Strategies for a discontinuous future.

Saturday, September 23, 2006
Investing in Content (and Admin)

If you've been reading the comments, you'll notice that I've had to delete quite a few over the last few months, all from the same guy.

So perhaps I should reiterate the rules here at bubblegen.

1) This is your space to debate.

2) It's also everyone else's space to debate.

3) Be civil.

4) If you make personal attacks, they will always outweigh any argument you want to put forward, and your comment will be deleted.

It's fine to say an investment, strategy, product, service, statement is stupid, clueless, asinine. It's not fine to single out a specific person - any member of this community - and try and deliberately humiliate and insult them.

5) You may not like these rules - tough. Interacting with the commmunity here is a privilege - not a right.

Now, as to the argument the commenter keeps making. He obviously wants very much to discuss with me and the rest of you.

So, here's the argument. It's actually very simple: attention isn't scarce/unique/etc, content is, and so we should be investing in content, not in attention.

Now, I've responded to this many (many) times. I'm not about to rehash the whole non-conversations that ensued.

But here are two points to chew on.

1) What said commenter is trying to argue is that "talent" is scarce. Fine - indeed, it is (ie, "talent" assumes scarcity).

The whole point of econ/strategy is that we don't live in a perfect world. If we did (if we had perfect information/perfect competition/etc), we would identify the most "talented" producers, invest in them - and reap zero profit, because everyone else could do exactly the same, bidding margins down to nonexistence.

Rather, if we really wanted to think strategically about the role of talent, we would begin by assuming that content creators have different endowments of talent. Then, we would note that talent is hard to identify - information is asymmetric. Then, we would probably also note that talent by itself is often useless - it needs to be converted into/combined with numerous intermediate inputs to actually create value. Then (finally) we would try and model the various assumptions surrounding value capture (is there perfect competition? are there network effects? is talent, to some extent, a public good? what other variables need to go into our equation?)

It might surprise you (and the commenter), but economists have a now ancient word for "talent" - human capital. Essentially, we are modelling how human capital affects profitability/productivity/whatever.

That's a perfectly valid model. But the point is human capital isn't the sole variable in it. If it was, we would have little need to...think about much of anything.

2) In case it's not obvious, there's an existence proof the size of Jupiter which contradicts this argument: if it did hold, we could all buy (have bought x years ago) portfolios of Viacom, New York Times, Washington Post, EMI, etc - and watch (watched) them skyrocket.

Clearly, we'd be pretty foolhardy to do this: we would lose our shirts.

If the content argument holds, $100 invested in NYT/EMI/etc X years ago would be worth more than $100 invested in Google. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth: value has shifted dramatically from those players to Google; from content/publishing/etc to attention.

Comment, discuss, agree, disagree - I am really sick of talking about attention/content/etc to tell you the truth.

-- umair // 10:14 PM //

Friday, September 22, 2006
Deal Note: Should Yahoo Acquire Facebook?

imho, no - no way.

If Yahoo acqs Facebook, it will flickr/delicious-ize it: it will bring innovation to a slow but steady creaking halt (despite whatever indy structure is cooked up).

Yahoo's challenge isn't amping reach in a rich group of segments.

Yahoo's challenge (should you choose to accept it) is to redefine branding.

A year or two ago, I noted that there was an enormous market gap for Yahoo to be a social search pioneer. They blew it. Myspace did it instead.

Now, Yahoo stands on the cusp of an opportunity of perhaps similar magnitude - revolutionizing branding.

Sure, there's an argument to be made that Facebook will help them do this - but let's note that that argument is in no way the rationale driving this deal.

I would spend half the amount Facebook wants on a huge number of experiments with a very focused intent - revolutionizing brands. Of course, Yahoo's labs mean this can never happen, but that's another story...

NB - I'm starting deal notes to kick off discussions around key deals, so leave your perspective in the comments if you're so inclined...

-- umair // 2:49 PM //

How Not to Think Strategically About Revolutionizing Branding, pt 425225

"... The project begins today with a test of a campaign for Saturn, bundling together several Google products and services like clickable video clips, the Google Earth satellite mapping tool and geographic finding of computer users.

Visitors to a variety of Web sites in six cities around the country that are home to 22 Saturn dealerships will see what look like typical banner ads for Aura, a new Saturn midsize sedan. Clicking on an ad will produce a view of the earth that zooms in on the dealership nearest to the computer user.

The doors to the virtual dealership fly open, revealing the general manager, who introduces a brief commercial about Aura. After the spot ends, the general manager returns, standing next to an Aura and offering choices that include spinning the car 360 degrees, inspecting its engine, printing a map with directions to the dealership and visiting the Web sites of Saturn (saturn.com) or the dealer."

Nice evidence for the hypothesis that Goog will never be branding 2.0's distributor, leaving a huge market gap for other players (who desperately need to find a way to do so, hi Yahoo).

If it isn't intuitive why this is the wrong approach, it should be - this is just the same old branding, but Googlized; made a bit more technological.

The point, instead, is to change the deeper economics of brands.

-- umair // 2:43 PM //

Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Utopia and Dystopia

One thing I've been taking flak quite a bit for recently is this idea that somehow I am in the camp of 2.0 utopians.

I find this absolutely mystifying, considering almost every one of my research notes talks in excruciating detail about the problems with 2.0/new media/etc.

As I've pointed out in the past, the whole utopian/dystopian argument is a bit silly. There will never be a perfect world, blah, blah.

The real question is: are we all better off, or worse off?

Talking about utopias and dystopias is just a distraction.

Which is exactly why I don't argue either of those perspectives.

-- umair // 2:22 PM //


Guys...the multimedia swicki rocks (honestly, just check the pic I get for "arbitrage"). But can someone tell me why I can't choose a simple white background for my swicki...?

-- umair // 12:27 PM //


Hi everyone, this is an open thread for admin stuff. Burning issues, stuff I've missed but you want discussed, etc...

Also, I would like to add some Drupalish community features to bubblegen for everyone to enjoy.

So, I need someone more technologically competent than myself to discuss and help install these...I would be eternally grateful if you can help.

-- umair // 10:59 AM //

Monday, September 18, 2006
Innovation Wednesdays

Guys, I am going to start holding weekly get-togethers for those interested in media/www/consumer/edge vs core/innovation in general.

These are going to be informal, not clubby, and the point is just to have a few interesting discussions.

The first one is going to be at Coco Momo (formerly Dusk), 79 Marylebone High Street, this Wednesday, from 7-9. All are welcome (esp anyone who can think of a cleverer name).

-- umair // 11:41 AM //




due diligence
a vc
tj's weblog
venture chronicles
the big picture
bill burnham
babak nivi
n-c thoughts
london gsb

chicago fed
dallas fed
ny fed
world bank
nouriel roubini


uhaque (dot) mba2003 (at) london (dot) edu


atom feed

technorati profile

blog archives