Friday 16 November 2012

Skype. 280 million monthly users. And it's getting a push from its owner Microsoft with new ad formats.

Skype, which is owned by Microsoft, has 280 million, monthly users. And it's growing at about 40% year on year.

Pretty terrific numbers and now they're going to push it further. Or at least it would seem that they're being pushed by Microsoft's Ad division by all reports.

It has unveiled Skype Apps for Windows 8 (you know, as in Microsoft's Windows 8) but it's pretty quick out of the box. They are also introducing new Ad formats that play on social interactivity. 

An example will be promotions that will appear during conversation streams (ads as you speak). Maybe you're talking weddings - up comes a wedding dress designer promotion.

It already carries ads on its home screen and it did launch 'conversation ads', display ads that appear when the user has no Skype credit, earlier this year.

Another plan they have is to create interactive conversations when two people are looking at the same thing. Say a hotel. We're both looking at it so let's have a conversation about it. 

Brands too will be able to create groups of like-minded talkers, which you'll join and then the brand can run content through them (such as video). Say you join the Ireland Group - you'll get ads about the country, stories etc. 

All a bit confusing? Sure is.... but by developing new and different formats, Skype may attract in brands who want to try something different. It's the nature of the Skype audience being visual, live and online, that's the attraction.

It's clever too in that the audience uses Skype for celebration - weddings, birthdays, christenings and so on that can bring a creative opportunity that's a bit novel. So you could have a brand enter the right conversation at the right time.

Generally Skype has done very well in numbers terms because the core idea is a great one. Despite that, it has a poor interface and shabby marketing, but it will get better and it would seem, it now has a new focus.

What's great about Skype is that it's a game-changer for telecoms and one of the classic online ideas.

It just needs a small push to own the world.
Which it seems, it's now getting.

Thursday 15 November 2012

You're being watched online. Google and Twitter report growing trend in Government requests for your data.

Google has just reported in its "transparency report" that Government requests for user data is growing dramatically.

In the first half of 2012, there were nearly 21,000 requests regarding 35,000 accounts. In 2009 it was 12,500.

There were 1,791 Government requests to remove data too this year which removed nearly 18,000 pieces of content. Google also claims to receive "falsified court orders" which they do not comply with although I'm not entirely sure what it means.

You can see it here

Twitter and Dropbox are also reporting a similar trend in Government requests. Twitter have said they comply with 63% of Government requests although in 2012, that amounted to 1,181 accounts, the vast majority inside the US. And they do inform users of these requests unless prohibited by law.

However, Twitters Government requests already in 2012 are more than the total for 2011. It has deleted more than 5,000 tweets because of "copyright" issues alone which could mask that details (such as reports) are being circulated freely and they could be removed because of "copyright". In other words, if you have a Government document, they can stop it being circulated using this method.

One topical example is that of an 'Occupy Wall Street' protester where a US judge has ordered Twitter to hand over his (Malcolm Harris) details. Which raises the matter of privacy.

It would seem that Governments are using Social Media as a monitor. In order to make these requests, they need to be watching. But it's inherently wrong that Google and Twitter should roll-over so easily.

Other publishers would generally rather go to prison than reveal their source. Whilst there is an argument in cases of say, rape or abuse, with which we all would agree that disclosure is useful, it does however, represent the thin edge of the wedge.

If you allow access to those cases, you have to allow it in all - such as the case of the Occupy Wall Street protester which is political, rather than legal. You restrict the freedom of speech which may be unpalatable to a Government and we know the role that Social Media has played in revolutions, positively.

It's either one or the other.
Comply with access or not.

By complying, it has opened a door for Government to watch you.
And that's not good politically, certainly. 

As was said once, I don't like you, I don't agree with what you're saying but I'll fight to death for your right to say it.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Microsoft Windows 8 President departs with "immediate effect". 10 bilion usd wiped off Microsoft's market cap. Another fine mess.

Microsoft is in the news again.

Following the "launch" of Windows 8, President of 'Windows', Steven Sinofsky resigned on Monday. He was the man who launched Windows 8.

The resignation came all of a sudden and his emailed letter said that he was leaving to "seek new opportunities" and no mention of love and support from Steve Balmer CEO. Clearly too, he didn't think that Windows 8 was one "new opportunity".

His email is at the end of this blog courtesy of Mashable. Although he goes on to explain that his resignation is nothing to do with anything at Microsoft, it's bizarre timing after 23 years with the company, having just launched their "make or break" Surface Tablet and Windows 8. In particular, it's with "immediate effect" and I'm in the business long enough to know that he knew the damage that would do to his beloved Microsoft. No one leaves like that and remains friends.

So there's more to this than meets the eye.

And the markets have given their view, wiping 10 billion usd off Microsoft's market cap. It's fair to say too, that one man's resignation shouldn't cost 10 billion and it wouldn't, unless the market view it as a deeper issue. Which in my view, clearly they do.

If everyone was still friends and part of the team, this departure would have been handled differently. Steven would have flagged his leaving some months back, a party would have been held to allow himself and CEO Balmer shake hands, staff would have been told in person rather than by mail and nothing would be with "immediate effect".

I have to say too, from a marketing perspective, the launch of Windows 8 passed without notice. Reportedly spending over 1.5 billion usd on the launch, it barely made or makes, the news. Are you familiar with the excitement of it all? thought so.

Microsoft will continue to be in trouble and the once glorious monopoly, is dying a thousand cuts. Somebody needs to do something.

