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Thoughts On The Future and Past of Mobile (Applications)

Recently Alexander van Elsas posted his thoughts regarding Google’s Android flagship, the Nexus One. In short, his closing statement summerizes his stance:

“The Nexus One isn’t just a worthy rival of the iPhone. It’s a landmark that will shake up the entire mobile industry.”

I humbly dissagree.

Now I’ve always read Alexanders’ musings with great interest, but this post triggered me to add my thoughts in the comments section. For some context, you can read his full post, all comments made and his response over at his blog, I’ve cross-posted mine below:

“With regards to the Android Platform making a dent in Apple’s and RIM (BlackBerry) domination of the smart phone market; first of all each system shall attract its own audience of course.

Three points I’d like to raise:

  1. Apple’s Mac OS has a (reputation for having a) superior User Experience and system stability because of Apple’s rigorous Quality Control combined with the fact that they have full control over the production of the hardware as well as the OS itself.

    Compare this to the fragmented windows platform (Though windows 7 admittedly comes a long way in addressing many of its legacy irks).

  2. For over 12 years I‘ve been hearing about the promise of Mobile devices with regards to downloadable applications, games and mobile internet access… Twelve years. Each year the promise fell flat on its face.

    The main reasons: multiple standards for programming apps, multiple platforms, specs, models, no flatfee datarates, lack of mobile broadband like networks (GPRS/UMTS/HSDPA) and walled gardens with a premium price fixture tied to applications and use of closed mobile WAP internet, carriers using different labels for what is in essence the same comparable service (iMode, Vodafone Live, T-zones et cetera) …

    Now the iPhone is the closest in realizing this 12 year old vision and one of the main reasons lies in Apple’s QC, and “closed nature”.

    Developers develop one app for one platform with one specification sheet and they’re all set. Distribution? Centralized and optimized UX by way of iTunes (a familiar concept and a trusted format!).

    Consumers finally get what they see: a plug-and-play device with a flat-fee data rate so they don’t have to worry about “THAT” phone bill at the end of the month, and can download apps and browse the web to their hearts content. And of course there’s the Apple / iPod brand attached.

    Because of the above, in combination with Nintendo’s Wii and DS paving the way for casual gaming as a serious branch within the Gaming industry, we can now say that the iPhone (platform) is actually becoming a serious contender in the Gaming space as well.

    After more than 12 years mobile is now finally starting to realize its potential and this is largely due to Apple entering this market while staying true to their strategic approach w.r.t. Product Development and distribution.

  3. The PC as a gaming platform has been suffering from the same problems as opposed to the console market which has been growing from strength to strength for over 20 years now. Why? Unified approach and stringent Quality Control (Mind you, Nintendo singlehandedly revived the Games market at the end of the 80’ies by adapting the same approach towards developers as Apple does today with its iPhone. They dropped it after Sony stole their crown 10 years later, but today’s Game Industry wouldn’t be the largest in the Entertainment sector today if it weren’t for that Quality Control and that same walled garden approach). Starting to see the analogy here?

Android OS is a fragmented platform and actually has more in common with Nokia’s Symbian platform (though they have gone open as well). Also we’ve seen Google has met considerable trouble with Customer Service upon launching the Nexus One. Last but not least a multichannel approach is not something executed with success so easily, not even when your name is Google…”

Dive into the discussion here: The one thing that Google Nexus One has over the iPhone

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On Spotify and New Business Models in Music (Amsterdam Dance Event 2009 Column)

If it was up to Spotify co-founder Daniel Ek, the music industry would be embracing the future instead of constantly fighting against it.

The new business model is “a mix between ad-supported music, downloads, subscriptions, merchandising and ticketing where the user comes first and where the key to monetization comes from portability and packaging access rights. If willing to adapt, the music industry could then have the potential to become a $40-50 billion industry…”

…Ek calls out the music industry for expecting to see business models proven “within months of inception. That’s just not how it works.” Reminding us how Apple’s iTunes was not initially the powerhouse it is today: In its first year, iTunes missed its revenue targets by 30% and most label executives doubted its staying power at the time.

The overall point: success in this industry takes time.

Source: ReadWriteWeb – Spotify Co-Founder: Notion of Overnight Success “Misleading and Harmful”


On a similar note Denis Doeland has recently posted a sharp column –in Dutch- on his blog regarding the need for a true sense of urgency and vision regarding licensing fees and innovative business models within the (dance) music industry:

Due to the transition from the physical to the digital age, the economic value of the master has increased by almost a factor 4 and the economic value of the copyright has increased with a factor of approximately 1,5. This is quite peculiar.

