Tag Archive | "tradeoffs"

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What You Should Read About Monetizing Your Tweetstream


There’s been a lot of discussion about the authority of Twitter users, and how users with many followers, or authority, or subject-matter expertise, might monetize their tweetstream via inserting paid advertisements. Here are the most important articles I’ve seen about this debate. I recommend reading them in the order below.

The New York Times has a piece that makes it sound cool and neat-o.

Paul Carr has a piece at TechCrunch that makes it sound like the end of civilization.

A venture capitalist investor in one of the services wrote a piece defending the idea.

Robert Scoble crunches some numbers and writes a good piece that digs deeper.

Finally, read this piece about the hypothetical SuperTweet with a “metadata payload.”

Posted via email from Mark’s Cheeky Posterous

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Match Message to Medium: Talks Are Bigger Than Tweets


Learn one thing about Twitter: it is a unique medium of 140 character
or less communications. It’s like the haiku of the real-time Web. If
what you have to say is often longer than those 140 characters, maybe
you’re using the wrong medium.

Dig this. When you’re at a large conference with (say) 20 people live
tweeting every interesting sentence from every speaker, are you
thinking about your audience? I seriously hope not, because you’re
often delivering them a bundle of jumbled thoughts. And when you start
retweeting each other, and then people not at the conference start
retweeting *that* everything stops being real-time and becomes
wrong-time. We don’t yet have filters and interfaces that can make
sense of this stuff.

Dig this too. There are alternatives. While celebrations of YouTube
and Twitter happen at dedicated events, you’re overlooking less-used
social technologies with great features, like Viddler and Posterous.
Look at my last few Posterous posts: they were from a conference I
attended. But instead of burying my nose in my BlackBerry for two
days, I listened and took notes, and when I saw something worthy of
250 or so words, I wrote a short post for Posterous and pushed the
info to Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, Xanga, Plurk, and more. What’s up.

Experiment with Web 2.0 technologies. Think about your audience. Do
what’s valuable for your community. Engage.

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Why You Probably Shouldn’t Mourn Media Property Loss


Today the editor of the terrific blog from PBS called MediaShift, Mark Glaser, pointed me via Twitter to comments on one of their recent posts about the closing of Gourmet magazine. Some people mourned its passing, and others didn’t. It’s more logical to be in the camp that didn’t. The reason is that a good deal of the content in a good deal of magazines and other media properties simply isn’t that valuable. It doesn’t have much value because it isn’t very unique, and it’s easy to duplicate and repurpose. Its fidelity is not high enough.

Commenters who didn’t mourn mentioned that they increasingly turned to sites like Epicurious.com for their information. Thus, in their minds, Gourmet (which costs a lot of develop, print, and distribute) is getting outcompeted by websites like Epicurious. If you want to sell hard-copy magazines for 4, 5, or 6 dollars, you really have to provide something on the order of 5X the value of all the websites I can access in 10 min. Otherwise, why would I make the effort to buy your magazine?

The 5X rule means that it is insufficient to simply have the same stuff as a website like FoodBlogs.com, and then add some glossy photos and an interview with Wolfgang Puck. Consumers no longer think that’s worth the money. What is worth the money? Unique, engaging, difficult-to-copy, valuable, branded content. The new database/wiki WhoRunsGov from the Washington Post is a good example of this strategy.

Another thing that is worth the money is getting you the same information as competitors, but faster, in a time-dependent situation. Unfortunately for Gourmet magazine, Thanksgiving dinner can be a few minutes late.

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The Human Side of Government Collaboration, IDEO Style


At the ACT/IAC Executive Leadership Conference, I just heard a panel about “innovation” that included David Haygood, a partner at the design firm IDEO. They’ve worked on something that’s touched your life: the Apple mouse, the Motorola VoIP phone, the design of Acela trains for Amtrak, and the Bank of America “change back” products and services are all things they’ve had a major hand in designing.

They’ve also worked with the government, and Haygood mentioned work they’ve done with the Intelligence Community (IC) and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). One big theme of his was including the end user early in the process. As he related what one intelligence analyst told him, “Development happens to us, not for us.”

Haywood outlined some fundamentals of the “human side of collaboration,” having empathy for the end user. One, a design thinking process that includes enlightened trial and error and an easy-to-share narrative for senior executives. Two, a tangible working process. Three, a shared experience of a team that bonds together.

There’s so much more about design that I can’t possibly put in this brief post. But if you’re in government, or work with it, and are interested in the process of innovation, check out IDEO: http://ideo.com

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Why Posterous Is a Smart Tool For Informal Government Blogging


For a few weeks, I’ve been testing a tool called Posterous, and I’ve come to like it a lot. You can see my account here. If you’re not familiar with Posterous, it is essentially a very simple blogging platform. It may in fact be the most simple one; yet it is very feature-laden. And it has one relatively unique feature that could make it the most powerful tool for informal blogging by government employees.

