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  • feedwordpress 22:57:09 on 2017/01/11 Permalink
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    We Must Fix This Fucking Mess 

    The post We Must Fix This Fucking Mess appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    gazetteer

    Here are the caveats for the rant I am about to write.

    1. The fact that I am writing this on Medium will cause many of you to dismiss me for hypocrisy. Don’t. Read to the end.
    2. I will be saying the word “F*CK” a lot. If that bothers you, time to depart for calmer waters.
    3. This post will be subject to dismissal due to charges of high nostalgia — I will be accused of living in the past, failing to get the future, not getting with the times, being the old man yelling “get off my lawn,” etc. These characterizations will be all entirely right. And totally irrelevant.
    4. This post will be compared, most likely unfavorably, to the many, many, many, many wonderful (and better) posts that have already been written on this subject. That’s fine. I just want to add my voice to the conversation.
    5. This post will piss off friends of mine at Facebook, Medium, LinkedIn, and probably Google. Sorry in advance. Kinda.

    Ok, now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to say something out loud.

    WE GOT IT FUCKING RIGHT THE FIRST TIME.

    We were lucky, we were visionary, we were idiots, we were savants. But we got Internet publishing right the first time — and then we (sometimes actively, sometimes by inaction) fucked it up. Moreover, we KNEW it was on a path to peril, and we slouched towards Bethlehem, expecting that at some point the problem would correct itself.

    IT DIDN’T.

    Internet based publishing is so fucked up that the people most responsible for some of its loveliest platforms — Ev Williams of Blogger, Twitter and Medium, Matt Mullenweg of WordPress — these guys positively, absolutely HATE the Internet’s chosen business model. Always have. Probably always will.

    Ev hates advertising so much, he damn near killed his own company last week trying to get away from the practice. Matt, well anyone who knows Matt will tell you, the guy would rather wear a tutu than woo an advertiser. Both feel there’s something utterly corrupt about the whole affair. And they’re not entirely wrong.

    But they’re not entirely right, either. More on than in a minute.

    But first, for those of you reading this and wondering “What the F is this guy talking about?” well, first of all, welcome to History 101, and secondly, thanks for sticking around. We can’t fix this without your help. I certainly don’t want to go back to using early versions of WordPress or Moveable Type.

    But when I was, I’ll tell you one thing.

    I KNEW WHO THE FUCK WAS READING ME. I KNEW WHY. I KNEW WHO SENT THEM TO ME, AND I WAS GRATEFUL TO THOSE PEOPLE/SITES/PLATFORMS THAT SENT ME THOSE READERS.

    Now, I have no idea. Again, for emphasis: despite all the whizzy bang-y social media we’ve invented these past ten years, I HAVE NOT ONE CLUE WHO IS READING ME ON A REGULAR BASIS, NOR DO I KNOW WHO TO THANK FOR SENDING THEM TO ME.

    Sure, I have a general idea. I can look at my analytics in all those aforementioned platforms, and I could, if I have either earned or hired a double PhD in Big Data and Theology, I might be able to divine some patterns as to how my readers ended up reading my stuff. But given they’re scattered across four, five or six platforms, all with different algorithms, business models, presentation layers, analytics (or lack thereof), and permissions, well, good fucking luck making sense of your audience as an actual community that cares about what you’re saying.

    And we wonder why publishing is so fucked.

    This is the single most immutable rule of media, folks. PUBLISHING IS COMMUNITY. And if you don’t know who your community is, you’re screwed.

    Kudos to Jessica, to Ben, to Sarah, who’ve realized this and demanded readers become paying subscribers, and not on anyone else’s platform, but out there on the messy, attenuating Open Web. But let’s call their success what it is: Proof by exception. These are small communities of thousands, or tens of thousands of readers, all willing to pay in the tens or hundreds of dollars for inside access to a valuable industry. Would each of those readers pay similarly for a dozen or two dozen other services, so as to be both well read and members of diverse communities? NO FUCKING WAY. And therein lies the problem.

    It’s a big problem, folks. It’s a mighty big problem. Sure, we might see the “pay for a few important sources” model play out across all manner of “industries” — lots of small, focused publications paid for by a subscriber base that has a vested, commercial interest in the information they receive. But how is that possibly encouraging the open, democratic access to information upon which our Republic depends?

    If you’ve read your Hamilton (the book, damnit), you know America is built on the back of brilliant pamphleteers, but damn it, it’s also built on capitalism. And capitalists need a place to speak to the people! Rivington’s newspaper (where Hamilton first published) was called the New York Gazetteer, sure, but it’s second name was the fucking Weekly Advertiser.

    So I’m tired of all this nonsense about how the Internet’s business model is broken because advertising sucks. I call bullshit. Advertising is a greatbusiness model. But it has become completely divorced from the creators and conveners of community — authors and publishers. It’s been channeled into a few oligarchic platforms which have, through no obvious, direct, or apparently malicious intent of their own, drunk our fucking milkshakes. The rest of us (and there are MILLIONS of us, and we are MIGHTY, if we decide to be), well the rest of us are left fighting over a shrinking pie, building extraordinary technology which we have increasingly bent toward the gray.

