Mario Sundar's Speakeasy

Spero Ventures. Early LinkedIn, Twitter. These are my thoughts on tech, brand, marketing and community.

Can $500 million buy Microsoft buzz?

Took the weekend off from my blog, celebrating my birthday with my community of friends. Had a nice party with close friends last Saturday, some of whom had come from LA & Fresno (that was nice, guys) and my good friend, Damon, was kind enough to host at his place (thanks, buddy!).

The blogging community was represented by Noah and Gabe. Jeremiah, couldn’t make it but I know we’ll party sometime soon. Also, hope to meet Karl and Anand at future events. So now, back to marketing and serious blogging:

$500 million, trust and buzz

The Money: As can be expected, Microsoft has pumped $500 million in marketing towards the launch of their new operating system and Office suite. And, here are initial results (via Niall Kennedy’s blog):

The level of consumer excitement around the launch of Windows Vista was nowhere near the experience of 200+ people lining up for the latest copy of Mac OS X (Tiger) two years ago. I expected at least some Windows fans battling it out to be the first person to buy Vista at midnight but there was little excitement and no line in sight.

What’s worse is that Microsoft has magically been able to generate tons of negative buzz (via Presentation Zen, which analyzes the trust issue from a design standpoint)

The Trust: Now don’t get me wrong — given Microsoft ubiquitousness in today’s world, I’ve no doubt that they’ll make a gazillion dollars out of this launch when business picks up. However, how many users are purchasing Vista because they love it and are passionate about it vs. those who are stuck with it? And, how many users trust them?

Fact check: Users don’t trust Microsoft (via Digital Trends)–

Forrester Research’s 2005 Technology Brand Scorecard evaluated “brand trust”. Microsoft was the only company cited as having a negative brand potential, as measured by its respondents aspiring to use its products mine current users at risk of defection. These households know they run Microsoft software but would be just as happy to leave it behind—if they could.

Among the top ranking companies in the same scorecard – Apple!

Is the era of Apple beginning?

Speaking of beginnings, today’s my actual birthday (1/31) so I’d like to thank all my blog friends for continuing to converse and share thoughts through this medium. I look forward to an important era in my blogging life!

Filed under: Facebook

(Lotus) Connecting the dots…finally…

Mimickr 2.0?

Well, it hasn’t been exactly quick, but IBM Lotus has just released Lotus Connections, that aims to mimic the success wrought by social networking sites and web 2.0 based project management tools.

At first glance the new Lotus Connections software seems to be an assortment of  of web 2.0 imitations. Here’s the rundown:

The IBM package includes five applications: profiles, where employees post information about their expertise and interests; communities, which are formed and managed by people with common interests; activities, which are used to manage group projects; bookmarks, where people share documents and Web sites with others; and blogs, where people post ongoing commentaries – Source: Business Week review

A smattering of Del.ic.ious, MySpace, WordPress, Facebook, and Basecamp; Lotus Connections has left no web 2.0 success unturned in the package’s new avatar, but will it be successful is the million $ question, asked by Stowe Boyd.

Me vs. Us

Stowe Boyd wrote a well-written critique on 90s “corporate theory of groups” vs. the current “centrality of me” concept espoused by Facebook and the likes. Here’s his take:

I could go on, but these principal points are enough for now. So, in the classical enterprise collaboration model people are, first and foremost, members of groups, and these groups define people: what their rights are, what their purpose and goals are, and so on.

But in the social, me-first model (contrasting it with group-first models) people’s relationships are potentially asymmetric: for example, I may be on your buddy list, but you aren’t on mine. And in the me-first model, I possess what I make and I opt to share it with specific individuals (or not).

Some may agree, but some don’t.

Where do you stand on the spectrum? 

Filed under: Miscellaneous

A tale of two publicists!

1) Change “Social Media” to Media

Steve Rubel (Micro Persuasion) takes a second stab at killing Social Media (here’s his first attempt), albeit unsuccessfuly. Here’s his rationale for taking down social media:

It’s like we’re a separate entity from the rest of the so-called “mainstream” journalists, filmmakers, photographers, etc.

