JCL Blog

And the Winner is: Edward Snowden

The 20 member board of major newspaper editors and six academics including the president of Columbia University awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service to the Washington Post and the Guardian (US) for their:

revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy.

The award carefully avoids mentioning Edward Snowden, the source of the material.  Of course when this same award was given to the New York Times in 1972 for the publication of the Pentagon Papers, there was no mention of Daniel Ellsberg either.

I join with those who think the board does not consider Edward Snowden, or his principal collaborators Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, to be traitors.  Today there are many good posts analyzing this.  Here are a few for you to dig into:

Jay Rosen on Pressthink: There is a great part at the end of Rosen's post where he recounts how Bob Woodward said Snowden made a mistake by not coming to him.  

Jack Mirkinson on Huffington Post

Jason Abbruzzese on Mashable

Xeni Jardin on BoingBoing

With a bit of luck, maybe one day Edward Snowden will be able to return from Russia without fear of the firing squad.

Discovery of News is Good for Journalism and Twitter

Twitter might be blamed for disrupting the reach of newspapers by diverting readers to other news outlets, but it would be difficult to say that Twitter is hurting journalism.  News readership has declined somewhat over the past decade.  But still, Scarborough Research reports that between 71% and 78% of adults read the newspaper in print or online every week.   Given the news industry’s lack of comprehensive measures for old media and new media — it is not impossible to believe that the overall audience for print plus online is actually growing.  And Twitter should be credited for some of that increase.  

The story about technology and journalism has recently been dominated by how technology has taken away the money. The blamers cannot help but warn about how dark our future will be without adequate funding to pay for quality journalism and the blame is thick on those taking away the revenue.  

The most notorious takers are those that killed the biggest cash machine for the newspapers - the classifieds.  Craigslist and eBay and the help wanted sites (monster.com; careerbuilder.com) diverted classified advertising revenue away from news organizations some time ago.   Twitter shouldn't be blamed for stealing the advertising money because it has only been very recently that Twitter has been getting any of it (about $900 million in the last 4 quarters), and it is hard to say specifically how the traditional news media is losing ad revenue to Twitter.  The Newspaper Association of America reports US advertising revenues of $25 Billion for 2012 (last year reported), which is down from its peak of $46 Billion in 2003 and more or less equal to the run rate in the early ‘80s.  But any causal link between Twitter and the decline is just too fuzzy to make a big deal about.  

Twitter does require journalists to exercise some new muscles.  Not everyone likes concrete measures or immediate feedback, particularly the unfavorable kind.  Last week David Carr wrote a good piece about this in the NY Times: Risks Abound As Reporters Play in Traffic.  

When Jack Doresy and Evan Williams founded Twitter in 2006 they did not set out to disrupt anything. They were hanging by their fingernails at their company Odeo and seemingly on a whim built a status update system patterned after AOL’s status updates - but for mobile users.  Twitter had its Cinderella moment at the South by Southwest conference in 2007 and the rest as they say is well known by everyone.  

Six years after its launch Twitter is an essential tool for journalists.  Sean Evins (@evins) of the Twitter Government & Politics Team and Simon Rogers (@smfrogers), Twitter's Data Editor, declined to comment for this article, but the fact that Twitter has capable people in those roles is a leading indicator that Twitter is investing in making journalism better.  In addition, the media section of the Twitter website has a good list of best practices for journalists that range from promoting content, to collecting feedback, and maximizing the impact of photos and videos. 

Discovery of breaking news is certainly the killer app for Twitter and news junkies and casual readers alike know to turn to Twitter first when a plane be lost in the Indian Ocean or an earthquake hits Los Angeles.

Do We Dare Say that Journalism Has Hit the Bottom?

Last week the Pew Center released its State of the News Media report for 2014.  While the report reinforces the headwinds faced by traditional media outlets (ad revenues down 52% from 2003), it also illuminates growth in digital only news outlets that now number over 500 and employ about 5,000 full time professionals. Could it be time for the journalists to stop blaming technologists for depriving them of the means to pay for the essential service they provide?

Jeff Jarvis anointed Johannes Gutenberg as the original technologist in his 2012 book Gutenberg the Geek.  Whether or not Gutenberg needed Jarvis’ endorsement, journalism and technology have certainly been dance partners for hundreds of years.  Gutenberg’s movable type printing press brought about revolutions in business, religion, and politics and gave story tellers the ability to reach a larger audience than ever thought possible at open mic night in 1439 Strasbourg.

The advertising industry traces its roots to the very same 15th century when the practice of paying artists including Michelangelo to produce art that contained certain messages.  Many of these new visual advertisements were religious in nature. Soon politicians and business people were the fast followers of this new technology; commissioning works that were clearly promotional.  In early renaissance Italy, everybody who was anybody had a portrait with a 3D background showing off the Filippo Brunelleschi’s new technology of perspective drawing.

