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Joining the dots...

June 16, 2005
Thursday
More on spyware plague
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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One more post on spyware and adware, which is one of my major criticisms of advertising and marketing as its obsession with measurement of every flick of consumer’s eyeball provides a fertile ground for the ad/spyware scum. Dan Gillmor explains why one senator’s likening spyware to somebody walking around your house, kind of invisibly was inadequate.

Spyware is more like someone planting hidden cameras and microphones around your house and office, and even in the bathrooms. It’s just about the sleaziest online activity there is. Given the severity of the problem, one might be pleased to hear that Congress seems fairly serious this year about doing something about it. But it’s too soon to get our hopes up. For a variety of reasons, including the sheer indifference of the bad guys to the rule of law, this plague will be enormously difficult to slow, much less halt.

The stakes are high and growing. Nothing less than the future of online commerce and communications may ride on whether we find ways to deal with spyware.

Quite. And he is spot on about the underlying problem:

IT people need to explain to marketing people that it is never acceptable to install unwanted software on customers’ computers. And marketing people need to understand what they risk if they go ahead and do it.

What they risk with me is simple: If I learn that a company has even attempted to pull a fast one, I put it on my personal blacklist, which means never doing business with it again.

The reason I devote and plan to devote much effort to highlighting the unholy alliance of spyware/adware and ‘respectable’ online advertising and marketing industry, is that the connection does not seem to be obvious enough. So watch this space, I am not done yet.. grin

The mobile guru has spoken…
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Trends 
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A truly dizzing predictions of the future of mobile from Tomi Ahonen on Communities Dominate Brands… I was getting quite excited by 2010 what with a 3.5G phone with a 5 Megapixel optical zoom cameraphone with WiFi type speeds and built-in TV tuners, and a gigabyte size hard drive (like today’s i-Pods). The smallest phones are the size of a thick credit card.

But that’s barely scratching the surface. Tomi buffs up the crystal ball and this is what he sees for 2020 and 2025:

By 2020 the personal secretary function evolves into a personality synthesizer - ie there will be software on my phone, that when you call it, you don’t even know that you did not talk to me, you talked to my phone, which then makes necessary adjustments to my calendar, informs me briefly what was talked about etc. And the translator? by 2020 the bugs are fixed, and we have real-time translation, any language to any language.

By 2020 all payments go directly to the mobile phone account (ie it is the same as our bank account and our credit card account). We pay all relevant payments by mobile phone, from taxes to rents to monthly car payments etc. Most daily newspapers have stopped printing paper versions. Music CDs and movie DVDs are no longer made. And the “free” non-Mobile phone based “old-fashioned” internet has all but vanished.

Finally in 2025 we have the 5G phone. It is totally unfair to call this a phone and it certainly won’t be called that. The form factor is more like a sugar cube or less, can easily be built into a ring for example. People will have these communication devices built into the body, into perhaps a tooth etc., With multi-multi terabyte hard drives these “phones” can ship with all the worlds’ movies, or all the world’s TV shows, or all the worlds’ existing videogames, etc already preloaded, depending on what is your preference of entertainment. And of course mainstream phones come with the top 1000 fave movies, TV shows, videogames AND all existing music preloaded.

I am not sure that the phone will become the device of the future although it makes sense on many levels. However, this is Tomi’s territory and I look forward to more of his insights. In order to appreciate the journey and it isn’t just the path of the mobile phone development but many other media and communication read the whole thing.

June 15, 2005
Wednesday
Spyware payback time..
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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... even though it’s just one settlement in New York. Hopefully that sends a signal to the industry. Eventually.

June 13, 2005
Monday
Searching for clarity
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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MediaPost has two article about paid search. The first one is good news for search engine marketing/optimisation business as the Merrill Lynch in a report on Internet advertising issued Thursday predicted that the amount spent on sponsored search listings will increase 47 percent this year to around $5.1 billion, from around $3.5 billion in 2004. Much of the growth will stem from the rise in broadband adoption, which as Merrill Lynch predicts, will result in more queries to search engines. Lauren Rich Fine, first vice president at Merrill Lynch says in the report:

[S]earch volume growth really has been the bigger driver of growth in paid search advertising in late 2004 and into early 2005. We believe this trend will continue as broadband subscription prices continue to drop, more users move to broadband connections, and ultimately conduct more queries.

Overall it seems that online advertising is gathering some serious momentum. Last week at the conference, the statistic of online ad spending as compared with offline has been bandied about a lot. Merill Lynch continued to predict that online advertising would reach $12.4 billion this year and $25 billion by 2009.  My views on that are… well, I am not exactly jumping up and down.

