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2011 In Review: Top Posts and Alike

2011 was a fantastic year for me on many levels and Spatially Relevant has been around officially for 4.5 years, so thanks to all who have been around here the past year and more.  This is technically the 5th year in review since the blog started in 2007.  So every year I try to spend time looking at posts which folks liked and those which I liked which may have not been part of the top posts with reader engagement.  So here they are:

Top 10 Posts of 2011

These posts are the posts which had the most views, comments and alike from y’all here.

  1. Roadmap Audit: This post is an audit of publicly available roadmaps which I could find online to identify common trends in the software space.
  2. Scrum and Marketing: Having implemented Scrum in development and marketing this post contains a solid presentation on using agile methods for marketing.
  3. Innovation, Change and Adoption in Markets: The Netflix moment, before the Quickster issue.  It also covers the 9X effect in category or product adoption with Google + as well.
  4. Innovation Myths: Presentation on Innovation.
  5. Key Technology Trends: Cisco overview on key trends driving changes for individuals and businesses alike.
  6. Mobile Technologies, Trends and Adoption:  I’ve been tracking mobile issues for several years and this is one of the continued pieces on adoption of mobile.
  7. SCRUM and Kanban: An overview for developing products, specifically social games leverage Agile methods/approaches.
  8. Product Quality: Deming’s approach to quality as it relates to process and sourcing for building products.
  9. Social Media, Opportunity Costs, ROI and Decision Making: Social media isn’t free and when looking at social media you need to understand the trade offs and investment required.
  10. Career Planning in Tech Marketing:  This is my presentation from PCamp ATL on looking at Product Management and Marketing career planning.

My Favorite Posts from 2011

These are the 5 articles which I personally liked and you might not have seen here at Spatially Relevant.

  1. The Marketing is in the Middle Series:  This is an interview series of marketing and product folks and the main link is actually a summary of all participants over the years.  2011 featured folks from various industries like Jay Baer, Elizabeth Quintanilla, Joshua Duncan, Jennifer Doctor, Christopher Cummings, John Peltier, Marty Thompson and others.
  2. Pricing Options Matter:  This is a piece which was inspired by a conversation with Steve Johnson on Angry Birds and their pricing approach.
  3. The White Coke Can:  This is a piece which looks at branding in context of not just the stories we tell as marketers, but how our customers perceive our products and the experiences they have.
  4. The Map of Marketing and Product Management in the US:  This is a fun little map I created from the location of product managers and marketers in the US.
  5. The Definition of Product Management:  This is a presentation I did and posted on slideshare which is a curated discussion of what is product management in a single word.

Many thank to the folks who helped make 2011 another good year for Spatially Relevant.  Happy new year and be safe, cheers!


Netflix: Promotional Activity Heats Up for the close of 2011

I’ve been checking my inbox the last week and it seems that Netflix is all about me buying a subscription for friends and family.  I can understand after the last year of activity and movement of their stock price they need to do something to prop up the value.

Dave Thomas, a reader here, submitted a guest post on the topic of Netflix.  So many thanks to Dave for the submission and here it it:

Will the Netflix Brand Ever Truly Recover?

When many marketing experts look back on 2011, they are likely to converse over some of the major successes and flops when it came to branding campaigns these last 12 months. By all accounts, it is likely that Netflix and a pair of its endeavors will be branded in the latter category.

While it is still a major player in the movie DVD market, Netflix and CEO Reed Hastings can only wonder what would have been had they not open the floodgates to a pair of disastrous public relations moves earlier this summer.

During a recent UBS Media conference in New York City, Hastings was open and to the point in discussing how the company with the famed red logo had essentially screwed up.


Netflix Was Feeling Pretty Good About Itself

According to Hastings, “We did so many difficult things this year that we got overconfident. Our big obsession for the year was streaming, the idea that ‘let’s not die with DVDs.'”

While Netflix did not die in 2011, it sure put itself in a pickle to say the least with a pair of bad moves, resulting in losing more than 1 million paying monthly customers in less than a month

Meantime, Netflix shares have dropped 74% over the past six months, something no company CEO or its investors for that matter want to hear. Looking at it from another vantage point, Netflix stock was soaring back in July at nearly $300 per share, while today it sits near the $70 mark.

