Friday, October 1, 2010

All I want for Christmas is an app

Last week I was at one of those big box chains and couldn't help noticing that they were loading up with Christmas decorations, plastic trees, and lights designed to burn out and frustrate their owners. OMG, its Christmas season in September, thought to myself.

So today is the first day of October and I wouldn't want to get my Christmas list to Santa and his elves too late -- after all, they are probably busy up at the North Pole treading water.

So here goes:
I want an app for Christmas. Ever check out those 'build your own app' sites? What a rip-off. A few bucks for building the app, then $30 a month for maintenance. Are you joking?

Last weekend I was playing around in iPhoto after getting an e-mail from Apple. They were promoting the ability to create photo books right in iPhoto, then order a printed copy of the book. The prices were high, though I suppose they were reasonable enough.

But playing around with the book formats I thought to myself "wouldn't this be great as an app?" The consumer could create their own book app then submit it to iTunes as a way of making the book available to friends and family. Apple could even make some money at it by making the apps $1.99 each -- or just charge something like $19.99 for building the app -- it's all done automatically anyway.

I want an ad agency that recognizes quality for Christmas. I received a couple of magazines produced by Cygnus the other day, both were those ad-for-edit styled publications where one page of advertorial faced a full page ad. Even still, the magazines -- special issues I suppose -- were anemic looking. But what amazed me was that anyone bought those ads at all. Didn't the thought cross the minds of the media buyers 'who would read this junk?'

But agencies, especially in the B2B area, continue to press for favorable editorial to the point where magazines are dropping all pretense of editorial integrity. This is nothing terribly new -- everybody knows that -- but it has gotten to the point where many editors are totally numb and just produce their magazines by rote.

The problem doesn't totally lay with the agencies, of course. Many clients are just as sucked into the ad-for-edit scheme. There are media companies out there, generally run by the Brits I'm saddened to say, that have made it their complete business plan: magazines that contain 100% advertorial, company 'profiles' written specifically so as to secure advertising. These magazines are rarely audited, always quote fake circulation numbers, and are right there on the edge of criminality. How do they get away with it? Advertisers love to get editorial coverage, even poorly written pieces that no one in their right minds would read.

I want a better VC industry for Christmas. Thank you VCs, you've destroyed the B2B media industry.

In the tech field, VCs used to invest in new companies, sit on the board, interfere with all sorts of things, but they never told a programmer how to create their products. But somehow, we in the B2B media industry, got stuck with VCs who believed they knew something about running a publishing company -- they didn't, they don't, they never will. VCs know how to get money from investors, that's what they are good at. But instead we had VCs which became PEs which became Gordon Gekkos. What's left of the industry is hardly worth talking about.

For reasons I don't understand, the media investment class believed that the way to make money in B2B media was to buy lots of magazines and destroy them. It would like buying up a block of houses, tear off their siding and roofs, and then try to sell them off again at a profit. What a surprise that the strategy didn't work.

But there is now a new opportunity for the investment class, a chance to return to the idea of company building. With mobile and tablet publishing booming even now, there are opportunities galore to build new companies that can be web first, tablet first, mobile first, or any combination you can think of. The fragmentation of the market that is killing print can be a huge opportunity if looked at from the perspective of an investor.

Unfortunately, I think we have a better chance asking Santa for some sound media investment than those in NYC who call themselves media bankers.

So, what do you want for Christmas?