I’m seeing interesting cases where Facebook, Google or other gorillas tweak content presentation, and then some other company’s business is directly impacted. The gorillas have increasing control (and power) over user attention.
For example, Demand Media took a huge hit after Google’s search engine updates lowered rankings for low-quality content. (DMD is down 80%).
Zynga enjoyed spectacular early success with some of the first social games on Facebook. But as game updates clogged feeds, Facebook made presentation changes to improve feed quality, and Zynga suffered. (ZNGA is down 60%). Facebook continues to tweak how feed content is selected and presented.
More recently, Google added a “Promotions” tab to Gmail, moving most marketing emails out of the main inbox view. That directly affected Groupon, who’s trying to rely less on the daily coupon. (GRPN down 20% so far).
And now, Gmail added a prominent “unsubscribe link” to the top of promotional emails, which will impact email marketing performance even more. (Unsubscribe is one of many “quick action” buttons that Gmail has been rolling out.)
It’s a never-ending battle between those who want user attention, and those who manage it.
A few years ago, I was bearish on Dropbox. I thought they would be an OS feature in time and that turning down a (rumored) $800m from Apple was a bad move. On Quora, I wrote:
I think “slow fade” is another probable outcome.
I’m reminded of FTP Software, which went like gang-busters selling a TCP/IP stack for Windows. Their revenues fell very quickly after Microsoft started shipping TCP/IP as part of the OS. (The same thing happened with all of the disk-compression companies).
Wow, was I off base! I think it’s good to evaluate big entrepreneurial and investment misses and I missed several things (at least).
First, a great product goes a long way. Dropbox has absolutely nailed the product design and user experience in virtually every aspect.
Second, the service is inherently viral. I routinely create new Dropbox users by sharing files with them.
Third, they covered every platform equally well. iCloud works well on OS X, and OneDrive is great on Windows, but Dropbox surfed the whitespace between all of the platforms. They did an excellent job on everything: the iPad version isn’t just the iPhone version running 2X and they even support Linux.
I can’t wait to see their IPO.
When the Blackberry first came out, it was quickly dubbed the “crackberry” because mobile email access was so addictive. Now with ubiquitous smart phones, we’re all email addicts to some extent.
So it’s no surprise that now over 40% of email opens are on mobile devices, and mobile is on track overtake the PC this year. It’s pretty amazing when you consider the smartphone, as we know it, was launched less than 6 years ago.
Mobile and Web are blurring together, slowly ceasing to be distinct “things” (I’ve written before about a mobile strategy for Web sites). This trend suggests some best practices for emails:
- Format emails for mobile. This is basic stuff that a lot of designers seem to mess up. Make sure emails open and render well on mobile devices.
- Mobile-optimize email click-through landing pages and flows. If users are reading emails on mobile devices, they’re also clicking through links on mobile devices. Check your Web usage stats: you might find that a significant percentage of your site usage by mobile users is coming from email click through paths. Nothing kills the user experience like a landing page that hasn’t been mobile formatted.
As the big four (Google, Apple, Amazon, and Facebook) continue to wield disproportionate influence over the digital ecosystem, these gorillas are having to worry a lot more about anti-trust issues. Nobody wants to be broken up like the Bell System.
For example, last month, Liz Gannes wrote about Facebook’s search plans:
…the fact that Facebook has finally made its search intentions known could actually be really good for Google. That’s because regulators — especially those in Europe, who are in the thick of deciding whether to settle with Google over antitrust — now have the prospect of additional search competition to consider.
Also, Google now has Gmail, Maps, and Chrome on the iPhone, where Apple had previously rejected apps that “duplicate the functionality” of built in iOS apps. But it doesn’t look good (in anti-trust terms) for Apple to reject competitive apps, and Google’s smart to get as many apps as possible to dilute Apple’s platform influence.
I think it’s net-good for consumers, as it increases the chances that more of our devices and systems will interoperate. But what we really need are some new gorillas.
In case you haven’t noticed, it’s impossible to find mobile developers. People ask me all the time if I “know anyone”, and I’ve all but given up helping with referrals.
The reason is “self-publishing” is now a reasonable option. The app store ecosystem has removed most friction from the system, provided a clean and easy business model (70/30 revenue split), and eliminated almost all barriers to entry. If you have talent, a laptop, and a coffee shop wifi connection, you have a chance at writing the next great app hit.
As a result, many good developers have (or believe they have) a better chance at doing their own thing vs working for someone else for salary or an hourly rate.