Beyond the hype

Content is King! Content is dead, Community is King! Context is King.… etc etc. What is right and what is wrong about all this? There are a few things I learned over time that I think are important values in marketing today. Let me know what you think. And by the way, it’s not one or the other right, it’s the combination of all of them.

Content is King

It’s clear it’s some people agree and some don’t on this statement, more than anything else this has sparked many discussion already and also I have written about it before. Mitch Joel says content is everything, Doc Searls said right the opposite and I respect them both, still I’m with Mitch on this one. And this is not just an online thing either. Whether you talk about Google’s search index, a blogpost, … it’s where it all starts. What has changed most vs. when we started using ‘Content is King’ in the nineties is the fact that creating content has become a lot more democratic these days, today you and I can create a lot more and easier than ever before.

Distribution is Queen

But content is not all. I think it was when email marketing really began to take off that we added ‘Distribution is Queen’ to the first statement about content being king. All of a sudden we were talking about push vs. pull, permission marketing, etc and it was clear that getting your content out there using more channels than the one it was initially created for was a good idea. That was back then. Today we have RSS, widgets, SEO, APIs, … and all kinds of different ways to get content distributed. Taking the example again of Google’s index being content, then we have to recognize that the clean and fast landing page, fast search, AdSense, etc etc also have been crucial in their success. Distrubution trumps destination.

Context Matters

You got great content and I can access it the way I prefer… still I need to be in the mood for it. Is this the right occasion, or that right timing? John Dodds recently said (when talking about content): “Your focus should be on giving people content they want, when they want it and realise that as soon as you don’t, they’ll move on and remember your content as being irritating multi-media spam in their noise-filled lives.” Microsoft Advertising and MEC Interaction did some research a while back on context which you can download here. Take the context into account and your message will become more relevant… and so will you.

Age of Conversation

Make it social. Get people involved, for real. Some people find the term conversation overused, I don’t. It still is a very good metaphor – yes a metaphor – about how consumers want to interact differently with brands. I’ll take the liberty to repeat this definition of ‘conversation’ found in Wikipedia: Conversations are the ideal form of communication in some respects, since they allow people with different views of a topic to learn from each other. A speech, on the other hand, is an oral presentation by one person directed at a group. For a successful conversation, the partners must achieve a workable balance of contributions. A successful conversation includes mutually interesting connections between the speakers or things that the speakers know. For this to happen, those engaging in conversation must find a topic on which they both can relate to in some sense.” And yes it’s a cliche, but that conversation is already going on, you don’t have to set it up.

In the comments of Mitch’s post about ‘Content is everything’ which I referred to earlier there’s also a nice quote made by Kneale Mann putting it like this: “Content is king, context is the glue, community is the soul.”

Anyway, that’s my take. Tell me what’s yours.

Not for sale.

This was a post waiting to happen and the flights to Munich and Hamburg this week were all I needed to write it down. When I started blogging almost 3 years ago it was mainly to find out for myself what the whole blogosphere thing was all about. Initially the idea wasn’t to keep on doing this for long but it caught on to me and I stuck to it since then. There are ever more signs thought that blogging is not quite the same anymore as 3 or more years ago.

Most people start blogging because it’s providing them with an interesting way to share their thoughts and interact with others based on that, whether it related to your work, hobby or personal interests. Just check the ‘about page’ on a random blog and in most cases this will say something like “This blog is about my personal opinion, my thoughts and my thoughts only, etc.” A blog is where you can be yourself. We say what we think, the way we think it without compromising. At least we did, but is that still the case?

Lately I get the feeling this idea of ‘honest personal opinion’ is fading out as more and more blogs seem to pick up on the cheesiest pitches from marketers, agencies and PR folks. Being a blogger myself I get a lot of the same requests, offers, freebees, … from agencies like many of my blogging colleagues do so it’s easier to see when someone picks up on an offer. And I got to tell you, when an agency sends you something like this (recent example via Facebook):

“Hey Kris, I had to contact as much bloggers as possible from my boss to show our latest project for brand X. Check it out and link to it if you like it. That way I have to pay less on banner advertising.”

… and when in the 2-3 days after that you see some of your valued blogging colleagues write about this, I can’t help thinking bloggers actually became a very easy audience. This particular case is a Belgian example but since blogger lists like the Power150  exist there are also much more global examples as well.

Not only the personal blogs seem to change though. Don Dodge noticed recently that blogging has gone commercial and that there aren’t much individuals left in the top bloglists. And the ones that are still there are also selling out, think of Scoble’s latest tweet ‘featuring’ Seagate!

