“Amidst a thousand tirades against the excesses and waste of consumer society, What’s Mine Is Yours offers us something genuinely new and invigorating: a way out.” —Steven Johnson, author of The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map
A groundbreaking and original book, What’s Mine is Yours articulates for the first time the roots of "collaborative consumption," Rachel Botsman and Roo Roger's timely new coinage for the technology-based peer communities that are transforming the traditional landscape of business, consumerism, and the way we live. Readers captivated by Chris Anderson’s The Long Tail, Van Jones’ The Green Collar Economy or Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point will be wowed by this landmark contribution to the evolving ecology of commerce and sustainability.
“Part cultural critique and part practical guide to the fledgling collaborative consumption market, the book provides a wealth of information for consumers looking to redefine their relationships with both the things they use and the communities they live in.” — —Publishers Weekly
“Collaborative consumption is an ideal signalling device for an economy based on electronic brands and ever-changing fashions.” — —The Economist
“This is an inspiring book about innovating entrepreneurs in an economy where people are seeking ways to connect with each other- through business.” — —Delta Sky
“The latest buzzword and trend is defining how we do business in the new millennium” — —Vogue Australia
“[T]he authors have laid out the social and economic logic for collaborative consumption with such religious fervour and zeal that one can’t help but become converted to this new world order.” — —Edwards Magazine Bookclub
“The authors give hundreds of examples of how people are finding new ways to share and exchange value…[T]he book is packed with some pretty interesting statistics…If you’re unaware of what’s happening in the peer-to-peer exchange space, this book will quickly bring you up to speed.” — —Emergent by Design
“What can the next wave of collaborative marketplaces look like? Botsman and Rogers answer this question in a highly readable and persuasive way. Anyone interested in the business opportunities and social power of collaboration should consider reading this book.” — —Tony Hsieh, author of Delivering Happiness and CEO of Zappos.com, Inc.
“People are normally trustworthy and generous, and the Internet brings the good out far more than the bad. We’re seeing an explosion of modest businesses where people help each other out via the Net, and What’s Mine is Yours tells you what’s going on, and inspires more of the same.” — —Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist
“Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers have offered a convincing, charming and in every sense collaborative account of how the new networks that have disrupted our lives are also likely to alter them, and entirely for our good.” — —Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon and Through the Children's Gate
“Amidst a thousand tirades against the excesses and waste of consumer society, What’s Mine Is Yours offers us something genuinely new and invigorating: a way out. Anyone interested in the emerging economics and culture of collaboration will want to read this profoundly hopeful book.” — —Steven Johnson, author of The Invention of Air and The Ghost Map
“[F]ull of impressive examples of entrepreneurs establishing new markets. Ultimately, the authors’ optimism is infectious.” — —The Australian
1. A Backlash Against Sharing?
Lately, the so-called “sharing economy” has been all over the news. Under flashy headlines such as “Sharing is the New Owning” it is heralded as the solution to the current financial crisis, the path toward a more sustainable economy or even the harbinger of a post-capitalist society. And while the “sharing economy” is supposed to be all these wonderful things at once, it also generates such disruptive and fantastically profitable businesses like AirBnB, Uber or TaskRabbit. No wonder then, that policy makers are getting increasingly excited about this ‘force for good’. Just a few weeks ago, the British government announced its intention to “make the UK the global centre for the sharing economy.” As Business and Enterprise minister Matthew Hancock rejoiced: “By backing the sharing economy… we’re making sure that Britain is at the forefront of progress and by future proofing our economy we’re helping to protect the next generation.”
Yet, while policy makers and their advisers can hardly contain their enthusiasm, over the course of the last few months there has been a veritable surge of critical comments on the “sharing economy.” Mainstream media as well as the blogosphere are brimming with furious articles, warning us to not buy into the “sharing hype” or even attacking the supposed “sharing lie.” The American business magazine Forbes even talks about a “backlash against the sharing economy.”
After years of almost unequivocal enthusiasm for the innovative wonders of the “sharing economy,” a real debate finally seems to be emerging. In this short essay, I am going to follow this debate while trying to find an answer to the question of what the “sharing economy” in fact is.
