Archive for March, 2009

Notes on Mary Meeker’s State of the Net 2009 slides

March 28th, 2009

Mary Meekers slides usefully put a lot of economic data in usable form. Since a lot of it is generic economic trends (well-organized but not novel), I’d like to comment on a few of the more interesting slides on the trends in digital business. Here are some interesting questions that her slides raised for me:

  • Slide 54: Social networks have lowish penetration (<40%), but super high growth (>50%)
  • Slide 62: Social networks have “the opportunity to get in the middle of the conversation”. This insight resonates with my past research on SNs.
  • Slide 78: Implicit question: what will the social advertising eCPMs be if the Internet average is $1.98?
  • Slide 82: Implicit question: to answer the previous question, we have to know how EFFECTIVE a social ad will be. Will social ads be better, similar or worse than the top kinds of ads: paid search engine ads, organic SEO and email marketing?
  • Slide 85-86: Are display, clicks or performance-based models for advertising most appropriate for social ads?
  • Slide 87: What products will be most promising to target for social ads?
  • Slide 108-115: Can social ads be used as effective strategy to enter new international markets?

Finally, I think that these slides show that the recession will accelerate the shift from offline to online advertiser and commerce. If social advertising can be shown to be effective, it will likely see rapid adoption despite being new.

Here is the entire deck for perusal. Enjoy!

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Twouble with Twitters

March 24th, 2009

I find this funny because I just recently started using twitter. But for the rest of you that have “yet” to discover twitter – is this video funny to you?

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The AIG Blackmail note

March 16th, 2009

Holy cow – what it means to be too big to fail.

AIG Risk & Bankruptcy Report

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One twitter is enough! (Sorry, Facebook)

March 16th, 2009

Facebook has relaunched it’s homepage, and I think that it is a step backwards. Admirably, they’ve opened up their newsfeed and now it acts like a waterfall, displaying the most recent updates from your friends. But this design decision fails in a few critical ways.

1) twitter folks now DOMINATE the feed, since they are hyperactively engaged! I can only imagine how unfriendly the new streams and streams of #’s and @’s are to tens of millions of regular FB users.
2) It diminishes rather than highlights the great content like photos and videos that people post directly to Facebook
3) The featured column is really broken. It is highly promotional, and there is no way to get stuff to disappear on it.

There are a few good parts to the new format, including interesting ways to interact with the content in the featured column. But I hope that Facebook is listening to its users, because I have to think that this launch is largely a step backwards for them. (Someone on twitter responded that this mistake marks the beginning of the end for Facebook. I think it is merely a step backwards and not a complete failure. We’ll see.)

One twitter is enough! (And for many people, even one twitter is too much.)

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Missing the boat on Stewart vs Cramer

March 16th, 2009

Ok, ok, I concede! I have gotten several emails and even comments to my blog post about Stewart vs. Cramer showing me the errors in my ways.

Let me see if I can count the ways that I was wrong. First, it was Stewart vs. CNBC (and business journalism in general) and not Stewart vs. Cramer. Second, Cramer and CNBC were losers. However, on a third point, I am or more may not be wrong. Perhaps Cramer and CNBC have a wake up call (like this viral petition to “Fix CNBC” going around) to make a change. But after being wrong on the first two points, I might be willing to entertain the idea that Cramer/CNBC/etc cannot turn save their ailing enterprises.

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Quick hits / twitter recap

March 16th, 2009

So, I’m a month into my twitter experiment. (Plug: follow me at @weiks on It’s been pretty interesting, although time- and attention-consuming. Here are some of the links that I’ve shared and tweeted about. (I got the idea from Andrew Chen.) I am not sure how valuable this post will be. I suppose if just one reader finds just one link valuable, then I know it will have been worth it.

  • A VC who still wants to invest in FB co’s (Dave McClure) link

  • The right way is to post your status updates to twitter. You can target only some to appear on FB with this app: link

  • Clay @shirky’s interesting historical analysis of the demise of newspapers link

  • a great find for font afficiandos link

  • Orrin Hatch was soliciting comments on the budge via twitter (none yet). Note that he has MBL. link

  • Terrific commentary! But I think Jed is hopeless optimistic. Twobbying is here to stay, sadly. link

  • Jim Cramer vs. Jon Stewart: they are both right, and it’s funy! link

  • Database of VC’s – resource for startups link

  • Can you lobby congress with tweets? An interesting effort by the Sunlight Foundation link

  • Interesting: “Will Search-Marketing Dollars Also Shift to Social Media?” link

  • holykaw! SocialMedia reports that some Facebook Developers are making over $700,000 a month. Awesome! link

  • 47 Awesome Twitter Tools You Should be Using link

  • ideas how to distribute music into twitter link

  • This FB connect chat feature is quite interesting. and look at the example site too! link

  • a powerful partnership to aggregate (and not just distribute) content via social networks link

  • An interesting model for monetizing social actions (here, a tweet) link

  • A service that helps you decide whether to follow someone back on twitter…looks cool, giving it a try now. link

  • disqus is leading the way with twitter, reblog and FB connect functionality for comments link

  • taking quizzes and blowing them out by vertical (e.g., romance) and by channel (e.g., myspace, fb) – interesting! link

  • An interesting e-gov conference: Personal Democracy Forum 2009 link

  • interesting reading: how twitter is a hybrid between a space (like a forum) and a channel (like email) link

  • a great article on newsfeed optimization on fb link

  • My Twitteristics: Tweets 10X as much as the Twitter founders(26/day), Engaging(37%), Hyperlinked(52%)! link

  • “In the meantime, the lobbyists are getting the news they need. The voters, not so much.” link

  • Been there, done that. Nice post. “Jason Calacanis: What to do if your startup is about fail” link

  • hahaha: “Our Social Media Future (comic)” link

  • Another one bites the dust. No federal bailout for newspapers? link

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Jim Cramer: Good or Bad Guy?

