Thursday, April 23, 2009

iPhone Continues to Help Apple/AT&T Profits – While Android Makes Inroads

On a day when both Apple and AT&T reported quarterly profits that exceeded expectations on the coattails of the iPhone, a recent AdMob Mobile Metrics Report shows that Google’s Android is slowly starting to chip away at iPhone’s dominant position.

Android, Google’s open source mobile operating system (OS), deputed this past November with the launch of the HTC Dream smartphone. According to AdMob’s March 2009 report, while growth of the Android over its first five months was impressive, it fell short of iPhone’s growth during its first five post launch months.

Other stats, however, show Android has had a considerable impact on the smartphone market since launch:

  • Captured 6% share of the smartphone OS market
  • Currently tied with Palm as the fourth largest OS
  • Reached the number 10 device in the US in terms of overall mobile ad server requests

See full report.

Do Apple and AT&T have reason to be concerned? I think so.

For starters, last month total requests to AdMob’s US ad servers by Android devices were more than 10% of iPhone device requests. That’s not insignificant.

And the much improved successor to the Dream, the HTC Magic, is due to arrive in stores in several weeks. The new device will include, among other bells and whistles, a 3.2 inch QVGA touch-screen display, a 3.2 mega pixel camera (with Auto Focus), high-speed connectivity and on-board GPS functionality. It looks really cool too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

NYT's Dowd Does Battle with Twitter

The irreverent and sarcastic New York Time's op-ed columnist Maureen Dowd wrote a hilarious piece in today's Times about an interview she had with the inventors of Twitter to find out, to paraphrase Dowd, if they are as annoying as their invention.

Here are a few of the more comical exchanges between Dowd and Biz Stone, one of the co-founders of Twitter:

DOWD: Did you know you were designing a toy for bored celebrities and high-school girls?
BIZ: We definitely didn’t design it for that. If they want to use it for that, it’s great.

DOWD: If you were out with a girl and she started twittering about it in the middle, would that be a deal-breaker or a turn-on?

BIZ (dryly): In the middle of what?

DOWD: I would rather be tied up to stakes in the Kalahari Desert, have honey poured over me and red ants eat out my eyes than open a Twitter account. Is there anything you can say to change my mind?

BIZ: Well, when you do find yourself in that position, you’re gonna want Twitter. You might want to type out the message “Help.”

Seems like Dowd has some issues to resolve with new technology - here's a link to the full column:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Digital Books and the Next Era of Innovation

Popular science author Steven Johnson wrote an interesting piece in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about digital books, how they will change what and how much people will read in the future and the impact those changes will have on innovation.

As Johnson points out, we currently have unlimited access to terabytes of data and information courtesy of Google and other search engines. However, the nearly infinite repository of knowledge stored in the millions of books printed since the invention of the printing press are, for the most, outside the searchable Internet.

Game Changers - E-Books and Google’s Book Search Service
That’s about to change. The recent success of Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, and the progress Google is making with their Book Search Service, are providing the tools and content needed to begin the next phase of the great migration of the written word to the digital format. This next phase, however, will be substantially more profound than earlier phases both in terms of the volume and, in many ways, the quality of the content being digitized.

Based on these developments, Johnson makes some excellent points (all of which I agree with) about the future of book reading:

  • Book content (like all searchable content) will be indexed, ranked and commented on by readers
  • Authors will likely write chapters (and even passages) in a way that are optimized for search engines
  • Books will be un-bundled and many will be sold by the chapter (much the same way people consume songs rather than full albums as a result of iTunes and file sharing)
  • Book reading will become social – book content will be tagged and annotated. As a result, people will share comments and insights on book passages (a chapter, a page or even a quote) much like they comment and dialogue on a blog post or newspaper article

Digital Books and the Innovation Revolution
But, to me, by far the most powerful outcome of these developments will be the influence over how people will learn and innovate in the future.

If you believe, like I do, that our economy and culture are becoming more idea and innovation driven, then a world where such an enormous amount of knowledge (book based and otherwise) is indexed, annotated and searchable is truly an exciting development.

So much was argued in Daniel Pink’s 2005 book “A Whole New Mind.” His premise: we are moving away from the information age into a conceptual age where ideas and innovation will be among the most valued currencies. This is a result of the abundance and commoditization of many products and services, the ability to outsource work to the lowest common denominator and the growth of automation. In this new conceptual age, according to Pink, creative right brain thinkers, as opposed to linear left brain thinkers, will be the heroes.

I have no doubt that creativity and innovation are going to be more highly valued as the U.S. and global economies evolve and become more competitive. The wide adoption of e-book readers and initiatives like Google’s Book Search Service, I think, will be very important enablers of that trend. Think of them as force multipliers.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Pizza Hut "Twintern" Program - Who Says There are No Good Jobs Out There?

