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  • feedwordpress 16:33:39 on 2014/10/24 Permalink
    Tags: Gmail, , Inbox, , Technology   

    Did Google Just Re-Invent E-mail With Inbox? 

    While Google Glass appears to be in its death throes, Google is quietly if not systematically re-inventing the digital work horse many of us have a love hate relationship with (mostly hate these days)—E-mail. I've been spending some time with Google's recently released app simply called "Inbox" and after five minutes of use the only thing that kept popping up in my head was this:

    Is it possible that Google is making e-mail enjoyable again?

    That's a lofty goal because right now for many of us, e-mail has become a second and third full time job. We use it so much at work that we're often exhausted by the time it comes to dealing with our "personal" e-mail. SPAM management is one of the key culprits which has also taken the joy away from e-mail. And while e-mail is ultimately mobile friendly—it can become a mammoth effort to keep it all neatly organized, while trying to ensure you didn't miss anything. 

    Inbox works pretty hard at all of this, organizing messages in bundles (some are already created for you such as travel, purchases forums etc.) The design is highly visual, using photos of other gmail users or abbreviations of names so you can visually keep track of threads etc. It surfaces up media elements attached to e-mails like pictures and videos so you can preview them and know what's in an e-mail before you click on it. 

    In short—it makes e-mail more useful, usable, desirable and shareable. 

    Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 11.30.12 AM

    Implications For Users
    For the average user of digital technology, it's a great step forward in giving us a tool that we've needed for a while and optimizing it for the mobile experience. Sure it will mean that we may be toggling back and forth a little between our native e-mail program on our mobile devices, but we're already getting used to doing that with other apps. Given the time I've spent with it—I think it's designed to take on the challenges of e-mail that so many of us grapple with. It turns our inbox into more of what we are getting used to with social—a "newsfeed" in many regards. 

    Implications For Brands & Organizations
    For many organizations—having a sophisticated CRM system in place in which e-mail is already a workhorse, this is great news as the app may get Gmail users more engaged with e-mail again. But there's also the added opportunity to make e-mail more compelling—more visual and media rich and more useful. If people start coming back to e-mail again, brands and organizations will have a window of opportunity to re-capture and keep their attention. 

    Google Inbox may be one of the great quiet innovations of our time despite the fact that we are still intrigued by flashier trends such as wearables. A return to e-mail beyond work could translate to new opportunities for brands and organizations to provide value in the value exchange they have with their consumers, customers and people who are important to them. 

  • feedwordpress 17:31:52 on 2014/09/26 Permalink
    Tags: , Technology   

    FOMO, WOM, WTF and ELLO 

    Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 12.12.55 PM

    I could be wrong.

    In the early days of social media, when Facebook was still for college kids—Twitter seemed like an utterly useless fad to most people. But I was really intrigued by it and stuck with it and connected with others, ultimately building an audience and a real time stream I could dip in and out of whenever I wanted to. 

    That was 2007. Fast forward to 2014 and it's not Twitter my network is talking about—it's "Ello", a social network built on the promise that it won't touch your data nor will it ever give in to advertising. Its manifesto is posted in plain sight on the network. 

    "Your social network is owned by advertisers.

    Every post you share, every friend you make, and every link you follow is tracked, recorded, and converted into data. Advertisers buy your data so they can show you more ads. You are the product that’s bought and sold.

    We believe there is a better way. We believe in audacity. We believe in beauty, simplicity, and transparency. We believe that the people who make things and the people who use them should be in partnership.

    We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce, and manipulate — but a place to connect, create, and celebrate life.

    You are not a product."

    Having spent a portion of my morning on the network—I am not convinced. Where Ello seems to be missing the point is that they may not have included enough value as part of their "value exchange" for participants to stay committed to it. Privacy is not enough—for a network to break through today you've got to make it cool, useful, usable and desirable (and "ello"—mobile). 

    I'm not sure Ello is delivering any at this point. It doesn't come off as particularly elegant—I found it hard to even figure out how to post and there wasn't enough value for me to overcome this. I get better content by exploring current networks vs. what I've seen so far on Ello. 

    So what does Ello have?

    It's got FOMO in spades (Fear Of Missing Out). For a short time and for reasons only they know—it's got enough of the right people talking about it and asking for invitations (like I did). 

    So what doesn't Ello have yet?

    It's got media coverage building some hype—but I've already seen negative word of mouth, (WOM) even when I asked for an invite. Perhaps you can count this post as negative word of mouth as well though I will suspend complete judgement...however, at this time—I'm not seeing the value or it just might not be for me. 

    But it did get me thinking about what causes people to take action. FOMO is powerful—I was able to secure an invite, create a profile and kick some tires. WOM is pretty powerful too—I have yet to see peers telling me they love it. Right now there's a collective "WTF?" as many try to make sense of it. 

    I also learned a lesson from my early days on Twitter—sometimes something great is not immediately recognizable in the world of social media. But sometimes you just have to go with your gut as well, and my gut says that value exchange trumps privacy and commercialism. Right now Ello is light on providing enough value to make it a serious ad free alternative to anything. 

