Google Instant Changes the Game: Forget SEO

September 8, 2010

Google launched a new salvo in the search battle today and it’s a game changer. Say hello to Google Instant.

Basically, your results will change as you type. No more multiple search queries and result pages, just change what you’re typing until you see the results that match. This has huge ramifications for search engine optimization companies; although sites should still be “optimized”, the number of actual full searches and result pages returned just got obliterated.

I’ve never been a fan of SEO practices that rely on words on a page. These type of “SEO consultants” simply destroy great design and conversion rate in order to try and fulfill the promise of getting listed on search engines. What good is it if a consumer comes to your site only to run away quickly when being confronted with ugly, confusion? Concentrate on great content, navigation, and design to keep consumers engaged.

Great job Google, you just made search a whole lot smarter and fun again.

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Apple Opens the Door for Google

April 15, 2010

The tech world is a buzz with the news that Apple has effectively shut out any technology that it deems is not native to it’s platform; most notably sticking it to Adobe only 4 days before the release of Flash CS5 including the much touted ability to render Flash to the iPhone. Here’s the iPhone 4.0 SDK Terms of Service change that has caused the stir:

3.3.1 — Applications may only use Documented APIs in the manner prescribed by Apple and must not use or call any private APIs. Applications must be originally written in Objective-C, C, C++, or JavaScript as executed by the iPhone OS WebKit engine, and only code written in C, C++, and Objective-C may compile and directly link against the Documented APIs (e.g., Applications that link to Documented APIs through an intermediary translation or compatibility layer or tool are prohibited).

Wow. This basically says that if developers want to build apps for the iPhone then they need to use technology that Apple has approved and in a manner that Apple requires. The result has been a growing developer backlash against Apple for essentially becoming the tyrant it so famously accused Microsoft of being in the 1984 commercial. It’s a secret no more that this isn’t about open standards or performance concerns, it’s about money and market share. Business is business after all.

At first look the loser here is Adobe, but this also has a massive effect on companies like Unity3D, the amazing platform for creating 3D on mobile, and Appcelerator’s Titanium which was to finally helps us develop once and deploy to all devices. So where do they turn now? Google.

Apple is the undisputed king on the touch mobile world, but Google is catching up and making the right moves. Google doesn’t want to sell you a millions phones. They want Samsung, LG, Motorola, HTC and others to sell you millions of phones running Android, Google’s operating system with the growing number of Android apps. Just like Microsoft owning the market as a result of HP, Dell, Acer and other manufacturing Windows-based PCs, Google is going after the market the same way. Apple by contrast is following the same plan it did with Macs, the difference being this time around they currently lead the market.

Where Apple’s platform is closed and controlled (arguably for good reason), Google’s Android is all about being open….and Google is going to support Flash. Think about that. An open development environment and the ability to develop rich, applications you can download from the web and not have to go through a Store.

Here’s the perfect storm that might be coming Apple’s way, and make it plausible that soccer moms might dump their iPhone:

1. Beautiful Android-based devices hit the market rivaling the iPhone. Likelyhood = High: NexusOne is beautiful, and HTC, Motorola, Samsung and others will be flooding the market this year with phones.

2. Android phones tout features you can’t get on the iPhone. Likelyhood = Medium: You can’t multi-task on the iPhone (yet, it’s coming in iPhone 4.0) but you can on Android phones, you can also get turn-by-turn directions in GPS.

3. Android App Market has great applications you can’t get on the iPhone. Likelyhood = High: Most popular applications on the iPhone are now available in the Android App Market, which is growing at a torrid pace. With Apple shutting out Flash (and others like Unity3D) then you can bet that they’ll be developing for Android instead.

4. Samsung, HTC, Motorola, Google launch commercials showing a great device with great applications…and in the same breath say ‘you can’t get this on the iPhone’. Likelyhood = High.

5. Soccer mom walks into the nearest cell phone shop and says: “I’m looking for a new phone. I love my iPhone but can you tell me about these new ones with the cool apps?” Likelyhood = Medium.

