Category Archives: social media

10 wishes for advertising in 2015



and more importantly…

2. NO MORE 360º





and let’s start shifting our focus…



and that means…






and it’s not just about past versus present…



and really, really…



if we manage to do that, then nothing is impossible. Even…



and finally…



HAVE A GREAT 2015…. 

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What advertising and publishing should both learn

Let’s take a break from comparing advertising to politics, and take a look at publishing instead.

Here what Daniel Victor, social media editor at ProPublica, has to say about this job:

“You need equal attention to the distribution and the reporting aspects of the job. […] The big temptation is to focus more on the distribution than the reporting.”

This sums up very neatly that major problem for advertising today: it’s not the recession, it’s not commoditization, it’s not globalization. It’s spending too much time thinking at how we’re going to distribute an idea via social media/influencers/promotions/applications/younameit, and too little time thinking at the merit of the idea we want to distribute.

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Unlike-minded slides

A rallying cry for the unlike-minded. With fewer words and more pretty pictures.

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Julian Assange doesn’t matter

About 10 years ago, shortly after the birth of Napster, videos documenting police violence at the G8 in Genoa started to circulate on the p2p networks. Those who witnessed and filmed the event knew that their videos couldn’t have made their way into mainstream media because that would have cast the government in too much of a  bad light, so they uploaded them into the grassroots network that they were already using to share music.

Nobody noticed back then because it was a sporadic event, and when that same technology started crashing the entertainment industry, that’s what grabbed the headlines.

If anything, it’s surprising that it took 10 years for the unauthorized leak of sensitive information to go mainstream, and for Wikileaks to establish itself.

What is not surprising, is the hysterical reaction by established institutions, that are behaving just like the music industry did, quite possibly with the same results.

Prosecuting Shawn Fanning didn’t stop peer2peer, and did no good to the music industry. Prosecuting Julian Assange isn’t going to stop Wikileaks. Even if Assange was to be taken out of the equation, someone else will set up a digital presence to allow people to anonymously upload any information that they deem should go public.

There is a significant demand, there is a digital infrastructure, there are very low barriers. No effort from any governmental institution can balance the opportunities for atomized publication and sharing that digital has brought along. And just saying that something is different from how things should be done, or even dangerous, is not going to stop it. Anyone who doesn’t understand this, doesn’t understand the XXI century.

Technology is not a question that legislators can answer “yes” or “no” to. Once adopted by a significant amount of people, technology is a fact.

(Update: Dave Winer makes the same point here.)

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Why Google can still rock the world

So, I indulged in a bit Google slapping in some of my last posts, but since I’m very much aware that this seems to be one of Blog-land favourite activities for 2010 I thought I’d be true to the spirit of this blog and complicate things a bit. Here are some unsolicited considerations on why and how Google can still get bigger and better:

Search is a by-product

This is a fundamental point for everything that follows. Search is not a product. Not because it’s a feature: of course it is, but that’s not the point. In people’s eyes, the difference between product and feature is meaningless. Search is not a product because it carries no value in itself. It’s a by-product, that is generated by, and only makes sense with, a worthy product.

When Google launched, the web was one mastodontic product that needed to be sorted out. Now you don’t need to agree with the theory that the web is dead (it’s not, the logic and math behind that theory are flawed) to acknowledge that we now have many products within the web: Facebook is one, but there are many others, such as Amazon, Groupon, Yelp, Wikipedia. (ie. the verticals). Facebook is not trying to replicate the internet within itself because Zuckerberg is ambitious: every one of the above sites has a natural drive to do it, Facebook is just getting there sooner and better. And that’s not a problem. However, all those sites have generated their own search as a by-product of their increasing complexity. That’s the problem.

Products create scale, by-products create profits

Up until the mid-2000s , things were pretty simple. Someone else created the product (the web), and Google profited from the by-product (search). This was only possible because in an atomized web no player was big enough to generate the users value needed to create a self-sufficient ecosystem. Even Amazon struggled to achieve the scale needed to generate profitability.

When the internet finally went mainstream, things changed. Facebook, Amazon, eBay and Skype were amazing products that were capable of drawing millions of users, effectively creating massive ecosystems. The scale of these ecosystems generated at the same time the demand for certain byproducts (ads, search, payment) and the business model that would support them. In a line, the lesson was: offer an amazing product, build a massive community, and money will come. (Ironically, that’s exactly what caused the dot-com bust, but the problem back then was that companies went public before they went popular)

Great products deserve a brand

The recommendation for Mountain View is fairly simple: build amazing products. Oh, and please don’t call them Google-something.

