January NAMA Luncheon – The Future of Mobile Apps

I attended the January NAMA luncheon this past week and got the chance to hear Tim Moses, CEO of Sitemason, a web development and CMS-provider here in town, give a talk on the future of mobile app development.

He set up the talk by giving the status of the mobile app landscape: Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Android pretty much dominant the market while Blackberry users only check email. In other words, if you’re a marketer, you’re going to want to focus your efforts on those two markets.

But one of the most interesting things I think he did was to pull a quote from Matt Cutt’s blog, supposedly penned in 2008, but published January 3rd, 2011:

“More people will realize the inevitable truth that Bill Gates saw years ago and that Apple has chased since the introduction of the ROKR: of all the devices in your pocket, the only one you’re not willing to give up is your phone. Therefore, all personal gadgets will eventually be subsumed by your phone. Camera? Already part of your phone. Pen and notebook? Quite close. Video camera? Almost there, give it a couple more years. Car keys, wallet? It will come. In five years, your phone will have fingerprint authentication and be able to start your car or pay for groceries with contactless/RFID chips. It’s all coming. In 10 years you’ll use your phone to authenticate yourself at the doctor, authenticate prescriptions, and store your personal health history, not to mention all your desktop preferences, bookmarks, browser add-ons, and keys to which music you have permission to stream or download from the cloud.” I call this TRUE. Most people now agree that your phone is a personal computer in your pocket. Back in 2008, not everyone realized this.

I think that was (if true) a great prediction. Moses also followed that up with a stat that the most frequently used camera to upload photos to Flickr is the iPhone.

It’s amazing how we take all of this granted now. “People use an internet-enabled device that is with them at all times more often than their $1,000 (with lenses) Canon Rebel? Duh!”

Moses also shared a great anecdote of how his 7-year-old son asked to use his phone the other day because he lost something under the couch. It’s perhaps unsurprising that phones have become our cameras, our computers, our internet connections and, yes, our flashlights.

The two trends I keep hearing more and more about, as far as smart phones go, are the implications for e-commerce and augmented reality (AR). I hear less about accessing and managing personal medical records, but those implications are interesting as well.

Early morning reading…


The Evolution of Blogging

Over at GigaOm, Om Malik argues for an evolution of blogging toward real-time, social publishing. Basically, context matters now more than ever after the rise of real-time mass messaging services such as Twitter, Facebook’s News Feed, Friendfeed, and the like. This explosion of short snippets of information and data points makes context paramount.

The Pushbutton Web: Realtime Becomes Real

Anil Dash describes a new set of technologies he dubs the “Pushbutton Web,” which he says will push online publishing ever further into realtime communication. He writes for a technical audience, but it’s certainly apropos in the wake of Facebook’s purchase of Friendfeed. I say that because I’ve had quite a few friends ask me in the last few days why Facebook buying friendfeed matters (many of whom had never heard of friendfeed before the news hit). My answer is that the Web values immediacy. Facebook, which has always been more ‘turn-based,’ can better compete with Twitter with friendfeed’s technology (not to mention their development team, which includes a bunch of ex-Googlers).


John Borthwick, CEO of a company called betaworks, describes the emerging Web as a stream, and offers some great analogies to the uninitiated for understanding what’s happening online.

Mine Magazine “Computer Error” the Least of its Problems

Time Inc. recently launched a new magazine/online initiative called “Mine,” allowing users to select up to five magazines from eight available titles from which the company would create a custom magazine tailored to the user’s interests – hence the title “Mine.” Combining the targeting of online with the tactile experience of print, the publication offers a more targeted audience, and thus a more attractive value proposition, to potential advertisers.

In a twist of irony, however, due to a computer error many trial testers of the service received copies of the magazine that combined stories from magazines which the recipients did not select, including yours truly. Check it (Right-click and select “View Image” for a larger version):

Mine Magazine E-mail

Mine Magazine – an assessment
Service to the reader: C+
Value to the advertiser: B-
Short term business move: A
Long term business move: B

Computer error not withstanding, I applaud Time, at the very least, for its efforts. Here’s my shot at a fair assessment of the publication.