If nothing else, Apple’s decision to restrict developer freedom is a positive for Google. Whether it shifts the balance away from Apple’s dominance of the North American smartphone market rests on whether developers play Apple’s game or not.

Will Apple’s dominance ensure that developers look to stay on and reap the rewards the iPhone/iPad, or will the growth of Android and Apple’s developer restrictions lure consumers and developers to Google? We should know sooner rather than later.


Do You Really Need To Hire A Digital Media Strategist?

April 9, 2010

Seems like once a week a recruiter finds me on LinkedIn and calls me up asking if I’d be interested in a VP/Director/Whatever of Digital Media Strategy position at <insert big brand or interactive agency here>. My response:

“I’m flattered but I’m happy at Sensidea helping companies like your client get real value from digital media strategy and solutions. By the way, I don’t think your client needs to hire someone to be in charge of Digital Media strategy, they just need to pick the brain of someone who lives and breathes this stuff. By the time they find someone everything has probably changed anyway. Can you give me their name and number and I’ll call them to chat?”

They’re undoubtedly a little caught off guard, give a nervous laugh, and ask “what do you mean?” 

I’ve been through the conversation enough times that it’s time I write this post to answer the recruiter’s question and give a little help to companies wondering payroll should take a Digital Media Strategist hit.

Full disclosure: I make my living helping great companies be digital stars. Yup, I’d love the business so get in touch if you’d like, but more-so I’d love it if every company got value from their digital efforts and not simply  wasted money on double-talking gurus or half-baked efforts because it would mean more amazing web/mobile stuff for us all to enjoy.

So, here’s the list of the top 5 things to consider before putting a Digital Media Executive on your payroll…

  1. Top Dog Commitment: Are the people that call the shots ready to put money and resources towards digital innovation or are they just thinking that they should get in the game? Having dedicated willingness to get innovative is paramount and the difference between success and an endless cycle of chatter.
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  3. Bang For Your Buck: If you want great teeth you go to the dentist. If you want an amazing garden you get a gardener. You trust their knowledge because that’s what they do best. You don’t invite a dentist and gardener to live with you and give them new things to do. Digital Media Strategy executives usually have another part of their portfolio like Development or Marketing because you can’t just have someone thinking of strategies all day! If you really expect your strategist to have all the digital answers you better be ready to pay him/her to read a lot, test technology, think about what it all means, and let you know what’s valuable vs. hype…and that’s it. If not you end up with bad teeth and crappy flowers.
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  5. Product Development Guru: Have a VP/Director of Product Development? Didn’t you hire him/her to come up with great ideas and products? Care to bet how long it takes before VP Products and VP Digital Media get in a fight? Product development people understand your business and what the competition is up to. They don’t need someone forcing the latest and greatest trend down their throat, they need a digital media confidant to weigh in and contribute on ideas, trends, and opportunities.
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  7. Tech Guy Overlord: Is the company ready to embrace new technology or stuck in a legacy mindset? Sometimes the technology you use doesn’t really matter but sometimes it does. If your company is all Microsoft all the time and that reality isn’t about to change (because the tech guy calls the shots and only knows .NET) then why are you even talking about getting on the iPad? Online and mobile innovation moves insanely fast so recognize your company’s tech culture and decide if it needs to change, and if it can.
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  9. Can You Date?  Is your company tied to vendors like Romeo to Juliet or free to date? Some companies look to existing vendors because it simply takes a lot of effort to constantly know what’s out there. Winning in today’s digital world means constantly understanding what’s happening; from the big players to the little team in the garage. Armed with knowledge you can make sure your existing vendors are the best bet or if someone else is leaving them in the dust.

By definition a Digital Media Strategist is someone that should be able to tell you what’s going on in digital media and what it could mean to your business close to anytime you ask. They read tech and media blogs at night because they love it. If something major happens and they’re not one of the first to know they get really pissed off. They take being on top of the digital world personal.