First the company went public with its idea to charge separate fees for its DVDs-by-mail and streaming video plans. As if that were not bad enough in a challenging economy, the company then followed up with the negative announcement that it was going to rebrand its DVD service to be known as Qwikster. That in essence was strike two.


Two Strikes and You’re out?

With those first two strikes, Netflix soon saw customers taking to social media and other venues to express their outrage at the plans, leaving Hastings and other company officials to enter the spin zone, trying to paint a picture that the price hikes were needed, while the new service would be better for customers over time.

As Hastings would eventually come to admit, the company moved too quickly with its plans, not entirely thinking through the potential ramifications.

According to Hastings, streaming is the future, so he and others are not being out of touch when looking to devote the energy and resources to this area of the movie entertainment business. “In streaming, we’re a cable network from a rights standpoint Hastings remarked.” As such, one prediction is that Netflix’s streaming content licensing fees will jump from a mere $180 million in the last year to a sizeable $2 billion over the next 12 months.

What does this all mean for a company who stood by as companies like Hollywood Video and Blockbuster watched the curtains fall on their productions?

While Netflix moves forward and continues to be part of the online streaming and home DVD movie discussion, other competitors will continue to put pressure on Hastings and his mates.

Another slip up along the way could end up branding Netflix the latest Hollywood Video or Blockbuster; only time will tell.


Dave Thomas, who covers among other items how to start a small business extensively for

9X Effect: Google+ and Netflix looking at changing markets

Image: A. Stiffler


From a product management and product launch perspective the last couple of weeks has provided a good deal of fun for many of us – Google+ launches and Netflix launches new pricing. Each with their own flavor of feedback from the market.  The feedback and insight from the market for each of these activities have been the fodder of 100’s of blog posts and gazillions of tweets (guesstimate) and they both may represent a point in time where their target markets are changing.

Markets move and present opportunities and while significantly different markets, I belief both have put their best foot forward to address the changes in user preferences and technology adoption.  Netflix is transitioning from a legacy market need with DVD‘s and Google looks to be taking advantage of gaps and preferences for users in the social space.

Clearly some segments of the social space are looking for something other than facebook and the buzz in the market from early adopters appears to show significant traction with Google’s launch into social.   The negative feedback and general outrage in the market around Netflix strategic pricing decision is also a launch, but addressing an emerging trend from their user base and the market at large.  A 60% price move is a big lift, so such a decision likely represents a strategic decision in response to research, transactional data and  trends which indicate that streaming is now mass market and maybe DVD’s are on the way out.

10 Million Users, now what?

The momentum with Google+ is undeniable, but the type of content, the participants and available tools are pretty limited: technology focused content (the first week was all G+ content – thank goodness for netflix’s pricing launch!), the early folks from Twitter appear to be the first one to setup shop on G+ and no mobile option on the iphone.

Regardless of the content, network participants or availability of tools – 10 million users in 2 weeks is worth note without a doubt, but what will it do for social networking, users and how we use the internet? Which is something Facebook addresses today for it’s 750 million users.   Olivier Blanchard addresses some of the questions in a recent post:

Will Google+ change the world or the internet? No. Google+ will not change the world. Or the internet…

Will Google+ kill Facebook? No one really knows. I suppose it could…

What about LinkedIn? If Facebook didn’t kill LinkedIn, chances are that Google+ won’t either…

So maybe the question is maybe why is 10 million users interesting?  If I put the 10 million number into context – that’s less than 2% of Facebook‘s 750 million.   So speed to 10 million might be an interesting metric, but what is the point where we all look to G+ over Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.  Does Google+ need to kill anything to be successful?  Is it enough to make Twitter boring?  Or as the LinkedIn CEO posits, there isn’t room for another site, since free time is lacking for most.

No doubt there is some really interesting discussion going on online around Google+ and the Netflix pricing move.  So I thought I might add my spin from a market perspective.

G+ is the Bomb!