Back in the Nineties Dance-labels apparently were content with a lower licensing rate due to the bigger amounts / volumes being sold. Dance-labels apparently used to make do with 5 to 6 Eurocents for each compilation sold.

Furthermore it’s quite peculiar to note that the fees being paid for the master nowadays are up to 2 and even 5 times higher than the those being paid for the copyright itself.

In the ‘physical age’ the Dance-industry was actually a ‘compilation-driven business’. In hindsight it would now seem that, for compilations, one paid for a collection compensation of sorts.

Popular tracks received higher royalty-percentages than the less popular tracks and depending on the commercial success of said compilation the compensation fees would start pouring in. After all, one compilation would fare better than the other.

The numbers mentioned above are food for thought. Does the business model, as used by the Dance-industry, still hold up today? Hasn’t the use of ‘pay-per-unit’ in the Dance-industry become dated?

Translated interpretation from original post in Dutch: Doeland’s Blog- ‘The Dance-industry used to make do with 5 to 6 Eurocents …’


Currently Doeland is Director of IP Services and Internet at Dutch dance event giant ID&T/Q-dance (of, amongst others, Sensation White fame) and also co-founder of He has written two columns touching these subjects earlier this year, both which you can read here (translated from Dutch with Google Translate).

According to Denis, gone are the days of yore when the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) niche was the main innovator within music and in its stead we now deal with record labels unwilling of seeing or proactively taking on the challenge ahead, namely that 95% of all music consumed is done so illegally.

“Recently it became clear that the Dance-industry isn’t really thinking ‘Outside of the box’.

For the umpteenth time in the (close to five years of) existence of Dance-Tunes we’ve received a note from a certain label with the request to arrange it so that customers visiting our site from a certain given country can’t buy the music from the download store of their choosing.

A so-called ‘territorial restriction’.

A customer not originating from the country in which the download store is based may not download his favourite music or the download store may not offer this music to the customer in his own country, but may do so if he’s outside those borders.”

Translated interpretation from original post in Dutch: Doeland’s Blog- Column: Dance-corporations first ‘Out of the Box’, now ‘Back in the Box’?


The confusing situation sketched above is quite ironic as the likes of SoundCloud, iTunes, Last.FM,, Spotify and Dance-Tunes have finally given labels and artists the low-entry platforms and reach to connect with an audience willing to pay, on a global scale. Frictionless and with permission.

Furthermore, I’ve got to second Doeland regarding the irrational rectulance of some labels to cooperate in spreading their content across as many channels as reasonably possible and using the various opportunities to monetize it, while at the same time its these very same labels being the most vocal regarding mainstream media ignoring them and how they’re falling victim to piracy.

Now, personally though I’m an avid fan of EDM (Electronic Dance Music) and other music styles, you’d be hard pressed to find any installed torrent software or illegal content on my hard drive. Indeed, yours truly is dubbed a “Digital Native” or a member of “Generation Y” (being born in ‘81), yet I actually PAY for ALL my entertainment, be it games, music or movies.

Actually, I’m even prepared to travel up to an hour through rainy weather, stand in line for over half an hour, just to get my hands on a shrink-wrapped jewel case, containing nothing more than an optical disk and a stapled bunch of dead trees.

All of this with the knowledge in the back of my head that any colleague or friend of mine would’ve been glad to offer me the music digitally and for free weeks before it’s official country release.

It’s okay, thank you, I’ll wait. It’s worth it. And this is not just a case of N=1, as luckily there are still tens of millions of people like me, including Gen Y, buying entertainment.

If anything, the craze around the late Michael Jackson last summer proved that there’s still life left -no pun intended- in the concept of paying for your entertainment (all under the strict condition that it is made easily available for purchase, and for a fair price of course): people mournfully took their wallets and dug in, in part because his CD’s were all over the place, even down to the local grocery store.

Yet, with regards to EDM –and despite its digital nature- the situation is quite the opposite: I’ve frequently found myself waiting months, or even up to a year before a track could be purchased.

