Two Analogies on a Tuesday

I read 2 interesting analogies in my RSS feeds today and I thought I’d share them in the form of a small post (I love small posts). They encompass 2 very active topics in my mind lately: the iPad and Entrepreneurship. Here they are:

  1. When people say the iPad is only a over sized iPhone or iPod touch, here’s a rebuttal: Is a sword an over sized knife? No, right? It looks probably similar but it serves different purposes and was conceived to fulfill different purposes. Thanks to Eduardo Arcos for constantly pointing it out.
  2. This weekend I was again confronted with the different perspectives of entrepreneurship in Mexico and in the US and was impressed at how differently it is understood and practiced in both countries. Don Dodge in an excellent post about the natural evolution of startups shares a bit of advice he gave once to an entrepreneur about not losing focus on a core product to be able to innovate and change the game: “When you are on an elephant hunt, don’t shoot at the squirrels. It wastes ammunition and scares away the elephants”. This is definitely something I would suggest to my fellow countrymen when they’re starting up a company. This and oh, yeah, get an MBA at Babson.

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My iPad thoughts

All the media craziness aside, I’ve been thinking a lot about the iPad in the last few weeks. I’ve naturally been trying to make up my mind whether I actually need one and if I decide that I do, which one I should get. I’ve also observed how this particular device starts to live up its hype by attracting people from all industries and all verticals.

At work I’ve seen how our customers (airlines) start asking whether we will make our applications available for the iPad in their cockpits and when. They, as other chosen companies in every other realm of activity, want to be innovators and follow Steve Jobs’ lead to change the future of portable computing.

This is the very first time I saw an iPad

I’m also constantly inquired by friends and family about the reality of the iPad: do I really need it? is it really THAT awesome? I always have to say first that I’m biased because of my long-time affiliation to the Apple fanboy population.

That made me realize that there’s a lot of confusion in consumers. Some people are wondering if they should give up buying a MacBook to get an iPad instead. Others don’t see the point in spending around 799 bucks in an iPad if for an extra 200 bucks they can get a white MacBook. In the midst of all this confusion and conflicting points of view, here are some arguments I’ve been using after reading a lot of and playing one week with the device:

  • The iPad is not supposed to be a substitution of a laptop (for the majority of users). The iPad works great to consume content (movies, music, news, web, YouTube, pictures, games) but is definitely not designed to generate content. This obeys to Apple’s goal to own strong and profitable media channels like iTunes and now the iBook and App Stores.
  • This device is not revolutionary because it’s not changing the status quo in an existing category. It was not created to compete with other tablets or with NetBooks or with Smartphones. It’s a new category, pretty much like what the iPod was in the year 2000.
  • For me, the iPad works best in specific locations like the kitchen, the bathroom, the bedside table and most importantly: the plane. There’s where the iPad is a game changer in my case. I don’t have to take my MacBook with me on short trips to watch movies, read my Kindle content or browse the web at landing or answer emails at 35,000 ft. The question here is: do I want to invest $600 USD to have a device that will only really benefit me in these specific locations? That takes me to the price argument:
  • The price point Apple chose was very adequate. I bet that the 500,00+ people who have bought an iPad as of today were not very sensitive to the price range. For them, this amount of money was not big enough to give it a lot of thought or struggle to make a purchase decision. It’s cheaper than the cheaper MacBook and slightly more expensive than the most expensive iPhone or iPod touch. It’s right there in that sweet spot. Perfect pricing.

This is what I think so far. And in a less objective note, after spending a week with the device in my possession, let me say that it is indeed a very beautiful piece of electronics, with a sleek design, the OS simplicity we’re familiar with and fast web and YouTube browsers.

Hit me with your (hopefully nonobjective) comments and iPad thoughts. Here and here are 2 excellent pieces I read about the iPad.

