“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”—Walden; or, Life in the Wood by Henry David Thoreau (via marksbirch)
Oh my gosh. Logged in tonight to find we tripped the 200,000 follower mark.
I’m overwhelmed. Every like, reblog, and follow is a tiny affirmation that I, and subsequently, you are not alone. There are thousands of other amazing people from California to Australia that share our weird, stupid,…
My friend Diana did a post recently musing on the streaming nature of social media and how sometimes important news can get missed as the events in people’s lives just scroll by. She made a nice post about the basic facts. I liked it. So I’m going to do it too.
I left the Barbarian Group almost ten months ago. Since then, I’ve been working on a book about advertising, tech and economics. I’ve also been working on a novel about ghosts. I have been working for about six months to open a new coworking space in Williamsburg called Secret Clubhouse, that will be opening in this summer.
On top of all that, I have some new exciting work I am doing. I will be working for Tumblr for the next six months on a full time basis as a consultant for their Sales and Marketing team. I’ve been talking to them and working with them for a while on an advisory basis, but I think now is the time and come and help them for a while in a more hard core manner. I obviously love Tumblr, but I also love that they are committed to this whole “good” thing when it comes, well, anything, but also to advertising and revenue. Much like we were at The Barbarian Group. Most of the advertising on the web is crap still, and after fifteen years of working to make it less offensive from the agency side, I’m excited to help try and do so from the platform side for a while.
Since the dawn of time, advertising has swung back and forth like a pendulum. It goes from the hard selling direct ads of Wanamaker and Draft back to the creative side of Bernbach and Bogusky. I really believe that the eternal pendulum is swinging back from direct to creative, and perhaps for the first time on the web in a good 20 years since we took our first miserable stab with the banner. Ha. Native advertising, premium content, getting out of the banner box and being integrated and real. I mean, I think about this so much that this is what I’ve been writing this mythical book about (and don’t worry, it’s still coming along).
And Tumblr’s all about creativity and creators, from product to community. I’m excited to help make sure that commitment extends to any advertising they do.
It’s gonna rule.
I’ve got some other things coming up soon too, and they are going to be awesome too, but that news is for another day.
this makes my day. so great to see Rick join their team!
“A wave starts way out at sea. Way, way out where you can’t see it, but it’s there. It’s tiny, and frail, and doesn’t seem like much though each day it gains a little more strength. Each day it grows. And it’s got it sights set on shore. And it doesn’t stop until it gets there.”—Be a wave. (via kirklove)
Big product changes have been afoot among several OATV backed companies in the last few weeks. Some have been met with praise, others met with scorn. In all cases there’ve been bits of both as users embrace or resist some of the new features and behaviors offered up by their beloved services.
As users, we’re just like most. There are parts of each new rev of these products we love, and others we’d wished never saw the light of day. Some we embrace over time and others we pester the companies to roll back. With our user hats on, we appreciate the companies who engage openly in the conversations happening among us.
Seeing founders down to interns monitoring and responding to tweets, blog comments and emails shows a level of caring and community that endears us to these companies and their products even more. We continue to invest our time in them and their products because they invest their time listening to and working with us.
But as investors, these product launches have an additional layer of meaning. Because what is often seen as new and, sometimes, surprising to users is actually the public manifestation of what has been bouncing around in the heads of founders and behind closed doors of the companies we back for years.
All the new Explore stuff that Foursquare just rolled out? Dennis shared his vision for that the first time we sat down to talk over 3 years ago. Bitmarking? That’s been something the bitly team has wanted to build for years.
As I look across our portfolio of companies many have just scratched the surface of the visions they have for the products they want to build and the impact they each hope to have on the world. They are working daily to lay the foundations for building the companies that can build the products that shape the future. Much of that is the thankless stuff that never hits the front page of the NYT.
Seeing pieces of people’s visions make their way into the real world is a pretty amazing part of our job as investors. And knowing that there is so much more happening that others haven’t even seen yet, that no one may ever see, gives us a view into a part of the startup experience that most will never get.
I dig that.
"Seeing pieces of people’s visions make their way into the real world" indeed.
“At a press conference Tuesday NFL commissioner Roger Goodell left no doubts about where the league stands on Wi-Fi in stadiums: He wants league-wide networks in every NFL venue, so that fans “don’t have to shut down” their mobile devices.”—
“Do not go into advertising. Your creativity, as trite as it sounds, is worth more than that corporation will ever pay you. We all need jobs. There is nothing wrong with doing something that is not your dream job, out of necessity. But it doesn’t have to be advertising. If you are young, you have time to try a lot of things. Try to be a writer. Try to make it with your band. Try to be a working artist. If it doesn’t work out financially, at least you gave it a shot. And you never have to stop making art, regardless of your circumstances. Unless you agree to sell your creativity to that machine.”—
I know this was like a week old, but it still irks me, and I think there’s one more thing to say about it.
This is, of course, me. I was in a band. I had a record label. I was a photographer. I wrote fiction. And I went into advertising. For… almost fifteen years. I am still, in many ways, “in advertising.” I sit on the bord of a prestigious ad school. I work with tech starts who predominantly make their money off of advertising, and I advise them on advertising. I am writing a book about advertising.