Who says there aren’t good jobs out there for college students? For instance, Pizza Hut is looking for a college student for their paid summer “twintership” program. According to the job description on, the “twinintern” will be responsible for:
  • Spreading the Pizza Hut message by collecting and sharing insights and experiences while working for Pizza Hut through social and interactive media: Blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, New and emerging media
  • Monitoring social media for pop culture news, off-the-wall stories or anything else quirky and fun that he or she thinks would be of interest to loyal Pizza Hut fans
  • Monitoring social media for any negative Pizza Hut brand mentions
  • Chronicling their experiences through video and posting to selected media

Key requirement – study closely last week’s Domino Pizza gross-out You Tube video calamity and get ready to play defense.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

This Time it’s Volvo’s Turn to Experiment with Social Media

Major consumer brands are starting to explore ways to integrate social media into their advertising campaigns - last month it was Skittles, and this month it was Volvo.

In Volvo’s case they promoted their new XC60 crossover SUV with a one day only YouTube page takeover to coordinate with the New York Auto Show. To spice things up, the takeover included a live feed of XC60 Twitter updates from the auto show.

This is the first time YouTube ran such a prominent ad on its homepage. This is no doubt part of Google’s (YouTube’s owner) effort to generate more revenue from YouTube which, it has been widely reported, has been a serious drain on Google’s profitability.

While it’s too early to tell what kind of impact Volvo’s gambit will have on XC60 sales, to me this is a great way to raise awareness and create a dialogue with consumers.

It’s almost a certainty that more marketers will follow suit in the coming months with their own social media experiments. As with anything else, there will be fits and starts but it’s only a matter of time before social technologies become commercialized as a platform for highly targeted online advertising.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Universal Music / YouTube Deal Could Help Save the Music Industry

Wired magazine reported this week that Google’s YouTube and the Universal Music Group confirmed the launch of their music video collaboration,, for later this year. Think of it as a Hulu for music videos (which, it appears, was the inspiration for Vevo). Revenues will be shared between YouTube and Universal.

The service will be advertising based and will serve up Universal’s music video assets (including artist interviews and concert footage) that will be of higher quality than the standard YouTube fare that is currently available. In addition, it’s likely that YouTube, and eventually AOL and Yahoo, will also have access to Vevo’s video library. Ultimately, the goal is to add other labels to the service as well.

If it works, Vevo would be a significant win for both parties. For YouTube it would mean the end of Universal’s licensing violation claims. And, as a premium YouTube property, Vevo would likely generate premium fees from advertisers. For Universal it would be a solution to their repeated efforts to monetize their music video business.

Music videos have been licensed to YouTube for several years now. But they have not generated the level of advertising revenues that either YouTube or the music companies had hoped for. This is most likely a result of the motley nature of music videos available on YouTube.

Ultimately, Universal (and the whole music industry for that matter) has nothing to lose by this venture. After years of declining record sales and profits caused by the rise of file-sharing, to say the music business is in dire need of new revenue streams is putting it mildly.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Will the Internet Surpass TV Next Year?

So predicts a research report just published by Microsoft. The study projects that time spent on the Internet by consumers will surpass traditional TV by June 2010. The report was based on research conducted in Europe but definitely has application to the US market.

Specifically, the study projects that by next summer Europeans on average will spend 14.2 hours per week on the Internet versus 11.5 hours on TV.

Other predictions include:

  • Over the next five years Internet use on PCs will decline from 95% to 50% as other Web enabled devices such as Smartphones and IPTVs become more widely adopted

  • Video capable mobile devices will grow from 31% today to 76% by 2013

  • "Connected entertainment” and time shifting will become the norm as three-screen (PC, mobile device and IPTV) integration improves allowing people to watch what they want, whenever and wherever they choose

  • Social connectivity will become commercialized and will enable more personalized and relevant online advertising and marketing

  • Mobile devices will become the primary point of access to the Internet

Some of these predictions are similar to those reported in a major research initiative by the Pew Internet Project that I posted about in February:

Of course, a good dose of skepticism is warranted with any report that predicts the future, especially one sponsored by a private enterprise like Microsoft that has a lot to gain if these predictions come true.

That said, I see little reason to doubt that most, if not all, of these projections won’t come to pass.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Are Fees for Online News Content in the Offing?

A couple of weeks back I posted about the challenges facing the newspaper industry as they deal with declining ad revenues and the migration of readers to free online sources.

Now, the New York Times is reporting that the industry is reconsidering its free content for all business model.

At an industry conference last week, newspaper execs explored various options to monetize their content on the Web. Some of the payment models under consideration include:
  • Subscription model (e.g.,
  • Micro-payments (e.g., iTunes)
  • Content licensing to third-party sites
Of course, in order for this to work, newspapers will to address a major, maybe even insurmountable, challenge: how to get readers to start paying for something that has been free for so long?