October 2012
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Month October 2012

Speaking at TOC Frankfurt October 9 about publishing

This is a quick note to mention that I’ll be speaking at the Tools of Change (TOC) Frankfurt Conference this October on the eve of the Frankfurt Book Fair. Conference details:

  • Tuesday, 9 Oct. 2012, 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Frankfurt Marriott Hotel
  • Hamburger Allee 2
  • +49 (0) 69-7955-0
  • Directions

You can get a 20% discount if you use the following code when registering:


I’ll be speaking about the jobs publishers are hired to do. Without giving too much away, here is my synopsis of the talk:

We’re inclined to “categorize” or “segment” media according to its attributes. We think of visual, auditory or written forms as distinct. Within each of these definitions of media we further sub-segment according to the way they are packaged. As in books, periodicals, or TV vs. film and albums and singles. These definitions are convenient because they describe the product and the product has evolved into a distribution chain and a therefore a market. It becomes therefore analogous to think of a book market and a TV market and a periodicals market as if these are what people actually desire.

But what people desire are more basic things. They desire to feel good or to be comfortable or to escape into fantasy or to be aroused. They have thirsts for knowledge or flights of fancy or needs for belonging. Authors and story tellers have sought to serve these needs for as long as we’ve been humans, regardless of the medium. When you step back and ask what the real “markets” are you realize that we’ve categorized according to technical and business means of delivering these needs.

Business theorists have a word to describe this categorization: segmentation according to product attributes. It’s a common practice to define markets according to products rather than what these products are hired to do. The great Harvard marketing professor Theodore Levitt used to tell his students, “People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!” The idea that you can categorize by what consumers want to get done rather than what you are selling them is not new but it’s still a very hard thing to get your head around. It’s become known as “Job to be done” segmentation and has changed product planning for many firms. If you apply this method to your industry you realize that the products you sell are in competition not with other products like them but with completely new products. A newspaper may be in competition with Angry Birds and a TV show with FaceBook and a Movie with a cinematic themed video game.

If you take the history of story telling and job to be done analysis into consideration you realize that technology has always played a part in how stories are told and re-told. This technological progress is accelerating and we are now in an era where apps are the new medium which can encompass much of any of the previous story telling mediums. Apps are so flexible and so easily distributed and consumed that they threaten to converge multiple media types. I’ll explain how app economics are affecting not just games, but all forms of publishing.

How Did the Mobile Industry Get Disrupted?

This is a talk I gave today at Aalto University. It’s a wide ranging talk and Q&A session lasting about 2 hours.

You can listen and see the visuals using the Perspective app on your iPad. Download the app (free from the App Store if you don’t already have it) and open the link below using the iPad.

How Did the Mobile Industry Get Disrupted.

Why iPhone 5? | LinkedIn

On October 5th, 2011 I asked Why is there no iPhone 5? The question was prompted by the pervasive media surprise that the 2011 iPhone launch was the “4S” and not a completely new design.

I answered this question with the conclusion that an iPhone “5” in 2011 would over-serve the market by offering more than most buyers would be looking for. That was because there could only be three groups of users the iPhone 4S would need to target: existing iPhone users, smartphone non-consumers and non-iPhone smartphone users. The majority of iPhone users in late 2011 who would be willing to upgrade were iPhone 3 or 3GS users and for them the 4S would be a huge improvement. Non-consumers would find the 4S attractive, as they would any iPhone; and existing smartphone users (mainly Android) would still be in their first contract and not likely to be looking to upgrade. Given the conditions at the time, the 4S was an adequate fit with customer expectations.

I wrote “The question will be very different a year from now when most early Android buyers will be looking for a new phone and when most iPhone 4 users (all 70 million of them) will be looking for a new iPhone. That would seem like a good time to introduce a new iPhone ‘5’.”

It is now a year hence and we can consider how these same three targeted user groups see the new iPhone:

Read the rest of the post here: Why iPhone 5? | LinkedIn.

(Note: you can also follow me on LinkedIn now).

Reverting to the mean

Quarterly financial data is often a lagging indicator of strategic success. RIM’s vital signs were exceptionally strong up until early 2011. Consider the following graph showing RIM’s device growth.

Using language commonly heard among analysts, one would say that the company was “reverting to the mean” and growing nearly in-line with the market. In other words, exceptional growth was over but continuing growth was likely. The company was returning to something “normal.”

However, keen observers of the market would have been hard pressed to find any reason for justifying that performance. Seen through a disruptive lens, it was evident as early as 2008 that RIM’s strategy was not sustainable. The company had a very weak smartphone product relative to emergent iOS and Android ecosystems. And yet, the company continued to prosper for nearly three years, through 2008, 2009 and 2010. Those shorting the stock during this period would have been unrewarded.

But then in early 2011 it fell off a cliff.