That simple, amazing, singular feature is email as a primary interface. In other words, you can post blogs simply by emailing post@posterous.com or a similar address – you don’t even need an “account” or a “login” or a “password.” Even in the private sector, this is considered a cool feature. But for government employees, it could be a breath of life in an otherwise locked-down state of cybersecurity affairs.

You see, many government computer systems block domains like YouTube.com, Facebook.com, Twitter.com, and so forth. There’s a current debate about the degree to which government employees can access such sites because of cybersecurity and other reasonable concerns – after all, there have been some very recent instances of bad things being passed through these social media tools and onto your computer. But when you can interact with a blogging platform through email – and in principle even through your official government email account accessed through a traditional program like Microsoft Outlook – you can get the functionality without the risk, and without needing permission from the IT shop.

As information is more decentralized and as more computing is done on mobile devices, quickly communicating information will be more commonplace – and more in demand by consumers of it. So to citizens, government content will still be king, but the speed at which it travels to them may be queen. And being able to blog on-the-go can increase that speed. Recently I’ve experimented with blogging while walking eight blocks to a date, blogging incredibly fast in reaction to breaking news, and blogging during a conference and posting my “journalism-style” article precisely at the end of a talk. There are innumerable other tactical applications of this tool.

Posterous has a lot of great features that I like. Perhaps most important among them is that links to the content you post can be instantly pushed to other social services like Twitter and Facebook – even if they’re blocked in your office. Another great feature is that if you attach photos, videos, or documents to your email, Posterous automatically embeds them in your blog – and will also push them to services like Flickr, YouTube, and Scribd (which may also be blocked in your government office). Still another great feature is that multiple people from multiple email addresses can contribute to one Posterous page (say, for an office), and conversely one email can be associated with multiple Posterous pages (say, a formal public affairs page, and an informal tech thoughts page). In brief, you can be very powerful from your BlackBerry.

Posterous has been described by a Mashable writer as “unremarkable,” but frankly, that’s what a lot of government employees are interested in. The government has a lot of outstanding content, and their primary mission in many cases is to get it out; customizing the blog theme is definitely secondary. A standardized, simple blog platform controlled through email sounds like just what the doctor ordered, and it offers numerous advantages over something more complicated like WordPress; for example, it’s easier to teach people how to use! Oh, and did I mention it’s free?

Posterous would probably love it if people in the government wanted to jump on this bandwagon in a more official manner, too. If I understand the numbers correctly, Posterous currently only has about one million unique visitors a month – total. The U.S. Government has more employees than that. I’m not picking on Posterous – it’s only been available since June 2008 and has some tough competition in the blog platform world – but my guess is that they’d be very willing to work with the General Services Administration and other appropriate people (as have companies like YouTube) to make Posterous work with official government interests and missions. And the same goes for local and state government employees too, who often deal with IT situations similar to those of their Fed counterparts.

Many agencies are working on social media policies and guidelines for employees, and education and training are no doubt part of successful use of tools like blogs by government employees. But assuming that people are trained and empowered to create online content, can you imagine if even 5% of Postal Service or FEMA or Army employees had a Posterous blog, and citizens and journalists could mine that information about what was happening in the country, or the world? It would be amazing.

So, for the 99% of government employees that can blog in their private lives and informally talk about their careers and more generally about their lives, I recommend getting a personal Posterous account. And because many of the things I said about the government also apply to large corporations, I think there’s a huge opportunity there, too. Everyone’s workplace has different rules about what you can and cannot use your computer and mobile devices for, and you shouldn’t break them. But if you can interface with Posterous via email and help to achieve workplace goals by mobile live-blogging of conferences you attend, or posting photos of critical emergency situations, or provoking discussion over the issue-of-the-day, I say: Go for it.

(If you work in government or closely with it and use Posterous, I’d especially like to listen to your feedback as I help prepare content for the upcoming Gov 2.0 Expo in May 2010.)

This post originally appeared on O’Reilly Radar.

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What good customer service looks like


I don’t let many strange men into my home, but this morning I received my first Peapod food delivery in a while. As usual, they were precisely on time, had everything I ordered, and the delivery guy was fun and friendly. I always contrast this with Comcast, the other place that frequently sends strange men into my home – they tend to be gruff, impersonal, independent contractors who don’t seem to care much about showing up at any particular time or really about my life at all.

Whether it’s Comcast versus Peapod or something like In ‘N’ Out (awesome service) versus McDonald’s (barely service), I blame the companies for creating that culture. I blame the strategists, the management, and the front-line people all. They do a terrible service for their brands. And conversely, the people with awesome front-line service that have a corporate culture of being awesome do a great service for their brands – here I am praising Peapod on a Sunday morning.