The bigger commercial blog networks then? They became media… Techcrunch is going gossip, Valleywag is going naked and Pete Cashmore of Mashable is your next tech rock star. It sometimes feels like half of Mashable’s posts are about Pete, the meet ups and all the sponsors related to all this. And remember how I wrote earlier about how Marketing Pilgrim preaches Marketing 2.0 and at the same time is stuffed with display ads all over the site.

I guess I could go on and on for a long time on this. Every week I read something that shows how the blogosphere is changing: you can hire a blogger at Marketingfacts to live blog your event, Lifehacker Gina Trapani created a PR blacklist, … not sure if it’s all for the best.

Discuss. Just remember one thing, this is my blog with my opinion… and definitely not for sale.

Listen and learn (2)

Keep ’em coming Rick. Read my earlier “Listen and learn” post or this new one from Rick Segal to know what I’m on about. Here’s a teaser:

“VCs are typically stupid when it comes to this section so be prepared for a dumb question blizzard.”

Clueless sometimes…

One conversation. 275 voices.

When 2 guys come up with an amazing and unique idea and manage to deliver it, what do you do next? Do something even more amazing? Exactly :)

The Age of Conversation learned me a couple of things:

  • If you’re passionate about something, any kind of collaboration can work. Look at how someone in the US and someone in Australia figured out how to get a book written by a 100 or more people living all over the world.
  • When you’re sharing a passion with other people, it creates a bond that you didn’t imagine to be possible in a situation where you’ve actually never met most of these people. I’m pretty sure that everybody who was part of the original Age of Conversation will testify to that.
  • The internet enables conversations globally, but nothing beats meeting people in real life – hence why some of the same people driving the AOC are now also driving the Blogger Social event in NYC. I’m not sure how big the overlap is between the 80 Blogger Social attendees and the AOC, but believe me when I say it’s big.
  • Even if the length of the article is about the same as a regular blog post, writing for a book is harder than for a blog. Now this may seem very logical to most of you, but it became really clear when I did my writing for the AOC.
  • The term ‘conversation’ is not overused at all. I’ve mentioned before how powerful it is as a metaphor and as long as it takes to make sure more people get it… we’ll have to continue the conversation.

The last point is also a good intro the the AOC v2 as all participants voted for “Age Of Conversation: Why don’t people get it?” and this time 275 authors will contribute to the book, more than double the amount of last year. Hopefully we can duplicate that effect as well on the proceeds of this book which all go to charity.

Here are all the 275 contributors, myself included:

