December 14, 2009

Social media & startups: It’s a different ballgame

The social media disclaimer start-ups should know

socialmediaposttagcloudJoanna LordI get asked a lot: “How do I make money off social media?” Uhmm, well, you use the magic wand of online web awesomeness, obviously. Or maybe not. We have all read a million articles pointing us toward tools we should be using, things we should be considering, and the best practices we shouldn’t ignore. We get it: Social media is valuable. I think by now we all understand the importance of social media as a visibility engine and viral message maker. It can be used to enable conversations, announce information, put out fires, and so on.

It can do a lot. But it has limits. Ohhh buzz kill.

The reality of a start-up culture

Having lived in both Los Angeles and now Seattle, I have been surrounded with start-ups. In fact, it was a huge push for my location decisions in general. Start-ups face unique challenges, especially right now. No surprise there.

Start-ups also have a ton of options. They really are entering with a clean slate most of the time and, often, a huge number of resources. They have investors, boards, friends, family, old colleagues, old networks, etc., all pushing for them and offering a helping hand. So when it comes to deciding where they want to invest their energy and call in those favors, it can get tricky. Continue reading

December 3, 2009

As media gets more democratic, it gets more feminine

bing-maps
The new Bing Maps geotargets Twitter tweets.

Supernova roundup: Media, real-time services — and ‘the end of the Web era’

JD LasicaI spent Wednesday at the Supernova conference in San Francisco, which has morphed over the years from a gathering about mobile and telephony into one that addresses the larger themes sweeping through society: Social media. The real-time Web. Public policy in a connected society. New technologies that rewire our culture.

Given the enormously impressive attendee list, Supernova may now have the highest signal to noise ratio of any conference in the tech galaxy. I’ve written about Supernova in 2004, 2005 (here’s Caterina Fake and a Flickr set), 2006, 2007, and have spoken there twice — and, indeed, it was at Supernova 2004 that Marc Canter and I hatched the plan for Ourmedia‘s launch in March 2005 as the first video hosting and sharing site.

But this year’s Supernova may be the best one yet. It concludes this afternoon.

Please read on — you can skip the next six months of conferences, saving thousands in registration fees, just by reading this blog entry. Some Supernova highlights:

Is media getting more … feminine?

The “Is There a Media Business?” panel provided a lively give and take with the 75 or so participants in the session, and it focused less on the travails of the news business than on the larger forces churning through the media landscape: music and movies as well as news. I found it interesting that I had profiled two of the three participants, Jim Griffin and Cory Ondrejka, in my book Darknet. (You can read the chapter on Griffin at Pho, Cole Porter and Tarzan economics.)

The highlight for me came when Jim Griffin alluded to traditional media as quintessentially male in nature — pushing out product through blunt force and “the need to consummate a relationship without even getting your name” — while Lisa Stone and the panelists agreed that there may be a “feminization of media” underway, where the value comes from creating a relationship that never ends. Lisa called it the “coopetition” model of media, mutually cooperative and competitive.

I think there’s something to this: Social media is all about relationship building, about giving more than taking, and women still top men in that department.

After Lisa cited news publishers’ criticism of Google and the Huffington Post as “technological tapeworms” of the Internet — a few hours earlier Google announced it would restrict access to fee-based news sites — Cory quipped: “Google is handing a gun to mainstream media, ‘Here, go shoot yourself.’ Do you want your customers not to find [your articles]? … Making your content more obscure does not seem like the right approach.”

Griffin said more companies were in effect becoming media entities — like J&J, which purchased and is running BabyCenter.com for new and expectant parents (I used to run its editorial department).

It will take 3 years for Google, the music companies and Hollywood to come to an arrangement that pays stakeholders a share of revenue derived from ads on YouTube.

Midway through I made the point that the music companies and Hollywood studios deserve some credit for not cracking down on the literally millions of copyright violations that are appearing on YouTube every day. And I argued that the marketplace — we, the people — have indeed moved the goal posts over the past three years without the need for Congress to act.

