Sunday, October 31, 2004

This Tail Has Legs


Chris Anderson, the editor-in-chief at Wired, has penned an
article that is truly beginning to influence dialog on new Internet business models. Perhaps you saw a reference to the "Long Tail" in Mary Meeker's recent report on blogs/RSS. And over the past week, the "Tail" has wended its way into a number of different articles by prominent journalists, including Dan Gillmor, who referenced the idea in today's column about Google.

Here's the thesis: in the new Internet economy (or what some folks are calling the Web 2.0), businesses are making money not only on the hits -- the blockbusters in different content categories, such as books, digital tunes, DVDs, or anything else sold on the Internet -- but the "misses" as well. It's the very "Long Tail" of the entire market that only the Internet can exploit because of (a) the physical limitations of traditional sales channels, and (b) the intelligent tools that Internet companies are now using to connect people with content. Good quote:

"When you think about it, most successful businesses on the Internet are about aggregating the Long Tail in one way or another. Google, for instance, makes most of its money off small advertisers (the long tail of advertising), and eBay is mostly tail as well - niche and one-off products. By overcoming the limitations of geography and scale, just as Rhapsody and Amazon have, Google and eBay have discovered new markets and expanded existing ones."

Sound like propaganda from the Bubble days? Perhaps a bit, despite the good hard numbers that exist to support this idea. In any case, the idea is compelling for its simplicity, and for its ability to explain why some Internet companies are doing so well and why there's so much activity on the edge.


A Karmic Balance

We’re posting this Sunday Sermon just past midnight to get maximum effect for our holiday message. The true spirit of Halloween, we fondly remember, is very un-Christmas-like -- it's about acting out, picking fights, and getting into trouble. But do not despair. This can be a good thing.

We admit our perspective is jaded -- it was formed after many a dark October night in New York City -- but to us, Halloween, has always been the perfect karmic balance to the Christmas season.


Consider:

Christmas is about gift-giving, bonding with family, and nestling in the comfort of your home; Halloween is running into the streets, crashing on strangers’ doors, and demanding things from them.

Christmas is about birth, hope and renewal, after the shortest, most sunless days of the year; Halloween is laughing at death, fear and despair, just when things are turning for the worse.

In short, Halloween is the anti-Christmas -- a vulgar, colorful, screeching contrast to the final, solemn scene. But it enables us to accrue enough guilt for that one time of the year when we're all happy to be civilized. And for that, we should all be thankful.

But remember -- all things in moderation. Do nothing today to harm yourself or your neighbor, nor anything unatonable during the pre-solstice stretch.

[Full disclosure: I work for Eastwick Communications, a Silicon PR Valley agency founded by three good witches.]


Saturday, October 30, 2004

The Web Shows You Where to Vote

Having trouble finding your polling place? Go to www.mypollingplace.com. The Associated Press ran a story about the site yesterday, and it warrants a look. Another milestone reached, in the age of transparency.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Aircon Industry Accused of Greenwashing

The Australian air conditioning industry is taking heat for allegedly misleading the public with positive statements about its environmental record. In our world, that's called "greenwashing." Click here for a live recording and full transcript of the story by Australia Radio National's Peter Ryan.

Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Silicon Beat

Matt Marshall and Michael Bazeley at the San Jose Mercury News have a new blog, and we bet it will be worth watching. Matt covers VCs and emerging companies, and Michael's got the Google beat. The duo should attract more traffic than the average Valley blogger.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

What Does it Mean to Be Green?

OK, we promised this a week ago, and today is the official launch of an ongoing campaign called "What Does it Mean to Be Green"? It was the title of a report in the Harvard Business Review back in the 1970s when there was very little green marketing. We'd like to "repurpose" the title as our campaign slogan, because (a) the article was great, (b) it's time for a refresh, and (c) it rhymes. We will be working on a number of fronts -- inviting debate on these pages, publishing articles, public speaking (if anyone will have us), and, time permitting, an awards program -- all in the service of discovering why so many companies today are supporting social causes, and what the best of these companies have in common. We'll start by posting a press release, that aired just yesterday, announcing a PRWeek/PainePR study that shows "a recent upswing in corporate support of nonprofits and a healthy outlook for future corporate giving." Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Bono Makes a Wish

