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Connected Television and IntoNow Are Poised to Disrupt Integrated Brand Advertising

Earlier this year, Yahoo! made a splash with its acquisition of 12-week old media check-in app IntoNow for approximately $27 million. The tech media circles, often critical of Yahoo! in recent years, praised the move in spite of the multi-million dollar price tag and the fact that IntoNow was just 12-weeks old.

IntoNow utilizes wavelength recognition to listen to and identify television programs with the tap of a button, and has become an important tool in Yahoo!’s previously-maligned foray into social. IntoNow combines the addictive check-in elements of Foursquare and the clever utility of Shazaam with the seemingly unstoppable power of Facebook and Twitter. While this conflagration of new media stars yields hordes of adoring users and Silicon Valley praise, IntoNow is poised to tap into the well-established mega-billions of the traditional media television industry.

IntoNow - From Yahoo!

The Internet is transforming television, and the first-glance value of IntoNow is obvious. Anything that gets users in front of television screens, especially if paired with live event coverage a la CoverItLive, holds immense value to television networks seeing more and more eyeballs transition to the smaller screens of laptops, tablets and smartphones.

However, the multi-billion dollar potential of IntoNow and Internet-connected televisions (including Yahoo!’s ConnectedTV) lies in the value these tools can deliver to brand advertisers and CMOs desperately seeking ways to integrate campaigns across the increasing number of platforms used by consumers. The possibilities are endless:

  1. A consumer “checks in” to the live airing of the latest White Collar episode and receives a reward from USA Network (a badge, points, a sneak preview video, a behind-the-scenes look, etc.)
  2. IntoNow utilizes a Pandora-esque algorithm to provide recommendations and offers brand advertisers the ability to provide highly relevant Sponsored Recommendations based on a user’s viewing habits
  3. Yahoo! pairs ConnectedTV and IntoNow with its own real-time ad bidding and exchange technology to deliver contextually matched, highly targeted ads based on what a user is watching right now
  4. A signed-in Yahoo! user receives time-sensitive television and movie recommendations from networks, Fandango, movie studios and the many advertisers Yahoo! already has relationships with based on their explicit IntoNow viewing habits and the inferred interests derived from them
  5. A viewer “checks in” to American Idol and is given the option to “Like” the show’s Facebook page, read the Idols’ tweets or purchase and download a song from the night’s episode directly from iTunes

The power of IntoNow in the right hands makes Yahoo!’s purchasing price of $27 million seem like chump change, and paired with ConnectedTV and real-time ad delivery, may be the spark that ignites Yahoo!’s rebound. Matching advertisers and brands with consumers is a ceaseless quest, and IntoNow gives Yahoo! a plethora of options to deliver value to a vast range of customers while capturing the always-critical adoration of its users. Execution matters above all else, and we’ve seen dozens of hot, nimble startups fall victim to the oppressive tides within a large and entrenched public organization.

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Fighting History – Fragmentation and the Social Web

“History is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.” -John F. Kennedy

For nearly a century, technology has purportedly brought together the fragments of society. With universal access to common information, previously disconnected groups can unite. History has proven, however, that this initial period of universality eventually trends back toward fragmentation. Can the social Web fight history and survive the seemingly inevitable re-fragmentation?

After Dark Ages, the explosion of printing and publishing in the 15th century led to a significant spread of knowledge and the rebirth of intellectual curiosity. Knowledge was no longer exclusively based on hearsay, and people sought information from trusted academic and historical resources. Outside academic circles, media sources like newspapers and general information magazines boomed in popularity in the 18th and 19th centuries. For the first time in generations, people could discuss common events and share their opinions on similar topics. Previously fragmented societies were unified. The world’s longest running magazine, the general information-focused Saturday Evening Post, lasted 148 years. Over time, however, general interest publications died out as public interest waned, and niche publications that catered to unique, specialized interests became the only sustainable media outlets. (There are nearly 7,000 special interest magazines in publication today.)

FDR

Radio, commercialized by RCA’s David Sarnoff after World War I, removed some of the adoption barriers that characterized print media. The famous voices of Edward R. Murrow and Franklin D. Roosevelt – for the first time in history – were broadcast to millions of people at a time across the airwaves. Radio was a national phenomenon, and the medium had a powerful unifying impact on society. Millions of people shared common listening experiences and had access to the same information. For twenty years, the country was bound together by radio until a new medium came along: television. Television forced radio programming to cater to niche audiences, and the medium that once unified society fragmented it once again. (See also: How the Internet is Transforming Television.)

Mark Zuckerberg at Web 2.0

Starting to notice a pattern? The Internet is a unique medium, allowing virtually anyone, anywhere to become a source of content. More than any other medium, the Internet has created fragmented user experiences. The social Web is, of course, founded on the platform of unifying users based on their social connections to create a more personal Web experience. So can it buck the historical trend that has re-fragmented user bases in previous media?

Absolutely.

Social media is the product of constantly evolving, improving and competing technology, and is heavily integrated in a range of Web content. Social products improve user experiences by taking into account a plethora of data and using this data to provide increasingly relevant content and people to share it with. Social media has exploded in popularity over the last five years, but it is easy to argue the market is still in its relative infancy. Mobile social products like Instagram, Foursquare and Twitter are connecting people across the globe in new ways, and social media has initiated a new Web paradigm. The transformational nature of new media technologies has united societies and re-fragmented them again and again, but social media has the opportunity to transcend the biting force of history and remain a powerful connecting force for many years to come.

