Category Archives: General Comments

The evolution of Sports Social Media

I was recently invited to get involved with a social media start-up called JockTalk ( I am a bit of a cynic when it comes to new social media ventures because I am the type of person who likes the ones I use and use the ones I like and that keeps the paying field small – mainly LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook (a bit and mainly for the kids). However, the more I heard about JockTalk the more convinced I became that this is the future of sports social media.

Photo of stage at DEMO12

There are a number of social media plays trying to fix the “monetisation of Twitter” problem and JockTalk certainly addresses this opportunity. A revenue share with athletes means that the content created can be monetised through ad revenue. However, what is really great about JockTalk is the level of fan engagement built-in. It is obvious when you get under the hood, that athletes have been involved in scoping it because each feature fulfils a flaw in the way Twitter supports fan:athlete engagement. There is a Q&A section, athletes can rank top fans and the platform publishes to Twitter and Facebook so it doesn’t require a massive behavioural change for athletes and fans to get involved.

What I most like about JockTalk is that it is designed to deal with all sports. As a fan this is crucial because like many fans, I enjoy multiple sports. I don’t want to go to a different social media platform for each set of athletes (soccer, Rugby, Baseball, Cricket etc.) I want to be able to put all my sport in one place. As a Twitter user with two profiles – one work and one social I already have compartmentalised my business Tweeting from my sports Tweeting and so JockTalk allows me to enhance this even further. The site is in Beta but you can take a peek here:

The team is presenting at DEMO12 this week and I can’t wait to see the feedback. It is often said that the simplest things are the most effective and JockTalk’s simplicity and power are sure to be a hit.

Blunden Consulting – it’s alive!

Now that I have customers, I suppose I have to come clean and reveal that “Blunden Consulting” is up and running and open for business. I have created a page in my blog that offers a bit more information about what I actually do now that I am an independent consultant, and thanks go to the advice and guidance of colleagues and friends as I have nailed it down – you know who you are.

I plan to blog a little more (I am not sure doing much less would be possible) and change the content I write about to include some of the areas I am working in that are not user and customer experience. Twitter will no doubt continue to be my channel of preference however. (@pblunden by the way)

I am grateful to the clients who have already engaged me, and my thanks to you all; it has made the transition from full time CEO to independent consultant so much easier to cope with. I can of course fit a couple more in and so if you feel you can benefit from my particular brand of advice, please do get in touch.

Big data, big opportunity

I visited Adtec today and attended various presentations and seminars. One of these was delivered by Fabric/Infosys and talked about Big data and to kick it off presented some interesting data facts I want to share. You might be surprised to know that:

  • Amex is 85% certain of who will divorce based on transaction data
  • Twitter is 97.3% accurate in reporting box office takings and more accurate than the film organisation responsible for making these forecasts
  • Google’s data predicting flu (influenza) trends is more accurate than The Centre for Disease Control

There was another statistic about Facebook being more accurate than Gallup weekly polls in predicting a political outcome (I think from mid-terms) but the pace was so fast I missed it. After a quick Google search I only found less accurate claims such as this: click link.

Another amazing stat., although not from this session is that 90% of all the data in the world was created in the last two years.

So “Big Data” is hot and a term that will grow in use.

The World is Flat (ish)

I am on holiday this week and right now I am sat pool side in the beautiful Tenerife resort of Los Gigantes. As usual I am trying to read a book, a page at a time, as I juggle the (not entirely unreasonable) demands of my three children with my own needs. The book I am reading is by three time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas L. Friedman titled “The World is Flat”.

It is an excellent book and even though I am only half way through I have found it thought provoking and informative. It is a must read for anyone in business now, whether large or small. My only reservation is that in many ways the book is ahead of its time – despite the various current and historical examples and case studies.

As I write, the third day of the fifth Ashes test is about to get under way. Last night England bowled Australia out for 160. In an ideal world, I’d like to log in to my Sky Player and watch the 3rd day unfold – but I can’t. The licensing laws apparently won’t allow it so despite paying my monthly subscription, Sky is getting two weeks of my money for very little service delivery. In a truly flat world I would be able to access any of my entertainment services wherever I am and when ever I want to.

One of the stories in the book is about Friedman’s daughter searching addresses through Google by using phone numbers and considering her Mum to be almost backward when she asks if she has brought an address book. That was 2004 and I wonder now what would be the expectations of her and other teenagers like her?

I am far from being a teenager and I am already impatient for a flatter world. I am having to type this blog post in open office writer and then copy and paste it in to the blog because the Internet connection is so unstable. Even if it were stable I still couldn’t do what I want to and access my paid for entertainment.