With the general availability of Windows 8/RT and Surface, I have decided it is time for me to take a step back from my responsibilities at Microsoft. I’ve always advocated using the break between product cycles as an opportunity to reflect and to look ahead, and that applies to me too.After more than 23 years working on a wide range of Microsoft products, I have decided to leave the company to seek new opportunities that build on these experiences. My passion for building products is as strong as ever and I look forward focusing my energy and creativity along similar lines.The Windows team, in partnerships across all of Microsoft and our industry, just completed products and services introducing a new era of Windows computing. It is an incredible experience to be part of a generational change in a unique product like Windows, one accomplished with an undeniable elegance. Building on Windows, Surface excels in design and utility for a new era of PCs. With the Store, Internet Explorer,, SkyDrive and more, each of which lead the way, this experience is connected to amazing cloud services.It is inspiring to think of these efforts making their way into the hands of Microsoft’s next billion customers. We can reflect on this project as a remarkable achievement for each of us and for the team. Our work is not done, such is the world of technology, and so much more is in store for customers.
It is impossible to count the blessings I have received over my years at Microsoft. I am humbled by the professionalism and generosity of everyone I have had the good fortune to work with at this awesome company. I am beyond grateful.
I have always promised myself when the right time came for me to change course, I would be brief, unlike one of my infamous short blog posts, and strive to be less memorable than the products and teams with which I have been proudly and humbly associated. The brevity of this announcement is simply a feature.Some might notice a bit of chatter speculating about this decision or timing. I can assure you that none could be true as this was a personal and private choice that in no way reflects any speculation or theories one might read—about me, opportunity, the company or its leadership.As I’ve always believed in making space for new leaders as quickly as possible, this announcement is effective immediately and I will assist however needed with the transition.
I am super excited for what the future holds for the team and Microsoft.
With my deepest appreciation,

Tuesday 13 November 2012

Google's Ad revenue in the 1st 6 months of 2012, exceeds all US newspapers combined. But newspapers can get into the driving seat.

In the first 6 months of 2012, Google generated more advertising revenue than all of the US printed newspapers. Combined.

Google generated 10.9 billion usd whilst newspapers and magazines, brought in 10.5 billion usd. Of course we are comparing all of Google's global ad revenue (as distinct from just the USA) so in some ways it's a "little" unfair. 

However, that's not the point - it's a trend (as I often say) that data like this gives us. And what it shows more and more, is the transition of Advertising spend online to the detriment of traditional media. In other words, advertisers are taking money from traditional media to spend online, they're not generating "extra" spend.

That's not shocking either, but the quick rise is. Google is 14 years old - traditional media has been around for hundreds.

It also shows a need for print newspapers to get on board the online ad train as quickly as possible and I have to say, in Ireland anyway, they are. Their online revenue will compensate for the loss in traditional revenue and again, as I've always said, the Internet is an opportunity for print publishers. The opportunity to compete with TV broadcasters. And print will win if they can just weather the storm.

This is not a trend that can ever be reversed. In fact, it will get stronger and so online advertising formats will begin to flourish to a greater extent. Therefore, media needs to develop them and quickly.

For newspapers, video is the answer. Pre-roll advertising allows them to compete against TV broadcasters for news/weather/sport/entertainment. And they will win advertisers whom traditionally didn't advertise in press, making the Internet, their greatest lifesaver...if they get it right.

Newspapers can break news before TV stations whom withhold their news for their lucrative evening ad breaks. First with the news, brings in the audiences and that will bring in the revenue. Newspapers are the new broadcasters. It's TV stations that are going to be in trouble.

And they don't know it.

Monday 12 November 2012

Connecting Internet TV. Easy to do, saves a fortune (no more cable sub), greater choice and the licence fee goes. Not a bad day's work then.

In a recession, one way to reduce your costs is to switch from cable TV to internet or "connected" (as it's called) TV.

After all, the channels that you currently have are all online and about a million more. Plus you get your videos on demand (like Netflix), YouTube content, Facebook/Social Media, a music centre through itunes and a whole lot more. So it makes sense anyway - but when money is that bit tighter, now's the time to make the move.

What you do need is a good, strong internet connection which most of us already have and are paying for anyway. The better the connection the better the download speeds but generally things are improving all the time.

Next you need a "smart" TV. Don't have one? No problem. Most Blue Ray players and gaming consoles have this capability of internet connection but failing that, buy a streaming box (like a Roku box as illustrated circa 100 euro) in somewhere like Peats in Dublin. Easy to buy, easy to connect and job done.

It's as simple as that.

Some obscure programming is not online but that's more than compensated by what is and you'll just have saved yourself that monthly cable subscription as well as, the licence fee if you're in backward Ireland.

So internet connected TV makes sense economically as well as by choice. It's cheaper and better, which are the watchwords of Irish businessman, Denis O'Brien. Make it cheaper and better and it's a winner.

So a little trip to the electrical retail store to buy a streaming box (if you don't already have a connected device) and you're up and running.

It's going to happen anyway so you might as well get in first and impress your friends as well as save some money. And in Ireland, I'm guessing you don't have to pay a licence fee either? Why would you. After all you're using a computer not a TV and you're watching other stations rather than the national broadcaster, RTE. Because if you've choice, you'll move on.

So does this mark the end of the licence fee? I can't think why it doesn't. Apart from anything else, you'd have a monitor on your wall and a laptop - not a TV in sight. So it would be impossible to police. Maybe RTE would like to correct me?

Another saving.

Is this the start of the end of licence fee income?
It's sure going to have a massive impact on viewership.