Will Mobile kill free services?

31 05 2012

Sorry to be blogging about Mobile again, but at the moment it’s my main focus of work….In this post I want to have a quick look at the problem mobile presents to companies that live, and potentially die based on advertising revenues.

 

The advertising model

The biggest player in building their business solely on advertising revenue is without doubt Google. Almost everything it does is based around gaining more information on us users, so that it can effectively deliver adverts back to us in a better fashion, so we are more likely to click on them, and Google gets paid. The more clicks, the more Google earns and can even charge. It’s this model that allows Google to deliver pretty much all of their services, and software (Android springs to mind) for free, all funded by charging for adverts. Don’t kid yourself that Google delivers services for free because it’s a loving, don’t be evil company. Most of the things Google deliver for free are there to help Google gain more data so they can advertise more effectively. Mobile is a great example, and one of the reasons Google purchased Android, so they had a mobile presence to locate us and advertise based on geographic locations.

Google isn’t the only company that lives by charging for adverts, there are many businesses out there, small and large, especially online, that make their money mainly from delivering adverts. How many times do you go to a website and there are adverts delivered on it? How many times do you read a blog with adverts delivered on it? Quite a few. Even Facebook only makes money because it charges for adverts that are delivered on the website to us users.

So what happens to companies if they cannot effectively deliver adverts any longer?

 

The Mobile Problem

Currently Facebook is becoming rudely aware of this problem, so much so that its newly floated stock is now trading almost $10 down on its launch. Why? Well it’s all to do with the company’s ability to monetize and take advantage of its 900m user base. You see, on Facebook the website (used from a desktop) we have adverts constantly being shown to us. These are tailored ads, based on what I like, what I talk about, my own personal status, and as such Facebook can charge for these. However, if I use Facebook on my mobile phone, these ads simply aren’t there. The concern is then, with so many more of us using our mobile phones as our primary device to access the web that companies won’t want to pay for adverts if no one is able to see them. This basically means Facebook can no longer deliver ads effectively.

This problem isn’t limited to Facebook. Think of those free apps we have all downloaded that have ads being displayed. They are free because the ads are paying for them. But how much space do those ads take up, and typically you can only see one single advert. The problem is that ads jar the mobile user experience, they don’t fit in well and the user finds themselves scrolling to see the actual content they use the app for. I for one have un-installed 5 or 6 apps now where I simply got annoyed with the adverts.

Don’t think though Google is exempt here. Using search on your mobile is fine, and Google still can display its sponsored links there, however, a chunk of Google’s revenue is displaying ads on other peoples websites, blogs etc. As more of us turn to mobile to access the web, these adverts start to disappear, and therefore so does Google’s revenues from these ads. The next mobile problem is that many of us prefer Apps over a browser experience on our mobile phones. This means we start to not even search using websites like Google.com, rather we use an app. I for one use the Bing app, the user experience is far better than visiting the mobile website version, and it integrates with other tools and functions, such as QR code scanning, voice and local scout (which delivers search results local to me and includes such things as local restaurants, points of interest etc.) This means the only adverts I have any chance of seeing are those sponsored links that come back in a handful of searches.

With all this in mind, can the likes of Google even see revenues falling as it too struggles to deliver ads down to mobile devices? Sure, Google has a big enough market share of search to survive, but can it charge enough to then keep subsidising so many of its ongoing projects, and even worse, the number of failed projects that have cost millions which are raking up?

 

End of free services?

We have got used to so many free services online, Search, Social Networks, watching videos etc. All these things cost money, and currently so many of them are funded purely by the ability to deliver adverts to us online. Mobile really does threaten that model, if you can’t successfully deliver a number of ads down to user’s mobile device, then why will a business advertise with you? If revenues start to fall, then how long is it possible for companies to make losses on all these free services? Google subsidises everything it does based on adverts, but if those revenues can no longer support everything Google does, will we start seeing services getting switched off, or having to pay for them? No doubt Google search will survive, but the question is can Google afford to deliver everything else it does for free?

