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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Samuel Beckett--Coach to Entrepreneurs?

Samuel Beckett (1903-1989) was an Irish born novelist, poet and playwright who spent most of his adult life in France. He is known for minimalist writing and being a leader in the theatre of the absurd. In 1969, he won the Nobel prize for literature.

Beckett’s writing was quite spare especially as he aged. In WORSTWARD HO, from 1983, he wrote--“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

This concept of “failing better” has been adopted by many in Silicon Valley almost as their mantra and has even been picked up some professional athletes who are clawing their way to the top. Entrepreneurs are often creators and many of the ultimately successful ones work on being brutally honest with themselves. They ask for criticism and, unlike most of us mere mortals, they do not get defensive when you give it to them both barrels. They have a self-awareness that few of us have. They do not run from failure or hide it from others.

Historically, we have all seen this work in the arts. Allegedly, Hemingway re-wrote the ending to A FAREWELL TO ARMS some 39 times before publication. Michael Curtiz shot seven different endings to CASABLANCA and Frank Capra did the same thing with MEET JOHN DOE.  And, most of us at some time in our lives heard the famous Thomas Edison quotation of, “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

There is also a misconception from my perspective that most entrepreneurs and private investors tend to “bet the ranch” on every new idea that they think is promising. If you study breakthrough technology or successful businesses with a bit of care you will find that the business generally succeeded by surviving a series of small bets. As a very successful entrepreneur told me recently, “By taking lots of small risks, you avoid catastrophic mistakes.  I keep seeing what works and what does not every step of the way. I never stop testing and I know that most of these small wagers will not work. I can live with that.”

If you want to fail well you need to be able to move through even dicey situations. Learn to reframe, improvise and keep moving forward on the fly. And, amazingly, embrace the words of Samuel Beckett and FAIL WELL.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Are Viewers Paying Much Attention Anymore?

On Sunday, February 26th, I rose early, dressed hurriedly, and jogged out to the curb to begin my weekly ritual of reading a hard copy of the New York Times. As I glanced at the front page, I was very surprised to see an article about media research on the bottom fold.

The piece was entitled “FOR MARKETERS, TVs ACT AS PRICELESS SETS OF EYES.” (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/25/business/media/tv-viewers-tracking-tools.html?_r=0) The article covered an issue that many of us have been pounding the table about for years. With so many other devices going simultaneous to TV viewing, just what is the level of attentiveness to commercial messages in the 21st century?

Many of us were exposed to fragmentary and early set top box data as long as nine years ago, when it appeared that there was a great deal of channel hopping going on during commercial breaks. Intuitively, many of us had felt that but we finally had some proof. Since then, particularly among millennials, the use of a smartphone, tablet or laptop while “watching” TV has grown significantly.

The Times article talked about companies who are working hard to capture commercial ratings, if you will, relative to the standard program ratings that we all have lived with for decades. Advertisers are projected to spend upwards of $70 billion in television advertising in the US this year so providing attentiveness detail would be very valuable indeed to marketers of all broadcast/cable budgets.

The lead player in the article was TVision (pronounced tee vision) which “tracks the movement of people’s eyes in relation to the television.” TVision has approximately 2,000 households in the Boston, Chicago and Dallas-Ft. Worth areas which some may say is small compared to Nielsen’s 42,500 national household sample. Their information  is valuable in how granular it is and also their measurement of binge viewing favorites on Netflix and Amazon. If you know what programs have the most engaged viewers, the  pricing of primetime inventory is bound to shift, perhaps dramatically.

Also mentioned in the Times article was Symphony Advanced Media which has constructed a panel of 17,500 viewers who have a special mobile app installed in their phones. Participants, in exchange for a small monthly stipend, allow Symphony to track their usage plus a microphone hears what they are watching. Additionally, participants do a questionnaire on usage. The service captures viewings on busses and in sports bars as well.

All this is heady stuff. A well placed media executive told me anonymously that he is increasingly using this kind of data to wean people away from large commitments to television as we know it. For the time being, Nielsen will remain the gold standard in audience measurement. Yet, commercial avoidance continues to march at the fastest pace ever. These new services can wrap some discipline around the conjecture that many of us have had in recent years. And, of course, Nielsen is surely not standing still in terms of their development. It will be a long time before anyone gets ahead of the curve but promising new research is sure to realign the media mix of many significant advertisers.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolmedia@gmail.com

Sunday, March 5, 2017

New Media and The Hype Cycle

Many of you have probably heard the term "hype" a great deal in your marketing, advertising or media careers. Did you know that there is a phenomenon observed by a renowned research firm known as The Hype Cycle?

The Hype Cycle was, as best as I can tell, was first identified by the Gartner research organization which essentially said the following about a technology or invention:

1) When it arrives or proves viable, the hype is huge
2) It is then found to not live up to its initial hype
3) The hype gets relatively silent and then you do not hear about it for a while
4) Incrementally, things get better and the new technology does the things it was supposed to do when first hyped.

In simple terms, a rule of thumb about the hype cycle is that things often become truly useful after we stop hearing about them.

Is this some esoteric theory from a bunch of futuristic dreamers? I do not think so.

Remember in the late 1990s when the internet was the rage and forecasters said that it would swamp advertising as we know it? Everyone wanted the internet in media plans even they did not understand what they were buying and could not verify the audiences of the online platforms. The great dot.com crash of early 2000 washed out a lot of marginal players and many avoided this emerging medium for a few years. Meanwhile,Google got stronger and has been proven to be an effective marketing vehicle along with many other online platforms.

The late Roy Amara who was president of The Institute for The Future developed a theory about the hype cycle that has since become known as Amara’s Law. Articulated in brief by fellow futurist Robert Cringely, it goes like this--”We tend to overstate the effect of technology in the short run and understate the effect in the long run.”

So, today we hear about driverless cars and trucks and tests seem to be going well. Elon Musk says that he is planning a flying car which reminds me of my childhood cartoon show, The Jetsons. Some politicians talk of an industrial renaissance in America creating millions of jobs but robotics is finding its way in to coffee shops and soon fast food establishments as well as auto plants. Robots will grow profits but kill unskilled and low skilled jobs.

Will all these things happen? Probably. When you stop hearing much about them, check your premise. It could be that they are merely in the quiet phase of the hype cycle and will come roaring back into our real world fairly quickly.

Advertiser supported media, particularly video, is losing share daily to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Youtube and others. The hype may not be there as it was a few years ago but their growth is steady and relentless.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com