Forbes ironically forgets Economics 101

A few times I’ve had friends link me to interesting articles from Forbes. The topic looks good, I’m excited, and click in and I get this:

Forbes ad blocker request

 

What Forbes are really saying is this: “Sorry Steve, even though you have an ad blocker, and you’ve taken definitive action to not see advertising, we want you to turn off your ad blocker, so we can trick our advertisers that your eyeballs are worth paying for.”

And here is what happened. I clicked out and read something else. I’ll never read a Forbes article online again. I’m not sure if it’s a shame or a sham? Why would any media organisation try and trick it’s advertisers into believing they are getting more value than they really are. If I did do what Forbes suggested, then I’d be getting the advertisements, but ignoring them. Certainly a worse outcome for the advertiser, they’d be paying for attention they’re not getting. It seems most people agree.

Forbes ad block comments

What Forbes and anyone else putting up barriers seem to forget is the first lesson in economics – demand and supply. And content is supply rich for readers. If you lock us out, we’ll get it elsewhere. If anyone in the content game wants their audience to jump over walls they better ensure what they’re offering is not on this side of the barrier as well.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Why Twitter will die if we keep saying it

No engagement on Twitter

I’ve been thinking a lot about twitter lately based on the many articles written forecasting its demise. I really hope they’re wrong, but I think they might be right. The main reason I think it will die, is because so many people are saying it. The same people who espoused it’s virtues when it arrived in 2007, are now nostalgic about a time when twitter really, really mattered. The problem with this sentiment, is that it will probably come true even if it isn’t. It’s a bit like a run on the banks. Here’s a short Sammartino definition:

A bank run happens hen a large number of a bank’s customers withdraw their deposits simultaneously due to concerns about the bank’s solvency. As more people withdraw their funds, the probability of default increases, thereby prompting more people to withdraw their deposits. The end result is the bank’s reserves may not be sufficient to cover the withdrawals.  A bank run is typically the result of panic, rather than a true insolvency on the part of the bank; however, what began as panic or opinion can turn into a true situation.

If enough people think there is no engagement on twitter, then more and more people will stop making ‘engagement deposits’ on twitter. Those who are there will get less engagement as a result. Then they’ll leave, which makes it less useful for others and before we know it we have another MySpace on our hands. It’s classic behavioural economics.

For me twitter has been valuable the past 8 years or so – I joined in Jan 2008. While it sounds kinda weird, I met a lot of my current friends through twitter, I built my personal brand there, and it became a tool for discovery and learning. It really helped me find people who cared about what I care about. It was an incredible tool, and my favourite brand for many years.

But if I were to think of one reason why I believe twitter started to stumble it would be this:

Delayed Tweets. Yes buffer, I blame you and cohort.

It’s a bit like this. All of us were at this really great party. Some of your friends were there. You met some new and interesting people. Everyone was really interested in what you were doing, and you interested in what they were doing. We helped each other, built a great eco system and it was all very give and take. But the party was so valuable and fun that no one really wanted to leave. People didn’t want to miss out on sharing a cool idea. So people started to talk more and listen less. After a while it became hard to hear and be heard. People even started sending messages when they were’t really in the room. It was like everyone put up a cardboard cut out of themselves, with interchangeable speech bubbles attached to them. The conversation turned into a noisy nightclub where no one could hear anyone speak. You’d try and have conversations with people who weren’t really there. It lost its authenticity. Slowly but surely, the value declined, and less people turned up.

Honestly, I don’t know if this is the cause, but it’s how it feels for me. If someone shared a blog post of mine it used to mean they really liked what I wrote. Now it probably means they have an IFTTT recipe set up. I’ll probably still hangout at twitter for a while yet, I might be one of the last to leave. But if there is any lessons for business people it’s this:  Twitter is classic reminder that we can never be sure of a channels long term survival. We should all be trying to build things we own and control so we have independence. We need to be our own media channel and have a place to talk to people who want to hear from us. It’s probably a portable email list. If people don’t have a reason to follow us on our own channel, then maybe our we need to create something more compelling.