The fact is that everyone who is contributing to the dialogue – be it in video, text or photos – has earned the right to be called media. Let’s can the compartmentalization and recognize once and for all the world has changed. We are all media – period.

I wonder what Jeremiah thinks?

2) Change Press Release to “Social Media Press Release”:

On the other hand, publicists on this side of the country, ignited a furore over the “Social Media Press Release”, apparently linking the much maligned press release for eternity with social media. Shel Holtz — one of the panelists at, the event that started it all, vents his frustrations on his blog:

How can journalists know that what they’re reading is credible, trustworthy information coming directly from the source? To date, reporters have known this because the information was sent through a reputable wire service; the credibility was built in.

Ensuring that people who need the information get it when it’s released, and that they can readily identify it as credible and authoritative, are additional goals of the effort to establish standards for a social media release.

So what exactly is Social Media?

Social media describes the online tools and platforms that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other.

Solution 1: By that definition, social media should NOT be called media, since it’s inaccurate (NBC is not creating media to share their opinions w/ you, nor are they interested in receving your opinion; it’s “them to us”, not “us to us” principle).

Solution 2: By the same definition, Press Releases should NOT be labeled Social Media press releases, since it’s AGAIN, not from “us to us”, rather its from “them to us”.

Do you beg to differ? Feel free to voice your opinion.

For more on the “us to us” vs. “them to us” concepts, check out my post on Drucker and marcom.

Also, here are Mack’s thoughts on the “Kill Social Media” post.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Corporate Podcasting – THE Primer

I’ve written a bunch of posts on corporate podcasting in the past, while working on the process of creating them in the past. I’ve had the fortune of working on podcasts with one of my friends, Jeremiah, who was also responsible for pushing me into blogging (little did I know, what I was getting myself into 🙂 But, I digress…

Jeremiah was part of a world-class team of marketers who helped kick-start Hitachi Data Systems’ corporate podcast series and today he shares some of the strategies, in what I’d like to call a definitive resource for corporate marketers looking to bridge the chasm and to start podcasting. Here are Jeremiah’s 17 lessons (via his blog).

Just a couple of thoughts:

1. Resource existing content: In addition to white papers, corporate websites also have a ton of case studies and other marketing collateral that can be repurposed as great podcasts. Click here for a detailed list of other content that can serve as great corporate mediacasts.

2. Always attach the text transcript to your audio/video content, because that is better indexed via search engines thereby providing greater search engine results for the content you’ve crafted with so much care.

Dana Gardner jumps in with further info on cost, value and best practices – a great addendum to Jeremiah’s post.

My friend, Mack, had a few challenges while podcasting recently. Here’s his related post on why podcasting won’t take off until it’s easier. Hope these primers provide some further tips on podcasting.

Filed under: Uncategorized

Why the Social Media Press Release is an Oxymoron!

So what’s the brouhahah all about this time. I miss attending an event and exciting stuff happens at the event. You guys may remember the event I was supposed to attend last week — Third Thursday, run by Mike Manuel and Chris Heuer.

Apparently, Chris had a rountable discussion going and Stowe Boyd took exception to their definition of what’s called a “social media press release”. Here’s Stowe:

For those who have missed the idea, a social media press release is supposed to be a webbish/bloggish version of old timey press releases. These will incorporate elements of the now commonplance blog motif: links, tags, comments, and trackbacks, for example.

This all begs the question (which I raised early on in the evening): Why not just use blogs? Why do we need these so-called “social” press releases?

Scoble chimes in:

He’s right. I hate that idea too. Just give us a damn demo of your product and tell us about it.

Well, Shel Holtz who was on the panel retaliates:

Most people I talk to outside of my work (neighbors, family, people I see at my religious institution) don’t even read blogs, no less understand what RSS is. At the Third Thursday event, Chris Heuer asked who among the attendees didn’t know what RSS was. The bartender raised his hand.

The numbers are higher among journalists, but still low overall. To suggest that a company can officially, fairly, and consistently deliver the message concurrently to all audiences by posting it to a blog is, frankly, absurd.

