Has Instagram changed the internet for all of us?

I’ve been thinking a lot about Instagram lately and I’ve noticed that I am not alone.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center revealed that 46% of adult internet users post original photos or videos online that they themselves created. This was the first time they had asked about Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr, so there is no historical data to compare the numbers to, but the numbers are sure to continue growing. According to the study, “27% of internet users between 18-29 use Instagram.”

And then this, from AllThingsD: “In August [2012] US smartphone owners visited Instagram from their smartphones more frequently and for longer periods of time than they visited Twitter.” Instagram had an average of 7.3 million daily active users to Twitter’s 6.9 million, and they spent nearly twice as long perusing.

When Facebook allegedly coughed up $1 billion to buy Instagram, the black crows in the media  focused on the astronomical price tag for a company that hadn’t made any money yet. I was more interested in WHY Facebook decided to acquire the popular service. More accurately, I’m intrigued by what the rise of photo sharing apps means to the future of communications. I happen to love Instagram and enjoy seeing the way people express their creativity. It also challenges me to try and find the visual narrative in any given situation. While there is certainly an overabundance of food photos, pet photos and pictures showing the view from an airplane with the wing featured prominently, I wonder how we will all tell our stories over the next few years. While Facebook and twitter allow for photo attachments, the updates that people post are largely text-based. Maybe it’s because of my background in creating television and video that I find visual storytelling more compelling, but I’m certainly not alone. If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a picture passed through a saturation filter worth?

Do you use Instagram or some other photo sharing app? What do you find compelling about it?

The Attack of the e-Reader

I may be a digital immigrant, but I fully support the customs, language and diet of this new digital country I find myself living in.


I get most of my news from blogs.


Most of my professional development comes via online sources.


I stay in touch with friends over the web.


I subscribe to about 20 different podcasts.


And about a year ago I got rid of my laptop in favor of an iPad.

When the first iPad came out, I couldn’t envision any viable use case for the way I lived my life. A fancy e-reader seemed like a nice toy, but I couldn’t see myself owning one. But a funny thing happened just prior to the release of the iPad2. I noticed that I was lugging my big laptop all across the country, but when I reached my destination, I found myself managing email (something done just as easily from my iPhone), scanning through my Google Reader and reading, reading, reading. As a long-time video producer, I would occasionally do presentations where I would need to bring my laptop to a meeting, but it was largely becoming a posture-killing appendage.


So I got an iPad, and ditched my laptop for good. So, what’s changed? Well, for starters I am no longer lugging a heavy laptop around, but, more importantly, I find I am reading more. Much more. The ease of sampling and buying books from the Kindle or iBooks store has exposed me to books that I might not have plunked down $25 for based on a review or a lengthy book store browse. I’m not alone.


According to a Pew Internet and American Life study, 20% of American adults have read an e-book in the past year and the average e-book reader has read 24 books in the past year, compared with an average of 15 by a non-e-book consumer. (Here is a link to the study.)


Clearly, this is a trend line that will only continue rising over the next several years into the future. There is quite a bit of talk about the “post-PC” world that many who try and predict this sort of thing feel we’re moving towards. In a nutshell, this means that as mobile and cloud-based computing begins  to dominate, many of us will do away with our laptops and desktops because everything we need to do fits in our pocket. I’m going to call bull shit on that prediction, but it is undeniable that the future of computing is mobile. I just don’t feel like it’s such an all-or-nothing proposition. Mobile will undoubtedly continue to take an ever larger share of the pie, but as I have pointed out many times before, radio didn’t kill TV and the automobile did not kill the horse. I’ll leave the apocalyptic predictions to others. (As I write this post, this just came in regarding first quarter iPad sales. Truly mind-boggling that Apple sold 63% of all tablets sold worldwide in one quarter.)


So, if people are reading more and more and Apple (and others) are selling more and more devices that fit easily into your purse or bag, what’s the opportunity for you or your business? The barriers to publishing are low and the versatility of e-publications is only going to continue to improve. You can already seamlessly embed video, audio, photos, links, etc etc etc. into your publication, whether that publication is a standard book, or something more focused on your business, industry or organization.


 Maybe you want to take a second look at some of those old brochures, folders and presentations that never got the distribution you felt they deserved. 17 million iPads in three months. That’s a lot of eyeballs…

What is the Internet good for, anyway?

This blog post has been rolling around in my head for several weeks now, but it’s been difficult to write. I think some part of me felt that it didn’t “fit” in with the normal content of this blog, but the more I thought about it, the less true (and less important) that seemed.

Over the years, I have tried to use this blog as a place to analyze, decode and remark on online trends and trends in social media. While I don’t feel like I have reached the bottom of that well, I have felt a tug in another direction, one that is more personal and focuses on my own experiences in social media and traditional media games.

There have been times, particularly lately, when I feel a sense of hopelessness about my involvement in two ephemeral businesses: the internet and video production, the two pillars of my livelihood. Hopelessness because I have always had a deep desire to create things that last and my involvement in these two industries would, arguably,  belie that motivation. I sometimes think creating things that last might be tougher to do online than with media production,  but lately I’ve been thinking that perhaps I’ve been wrong.

It is impossible to stay abreast of all the tweets, status updates, blog posts, new apps and services and all the other “here today, gone two seconds from now” inventory which measure the quality of online life. But I think I, and many others, may have it backwards.  What if  the real peculiarity of the internet is  “here today, here tomorrow”?

I  have given more than one speech to both young people and savvy marketers about how there is no delete button on the internet. But it has always been in the context of “measure your words” or “don’t say anything online you wouldn’t say to someone’s face” or “don’t say anything you wouldn’t mind being printed on the front page of the New York Times.” Yet this kind of advice, while solid, gives too much power to negative outcomes and does nothing to honor and acknowledge the “other side” of the internet.

