Wednesday 2 October 2013

The Internet Figured Out

There was an article in Wired recently by Ryan Tate @ryantate that got a huge number of hits, because the headline suggested Ev Williams had figured out the Internet. Ev helped create Twitter and Blogger so the comment made everyone sit up and pay attention. To turn his words into a synopsis, it was all about giving people what they want. It's that simple. Isn't that the same as Ryan's story about Ev? It's exactly what people want to know. For example, how do you invent the next Twitter? How do you get the attention of people? How do you go viral? What on Earth do people want?

This is one of the shaggiest old stories! Go back to the great Tom Hanks 1988 movie BIG. That scene in the boardroom, where he says, "I don't get it" illustrates how the research people are trying to prove that popularity can be defined by statistics. Of course, they are wrong. As an innocent, unsophisticated child, Josh (Tom) is just being honest when he says the building that turns into a robot isn't fun. The adults who run the toy company (where he works) no longer know what fun is. They have to rely on marketing reports.

Most business strategies are based on research out of necessity. What people want seems to be a baffling mystery to them. Look at the movie business. It is one of the most volatile industries where we can see the evidence publicly from week to week. How can you spend $200 million on a project no one wants to see? As a matter of fact, it happens all the time. From Green Lantern to John Carter to R.I.P.D., those films left a lot of people in financial flames. On the other hand, there are little films that only cost $5 to $15 million and earn $200 million. Go figure.

No wonder the NSA is trying to find out what all of us are doing. It's why market research companies keep track of everyone's credit card activity in order to predict what they are going to buy next. I wish they would pay attention to my requirements. I can never find my favourite sandwich when I go the to coffee shop or my favourite fruit smoothie when I go to the grocery store. They are always sold out of those, because they are too popular. Too popular? Doesn't anyone notice when one item is constantly out of stock while all the others hit their expiry date?

Of course, it's all about "delivering what people want." That's a secret? We need the co-creator of Twitter to tell us that? It's so obvious it's almost absurd. Apparently, Ryan Tate's article got more hits than Wired's home page yesterday! The only people to whom it may not be obvious is the US Republican Party.

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