lhowell

Archive for December, 2006|Monthly archive page

The Bartender and My Wife on the MySpace Generation

In big media MySpace advertising global, marketing, social networking, social-tainment on December 31, 2006 at 4:24 am

I just had the most intriguing conversation at a local restaurant recently. I asked the bartender if he uses MySpace, and he replied “yeah, somewhat” “all the high school kids at work are on it.” I asked him to elaborate. He said, they are always asking him to ‘check out’ their pictures or they would say, “I will send you a message” and he retorted, “I will see you tomorrow at work, can you just tell me now.”

The conversation is fascinating to me as a 43 year old consultant, who has been involved with social networking sites as they are called for almost 10 years. But I am deeply interested in the psychology behind the use of MySpace. I asked the bartender, if young people actually desire to have a “real” conversation, sans the computer. His response, “most young people don’t know how.” I inquired further of our babysitter, who is in the 11th grade. And she said it’s fun to look at other people’s page to see new updates.” When I try to dig deeper, I get nothing–it’s as if I am speaking another language–I then ask myself, are we THAT shallow? That simple in our thinking that we simply want to look at someone’s ghastly page that is barely legible and certainly not comprehensive—the notion today is that these types of “spaces” allow young people to express themselves and share who they are.

Once I return home, I turn to my wife from Berkeley where all people have a sense of intellectual depth—right? Not so. I asked her, do you think young people want to have real conversations today. I added, “Are people that obsessed with popular media about Nicole Richie’s eating disorder or rail thin appearance that “real” and “relevant” content does not matter. She said, “for the most part, yeah.” I told her that I disagree. I said to her that I believe people are smarter than that. She said, to me “look sweetie, people don’t care about anything that does not impact or directly affect them.” I said to her no, I don’t believe people are that simple—is that just in the United States?

Back to the bartender, after a bit more discussion, he actually used the same phrase as my wife. People don’t care about 500,000 people being slaughtered in Darfur or 11 year olds being trafficked for sex, or anything else for that matter. My wife, said, I dare you to go the store and ask anyone you see, if they have even heard of Darfur? I didn’t take her up on it, I think largely because we live in suburban America, where defending our country, losing weight and saving for retirement tends to be the top priorities.

However, I believe that young people want something more with the time they spend. Is that too altruistic of me? Don’t they at least want to start a legitimate conversation about something other than mindless chatter and cryptic messages left on their MySpace blogs? Ironically, this very proposition makes MySpace the perfect destination for pedophiles, fakesters, phishing schemes, sexual predators and spammers. People are so hungry for attention, and approval that a guy just released for sexual assault against minors can get a response from the people my wife says exist in abundance; I disagree, but the numbers signing up on MySpace might prove that my wife just might be correct—I sure hope not. MySpace is similar to an unsafe neighborhood—and I know, people will tell you to be careful and set your profile to private. But then, if these are largely people you know, why not just call, send an e-mail or text them?
As young people become young adults, their priorities will change—having a real job, rent and babies will do that to you. The business challenge for big media is that executives tend to be short-sighted and lack truly innovative models and thinking to execute radical new ways of engaging nomadic consumers of digital content. In fact, YouTube was started 17 years ago, believe it or not—it was called America’s Funniest Home Videos. It was one of the first viewer or user created content shows.

I think my wife and the bartender are wrong—however, she makes a strong case that a lot of people visit MySpace, that they must be doing something right—no, it’s no different than a mall—they walk around and typically don’t buy anything because they really don’t have any money to do so. This is no different on the web, which is why there is skepticism of the MySpace type experience and similar sites.

Perhaps this underscores the point of my wife and the bartender: people seem to care about trivial, silly, esoteric nothingness–it is hard to monetize this over the long-haul for sustainable revenue in hopes that someone will buy something to contribute to long-term shareholder value.

I disagree with the bartender and my wife. So what’s the answer?

