Tag Archives: platform

Notable things: Yup, that’s how Twitter works; why The Daily bit it; holiday decorating done big and done right

Bob Lefsetz on the realities of Twitter:

Just because you tweet, don’t expect your followers to see it. Few view their feed comprehensively. They check in and check out. Catching only bits and pieces. Even forgetting your fake and dormant followers, which are voluminous, far fewer than fifty percent of your followers see one of your tweets. Actually, I’d be stunned if 10-15% of your active followers see one of your tweets.

10-15% is generous. I’d put it closer to 2%.

Regardless of the specific number, this point stands: To harness Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn or any other platform we have now or in the future, you must acknowledge the limitations and work with them.

(Related: I didn’t even know Lefsetz was on Twitter. I get his updates via email.)

The Daily’s problem was simply that they weren’t conceived to operate on $5 or $6 million per year in revenue. A smarter, smaller team could.


” … they are about to be taught a lesson in the real use of power. You will be witnesses.” — Hans Gruber

To all the chuckleheads out there who wrap a single string of lights around an evergreen and call it “decorating,” I offer this:

(Watch the whole thing. Also, God bless the people who live across the street from this house.)

De-emphasizing the website (a pile of thoughts)

A number of smart posts have recently focused on a thing called “sub-compact media” or “subcompact publishing” or “artisanal media.” (That last one is ridiculous. Artisanal?)

What we call it is less important than what it is: The much-needed, long-desired, I’m-so-happy-this-is-happening metamorphosis of digital content.

For far too long publishers have crammed digital material into poor representations of newspapers, magazines, and books. These forms work fine in the physical world, but their digital counterparts leave much to be desired.

The humans that read this stuff have adapted to these half-assed mechanisms. But if this was being handled correctly — if we were truly beginning at the beginning — publishers would see that reader adaptation is failure. Readers shouldn’t have to adapt. It’s the forms that need to change.

An essay like this tells me we’re getting closer to how it’s supposed to be. This is an exciting time.

Somewhat related to all this: For a while now I’ve toyed with the idea of publishing a website without placing undue emphasis on the website itself.

So much of the focus is put on the part that falls between the www. and the .com. Yet, the audience doesn’t really gather there. Or, if they do, they don’t only gather there like they once did.

People go where they want and consume what they want. The smart publishers are the ones that diversified their offerings and embraced this shift. These publishers go where people already gather.

But what if we took it a step further? What if we considered all platforms to be equal?

Instead of this:

How it is. Website at the center

What if we did this?

How it should be. Content at the center

This requires a shift in mindset.

If you’re going to build one beautiful chair, you put everything into that single piece of furniture. But if you’re building a beautiful set of chairs, you approach the project differently.

This same shift applies to content. Crafting a single article is different than crafting a set of content. Without this shift, what you get is one good thing (the article) that’s orbited by a bunch of lazy repurposed bits (headlines as tweets, the same excerpt cross-posted on every social media platform you use, crappy metadata, and on and on).

Here’s how this revised model could work:

→ Choose three to four platforms to focus on (RSS, Twitter, Facebook, mobile app, website, Google+, newsletter, LinkedIn, whatever works best for you). Be picky. Have a firm understanding of who uses those platforms and how you can serve them. This understanding will guide the publishing program. You’ll be customizing material for each audience on each platform.

→ A single piece of content is made up of components customized for each platform (this is why you should be picky with your chosen platforms — the more platforms you serve, the work you have to do).

Example: An interview would include the main Q&A posted on the website and formatted lovingly; two or three tweets that showcase notable quotes/points so Twitter followers can get the gist of the interview without diving into the full version (really — give them everything and they’ll come to you for more); a shorter version of the interview for the email newsletter, or perhaps a few portions that only appear in the newsletter; and a special RSS version of some sort (I’m not sure what this would entail, exactly — Do your RSS readers want shorter content or longer? Do they want multimedia or not? These are the questions that need to be answered).

The important thing is that a “piece” isn’t finished until all these components are composed and published (kinda like Voltron).

→ Analytics would need to expand to include activity across platforms (this requires a lot of hand work because cross-platform analytics tools are horrendous, but the work is necessary and you can’t skip this step).

To be clear: You still need a website, and that site should be your canonical source. But your content should not be limited to, nor defined by, the website.

I need to think about this more (clearly), but I wanted to jot down a few introductory thoughts before they evaporate.

Known issues:

  1. This is rough. Very, very rough. Much work needs to be done.
  2. This will not work for sites that depend on impression-driven advertising. But here’s the thing: that model was always going to be an interim step. The sooner you get past it the better you’ll be positioned for the inevitable transition to come. (I’ve been harping on this for a long time.)

