The Incremental Web

Rich Skrenta writes about the difference between the Reference Web and the Incremental Web:

Google searches the reference Internet. Users come to google with a specific query, and search a vast corpus of largely static information. This is a very valuable and lucrative service to provide: it’s the Yellow Pages.

Blogs may look like regular HTML pages, but the key difference is that they’re organized chronologically. New posts appear at the top, so with a single browser reload you can say “Just show me what’s new.”

This seems like a trivial difference, but it drives an entirely different delivery, advertising and value chain. Rather than using HTML, the delivery protocol for web pages, there is a desire for a new, feed-centric protocol: RSS. To search chronologically-ordered content, a relevance-based search that destroys the chronology such as Google is inappropriate. Instead you want Feedster, PubSub or Technorati. Feed content may be better to read in a different sort of client, such as Newsgator, rather than a web browser.

And finally, there is a different advertising opportunity. Rather than the sort of business ads you see in the Yellow Pages, instead the ad opportunity is more about reaching a particular demographic or subscriber group. The kind of ads that are in magazines. How do you keyword target a breakfast cereal advertisement to fitness-conscious 21-25 year olds? You can’t. You need to find something those people are reading, and put your ad there.

There are 4-8 million active blogs now. At this size, you can still “know” the top bloggers, and find new posts worth reading by clicking around. But when the blogosphere grows 100X or 1000X, the current discovery model will break down. You’ll need algorithmic techniques like Topix.net or a Findory to channel the most relevant material from the constant flood of new content.

Rich is on the right track, but there are a few additional points which need thinking:

– We need to think beyond just text to multimedia for mass-market content creation and management. [Think Flickr.]
– In emerging markets like India, the mobile and not the computer will be at the heart of the Incremental Web.
– The interface has to go beyond the search box to more natural navigational interfaces. [Think Speech.]
– The published content is being amplified/tagged by the mass market — thsi also needs to be taken into account. [Think Del.icio.us.]
– A user’s “subscriptions” will be the filter through which the user will want to see the Incremental Web. [Think RSS+OPML.]

Dan Bricklin on Podcasting

Dan Bricklin writes:

What I like about the ITConversations type of podcasts is the depth, the aiming at a narrow audience who cares about the subject and wants to learn directly from people who know a lot about it. The Gillmor Gang is special in that the “regular” participants are all very knowledgeable in various parts of the field, and in what is going on in it at various companies. They ask probing questions and give opinions and anecdotes that draw out the conversation with the guest(s). Those guests are carefully chosen people who are involved at a high level in topics. They aren’t just spokespeople but often the thinkers who know the subject very deeply from experience and who appreciate the opportunity to speak seriously and at a professional level. I feel that I’m learning, and the long format, with rambling into topics through the probing, and the informal nature of it being a “conversation” among topic insiders unafraid to use jargon and others unafraid to ask for clarification, is very engaging.

I feel that if I were a devotee of almost any other topic, just about all of which have depth (from knitting machines to nuclear safety), this format (as podcasting) would work. Regular broadcast “radio” wouldn’t work for many reasons on many of these topics. The fact that I can back up my MP3 player and listen to a passage again, or stop for a few minutes or days and then start up again a minute or two before where I stopped to help remember context, lends itself to this sometimes information-dense material. The material is often very technical and you need to hear some things said more than once, the material is also thought provoking so my mind wanders, I listen in places that sometimes have distractions, and finally the shows are long and I sometimes need to break up my listening into chunks. Another thing: With podcasts, you know that almost everybody listens from the start, with no dropping in (unless someone else sent them directly to a section knowing it stood on its own).

Small Business Branding Manifesto

[via Doc Searls] Small Business Branding Blog suggests:

1. Forget Customers and Prospects. Think Partners.
2. Forget Marketing. Feed Your Network.
2a. Forget Marketing. Think Conversations.
3. Forget Control. It’s an Illusion.
4. Forget Selling. Connect.
5. Forget Logos. Think Gut Feelings.
6. Forget “Think Big.” Think Small.
7. Forget “Think Big” (again). Think Be/Do Me.
8. Forget “Next Big Thing.” Think Just This Thing.
9. Forget Professionalism. Think Humanism.

Product Management

[via Marketing Playbook] Zeeshan Yoonas writes:

Product Managers are the ultimate champion within an organization for a given product (or service). At a very high level, they are responsible for figuring out how to match thier customer’s needs with their companies capabilities. At any given time, as Geoffey Moore points out, they are seeking is to grow, defend, maintain, or create business in a given market.

To achieve this , product managers will often be engaged in one of these types of tasks.

