.

799px-sydney_opera_house_in_sand.JPG One of the statements that made my heart leap last year is: Advertising is a form of censorship. The Web of 2007 is a house built upon sand. But more about that later…

Podcast Notes: Past, Present and Future

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Just before Christmas I got to chat with Chris Vallance of BBC Radio 5 Live and Seamus McCauley of Virtual Economics about what trends stood out in 2007 and what 2008 might hold in store for us.

I don’t do predictions – I like the saying that the best way to predict the future is to make it happen – but it was fun and relaxed conversation. For those interested in what it was about, my ramblings start around 30:32 into the programme.

Work – play, play – work, even for CEOs

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Tom Glocer is a CEO who’ll make it to the round. :)

Over the past several years, some in the British media have suggested that I should have better things to do than spend my time on Facebook or other social networking or web services. …I believe it is a very worthy investment of my “free” time to explore the latest interactions of media and technology, or indeed to write this blog when I feel I have something worthwhile to say.

Innovation is non-linear – perhaps that is why all that networked stuff works rather well. What doesn’t work is the traditional command and control but that’s another conversation. Lateral thinking is rewarded in this day and age (actually, I believe it always has been) and a good way to get cracking when thinking about new business models. So, Amazon’s ‘unique proposition’ is reader book reviews, although it makes money on selling books, eBay ’sells’ reputation, makes money on auctions, Google’s offering is reach, though it makes money on text ads. Behind every new-ish business model is lateral monetisation struggling to get out.

Growth requires innovation, and, unfortunately, innovation is not a linear process. When Columbus “discovered” the New World, he had actually set out to find a new route to India. The much admired Google similarly did not set out to invent the dominant ad monetization engine. Too much idle experimentation in the executive suite leads to a failure to execute on any plan; however, the total absence of imagination leads to plans that lead nowhere.

And now for the personal touch. Tom Glocer is spot on about the nature of expertise. Recently I noticed how people in business are starting to approach learning about social media second-hand, listening to the self-proclaimed experts* rather than jumping straight in themselves.

I believe that unless one interacts with and plays with the leading technology of the age, it is impossible to dream the big dreams, and difficult to create an environment in which creative individuals will feel at home. This does not mean that the ceo needs to program a third-party app on Facebook, but I believe it is ultimately more useful in understanding business concepts like viral marketing, crowd-sourcing or federated development to use a live example rather than wait for the Harvard Business Review article to appear in three years time.

We should all feel comfortable to follow our own paths. What counts is the results, not living-up to some outdated view of what “work” looks like in the 21st century.

Indeed. This is an area of exploration that no CEO or other executive should leave to others. If part of the job of a business leader is to see the big picture, well, there is no more distinct big picture out there than what is happening at the crossroads of the web, technology, media and human interactions within networks and outside traditional organisations and institutions.

*For the record, rather than consider myself an expert on social media or Web 2.0 or [fill in the web buzzword du jour], I’d prefer to be an ‘expert’ at shifting people’s mindset and helping them understand what is the web and what’s possible on the web.

Quote to remember

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“I have a theory that ‘user generated content’ is a last-gasp of the regal outlook of silicon valley, where we’re all chumps or slaves.” (Before UGC we were just supposed to be eyeballs, consuming their shovelware, buying stuff we see in ads. They had to adjust their thinking when it became apparent that we were also interested in creating, though we’re positioned as generators not creators.)
- Dave Winer, The regal Silicon Valley

The rest of the post is equally worth noting! Or what the hell, here’s another important bit from Dave’s post:

“If you’re scared to hear what people really think you’re not prepared for the world you live in.” (I finally figured this one out. The reason so many people in SV say I can’t be trusted (it’s observable) is because I’m equally likely to say your product sucks as I am to say it’s great. This is a culture raised on Gee Whiz editorial coverage, the adulation of MSM. When blogs came along they had to hear that not everyone thinks they’re so wonderful all the time. Who would you hate most but the guy who pushed the tools that made everyone with an opinion so audible. And would you expect such a person to keep his opinion to himself? Heh.)

BBC, iPlayer and Microsoft

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From Grocklaw interview with Mark Taylor, president of the Open Source Consortium in the UK.

…it’s a Verisign Kontiki architecture, it’s peer-to-peer, and in fact one of the more worrying aspects is that you have no control over your node. It loads at boot time under Windows, the BBC can use as much of your bandwidth as they please (laughter), in fact I think OFCOM, you know, made some kind of estimate as to how many hundreds of millions of pounds that would cost everyone [Ed: see this video interview with Verisign Kontiki executive, and this one], there is a hidden directory called “My Deliveries” which pre-caches large preview files, it phones home to the Microsoft DRM servers of course, it logs all the iPlayer activity and errors with identifiers in an unencrypted file.

there’s a lot of pain going on in the user forums, and some of the main technical support questions in there are “how do I remove Kontiki from my computer?” See, it’s not just while iPlayer is running that Kontiki is going, it’s booted up. When the machine boots up, it runs in the background, and it’s eating people’s bandwidth all the time. (laughter) In the UK we still have massive amounts of people who’ve got bandwidth capping from their ISPs and we’ve got poor users on the online forums saying, “Well, my internet connection has just finished, my ISP tells me I’ve used up all of my bandwidth.”

No, they can’t throttle it. It really is. It’s malware as well as spyware.

Before you start wondering about BBC conspiracies, which would undoubtedly require the level of efficiency that the BBC Trust has been aiming for, let’s see who’s behind the iPlayer.

…the BBC management team who are responsible for the iPlayer are a checklist of senior employees from Microsoft who were involved with Windows Media. A gentleman called Erik Huggers who’s responsible for the iPlayer project in the BBC, his immediately previous job was director at Microsoft for Europe, Middle East & Africa responsible for Windows Media. He presided over the division of Windows Media when it was the subject of the European Commission’s antitrust case. He was the senior director responsible. He’s now shown up responsible for the iPlayer project.

This is getting worn out by now, Windows-only platform alone is asking for trouble, then there is the ET-phone-home behaviour of the iPlayer itself, then the caving-in of the BBC to the ‘rights holders requirements’ regarding DRM that read like a checklist of Microsoft DRM (I am shocked! shocked! at the DRM abuse going on here!) and finally the lack of clarity and rationale of the whole process. Oh, and fraternisation with a corporate monopolist to the tune of £130 million over the four years, paid by the taxpayer licence fee payer.

via Ben

Bonus link: Use MacOS? Linux? Solaris? Stop the BBC becoming Microsoft slaves!

Another nail in DRM’s coffin

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And not a moment too soon! Well, more like wasted years.

I’m here to tell you today that I for one am no longer going to fall into this trap. If the licensing labels offer their content to Yahoo! put more barriers in front of the users, I’m not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I’ll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won’t let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience. I will tell Yahoo! to give the money they were going to give me to build awesome media applications to Yahoo! Mail or Answers or some other deserving endeavor. I personally don’t have any more time to give and can’t bear to see any more money spent on pathetic attempts for control instead of building consumer value. Life’s too short. I want to delight consumers, not bum them out.

via Simon Phipps

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