It is what it is....

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The exploitation of inefficiency - If it's too good to be true, it is!!

Robert Young always writes thought provoking and interesting posts on GigaOm and this one got me thinking....

They say technology refreshes itself every six months. So it seems logical that if you compress many six month periods together and apply the technology change to the original market frozen in time and compare it to the current market chances are you will be looking at the equivalent of a square and and circle or Big Foot(the monster truck) to a Toyota Prius. Free markets, by definition, gravitate towards the most efficient products, not necessarily the cheapest products. What was cost effective for the entertainment industry 30 years ago most likely isn't cost effective to them today. What used to take a big budget and major cooperation from many different parties(film crew, editing, special effects, music, USPS, chain of command approvals) can now be done by a single person with a video camera. Why? The micro markets got efficient and allowed for the common person to have access to the tools and skills that had been surrounded by unnatural barriers to entry. Unnatural barriers to entry aren't sustainable and over time erode. Is old school Hollywood really so naive that they can't see the fact that they exploited an inefficiency in a market to get where they got? Consider the Television market from 20 years ago and how a product was given the thumbs up or thumbs down. Surely it was inefficient from an aggregate perspective to have the gating factor of whether or not a prospective TV show made it be decided by one person when that person may or may not be who the creator of that show was trying to align with or identify themselves as. As evidenced by the case of Nobody's Talking, the Youtube revived sitcom which was not picked up by NBC after the pilot but gained support on YT. Whoever passed on that probably has moved on to greener pastures, huh? :)

This seems like common sense and something we should accept as being what it is, reality. But the only markets which readily accept and embrace this evolutionary notion are those of technology. Why? Because most leaders in technology got to be leaders in technology by virtue of their innovation. Innovation in technology typically leads to greater efficiency for that or of that technology.

What is the point in this? Basically that this shift in power, for lack of a better term, has been gaining momentum for a quite some time and ubiquity in the access to and of information is accelerating the breakdown of those unnatural barriers to entry....ie, the internet leveled the playing field. The studios, believing they actually deserved to be in their current positions instead of realizing the short term nature of them, continued to invest in protecting those unnatural industry walls instead of innovating on new product, while the rest of the world was coming up with ways to target the inefficiencies of free markets and cognisant of it or not, halt the exploitation of those inefficiencies as soon as they come to light.

The end result? More efficient marketplaces with the increasingly blurred delineation of consumers and producers. Efficiency is bringing McCluhan's Global Village to life and should be good for those that aren't solely dependent upon the exploitation of an inefficiency to further themselves. As we know, inefficiencies can't last forever in a free market society. I, as the consumer, now have choice on what I buy/watch/eat/etc and how/where/when I consume it. That in and of itself is useful and valuable to me but has even greater value to the producers of that content which I consume because, trust me on this, that content wasn't being 'let' out by the powers that had been in Hollywood. Advertisers, the great subsidizing force of content production(that is a whole other issue), now have the ability to actually target and market to very specific and unique subsets of the general population by virtue of that populations choices. In the past those advertisers were stuck with choosing between the three major TV networks in very very specific time slots. Today their options are infinite. Literally.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Next up: GoogleNET

They are giving away everything else, why not connectivity too? Its all about efficiency right? Operational efficiency, risk mitigation efficiency and customer efficiency. Efficiency is the driving force behind Googlenet(gnet). What is GNet? Google's foray into the ISP business. This 'business' for them can be classified as marketing or a means to an end. The end being, selling advertising.

The gnet hypothesis: Bandwidth costs have fallen to a level that the advertising revenue more than subsidizes the cost of the network. We are in the very early stages of a true 'gloabl village' as Marshall McCluhan called it. The cost structure for a traditional ISP like PacBell DSL..errr AT&T, comcast, etc to supply services to the residence is around $40 per month and trends down as they grow because they get cost scale.... in the network world, the more you buy the less it costs.

goog will be placing a bet, and a very calculated one, that advertising $$ will not only subsidize operational costs of providing free services(isp, voip, office, etc), but will exceed them.

Owning the customer's network routes from end to end(being the ISP) provides Google with private solution for delivering customized content and adverting to each and every one of the people using their service. this delivery platform is always on and knows where you go, what you type, where you live, who your friends are, what files you have downloaded, what you look like, and whatever else they add on to their services. So when Johnson & Johnson or GE or Proctor & Gamble or Coca Cola or Pepsi is planning their media buys for the next year do you think they'll purchase advertisements on radio, television, print or the 4th network(Google)? based on the ability to target a specific population that has certain attributes you desire, the choice is clear...you pick google. Why? because you know that your marketing msg is going to a qualified prospect as opposed to the traditional 'shotgun' approach. plus, you can get results in realtime and tweak your msg if its not working in real time. with the other three media you are somewhat ratholed into trusting some third party for ratings that may or may not even reach the people that you want it to. by the time you figure this out a slew of things can happen...some good some bad but why chance it when you don't need to.

