Archive by Rich Karpinski

Making money on things ‘you can’t make money with’


One of the challenges of the Web/new media/social media/etc. is: how do you monetize it? If content wants to be free, social media activity is junky,” user-created content is a scary wildcard and advertising is in a hole that (perhaps) isn’t coming back, how do next-generation content makers and distributors make a buck? more

Connecting the Dots: Apple-Google-AT&T-Rhapsody-RingCentral-Etc.

Is it hyperbole to say that the future of the online application ecosystem is starting to be determined this week?

Probably not.

Theoretical discussions about closed carrier decks, open access networks, app stores and more are fine, but the actual future gets played out not in theory but reality.

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$50 Million Reasons Social Media Is A Feature, Not A Business

Today, my colleague Sarah Reedy described how social media sites like Twitter and Facebook are adversely affecting personal relationships.

Maybe more importantly for our service provider readers, it appears social media platforms have only moderate ability to affect the bottom line.

The proof? Cutting-edge social media site FriendFeed — which pioneered many of social media’s most compelling features — was sold to Facebook for a mere $50 million.

Now $50 million isn’t pocket change — but it’s not serious change either. The swallower here, Facebook, is probably worth at least ten times that much, once again, a nice round figure but not exactly the size of the companies Facebook ostensibly threatens, including wireless operators and Web companies like Google.

So what’s the deal? I’d argue that what FriendFeed — and, one could argue, the even more popular Twitter — have going for them are features, not services. Features are things people like and use; services are things customers pay for. FriendFeed did the first and in many ways best implementations of important new features, things like activity streams, content aggregation, distributed conversation tracking, real-time search and more.

Unfortunately, it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to build a real business around these things. Advertisers don’t really want to sit alongside social media content and social media users have proven they don’t really want to pay for these features. Why? Well once the free genie is out of the bottle, it’s hard to shove it back in and start charging even small fees.

How can such features be monetized? The best avenue may be the mobile world, where operators can add such features to existing revenue-generating text messaging/mobile IM services and either boost fees or use the extra features to hold current (and lucrative) fee levels steady. The app store paradigm also offer a path to charging for software clients that support such services, but once again, the prices for such mini-apps tend to swiftly move toward free as well.

It’s not completely game-over for companies building social media businesses. Twitter, with its real-time conversation and search capabilities, holds major promise. With Facebook swallowing rivals, as well as getting ready to launch its own search feature shortly, that social media upstart is still positioned to cash in as well. It remains to be seen, however, if the real value in both of those businesses will ultimately devolve into features or evolve into real, revenue-generating services.

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Facebook’s Psuedo-SMS Looks Like a Success

If you’re looking for the killer app for mobile, you don’t have to look much further than text messaging. That said, what’s the next killer app? Maybe competing with SMS…

That looks to be the case as a variety of Web-driven messaging providers aim to take advantage of more open devices and cheaper data plans to circumvent standard text messaging.

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Telco/Web search partnership deals in play

Rough economic times always seem to hit the largely venture capital- and ad-supported Web industry hard. One impact of the current downturn seems to be a free-for-all battle among large Web players to sew up important distribution and partnership deals with telecom service providers.

Several developments in recent days point to some reshuffling of deck chairs.

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Trouble in P2P-Land

How’s this for an understatement: P2P has always been problematic for network providers and content providers. Now, companies trying to put a more legitimate face on the technology are facing troubles too.

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Larry Irving on Obama on Telecom

We spoke briefly today with Larry Irving, currently co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance and D.C. consultant, and formerly one of the highest-ranking telecom officials in the last Democratic administration, having spent seven years as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information and Administrator of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). Making it clear he wasn’t speaking for president-elect Barack Obama or his advisors in any way — and emphasizing that the economy and foreign policy issues would no doubt be first on the incoming administration’s priority list — Irving shared a few thoughts with us on where telecom policy, and broadband development in particular, might fit in.

In particular, Irving said he was optimistic to see that in most discussions of building America’s infrastructure, Obama often took pains to talk about the need to build the nation’s broadband networks, in particular in rural areas, as part of that effort. Overall, Irving’s comments were fairly non-partisan in nature, stressing the need for both parties to push for broadband reform, including a lot more emphasis on private public partnerships to drive telecom investment and growth. In addition to broadband, he several times mentioned the importance of pushing for the more efficient use of wireless spectrum, another key telecom policy issue. Also on top of Irving’s like-to-see-list: some experimental projects driven by the telecom industry that could help drive overall economic growth such as assistance in connecting schools, hospitals and not-for-profit centers as well as a focus on helping hard-hit sectors such as rural farms and small businesses make better use of technology.

On a more partisan front, Irving recalled his days in the Clinton administration and noted that during the years when the democrats owned a majority in Congress a situation that the incoming Obama administration will find itself in shortly it made his job much easier. We were able to have much more free, candid and unfettered conversations, he said. On whether such an environment today would have him consider a return to the public sector, Irving replied with a no comment, noting quickly he hadn’t been asked, either.

CTIA: Below the ‘Surface’ with AT&T

AT&T today announced it would be the first commercial customer using Microsoft’s ‘Surface’ technology, which lets users touch, grab and manipulate data on screens. The technology isn’t used in AT&T mobile phones, but in a new table-top kiosk to be deployed in AT&T retail stores.

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Drawing a shaky line on P2P shaping

It was Comcast on the podium defending itself from charges of P2P blocking this week, but it was service providers of all shapes and sizes left wondering if the FCC and Congress would soon be telling them how to manage their networks. more

HP updates core OSS platforms

HP this week delivered a major platform update for its NG OSS portfolio, adding a handful of new features but more importantly adding key underlying capabilities and standards deployments that set a new baseline for future OSS feature releases.

The updates include a new 6.0 version of HP’s TeMIP fault management system and new 5.0 version of HP Service Activator Software. Also on tap: a partnership with Cisco to deliver a managed services management solution for carriers running Cisco-based IP networks. more

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