Chautauquas

Blabberings on technology, the web, mobile world, India, books, events, communities and everything else (Chautauqua: An old-time series of popular talks intended to edify and entertain, improve the mind and bring culture and enlightenment to the ears and thoughts of the participants)

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Location: United States

Monday, July 31, 2006

Wagging the long tail: Blogging and marketing

Looking at the long tail from the perspective of blog traffic (aka potential to influence public opinion)

Chris Anderson's long tail got a lot of attention lately! (Read Ed Sim's post and Chris Anderson's post to follow the discussion that Lee Gomes sparked with his WSJ article. Don't miss all the comments). Also, Ajit Jaokar recently wrote about how critical it was to monetize the long tail for a startup to be classified as a web 2.0 startup.

My question is on a tangent. Does the blogosphere really have a significant long tail? Or as the perennial question has always been, how long is the tail (when it comes to the blogosphere in our case). Technorati's State of the Blogosphere reports often talk about the number of blogs created and how frequently they're updated etc. and how many survive. Interesting statistics.

However, what I would like to see is that how many blogs are visited and commented upon fairly regularly? That is, going with the long tail questions, what percentage of the total traffic do the top 10% (or top 1000) of the blogs own and how much do the others own. A lot of people believe (and maybe rightly so) that blogging is only big in the blogosphere which is dominated by a certain number of "A level" bloggers. Any data Mr. Sirfy?

So, my question is that if you're into marketing, can you make enough noise by getting those bloggers in the long tail writing about you? Or do you reach more people by getting the top 100 to pay attention? I'm flipping the long tail question i.e., the long tail as presented by Chris Anderson is about the consumers. This is not the long tail as applied to consumers. This applies to influence. Is the collective influence of the bloggers in the long tail comparable to the influence of the "A level" bloggers? As a company are you going to market yourselves by reaching out to the most influential (the head) or are you going to start with the grassroots and let them write about your product (the tail) of their own volition?

In theory I would like to believe that in the case of the blogosphere, the tail is comparable to the head. After all, web 2.0 is believed to "a great leveller". And we all believe in how powerful the voice of the people is. I would just like to see some statistics. Anyone have any data/answers/stories?

By the way, the cartoon above is from the gaping void. And in the spirit of the question, check out this post showing some videos on blogging by Peter Hirshberg of Technorati. You gotta love them. And Peter, in case you read this, I would love to take a look at the statistics I requested earlier.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Networking social networks: Looking into the future

Social networking, the phenomena that most of us have been talking about is fast approaching a saturation point in terms of its market. What will the future look like for social networking? What are the social networking websites missing? A reminder of Reed's law about Group Forming Networks for those who have forgotten or are unaware - there is much greater utility in connecting group forming networks than mainting individual networks.

An article in Business 2.0 on the introduction of the Korean social networking giant, Cyworld, in the US set me thinking in a couple of different directions. (Yes, I do think sometimes! It's focussing that's hard as the last sentence suggests)Plenty of people have talked about Cyworld (see this and this as examples) and there has been much noise about whether Cyworld will be able to replicate its Korean success in the US market. Everyone has offered their own opinion on why Cyworld will succeed in the US market. However, for now, we will not talk about Cyworld or why it will succeed...for now I want to draw your attention to the following excerpts from the article.

Cyworld is entering the U.S. market at a time of social-networking saturation. MySpace and Facebook are already well entrenched. Hi5, Multiply, TagWorld, and even the much-maligned Friendster are gaining fast. Cyworld has discovered many more waiting in the wings. "Our intelligence shows there are probably 30 launching this year," Streefland says.

A couple of paragraphs later, you'll find this:

The single most important factor in getting people to join is having friends who are already on the network. So when every teenager and 20-something already has a profile on MySpace or Facebook, how many more social networks are they willing to try?

The answer, according to Lee, is more than you might think. Two-thirds of U.S. youths have profiles on multiple networks - but 53 percent would join another if it were compelling enough. "They are playing with identities," Lee says. "They are trying to figure out who they are."

On MySpace, they can be glamorous party creatures. On Facebook, they can be students. And on Cyworld, the bet goes, they can be themselves. "Everyone in our focus groups has a MySpace page," Streefland says, "but it doesn't necessarily satisfy them.

The observation of interest here is "Two-thirds of U.S. youths have profiles on multiple networks - but 53 percent would join another if it were compelling enough"

How many of us had multiple email addresses (at least those in their 20s did) and we ended up thinking that multiple email accounts were a nuisance? Of course maybe many of us keep personal separate from work and maybe even have one for junk etc. Yet, don't we sometimes wish we had one? So, how many of us will not, sooner or later, start thinking that multiple profiles are a nuisance?

Also, don't forget one thing with the email analogy - unlike email, these social networks don't communicate with each other. How irritating would it have been if you couldn't have sent someone with a yahoo email account an email from your google account? If there is something interesting on my myspace profile, wouldn't I would want to share it with my facebook friends? So, as people get spread across these social networks the need to communicate across networks is going to increase. I don't see any of the social networking sites going that way. Instead, it seems they'll be waging the battle for consumer loyalty the way businesses in the past did.

Web 2.0 is about convergence. Think RSS...the reason I like my RSS reader is because I can get all I read at one place. I don't have to go to multiple sites. Why should I have to go to multiple social networking sites?

