To most technology buffs, Ray Kurzweil is a household name. He’s made a name for himself predicting technological paradigm shifts fairly accurately and has written many books on the future that not all of hope will happen as he describes.
Apparently he has written a new book that he just plugged on the Colbert report. It seems like a recycled version of one of his last ones, but still, the vision he paints is quite logical and scary at the same time.
Luckily, history isn’t always logical, but still the examples he brings in a worth checking out and not really far-fetched when you look at human behavior. Also, Stephen Colbert’s interview style is always a treat.
The solution isn’t exactly new: it’s a super-aggregator idea that totally personalized to me, my location, my social network and content/event preferences. Even though they claim rights to the idea, it’s preposterous. This idea already exists in partial solutions already in existing synching and SM integrator solutions. In fact, some could argue: “Isn’t this what Facebook is slowly becoming anyway?”
My take on this is: The concept is a fairly logical and tempting conclusion based on the insight that people would like to have everything in one place and like location awareness. Apart from the title of the video being a misnomer (it doesn’t address the future of media brands but rather paints a picture of a desired user behavior), it will still take quite a while to build its proof of concept.
First of all, as we have seen with previous aggregator solutions, it takes a while for people to completely disband their existing behaviors of going to single source. For example, even though RockMelt had a pretty good start through social buzz, actual usage after initial sign-up have dropped. People tend to go back to their fragmented user behaviors until the user experience has matured. For complete adoption of an aggregator idea, the individual moving parts AND their respective user behaviors have to be quite mature. I don’t think this is the case just yet for this concept. But it probably will in the future, after some other ideas have trailblazed these behaviors, failed on the way, and generated learnings that will ultimately benefit some 20-something entrepreneur who will become a billionaire, again.
Apart from the fact that the idea remains quite abstract and hidden behind a fancy animation, it also fails to address how exactly this is supposed to save traditional media, or at least revolutionize or evolve the media and publishing space. Who in fact would be a qualified media partner to build and propel this concept? The concept does mention how people will pay for this experience, but not who gets paid for it and how. Assuming that the concept can repeat an Apple-like success of starting to pay for content (which is lofty enough), I still think this is the key point in terms of business maturity that will make or break this concept. Which content producers (old media or new) will come together how, produce how, and get paid how. In fact, since so much of news, information and entertainment is based on actual people (users) sharing and producing content without getting paid for it, wouldn’t you have to find a way to have them get a share for their content production and dissemination activities (see flattr) as well? So much of their behavior is about sharing (old) media content that the benefit of doing it just in one place might not be enough (ironically, in a way they are actually responsible for keeping those traditional publishers in business through their activities). In fact, this important social sharing aspect would probably have to be addressed as part of the business model, otherwise it will just remain one more aggregator solution. A solution that until now has no user base (such as Facebook) or no real competence in traditional content creation (such as NYT) and no competence in new content creation (such as Gizmodo or Mashable), and which is my point: no real strategy on HOW to pull it together. It’s a user experience vision, not a business idea, is my point. And, unlike other aggregator and synching solutions such as Read It Later, Instapaper, Dropbox and others which very defined user goals they serve, this solution would have to solve for it all. And we know how many attempts it takes for even the big players (think of Google’s long list of abandoned Betas) to pull it off and how many product ideas need to fail before maturity sets in. So keep trucking, but prepare to wait a while.
Also, the concepts just assumes people will behave this way. But when you look at those early adopters who are responsible for initial successes of of new web offerings, you can quickly see that they are quite different from those who come in when a certain maturity has set in. In fact, early adopter behavior is (to some extent) one of not managing and aggregating their experiences, but rather seeking new ones, so that those become trends that then lead to being reaggregated in new experiences again. Therefore, the game facebook plays is a type of tug of war of those users that they need to innovate, while maturing an experience for the large mass to keep them happy while also making sure the innovator group doesn’t get bored. Facebook has, by and large, played the game the best in comparison to for example local market solutions in Germany and other places. The point is, aggregation happens after innovation. And they are different things to different types of users at different maturity levels. The concept fails to address this (at least in the video). There seems to be no go-to-market strategy.
So, in conclusion: thanks for the video, but a) aggregation itself is not an idea, it’s about how you aggregate, with who and when, and b) the big players have been working on it for a quite a while anyhow and c) you can’t pull it off if you don’t have some background at being expert in at least one area that is key to business success: i.e., producing worthwhile content, or making people pay for content, or innovative payment technology, or maturing a user experience for disparate user behavior profiles.
… and it got me thinking - why wouldn’t I want this kind of expansion of capability with TV shows, films, and online videos? I’d like to be able to explore character motivations, background, and products and services the characters use. I’d like to be able to ask questions to the actors, hosts, directors and other participants or other viewers.
I posted this question to my network, and Stephen Riley sent me this link from ABC, showing how they are already starting down this path with an app that uses the iPad mic to sync up content with the program playing on your TV set.
Why not for commercials? Why not for websites and search engines? Why not the restaurant or bar that I’m sitting in?
As more pressure is put on marketers and their agencies to do more with less, some of the most interesting opportunities for connecting with people come not from creating marketing campaigns, but finding new ways of creating value for consumers outside of the delivery of marketing messages. This situation is an exciting new charge we feel today in our agency, as we look to find creative ways to have Brands participate in society with our consumers. It’s not just reinventing ourselves as an advertising agency, but actually reinventing this reinvention into our begin a whole new kind of partner for our clients and their business.
Razorfish recently grabbed such an opportunity in their participation of a venture with Citigroup and Microsoft - linking content (in Citi’s case consumer data), with computing power (in Microsoft’s case) to create Bundle.
Interesting and inspiring - and I can’t wait to see where they go with this! It also raises some fascinating questions in terms of what an agency model should be when the output is not a creative asset, but a business strategy, or even a new company. I have had the chance to work on some projects like this with our clients, and I can honestly say it is as challenging and eye-opening as it is rewarding. Check out the Bundle beta here.
Good news from P&G: their digital guy gets it. Well, in fact, even though they are the biggest marketer in the world, which could mean being slow and rigid, P&G actually already has made many forays into “new” media over the last couple of years already. Some were successful, some weren’, but failure is not the issue. Says Dave Knox, corporate marketing brand manager for digital business strategy:
“Take risks with unique ideas and see what happens. In this digital world, failing doesn’t mean defeat … but the key is being able to fail fast so you can get on to the next idea.”
“If every idea is run through a committee and validated with consumer research, you will just end up with a watered down idea,” Knox said.
Kudos, we love that attitude. Now let’s hope the next 5 years are actually the next 5 years where marketing will finally be transformed. Because I’ve been saying this sentence for the last 15 years, and I hate sounding like a broken record.
In this Video, Microsoft shows their future vision. Basically, it seems the future is all about Microsoft Surface and really intuitive productivity: technology embedded into everything, Minority report-style, but with more soothing music. In comparison with other future visions, I think the timeline is somewhat realistic. Although, come to think of it, this being Microsoft, I would add a couple of years for the Service Packs until all this stuff actually works.