    I know, I know, it’s fashionable to blame Google, Facebook*, and their ilk for siphoning off all the advertising dollars publishers used to get, but I’m not going to. They simply did what conditions allowed them to do, which is create a welcoming place for advertisers who were feeling a bit unloved by the vast, bleached coral reef that is the open web. They identified a need, and they filled it. They built impressive, scaled, data-driven advertising machines. They won.

    But what they failed to win was the Gazetteer portion of the equation. The CONTENT. Thanks in large part to Safe Harbor syndrome (I just made that up, please hashtag that shit and make it a thing), these platforms disavowed any responsibility for the content that pulsed through their systems, the very content written by us millions, the very lifeblood of our Republic. They were never publishers, after all, nor were they media companies. No no, they were platforms, neutral to the core, bloodless algorithms matching a reader’s intent to a publisher’s content, nothing to see here, move along, just providing a service and taking our small tax along the way…

    And that was kind of true, in the beginning, anyway. Back when Google was young, blogging was a thing, and the web shone brightly in its Golden Age. The great Search Engine That Won ruled as a benign monarch, impassively distributing intent like oxygenated water across the kelp beds of web publishing. For a brief, wonderful moment, it all Worked.

    I won’t go into why it broke down (that’s another essay), but I do want to take a look at why it worked. Because perhaps there are some lessons to be learned as we look to the future of Internet publishing. (And yes, I do think publishing has a future on the Internet — we must tell stories. We must converse, we must because that is who we are, at such a deep level I can’t even fathom an argument about it.)

    So what worked? Here’s my list, add to it as you will (that’s why there are comments, after all):

    • Open Links. An open economy of links allows authors and publishers to create a gift economy that sends attention and influence from one place to another. Of course, the open link economy is subject to fraud, abuse, rent extraction, and corruption.
    • Trackbacks. Built on open links, trackbacks allow publishers to know who’s gifting who. They’re a critical social proof in an attention economy. In another essay, I called them “meaningful handshakes from one mind to another.” Knowing who was linking to your stuff was deeply important to trace-route the social fabric of your community. Of course, trackbacks failed because spam (see above).
    • Analytics. Early web publishers had access to meaningful signals of how readers engaged with their content. Of course, once you’re publishing on someone else’s platform, the meaningful signals are reserved for the platform, not for the content creator.
    • Comments. I know, I know. But before comment spam and the rise of troll culture, comments Really Fucking Mattered. Medium has brought comments back in a meaningful way through Responses. Thank you.
    • Advertising. I’m sorry, but advertising really does matter, in that it encourages small publications with ardent and meaningful audiences to continue doing what they were doing, which is inform, connect, and inspire communities of people. What broke with advertising was its disconnection from community, just as with publishers. Sure, you can buy audience all day long. But without context? C’mon.
    • And and and… There are more, but I want to get to my conclusion.

    Here’s my point: One by one, we lost what was Good about the early web, and ceded it all to the platforms. What held promise ten years ago — that the web would spawn an ecosystem of millions of robust, connected voices — was lost to an oligarchy of Facebook, Google, and to a lessor extend LinkedIn, Twitter, and Snapchat. But I deeply believe we can bring it back. And yes, I believe advertising has a role to play. And Big Data. And subscription, but not if it’s of the micro-payment, subscribe-to-just-this-site variety.

    We can get there, but not without all of us getting together and figuring out what our next steps should be.

    Who’s in?

    • Yes, yes, YES, I saw the fucking news from Facebook today. Great! You know the best way to change this formula? Tilt the revenue gains to the publishers, and make sure they have kickass analytics (and real data!) about their readers. You know, get them paid, for reals, and connect them to their audiences, for reals (IE stop preferencing your platform over theirs). I’ve not spoken to a single publisher who feels they are getting reliable, understandable, reasonable, or meaningful revenue or data from chasing Facebook traffic. Fix that, be a hero. I doubt it’ll be more than a rounding error in overall Facebook revenue or growth.
    gazetteer

    The post We Must Fix This Fucking Mess appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 16:16:28 on 2017/01/06 Permalink
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    Predictions 2017: A Chain Reaction 

    The post Predictions 2017: A Chain Reaction appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    Nostradamus_prophecies

    This is my 14th annual predictions post. And as I look back on the previous 13 and consider what to write, I’m flooded with uncertainty. That’s not like me. Writing these predictions is something I’ve always looked forward to – I don’t prepare in any demonstrable way, but I do gather crumbs over time, filing them away for the day when I sit down and free associate for however long it takes me to complete this post.

    But this time, well, for the first time ever I have very little idea what’s about to come out of the keyboard. Honestly, when I consider the coming 12 months, so much feels up for grabs that I wonder whether it’s wise to prognosticate. Then I remember, it’s all of you reading these words who keep me writing in the first place – your encouragement, your wise (and sometimes cutting) commentary, and your willingness to spend a little time with me and my thoughts. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more – it’s always been how I make sense of the world, and this year, the world feels like it needs a lot more sense making. So I’ll be writing at least a few times a week going forward, starting with this uncertain post.