At the end of the day, Google is building a traditional media killer and the funny thing is..actually not really funny but kinda, that the writing is on the wall but nobody seems to believe it. I do. @Home Network had this vision but couldn't pull it off because the cable co's couldn't get their heads out of their rear to see the opportunity that was sitting right in front of them.

goog already has deals in place and likely in the works with the producers of original content which will allow their users access to that content. if i'm a content producer where would i want my content to be seen? ex. let's say you are the producer of The Office and goog offers you the ability to place your content on their network so that it can be viewed by anyone, anywhere, anytime and offers a revenue share or some other creative structure around it such that you know your worst case scenario beforehand. simple choice right? sure abc or cbs might offer an upfront fee in the form of $$ per show but the audience is limited, the timeslot is finite and in order for someone to view it, they have to purchase cable tv or satellite or whatever whereas on the google network you content would be globally accessible and the broadband access which replaces the cable or satellite tv service, is free to the masses. additionally you can develop complimentary services that engauge your viewership such that you are able to really develop a community around you content as opposed to content around a community.

What does this have to do with being an ISP? Everything, why do you think there is such a brouhaha over net neutrality? Without connectivity none of this is possible and with the right connectivity, all of it is possible and defendable.

The internet hasn't changed anything. The driving force of media is and always will be advertising. Without it, there would be no televsion, radio, print or internet. It doesn't matter if its old world or new world, it's still dependent upon advertising and gnet is to google what airwaves were to ABC, NBC and CBS, something to exploit in order to sell advertising.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Barack Obama should switch sides

As in convert to the Republican party. The Oval Office would be a lock if he could manage to get the Republican nomination. There is to much competition on Dem side and since it seems the general sentiment is the Republicans won't win anyway, I would think that garnering their(republican) support wouldn't be as monumental of a task as one might think.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

The Facebook Marathon

Robert Young wrote an interesting post on Gigaom asking the question whether Facebook missed the boat or is here to stay.

One thing that is crystal clear is that the guys at Facebook are just getting started. The recent video deal with Comcast, the upcoming gift shop, the jobster deal and probably a boat load more on the way. Last time I was in Palo Alto I wondered what was up with the line of people stretching out from facebook to hiway 280 and back was all about, now I know, it was all the BD guys from the F10000 waiting to do deals :) (joke). The Facebook niche is as much college aged adults as was googles niche the technorati. They did both start there though. Facebook is and will continue to do deals, real deals, with name brand, established companies who all want so badly to market to the Facebook users.

Robert and some of his readers bring up some interesting issues that these advertisers appear to be experiencing via their placements in Facebook. It seems they aren't getting the results they want or thought they would. SHOCKER. Could it be that this population doesn't have the disposable income they thought, are more fickle than anticipated, have no patience, are multitasking while online, or just don't buy stuff online?

Perhaps, but doubtful. I believe the problem is these advertisers haven't qualified the audience they are marketing to and developed a strategy to assuage the fact that these people know that if it talks like a rabbit, hops like a rabbit, &^$%s like a rabbit and eats carrots night and day then chances are it is a rabbit. The rabbit in this case is their marketing efforts. These advertisers also spend ad dollars on network television and rely upon Nielsen ratings to tell them whteher or not they spent their money well. Yet in the online world they experience low immediate purchases and they question the value as it relates to where they spend their ad dollars. That makes perfect sense in a vacuum environment like television or radio or print where you literally have no idea how or who is watching what. Is Nielsen selling beachfront property on the Texas gulf too?

When an industry like advertising can get lazy and assume what worked in the past will work in the future, their clients will experience a relative decline in the utility of a dollar spent on advertising. In this case, the agencys are developing campaigns and buyin inventory from facebook and placing their campaigns in the inventory and when an ad is served, it's served and that's it. It's just served. Why is that? facebook users have grown up on the internet, know about spam, pop ups, phishing, dos, ddos, etc and just as the generation before them became immune to direct mailings that came via USPS delivery person, this generation is immune to the lame ads being served today. If these advertisers want to really see value in their advertising spends they will need to make some major adjustments including adopting a long term, not short term strategy.

Short term is like a one night stand and nobody likes being screwed. They like to get laid which implies a mutually pleasing relationship. Success based advertising is short term and there is certainly a place for it among these users but it's definitely not coming from a mainstream company like CocaCola or McDonalds. It's coming from the guy across campus who just posted a msg saying he has KGB for sale for $40 an eigth. Brand establishment, brand placement and brand alignment are the long term approach advertisers will need to take if they aren't selling drugs or sex. It shouldn't be a surprise, they've been thinking they were doing this all along with the other three networks(TV, Print, Radio). We're seeing product placement in films so and some TV programming and we will soon see it online too. Conde Naste and Reddit is an example of this alignment and that combination will be a winner because they are bridging that gap that the advertiser can't and the Madison Ave marketing agency sees this new wave of strategy marketing as a threat to their business model of selling airtime, eyeballs, ears, clickthroughs, etc they are disincented to adopt it now, when the opportunity is in front of them. Like anything else, advertising strategies and associated successes are cyclical and have a finite timeframe and always have some association with the culture of the time. Therefore, as time moves on so should your thoughts on marketing.

