Archive for the ‘Innovation – Digital Media’ Category

Hyperlocal industry set for hyper-speed changes and even more experiments

Monday, December 12th, 2011

Extra! Extra! Read all about it. Hyperlocal is the next big thing.

I think the hyperlocal publishing industry is set for hyper-speed change in the coming months and years — a compressed version of 200+ years of journalism. Taking on this opportunity are all varieties of entrepreneurs: from small one-person operations to large, publicly traded mega-media companies, and everything in between.

With small lean startups, smart journalists, new business models and larger platform systems, the future of hyperlocal may be the place where the future of journalism is crafted.

Some of the issues these ventures face are the same as the history of journalism:

  • People don’t want to pay for news;
  • Success gains political influence;
  • Maintaining journalistic standards in response to technological change; and
  • Balancing high journalism with mass appeal
  • Plus, the modern issue of advertisers not wanting to pay traditional media rates for digital media advertising!

Some of the locally-based owners of community news and information sites are like modern-day versions of the traditional newspaper publisher or owner of the local television or radio stations. Some are more journalistic; some are more community promoters or politically motivated; some are combinations. Another variety these community site owners are trying to be scalable business plays, where they are developing a repeatable business model for local news and information delivery – creating new value propositions, efficiencies and audiences, then looking to expand to other communities.

Both these types of community sites are a market for another type of player in the hyperlocal industry: service providers!

These smaller hyperlocal media publishers are competing – either head-to-head, or in preparation for head-to-head – with some the big media players in the hyperlocal space (such as AOL’s Patch, MSNBC’s EveryBlock, Topix, etc.) Although they are smaller operations, they need the same efficiencies, advantages and services as the large media players. This spells opportunity for several startups who can provide back-office and value-added services to these smaller community sites.

All of these (and more) are high-tech scalable businesses with platforms for efficiency, new services, new sources of revenue (some advertising, some not), as well as shared resources …much like the Associated Press did for its member newspapers a hundred years ago.

Here’s a few new companies and services to watch:

Broadcastr is a social media location-based service (LBS) platform that enables the recording, organizing, listening, and sharing of audio content via a map-based interface.

CityPockets is a digital wallet for daily deals that helps users import and keep track of all their pre-paid vouchers from multiple sites with a single login.

Goby is a new search engine that’s all about finding fun ways to spend your free time, from a weekend to a week off.

Google Currents is a new publishing platform for mobile devices from Google, launched this week with more than 150 publishing partners. “Content is optimized for smartphones and tablets, allowing you to intuitively navigate between words, pictures and video on large and small screens alike, even if you’re offline,” the announcement stated. But it also pointed out:

Alongside Google Currents, we’re also launching a self-service platform … For example, if you’re a small regional news outlet … you can effortlessly create hands-on digital publications for Google Currents.  

Group Commerce builds turnkey, white label group buying solutions that includes an extensive set of publisher administration tool and ecommerce design/marketing consultation.

LocalVox Media is a digital content hub for social media and search marketing of local neighborhood lifestyle news and editorial content.

Place IQ is a pre launch startup working on next generation location intelligence. PlaceIQ sifts through tons of data about locations to give marketers a mini-zipcode-like profile of each block.

POPVOX is a transparent, nonpartisan, neutral platform for advocacy and legislative data. It is a disruptive advocacy platform that delivers public input to Congress in a format tailored to actionable policy decisions and empowers users to leverage their expertise and numbers

SeeClickFix is a free mobile phone and web tool that allows citizens to report non-emergency issues, to communicate with public officials, and to engage with fellow citizens to help find solutions to problems in their neighborhood or town.

Tackable is a social journalism platform designed for news organizations, with a live media map of the world where you can create assignments and submit live photos and videos of things happening right in front of you.

Plus, there are a TON of Content Management Systems (CMS) providers who are playing to the hyperlocal news sites, providing search-friendly capabilities, user-generated content management, archiving and more.

The hyperlocal industry is an active marketplace with a lot of innovations, players, opportunities and experimentation to come.


Hyperlocal offers the full spectrum of entrepreneurial opportunity

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Today's hyperlocal entrepreneurs are similar to some of the early pioneers of American journalism... except it's not just a bunch of white guys this time.

This past week in New York City, I attended the inaugural Street Fight Summit (great name!), covering the business side of hyperlocal publishing. I’ve been following specific businesses and general developments in hyperlocal, but never got the kind of deeper look that only a focused trade conference or research report can provide. Street Fight delivered that last week, and I plan to follow this conference’s growth. (Good things ahead, I suspect.)

