Google TV is Coming!

March 18, 2010

I know that I don’t update this blog as often as I used to, or as often as I probably should.  But upon scanning the headlines of the blogs that I follow this morning, one inspired me to get back in the game, if only for this one post.

Awhile back I posted a blog titled “When Will Google Take Over TV”.  And apparently, the answer is soon.

From Mashable yesterday comes a report that Google is already a few months into a project to develop an Android based TV platform that may include both set-top boxes and internet connected TV’s.  Google is partnering with Sony and Intel on this project, which is sure to shake up the media world as it gets closer.

This is a big move for Google, whose advertising possibilities will increase greatly with control over a television based platform.  Obviously we’ll have to wait and see what kind of experience the Google based TV platform will give us, but this is a big step in the converging of traditional television media and the internet.

I for one am excited.

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What does Free Mean to you?

July 16, 2009

youtubeThere are many ongoing debates on whether or not the nature of free information on the web can continue to last.  As free content continues to put at risk the traditional media sources that charge their customers to get the information, it also has proven tourblesome for many of the companies that offer the free content.

For example, this story from the New York Times discusses the many issues with Youtube.  As Google continues to try to find big money in advertising dollars for the most popular video sharing site on the web, the cost of storing the infinite amount of videos uploaded to the site everyday is out of control.  It appears that no amount of advertising can possibly make up for the money lost just on server space each year.  Therefore, at this point, Youtube looks like a failing business for Google, and one they will need to evaluate over time.

In addition to Google, there are entire industries that are caught in between free models and paid models.  For example, CNBC recently aired a special on the porn industry, and how they are caught trying to embrace the internet and trying to protect their profits at the same time.  For porn, free videos online have taken a big swipe at profits from paid sites as well as dvd sales, which some say are down close to 30% this year.

Once something is available for free, it decreases the likelihood that anyone would want to pay for it.  Whereas in the past you could say, “you get what you pay for”, nowadays the quality of content and information you can get for free is many times just as good as the stuff that you pay for.  We are approaching a time and a place where Free is costing businesses a fortune.  And eventually, Free may hit a brick wall.

How much is Google willing to lose on Youtube before they charge you to upload videos?  How much is Facebook willing to lose before they charge you to share photos, or to write on someone’s wall?  How much are we all willing to pay to use the sites we love so dearly?

Right now there is no balance between free and pay. The time is coming when we need to find that balance or internet users and businesses alike are in for a major shock.


What Could You Do with 200 Million Users?

April 8, 2009

congratulations-wish-greeting-cardYou may or may not have heard the news out of Mark Zuckerberg world today.  Facebook will officially welcome its 200 Millionth user to the most popular social networking site in the world today.  To most of us, that number is unfathomable.  To Facebook, that is just another milestone to add to the list.

For people like me, who are in the business of making money online, you just have to sit back and admire an accomplishment like that.  True, Facebook has the advantage of being free.  And true, they still have yet to turn a profit even with that extraordinary exposure.  But 200,000,000 people using your service, wow.

For entrepreneurs in the technology field, it takes a lot to be optimistic.  I have heard countless people say they will be the next Facebook.  “If we could only get a few million users, we’ll be set for life.”

It’s true that most of us could do a lot if we had 200 Million users, but you have to be realistic here.  If you are just starting out, tell yourself that you can make money without an accomplishment like that.  If it’s going to take a million or so users for your service to make money, you had better know exactly where those users are coming from.

Think long and hard about who you are trying to serve.  Is your market as big as Facebook?  Is your service the first, or the best, of its kind?  Why will people care?

Starting a free service and trying to get the masses to sign up is much harder than starting a real business that makes money up front and spreading the word through marketing.  The internet has opened the doors for a whole new breed of company, but that does not mean that everyone who tries their luck will win at it.

It’s okay to admire Facebook, but don’t try to emulate them.

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Facebook and Change

January 27, 2009

Facebook AdvertisingIn the past few weeks a lot of things have been happening around the Facebook community.  Police made an arrest after someone made a positive identification of a bank robber off of a Facebook photo.  A woman was fired from his job after staying home from work “sick” and posting that he was too hung over to work on his profile.  Another woman was notified that she was fired through a message on her Facebook account.  Prince Harry was dumped, and the only way he found out was a Facebook profile update.  In addition, Burger King ran an interesting, successful viral ad using Facebook as a platform.

We have to realize that we are living in a world that has changed.  And not because we elected a black man as President.  But because he addresses the nation weekly using YouTube.  It’s not because Comcast offers a number of free movies on demand.  It’s because they have a Twitter account to deal with customer service issues.  It’s because the online world is no longer the online world.  The online world has crossed over into the real world.

No longer can you live in this world without being affected in some way with what is going on online.  The virtual space isn’t virtual, its physical.

This day was coming. It wasn’t long in the making, in fact, it just kind of popped up on us.  But it’s here.  And it’s time to recognize that and stop running from it.

There is a bounty of information out there, go find it.  There are millions of ways to connect with people, start connecting.  There are thousands of products competing for your business, find the best one.  Stop ignoring the world that you don’t understand.  Start taking advantage of it, otherwise the rest of the world is taking advantage of you.

There is no longer a divide between the internet and the physical world.  We’re all living in both.  Start living again.

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Ad Market Down, Innovate to Increase Value

January 23, 2009

logoseamlesswebboxIn a down economy, many things take a hit.  One market that is hurting right now is the advertising market.  Advertisers are spending less money, pulling ads that they don’t necessarily feel good about, and eliminating all ads that do not convert.  This means that websites that rely on advertising revenue to survive must respond in any way possible.

The two most important things that you have to consider when selling ads are website traffic and advertiser relevance.  Since advertisers are going to need to see real results to continue to advertise in this economy, websites need to be able to produce those results right away.