Service to the Reader: C+

Glancing through the first issue, and ignoring the fact that I received articles from Golf, Sports Illustrated and InStyle, the articles from Travel+Leisure and Time were, on the whole, interesting to me. Score one for Mine.

On the other hand, a trend article on solar panels in America followed a profile of Ogyen Trinley Dorje, a second to the Dalai Lama. Both interested me, but they lacked any cohesiveness. Surely given the archive of content at all of these titles, it wouldn’t be impossible to pull together articles that felt less disjointed.

Finally, what really brings down the score, is the following spread:

10 Tips To Get Your Kids Moving

Keep my kids moving? I entered in my birthday when I signed up – do they really think a 25-year-old has a 12-year-old kid?

A spread like this undermines the idea that is “my” magazine, and merely proves how far targeting, even in print, has to go.

Value to the advertiser: B-

In the first edition of Mine, Lexus sponsored the publication exclusively. Ostensibly, this provided a great deal of brand exposure for the luxury line, as well as an understanding of the demographics and interests of the audience in question. For that, Mine achieves good marks.

Furthermore, if nothing else, Lexus delivered me an ad that I not only noticed, but passed around to my friends to look at:

Beyond that, however, I’m skeptical of the return on investment for Lexus. Bottom line: I’m not in the market for a car, and when I am, I’ll almost certainly never buy a Lexus. Period. In that sense, when you hold up the advertising model to a new media standard, it’s efficient. A wasted impression.

Admittedly, my background is on the editorial side of the wall, so I’ll concede I’m probably harsh on the advertising side. I mean, we are sitting here talking about Lexus, so that can’t hurt…

Short term business move: A

Take existing content, repackage it and then feed it back to the consumer with a new label. Kind of like Southern Living cookbooks, only this time around it carries a high-profile sponsor. Not a bad move at all.

Long term business move: B

This isn’t the next big thing. But if Time can learn something from this experiment, it’ll help it to move from repackaging old assets to creating new ones for a new medium. And again, we’re sitting here talking about it, so that doesn’t hurt.

One thing I’ve noticed is the temptation to compare Mine magazine to the customization offered online. That’s misguided. Mine magazine is a magazine printed on ink and paper. It can’t compare with online, and I didn’t think it was trying to.

Your thoughts?

Flickr the Platform

A few months ago I received a note from Flickr user Schmap, a publisher of online travel guides. Its managing editor, Emma J. Williams, wanted to know if she could publish a photograph I took at the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, Germany a few summers ago in Schmap’s online travel guide to Berlin.

I won’t get paid, she forewarned me, but it was free publicity for my photo. The choice, of course, was totally up to me.

How cool is that?

An Entire Industry in Need of Disrupting…

Over this Thanksgiving break I’ve given some thought to an industry’s business model that is based on a monopoly that no longer exists. Like real estate agents who enjoyed premiere access to listings, foreclosures and a mountain of sales data that the average consumer couldn’t easily study, the gatekeepers of this industry have leveraged their 20th century model to the breaking point. I, as a consumer, am ready for the revolution.

I’m talking, of course, about wedding photography.

The revolution will be digitized

Excuse the melodrama…it’s Monday morning.

Here’s the problem. Our wedding photographer took hundreds and hundreds of pictures – maybe even a thousand. We paid her an enormous amount of money (all things are relative, I know, but I’m a pretty frugal guy). And now we have five photographs which we’ll frame for display in different parts of our house, plus a coffee table-sized book she’ll lay out for us that features another couple dozen of our photos. The rest, the vast majority of the photographs she took, will sit on a hard drive somewhere in a closet until enough years have passed that she feels comfortable enough to erase them.

What an incredible inefficiency!

No one else will want copies of those photographs other than my wife and I (and our mothers of course), but we’re also not going to fork over enough money to cover the cost of printing each and every one of them.