  • feedwordpress 01:40:04 on 2014/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , Innovation Report, Jill Abramson, Leak, , Technology   

    The New York Times Innovation Report is Both a Manifesto and Warning For Entrenched Organizations 

    "To improve is to change; to perfect is to change often"
    ~Winston Churchill

    There are few documents, articles or any media for that matter that capture and illustrate the complex yet efficient nature of disruption than the New York Times 2014 Innovation Report. Recently leaked, presumably in some connection with the dismissal of executive editor Jill Abramson the 91 page report has been somewhat eclipsed by the debate around Abramson. But while that story has been garnering the most attention in the media—it is the innovation report which needs to be read cover to cover by anyone whose work includes a digital media component. 

    Scratch that—anyone who works should read it. And you have no excuse—I'll make it easy for you. You can download the PDF from here. Print it out or save it to your iPad/tablet but just READ IT. After spending a few hours with it myself over an evening, my conclusion was that the document, while not earth shattering in the recognition of disruption nor the recommendations to combat it—it paints an eerily detailed portrait of an entrenched organization struggling with itself to adapt, change and succeed in a world that no longer recognizes the New York Times as king of the hill. If you read between the lines as you digest the information, it is astonishingly insightful. 

    I don't think I can do the entire document justice, but I'm going to try to capture a few reoccurring themes that stood out for me. I'll also include quotes from the report—but again, please do yourself a favor and make the time to read it yourself. 

    Screen Shot 2014-05-18 at 8.42.00 PM
    Page 32: "Launch efforts quickly, then iterate. We often hold back stories for publication, as we should, because they're "not quite there yet"...we can adopt a more basic form so that we start getting feedback from users and improve it over time"

    Agility in some form or another is a constant theme in the report surfacing as a response to the reason it was being championed; disruption. In fact the entire report is essentially a response to the disruption from competitors who move quickly and seem to have an intuitive understanding of customer media behaviors from mobile to social and beyond. The notion of agility highlights initiatives such as Snow Fall but also promotes a systematic approach to both experimentation and innovation highlighting setting goals and tracking progress. 

    Page 38: "At The Times, we generally like to let our wok speak for itself. We're not ones to brag. Our competitors have no such qualms, and many are doing a better job of getting their journalism in front of new readers through aggressive story promotion".

    I could not help but feel the tension in culture in nearly every page of the report. Old vs. new, editorial standards vs. attention grabbing techniques, silos vs. open collaboration—you could almost feel the palpable struggle of an established organization grappling with itself. One of the areas where you could feel culture at play was in the section where the report discusses "connection" and puts forth the idea that journalists like Nick Kristof, David Carr and Charles Duhigg—all journalists who promote their own work are doing it right and these skills can be taught. it remains to be seen if the organization can stomach a small army of staff who have built personal brands at scale and leverage them for mutual benefit. Ultimately the document evangelizes a "digital first" movement to be embraced in all corners of the organization, de-emphasizing the front page, print and other hold outs from a previous era. Some would question if it's too late—but that's where the report is rooted. 

    Customer Centricity
    Page 60: "The many business-side development and roles which we refer to as "Reader Experience" throughout this report —need to work more closely with the newsroom instead of being kept at arm's length."

    I debated on elevating this, but I think it's a macro theme in the report and it's not unusual for any organization, especially a large one that has enjoyed dominance in market for a time to lose sight of how their customers think, act and behave as it relates to the world you have in common. There are numerous areas in the report that reference how the NYT's competition have seemingly mastered timeliness, relevance or features which media consumers can't get enough of. The report also goes into some detail about the silos the organization needs to work through as an impediment to serving the modern needs of customers. it seems elementary, but there's enough evidence to support a concerted effort to make "Reader Experience" a top priority. 

    Page 88: "I looked around the organization and saw the plum jobs—even the ones with explicitly digital mandates—going to people with little experience in digital. Meanwhile, journalists with excellent digital credentials were stuck moving stories around on section fronts"

    There were numerous references to the type of talent The Times had at their disposal from analysts to design to technology, product, R&D and more but it wasn't toward the end that you got the sense that there was a struggle to ensure that the right talent was retained. Digital talent by definition can be fickle, impatient and drawn to emerging trends (as digital media typically is always evolving)—but you got a sense from the report that there was a concern for today's departures becoming tomorrow's competitors. 

    Summary: Disruption Happens
    The NYT Innovation Report provides a glimpse into an industry under tremendous pressure and illustrates what it looks and feels like for a large, established organization with a rich heritage to come to terms with a world that looks very different than it did when tried and true formulas worked. It should be required reading for any executive or professional whose job it is to make sure their business is resilient enough to thrive in spite of change. In short, being an entrenched organization or a business resistant to change is no longer a viable strategy. 

    Also: See Scott Monty's excellent take on the same subject. 

