Ev Williams: Different services create value in different ways

Morning inspiration for people who want smart KPIs.

Especially for digital, but also for other things: success is relative.

Ev Williams, CEO of Medium, expounds on how there is “God metric” (Jonah Peretti, 2014).

Read the whole thing.

If you’re in the business of convincing people to refine their objectives.

My many favorite points from the piece:

…If that’s happening, I frankly don’t give a shit if Instagram has more people looking at pretty pictures.

Of course, I am trivializing what Instagram is to many people. It’s a beautifully executed app that enables the creation and enjoyment of art, as well as human connection, which is often a good thing. But my rant had very little to do with it (or with Twitter). My rant was the result of increasing frustration with the one-dimensionality that those who report on, invest in, and build consumer Internet services talk about success.

…Will Oremus’s piece in Slate is the one I saw that didn’t just regurgitate the “bigger” headline. He does a great job of explaining why it’s not that simple. It’s worth a read, but the summary is this:

So is Instagram larger than Twitter? No — it’s different than Twitter. One is largely private, the other largely public. One focuses on photos, the other on ideas.

…our top-line metric is “TTR,” which stands for total time reading. It’s an imperfect measure of time people spend on story pages. We think this is a better estimate of whether people are actually getting value out of Medium…

…everyone is in a “war for attention.” But it uses unique visitors as the way to compare how different outlets are doing in this war…

We pay more attention to time spent reading than number of visitors at Medium because, in a world of infinite content — where there are a million shiny attention-grabbing objects a touch away and notifications coming in constantly — it’s meaningful when someone is actually spending time. After all, for a currency to be valuable, it has to be scarce.

Chartbeat’s Tony Haile has done a great job of promoting the idea of an “Attention Web” (as opposed to the “Click Web”). He’s hopeful a shift to measuring attention will improve the web:

For quality publishers, valuing ads not simply on clicks but on the time and attention they accrue might just be the lifeline they’ve been looking for. Time is a rare scarce resource on the web and we spend more of our time with good content than with bad.

The problem with time, though, is it’s not actually measuring value. It’s measuring cost as a proxy for value.

Advertisers don’t really want your time — they want to make an impression on your mind…

…As the writer of this piece, I don’t really want your time — I want to make an impression on how you think.

But taking people’s time isn’t really the goal. And people wasting time is actually the opposite of the goal.

This is the problem with any one-dimensional metric. As Jonah Peretti says, there’s no “God metric”:

I feel like what you see in the industry now is people jumping around and trying to find the God metric for content. It’s all about shares or it’s all about time spent or it’s all about pages or it’s all about uniques. The problem is you can only optimize one thing and you have to pick, otherwise all you’re doing is making a bunch of compromises if you try to optimize for multiple things.


Marketing Magazine: Things Marketers Can Learn From Candy Crush

Articles like these make me proud of being part of a Product Dev team, during my younger years at work.

With this article, I think Marketing Magazine is able to express how the older model of advertising needs to change.

People Like Us (by which I mean those who work in digital agencies) rarely congratulate Candy Crush developer King for this trick of turning a little puzzle into a massive load of money.

Making lines of four things isn’t new enough as a game idea to impress us. Which is not a problem for  King; its later launches use exactly the same “matching” gameplay. Indeed, King cites the repeatable nature of its game development as what makes the company’s value sustainable.

Perhaps it will one day spend its millions on a new game idea that People Like Us like, and it can enjoy the fleeting glory of our admiration….

This is what King has to teach us, if we will only put our critically acclaimed, animated adventures down and listen. It updates that game every two weeks. After the launch of your brilliant app or game or website or campaign idea, how often do you return to it to add more to it, really? It’s something the older folk in advertising may recognise in the development of long-running brand ideas…

Are there 73 episodes of your brand idea, app or content platform? And when you launch that innovative new ‘thing’, be it a campaign, a website or, perhaps, a small loveable wireless printer, have you committed yourself to 1075 levels of increasingly addictive interpretations and uses of it? Does it even momentarily cure low self-esteem, or might it inexorably distract someone’s attention wholly from whatever it is they are doing (and not just play in the background)?

