Saturday, March 29, 2008

Sometimes you're the windshield, sometimes you're the bug.....

The story of the week comes from a chance encounter I had with a product director for MSN Video, at Microsoft.
As it turned out, she was a panelist at one of the sessions, and of course, not a lot of what she said made sense.

I went up to her after the session was over(mostly because I didn't remember what she said, and I know she used the word 'community' somewhere in her annoying monologue..) and asked her:
"Ma'am, what is Microsoft's plan for edge distribution? I mean, as we're reading these days, distribution trumps destination, and it sounds like you guys are still stuck on creating a portal/destination."

Her response:
"Well, we have the MSN Messenger community, the largest online community in the world, with over 400 million users. So you can take MSN Videos and post it into your MSN messenger's great! We've launched in the US and it will come to India very soon."

You know me.
I gave her the warmest smile, shook her hand, thanked her for her time, and left.

(Update: Fake Steve has an interesting perspective on Microsoft Surface Computing strategy- a must read)

The online media space, especially when it comes to Internet video, is undergoing many fundamental transformations.

One of these transformations is that contrary to earlier models where context was associated with content, we're now in a world where content needs to follow context.

Because context is everywhere. Discussions, communities, social context and personal relevance is all at the edge, and if you're building up a centralized platform, thinking you're going to draw audiences, you're wrong. Way wrong.

Rather, you need to think about the edge network as a multitude of cities....a collection of ecosystems with varied needs, motivations and behavioral patterns.
"Contextual relevance" means different things to different ecosystems.

Reality check. As a content owner looking to solve the distribution puzzle on the Internet:

1) You can spend your marketing and advertising dollars in understanding, profiling, targeting, and reaching out to a few million fragmented markets.
And hope that these millions of audience segments will show up at your destination to see what you have to offer them.

I can't think of a more inefficient way to spend money.


2) You can spend your technology and R&D dollars in making your content so incredibly elastic, that it can be made to fit within virtually any context across the edge. In a nutshell, you enable your consumers to become distributors.

And if you can enable viral distribution, without having to actually stimulate it, you've already won.