The “Death” of Publishing

My friend Rubina Aggarwal sent me this video on social marketing and the future of publishing.  I thought is was a “cute” way to talk about what’s happening right now on social platforms.  I find it compelling that there remains a level of idealism about the power of social media with respect to brand building:

I was also reading Brian Solis and got to thinking about the idea that all brands are now to become publishers of media and content. Here’s a quote from Brian’s article.

As brands, we become media.

Through the democratization of publishing and the equalization of influence, we can create, connect, and attract a wider reach, establishing meaningful connections and building dynamic communities and interactive paths along the way.Everything starts with creation of a mission and purpose and fortified by the content we create, the processes in which we distribute it, and the activity that supports social objects and the reactions they engender.

Perhaps among the most powerful rewards we procure through dedicated publishing is the generation of good will, social capital, and influence. It comes at a price however, and the price is defined by the cost of resources, production, distribution, and support. In the end, you get out of it what you invest in it and the investment represents time, money, creativity, and passion.

While I agree with the sentiment, I tend to be a bit more realistic about what a major brand should hope to extract form social media. As a professional in the space, I’m obviously an evangelist of brands creating platforms for social relationships. However, I do not believe that all brands need to create deep content and media to be relevant in social media. In fact (sacrilege!) , I’d prefer that some brands do not spend their time creating content and instead, spend their energy creating great products, listening to consumers, and communicating only their value propositions that support their products.

Yes, all brands need to be in social media. However, content development without strategic merit is a waste of time, energy and money. I do not like to see brands wrap themselves in social platforms simply for the sake of “having to be there”, only to wonder what they got out of it when it’s complete.

Think about value. Think about outcomes. Building a social media platform should evolve naturally from there.

Social Gaming & Not-So-Virtual Currency

I was just discussing virtual currency and the recent announcement from Zynga confirming the availability of their Game Cards with a colleague at 360i, and I got to thinking about the exponential growth of virtual currency and online/social gaming that’s finally coming to the United States.

While the worldwide explosion of both virtual currencies and social gaming is undeniable, I can’t help but wonder where all of this is going and if it’s bringing media and online content to a good place.

The Good
Social games have simply exploded. Zynga alone has over 235 million monthly active users (MAUs) playing its games; all of which (I believe) exists in Facebook. That is a lot of time spent playing, engaged and ready to view ads, purchase virtual gifts, or perform any number of monetize-able actions.

The future is bright. This year alone, virtual goods revenue in the United States is projected to hit $1.6 Billion and about half of that is supposed to come from social gaming publishers (Zynga, Digital Chocolate and others). For a business that barely existed a few years ago, this is astonishing growth. What’s more, we’re well behind Asia in virtual goods revenue (they’re at about $4 Bn in annual revenue now), so there is still :money on the table”.

The Questionable
Despite recent success getting pre-paid cards out into the world, monetization has been a slippery slope. The TechCrunch Scamville callout with regards to offer media was a pretty big shake-up (Zynga handled this extremely well).  As a professional who has purchased various performance media, some with virtual currencies involve, I can say that getting a user to sign up for a subscription service in exchange for virtual currency is simply a terrible idea for this reason: at the end of the day consumers aren’t considering the product’s value proposition when making the transaction, so they inherently will not value the product.  Also,  if 66% of players are women between 35-44, why do publishers need to resort to these performance tactics?  It seems that this demographic can be spoken to on a higher level.

Also, and this is about as unscientific as it gets, the experience of social gaming just isn’t that cool. I realize that sounds like a ridiculous criticism, but if an industry plans to offer real long-term value to consumers, it should really start by maintaining some level of user experience integrity. When you scroll through the top social games in the world, there are two game formats: the “Mafia Wars” experience, and the “Farmville” experience. That’s really about it. Every other game is a slight tweak on those basic formats (with the exception of online poker). I’m not much of a gamer, and I’m far from what anyone would consider an avid social gamer, but I believe that, from a marketing standpoint, the industry needs to expand it’s experience if it’s going to see growth beyond a core market.

