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Jun 162012


This graph from Derek Thompson shows us where Americans direct their attention, and where advertisers spend their dollars.   The chart clearly shows that something is out of whack, Americans spend more time with mobile than they do with print media, yet print gets 25 times more advertising dollars than mobile.  This leads me to ask two related questions.

1) Are advertisers overspending on print?

2) Are they underspending on mobil?

I think the answer to the first question is a definite yes, and this is very bad long term news for the world of newspapers and magazines.  The simple fact is that print media is getting fewer and fewer eyeballs, and advertising dollars will also exit.

But I am not so sure about the second question.  Jean-Louis Gassée asks the question “Why hasn’t mobile advertising taken off?”  After all, the iPhone is now 5 years old.  “There are  tens of millions of smart phones sold each month”   According to Pew Research, 27% of Americans are using moblile devices to get news.  That’s a powerful lot of eyeballs, and yet no one seems to have found a way to make mobile advertising effective.

Gassee points to two problems.   The first is screen size.  As you can see   in the screenshot below


The ad sizes available may simply not be big enough to catch our attention or entice us.  Mobile devices are not just smaller laptops.  They are entirely different devices with their own stregnths and weaknesses, and we use them differently.

When we sit down in front of a laptop or desktop screen, our attention is (somewhat) focused and our time is (reasonably) committed. We know where we are and what we’re doing.

With smartphones, we’re on the move, we’re surrounded by people, activities, real-world attractions and diversions. …, time spent on mobile devices is fragmented.

Yet many people remain convinced of the potential for mobile advertising.  IAB released a study showing that $5.3 Billion were spent on mobile advetising last year.  As they point out, that’s less than $1 per phone, a tiny amount.    No doubt this amount will grow,  the question is “will it be effective?”


In a future article, we will look at some of the ways American Express, Facebook, Verizon, and others are going to try.


Jun 072012

People love “free”.

They love the word, they love the thought.  And the internet has only intensified the quest for “free”.  From free content to shareware to open source, customers are getting accustomed to getting something for nothing, and this makes it harder for products with conventional pricing models to succeed, and nowhere is this more true than for software,  where finding a profitable price that consumers will pay has always been a challenge.   To resolve this dilemma, many software vendors have turned to the “Freemium” model, where a basic version is offered for free,  and users can upgrade for a price.

Over at Mashable,    tells us  Why The Freemium Model Doesnt Work, then he proceeds to give us the conditions under which the Freemium model works.   (Huh?  did someone else write the headline?)

According to Leonov, there are three conditions where Fremium pricing is the right fit.

1)When the product provides so much value and is designed in such a way that a  “significant portion of the users will inevitably cross the paywall. The longer you use the product, the more value you derive from it, and the closer you are to hitting the free upload limit. ”  He gives Evernote as an example of a software that used this method well

2) A product with a “Network Lift”  – such as Dropbox, which is really only useful if you convince other people to use it as well,

3) A truly useful application where the free version puts “Spotify” type ads in truly annoying places.  (Leonov mentions the Sparrow mail app as an example)

If you have a product that falls into one of these three categories, awesome, freemium could work for you.


There’s a lot to be said for creating something of value and charging money for it. If you’re not charging for your product, then your users are the product. This forces you to focus on two unrelated efforts: growing your user base and figuring out how to monetize it. There are many benefits to having free users and focusing on hyper growth. But the decision to go the freemium route should be based on math specific to your business — not a pricing philosophy. Because the reality is, the freemium model doesn’t work for the majority of companies who try it.


May 312012

Never underestimate the value of a good proof reader


NEW YORK — Mitt Romney says he believes in America. For a while, his campaign’s new app touted “A Better Amercia.”

Ooops. That typo distracted from the rollout Tuesday of a Romney campaign app designed to run on the iPhone and other Apple products. The mistake was corrected Wednesday.

via ‘A Better Amercia’: Typo distracts from roll out of Romney campaign mobile app – The Washington Post.

May 302012

I have written about bad customer service before, but  when I encounter truly bad, egregiously  bad customer service, it still surprises me and leaves me wondering what the executives of these companies are thinking.

Generally, I believe that they are thinking that there are no repercussions, and that they don’t have to deal with it, some low level, under paid grunt in a customer service call center will take the abuse, and there is no reason for the company to particularly care.

My latest encounter, courtesy of AT&T has me particularly incensed.

We got a $194 line item from MCI on our phone bill.  We have never authorized MCI to charge us for ANYTHING.   When I called AT&T, their response was “Not our Problem” – we are just a billing service for MCI –  I said “wait a second, I am your customer!”  they didn’t care.  They refuse BY POLICY to even acknowledge that the charge is disputed.

I worked my way up to two supervisors, and both refused to do anything.

My question to the world, why does AT&T purposely, and by policy screw their customers?

Join my facebook page while you are at it




May 262012

If you have a business,  or if you are in marketing, or basically if you are alive, you have been hearing about social media and mobile social media.   But if you haven’t yet gotten on the bandwagon,  of even if you have and want to increase your presence, where do you start? The graphic below   from Business Insider, shows the complicated landscape of social media.  Looking at this graphic,  I have a couple of thoughts. First,  the social media landscape is complex and rapidly changing.  Right now we are in the phase where new players are entering at a blistering pace.  Soon, we will start seeing consolidation and more maturity.

But until that happens, how do we deal with this?



Calm down, take a deep breath.  We eat the elephant one bite at a time.   In our next installment, we will get going.


