The Christmas wishlist

Letter to Santa Clos by The Jamoker on Flickr (CC Licence)

'Letter to Santa Clos' by The Jamoker on Flickr (CC Licence)

Normally the list of what I’d like for Christmas would be a 50-50 split between technology and entertainment, but the responsibility of being a new homeowner and a new parent in the current financial climate means the end of the gadget list.

Instead, I want to list some of the things I’d like to see happen – some of which I could actually play a part in catalyzing. (Although, if you do want to gift me a gadget, I’ll accept: smartphones,laptops,netbooks, a flip mino, digital slrs, or digital video cameras!).

  • Health and financial security for my family – One most parents would subscribe to, and why I’m quitting smoking right now.
  • Increased speed and data limits for UK broadband without raised costs - Everyone loves the BBC iPlayer until they realise going over their limit cost them £200 last month. And everyone would love to download a good film quickly. But unless you’re with a decent ISP (I’m with Zen Broadband - 20GB limit per month), you end up with enough to watch one video. Slowly. If the Government wants technology and innovation to help get us out of a recession, superfast broadband is an essential resource.
  • More innovation in the media and entertainment industry – It’s starting to happen, but only in isolation. If not, the music industry might as well bow to Steve Jobs now, whilst text, image and movies will be the toys of Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
  • Successfully quitting smoking: After about 14 years, I think it’s long enough – at least until the child has left home and I’m too old to worry about impotence or my breath smelling. (Can’t wait to see the ad google places next to this post!)
  • More success for my friends and people I respect: My social networks really have made true the idea that the success of my friends benefits me in some way – better quality back links if nothing else!
  • Twitter monetisation: We’ve talked about it for long enough, and all I want to know is how the plans will affect my usage of Twitter.
  • Developers who have spare time/desire to do new things: Like most people in digital, I have various ideas for services and applications which may be successful. Also like most people in digital, I’m not in a position to pay for development work, and although I know that a developer working for a revenue share shoulders most of the work and risk if it fails, I’d love Santa to find me one or two who fancy risking some time and effort.

There’s probably more, but that will do for now! I’m quite intrigued to see what some other people would wish for, so I’m asking Dave Cushman, Chris Brogan, Jonathan MacDonald,  and Neil Perkin.

What wouldn’t Google do?

I’m looking forward to seeing the new book by Jeff Jarvis, ‘What Would Google Do‘, where he reverse-engineers Google and applies the learnings to a variety of different industries.

It’ll definitely be interesting, and I certainly mean no disrespect to his work, but as a purely external observer of the big G, it seems like my own version would be the shortest book in history.

What would Google do? Pretty much everything they could – and then see what works, what gets popular, and what they can monetise – The End!

There’s a great case in point emerging as Google experiments in wringing more from Adsense – for example Adsense in Flash games, Adsense in Google Maps, Click-to-buy on Youtube, Adsense in RSS etc, and now an Adsense search box and adverts for pages of Adsense adverts.

Meanwhile they’ve got enough projects on the go to shake a web pointer at in Google Labs. And that doesn’t even list other properties like Orkut. Which, according to a great global map of social networks by Oxyweb (hat tip to Nick O’Neil) is still ruling the roost in India and Brazil.

Click to see the Oxyweb global social network map in full

Click to see the Oxyweb global social network map in full

And then there’s acquisitions. I don’t even know how many they’ve made over recent years, but certainly they include the likes of Blogger, which I still use for some projects and ideas despite preferring WordPress now, and Feedburner.

And if you want to see what happens when a Google acquisition doesn’t result in transformational change to a service (and possibly even a downturn in terms of reliability and usability), just keep an eye on a Twitter Search for Feedburner!

And then there’s Google Analytics, Web Optimizer, Google Reader, Gmail, iGoogle, and I can’t even keep up linking to each product!

‘To me, Google appears to differ from most large companies by being almost liquid or gaseous in slipping itself into whatever shape or gap is necessary to permeate into every part of our digital lives (including mobile). And it does it by doing every possible permutation and leaving what works in place’

I think that probably sums up my approach to answering What Would Google Do? But I’m looking to see what Jeff Jarvis has used for his take in the actual book!

Breaking the habit of broadcast media

UK newspapers by franckdethier on Flickr (CC Licence)

UK newspapers by franckdethier on Flickr (CC Licence)

It’s only when you try and break a long held habit that you realise how much we’re all influenced by the way we’ve always done things. Since starting my efforts to cut down and stop smoking, I’ve managed to get to the point where I only have the occasional cigarette once the family has gone to bed – but it’s the hardest one to drop. And when I get writers block, my intake rapdily goes up because I’ve spent so long finding inspiration by getting outside and getting the hit of nicotine while my brain kicks into gear.

And I’ve also started to try and challenge the broadcast media habit of trying to get the biggest audience with the least work. For years we’ve focused on audience figures to suggest that by doing the bare minimum, you’ll reach the biggest audience.

Whereas in the modern world, we need to work harder than ever at making as much of what we do remarkable, and to pursue as many opportunities to the maximum as we can. Otherwise we’ll keep finding someone else that does!

It reminds me of a post I read earlier today, which sadly I seem to have misplaced, commenting on the problem facing the A-List of blogging. Namely, the fact that people like Robert Scoble, Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk are finding it hard to scale to respond on an individual level to every email, post and tweet they receive, and in effect, become mini-broadcasters.