Highlights from the (#SFS11) conference can be found here, as well as good pieces on lessons learned and takeaways. I agree with much of what is said in these articles and in the coverage of the conference by PaidContent. My main takeaway from the conference is different – maybe because I’m new to the industry, maybe because I’m an outsider looking in, maybe because I’m inclined this way.

First off, a side note

At the conference, I was struck by the quiet. Clearly there was high interest and enthusiasm about the opportunities, strong opinions about striking a balance between journalistic and business objectives, great attention to new technology and developments, but the attendees were quiet and reserved. There wasn’t a lot of open deal-making and networking. Maybe they were just a serious crowd. Maybe it was the set-up of the venue. (Partly, I think.) Maybe people were struggling with the tradeoffs between journalism and business. Maybe folks were secretive about their next move. I’m not really sure, but the mood reminded me of a conference I attended in DC several years ago for the intelligence community, looking at open source. (Not the kind you think.) There was excitement about the opportunities and developments, but there was quiet angst in the room. (I’d expect that at a “spooks” conference, where people are known to have business cards without any email address or phone numbers on them. “We’ll be in touch,” they’d say.)

My main takeway

The Street Fight Summit attracted a wide spectrum of attendees and speakers – from small one-person operations to large, publicly-traded mega-media companies, and everything in between. Amazing for such a new and small-ish conference.

Some of the community site owners seemed to be modern-day versions of publisher/journalist/inventor Benjamin Franklin (and his lesser-known brother, James): creating new, local publications, while setting an editorial policy and style, adding features to attract readership, developing business models to make it pay, and even tinkering with the digital “printing press” to keep the operation rolling. These are the lifestyle business entrepreneurs.

Others were mid-sized businesses, looking for efficiencies and new sources of revenue, features to attract traffic (and readers), and funding. Some of these were looking toward expansion to other communities, others were focused on being self-sustaining and beating the traditional media competition down the street. Some were from larger communities (many from NYC), and some from smaller communities and suburbs. These are the small business entrepreneurs.

The big media companies were present with their approach to hyperlocal: shared assets and resources across many locations. They seemed to be looking for interesting ideas and ways to drive traffic, develop readership in new communities and control costs. (Maybe this is why the quiet. The small guys don’t want to give the big guys any ideas. Hmmm) These are the big business intrapreneurs.

Then there were are the social venture entrepreneurs: founders of mission-driven community sites that were non-profit by design. They were seeking new forms of funding and revenue, operational efficiencies and new ways to maintain their presence in the community.

Serving all these segments, were a handful of high-tech scalable business entrepreneurs with their platforms for efficiency, new services, shared resources (much like the Associated Press did for its member newspapers), new sources of revenue (some advertising, some not) and more.

In their own ways, ALL of these businesses are innovating, business modeling and grappling with the issues of the day and the industry. Some are journalism entrepreneurs, others are market-driven entrepreneurs and still others are tech entrepreneurs. The Street Fight Summit brought together all these types of entrepreneurs in the hyperlocal industry, all seeing opportunity.

Based on all I heard and saw, the hyperlocal publishing industry is set for hyper-speed change in the coming months and years — a compressed version of 200+ years of newspaper developments. Looking back at history, some of the issues are the same!

Here are some of the big issues from the early days of newspapering — repeating themselves in this hyperlocal space: (from the Wikipedia entry for The History of American Newspapers, based on The Cambridge History of English and American Literature).

People don’t want to pay for news:

“Newspapers became a form of public property after 1800. Americans believed that as republican citizens they had a right to the information contained in newspapers without paying anything.”

Sound familiar?

Success creates political influence:

“New England papers were generally Federalist; in Pennsylvania there was a balance; in the West and South the Republican press predominated.” And one early editor was called  “a deceitful newsmonger …  “a prostitute wretch”, “a great fool, and a barefaced liar.”

Wow! Makes great blog material!

Maintaining journalistic standards
in response to technological change:

“The men who wrote from the news centers of Europe were persons of wide political knowledge and experience, and social consequence. They had time and ability to do their work thoroughly, carefully, and intelligently, innocent of superficial effort toward sensation, of the practices of inaccurate brevity and irresponsible haste, which began with the laying of the Atlantic cable.”

Wanna talk about SEO, aggregation, algorithms or what?