About a hundred years later the Gutenbergers and the Brunelleschis joined their ability to print things cheaply and their desire to encourage readers to buy things and gave birth in 1525 to advertisements as we know them today.  In fact the New York Times Book Review was not an original idea, because those early ads were mostly for books and were found in the precursor to newspapers, the broadsheet.

All of this is to make the simple case that technology is just doing what it does.  Yes, Craigslist, Yahoo!, Google, Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the techies have stolen away the revenue the newsrooms needed to survive.  However, their geek ancestors created the technology that enabled advertising and newspapers some 500 years ago for the same reason the newsroom is in the emergency room today.  The geeks are still just doing what they do.

Technology people don’t under-appreciate Ed Murrow.  23 generations after Gutenberg, they are still in the business of delivering as much information as possible to as many people as possible as cheaply as possible.  The argument that we are replacing the system that brought us back from the brink of McCarthyism with a system that serves up the best grumpy cat videos has been used to cling tightly to the way that it was for long enough.  We have now seen how new media actors like Julian Assange, Ed Snowden, and Glenn Greenwald, have worked with the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Der Spiegel to revive the fourth estate.

Certainly, there is much work to be done.  A flood of technology energy is being applied to this industry, and not just the high profile purchase of the Washington Post by Jeff Bezos, or the founding of First Look Media by Pierre Omidyar.  New media organizations are everywhere, both succeeding and failing fast in their pursuit of good journalism.  We know that 5,000 jobs created in the new digital world do not fill the hole created by the tens of thousands of jobs lost in traditional newsrooms, but it does seem possible that the bottom has been reached and working together journalism and technology are building something we should be watching.


Interesting Trends

We have arrived at that season where the list of predictions for 2013 will start to pile up.  I find them interesting reading, but I have not felt that I have much to add to the pile, so mostly I just read instead of making a list of my own.  

This year however, I will be taking note of a handful of trends that seem to capture my interest.  I see tend to read articles about these things and I just might have some thoughts congealing into a theory that brings them together.  

For now though, just the trends:


  1. Education:  One of our greatest exports to the rest of the world is educated people from our university system.  Why do we get that right and K-12 is seeming to fall farther and farther behind?
  2. Big Data:  Technically big data is just a lot of data.  Specifically, it is the ability for systems to capture and save everything.  Before big data we used to keep track of the closing price of a stock, then we stored the closing price and the high and low price for the day, big data is storing every single trade, who made the trades, their sequence…
  3. Internet of Things:  There are between one and two billion people connected to the Internet.  Devices and sensors are being added to the network by the billions and probably already outnumber the people.  Soon the number of connected machines will dwarf people and the Internet will change significantly.
  4. Vendor Relationship Management:  The relationship between the makers of things and their customers has been mostly one way and managed by the manufacturer, with CRM systems.  This relationship dynamic has been evolving through 1:1 marketing to an inversion of CRM where the customer is in charge and the vendor is managed.  The Berkman Center at Harvard is defining a new industry called Vendor Relationship Management (VRM).
  5. Digital Divide:  The people at the top of the economic ladder will advance ahead of the rest in earning capacity, lifespan, leisure time, and as a result will desire many new services. Those not at the top will have to serve the others or live off of charity or government assistance.  The gulf between the haves and the have nots is getting bigger in our country and around the world.  Right now the unemployment rate for white college graduates in the US is 4%.  Other social classes or ethnicities are much worse -- some over 25%.  It is hard to think about things getting even worse.

Of course the current year always feels like the one that is moving faster than ever before and 2013 will certainly feel the speediest ever.  In this context, and considering this list, it will be an interesting exercise to do the Gretsky thing and skate to where the puck is going to be.  It will be even more interesting to take a shot -- because the other famous Gretsky quote is: "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."



Some Things Never Change (NBC for example)

The 1976 Olympics was my first.  in ’72 we lived overseas and did not have a TV, and ’68 -- I just don’t remember.  But ’76, that was awesome.  I watched everything I could and found it absolutely mesmerizing.

This year, I have watched a few hours.  Mostly with the sound off and while reading something else.  If a cool looking event, swimming has the highest cool factor for me, happened to be on when I looked up, I would turn on the sound and watch.  I don’t think I watched a single commercial.  I am not sure if this makes me one of the 20 to 35 million nightly viewers on NBC or not.  

I was busy during the NBC’s airing of the opening ceremony, so I missed it.  I spend half an hour or so looking for video of the opening ceremony and could not find it.  I suspect that just like the movie people, NBC wanted to make sure it was not available for some reason.  I did hear about Tunnel Bear, a web site that would enable me to watch the coverage by the BBC, or any other country.  It went on my list of things to check out, but now the Olympics is almost over and I have not done it and probably wont.