The world may well be flat if you are UPS, Google or Infosys, but if you are an individual there are still quite a few bumps in the road. Having said that, the fact I can sit here, pool side on my laptop and access the Internet at all, is a world away from just a few years ago. In another 5 years I would expect the connections issues to be a thing of the past. Licensing however, is a political issue that won’t go away any time soon.

Twitter: an application in need of some problems

What's the big problem?
What's the big problem?

I recently interviewed Ashley Friedlein for a Podcast for Foviance and the subject of Twitter came up. Ashley and Econsultancy have found an application for Twitter which fixes a problem that many organisations face when trying to get feedback from event or conference attendees.

Ashley explained that whilst they give out feedback forms at every event the response is often poor. Having filled out a few myself, the timing never quite seems right. You often get the form at the beginning of the day and are reminded to complete it at the end. By then I can barely remember which conference I am at let alone how well the individual speakers have performed.

So the solution Econsultancy have come up with is the provide a Twitter “#” tag at the event and to collect input via Twitter during the conference. It relies of course on the venue providing suitable wi-fi or gps reception and despite popular opinion, not everyone uses Twitter so it may not address the entire audience for every type of conference. But, for EConsultancy and the type of digital marketeers they attract I can see it being a viable solution. Thankfully, they haven’t gone as far as putting the comments up on a big screen behind the speaker which could be the modern equivalent of throwing rotten vegetables at an unpopular performer.

Whether there is a revenue model in it for Twitter is unclear. It could be that #-tags are able to be sold and therefore made unique – a current flaw in the approach is anyone can use the same #-tag. One thing I feel certain about is that 140 characters is more than sufficient to provide meaningful feedback about the conference experience.

Ready, steady, don’t go

I visited Shanghai recently during a large International research project Foviance was conducting for a client in the mobile sector. It was the first time I had visited any part of China and I found the cultural experience fascinating. The differences between East and West are so apparent when you see them first hand and there was plenty to take in and admire.

One idea I really liked was the way the traffic signals work in Shanghai. The simplicity and practicality of the idea reminded me of the first time I visited Florida and experienced the ‘turn right on a red light’ phenomenon. For those unfamiliar this would translate in the UK to allowing motorists to turn left (and therefore not cross the traffic) on a red light providing that there aren’t any vehicles coming. It seems a safe way of reducing queues to me but seems never to have caught on over here. I did hear that London’s Mayor is considering allowing cyclists this privilege so maybe there is still hope for the rest of us.

The right information at the right time
The right information at the right time


Back in Shanghai, what they have done is add a countdown to the lights. Although the photo I took shows only how it benefits pedestrians it is actually in operation for motorists as well. What I observed was people either rushing to make sure they crossed in time or waiting because they realised they wouldn’t have time to cross. The result was traffic moved away from the lights more quickly because no dare-devil pedestrians decided to risk it.

I would be interested to learn about other features and functionality provided in cities that provides benefits to pedestrians and motorists by making technology easier to understand or communicate a more valuable message. Please let me know if you see any and if you send me a photo I’ll put it in a later blog post.

Salary details published online is the brain-child of Robert Hohman (ex President Hotwire), Rich Barton (founder of Expedia) and Tim Besse (also ex Expedia). The website launched in late August following beta trials and inception earlier in the year. The idea emerged in the summer of 2007 after the founders wondered what would happen if someone left an entire company employee survey on a printer and it got posted to the web. The initial idea expanded and the website now offers three things – for free!

The first is that it provides detailed company reviews that encourage employees to highlight the pros and cons of working for a firm with advice for senior management. Perhaps the dichotomy between criticising the company you work for with the potential to damage your own market value vs. the desire to ‘offload’ keeps the feedback honest. Whatever the motivation I didn’t read many ‘hotheaded’ reviews and I really like this idea as it has the potential to provide a canny employer with a no holds barred, finger on the pulse insight in to what employees really think about the company management and strategy at a grass routes level. If not the actual strategy then at least the employees perception of what the strategy is which is perhaps more important feedback.

The second is Employee ratings on workplace factors and leadership. The website asks employees to rate their employee against a range of criteria such as work life balance, benefits and more. They are also requested to provide a CEO approval rating which is shown as a score.

Finally, and perhaps the ‘killer’ piece of the website is that it provides real time salary information by company and by title. So I can see for example, that a Senior Consultant at Deloitte has an average salary of $95,723 and a Senior Manager a salary of £162,140. Quite useful to both employee and employer.

