Thursday, December 20, 2012

This Week in Instagram


I've done a couple of posts this week on Instagram, and one TV appearance, on CNBC's "Closing Bell" (clip above).

In my weekly Reuters column I argue that Instagram has to reverse course, and quickly.

In a blog post on LinkedIn, I describe the controversy as big messaging blunder who's best (and least likely) explanation is that it was rookie mistake.

Monday, December 3, 2012

What We Can't Learn from The Daily's Demise

I come to neither praise nor bury The Daily, News Corp's iPad-only news app experiment that will end with a whimper in two weeks. But let's be clear on what went wrong — and what didn't. 

As Wired's business editor at the time The Daily was announced I decided to cover it as a big event — the coming out party literally was a big event for News Corp, which threw a press conference that seemed to try too hard anoint it as a golden child from inception. When you use phrases like "digital renaissance” and assert that "We believe The Daily will be the model for the way stories are told and consumed,” you are setting yourself up for quite a fall.

My own initial impression, for a formal Wired review, was that The Daily was "very good" — 7/10. I admired the "cover flow" approach to displaying content and likened the publication to a "re-imagined digital magazine that is updated every day."

I praised the content: "The Daily looks like it may be onto something editorially, even if the economics are a challenge." But I also hedged: "Content will make or break this app, and it’s too early to judge the quality of The Daily‘s journalism — though nothing we read in the inaugural edition disqualifies it."

That assessment changed quickly for me.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Surface 'Pro' Sheds The Tablet Pretense

Back in June, when Microsoft's Surface was announced, I wrote a Reuters MediaFile column arguing that it really wasn't a tablet at all. It was a hybrid at best, I said, really going after a piece of the the ultralight market. The target wasn't Apple's iPad — but its MacBook Air.

An ARM-based version of the Surface has been out for about a month. It goes for $500 — same as an entry-level iPad. It's really more like $630 because you do want that cover/keyboard, and the cheaper "touch" one looks cheap compared to the "type" version, and it's only $10 less. While Apple shows people touching the iPad screen Surface's print and TV ads for all tout the cover and the kickstand — terrestrial, not mobile features.

Five weeks after launch Surface hasn't made a dent in iPad sales. CEO Ballmer said earlier this month that sales were modest, and that was on purpose.

But the big shoe drop was always going to be how much Microsoft would charge for the Surface with Windows 8 Pro. This one was going to be more expensive, we all knew. But was it going to carve out a niche for tablet/PC hybrids in the way Apple invented demand for tablets?

Who 'Owns' Facebook?

One of the oldest tropes in marketing is that the consumer owns the brand. It's nice shorthand for customer passion: It's why New Coke had to go, why the Gap had to reverse course on their logo change and why the Twinkie may actually last forever after all.

Companies own their brands, of course, in every literal and legal sense. But most of them know that if they act imperiously with their property they risk losing customers, and worse — their best customers can turn into motivated, evangelical enemies overnight.

But what if the product is a service that treats you like a product? Where are your alliances — and what are your rights — in that mind-exploding scenario?

(Full Post)