This is also why I think online customer service efforts like @comcastcares are fairly lame. Sure, it’s nice that they do it. But when a guy tracks muddy boots in my place and doesn’t give a crap about me, who cares what Comcast is doing on Twitter? Same for an airline that tweets me updated flight information but then greets me with a nasty, unhelpful person at check-in and charges me $25 for a simple bag. And anyone else too. Social media is about “social” and “media” – and most socializing still happens in person.

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Would You Sign a One-Year Twitter Contract?


In a new post, tech blogger Robert Scoble posits that media darling Twitter is under-hyped and underappreciated as a business tool.  He suggests that Twitter is worth $5 billion based on the idea of selling business analytics and other professional services to clients, and has numerous, somewhat-hidden advantages over competition like Facebook.

It’s an interesting post to read.  But while it’s true that nightclubs, salons, bike stores and many other small and medium businesses are “using Twitter” that doesn’t mean they’re using it well, or it’s a priority, or generating revenue or word of mouth. And it doesn’t mean they’ll still be using it in 2010, or 2011.

Think about your subscriptions to cable television or mobile phone service, where you pay $50, or $80, or $130 per month and often commit to a three-month, one-year, etc. contract with Comcast or some other company.  Will a large number of businesses be willing to pay $100 or so a month for business analytic services from Twitter, Inc?  The real question for a business in my mind is, Would you commit to a one-year, $1200 contract with Twitter??

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Make a Meaningful List and Take a Stand


There are so many lists.  Top 100 this, top 50 that, top 150 must-read blogs in this sector.  How can there be this many people that I “must” pay attention to?  Truth is, there aren’t.

People are so afraid to take a stand, to have a strong opinion, to leave someone “important” out, that they put anyone and everyone on their lists.  And large organizations are afraid, too.  For example, some blogs on the AdAge Power 150 are pathetic choices – they are frequently off topic, or have no real influence (of course, they are mainly designated without human interference, automatically).  I’ll consider them important when the pigs eat my brother (thanks, Brando).  Or how about the Foreign Policy’s Twitterati 100?  I cannot sum this one up better than NYU professor Jay Rosen“The 100 most famous foreign policy names we could find who have [Twitter] accounts.” It’s frankly amazing that well-respected brands put their reputations behind such pathetic lists.

Here’s one good, haphazardly chosen example.  I hate to critique just one person making one list, but this one was on my radar, and this isn’t an academic study.  It is a new list of “Top 50 PR Professionals You Should Be Following on Twitter.”  Let’s break this down.  First, some of them are simply not PR professionals (interesting though they may be), or if they are, the definition has been fairly diluted.  Second, on Twitter, many of the actual PR professionals are tweeting very similar things, so it’s complete overkill if one follows all 50.  Third, many of the people on the list are obvious follows (so having them on the list adds nothing), and many have such bland descriptions of why you should follow them as to be useless (so having them on the list adds nothing). And finally, blog comments like this and this suggest that some very obvious people were far down the list, or entirely left off [a list of 50], and it’s not clear why that reasoning was, either.

Moreover, perhaps the most important point is that all the (1) obvious and (2) bland choices serve to drown out anyone on the list who may be truly undiscovered and interesting!  I know they exist to some degree, but more lists of “Top 10 People You’re Not Watching” would be very useful, in all topics of interest.

I’m really happy for everyone living in the Web 2.0 world who thinks that they can make sloppy lists and do incomplete research for blog articles and that everything will just get “sorted out” in the comments section (the author of the above Top 50 list suggested that there were so many comments after the post that she might make a Top 500 list! Thanks!).  Thoughtful comments are nice, but are they nice enough to reward sloppy writing with the hopes of getting thoughtful comments to round out their own incomplete thought process?  I don’t think so.  I write everything pretending that there will be no comments.  Then, if there are useful comments, it’s a pleasant surprise – not a recipe for completeness.

When I made a list of the 10 most “influential” people using Twitter in Washington, DC, I kept it simple.  I used somewhat unique criteria. I listed 10 people and explained in detail why I chose each of them. And largely, they were different than people on similar lists. So different, in fact, that NationalJournal.com ran a story about how my list differed from others in the LA Times and other publications, with a Twitalyzer quantification chart. Turns out my list has certain qualities, and theirs had certain other qualities – mine was unique if you were looking for this sort of thing, and theirs for a different sort of thing. Great, we can all reasonably coexist. It’s not about right or wrong – It’s about having a strong opinion, arguing for it, and sticking with it.