For the likes of Facebook, the mobile threat is even greater; it really does present a problem. Keep in mind that if this is true of Facebook, a company with some 900m active users, then it will be for any business that is built on advertisement revenues. Mobile really could be the death of free services online, unless companies can figure out a new way to deliver adverts back down to our mobile devices. That’s tough, especially since ads ruin the user experience currently. At the moment, mobile could be the grim reaper for so many free services.

…We shall see….

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ECM, eDiscovery and the Social Media problem

24 02 2011

Today I read briefly that social media access may cause governance problems for corporate using such sites as Facebook. Now this could be a real big issue, especially as more and more organisations are using Social Media to not only connect and engage, but to actively interact with customers and solve customer issues even.

You can read the article here http://www.eweekeurope.co.uk/news/social-media-access-may-cause-governance-problems-21424

A simple view

If we step back and think about it, any content that we place in the public domain as an organisation needs to be discoverable, and if necessary, produced to meet certain governance rules. Now this is fine for outlets the organisation controls (their own website, published press releases etc), but what about content that was created on, and essentially resides with a third party. This is typically how we use Facebook and Twitter for example.

Now in our more traditional scenario we can have our published content stored within our ECM repository, that’s fine. But since the content was stored on a third party solution, and essentially is up there on the web, how do we ensure we have it for our records? How do we find that content again if needs be (especially if it’s now a couple of years old)

What we have to remember is that not only do we need to retain access to that content, but we also have to protect ourselves (the organisation) from that “original content” going missing. Let’s face it, as an organisation do you trust Facebook to store all of your status updates for the next 8 years? Probably not…

How we create content and how we discover it

Ideally we need to maintain a link to all that content sitting with Facebook, Twitter, mySpace or whoever. We also need to protect ourselves from that content going missing. So the real answer is to not only keep a record of that contents location (typically a URL or post ID with that provider), but also a copy of the actual content itself (in our ECM repository). If we do this, then we can discover all our social media interactions and produce them on request.

Essentially we have two options of doing this. The first is to create the content via your own software solution. If you do this, then you can take a copy of that content, store it in your ECM repository along with a link to the location on Facebook / Twitter for example. This approach ensures all content is kept and you can then take control of your retention periods that may apply to that content. The second is to constantly discover content from the source and either store links to that content, or again store links and copy that content (into your ECM repository).

My personal approach is a mixture of both of these.

The first option makes life easier for agents, it ensures they have a better view of all the content and discussions going on and allows them to quickly do what they need. It also short cuts the need for discovery while ensuring the end user isn’t getting side tracked with their own Facebook status updates (personal related content). There is also an added benefit of working this way, and that is protection of the content itself. If Facebook was hacked, and false status updates made, or status updates modified, these can be related to those stored in our secure ECM platform. This is a form of protection…The second option ensures nothing gets missed. So this is our “belts and braces” approach. From time to time a user may well interact with Twitter or Facebook directly, or via an application such as tweet deck. Now the whole holistic and adaptive approach means we need to adapt to that need, so using such tools (especially if on the move or done out of hours) needs to be expected / allowed for. Our discovery then makes sure that content is brought into our ECM repository and not “lost”. In this scenario we can also “see” status updates / tweets etc that have been made. So in the case of a “hacker” ruining our online existence, we are quickly made aware of the issue and can address it sooner rather than later. Once in the ECM platform, we can always cross check content and essentially ensure its credibility.

 

Conclusion

Governance may scare some companies into not engaging with social media, but this will be a big mistake. With social media providing so many big wins to organisations (and in some ways a necessity just to compete), it is something organisations cannot do without now. With this in mind, organisations need to adapt and understand that governance will apply to social media content, just as much as any other content, so they need to take control of it and start getting it in their ECM repositories.