  1. Increase the value of the site. Increasing the value of a website will help drive more traffic.  The more traffic you get, the more ads you can serve.  This will help you reach more advertisers, and charge more for each ad.
  2. Increase the quality of your ads. Increasing the value of your ads means analyzing what it is that your users are looking for while they are on your site.  If it is a free service, most likely there is information that your users are looking for.  Nailing down the right ads to fit with the user experience can increase your click through and conversion rate a great deal.

For a quick example, take a look at two very similar websites, Seamless Web and Menu Pages.  Both sites are designed as online directories of restaurants in New York City.  Both serve the same purpose: I want to order food but I don’t know where or what.  On both, I can narrow down my search by location, value, type of food, etc.

The major difference is quite simple, Seamless Web allows you to order directly off of the website, while Menu Pages does not.  What does this mean?  Seamless Web has created an enormous amount of value to their site by making it more useful to its users.  And while Menu Pages is a great service, and possibly more popular, they fail to meet all the needs of their users.  For that reason, Seamless Web is set up to get more traffic, and more traffic can lead to greater ad sales.

One final example is Plenty-of-Fish, a free online dating site.  Plenty-of-Fish creator Markus Frind created the site with a simple concept, find an industry in which all competitors are charging, offer the same thing for free, and sell ads.  The idea has flourished.  By adding value to the site (making it free), he has made it one of the most popular online dating services in the world.  With all the traffic he gets from members and potential members, he can serve more ads than similar websites.  And if the average click through rate of an ad is constant, more ads means more $$$.

These are a couple of things to consider as you begin to create or redesign a service.  Websites that show real value to advertisers are going to get the advertising money.  And in this type of economy, it’s something that you need to do to survive.

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Monetize Twitter then Monetize Everything Else

December 19, 2008

twitter-birdMonetizing the social web.  It’s the hot topic headed into 2009.  How can Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube, and countless other online services begin to see real revenue and profitability?  And how can they do that without ruining the user experience and creating too much confusion on the websites?

For those familiar with social networks, those who use them daily, it is a constant debate.  From the business end, we can see that value of these networks, and the amount of information they hold, so we know there is money there somewhere.  From the usability end, we can see that attempts to use advertisers and third party publishers have had some negative effects on the cleanliness and function of the interface.  So what to do?

Well, I am not here to answer all the questions.  But I thought I would try my hand at just one.  How can Twitter make money?

I noticed a few days ago that Twitter announced that they were hiring a VP of Business Operations with one clear task, monetize Twitter.  Chances are that I will not get that job.  But if I did, here is what I would try:

1.    Charge Third Party Developers.  Twitter is a great service, and its easy to use.  Developers noticed this right away.  Many tools have come out that made Twitter more accessible from anywhere on and off the web.  Set fees to develop applications and programs that are used in conjunction with Twitter.

2.    Rotate Ads Right of Screen.  The Twitter interface is so clean that many people think ads would ruin the experience.  But as far as I can see, rotating long sidebar ads on the right side of the screen would take nothing away.  Ads can be targeted based on activity (updates, who you follow, @replies).  Show a new ad every time the page is reloaded.

3.    Sell Twitter Software.  Twitter has many uses.  In an office setting, I can see it as a means of communication that surpasses those that we use today.  Why not sell Twitter software to companies for a monthly or yearly fee.  Let them customize the design, add all their employees, and operate it on a different site (businessname.twitter.com).

4.    Twitter Marketing Accounts.  Create a new type of account, for marketers, that you have to pay for.  A marketer account allows you to send updates to a targeted market of Twitter users once or twice daily.  These will show up like normal updates on a person’s home page, but there will be a limited amount so the intrusion is negligible.

5.    Paid Twitter Ad-ons.  Similar to the Twitter Software idea, Twitter could add new services to their existing tool that one would have to sign up and pay for.  Call this a Twitter Pro Account if that is what works.  These could include a news section, forums, directories, finance that allow you to group Tweets together and display headline style information.  This is more valuable simply because it would be easier to classify information.  Charge a one-time upgrade fee or a yearly subscription that is so small that we all sign up.

So there are five things that I would do my first day on the job.  Who will get the job? Will they like my ideas?  Will they follow them?  Will they ever read or hear them?  Whatever happens, this is an important step in monetizing the social web.  And all other networks can be aware of these ideas and use them in their own way.  Prove to us that your inflated values make sense and that your products will bring us further than we ever anticipated.

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10^100 Innovators

September 25, 2008

Though I am admittedly a little late on this one, I feel that this project deserves as much attention as it can get. And if my blog can alert one extra person to it, I will be satisfied. I hope that person is you.

The project I am talking about is Google’s “10 to the 100th”. Announced yesterday, Google is calling on the world to come up with the best ideas for helping people. They want user submissions of ideas, projects, organizations, inventions, etc. that they will fund to the tune of $10,000,000.

Submissions are already being taken, and will continue to be accepted through October 20th. Once they are all collected, they will be voted on by users, than reviewed by judges to determine 5 finalists. The goal here, according to the website, is come up with ideas big or small that will help a large amount of people. The ideas are broken down into categories, such as energy, environment, and health.

“There are so many great ideas out there that never get funded”, the website claims, “This offers people a way to voice their ideas to the public and have a chance to do something significant with them.”

I love this project. From Google’s end, they get interaction with internet users in a fun and interesting way. They use a contest to get ideas, and offer some great rewards to the most innovative people on the web. From a user’s perspective, this gives people a voice. The winners will be those people that have had this one great idea for a long time and nowhere to turn with it.

As you may have guessed, I have already turned in one suggestion. I would love to hear what you think about the project, and hear any submissions that you have entered as well. The best ideas may come from collaboration anyway, as most great innovations do.