The simple answer is that they still remain increasingly popular because they put in a huge amount of effort to stay more accessible than mainstream media. They don’t have to make time for everyone, but by attempting it as far as possible, it gives hope to those who don’t grab their attention at a particular time. It’s why I count myself fortunate to have had messages from the likes of Chris Anderson and Hugh McLeod, but I don’t bombard them with emails, or suddenly thinkg they’re my best friend and will respond to everything I do – they’ll do it if what I say is interesting and they have the time available.

The other option is to scale it, and for them to find someone as similar as possible, or someone they can trust, to work alongside them.

That’s where broadcast media should be. We still have far more resources than the top bloggers, so why not scale back on the coverage that everyone else is parroting, use link journalism, and focus on becoming closer to the spirit of individual response that blogging has fostered.

After all, it’s what we laud Zappos, Dell and Comcast for doing.

But there is a habit of resisting the idea of putting in that much effort for what will be less profit in total. Despite the fact that everything so far has shown that it’s harder to get similar levels of profit from online audiences as you would in print, radio or TV, and that the only way to really be successful is to aggregate lots and lots of individuals monetisation.

Annoyingly, the great David Armano summed this up far more succinctly.

The Corporate Social Media Curve by David Armano (http://darmano.typepad.com/)

The Corporate Social Media Curve by David Armano (http://darmano.typepad.com/)

At the point before the curve starts to dip, we need to put in the extra effort to keep that line climbing. Now if only I hadn’t needed a cigarette to think of all this!

Will the financial crisis force Twitter to monetise?

Could the current financial situation force Twitter to start monetising microblogging with a newfound urgency?

Yes?

  • Within the $20 million in VC funding, there is bound to be an element feeling a little twitchy at the moment.
  • Would anyone buy a service for the valuations Twitter has had, without a working financial model?

No?

  • $20 million can go a long way, if you’re careful!
  • If Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg is being honest that the social network is concentrating on growth over revenue for three more years, then as the pre-eminent microblogging site, Twitter could follow a similar plan. The only flaw is that Facebook is already making money, just not as much as it could!

These are some initial thoughts, so it would be great to hear some opinions and ideas! Personally I think that we may see some of the smaller microblogging sites, perhaps Plurk for example, need to find revenue generation before Twitter, simply due to the lack of funding reserves. Twitter has the advantage of being able to sit back, and perhaps see some of the experimentation take place before acting.

Does Blip.fm show a route to monetisation for Twitter?

It took me a couple of passes to get the value of Blip.fm as opposed to existing streaming radio online like last.fm. At first, for some reason, it wasn’t running properly and playing each track in turn for me, which didn’t help! But now it’s becoming a great way to discover new music recommended by my friends, even if I normally revert to streaming my last.fm library for longer periods. The two compliment each other is the same way as someone like John Peel complimented by record collection, but I couldn’t always make it through an entire show before some obscure German techno forced me to change radio station.

Blip.fm helps me find new music by effectively allowing users to Twitter with each song they choose, giving it some context, or publicly proclaiming their love for it etc. And I can aggregate these choices into my own list, give ‘props’ to other users for good choices, and filter the overall stream via my friends, just as I would with Twitter.

Where it might give a clue to revenue streams for microblogging is in offering the direct link to buy any track as an MP3 via Amazon. So if I like a particular track or artist, the opportunity to make a quick impulse purchase is always there – and it’s backed up by allowing me to listen to the track based on recommendations by my friends.

The only weakness is that not every track is available, and I need to be aware that I want to listen to this track offline, in my car, on an Ipod, at the time that I’m experiencing it…or be able to find it easily, and at the moment there’s no way to search my Playlist, or add individual songs to my Amazon wishlist.

But if what if this model was more widely applied – to offline magazines and books for example. And to products as well? One Twitter Affiliates scheme which wasn’t tied into a sole retailer, but operated as an aggregation service to allow me to recommend almost anything, and offer a direct link?

It’s probably the quickest and simplest method of monetising the Twitterati. And people can be persuaded to link their recommendations to returns for themselves or even for charity, as something like Squidoo shows.

It would be possible to test the theory if individuals listed book recommendations etc via existing Amazon etc affiliate accounts, but this may lead to confusion and disappointment if it isn’t flagged up as such before an unsuspecting user follows the link – but Twitter and the extra 20 characters could flag referral posts quickly and uniformly.

The only question for me is who tries it first – Twitter, or an enterprising external team? Anyone know a good developer? ;)

AOL buys Bebo for $850 million

I don’t have time to start hypothesizing, but thought this was worth sharing asap. AOL has announced today it has entered into an agreement to buy Bebo for $850 million.

Bebo’s one of the biggest social networking sites in the UK, number 1 in Ireland and New Zealand, and is number 3 in the US. It’s also more focused on the early and pre-teen market, and has also been developing video channels/promotions, including Kate Modern (currently the most successful web TV show).

There’s more info on the purchase as BusinessWire.

My quick response is that I have an element of fear about a Myspace type stagnation due to a purchase, but coming a week after opening up AOL Instant Messenger, hopefully AOL has thought carefully about how to oversee Bebo without destroying what has made it successful. And it’ll be interesting to see what efforts they might make to change the monetisation of the site – something social networks have traditionally struggled with despite huge predictions of ever-increasing advertisement spending.

As long as I don’t get bombarded with cd’s to set me up on Bebo, I’ll be happy.