« August 2010 | Main | October 2010 »

September 2010

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 11: Geeks Unite! The Geek Edition Is Here!

What do you think of when you think of the word “geek”? Many years ago the word conjured images ranging from pocket protectors and video games to 30-somethings living in their parent’s basement. Today the word applies to a far wider range of products and services because the geeks have taken over the world! Being a geek is no longer something to hide from. It’s a badge of strength and independence. At least that’s what the geeks I know keep telling me!

For real though, being a geek means that you’re passionate about something and not afraid to share it. Maybe its Star Wars, maybe it’s comic books or maybe it’s music like Pearl Jam (wait… I love all 3… I’M A GEEK)! Whatever it is, this edition is dedicated to you! Read on true believers!

You can’t start a discussion of geeks without first mentioning THINKGEEK (http://www.thinkgeek.com/). ThinkGeek provides all the stuff you need to live the geek lifestyle. From a collection of your favorite nerdy t-shirts to a lifelike Tauntaun sleeping bag complete with removable innards. These guys have got what you want, and they’ve grown a nice sized business catering to this audience (umm, that’s you guys).

In case you can’t quite find exactly what you want from ThinkGeek, then check out X-TREME GEEK (http://www.x-tremegeek.com/). The site may not be as pretty, but these guys are doing something right! The site proves its own worthiness just by selling the Laser Airzooka, which blows a big blast of air at your target. Useful gadget that is (spoken in Yoda grammar)!

Maybe you don’t need a t-shirt to proclaim your kinship to the geek nation, you just want to live the life? Then you probably already know about HOW TO GEEK (http://www.howtogeek.com/). These guys are practically a roadmap for how to geek out. Sample article; how to change the boot-up screen on your Macbook (because that’s top on the list of things I have to do in my spare-time). Spend 10 minutes on this site and become the envy of your friends in the Sunday Dungeons & Dragons club.

You may not always consider alternative music the soundtrack of the geeks, but you can definitely geek out on it, which is where SHUFFLER (http://shuffler.fm/) comes into play. Shuffler is for music geeks what Pandora is for everyone else. It’s a virtual radio station that combs through music blogs to create streams of audio content, surfacing new music based on the marketplace. It’s cool from my opinion, which is the opinion of a music geek.

The last site this week is one near and dear to my geeky heart because I’m helping launch it (so please excuse the shameless self-promotion). Check out why LIFE DOESN’T SUCK (http://www.whylifedoesntsuck.com) as a place for you to be reminded of all the cool things in life that don’t suck. It’s not just a site for geeks, but it comes from a geeky place in our hearts.

If you own an iPhone or iPad, you might be a geek if you own these apps…

FREEBIRD – lets you show off your virtual lighter at concerts.

CRICKETS BUTTON – for when the conversation gets a little light.

LIGHTSABER – for dueling with a Sith Lord.

That’s it this week – enjoy the links and enjoy yourself and those around you!

MEDIAPOST: Simple Ways To Rethink Your Agency Business

“Maybe we’re coming at it from all the wrong ways.”

Have you ever uttered that sentence, or one like it? Have you ever had the nerve to completely deconstruct what you’re doing and admit that you might be doing it wrong? It takes nerve and it takes courage. It’s hard for someone to debunk their own internal mythology, the set of “tried and true” guidelines which have driven lives and careers to date, in order to start over but that’s just what’s being done now in the agency business.

The state of the business is forcing many people to deconstruct and rebuild their businesses. It’s not as dire as it sounds; ad spending is still strong and getting stronger, but the economy is questionable and no one knows what’s going to happen next. Some of the most successful businesses have been created in the most unsettling of economic times, and many people recognize the uncertainty as opportunity in disguise. If you can create a business and sustain revenues when business is down or if you can create new revenue streams where there previously was none, then your well positioned to be successful when business recovers.

As a result, many agencies are rethinking the ways they generate revenues. The old models are being rethought, and I thought I’d share some of what I’m hearing from the business.

First off, agencies need to be paid for thinking, not doing. Whether you call it strategy or planning, your intellectual capital is your most valued asset, but most of your revenue comes from execution. More and more agencies are rethinking this paradigm and rediscovering the value in the brains of the people they employ.

Secondly, performance is not a primary model for compensation, but it is a value for growth. Most agencies will not create work on spec anymore, and they require payment for their work, but they will sacrifice parts of their payments in performance kickers. These kickers are typically where the profit is found and if your agency is any good, they should be willing to put their money where their mouth is. Besides, if you succeed, they succeed. That’s where the strength of the relationship lies.