    Let’s see what happens….

    1. The bloom comes off the tech industry rose. Two years ago, I predicted that the tech industry would wake up to the power it had accrued and start giving a shit both about its impact on the world, and about the world’s largest problems, with climate change being the most pressing of them. That didn’t really happen, despite truly commendable philanthropic, social, and climate change work done by all of the “Big 5″ tech companies (Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook). As of this writing, the technology industry is now the undisputed leader of the business world. Its power has concentrated into demonstrable oligarchy – beyond the Big 5, Uber and Airbnb are now being called to question because of their potential monopolistic, rent extracting behavior. But the industry’s philosophical outlook remains rooted in its days as a challenger brand. This can’t stand. 2017 will be the year the industry is cast as a villain – for its ravenous and largely opaque data collection practices, its closed and self-serving approach to its own platforms, and its refusal to acknowledge or address the very real externalities, particularly in employment, created by its products and services. Some of this backlash will be unfair – but that’s not my point. Society vilifies those in power who appear to be unfairly profiting from that power. And in 2017, tech will be that villain.

    2. The conversation economy breaks out. This is certainly related to #1, if oddly oppositional. The Big Five will be in an all out battle to engage us through conversational interfaces this year. If you’ve been reading me for over a decade, you might remember my predictions around the “conversation economy.” I was a bit early (OK, a decade too early), but the technology and the consumer behavior/expectations are now aligned to allow for a breakout year in user experience to finally occur. This began in earnest last year with the hype around chatbots, and the ascendance of Alexa and Google Home, all of which followed on the heels of Google Voice Search and Siri. But what will really shift the experience will be the explosion of smart chatbots that actually get shit done – I’m with Kik CEO Ted Livingston, chat is the new browser. Combine smart chat with voice, and … well, we’ll start to see a new UX for the web. What’s the economic model for this new UX? Good question! But the key will be meaningful interaction between all these services, instead of attempts to create a vertically integrated, locked-down walled garden. But that will only happen if…

    3. Open starts to win again. It’s dangerous to link two predictions, because if one doesn’t work out, the other is likely to fail as well. It’s even worse to link your first three… but what the hell. Tech’s hegemony is so great at this point, that the only way I can see it breaking down is through a return to the open standards which bequeathed us the Internet in the first place. 2017 will be the year that open starts to win again as a business model and an approach to creating a developer (and hence consumer) ecosystem. Google can and should be the leader here, given its core DNA, but I’m not sure that will be the case. Now, what do I mean by open? Well, interoperability, for one. It’s great that anyone can create a chatbot on Messenger, or Kik, or WhatsApp, but true innovation will come when anyone can create a chatbot that works with all of them, sharing data and user profiles across platforms. The same goes for the marketing industry – publishers and marketers alike should be able to consolidate and leverage data across all meaningful platforms, instead of cultivating different patches in every service’s walled gardens. The same goes for consumers, of course – I want to know what data is being used to mold the choices being laid out in front of me (including the ads, and yes, my f*cking newsfeed!). There will be meaningful demand from “users” to have more fluid and intuitive controls of their experience. And if my #2 holds true, then voice becomes a literal lingua franca, rendering platform lock in long-term meaningless, because jumping from service to service will be as easy as saying “Alexa, WhatsApp my pal Chris with the results of my Google search on open platforms.” This year won’t be a turning point in this battle, but it will show meaningful progress, in large part because…

    4. Privacy will become a strong product category. These linked predictions are  certainly becoming a theme. But last year saw strong growth for a number of stand alone privacy products like Signal and Confide, and the inclusion of strong crypto into massive platforms like iOS (remember the FBI fracas?), WhatsApp and Google (via its new Allo and Duo products). Influencers like Fred and many others are predicting a boon in this field, and I agree. But it’s one thing to encrypt your messaging. It’s another to secure your entire online life. That kind of security is hard to do, mainly because it obviates much of the value of the data harvesting which drives convenience in the consumer tech world. But fear of cyber warfare, fraud, and over-reaching marketers and government will create huge openings for consumer friendly versions of currently opaque products like PGP, password managers, and the like. And it’ll also drive political and consumer pressure for more robust consumer control around algorithmically driven consumer experiences. Smart companies won’t resist this trend, they’ll encourage it.

    5. Adtech has a ripper of a year. Wait, I just predicted consumers will pivot to caring about privacy, but I’m saying the adtech business is going to have a great year?! Well…yes. Embrace the contradictions, because adtech is ready for its second act. It’s really sucked to be a leader in the advertising technology industry – half of the media industry openly hates your guts, and the other half is convinced your days are numbered because of the Google/Facebook oligarchy. But they’re all wrong. Advertising technology is, at its simplest, the ability to apply data to a decision at scale. And the more open and free flowing that data economy becomes, the better and more valuable the companies which enable it become. If my predictions 1-4 come true, then this one will as well: Independent, high-integrity companies in ad/martech are going to have a banner (no pun intended) year, because they’ll tack into the resistance the large platform players have to the trends I’ve outlined above. Watch: Sovrn Holdings*, AppNexus, Acxiom*, Trade Desk, and OpenX.

