Thursday, April 24, 2008

Who’s lifecasting is it anyway?

By now you may be familiar with lifecasting, the concept where people broadcast their life 24x7 on the Internet.

To me, this concept is so foreign, it leads to more questions than answers… So I did some digging, and -

Could it possibly be interesting to watch another person live their life? Apparently. Sometimes it is fake, which is probably more interesting.

24x7 should lead to some, uh, fairly personal moments. Do we have to watch them pee? No, most seem to edit a bit, turn off the camera or have a stationary camera, pointing away from the bathroom.

Do they not date? Not sure I want to kiss my girlfriend in front of 1,000s? See “pee” answer, but also do not underestimate the draw of being near the “famous.”

When you say 1,000s, that’s a typo, right? Uh, no. There is someone who is broadcasting the view from a pilot car as they drive in front of “wide loads” across the country. 56,000+ people have watched it – 91 were watching it at once this afternoon!

Is it a coincidence that, for the most part, they are cute? Well, cute usually = interesting (so I hear). Also, never underestimate that apparently, boys will always be boys. Here is a snippet of an interview with Justine, one of the most famous ‘casters. “Justine's viewers were urging her to head to the nearby beach, in the hopes of seeing her in a bikini. ‘Guys, can you just be nice?’ she said, addressing her webcam. ‘Come on. Why does this always have to be like that?’”

So I started thinking about lifecasting, celebrities and the paparazzi. I believe there are two camps of celebs – those that tolerate (read: use) the paparazzi and those that despise them. I have been told that in many cases, despising is an act – that in many cases, celebrities and paparazzi feed off of each other. And that publicists “issue” a schedule of specific celeb activities to the swarming photogs - “Becky will be at the beach today, next to the pier, 1-3 PM. Look for the blond in a red suit. Call my cell if you can’t find her.” For many celebs, I suspect the only thing worse than 20 paparazzi hanging around them is no paparazzi hanging around them…

On to the point. I think it is only a matter of time until someone starts lifecasting a celebrity –without permission. Sort of involuntary lifecasting? Paparazzicast? Hang out in front of the celeb’s house, videoing the driveway, follow/video them into Whole Foods, video them as they select from the produce, etc. External view only, but…. If 91 people will sit and watch the highway in front of a pilot car somewhere between Maine and Oregon, how many people would tune in to watch Britney drive to the mall? I’m betting a lot. From someone who is mostly famous for being famous, this would be a gift from heaven, I would think. And a little scary.

Friday, April 18, 2008 ads

Pirate ad.....

"They say a man should always dress for the job he wants.
So, why am I dressed up like a pirate in this restaurant?
It's all because some hacker stole my identity
And so I'm stuck here every evening serving chowder and iced tea
Should've went to
I could've seen this coming at me like an atom bomb!
They monitor your credit and send you email alerts,
so you don't end up selling fish to tourists in t-shirts!"

This is a really funny ad. My kids (13 & 11) were singing the lyrics in the car the other night.

I'm a big believer in gaining consumer attention is 90% of the game - I think people have a only the vaguest notion as to ad specifics. The best they can hope for is that consumers sort of remember that somehow helps prevent identity theft and that is good. From that standpoint, this ad is a home run. A+. 100!

One question though. Does identity theft force you to work in fast food?

Full disclosure - is an advertiser on

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

youtube + divorce...

Tricia Walsh Smith has used youtube to discuss her pre-nup, her sex life, embarrass her husband's assistant and probably do herself no favors judge-wise in the effort.

That said, the video has been viewed over 500,00 times - with half of these views coming in the last 2 hours or so!

She has also gotten national attention, with articles on CNN, a bunch of local papers etc. Divorce360 discussed it here.

What's the over/under in days until someone uses youtube as the method to announce to their spouse his/her decision decision to divorce?

I'm guessing 30 days....

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Florida! The New California*

A South Florida Saturday morning – I’m up early, had to run some errands.

So around 8am, I’m in-line, waiting to go into a “gated community.” The entrance represents the Florida real estate go-go days of a year ago – huge fountain, plants everywhere, big guard gate, where the guards carry guns and require photo IDs to enter (why? I have no idea. It is easier to get past airport security than to get into some of these places).

