The question is a cliché but timely in light of this cover story in The Atlantic, recent books such as “The Age of American Unreason” by Susan Jacoby and “The Dumbest Generation” by Mark Bauerlein (a former professor of mine*), and even animated films (WALL•E).
I don’t have an answer, just a hunch, and it’s prompted by two quotes. First this statement from Sergey Brin in the Atlantic: “Certainly if you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you’d be better off.” Then from this Los Angeles Times story: “Bauerlein also frets about the nature of the Internet itself, where people “seek out what they already hope to find, and they want it fast and free, with a minimum of effort.”
It seems to me this isn’t an issue of stupidity or intelligence, but of foolishness and wisdom. Technology is increasingly designed to provide people with what they already want, what they already ‘hope to find’. This is indisputable. The wisdom to make productive use out of having “all the world’s information directly attached to your brain” is what’s increasingly lacking.
Or maybe it’s just not well articulated. Ceaseless innovation creates a kind of permanent impermanence. Millennials haven’t grown up with the internet; they’ve grown up with several – each replacing the last over shorter and shorter intervals. Wisdom comes with experience but how can anyone develop experience if one tech fad quickly replaces another?
At some point all companies (even Twitter) will need to articulate how their innovations enrich people’s lives beyond providing a new experience. Of course I would argue that that’s the role tech PR people are uniquely suited to play – helping bridge the gap between the technically feasible and the personally (or professionally) meaningful.
Now who would have believed publicists could serve the public good?
* He wouldn’t remember me, and it’s a good thing too, my academic career is best left forgotten by all involved.
Not too long ago, I found myself standing in the middle of the “condiments” aisle in my local grocery store, staring cross-eyed at shelves full of Jelly choices. After about 5 minutes of picking up different kinds of grape jelly and studying the labels, I actually had to call my wife and ask her (with a not-so-subtle hint of sarcasm), “which of the 14 jars of grape jelly do you want?” Among others, there were organic, regular, low-sugar, sugar-free, preservatives, jam, peanut butter swirl, tall skinny jar, short wide jar, plastic jar, glass jar, etc. etc. – the options seemed limitless.
This isn’t a new discussion and there are some interesting studies that cover the impact of too much choice. I found the image that was in a recent and quite interesting National Post article particularly striking – look at all of those TVs!?.
Then, to my suprise, I read a story in the Sydney Morning Herald that actually references an experiment on too much choice and Jam…”In the experiment, two groups of supermarket shoppers were asked to sample jam. One group was given six jams to taste, the other group was given 24. Thirty per cent of the first group purchased something after the tasting, only 3 per cent of the second group made a purchase.”
For technology communications professionals, choice poses more than just challenges in our personal lives. We’re faced with the added test of differentiating both our own services as well as the products or services were are helping promote. Whether you are launching a new consumer technology, marketing an enterprise storage device, a core router or a new professional service, crafting a unique message that stands out.
We are also forced to consider the fragmentation of the media industry and understand how media is being consumed, accessed or shared by readers so we can devise the best approach to reaching a target audience is an ever-increasing challenge .
Just consider that the two stories I’ve linked to in this article are from international news sources that I found by reading Google News Alerts – not my local paper or the blogs I follow on a daily basis.
I read the vast majority of my news via my iGoogle homepage, which now includes a widget for my Facebook, Twitter and Flickr accounts as well as several other applications I used to have to individually check on a daily basis. Here are just a few of my Tabs on my iGoogle homepage:
PR Blogs (You’ll see my Denver Bias here as several are from my hometown)
The challenge to all of us is to be the jelly that stood out enough for the 3 percent to actually read about and then purchase.
I was reading a story this morning from B2B magazine that the popularity of blogging by b-to-b marketers is waning. This is according to Forrester Research’s “How to Derive Value from B2B Blogging” report released Monday. A stand out finding is that 53% of respondents said blogs were either marginal or irrelevant in their 2008 marketing strategy.
