Oct 10

404 Privacy Not Found

The curious thing to me about the Facebook apps ‘leaking data’ story is not that’s its happening, but rather the low levels of digital literacy (or the fact that this has been happening for years) by the public:

Many of the most popular applications, or “apps,” on the social-networking site Facebook Inc. have been transmitting identifying information—in effect, providing access to people’s names and, in some cases, their friends’ names—to dozens of advertising and Internet tracking companies, a Wall Street Journal investigation has found.

The issue affects tens of millions of Facebook app users, including people who set their profiles to Facebook’s strictest privacy settings. The practice breaks Facebook’s rules, and renews questions about its ability to keep identifiable information about its users’ activities secure.

The difference in the past was that the cost of acquiring this data was substantial enough to make it not worth the effort.  The amount of data freely available and the decreased cost of computing power make it a trivial effort.  This is only going to become more prevalent as online providers look to monetize the sale of data.  The problem is that data is being used in ways that the average internet user cannot comprehend, and therefore cannot make an informed decision to opt-in or opt-out.

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Feb 10

Instant DVD Gratification is worth a Premium

I love me some Redbox.   I’m ashamed to admit that I’m probably a good 5-years behind on movies I want to see.   Buying any DVD (with the exception of kids’ movies) is a waste of money, in my opinion.   I contemplated signing up for Netflix, but I doubt I would utilize the service enough to justify the expense.   Redbox neatly fills that void by allowing me to pick up new releases at my convenience, all for the low price of $1 plus tax.

Redbox (and Netflix) have been so successful that they are threatening the movie studios DVD retail business, so much so that the movie houses have strong-armed both movie renters into providing a 28-day hold on new releases, effectively granting retailers a 1-month monopoly on new releases.   DVD retailers such as Target and Walmart – perhaps trying to save their own revenue – have implemented limits to DVD purchases of the same title (which is how Redbox acquires their inventory).

Do the studios actually think their products are so wonderful that they are worth a ~$10-20 premium   to watch movies immediately at release?   It’s more likely that they are trying to hold on to their On-Demand revenue from cable providers, at a more reasonable ~$3-5.     None of which adequately addresses the threat that their legacy businesses are under from streaming.   In any case, I’ve already waited a year to see the new Star Trek, 3-years to see Superbad, and 5-years to see Wedding Crashers (on broadcast TV no less).   I can wait 30-days.

Jan 10

Tablets could ruin everything

Speculated mock-up of Apple’s forthcoming tablet product.


I’m watching all the speculation over Apple soon-to-be unveiled Tablet product, due to be revealed on 1/26/2010.     Steve Job’s had questioned the wisdom of a tablet (NYTimes via John Gruber):

Another former Apple executive who was there at the time said the tablets kept getting shelved at Apple because Mr. Jobs, whose incisive critiques are often memorable, asked, in essence, what they were good for besides surfing the Web in the bathroom.

He has since gotten involved deeply with the project, which has the potential be a game changer on the scale of the iPod and iPhone, while tying a rope around the neck of the cable companies and throwing the other end to the book, magazine, and newspaper industry.

I have two major concerns – one with Apple’s product and secondly with the concept of tablets.   I have difficulty imagining how Apple can sell the millions of units they supposedly project at a near-$1000 price point (can there be that many Apple fanboys?), especially with scores of (likely inferior but substantially less expensive) competitors coming to market?

In my mind, the tablet is a complementary device – something that you use from the couch, bedroom, or public transportation.   At that price point, many users may consider it their sole computing device.   Will the input mechanism(s) be sufficient?   From the NYTimes article:

But the icing on the cake comes from a current senior employee inside Apple. When one of my colleagues here asked if the rumors of the Apple tablet were true, and when we could expect such a device, the response from his source was, “I can’t really say anything, but, let’s just say Steve is extremely happy with the new tablet. 

Yet another recently departed Apple employee tipped me: “You will be very surprised how you interact with the new tablet. 

It is likely that there will be no hardware keyboard.   Speech and handwritten input has always been sketchy, and the learning curve for gesture input for most consumers may be quite steep.   How will the tablet change the participatory culture of social media?   Will we go from creating, collaborating, and commenting to solely consuming?   Will tablets be no more than a hand-held boob tube?   What are the consequences for content creators and distributors?

Dec 09

Are You a Fan of Pepsi?

