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Posts Tagged ‘2010’

I don’t do hardcore predictions as most interesting things are fundamentally unpredictable.  That Black Swan thing and all that.

However, I do think it worthwhile to lay down some context and shifts in the business, social and other environments that will shape our lives going forward.

Microsoft and Facebook Merge

Facebook is what Microsoft likely wanted Passport and then Windows Live to be – the single sign on for the planet.  Owning the sign-on and digital trail people leave behind is the single most valuable (to a business) asset any media/software business can own (well, really any business).  Not even search engine advertising is as valueable.  Search is just one of the hundreds of things we all do online and it isn’t nearly as revealing as the comments we post, the products we buy, the addresses we ship to, the people we connect and the jobs we take.

Facebook brings together efficiently so much of what Microsoft makes billions on: messaging, apps development, gaming, mobile…

If you look at how tight Microsoft has been with Facebook from Television ads to deep integration into XBox live it seems that a deepening relationship is inevitable.

Beyond that it would be quite a trojan horse into Apple and Google to have MSFT-FB, as Facebook is a major factor in the continued success of iPhone and Facebook is the only viable-still growing by leaps and bounds advertising platform.

Now, is it Facebook that has the commanding position over Microsoft?   Perhaps a strong Facebook IPO (a very likely event in 2010) will give Facebook enough power to make several very bold moves.  Maybe it starts smaller where Facebook absorbs Yahoo….  Again, these things are complex, but I very much think it’s Facebook=Microsoft that mounts the serious competition to the growing Google empire.

For fun, a prediction:  As a specific thing I can see happening – you will be able to login to your windows OS based device via Facebook connect.    And that could get very interesting for all things cloud computing, social gaming and so forth!

Print Focused Companies (retailers, publishers, distributors included) to Be Very Aggressive and Then Flame Out

Again, hard to be too specific here but it’s clear after the massive holidays for digital assets that there’s not much hope (hope=transactions!) for the mega bookstores, the mostly print based publishers and daily newspapers.

Borders and Barnes and Noble simply failed on ebooks and their stores are a wreck.  I visit at least 2 bookstores a week.  Week over week I see a decline in inventory, more and more Twilight displays and a growing impulse buy check out line.  All of those things mean that consumers are browsing the shelves and buying inventory.  Local borders seem much more like a Hallmark store than a book store.  Endless BS gadgets and gifts and a truly horribly vanilla book selection.  Sadly the mega bookstores stopped focusing on what made them so attractive – the experience of buying a book.  This was their last defensible asset.  And now they are probably the WORST way to buy a book – price, fidelity, distractions, over selling, etc.

(If they had the balls they could save themselves.  Give away ereaders, give discounts to buying ebooks instore, install print-on-demand binding machines, expand the cafes, hire actual booklovers/experts.   It would take 2 years of investment but in the end these would be beautiful places to socialize, read, explore… and the margins would go way up because they wouldn’t have shitty inventory, confusing displays and everything else that comes with a bad bookstore.)

Print publishers won’t see the return of the ad dollars.  And fewer and fewer people will subscribe.   Once the grocery stores dump the lame magazine and newspaper displays (they don’t make us much money as the energy drink displays) print will really suffer.   Print publishers still have tons of great content in them they just can’t get off the crack of the gross margins of the past print monopolies.   No, new emagazine readers aren’t going to save this stuff.   There’s a business is feature content, but it’s not at all like the business of old and the near future will reveal who’s going to adjust to a tighter business model with no investment in print.

Print on Demand, Self Publishing services (iuniverse and the others), ebook stores will continue to erode the distribution and agent infrastructure.  I’m sure eventually we’ll have widespread “SEO/findability consultants” for authors. (I’ve advised a few authors and agents).    With megabookstores and other “stands” for print content going away there won’t be any need for restocking and all that.  It’s going to be 90% digital very soon.  (what does this mean for printers? paper makers?   many that i’ve looked up don’t look much like paper companies anymore!)

We will see a near term explosion of activity with these companies as they struggle against the tide.  The tide is too great, though.

Network TV goes On Demand Only

The NBC – GE- Comcast deal earlier and now the Time Warner / Fox feud is the precursor to network TV going all on demand.  There’s no long term business model for free-over the air-high cost network TV.  The ad rates don’t support it, the consumers don’t watch it and content creators don’t need it any more.   Yeah, it will take years to unwind this business but it’s pretty clear you the network brand doesn’t mean much in the world today.

The recent reselling/movement of fairly popular (or what seem to be popular shows) while still popular is an interesting data point.  Scrubs from NBC to ABC, Medium from NBC to CBS, ESPN and Disney brand all over ABC, Oprah from ABC to her own thing.  MLB network, NFL network, NBA network…..  all of these entities are far more on demand and digitally integrated than the networks.

Once the current crop of executives age out/move on the facade of network TV will be over.