I’m in a line of seven cars or so waiting to get it, so I can see the cars leaving the community coming out the other side. Lexus, Audi, Lexus, Lexus, Porsche, Maserati? vintage Ford Mustang! nice!

Baaaallllllooooooooooommmmmmm! A huge rumble to my left. I look up just in time to see five guys leaving on terrific looking, awesome bikes. Leathers, dirt, patches – these guys look great. Tough. Probably a little mean. The lure of the road. Calling them.

From their gated community.

For nothing screams bad-ass like a bunch of guys roaring out from behind the guarded gates that surround their multi-million dollar golf course homes.

Florida! The New California*

(*stolen from the NYT)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The call-back

I'd like to think I returned every call I received in my career.

But I know that would be a lie.

As former COO of Bankrate I definitely took my fair share of unsolicited calls / e-mails from people of all stripes – customers, potential vendors, salespeople, credit card companies, long distance resellers, etc.

I think you can break them into a few camps:
Customers (as a publisher, this includes both advertisers and consumers): must take. Not always fun, but you gotta do it. To be honest, the consumer calls were always interesting. Mortgage brokers are pretty opinionated as a group, and more than once I wish I could talk faster so I could get the hell outta there, but I’d say 95% of the time I learned something very useful (One percent of all random callers to a public company are mad (insanely mad) at the world and it is the receivers turn to take it). Talking to your customers – there’s a revolutionary idea!

Vendors you know or have heard of or that were referred to you: again, a must take. The risk of passing on the next great partnership/product/whatever is too high. Everyone fears the call from the boss: “Have you seen the new module by vendor X on competitors Ys site? It’s awesome!” You: “Yes, X called me a few months ago, never called ‘em back. I suspect that was why they were calling…..”

Vendors you don’t know, don’t need or have never heard of: these are a mixed bag. If it was something we didn’t need or didn’t use and it was painfully obvious they had spent zero time on our web site, I didn’t call them back. (I got many, many calls trying to sell me banking-type products – Bankrate isn’t a bank, 3 minutes on the site would show this, I felt it was just lazy). If the offer/idea/product seemed interesting, I’d try to call ‘em back, or refer them to a more appropriate colleague. Unfortunately, all too often I just got tied up and didn’t call back.

Now, I’m on the other side of this equation. I am the little guy, the startup CEO trying to get people to take his call / e-mail. It is hard. I suspect somewhere, in some telemarketing convention, someone is (many are?) smiling at the thought of my pain.

There is an old joke that if you want to know if someone is your friend, ask ‘em for a loan. I’m not asking for a loan, but you definitely see who your friends are when you start a business. It’s been amazing. Certainly there are exceptions, but people who I knew and thought were my friends and I believed would be eager to do business with us haven’t / won’t return my calls/e-mails, where as guys who I never had met and didn’t know from Adam have gone out of their way to be gracious. I can never repay the kindness of some of these strangers who have helped us so much. I don’t want to overplay this – many, many friends have been terrific and will always be terrific, and have been a boon to our business, and we wouldn’t be here without them. But…

Another interesting phenomenon – a cold e-mail is never returned on the first attempt at contact. I’m just starting to keep count, but I would say my experience is you have to usually send 3-4 emails to get a response. This is even true when contacting salespeople selling something you want to buy. If they sense you are a small fry, then you can hang, buddy. (It’s especially true when you are trying to sell someone something, but that’s for another post…). It is now to the point that I write my follow-up email (“hey – just checking in, wanted to see if you had a chance to review….”) at the same time as my original email and queue it in my calendar for delivery a few days later, ‘cause I will definitely have to send it, and it is easier to write this stuff when you are on a roll. Lesson here? Persistence is mandatory! Even when you are buying! (Again, maybe not a big shock, but interesting to me)

Final point. Now that I am on the receiving end, you would think I had reformed my own ways, right? Ran to return every call, every e-mail? No! I’m still only so-so at that. But now, I know what it feels like, and it makes me want to be better. We will see.