You don’t need to hire a VP Digital Media Strategy. You need a Digital Media Guru On-Demand:

  • Someone who knows what’s happening across the digital world and keeps you up on matters important to your business; challenges, opportunities you should be all over, and what’s coming, because they take the time to understand your business (not feed you fluff they tell everyone).

 

  • A wealth of knowledge, connections, and practical understanding because they’re digitally obsessed. They have connections to the big guys and the start-up community.

 

  • Work with your Product Development, Strategy, and Development groups; providing insight, ideas, and learning from their insight to make sure any digital effort delivers value.

 

  • Thinks value first and ‘cool’ second; delivers value not hype and double-talk. They’re worth the money because if they’re not you won’t call them again!

So there you have it. There are lots of fast talkers out there because it’s cool to be a digital media dude these days, but test them out and challenge their knowledge (if all they talk about is Twitter and Facebook they’re not who you’re looking for!). Follow these guidelines to be on the right track to digital success with the right digital media strategist helping your team get there.


If I Can Dream: A Beautiful Blend of Technology & Thinking

March 12, 2010

Have you seen If I Can Dream? If not, check it out. Now (ok, after you read this post :)). It’s a feat to be admired, showing what can be done when we think big and work hard to execute. Thanks to Tim Nolan at FITC for blogging about his experiences being involved in the project and turning my attention to such a great experience.

Ok, so what is it? Well, it’s basically an online reality show on steriods. The kind of steroids that would make you Mr./Mrs. Olympia in one dose. It’s not your typical 3 girls in a house broadcasting their intimate moments via webcam. It’s simultaneous video and audio capture, multi-streaming, HD, with a beautiful 3D-like interface, and strategically placed, non-intrusive advertising laced in. It’s an all-digital reality show that runs 24/7, is showcased on MySpace, and let’s anyone with a Hollywood dream submit their own audition tape to get into the house. And the cast definitely don’t have faces made for radio. Oh, and it’s the first show available for viewing on Hulu outside the U.S..

From a technology perspective, Tim put the challenge this way…

The idea was to transfer the Reality TV concept successfully to the Internet. The challenge was… How the f*ck are we going to do this? I mean how do you stream HD quailty video from every angle in the house that TV producer would want to see, how do you rig up all the mics to capture every conversation… In short, how do you make a physical house in Hollywood an all digital, always on 24/7 model for the tech house of the future?

Congrats to the guys at POKE and Entertainment 19. Check out these screen shots, then if you want to marvel at the technology or the cast head on over to the site and have fun.




The iPad Will Support Flash and Multi-Tasking…

January 28, 2010

I will change the web...or just sell you books! Photo: AFP/Getty

…it just has to. Yesterday Jobs and Co. presented the iPad as the ultimate web surfing device; something that will change the way we interact with the Web. That’s great! Can’t wait to go to all my favorite sites and let my fingers do the talking…movie sites, rich magazines, amazing design studios, and games! I’ll be able to touch and move my way around all my favorite sites and applications in a flash….ya, Flash…

All the great creative, visual effects, online movies, and virtual goodness we enjoy? Mostly all Flash (sorry Silverlight). It’s all over the Web and without it we’d mostly have just text and pictures, want to go back to that? Flash brings the web to life…and it’s coming to mobile in a big way this year.

Here’s my theory, when the iPad ships it will support Flash and Multi-tasking…and so will the iPhone…for three reasons:

1. You can’t enjoy the Web without it

2. Android, Blackberry, and Nokia will all support Flash this year. The iPhone will support Flash or be left out of the party (plus developers will get on the iPhone with Flash CS5 anyway)

3. Everyone wants to multi-task on their computer and increasingly on their phone. Android supports it so iPhone has to.

Multi-Tasking is a must-have. Do you listen to music on your computer while surfing the Web? Do you have e-mail, a browser, and a document open at the same time? We all do, and we will want to do the same thing on our beautiful iPad. With the iPhone you’re mobile and usually doing something ‘at the moment’. Sitting on the couch with your iPad means you want to be able to do a few things and not only have one app open at a time. Any sane person knows that multi-tasking is a must have, and my bet is the iPad will support this for sure.

