Category Archives: Internet & Web X.0

Technology as an Enabler

I was watching [on Fora.tv] a 2008 Clay Shirky talk he gave to a bunch of folks at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard and he hit the nail over the head around a topic that I like to talk about, “technology as an enabler.”

One of my best friends, Andrew Sispoidis, one of the co-founders of IGA Worldwide, and funnily enough also remotely looks like Clay, once told me that technology should purely be an enabler.  Anytime you dive down deep into technology and promote the “technology” component, it’s a zero sum game as it becomes a feature war with your closest competitors.

In the video I watched today, Clay adds to the technology as enabler thought:

Once the technology have sunk deep enough in the culture, the social effects built upon the technology require the technology but aren’t about the technology

I like this a lot as it sums it up nicely.  Think about it this way:  when you have a great car trip, it’s probably because you listened to some great music or had fantastic conversation.  Very rarely do you say that the Brembo brakes worked flawlessly and the engine’s torque made the ride smooth.

Social effects become interesting when technology becomes boring.

I really like this topic.

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PointCast & UberMedia

Bill, we’ve never met but I’ve been a big fan of yours since the idealab! days.  I’d love to chat with you based on your recent media coverage around UberMedia.

I’ve been reading lots of the recent news around the acquisition of TweetDeck and your other acquisitions..  This morning, I read an interview on PaidContent which really crystalized this for me and appropriately, Chris Dixon named you a badass swashbuckler.

I don’t have such a cool name for you, but I do want to share a few things with you that I’ve been writing now for the past 5 years.  Note, this is not everything, but snippets of what I could find indexed in Google from my blog.

Here’s a snippet of what was written on PaidContent this morning:

For some of us, like you, some of these ideas of push news, push information, we’ve been there, we’ve seen them fail. I was involved with PointCast. Here’s what I think has happened. Some ideas are really, really great and fundamental, like the push power of PointCast, which Twitter is very similar to today. However, the time wasn’t right. The devices weren’t ready for it. We didn’t have mobile devices, didn’t have smartphones back when PointCast was out, The bandwidth was too low. One of the big challenges PointCast has was taking over the bandwidth of corporate servers so they blocked it. At that time, the dial-up modem was just too slow to handle the push graphics. Today, it’s ideal. The ideal circumstances are there so sometimes old ideas at the right time are really powerful and I think that’s the case today.

As many of you who have followed this blog since day 1, I’ve said that there is room for PointCast to come back.  I even attempted to purchase PointCast 3 years ago but that failed and that’s when I began building Tomzy in my private time.  Tomzy will be released in the near future once a few developers can finish up the initial alpha code.

Here are a few of my blog posts about PointCast over the years.  The media landscape is so ripe for it especially as all of our media consumption “devices” are becoming connected.

Predictions for 2006 (1/2/2006)  We’re going to see a “Pointcast” type network emerge for media.  For those who do not know what PointCast was, it was a startup formed in 1992 that provided relevant news and information to your desktop thru a push application.  See the Wikipedia definition here.  Pointcast didn’t fail due to it’s amazing product- it failed due to poor management and the timing of the marketplace.  I’d like to see Pointcast come back in some iteration that may bridge iTV, iRadio, Internet, and video games.  Do I believe that media can be 100% ad-supported?  Not all of the media, but there are certainly a mass quantity of media that can be – so lets get Pointcast up and running and support that relevant media.  (I’ve got an idea, so contact me)

PointCast & Widgets (8/29/2006):  Are we going to see a resurgence of the PointCast Network?

The Adobe Air Up There (9/27/2007):  Lots of possibilities for this platform. The number one possibility I’d like to see it enable/bring back? PointCast. If PointCast had launched utilizing the Adobe AIR platform, the technical hurdles that the developers faced in the 90s would have went away and PointCast may be the next new network. Who knows. I’d love to place a bet that a similar [PointCast] model will emerge soon utilizing this platform.

Digital Ramblings:  Long Post Warnings (12/7/2008):  Boxee is really interesting for many reasons, but the first of which is getting digital content onto my living room TV.  I can watch everything from Fast Lane Daily to TED Talks, Hulu to Netflix.  Genius.  I want to see Boxee expand to the desktop as well in terms of a content distribution system inside of widgets.  Think PointCast model.  I’d be very interested in talking further about this.