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Idle toughts on a Thursday afternoon

  1. Will Apple kill AppleTV if the iPad lives up to its hype and becomes an important part of the “digital livingroom”?
  2. Will Google kill Google Wave if Buzz in Gmail proves to be the chosen tool for social communication of the average Google user?
  3. I’m definitely no environmental expert, but doesn’t the snowpocalypse kind of deny the whole theory of global warming? UPDATE: I was referring to the catastrophic discourse of global warming, as explained by Bjørn Lomborg. You don’t need to be an environmental expert to know that there’s something wrong with our climate.

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RIP Miramax Films

When we think of the movies that defined the latter part of the 20th century — the movies that mattered, that stories that hit pop culture like a hammer and left a dent — more often than not they came from Miramax

Sharon Waxman blogging in The Wrap about Miramax’s closing

For me, there wasn’t another movie studio teaser that gave me more joy to see in trailers than the one of Miramax. It stand always for quality, entertaining and transcending movie-making. Sad to see a big company like Disney getting rid of its arthouse studio.

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Monetizing newspapers: Reforma and the NY Times

I’ve strongly criticized Mexican newspaper Reforma for maintaining a paid content model for their online presence. I thought it unimaginable that in 2010 a newspaper still charged for content. It is, however, the first Mexican newspaper I check online and the one I read the most. I do it only because my parents being paper subscribers, I get to use their online account. Reforma offers high-quality content but its site design hasn’t changed in a long time. Still, it’s my first choice.

The recent announcement of the NY Times, in which they introduce their new long-term strategy to increase online revenue by setting up a “pay wall” for frequent visitors to (incidental readers will have a set amount of articles they can pull up for free) turns out to be very similar to what I think Reforma has had in mind all this time. I’ve seen giving out “free access” to content more and more in the last year and that is exactly what the new model at the NYT will look like (they are postponing the launch of this new model until January 2011). Browse superficially, don’t pay. Want more and more pages, subscribe. People like me are loyal to a news source and therefore more willing to pay for it content.

I’m not suggesting that the way has operated in the last 10 years has been the ideal one. They come across as slow, old-fashioned and not forward thinking. However, I’m sure that with this announcement, more and more newspapers and news outlets will adopt this type of model. I think Reforma will start giving out more free content to attract incidental and superficial readers and will also enhance their monetization efforts for loyal visitors. At the end of the day, both newspapers will meet in the same place after going through very different paths.

I’m comfortable with the NYT’s new model. Whenever my browser ends up in one of their pages or articles and I want to read it, I just make a small note on my Kindle and then look up that article in my Kindle subscription to the Times. I won’t have to become a paying “frequent reader” because I already pay Amazon Digital Services $14 a month.  Did you notice the last words in bold? That’s the reason digital readers/tablets/Kindles are a whole different story. A story in which, I think, the true secret to sustainable revenue lies within.

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What is a decade?

In these first few hours of the new year I want to write down some thoughts that have been percolating into my mind regarding the extension of time that finished yesterday in the form of a decade. And I reckon that this is the first time in my life that I can acknowledge that a decade has passed in front of my eyes. I can remember when it started and I can recall every year of it (unlike the 90s decade, which resides still a bit blurry in my mind).

So, what is a decade anyway? Well, here are a few facts I’ve come across these last days since I’ve been thinking about this (just the numerological, round aspect of a decade amazes me):

  • A decade is half of the time the Simpsons and Achtung Baby have been around. It’s the time it took the Beatles to reach the peak of their career since they first started playing.
  • As Gladwell describes in Outliers, a decade is roughly what it takes to accumulate 10,000 hours practicing a given discipline, which in turn will make you an expert or erudite in it.
  • A decade is what it took me to complete all the studies that I was destined to do in my life (my first semester in college started exactly 10 years ago and I finished grad school only a few months ago).
  • I can also imagine that a decade is a fair estimate of the time it takes to actually accomplish something significant when working for a single organization. I keep asking myself whether I will be of the “decade type” and in which company will it be. What will be that substantial change that I will steer inside that company? In any case, I hope to find hints of this soon.
  • A decade is a lot of time but it’s also merely one tenth (roughly) of the time we’ll all live.