You should totally read my book – The Great Fragmentation.

Australia’s top rated TV show – Do you know it?

Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 1.40.31 pm

This is Troye. He is the host of Australia’s top rated TV show. He gets more than a million viewers every week. He has been around for a few years now and yet I never see him featured in the Nielsen ratings. I find it curious.

Sure Troye isn’t on channel 7, 9, 10, ABC, SBS or even on Foxtel. He’s on Youtube. But tell his 4.3 million subscribers that he isn’t on TV and you’ll get a dumbfounded look. They might even tell you they already watch it in their lounge room, stream it from their phone to the family flat screen, watch it on their laptop or on any audio visual enabled device. And that’s exactly the point, what is TV? A screen in a lounge room, or something which serves up audio visual content?

The easiest way for any company to get disrupted is to define the market by traditional infrastructure instead of how needs get met.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

Twitter vs Facebook vs Linkedin – is the medium still the message?

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The medium is the message, first coined by Marshall McLuhan has been a staple belief in the world of advertising and communications for a very long period. During the heady days of Mass Media, being seen on TV itself was beacon of success. Products on the shelf would proudly beam ‘As seen on TV’ on their packaging. For only those who sold a lot of their product could afford it, or was it that if you were on it, you’d sell a lot of product? Regardless, the channel a brand appeared in said a lot about its place in the commercial world.

While, it feels like the now infinite number of media channels might make this maxim less true, I’m certain it still applies to a large extent. Ofttimes the context shapes the content.

As far as this blog goes there are some clear patterns. If you’re a regular reader you’ll notice that I have only 3 social sharing buttons at the bottom of a post. One for Twitter, one for Facebook and one for Linkedin. I ditched Google+ because it was just too embarrassing have a share button with no shares. Here’s what I noticed with the sharing of my posts:

Twitter – always gets more shares if the post is tech, startup heavy, recent news commentary or political in nature.

LinkedIn – always gets more shares if it’s about escaping a corporate position, about becoming an entrepreneur, industry disruption, human motivation, selling and horrible bosses.

Facebook – always gets more shares if it’s about personal finance, goal setting, hope, criticism and social issues. Yet, I’m connected to the same people in all these channels.

My takeout of all this? For startups or any business using social forums trying to reach an audience, it is far less about the demographic and for more about the ideology and topic of the particular post. The interest graph is far stronger than the social graph. Now the only question on my mind is what category does this post fall into?

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now.

The global content playbook & how the internet actually works

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I’m a big fan of the John Oliver show Last Week Tonight. Which, in an unconnected web world I wouldn’t even know about as it has never been shown in Australia. But through the wonder of sharing great content online I became a big fan. The show airs in the USA on Sunday nights, and in their wisdom, HBO would publish much of the shows content on Youtube a day later. I’d eagerly await to watch it here on Monday night in Australia through the Last Week Tonight Youtube channel. At last, a media company that gets it. A media company that understands the value of building connection and fan bases globally in real time. They even made it available to non subscribers – wow.

That was until this week. For some reason, most likely the HBO launch in Australia or some other licensing arrangement in Australia with Stan, Presto or Netflix, I now get the classic picture above: Sorry, This content is not available in your region.

Wrong.

This content is available in my region, they simply made a decision to give up their direct relationship with me, and forced me to get it elsewhere. Now they won’t share any of the potential advertising revenue or other prizes which come from direct customer relationships. Weirdly, much of it is ‘still’ available on youtube channels where others have uploaded it. The back door has been opened. And it’s licensing deal structures born of the late 1970’s cable TV era that create this back door leakage.

More than 20 years into this thing, here’s a simple lesson every media company should already know: Once it is released anywhere digitally, it is released everywhere digitally. The desires of the content owners to limit distribution are irrelevant. Given this is the new truth, a better strategy might be to just embrace it.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now. 