There will always be fans for the newest thing, but with Scoble and Brogan taking pretty hard stances publically, it’s hard to ignore the noise.  Here is a snippet from my Google+ stream which indicates some people are already  betting on Google+, Chris Brogan appears to be “all-in” for Google+ over Facebook and while others are questioning if that’s a wise decision:

It is clearly to0 early to know what will really happen, ultimately the real answer will come out over time.    Maybe Google+ is the next big platform, but at this point it is a niche as David Armano asserts, but the cottage industry for Google+ is already beginning with “How to Use SeminarsWorkshops” already popping up at $49 per attendee and irritating some in the industry.

If Google+ represents a change in the market, it means some people may not make the transition, just like some products and companies won’t make the transition successfully.  Whether it’s the next big thing for social or a movement to a new mode for movies which mean something gets left behind – memories, references, case studies, investments and experience.  When markets change, the participants can get a little huffy.  Remember when Apple left the floppy disk out of a mac for the first time?  That made people mad.

So what will make Google+ successful or users move to support Netflix in the next market move?

Features? Community? Content? Catalog?

In both the Netflix launch and Google+’s, users have a decision to make.  Stay where they are (Use current tools or pay more for DVD’s), make a change (Augment social with G+ or go to a new provider for Movies) or make a radical change (Abandon previous social modes or DVD’s).  While at different points in market maturity, both of the launches represent choices and change, which is stressful for the community of users/customers.

So is there a magic bullet to make people move?  Depends on who you are and what value you have invested in the previous solution (FB/Twitter, DVD’s…), but there has been a good deal of talk around  Google+ and their really nifty features.

Google has change social much in the same way Gmail used a different metaphor, Google+ is no different with circles (this takes a diagram to really understand), real-time update of the stream (this takes time to get used to), sparks (not sure I really get it or it’s just a bad implementation) and easy access to all of the capabilities we already enjoy from Google, but is that enough?

While the content portability, privacy and ownership at Facebook is an issue for many is this enough to drive change?    Does the value offered around community and content in respect to identity and openness at Google+ help drive commerce and collaboration as Facebook has already established for their stakeholders in the market.

It’s not the Numbers, it is the Value for the Users

So where is this post going?  Well, I think the real question is when will Google+ have enough value for a people to abandon their existing investments/endowments in Facebook and move to Google+.   Investments in time, content, relationships…  Has streaming crossed a threshold where we as owners of 100’s of DVD’s are will to start investing in the new medium for our movie catalog?

For Google+ to achieve a “kill Facebook/some existing thing goal”, it needs to break through the 9X effect for perceived value delivery.  The 9X effect is a concept from John Grouville’s paper, Eager Sellers and Stony Buyers, which posits innovation with significantly better value may not actually mean success in many markets.  Success comes in many segments when a previous solution/endowment is abandoned for a new solution.

Below is a graphic which outlines the challenge ahead for Google+ and perhaps a driver in the pricing increase on the legacy endowment of DVD’s at Netflix.

FWIW: The 9X effect relates to displacing any platform/investment in technology, not just Facebook or DVD’s:

Essentially just because it’s different, better and seen by some folks, like early adopters it doesn’t mean success.  Tivo is an example of a business which delivered an innovative product, the incremental value over DVR’s from our cable providers is proving to be a central challenge for Tivo today.

Tivo – Great product, early inertia and a business model which is currently struggling to work,  much of which is rooted in the 9x effect conundrum.   With the catch up of cable DVR’s, existing DVD collections and on demand options most users don’t see a 9X+ lift with Tivo, even early adopters have dropped of the subscriptions, like me.

Markets are People

Businesses often opportunistically try to leverage market change to wedge in new offerings and approaches for folks in markets. The challenge is that each person in the market has different experiences, successes/failures, investments and world views which impact how they view market changes.  I mean my dad still is mad about 8 track’s going away and he’s 73.  So when understanding the 9X effect,  Andrew Macaffee set’s  forth 3 considerations as it relates to how given users look at their options around technology adoption/usage:

  • We make relative evaluations, not absolute ones.  When I’m at a poker table deciding whether to call a bet, I don’t think of what my total net worth will be if I win the hand vs. if I lose it.  Instead, I think in relative terms —  whether I’ll be ‘up’ or ‘down.’
  • Our reference point is the status quo.  My poker table comparisons are made with respect to where I am at that point in time.  “If I win this hand I’ll be up $40; if I lose it I’ll be down $10 compared to my current bankroll.”  It’s only at the end of the night that my horizon broadens enough to see if I’m up or down for the whole game.
  • We are loss averse.  A $50 loss looms larger than a $50 gain.  Loss aversion is virtually universal across people and contexts, and is not much affected by how much wealth one already has.  Ample research has demonstrated that people find that a prospective loss of $x is about two to three times as painful as a prospective gain of $x is pleasurable.