    6. Apple releases a truly bad hardware product. OK, this one isn’t really tied to the others, but I think Apple’s poised to not just have a boring year (as I predicted it would last year,) but to really lay an egg for the first time in a very long time. It may be their answer to Amazon Echo/Alexa, or Google Home/Assistant, or it may be a follow on to the watch, or perhaps something the company has had up its sleeve for a few years that it feels obliged to roll out given its essentially uninspiring last few years of product releases. But in 2017, the press and the public will find a tangible reason to turn on Apple, and the company will likely respond by reorganizing, repatriating its cash (to curry favor with the current administration), and keep buying its way into the markets where it has repeatedly failed (IE, software as a service, entertainment (NetFlix?!!), and possibly social media).

    7. A Fortune 100 company will announce its intention to become a B Corp. Large companies are increasingly under pressure from employees, customers, and society to create value for more than just their shareholders. For decades, business was allowed to tax environmental, social, and societal resources in pursuit of profit. A new generation of consumers and employees are demanding that business ladder to more than simple profit, but rather, have a core purpose—one that makes the world a little (or a lot) better place. Of course, there’s already a corporate governance structure that encourages this approach to running a company—the Public Benefit Corporation, or B Corp. (I wrote about B Corps last year here). My money is on Unilever, which has already been publicly discussing such a move. Two dark horses: Walmart and GE.

    8. President Trump leaves Twitter. Ever since Twitter launched, I’ve usually included a Twitter prediction. This one sounds crazy, but it strikes me there are a few ways this might plausibly happen. Perhaps Trump will come to his senses and stop trying to run the country through a series of tweets. OK, that’s not very plausible. More likely is Trump will end up in some kind of a feud with Twitter over something utterly ridiculous, claim he’s the only reason the service is viable anymore, and decamp for Facebook, Snapchat, or who knows, maybe VK (that’s the largest Russian social media network, FWIW). Or maybe someone slips a cure for narcissism into his evening flute of Trump Champagne….

    9. Snap soars – then sours. I’m increasingly of the opinion that this company is going to force a total rethink of our online culture. In fact, I think most of us have no idea how over our skis we are when it comes to the power that Snapchat has aggregated. I’m not talking about typical tech power, like number of active users or advertising revenue. I mean the power of the platform to engage and exploit our pleistocene-era social brains. I’m not entirely sure Snap Inc. has fully grokked that power. But Snapchat feels like a step function beyond anything that has come before it. I watch my own children use it, and I’ve watched them fall in love with Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and countless pretenders (though I’m keeping my eye on Houseparty). Nothing compares to what happens when a group of kids connect on Snapchat. It literally becomes their social geography, and that fact will be widely recognized by the business community when Snap goes public. But almost hand in hand with that will come the Snapchat backlash, as scholars, alarmists, parents and school administrators speak out about the impact the app is having on the structure of society. Spectacles? By the end of 2017, those will seem quaint. Side note: There’ll be an amazing science fiction novel that comes out in early 2017 whose main protagonist will be compared to Snap. And yeah, that’s a fix, because I’ve already read it…

    10. Human connection commands a premium in the workforce. OK, OK, this has certainly been the case for all of history, at least – ahem –  for a certain kind of connectivity. But in an age where it seems every job can be replaced by AI or a robot (or both), we’ll see a shift in how society values previously under-appreciated jobs that cannot be automated away (or if they can, the automated version fails to deliver human connection). Think about jobs that are socially valuable, require direct human contact, but are currently very poorly remunerated: Teacher, nurse/home care aide, waiter, small business owner, musician/artist come to mind. In 2017, we’ll come to realize that we’re valuing the wrong things, and start a conversation about paying people to connect with each other – because if we can automate the other stuff, why the heck wouldn’t we value each other more?! Related: The conversation around Universal Basic Income (or my preferred term, the Citizens’ Dividend) will become white hot (it’s white hot in the Valley at present, but it’ll move into broader circles in 2017).

    Well that’s ten predictions, which seems like a nice round number. As I review them, I realize there’s a pretty high chance I could seriously whiff this year. What do you think?!

    Follow my work at NewCo with our newsletters! 

    Related:

    Predictions 2016 

    2016: How I Did

    Predictions 2015

    2015: How I Did

    Predictions 2014

    2014: How I Did

    Predictions 2013

    2013: How I Did

    Predictions 2012

    2012: How I Did

     

    The post Predictions 2017: A Chain Reaction appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 03:46:57 on 2016/12/30 Permalink
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    Predictions 2016: How’d I Do? 

    The post Predictions 2016: How’d I Do? appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

    Nostradamus

    At the beginning of each year I make predictions, and at year’s end, I hold myself to account. It’s kind of fun to look back and see how wrong (or right) my musings end up being.

    I’ll be writing my Predictions 2017 post this weekend (I think), and publishing it shortly thereafter. But for now, let’s take a stroll down memory lane, and see how I did. Here’s a short report card for each of my twelve 2016 predictions.

