Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Impoverished by the Marketing Dollar

Something that's become very apparent in our choice-saturated and confusing technology space is the ability of marketing to push products to the top of the heap that might not deserve to be there. Having made it to the top of the heap, the confused consumer will never look down the charts for something more intelligent, appropriate or economical. In picking a top ten product, he trusts what he perceives to be the wisdom of crowds, but what may well be just the might of the marketing dollar.
A couple of studies have highlighted this to me recently. The Kindle Fire has 33% of the Android tablet market according to Localytics, with the Nexus 7 grabbing only 7%. This despite the Fire being described as an Amazon cash register - most things you do on it funnel you towards Amazon and the siren call of one-click checkout. Nexus 7 is faster, cheaper and open, but the Amazon marketing dollar has prevailed.
The other saddening statistic was that half of all app development revenue goes to just 25 developers. It's the normal suspects: Disney; Electronic Arts; Zynga; Rovio. The days of a great indie app making it seem over.
The great, the original, the worthwhile and the quirky are being drowned out by gigantic marketing budgets and the paralysis consumers face when presented with 14 seemingly similar tablets or 131,727 games to choose from (as of this weekend).
Maybe this is the way markets work - innovators prove to be one-hit wonders or get bought out, the big boys move in and a suddenly it's (big) business as usual. But as a developer and publisher I increasingly feel we can't compete and are relying on the goodwill of Apple or a lucky break. Neither of which are a good basis on which to build a business.

With the seemingly inevitable demise of Barnes and Noble in the e-reader and maybe even book space drawing closer, I read  this analysis in the New York Times:

“In many ways it is a great product,” Sarah Rotman Epps, a senior analyst at Forrester, said of the Nook tablet. “It was a failure of brand, not product.
“The Barnes & Noble brand is just very small,” she added. “It has done a great job at engaging its existing customers but failed to expand their footprint beyond that.”

Further evidence that a great product can't compete in a confusing market without a ton of marketing.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Listening to what matters

A while ago on this blog I wrote about the joy of doing work that mattered, with a nod to Tim O'Reilly for the inspiration. It was near the beginning of 2009 and felt like a New Years resolution.

At the beginning of this year, I need another resolution, similar but crucially different.

Listen to what matters.

In the intervening years, the background noise of chatter, comment, opinion, advice and alarm has grown beyond my expectations. 120m Facebook users then, a billion now. Twitter had registered less than a billion tweets ever, now it's 16bn a month.

It's hard to filter out noise and only ingest information that will be helpful. If you're pushing out into new areas of work, how can you tell the experts from those who just talk the talk and have a lot of followers? How much time should you spend finding and processing all this information?

My 2013 resolution then is to listen to what matters and ignore the rest. I'm going through my social and web feeds, bookmarks and Flipboard settings, and purging the marginal voices, letting those who remain be heard more clearly.

And trusting my judgement.