Recently a friend said that she just did not find it all that compelling to watch NBC’s coverage either.  She was also not interested enough in the games to find other ways to watch it.  She just opted out of the olympics this year.

Two individual opinions does not a survey make, but I suspect that there are some other people that have also drifted away from the Olympics.  Our media consumption habits ave changed and NBC has not changed much.

In fact, it seems that one of the things that has not changed since 1972 -- or even before that -- is the way that NBC thinks about its audience.  If you are interested in this kind of thing, check out Jeff Jarvis’ Buzz Machine.  He is on a crusade to change NBC -- good luck with that Jeff.

China Buys the New York Times

Even though I am a conservative at heart, my favorite newspaper is the New York Times.  They have always been the one newspaper that is actually trying to do a good job – until now. 

I recently converted my digital only subscription to digital plus Sunday delivery and I have been surprised to see twice in the last month that the China Daily has purchased two page advertising spreads in the Sunday edition (these advertisements do not appear in the digital editions).  China followers are quick to dismiss this a as a cheap trick, but those who are less likely to realize the extent the Chinese government (who prints the China Daily) will go to deceive its readers will not. I am surprised that there has not been more of an outcry from the protectors of Journalism.  Is this old news or something?  Here is the only article I could find.

Just as Goldman Sachs will likely be successful with its new philanthropy campaign, the Chinese government will likely win over many readers with its New York Times partnership.  Until now I had hoped there would be customers who the New York Times would actually not take money from.  We should all brace ourselves for what comes next, because if the precarious state of the newspaper industry has brought us this, next we will get something even worse.

If there is a newspaper with a “Chinese wall” (ha ha) between advertising sales and editorial decision making, it should be the New York Times.  Recently, this article appeared.  I wonder what kind of phone calls it generated. 

Michael Lewis recently pointed out in Boomerang that Germans by their nature believe in order and process and cannot escape the idea that everyone else does too.  When Moody’s said that the bonds were AAA – the Germans actually believed it.  When they turned out to be toxic junk – the Germans were actually surprised.

The Chinese believe that their paper is full of lies, and when they find out that Americans actually believe what is printed in their paper – they will be surprised.  The Chinese also believe that when you pay someone money, they do what you ask them to do.  So when the China Daily calls up the New York times and asks that they no longer print negative articles about China – they will actually be surprised when the New York Times says they will not.

Well, I am still a subscriber.  But I will be getting my China news somewhere else.  Anyone have any suggestions?  Al Jezerra English?

Update:  Post from the Nieman Lab at Harvard on the subject.

Great Marketing is Self Propelled

A few of us at the office are participating in the Movember fund raiser to benefit mens health -- specifically Livestrong and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.  Clearly worthy causes, and also just plain fun to participate in.

I am making pretty good progress half way through the month, moreso on the not shaving than on the fund raising:  so if you want to make a contribution, click here!

Participating in this effort has been so fun and easy that it has made me think about the greatest self propelled marketing campaigns of all time.  

Ad Age has a list of the top 100 Advertising Campaigns of all time.  The top 5 are the ones you would expect:


  • Volkswagen
  • Coca Cola
  • Marlboro
  • Nike
  • McDonalds


Those are great, but hardly self propelled.  Maybe "Just Do It" but even that has some serious investment behind it.

I am reading the Steve Jobs biography now so I can't go without mentioning the "Think Different" campaign he created with Chiat/Day when he came back to the company in 1997.  That has to be on the list.

For me though, there has never been a campaign quite as effective as washing your hands after using the restroom.  Sure it is not as exciting as the 1984 superbowl ad, but think of the beauty of the thing.  

I am no biologist, but of the germs we want to kill when washing our hands I bet only a fraction of them origniate in the restroom.  What makes the campaign so elegant is that everyone has to go multiple times per day, and the sink is right there.  It would be a tall order to launch a campaign to convince people to wash their hands after shaking hands or after coughing or sneezing or touching a door knob.

Anyway, Movember.  Check it out.  It is propelling itself into a great movement -- now with over 800,000 people participating. 

A Facebook for Government Transparency

We want to know more about the way our government works and we want the government to know less about what we are doing.  Unfortunately, right now the trend is going the other way. But what if it did not?  Right now governments use Facebook to follow their citizens.  This is pretty widely documented in countries with poor human rights records like Syria.  We can only hope that Facebook is putting significant effort into keeping our government from turning Facebook into the ultimate citizen watching system.  Ironically, in America where Facebook was created, we are the ones that are supposed to have access to the doings of our government and our government is not supposed to have access to our private lives. 