Adam Crowe, Adrian Ho, Aki Spicer, Alex Henault, Amy Jussel, Andrew Odom, Andy Nulman, Andy Sernovitz, Andy Whitlock, Angela Maiers, Ann Handley, Anna Farmery, Armando Alves, Arun Rajagopal, Asi Sharabi, Becky Carroll, Becky McCray, Bernie Scheffler, Bill Gammell, Bob Carlton, Bob LeDrew, Brad Shorr, Bradley Spitzer, Brandon Murphy, Branislav Peric, Brent Dixon, Brent Macfarlane, Brian Reich, C.C. Chapman, Cam Beck, Casper Willer, Cathleen Rittereiser, Cathryn Hrudicka, Cedric Giorgi, Charles Sipe, Chris Kieff, Chris Cree, Chris Wilson, Christina Kerley, C.B. Whittemore, Clay Parker Jones, Chris Brown, Colin McKay, Connie Bensen, Connie Reece, Cord Silverstein, Corentin Monot, Craig Wilson, Daniel Honigman, Dan Goldstein, Dan Schawbel, Dana VanDen Heuvel, Dan Sitter, Daria Radota Rasmussen, Darren Herman, Darryl Patterson, Dave Davison, Dave Origano, David Armano, David Bausola, David Berkowitz, David Brazeal, David Koopmans, David Meerman Scott, David Petherick, David Reich, David Weinfeld, David Zinger, Deanna Gernert, Deborah Brown, Dennis Price, Derrick Kwa, Dino Demopoulos, Doug Haslam, Doug Meacham, Doug Mitchell, Doug Hanna, Doug Karr, Drew McLellan, Duane Brown, Dustin Jacobsen, Dylan Viner, Ed Brenegar, Ed Cotton, Efrain Mendicuti, Ellen Weber, Emily Reed, Eric Peterson, Eric Nehrlich, Ernie Mosteller, Faris Yakob, Fernanda Romano, Francis Anderson, G. Kofi Annan, Gareth Kay, Gary Cohen, Gaurav Mishra, Gavin Heaton, Geert Desager, George Jenkins, Gi Hoffman, Gianandrea Facchini, Gordon Whitehead, Graham Reginald Hill, Greg Verdino, Gretel Going, Hillel Cooperman, Hugh Weber, J. Eric Potter, J.C. Hutchins, James Gordon-Macintosh, Jamey Shiels, Jasmin Tragas, Jason Oke, Jay Ehret, Jeanne Dininni, Jeff De Cagna, Jeff Gwynne, Jeff Noble, Jeff Wallace, Jennifer Warwick, Jenny Meade, Jeremy Fuksa, Jeremy Helipern, Jeremy Middleton, Jeroen Verkroost, Jessica Hagy, Joanna Young, Joe Pulizzi, Joe Talbott, John Herrington, John Jantsch, John Moore, John Rosen, John Todor, Jon Berg, Jon Swanson, Jonathan Trenn, Jordan Behan, Julie Fleischer, Justin Flowers, Justin Foster, Karl Turley, Kate Trgovac, Katie Chatfield, Katie Konrath, Kenny Lauer, Keri Willenborg, Kevin Jessop, Kris Hoet, Krishna De, Kristin Gorski, Laura Fitton, Laurence Helene Borei, Lewis Green, Lois Kelly, Lori Magno, Louise Barnes-Johnston, Louise Mangan, Louise Manning, Luc Debaisieux, Marcus Brown, Mario Vellandi, Mark Blair, Mark Earls, Mark Goren, Mark Hancock, Mark Lewis, Mark McGuinness, Mark McSpadden, Matt Dickman, Matt McDonald, Matt Moore, Michael Hawkins, Michael Karnjanaprakorn, Michelle Lamar, Mike Arauz, Mike McAllen, Mike Sansone, Mitch Joel, Monica Wright, Nathan Gilliatt, Nathan Snell, Neil Perkins, Nettie Hartsock, Nick Rice, Oleksandr Skorokhod, Ozgur Alaz, Paul Chaney, Paul Hebert, Paul Isakson, Paul Marobella, Paul McEnany, Paul Tedesco, Paul Williams, Pet Campbell, Pete Deutschman, Peter Corbett, Phil Gerbyshak, Phil Lewis, Phil Soden, Piet Wulleman, Rachel Steiner, Raj Menon, Reginald Adkins, Richard Huntington, Rishi Desai, R.J. Northam, Rob Mortimer, Robert Hruzek, Robyn McMaster, Roger von Oech, Rohit Bhargava, Ron Shevlin, Ryan Barrett, Ryan Karpeles, Ryan Rasmussen, Sam Huleatt, Sandy Renshaw, Scott Goodson, Scott Monty, Scott Townsend, Scott White, Sean Howard, Sean Scott, Seni Thomas, Seth Gaffney, Shama Hyder, Sheila Scarborough, Sheryl Steadman, Simon Payn, Sonia Simone, Spike Jones, Stanley Johnson, Stephen Collins, Stephen Cribbett, Stephen Landau, Stephen Smith, Steve Bannister, Steve Hardy, Steve Portigal, Steve Roesler, Steven Verbruggen, Steve Woodruff, Sue Edworthy, Susan Bird, Susan Gunelius, Susan Heywood, Tammy Lenski, Terrell Meek, Thomas Clifford, Thomas Knoll, Tiffany Kenyon, Tim Brunelle, Tim Buesing, Tim Connor, Tim Jackson, Tim Longhurst, Tim Mannveille, Tim Tyler, Timothy Johnson, Tinu Abayomi-Paul, Toby Bloomberg, Todd Andrlik, Troy Rutter, Troy Worman, Uwe Hook, Valeria Maltoni, Vandana Ahuja, Vanessa DiMauro, Veronique Rabuteau, Wayne Buckhanan, William Azaroff, Yves Van Landeghem

The Next Web

This year I really wanted to get to most of the best interactive/technology/marketing conferences in Europe (and a little bit US). I already made it to conferences like LeWeb3, LIFT08 and MIX08 but also smaller events like Euroblog 2008 and Plugg. I missed DLD so hopefully I can make up for that next year.

TheNextWeb

The next conference that was on the list is The Next Web. This conference takes place on April 3rd and 4th in the Westergasfabriek in Amsterdam and has not only built up some serieus ‘street cred’ over the years, it really looks like an interesting event to be at. With speakers such as Leah Culver, Werner Vogels, Chris Saad and Kevin Rose, presentations from 24 startups and more you might want to think about going there. And watch out for the Diggnation episode that will be live recorded at the event. I can’t go unfortunately because I’ve already planned on going to the Blogger Social in NYC the same period, but if you’re thinking about going then you can register here, and use this promo code (thekrismaster) which will give you a 200 EUR discount! (First 10 people only)

After all that, I hope I can make it to reboot on June 1st normally (if there’s going to be one – is there?) and PICNIC on September 24th. I’ll definitely be at the Next Conference in Hamburg on May 15th in the meantime as I’ll be on a panel at the event.