I predict that it will take another three years for Google, the music companies and Hollywood to come to an arrangement that pays the various stakeholders a share of revenue derived from ads on YouTube, some of which will go to the musicians, some to the songwriters, some to the studios and so on. But rights are an enormously thorny bramble bush, and the lawyers and suits will spend years trying to figure out the new rules of the road in the digital age.

Let’s hope that Google will map the way for creative mashup monetization, just as Apple pioneered the way for music companies to enter the digital era after Napster. One hopes that the mashup artist gets a slice of the pie, too. Continue reading

August 13, 2009

Cali Lewis on what goes into a successful podcast

Cali Lewis of GeekBrief.tv from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

The host of GeekBrief.TV also offers 7 secrets to podcasting success

JD LasicaIf you travel in technology circles, chances are you’ve heard of Cali Lewis, the extraordinarily gifted, personaable and successful Web show pioneer who hosts and co-produces GeekBrief.TV. She’s about to top 50,000 followers on Twitter at @calilewis.

Geek Brief, launched on Dec. 23, 2005, now boasts more than 600 episodes (I’ve watched most of them), done on location or at Cali and her husband Neal Campbell’s studio in Dallas. I don’t know how they keep up the pace, given the show’s high production values. Over the years in my talks on new media, I’ve often held up Cali and Geek Brief as a spot-on example of how to “break” into new media — and of how the next generation of Web video shows will look: fast-paced, interesting, fun, personality-driven, passionate and polished.

In this interview, conducted at WordCamp SF shortly before her talk, Cali discusses the genesis of Geek Brief (after 5 months, “we were done with our day jobs and began doing the show full time” — living the dream), podcasting’s place in the mediasphere (“What podcasting offers is that anybody can do it. They don’t have to be told by ABC or NBC or any radio station that they have the talent to do this. The audience is picking and choosing who is successful.”), and how she chooses which tech news to feature (new technologies that excite her and her viewers).

Social media’s role

We spent most of the interview discussing social media and how to engage an audience. The most important rule of audience participation is “you participating back,” she said. Putting questions to the users is a good technique, through Twitter, blog comments and directly on the show itself. She’s on a campaign to coax people to communicate via Twitter rather than email (“You can have a great conversation in 140 characters.”) She’s also particularly adept at using live video streaming during some of her episodes, calling it “a great way to interact.”

Her advice to those just starting out: “Think about what you want, and then just go for it!” I often echo her advice to not get tripped up by the technology. GeekBrief.TV offers some training materials on its Podcasting Tips page.

The lighting on this 9-minute video was subpar because it was bright outside and my LP-Micro fill light wasn’t up to the task.

Watch or embed video on Vimeo
Watch video in H.264 QuickTime on Ourmedia.org
Download video from Archive.org

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August 5, 2009

Final reflections on the Traveling Geeks trip

Craig & Karyn

JD LasicaIt has been one month since the Traveling Geeks kicked off our trip to London and Cambridge with a Tweetup at JuJu in Chelsea. (I was the chief organizer of trip.) From this distance and vantage point, here are a few random impressions:

• I think too much can be made of the differences between entrepreneurship in the UK and in the United States. While it’s true that Silicon Valley nurtures a spirit of innovation marked by the mantra “Fail often, but fail fast” — an axiom that permits experimentation without demanding an immediate return to investors — it’s even more true that the businessmen and entrepreneurs I met along the way have the same fire in the belly — a burning desire to build something of great value.

SeedCamp was a high point of the trip to many of us, and apart from the well-done, compact presentations, it was fascinating to watch tomorrow’s young business leaders mingle with each other and exchange ideas and contact information. Cross-pollination at its best. Spotify, Huddle, Skimlinks, Zemanta — these are names that may grow into notable consumer brands in the coming years, and Moo arguably already has. (Here’s my writeup; and here’s my video interview with Skimlinks founder Alicia Navarro.)