First, after Google Wave and Google Buzz, your next Google-branded product will suffer an unnecessary PR handicap. Second, it confuses users: Google stands for search, and that’s what they know and use already. If you build a product, you shouldn’t call it with the name of the by-product.

If you look at what’s working, you’re doing it already: your two most successful recent products are not called Google Browser and Google Mobile, they’re called Chrome and Android. And they’re utterly brilliant!

And by the way, this is where you have an advantage over Facebook: because of its strategy, Facebook needs to bring everything under its roof and its name, and that limits what they can do and stand for. (The only exception is the “Like” button, that has a very different nature from Facebook: it’s no coincidence that it’s not called “Share”. It’s a bookmark, a favourite, a Digg with the scale that Digg never had: half of its value is one-to-self, to keep track of what you like; the other half is one-to-everyone, to broadcast your preference to strangers. None of these two propositions are consistent with Facebook. That’s why it has massive potential.)

Start from Android

It’s a great product, a great brand, and it’s doing brilliantly. The only thing that could jeopardize its success is a lack of leadership, and this is exactly what’s happening. We all like the idea of an open environment, but marketing is like physics: there can be no void; if a substance leaves a place something else occupies it. And in this case it’s the worst substance of all: operators. They’re taking advantage of Android’s openness to pre-install junkware, restrict access to applications that are bad for them but good for users (such as Skype), and impose arbitrary limitations. As of now, they’re the single, greatest danger to Android.

Just like democracy, technology needs leadership: you need to inspire, educate and, yes, regulate. And then let people vote with their fingers. Hopefully it won’t be about the middle.

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Why Facebook was always destined to be bigger than Google

Last Saturday Adam Rifkin published a long and thorough article on TechCrunch predicting that, 5 years from now, Facebook will be bigger than Google.

It goes on to list a number of different industries that Facebook can turn upside down and make huge profits in the process, and they’re all worth a read, but the first point alone (advertising) is enough to rest its case.

When Beacon launched back in 2007, I was insisting that, despite that specific execution was a bit of a fuckup, there were solid reasons why Facebook would inevitably  be a better advertising platform than Google. Given the scale it has achieved since then, I find it quite easy to say that it can grow into a bigger one, too.

The problem with Google is that all its ads are driven by search: that’s what made its value proposition unique in the first place (“We show your ads to those who are in market for your product”) but that’s also its insurmountable limitation. Advertising is not always the answer to a question. More often than not, it’s aimed at people who are not even thinking about that question: because they don’t know that they have a certain need, or that a certain product even exists. And that’s ok.

Some of the most interesting things in life, we stumble upon. And then we want them. Google is not designed for this. Its focus on contextual relevance means that it’s actually engineered against this.

Facebook on the other hand does exactly that: it makes it easy to serendipitously discover new things, whether via your friends or via the brands you like. That’s why social shopping is gaining momentum and attracting so much investment: it’s not just because you tend to trust what your friends are buying or recommending; it’s first and foremost because you become aware of products you wouldn’t otherwise have known.

So here it is: Facebook was always destined to be bigger than Google. At least as an advertising platform. And isn’t that how Google makes virtually all its money? Given that advertisers have limited resources, Facebook doesn’t even need to get into search to steal a big chunk of it.

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Blast from the past: what do you still Google for?

This is an article I wrote in March 2009, and it’s essentially a more elaborate version of Steve Job’s subsequent comment about search on the iPhone: ““When people want to find a place to go out to dinner, they’re not searching they’re going into Yelp”.

“Here’s one thing everyone knows:  Google’s success lies in managing abundance, delivering relevant results.

Here’s one thing that apparently is not related to this:  a report on how Facebook could kill Google, based on analysis from Ross Sandler. (Just so that you know, the article doesn’t  say how Facebook could kill Google, it just compares the size and growth rate of the two giants. FAIL!)

Here’s one thing worth thinking about: how Facebook could damage Google. Not as a social network in itself (in a way Google is a social network), not as a competitive ad destination (there’s still plenty of money to flow towards online advertising), but as an alternative search engine. Here’s why.

