I'm an advisor to Badgeville, which launched at TechCrunch Disrupt this week -- and won the audience choice award! Badgeville is a social rewards and analytics platform that increases loyalty and engagement with your web audience. It's been great to watch former Socialtexter Kris Duggan create a well timed startup from scratch. Here's their presentation:
"When you had to go through mass media, there's really a handful of media outlets or influential or important reporters. Because there were so few of them that had the ability to publish, there was this whole layer called the PR industry," he says. "Well, (now) everybody has the ability to publish. You engage in direct conversations with both traditional journalists and bloggers through the Web. As long as you were willing to be more open and sharing than in the past, now it's much more of a conversation."
The article goes on to provide some practical advice for entrepreneurs. In the interview I laid out some key elements for bootstrapping your PR, such as:
Amplify your interests, even if not on topic for your company
Converse as an individual, to develop both your brand and the startup's
Don't blog only about outcomes, share the process you are in and what you learn
Practice what you pitch
Develop real relationships
PR is the most important marketing function while bootstrapping and is a critical founder skill to develop. I also want to highlight that after the initial boostrap you want to staff the PR function in house or work with a PR firm for baseline programs and the ability to scale during key events.
Assange: These files are the most comprehensive description of a
war to be published during the course of a war -- in other words, at a
time when they still have a chance of doing some good. They cover more
than 90,000 different incidents, together with precise geographical
locations. They cover the small and the large. A single body of
information, they eclipse all that has been previously said about
Afghanistan. They will change our perspective on not only the war in
Afghanistan, but on all modern wars.
"In media history up to now, the press is free to report on what the
powerful wish to keep secret because the laws of a given nation protect
it," Rosen writes. "But Wikileaks is able to report on what the
powerful wish to keep secret because the logic of the Internet permits
it. This is new."
I've been fascinated with embargoes, ever since Mike Arrington broke them for tech news.
"It's counterintuitive," he [Assange] said. "You'd think the bigger and more
important the document is, the more likely it will be reported on but
that's absolutely not true. It's about supply and demand. Zero supply
equals high demand, it has value. As soon as we release the material,
the supply goes to infinity, so the perceived value goes to zero."
This goes against what many have believed about what blogging, open source and more. That if you just made things bluntly transparent, the web would go to work, like earthworms through soil, digesting it all. But I think Wikileaks is fitting into the world it is changing. Some leakers will be attracted to submission through this process for its benefits and with mainstream brand at the end of it.
More importantly, making news out of volumes of disclosure takes both time, and a reason to commit to time. I'm not saying it needs specialist expertise, because given enough time and openness, such expertise tends to find itself.
But its also reasonable to infer that Wikileaks is about to co-opt the media, and become part of its body politic. And while many news organizations may decry their new role, I believe its the first time in a very long while where the web is really making the third estate stronger.
Now Wikileaks won't necessarily replace a city beat reporter who sits through city council meetings and chases down leads through city hall. There is promise in new models like the Ben Franklin project which starts with citizens suggesting local coverage and 2.0 infrastructure that gets things to print over time.
But previously there has never been a good answer for how the media will evolve and bring to light the big issues that nobody will pay for up-front (and the powerful stamp down). Wikileaks is a non-profit organization playing a valuable old role in a new way in the news ecosystem. Sunshine is the best disinfectant, and the gloomy clouds of journalism just parted.
And the role of Wikileaks in the State is a check, but the balance is a far greater topic than this post.
A lifetime ago I worked on an Eastern European telecom group's IPO and one of my favorite slides in my deck was borrowed from Goldman Sachs to paint the picture of a Multimedia Cycle. Yes, I said multimedia, but right now there is something shifting in the ad market that may or may not mean a recovery to yet another boom for the internet.
In 2002 I described the multimedia cycle like this,
"Just as potential customer spending drives advertising expenditures, Ad
spending drives the development of content to create ad space.