The fact that all the information comes from real employees is the crucial point of differentiation for the website. It is free to use and all the information is ‘anonymised’ so there is no fear of your employer finding out if you say something less than complimentary about them.  It is pure genius and surely it won’t be long before it is integrated with job listing sites to give an extra dimension to a recruitment decision.

The use of a “Wisdom of the crowd” approach in business is becoming increasingly documented – I reviewed Gary Hamel’s book ‘The future of Management’ recently and the theme is used as the basis for his ideas. Perhaps the Glassdoor provides a legitimate opportunity for crowd insight toward a companies strategy. I suspect however it will be a while before employers actually use it as they will no doubt dismiss it as only a report on the extremes.

Branded Utility

In last weeks NMA (09/10/08), Mike Nutley wrote under the heading “the cost of success is keeping it going”. He was referring to organisations, such as Nike, that create campaigns such as Nike+ and then get either lumbered with the ongoing running costs or risk disenfranchising a large group of their potentially, most loyal supporters. He credited Paul Dawson of Conchango with referring to the phenomena as “branded utility”.

Nike+ has been enormously successful attracting thousands of runners and creating a community which supports them. The problem is that once created, the community needs to be supported or it will die. The cost of the support restricts the brands from developing the next big idea and this is where the problem lies, according to Nutley.

This seems like a crazy situation to me and it is hard to believe of Nike. Nike’s mission is “to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world”. They define an athlete as follows: “If you have a body, you are an athlete.” Nike has already gone beyond being a sports apparel brand and has created a vision beyond this. If they do suffer this problem then it can only exist because the ongoing running costs are treated as a campaign when they should, in my view, be treated as a cost of sales.

Assuming the campaign adds value to the brand (and if it doesn’t it should probably be canned) it should be possible to calculate the ROI from the ongoing activity. What started out as a campaign is now clearly a product or service extension. They have created a brand that is more to consumers than just that of a product manufacturer. That comes at a cost, but also presents significant opportunities if thought about differently.

I think the point Nutley makes is a good one and I would be fascinated to understand if Nike really suffer from this issue. It is easy to believe that their are major brands operating without a clear view of their offering or who feel they should jump on the engagement band wagon and have created a monster that is now consuming them – or at least their budget. My suggestion of treating these campaigns as products, with a P&L and ROI contribution means they also benefit from being viewed against a lifecycle. This will assist the business with investment decisions and provide a management framework that is already familiar.

Travolution Question Time – Sept 23rd

I was lucky enough to be invited to the Travolution Question Time which was held on 23rd September at the Soho Hotel. The evening was very interesting, particularly with the timing following the collapse of XL and the Channel Tunnel fire and the economic outlook loomed large over most of the discussion. Indeed, nearly every question had an economic undertone.

The panel consisted of various luminaries from the travel sector and included Justin Cooke, CEO of Fortune Cookie, the event sponsors, or as question master and Travolution Editor Kevin May introduced him quoting Management Today “the internet in human form”. The rest of the panel was formed of Mark Tanzer, chief executive, Abta, Paul Evans, chief executive, Lowcostbeds Group, Matt Cheevers, managing director, Teletext Holidays and Chris Loughlin, managing director Europe, Travelzoo.

There was a great deal of discussion about how the worsening economy would impact the travel sector and most of the panelist offered views consistent with industry research. This shows that holidays are the last area of expenditure that consumers cut back on in a slow down or recession. However stats offered by Matt Cheevers showed that searches for cheap holidays are down year on year. Last year there was a drop in September of -6% for cheap holiday searches whereas this year the drop is -26%.

One of the many interesting points made concerned the positive impact of a recession. One panellist told of the 2001 slowdown and how it had removed the silos in the industry. Our recent research indicated that silos are a real problem in delivering a decent customer experience. With multi-channel user experience becoming increasingly important this could be a real benefit to organisations and in particular to consumers.

Finally, one of the panelists mentioned a website where disgruntled passengers and employees of United Airlines were venting their frustration. The website is called ‘Untied‘ and was created following an incident in 1996. It is well worth a look and demonstrates how delivering a bad customer experience can come back and bite you.

The wisdom of the crowd

There is a new book out by Jeff Howe titled: “Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business.” The book takes forward the ideas Jeff presented in an article in 2006 for Wired and that have been used in many books and articles since. A book I recently reviewed by Gary Hamel called Future of Management also used crowdsourcing as a central theme for how companies will compete in the future. This book and the blog are worth a look.