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The second article is about how major search engines do not clearly disclose which results have been paid for and which are organic, according to a study, Still in Search of Disclosure, by Consumer Reports’ WebWatch.

Interestingly enough, the study author, Jorgen Wouters, indicated that the failure to prominently disclose whether a marketer had paid to be included in the results misleads consumers.

Our previous studies have shown that 60 percent of consumers surveyed did not know that search engine results included paid advertisements along with non-paid results, and when they found out the truth, they were angry. Search engines need to understand that these practices and omissions, when exposed, matter to consumers--their customers.

Note to marketers… it’s all in the mind. It’s about how you treat your clients’ customers. If they are sheep or eyeballs that just need to be teased, entertained or otherwise manipulated into paying attention and buying the products you want them to, it will show. It has always shown, to be honest, but now the ‘empowered consumer’ can and does talk back.

June 03, 2005
Friday
Unbundling the American Mobile Industry
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Trends 
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I just came across this excellent analysis of the US mobile industry but Damian Roskill on MediaThinking blog, which is not just for those who may be obsessed with it. It compares the mobile phone business to AOL in 1992.

Right now, they control the customer (that’s definitely the way it feels) with long term contracts, hefty fees for early termination while also having the final decision what phones, content and applications will be allowed on their network.

But at some point, just as with AOL, the great unbundling of access, hardware and software will have to occur. To a certain extent, it’s already happening now. I hear all the time about people buying the latest cool phone in another country and bringing it back here to the US for use on the local networks.

Damian then elaborates on the trends and issues that will force this unbundling, which focus around empending battle between networks and phone manufacturers, the internet and other applications and cost, and the appearance of other networks.

AOL continued to dominate for years after being pronounced dead for, in my opinion, one simple reason: it was too much of a pain to move your email address. Mobile phones aren’t that different right now – it’s still a pain to move your number (I know, I just did it). But it is also important to note that you CAN move your number. That said, this is a transition that is going to take years to play out.

But it will happen - because an open garden tends to beat a closed one.

Read the whole thing… Also, I found it via Gerlach Strategic Advisors blog FasterForward that adds its own postscriptum:

One argument that is often advanced in favor of walled garden approaches in telecom and media (as well as for the the use of intellectual property rights as a blunt instrument to try to fend off the collapse of old media business models) is that these strategies are simply an exercise of corporate management’s fiduciary duty to maximize shareholder value. It seems to me, however, that the real duty of management should be to focus on the long-term viability and health of the business based on an objective of maximizing the value to all stakeholders, especially the customers. The failure to focus on maximizing value to the customer ultimately leads to the failure of the business and the destruction of value for everyone. It would seem to me that if a carrier took an alternative route that focused on value to the customer and then effectively explained its strategy to the market and provided some demonstration of its ability to execute that strategy, it might actually be able to maintain shareholder value over the near-term while maximizing its chances of long-term success. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it ; )

June 02, 2005
Thursday
It’s all in the mindset
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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or the beginning of the end of search engine marketing as we know it...?

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Yahoo! just released beta of its novel approach to search called Y!Mindset. It is intent-driven search. A veritable buzzword as you have to try it to work out what it means. So, due to the buzzword alert I started sceptical but I must say I found the experience interesting and once I realised its full implications, very uplifting indeed.

The search is adjustable according to the underlying intention of either shopping or researching. Websites are evaluated by Yahoo!’s own scoring and they do not make any pretence that it’s not definitive and is still evolving.

I have put in a search for one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett and once the search results were up I could skew them either towards commercial or non-commercials sites. This is what I got at the each of the spectrum..

image

image

Two very different searches indeed. The first is non-commercial and contains sources about Terry Pratchett and nothing but. The other is commercial and it starts with Amazon and probably lists any other site that’s ever sold Pratchett’s books.

Now, why do I think it has implications for search marketing? Because if you have a commercial site and try to disseminate your message using commercial gobbledygook and the usual marketing speak, this kind of search will enable people to weed them out if they are looking for information and research. This puts commercial sites right out of the ‘expertise’ area and opens the door for non-commercial sites that have a lot to say about things and issues but are not trying to sell anything… Make your own connections then.

So, if this sort of intent driven searching takes off (and it’s a big if, as Y!Mindset is in a tender beta), it will make it very crucial indeed for companies to have blogs where they can talk about themselves and engage customers on a non-commercial level.