Imagine a Facebook for government.  Each representative would have a page.  All associations ("friends") between elected officials and donors and lobbyists would be listed.  All meetings, emails, phone calls, and flows of money would be cataloged and displayed for anyone to see.  It would be a citizen’s dream: transparent representation.  Right there on your representative's "wall" would be their attendance and voting record.  Cool. 

Who wouldn’t want such a thing?  Well, what honest government would not want such a thing?

The Value of Second Level Assets

A smart Wall Street guy recently described to me a new way to think about the value of a stock in an overheated market.  He proposed that there were really two parts to value.  The first of course is the underlying value of the share.  And the second is the option the holder of the share holds implicitly to sell the share at a time of his choosing. This could be called the option to sell to the greater fool, but let's not start calling people names.

This second layer of value can be greater than the first.  In other words, particularly in a momentum market, the right to sell is worth more than the stock itself.  This is interesting because it is a good visualization of an emerging class of assets that derive their value entirely as a function of their relationship to an underlying asset. 

Some will say this is nothing new.  A steak at a steak house costs three times as much as a steak at home.  Such an item could be described in two parts as well: the steak and the experience of eating it at the steak house.  Again the second part is likely more valuable than the steak itself.  Milk at the Mini Mart has two parts, the milk, and the convenience of buying it quickly. 

In markets where innovation is changing the cost of producing and delivering things, the cost of the underlying asset is decreasing quite quickly.  Take ebooks for example, the cost to create and deliver the next copy of an ebook is essentially zero.  This creates an environment where it is easy to see how there is relatively more value in the second, derivative asset, than in the ebook itself.   The derivative asset to an ebook could be merely the recommendation of the right book, or who is reading what book, or comments about the book, or quotes from the book.  If you were about to pitch a big deal, how much would you pay to know what the person on the other side of the table was reading the day before your meeting?  At the risk of offending the authors who clearly invest themselves in their craft and create valuable work, we must ask: Is there more value in the marketplace to the second level information about the book than in the book itself? 

Apple, Google, Amazon and Facebook have been named as the new horsemen in technology.  These companies recognize the value of being one layer removed from the actual asset.  Google and Facebook both pay their customers (by offering free services) in exchange for this second level information – so clearly they assign value to it.  Apple exploits the second level information less than the others – mostly because it’s history is making money selling devices.  They are getting smarter about this all of the time and the Apple iCloud announcements last week betray their interest in being in the second level game.  Amazon is the one with the superior business model.  Not only does Amazon make money selling products, but they are expert at using the second level information to sell even more stuff.  Amazon has a much more concrete awareness of what you “like” and knows how to use that information to present you with other products to purchase.

More examples of this construct emerge every day, and many in places commonly thought of as confidential:

  • Banks:  I received an offer today from my bank to purchase access to their database of financial statements.  These are financial statements their customers have submitted as part of their traditional banking relationship.  Banks make money in many ways, and now they are making money selling access to the information they collect about their customers.
  • Phone Companies:  The contents of your phone call cannot be “tapped” without a search warrant, but law enforcement regularly pays the cellular companies for the second level information.  That data includes, who you called, how long you talked, and where you were (while talking or just while the phone was on).  Law enforcement does not need probable cause or a search warrant to get this information and the cellular providers have automated access to the database, so the fees they collect are pur profit.
  • Credit Card Companies:  Your credit card issuer makes 2 to 5% off of every transaction, plus they sell the information about how much you spend at what vendor.  Soon you will be seeing advertisements on your credit card bill.
Where could this go next?  Here are the services I would like to buy:

  • On the plane:  I would pay extra to sit next to a thin person or better yet a client or potential client.  In the case of the potential client, I would probably pay more than the cost of the ticket itself.  This could also go for any event.
  • Buying Things:  The next time I buy a house I would like to know which houses are going to come on the market next.  So information about people looking to move, getting transferred, or experiencing other life changes would be valuable to me.  Facebook could have this already, but other big databases will likely get mashed up to provide information like this.
  • Healthcare:  The next time I get a cold or the flu, or better yet, before I get a bug, I would like to go online and see what is happening in my area.  Who is suffering symptoms (Google has this because people do searches for their symptoms, the healthcare companies have it once people go to the doctor, and schools and employers have it once people call in sick) plotted on a map and compared to historical data.
  • The Government:  The government could become the biggest player in this area.  Think of the gold in the IRS’s databases.

Things are definitely getting interesting. Maybe my next post should be about privacy!