These three drivers are significant barriers which innovators and marketers need to overcome to call something a success.  The relative reality of value just may have caused the negative feedback on the new pricing launch from Netflix.  While the outrage was swift and loud online,  the real question is how many of us are really willing to make a move?  The move to another provider?  The move to the new package for 60% more? A move to streaming only?

As a avid user of social media, I haven’t really even thought what it will take to displace Facebook, as a user I actually am pretty tethered due to friends and family I’m connected to and this is the only place they really invest online.  So I’m not sure it’s what would make me move that matters, it is more about delivering enough value to make my network move.   Same thing with my Twitter usage, so that’s a pretty big bar, but I might make G+ serve a specific segment of my life.

When is the mass market of users and the businesses which use Facebook willing to make a move or to even adopt an additional platform.    While the early adopter buzz is interesting, it doesn’t represent the typical user in the market and is almost meaningless.   For right now it is more than likely shiny object syndrome more than anything and may best be a niche platform.

I consider myself a fairly early adopter and usually somewhat susceptible to shiny object syndrome, because what if the next one is it.   To that end, I’ve gone to and started using the platform du jour over the years (Friendfeed, posterous, tumblr, Quora), much like I’m trying Google+, but none of them have really taken off or at least they haven’t been integrated in my life as Twitter and Facebook are.  This early adopter mode which I often find myself in was probably one of the reason I had a Tivo years before DVR’s where common and a several streaming accounts early on (Amazon, Netflix, Hulu..).

Escape Velocity is more than Buzz, it’s a Business Model and Strategy

While I don’t have a crystal ball, I do know that time and value delivery are the key variables which will determine if a product will be a success.  Netflix’s investment in streaming has been significant over time – infrastructure, catalog of movies and strategic partnerships with content providers has changed the market for many who previously didn’t even think streaming was an option.  For many, streaming was a value add around the DVD offering – is it possible both Netflix and Google are both looking a situation where a 9X effect will dictate a move for their business and the products they offer to market.

Maybe Google+ will be niche as Armano asserts and could do this very successfully by many metrics or it could be the next Platform we all use and engage in as Brogan believes it may be.   The current global facebook endowment is pretty big:

  • More than 750 million active users
  • 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day
  • Average user has 130 friends
  • People spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook
  • More than 30 billion pieces of content shared each month.

Add to the users investments, there are businesses as well investing in Facebook – a cottage industry of app developers and a global spin machine of marketing consultants who are focused on FB it’s a really big endowment, but not unlike the investment many of us have in DVD’s.

9X Effect: Mileage and Strategies Will Vary

The main difference between the challenge both Google+ and Netflix have which each of their markets is the adoption of users, while Google is hoping that social provides an opportunity to displace many people and businesses social investment and Netflix just might be hoping that DVD’s are done or near done.

Maybe the price increase is based on Netflix looking at their market and believes streaming has finally achieved enough value that DVD’s are no longer relevant for a majority of the market.  And if you want to be part of the laggard DVD market, you can pay more – makes sense to me.

Strategically, Netflix’s decision may have changed the market with the a $6 price increase.  This decision may actually accelerate the abandonment DVD’s endowment in the market.  When I first got notified on the new pricing,  I looked at the $6 dollars not a price increase, but a continued investment in my existing DVD endowment.  For me, I’ve chosen that now is the time move on from DVD’s, not Netflix because the streaming fees are still worth it from my perspective.

So where is the point in time that some social platform displaces our Facebook investment?  I suspect it is some time off and requires a significant amount of value for all constituents on the platform – users, advertisers, app developers and marketers.

It may well be that Google+ never will never successfully address the 9X effect for displacing Facebook/other social platform, but does it have to be successful?  Does Netflix have to kill the DVD to be successful?