Google has developed new functionality to simplify comic book consumption on small devices – something that has been a challenge due to the dynamic way in which comic books and graphic novels are laid out. By turning the phone to landscape, a viewer can more easily scroll through the reading experience as described in the Android blog, fans should have a more compelling experience. The thing is, this functionality can be used for storytelling of many types that can make good work out of a scrolling ability. It will be interesting to see how storytellers might utilize this new feature to give audiences of all types something to cheer about.
At the end of last week, Google’s future plans for music video subscriptions on YouTube were made more generally known. The coverage in SFGate lays out the details and concerns quite nicely. I’m certainly not the only one who has been touting for a while that fee based content is where the internet needs to be headed in order to sustain itself – but it will take the larger players (beyond news sites like the NY Times and Washington Post) to fast track the shift. In music, there’s already numerous digital subscription and purchase models. But, even including Apple, there’s no huge previously-free internet platform that has made the transition in the music space to turn us toward the end of the free internet highway. That is until now – if Google moves forward with their plans.
I think YouTube will run into many of the issues they currently have with their subscription business from a consumer perspective because so many are already used to that platform’s free offerings. I do find it interesting that they are putting the squeeze on content providers by making it that they are either all in or completely out – and I have no idea how favorable or unfavorable those terms are. Either way, it seems like they are trying to play hardball with the music industry in the same way Amazon is. Amazon pounds away for favorable terms on disc or download sales and then comes back every 10-12 months pounding away for more.
Whether it’s about bandwidth or subscription, the days of the internet being “free” are numbered. On another side of the online content play – but completely related – I’m bothered that Reed Hastings is complaining about bandwidth issues and then going around and paying everyone to enable Netflix to come through unfettered, I get his business perspective in that he’ll be able to charge more down the line while “claiming” that he “fought” it all along.
With that model, I do see a time in the not so distant future that Google products like YT, or dare I say even search, will start charging for a fast lane or specific content…
Posted in Ruminations
Tagged Advertising, Amazon, Bandwidth, Free, Google, Internet, internet platform, Music Video, Netflix, Paid Search, Reed Hastings, SFGate, Subscription, YouTube
There have been many companies that have launched and succeeded (or failed) who would have dreamed of their company name or product becoming a commonly used noun, or even better, a verb. People refer to facial tissues as Kleenex, soda pop as Coke and, within the past decade, taken on Google as a verb meaning “to search.” Google can have a hard time coming to grips with the use of their product as a verb – as shown in this Google blog entry from 2006 – but becoming the next verb is the Taj Mahal and driving force within many start-ups. The problem is, most don’t realize the factors necessary to make the transition from Idea to Verb a reality.
In the case of Google, they came to be when there were numerous search engines and within a few years, the others had fallen by the wayside due to Google’s solid product. Bing is now the only one close and a lot of the reasons for their still being around is marketing and integration with the operating system that is most prevalent around the world. As seen in the blog entry, Google itself was not so keen on becoming a verb unless it was specifically about the use of the product itself. Either way, pre-verb, the seemingly most important thing to Google was to become the single best service available and that is the thing that most people who strive to be a verb overlook.
Striving to be included in Websters or some other dictionary means that you’re missing the point. Certainly, such an inclusion would mean you’ve done something right, but it shouldn’t be the goal. Whenever a client asks for this, I have the same response as we’ve all had when asked by someone to create something viral. In both cases, the importance should be placed on creating the best product possible and hoping that the winds blow the right way to create the perfect storm that allows your creation to become viral – or a verb. If the expectation that largess and notoriety will come from a strong marketing or publicity campaign, then there must be consideration for the fact that audiences have changed over the years. The main change in the audience is that they expect delivery on promise. If they don’t get it, they will run. If a company pushes to become anything more than a solid product, people will run.
Much of the navigation between the time of the idea and the possibility of becoming a verb requires a lot of smart, strategic thinking and damn fine product development. Without those actions, you’re destined to be lost in space.
With the brewing storm of excitement/dismay/wonder surrounding Facebook’s acquisition of What’s App, the disconnect between expectations for – or public perception about – large conglomerates and new technology business seems to have widened. Much has been discussed about melding What’s App into Facebook’s interface or bringing advertising into What’s App’s in or just a Big Data play. Perhaps it’s much simpler than that and has nothing to do with UX or building up the Facebook product. Perhaps it has to do more with smart business and diversifying offerings. It just seems funny that the initial response is narrow-minded in relating the technology as merely an opportunity to bolster a company’s product.
Perhaps a lot of the thinking is related to Facebook’s relatively recent acquisition of Instagram. Almost immediately, the photo service seemed fully integrated into Facebook. But, to be fair, it was already there and there is still easy integration with other platforms that Facebook doesn’t own.
The thing is, would anyone question if Unilever or Nestle or some other company that owns a diversified group of products were to buy another relative upstart – especially if they had so much cash lying around? The only concern people could or should have is the valuation placed on What’s App. That too can come back to the consideration of development resources and user base. What’s App might not have been hugely known in the U.S. but it is around the world and by anyone who has family, friends in colleagues in other countries.
In this connected world, we can no longer just focus on what’s happening in North America. Whether people realize it or not, most web-enabled products (websites, apps, software, etc.) have no borders. The use-cases might be different from market to market, but they each gain hold for very real business reasons. In the case of What’s App, one direct reason that folks in the States don’t realize the value is that all-you-can-eat data and mobile packages are not commonplace around the world. It can be quite cost-prohibitive to send texts to your friend down the street, let alone around the world.