My New Newspaper Route

Readers of this blog know that I am a big fan of the NY Times.  Some people would say that I am more of a Wall Street Journal guy, and in fact I started reading the NY Times some 25 years ago because I wanted to understand the more liberal perspective.  Over the years the NY Times has gotten better and I might pick up the Wall Street Journal every couple of weeks.  In short, the opinion pieces in the NY Times are well written and thought provoking, those in the WSJ just sound like screaming.  I am not sure if it is the owner coming through or if it was always like that but now I rarely read the WSJ Opinion pages.  I suppose they would be a good source for humor if it didn’t make me feel just plain depressed about our country.

Anyway, back to the NY Times and its pay-wall.  Hard to tell I know but that is what I am writing about in this post.  Like I said, I am a big fan of the Paper of Record and would give them money just because I appreciate them.  Dave Winer and Jay Rosen had an interesting point in their Rebooting the News podcast last week about putting shortened links in Twitter that go to the NY Times.  It seems that some people do not like to be surprised by shortened links in Twitter to the NY Times because it tricks them into using up one of their 20 free articles per month.  This could produce a trend in Twitter etiquette to indicate NYT before the shortened link so people could decide in advance if they wanted to spend one of their 20 articles per month before clicking.  I know I used to send out dozens of links to the NY Times before the paywall and have not sent out any since.  I also never link to the WSJ – because I don’t want my readers to link to a subscription screen.

Dave Winer goes on in the podcast to say that NYT Columnist Paul Krugman negotiated that his column would not be hidden behind any paywall ever.  Krugman posted on his NYT blog on 3/18 that his readers can always link to his column through twitter without “spending” one of the 20 free articles per month.  I do think the columnists are the most important factor in this debate.  About a year ago I predicted that the paywall would hasten the decline of the NY Times and I still think so.  I also still think we will know the NY Times is in big trouble when the columnists leave for more visibility elsewhere.  Again, I love the NY Times so I don’t want to see this happen. 

Since the paywall started on 3/28 I have done a little experiment on one subject – myself.  I have tried to go without my favorite new source for a while.  Well, not completely cold turkey, but not subscribing.  I wanted to see what it would be like for someone who was an occasional reader of the paper, but not a subscriber.  I learned that there are a bunch of great news sources out there that I never had taken the time to visit.  I put the Reuters and AP apps on my iPad – so anytime I wanted to make sure I was not missing something big I could scan the headlines.  I started going to Al Jazeera English more often.  The Washington Post and the Guardian web sites all got more regular visits from me.  I spent more time looking at my RSS feeds.  None of these captured my attention like the NY Times used to.  In fact, I think I have a better sense for the news without the NY Times.  My newspaper route changed.  Before I went to the NY Times, and ran out of time before I went anywhere else.  Now I take in a number of sources – sometimes including the NY Times, and sometimes not.  I also spent more time with one of my other favorite publications, The Economist.  When it comes to thoughtful essays it is hard to beat the Economist.  I can never get all of the way through one issue before the next one hits – so more time with this publication is a good thing for me.

So to sum it up, I can absolutely live without the NY Times.  So here is My New Newspaper Route:

  • Scan the headlines at Reuters and AP for headlines – only rarely do I read beyond the first paragraph
  • Scan The Guardian, and sometimes the Washington Post – again for headlines
  • Scan Al Jazeera English and maybe read something
  • Go to my RSS feeds and read a few things
  • Go to The Economist and read a few things – every few days
  • Go to the NY Times and read the columns – every few days; also I have returned to buying the NY Times Sunday edition in printed form at the store and reading it all week – like I used to 5 years ago.

It is interesting to note that my perception of the NY Times paywall impacted my behavior more than the reality.  I was never actually able to hit my 20 article limit.  One time I got the warning that I only had 5 left and I tried like crazy to get it to stop me at 20 and could not.  Maybe it is because I have multiple machines, stopped signing into the web page (as part of my experiment), or who knows what.  Either way, the paywall never actually stopped me from reading, I stopped me from reading.

After all of this, today I signed up for the full digital subscription.  Like I said, I really value the NY Times and I want them to be successful and according the the NY Times, over 100,000 new digital subscribers have signed up.  The special deal gives me full access for a month for 99 cents.  So I am not helping them very much!  After that it goes to $35 per month.  I don’t know how long I will last at over $400 per year unless my paper route changes back to the NY Times at the top of the list and I stop getting all of my news from those other places.

Post 272

Well it has been a year and this is my 272nd post.  I set out to write a blog entry every day and even though I came up a few short, I have enjoyed organizing my thoughts and working on my writing in 2010.  

Thinking about why I do what I do, or what I plan to do in the future is unavoidable (for me anyway) as the calendar changes to a new year.  The blog posts I wrote this year were adequate notes to myself about what I was thinking at the time, and the fact that 4,000 other people found my posts interesting enough to read is flattering.  