Sure sign that high-tech people are feeling confident again: they're hanging out with rock stars. This week, Bono (U2) made high-tech news ... twice. The big story today was that Apple has released a sleek, black U2 edition of the iPod, complete with 400 U2 tunes. But more apropos to thegoodseed, the TED Conference
-- the annual technology-and-entertainment lovefest in Monterrey -- announced that Bono is one of three winners of the first TEDPrize. We were skeptical at first (we're marketing people -- always suspicious). But the truth is that Bono is a real supporter of many good things, and the TEDPrize looks like something worth watching. In addition to a $100,000 cash award (that the winner can contribute to any cause), the winner gets to make three wishes that TED conferees get to fulfill. What will he wish for, and who will fulfill it? We guarantee one thing: lots of folks will clamor for the opportunity at the next TED.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Get the Vote Out

Courtesy of National Voice, and the excellent people at the Wieden + Kennedy "12" school: click and forward this:

http://www.november2.org/flash.html.

'Nuff said.

The Morning After (the Election)

Whether you are celebrating or in mourning, you may want to check out Co-Op America's Green Business Conference in San Francisco, November 3-5. Here's how they describe the opening moments. With the crowd that's gathering -- and the mood they'll likely to be in -- the Yerba Mate people can really clean up.

10:00-11:30• Welcoming Spa Reception--Sponsored by Zhena’s Teas and Yerba Mate Bar by Guayaki Sustainable Rainforest Products

You’ve just arrived, exhausted by a close election season and an incredibly busy fall business schedule. We have just the tonic to ease those stresses! Come and relax, enjoy and being among like-mined colleagues. This special spa reception will treat you the way you deserve, and get you ready for the days ahead. Come early and enjoy the relaxing teas brewed by Zhena or enjoy a tasty Yerba Mate served by Guayaki. Melt away those tense moments and muscles with a relaxing massage and music. Come and be among friends and share your stories!

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Sunday Sermon -- The Evening Service

OK, if you are reading this blog at this hour, you'll probably remember when long ago, in the 1980's, millions of TV-holics (like me and you, perhaps) looked forward to Murder She Wrote as one of several Sunday-night rituals that helped us approach the coming week. Things were different then -- we used to look forward to 60 Minutes, too. As you know, MSW is long gone ... though you can set TiVo to catch your favorite MSW actors in reruns, and on cousin-shows like Columbo, The Father Dowling Mysteries, and Barnaby Jones. But the thing of it was, you didn't actually have to watch. In fact, you weren't supposed to. It was "must not see TV" -- bad, very bad -- but as the 80's cynics said, it was so bad it was almost good. Because not having to watch made it the almost perfect backdrop to a conversation with anyone who might drop in on a Sunday night. MSW was a hearth: a dumb, predictable thing that could always be depended on to start, blaze, and stop, when done.

That was then, this is now. thegoodseed regrets there are few symbolic stand-ins of our Sunday evening rights as we approach the next week. But hold tight, because the next week will be even bigger than the last, and we vow to bring you a Sunday night to make all things right. But we promise to be less stupid than MSW -- we'll solve better mysteries, promise -- but just as dependable in our devotion to Sunday night vibes.

Sunday Sermon: A Code for the Electronics Industry ... and a New Book

Thanks to the Don Tapscott "Age of Transparency" Web site for the following items:

*Electronics Industry Code of Conduct

“On Friday, HP, Dell and IBM today released an Electronics Industry Code of Conduct to promote industry standards for socially responsible business practices across their global supply chains. The code, which was developed in collaboration with electronics manufacturing companies Celestica, Flextronics, Jabil, Sanmina SCI, and Solectron, paves the way for a standards-based approach for monitoring suppliers' performance across several areas of social responsibility, including labor and employment practices, health and safety, ethics, and protection of the environment.”

For a full copy of the code,
click here.

*There's a new book on corporate responsibility -- Faith and Fortune, by Marc Gunther (Crown Business: October 2004). thegoodseed promises to review this latest contribution by Gunther, a reporter at Fortune Magazine. In the meantime, we’re happy to run a section of the promotional copy:

“Faith and Fortune argues that an exciting new model of conducting business is taking hold, not only in small, socially responsible companies like Ben & Jerry's but also inside such bulwarks of the FORTUNE 500 as Ford, Dupont and McDonald's. Bit by bit, almost imperceptibly, this new model is replacing a century-old approach that was rooted in the industrial era....

