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21 posts from April 2005

Re-inventing Inventing

CNET has a intriguing interview by Michael Kanellos with Nathan Myhrvold, formerly of Microsoft and founder of Intellectual Ventures. Nathan talks about how American companies are strangling the invention process by insisting on products. What's interesting is he's trying to provide an alternative economic model for inventors.

Link: Building a new-idea factory - page 2 | Newsmakers | CNET

If you're a very inventive person, what I typically say is, "Look, if you work with us, you'll get some equity in your invention, and then we'll go to license it to people later. Net-net, you'll probably get less than if you were founder of the next Cisco, but it won't take five years of your life either. So probably you'll get a lot less for each one, but you'll have so many more ideas and you'll have your whole life." It's a different kind of a trade-off.

The Future of the News

Over at MediaPost, Gavin O'Malley has a good interview with Neil Budde, the new news director at Yahoo! and founder of Wall St. Journal Online. In an earliest post, I noted that many of us are now looking for editorial filters to help us deal with a deluge of available information. Yahoo seems to be on top of that.

Link: MediaPost: Yahoo Emerges as a News Packager (reg required)

Yahoo! has no reporters, but between 10 and 20 editorial staffers who are responsible for monitoring and repackaging much of the news content that Yahoo!'s automated system brings in.

Another new feature that Budde has great hope for is "My Sources," which allows readers to act as their own editors, tying other news feeds from around the Web into their regular content consumption via RSS. "Online news consumption will continue to evolve in a combination of aggregation and editorial content," Budde said. "We want to give users a compelling new package with all the ready recourses to control their consumption."

Reinventing Rock Radio

Rock radio seems to have reached a tipping point off the side of a cliff as listeners and station owners have begun abandoning it. A few years ago I realized that I had retreated to classic rock and ended up listening to the same 16 songs over and over again. So I started experimenting with other radio stations and trying new things. Pretty soon I was carrying a big CD wallet to and from my car because the on-air (or terrestrial, as it's now called) options were so abysmal.

You can read about this trend at NY Times (reg. required) or MediPost (also) or at Reveries, where Tim Manners linked me to the one Internet radio site that looks interesting to me, The site still has a few holes, but I'm definitely up for something fresh. We have some many more musicians jumping into the business now that we really need someone to provide intelligent editorial direction. I wonder who that will be?

Taking another tack for getting young people involved with radio, Infinity is following Al Gore's lead and opening up the airwaves for viewer submissions. From the Sarah McBride report in the Wall St. Journal (sub required):

Starting May 16, much of the programming on KYCY 1550 AM [San Francisco] will be drawn from podcasters -- small broadcasters whose radio-like shows can be downloaded from the Internet by listeners and played whenever it suits them, either on a computer or a portable music player.

The low-ranked Infinity station, which currently airs talk-radio standards like Don Imus, will select the best of podcast submissions from its listeners, rebroadcast them over its airwaves and also stream them on its Web site. ...

The new station is promising to capture some of the offbeat nature of the podcasting world. "You're out there creating, riffing, ranting and raving and Infinity is going to give voice to your vision," says the Web site for the new station, which will be known as KYOU Radio. "Doesn't everyone have a streak of genius waiting to be heard?"

Measuring our Failure

Over at MediaPost, Jeff Einstein has a good column (link below) on how recent improvements in our ability to measure "return on investment" of media dollars has NOT led to lots better advertising, but to lots more advertising and measuring and frantic flailing attempts to shout louder. (Remind you of Tom Davenport's Attenion Economy?) Although Einstein is pretty bummed out about it, I do see some hope. We've just gotten a new set of tools, and we're not all using them correctly yet, but some of us are trying. Let's take his message as a rallying cry for all of us who want to make a positive difference.

Link: MediaPost Einstein's Corner: ROI - Return On Intimacy (registration required)

Once upon a time we could live with the uncertainty represented by the notion that advertising worked 50 percent of the time. Now, however, we find the fact that we know with absolute certainty that advertising doesn't work 99.8 percent of the time absolutely unbearable. Our response is classic addiction 101: Faster, smarter, better. Eat all you want, we'll make more. The result: millions of consumers and thousands of corporations spend billions of dollars just for the opportunity to [make] their escape and turn us off.

Millions of consumers and thousands of corporations have been hit over and over again from every conceivable angle -- and none have been touched in the process.

Enough is enough. If we're going to make the collective effort to reach out and touch someone thousands of times each and every day, we simply better have something more worthwhile to say, some message worth touching them with.

Pulling Together a Customer-Made Trend

This month the email newsletter Trendwatching has pulled together dozens of examples of greater customer involvement in the producing and marketing of the products they use. Many of their examples were previously sighted here, but pulled together with so many pictures and parallel examples, the trend is just stunning--and stimulating.

Link: TRENDWATCHING.COM Newsletter | May 2005.

What better way to become part of this trend than to learn from companies who already have embarked on a quest to become co-creators instead of obsolete DIY-ers? Please study the following new CUSTOMER-MADE examples (spanning the B2C spectrum from potato-chips to cars, and the globe from Brazil to Sweden), followed by a number of new CUSTOMER-MADE learnings. For your convenience, we're introducing five broad CUSTOMER-MADE categories: Consumer Marketers, Expert Outsiders, Amateur Outsiders, Remix Culture and User Generated Content 2.0.

Enabling More Successful Innovation

I've written previously about Eric von Hippel's new book, Democratizing Innovation. Now Virginia Postrel has pulled some juicier quotes for her NY Times column on the book. Professor von Hippel not only has evidence that user-led innovation is more valuable, he also has a concrete suggestion for making it easier to do.

Innovation is rapidly becoming something that most people can and ought to do.

Link: Innovation Moves From the Laboratory to the Bike Trail and the Kitchen.

In a study at 3M, he and several colleagues found that product ideas from lead users generated eight times the sales of ideas generated internally - $146 million versus $18 million a year - in part because lead users were more likely to come up with ideas for entire new product lines rather than minor improvements. ...

Tool kits speed innovation by letting users and manufacturers apply their own specific knowledge. With a tool kit, the customer can turn a poorly articulated wish into a well-specified plan.

Marking the Boundary of the Customer Community

Over at ClickZ, Rob Graham comments on the new consumer-generated video ads and contrasts the success of George Masters ad for the Apple iPod Mini with the Volkswagen Polo ad where the car blows up. (I'm not linking because these ads are easy to find and most readers have already seen them.)

As my colleague Adrian Sweet pointed out last week, the general public's ability to create and post negative brand ads is also a reality for advertisers. Most computer users are just a few software packages away from becoming media producers. One more reason why companies must be increasingly vigilant in keeping their customers satisfied.

I agree with him, but I don't think it's possible to make everyone happy. Strong brands are always going to have detractors as well as supporters. So as marketers we need to think hard about what our brand contributes to our customer's lives and how we would like it to be used. And when your brand is hijacked you have to speak up. It's just the price of fame.