Facebook wasn't stupid for choosing to remain independent, they 'get' it and are quite clueful. It is a marathon, not a sprint and steady progress will allow facebook to cross the finish line. If we're in mile 8 right now, facebook, google, salesforce, ebay, amazon, and yahoo are all still very much contenders who will likely find romance amongst them, it just may not be what we thought it would or when we thought it would happen.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Google Should buy Salesforce.com

Google is pimping search because it pays the bills. Search won't always pay the bills though, at least for Google. They know this in MtView so don't think I'm off my rocker just yet...hear me out :)

Google's largest investments are not in hiring mathematicians to write new algorithms on search. Their largest investments are in infrastructure and just happen to be funded by the revenue they realize by selling advertising within search. They are investing in infrastructure to support, for lack of a better term(seriously cant think of one), the Google OS. At the end of the day, the Google OS is the combination of the software and hardware that combine to create a 21st century mainframe. In 2006 alone, Google spent $1.6B on datacenter construction. They have forecast at least another $900M in datacenter costs in 2007. Google is probably spending more money building datacenters in these two years than the entire datacenter provider market has spent on datacenter construction in the last five years. They aren't doing this for search, they are doing it because these are the new homes for their 'mainframes'. Google is biggest ally Salesforce could ever want to saddle up with. Why? Because they are placing HUGE bets, maybe even the whole company, on the fact that software will be delivered as a service. I think it will too but that doesn't really matter now....

When software is delivered as a service the architecture is such that applications like Oracle or Siebel or MSWord or Powerpoint or Excel or Financials, etc do not live on computers that their users own, they reside on a many clusters of computers that google, in this example, owns. These clusters are what I'm calling the 21st century mainframe....hmmm, how about the GooFrame or GoogFrame...whatever. The search algorithms and engines Google use today are likely the foundation of the overlay engine that will allow for the distributed end product of $3BB, the datacenters, to function as one big ass computer that can be virtualized dynamically as demand warrants. Pundits will argue that bandwidth will challenge this theory.

Bandwidth is so plentiful that soon companies won't be able to give it away, they may even pay you to use theirs instead of their competition. Google is in the infancy of this movement now via their wifi initiatives and once they buy ATT or TW or Comcast of whoever they'll have even more reasons why giving access away makes sense. They won't have to pay the LEC if they own it. Therefore the marginal value of adding a user onto the network and being able to market to them and control the flow of data from their 'mainframes' to the users device gives them the control they want and need and surely exceeds the nominal cost of that user.

They aren't doing this to kill Microsoft or Intel or the PC industry in general...those companies will adapt. They are doing this because their end product is advertising. Advertising in 2015 won't look anything like it did in 1985, just 30 years earlier. Infact, in 2015 we probably won't even realize we're being marketed to because due to the intelligence of the systems we'll rely upon, each of our individual experiences will be unique and a function of analyzing the history of our electonic usage. This is our email, our office apps like word, xcel, ppt, data, voice, video, gaming, business finacials, www surfing, the old school networks(TV, PRint, Radio) which is EVERYTHING that Google is releasing as new products or services today! And everything they'll 'host' for you on their mainframes.

Back to the Salesforce logic. All these services have nothing to do with what their users core competencies are. The lumber yard that Bob the Builder buys his wood from doesn't have expertise in IT or in an efficient market they wouldn't need to because just as they aren't IT experts, the IT expert for whom Bob the Builder is constructing a home isn't building the house himself because its not efficient for an IT expert to build a home when there are readily available contractors. So the lumberyard doesn't know how to get its inventory online and host its financials and it's pipeline reports and maybe use some niche marketing software to run special programs to certain sets of customers and analyze all this data through one single interface in real time because that scale has never been deliverable to the unFORTUNATE 5,000,000 business on the globe.

Salesforce Apex would provide the interlocking piece that creates the true value for the user because it is a market of markets and a global one at that.. It surely isn't the datacenter building, it's what is inside but it can't go inside of nothing, thats impossible.

On the surface this speculation may seem far fetched to some and the more it seems like far fetched pie in the sky type rhetoric, the closer it probably is to being true. I speculate the market will gravitate in this direction because it allows for efficiency at the micro level, lumber focuses on lumber, IT company focuses on IT, car companies focus on cars, supply chain becomes a service industry focusing on supply chain, etc. Salesforce's Apex allows for the mashup of services that the enterprise may require to run the day to day business elements they must deal with. The combination of the mainframe, control of the communications network from end to end, hosting the business applications that make the market and using the search utilities to deliver to the customer something they never asked for but would be happy to pay for is what the Google OS is all about. Because that something that you'd gladly pay for but never asked for isn't the product of some random direct mailing, its a function of a boat load of history and data on what you and others with similar attributes as you are interested in for work, pleasure, family, etc because while google was pimping out all those services and apps they, by virtue of capturing all that data, built a silver ball which is the holy grail of marketing.


So, Google should buy Saleforce because, of all things, marketing. Google is the 4th Network, the medium of media. Let's not forget, media as an industry, produces marketing. CRM is cheap today at $5B+ relative to what, assuming I'm close to the marc(pun...get it?) CRM will be worth in a year or two years or three years. Google already put their bet on SaaS so it's a no brainer and an catalyst to a true global economy.

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