“Powerful forces are driving these changes. They include the desire of companies to attract and engage their workforce, the emergence of the 1960s generation in positions of corporate power, the spirituality-in-the-workplace movement, the rise of social investing, and the growth and sophistication of activist groups. Even the recent corporate scandals have driven big companies to demonstrate they are about more than greed.”

We believe there’s another powerful force at work: the networked economy. Combine Gunther’s book, and Tapscott’s latest (
The Naked Corporation), and we’ve really got something to talk about ... saith thegoodseed.



Saturday, October 23, 2004

In Cyberspace, Everyone Can Hear Everyone Scream

In an article scheduled for publication on 10/30 in Intelligent Enterprise, Dan Tapscott captures the central message of thegoodseed:

"In the networked economy, the brand isn't just an image but rather a measure of trust and relationships. No longer can spin doctors and admen make bad products or companies look good. Firms need to be honest, abide by their commitments, and show they care about customer interests by providing superior products or lower cost.

"Courtesy of the Internet, consumers have increased access to knowledge about products and services. They can discern true value more easily. They can find out which cars perform best, are safest, and last longest; which laundry detergent gets clothes the whitest; which flight is the cheapest; which cell phone company has the best plans; which book has great ideas; and which vacation package is the best value."

Friday, October 22, 2004

Desktop Wars

So, today Microsoft set a release date for its desktop search tool. By the end of this quarter, PC users will have a choice – Microsoft or Google, the first giant to enter the desktop-search fray. (see thegoodseed’s first posting on this subject.) But this is just the first of many skirmishes in the desktop war. [Full disclosure: my agency represents Groxis, a search application vendor and Google partner.]

People are beginning to wonder: is Google the next Microsoft, and if so, will Google start behaving like Microsoft. Some say it already has. Google’s decision to give away its desktop search tool – a product in a category that other software vendors are just learning how to price – seems very Redmondny indeed. But for those who fear there is something sinister
here, give Google a chance. Its motto -- "don't be evil" -- is unequivocal. Google and the network will enforce that standard.

***

On a related note, see John Battelle's utopian/dystopian Google-meets-TiVo fantasy, where television learns to leverage the power of the Google advertising platform. Doesn't seem at all far-fetched. As Battelle says, "while the details will inevitably vary ... this scenario is not only plausible, it’s inevitable."


Thursday, October 21, 2004

India Oil-and-Petroleum Companies See Green

A Business Today-ACNielsen survey finds that five oil-and-petroleum companies are among the top 20 green companies in India. Says Rediff, a leading Indian publication: "The survey showed a trend, of companies now increasingly going green and moving towards an environment friendly approach towards business."

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

The Walls Come Down at the WSJ ... Finally

One of the last major holdouts, the Wall Street Journal will soon begin offering free online access, says the Online Journalism Review. Mark Glaser, the author, credits bloggers for this latest victory for free Internet content, in an article quoting executives at the BBC, CNet, and the New York Times. The entire WSJ site will be available for five days at a time starting November 8.

Harvard Has a Great Reputation

No shit. See The Boston Herald's article on the survey by Boston PR firm Morrisey & Company.

Now, just how do you build a brand like that?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Green Scene

OK, so perhaps we see the world through mint-tinted glasses, but Eastwick's (my employer) party last night in honor of Dan Gillmor's new book was one of those rare moments when you can see the world shifting -- slightly, almost imperceptibly, but definitely in a new direction. Dan and his book, We the Media, attracted a 100-plus crowd to Fanny & Alexanders, the famed Swedish bistro/Stanford watering hole in downtown Palo Alto, and the scene of several other recent shifts in Valley history. CEOs, professors, VPs of marketing, and PR folks, all came to hear how the media landscape has been forever altered by grassroot tools like blogs, RSS feeds, wikis and the like. But we were equally struck by a second theme that dominated the evening: the emergence of social values in corporate management and marketing. Dan's gentle and intelligent description of the Internet as a smart and self-governing system for reputation management -- a topic of conversation before and after his presentation -- was just one example. The event attracted "green" designers and marketers, fresh with enthusiasm after the annual Bioneers conference, the once marginally important event that has been building its base over the past few years. Groxis, an Eastwick-client that unofficially launched at Bioneers 2002, was also in attendance, mixing with the greens and other folks late into the evening. And then there was eBay -- they sent a smart group of PR pros that spoke with us about the new "Power of All of Us" ad campaign, which debuted just last night. We haven't seen it yet, but eBay says it parts with the fun-but-Hollywood style of its last campaign and draws upon the themes of community and trust.