But first, there’s The Next Web, mark it in your calendar. And to Patrick and crew – good luck ;)

Six degrees of separation

I stumbled upon this fascinating research done by Microsoft Research about a year ago (disclaimer: I work for Microsoft) after Mashable picked it up this weekend.

“We present a study of anonymized data capturing a month of high-level communication activities within the whole of the Microsoft Messenger instant-messaging system. We examine characteristics and patterns that emerge from the collective dynamics of large numbers of people, rather than the actions and characteristics of individuals. The dataset contains summary properties of 30 billion conversations among 240 million people.”

“All our data was anonymized; we had no access to personally identifiable information. Also, we had no access to text of the messages exchanged or any other information that could be used to uniquely identify users.”

And while these are only MSN/Live Messenger users during a period in time in 2006, and miss data from the competitive services, it still gives a pretty solid idea of the ‘inside’ of the social aspect of an IM network. Here are some of the key findings.

When you compare the world population to the Messenger population you will see that ages 18-30 are over represented, and ages 10-14 and 30-34 are fairly comparative to the world population. This tells me that IM is indeed linked mostly to youth, but definitely not youth alone.

MessengerPopulation

This here is another interesting finding:

“We investigate on a planetary-scale the oft-cited report that people are separated by “six degrees of separation” and find that the average path length among Messenger users is 6.6. We also find that people tend to communicate more with each other when they have similar age, language, and location, and that cross-gender conversations are both more frequent and of longer duration than conversations with the same gender.”

The full report can be downloaded here.

Euroblog 2008

This last Thursday and Friday I attended and participated in the Euroblog 2008 event in Brussels organized by Euprera – the European PR Education and Research Association. The symposium was very much an academic event with a lot of academic speakers and attendees, and less practioners (at least that’s how I experienced it).

That wasn’t a surprise though, as the event was clearly set up to try and have the academia embrace the need to change. Still, sometimes, I felt like I didn’t belong there. Now I don’t mean anything bad with this, there’s just a very clear gap between the way we all approach things. It made me think of trying/testing out the water in a swimming tool. If you’re a practioner like myself you will get ready for the pool, put your toe in to get an idea of the temperature, probably feel like it’s colder than you would have wanted it to be but you’ll get in the water anyway and start swimming. You’ll talk to other people in the pool, maybe about the water, or maybe about that new glide which you then try out as well. This is the way me (and other people) started their blog, signed up for Twitter, Friendfeed, etc etc. After the presentations from the academia, it became clear that they approach ‘the pool’ in a different way. They talk to people outside and next to the pool about the temperature of the water, use a whole bunch of metric equipment to test the water conditions, relate all that info to ideal human body conditions, etc etc (this still fully dressed of course) to work out a project trajectory to get into the water at some point in time.

And I know this analogy is a bit black&white, but I think you get my point. On Friday I sat on a panel myself that was a mixture between academia and practitioners and there the difference was less visible (on the panel itself). The discussion itself with the panel and audience was pretty interesting to me as well. It highlighted once more some of the fears but also strengthened the idea that there aren’t enough case studies to go by.  At one point I feel this is just another ‘reason’ to keep away of change as long as one can. But as you (might) know from an earlier post I do feel we have to reach out more to get more people embrace the need to change so maybe we should just see what we can do about it – there really is more than just Kryptonite you know ;)

Don’t get me wrong, I did like the event. Some discussions where pretty interesting, some presentations like the one’s of David Jennings and Martin Oetting where very enjoyable and it was very good meeting up with the Edelman Digital crew: Steve Rubel, Marshall Manson, Rick Murray, … but also David Weinberger or Neville Hobson, the latter whom I met in person for the first time after being in several online conversations before.

MIX08 (Part 2)

The key session of day 2 at MIX was without a doubt the Q&A between Guy Kawasaki and Steve Ballmer. You’ll have to watch it and see for yourself what you think of this, but I found it a quite unique experience (and I think many did with me). Can you think of any other CEO of a company such as Microsoft to do a keynote this way?

Guy Kawasaki and Steve Ballmer during MIX08 keynote

During the rest of the day, before and after the keynote, I focused mainly on sessions that talked about web2.0, social networking and mobile. Here are some videos worth watching of these sessions:

Sessions I missed but are worth checking out as well on video are:

There are a ton of sessions I still have to go through, all of them are up on http://sessions.visitmix.com/ for your viewing as well (requires Silverlight plugin).

That evening we joined the European MIX08 guests at the European party in Club 40/40 together with David Armano and his wife. The party was good fun and some magic but no pictures to share from this one… what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas I guess ;)