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Diamonds Should Not Be Anyone’s Best Friend

In Africa, diamond trade, Human Condition and Treatment, mindset 3.0, Sustainability on December 27, 2006 at 6:22 am

My wife and I saw Blood Diamond today–you know the post Christmas ritual of many people across the globe to visit their local movie theater. We were both a bit shaken by the intensity of the film, but moreso, we were moved. My wife commented about wanting to rid herself of her diamonds–mind you, they are not 3 carats or anywhere close to it. Nonetheless, I got to thinking of the monstrous diamond I saw in Chris Weber’s ear during an interview while checking out the post-holiday sales for big sceeen televisions.

From a media perspective, this is a tricky issue. On one hand you have liberals declaring not to wear furs. Yet, those same people may likely be wearing a diamond that was mined by a 12 year old boy or not. The videos we see today, are designed to stimulate the senses and make people want things–it’s good marketing hype and actually allows for fewer dollars to be spent by those companies, because African-Americans in particular are very quick to buy–diamonds that it and the bigger the better. How could DeBeers position an ad worth watching despite the new film, Blood Diamond? That is what we will discuss next time. Enjoy the movie clip:

Social Networking: Doing Good by Yahoo!

In cause marketing, social networking, Yahoo on December 22, 2006 at 12:10 pm


Yahoo has a new capability recently released called Yahoo! For Good. This is an awesome strategy–once people get used to it. The comfort level is there and it appears to regular people. What’s more, for copycat portals like Google, which will likely roll out with something similar, it will be interesting to see how people will respond when they do.

For big media, this is a great opportunity to get, albeit in a less “noisy” way their message. I could envision companies like the American Cancer Society or Youth Aids, to which I donate on a regular basis advertising here. I just hope that the agencies see the value proposition. Safe community, trusted brand, real people, good cause. Makes sense to me. Great job Yahoo!

Strategic Openings in the Social Media and Networking: Introduction

In big media MySpace advertising global on December 16, 2006 at 4:53 pm

The title of this post is part of our strategic analysis to help position a new site that will launch in February 2007. A great opportunity exists for entrepreneurs and developers of technology capabilities is to conduct “deep-dive” analysis. This analysis is deep but not necessarily time consuming.

I have joined almost two dozen social networking sites over the last five years, and I can tell you that they tend to follow the same formula. Instead, these sites do not solve a compelling business problem that exists within a larger context. For example, let’s take big media companies travails. The fundamental business problem is this:

How do large portals such as the Big 4 Yahoo, AOL, MSN, Google) and big media remain relevant and profitable with nomadic consumers who want stuff their way?

Before funding an idea, come up with a viable and legitimate business problem and clearly articulate how you will solve it. The market opportunity is the $97 billion of annual spend for advertising through traditional media. MySpace, my favorite site to compare is a very temporary solution to this, and most media companies have figured this out. They realize that Rupert Murdoch will likely dump this before U.S. legislators develop some sort of ratings system–aka “E” for everyone. In good conscience, we all know that MySpace does not meet this criteria. But unfortunately, sex sells–to some degree. Actually, it receives a lot of clicks and page views, but that’s where it starts and ends. Next time, we will get deeper into the discussion to outline how to design and develop a relevant, high-potential offering to solve the problem of big media.

Horizontal Conversations

In big media MySpace advertising global, marketing, mindset 3.0, research, social networking on December 16, 2006 at 4:47 pm

Richard Edelman shares his thoughts about the notion of advertisers having horizontal conversations with customers and consumers. My response to his post is shared below:

Richard, your post highlights further the great paradox for big media and large companies that rely on big media as the dominant communications platform. Much like the younger generation who often has difficulty communicating in real world settings using clear sentences, despite their outrageous salary demands, big media and large companies don’t know how to initiate and participate in “horizontal conversations”—it might as well be Mandarin to many corporate marketing heads and executives.