If you’re interested in the development of the industry, I’m a fan of Inside Social Gaming and Games Beat

My Product Development Experiences

It’s been quite a while since I’ve had time to post here…but I can explain!!

For the past 8 months, aside from my standard fare of corporate finance and macroeconomics classes, I’ve been spending much of my time outside of work a building a web-based product, as well as the business requirements that developing and releasing a new product entail.

What I’ve been building with a partner is an enterprise software suite. I’ll get into greater detail in future posts (breaking Chris Dixon’s recommendation for being un-secretive), but I’m primarily interested in talking about what I learned, rather than the product iteself.

To sum up my recent experience, we had an idea for a tweak on an enterprise software suite. We had a philosophy, and approach, to the user experience that was pretty unique from what everyone else in the space was doing. We were confident that there was a market need and that it was not being addressed. So, in August, 2009 a partner and I started building our solution. Fast forward today– we were beat to market last week by a major player in the space.

I want to share two key items I’ve learned from my experience to any entrepreneurs out there:

Don’t over-think it: Share your ideas and get feedback. You really need to take ideas out of a vacuum as soon as humanly possible; to get in front of people and talk about your idea. I learned so much from people who weren”t anywhere near the industry that our product was being bult to service. Why? If you cant explain what it does quickly and clearly, you have no idea what it does and you should stop what you’re doing. This goes for functionality and value proposition. Even if your product is insanely complicated, the value proposition should be clear and simple.

Get to market at (almost) all costs You can never build anything in your garage that will be better, or even as good, as what an existing competitor can develop. All you get to be is first. The benefits of first-mover advantage are debatable, especially when network effects come into play. Being market ready is not a function of having every feature complete and bug-free, it’s about having it good enough to get people using it, and allowing it to change dynamically. I’ve recently enjoyed reading posts and editorials from the 37 signals team. I think they have a lot of smart things to say about the dev process.

That’s about it. We’re still moving along and the product is still great, but if I could repeat the process, we would have dropped features and gotten it out quickly.

Dont be overly-precious with your ideas. Involve people early and change as you go.

More to come.

Facebook Leads Sharing, So Content Changes Forever

As someone who works in social media, our biggest driver for success is organic sharing of information and content. The chart below from Silicon Alley Insider shows what many of us already know on an intuitive level. Facebook is the epicenter of all things social:

I’m fascinated that sharing on Facebook is higher than email, although I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. The sharing function on Facebook is so easily integrated into the experience, it’s a natural evolution that it should become a center for sharing, seeing as how everyone, even my grandma, seems to have embraced it. But what are people sharing, really? I think it’s safe to say (in a broad-stroke kind of way) that people are sharing some type of content with one another. Whether it’s a video, an interactive application, a photo or an article- it all comes down to content being shared, and becoming more (or less) valuable as a result of that sharing. Which brings me to another point: as social networks become the drivers for content consumption and sharing, communication will change forever.

In the past, content consumption and advertising communication was a one-to-one communications strategy. Advertisers structured their creative, built out the assets needed for the media channel and disseminated that message to the masses. After the message was distributed, ads had done their job. Marketers would have to wait to see the results of their communications efforts, because people would digest the message, maybe discuss the content at the water cooler, and make a purchasing decision somewhere in the chain. This meant that commercials were designed to speak to the individual. For example, if you wanted to sell beer through television, you needed to create content that would speak to a large number of individuals. Bud Light is talking to me, hoping I didn’t change the channel or go to the bathroom, and measuring their success based on whether or not I buy their beer later on.

With community consumption, the rules are entirely different. Now the messaging is one-to-many, or one-to-community, and we’re all able to consume content together and discuss it in a very public way. The success of your content can now be determined almost immediately, and purchasing decisions will most likely be made not based on the content, but on the public response to the content. This is a totally different scenario– game changing. Think about how you behave as an individual, then think about how you behave in a group. I think Tommy Lee Jones pretty much nails in this scene from Men In Black. This also gave me an excuse to put a movie clip in my blog post:

How can we continue to create the same type of experiences that worked in television, and try to apply them to a socially networked society? The short answer is that we can’t. We need to be creative about the experiences we’re creating, because people are undoubtedly going to talk about it together.