Bill, I welcome a conversation with you next time you are in NYC or I’ll fly out to San Francisco to meet with you.  You can contact me thru this form (sorry for not giving email address due to search engine spammers) and I’ll gladly be in touch.

If you aren’t Bill Gross, but are an entrepreneur who has serious aspirations around a “new” PointCast model and you can think larger than the traditional “desktop” experience, lets chat too.

Happy Saturday.

Darren

We Are New York Tech Features a Herman

One of the sites I check out each morning is WeAreNYTech, a site which highlights different people each day that are part of the NY tech scene. Yes, it’s a little fit pumping and a little chest beating, but who doesn’t enjoy that every once in a while.

When I went to the site today, I saw a very familiar face.  A face that I grew up playing video games with, fighting around the house, traveling the USA, and getting into arguments about Rangers vs. Devils.  I also used to throw cold water on him in the shower.  Yes, my brother Kenny.  Kenny has been featured by WeAreNYTech as he’s the VP of Business Development for uber hot startup, SinglePlatform.

It’s a big day for Kenny and I couldn’t be happier for him.  He’s awesome – one of the most charismatic, kind, means-well, person you could ever meet and he’s getting some nice recognition.  He’s been known to dance on tables at clubs I hear, but he’s pretty tame most of the time.

Congrats Kenny.

-Your Proud Brother

A Really Interactive Super Bowl XLV

Super Bowl XLV is here.  The players are geared up after 2 weeks of non stop practice and press conferences.  The ad industry is ready after months of sleepless nights getting ready for their clients TV spots to go live.  And fans are super ready as this game culminates the 45th NFL Season and 110,000 lucky fans get to attend in-person in Dallas at a beautiful new (2009) stadium.

But for the 100MM+ people expected to tune into the game this evening, I expect the commercials to work harder than they have in the past.  Let me do a bit of setup before I dive deep.

Television advertising comes in two forms:  DR and non-DRTV.  DRTV stands for “direct response television.”  The commercials that you see during the Super Bowl are certainly non-DR related and do not follow the guidelines that many networks have for creating DRTV spots.  The main distinction between DRTV and non-DRTV is a call-to-action- such as a 1800 or 1900 number to be displayed for a certain % of the commercial.  To learn more about DRTV, check out the wikipedia entry.

Outside of DRTV, what many regular TV advertisers don’t do is provide a call to action during their television spot.   I’m not a creative director and I’ve never shot a television commercial, but it’s pretty logical to end a TV-spot with asking the view to take action.  Historically, actions were hard to take because there was no “digital” linkage – so an action would have to be to “call in” or ask the viewer to immediately go to a store to measure response.  We knew that’s illogical to ask during the Superbowl.  But now, with high digital penetration across all of our homes (or wherever we watch the big game) and a smartphone in most of our pockets, a call to action that can be measured should be a commonplace.

Media research has shown that TV spots drive search queries for a brand.  Spikes in search volume is closely related to TV ads (and radio to an extent).

Do the television spots actually tell the user what to search?   Do the TV spots ask the viewer to visit a Facebook page?  Tweet a certain account?  [Miso] Check-in to TV spot?  SMS a certain number?

What I’d like to see with this crop of Super Bowl Commercials is a distinct call to action to use digital media to drive the Super Bowl Commercial experience beyond the :30 second TV spot.  This user engagement will allow advertisers to amortize the cost beyond just the :30 second time they spend $3MM on.  In some ways, if done correctly, it builds an eCRM initiative into Super Bowl TV-ads.  It’s just plain smart.  If you had the attention of 100MM people, wouldn’t you ask them to take action and engage with your brand? Ending a TV spot with a logo and website URL is no longer enough.

Unfortunately, much of this probably won’t happen tonight for the majority of brands.  I’ve previewed 8 different brands Super Bowl ads so far and the farthest they go with a call to action is ending on the brand’s respective logo and website URL.  See for yourself, Mashable has a listing of 30+ spots.

I hopefully will be surprised tonight with a brand or two who “gets it.”  If you are someone who does or has a service/platform/product to help enable this for brands, please do not hesitate to reach out.

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Recent Launches in Content & Distribution

We’ve been head down at the agency (kbs+p & the media kitchen) with some recent launches that I’m extremely proud of.  Some of you who read this blog have been part of them (as a partner, colleague, or client) and know how exciting it’s been.