I am excited about the future because you can begin to see companies swirling around more intimate ways to communicate. The problem is that large enterprise MUST contend with shareholders and Boards of Directors that are singularly focused, so it becomes difficult in spite what they say in the annual reports.

The real adaptation will occur as younger board members (under 50) start to dominate in all industries. This is when a real floodgate of horizontal conversation will take place–and it will be global and it will be real. We’re coming with the solution in February 2007.

Wallop is Slick But…

In social networking on December 14, 2006 at 11:54 am

Wallop: Seeding a social network by ZDNet‘s Donna Bogatin — ‘Get into Wallop, make it yours!’ is the exhortation of the Wallop social networking site, but it is not necessarily easy to ‘get into Wallop.’ I spoke with Wallop’s CEO about how the new site aims to gain traction in a crowded, MySpace dominated, online social networking world.

Eliminating Transfats Means More People Cook at Home

In hunger season, obesity on December 6, 2006 at 1:20 pm

Is AIDS The Global Health Problem of the Century?

In famine, third world, world heald, AIDS, India, Gates Foundation on December 3, 2006 at 12:35 pm

AIDS is one of the most hideous diseases on the planet. As many of you know, World AIDS Day was this past Friday, and I got to thinking that there in lies a big part of the problem. AIDS has become a footnote, an asterisks or perhaps, a day where you could probably get the day off if it was worth pushing at your socially correct company or if you work for a small start-up.

So, let me ask for those of you who will read my blog: how many of you, actively discuss AIDS and its impact on your local communities or even globally? Let’s see a show of hands. Pause for 10 seconds of silence.

That was a long 10 seconds wasn’t it? In the photograph on the left, you see a healthy and happy family. But what if the man is experiencing sex with a few of his poker buddies from time to time? Or, what if he was at a conference in Hong Kong and he needs to “unplug” and the concierge sends up to him a beautiful young 22 year old who just contracted AIDS, which she doesn’t even know yet; of course being the responsible family man, this gentleman is, he uses a condom for his extramarital tryst and it breaks. Oh my Goodnes! Of course, he’s got a smile of enjoyment as big as the Serengeti National Park.

After texting his buddies about his conquest, he comes home to his lovely wife and because he misses her so much and she’s now horny from his absence he now infects her with HIV. Oh, don’t forget that she is two months pregnant with twins and one of the twins contracts HIV, and the other one does not.

The interesting aspect to all of this, is that all of this mess is discovered AFTER the damage was done. So, is AIDS really the problem or is it people’s behavior that is to blame? If you have the flu, you stay home and don’t infect others at work. If your child has chicken pox, one of the parents stays home to protect other innocent little bodies from this childhood malady.
In other words, we should start talking, and doing something about AIDS every day. Here are some ideas:

1. Discuss it (HIV/AIDS) every day with someone you love?

2. Talk about AIDS the next time you go out with a group of friends from both genders?

3. Show pictures of the disease to your teenage children.

4. Download video clips from socially responsible websites that discuss children in Africa who are left without parents and play them on your television. Try http://www.current.tv/ if you need some help finding content about this subject on video. Try http://www.spangy.com/ after January 5, 2007.

5. Go to http://www.youthaids.org/ and make a donation once a month for $50.00 Euro, which is the best currency in terms of value or $50 USD if you don’t have access to the Euro.

6. Convince 5 friends to do #5.

7. Bookmark the following websites and/or subscribe to their RSS feeds: http://www.cdc.gov/ and http://www.globalhealth.org/

8. Repeat step #2 every time you go out. Now, armed with new facts from your knowledge from the CDC or from spangy.com you will sound authoritative and “cool” because you are aware, which makes you very attractive and desirable to other knowledgeable people.

9. Visit an AIDS hospice once a month to just “hang out” and keep folks company. People enjoy and are extremely grateful to connect with others when they know death is imminent.

10. Create your own list of the top 10 ways to combat AIDS and post to your blog or website and ask yourself, if you’ve done enough.