In a world of thousands of ‘new things’, made by thousands of Imagineers and their ilk, we could probably stand for some ‘things’ to last a bit longer than their launch period. We could stand for some of them to hold our attention for longer than it takes to grasp the story the first time.

FastCo: How Hendrick’s Gin targets hipsters and succeeds in capturing that audience

And the award for most clinical exposition of marketing to hipsters is…

Fast Co’s article on how Hendrick’s Gin, and Pabst Beer, cater to the hipster psychographic.

Read it if you want to learn how to market to hipsters, in a way that reads like an exotic fantasy mystery piece.

“…developed piercing insights into what makes today’s hipster’s tick. Hipsters have increasingly sophisticated sensibilities, finding ways to express their individuality by discovering beautiful, idiosyncratic clothing, music, and art from the past. Hipsters have always been into vintage, but lately, bartenders in trendy neighborhoods have had a decidedly Victorian sensibility, sporting waxed handlebar mustaches, pinstripe vests, and pocket watches.

…’Our target is driven by curiosity,’ says Hendrick’s senior brand manager Kirsten Walpert

‘Hipsters don’t respect money, they respect art,’ says C.C. Chapman, marketing expert and founder of social good consultancy Never Enough Days. “There’s a certain level of craftsmanship that goes into brands that matters to the hipster market. They buy into brands that have put effort into crafting their own story and identity.’

…hipsters around the country were drawn to the beer’s lowbrow roots: It signaled a total rejection of the yuppie households…

Pabst hires field marketers who are exactly like their target consumer, that is to say: hipsters.

‘It involves building brand activators of true hipster, but never ever calling them that,” says Karen Post, a branding expert and author of Brand Turnaround. “They identify the influencers, but don’t sell them out. ‘…

constantly plays into hipster’s fascination with things that are both vintage and idiosyncratic. The brand has invented an elaborate world full of playful, unusual things that they have never seen before…”

Fast Company: Monocle launches a business management guide

I love this article — on a gut level, because it goes against the popularity of “startups” — but, more seriously, because of its business advice based on Monocle’s own business journey and the business success of its featured shops.

“”Startup” is an empty word….

Entrepreneurial success seen through the Monocle lens looks different: It’s slower-growing, more painstaking, less giddily affluent. The businesses profiled sell tangible products–ceramics, goat cheese–and are run by grown-ups versus the delayed adolescents one associates with Silicon Valley…

“petiteness” (not getting too big, too fast) and “social terroir” (rooting your business in place and community, and staying responsive to the needs of that community)…

Pitch your product upmarket, where higher margins prevail; don’t sell products, curate an experience; cater to consumer tastes you understand well; cross-pollinate ideas across industries; and tilt your business model as necessary (a gelato “university” in a high-rent locale is more financially sustainable than a simple gelato shop)…

…So yes, if you have a great new idea you may be able to steal a march on everyone else, but most new businesses are actually repeating–but refining–old ideas. There is always room for a new café done better or a magazine that does its own thing.

A good brand is built through repetition and you have to have the confidence to keep repeating what you do best until you get the breakthrough. The other important thing is to choose steady progress over what may seem like easy wins. They are usually hollow.

…Canvass opinions, do your research, check the market, but in the end you’ll only make it if you know what your passion is for, and you stick with it.  Sometimes people won’t understand what you are trying to achieve at first.

… each person has learned to be open to the input of their team…but, in the end, they are the keeper of the flame. They are brave enough to make the big decisions.

When you feel that you’re just responding to the next urgent request all the time and need some bigger thoughts, get out of your office, turn off that phone, be distracted by something bigger than the task at hand…”

“Corporate Wear” for Women: Reflections on Mark Zuckerberg’s Hoodie

“Does wearing jeans and sneakers, as a woman, make you any less competent, equipped, mature or well-adjusted than women in corporate wear?”

– I thought to myself as I sat in a meeting.

[I was wearing jeans, suede Converse sneakers and, to be a bit presentable, a sand-colored long-sleeved shirt, exactly like this one worn by Marion, from France, whom I do not look like at all.]

This is Marion from France. I do not look like her. I just have that same shirt in white and beige.

The easy answer to my question is “no”, right?

But, look at the corporate environment where you work.