Balancing high journalism with mass appeal:

“… the blatant methods by which the cheap papers were popularized aroused the antagonism of the older papers, but created a competition that could not be ignored… The gentler pejorative “infotainment” was coined more recently to refer to generally inoffensive news programming that shuns serious issues, but blends “soft” journalism and entertainment rather than emphasizing more important news values…”

Ah, the clash of the establishment versus the upstarts has a long history.

The Street Fight Summit brought together the hyperlocal publishing industry, and therefore brought together ALL these players, elements, issues and more. (Thanks to Laura and David and everyone at Street Fight Magazine.)

Hyper-speed change is ahead, and it’s a great time to be an entrepreneur in hyperlocal — no matter what type entrepreneur you are.



Innovate a behavior, create a new media

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

Alexander Manu, strategic innovation practitioner, a professor and writer in strategic foresight and innovation... and Robin Williams look-alike.

During his presentation at the Famous Entrepreneurs Series on Sept 20th, innovation expert Alexander Manu said: “Facebook is not a new technology, it is a new behavior; Twitter is not a new technology, it is a new behavior. Youtube is not so much a new technology. It is a behavior innovation.”

I think he’s right, and it has had me thinking about new digital media and how it is created. [Thanks, Alexander!]

During a fast-paced and packed presentation, Manu covered a number of topics around innovation and behavior to create all kinds of products and services. But, I focused his comment on digital media innovations.

I have heard technologists argue that Facebook and Twitter are really NOT technical innovations. I tend to agree with them. Facebook and Twitter have intellectual property, but is substantially weaker than Google’s, with their search technologies and algorithms. Youtube certainly has more technology and intellectual property, I would say. Facebook and Twitter have IP, and I’m sure it has great value, but the real value they have created is that Facebook, Twitter and Youtube innovated a behavior. That’s where the value is.

In his book, Disruptive Business, Manu explains the two-way approach to the process of innovating around behavior.

Here’s the first direction:

“The new value chain starts with behavior mapping and a deep understanding of people’s motivations. This is accomplished through personal observations and immersion in the user’s lifestyle and mindset, with the expectation that the observer’s perspectives will reveal insights into the meaning behind an experience.”

This is the design thinking approach to innovation made popular by Steve Jobs and Apple. It’s also the product of design consultancy firms like IDEO.

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit,” says Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO. He goes on to say that this approach must “integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

But this process also works to create innovation in the other direction: from technology to behavior.

“Whenever we come across a new technology or service, it has the potential to change our behavior as we negotiate new interactions with it.” Manu says in his book. “This shift in our normal behavior may be subtle or explicit, such as using a mobile phone to create a short film.”

My version of this is: “Innovate a behavior and you can create a new media.”

The opportunities to innovate in the media industry are wide open. All sorts of innovations are happening throughout the space as people adapt to new technologies and as new technologies make new behaviors possible. This two-way process of innovation has created a chaotic environment for large media companies trying to protect their markets and assets, while providing a fertile environment for all kinds of new media product, services and devices.

In their 2001 book Creative Destruction: Why Companies That Are Built to Last Underperform in the Market and How to Successfully Transform Them, Richard Foster and Sarah Kaplan said “[A]ttacking companies occupy the periphery while the defenders occupy the core of the vortex, focusing on the evolutionary improvement of the existing business.”

In the media world, small startups are everywhere, trying to revolutionize the media experience — with new services, new products, new delivery methods, new business models — while larger media companies are trying to create evolutionary improvements to maintain their markets and protect their revenue and business. Because these small startups are on the periphery, most are almost invisible to the big companies …until the new innovations have created enough market traction and are edging their way into the core of the business.

Meanwhile, the big companies are trying hard to innovate, but they are working the problem differently. The upstart startups are beginning their innovation process with human behavior, by either asking “How are people using a new technology device or service?” Or, doing it the other way around, thinking: “Wouldn’t it be great if we could ____.” The big media firms are looking at the problems in their business model or service and trying to solve them. They are asking: “How do we maintain our subscriber base?” “How we do charge for online content?” “How do we provide new services to new customers.” There’s no shame in this, but the outcome will be less innovative.

Big media companies need to move to the periphery to innovate better. They need to join the startups (and certainly should consider acquiring some of them!) and re-frame these problems into innovation opportunities, focused on behavior. “How are people getting their news when they don’t subscribe to an online news source.” This kind of question could reveal more about behavior and opportunities for innovation.

Again, using Dr. Manu’s book as a source, he diagrams the difference in the process:

The Traditional Innovation Process: (still works and has its place in business)

The New Innovation Model:

Though it sounds simple, it’s not. But I think THIS is where the industry should be focused.

Innovate Behavior = New Media.