The third trend is that more agencies are getting into the brand business themselves. Agencies have long been the launching pad for many ideas, but those ideas were typically owned by their clients. Recently you see more agencies creating and owning their own IP. Agencies are creating brands. They’re creating soft drinks and websites and movies and music. They’re getting into their clients’ business in a way they never have before which leads me to the question of when will an agency pitch a brand client on a line extension that they could co-own or have a larger ownership stake in? What’s to stop Pepsi from launching Jalapeno Pepsi with their agency as an owner (other than an awful taste, of course)? Is that day so far away?

The pundits say the agency model is broken, but it’s only because they need something to write about. What’s most interesting to me is how you can find new ideas in these companies, that just require some thought and attention.

So don’t be afraid to question your own business and look for new ways to operate. It takes courage to start over, but rarely are the results less than you expected them to be.

MEDIAPOST: How To Make Ping Succeed!

I’m a 100% Apple convert. Over the last few years I ditched my PC in favor of a MacBook Pro and generally every device I buy has that little Apple logo on the back. That being said, I feel I need to be critical of the new launch of iTunes and it’s integration of Ping (Apple’s social music network), but only from the perspective of someone who wants to see it succeed. Consider it constructive criticism with a hint of gadgetry love.

First off, I’m shocked at how few people are talking about Ping, which leads me to believe there’s not much to talk about. Those of us with Apple-envy tend to hope that anything new coming from Apple will be a groundbreaking achievement but Ping let’s you down a bit. Ping suffers from the same problem that most social music networks face; not enough content of interest and not enough critical mass.

I spent some time playing with Ping to see the value it provides and unfortunately I found nothing new. The integration is simple, with “Like” and “Post” buttons built into the album pages and a simple news feed of artists and people you follow. Those features are “table stakes” when it comes to social functionality, but I still don’t see the value offered by the platform. Critical mass for a social network is what drives new users and increased usage. Limited reach translates to limited value, and that’s been the summary equation that’s doomed so many social music networks to date!

I’ve played in this space. Back in the day when I was at IUMA, we grew because we offered something no-one else had; new music from unsigned artists. Along came MySpace Music, Imeem, Mog, Playlist and a host of other social music networks or services. Some have died, some are dying and some are plugged into life support. None has achieved the promise of the platform, and if Apple doesn’t address some of its glaring omissions it could find itself in the same fate.

A few ideas…

1. Integrate with Facebook. Dear Apple; we know you don’t like Google very much these days, so why not open the platform just a bit and integrate into Facebook (that would upset them). That’s the news feed where people are and that’s the place where your updates will find a life. Allow me to publish my “likes” and “posts” for my network there to see, and they’ll come back to you in droves. Trying to build inside your own walled garden won’t work, and this is one area you could actually open up without sacrificing quality.

2. Publish my playlists to the web (errr. Facebook). I know this is going to sound repetitive, but allowing me to publish my playlists to the web in a streaming fashion, and potentially into Facebook via apps, will create an opportunity for me to surface music to my friends. I see more and more posts on Facebook about music, and no way to connect the dots. If you become the source for that information, you will continue to increase your dominance in the online music market. That means sales.

3. Learn the term “affiliate program”. The best way to make money selling music is to let your most avid fans sell the music for you. If a friend recommends music to me, and I trust their tastes, I buy it. If you incentivized me as a user with either an affiliate fee or store credit based on sales generated from my recommendations, I’d be all over it. If I publish a “like” and that drives 10 sales, isn’t it worth rewarding me for a percentage? If I drive 1,000 sales, it certainly is.

These are just three simple ideas, and ones that wouldn’t take a lot of time to implement. You have to do all of this before Google rolls out their music service later this year. It’s a strategic block of the marketplace, and a way to stay top of mind when it comes time to purchase new music for just about anyone!

So here’s to Apple hopefully listening to the little guy (I’m only 5’ 6” after all). Best of luck Steve!

MEDIAPOST: Join The “Cult Of Looking Up”!

The next time you’re walking down the street, take a moment to realize how much of your day is spent looking down. Then, take a look around and observe this same behavior in the masses around you.

I realized this the other day when I was in a cab in San Francisco. It was a beautiful, hot (which is rare) day in SF and I didn’t notice it for a few minutes because I was too busy looking down. I was engaged with the screen of my iPhone, checking email, checking Facebook, checking the digital status of my life and in doing so I was missing the moment. In that one single moment I realized that the present was passing me by!