Today it’s the beginning, which is the end, which is the beginning of a decade. What do you think of it? Of the one past and the one starting? Any decade-ish thoughts?

And FYI, the decade commonly referred to as the “two thousands” ended on December 31st, 2009.

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My Favorite Stuff in 2009

Before this year ends and we embark on our long drive tomorrow from the Rhine-Main area to the Austrian Alps, I want to wrap up this post I had in the oven for some time.

It’s merely a recollection of my favorite stuff in this very significant year in my life. I hope you can start something with it.

  1. YouTube video that I enjoyed watching the most: SOUR ‘日々の音色 (Hibi no neiro)’ is the most creative, complex and entertaining piece of musical footage that I’ve seen. And it’s a crowdsourced video, which made me very happy.
  2. YouTube video that made me laugh the most: We must have watched this poor drunk Mexican (aka “El Canaca”) over a million times and cracked every time we did. Probably overrated in Mexico but we had one helluva time with it.
  3. My favorite song was definitely Lizstomania by Phoenix. Not a lot to say here, just that I absolutely love Phoenix.
  4. On the same note, my favorite album in 2009 was Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix.
  5. My favorite movie in 2009 is “Inglourious Basterds” (and I say “is” instead of “was” because it was not only my favorite movie in 2009 but became my favorite movie of all times; Tarantino just keeps raising the bar for me). Here’s a piece I wrote after I saw it. In second place is “Up in the Air”, which I thought it was exquisite and I seriously predict that it will win the Oscar for Best Picture in February.
  6. My favorite tweet in 2009:
  7. The most important tweet in 2009 (and probably the most important one I’ll write in my life):
  8. Favorite picture (taken by myself) this year is this one or this other one. Both were taken during a trip to Cartagena, Colombia. The conference I attended there and the trip in general are also two of the highlights of my year.

Now, on to work on my new year’s resolutions. Post to follow.

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4 Quick Aviation Take-Aways

Sunset Take-off (Southwest Airlines)

I hope I’m not boring my four readers with more aviation content here. The fact is, my Reader is now full of aviation-related feeds and the research I’ve been doing at work in the last 3 months is merely about the airline industry in North- and Latin America. I’ve also been spending a lot of time tracking the Social Media activities of companies in this space, both airlines and airline suppliers, and I’ve learned a lot about the intersection of aviation and new media.

The good news is, it’s really interesting stuff and I want to record it somehow, using this everlasting resource (aka my rarely updated blog). Here are some of the take-aways:

  1. Unlike North American airlines, Latin American airlines are strong, privately owned and professionally managed companies that show figures of growth and profitability (look at Gol, Avianca, TACA and Azul). The roles have switched and these airlines now represent strong competition to the legacy North American players. While Latin America is home to some of the most profitable airlines in the world, North American airlines struggle to survive and find a path towards profitability. On the other hand, North American carriers still account for 57% of the world’s domestic passenger traffic and 17% of the international passenger traffic, making it the biggest airline market in the world.
  2. Both markets show signs of consolidation; Colombia-based Avianca and El Salvador-based TACA formed a new Latin American airline powerhouse with annual revenues of over $3 billion pushing it into the top 50 airline groups in the world.  Continental’s entry to Star Alliance marked the first step of a strategic partnership with United that many believe will lead to an eventual merger.
  3. 2009 was the year Social Media became important for airlines. Although carriers like JetBlue and Southwest have been active in Social Media since years, we were amazed by the strategies airlines like Lufthansa, Virgin, Continental and Volaris implemented this year. It is all an interesting preamble of the center stage position that Social Media will have in 2010 for airlines’ marketing and communications.
  4. B2B companies in this space are struggling to find context for Social Media activities. The key here will be to clearly connect Social Media to business objectives and gain a better understanding of how to measure the direct and indirect ROI of social media. Also, I always insist on the fact that Social Media can have a direct and traceable impact on the bottom line, serving purposes like lead generation or more cost-effective communications.

