Friday, 27 November 2009

Kids of Today

I have been to a few conferences in recent years which have included a panel of teenagers sharing their experiences of the web and impression of different brands. I always find these sessions insightful and amusing.

I received this email from a colleague and loved the comment on Twitter in particular.

A VC-buddy of mine went to this event this week in Menlo Park. He was amused by the ever-popular teen-panel, where about 10 kids between 12 and 14 were asked about their consumption of media and use of technoloigy, with the following summary:
  • Two services they could not live without are: GMail and Facebook
  • When asked whether they would continue using their essential services if they had to pay $5 a month, they said no and that they would just switch to free service and friends will follow
  • "Twitter is for Journalists and old people"
  • Linear broadcast TV is not used; several mentioned that TVs have been disconnected in their houses
  • In trade off between watching TV on e.g. a 42" plasma or a low-resolution laptop, the latter wins because of non-linear programme choice and lack of parental supervision
  • Which would you rather have - iPhone or Droid? One third each plus one third don't know what Android is or whichever is cheapest?
  • Might consider paying for music for a band they really like, but unlikely

Friday, 28 August 2009

AdMob: building step by step

I noticed on GigaOm that AdMob announced its purchase of AdWhirl. It is an intelligent move from a growing company from whom we have come to expect little else. AdMob proliferated initially from a low value but hugely scaleable ecosystem which basically created an efficient clearing house for advertisers and publishers eager to explore the mobile space.

In reality these advertisers were those already active in the mobile space, arbitraging buying traffic from AdMob and monetising their inventory through various means including AdMob ads. Several businesses were built in similar vein on the desktop through Google. Quality was not high and eCPMs seldom cleared $1 but the poster children of AdMob's early evolution were social networks like Peperonity who had never seen higher than that anyway.

With the advent of the iPhone, AdMob saw (before anyone else) the opportunity for a new type of mobile ad which most people more commonly know as display - though I do not remember AdMob ever referring to them as such. The problem with display, even on a single platform, is that it is not as scaleable a business. Creative types get in the mix, agencies start to muddy the waters and all of a sudden there is a lot of grit in the wheels. AdMob needed to work a lot harder for its money and, as the market grew and people saw the opportunity, the market also fragments.

Now, AdMob has done three smart things all in one. One, it has bought in a dedicated Ad Aggregator and being 'in' means that there is no bridge between the user and AdMob, it will have the data it needs to target its ads more effectively. Two, it has bought a company specialised in creating an exchange of different ad networks (very similar to Google's model in the desktop space) and now can focus on providing the right kind of targeting information to those networks to maximise benefit for Advertiser and Publisher; it can focus on the day job again of being an efficient clearing house rather than a sales house. Three, by making it open source it is basically saying - he is an efficient ad exchange for mobile - it's free, feel free to use it - the more the merrier.

Each time I think AdMob has run out of steam, it makes another intelligent step and may yet make the mobile space its own.

Monday, 3 August 2009

HMV: a lament

I happened to walk into an HMV for the first time this year on Sunday and thought to myself 'Woolworths'. Isn't HMV another dinosaur one step away from the retail dustbin?

In diversifying away from the ever-declining sales of CDs, HMV has struck upon the idea of selling DVDs and Games in exactly the same way, eventhough both of these areas are subject to the same digital competetion as CDs have been.

This store format needs a revolution.

The world has gone digital, except HMV and others of its ilk. At the moment it is engaged in lazy retailing where it can continue to churn the handle for a number of years with a pretty much predictable result until such time as some catalytic event wakes people up to the fact that it is simply no longer relevant.

It should of course be investing in ensuring that it is the dominant internet destination for music, games, films purchases rather than iTunes and Amazon but here it is anonymous.

But, more than that, a little imagination in-store can be used to make sure that HMV realises the benefit of its physical presence in a way that Amazon and iTunes cannot. Let's steal ideas from Apple:

- in house 'geniuses': DJs/mixers who can interpret your tastes to recommend new artists, create a mixed bag for you, author a new tune with a suggested sample track specifically for you
- listening stations where I can interact and talk/IM about what I am listening to with other listeners not just in store but across the HMV network
- take a leaf out of the MTV era (it's been around for ever FFS) and make some visual displays, make them interactive, full of soundbites with clear offers

Your mission: make purchasing online seem like a souless and friendless experience. Music (in particular) is a social meme. Nobody likes to go to a concert on their own.

Shake it up a bit. Fire some people. Take some acid. Whatever. Just take up the fight before you become another Woolworth's flogging what's left for pennies.

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Not all doom and gloom

I picked up this quality post from Fred Destin (from Atlas) this morning. There is a difference in the VC industry at the moment between those believing that the current environment heralds a significant shake-up in the number of VCs and those that think that this is a temporarily fallow period. I agree with Fred on the former but also with his assertion that entrepreneurs should not feel daunted about getting started in the current environment: it is a great time in terms of talent on the market, (relative) lack of competition and providing focus.
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