Education becomes Wikified

Public schools simply can’t keep up and it’s not really their fault.  Their main value (in most locations) is a social function.   Their content, methods, resources are simply not sufficient to deliver a functional modern education.   Very soon parents won’t worry about home schooling being something that weird/non-social people do… public schools will make sure home-school is the norm.  The public schools will become community centers.

How can I say this?  It’s already happening!  I have a pre-K kid that goes to the pre-K program for a couple of hours a day.  She has homework assignments.  We have mandatory parenting meetings.  Everything else is home or third party based.   I have a 1st grader.  She has at least 1 hour of homework a day.  The school is closed for 3 weeks in the holidays, has a good amount of short days, etc.   Parents now comprise the majority of in room help and supply almost all of the fundraising and community awareness.  The community and each family is already contributing so much ON TOP of taxes that eventually parents en masse will decide that the ruse of public school as a valuable curriculum resources and effective learning environment is over.

I’m socially close to quite a few teachers (at all levels) and administrators.    Teaching isn’t nearly as rewarding as they’d hoped, the resources aren’t there and pay simply won’t keep them afloat.

So…. the community will just take it over directly.  $300 netbooks, endless curriculum online, widespread social networking makes schooling from home something that is tangible, effective and affordable.

And, no, private schools and higher education are not immune to this.  They have a slightly longer life span because of their deeper resources but even they won’t be able to compete long term in any of their current forms.

I think the initial tipping point came when schools no longer were the best place to get access to technology.  That happened in the early 2000s.

Presidential Campaigns to Start Early Into Presidents First Term

Personally I think the next presidential campaign has already started.   From Sarah Palin’s actions to the still aggressive use of social media by the parties the next campaign is basically underway.  I suspect the national parties will get revved up with formalities even sooner than the last presidential election.

The news outlets and late night shows and blogs will see to it.  The rise of current media leaders  rise coincided with the last election and it’s the only trick they know to keep that ever-needed growth going.   The media, if we let it, is going to start the next election in 2010.

Brandon Marshall Ends up on the Bears

Well, I hope!  I don’t see how the Broncos and Marshall ever get along.  Cutler and Marshall just worked.  Make it happen.

I have more to flow out on the shape of things…. sadly The Little Mermaid II just ended on the old VCR so the girls need attention. 😉  Talk at ya later.

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I find simple equations sometimes help frame an opportunity.
In the case of software and media companies I have a very basic formula to gauge an opportunity that goes something like this…
M = Maximum possible number of users (consumers or members) a business could capture if they had 100% of the market
C = Average Cost to acquire a user
D = Research and Development cost to develop initial software or media property
L = Lifetime value of the user (can use advertising CPMs, licensing fees, subscrition rates and lengths)
S = seed money or capital to attempt the business
R = Likely Top Market Share Attained (typically not more than 15%)
=>
M * L = Maximum Revenue Lifetime of the Business
D + (C * M) = Maximum Cost to Deliver Maximum Revenue
=>
MaxRev – MaxCost = MaxProfitLoss
You can repeat this exercise with R instead of M to get the realistic model.
I like to make some guess as to how fast a business can get to that max so that I know the rev per year and what not.  Yes, this is a trivial calculation but I think it’s a really useful rule of thumb formula for sizing up an opportunity in software and media.
The key to this equation is estimated M accurately (usually means being very honest with your market).  It’s not too tough with todays tools and open data to get a good look at demographics, buying histories, competitors and so forth.
Note that I make no attempt to account for market valuations and all that.  That way of thinking is usually a chasing after the wind.
Why does this equation help?
Well, the main point is that it gives me a great sense of scope.  Many of the media properties and software products out there cost a ton of money and have mediocre maximum markets or very low lifetime value.  Many businesses are eager to create a killer app but don’t have a grasp of what the scope of a killer app really has to be and/or they grossly underestimate how hard it is to make something.
What I find with this equation is that there’s a sweet spot in media and software.  If you optimize this equation you find that you can’t make software or media that’s too esoteric or complicated to make nor can you make complete fluff.   If you want to make something that appeals to everyone on the planet (not possible) it’s going to cost a lot and the cost to acquire users will be very high… so with this simple equation you learn you’ll be at it for a long time.  On the other hand if you want to make a high end product for a niche, you’ll find that the overall opportunity might not be that big.
Again, this is hardly rocket science, sound economic theory or anything… simple napkin math.
What it doesn’t capture, but hints at is the gross mis-estimation a good deal of entreprenuers make – software and media is more art than science and can very quickly turn into something intractable.
A few other considerations I’ve accumulated over the years in and out of businesses:
  • If your media or software is uber mass market, the big guys are just going to make it and give it away.
  • If your project takes too long (a year or more), you’re going to have many more competitors working way faster than you before you ship.
  • A killer app or killer media property is often not the thing you set out to make, it’s usually the mistake, the tangent, the oddball idea.
  • More capital doesn’t improve the chances.  Capital only helps to scale once something is built, for MOST projects.
Perhaps you’ll find this useful as you move into 2010 and kick start your projects!

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