Google Chrome OS and Netbooks. The future?

by Christian Brucculeri

I remember when I used to get processor envy.

Every time one of my music studio friends bought a new MAC tower, we talked about processor speed, hard drive space, etc. before anything else. Why? We were running Pro Tools. For anyone who is familiar with recording music, it requires extremely fast processing power and a ton of memory; because all of that sound needs to be converted into ones and zeros in real-time. With 16 tracks recording, this is no small task for a computer to handle. Anyone who works in media production (music, graphics, film, etc) understands the need for a workhorse computer.

But nowadays, I don’t record as much as I used to. Now I spend the vast majority of my computing time on less draining applications (word processing, presentations, email, etc). I’d go so far as to say that I spend 90% of my time on applications that can be run through a web browser, thanks to the incredibly useful Google Docs. This is starting to make the $2,500 I spent on a new laptop feel like a waste of money. I mean, I LOVE my Mac, but $2,500 for a laptop? eh…..

So back to my point. With the release of the new Chrome OS from Google, I am seriously considering moving from a MAC to a netbook and just doing everything in my life from there. Here’s my rationale:

1. As an open source OS, I’m picturing some next-level integration with the web. Am I reaching? I already use Google for my contacts, personal email and document sharing. Why not try their OS? Will my DVD application run like YouTube? Hopefully not- but I’m willing to give it a go. This is straight from Google’s announcement, and it seems like it’s exactly what I’m looking for:

Speed, simplicity and security are the key aspects of Google Chrome OS. We’re designing the OS to be fast and lightweight, to start up and get you onto the web in a few seconds. The user interface is minimal to stay out of your way, and most of the user experience takes place on the web. And as we did for the Google Chrome browser, we are going back to the basics and completely redesigning the underlying security architecture of the OS so that users don’t have to deal with viruses, malware and security updates. It should just work.

2. Windows Live doesn’t cut it. Frankly, it sucks. However, with Google Docs, I can create and share “Word”, “Excel” or (to a lesser extent) “Powerpoint” Documents right in my account. I can update them easily and I can share them with co-conspirators. By adding a Google OS into the picture, I believe I can fully integrate my online and offline work. I wont be thrilled if I start getting served AdWords on my desktop, but I think I can manage.

3. Media storage. This is a huge demand driver for buying a big laptop, or a desktop. No one likes storing their media on external drives. But if I can store my media in the cloud, I can access it anywhere, from any number of computers. An decent example of this is the Zumo Drive here

I’m interested to see where this goes. At a minimum, I’m sure Chrome will give Windows a run for its money.

Social Traffic Referrals

by Christian Brucculeri

I was reading Fred Wilson’s awesome blog the other day and I was inspired but what he said at the #140 conference:

“social media, led by Facebook and Twitter, will surpass Google in driving traffic to many websites sometime in the next year.”

I believe this will happen as well.   I believe we’re searching a little less than we used to.  Granted, when we want specific information (on a health topic, or for shopping) nothing can stop steamroller that is Google (no, not even you, BING), but when I’m just cruising along through my day,  I want to listen to my friends.

I do believe that Twitter is fast becoming a central traffic driver, as that’s essentially all I use the technology for anymore.  While I do enjoy the occasional status update from a friend, I’m more interested in the content people want to drive me to .  Even as I write these words it scares the crap out of me.  Why do I want to be part of someone’s organic search optimization attempts?  I’m not your sponsored search keyword, PPC victim-  so why do I want to click on your links?  Simple: I asked you if I could.