I shall be keeping my fingers crossed, of course. grin

May 25, 2005
Wednesday
Some serious trendspotting…
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Sui Generis • Trends 
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The Future of Television by Conan O’Brien:

To begin, the trend toward larger and larger televisions will continue as screens double in size every 18 months. Televisions will eventually grow so large that families will be forced to watch TV from outside their homes, peering in through the window. Random wolf attacks will make viewing more dangerous. And, just as televisions grow larger and more complicated, so will remote controls. In fact, changing channels will soon require people to literally jump from button to button. Trying to change the channel while simultaneously lowering the volume will require two people and will frequently lead to kinky sex.

via Doc Searls

May 23, 2005
Monday
UK’s first 3G mobile blogging service
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • News • Trends 
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3, the UK’s first video mobile network, announced the first mobile blogging service.

3’s My Gallery is set to transform blogging from a ‘geeky’ hobby to a mainstream communication method. The immediacy of this type of web publishing means that people can comment instantly as it happens, on the move.

That’s marvellous. But what do I read here:

Both public and private My Gallery sites are fully interactive allowing visitors to ‘blog’ their own comments.

Interesting, I thought that one blogs one’s thoughts, ideas, stories and other comment on the blog. Blogging is generally associated with the owner of the blog, not the visitors. But let’s not be pedantic… it has the magic word ‘interactive’.

To set up a My Gallery site, customers simply send a picture or video message to “3333”, charged at a standard rate, they then receive a password via SMS to manage their blog site.

Ah, so 3 is charging a lot of money as picture and video messaging cost a bit - one of the main reasons I imagine why people do not use it so much. This is in direct opposition to Lifeblog, a Nokia moblogging application that allows you to blog directly from your mobile (via email, not picture messaging) and your PC (via a desktop application) using Typepad as the publishing tool.  Works great and comes as a blogging application first rather than an expensive attempt at ‘interactive’ - and expensive - mobile data services…

May 09, 2005
Monday
Blogs are a revolutionary tool but who cares about adverting?
Perry de Havilland • Blogs & Blogging • Blogs in the media • Trends 
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Yes, blogs are the tool used to enable what is nothing less than an bottom up ‘emergent revolution’ that will shake the very core of the advertising and PR industries (not to mention politics).  That does not mean that bloggers are revolutionaries, just that that a consequence of what blogs enable (an explosion of information and, more importantly, insights on-line), the way people perceive businesses, amongst other things, is going to change compared to a just a short years ago when mass media was the only way the vast majority of people received the information upon which they based their decisions.

Of course many (perhaps even most) bloggers are not motivated by a wish to revolutionise anything and many are just using blogs as a way to follow old advertising supported publishing models, clueless about the broader impact of the tools they are using.  In fact, some professional bloggers are pouring scorn on the whole notion of blogs being revolutionary, perhaps intending to generate traffic driving attention to their blogs, knowing that their message of ‘blogs-are-no-big-deal’ will be joyously received by the many journalists who are starting to get an inkling that their entire professions is in danger of being dis-intermediated out of existence over the next ten years or so.

Yet the irony is that regardless of the fact a few pro-bloggers are using their blogs in decidedly non-trail blazing ways and babbling about the usual site traffic metrics (well they would do as that is the basis upon which they flog their ability to show advertisements), they are, perhaps even unwillingly, helping to propagate awareness that the internet really does change everything.  The real interesting stuff is not mere advertising but the fact blogs, or more accurately ‘internet version 2.0’, is going to give top down marketing, PR and many notions of branding a kick up the arse comparable to what followed Johannes Gutenberg in 1455.  The people who cannot look beyond the direct monetization of blogs (i.e. advertisements) are welcome to keep saying “what’s the big deal?” because in truth advertising supported blogging really is no big deal… frankly the knowledgeable commentators talking up the revolutionary potential of blogging were never talking about those guys to begin with.  The un-making of old style marketing and branding is just starting and so it is hardly surprising that many former journalists and marketers are unable to join the dots and see where this is all headed, even if some of them are helping the process along themselves.  Like the Cluetrain said, the internet really does meant the end of business as usual, it will just take a while for people to figure that out.

May 04, 2005
Wednesday
An unfair juxtaposition?
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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I give you two headlines from CNet news.com: Research: Spyware industry worth billions and Online advertising on upswing. In the first article I read:

Based on statistics published by the Internet Advertising Bureau, spyware could represent almost 25 percent of the entire online advertising industry. “We can hope that the advertising industry will provide some help in trying to root out the truly malicious forms of spyware, but as long as there is an attractive return on investment on this activity for some people, this isn’t going to stop anytime soon.”

