On Service Design

Back in the day, probably round about 1999, I held a talk about “interactive Branding” at one of the Internet World conferences. The gist: forget about fancy graphics and the likes. Branding on the Internets is foremost about service and a service culture. Usability beats flashy designs. And treating your customers well is more important than any splash page. Because the emotion delivered via craftsy colors and incredible images pales against the raw fury of disgruntled customers, amplified over the nets.

Back then, our ad industry partners (and investors) were not too pleased, found the proposition rather questionable, and the possible outcome wholeheartedly undesirable (you would not hire an ad agency for business process design, wouldn’t you?).
Now you’ll find a whole conference on Service Design, which tells you how wrong they have been (and yes, there’s quite some place for agencies and designers to better their client’s brands, and not just the perception of).


The GoogBox

What’s the point of an Android-powered TV – isn’t television supposed to be kind of dead anyway? Now, let’s be realistic. Dead looks like GM’s Hummer: a broad butted relic from those merry days, when the environment was something to train your four wheel drive in.

Sure, TV as-is gets into some rough spots: economic downturns and big corp ad spending don’t go that well together. Local TV has been an almost exclusive ad playground for local car dealers. Tivos are attacking scheduling and audience flows. But, guess what: people are still watching. Because, addictions are hard to break.

Still, we tend to mix the means of delivering content (broadcasting television) with consuming this content (watching tv). For peak audience content, broadcasting is still hard to beat (just look at the half a billion Dollars big G is supposedly shelling out for streaming YouTube’s vids). But descheduling and instant access, that’s is pretty much how consumer’s want to see their future tv. That’s why the toughest competitor to network tv is not a YouTube channel, but your home network.

I really mean it: if you’re running a tv network, treat home networks as potential affiliates in a different time zone. And that’s how we’re coming back to Android. It’s just a boring operating system, currently huffing and puffing inside some halfway decent smartphones. It’s free (hardware guys like that idea) and the potential trojan horse for one of the most aggressive data driven media companies (like phone book publishers in the 20th century) in the whole world. Which is a bad metaphor, as ye olde Greeks needed their one trick pony to resolve a 10 year long siege. But the Goog needs a whole army of tiny trojans to foster new markets to prevent itself from becoming the one trick pony riders of the contextual text ad.

Now, what’s good for Google isn’t necessarily good for the rest of us. If an 800 pound gorilla waltzes through the jungle, “do no evil” does not prevent massive collateral damage. But especiallly in the realm of TV and TV distribution, some creative destruction might be welcome.
I don’t believe in Android powered TVs as a home media platform. It’s bad practice to hardwire a piece of furniture (displaying device: life expectancy of roughly a decade) with a computing platform (tends to age in hyperspeed). But if my stupid Android-enabled TV talks to my Android-powered smartphone, we might be getting somewhere. Especially, if everything’s linked in the background by one mighty media company.
For developers, the beauty of a concept like Android for TV is easy: the days of the web as the all consuming platform are numbered. We’re entering a data driven world, with lots of devices and platforms, talking to API-enabled services. Look at Twitter as a poster child. Conten/data and presentation layer are not related in any kind of way.

On the other hand, the world of tv distribution and its related hardware is still a cumbersome hodgepodge of everything. It’s the old school of electric media, when radio was a humming thingy called radio, which was sitting in your living room, which you turned on to listen to: radio. Don’t expect anyone anytime soon referring to his tv or whatever device as an Android.

Bootleg Distribution

This sounds smart: MySpace leverages their mass of uploaded bootlegged videos (as long as they are properties of Viacom’s MTV Networks). Every uploaded video (80 000 per day) will be run through Auditude’s “fingerprinting” system. MTV content will get some ad overlays, the 3 parties involved will share the ad revenues. The “benefit” for the 4th party, the uploading MySpacer (a.k.a. the editor) seems a bit weaker: he will not get reprimanded …

Is Google run by morons?

Mark Cuban did put it on the map. Only a moron would buy YouTube. Well, here comes Mr. Google, allegedly offering some 1.6 Billion USD. Whoo-hoo, here we go. Is Google run by morons? Probably not. But they have to cater to analysts (which might be even worse).

I still think: as a business, YouTube is worth a nickel and a dime.
As a buying-growth-scenario, the deal might save Google’s mega valuation for a couple of months. Just look at the latest comScore stats.

Select Online Video Sites (Note: Not an official ranking)
Total Unique Visitors (000)
August 2006
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore Media Metrix

Total Unique Visitors (000)
Select Sites Aug-06

Yahoo! Video 21,141
MySpace Videos 19,406
YouTube 19,089
MSN Video 15,414
Google Video Search 11,891

Google Video + YT would guarantee the number 1 spot for at least 6 months. But obviously the people aggregators like MySpace, Yahoo and the like beat Google’s dried up services approach.

Which probably means, they shouldn’t buy YT, but Facebook. But Google buying traffic to save a valuable property? That would be a scary thought. Well anyway. On a mid term perspective, it could always be argumented that it will help solidify Google’s entry as the video ad engine of choice.