Product Marketing: Strategery in the Face of a Disruptive Debate

December 13, 2010

Questions product managers and product marketers must ask while the ad revenue war wages on.

It has been over two weeks since I’ve been able to pull together a post. In my defense the ensuing holiday rush, 2011 planning at my day gig, living in a modest ‘fixer upper’, and five children spanning ages from 15 years to 8 months have a tendency to sort of monopolize my time.  OK so perhaps that is better described as an excuse rather than defense, but I’m sticking to it none the less. Committed to the ideals of Inflection, however, I was determined to turn my attention back to our topics of product strategy, product management and production marketing. So this evening I did what I normally do when I’m looking for some decent fodder to spark an idea or two for a quick post. Cruise Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Mashable, TechCrunch, Fast Company and a number of my favorite blogs.

This turned up a fascinating debate between Tim Wu (Columbia Law Professor and author of the newly released “The Master Switch. The Rise and Fall of Information Empires”) and Sarah Lacy (TechCrunch journalist and author of the upcoming “Brilliant, Crazy, Cocky: How the Top 1% of Entrepreneurs Profit from Global Chaos”). The topic of debate was Tim’s thesis for his new book that everything new about the internet industry is potentially a mirage that is seen simply because we’re in the midst of it, and when we get a good belt of cold water we’ll realize that there really is nothing  new about it after all. In other words the destination of the today’s newest media is really the same exact destination of yesterday’s new media – consolidation. The telegraph, consolidated. The telephone, consolidated. Radio, film, television. All the same fate. Now look admittedly I’ve not read the book, but got this sense for it watching nearly 30 minutes of the Wu / Lacy debate,  (You can find it here – don’t forget to come back and finish up – also below you can find their original and briefer discussion  NBC), and I’m motivated to pick it up. But I’m also struck by the very nature of the debate itself.

What strikes me are a couple of things. First Ms. Lacy and Mr. Wu are WAY smarter than me. More importantly, however, is the realization that the discussion of whether or not internet technology is in and of itself disruptive (and will continue to be so), seems almost inconsequential.  So while there is no argument that since the advent of commercial consumption of data over the internet that there has been disruption after disruption, it seems important to place a name on that which is being disrupted.

Ad revenue.

It honestly is as simple as that.

Ad revenue.

There are obviously layers of nuance over what exactly is in that statement, but at the end of the day two of the largest internet companies of today are duking it out over billions of dollars in advertising. Quite possibly $27 billion in fiscal 2010 for Goolge and another $1.28 billion for Facebook. In the meantime the cloud wrestles over business application use while Leo at HP, his former SAP and arch nemesis Oracle continue to sell billions in licenses where the only association with a cloud might be if the server room happens to have windows (and not the Bill Gates kind).

In other words the ‘internets‘ is media, pure and simple.

So what does this mean for practitioners in the here and now? Understand it as a media and leverage it accordingly.

If all you take away from this post is that Tim Wu and Sarah Lacy are much more intelligent then yours truly, well then I feel I’ve done my job. If however you are so inclined to wonder what leveraging the media properly means I would suggest that you look at the very foundation of how you are communicating today.

Far too many firms feel far too comfortable in their message. But is it honestly simple to understand? Does it spark a natural interest in your targeted buyer? Is the position your company takes one that generates conversation? How well defined is your strategy for capturing your market share? Can it be easily articulated and more importantly are their elements of the strategy that will benefit from the tactics made available by this current maturation cycle of media? Does the strategy translate into action? Can that action be understood by your sales force and are they willing to go to the battle of pipeline with the weapons you are providing for them? Are the results monitored? Are they measurable? These questions and many more like them are significantly more important than whether or not internet technology is disruptive by nature or a historical sequel to the printing press and every form of public media consumption mechanism since.

You see that is what we University of Delaware educated types need to care about while the Tim Wu’s and Sarah Lacy’s of the world help unpack the reality of the tech world in which we live. Practical application helps pay to keep the heat on in the winter and place a piece of bread or two on the table from time to time. Besides, I figure by the time Tim and Sarah’s potions crystallize there will be some new element to the new media to understand and apply.  Sounds like some fairly consistent job security.

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