More Steps Toward Brand Advertising Innovation

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

Branding ain't what it used to be... and it's changing again.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’m seeing some important big steps in online Brand Advertising innovation, which includes mobile and tablet, of course.

The move is from Direct Response online advertising (such as very successful Google Adwords, etc.) to Brand Advertising which is more about Consumer Engagement and Reach. This development is important for media and industry in general, but it’s just getting started.

Why is this important?

First a few points:

  • Brand Advertising is the LARGEST type of advertising in terms of dollars spent (about twice the size of direct response advertising), while building awareness, cultural impact and true brand development. Brand Advertising is the BIG-TIME advertising we recognize and love. (Who can remember their favorite Adwords campaign? Exactly. No one. But, plenty of people can remember some of their favorite Super Bowl and other television ads.)
  • A Brand is defined as a collection of attributes (tangible and intangible) symbolized in a trademark (a name and “mark”) that creates value and influence. Properly managed, a brand helps consumers recognize it (and relate to it) in a cluttered marketplace and attention-deficit market. Brand Advertising is one proven way to raise awareness, develop consumer engagement and create emotional connection between a brand and its consumers.
  • A Brand also creates value for a business because it provides “security of future earnings,” according to’s definition. In addition, brand-name products are often able to charge more than lesser-known competitors; so brand creates value for companies in the form of increased profit margins. Both of these factors explain how brand advertising is cost-justified.
  • And lastly, “Brand” is still as powerful as ever — possibly more powerful than ever! — in our socially-connected global marketplace. People still choose brand products over other options in the marketplace.

So, why is Online Brand Advertising Innovation just getting started?

In the early days of online advertising, the banner ad was the “innovation.” I always considered it a poor cut-n-pasted solution from one media (print) to another (online). What started as a poor showing has gotten worse over the years. And, with all the metrics available online, the poor banner ad didn’t stand a chance. (Good!) Then, direct response advertising became the innovation, and when social media entered the marketplace, brands felt overwhelmed and merely responded with tactics (get on Facebook, start tweeting, etc) versus big innovative changes (with some exceptions).

Now, a handful of big platforms, technologists, and creative users (in this case, advertisers) are starting to show the way forward in innovative brand advertising.  Examples of repeatable, successful online brand advertising approaches are starting to emerge.

Kraft did a wonderful job, working with YouTube to develop its very successful Philadelphia Cream Cheese campaign: “The Real Women of Philadelphia.” Interestingly, Fast Company reported that “YouTube says 94 of the top 100 brand advertisers have now run campaigns on the platform, and what’s attracting them is the increasing body of research that shows that advertising on YouTube works.” This smells like repeatable success. That’s what is needed for REAL online brand advertising to work.

Social Gaming is also a big wide-open area for innovation for online brand-building — without a large dominant platform player like Youtube in the space. Some believe that Social Gaming may provide the perfect online branding “experience” that allows digital media companies to compete head-on with television for brand ad dollars. Century 21, MasterCard, and Expedia have all done work here, creating games to engage with target audiences. Mashable’s article on Social Gaming as the next frontier for brand advertising talks about the opportunity. I think some of the developments with Facebook’s Project Spartan will allow advertisers to create and distribute social games (which are apps) more easily, allowing brands to engage with consumers in new, long-terms ways. This could allow Facebook to become the dominant platform in this social game branding arena.

Not to be left behind, Google announced Google+, a social networking environment to compete with Facebook. But as analyzed, it may be a great play for local advertising. And, much of the big money in local advertising is brand advertising too!

These are exciting, really innovative developments: with technologists working as an important part of the creative team. Some leading voices in the advertising industry are calling for this kind of collaboration: Creative Technologists. It’s about time!

In addition to innovative work by advertisers and platforms, the advertising industry is also aligning with a world of online Brand Advertising. At it’s recent conference, Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) announced its New “Brand-Friendly” ad units. These are a great start and provide a standardized platform for media to have a role in brand advertising innovation.

We know first-hand from big mass media campaigns (such as super bowl ads) that a brand can generate awareness and create a relationship with a consumer. Surprise. Delight. Fun. Social Status. Reward. Loyalty. All of these are becoming possible in interactive digital advertising, along with the power to target, customize, personalize, optimizing, and measure results.

The future of Online Brand Advertising: Digital makes it powerful; Interactive makes it magic.


5 Things I Learned at Internet Week in New York City

Sunday, June 12th, 2011

Internet Week in NYC was launched in 2008 and shows the breadth and depth of NYC's startup scene.