Also, does anyone remember Reed's law? Here's an excerpt from David P. Reed's paper on the sneaky exponential:

When we combine two networks together so that users of one network can connect seamlessly to users of the other, Metcalfe's Law tells us already that substantial new value is created: (M+N)² = M² +N²+2MN. This bonus term, 2MN, is substantial-up to 100% of the value in the original unconnected networks. Thus there is an enormous incentive to find ways to interconnect networks, since the members of each network can access a much larger set of potential transaction partners. With the GFN law, interconnection is even more powerful, creating many new potential groups that span the two networks: 2M+N = 2M2N. The GFN interconnection bonus percentage itself grows exponentially with the size of the smaller network.

What we see, then, is that there are really at least three categories of value that networks can provide: the linear value of services that are aimed at individual users, the "square" value from facilitating transactions, and exponential value from facilitating group affiliations. What's important is that the dominant value in a typical network tends to shift from one category to another as the scale of the network increases.

For the complete article, click here.

The obvious conclusion then is that very soon there is going to be a need for a service that can connect major social networks.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Major firms market on Myspace

Earlier this week Lily Allen, the myspace diva, got some more attention as she performed live. In the case of Lily Allen what the users were picking up was genuinely her music. It wasn't useless content pushed to the users to try and sell something else. Marketing on Myspace is becoming a big deal. It makes one wonder how long will it take before Myspace becomes like TV where commercials are an eveyrday nuisance. The economist writes:

"MySpace seems to offer a chance for companies to take their marketing into new, potentially more lucrative territory, by becoming, in effect, members of their customers' network of “friends”. A growing number of firms have established their own pages on MySpace, to which users can link. In the process, some are getting into bed with some unlikely partners. Earlier this year, for example, Unilever, a consumer-goods giant, hooked up with Christine Dolce to promote Axe, a deodorant. Ms Dolce, who goes by the alias ForBiddeN, boasts around 900,000 “friends” who link to her MySpace page. Bleached, buxom and with impressive marketing savvy, she is arguably the most successful brand to emerge from MySpace, and has already launched a line of clothing."

It further goes on to say:

The biggest challenge—for MySpace itself, and for the firms that want to use it to promote their wares—is not to alienate potential customers by being overtly commercial. “We need to be engaging with them, not banging them over the head with brandalism that pollutes their space,” says Kevin George of Unilever. But, he says, “when you deliver 18- to 24-year-old guys content they want to engage with, they don't mind if it comes from a brand.” This theory will now be put to the test, as MySpacers' attention is fought over by brands including Procter & Gamble's Old Spice, State Farm insurance, Elexa by Trojan female condoms, and the US Marine Corps.

LinknSurf lets mobile web connect people internet doesn't

I have to recount an interesting experience to all the people interested in the mobile web. I was on LinknSurf (www.linknsurf.com) yesterday (well, I'm on it all the time) and was exchanging messages with another user - a teenager from England - that I met on LinknSurf.

Somewhere in the conversation, I asked her whether she had a myspace profile because I wanted her to connect to LinknSurf on myspace (www.myspace.com/linksurf). However, the response startled me, especially coming from a mobile savvy teen (given then she had downloaded and installed LinknSurf on her phone and is using it actively). She asked me "What is Myspace?". She went on to say that if it was a website she wouldnt know about it because she can't really use the internet too much but she uses her phone all the time! Take a deep breath and repeat the statement in your head ladies and gentlemen...SHE CAN'T REALLY USE THE INTERNET (PC-BASED) BUT SHE USES HER PHONE ALL THE TIME AND SHE LOVES IT.

This maybe an isolated case today...but it's a case that has happened. It's something that I have held as a belief for a long time. Yesterday, however was the first time it happened in a verifiable way on LinknSurf itself. Watch out for more cases like this - I am another living example for one.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

More on text messages after Alan and Tomi's post


Tomi Ahonen wrote recently wrote about text messages being the biggest data application in the world. Here's a testimony to how ubiqitous text messaging has become: Nate Anderson references a survey conucted by british newspaper, The Times, to make the following conclusion:

text messaging has become an essential part of the British mating ritual. More than 50 percent of all 18- to 24- year olds who responded to the survey said that they had used text messages to ask for dates and had engaged in some fairly explicit SMS chat.
While cell phones are certainly popular in the US, they still remain more common in Europe. A survey recently revealed that Brits
have more phones in circulation than people in the country—and they don't even hold the top spot. That honor goes to Italy, which has more phones per capita than any other European country.

Government bans blog sites in India after blasts

It has been exactly two weeks since those atrocious blasts ripped Bombay (Mumbai) apart and brought life to a standstill. However, as I heard someone say on BBC, that if there is one thing that is common in all major cities of the world, it is resilience. Well, much as expected Bombay was returned to its usual pace the very next day. However, like Madrid, London and New York, there will always be some scars left behind.

While the public rose to the occasion and in the wake of the jammed cell phone network several blogging sites helped stranded people in Bombay communicate with each other, while the public showed solidarity and the whole city observed a two-minute silence to commemorate the suffering of its fellow citizens, while the people unilaterally expressed anger against such atrocious terrorist activity, the Government of India decided to block people's right to express.

Lomesh writes "Just finished reading up my Times of India newspaper where an article stuck my eye. After the brutal Mumbai blasts of 7/11 where more than 250 people were killed and hundreds of others were severely injured, the DoT (Department of Telecom) for some good enough reason decided to block famous blogging websites including Blogspot and Typepad."

He further references this and this as proof. The officials claimed that only wanted certain blogs to be blocked (a list believed to be about 22 pages long!!).

The International Herald Tribune finally reported this on the 20th. When will the regimes of the world learn?