The content challenge is one that is ongoing. Content only grows within an organisation and as such, social content will no doubt be one of the fastest growing areas of any company. Investment into platforms that allow management of that social content and discovery of it will prove to become more and more vital as more and more interactions occur via social media sites.

All content is the responsibility of the organisation, even if it is created on a third party environment. Organisations need to take control, ownership and responsibility for their social interactions, always, and this is easily done, if you have all your content residing in an ECM repository. The key, get all content, no matter its source and location, into your repository and you will meet governance requirements…





Social Media needs moderation

30 07 2009

Social Media is a great way of engaging the public, getting involved with conversations and enhancing any online presence you may have. However, like all things open to the general public, it can be open to abuse.

There has been a lot of discussion on Twitter today about such abuse, mainly regarding spammers and “bots” (automated robot type applications) but also the actions of a minority number of actual users. You see, Twitter, like all social based websites, is open to abuse from anyone or anything that can get an account open. With today’s APIs and concept of sharing, it’s even easier for spammers to set up applications that latch onto people, discussions and basically hijack conversations going on sending out their load of rubbish to anyone and everyone…

Add to this that small number of people who seem to use Social Media to be abusive (just spend a little time on You Tube reading comments and you will see what I mean), you can see why large numbers of genuine users of Social Media get hacked off.

This is something we just need to put up with

Now this is a statement I hear far too often. Or alternatively we read something along the lines of “we provide users with tools that can combat abusive users”. The latter is true, on Twitter I can block someone if I feel they are abusive, I can also report a post as abusive on You Tube for example. However, how many of us actually take the time to help moderate? It also doesn’t help me with filtering out the amount of Spam I have to shift through when looking at a trending topic on twitter, or the amount of silly abusive comments I have to read on You Tube before I get to see something valid.

Websites that allow customer feedback are always prone to such issues, however, many of these (and I strongly suggest all businesses do this), moderate and check peoples posts before allowing them to be published to the world. I know this can be time consuming, but with a good business process behind this, it can be quicker and easier than you think.

Make it harder

Simple basics make a great difference. I am always surprised how many basic security features, or basic business common sense is missing with Social media sites. For far too long Social Media websites have been caught up purely with increasing the number of users that use their website. This drive for numbers has always been at the expense of security and funny enough, the ability to actually make money (the latter is a different post).

So what things can social media websites do to make it harder for abusive users and spammers?

First off, why do Social Media sites not always authenticate a genuine user? Let’s check that someone is actually at that web address and make them follow some instructions before allowing them to open an account. Let’s get some information including their IP address.

Secondly, let’s follow their first “x” interactions (tweets for twitter, status updates in Facebook etc), monitoring them for obvious Spamming / abusive activities. This could be seen as a probation period. This isn’t hard to set up though would require a human element at some point.

Thirdly, let’s set up some rules to at least try to flag content that may be viewed as abusive or again as Spamming activities. If possible let’s have a moderation business process in place so that as many as possible posts can be checked and moderated before being made public (I can see this wouldn’t work on Twitter)

Fourthly, if someone is reported for any abuse (spamming, abusive messages etc) lets investigate these claims and if true, ensure that account is banned and all content removed. If we have their IP address, lets see if we can follow up this user using this, maybe inform the users ISP?

Finally (well for this small list), lets monitor trending topics (Twitter specific) for Spam. Once something gets close to the top 10, why not increase monitoring or employ a human to keep an eye on this.

Conclusion?

At the end of the day, spammers and a small number of people / businesses with poor etiquette, have ruined the concept of mailing lists for eMail marketing. They now threaten to drown out valid content from within the Social Media sphere. Websites need to try to protect us, the users, against this behaviour. Its something they should have addressed from day dot, but since they haven’t, they need to address it as a matter of urgency…Facebook, Twitter, listen!

Lets try to ensure Spammers and the abusive few don’t ruin Social Media and destroy its potential…