    #1 – 2016 will be the year that “business on a mission” goes mainstream. Well, this was pretty self serving, given it’s at the core of the work I did all year long at NewCo and NewCo Shift. But I did predict that massive companies would put their missions at the core of their marketing, and that certainly happened with corporations like Unilever, Ikea, H&M, and many others. I also said the press would start covering the story as a regular beat, more than just annual “doing good by doing well” lists. While coverage (and the number of those annual lists) has increased, I can’t argue the story has broken out as big as I expected. And while organizations like Just Capital have launched to track company data beyond price and profit, I think this story needs another year or two to mature. Overall, this prediction trended in the right direction, but didn’t fully come true this year, so I’m going to give myself a (noble, well intentioned) whiff on this one.

    #2 – Mobile will finally mean more than apps. It may seem counterintuitive, but I think this is the year my mobile prediction actually came true. Here’s the detail from my post: “by year’s end, we’ll find ourselves interacting with our technology in new and far more “web like” ways – bouncing from link to link, service to service, much as we did on the original web, but with the power, context, and sensor-laden enablement of mobile apps and devices.” In fact, that’s exactly how using my phone now feels – deep linking has gone mainstream, and more often than not a link from a search opens an app on my phone, or a call to action in an email or inside an app opens another app – or a mobile web view – inside a third party site. Plus, every new release of Android (I don’t use iOS) seems to increase the utility of notifications, voice, and search. That’s how the next generation internet should work, and it’s here, now. Which is a really good thing (and augurs some very cool new opportunities, which I’ll probably explore in my predictions post). I’m going to grade myself a “mostly nailed it.” Why mostly? Because at the end of my prediction, I said Google’s app streaming was going to help make it all happen. While the company continues to refine and roll out the service (and related services like Instant Apps, or Apple’s On Demand Resources), I deserve a ding for that call. I’d rate it a 75% win.

    #3 – Twitter makes a comeback. I don’t really need to go into much detail here. This did not happen. It’s all about the product. And while the election certainly helped Twitter, Twitter did not help itself much this past year. My wishful thinking earned me a fail on this one. Damnit Twitter, please be all we know you can be in 2017!

    #4 – Adtech and the Internet of Things begins to merge. Weeks after I wrote this prediction, the industry bellwether Dmexco, arguably the most important marketing conference in the world, declared that IoT was the future of adtech. Core adtech companies – Google, Facebook, Amazon (yes, Amazon is a serious player in adtech) – all released key products or platforms that vector IoT directly into their adtech strengths (Google Home? Check. Facebook Messenger bots? Check. Amazon’s Alexa/Echo? Check.) This merger will be messy and fraught, but bots and voice are the future for all the major internet players, and advertising business models and tech platforms will drive them all, in new and perhaps unexpected ways. Add to that the unprecedented amount of work done this past year in autonomous vehicles (which is a major IoT category and of course, a huge advertising platform in and of itself), and I think it’s fair to say this prediction came true. However, there’s a lot more to this trend than just merging advertising and IoT. That’s the easy (and obvious) part of the equation. The less obvious work remains to be done – as I wrote in the prediction: “I’m suggesting that the underlying technology powering adtech is perfectly suited to execute the highly complicated and highly performant rules-based decisioning required for the Internet of Things to touch our lives on a regular basis.” I honestly don’t know of any development over the past year that proves this part of my prediction, but I can’t imagine it’s not being worked on by the Amazons, Googles, and Facebooks of the world. We did have a major IoT event that proved the power of my predicted merger: Hackers harnessed millions of poorly secured IoT devices to mount massive DDOS attacks across the web.

    Oh, and at the end of this prediction, I ventured that in 2016, we’d see a blockchain based adtech player emerge. We did see the emergence of BitTeaser and its related HubDSP, though they are in very early stages as of now. Overall, I’d say this prediction played out – score it as another 75% – a passing grade, at the very least.

    #5 – Tesla’s Model 3 will garner more than 100,000 pre-orders. Many of you thought I was crazy to predict massive orders for the Model 3, but….Tesla blew through my most optimistic numbers. Orders are now approaching half a million, and counting.

    #6 –  Publishers and platforms come to terms. This is a hard one to prove. I wrote: “In 2016, Medium, LinkedIn, and Facebook will all make strides in helping all publishers succeed.” And I think this is largely true. Medium rolled out a publisher program, and limited, but improving advertising options for its publishers. LinkedIn hasn’t yet rolled out a publisher friendly platform, but it’s become a crucial traffic driver for a lot of publishers, and I’ve heard plenty of well-sourced rumors that a publishing platform is coming once the Microsoft integration is complete. And Facebook, well, Facebook had an uneven year when it comes to publisher relations, but there isn’t a serious publisher in the world who isn’t busy integrating with Instant Articles and the Newsfeed in one way or another. Add in publisher centric moves from Google (Amp, etc), and Apple (Apple News continue to grow, slowly), and I’d give this prediction a passing grade.