Whilst not an expert and without knowing the companies surveyed, my gut tells me that the only reason for a negative response like this could be because the content is not relevant and is not driving conversations. I also imagine the reason for starting a blog in the first place was a knee jerk reaction due to the interest and desire to embrace blogging as part of a corporate social media program.
Forrester recommends that companies give it another go, employing a few basic strategies like honing their voice on other public forums, becoming a resource rather than espousing company rhetoric.
Are we going to see a decline in the number of corporate blogs – one would expect that technology companies would have more success, especially within the markets they operate and the topics relevant to their buyers. Perhaps I am wrong. But with blogging and other conversational marketing activities now part of an employee’s job description, are we forcing the issue and as a consequence, finding that there is little of no value because the content is probably not worth the effort. These results in this Forrester survey would suggest that is happening.
The media is using the departure of Bill Gates from Microsoft as an opportunity to reappraise his career and ask questions about the company’s future. As far as that goes I found this article in the Economist to be interesting.
The news, however, reminds me of this Wired article from last August, as well as the concept of Numeracy (and Innumeracy). The article argues that the ability of people like Bill Gates to conceptualize large numbers and mathematical concepts – their mathematical literacy – makes them – potentially at least – much more effective philanthropists than those of us intimidated by graphing calculators.
Over the past few years I’ve become convinced that the relative innumeracy (mathematical illiteracy) of most publicists seriously undermines our ability to do our jobs effectively. Mathematics provides us with a deeper understanding of the world and, therefore, a richer ability to identify and leverage trends. It also enables us to measure the value of our work and establish credibility with our clients. This is especially important, I think, in technology public relations.
Over the years I’ve made fitful attempts at becoming numerate. I recommend the work of John Allen Paulos and his books: “A Mathematician Reads the Newspaper” and “Innumeracy: Mathematical Illiteracy and its Consequences.” The truth is I still have a long way to go.
With all these thoughts swirling in my head I recently purchased a new book along the same lines: “How Math Explains the World,” by James Stein. I find myself troubled by the opening: “My first glimpse into mathematics, as opposed to arithmetic . . . “
So you’re saying there’s a difference?
I have a long way to go.
I was reading an article about Twitter on Silicon Valley’s Mercury News today. It raised a good point and one that I wanted to talk about here. The sites describes Twitter as the “…Seinfeld of the Internet”. This can also be interpreted as ‘the website about nothing’. I have blogged about the use of Twitter in the Marketing/PR industry previously so with this comment, I think it is time to revisit my thoughts on this new(ish) Web 2.0 tool.
Are we wasting time frequenting Twitter? Is there really any inherent value that we can take away from this online tool? To be perfectly honest, i’m not too sure if my Twitter updates, such as those below, would provide any use to any of those that follow me:
It might make them laugh at me but i’m probably wasting their time (and mine). These people, however, have requested to follow me which makes me think people actually want to hear about my daily rants and whereabouts – as pointless as it may seem.
I don’t want to be too pessimistic about the value of Twitter. Mercury News reports that Twitter had “…1.2 million unique visitors in May…”. We are seeing it gain value in some parts of the world – particularly with regards to political applications in the United States. For example, Barack Obama has used Twitter to provide updates to the public from his campaign trail.
We are also seeing the tool used for PR purposes. These days, many journalists are also using Twitter as a means of communicating the stories/ features they are researching and writing. Savvy PR consultants are utilising tools such as Twitter regularly in order to keep abreast of relevant engagement opportunities for their clients.
As I mentioned, I see this tool gaining traction in the United States but I don’t think we are seeing similar traction across the Asia Pacific – at least not at this point in time. Will we see the journalists/ analysts on this side of the world use the tool to put the word out regarding what they are working on? We’ll just have to wait and see.
As far as reaching a wider audience, would my mum or dad ever use Twitter? (No – I really doubt it). I don’t even think my friends working at large IT-centric companies would.