Just back home to Upstate New York after spending the week in New York City for Great time.

Unofficially, NYC is my home. (Officially, I now live in the Syracuse area in Upstate NY and grew up in Jersey City, but I went to high school in NYC, so… [que: “I Love NY” music… que: “Sons of Xavier” fight song…] The fat story, skinny is: I consider New York City my home and try to get down there to visit family and get back in my New York State of Mind as often as possible.

This week was particularly spectacular on a professional and personal level, and here’s what I learned:

1) NYC is really happening for digital media and Internet startups right now. I knew this. I’ve been a part of this: participating in NY Angels events, going to occasional meetups and gatherings, meeting with several startups, visiting and consulting with some of these startups, and even having two sons and several friends and former students working in the NYC startup scene. But, this week I saw it in full bloom. Internet Week was wonderful.

That said, I have to add: Most real New Yorkers don’t know or really care. Internet Week was a great success, but if you ask the average New Yorker what it was or even if it happened, they’d look at you like you’re the crazy guy who stands on the street corner yelling at passers-by. So, yes, the NYC startup scene is growing and happening, but it ain’t there yet, as far as being successful on the NYC scale. The Internet Startups have a long way to go as an industry that captures the attention and imagination of NYC, but we’re getting there.

2) Human social networks are still more important than online social networks. Ok, we knew this, but there’s definitely a need to say this again. Connecting with people online is far different from connecting face-to-face and that’s what makes events like InternetWeekNY and SXSW and just about all gatherings so powerful. I think it was Tom Peters who once said “The Internet’s best peripheral device is the 747.” (I can’t verify that quote, but you get the idea. Any help??) We need to connect physically and the excitement of that connection face-to-face is then enhanced in turn by the connecting power of the Internet and now social media to stay connected.

3) Networks need pruning. I have friends from high school who I’ve lost touch with over the years. Same with college friends. Granted, with social media today, I could probably have remained better connected to many more of them over time and distance, but the truth is, we were friends at a specific time and place. The same is true of workplace friends. Some live on; most don’t. Interests and priorities change and so do those friendships and contacts. Occasionally, we need to prune the network we have developed. That makes it stronger. In pruning, you can now also find some contacts from your past which weren’t as strong in the time and place where they were made, but now you can easily re-connect to those people. That’s what I’ve been doing recently, and it’s very rewarding. I’ve met some wonderful and talented people over the years and I’m happy to reconnect to those in the NY Startup scene, investing, and digital media, in particular.

4) Nothing beats the power of a great idea. Lost in all the hoopla and hype of Internet Week, we sometimes lose sight of the really interesting ideas. I tried sitting back from the hype this time, to see what big ideas emerge and really stick. I’ll be reading posts and articles to see what interesting ideas were launched or discussed. Maybe it will be at a podium, but more than likely it will be over a cup of coffee or drink or at a hack-a-thon or a midnight skull session. Let me know if you

5) New York is the greatest. This time  in NYC, I went high-life: I had lunch at The Plaza Hotel,  as part of the Newhouse Mirror Awards… Dinner at John’s Pizzeria (take a look, not what you might think, based on the name) in Times Square… “drinks” at the trendy Serafina Fabulous Grill on East 61st Street, where I wasn’t spotted, as so many celebs are. I also went pedestrian and ate a midnight dinner at a NY Deli near 57th Street and Lex — with a spread of food like you’d see at a good wedding buffet… And, I had coffee and a good bagel with butter from a street vendor, and ate it on a bench in Central Park, watching the world stroll by. Leaving New York, I drove up the NYS Thruway through a beautiful summertime Hudson Valley and then westward along the path of the Erie Canal.  Later that night, I had dinner with my wife at Green Lakes State Park, taking in the million-dollar view in our part of the state.

New York is great, and I’m including Upstate… Ok, ok, and Long Island, too. But I love my part of NY as well as NYC. For the full spectrum of living, it’s the best. Now the question is: how do we leverage what’s going on with the NYC startup scene for Upstate advantage and vica versa. As I drove through the Hudson River and Mohawk valleys, it occurred to me New York has done this before. The Erie Canal is credited with making NYC the financial capital of the world, and in turn, NYC became the access point to all the natural resources and industries that blossomed along the Upstate corridor of the Erie Canal. This is the model: A perfect synergy that created the Empire State. Now, we need to do it again. I have some ideas. ;-)

[Additional Personal Experience: On my walk Thursday evening from dinner in Times Square to my room on the upper Eastside, we walked up 5th Avenue, past St Patrick’s Cathedral. With the grand doors wide open, a mob of happy, well-dressed people poured out into the street. My out-of-towner friend asked “What’s going on?” “It’s a graduation. Xavier High School!” they said. No kidding. 35 years ago to the day, I graduated Xavier High School, and here I was. New York City serendipity, I guess.]