So what to do in 2011?  I have no plans to become a journalist, so I am not looking for a scoop or to break a story.  I do think I could put more effort into some bigger writing pieces that further organize my thinking into actual arguments.  So in the weeks ahead I am going to pick a few main themes and start to develop them into longer essays that argue a particular point.

Here are some possible subjects based on the number of entries I made this year organized into broad categories:

Tech Marketing (113 entries):  I write a lot about this because my company helps large tech companies with sales and marketing.  I think the changing role of the salesperson is worth spending time thinking about with Google and Facebook on one end of the spectrum because they really have no salespeople, and Salesforce.com on the other end spending 50% of revenue on salespeople.  I don't know how this is going to work out but it sure will be interesting to watch.

New Media (51 entries):  My second most written about topic is new media.  To me New Media is the decline of the newspaper, publishing, and TV we grew up with and the rise of blogging, micro blogging, social media, and streaming media over the Internet.  We live in a very interesting time and the creative destruction of this sector is one of the things that makes it so interesting.

Politics (47 entries):  Next in line is politics - mostly in the US, but invariably overlapping with the rise of China as a world power.  The big question of course is whether or not the US will stay on top and how many wars will we start as we struggle with our identity.

Economics (44 entries): Finally economics.   In the world I want to live in, those that create the most value get the most rewards.  It does not take long to see that right now getting rewarded is often disconnected from value creation.  Will my pollyannaish view of the world find its way into reality, or will Goldman Sachs continue to gobble up everything for themselves?

There is one other subject that I find very interesting and that weaves throughout all of this: demographics.  We often define people in groups and evaluate the relationships between the groups based on our understanding of the average within that group.  This tendency prevents us from seeing the real picture.  The growth rate of a nation's GDP or even the GDP per capita does not tell us very much.  The unemployment rate in the US is around 10% -- but some sectors cannot find enough workers and others have 25% unemployment.  If you are interested in this subject, read this from Foreign Affairs.  Sure there are well over a billion people in China, but half of them are subsistence farmers who do not participate in the economy.  

I am looking forward to digging in on these topics during 2011.  As always, your comments and thoughts are appreciated.

Birds of a Feather

In recent posts here and here I have proposed that Facebook, Google, and Groupon are advertising companies because their clients pay them for advertising.  I argued that they use the Internet and technology to do what they do, but that calling a company an Internet company is soon to seem very old fashioned.  Would you call General Electric an electricity company?  Would you call the New York Times a printing press company or an Internet company, or a news company? (I think news because they still do have subscribers that buy the paper, but advertising is right in there too.)

Where does Twitter fit in?  Right now they don't seem to be getting paid for anything.  It is likely that their monetization scheme will be advertising.  Whatever they pick, I am sticking with my assertion that companies serve the people that pay them.  Before long Twitter will be an advertising company too.  

Here is a post from some time about about Third Party Payers.  True, there are many industries with third party payment systems and most of them are broken.  Companies would be smart to recognize that they serve their true masters -- those that pay the bills.

Facebook is Advertising for You

My daughter turned 13 last week and wants a Facebook page.  So we were talking about it and had a very interesting conversation.  In the end I agreed that she could have a Facebook page as long as she remembered this:


  • Facebook makes money by selling your information to others
  • People will form impressions of you by the way you present yourself on Facebook
  • Once your information is on Facebook you can never take it back


It was an interesting conversation and as with many interesting conversations I came away with some realizations including the fact that a young person probably cannot opt out of Facebook.  By the time she gets to college, the admissions people will be looking at all applicants in the context of their Facebook presence. Without one an applicant could be at a disadvantage.

So my final wrap up was the idea that Facebook is an advertisement to the world of you.  Use it to your advantage.

While you are thinking about Facebook. You might want to check out the 60 minutes piece from last week.  You may want to pick a different segment on the CBS site -- but after looking at a few of them, it is hard to find one that shows the whole Zuckerberg segment.

ShowNotes is Live in time for LeWeb

Today we are launching our new web site to help technology people follow events from a distance.  Check it out at www.shownotes.co.  

There is so much content flowing out of leading technology events that following over the web has gone from impossible: before the tools were there; to possible: as live blogging, live streaming, and Twitter gained momentum; and back to impossible again: because the volume of content is overwhelming.

Shownotes.co is our attempt to answer this challenge.  We are going to do our best to help people watch LeWeb in Paris -- starting tomorrow.  The organizers have live video streams of both stages, and there are dozens of people blogging and writing about the event as it happens.  

Check it out and let me know what you think.

Borker is a Bad Guy - Is This News?

The mainstream media, lead by the venerable brand of the New York Times, and new media are all abuzz about a bad person on the Internet.  There have always been bad people on the Internet, and Borker is hardly the worst.  There are bad people in the offline world too.  This is not news.