Please tell me if there are women in positions of power who wear sneakers and t-shirts.  I need to not feel like a freak.

A month or so ago, there was this hullaballoo about Mark Zuckerberg wearing a hoodie to his Wall Street investors pitch (I first read it in the New York Times Bits Blog; it’s also featured in CNN, Bloomberg, Forbes, etc.).

People bestowed it with all sorts of symbolism – about the cultural divide between Silicon Valley and Wall Street.

At least, though, Mark Zuckerberg probably gets away with wearing hoodies to work.

Steve Jobs gets away with his running shoes.

But I would love to see the day-to-day wardrobe of top women in business, even in Silicon Valley.

See, my definition of success, for a long time, has been “the privilege of getting to wear what I’m comfortable with to work, while still having people’s respect”.

I’ve always envied this man I was with in an elevator.  He’s an industry bigshot, and, on that day, he was wearing jeans, and a plain white shirt which was so worn it had holes along the side.  I told myself that someday, I want to be just like that – have enough achievement to and gall to credibly mock the system. As the New York Times article mentioned, similar to Zuckerberg’s and Job’s “anti-fashion statement”.

Image from The New York Times

I’m slowly realizing, though, as I stay longer in my job and interact with people higher up the corporate ladder, that there isn’t much room for t-shirts, jeans and sneakers when you’re a woman who wants to command a certain level of respect in meetings with executives.

That’s even when the other executives are wearing sneakers as well. (Since I work in a broadcasting and production outfit).

Coincidentally, this month’s Fast Company issue features the “league of extraordinary women”.  As usual, I like the structure of their web feature on the topic.

But, more than that, this made me want to see how these top women presented themselves.  To check whether there was hope for sneaker-wearing women to stay true to themselves when in managerial positions in corporations.

Here’s what looking at a few profiles turned up:

Lily Cole, Brand Ambassador for Body Shop
Gabi Zedlmayer, HP’s VP for Global Social Innovation
Cherie Blair, Founder – The Cherie Blair Foundation for Women
Tory Burch, Founder – Tory Burch Foundation

Granted, this was a magazine feature, so they are probably being primped and dolled up.

I know, I know, they’re just clothes, and I might be making a big deal.

Wearing “corporately-acceptable” clothes doesn’t diminish your values or convictions.  It’s just that neither should casual clothes diminish competence and respectability.

I understand that these women might wear a whole different set of clothes while at work, which is why these make me happy:

Jessica Jackley, Founder – Kiva
Susan Davis – President, BRAC USA
Grace Bonney – Founder, DesignSponge

And, fine, I should stop discriminating against women who wear popularly fashionable clothing, in the same way that I clamor for stopping the discrimination against casual clothes.

But, continuing with the fun, I decided to post the first Google Image associated with the corporate leaders in Fast Company’s 2011 Most Influential Women in Tech.

These women are AMAZING.  I am very glad I went through the list, and I suddenly feel very shallow about even thinking about something such as work clothes.

Prerna Gupta, code-writing former beauty queen with computer science and economics degrees from Stanford

Prerna Gupta – CEO, Khush

..who, I’m happy to see, also wears t-shirts and jeans to presentations!

from flickr user thakurprashantsingh
from flickr user thakurprashantsingh
Alisa Miller – CEO, Public Radio International

Nichole Goodyear, head of an award-winning, innovative social media agency built on a cost-per-engagement model.

Nichole Goodyear – CEO, Brickfish

Jessica Kahn manages engineering, operations and strategy for Disney’s mobile application development.

Jessica Kahn – VP of Engineering, Disney Mobile

Kellee Santiago, who leads her team in making accessible games for even previously untapped gaming markets.

Kellee Santiago – President, thatgamecompany

Heather Harde, who spearheaded building an in-house ad-sales team, developed conferences and events, and created a research arm to grow TechCrunch’s business.

Heather Harde, Managing Director, AOL’s tech properties, and Former CEO of TechCrunch

Cher Wang, one of the richest people in the world, and runs the company that came out with the first Android phone.

Cher Wang – CEO, HTC

And, these last two help show that objectification can happen no matter where you are in the corporate ladder…

I saved the two seemingly most “popularly seen as hot” ones for last.