    #7 – Search has a dominant year, thanks in large part to voice and AI. I think this also came to pass this year. We can debate if “traditional search” had a dominant year, but that was not my point. Search is in transition to new models based on voice and AI-assistants like Siri, Now, Alexa, and Cortana, and in 2016, these most certainly came into their own. I predicted that search volume, if once counted voice and AI, would be “way up” in 2016. Voice search volume did indeed explode in 2016, but we’ll have to wait for Mary Meeker’s mid year update to know by exactly how much. Regardless, I think I got this one right.

    #8 – Apple endures a boring year. Yep, this pretty much happened. I wrote: “short of yet another iPhone folks feel obliged to purchase, there’ll be nothing spectacular. I don’t think folks will be calling for Tim Cook’s head, but many will wonder if Apple is meandering its way toward a boring, profit-milking middle age.” Check.

    #9 – Microsoft and Google get serious about hardware.  Oh yes, they sure as hell did. Microsoft became a billion dollar a quarter player in tablets/computing with Surface, and Google rolled out Home, Pixel (its first true Google phone), and more Chrome gadgets. Both companies are very, very serious about hardware now.

    #10 – Medium has a breakout year. I wasn’t sure this was going to happen, but just this month, Medium released its growth numbers – up 140% year on year, to 60 million users. Combined with the launch of its publishing platform and the release of far better iOS and Android apps, Medium was indeed on a tear in 2016.

    #11 – China goes shopping. In 2015, we all expected Chinese companies like Alibaba to start snapping up startups left and right. It didn’t exactly happen. But I predicted that 2016 would see it come to fruition, and indeed Chinese firms were very busy this past year. China dealmaking rose 145% in 2016, according to Bloomberg, and Internet and Software was one of the hottest sectors, with adtech – much maligned for years – a major standout.

    #12 – Sports unbundle. Well….no. I really, really wanted to drop my cable sub this past year, and the only thing keeping me from doing so was my beloved San Francisco Giants. Alas, nothing happened this year that will change that. There was a lot of hand wringing about the future of sports-driven brands like ESPN, and nearly everyone things sports will someday unbundle, just as HBO and many others have recently done. But not this year, so…my wishful prediction was a swing and a miss.

    Summing up, how’d I do? Pretty darn well, it turns out. I whiffed on only three – Business on a mission, Twitter, and Sports – and pretty much nailed the rest of them. That’s one of my best showings yet – nine for twelve, or a .750 batting average. Good enough to convince me to try again for next year! Have a great New Year’s Eve, and I’ll be back soon with predictions for 2017.

    Follow my work at NewCo with our newsletters! 

    Related:

    Predictions 2016 

    Predictions 2015

    2015: How I Did

    Predictions 2014

    2014: How I Did

    Predictions 2013

    2013: How I Did

    Predictions 2012

    2012: How I Did

     

    The post Predictions 2016: How’d I Do? appeared first on John Battelle's Search Blog.

     
  • feedwordpress 21:26:14 on 2016/11/29 Permalink
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    Six Near-term Trends Influencing The Business of Marketing 

    If you’ve come here looking for the latest thinking on virtual reality, drones and autonomous driving—you’ve come to the wrong place. Marketers are an interesting bunch—we pride ourselves on “being in the know”, with some good reason… Part of our jobs are to stay one step ahead of the game so we are better prepared for the changes that inevitably effect the business of our industry. But in the pursuit of staying ahead of future trends—we often overlook massive shifts that need to be operationalized over the next five years, if not decade. In the pursuit of keeping our eye on the ball—I’ve identified six near term trends influencing the business of marketing:

    Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 3.16.14 PM

    From Media Channels To Media Ecosystem 
    Blame Digital. Just when we were getting used to shifting efforts and dollars to reflect not only print, television, radio and the internet—the internet itself has fragmented into a million tiny little pieces which blur the lines between paid, owned, earned and even social when it comes to dollar spend—and that’s not even getting into how it all get’s measured. Case in point—in the past year, MTV has seen it’s traditional television viewership of the Video Music Awards decline 34%. However if you look closely at the numbers, digital views including Facebook Live Streaming increased 70%. The problem here? MTV has yet to monetize the ever fragmented and complex digital media ecosystem and still relies on traditional TV advertisers to make money.

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    This makes the jobs of the media creators, buyers, sellers and strategists, well—complicated. Marketers are reluctant to embrace this complexity in their need to reach the largest and most targeted audiences they can. But in the near term—this complexity must be dealt with by diving deeper into digital and re-defining how, where and when dollars are spent within the complete media ecosystem vs. the easiest parts of it to put spend against.

    From Text That Tells To Visuals That Show
    The entire Web is being re-built for visual and video content. Before you dismiss this as “obvious”—we must take into account that the previous and dominant version of the Internet became mainstream with the advent of Google’s search engine and search was and to some extent still is a game of text, meta tags, keywords and text based organic content popularity. Now let’s look at demographics: Boomers, and GenX grew up on traditional literacy in the written word. Millennials and GenZ are growing up on what I call “visual literacy” which is accentuated by platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube which are video and visual dominated as opposed to text driven.