The distant future might see promise in HTML5 and the web moving away from plug-ins, but it’s not a gauranteed bet – remember how DHTML and VRML were supposed to change the Web? IS Flash really just a plug-in when it’s on 98% of computers out there? Plus, we need to get away from system dependent technology. We went through this with the early browser wars when you had to develop for Netscape or IE or Mozilla, and now we have the same thing on mobile. That’s got to change. We want to develop once and go everywhere (Flash isn’t the only way to that but it will be the easiest).

….or is it really all about just selling books?

There’s only one reason I can think of that the iPad won’t support Flash or Multi-tasking…Apple only cares about sell books. Reading is a dedicated activity (you don’t multi0task when you read). So, could be that the real big announcement yesterday wasn’t the iPad, it was iBooks. Remember, Apple’s game is to make it easy for you to get content across all their devices; Macbook, iPod, iPhone, iPad – doesn’t matter. Device money is great but the content brings in the mountains of recurring cash.

By most accounts, iTunes dominates as the place to get (legal) online music and TV programs. The next biggest thing is books and magazines. All the hoopla about being the ultimate web surfing device is great but it might be that the focus is really to own and make money from more of our cultural activities…music succeeded, TV failed (Apple TV), books is the next big prize (games will follow).

So, well find out in April if the way we use the Web is really going to change or if the iPad is really a land grab to sell books. I hope it’s the former because it really would change our digital lives.

What do you think? Take our poll…


TVEverywhere: I’m Not a Dumb Pipe

November 1, 2009

tv-everywhereA lot is being written recently about TVEverywhere, the initiative being led by Comcast and Time Warner Inc. to provide the same great programming we enjoy on our TV sets online, but on a subscriber basis; if you’re a cable/telco subscriber than you can get the same programming online through the respective company portals. If you’ve never heard of TVEverywhere check out NewTeeVee’s write-up. Comcast is actually calling their effort OnDemand Online and along with TW have begun trails.

This is a big initiative. Real BIG. It’s difficult enough for a large complex company (like a cable or telco) to implement their own authentication, single sign-on, or video asset management and supply chain system (trust me, we’ve done it), but to do it in conjunction with another big industry player? Summon the rabbit foot. I’m not saying it won’t happen; on the contrary I believe it definitely will. It’s the last stand.

It started with torrents, then pirated video on YouTube, then legitimization through Hulu – but the operators are still left out in the cold. All efforts to provide the programs and movies we know and love over the web, have been what are called ‘over the top services’; content and services provided on the web running on the network we call the internet. The network (read web) is provided to us by the Internet Service Provider; usually your local cable or telco provider. We pay them for access but they don’t get a cent from what we actually buy or watch online. It’s the same thing as paying for utilities; you power company doesn’t get a cut of the light bulb you buy at the store. You power company is the ‘dumb pipe’. Today’s cable/telco are fighting not to become a utility. TVEverywhere (or similar efforts by Verizon and AT&T) will either make the pipe smart or dumb.

The promise of TVEverywhere is that you get online what you already pay to watch on TV. But will it work? Whether legal or not, the fact is you can find almost any TV show or movie online or on a P2P network. The number of people canceling their cable service and simply watching online grows daily. With the ability to simply connect your computer to your TV, or stream directly to your TV, it’s a great way to save $50-$100 a month. If I want to go all legal then I can go to the ever-increasing content catalog at Hulu, licensed content on YouTube, or even directly to network or cable channel websites (I can watch a lot of Seinfeld on TBS.com) – all ‘over the top’ services where studios publish direct to consumer, bypassing network providers. People are canceling their cable/satellite services; they can get content without them. But, it’s a pain.

People are inherently lazy. Some of us actually like working, some go to the gym regularly, and some climb mountains; but the vast majority want things nice and easy (it’s the reason the drive-thru was invented). We don’t want to search the web for our shows; we want to turn on our TV and get everything easily.