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July 15, 2009

Seedcamp winners meet the Geeks

Zemanta

JD LasicaOne of the real highlights of the Traveling Geeks trip to the United Kingdom last week came when we were treated to “speed dating” session with the top start-ups of Seedcamp.

seedcampThis, after all, is one of the chief goals of the Traveling Geeks: to suss out young or little-known start-ups hear their stories, and throw a spotlight on the ones that resonate with us.

So we were thrilled when Sherry Coutu and Reshma Sohoni of London-based Seedcamp (Twitter: @seedcamp) arranged for us to meet their top start-ups, both collectively and one on one. Every one had a compelling consumer-facing service. Here are the ones that particularly struck a chord:

Huddle.net

Twitter: @huddle
Email: [email protected]
Site: huddle.net

huddleHuddle.net offers a collaboration, sharing and project tools platform for getting stuff done. Specifically, Huddle provides secure online workspaces where users can share files, collaborate on ideas, manage projects and organize virtual meetings. P&G, Toshiba, Panasonic, Nokia and Unicef are among the customers using Huddle.

In February, Huddle partnered with InterCall, the world’s largest conferencing provider, to provide services to their 1 million-plus customers. And last month BusinessWeek named Huddle one of their “50 most promising startups” around the globe.

Heady stuff for founders Andy McLoughlin and Alistair Mitchell, who gave me a five-minute rundown of the site’s services. While I’ve been impressed by Basecamp‘s recent improvements, I saw enough in my session with Andy and Alistair that persuaded me to try out Huddle in an upcoming project with one of my clients or co-conspirators.

Zemanta

Twitter: @zemanta
Email: [email protected]
Site: zemanta.com

zemantaAndraz Tori (pictured at top), CTO of Slovenia-based Zemanta, sat down and gave the company’s six-word pitch: “Zemanta is an author’s best friend.” Turns out that it’s not just a marketing pitch.

zemanta siderI just started using Zemanta today and can see why it’s so addictive. As a blogger on WordPress who uses the Firefox browser, I’m perfectly suited for Zemanta’s services. I had previously come across Zemanta only on other bloggers’ posts and didn’t pay much attention to the link at the bottom of blog posts that would summon up related posts.

But Zemanta offers a slick and convenient way to spruce up your blog posts.It looks over your shoulder while you’re crafting a post (or even an email) and suggests images, related articles, links and tags to use. A simple click and the image or link now becomes part of your post. Zemanta draws from a large pool of available images, many of them carrying Creative Commons licenses. That’s one of the coolest features — mouse over the image and you’ll see its terms of use (generally free).

“I just love Zemanta,” said fellow Geek Meghan Asha. “It’s just cool to be able to have those images right there, all free and legal to use.”

Well put. I’m a believer now .

Spotify

Twitter: @spotify
Email: [email protected]
Site: spotify.com

spotifyIn my book “Darknet” I wrote about the ongoing clash between the music companies and music fans who just want easy access to digital music. Spotify is one of the first companies to come along with an answer.

Through its simple-to-use interface and licensing deals with the major music labels, Spotify offers music fans instant access to their favorite music. The service enables on-demand streaming of tons of audio content through a free, ad-supported model and a premium paid model. London-based Lastfm and US-based Pandora are two similar music listening services, and SoundCloud is a great way to share music and audio files (see Robert Scoble’s video interview with One of Europe’s brightest startups: SoundCloud).

Scoble has been a big fan of Spotify, and I can see why.

Moo

Twitter: @overheardatmoo
Email: [email protected]
Site: moo.com

mooI’ve been a fan of Moo cards for years — they’re a staple at Silicon Valley events — but didn’t realize, until founder-CEO Richard Moross laid it out for me, just how many kinds of business cards and stickers Moo offers.

A lot: the company prints of cards a month for customers in 180 countries. Their customer base consists of 40 percent North Americans, 30 percent from the UK and 30 percent from the rest of the world, chiefly Europe. The best part: The cards are completely personalized. In the past, I’ve uploaded 50 different images for a stack of 100 business cards at a cost of about $20. Crazy-cheap.

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