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    It is this visual literacy combined with the changing face of how we not only search for but receive content which is changing before our very eyes. marketers have spent years perfecting their Keywords and then finding ways to get text based links to their written content shared on social media but increasingly it’s video that gets shared directly through a multitude of apps that is becoming the dominant social currency. Brands have yet to master modern forms of video and visual storytelling as even the rules are changing in this space. Snapchat for example favors short, compelling vertical video formats which tend to perform well. For marketers—many who built their craft on taglines or standard 30 second television commercials—these forms of video content (not ads) are foreign and still largely untapped. Marketers will need to re-think video, visual storytelling and the production of these things from the ground up in this new world if they are to remain relevant.

    From Mobile Last To Mobile First
    We take for granted that Facebook is one of the most popular apps in the world and most of us access it from our mobile devices. But in the early days of Facebook—there was a time that they found themselves on the defense when it came to mobile and believe it or not—they actually didn’t get it. In less than a year—they transformed themselves into a “mobile first” company from the top down and had some of the most talented developers in the world at their disposal to see this transformation through. Unfortunately, even the world’s biggest and most resourceful brands and agencies do not have these resources nor the imperative to re-invent their organizations to think, act, and operate within the same context as their mobile consumers, customers and employees.

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    Thanks to Google, marketers have good reason to prioritize mobile development as their way forward since Google actually dings Websites that they deem are not responsive or functional in the mobile environment. But the shift to mobile is much more than making our Websites mobile friendly. It means we need to intimately understand how our audiences want to consume, create, share and interact with our brands. It’s one of the leading reasons we’ve seen customers shift to expressing their dissatisfaction about a brand experience or service publicly—they have a megaphone in their pocket at all times. We’ve done a disservice to our industry by treating mobile as a “duh”—it requires a complete transformation in many ways due to its impact on our daily behaviors. Facebook had it right—brands and agencies should do the same.

    From Reliance On Media Companies To Being Your Own Media Company
    “Publishing Is The New Marketing”. Sounds good—easier said than done. But the reality is that thanks to social media—most marketers are already in the business of publishing whether they know it or not. Got a brand presence on Facebook or YouTube? Congratulations, you’re in the content business. The problem however is that most content isn’t very good and so marketers find themselves solving the wrong problem.

    It’s not about creating content as much as it is about cultivating targeted and high quality audiences who want to hear from you again and again.

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    In the pursuit of cultivating quality audiences who not only are willing to consume a brand’s content but want to share and potentially co-create with the brand, marketers must understand how to engage with audiences not only during their “tentpole” campaigns but daily, weekly. monthly and quarterly. This is where the dynamics of marketing and publishing mix and brands are still scrambling to figure out how to do this.

    From Ad-Hoc Influencer Engagement To Integrated Influence Marketing 
    When CBS 60 Minutes does a feature on Influencer Marketing—you know it’s not fleeting trend anymore. However this space as familiar as it seems is new territory for marketers. Unlike traditional celebrities—most of these cultural influencers such as social media stars and Youtubers are creators who have built their OWN audiences using their OWN channels. So to protect their reputations with their audience—their preference is to collaborate and co-create with brands as opposed to endorse and act as spokespeople the way traditional celebrities have always done.

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    In addition—most brands are currently treating these kinds of partnerships as one-offs or ad-hoc engagements vs. re-thinking how they interface not only with cultural influencers but ALL influencers who often play off each other when it comes to reaching mass audiences often times through our peers. It will take years for marketers to fully evolve and build the process to support this in a much more integrated and scalable fashion beyond one off campaigns and programs. This entire space is still in its infancy.

    From Brand Value Proposition To Brand Values
    Lock yourself in a room with the most seasoned and senior marketing executives and they will nod their heads when presented with research that reflects the purchase habits of millennials, especially one key shift—millennials are often influenced not only by the products, services and “value proposition” of the brands they buy from—they are also curious and care about how the brand acts, how it participates and what it “stands for” in a societal context. If they feel like the brand is aligned with some or all of their own personal values—these influence behaviors from purchase through to loyalty. My Employer (Edelman) produced research that most consumers are “involved” with brands but are open to “commitment”. And in many cases, being committed goes beyond traditional value proposition attributes such as quality, convenience and price.

    Screen Shot 2016-11-29 at 3.22.16 PMThe premise seems deceptively simple. Many brands understand this and in response have gone out of their way to show how they are “going green” or “doing good”—often through corporate channels that are responsible for these kinds of messages. But this shift goes beyond messages and block and tackle corporate communications. Marketers have mastered the art and science of building brands in the hearts and minds of consumers by balancing their emotional and rational needs. Products had to show they would actually work but the most successful brands went further and endeared themselves to consumers through appealing to their emotions (Think Nike—Just Do It)

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    Thanks largely to millennials—this is no longer enough. Marketers need to re-examine their value proposition and ask themselves if their brand’s “values” are clearly articulated and if their actions, marketing and every touchpoint with a consumer and customer backs this up. It goes beyond satisfying rational and emotional needs but adding the third dimension of “societal” but above all else—all three dimensions need to be true to the brand and supported by proof points. This becomes not only the job of the chief communications officer and CEO but the CEO, CMO and CEO working in tandem. Few brands have been able to successfully “stand for something” because it takes a village to pull this off right and in line with the brand values. But whether it’s #Optoutside or #LikeAGirl—when done authentically, it resonates.