In the second I learn:

Spending on online advertising is projected to reach $14.7 billion in 2005, as more marketers lose confidence in the effectiveness of traditional ads, according to new research. Nearly all of the marketers surveyed said they plan to cut spending in traditional channels such as print and direct mail to fund increases in online ads.

This means there will be clamour for more online marketing metrics, ROI and other fancy slicing and dicing, dividing by four, bringing in the sheep… and thinking it works. Groan.

May 03, 2005
Tuesday
Star Wars behind the times?
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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CNet News.com has an interesting interview with Henry Jenkins, director of the Comparative Media Center at the MIT, who is perhaps the most prominent scholar in the country devoted to examining pastimes often deemed profoundly frivolous. News.com spoke to Jenkins about the evolving relationships between big media companies and their active online audiences, and focused particularly on the relationship between Lucas and his fans.

Hollywood has been deeply suspicious of amateur productions, has largely read it through the Napster lens of saying all this stuff is piracy. If we don’t control this it’s bad for us. There has been real resistance to the emergence of a public culture around movie content. Many of the studio executives have had a hard time distinguishing between downloading movies and making your own movies, for example.

It’s about control, which is threatened by creativity and participation. Mr Jenkins says a few things that sound familiar:

In my new book, “Convergence Culture,” I spend a lot of time tracing the history of Lucasfilms’ relationship to its fans, continually trying to incorporate them, but at the same time being nervous about them and ultimately regulating them to control what can and can’t be said.

...

So essentially what Lucas has ceded to fans are the things that Lucas could never have controlled to begin with. And what it’s asking for in compliance is that fans don’t do anything that enters into the gray area, where fans might argue that it’s critical commentary but Lucas is going to see it as encroaching on his rights.

...It creates a double layer. There is the most visible layer, what’s going to be out there on the Web that people can find. And there’s stuff that is made but is hidden from view, that maybe gets shown at face-to-face gatherings but can’t be publicly distributed. It doesn’t mean the stuff isn’t made, but it means that certain stuff gets a lot of press, attention and visibility, and a lot of stuff is buried from view.

So, Star Wars fan base is vibrant, has created its own network and content but it is tightly controlled. I wonder whether without the continuinty from the past, which probably made the Star War fans get used to and accept the way they are treated, fans could be treated this way nowadays… Something tells me that those days are over.

To me, Lucas is interesting in embodying the contradictions of where modern companies are. Where it’s one franchise across media, and you’re a fan of the franchise, your level of engagement is regulated to different degrees depending on which section of Lucas is dealing with you. Because even though it’s an integrated company, in a way, these different parts of the company work with differing ideas and logics.

No one inside the media industry really knows how far they want to go with a participatory audience. They don’t know how much they want to trust consumers to be more actively involved in the creation of the content, more actively involved as evangelists for the content, bringing in new people, stimulating interest and so forth.

I guess they do not want to go too far - how can you control the message and measure the ROI on participation and interactive media if you do not know where things can go...? And in any case, evangelists are unstable, aren’t they? So it seems that the best the industry can do is to work itself up to generating ‘word of mouth’ and ‘buzz’. Oh and carefully controlled rewarded consumer feedback and behaviour.

Lucas is a fanboy filmmaker and likes to protect those types of fan participation that he grew up with, that he’s familiar with and comfortable with. But (he) has been surprisingly intolerant of some of the other modes of fan production.

Much of the above applies to many people in the media and related industries that are affected by the explosion of participation by their previously mute consumers/markets/audiences.

April 28, 2005
Thursday
Melting the tipping point?
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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Jeff Jarvis blogs about Wilson Quarterly with its cover story on The Collapse of Big Media and calls it a description of a melting point. Tipping point is so late 1990s… grin

Collapse is not too strong a word to describe what has happened to America’s major news media. Stripped of their old economic and technological advantages, befuddled by the changing character of their audiences, and beset by new competitors, they are reeling from the blows recent scandals have dealt to their credibility and presige. Their old authority is one, and with it, perhaps their ability to define for Americans a shared realm of information, ideas and debate.

There are many scary stats bandied about, the old media types take note.