March 13th, 2009

Instead of his normal comedy routine, Jon Stewart played the prosecution in the trying of Jim Cramer. Stewart has bemoaning the role that the media played in allowing the financial bubble to get so big. He tried to build the case that Cramer and others intentionally and knowingly played games with our retirement accounts for their own profit. It an awkward and revealing segment, and difficult to watch because Cramer is trying to plead for mercy and Stewart is going in for the kill. You can watch it here:

I think Cramer did a reasonably good job. He didn’t say it, but I think that he used to be on the dark side but he is now on the up and up. And he certainly did not suffer the terrible performance Tucker Carlson put in.

So, I say: Cramer is a good guy. But I also think Cramer is on notice: put up now, or shut up.

3. et cetera

Madoff’s deal of a lifetime

March 12th, 2009

Bernie Madoff has pleaded guilty today, and will be released from prison no sooner than his 220th birthday. What is he up to in his final deal?

My cynical self has the answer: fall guy. He is shielding his family and perhaps other employees from damage by taking all the blame. In his final deal of his life, he has done a masterful job of painting himself as the lone wolf. He kept all the attention on himself, and it look like any accomplices to his massive fraud will get away scot-free.

3. et cetera

Unicorns fart skittles

March 10th, 2009

At, I learned that has revamped their web site to be a weird social media experiment. Essentially, they are scouring the internet (in particular, twitter and wikipedia) for any mentions of ‘skittles’ and putting them, without any editing, right on their homepage. Indeed, when I clicked “chatter” on the site, one of the top tweets displayed was “Unicorns fart skittles.”

But the key thing is whether it sells more candy or not. As she says:

In the long run, is this going to make me buy more candy? Absolutely not. But I will be pointing to this as an example of UGC [user-generated content] gone bad for years to come. So for that, thanks Skittles!!

And she is quite negative about the experiment!

I, however, have a different take on the site. Although posters may be interested in seeing their tweets go on, their messages are carried to their followers too. These messages far outweigh the exposure on, and they are matched to their audience. I know that some of my readers, like Eric say, will *love* the title of this post. It will not reflect badly on skittles at all! And any negative connotation of “unicorns fart skittles” that one sees on must be taken with a grain of salt.

I would be interested in seeing if the campaign has any impact on sales or not, because I am bit more bullish about the impact than Stephanie is.

Anyone for a rainbow of fruit flavors?

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The economics of viral distribution

March 10th, 2009

I had a meeting this morning with Ed Baker, CEO of Demigo, and viral expert par excellence. He made an important observation: your viral factor is a sum over all your distribution channels. Why is this observation so important?

First, adding channels is basically a linear cost. There is a certain overhead to learning how to use Facebook Connect. Within Facebook, there are certain costs for figuring out how to integrate with each of the internal channels they provide (e.g., newsfeed, profile, notification, invites, etc.). Individually, these channels boost your marketing potential but perhaps not enough individually to achieve viral lift off. And after facebook, you can also add channels by distributing on other networks like open social, twitter, AIM, etc.

Second, when the sum of these channels creates a viral factor greater than 1.0, you will grow *exponentially*. When you have this happy occurrence, you will reach millions of people in a matter of weeks or less. So, his recommendation for is to keep at it. Don’t be discouraged if you aren’t viral on the first go around. Prioritize and optimize viral channels. Keep working on it, because those linear costs may in the end create an engine for repeatable viral growth.

Linear costs, exponential revenues. That sounds like the kinda business I want a piece of! :)

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Crowdsourcing Watergate After the Death of Newspapers

March 4th, 2009

In a past post, I asked “Can you crowdsource Watergate?” Well, Yochai Benkler lays out the case in this provocative commentary that crowdsoucing can indeed speak truth to power. I agree with him on several points: newspapers are in rapid decline; non-profits, remaining newspapers and new players like bloggers can help fill the gap somewhat; that the NYT’s credibility was used by the Bush administration to bolster its Iraq war claims rather than used to speak truth to power by the Bush administration.

However, I think that Benkler is not entirely correct. These forces will surely mitigate the decline of newspapers, but something real will be lost. These new players, like the blogs, are increasingly fragmented. With the decline of newspapers, I think it will be harder to make related advocacy groups struggle with areas of conflict.

Here is a personal example of mine. We created a GOTV campaign in 2000 called “” The NYT covered our campaign–on page A1. (As a side note, think about the relative prominence of an above-the-fold NYT article versus a story on the homepage of The spin? “As Public Records Go Online, Some Say They’re Too Public.” Whereas we were advocating civic participation, they forced us to address privacy concerns. In a world where privacy advocates have their own blogs and newsletters and civic participation advocates have a different set of media, it would have been hard to come to the reasonable compromise that we ended up with.

And of course, there are many such conflicts including ones of much greater import than ours. I think that these tussles are of central importance to a functioning democracy, and they may be diminished as newspapers decline.

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The future of advertising

March 1st, 2009

My aunt forwarded me this video. It’s fun to watch. Interestingly, it’s an ad created for t-mobile. Some people think that future will be ads that are engaging that you will *want* to share with your friends. Well, this video is at least one example of such an ad. Enjoy!

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