    If you’ve gotten this far, than you’re probably thinking that none of the above is new to you. And that’s the point—it isn’t. But the marketing industry has yet to fully make the needed shifts in most or nearly all of the above trends based on my observations and in working directly with clients. These trends each bring with them great opportunities but require companies whether brands or agencies to evolve priorities, re-evaluate staff and agency mix and place bets in areas that are still developing or require extra effort to measure. They may not be as sexy as virtual reality or cars which drive themselves—but in the next five or so years, it is how well we operationalize against these trends that may benefit marketers most in the near future.

     
  • feedwordpress 19:13:39 on 2016/11/10 Permalink
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    Election 2016: When “Data” In Isolation Steers Us Wrong 

    Insight_venn
    Instincts vs. Insights
    Like many of you, I was wrong about who I thought would win the US election. But it wasn’t always that way — I had changed my opinion based on the “data” I was seeing and that’s where many of us are scratching our heads. My first gut instinct was formed around the time of both party conventions. Having followed both, sensing the momentum and enthusiasm of the unconventional GOP convention, I remember thinking to myself, Trump really has a chance — he’s going to tap millions of people displaced by a global economy. He’s speaking directly to the working class disenfranchised — people holding down multiple jobs in some cases and feeling like they can never get ahead. He’s giving a voice to those who feel like they have been ignored or are underrepresented. And above it all, I was picking up something in the air that felt like a change agent was wanted, even if that agent was more rough around the edges than many would have preferred…

    I grew up in working class Long Island. I intuitively grasped how he could win and I was hesitant to rush to judgement over how or why millions of Americans were supporting him. Over the course of weeks and months, being the news addict that I am, I began to change my outlook on Trump’s chances.

    Why? Because the polling data and news media sentiment.

    The Limitations of Polling & Media Influence
    Day after day, I would pour over polls and read headlines that would point to trends making the case that while both candidates were unpopular, Hillary seemed to always come out on top. The media painted a picture of a Trump campaign in disarray and the tone of the majority of the coverage I could see from multiple media outlets was largely negative. Polls while far from perfect are data points. Media sentiment is also a set of data points. When you pour over this information, it begins to inform your opinions. And that’s what happened to me. My informed view shifted from Trump has a chance to Hillary is a definite win.

    And I think there’s an important lesson in all of this. Was the data bad? I don’t think it’s that simple. Like some analysts have stated, it’s likely that the polling data was incomplete. Which means this data cannot be fully trusted. If a significant portion of voters didn’t feel comfortable polling but instead voiced their opinions with their votes, then the data is meaningless.

    Sampling is an art that becomes harder and harder to deliver well against. All research methodologies for polling have inherent biases and it becomes clear that relying on a sample of people willing to speak to an interviewer or take a survey online is becoming more difficult to pull off accurately. Political polling is disrupted and old models don’t work. But they are still very valuable if cross analyzed through other intelligence methodologies that focus on “harder data”.

    The lesson reminds me of similar learnings I’ve seen in marketing focus groups. People aren’t always honest or clearly articulate their beliefs and/or needs.

    Reading Between The Lines
    You have to read between the lines. This is something that ethnographers often do. They immerse themselves in the lives of the people they seek to derive insights from. They go deep in place of skimming vast quantities of data points both quantitative and qualitative. They go heavy on empathy but also possess the right amount of analytical rigor to translate observations into insights.

    And what about the media sentiment? Did I misread it? No, I read it accurately but like many others, I underestimated the impact that media sentiment would have on potential Trump supporters. In retrospect the negative media sentiment for Trump likely mobilized his base and even some who were on the fence. Edelman (my employer) has been producing data for years which shows that trust in media is on the decline and urging us to pay close attention to social signals when forming opinions and strategies.

    Search & Social Signals Provide Additional Clues
    And let’s not forget about search. As far as data goes — Google may have presented a more accurate representation of how voters were inclined to act. Trump related searches showed dominance over Hillary inquiries in the final days of the election and higher volume in states such as Pennsylvania where polls projected Clinton to win. The search volume from Google presented signals that were largely missed by both pundits and the media — yet they aligned with voter behavior.
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    Insights, Instinct AND Data — But Never In Isolation

    This political season more than ever demonstrated the shortcomings of looking at data and information sources in isolation, such as polling. A lesson that I’ll take away is to not only have more faith in my instincts but also to be a better student of the impact the media has on public sentiment and how that sentiment is reflected online in the forms of social and search data. For those of us who work in marketing and communications, we’re going to need a better appreciation for the balance between instinct and insights, gut and analysis, and how deep we need to go to accurately interpret signals and multiple data points so we can better inform our thoughts and actions.

     
     
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