Facebook and Politics do mix?


The New York Times  reports that ABC and Facebook have developed a plan to cover the US Presidential campaign debates that come just before the New Hampshire primaries.    The January 5 event promises to allow Facebookers to participate very actively in the events, most notably interacting directly with reporters covering the candidates.

Despite some skepticism that Facebook users care much about politics, clearly this is another minor milestone in social networking and the effect of the online world …on the offline world.

Brightcove darkens. More companies to follow.


Update:   Here’s the word from Brightcove 

Brightcove, a formerly “promising” video distribution startup has given up it’s lackluster battle to compete with YouTube in consumer video, though *it will remain open as a distribution point for high quality video.    (High quality video?  Isn’t that an oxymoron in modern media parlance?).

ReadWriteWeb has an unsatisfactory summary of this event, failing to note that the key challenge for anything related to online video is this:   Video-related advertising doesn’t work.    More importantly it’s not clear it will *ever* work.   I’ve always been skeptical of how video would monetize, and still think YouTube may never justify it’s capitalization except as one more brick in Google’s massive wall of online dominance.

In fact it’s time to consider this interesting possibility – pay per click advertising may be a “one hit wonder”.     I’m not prepared to make this case yet but it’s not really clear that online advertising techniques outside of PPC are working well for advertisers, and even PPC is showing signs of reaching some cost limits in term of advertiser ROI.     Success for advertising agencies (Google is number one, with half the online ad take)  should not be confused with success of the advertising itself.    Clearly PPC is working for many, but part of what is happening is that offline advertising is finally recognized for what it is, which is an “emperor without any clothes”.      I’d argue that as a general rule (ie more than 50% of the time) offline advertising campaigns have negative ROI.    Watching in the Travel industry how negative ROI is spun by ad salesfolks as positive ROI and how failure is analyzed as “success” has been a real eye opener, and I think these mathematical misperceptions are pervasive in the industry. 

Another powerful force is the impact of “free” social network marketing.  Word of mouth has always trumped paid advertising, and social networking is ushering in a new era where consumers not only control what they buy, they are working to control the ads they are exposed to and are talking a lot about products independently and without advertising intervention.    Facebook’s recent “beacon” fiasco tried to spin this backwards and has had very questionable results.

Pay per click has brought much better ROI measurement to mom and pops as well as large companies whose agencies are having increasing difficulty spinning failed “branding” campaigns as a big success.  

Brightcove is not an exception: look for more failures in the video space and elsewhere as the 2.0 bubble slowly deflates into a balance with rational business practices.

Digital TV is coming sooner than you think ? Do you care?


February 2009 is the date for the mandatory transition to digital TV.   Here is a great website to answer a lot of questions folks may have about this major transition in broadcasting and hardware technologies.

I’m still undecided about whether this will be a bang or a whimper.   Marketing efforts, Cable and Satellite have made many households “digital already” so by 2009 there may not be enough old TVs to matter much – they can install the digital to analog boxes and will be off to the races.

Facebook and Politics do mix.


Matt Ingram’s asking about Facebook and politics, noting that CNET thinks they don’t mix all that well. 

They do mix.  Superficiality, negativity, whimsy, and personalities are all key components of social networks and of the American political experience.    The best online strategies may actually win these races, especially in the wide open Republican nomination.   I predict Romney will win that in some part thanks to his excellent family blogging efforts.   Online campaign marketing will certainly contribute to the win in ways disproportionate to their cost and to other media efforts.

 More politics here at President Picker

Propeller vs Mixx vs Digg vs?


Center Networks is reviewing yet another DiggEsque application called, in what has got to be one of the most questionable rebranding efforts of the year:  Propeller  .  Propeller started life as the Netscape ranking site that was very similar to Digg and designed to compete with it.    That effort having failed, it appears Propeller is an attempt to rebrand things such that they can take another shot at Digg.

I’m having a lot of trouble understanding “the point” in what seem like similar approaches to the same challenge, which is getting people to *participate* very actively in story selection and commentary.     Rather than “we’ll build a site and they’ll come to it” approach I want to see dramatic improvements to portable identities.   MyBlogLog is the closest thing to what I think is the clear  “right answer” here.  Basically, what I want is for every online person to have an identity.  I want to see that identity when they visit my websites and I want to see that identity when I am visiting a site they’ve also visited recently (or maybe … visited ever).   One interesting extension that might come out of this would be a superior “vote by your feet” ranking system where pages at which many people spent a lot of time would have more authority, and when this was combined with tags and comments by the visitors you’d have a fairly robust system for ranking sites.

Life Sentence: Immortality


Ray Kurzweil and Peter Thiel are not crackpots.  

Kurzweil, among other things, was a major pioneer in speech recognition software and electronic musical instruments, from which he made a fortune.   Kurzweil still works in the music field on SONY projects, but his passion is … immortality, and he’s working hard towards that end.

Thiel has made a king’s fortune in online projects like EBAY and PayPal, but he’s got more innovative things up his sleeve.   Like Kurzweil, Theil’s looking to help fund the holy grail of humanity – immortality.

Even a few decades ago reasonable people would have considered much of the talk about a technological singularity and massive superintelligent computers to be fanciful at best and insanity at worst, but the inexorable march of technology is bringing us to within about a decade – probably two at the most – of human quality artificial intelligence.   The processing power of the human brain will be reached soon, and unless there is something more to our human intellect than one can reasonably assume we are going to be chatting intelligently with our computers fairly soon.  After that milestone is reached it is likely that it won’t be long before “recursive self improvement” by these intelligent computers will create artificial intelligences far superior to our current human intellects.  Not to worry though, because it also appears likely that improvements in medicine, brain research, and nanotechnology will allow us to enhance our bodies and intellects such that we’ll live much longer and be much smarter.

Kurzweil, in the book “The Singularity is Near”, argues that the historical exponential growth of technology shows no signs of slowing down – in fact he’s convinced the growth is speeding up.   At the current rates of increase we’ll see the same improvements over the next decades that we have seen in the past hundred years.  For Kurzweil these improvements will lead to a utopian future of no poverty, massively improved intellects, and eventually immortality as we download our brains into machines.

Sounds cool to me Ray, I’m IN!

Conde Nast on Kurzweil

More at kurzweilai.net

Mixx versus Digg?


During weekends and holidays my favorite news site, TechMeme, gets wilder than usual because I think there are fewer news outlets posting stories and even the big tech blogs dry up on the weekend.   Even more wild are holidays, which may explain the odd top story today at TechMeme today about MIXX versus DIGG.

Mike over at TechCrunch is reporting that a lot of Digg users are heading over to the new social story tagging site called Mixx.     He notes that Digg users have become increasingly frustrated with the Digg communities and mini-scandals.   A quick Alexa take on Mixx did not really seem to support the idea that MIXX poses much threat right now to DIGG, though since MIXX is still in beta it’s possible MIXX is going to be a contender when it’s known to more people.  Mixx appears to have 150k-250k daily visits (per my rough Alexa extrapolation from approx 35k Alexa rank).     Given the up and down traffic pattern at MIXX though it’s not clear it’s “taking off”, rather than it’s setting in as one of the many DIGG “also rans” that have little chance of even catching the big DIGG.