Scripting News for 12/4/2006

Natali Del Conte: “If I took a shot for every time someone said the words ‘bubble,’ ‘boom,’ or ‘bust’ at Google’s holiday press party tonight, I would probably be wasted.” 

Must-listen-to NPR News story on soldiers returning from Iraq with serious mental health problems.  

Last night’s podcast with Jason Calacanis, Peter Rojas and myself, discussing the new podcast platform we’re contemplating.  

Google puts a lid on new products. “Realizing that its myriad services are confusing users, it will focus on refining what it has.” Bad news for Web 2.0 startups hoping to be acquired by Google. 

A little friendly digging from Microsoft mouthpiece Frank X. Shaw. 🙂 

For what it’s worth, I have not sold any UserLand stock, and remain its largest shareholder and a member of its board of directors. I’ve read, on the web, otherwise. Not so. 

Over the weekend, a CNET reporter and his family (wife, two children) were reported missing in Oregon. Earlier today the wife and children were found. This is good news, of course, let’s hope they find the reporter too, safe and sound.  

Remember the Amazon product that I paid extra to have arrive the next day? That was 5 days ago. Well, it looks like today’s the day when it will finally make its arrival, knock wood, Murphy willing, I am not a lawyer, my mother loves me, etc. (Postscript: It arrived. They were a pair of supposedly great headphones. In reality, not so great. A $10 headset from Sony sounds much better, imho.) 

Okay, I didn’t have the Etymotics properly inserted in my ear. Once I did, the sound is great!! Oh yeah. 

Naked Jen: “Maxi Pads are the cherry on their yogurt sundae.” 

AdAge confirms what I’ve been saying for years. Don’t pay to have your “message” hitch a ride on someone else’s flow. Put up your own site, and the people who want the information you provide (including positioning) will find their way to you. Welcome to the new world of commercial information. Goodbye to couch potatoes and eyeballs. This should also be a reminder to anyone still holding Google stock, you need to be thinking about taking profits while the taking is good. 🙂 

Making money with ads? Not much longer… 

This piece appeared on Scripting News on 8/3/06. I don’t think too many people understood it then, but now that AdAge has confirmed the basic premise, in practice, maybe the theory will make more sense.

Yes, I have put ads on some of my sites, but never on Scripting News. I didn’t want to interfere with my message by selling rides to hitch-hikers. Frankly they weren’t offering enough money to make it worthwhile to me. In order to get me to share the space with them, they’d have to compensate me for the distraction, and for the bad vibes that comes from trying to distract the people whose attention I value most, the readers of Scripting News.

An example. As you know, I’m in the process of buying a house (the closing is a week from tomorrow), so I do a lot of email with my mortgage broker, accountant, realtor, insurance agents. They’re all using email these days, so there’s less phone tag, and it’s easier to compare offers, juggling details is possible, even while I’m traveling. Last time I bought a house, in 1992, it wouldn’t have been possible to go to NY and Boston in the week before the closing, but you can do it now.

So every time I get an email from one of these people, Google shows me ads for their competitors. I get an email from my accountant, ads from other accountants appear in the margin. My insurance agent sends me a quote, and links to other insurance agents appear. This is per the design of Internet advertising, but it’s pointless. If I wanted information about competitors I know how to use the search engine, and I would go look them up (as I did when I was getting started).

That’s the key point, we are seeking out commercial information all the time, as we live our lives in a material society. All day every day. I have to go into the city in an hour or so, and I used Google to decide to take a bus instead of calling a cab to take me to the subway station. I was able to estimate the cab fare, and since I don’t live in NY and they keep changing the bus fare, I was able to find out how many quarters I needed to get on the bus (eight). It may seem trivial to you, but it wasn’t to me. They require exact change. Now did any of the ads I’ve seen in the last hour get me that information? No.

When they finish the process of better and better targeted advertising, that’s when the whole idea of advertising will go poof, will disappear. If it’s perfectly targeted, it isn’t advertising, it’s information. Information is welcome, advertising is offensive. Who wants to pay to create information that’s discarded? Who wants to pay to be a nuisance? Wouldn’t it be better to pay to get the information to the people who want it? Are you afraid no one wants your information? Then maybe you’d better do some research and make a product that people actually want to know about.

At a meeting yesterday, at a famous media company, to illustrate this point, which can be a little subtle today, but will be making people billions in a couple of years, I pointed to my computer and my Blackberry. I said maybe Apple would provide software that made the Blackberry work as well as the iPod works with a Mac, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. Then I pointed to something I noticed, another person in the meeting had a Blackberry and a Mac too. Amazing that we would both be customers for the same product that doesn’t exist, and isn’t likely to exist, the way things are going.

And that’s why things will change. The current product development process, that focuses on a few supposed geniuses and ignores the intelligence that’s in the user’s minds, same as with unconferences, is about to run its course much as the old style conference can’t possibly compete with one that involves the brains of the people formerly known as the audience. Think about it. There’s a big trend here, imho it’s the difference between the 20th and 21st centuries. In the past the flow of ideas for products was heavily centralized, and based on advertising to build demand. In the future, the flow of ideas for products will happen everywhere, all the time, and products with small markets will be worth making because we’ll be able to find the users, or more accurately, they’ll be able to find us. “Targeting” customers is the wrong metaphor for the future. Instead make it easy for the people who lust for what you have to find you. How? 1. Find out what they want, and 2. Make it for them and 3. Go back to where you found out about it, and tell them it’s available.