Sometimes the record wouldn’t get released at all, or was made available exclusively for certain territories or download stores, where my wallet or IP address location couldn’t reach it. So much for the internet being international or stateless…

Then, when said release wouldn’t sell (sufficiently), the self-fulfilling prophecy to the eye of the label manager was complete:

“See, I told you people weren’t waiting for this “product”, put in on the front page of obscure download shop X in country Y but only one tune sold, digital music stores don’t work, people only listen to 3 minute radio edits, we need a higher cut, we want an advance, where’s my lawyer, nag, nag, nag…”

Most label managers and representatives still seem to be bereft of any sense of basics such as Time-to-Market, Availability, Distribution, Multi-Channel Marketing, Pricing or Customer Centricity.

As a side note, the latter is a trait common to the whole entertainment sector, yet one they’ve managed to get away with. Until now.

Having worked at a few years back, I recall sitting on the other side of the table, no longer “just” a fan, but as an “insider”, slowly beginning to see –not understand- how on earth it was possible that so many great tunes and artists were not represented and made available legally online in a timely manner: their label management knew of the possibilities, but explicitly refrained from taking advantage of them.

This wasn’t an oversight on their part, it was a deliberate decision.

A decision made not based on data, insights or Business Intelligence, but based on assumptions and emotion, thus de facto spurring illegal file sharing or use of (mobile phone)recorded live sets and performances amongst the community.

After all, how else could these fans relive and enjoy those moments? How else could they gain access to that obscure remix by their favourite DJ/Producer? How else could they share the alleged Magnus Opus of an underground idol and use this to root for support for their upcoming talent of choice?

Let me get this straight: These fans are the core audience, committed ambassadors AND they’re happily willing to let labels part with their money, yet all those labels seem to be able to do is refuse this legal transaction based on invalid argumentation?

Reading the blog posts from both Ek and Doeland it would seem not much has changed over the past two years. All in all a strange paradox and an unnecessary one at that (and it wasn’t about unbalanced licensing fees either, as to my experience at Dance-Tunes at least, everything was negotionable).

Mind you, this is not a column to bash the music industry, it’s a rant by a concerned fan calling and lashing out to not only label moguls but conservative (small) label owners as well.

This column is written by an ambassador, a loyal customer, a paying fan, who wants nothing more but to see musicians succeed; who feels that talent has the right to be heard and should be supported: The very thing that record labels originally set out to do in the first place, right?

Though your “good old days” of getting-rich-quick may be over, at least now you’ll truly get to fulfill your raison d’être.

Music Industry; Indies and the Big Four alike: you need initiatives such as Spotify, Last.FM and (niche, local) download stores more than you realize. And we, the fans, consumers and artists, need you to understand and act on this.

Change your culture, innovate your business model.

Seeing as music and entertainment are known to be one of the main pillars of any culture, and certainly our modern culture today, it would be a fruitful endeavour if you as an industry took a leaf out of the book from leading labels, innovative start-ups, daring pioneers and bold thought leaders.

Make more haste -and take pride(!)- in acting collectively, with a positive, constructive mindset, instead of endlessly debating fickle things such as fees amongst your kin and punishing your fans and propagators (like BUMA did here in The Netherlands).

You’ve spent the last 10 years doing the latter and we all know where and what that has brought you…


[Disclaimer: Though I’ve had the honour of working, in part as a trainee/intern, with Denis Doeland and Peter Hillebrands at Dance-Tunes, I’m currently not tied to them or any company directly aligned to ID&T/Q-dance/Dance-Tunes. I’ve written and posted this column as a music aficionado to tie in with the annually held Amsterdam Dance Event (ADE), which is taking place this week in my home-town of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Here’s hoping that the various international attendants, regardless if they read this column or not, take these issues to heart, discuss them and take concrete action in 2010 and beyond.]


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Ford CMO: 37% Awareness Level for Fiesta Thanks to Social Media

Ford’s Chief Marketing Executive James Farley says the company has made a bigger digital and social media bet than rivals because, “If you are trying to communicate, as we are, that you have been reinventing the company , you can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other.

Perhaps Ford’s biggest single bet on digital and social media has been the Fiesta Movement, a program that began in 2008, 18 months before the cars will actually arrive in dealerships.

Ford gave 100 European Fiestas to people to drive and live with. The results of the blogging, Facebooking, YouTubing and Tweeting by those people, plus the echoing of those messages by the blogosphere, followers, etc. has been an eye opener.

