The long tail of data sales

In doing some client-related research last week, I approached eMarketer to find out if they had relevant data sets for me and about their pricing structure. Predictably, their business model continues to be based on the large enterprise model, not unlike the blockbuster model that drives the movie and book industries. The all-you-can-eat buffet pricing structure at eMarketer serves their mental model, but it serves neither their potential customers' needs nor eMarketer's business needs.

In their undated Harvard Business Review article, Rethinking Marketing, Roland T. Rust, Christine Moorman, and Gaurav Bhalla commented on the fact that many firms are still managed, as if we were still in the 1960s world of mass markets, mass media, and impersonal transactions. The inertia and/or unwillingness of many to stop the cycle of insanity and to accept the new reality is nothing less than stunning. I'm sure I'm not the only one who's witnessed the disastrous results wrought by this affliction.

The authors points out the distinction between a traditional company and what they refer to as a customer-cultivating company: the former is organized to push products and brands, while the other seeks to serve customers and customer segments. For a data company such as eMarketer to so completely miss this point is disappointing, though perhaps predictable.

As a customer needing Canadian data, eMarketer is of limited use to me, but when its data sets are of relevance to me, does it make no financial sense to provide on-demand self-serve access to their online databases? We may have been liberated from the tyranny of buying entire music albums for the pleasure of one song, but clearly, we're still at the frontier of this brave new world.

Social Gaming: the next frontier of spam?

For the past week or so, I've been getting irritated by Mafia Wars updates in my Facebook stream because, apparently, my having blocked the app in my settings did not, in fact, stop this spam stream. Curious, I started digging and came across this November 2009 article in TechCrunch: How to Spam Facebook Like a Pro, an exposé of online social network scam schemes, tricking unwary players into parting with their cash. What the article doesn’t discuss, however, is the way these games spam the players’ social networks in the hopes of luring new victims.

Since tis the season for reminiscing and looking forward, I started thinking through all the unwanted, unsolicited messages that mindless and thoughtless businesses have assaulted us with. First, we had to contend with door-to-door sales people peddling their myriad wares; we were unsophisticated consumers, then, so it was hard to distinguish the real deal from snake oil. Luckily for most of us, we started leaving home for the office, so this foot traffic sales approach became less effective since no one was home.

We might escape them during the day, but we still had to come home at some point. Enter telemarketing and junk mail, rammed down our throats through our phones and mail boxes. We thought we could escape both when we moved online, but alas: junk mail found their way into our email and voice mail boxes, too. In 2009, Canadians won the right not to be assaulted through Canada Post and on our phones: as a condo dweller, I could exercise my option of declining unsolicited, unaddressed mail with a simple sticker on the delivery side of my mail box; and I could go to the trouble of registering myself on the national no-call list. Awesome.

Of course, like viruses that always find a way to adapt, the Spammers found a way: social networks. Ostensibly innocent good fun, social games harbour insidious ways to fill the spam stream through automatic notifications and updates from its players. The “everyone’s playing it” siren call can be powerful. Those of us too jaded and wary for this sort of thing did the obvious: we opted to block these updates, but the updates continued to stream through.

I’m not certain if this is a known Facebook glitch or have these social gaming outfits simply found an unwatched door – something for further investigation – but my sense is that social games are the latest front in the Spammers’ Borg-like assault against consumers. Yesterday, @davefleet wondered in a blog post if Spammers have become smarter. Pardon my cattiness, but I suspect that Spammers are like the flower beetles that survived the Mythbusters' extreme irradiation experiment. They didn't survive due to smarts; they're just wired that way.

Makes me long for the good ol' days of simple junk mail.

Google’s Fast Flip – a statement on the future of print?

Google has recently introduced a new experimental product in Google Labs called Fast Flip. It's a news reading service that allows users to scan pages from the sites of Google's print partners. The idea is to replicate the experience of physically flipping through magazine or newspaper.

Fast Flip's mission is  interesting to me in our so-called Web 2.0 world where the hyperlink reigns primary and the static experience of print is re-imagined as a secondary form of information consumption. Could it be, perhaps, that wehuman beings are still attached to the tactile pleasure of holding a printed artifact?

My personal opinion has always been that the printed artifact will never go away. It will simply become a secondary way to read.
We'll see where Fast Flip ends up; after all, not everything in Google Labs gains traction to make it onto the primary features list on If I were a betting (wo)man, I'd wager that Fast Flip won't make it. It's just another version of all the rest of the quickie publishing tools out there that convert print pdf's into flippable digital pages. That it's Google providing the additional service of aggregating the information is a mere nicety that doesn't fundamentally alter the fact that it's an existing technology that creates a silly digital version of a printed piece. Magazines and newspapers that are no more than digital copies of their printed pieces deliver poor online experiences that take advantage of little that the digital medium has to offer. I'm not sure what value Fast Flip has as a news aggregator that RSS feeds do not provide and in a more relevant way.
Google's ostensible motive for Fast Flip is to find a middle ground with print publishers who complain that Google makes money off their content without compensating them. I wonder if somewhere in Googleland, someone is taking a stance on the future of print.