Posts from September 2008

Google Android Marketing Does Not Care About Techblogs: Why ?

After witnessing the G1/Android launch I’m under the impression that the Google Android team is thinking that the techblogs are irrelevant in their marketing effort.

Mind you, this post does not show that I know what the team is thinking. It’s an attempt to infer, based on a few clues, what the company might be thinking.

After MG’s Amazon Mp3 Music Store scoop (I talked to MySpace’s John Faith a week before) MG and I were commenting the launch in a Friendfeed room. Ever since, I’ve only been watching and we abstained to join the commentary chorus as only very few people managed to say something substantial which was not said before. Let the dust settle, we felt, and let’s report the facts, only.

My first clue was some private statements from the development team in the last few months. The team was totally appalled by “speculation” and “dumbness” of the techblogs. I feel that they lost a lot of respect for how the tech media work, especially in the Valley. The second clue was Andy Rubin’s blog post and Rich Miner’s talk last week. They both did not say much what they were not already saying a year ago. There was little development in their argument. For an example just compare Miner’s GigaOM keynote (last week) to the Stanford one (November 2007). It’s basically the same presentation, just a shorter version. More telling, you see little “marketing” effort. Hereby I mean Miner’s story looks unpolished, untested, “stream-of-consciousness” like. To illustrate: many good startups I know “test” pitches to see which one works with the various stakeholders best (VCs, media, customers etc). Usually you have 4-5 pitches which you present to different people, see which one works best, you work on the wording etc. There was clearly no one in the Android team doing that. Their marketing effort on the launch date was to go to the big international media and PR agencies (Mossberg, Spiegel, Webershandwick, Waggeneredstrom etc) and do classical top-down marketing. Mind you, by all accounts, the Google PR team did a great job at the launch event. But it’s not the PR I’m talking about, it’s the marketing I’m discussing in this post. Right now, the media debate centres around un-informed iPhone-”gPhone” comparisons like this:

Ok, this comic is actually pretty cool. You can find the original image here. But my marketing point is: What are the big ideas around the Android launch ? T-Mobile has been trying to spin the marketing effort around the ideas of “open” & “unleashing innovation” in the latest 2 weeks or so. While that may be ok, it strikes me as very late. Who’s telling the techblogs that the “iphone”-gphone comparisons are wrong ? Who’s telling the techblogs about the revolutionary character of the Android project ? Technically, the Android story is unfolding on at least 3 levels. According to Android’s Rich Miner, Android is
1) “An Open Source mobile phone platform that encompassed every layer of the phone
2) A series of phones powered by that platform
3) A go to market strategy to guarantee global distribution of both platform and phones”

Few blogs get that distinction. Few blogs (including NYT, Guardian, Spiegel etc) tell the readership why Android is groundbreaking on all the 3 levels. Possibly, Google figured out that this type of story is hard to tell. I kind of get that. For example, hardly any commentator has grasped the concept of “platform”. Or they don’t want to be telling it as an open marketing strategy may be against their OHA partners interests.  Still, another way how one could market this is via personality marketing. To me, as an industry observant, it’s nothing short of amazing what Android is trying to achieve. It’s very daring and to me it actually even feels like a thriller, a notion I’ve mentioned before. Rubin, Miner & Co. have possibly spent their last 10 years of trying to crack the mobile web category. Their story can be painted as a story of unsung heroes so far: a tale of their convictions, of defeats, of small victories. How will our heroes now do with the G1 launch ? Will they win ? By now, imo, we should be all watching them in awe. Have our favourites, etc.

But we aren’t.

And that is really surprising to me.

I’m not sure why Google is not showing much effort in this regard.

A possible explanation. Maybe they decided to be factual and “personal”.

Another possible explanation. It wasn’t until the past weeks that they realized that it would actually be necessary to explain themselves. And by then it was too late to carve out some resources (mostly time) to get things done. That would explain quite a lot, actually.