How Facebook Can Rule the World

[UPDATE 1/3/11]: Facebook had an incredible year in 2010, and they have opened 2011 with a bang. News broke on Sunday evening that Goldman Sachs had invested $450 million in Facebook at a $50 billion valuation, and early Facebook investor, Digital Sky Technologies, would invest another $50 million. If that was not enough, Goldman Sachs committed to raising an addition $1.5 billion in funding from its high net worth clients.

With a $2 billion cash infusion imminent, Facebook’s highly-anticipated IPO likely will not happen in 2011. What reason does CEO Mark Zuckerberg have to go public? Facebook has hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to continue to fund operations, innovation and growth. The skyrocketing valuation of Facebook shares will fund acquisitions and allow some early investors and employees to cash in. IPOs consume immense quantities of time and resources, and it would be a headache Zuckerberg does not need. Instead of the late stage startup having every reason to go public, Facebook has every reason to stay private in 2011. Analysts and industry speculators now predict early 2012 as a preliminary target for a Facebook IPO.

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**Originally published August 25, 2010**

The indomitable social-networking site has enjoyed a meteoric rise from college dorm startup to multi-billion dollar household name. With over 500 million users, Facebook has a massive reach online, placing them in a uniquely powerful position to leverage their loyal and dedicated user base to help them develop new products and enter new sectors. Their unparalleled position has Facebook poised to dominate the Web in ways that no company ever has. As we know, however, potential and execution are two very different concepts. Facebook can succeed in this impressive quest if they:

1) Remain the Dominant Social Media Platform for Companies with Facebook “Pages”

With social media becoming an increasingly important part of consumers’ everyday lives, companies must develop a social media strategy to build, control, and maintain their brand online. Those who don’t are missing out on a valuable, inexpensive, and effective tool to market their products and strategy and manage their brand. Companies are beginning to leverage Facebook’s impressive scope to interact with current customers and attract new customers. A new service by Parature  makes it easy for Facebook Page administrators to make their page a customer service hub. Users spend record lengths of time on Facebook, and if  companies properly leverage Facebook’s user base and infrastructure, Facebook  can take advantage of  their growing importance in the marketplace, expanding offerings for companies willing to pay to further develop their Pages. The structure for this paid service could be similar to the WordPress VIP program, where high-traffic Pages gain access to extra services, features, and customizations.

Pepsi

To fully capitalize on this asset, Facebook needs to implement a sophisticated analytics system that allows companies to better understand the behavior of users and the extent of their interactions. Tracking the sources of “Likes” is currently unavailable, and with many retargeting campaigns linking to a brand’s Facebook Page, this would be a strongly desired feature.

2) Take Advantage of Facebook “Places”

Over the past year, location services like Foursquare (the dominant player), Yelp, and Gowalla have experienced exponential growth in their userbases as more individuals begin to adopt the technology. Last week, Facebook introduced their own location service, Facebook Places. Although they were a tad late to the party, forcing some to make a decision to switch, they still entered the market early enough to steal away majority share from Foursquare. While Foursquare currently has more features and has become largely installed as the primary and dominant location service, Facebook has a unique opportunity. Unlike Foursquare and the others, which are standalone apps, Facebook Places is an extension of Facebook’s current product mix, and is fully integrated with Facebook’s mobile apps. I’ve heard testimony from former Foursquare users that they were migrating to Places for the simple reason that it is one less app to switch to. As Places grows and introduces a more complete set of features and capabilities, users may be more inclined to ditch the plethora of social apps and replace them with Facebook.

foursquare

To maximize the potential benefits of Places, Facebook can implement a feature similar to Foursquare’s “Special Nearby”. Doing this would simply bring Facebook on par with the competition. However, to surpass their peers, Facebook must leverage and expand its extensive advertising network to target Facebook users based on their Check-Ins. The privacy issues abound, but Facebook hasn’t had a problem pushing these boundaries before.

3) Capitalize on Social Search

Social search is becoming an important topic in the debate about the future of search. With the wealth of metadata at Facebook’s disposal (thanks to its 500 million-strong and growing userbase), the company is uniquely positioned to dominate social search. Searching within one’s social graph has the opportunity to provide personally relevant information in ways that bots crawling the web can never provide. Although some disagree that social search will replace traditional search as we know it today – a point I agree on – social search has a place in our future online. TripAdvisor and Amazon have integrated with Facebook, allowing users to see recommendations from friends while browsing, and inroads like these are indicative of a growing understanding of the importance of social interaction in commerce. Because Facebook is the largest social media platform, they are the primary target for companies looking to integrate with social search. The indexed data that social search is capable of providing can supplement current search algorithms to provide increasingly relevant and personalized information to users in a central location. Facebook’s biggest competitor would be search industry titan Google, but Facebook’s advantage lies in their access to variables like comments, user influence, and network memberships that they can add to their search algorithm.

Largely, Facebook’s potential to create a further diversified and expansive presence online lies within the company’s ability to integrate a variety of popular services on its central platform. If they create high-quality, integrated products that leverage their existing platforms and access to metadata, Facebook can move closer to online domination. As we know, however, potential and execution are two very different concepts.

What do you think? Can Facebook dominate the Web or will they struggle amid concerns about privacy, patents, and ownership?