Welcome to the culture of Extremistan

Jet pack flying

Famed author and modern day renaissance man Nassim Taleb talks about Extremistan. While his analysis refers to black swan events, randomness and outliers in the economic world, it seems as though pop culture is on a similar trajectory.

Tattoos used to be an extreme thing in themselves. Now real tattoo people have to differentiate through full body cover and face tattoos. Extreme Sports used to mean things beyond golf, football and athletics like motocross. Now they look more like base jumping, jetpack flying and cave diving. Game Shows used to be about trivia and family fun guessing answers to win cars. Now they involve near death experiences on tropical islands to win millions of dollars and potential reality stardom. Travel Stories used to be interesting enough when someone visited far flung Asia or eastern Europe. Now hardcore globe trotters visit Afghanistan and Honduras to ensure their story gathers more kudos.

I’m sure you can think of another zillion examples of the progression towards our culture of extremistan. It is a clear reminder we are in a world which is so connected and immediate that most things have already been seen and done. What used to be unusual is just the new normal. There’s very little scarcity when it comes to ‘things and activities’. And because one of the only things that is scarce these days is attention, many people are literally risking their lives to get it. This tells us much about the human condition. We crave attention. But attention is really just a proxy for something much more human. We want to be recognised and acknowledged, and maybe deep down we just want to feel loved.

What an opportunity. To pay attention to everyone, and not just those who will go to the extreme to get it. Genuinely caring about people and making them feel your love might be the best low cost strategy we can find these days.

New Book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!

The reality of the screen

Old Abandoned Drive in Cinema

The reality is that all screens are created equal now. Every screen can serve up the same content. Every screen is connected to the same world. Every screen doesn’t care whose eyes and ears are at the other end of it. Every screen can deliver the same data, on the same day, globally. There is no such thing as TV anymore. And so it then begs the following question:

Why do people who profit from screens treat them as different entities?

It seems the people who work in TV still think their screens are different. It seems the people who make movies think their cinemas are different. And pretty much anyone else who created content for the screen pre-broadband era thinks the new screen reality does not apply to them. And while the screens don’t care what they show, the people also don’t care which screen they view it on. In fact, they’d much prefer to have the choice over which screen they can use. I’m pretty sure many of these people, like me, would possibly a premium for such a convenience. And yet, in 2014, decades into this shift, the powers that be, sorry the powers that ‘were’, are still avoiding their potential revenue. And here’s why:

They love their infrastructure more than they love their customers.

Or more correctly, they believe their ultimate success is decided by their supply chain and not by the end consumer. Serving business partners at the expense of the ultimate paying customer down the line is a strategy fraught with danger. Especially when we are now in a phase where the middle man is quickly evaporating. Many of those business who could go direct to the end user choose not to, as they may ‘offend their existing trade partners’.

I like movies: I love seeing new release movies. A night out at the cinema is a fun and reasonably inexpensive night out. But now that I have very young children, getting out of the house to grab a movie is more difficult than it used to be. And so my wife and I just don’t go very often. But here’s the kicker – I’d pay a premium for the right to be able to watch a new release at home. $30 for a stream via Apple TV? – I’d pay that. It’d still be cheaper than paying for parking, ice creams, inflated corn and everything else at the cinema. And to this day I still can’t do it. No doubt I’m not alone. No doubt, this entices piracy. And I know what those in the movie business would retort with. They’d say the cinema chains would cry foul and stop distributing their films. And when they both claim this, they’d both not be understanding the true reason we go to the cinema – The night out. The movie is only part of the deal and the real competition is not watching a movie at home, but going to a pizza a restaurant, or a bowling alley. They’re also forgetting the margin enhancement opportunities of low cost digital distribution.

Here’s some simple advice for every screen business: If you have the opportunity to serve a customer directly, then without delay consider releasing all content in all forums simultaneously. Not only will it create a new direct relationship with those who actually pay for the product, it might just stop another startup eating your lunch.

New book – The Great Fragmentation – out now!