We’ve brought back documentaries to BMW.  If you remember BMW Films, we’ve brought back a similar film/documentary style approach to talk about the future of mobility.  My colleague and buddy Faris has a great writeup on his blog and it’s been written about by BMW Blog and in the press here and here.  Throughout the month, you’ll be able to watch new “chapters” that are released about the future of mobility from some of the top thinkers in the world:  Astronaut Buzz Aldrin; Futurist and conceptual designer for Blade RunnerAliens and TronSyd Mead; Google VP Marissa Mayer; ZipCar founderRobin Chase; Treehugger.com founder Graham Hill; Ridelust.com editor-in-chief Mike MustoReinventing the Automobile co-author Lawrence Burns; and Director of Environmental Affairs, Richard Mattila.

We have launched The Daily, a new operating unit of News Corporation that pushes the boundaries of digital journalism.  This has been a fun project to work on because we’ve gotten to see it from it’s very early days through yesterday’s successful launch.  When I downloaded The Daily to my home iPad last night, there were over 1200 reviews in the App Store!  There have been tons of reviews about it so if you type in “The Daily” into Google News, you’ll have your pick of reviews to read.  Here’s one by CNN.  Here’s a link to @daily twitter account if you want to sign up.

The common thread of the two of these projects:  high quality content and packaging.  While the Internet has no shortage of content, there is a vast variety of styles of content written and produced.  I think you’ll see with the two of these projects that the content stands out from most of everything else.

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Opportunities in Advertising Ecosystem

I gave a presentation at the First Round Capital CEO Summit yesterday in San Francisco on the subject of areas that need innovation within the advertising ecosystem.  While this is a very very broad topic and I only had 45 mins or so, I had to narrow it down to a few areas to speak in-depth about.

I modified the presentation for public consumption and reformatted it from it’s original version.  The presentation is obviously a “talking” presentation with much of the context and clarity coming from my voice overs.  I tried to put a few sentences under each topic so you can get a sense of what each slide is about.  It’s short and sweet – and would love to hear from anyone who has any “solves” for these opportunities.

Here is the link to the presentation on Scribd

Opportunities in Online Advertising

I had a great time at the presentation and met some awesome entrepreneurs and CEOs.

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Why I'm Excited About This Batch of Internet Driven IPOs

NEW YORK - APRIL 02: Changyou CEO Tao Wang pre...
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Let’s assume the Internet started mainstream adoption in 1990 when Prodigy had approximately 465,000 subscribers and CompuServe had 600,000 (fact check here).  While those numbers in themselves aren’t mainstream to a country of 300MM+ people, they do signify a large group of people who were early adopters and started to spread the love about this thing we called/call the World Wide Web.

Throughout the decade of 1990s and within the technology sector, there were quite a few companies who attained liquidity thru going public (IPO).   Others raised quite a bit of private equity and venture capital and some are still around today, others are not.

IPOs of significance to this post:  Lycos (1996), Yahoo! (1996), eBay (1998), Akamai (1999), Razorfish (1999)

During the 90s, there was lots of hype and hoopla surrounding many of the IPOs which led them to appear much larger and significant than they really were.  The major reason for this was the promise of the Internet and implied valuations and multiples for what the Internet “will be” in years to come.  These multiples made up for the revenue traction (or non-traction) that the companies had.  The companies who had revenue traction then are more likely to be around today as they had solid foundations.

Fast forward to today.  There is starting to be some talk on the various mainstream and niche news sites about the forthcoming IPO marketplace for Internet related companies such as Facebook, Groupon, LinkedIn, Twitter, amongst many others.  In talking with many investors, journalists, and entrepreneurs, they are a bit hesitant of this IPO landscape which is the opposite of my thinking.  Maybe I’m the contrarian here.

I’m excited for some of the forthcoming IPOs.  Let me explain why but before I do, lets remove any external factors outside of this blog post about the US economy, worldwide economies, etc.   Let this solely be around the Internet.