So, what about the flip side? What about using the permanence of the internet to create something that lasts? I feel like this, more positive, side of online is sometimes ignored.

All this navel gazing has given rise to some inspiration. I will soon be rolling out a new offering that will aim to help those wishing to contribute to building an online legacy. I haven’t quite worked out all the kinks, but I am confident that it will be simple to use and easy to understand and, with any luck, a useful tool to help those who wish to use the internet and video to erect a castle built on granite, not on sand.

Back when I played drums, my goal was never to be well known or be out in front of a band. I suppose I would have taken up singing or guitar or sax if that were the goal. No, I always strove to be the first drummer called by my peers. My idea of success was to be known within my industry as the “go-to” drummer. As I write these words, it seems like a very weird aspiration to want to get good referrals, but I guess I was a weird kid. The funny thing is, that never stopped being the goal.

I’m not sure this post readily lends itself to comments, but I would love to hear any you might have.

The Myth of Online Transparency

A few years ago, an eternity in internet years, there was a lot of chatter about “lifestreaming,” which basically meant providing a non-stop voyeuristic window into the minutiae of your daily life. People could “subscribe” to you and see whatever you were doing. Some folks took it to extremes and even filmed themselves while asleep.

Mercifully, the concept petered out under the weight of its own stupidity, but in some ways it is still with us in the form of twitter, facebook and location-based services. A recent change to facebook enabled users to broadcast the news articles they were reading, the music they were listening to via Spotify and, of course, the places they visited. In my personal facebook stream, I notice that only a few friends are doing this (see how I avoided saying “taking advantage of” just there?) and it got me wondering why.

One of the oft-spouted tenets of social media-dom is the importance of  transparency in all interactions, whether on the personal level or among businesses. For individuals, tending to one’s “personal brand” has become a cottage industry online. But what does that really imply? A brand, as I define it, is what surrounds a sales pitch and differentiates you from the other guy. Companies go to great lengths to define their brands in the minds of consumers using vivid language, imagery and experiences, all in the service of selling you something. Positive attributes are emphasized and negative ones are never even contemplated. Coca Cola might have a tough time squaring the immeasurable enjoyment and life-altering experiences contained inside one of their cans with all that pesky teeth rotting and onset of diabetes.

So, then, the same must be true of one’s personal brand, right? Which, of course, gives the lie to transparency online. Everyone’s streamed online life is full of glamourous trips, sunset photos, magical dinners, songs from obscure Norwegian bands and moments of clarity elucidated in some Paulo Coehlo quote. No arguments with spouses, frustration with the kids’ poor behavior or disappointment at being passed over for that work promotion by the kiss ass who goofs off all day.

We live in a start-up culture where we put on our sales face all the time since we never know who might be watching. Woe to he who slips up and posts the drunken rant. There is no delete button on the internet, as we all know. Those of us who choose to live some portion of our lives online are all selling ourselves to some unknown potential client. All of which, I suppose, reinforces the point I have been making on this blog and in public speaking events since I got into this game: there is about an eye dropper’s amount of difference between our online lives and our offline ones.

I recently asked someone I have never actually met, but “know” on Facebook, (another weird by-product of the internet, but maybe just an updated version of the pen pal) what had motivated her to stream her Spotify selections. She confessed to me that she self-edits and doesn’t share EVERYTHING she’s listening to in her news feed. She leaves out songs that might be seen as offensive or “trashy.” Of course she does. No one will ADMIT to listening to Air Supply. (I have no idea if she does or not, but it was the lamest thing that occurred to me as I write this. Hey, I know what you’re thinking but I don’t listen to Air Supply, either.)

I hear many rail against the TMI culture of the internet using the tired argument that no one really cares about every detail of your life. I might argue that the REAL problem is not too much candor, but not enough.

Would love to hear what you think. Please post your thoughts in the comments section.

Can online video survive?

The comparisons between traditional TV and online video never stop. Some common comparisons are:


Online will disrupt and eventually kill TV.


TV will never die because of viewer habits, the user experience and their entrenched business model.


Blah blah blah…on it goes. Who cares? Not the point of this post.


 It seems to me that a major handicap for the long term financial viability of online video is that shows cannot easily be syndicated.


What is syndication? In a nutshell, it is where the real money is in TV. As a general rule, when a half-hour show produces 100 episodes, roughly 5 seasons, it can then be sold into syndication and shown off-network.


For example, Seinfeld aired as a first run show on NBC. Now it airs off network on hundreds of local stations around the country. That’s an example of syndication. But Seinfeld was always popular and made a lot of people associated with it extremely rich. A better example of the money-making power of syndication success might be a show like Star Trek, which only aired for 3 seasons in the mid-1960s and was not all that popular at the time. Nearly 50 years later, however, we’re still following the same bold voyages of the starship Enterprise.


Star Trek might be the original example of the “long tail.”


All this occurred to me when I read about the demise of “Diggnation.” Online video is often about immediacy and is often unscripted. (I am generalizing to make a larger point.) Online video shows also seldom adhere to a strict 30-minute length. Yet at its peak in around 2006, Diggnation was arguably the most popular show online and as of this writing, they have produced over 300 episodes. (They will cease production in December 2011.)


So, what happens to all that inventory? Who is going to go back and watch an episode from 2007 speculating on the launch of this new device called an iPhone? From a business standpoint, these episodes have no more value than a CNN half hour about a snowstorm in Tennessee in 1987. Archival? Sure. Revenue generating? Nope.


When I think about the long term viability and the business model for online video, this strikes me as a major issue that needs to be sorted out. If the “real” money in television is in syndication, where will it come from in online video? I don’t have the answer, but I also don’t really hear the question being asked.


What do you think? Is this an insurmountable block for online video producers and other content creators?