Google is great at simplifying complexity. But it’s a universal search engine, and there’s only so much it can do.  So it inevitably loses some ground to its competitors. And they’re not Yahoo or Msn.

When I want to know something, I search Wikipedia. Because I’m sure that it’s where I can find the single, most relevant result. (Even Google acknowledges that, by usually ranking Wikipedia results first). And from there, I can move on to related information.

When I want to buy something, I search Amazon. Well, I don’t,  because I’m old fashioned, but plenty of people do.

When I want to watch something, I search Youtube. And that’s what killed Google Video; and why Google bought it.

When I want to find out what’s going on right now about a certain event, I search Twitter. Twitter gives me real time results. Not only Google doesn’t. Google is designed not to, because it privileges older results that have had time to grow relevant for its algorythm, over more recent ones that are relevant for my search. (Google subsequently tried to address this.)

And when I want to find someone, I search Facebook. Not only is it  a search engine for people; it’s the most relevant search engine for people. (At least in the US and most of Western Europe). With the first click, I get a list of people with pictures, so that I know at first sight if any of them is the person I’m looking for. With the second click, I can contact them, and in many cases find out a whole lot about them.

If I have more of a business interest in someone, I search Linkedin. All the other considerations still apply.

To that same extent, every social network becomes an alternative search engine: a specialized, thus more relevant, thus better one. If I want to plan a dinner out, I’m better off running my search in a social network about restaurants/london (eg. Yelp, Timeout…) than googling “good restaurant london”, and be flooded by a number of more or less relevant results.

One could argue that Google would redirect me to that social network, and many others, but why waste time with one more unnecessary search, once a preminent, relevant social network emerges?

This is true for simple tasks, but even more so for more sophisticated ones. If I have to research a topic I know little or nothing about, for work or study, where should I start from? If I google it, I can’t really tell the relevant results from the less relevant, and above that the most credible results from the BS, because I have no expertise in the subject.

So here’s what I’d do:

Firstly, I start from my usual, trusted sources:  Wikipedia and other knowledge social networks. Ask friends and  coworkers, fellow students. Maybe ask someone on Linkedin.

Then, I turn to trusted public sources. Newspapers and magazines with a good reputation. (And who happen to be desperately looking for a new purpose right now, as brilliantly pointed out by Clay Shirky.)

Thirdly, if I haven’t found enough information through my first two sources, or if I want a little more, I can Google. And hopefully by now the first two kinds of sources will have provided me with enough backround expertise to tell the good from the bad.

Does it mean that social networks will kill Google? No. At least not if we look at “Google as an ad platform”.

But I can safely say that  “Google as a search engine” has been steadily losing share of my time, and will keep losing more.”

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The real reasons behind a Facebook smartphone

Two days ago I was relaxing in Brick Lane with a good friend who happens to be fairly smart and competent in the digital industry, and while discussing bits and bobs of life in the XXI century it suddenly seemed clear that Facebook might want to give it a shot at creating its own mobile phone.

Fast forward, well, 24 hours, and that’s exactly what TechCrunch says: “Facebook is secretly building a phone“.

While the article suggests that such a move would be dictated from concerns for “the increasing power of iPhone and Android”, I see two more fundamental reasons (reinforced by the suggestion that Facebook would be developing the phone on the Android OS):

  1. As my friend neatly summed up, “Your mobile phone is your real social network“. As simple as that.
  2. The second reason is less defensive and more about growth: moving out of a browser/app page into which you have to cram all your functionalities, and into a more complex platform where you can re-allocate them, allows Facebook to better exploit the potential of its many features. They already did this with “Facebook everywhere” , turning every web page into a Facebook-social property and its “Like” button into a larger Digg. Doing the same on a mobile phone would allow users to “Like” and “Share” things in real life. This could be the real trigger for “Places”, and could have gigantic implications. (eg. social commerce in the real world)

While the mobile market is extremely competitive and complicated, the option of a Facebook smartphone is made at least credible by three assets Facebook can count on: the right internal talent to give it a shot; half a billion users worldwide, including 150 (one-hundred-and-fifty) million mobile users; the necessary combination of supreme ambition and arrogance to deem it feasible.

Here are more reasons why Facebook is likely to be considering this: definitely worth a read.

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