And then there’s another possible explanation, which I find highly plausible: they think that the techblogs - the Silicon Valley crowd, mostly are irrelevant for the success of the G1. Once HOA starts bombing TVs and radio with “the highest marketing budget for a device, ever” as it was announced on Tuesday perceptions will change. I guess you don’t need to care about techblogs if you’ve got a, say, 25M $ budget. If I understand it correctly the G1 is mostly targeted towards the 13-24 “teenies”, families and small businesses in the US. Not the “posh” iPhone/Apple geeks (disclaimer: I write this blog post on a wonderful Mac). And to reach them, Google came to understand, the techblogs are irrelevant.

Not sure what all that means. What do you think ?

GigaOm’s Mobilize and Android: Nothing Happened

I’m covering GigaOm’s Mobilize conference for Venturebeat today.

Rich did not say anything substantial which is new to people looking at the space. There were 2-3 semi-technical slides which could have interesting, but he chose to click through them 1-2-3. For more extensive coverage look no further than his talk in Stanford, more than a year ago. Today’s presentation was a short, less technical version of that. The only thing I got out of the talk is some marketing angles Google presumably wants to use today to market their effort.

Started but one team member still missing…

As it was requested some times, here are some shots from our new office:

And as you can see you do not see that much as only the most important things are already there: a coffee machine (my precious ;)), chairs, our little office server and a lot of space to fill up with other stuff. More in the next weeks as the room fills up and as Matthaeus is also in da house :D.

CTIA: Impressions and Facts in the Mobile Industry

  • There is a strong disconnect between what’s important to the techblogs (ideas like “open networks”,”iPhone”, “Android”) and the companies attending (”business”).
  • Those looking for ideas were mostly disappointed, if I am to judge be the feedback I got. These people were looking for “Apple”, for “Android”/”T-Mobile”. As a VC told said to me: “The biggest news are the non-news. Apple was not here”. He’s got a point, imo. Even though, per policy, Apple does not attend other shows, I’m not sure this is a good approach in mobile. Yes, probably most mobile startups have done/are doing something for the iPhone. I’m not sure, though, that Apple recognises that the platform is not really appealing to VCs. Few people speaking about platforms “got it” related to Android. Developer questions were left unanswered, mostly. The few T-Mobile execs were only reachable privately.
  • Many content companies looking for business were saying that’s been the best CTIA so far. This line catches the mood best: “Two years ago they came in masses to ask who we are. Last year they came to check out how we do in relation to our competition. This year they came to do business.” Mind you, there were much less visitors than last year, though, I was told.

So far some of my CTIA impressions. I have not seen anybody reporting about that - and I’m not sure what to conclude out of that.

Update: Mark from Abi Research and Julie Ask from Jupiter Research seem to agree, sort of.

The big PR news of the conference were certainly the carrier data and related keynote I also covered. I argue that this was the “big” PR news as that data and its importance were the only news covered by mainstream US media.

From our personal angle, Daniel and I had prepared data for that piece for 2 months and were waiting for a good moment to add it as to provide value for readers in our analysis. I watched the keynote for 25 minutes, took down some notes, took this image you see with my G7, went out of the room to get an internet connection and hoped the speakers will not say anything relevant after I left. 15 minutes later we broke the news and continued to update the piece for two hours.

At Venturebeat, we try to have a startup angle covering mobile. We think that the mobile eco system is slowly opening up and think a lot what this means for our coverage. For example, we generally don’t report on-deck deals as most VCs continue not invest in on-deck models. Sure, these deals continue to be important for the companies getting these deals. Still, we consider this spam we don’t expose our readers to.

In many ways we believe mobile tech journalism is starting. These data revenue news continue to be really important and I’m expecting good techblogs to provide context on that. As a VC calculated for me: “What’s the size of the Apple app store revenue ? 180M $ worldwide in a year ? (100M apps have generated 30M $ revenue in 2 months times six, I guess).” That’s pretty much nothing in relation to the reported $14.8 billion for the first six months of this year. These numbers provide a lot of context for much of the reported news out there. We need to make sure to drill them down and show that context when necessary.