Consider this: The awareness level of Fiesta, a car that is not even in the U.S. yet (though it has been a fixture in Europe for years), is 37% among Generation Y

That is about equal to the awareness level of Fusion and Flex, models that have received hundreds of millions of dollars in traditional media spend.

Source: Business Week – Ford Spending 25% of Marketing on Digital and Social Media


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The Future of MarCom and Media: Mad Men Meets Silicon Valley?

“The truth is, advertisers and brand marketers are entering a brave new world — one where code is on par with content. The 21st-century ad isn’t something to be looked at, it’s something to be used… …”Consumers” are now “Users.” So are “Marketers” now “Developers”?”

“…having someone who at least can help a creative team understanding how the software should look is very helpful. “I think having somebody like that, even if they are not the ones coding the app, helps bridge the gap between the technical and the creative…”

Source: AdAge – Agencies Need to Think Like Software Companies


Business Value = Subscribers * Demographics
Business Value = Eyeballs + relevance * intent

Last week’s talk of the town among media in crowd and digerati was that spending on Online Marketing in the UK finally has taken pole position from Offline Advertising.

Make no mistake: this is significant. (Remember this is BBC territory!)


For years eyeballs, attention and now -as predicted and long overdue- budget weight have shifted from TV, Radio and Print to Interactive Media, culminating in this milestone.


Why this change from spending budget on Offline Advertising to investing in Online Marketing Strategies?

And why this plea to repurpose the inner workings of agencies (and ASAP at that)?


Well, to answer the first question, here’s a list of activities people in general are currently undertaking (online) instead of massively tuning in on prime-time (or, indeed, instead of buying and reading newspapers) like they used to:

  • Checking news anytime, online, for free;
  • Discovering and consuming online content, via “Social Distribution”, for free;
  • Shopping online, any time they like;
  • Spending days on end playing videogames;
  • Spending evenings (cocooning with friends or family) watching TiVo or DVD’s;
  • Leaving comments and reviewing products on that very same e-commerce site;
  • Discussing and reviewing artists, movies, products and brands on niche online communities;
  • Logging in daily to update their status in social networks like LinkedIn and Facebook (or even several times a day – thanks to mobile flat-rate data plans and apt mobile devices and smart phones such as Apple’s iPhone, RIM’s BlackBerry and the Nokia N series, to name but a few).


Okay, I’m bound to have missed many, many more, yet even the online media consumption / activities I’ve inevitably missed, share core characteristics with the ones mentioned above, which, when indentified and aligned next to each other, should underline my statement that agencies need some unadulterated tech DNA should they hope to help their clients connect online with their audience.


Creatives need to be specialists in the spaces where consumers live that are defined by new technology.

“If agencies are to continue to offer the highest value to their clients, and realize the full potential of new media on behalf of their clients, they need to make sure every department is as technology literate as consumersSimon Mainwaring


So, why the need for new fresh Silicon Valley Blood for agencies in this post-Madison Avenue MarCom ecosystem? Well, for starters, all the activities mentioned above:

– are On Demand;
– are personalized;
– are ubiquitous;
– are interactive (vs. passive content consumption);
– put the user in control;

-And… they’ve become a habit.


Habits slowly but steadily ingraining themselves in modern culture on a global scale.

All of these activities have replaced, or are in the process of replacing, the habit of, say, going home after school or work, watching the same mass orientated, one-size-fits-all TV shows like the rest of the populous, within timeslots deemed fit by a few network coordinators, all the while zapping away the interruption marketed ads…


(On a side note, what has also been replaced is blindly following the opinion of a select few elitists, or opinion leaders, so you will. You don’t need (trust?) one or more reporters from the New York Times to tell you that The Dark Knight or District 9 are movies worth an evening out to the multiplex, what book is a must-read or which restaurant should be on your shortlist, as even more so than usual, nowadays people are forming their own opinion by reading online peer reviews or discussing their customer care experience online, no holds barred.

Internet killed the middleman.

And the platforms facilitating this have a reach of millions and sometimes even billions, globally.

This continuous two-way online dialogue is another reason why the one-way message sending, branding specialists need to acquire interactive skill- and mindsets…)


It’s The Internet, Stupid

Why doesn’t the traditional model work online? In short, the web is too fragmented (millions of videos, millions of web sites), too loosely coupled (countless hyperlinks, embed codes, APIs), and too nascent (too few revenue models, too little clarity about the future) to fit comfortably into a media conglomerate as they exist today.”