This is kind of a big deal, and may be one of the first mass market attempts of strategic use of Social Media by a major brand.   Pepsi appears to be running a textbook engagement campaign instead of a traditional mass market television campaign for the 2010 Superbowl (via Springwise):

Pepsi has reportedly set aside USD 20 million to fund a variety of community projects across America. Rather than simply donating to existing charities, however, it will be inviting consumers to suggest and vote on the projects it funds. Pepsi will hold contests every month for 10 months beginning in January. The first will begin Jan. 13, when consumers will have 10 days to submit ideas “that make us think, inspire us and ignite participation,” according to a report on GigaOm. Toolkits for developing an application will reportedly be made available online starting this week. Ideas will be accepted in categories including health, arts and culture, food and shelter, the planet, neighbourhoods and education. After the 10-day submission period, contributed ideas will be opened up for public voting, and the top projects will win awards of USD 5,000, USD 25,000, USD 50,000 or USD 250,000. Thousands of projects will get funded, likely with additional resources from Pepsi’s retail and other partners, according to an AP report. Similar in many ways to Google’s Project 10 to the 100th contest, the effort is part of Pepsi’s “Refresh Everything” campaign, which launched about a year ago with the tagline, “Every generation refreshes the world.”

Pepsi Refresh – at refresheverything.com – will go live on January 13, 2010.

It will be interesting to see the ROI (if it can even be measured!) on a   $20m social campaign as compared to the half-dozen 30-second television spots they’ve run in prior years.

Dec 09

Daily Links for December 7th

All excerpts are quoted from the respective link(s).

  • The Major Works of Counterintuitive Thought From the Past Decade- The 00’s Issue– New York Magazine – In the aughts, the shocking hidden side of everything became the only side of anything worthy of magazine covers and book deals. Social scientists applied their techniques to the problem of climate change; liberals who wanted to be taken seriously had to come up with arguments for conservative policies and vice versa. Everywhere in the media, the former creators of mass consensus devoted themselves to contradicting the conventional wisdom. Here, a selection of the most unlikely ideas in a decade that was always looking to blow your mind.
  • Winners and Losers as the Dollar Falls – Experts argue about the many effects of the dollar's fall and what it says about confidence in the American economy, with its decades-old trade deficit and mounting national debt. But there are also more predictable effects replayed in each decline.
  • How Will You Die? – While you may be worried of catching of an obscure disease you heard about on the news, the truth is that we are far more likely to die of a small range of illnesses, nearly all of which are tied in some way to your lifestyle choices, like the food you eat or how much exercise you get. But you can lessen—sometimes dramatically—the likelihood of succumbing to the most common causes of death by knowing your risk factors and making informed choices. This is a look at your most likely cause of death (excluding uncontrollable events like accidents and homicide), given your race, sex, and age. Use this information to make choices that will keep you healthy.
  • The Biggest Lie In Social Media – Weather we want to believe it or not, investing in social media takes time, money, and resources. Companies and people need to have a means for evaluating their investment in social against other areas of focus. When the bean counters and CMOs are weighing their options, I can guarantee you an argument of “the numbers don’t matter” won’t hold water and will have you laughed out of the room.
  • Why Social Media Purists Won’t Last | Social Media Explorer – No, I’m not turning my back on the social media community or mindset. But I am trying to make a point all the social media evangelists out there need to grow up and face: If you don’t stop selling the fluff and start driving the bottom line, you’re going to have to go back to whatever you were doing in 2005. It’s not about convincing the curmudgeon. It’s not about waiting it out until digital natives are calling the shots. It’s about making social media drive business for your clients or companies. If you don’t, you’ll soon hear, “You’re fired,” and it won’t be from Apprentice reruns.
  • Three Tweets for the Web – Many critics of contemporary life want our culture to remain like a long-distance relationship at a time when most of us are growing into something more mature. We assemble culture for ourselves, creating and committing ourselves to a fascinating brocade. Very often the paper-and-ink book is less central to this new endeavor; it’s just another cultural bit we consume along with many others. But we are better off for this change, a change that is filling our daily lives with beauty, suspense, and learning.
  • Business Week Social Media Article Misses The Point – They frame it as if social media (which in reality is just one part of the digital marketing mix) is this new scary thing, and that companies and professionals are gullible enough to be usurped by snake oil types. At this point, the opposite is true: any marketer worth their salt understands digital marketing by now. At least enough not to be sold snake oil.

    Executing on the correct digital strategy can accomplish the same business objectives as strong traditional marketing/PR strategy. The web and the real are no different in my eyes: this article might as well have been called “Beware The Consultant Snake Oil,” sans-social media. What does the web have to do with it?

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