The promise of TVEverywhere is that Advertiser and programmers will maintain their existing business models, and for consumers get what we want online. It’s a bet that:

(a) The vast majority of people are not all web savvy, connect my computer or stream directly to my TV geeks

(b) Studios won’t all flock to Hulu

(c) Advertisers will continue to value the 30 sec TV spot more than anything online (which is the reason for (a))

(d) The basic paradigm of new content fueled on advertising dollars will stay the norm (because of (c))

Can you imagine a world where all content we have is paid for with money generated by online ads? I don’t think that $25 CPM is going to pay for the new season of 24. Hulu is doing a great job of monetizing content but I submit that the reason studios can afford to monetize on Hulu is because they’re making the real money on TV. Without TV, Hulu can’t survive.

TVEverywhere is a good bet by the ISPs to drive traffic to their own online portals instead of other services. The promise is that there won’t be a cost to existing subscribers; idea being that with more traffic, the portals will become a cash cow of advertising dollars. Provided they can get through the operational and tech hurdles to can make it happen, there are two opportunities to really realize success:

1. Lower subscriber fees so that people will be less incented to go ‘over the top’ for content

2. Offer an online-only subscription. Even in the event that the paradigm changes and the majority start going online to watch, the big ad dollars will follow

The wild card is still the cost of bandwidth, and the ability for ISPs to make costs viable. Net neutrality concerns aside, ISPs could hamper competing ‘over the top’ services by requesting they pay to have their service streamed on the good part of the pipe (i.e DOCSIS 3.0). You want to use our pipe and take our customers? Pay me.

How things shake out will depend on the same group that always has the last say:  Us. Where, how, and when we get our video will shape the future of the industry. You’ll be able to get your movies everywhere, so keep the popcorn hot and take your pick.


Calling all Innovators..Where Are You?

October 5, 2009

wright_bros

We were in the midst of a surprisingly harsh recession; homes lost, jobs gone, and funding for innovative young companies harder to find than an educational moment on MTV. But for all the doom and gloom there was one silver lining – desperate times give rise to the next big thing. So, what have the next generation of great web entrepeneurs been up to? Looks like not much.

Above all else, during this recession us Digitalians (those that live and breathe everything digital…yes I made up a new word) have been overexposed to three products – Facebook, Twitter, iPhone. Nay a day passes that we’re not inundated with how much FB is potentially worth, CNN, Oprah, or other celebrities professing that they’re all about the Tweet, or find that yes indeed there is an app for that. Don’t get me wrong FB is a fabric of the social generation. Twitter is a new(ish) way to communicate. The iPhone, well it simply changed the mobile landscape and ushered in the mobile as a viable computing platform. But, where are the great ideas that usually crawl out of the rubble of recession?

90’s recession = Netscape and the explosion of the Web. 2000 bubble burst = Google, Social Networking.  2008 = iFart?

The problem is that ‘platform’ has replaced invention. Instead of young minds thinking about changing the world, it’s all about making the next app which sadly is either a port of existing web tools or something so ridiculous you’re left wondering why it’s named one of the Top 20. Almost everyday we talk to would be entrepeneurs about their big idea. They’re going to do something amazing; something that’s never been done before! Are they going to end poverty, make your job easier, life better, or finally rid the world of Paris Hilton? No, it’s the next great (insert platform here) app!

Honestly, how many Twitter apps do we need, and is replicating a popular video game for the iPhone really innovative? If your business depends on someone else’s great idea then sorry you’re no Thomas Edison.

To emphasize the point, at the just passed TechCrunch50 conference, a place that promises to showcase 50 of the most innovative start-ups from a crowd of thousands, expert panelists wondered where are the guys that want to change the world and the top prize was awarded to a company that is essentially an evolution of a solution that has been around for years.

So, we’re calling on all aspiring minds. Change the world! There are some smarty pants working on some pretty cool stuff. We need more! Develop your iPhone apps, connect on FB, and chat mindlessly on Twitter, but someone out there has to be working on what’s next. We can’t wait to see what the real inventors are up to.