The questions I am toying with at the moment (and I ask for your input) – Will we see Twitter move into the mainstream? Will it ever attract a truly global audience? As communication experts, should we be using Twitter on a daily basis?
There’s a great package of articles covering the future of the Internet, start-ups to watch and the business of social networking in the latest Technology Review. While there’s too much to summarize I do want to draw attention to these predictions (and hopes and fears) for the next 5-10 years of the Internet by the likes of Vint Cerf and Sir Tim Berners-Lee.
My prediction (or hope) is that the Internet as a distinct entity becomes, more or less, extinct. To put it another way: in the next decade I hope to see an Internet so pervasive, so easily and seamlessly accessed from such a multitude of essentially invisible interfaces that it goes unnoticed by the average user. You can’t help but be conscious of your interactions and experiences with, or on, the Internet today. Ten years from now, who needs the hassle?
Any other predictions?
Are social networks such as Facebook and MySpace over-valued today? The price tags we put on them are steep in my opinion – in the billions of dollars! Although, are these sites and other online communities just a fad that will be replaced by the next big ‘It’ technology shortly down the line, or will they all see a long and prosperous future?
I slightly digress from my original thoughts but want to put this perception to the test and undergo a couple of benchmarking tests.
Step One – The Site Traffic Test
I got some interesting results whilst conducting a traffic rank comparison between Facebook and MySpace on traffic ranking site, Alexa. For your reference, all the following figures are based on a snapshot of a three month average.
MySpace receives a traffic rank of 6 [this traffic rank is based on a combined measure of page views and users (reach)]. The number of unique pages viewed per user per day on MySpace is 34.52.
Facebook comes in just behind MySpace with a traffic rank of 7. The number of unique pages viewed per user per day on Facebook is 21.26.
The graph above, however, shows us that the traffic rank of MySpace has dipped over the past two months. Over this same two month period, Facebook has grown considerably.
To be completely honest, i’m a little surprised with these figures. I definitely thought that Facebook would have had a bigger lead on MySpace.
Step Two – The Member Test
This next step isn’t really a fair test but I thought I would throw it in to add a new dimension into the mix.
An interesting sociology study was posted on Mashable about one year ago now addressing the difference between Facebook and MySpace users. According to the study ‘jocks’, ‘athletes’ and ‘goodie two shoes’ are the types that frequent Facebook whereas MySpace is the hang out for the ‘alternative’ crowd, ‘punks’, ‘emos’ and other kids who didn’t play into the dominant high school popularity paradigm!
Based on the vast differences between the member bases of these sites, I am starting to feel a little guilty for comparing the two. Apples with oranges?
After completely digressing from my first questions in this post, I want to go back to my original question on the longevity of these online sites. And are we or are we not over-valuing them?
LinkedIn recently valued itself at $1 billion. Similarly, according to Computerworld, Facebook received a market valuation of around US$15 billion after Microsoft bought 1.6% of the site for US$240 million last year. Other networking sites have had valuations between US$200 million and US$560 million, based on transactions from this year. In the same vain, Facebook received a market valuation of approximately “…US$15 billion after Microsoft bought 1.6% of the site for US$240 million last year…”
I’ll leave this one with you to ponder on. Will this bubble burst?
Thought I’d share a few pictures of the new Denver office space.
There is still some unpacking and construction going on and pardon the amateur photos! Overall, it’s a great space with plenty of room for team meetings, client meetings, brainstorming sessions and networking and it will be great to be co-located with some of other WPP companies as well.
If you are in the Downtown Denver area, drop us a line – 303-615-5070!
One of the brainstorming rooms with an ‘Ogilvy-ism’ on it…this room will undoubtedly draw nicknames like ‘The Red Room” or the “Donny Deutsch Room“
Unfinished brainstorm/conference room with bar-stool seating. Unfortunately it came without the rest of the “bar” amenities, but will still be a great space for on-the-fly meetings.