Facebook Connect and lock-in through ubiquity

FacebookHere’s an interesting piece from the New York Times that looks at Facebook Connect’s growing role as a sign-on / social graph utility. Twitter and Google have similar products. Why is this important? This excerpt sums it up:

Since Facebook Connect was introduced in December 2008, more than 80,000 Web sites and services have put the log-in feature to use, said Ethan Beard, director of the Facebook developer network … “Facebook is evolving through Facebook Connect into much more than a Web site,” said Mr. Beard, who works closely with Facebook’s community of third-party developers. “It’s also a technology and a service to provide social plumbing and creating a social layer the whole Web can leverage.” [Emphasis added.]

These sign-on services, along with other APIs, attempt to achieve lock-in through ubiquity. That’s infinitely fascinating to me. Take Twitter, for example. It’s become the standard for micromessaging (or microblogging or whatever you want to call it) not by forcing people into a Twitter.com silo, but by allowing the Twitter service to seep into the web’s nooks and crannies. Put another way: “platform” is way more powerful than “website.”

YouTube’s rental experiment wasn’t a failure

This piece looking at results from YouTube’s rental experiment illustrates the short-sighted thinking that handcuffs content companies:

Ouch! We’re talking about 1,422 total views, or $5,673.78 for all of the rentals at $3.99 apiece. If Google is giving the filmmakers roughly two-thirds of the take — and I’m going by other digital-media standards, since the site isn’t publicly spelling out the royalty payouts — each of the five productions will walk away with just hundreds of dollars for their role as video-sharing pioneers over the weekend.

I put this paragraph in the “trading analog dollars for digital pennies” genre. It’s catchy. Reasonable on first glance. But when you dig deeper, it’s ultimately ridiculous.

That $5,673.78 figure isn’t the key. The big deal — and the hope — lies in the 1,422 views. That’s 1,422 chances for filmmakers to have their work seen. That’s 1,422 more chances than they had before. The value of those views lies not in financial rewards (although that would be nice), but as a counter to an artist’s great enemy: obscurity. Isn’t that why film festivals exist? To show off work? To create the possibility of engagement? To create the possibility of landing theatrical distribution? How is YouTube’s effort any different?

Here’s the broader problem with this type of bottom-line analysis: digital income will almost always be lower than traditional income because digital audiences are smaller and empowered. They don’t have to blindly accept what’s given to them. They can pick and choose. They can sample. That’s a powerful set of tools. It means control rests solely in consumers’ hands.

Consumer control is the essential truth of digital content. Until that’s acknowledged — and until businesses are built to work in conjunction with this truth — content companies will spin their wheels, lose money, and whine incessantly.

Early signs that content creators and platform providers aren’t on the same team

It often seems that major content companies and platform firms walk in lockstep when it comes to digital distribution, but two articles published today reveal significant philosophical differences.

Here’s an excerpt from a Bloomberg story on Viacom’s uneasy relationship with online viewing:

Viacom has to ensure that placing television shows and films online adds to its profit, through sources such as advertising sales, subscription fees and revenue from enabling users to buy content by downloading it, [Philippe] Dauman said. The viability of such a model relies on strong intellectual property safeguards, he said. [Link added.]

And here’s a passage from an AP story looking at a similar online offering from Comcast:

Comcast executives said the company plans to generate revenue by adding more and different types of ads on the sites. But the company’s goal is not necessarily to profit from it but to keep subscribers happy enough so they don’t cut the cord or defect to a competitor. [Emphasis added.]

The content creator is worried about direct revenue from the content, while the platform provider is more concerned about keeping its subscribers happy. It’ll be interesting to monitor Comcast’s mindset if/when that NBC deal goes through.

1-800-Flowers.com Facebook Store Good Step Forward for Online Retail

1-800-Flowers.com has opened the first retail store within Facebook, according to the Associated Press (don’t worry AP, I won’t quote you).

This is what the Facebook shopping experience looks like:

1-800-Flowers.com Facebook Store

1-800-Flowers.com Facebook Store

Seems like you’re shopping in a widget, right? You are. And that’s awesome.

Shopping within a widget or ad is nothing new. The 1-800-Flowers.com move is notable because a major retailer offering its products through a massive audience platform is evidence the big companies are starting to get it: They need to sell their goods where audiences already gather.

Creating a retail experience within a popular social networking service is an important acknowledgement that online audiences are empowered to go where they want, when they want. Companies need to work with audience behavior, not bend it to their will.

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