Upon realizing this phenomenon I decided to get out of the cab and walk to my destination. When I hopped out and began to walk I noticed at least half the people on the street were either looking down at their phones, looking at books while they walked, or simply looking down at the street in front of them. An epiphany washed over me as it became clear to me that we spent too much of our time looking down and not enough time looking up! I now it sounds cheesy but I think our outlook on life is influenced heavily by the fact that we spend so much time looking down and we miss out on the beauty that is the now. By looking down that day I was missing the beautiful sunshine and the interesting people walking by me on the street. By looking down I was missing out on so much and it affected me!

I’ve read all the studies and the research that says multi-tasking is bad and that it has a negative effect on our ability to be focused and effective but more importantly I think you need to enjoy where you are at this exact moment and you need to take it all in. When you’re walking down the street, you should look up, or at the very least look forward. If you’re a marketer, you need to see the world for what it’s worth. If you’re a sales person, you need to see the people around you. If you’re a writer you need to find inspiration in the world that’s laid out in front of you. If you’re looking down, you can’t possibly do any of that!

So this week I want to start a movement. I want to encourage you to abandon the Cult Of Looking Down! I want you to start looking up, and start enjoying the day that’s laid out in front of you. Join “The Cult Of Looking Up!”

Start simply by putting your phone in your pocket and looking up when you walk down the street. When you’re in a cab, look out the window. Look up! Enjoy the day for what it is and I can bet you’ll start being a little bit more “up-beat”! Start looking up in a simple way and maybe your day, and everything in it, will also start to look up!

And if you’re really so inclined, check out the Facebook page for The Cult Of Looking Up! There’s no content, and no reason to be there other than to make a statement. I launched it just to see how many people will agree that they should be looking up once in awhile!

And don’t forget to tell other people around you that they need to look up! Maybe, just maybe, a little movement like this will get people smiling a little bit more in their day!

MEDIAPOST: The Inconvenient Truth … About Consumer Privacy

The last few weeks have seen a lot of press surrounding the issues of privacy and consumer safety. It’s a relatively cyclical discussion that seems to be raised every 2-3 years, but its gaining steam now that the government is getting more involved. I’m not one to talk politics nor am I one to sit and here and tell you that everything is acceptable in regards to Internet standards for consumer privacy, but I do want to put some of this discussion in perspective.

The last thing anyone should ever do is defend a policy by pointing fingers at someone else and saying, “but they’re worse”, however in this case I think it’s time to do a little finger pointing. My wife was recently sharing with me some of the “fine print” on the automotive financing bill we get monthly. We own an American car, financed by an American car company so you would assume their privacy policy is in line with simple standards for American consumer privacy. If that is the case, then some of these facts may be somewhat shocking. Here are a few of the highlights, taken word for word, from that recent bill…

“Financial companies choose how they share your personal information. Federal law gives consumers the right to limit some not all sharing.”

“The types of personal information we collect and share depend on the product or service you have with us. This information can include: Social Security number and income, payment history and purchase history, credit history and assets”.

“Reasons we share your personal information – for our everyday business purposes, for our marketing purposes, for joint marketing with other companies, for our affiliates’ everyday business purposes, for our affiliates to market to you. Can you limit this sharing? No.”

Those statements are rather broad in my opinion. The sharing of my Social Security number, name and personal financial history with an affiliate for their everyday business purposes, regardless of my permission, opens a doorway for my personal information to be released outside of acceptable terms. Unfortunately, I have no control over this and if their affiliates’ do not have a similar policy in place then all of a sudden my information is available. And no mention is given as to the method for sharing this data, which is inevitably done through digital means. Just this year I’ve had my mail stolen twice, and my credit card number changed four times because of fraudulent charges made to it. In two of those cases, the credit card company admitted they had a security breach. If that is the case, then whom do you trust?

The general issue with Internet privacy, and the use of cookies to collect information, is that some groups consider this usage of data to be an invasion of privacy, but the fact is that most (and I agree that we are talking about most) Internet companies are gathering non-PII (personally identifiable information). They are gathering anonymous data on behavior that enables ad targeting and the delivery of tailored content. These companies are not gathering and sharing your Social Security number, income, payment history, credit history, assets or your name and address. If consumers are up in arms regarding the usage of your general Internet data, why aren’t they up in arms regarding the use of your PII by traditional companies? What about your credit card company? What about the grocery store loyalty card you swipe to get a percentage off your purchases? What about those “anonymous” companies that buy and sell everything about you to the highest bidder, under supposed regulation of the government? Has anyone asked what their policies are?