Last but not least, some of the working space…
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at work only to find a few blog post links in an email mentioning that I ranked number 29 in the Top 50 Australian Marketing Pioneer Blogs. This said list was compiled by Julian Cole. See below.
|2||Servant of Chaos||9||5||8||6||6||5||39|
|3||Duncans Tv Adland||6||5||7||6||8||5||37|
|5||Better Communication Results||8||3||6||5||6||6||34|
|7||Small Business Branding||7||3||0||8||7||8||33|
|14||Business of Marketing & Branding||6||5||6||4||4||1||26|
|16||Australian SEO Blog||4||4||5||4||6||1||24|
|17||Wide Open Spaces||8||5||4||3||3||1||24|
|28||Mark Neely’s Blog||7||3||2||2||3||0||17|
|31||In my atmosphere||6||4||0||3||2||1||16|
|34||Pigs Don’t Fly||6||4||1||1||2||0||14|
|36||Australian Small Business||6||3||0||0||4||0||13|
|37||The Jason Recliner||4||4||1||2||1||1||13|
|42||Zero Budget Marketing Ideas||6||3||1||1||1||0||12|
|46||Arrow Internet SEO||7||2||0||0||1||1||11|
|47||The Sticky Report||7||0||1||2||0||0||10|
|48||Naked Communications-The Flasher||8||0||0||1||0||1||10|
|50||Send up a larger room||7||0||0||1||0||0||8|
The blog list was compiled using a set of criteria, including Google Page Ranks, Technorati Blog Reactions, Alexa page ranking and Blog Lines. Additionally, a subjective ‘pioneer’ score was also included, measuring the ‘blog’s ability to have pioneering thoughts about marketing’.
The Top 50 Australian Marketing Pioneer Blog list will appear in the August edition of Marketing Magazine. It will also be updated every three months, with the next update this September.
I try and give my blog as much love and attention as possible, but unfortunately find that my time tends to get cannibalised elsewhere. This new found, albeit short, burst of fame is exactly what I need to give me that extra bit of motivation to make sure that I am regularly contributing my thoughts on the latest emerging technologies and Web 2.0 developments and how these are impacting on the marketing and PR disciplines.
Here’s to crawling up the ranks Stay tuned for the next instalment!
Gartner has looked into its crystal ball and come up with the 10 most disruptive technologies that will shape the IT landscape over the next five years. No surprises that social networking technologies, Web mashups, multicore and hybrid processors and cloud computing are nominated.
Gartner is currently in undertaking its Emerging Trends and Technologies Roadshow in this region and according to several media reports and the company’s press release business IT applications will increasingly start to mirror the features found in some of the popular consumer social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. The key driver for organisations to want to do this will be to improve employee collaboration and harness the community feedback of customers. This feedback will collected and used to help shape a business strategy.
One of the most accessible opportunities Gartner predicts is Web mashups, where companies will mix content from publicly available sources. Gartner reckons this will be the dominant model (80 per cent) for the creation of new enterprise applications. Reason being is that mashups can be created quickly and easily, thus birthing a new era of short-term or disposable applications that would not normally attract development dollars.
Gartner also expects new user interfaces such as organic light-emitting displays, digital paper and billboards, holographic (see my earlier post) and 3D imaging, and smart fabric.
So what for tomorrow’s CIO. Gartner’s summary is simple. The CIO that is responsible for keeping the data centre running, business continuity planning and finding new technology will not survive. That’s a relief. Rather, they have got to be innovators and think beyond the constraints of the conventional. Interesting, but not an easy gig.
As a start point, Gartner’s recommends that CIOs establish a formal mechanism of evaluating emerging trends and technologies, then set up virtual teams of their best people and give them time to spend researching new ideas and innovations, especially those that are being driven by consumer and Web 2.0 technologies. Perhaps I should get my two teenagers to work on their CVs tonight.