  • Daily newspaper circ from 1990 to 2003: 62.3 to 55.2 million
  • Number of daily U.S. papers from 1990 to 2003: 1,611 to 1,456
  • By age group, percentage of Americans who read a paper yesterday: 18-29 - 23, 30-49 - 39, 50-64 - 52, 60+ - 60
  • Time spent by 8-19 year olds on all media: 6 hours, 21 minutes; time spent on print media: 43 minutes
  • Combined viewership of network evening news: 1980 - 52 million, 2004 - 28.8 million
  • Median age of network news viewer: 60
  • Percentage of people who believe all or most of what’s on: network news - 24, CNN - 32, FoxNews - 25, C-Span - 27, PBS NewsHour - 23

And more media meltdown stats here.

This post is full of link goodness as Jeff links to the indepth presentation by Mary Meeker of Morgan Stanley on Age of Engagement. Very interesting…

Everybody needs a conversation
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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David Beisel of Genuine VC has a great and balanced post about how the right product and good communication, not hype make a good online strategy:

I am surprised by the number of entrepreneurs that I meet with and talk to who don’t have a true online communications strategy, which I’ve blogged previously. Whether or not a company has a blog or some other form of incremental content, there is a conversation going on with or without them.

I share the sentiment. It is now easy to follow the conversations with many tools springing all over the net and the blogosphere. But somehow it seems that most companies have not made the leap from their reliance on the hot air PR-speak to joining the conversation that is going on whether they like it or not.

I think that the key with any online communications strategy is balance. There is a conversation going on, so join it. But hype is just that. A positive conversation will continue from your own lead – if you have a great product and solid business.

Indeed. Even a great conversation will not save a bad product or service. And you don’t even need a blogging VC to tell you that.

April 18, 2005
Monday
The blogger - employer divide
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Blogs & Blogging • Company blogs • Marketing & PR • Trends 
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Another article in the New York Times on the topic of bloggers and employees. This time the action is a bit closer to the ‘blog’ home, a Technorati employee, Niall Kennedy gets into trouble, almost.

One evening last month, he channeled one of those off-duty opinions into a satiric bit of artwork - an appropriation of a “loose lips sink ships” World War II-era propaganda poster altered to provide a harsh comment on the growing fears among corporations over the blogging activities of their employees. He then posted it on his personal Web log.

But in a paradoxical turn, Mr. Kennedy’s employer, having received some complaints about the artwork, stepped in and asked him to reconsider the posting and Mr. Kennedy complied, taking the image down.

Apparently, bloggers like Mr. Kennedy are starting to realise that corporations:

… are under no particular obligation to tolerate threats, real or perceived, from the activities of people who become identified with those brands, even if it is on their personal Web sites.

Interesting, I am not sure what it means to ‘tolerate threats, real or perceived, from the activities of people who become identified with those brands’. Obviously, there is confidential information and privacy issues but as far as the ‘brand’ is concerned, if an employee is making fun of it, well, it should be a useful signal to the ‘brand’ creators that something is not right.

Strange that years after the Cluetrain, the blogging world can put up with an argument based around the assumption that brands belong to the corporations, which spend millions of dollars protecting their brands.

… this isn’t about us and them. It’s about us. Them don’t exist. Not really. Corporations are legal fictions, willing suspensions of disbelief. Pry the roof off any company and what do you find inside? The Cracker Jack prize is ourselves, just ordinary people. We come in all flavors: funny, cantankerous, neurotic, compassionate, avaricious, generous, scheming, lackadaisical, brilliant, and a million other things. It’s true that the higher up the food chain you go, the more likely you are to encounter the arrogant and self-deluded, but even top management types are mostly harmless when you get to know them. Given lots of love, some even make good pets.

I am starting to think that Chris Locke was a bit too optimistic about the management types after all.

The point is not to condone doing something stupid as an employee, just because he or she has done it via a blog and blogs are groovy, doncha know, so that must be OK… It is about the idea that there must be just one approved voice coming from the mothership. Such ‘voice’ has always been a fantasy perpetuated by ‘brand strategists’ and blogs have made it clearer that while such a voice has never been credible, it can no longer be imposed.

Quote to remember
Adriana Cronin-Lukas • Marketing & PR • Quotes • Trends 
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The [ad] industry’s key currency is basically reach, frequency, exposure and cost per thousand. And where the currency out to be is about outcomes, engagement and effectiveness. Because right now all I’m doing is I’m measuring how cheaply or how expensively I’m buying the pig. I’m not figuring out whether or not the hot dog tastes good.
Rishad Tobaccowala, president of Starcom IP quoted in Bob Garfield’s Chaos Scenario article.

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