1. Market Analysis: Taking action to understand customers current needs, staying on top new technology trends that could impact ones products and customers, and keeping abreast of competitors activities. This is often done by talking extensively with customers, attending industry tradeshows, and conducting extensive research.

2. Product Strategy Planning: The purpose behind all the information and knowledge gathering in step 1 is to have enough to work with to make sound business decisions on objectives for a product. Determining which markets and customer segments to target, and how to position ones product against the competitive set, and creating compelling business cases are often done in this realm.

3. Execution: Taking action to execute on the goals set in the previous stage. In the classic sense, it is implementing elements of the marketing mix. This includes product definition, product pricing, product promotion, and product place (or Distribution). Each of these elements requires unfathomable amounts of planning, partnering, and management. Often a product manager will be focused on only one of these elements for a given product (or product line).

DIY TV

The New York Times writes: “Homemade cable boxes. Episodes swiped off the Web. TV is becoming a do-it-yourself affair, and the industry is terrified.”

The members of the MythTV community, who now do not have to pay monthly fees to rent set-top boxes or digital video recorders, have plenty of more mischievous company in trying to outwit the television industry. Millions of viewers are now watching illegal copies of television programs – even full seasons copied from popular DVD’s – that are flitting about the Internet, thanks to other new programs that allow users to upload and download the large files quickly. And entrepreneurial souls are busily concocting even newer applications, including one that searches the Internet for illegal copies of any television shows you may desire and automatically downloads them to your computer.

These high-tech tricks address desires that have become standard in an age of instant media gratification: the desire to watch what you want, when and how you want it. And they’re turning television – traditionally beamed into homes at the convenience of the broadcast and cable networks – into something more flexible, highly portable and commercial free.

Not surprisingly, the repercussions – particularly the rapidly growing number of shows available for the plucking online – terrify industry executives, who remember only too well what Napster and other file-sharing programs did to the music industry. They fret that if unchecked, rampant trading of files will threaten the riches of the relatively new and surprisingly lucrative television DVD business. It could endanger sales of television shows to international markets and into syndication. And it could further endanger what for the past 50 years has been television’s economic linchpin: the 30-second commercial.

TECH TALK: The Mobile Phone Platform: The Three Screens

For the most part, our life revolves around three screens. There is the TV screen, which provides us our entertainment. There is the computer screen, which provides us the interactivity for running applications, and accessing information and services. Then, there is the third screen that of the mobile phone. The phone offers the smallest of the screens, but is the most personal of them all. One could add the movie screen in theatres as the fourth one, but for the most part`, it can be thought of as an extension of the TV. [My thanks to Shrikant Patil for providing this three-screen insight.]

In India, the most widely available screen remains the TV. There are about a hundred million TV sets across India, and much of this growth has happened in the past 15 years. TV is something we watch at a distance. Programming on the TV is decided by the channels and distributed by cable operators. (There are alternatives: terrestrial broadcast which Doordarshan has, and now, the option for users to set up their own satellite dishes.) The number of channels has exploded soon, we will have the option of half-a-dozen business channels (as compared to just one in the US). Most people who watch cable TV pay about Rs 250-300 ($5-6) for about 100 channels available on their TV screen. As of now, TV in India remains one-way, broadcast-only.

The second screen in India (in order of appearance) has about 14-15 million users. Computers have been limited in their growth for a variety of reasons: affordability and desirability have been two primary factors. For most households in India, the computer does not make it into the top 10 must-purchase items. While large enterprises have a computer for every employee, the vast majority of employees across small- and medium-sized businesses in India still do not have access to one. Educational institutions in India share computers (if they are present) among so many students that for most of them it becomes like a television set! Computer are growing at the rate of over 4 million a year now as the reduction in duties and increasing competition has made them much more affordable. But the second screen remains more of a top of the pyramid luxury.

Contrast this with the third screen to enter our lives. In 2004, we bought over 20 million mobile phones and growth in 2005 is likely to be even higher in unit sales. At present, one in twenty Indians has a mobile phone. It will take less than two years for the current base to double. While the predominant use of mobile phones remains for voice communications (about 90%), SMS has caught the fancy of the youthful Indian population. So as phones become sleeker, cheaper and more feature-rich, other value-added services (ringtones, wallpapers, themes and games) are also increasing their share of the pie, albeit from a very small base. Look around at most of the ads and hoardings from cellphone handset makers and operators the focus is on what else you can do with the phone. And the game has just begun.

While I do not think any of the three screens will go away, what is increasingly clear is that in emerging markets, most users will experience the mobile phones screen at least a year before they experience the computer screen. This has some very interesting implications for the future.

Tomorrow: The One Device to Rule Them All

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