All companies are media companies

Monday, May 30th, 2011

C-Scape gives a great overview on the state of digital media and four elements to watch to navigate this changing environment

I just finished reading Larry Kramer‘s book, C-Scape: Conquer the Factors Changing Business Today, where he provides a four-part framework for looking at the new digital media landscape: controlled by consumers, where content is king, where curation is a high-value additive in a sea of information, and convergence is the endless cause of anxiety, change and opportunity.

One of several glowing reviews on Amazon said:

An inspiring read, Kramer makes the case that all businesses must learn to think like media companies. The idea that traditional retail companies must start seeing themselves as curators and providers of content across all new media platforms made me look at business in a whole new light.

Highly recommended for entrepreneurs and anyone interested in taking their business to the next level.

In the book Larry cites examples and shows a number of ways that ALL companies are really becoming media companies. I’ve long been a believer in this concept, but Larry got me to look at it in a bigger way than I had expected.

I met Larry last winter, and had the pleasure to get to know him better when he came to town and spoke at The Famous Entrepreneurs Series this past March. Since then, I have interacted with him several times and consider him a friend. We have spoken about digital media, innovation, the future of media and entrepreneurship. Now having read his book, (Sorry, Larry, I wanted to read it slowly and digest it.) I see the depth of this simple concept and realize it offers even more opportunities for innovation, entrepreneurship and growth for companies than I had thought.

On the surface, the phrase, “All companies are media companies,” is a great, flyover statement about what’s happening in the media market. More companies are providing information and entertainment to customers and potential customers. Because of the Internet and social media, there are many ways for companies to communicate with their constituencies directly — no longer having to buy space in other media (newspapers, magazines, radio, television) in order to reach them. The implications are tremendous, far-reaching, game-changing, and highly visible when we look out on the business landscape. Much of this is discussed in the book.

In the section: “What happens to products?” Larry goes further and talks about how every product is becoming a media experience. Filtering out the digital businesses where this seems more obvious  — it isn’t, but it seemed like it to me when reading these, I found the stories about Hasbro and Delta most interesting. These are physical products and services. They require the movement of atoms versus electrons. Much tougher, let’s admit it.

“It was always a misunderstanding to think that convergence meant that new technology would replace the old” Larry writes. “New technology gets layered in with the old, and every experience of a product becomes a convergence experience”… whether or not the product is digital.

He continues, “Beyond the literal media available on the flight, the experience of plane travel is shaped by all of the media involved in buying your tickets, selecting your seat, [etc.].” The media experience before, during and after the actual flight shapes our relationship with the company and its products and services. “Even a ‘non-media’ product such as transportation has multiple media layers, often more than consumers realize… [And] It’s the producer’s job to get that blend right.”

You’re right, Larry! This stuff is everywhere.

This is a much bigger view of “all companies are media companies.” We are picking airline flights because of the in-seat media options that are available: wifi, television, and more. We are choosing toys and other products because of the media experiences they bring with them. People are choosing cars because of the media, enhancing the driving experience and ownership with video owners manuals, satellite radio, mp3 player connections and more. All other things being equal — or at least comparable or close, we choose all kinds of products and services based on the media layers.

Let me add: This means there’s more curation opportunities in the product development world = more opportunity for media-savvy professionals (editors, designers, etc)… as well as more opportunity for new businesses to help companies curate this kind of media experience with their products and services.

Thanks for the insights, Larry!



A time to take a pause

Monday, May 16th, 2011

"Sons of Xavier keep marching..."

Fresh back from my high school reunion in New York City this past weekend. Yes, 35 years ago I graduated high school! Holy shit! (Look, I said “holy” — rather appropriate for an all-boys, Catholic, Jesuit, semi-military prep school in NYC). I got some time to catch up with old, lost friends, told stories, and spent some time on the train thinking about life. It was great to see the success that many of us had and to hear the stories of obstacles and challenges. These formed us. Also great to hear the stories of the stupid things we did back then and how we all survived it… well, most of us. [Salute to Salley!] I walked the streets near the school and recognized the changes as I remembered the old times.

With all the graduations and school-year events, this is a great time to take a pause and reflect on where you came from and where you are going.