My Take – the reinvention of PR: Well, I respect all of the above bloggers, but c’mon guys let’s take a chill pill now, shall we? To me, it seems like all this debate has an undercurrent of the “Survival of the Publicists” theme as outlined by Shel & Scoble in Naked Conversations. The Social Media Press Release seems to be a step in reinventing the Public Relations Universe. I get it.

However, if PR is “The art of managing communication between an organization and its key publics to build, manage and sustain a positive image.”, while Social Media is defined as “the online tools and platforms that people use to share opinions, insights, experiences, and perspectives with each other”, many of which are negative!!!

What does a “social media press release” mean? Is that still the same old press release in the garb of genuine social media generated by people. And, that’s where Stowe Boyd, in my opinion, takes umbrage.

Holtz in his summary, makes a ton of valid points, like why you can’t use blogs as press releases and their relative importance. However, one of the points he kept reiterating is that non-PR guys shouldn’t meddle w/ PR affairs:

To insist that the profession use a tool one way or another—or to abandon it altogether—is no different than me telling NASA engineers which tools to use to build their next-generation spacecraft.

Point taken. However, applying lipstick to a press release doesn’t make it a “social media press release”. And, that’s just my humble opinion.

Filed under: Social PR

The death knell of traditional media

3 Facts and a Conclusion:

Journalism and advertising is all about packaging the news in a consumable fashion, but social media seems to be reshaping the way we consume news:

Fact 1: Web traffic to the blog pages of the top 10 online newspapers grew 210 percent year over year in December (Source: Nielsen Net Ratings)

Fact 2: TIME Inc. lays off nearly 300 (Source: New York Times)

Also, “both Time and People are scaling back their practice of using several correspondents to report and write a single article.”

Fact 3: TIME redesigns home page with prominent focus on blogs/bloggers:

Check it out here.

Conclusion: I guess it was a foregone conclusion as to the decline of traditional media, but does this indicate the death knell for traditional media. Will all journalists start blogging and stop writing long winded articles? I guess not, but it’s definitely an interesting thought.

Filed under: Social PR

So who says Web 2.0 doesn’t foster communities?

Wanted to blog on this article and my buddy, Damon, beat me to it. In a recent CIO Magazine article, Christopher Koch writes about the myth of community and how it’s being bandied about as collaboration was during the previous bubble.

Couple of questions Christopher asks and Damon addresses well. Here’s my take:

1.  What’s the perceived value of sites like Second Life, MySpace and YouTube? 

For the target audience that MySpace caters to — the youth. They “use it for identity production and socialization in contemporary American society”. For those interested, check out an excellent explanation by Danah Boyd as to what teens do on MySpace:

Of course, ask any teen what they’re doing with their friends in general; they’ll most likely shrug their shoulders and respond nonchalantly with “just hanging out.” Although adults often perceive hanging out to be wasted time, it is how youth get socialized into peer groups. Hanging out amongst friends allows teens to build relationships and stay connected. Much of what is shared between youth is culture – fashion, music, media. The rest is simply presence. This is important in the development of a social worldview.

The perceived value for youth is it gives them a walled stadium where they can hang out w/ their friends and the fact that there are millions of teenagers drives corporations to advertise there — an obvious value.

2.  But can you really build a community around kitchens or power tools?

No, you don’t build communities around power tools like you would around the Macintosh. I agree w/ Damon that not all products/services are created equal and therefore the opportunity to create communities and evangelize varies among different products.

So, does Web 2.0 foster communities? Web 2.0 is only a tool that helps extend your offline communities into the online world. It’s a much more effective way to stay in touch w/ your vast family of connections dispersed all over the globe.. blah blah blah

But let me ask YOU – TIME’s Person of the Year 🙂

Do you believe Web 2.0 fosters communities?

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Guy’s hearing voices too!

Over 2 months ago, I asked you if you’ve listened to your inner marketing voices! Of course, I was referring to my good friend Jennifer Jones’ podcast commentary — aptly titled Marketing Voices.