I guess they can’t help that they’re gorgeous, smart and savvy.

Marissa Mayer, one of Google’s first female engineers, who graduated in symbolic systems with honours from Stanford, and has a masters degree in computer science from the same university.

Marissa Mayer – VP of Consumer Products, Google


Rachel Sterne (who sometimes has an eery resemblance to Katherine McPhee), who was a U.N. political reporter, used to run a hyperlocal news service, that distributed live online reports from the people directly experiencing “the news” and now the chief digital officer for New York city.

Rachel Sterne – Former CEO, GroundReport

This is the second photo in her Google Search stream:

Sterne (NYC Chief Officer for Digital) and Max Haot – CEO, Livestream

Now, let’s look at the first five male leaders or figureheads in Fast Company’s 2012 Most Innovative Companies.

(Darn it, I should have been more specific and said, I would observe the first full body pictures in the Google Image stream.

Because, now it looks like a headshot-attractiveness thing.

Sorry, to all the individuals in pictures here, if this seems a bit invasive.  I realized collecting the images suddenly seemed creepily voyeuristic. I’m tempted to Google myself to “even the score”.)

All in all, the conclusion is – I realized it isn’t so bad.  If you stick your neck out and prove yourself, I’m guessing you can eventually get away with what you want to wear.  It isn’t about the packaging really (even the boys have to play by the corporate rules, sometimes), it just all depends on the strength of character and actual skills you have to pull of the success.  Cool.

Copious (via Fast Company): Quite fitting

Thanks to Fast Company for this post on Copious, “a new online marketplace that leverages Facebook’s social graph”.

I don’t think anyone (who lived before the 80’s) could have predicted how the Internet, or the computer, would transform the aspects of our daily lives — from taking mementos of ourselves, to talking, to doing business.

Aubrey Rynae "Tracy" - from Susan Galvan Luis

Interesting, how the post points out that marketing and selling online are now moving away from anonimity to authenticity.  Okay, yes, not everything on the Internet is “real”, so to speak.  But, there really is, now, greater pressure on brands or creators/sellers of anything to be honest about themselves. It is, I think, very smart or wily of the creators to not allow any of the content to be viewable if you aren’t logged in.  It just highlights the insularity of facebook and its kindred, and it really forces people to make a shift in their behaviour.  Just smart.  Or cunning. I don’t know yet.

I’m just excited about how Copious will be used by people — Will it actually work?  Is it really that much more comforting to be aware of the social networks and identity of the person I’m buying from, even if it’s only facebook information?  Will the features, like the “people”-location-power bars, matter and how?

Etsy brought designers and crafters to a bigger audience but still retained their niche-y-ness, a homebase feel.  I want to what kind of impression Copious begins to form as a really more free-form marketplace — open to anyone and anything.  In which case…thinking of the most significant strengths of the Internet…then, yeah, Copious is probably going to succeed, even if, right now, it’s still pretty empty.

It is a new age, and it’s so exciting to see.  Copious is new, and I’ll check out what happens to it in the future.

Side note:  I also enjoyed the Jan Chipchase article on CNN.com.  I love how culture is so “global” now.  We can actually look to cues from other countries’ middle classes to see pointers and hotspots for our own issues and products, in an almost real-time, multisensory way.  Amazing.

Surf Trail: There was a time in my life

1. …When I would have killed (ok, too strong a word)…maybe thwacked someone with a pencil..to get shirts like these.


2.  And in other news, more great finds from impressonme.  Created by Flowtown.


3.  On-point headline.  It is the end of an era.  I remember when the coolest thing for me was owning a translucent (body plus earphones) Sony Walkman, with an “exo-skeleton” carrying case that could be clipped onto it.  I really hope I have it somewhere with me, because it’ll apparently be a future collector’s item. VIA

4. For Paul.

2.5.  Dang it, that Flowtown blog is nice.  (Yes, I used the word “nice”.  I didn’t want to use “great”, I considered using “smart” and “addicting”; but I didn’t want to hype them up too much.)

5. Back to ImpressonMe


Also via Polkadot, and Kitsune-Noir on Polyvore



6.  Then, oddly, I will link to articles related to business/management.