Development of content drives spending telecommunications services to
delivery it. Development of telecommunications services requires
investment in applications and infrastructure."
I also pointed out how GDP is correlated with ad spend and noted that ad spending drives internet recovery.
In 2004 there were signs the ad market recovered and the Web 2.0 boom was getting started. Google drove advertising innovation. To the point where way too many bloggers thought they could live off it. This ad recovery fueled a venture boom and falsely led many startups to leverage someone else's business model instead of finding their own. Many of course didn't make it through the crash, and those that did focused on creating their own leverage.
Ad revenue isn't what it used to be. And it won't be. Which may lead you to have concerns about the current recovery:
The last boom didn't deliver innovation in new ad formats and metrics,
and there still isn't a solid ad model for social networks like
Facebook. Put simply, advertising still works for the old web. More on this later...
Ad commoditization is moving far beyond text ads into other formats. The display ad market has moved to Real Time Ad Exchanges (disclosure: I'm an advisor to Triggit, which helps helps buyers optimize real time spend). Conversion rates always decline as the audience becomes sensitized, with the recent exception to newer formats like video ads (won't last long.
The B2B lead gen business has been cutthroat as well.
CPMs, CPCs, CPEs & CPLs are falling through the floor. In part this may reflect the broader economy, but every last efficiency is being wrung out of the markets.
What this means is what we've known. That traffic & engagement are less easy to monetize than during the last recovery. Or at the very least less than what was believed at the time.
This may lead you to believe the multimedia cycle will not be fueled, and internet recovery will stall the creation of the next wave of startups. But things have changed.
In Apple's Garden of Eden, you can skip advertising and directly monetize your content and apps. Subscription and ad models are ready for the taking as well. But this forbidden fruit drives your app down to $.99 and you only get 2/3rds. You find yourself in the hit business, and usually it ends up being Hollywood's studio model instead of an indie.
Startups already have to innovate their own ad models, and rise above them. When shit lobsters (a complement) like DaveMcClure are calling for coupons, that's what he means.
The big case in point is Twitter's launch of Promoted Tweets, the launch of Bill Gross' TweetUp and other new ad formats for the real time web like MyLike. It's not just about Twitter finally finding a business model, built upon the problem they created for brands. They are testing a new ad format and ranking algorithm that hopes to strike a balance between advertiser and user. And the real test is if they gain distribution through their search and other ecosystem partners starting tomorrow @chirp.
I'm going to go out like a bird on a limb here to suggest that it may be another tipping point for Twitter. One that involves actual tips. And supports a good portion of the ecosystem. This will serve as a litmus test for ad formats on social networks.
But the key for Twitter is if they can gain a distribution advantage for how they monetize. The qualms of them buying partners shouldn't concern partners, a lack of acquisitions should. "Filling holes" is a ridiculous analogy, btw. It reminds me about that story of a Dutch kid
taking his finger to a dike. But not literally.
Others ad formats are arising, like with SlideShare's AdShare for
professional sharing (advisor disclosure).The question I have is if new ad formats and other ad innovation will fuel another modest boom, because ads will always be a portion of new rising internet business models that are widely adopted. What form will they take? And will social gain a creative form that is valued as much as the creativity we have despite it.
You gotta love Mike's style. TechCrunch is banning embargoes. Now, bloggers are already notorious for breaking them, and at least TechCrunch is formalizing it. And by doing so, I think embargoes will gradually go the way of the DoDo.
The value of an embargo is the big launch, with multiple journalists covering the same thing (same message) at the same time. Often, an exclusive is given to one of the journalists, say a customer interview.
The metaphor, for 150 years — from print to radio to network to cable — has been the front page: important stuff first. "It should have to do now with falling through something, or floating through the totality of information or of intersecting worlds and interests," offers [Patrick] Spain, not a man wild with his metaphors. [VF, October, p. 126]
I've been saying for a while, and I think in Everything Is Miscellaneous, that the new front page is distributed across our day and our network. Much of it comes through our inbox. It consists of people we know and people we don't know recommending items for our interest...