My friend, Jeremiah, who is Jennifer’s colleague asks for suggestions to improve MarketingVoices. I know that Jennifer listens to feedback and responds. Case in point: I had requested podcasts w/ my 5 favorite marketers and she’s already interviewed 2 of them, Godin & Kawasaki.

2 more suggestions:

1. Another great podcast would be a conversation with Ben & Jackie from Church of the Customer.

2. A great way to foster conversation among marketers would be to maybe include round-table podcasts w/marketing bloggers who are changing the face of the marketing blogosphere.

Here are my favs/friends — CK (strategy), Mack (community), Ann (media/publishing), Damon (community), Paul (citizen marketer), David (advertising/design), Eric (corporate marketing), Mike (branding). And, here are many.

Guys, any other suggestions for the Marketing Voices podcast?

Filed under: Uncategorized

The New Media IS the Social Network

This post is intended as a sequel to a very well written post by Robert Young (GigaOm). Immediately following MySpace’s enormous success, Robert opined that “nearly every media company and venture capital fund on the planet is out on the dance floor stumbling over one another to see if they can identify the next breathless social networking beauty”, and in my opinion that breathless social networking beauty is American Idol.

The facts: The 1st episode (Season 6) alone drew in 57.6 million viewers. Other records broken.

Why 3?

1. American Idol = MySpace gone Wild!

Social networking is a micro-phenomenon of a much larger macro-trend that the Internet has spawned since its birth… digital self-expression – GigaOm

Imagine if all the MySpacers had a chance to get their 15 minutes of fame on TV. That’s exactly what American Idol is. Interestingly enough, prior seasons saw top 12 Idol candidates open up their own MySpace pages.

2. Media = TV

Make no mistake, the web shall not be the ultimate front when it comes to entertainment. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates know it and so do we. All the pioneering web shows will ultimately reside on TV and the day is not far off when the ScobleShow will be viewed on your high-def televisions, on-demand along with your American Idol.

3. YouTube’able

As I watched the 2nd episode of this season, transfixed by the train wreck nature of the show, I realized that what I was watching was a string of experiments gone wrong video clips like I’d watch on YouTube. TV shows need to be a string of byte sized chunks of entertainment. Just like controversy feeds a blog post, so does awful videos on YouTube and American Idol.

My Take – The Vested Interest principle: So, why the large numbers. I believe, everybody who’s auditioned and all the people connected to them are gonna watch the show. Over 100,000 auditioned for season six and assuming an equal number for each of the previous shows — we have 600, 000 auditions + families of those who auditioned (let’s say on average 3/individual) + friends of those who auditioned (let’s say each of us has on average 5 friends) approx. = 5.4 million. Looks like I got the math wrong! Looks like we have on average atleast 10 friends each!

Do you think American Idol = MySpace is a fair equation? Is there any other reason for their continuing success?

Filed under: Miscellaneous

Netflix listens? Streaming movies for current users

Following our recent coverage on Netflix and its business model, I was pleasantly surprised to see Netflix’s announcement today on NYT about adding a feature that enables their users to stream movies. Here’s a video demo from Netflix’s biggest fan and critic — blogger Hacking Netflix!

I did check my Netflix account and couldn’t see that feature — a PLAY icon, right next to your ADD icon next to each movie; all it takes is a Netflix piece of software that needs to be downloaded on your sytem — one time.

Like most other electronic distribution services, Netflix’s system will work initially only with a limited catalog. The bulk of Netflix’s subscribers, who pay $18 a month and are allowed to keep three movies at home at all times, will receive 18 hours of free watching every month.

That’s a good start… Seems like a good counter-move to the immediate gratification principle touted by Blockbuster:

We have everything that Netflix has, plus the immediate gratification of never having to wait for a movie – John F. Antioco, CEO Blockbuster

While Mr. Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix, contents that

Netflix has a product that compares well with those of his competitors. He particularly emphasized Netflix’s business model — free to subscribers — and its focus on instant gratification.

Source: NYT Article — Netflix to deliver movies to the PC

Is immediate gratification the key to success in this competitive home-video market?

Filed under: Uncategorized