If you’re going to make a list, of anything, make it short and to the point. Make it stand out from other similar lists. Have some reasons for choosing what is on your list. Have some guts. Be willing to be different. And take a stand when people disagree. Otherwise your list is meaningless – to you, and to anyone that comes across it.

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Your Digital Audience Listens In Multiple Theatres


Last night, a social media consultant and Massachusetts political candidate whose writing I follow, Ari Herzog, unfollowed everyone he was following on Twitter and started from scratch.  And he’s done this before, all the while engaging in conversation with people about why he’s following who he’s following, and why he’s changing his tactics.  He’s probably the only person I’ve seen wholesale delete all his followers and start over.  Sounds crazy, right?

Wrong.  First, it’s good to do your own thing, and you don’t have to explain yourself to anybody.  Second, it’s good to reassess things you’re doing to see if they still work, if they’re still relevant to meeting your goals.  Third, as Ari says, Twitter is not Facebook, it’s not an email list, it’s not a Rolodex – meaning, the people you interact with on different platforms do not necessarily have to be the same.

In fact, it’s probably better that all the people you know don’t use all platforms equally.  I know people that love Microsoft Outlook for sharing news and information, others that use Facebook a lot but don’t microblog, and still others that worship shiny digital objects like Twitter and Friendfeed.  A tenet of new marketing is to go where the people you want to talk to already are; well, if you mainly interact with someone on one platform and they rarely use another one, why bother trying to interact with them on the second one?  Streamline your operations and do things that work to meet your goals.

Update: Robert Scoble unfollows almost 100k people, and wants to start a new movement – http://friendfeed.com/scobleizer/03d1701f/new-twitter-movement-unfollow-everyone

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Summer Reading List For Millennials


Let’s face it, Millennials – you’re completely lost right now.  Some of you are just out of college and wondering what the hell a recession is.  Some of you are pushing 30 years old but reaching some kind of quarterlife crisis, having hit a ceiling at work, or wondering if you’re happy doing what you’re doing, where you’re doing it.  Some of you, unfortunately, are working three jobs to make ends meet, or are currently out of work for one reason for another.

Times are tough for many out there.  So even though I’m a young Gen-Xer who grew up with grunge music and Ethan Hawke, I thought I’d try to help you by writing up a brief reading list of unique, inspiring books that I’ve read in the last year.  All of them relate to each other in various ways.  In total, they’re an inspiration to be entrepreneurial, to seek markets for your individual talents, and to feel good about yourself for being different from the crowd in some respects.

The first book is The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More by Wired editor Chris Anderson.  This book is about serving microniches of customers or fans, the decreased costs of communications and transporting goods and information because of the Internet, and how you can become well known, make a living, etc. off a relatively small number of people who really love what you do and will passionately talk about your products, whether those products are songs, services, or widgets.  You can follow the author on Twitter here.

The second book is Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by business author Seth Godin.  This book is about leadership in the current era of personal branding, Web 2.0 marketing, and individuality and entrepreneurialism (even if that’s inside a large organization).  It’s about how people with leadership qualities can more easily than ever inspire people in a movement and lead their tribe, however small, to new places and opportunities.  You cannot follow the author on Twitter here, but I highly recommend his blog.

The third book is Ignore Everybody: And 39 Other Keys to Creativity by cartoonist Hugh MacLeod.   This is a very unique, fun book about the author’s personal experiences as a young advertising copywriter and budding cartoonist living in New York.  Life lessons about being creative and being yourself are written in short, biting chapters interspersed with the author’s terrific cartoons.  You can follow the author on Twitter here.

True, these books are for people from all generations (heck, I found them useful), but I think that will all the stuff going on in the world today that Generation Y might be the most inspired by them.  Whether you’re coming back to college for your junior or senior year, or you’re nearing your third decade on earth and think you’ve got your whole life mapped out for you, I still recommend these books.  At the least, they’ll tell you that you’re doing everything right in an entertaining, smart way.

I also want to give some mad props to someone who I not only personally like and have come to admire a bit, but who I think epitomizes many of the lessons from these three books, Gary Vaynerchuk (VAY NERR CHUCK, got it?)  Gary turned a New Jersey-based family liquor store into a wine emporium into a wine critic video blog into a personal blog about marketing into a keynote lecture extravaganza into a consulting firm into a ten-book publishing deal. Now he does it all with a ton of hard work and a tiny team of helpers.  I suggest watching his videos and catching him speaking in person somewhere;  There’s nothing like it.  His first book, Crush It! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion, will be out in October.  I haven’t read it yet, but I have no doubt that it will be awesome.  You can follow Gary on Twitter here.

Please comment on these books if you’ve read them, or add books you think would be useful, below.  And let me know if these books have helped you or people you know out in life!

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