When I was around 10 years old, I was a member of the Optimist Club. The group leader was a great guy, ran a construction company and drove a swanky green Caddie. Happy and successful guy. I'll always remember how he said to never read the front page of the newspaper first. All it would do is bring you down about what's going on in the world. He suggested instead to start with the funnies and work your way back to the front page.
I find the same thing to be true about my inbox, the modern front page as David suggests.
I was disturbed to read a pandering post by a Google employee that decries Michael Moore's documentary Siko and offers advertising as a means for the U.S. health care industry. Others were, and Google's official position that was no position. Dan Farber has been following the story, and added this update:
Update 2: Now we have an explanation from Ms. Turner
regarding how to read her post. She just meant to state Google’s
position that “advertising is a very democratic and effective way to
participate in a public dialogue.” I won’t argue with the idea of
advertising as democratic. Anyone with the money or winning bid can get
their message out into the ether. But ads tend to be one-sided sales
pitches without footnotes, not a public dialog. If we want a public
dialog, having the two opposing sides in a public debate would be a far
better way to educate the public.
I will argue with the idea of advertising as democratic. It is the opposite. Spending isn't speech. Sure, U.S. health care can buy ads to be placed in context alongside public discourse. But not everyone can. It concerns me that the bright people at Google could be talking themselves into believing that either advertising is democracy, let alone that it helps democracy.
If the U.S. health care industry really wants to respond to Sicko, they will engage in, if not host, online communities for civic dialog. However, most online communities these days are powered by advertising. Community hosts and ad networks have to balance against the very strong
incentives to smudge context and placement until where the line between
paid and unpaid content are blurred. A balance is struck, not unlike between editorial and publishing in traditional media, but with a very big difference in that the audience has the choice to go elsewhere with a single click. Or create their own without the influence of advertising.
An interesting thought experiment is not only would this work for Wired, or a media company, but would it work for any company.
Expounding upon the reactions to his post, Chris clarifies:
These techniques works better for relatively short-form web media than
they do for the print magazine. That's mostly because magazine features
tend to be long (2,500-10,000 words) and wrapped up in a package heavy
with art and design. Long-form journalism is more about narrative and
story arc, which is really best done as a close collaboration between a
writer, editor and designer.
Actually, an interesting question is if you could make the short form more like the long form. Many a time have I been interviewed by a writer and then had a photo shoot with someone that had little or no idea what the article was about. Photo editors don't give a lot of art direction, especially to freelancers. Wired features are more collaborative than the norm, but I have to ask if tighter collaboration could be fostered for short form stories.
At Ziff Davis a while ago, this process between the art director, writers and editors was made transparent through a wiki:
In order to put a story together, Art, Production and Editorial
departments have to work together. The Editorial team is on the 8th
floor, the Art team is on 9th floor and someone is always out of the
The team and department heads realized they could use Socialtext for
day-to-day coordination, scheduling and requests. The groups need to
communicate to each other what's needed for stories in progress: Art, HTML requests,
copy, all in a back-and-forth conversational style. The groups set up a
page for each activity, posting requests as they come up, and tracking
fulfillment of the request. A structured approval process wouldn't
address the need for iterative communication. "Because its not always a
regular process, we can communicate when something isn't clear and
coordinate getting it done," said Kennedy.
But the interesting question to ask with any process, especially an ad hoc process, is what would happen if we increase the scale and transparency through a wiki?
Chris suggests this is possible by wikifying everything. But I'd suggest that for most newsrooms there is a preliminary step of internal transparency, and then involving freelancers.
Mark Pincus was made an example by the Washington Post today because he stuck to his principles and refused to be censored. The article is a classic mainstream media take on the abject horrors of newstream media and how it can impact reputations. Mark's response details many of the inaccuracies.
The irony is now Mark's reputation is at stake because of a mainstream media piece that does no better than what the newstream would.