The most disappointing thing in all of this is that the editor at the NY Times did not do what an editor should have done and said:

If you only have one person to site, it is not fair to draw the generalization that Google's search results can be gamed by bad people inflaming customers with their bad behavior.


You cannot do a story about Google if you do not have a response from Google.  The whole article is about Google.

I hope the next time the New York Times gets a story like this the editor stops it and tells the reporter to go get a job in the tabloids.

I have not put links in this story on purpose.  If you have somehow missed this whole episode, consider yourself lucky.

Which Publisher to Support? Consider Wikipedia

There are many things we have to be thankful for today.  If I were running a print magazine, I would be particularly thankful for my loyal subscribers.  People who actually pay for printed magazines are a rare breed, have to be extremely expensive to acquire, and taking good care of them must be a high priority for publishers.

However, there is some evidence that the industry has adopted some "best practices" that drive away subscribers.

I subscribe to three magazines.  All three of them regularly send me notices that my subscriptions are about to expire.  National Geographic is the only one that indicates when my subscription actually expires.  This is a good idea and as a result, I have had uninterrupted delivery of National Geographic for over 10 years.

Sailing World and the Harvard Business Review make no mention of the expiration date of my subscription.  So I don't renew until I notice that I have not been getting the magazine.  If I never notice then I am a customer lost forever.

Jimmy Wales has been making an appeal to all of us to make donations to his foundation that runs Wikipedia.  This annual fund drive, presumably copied from public radio, must work for him.  I give to public radio but before now I have never given to Wikipedia.  I use Wikipedia at least as much as public radio.  

So this Thanksgiving I am going to send my money to Jimmy Wales.  I may not notice if my mailbox has fewer magazines in it, but I would certainly notice if I could not go to Wikipedia any more.  If you agree, here is the link to the Wikimedia giving page.


Ten Secrets to Keep From Google or Facebook

I am a big believer in Transparency.  So big in fact, that we have developed our own definition at CSG:  "We tell the other party everything we would want to know if we were them."  The other party we refer to could be employees, customers, partners, and vendors.  There are some people however that don't gain admittance to the "other party" group.  Certainly competitors would not obtain this status.  In fact, we are quite careful not to expose information about our company to competitors.

Both Mark Zuckerberg and Eric Schmidt have declared that the only people not interested in transparency are those with some bad behavior to hide.   This is preposterous.  Here are the first 10 things I can think of that I would not want Facebook or Google to know about me with the reasons:

  1. Anything that would aid someone trying to steal my identity:  Surely the Social Security number is top on this list, but also credit card numbers, passport number, date and place of birth, mothers maiden name, drivers license number, bank account numbers.  Identity theft is big business and very harmful to its victims.  I think anything on my business card is fair game.
  2. Anything that would aid other criminal behavior with me as the victim:  The number one thing here is location.  There is a very real threat of burglary and even peaserobme.com has stopped contributing to the problem.  In many countries kidnapping is a threat.  So I don't want Google or Facebook to know where I am, what I am doing, my travel dates, or information about assets people may want to steal (VIN number on my car...).
  3. Anything that would aid criminal behavior with my friends as victims:  Location is big here too.  If I indicate my location and who I am with -- I also indicate their location.  Being male and 200 pounds, I really don't worry that much about being attacked.  But in most parts of our country it is not advisable for a female to walk to her car alone at night.  I would not want to do anything that would broadcast such a walk to persons with criminal intentions.  Many tech savvy women around the world do not participate in location based services in real time -- for this very reason.  (they make a habit of checking in on FourSquare well after they have already left)
  4. Anything I don't Want the Government to Know:  Our country was built on a deep suspicion of the government and a belief in the right to privacy.  I do not have to have illegal or immoral intent to want privacy from my government.
  5. Anything about sensitive business relationships:  Managing relationships is hard work and there are many opportunities for misunderstandings.  I would not want my performance reviews, my salary, or the terms and conditions of other business dealings I have with my employer shared on the internet.  Facebook hires people from Google every day -- but is not posting on Facebook who they are pursuing or what they are offering to pay. 
  6. Future business deals:  In business we often engage in conversations about potential future relationships.  When interviewing candidates for a job, we talk to more than one person.  When hiring a new vendor, we talk to more than one.  When engaging with partners or pursuing new customers we are constantly in conversations in parallel.  The content of those conversations, or even who the parties are, should not be shared with Facebook or Google.  There is nothing unethical about interviewing for a job or requesting a salary of a certain amount.  
  7. Intellectual Property or Business Know How:  Google does not share its page ranking algorithm, or the innovations it has developed in running large datacenters.  Facebook does not share how it extracts from the Facebook stream the information it sells to advertisers. 
  8. My Deepest Fears:  If I wake up in the middle of the night with a pain in my abdomen and I start doing searches about cancer -- I don't want Google or Facebook to know.  Particularly when in the morning it turns out to be indigestion.
  9. My Biggest Conflicts:  If I get sideways with my best friend or my spouse, I want time to work it out before the whole world knows.
  10. My Dreams: Talking pie in the sky with my friends is great fun.  Is there something evil in wanting to keep my dreams close to my vest?  I may want to climb Mt. Everest, bring education to Afghanistan, or start a company that makes a nickel every time someone clicks on something, and not wanting to broadcast it indicates nothing unsavory.