But you know what else I am doing? Making art. Art that I love. That I do not give a fuck if anyone, ever, buys. And I don’t need to make a living off of it. I am working on two novels. I am working on a photo book of blurry photographs taken from Amtrak trains along the northeast corridor. I love my photos, and I consider them art. I will also be shocked if I ever sell more than 50 books of them. But I do not care. Because I don’t need to make a living off of them.
Art and commerce are implicitly combined in this author’s trolling post. Implicit is that advertising is commerce, and you should try and “make it’ as a writer, or as an artist, rather than deign to be part of commerce. So what does “making it” mean? It means making money. It means commerce.
My art, thanks to my career in advertising, is now completely divorced of commerce, because I chose to make a living in something I happened to be really good at instead of something I was not actually all that “good” at, in terms of making a career.
So, now. Whose art is more pure? The artist who has the luxury, thanks to hard work, to create their art without a concern for commerce, or the artist who still has to cater their art to the “market” and make a living off of it?
And no, you don’t have to “stop making art…. unless you agree to sell your creativity to that machine.” What utter bollucks.
Did you know that there was a novel called The Man Nobody Knows that was a modern-day biography of Jesus Christ that was the best selling novel in the United States for two full years in a row? Do you know who wrote it? Bruce Barton, one of the Bs in BBDO.
You probably DID know about Rushdie, Fay Weldon, Len Deighton, Peter Carey, Sir Alan Parker, Sir Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Spike Jonze, and Michel Gondry, however. Ad men, every one of them.
(props to Mark Tungate for this info. His book AdLand: A Global History of Advertising is worthy reading).
Closer to home, the number of people in AWESOME but noncommercial bands I know in advertising is insane. And just last week I was grabbing drinks with a friend who had published THREE books, and stated he’s MUCH happier at his agency job.
I believe e-commerce can make Tumblr over $100M a year. I’ve shared my thoughts with the Tumblr team directly, but I figured I’d share it with all of you as well. It comes in two flavors: independent stores (bottom up) and retail partnerships (top down).
Independent stores are like Etsy, but not limited to handmade - Tumblr users can sell what they craft, draw, photograph, and compose directly to their followers. Tumblr facilitates the transaction via credit card or Paypal, taking a modest 5% transaction fee. Not only does this generate meaningful revenue, it creates a really amazing virtuous cycle for user growth: sellers promote their tumblogs offline to drive business, which drives more users registrations, which create more sellers, who then promote their shops, etc. At least, that’s what we saw at Etsy. At last estimate, Etsy did ~$3M/month in revenue, an easily attainable goal for Tumblr. The integration is non-instrusive: Tumblr users can choose to add a “Purchase” button to the bottom of their post that is tied to an item they’ve added to their tumblr shop (also viewable at user.tumblr.com/store). Followers who click the button input their billing & shipping info via an overlay to purchase, then are returned right to where they were in the dashboard. Like at Etsy & Ebay, Tumblr processes the payments but otherwise leaves transaction coordination to the buyer & seller. Down the road, Tumblr could aggregate all of these items together into a Tumblr Marketplace, for people who want to exclusively browse the items for sale by all Tumblr users.
Retail partnerships would work like this: Tumblr does custom integrations with the major retailers (Barneys, Nordstrom, Gilt) so that every time a post containing a link to a partner’s product page is detected, a “Purchase” button is embedded at the bottom of the post. Clicking the button leads the user through a purchase pipeline. Tumblr gets a 5-15% affiliate fee. I believe Tumblr can negotiate very aggressive revshare deals because of the volume, the incremental revenue, and the demographic. The reason why nobody can do this except Tumblr is because Tumblr’s users are curators, and curators are the missing component. Amazon is great at selling books but is awful at softlines (retail speak for fashion items) because there are so many items and they go out of style every 3 months. (Read my post for more detail.) Tumblr’s community of curators is the secret ingredient that I believe can bring e-commerce’s current single digit share of the $225 Billion US fashion market into the double digits.
Here’s the math: Tumblr claims 60M posts per day or 22B per year. If we assume 0.1% of posts fall into the e-commerce category, each post gets viewed by 200 followers, 1% of those followers buy something, and Tumblr makes a $2.40 transaction fee per sale (8% on $30 item), that’s $105 Million per year.
Given a small team with the right skills, Tumblr could get this going in 3-6 months. The $100M question is, why aren’t they already doing this?
Great thoughts from Dave on what I consider one of the five key revenue drivers Tumblr should test in 2012.
“The myth of user-generated content. “Those who create are rare; those who cannot are numerous. Therefore, the latter are stronger.” A lot of social media sites assume that a lot of their users will be heavy contributors. They then proceed to design a product geared only toward heavy contributors. This is wrong-headed. Less than 0.5% of a site’s users (often FAR less than) are heavy contributors.”—
1) Users of the developer’s application: every time a user of an Instagram-linked application posts a photo, the developer’s application will receive a notification. Developers like Foodspotting and sites like Dropbox now both utilize this new functionality.
