Friday, April 4, 2014

The next step, another clue about TWIT's future

The house that Leo built may still stand but its foundation continues to erode.  An exodus of hosts,  ever increasing ads and unstable schedule all chip away at it.  Then there's the shameless self-promotion of swag but that much at least can be excused.

After all, what red-blooded tech geek wouldn't want a genuine, limited edition, TWIT branded T-shirt, Leo Bobble head or spoon cup.

Spoon cup?? 

Don't ask...

Hey, promotion is excusable even necessary, building a network around it, however,  is not.

Unless you're Home Shopping Network or QVC that is...

If you're not charging a subscription fee you're going to have ads unless you enjoy podcasting in a vacuum.  Somebody's got to pay the bills after all and a few seconds of sales pitch seem a fair trade for good content that's otherwise free.

Laporte has been adamant in the past that ads on TWIT would always be relevant to the network's tech focus.  Unfortunately, history has shown that assertion to ring increasingly hollow. 

Remember   They're an online jewelry retailer that had thousands of techies scratching their heads when they showed up as an advertiser on TWIT around Valentine's day 2011. From This Week in Tech to NFSW it was painful to watch hosts (including Laporte) try to make the topic of tennis bracelets  interesting to Iphone jail breakers.

Nobody would argue that, and proXPN didn't live up to Laporte's carefully curated advertising policy.  It was a mutually beneficial relationship that put willing eyes on relevant products. 

It seems that policy has been increasingly under assault, however,  as the network moves away from its traditional fan base.  Take a look at the newest members of the TWIT advertiser parade for proof...

ZipRecruiter, an online job posting service.  Great for stuffing job seeker's spam email boxes...

NatureBox, which for only $20 a month gets you into the fruit and nut club. 

Personal Capital, which might as well be Charles Schwab or any other investment firm with an online presence (meaning everybody)

Prosper, which is peer to peer lending or in other words the online equivalent to a hard money lender (otherwise known as a loan shark)

To be fair, it's just a few minutes annoyance out of otherwise good content except that what constitutes good content is also coming into question.

I'm not talking about Ham Nation or Floss Weekly.  Their relevant albeit narrow fan base is in sync with TWIT's original vision.

But what about a show about marketing?  

Advertisers are bad enough but a show about advertising?  


Coming soon to an Itunes playlist near you is TWIT's newest podcast...

The pitch is this...

" Marketing Mavericks covers the intersection of marketing and tech. Each week, Tonya Hall interviews top marketing professionals to discuss case studies, communication strategies, and brand insights on social media, trends, and analytics."

Read that again, especially the part about interviewing "top marketing professionals."   Overflowing spam folders, popup ads and pre-rolls on Youtube videos all lead back to them.  The very antithesis of the TWIT mantra now finds a loving embrace.

One could hope that the TWIT chat rooms would rail against such an assault on their sensibilities but ever present (and at times draconian) moderators would quickly dismiss detractors.
So much for feedback driven content...

If there were any justice in the world such programming would find a short lifespan on the network but don't count on it.

It's far more likely that as TWIT content becomes a more advertiser friendly shade of beige, shows like Marketing Mavericks will become the norm.   Expand your audience and expand your reach.  The content becomes diluted but fortunes will rise.

At least that's the hope...

TWIT still has some good content but it's increasingly becoming more like a Netflix subscription.  That  contradicts  Laporte's stated wish for more live viewership of TWIT.   Fans of specific shows  are migrating to downloads over live broadcasts while devotees of former hosts leave the network entirely. 

Numbers don't lie and while TWIT stalwarts like This Week in Tech and Security now remain in the top 10 Tech podcasts on ITunes, new shows like The revamped Tech News Today and Tech News 2Nite are nowhere to be found.

All this kind of flies in the face of the new 24/7 news mantra doesn't it?  

Not to worry, everybody just accepts irrelevant content as a fact of life these days...

After all, look how well it's worked for Facebook!  Except that  even Facebook has seen a decline in new eyeballs as its focus on ad revenue has increasingly invaded the privacy of its user base.  When the novelty wore off they began to trade on their users instead of their users content.   A strategy that's led them to a  bizarre move to Virtual Reality.

That's left onlookers scratching their heads...hmm...sound familiar?

Facebook is all about the money and its reputation not to mention its fortunes have increasingly suffered because of it. 

There's a lesson in there somewhere...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Facebook buys Oculus VR, not as left-field as you think

Originally published on Kupeesh!

By now you've heard the big news...

Facebook has bought Oculus VR, the company at the forefront of virtual reality products aimed at the consumer and de facto mascot for the power of crowd sourcing.

The real question is, what does VR have to do with social media?  Does Mark Zuckerberg expect us all to start running around with VR headsets poking fingers at the empty air screaming "Like!" and "Friend!"
Zuckerberg has an answer...

"... we're going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face -- just by putting on goggles in your home."

Zuckerberg the futurist or maybe it's more like Zuckerberg coming to the realization that Facebook as a service is losing relevance. 

Enter Facebook, the brand.  Remember the failed HTC First?  It was the short-lived Smartphone that forced users into the Facebook ecosystem whether they wanted it or not.  It was the first indication that the Facebook bandwagon was losing a wheel.

As early as October of last year the company warned advertisers that "organic reach" will eventually be inconsequential.  "Organic reach," by the way,  is the number of Facebook page views that don't come from your "Fans" or "Friends" but rather from sources like search engines and shared links outside of the service.

That means advertisers have to work harder to attract eyeballs as veteran users become increasingly jaded against ads they have no interest in.  Not good news for a free service that depends on ad revenue.

There's little doubt that many of Zuckerberg's visions will come to pass but whether they're all Facebook properties remains to be seen.  It's far more likely that this move is meant to elevate Facebook the brand above Facebook the service. 

Much like Google's acquisition of Motorola Mobility in 2011 it's less about owning a space than creating a halo effect around the brand.    In Google's case, they didn't need to dominate the Android device market to dictate what it looked like.  Mission accomplished and now Motorola Mobility is on its way to Lenovo sans a few patents safely kept in Google's breast pocket.

We're entering what could be called the "Post-services" era.  It's more about the halo around a brand than the products themselves.  History is on Zuckerberg's side.  Nobody thinks of Google as just a search engine anymore and Zuckerberg is betting that Facebook can evolve beyond social media. 

Much to the dismay (or the delight) of IP attorneys everywhere we may soon view online Icons like Facebook, Google and Twitter the same way we look at Ford, Chevy and Toyota.   You'll be picking brand not product.

But fear not social media addicts.  Facebook the service will always remain a place to jeopardize future job prospects by posting embarrassing videos of yourself.