Next week is a look forward weekend for me, as my youngest son graduates from college with a degree in Computer Science and heads off to NYC to work for a start up as part of the HackNY program. Yes, he’ll be right down the street from my old high school. Ah, the circle of life. I’m excited for him and love the fact that NY’s startup and tech sector has injected new life and excitement into the Union Square and Chelsea area of the city.

Meanwhile, this past weekend was filled with graduations, convocations and speeches here in Syracuse. A friend and colleague txt’d me “Richard Edelman just praised the efforts of startups and media entrepreneurship at convocation” at Newhouse School at Syracuse University. “He gets it,” she added.

He spoke about the “Media Cloverleaf:” with the four segments of the Cloverleaf mutually dependent.

The first leaf is Mainstream Media Brands, ranging from national newspapers such as USA TODAY – to magazines such as Vogue or TIME – to broadcast networks such as CBS – to cable networks such as CNN – to local newspapers.

The second leaf of the Cloverleaf is “Tradigital” – traditional plus digital – which includes the digital versions of mainstream brands such as, plus stand-alone brands that tend to be subject-specific, including Techcrunch, Politico or TMZ.

“Social” is the third leaf, encompassing media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and Cyworld.

The Fourth and final leaf is “Owned Content.” “Owned Content” includes the web sites of businesses producing content that consumers value.

He made two key points, I think: “Disruption creates opportunity; dispersion of authority is opening tremendous new avenues for media entrepreneurs,” and “the Cloverleaf is full of opportunity.” [His full comments and more can be found on his blog. Looks like a missed a great speech!]

Meanwhile across campus, Newhouse grad Dennis Crowley of Foursquare was delivering the convocation for Syracuse University’s iSchool. Dennis is living what Richard was talking about… leading the revolution as an entrepreneur. A video of his speech is available via Great points to inspire graduates and entrepreneurs.

Reunions are for looking back and taking stock. I’ve had a great life… so far. Much more to do. As for Upstate New York: We’ve done a great job lighting the flame of entrepreneurship here, especially among college students. There’s still much to do. But, what a great weekend.

Ok, we’re entrepreneurs! Enough nostalgia. Let’s go!


Small conference problem leads to idea

Sunday, April 3rd, 2011

SMACC (pronounced "smack") blended social media and a cappella to make beautiful music

I was a last-minute addition to present at the Social Media A Cappella Conference 2011 (SMACC) on Saturday (April 2) in Syracuse at the Newhouse School on the campus of Syracuse University. Yes, what an interesting combination: social media and a cappella singing groups. Who knew?

I prepared a short, fun presentation on Credibility as a competitive advantage in social media. I planned to talk about how we all determine credibility offline (quickly and often with visual cues and clues) using a series of photos. Then I wanted to focus on how we determine credibility online (websites, etc), drilling down to what we seem to be doing now in social media. I figured I would have a small attendance and this would be a good place to tryout a new topic and engage folks. Take a look at the slide deck:

“Credibility: the ultimate competitive advantage in a social media world”

[A note on the presentation: This was really just a starter presentation for me. I’d like to do more with this topic soon. I’d like to thank Stanford’s Persuasive Technology Lab, Fogg (2003) and the great whitepaper by Soojung Kim from the College of Information Studies at the University of Maryland: “Questioners’ credibility judgments of answers in a social question and answer site,” as well as Charlie Sheen, Mike Tyson, Lady Gaga, General Colin Powell, Bill Gates and Einstein for their assistance.]

So here’s what happened. I showed up early, excited to give the presentation. Then two unplanned things happened. First, I couldn’t get the projector to work. Next, only four people showed up as my session was about to start. The low attendance at my last-minute session was understandable: a new conference, Saturday morning time slot… but only FOUR?! Well, at least I wouldn’t be embarrassed in front of a large crowd, right?

But then something wonderful happened; something that only tends to happen in smaller groups, I think. We all started talking about the non-working projector and how we can proceed.

I wanted to give my presentation, they wanted to hear it. Someone said, “Why don’t you just email it to us all?” (easy with four people, right?) Done. As I was sending out the email, I was thinking about how I would modify my presentation style and content to this new medium. I moved to the front of the podium and sat on the edge of a table. Everyone opened the PPT and viewed the slides on laptops, ipads, and smartphones. Even with such a small group, there was still a diversity of mobile, connected devices in the room. (Really quite amazing, if you think about it.) One person who came in late sat next to someone who had the presentation on her iPad. Someone else came in late and had the PPT forwarded to their email without much ado or interruption.