“The challenge is that the scarce resources are different: while the media business continues to rely on “talent,” today’s talent may be writing code rather than screenplays. Distribution still creates value, but it can mean a quickly passed link on Twitter or Facebook instead of an 8 p.m. slot on a broadcast network”.

Source: Giga Om – New Media Demands a New Kind of Media Company


But these factors are not the only causes for this disruptive re-allocating of budget.

Sure, everyone agrees that you should “fish where the fish are”, but the main reason that budgets are finally being freed up from political unwillingness or irrational conservatism, is that in these times of crises, true accountability in marketing and advertising has finally become key.


There’s no need for (hiding behind) second guessing or causality in MarCom anymore: Plausible effective advertising maybe was “fine” yesterday, today proven effectiveness by conversion is vast becoming the golden standard.


The current recession has acted as a catalyst for this silk media revolution, merely accelerating the inevitable.

Now the marketer finally knows which half of her marketing euro, dollar, yen or what have you, is wasted on naught and which half is an investment; generating leads or spurring your core hyper targeted audience into action. All in real-time, if necessary, meaning you can act real-time.


“It’s to no fault that many account teams have no concept of what web development entails in terms of budget and time. Too many times there are promises made that cannot be fulfilled. Having a cross functional, technically savvy professional on hand to lay out accurate budget and time frames in real time ensures that the client is not mislead by a traditional account person reliant on third party estimates.”


It’s no longer about the clever award winning Creative Director and his team of witty art-director/copywriter duo’s.


This also means that the sole focus in marketing and advertising isn’t about “sending content” anymore, but it’s about the underlying technologies that facilitate dialogue between brand and stakeholders, and empowers them both.

It’s about, for example, creating branded tools that might prove useful in everyday mundane tasks for the user: Apps-as-a-Brand-Utility. Eyeballs. Attention.


Now it’s about the pragmatic award winning Managing Director and her team of developers and creative technologists.


“Code” and “(meta)data” have earned their rightful place next to “design” and “gut-feeling”, thus switching the demand from pure creative output to actionable insights based on real-time data; apps and open platforms for effective communication, feedback and co-creation. All of this fundamentally challenging the very raison d’être and modus operandi of traditional agencies.

“Various models have evolved over the years but the successful ones have at their core a few talented individuals who “get it” when it comes to the nuts and bolts of technology, the subtleties of strategic brand building and the figures that justify an ROI…

the more multidisciplinary people an agency can employ without forcing generalists into specialized silos, the better equipped they’ll be to provide true integration.”


As it is becoming increasingly clear that consumers are changing their daily work-, leisure- and decision-making(!) systematic from Analogue- to Digital based; brands/advertisers and traditional MarCom specialists will have to adapt & change their Tech know-how (what vs. why), their thought patterns (creative top-down factories vs. embracing digital natives and co-creating), and their priorities (branding vs. true empirical accountability) to match this new reality or ultimately end up like that frog in the slow-boiling pan.

The long-term solution however, is not going to be purely a technological one, but rather an anthropological and sociological one; the real challenge lies in the cultural change and organizational restructuring needed to save traditional agencies from the same dark fate (or worse) as the music industry and newspaper & magazine publishers. Out with the old…


[Yes, the very fact that it’s 2009 and I’m posting this rant as being new(s), means that somehow there’s still a need for summaries and musings like this, however obvious and stale it might seem to fellow digital natives and digerati in-crowd alike. Yet, I believe that this needs to be heard and echoed. I’m merely trying to add a drip in the quite -possible very pretentious- hope all the accumulated drips will eventually flood the ivory tower of cognitive dissonance that some board rooms and CEO’s (across all traditional agencies and entertainment outlets) dwell in.]

Read more thoughts about Apps-as-a-Brand-Utility, the future of advertising, “Creative Technologists” and the ideal DNA composition for successful marketers and agencies in the 21st Century in this excellent article by Allison Mooney on Advertising Age.


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The Internet: Not Just A Media Channel, But a Utility (QUOTE)

“But maybe… just maybe, we need to stop looking at when the Internet will surpass television and benchmark it against something else entirely. The Internet is much more than a media channel and it is much more than a communications platform. It’s both of those and so much more.

We should start benchmarking the Internet against electricity.

Electricity is a utility. The phone is a utility. The Internet is a utility (and so much more).”

Mitch Joel (Twist Image) on Benchmarking The Internet Against TV

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