May 262012

BBC reports on a law going into effect today, requiring websites to get informed consent before storing cookies

European laws that define what details sites can record in text files called cookies come into force on 26 May.

Cookies are widely used to customise what repeat visitors see on a site and by advertisers to track users online.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) said it would offer help to non-compliant sites rather than take legal action against them.

Action plan

The regulations say websites must get “informed consent” from users before they record any detailed information in the cookies they store on visitors’ computers


BBC News – Cookie law set to come into force.

While we understand that some sites abuse cookies, for the most part, I think that this is an overreaction, and places an undo burden on small businesses.

May 112012

via Putting the Car Before the Horse When it Comes to IT – Forbes.

No matter how much money you throw at a project, if the people don’t support it, it won’t be successful. Thus, the most important metric to gauge the success of a new implementation isn’t TCO or ROI, it’s adoption. The organization has a responsibility for helping people understand how to use the system, to learn something new, and to realize that everyone has greater value beyond what they’ve always done.

Microsoft wrote this specifically aimed at IT departments,  and organizations implementing new systems,  I think it is an important message for software vendors as well.  The other day we posted about the slow adoption rate of  IT created apps,  but this is a problem we have seen since we first started working in software years ago.

The worst offenders are top down “mandated”  systems, often put in place to enforce a policy or limit the ability of the employee to make judgement calls.  As software vendors, if we want our products to be successful we have to find ways to encourage people to use and benefit from our software.  This means several things:

1. We need to really understand how people work.  If our software prevents people from getting their job done, they will find ways around it.

2. We need to provide a benefit that will make people’s work easier.  Asking people to adopt a new software platform is asking them to make a change.  People resist change, so to get people to change, we have to make an improvement.

3. We need to communicate the benefits (for the individual not the business) of  our solution.  It isn’t enough to make a product that has value, we have to paint a picture of how it makes the user’s life better.

4. We need to continuously communicate with our users and potential users and build a strong relationship.  And a large part of that is to turn up the listening

5.  We have to remember that people typically retain only a small portion of what they have learned,  so repetition is required.  People may not see the benefit, or realize that there is a better way to do their jobs right off the bat, and may have to hear the same message multiple times

Turning licensees into users and users into fan is one of the greatest challenges any software company faces,  but the biggest differentiaters between successful and non successful products.




May 082012

Cloud based systems grew up being sold to individuals for relatively low prices.   “Contracts”  were mostly of the “click wrap”  variety, where the user basically had to agree to whatever the vendor put into the contract, period.

But, as the cloud is being used more and more for enterprise level software,  famously including CRM and project management, but now including BI, ERP and Financial Reporting systems,  customers are going to want to negotiate their contracts.    Those of us who have been selling software for many years, know that once legal departments get involved, the sales cycle really drags on.

CFO Magazine put together a cloud contract guide, which has 10 items that they say corporate purchasers should try for.    For example:

6. Make sure you can’t be bullied:  Unlike on-premise IT assets over which you have physical control during a legal dispute with a software vendor, you may be exposed to a system shutdown by your provider if you get into a legal dispute. For example, you may elect to withhold payments for services you feel have not been rendered, or have been rendered inadequately. That, in turn, could trigger termination of your service, leaving you without a critical business capability.  You should be fully informed as to the service continuation obligations your contract places on your provider.

(ed. note –  I have seen this in action  –  An eCommerce vendor I knew, got into a dispute with his web host.  The host shut the site down, and refused to give him access to transfer to another host)

The whole list is worth a look, and we can help ourselves quite a bit by having standard terms available to deal with the concerns raised.   Remember the goal is to complete the sale

May 072012

The Oracle vs Google jury has the opportunity to fundamentally rewrite copyright laws regarding software.   The issues are 1)Whether you can copyright an API, and 2)Whether Google infringed on Oracle’s copyright, or if their use of Java APIs was covered under fair use.


The  jury in the Oracle v. Google trial rendered a partial verdict, favoring Oracle, in the copyright phase of the trial. Yet a question the jury failed to decide prompted Google to call for a mistrial, and could sharply limit damages even if the verdict stands.

via Oracle v. Google jury returns partial verdict, favoring Oracle | Mobile – CNET News.

In this first question, Judge William Alsop instructed the jury to assume that APIs can be subject to copyright,  and with that assumption answer the question: “As to the compilable code for the 37 Java API packages in question, taken as a group: Has Oracle proven that Google has infringed the overall structure, sequence, and organization of copyrighted works?”

They did not answer whether Google’s use of the API falls under “fair use”  and the judge hasn’t yet ruled on whether the API is subject to copyright.

The big question going forward is how this ruling affects software development going forward.  Will there be a chilling affect on de facto standards?  Will software developers need to lawyer up?   A lot is still unsettled




May 062012

Antenna Software did a survey and found that only 25% of employee facing apps developed by IT are being adopted by end users


Antenna’s report also predicts that IT mobile spending will reach between $500,000 and $1 million per year for many companies. Despite these large investments, many mobile apps will end up to be flops because of user lack of adoption or use.  The main culprits in the failed projects will be faulty design and poor implementation Antenna Software’s senior director of product management Ken Parmelee told IDN.

via Idevnews | Antenna Software Survey Finds 4 Ways a Mobile App Can Flop.

The report discusses the four main reasons apps are not adopted.  One that strikes home for me “Lack of Defined Tasks, Workflows for Mobile Users  ”    

To many IT developers just take an existing legacy app and put a mobile wrapper around it.  But the way people use their mobile devices is fundamentally different

The report is definitely worth a read