I’ve been singing this song since 2000. I think we’re almost there. I saw that Microsoft, Google and Yahoo are banding together to fight click-fraud. That’s about as likely to work as the fight in the 80s to stop people from copying copy-protected software. The incentive to defraud is too great. And who’s frauding who, I think it’s the companies that take your money to hitch your message on “content” where it isn’t welcome. Imagine taking people’s money to turn their products into a nuisance. The kids being born today won’t believe it used to work this way.

User-generated content is actually on the road to nirvana, but it’s not a sustainable model in itself. In all that content, which today’s companies view as frankfurter meat, undifferentiated slurry, a medium for unwanted hitch-hikers, is the idea for the next iPod, or the formula for peace in the Middle East, the campaign platform for the President we’ll elect in 2012, perhaps even a solution for global warming. You just have to believe that intelligence isn’t concentrated among the people who rose to the top of the 20th century’s ladders to believe that there are nuggets of wisdom waiting out there for the taking, among the minds that created all that UGC.

Yogi Berra: “You can observe a lot just by watching.”

12 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Michael Jamison on December 4, 2006 at 10:29 am


    When you get up Spruce to Marin, take a right..

    Now, THAT’s a hill!


  2. Michael, no that’s a cliff! 🙂


  3. Dave,

    I would agree with your statement about ads. However, how will we trust the “search results” if all the ads are gone on Google?

    To provide a useful service Google needs to charge for it. And if they can’t sell ads then they’re going to charge for position. That’s when things are going to get ugly.

    – Colin


  4. Dave,

    I read the article.

    You left out a bunch of stuff that doesn’t support your thesis. This isn’t a “build it and they will come” model. People don’t just “find their way” to P&G and Unilever. “Much of the traffic to the big package-goods marketers’ sites appears to be coming the way originally envisioned in the online advertising model: as a response to online display advertising.” It’s not a search-generated ad, but it is ad-driven. They’re also using “online promotions through such programs as” and everyone’s favorite form of advertising: e-mail. (There’s a spike in Web traffic after they mail… which suggests that people forget to find their way without constant prodding.)


  5. Dave, you sound like one of those guys swaddled enough to be dazzled by the 1939 World’s Fair. Before that “we” had “the white city” of the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893. Both of these optimistic views were destroyed by World War II and World War I respectively. I’m not making this up. This is the easy lesson of history. I’m not going to “bore” you with the advanced stuff, dude.

    So “my point” is that your dreams of customer-corporation relations ignores the possibility that disinformation gangsters don’t make money by reigning over ignorance. It is hard to sell crap to an informed public. And now I suppose you are going to tell me that a computer the reaches temperatures above the boiling point is not crap.

    Save this note in your database for future African generations.


  6. Posted by elle on December 4, 2006 at 1:17 pm


    Your AdAge comment was confusing.

    The article notes that P&G leads the industry, buying 1.3% of the Internet advertising in the US. That’s a lot of banner ads.

    As much as we might like ads to go away, companies use them because they work.


  7. The problem with your amazon example is that you have not established a norm. Plus you are not mentioning the mystery product! Perhaps for this mystery product the next day delivery is not a realistic expectation, and therefore the amazon promising next day is the equivalent of the ‘misprint’.

    The only way to resolve this question is to conduct a controlled scientific study, with an adequate sample size. Not surprisingly, and to’s benefit, you need to buy more stuff from amazon. I would suggest starting out with a more-modest 2-day delivery plan, and then from there work your way gradually up to overnight. Be kind to your UPS deliveryperson, too. You know, they report back on how graciously you receive the package, and whether _you_ are on time when it arrives as well.

    Finally, with respect to the question of banner ads, I think your article would be more complete if you could sell some banner ads to large companies on your website, then you would have more direct experience and your voice would be more authoritative on the topic. Since you mention and their delivery capabilities frequently, perhaps they would enjoy mentioning their ‘Amazon Prime’ 2-day flat fee delivery in a banner ad which they place on one of your websites.

    Everyone talks about the synergy of elements business, yet no one mentions its converse: the synergy of elements in the ratiocination of a syllogism.


  8. Posted by Kevin Newman on December 4, 2006 at 6:12 pm

    Those headphones don’t sound good at all unless you get them firmly seated in your ears. If there isn’t much bass, they aren’t in right. They go way down in, like earplugs. If you make a noise like “Psssssssst” while trying them not plugged in to anything, you shouldn’t hear yourself, if they are in your ear canal snugly.


  9. I have the same headphones and Kevin is right. Once you figure out how to set them right it’s an amazing difference. I wore them about 6 hours today on a plane and didn’t miss the engine noise or crying babies. Even without music they make a huge difference, but I was listening to my nano the whole time.

    There is a graphic included that shows a recommended way to insert them, I usually wet them a bit and then put them in at a pretty steep downward angle. It takes a bit of practice to be able to get a great seal easily, but once you do they *really* block out external noise and sound fantastic.

    Good luck.


  10. My dog chewed my Etymotics up. They def sounded good. I’m using some Sennheiser HD280 pros right now, that I got from work, and I like these better actually, but they’re big headphones.


  11. Dave I would like to talk to you via email about this proposed mp3 player you spoke about in a podcast a day or two ago. If you could contact me I would appreciate it.

    I have some ideas I would like to run by you, and to point you in a new direction with the product.


  12. Posted by Eric S. on December 5, 2006 at 12:32 pm

    Re: the mp3 of the interview with Jason Calacanis.
    I’m deaf in my right ear, thus can’t listen with headphones unless I want to hear one side of the convo. I genuinely look forward to every netcast you post and cannot ask you to change what you do to post them. That said, please at least consider the balance of your mix Converting to mono would make the file that much more accessible.

    Thanks again.


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