There are many people who proclaim that the march to transparency is inevitable and that we should not resist.  Some even proclaim to live their own lives in public.  I suspect neither those people, or Eric Schmidt, or Mark Zuckerberg would have a very different list than this.  

Google Reads Your Email, and Facebook is Jealous

Gmail is free – provided you don’t assign any cost to Google reading your email.  It is a simple case of risk and reward.  Gmail users have accepted this trade off because the utility (reward) of the service eclipses the perception of the risks associated with the lack of security.  Facebook aspires to be the owner of identity management for the purpose of selling personal information to marketers and cannot imagine being left out of the email reading business.  So this week Facebook will announce their own free email service.

It will be interesting to see how long users accept this lack of security.  Clearly Google crossed the line earlier this year when they pushed Buzz too close to gmail and got big blowback – so users are not completely ambivalent about security.  There have been a few cases (This American Life; Gizmodo) where federal officials have pursued people because of posts on Facebook.  A few more of these and law abiding citizens could start to fear Facebook, Google and other free/unsecure services.

Yes  it is legal for Google and Facebook to read your email because of the agreement you accept when signing up.  Of course no one reads those agreements, and most people know that their employers can legally read their email too – so adding Google or Facebook probably doesn’t really register.  If there is a tipping point on the horizon where security becomes as big or bigger than convenience, what will the users do? 

Last week I was at Mark Anderson’s Fire Global conference in Seattle where Steven Sprague (Wave Systems) proposed this idea:  “What if I could encrypt my data before sending it to Facebook and only my friends could decrypt it.”  Could this be the next Facebook:  a system that would manage connections and encryption keys?  There would have to be a different monetization model, and it is highly unlikely that Facebook itself would go this route.  Maybe someone is out there right now building such a system.

On the email front, someone could easily emerge as the secure provider.  ISPs offer email service along with their bandwidth subscriptions, so they would be in prime position to play up the security angle.  AOL is a trusted brand and their un-hipness may even be an asset.  Apple could capitalize with its mobileme service. And last but not least is Microsoft.  Sure the Hotmail people are reading your mail, but the new Office365 paid service could be better positioned than any of the others to take advantage of this shift.

This will be an interesting one to watch.


LATER (11/14):  Just noticed that AOL launched an email revamp today.  Read about it on ZDnet here.  I don't see any mention of security, so it does not look like they are playing up the angle I thought.


NY Times One Liners

There are just too many good one line quotes in the New York Times today.  Here are my favorites with links to the articles:

Dowd:  "W. never sweated the small stuff. Unfortunately, he didn’t much sweat the big stuff either." Article.

Friedman: "we won the lottery five times in a row — and that’s just the attempts we know about. " Article.

Rich:  "It means that Obama can make a comeback, but only if he figures out what he has to come back from and where he has to go." Article.

Kristof: "From 1980 to 2005, more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent." Article.

Lohr:  "I.B.M. and Apple can be viewed as the yin and the yang of high-tech innovation, as two companies with more in common than is generally understood."  Article.

Moss:  "And Dairy Management, which has made cheese its cause, is not a private business consultant. It is a marketing creation of the United States Department of Agriculture..."  Article

Happy reading.

Finding the Time

Since starting this blog I have stopped using time constraints as an excuse.  Reinforcing the fact that I have control over my time is one of the benefits of writing regularly for fun.  Clearly this activity is not essential -- so if I have time to write on my blog every day, I must have time for a lot of other things.

This weekend I started reading Clay Shirky's Cognitive Surplus.  Right in the beginning he sets up a very interesting contrast:  Volunteers editing Wikipedia vs watching TV.  Shirky estimates that the cumulative time spent on Wikipedia writing/editing is something like 100 million hours of human effort.  Say what you will about Wikipedia, but I find it quite useful.  I would trade 100 million hours of everyone's TV watching time to get a Wikipedia.  

It turns out that Americans watch about 100 million hours of TV commercials -- every weekend.  Can you believe that?  We could create something as valuable as Wikipedia -- every weekend -- just by not watching the commercials on TV!