Every time I see a new link I want to see what’s behind it.  I want to see it because you’re my friend, or I find you interesting, or your a publisher I trust.    I know we might have just met, but I’m ready to click on you to see where you’ll take me,  because I believe you thought about it before you put that link up.  I honsetly trust that you stopped before hitting “update”  and thought “Shit, am i being annoying right now?  No, this is cool…let’s roll”.  This is light-years beyond an auction for a keyword, or a brand name buried in a BS blog entitled something like “”.  So please, send me links in your tweets-  I’m interested…

Applications Taking Over

by Christian Brucculeri

It’s been interesting continuing to work in social media, a term I’m loathe to use when describing what I do. I feel like the term for the job I have is interactive marketing. At the end of the day, the interactions are what counts, its not making media “social” per se. Anyway, more on that later.

I’ve been fascinated with applications lately. When I first heard someone say that applications are the new web, I thought “I guess, but I don’t have an iphone, aso how does that really apply?”

Then I started thinking about the technology I use, and realized that I download more applications than I originally thought: I’ve been adding so many plug-ins to my browser that I no longer feel at home on the net unless I have my Twitter App, my menu and a few other toys that have changed the way I navigate.

I’ve also been downloading a ton of applications for my Blackberry: Facebook, Google and Google Sync, Twitter, AIM Chat and the NYT apps to start. I’m using an 8700, so I still cant download Pandora, games,or many other interactive applications, but I REALLY want them and I’m starting to feel like a phone upgrade is a necessity just to keep up with what’s coming out.

This is the new web: branded applications that allow me to connect to a stand alone product. Games that take interaction to the next level by connecting me with other players or users, and apps that allow me to access my media, files, contacts and calendars in the cloud.

I used to think of apps as novel items for an iPhone. I now realize the naivite in defining apps so narrowly.

Head in the Cloud: Google Docs

cloud_streetsby Christian Brucculeri

Recently,  I’ve encountered more and more situations in my personal, professional, and student life where cloud computing has made a seemingly complicated situation much simpler.

Working in groups with traditional email can be extremely complicated.  The idea that we email one another, with parties in “to” and “cc”  fields seems so antiquated.  How does that communication system reflect real life?  It used to make sense because we were doing the best with the technology that we were given-  but cloud computing allows for greater touch points and better interaction.  The most compelling reasons to move to the cloud, in my mind, are data/file storage and communication among parties.

The Beauty of Google Docs

Google Docs has changed the way I think about work collaboration.  Writing a white paper, creating a presentation or doing shared research can be a cumbersome task on a traditional server;  there are so many needless complications:

If I open an excel document and start doing some research that I need other people to contribute to,  I have to email a draft  (with a date or draft ID) or I have to store it on a shared internal server for others to access it.  Okay, fine– done.  But what if two or more of us are working on the same document at the same time (as is often the case)?  Not possible.  One person gets the master document and everyone else opens read-only copies, has to res-ave, then someone needs to compile the various drafts into a new master.

With Google Spreadsheets I can create a file and share it with collaborators (or viewers who cannot edit).  Every time anyone wants to view or edit the document, they just log in and start working.  As a collaborator,  I can see in real-time who is viewing and working on the document.  I can see updates occur in real time.  We can all work on the same file simultaneously and even chat about the work in a chat function.

The real beauty in working this way is that,  when collaborating on a Google Document,  the Document is the center of the conversation.  Emailing back and forth to multiple parties about a document that’s attached or on a server is counter-intuitive to the process.  If the document is the product, it should be the place where everyone meets.

If you haven’t yet, give Google Docs a try.

The distance between zero and one

by Christian Brucculeri

A friend of mine once told me that this distance between zero and one is infinitely greater than the distance between one and two. I completely agree and, in homage to this statement, I am filling this space with my first blog post.

I’ve been holding off publishing anything due to the fact that I couldn’t think of a title for this blog, grab a vanity URL or even find a decent graphic to post in the header- all simple tasks, none of which I’ve been able to achieve. I can chalk it up to any number of reasons: I’m too busy, I’m too busy and of course, I’m way too busy to start a blog.  At the end of the day that’s starting to feel like a pretty lame excuse.

I am hoping that this post will serve as a swift kick to get me started. Hello empty space!!

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.

All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in ones favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.

Begin it now.”