I hope you will find this useful in any way possible, dear reader. Comments or additional take-aways are highly welcome.

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Push recovery notifications

This morning, like every morning, my various digital devices pushed notifications to me in the first hours after waking up. First thing I do is pick up my Kindle before entering the bathroom. When I turn it on, the current issue of the New York Times has been delivered to my device via “whispersync“, a fancy Amazon word for pushed digital content technology. Today, the last business day of October 2009, the first sentence of the New York Times frontpage reads:

The United States has emerged from the longest economic contraction since Wolrd War II.

Happy news and definitely a good way to start the day. Next, my iPhone with the amazing new CNN app pushes the following notification to my home screen, immediately after turning the device on:

The largest stimulus program in the nation’s history has created or saved just over 640,000 jobs, the Obama administration said.

Another good indication that this country is apparently pulling out of the “great recession”, a terminology we’ll possibly use when we tell our kids stories about 2009. The way these notifications are pushed to me every morning make me think of the digital aspect of our lifestyle and how these technologies contribute to widespread innovation and in turn, in a tiny way, to this recovery. I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that crisis and recessions make us think about new, more efficient ways to do everything we do and that unleashes innovation. Then, the achieved innovations fuel the economy and generate growth again. All part of a virtuous cycle that we tend to ignore when we concentrate only on the down times.

These innovations and the digitalization of our interactions with media never cease to amaze me and keep me ticking…even during recessions.

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Volaris: Social Media Best Practice

Last week I had the tremendous opportunity to attend a very important Latin America airline leaders forum in Colombia. During the last keynote lunch, Enrique Beltranena, CEO of Mexican low cost carrier Volaris, talked about the importance of Social Media for airlines and used the example of his own company to illustrate the impact and potential that this set of new tools have as part of the marketing mix. He stated clearly that Social Media should not be used as a substitute of traditional marketing channels but rather as consistent complement of an existing strategy.

I could write a long paper just describing the wide set of innovative channels the airline uses to communicate with its customers, achieving intimacy and focusing on them rather than on their products (which also happen to be disruptive and innovative); but in this post I’ll try to concentrate on the emerging digital channels they have chosen to formally incorporate to their mix. And this takes me exactly to the first step of their strategy: As Beltranena explained showing a slide with a big amount of emerging media categories and social networks, they had to first choose which ones they’d use according to their usefulness and relevance to their overall marketing strategy. They ended up choosing the fastest growing channels in Mexico after their assessment: YouTube, Facebook, Twitterand a Volaris-branded blog (coming early 2010). The message here is that these channels won’t necessarily be the ones everybody should pick for their Social Media strategy. In each case, resourcefulness, relevance and fit should be analyzed before picking a given tool. For a different company maybe MySpace of Flickr could prove to be more efficient and adequate channels.

Then Beltranena showed this video, which, in a nutshell, answers the question of why Social Media is not a fad. The best part of the afternoon was watching the faces of important CEOs and airline leaders while they saw the video with awe and realized that they had to do something about this quickly. Hopefully, they will take the matter seriously and, like our friends at Volaris, assign (human and budgetary) resources to it and instruct their CMO to make Social Media a cornerstone of their marketing and communications strategy.

To get a feel of what Volaris is doing, go to their Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels and see how they are first listening, then connecting and at the end communicating with their customers. Please note the customization of the content according to the channel and the continuity they exercise in each one of them. Also try to see how they seek a healthy amount of activity that will demonstrate engagement without bother the user with excessive tweets, posts, videos or content.

I’m proud to say that Volaris is the first Latin American airline to successfully deploy Social Media as part of an innovative and disruptive marketing strategy, setting a precedent and putting Mexico’s name and digital literacy high above. Congratulations from this humble blog to everybody making it happen.

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