Was there something in the air? Or did we have too much to drink? Who knows, but in the next few weeks we'll dig deeper, and explore what it really "means to be green." We think it's more than just a color, and that we'll be seeing a lot of it soon.

Monday, October 18, 2004

How Do You Think They Felt in The Morning?

Last Wednesday, thegoodseed sent two "reporters" to a WebGuild seminar on enterprise search. On the panel were: Andy Feit from Verity; Laura Ramos from Forrester; Miles Kehoe from New Idea Engineering; Paul Whitelam from Endeca; Torbjorn Kanestrom from FAST Search & Transfer; and yes, a rep from Google -- Matt Glotzbach, who for some reason (we couldn't tell why) looked extremely uncomfortable up on the stage. Toward the end of the session, someone asked about the future of desktop search. Practically everyone on the panel thought it was a no-start market, but Matt ... poor Matt ... kept quiet. We understood the situation much better in the morning, when Google announced its desktop search tool. (For a lively analysis of the business implications of this announcement, go to John Battelle's 10/14 blog entry, right here.)

Expect the new Google tool to educate the market about desktop search, and encourage other companies -- and we don't mean just Microsoft -- to more aggressively enter the fray. After they calm down a bit, that is.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Channeling Martha

If you haven’t already seen it, check out Dana Goodyear’s terrific profile of MaryJane Butters in the 10/11 issue of the New Yorker (article is not yet available online). Butters, who aspires to be the Martha Stewart of the neo-organic food movement – bringing an upmarket notion to the masses – gets a thorough journalistic treatment, revealing a business personality and philosophy both admirable and flawed. Let’s hope she fares better than Martha, and that this early encounter with the media keeps her on the farm.

Gotta Have Soul

Thinking of a new slogan? Just be yourself, suggests an annual survey conducted by Atlanta-based marketing-consulting firm Emergence. In a recent article in BusinessWeek, David Kiley notes that only 1% of those surveyed correctly identified the slogans for Miller, Kmart, and Buick, brands that have strayed from their roots, and have attempted to adapt to fads of the day. [What's your Slogan IQ? -- take the BusinessWeek quiz]. Says David Droga at French ad agency Publicis: slogans work when they reflect "not only the soul of the brand, but the company itself and its reason for being in business." Not a bad place to start, if you're a good seed.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Reporting Standards for Good Companies?

In a recent press release, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) -- a U.N.-supported non-profit -- announced that analysts at 17 leading investment firms are recommending "that companies start reporting annually on their social and environmental policies, practices and performance, noting that companies are facing a growing number of questions about these issues from investors, customers, environmental and labor groups, and the public."

"The Allure of Toxic Leaders"

The Miami Herald reprints the Wall Street Journal's review of Claremont Professor Jean Lipman-Blumen's book. Too many workers mistake abuse for "charisma." And you don't have to work at a business to encounter the boss from hell. Try a "small, nonprofit environmental group in San Francisco."

Greetings -- First Post

Dear Friends,

thegoodseed will troll the Web and instigate dialog on a very specific question: can the networked economy force businesses to behave better? Our hypothesis is that the new connectedness is making it harder than ever to behave badly, and that networks may in fact create a new system of rewards. A simple idea -- simplistic perhaps -- but we will try our best to get an answer. And we will have a lot of fun -- lamenting the bad seeds, celebrating the good, and allowing ourselves some mischief along the way (as much as our network will allow).

Because of my professional interests -- corporate communications and PR -- my focus will be on the media: how businesses comport themselves online and in print. I'll be talking to newsmakers, journalists, academics, consultants.