  • Internet Adoption:  In it’s most simplest sense, there are more people using the Internet today than there were in the 1990s; here in the US and in the world.  By more people using the web, there is inherently more demand for innovation.  Instead of introducing home PCs to people, we’re now introducing tablets and smartphones.  Access to the web isn’t “if” or even “when” now, it’s more about “how much” access thru multiple devices.
  • Internet Understanding:  It’s 20 years post 1990 or 11 years (an entire decade+) since 2000 and the mainstream public now knows how to use a computer and browse/surf/dabble across the web.  500 million people have logged onto Facebook and created a profile.  This was not the case 10 years ago.  Fundamental understanding and most important, comfort, with the Internet is here and more people are discovering, transacting, communicating, and planning each day online.
  • Advertising Dollars:  For the past 20 years, dollars have been allocated to the digital channel.  Search, display, rich media, video, mobile, etc all have helped grow the digital advertising pot. Currently as it stands according to eMarketer, online ad spending is roughly 15.3% (2010) of total ad spending resulting in approximately $25.8B.  This number is going to grow and help bolster digital tv, radio, print, and OOH (all of those channels will have digital backbones eventually).

So why I’m particularly excited about the idea of the Internet IPO resurgence is because there is a strong foundation for these companies to grow on top of in terms of Internet users, comfort level, and ad & product spending online.  The previous companies had very little to build atop which is very different now.  The landscape is a bit more mature which should allow for companies to go big and have a higher rate of success.

(note, I’m not bullish on all of the companies listed in this post -just using them as examples)

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My First Ohours Day Competed

For those note familiar with Ohours, it’s my friend Nate‘s new experiment with helping to connect people looking to network and connect with other interesting people.  He also coded it from start to finish as his working education to learning programming.  I thought I’d try it.

I held my first Ohours day on Friday, January 7.  I made an hour of my time available in 20 minute increments and met with three different people.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect going in and was very curious to see who would pick me.

I will leave out the names of the people I met with due to confidentiality purposes but will give some insight into the content of the meetings and my overall opinions:

  • Probably no shock, all three meetings had to do with entrepreneurship and for me to give quick feedback on certain aspects of their business (fundraising, business development, hiring)
  • The meetings underscore to me that the New York tech scene has a lack of development talent which has been written about quite a bit lately or people just do not know where to look (which seems to be less of an issue now)

Here is some advice if you are using Ohours (and feedback for the product in general):

  • 20 minute meetings are tough.  By the time you are done with intro’s, then you have 10 minutes to talk.  Not a ton of time.  I’d say minimum meeting times should be 30 minutes (an extra 10 mins means a lot)
  • Ohours should send an email with brief bio’s of each person you are meeting with.  I actually had only met one of the three people I had met with before and wasn’t able to research their backgrounds before meeting individually with them.  If Ohours could pull from the various sources online (like LinkedIn) with bio information, it would be helpful.
  • A private feedback mechanism would be helpful to see how the participants in the meeting felt about it.  It could be less about “did I like the person” but more about “did the meeting add or enrich value” (or something along those lines)

The next 2 weeks are grueling for me and laden with travel so I’ll have another Ohours in February.  It’s not posted yet on the site but will tweet it out when it eventually is posted.

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Optimizing My Content Consumption

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Image via CrunchBase

It’s very rare that I have time to web surf and pop onto random websites and consume whatever is there.  24 hours just is not enough for me at this point in my life and so I need the best possible filtering agents to help me consume/optimize my time online.

What I expect from a filtering solution today:

  1. Takes inputs from me and understands what I want from them
  2. Look-a-like model against my input list and expand it
  3. Understand what my social graph is consuming

What I expect from a filtering solution tomorrow:

All of the above, but with use cases built in:

  1. Business needs (be able to filter results based on what I need for business – maybe understanding this by time of day and day of week consumption habits?)
  2. Personal needs (be able to filter results per above)

Currently, I’m using Summify and Knowabout.it.  Both are early in their existence and are making good strides but would love to understand what else is out there?

What I like about Summify:

  • Simple email is sent to me at a specific time (usually in the early AM) with up to 6 items that should be relevant to me based on my RSS + social graph.  I like the simplicity of this.

What I like about Knowabout.it

  • I like the web interface to expand my collection into what other people similar to me are consuming/creating

Media optimization is a big space that I’m tracking for 2011 and expect to make an investment or two.  If you are in the space and want to reach out, I’d welcome it.

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2010 Post Highlights

I’ve written a bunch of posts on this blog in 2010.   Not all are my favorites but below, I’ve highlighted the ones that are.  You can find a list of all-time favorite posts here ranging back to 2006.

Organizational Behavior

Data, Marketing Technology

Twitter & Social

Investing

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