There does need to be some regulation regarding the fringe companies that are using malware to gather and share personally identifiable information but the majority of ethical, responsible companies need not be thrown out with the bathwater. Self-regulation on the part of the industry and a responsible plan for monitoring and purging irresponsible companies and tactics should be put in place to ensure that consumer’s rights are not being taken advantage of. Responsible Internet companies should be rewarded and recognized for taking into consideration the rights of the consumer, and the consumers should be made aware of all the ways their information is utilized by all manner of companies. Credit fraud and identity theft are not new crimes, and our industry should not be given all the blame for these issues arising.

Consumer privacy is indeed a big deal and an issue that requires attention, but I hope that the responsible parties address the issue on a grander scale and reward the companies that are acting in a responsible manner with the consumer in mind.

If you care about the issue, be sure to speak to your local congressman or congresswoman, address it in your blogs or just simply respond on the Spin Board!

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 10: Cewebrity Stalking Is On The Rise!

Remember all the news about how the web is wrought with tools, cookies and services that invade your privacy? Well, maybe privacy is over-rated! After all, with so many tools and services out there to provide you with ways to follow, emulate and report out on your everyday actions who needs privacy! The web, as a self-publishing platform, is the ultimate in ego. It allows anyone, at anytime, to broadcast anything to anyone. Basically privacy is a thing of the past if you’re a netizen of the present.

It all started when average people started building websites, then blogs and then everything went crazy with the development of Gawker Stalker (http://gawker.com/tag/stalker/). Gawker made stalking readily accessible for the average American, and celebrities were immediately being followed everywhere. But then came Twitter and the rest of the social media revolution and all of a sudden celebrities began telling people where they were and what they were doing, so stalking became sooo 1999. Now it’s called “following”. This issue, we decided to have some fun and find out all the ways people are finding to digitally “follow/stalk” their favorite people in their favorite activities outside the world of celebrity. It’s the cewebrity stalking edition of the Digital Influentials!

Maybe you own a new up and coming social media tool and you’re looking for VC funding? Then review VENTUREMAPS (http://venturemaps.co/). VentureMaps allows you to uncover the investors in your area, or other areas of the US. You can get right down to the name of the people that you should be pinging, and it’s an interesting way to do so. Consider this a VC-stalker-starter!

Maybe entrepreneurialship (yes – I made up that word) isn’t you’re thing and you just want to make money the old fashioned way – by investing it. Then check out KACHING (https://www.kaching.com/). Kaching provides you with a way to follow and connect with investment managers about how to make money in the market. You can monitor the actual trades of professional money managers, and mimic their moves, thereby creating wealth (if they’re any good). It’s a social application for stalking money managers – sounds like fun, huh? I can already see the final scenes of American Psycho in my head.

If you’re an aspiring musician, but don’t know where to begin, start your day with BREAKOUTBAND (http://alpha.breakoutband.com/). BreakOutBand is a social tool for creating music with other musicians regardless of location, age or any other defining facts. You can start a band online, and gain traction using social media. It’s an interesting way of creating your art virtually, though not quite stalking I guess. It does feel a little similar in a way I just can’t describe.

Maybe you need to know how many people are stalking you (errrr, following you) in the Twitterverse? Then check out TWITTERCOUNTER (http://twittercounter.com/). Twittercounter provides a tool for tracking your impact, graphing the growth of your followers and measuring re-tweets from your username, all in a simple, easy to use fashion. I entered my info and realized that not enough people are stalking me! Now if I could just tweet something of value, I might see the hockey stick graph that I wish I could see (and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter at ctreff)!

If you know how many people follow you, and want to know what impact you have, then check out the tools available from PEER INDEX (http://www.peerindex.net/). Peer Index provides you with an index based on authority, activity and audience, giving you an idea of where you stand in the influence eco-system. It may not help your digital ego to see that you rank so far down the list, but for those of who are goal oriented, it’s a fun set of data to review! See the impact you have on the stalker community.

In the world of iPhone and iPad apps, none get much cooler than the two that I wanted to point out this week. First off, and as no surprise, check out FLIPBOARD for the iPad. FlipBoard turns your social media stream into a magazine, making it far easier and more fun to review Twitter and Facebook than in the standard manner. It’s not a stalker tool, but even stalker’s have down time right??

For the iPhone, the must have app is TUNEWIKI. Tune Wiki acts as a music player, much like your iPod, but it displays the words while you listen (which is something you can do while waiting outside your stalker-obsession’s apartment building). For the first time in my life, I know the words to Yellow Ledbetter and it makes sense!

That’s it for this week. Oh, and please be sure to realize that the opinions expressed in this column do not condone or approve of stalking in any way. If you are a stalker, you are a freak and you should probably get a life ;-)

Talk to you in a couple of weeks!!