Actually, it was great!

During the session I had to adjust how I presented the information (which kept me on my toes — especially with the little series of photos), but it went pretty well, I think. So, it turns out we had a CONVERSATION about credibility, and it was terrific. We shared different points of view, made easy comments and added new points. And, the slide deck helped hold the conversation together.

We ended up staying beyond the allotted time for the session; everyone wanted to. After the session, I received the warmest thank-yous and a few comments on how great it was to have the presentation in their hands. Most attendees seemed to enjoy it. (Hope they learned something from it, too… I know I did!)

It was GREAT to have the presentation in their hands. A loss of control on my part, but hey, that’s the world we live in.

This led to an idea from one of the attendees: why can’t we do this as the standard way to present, instead of a projector? Why not? There should be something out there to do it… Well, it looks like Slideshare is a step ahead of us. I’m looking into it, but it seems that Slideshare launched ZipCast in February and it does much of what we needed to pull off our new idea for an interactive, handheld slideshow-mediated conversation/presentation. (Ok, I’m working on the name.)

Here’s what TechCrunch said about ZipCast. They didn’t talk about how to use it when people are physically located in the same room, like we were, but you get the idea.

“Zipcast … doesn’t require a software download or plug-in, and it doesn’t take over your entire screen. Instead, it is just a tab in your browser (thank you, HTML5 Websockets)… Zipcast is also stripped down compared to other existing virtual meeting products. There are the slides, a one-way video stream of the person hosting the meeting, a conference call line for audio, and a text chat window. And if you are board [sic... they mean't bored... and you wouldn't be in MY presentation ;-)] during the presentation, you can skip ahead through the slides on your own.”


Social Media and A Capella came together in a conference. I had my doubts. But I must say: what a passionate and intelligent group of attendees! (And what voices!) I guess social media goes with everything! (sounds like wine advice)

And, if you told me a non-working projector and a very small turnout for my session would be considered a success, I would have had more doubts and questions. But you know what? We got creative and Creativity really goes with everything.

More on Slideshare’s Zipcast used in this way in future posts, I hope… As for the non-working projector, it turns out it was working but the touchscreen controller couldn’t sense my fingertip commands because it was a still-cold Spring morning in Syracuse. Thanks for those warm thank-yous at the end of the session, folks.


So, what’s next in Digital Media?

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

Douglas Adams, my hitchiking guide to the universe

So, what’s next in Digital Media? Where is the next break-through media technology? What will be the next big trend?

I begin my quest to answer these questions with a trip to the Olin Innovation Lab at Olin College of Engineering outside Boston. This is a small-ish gathering of the IT industry, mostly, to look into their crystal balls. They have held this conference for the past four years, and this year we will look at what’s next in cloud computing, original versus incremental innovation, enhancing innovation, and more.

Then I continue my journey on Thursday to Austin, TX, for South by Southwest Interactive, five days of compelling presentations on emerging technology from some of the brightest minds, industry leaders, and industry disruptors. SXSW has been called “the most energetic, inspiring and creative event of the year.” I like the tagline: “Tomorrow happens here.”

As this is a journey for me, I feel compelled to quote the master of wild technology-enhanced journeys, Douglas Adams, author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and other books, radio shows and television series. In 2001, as the Internet was growing and becoming a part of our daily lives, no longer the network of networks developed by the US Department of Defense. BBC Radio 4 produced a program on how new media and technology will change our lives, where business leaders in the music, publishing and broadcasting industries asked Douglas at a conference how he thought technological changes will affect them. Probably sensing and hoping that he would say something like, “not very much,” Douglas said: “It’d be like a bunch of rivers, the Amazon and the Mississippi and the Congo asking how the Atlantic Ocean might affect them… and the answer is, of course, that they won’t be rivers anymore, just currents in the ocean.” (How right he was!)

And so I begin my quest. My objective is to find that next Atlantic Ocean, or signs of a modest Indian Ocean… or, at least a rather large puddle in a shady area, so it has a chance to last a while. (Channeling my inner Adams) My real objective: I’m putting together a class for the Newhouse School at Syracuse University: COM400 – Trend-spotting in Digital Media. Mostly, I’m gathering firewood for the bonfire I hope my students will create. They are the ones who are most likely to spot the next trend, and possibly ride it with a new business or career. And they have a natural advantage, especially as the pace of innovation quickens.

As Adams observed in Salmon of Doubt: “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works. Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it. Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things.” As I’m in the last age grouping, I will act as young and curious as I can, and keep my mind open to ideas, opportunity.