Another key piece is the fact that What’s App has moved into the subscription realm. As more offerings move behind a paywall, the lessons that can be learned from What’s App success in subscription could prove invaluable to its owners. The data is certainly not available to those who are not and if subscription-based usage come further into the market, those with real data are in the driver’s seat.
While Google has huge development teams working on disparate products and they still go out and acquire business that fit their portfolio, it should come as no surprise that others shouldn’t do the same. Google has long been less defined by their search product than their suite of technologies that assist in many parts of consumers’ lives. Facebook should not be any different.
The great thing about technology development (or any business development, really) is that code and process can be duplicated in other areas – if done correctly. Just because someone makes it big with an app or single product doesn’t mean that should be the end-all – no matter how successful it is. There is no such thing as growth while remaining flat. Any company with flat growth is actually shrinking. Once the business survives its start-up phase, growth is the hardest part. It doesn’t matter who you are or what technology you created. Sometimes you just have to grow by acquisition.
Who knows if the $19B is too much for What’s App. Looking at the $10B value associated with Instagram after Facebook paid a “measly” $1B for it, we can’t underestimate Facebook. There’s a clear reason why What’s App’s investor, Sequoia Capital thought it was worth it. The reality is that new technology companies and the products they launched with have matured more quickly, perhaps, than any other businesses in the world. We’ve got to stop being narrow-minded in our judgement of why they should be any different from any other traditional business.
Posted in Ruminations
Tagged Acquisitions, Advertising, Big Data, Business, Code, Facebook, Google, Instagram, Investment, M&A, Mergers, Mobile, Nestle, Portfolio, Revenue, Sequoia Capital, Subscription, Technology, Unilever, UX, Valuation, What's App
There is the saying that nothing beats the real thing, but sometimes what you have to settle for ain’t to shabby. This was the case with the Coachella Live site on YouTube. For those who were not lucky enough to get tickets nor able enough to take off for a weekend of all the crazy things that happen over the course of the weekend on a Polo field, this presentation sponsored by State Farm insurance was fantastic. Sporting three live streams on a dashboard that included thumbnails of what you’re not watching, Facebook/Twitter/Google+ and a schedule of what’s to come, there was no lack of exploration and enjoyment possible. YouTube really showcased a phenomenal product and Coachella was able to serve the fix of a much larger audience to celebrate the music exploration and wonder that is Coachella.
There were a number of elements that really made this content great:
- The interface was simple, clean and clear;
- The production quality was strong throughout. The on-site direction and coverage was comprehensive and, in some instances, rivaled that of a well produced concert video.
- The streaming quality was better than I had expected. In most cases, both the small and full screen versions were very clear. Sometimes, the images were getting pixellated, but there was no rhyme or reason that I could make out. When the image quality was good, it was great and when it wasn’t, it wasn’t that bad.
- The sound quality was clear and consistent throughout – even when the picture was not.
- The Chat was extremely active with very little delay. Unlike previous versions of this type of thing that I’ve seen, you could see songs, comments or lyrics presented on stage referenced almost immediately in the feed. The fact that three major social networks were incorporated for ease of entry and use seems like a no-brainer. It’s surprising how many feeds choose not to use more than Facebook and Twitter…
- State Farm’s sponsorship was persistent, tasteful and refined while not interfering with the content. Meaning, they didn’t pause sets to show a graphic in-stream – or some other annoying ad mechanic.
Though there was mention of the live streaming on YouTube and the Coachella site, I didn’t see any wide mentions or promotion for the feature. Perhaps I missed it and imagine there could have been some artist relationship elements to consider. Ultimately, the people who were most interested were able to find it – either by searching it out or finding it organically through friends’ social activity.
Talking about artists relations, I was impressed that the artists allowed it – and even more impressed about some of the artists that participated. With the point of the weekend(s) being music and the exploration of new music, the site makes perfect sense. I was able to check out a solid mix of acts I knew and had even seen live before with a healthy dose of new acts. I know that the experience is not the same as being there, but I am sure that Coachella Live viewers were able to jump from stage to stage much more quickly and easily than anyone who was physically there. The fact that I could jump from a great view of Miike Snow to the pit of Radiohead without leaving my chair was awesome.
On a personal note, My commute home after Radiohead’s late set on Saturday and Dr. Dre/Snoop Dogg’s star-studded show to close it all on Sunday night was much more comfortable than driving home from Indio. And, the fact that I already have State Farm insurance made me feel that I wasn’t just being a freeloader – I might even feel a little bit more loyalty to them because of it.
Hopefully, this becomes a trend for more live events as it really extends the community and the technology has come about to enable that like never before. The technology upgrades has made the experience drastically different from when I spent hours in front of the television watching Live Aid as a kid. Who would have thought then that we could control what we were watching without having to suffer through commercials and annoying MTV VJ commentary?
Props to Coachella and its partners for taking the festival to the next level by making the experience extend beyond the 180,000 people who actually get to go to the two weekends in the desert. The fact that YouTube is now hosting some of the full sets, it really extends beyond the desert. And, you get a chance to see some freaky cool things like the holographic Tupac performing. Thanks for providing the opportunity for many more people in many countries to get their fix…
Posted in Ruminations
Tagged Advertising, Coachella, Community, Dr. Dre, Exploration, Facebook, Google, Live Aid, Live Video, Miike Snow, MTV, Music, Production, Promotion, Radiohead, Snoop Dogg, State Farm, Streaming, Technology, Twitter, YouTube