Sunday, 3 February 2008

Eyeballs & In Your Face Marketing: Microsoft 1.0 Step Forward & 2.0 Back

I've been sitting pretty quiet about the Microsoft Yahoo deal mostly because I don't really get it. I mean, i get it, but I just don't get it.

In a world where we know traditional marketing approaches aren't working as well anymore, we see Microsoft buying up the community of Yahoo with all its eyeballs. After all, Google is succeeding largely in part because of their immense advertising network and an argument can be made that they are a modern day advertising agency vs. a technology company (see Vanessa Williams brilliant post on this The Long Tail Of Web Services)

But will traditional advertising revenue come to the Web? I say it will but not in the form of key word searches and banner ads. The big mistake so many companies continue to make is believe that non-networked business and other mental models can be and should be replicated in the digital space.

"Societies have always been shaped more by the nature of the media by which [people] communicate than by the content of the communication."

- Marshall McLuhan

Awareness advertising works on TV and therefore, we copy that model in the form of banner ads and now Google ads and throw it on the Web not taking into consideration that the dynamics of the medium are completely different than mass media (oh and by the way, being able to dynamically and behaviorally target these doesn't make them more successful).

But we know that Google has been successful up to now with an open ad model where they stitched two key elements together: Satisfying a huge customer need - a more effective search with a new advertising model that saw the network become the portal.

Think about this - I don't think content is king anymore and I don't even think it's community as Jeff Jarvis says. It's about connection and that more than anything is at the foundation of the social media revolution (...and in the digital age all media is potentially social).

So why the focus on eyeballs? Why is Microsoft looking in the rear view mirror as opposed to creating the future?

Google themselves have started talking about social search and there are a bunch of us (see my post on social tagging systems, and Fraser's post over at the blue blog) who think this is going to be the platform of the future.

So why Yahoo? Why not Lijit who as I understand is starting to walk down this next brave path?

IMO if Microsoft continues to focus on competition and doesn't change the game altogether, they are going to continue to find themselves struggling against the power of the network.

In the words of Blake Ross (who ended up doing a start up that was playing the same space we wanted to play with oponia with his startup that was bought by Facebook Parakey),

"The next big thing is whatever makes the last big thing more useful"


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