  • feedwordpress 14:52:18 on 2014/05/09 Permalink
    Tags: , , Interviews, , Sponsored Content, Technology   

    Native Advertising Isn’t The Enemy—We Are 

    "We have met the enemy and he is us"

    You should stop what you are doing and read this piece on Native Advertising by Andrew Sullivan, in which he asserts "journalism has surrendered" on the topic of native advertising. Specifically the form that seamlessly blends marketing with editorial in a publication. Aside from it being a wonderful and brutally honest assessment of native advertising and its influence on media, Andrew is both right and wrong in the piece when he says this:

    "At one point, the reputation of that journalism is going to tarnished by the fact that you’re not sure if it’s done out of a commercial interest. I have to say I don’t think it’s sustainable. It will collapse when the readers figure it out. It should have been front-page news that Time magazine reporters were to begin reporting to the business side."

    What Andrew gets right (maybe) is that the reputation of journalism is going to get tarnished. But we have to ask ourselves for who will it really matter? It will matter to the highly informed—the one percent of media consumers you could say. To the others, we must get a reality check and really digest what's happening in the world of media consumption for the average person. There are a few forces at play:

    Screen Shot 2014-05-09 at 9.24.26 AM

    Time: There's a finite amount of time we have and it's increasingly being chipped away by technology and a surplus of media stimulus. We simply don't have enough of it. 

    Attention: Sorry, but most of us can now be clinically diagnosed with ADD. Maybe we weren't born with it—but again, technology has taken its toll. We have so much information coming at us, it's increasingly difficult to focus. Watching a two minute video on YouTube now seems like a massive commitment. 

    Relevancy: Blame social media. We are all so consumed in our own worlds that if media/news doesn't seem relevant to us—we ignore it. 

    Currency: I've said it a million times. Content is currency. Ignore this sociological reality at your own peril—people now use content as a way to build their reputations and credibility with peers. 

    Status: It's what comes after currency. Share the best content that your peers and friends value—see your social status rise.

    Mobility: If your content can't be consumed or shared via mobile—don't even bother. Our context for media consumption is now "on the go". 

    Snackability: We've been trained to "snack" on media all day long. It's becoming harder to carve out time for media meals which can't be consumed quickly. Do you have teens? Watch their media consumption behaviors. 

    In short, we are the reason native advertising exists. We're the reason cat videos on YouTube are popular. We're the reason that in depth journalism is becoming an endangered species. On that note—I'll end here before I hit 500 words. Because you won't read more. 

  • feedwordpress 01:52:51 on 2014/03/17 Permalink
    Tags: , , , Technology   

    SXSW Interactive Is Big Business And That’s A Good Thing 

    Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 8.13.28 PM
    It's been exactly a week since I returned from SXSW. I would have written something sooner, but this delayed post is a great representation of where things stand in life for me these days. Writing for "personal" purpose takes a second seat to direct business building and running which is ironic because that was kind of the vibe at SXSW Interactive and that's not a bad thing. 

    Don't get me wrong, there are still plenty of parties at SXSW and a lot of late nights and some blowing off steam. As always, the panels are hit and miss, but even the misses can still be good for business. I attended a session that was essentially an ad for the mobile start-up whose CEO was giving a talk. However, his start-up was solid in premise and I'd heard about it before. And it's on my radar and now I'll be looking for strategic partnership opportunities around it. 

    It's been my sixth year going to SXSW. Here's how I spent my time:

    Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 8.39.41 PM
    Client Meetings & Events
    Regardless of your business (platform, brand or agency side) SXSW is a great way to connect and engage with clients. In addition to dinners and One-on-ones, this year I co-hosted an intimate salon with Jeremiah Owyang in Edelman's Austin office where brands such as Samsung, PayPal, Kellogg's and others traded case studies and engaged in meaningful dialogue around the work they were doing and the challenges/opportunities they were engaging with. And we weren't the only ones hosting private client events—a quick chat with an Adweek reporter verified that it was kind of a "thing" this year. 

    One On Ones
    In order to make SXSW productive in any sense, you shouldn't go there without scheduling one-on-ones in advance. I had some great conversations with industry peers, some who were running really cool activations at SXSW, to emerging start-ups and the occasional conversation that turned into a more in depth meeting. SXSW is noisy, so finding some quiet places to talk shop is a great use of time. 

    Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 8.33.41 PM

    Brand Activations
    There's a lot of brand activity going on at SXSW and it's impossible to catch it all but worth seeing what the brands are doing. Oreo's 3-D printed cookies were hard to miss and Mastercard's partnership with the Mashable house was an interesting tactic compared to American Express who paid for a more traditional sponsorship. Meanwhile PayPal (client) hosted web celebrities and celebrities alike at their blogger lounge. 

    Screen Shot 2014-03-16 at 8.43.20 PM

    Yes, these still happen too. But like I said, this is my sixth year at SXSW—so parties are now part fun and a whole lot of networking, meeting and greeting and re-connecting with industry friends and colleagues. Parties are great for informal recruiting and in more simple terms—putting faces to names. 

    For what it's worth—this year SXSW seemed a little smaller (confirmed)—but I noticed that the trend of more senior people attending is still on the rise. During one lunch with an editor of a large publication, I looked over and saw a table full of top executives from a leading digital agency—right up to the CEO. And this wasn't an isolated case. SXSW = big business now, so if you haven't yet gone you might want to adjust your expectations and book on time because it's not getting any easier to attend. 

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