What needs to happen, of course, is that we should receive digital copies of all of our wedding photographs so that we can do with them what we see fit. It’s our special day, and we have 1/100th of the work she did to capture it in our possession.

The business model’s to blame…

To me, this is a great example of the business model getting in the way of the technology. The technology is there, it’s just figuring out how it all shakes out. Personally, I don’t think our wedding photographer should make any less money. I just don’t want to pay her for the production of our photographs in the form of physical photographs. The means of production cost near to zilch. I want to pay her for the expert photography and lay out of our photographs (which she did a tremendous job of, by the way). She’s an incredibly well-trained photographer with a lot of experience. I want to pay her for that, not for printing our photos. Heck, I can do that at Wal-Mart.

What do you think

Are most photographers already upping their initial fee or hourly and offering the photos digitally? Can you normally get these on a CD and I just need to be persistent? Do excuse the Monday morning rant, but hey, don’t even get me started on the videographer…

“What Is LinkedIn?”

Whenever I take a trip out of my “new media” bubble and hang out with old friends from high school, it’s always a humbling experience, for a number of reasons.

One of those is the realization that many of my high school friends (and, by extension, most people in general) don’t care nearly as much about the things I think are really important. Sitting around with a few drinks and some old friends, talks of the recent landmark MySpace litigation did not come up, trying to explain my job as an Online Content Manager ends with a number of polite nods and a change of the subject, and then there’s this…

I had tried to connect with a good friend of mine on LinkedIn a week or so ago, but couldn’t find him. At a friend’s house, I asked him about it.

“What’s LinkedIn?” he said.

What was more interesting was another friend’s quick response.

“It’s like Facebook for resumes.”

More than resumes

Now, in my second friend’s defense, he was quick to add that it’s more about networking than it is about resumes. After having just led a quick tutorial at work for a few of our business development folks and sales people on the value of LinkedIn, I was glad to hear him add that addendum.

In any case, coming home for the holidays can be fun, awkward, surprising, uncomfortable, etc., for any number of reasons. For you “new media” friends of mine, do you have any similar experiences? Do old friends look at you like you have two heads?

What’s the most effective way to organize online?

(I’m targeting this query primarily at my friends involved in the space of social networking, attempting to glean insights ahead of a speech I’m giving on the topic.)

Is it a Facebook group? Is it Twitter? Is it a more targeted approach, like listing something on ThePoint.com? Is it good old fashioned e-mail?

There’s no one size fits all

I realize this. That’s why I’d like to learn what specific ways you’ve tried to organize people online, and how that affected what tool you chose to do so.

Thanks in advance.

What I love about Zillow (And hate about real estate agents and old media)

From an article in the Nashville City Paper by Richard Lawson on the glut of homes on the real estate market, and speaking of a builder who works on both custom and spec homes:

Still, he won’t drop the price to encourage a sale, saying it’s better for property values in the neighborhoods where he builds. Instead, he has been offering buyers’ agents more commission or other concessions if they bring a full-price offer.

My gripe with old media: great tactic by the builder, now what about the consumer?

My gripe with real estate agents: Jarvis over at BuzzMachine has written a couple of times of “freeconomics” and the new business model of the Web. Having just worked with a real estate agent to buy a home (a professional and hard working one at that) I still have to say that the ability to peruse a plethora of market-specific data on Zillow in the comfort of my home made me immeasurably more comfortable with the purchase.

Their ability to force a consumer to bring a full-price offer rests with the fact that they hold more information than the buyer, an advantage Zillow obliterates.

Where do people find the time?


Growing up with the Internet (my parents got dial up when I was eight or nine years old), I always despised the television, but lacked the historical framework to explain why. Broadcast news and sitcoms were my usual targets, and I would contrast the passive isolation of watching television with the participatory, group nature of the Web.

Clay Shirky offers a persuasive framework for understanding how the Web is changing/has been changing/will continue to change society.