2) Tags: An application can track a given tag and receive updates every time a new photo is posted with a given tag.
3) Locations: Every time a new photo is geo-tagged with a specific location, the developer will receive a notification.
4) Geographies: Sometimes individual locations are too specific. For these cases, we suggest subscribing to Geographies. Geographies consist of a latitude and longitude and a radius. This allows developers to subscribe to a given area like Austin or a specific city block of Manhattan.
Might be a good opportunity to play around with a blazing hot iPhone app.
“Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30 percent share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100 percent and Apple earns nothing,” said Steve Jobs, Apple’s CEO. “All we require is that, if a publisher is making a subscription offer outside of the app, the same (or better) offer be made inside the app, so that customers can easily subscribe with one-click right in the app. We believe that this innovative subscription service will provide publishers with a brand new opportunity to expand digital access to their content onto the iPad, iPod touch and iPhone, delighting both new and existing subscribers.”—
“The network isn’t crazy about you tweeting. They’re not sure that’s cool,” O’Brien recalls being told. His response was simple: “Tell them I would be thrilled if they shut down my Twitter account. I’d love it if that got out. You think PR’s been bad up till now? Wait till you take away my Twitter account.”—Awesome article about Conan’s online presence. http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/02/10/conan-2-0/ (via scottgairdner)
“Instagram was trying to solve three problems
1. “The first problem we tried to solve was making your photo more interesting.”
2. “We wanted it to be fast to upload photos, so you can get back to hanging out with your friends.”
3. Make it easy to “send a picture to as many social networks as possible.””—
Lesson learned: Simple questions help make useful products.
“AOL, even after its spinoff from Time Warner in 2009, remains a public company. So why did it pay almost completely in cash? (Just $15 million of the transaction is in stock.) Because while AOL clearly believes fully in The Huffington Post, Arianna and her squad just as clearly don’t believe fully in AOL.”—Arianna Cashes Out (via cheatsheet)
It seems like it was just last month that we announced a batch of new hires—oh, wow, it was! Time flies when you’re working hard. Well, we’re back at it again. Today, we’re thrilled to introduce the four newest members of Team GroupMe.
Chris Connolly, a good friend of Jared and Steve’s, …
“Mark me down as saying Apple will introduce their own line of televisions that use the iPhone / iPad as a remote control. iTunes integration to purchase media on the remote, then AirPlay to “flick” it to the TV. Hell, Apple might even consider giving away an iPod Touch with the purchase of the TV, since the TV margins probably cover the cost and the App Store sales revenue will generate more rev over time.”—
Wait, but the 30-day windows were supposed to reverse this trend. Remember? That was the whole point. And it was definitely going to work.
Warner Bros. DVD sales down 24 percent year over year. Sony sales down 20 percent. Paramount DVD sales down an excellent 44 percent year over year.
The fundamental problem remains: most movies simply aren’t worth owning. The studios need to get on board with that fact, create a better system for renting all movies a massive number of times across a massive number of devices for a fair price, or they’ll get run over like their friends in the music industry.
What studios say and what they mean are two different things.
Windowing protects existing relationships with people who spend millions a day with the studios optioning their catalogs and getting first run options placing studio films on pay cable etc.
Tying the consumer to the story is more for pomp and circumstance and less about the bottom line.
Sub rates are the best money studios can get, and the cable universe is still growing supporting the model more and more with each year. Its going to take someone with a large existing user base (Redbox) being acquired by someone with deep studio ties (Wal Mart or Amazon) and instituting a competitive pricing model to Netflix in order for this to really work and thing to change. Even then, it won’t happen overnight.
“Host Gavin MacLeod revealed that even he himself had set up a profile on the dating site, joking that he “can’t let the real captains have all the fun!” But that innocent joke highlighted a very real problem for the site, said the site’s new lead engineer Robert Santine, “Our main challenge now is to keep the site growing while at the same time limiting fake captain profiles. While SeaCaptainDate.com has become extremely popular in sailing circles, which is great, we’ve also seen a surge in fraudulent accounts made by hipsters in Brooklyn and Hollywood. We’ve been deleting these “fake-captains”, but it’s hard sometimes keeping up.””—
The hardest thing about all of this is to get started. And I think the most important thing that I’ve learned is that you have to - as soon as you have it - get it our of your head, get it on paper. And then to take this one step further just show someone. Just show someone what it looks like on paper. Even code a little bit and show someone the interaction.
“These deals should really be a wake-up call to politicians and regulators. They are a great example of how well-intentioned regulations can backfire. The net result of the Wall Street research settlement, SARBOX and other protections for small investors has been: small investors now have no access to the most interesting investment opportunities.”—
Agreed with everything here. Why go through the pain of public regulation when you can get what you need from private markets?
100%! great perspective in the post about how and why they can (and should?) grow the way they are. No one is looking to abolish regulation, but it would be nice to have the deal makers in the top performing sectors in your court when you do!