2. To Share or Not to Share
Not unlike other contemporary policy fashions such as the creative industries or social innovation, the “sharing economy” throws together a variety of diverse and often unrelated phenomena; from massively funded technology start-ups like Uber and AirBnB to fair trade cooperatives, borrowing shops and hippie communes. It would be wrong, however, to understand this confusion as a result of the intellectual incompetence on the side of trend watchers and innovation consultants. While it is true that the growing army of these professional would-be clairvoyants depends on the regular construction of the “next big thing” for their own economic survival – the vaguer, the better – the confusion that comes with the “sharing economy” is the intended result of a smart marketing strategy. But I am getting ahead of myself…
The first thing we need to understand about the “sharing economy” is that it has absolutely nothing to do with sharing in the sense you and I might think about it. The essence of sharing – if it has any meaning at all – is of course that it does not involve the exchange of money. Sharing only happens in the absence of market transactions. With regard to the poster boys and girls of the “sharing economy,” the very opposite is the case. These are digital platforms that roughly do two things: either making the old practice of re- and multi-using durable goods more efficient or expanding market exchange into economically uncharted territory of society.
If we look at internet marketplaces such as Ebay, Etsy and their many variations, it is clear that what they offer are digitally modernized versions of the good old second hand shop. What’s new about them is that thanks to the internet, the supply of used goods (and in the case of Etsy, also handicraft) finds its demand much more effectively and efficiently than ever before. There can be no doubt that his leads to a more efficient (re-)use of durable goods, thus contributing to a more sustainable allocation of resources. The same applies to rentals, particularly cars or bikes but also to lots of other goods. Thanks to the internet and mobile digital technology, the centralized stockpiling of goods to be rented has become unnecessary which, again, saves resources. Their dispersion is not a problem any more but often rather adds to the convenience of the rental process – think of a car that you can pick up around the corner rather than having to travel to the nearest agent. However, none of this has anything to do with sharing! Matthew Yglesias, writing for the US business blog Slate.com, illustrates this fact as follows:
“My neighbor and I share a snow shovel because we share some stairs that need to be shovelled when it snows and we share responsibility for doing the work. If I owned the stairs and charged him a small fee every time he walked in or out of the house, that would be the opposite of sharing.”
This might sound trivial but given the confused usage of the notion of sharing, it seems appropriate to remind ourselves that helping each other out by sharing our resources is one thing while commodifying these resources by charging a fee for their use is quite another. And this gets us to the more innovative dimension of the “sharing economy.” Today, the “sharing economy” entails much more than just digital updates of second-hand exchange and rentals. What companies like Uber, AirBnB, TaskRabbit or Postmates have in common is that they are platforms coordinating supply and demand of products and services that in their present form were previously unavailable on the market. Uber is a platform where people looking for a cab quickly find their non-, semi-, and real professional taxi driver. AirBnB allows people to sublet their houses, TaskRabbit connects supply and demand for chores, Postmates for deliveries, Instacart for grocery shopping. While it might be convenient to make use of these services, they have absolutely nothing to do with sharing. They stand for a digitally enabled expansion of the market economy, which, again, is the opposite of sharing. If someone does my shopping or drops me at the airport in exchange for a financial fee, how is this sharing? This situation doesn’t change if instead of money, one receives credits to be used at the issuing platform (a mistake that for the last few years has led to a rather annoying hype around “alternative currencies” based on the belief that the ‘evils’ of capitalism could be cured by replacing real money by a less efficient substitute).
3. Enter Platform Capitalism
In an attempt to overcome this confusion, Sascha Lobo, a German technology blogger for Der Spiegel, has recently suggested to drop the obscure notion of “sharing” altogether. “What is called sharing economy,” he argues, “is merely one aspect of a more general development, i.e., a new quality of the the digital economy: platform capitalism.” As Lobo emphasizes, platforms like Uber and AirBnB are more than just internet marketplaces. While marketplaces connect supply and demand between customers and companies, digital platforms connect customers to whatever. The platform is a generic ‘ecosystem’ able to link potential customers to anything and anyone, from private individuals to multinational corporations. Everyone can become a supplier for all sorts of products and services at the click of a button. This is the real innovation that companies of the platform capitalism variety have introduced. Again, this is miles away from sharing but instead represents an interesting mutation of the economic system due to the application of digital technology.
It should be clear that understanding the “sharing economy” in terms of platform capitalism is by no means a matter of linguistic nitpicking. Calling this crucial development by its proper name is an important step towards a more sober assessment of the claims made by the proponents of “sharing.” Take, for instance, the notion that everyone benefits from the disruptive force of the “sharing economy” because it cuts out the middleman. Sharing models, the argument goes, facilitate a more direct exchange between economic agents, thus eliminating the inefficient middle layers and making market exchange simpler and fairer. While it is absolutely true that internet marketplaces and digital platforms can reduce transaction costs, the claim that they cut out the middleman is pure fantasy. As one blogger puts it: “Sure, many of the old middlemen and retailers disappear but only to be replaced by much more powerful gatekeepers.”
In fact, the argument is quite an obscene one, particularly if it is made by the stakeholders of platform capitalism themselves. As globally operating digital platforms, these companies have the unique ability to cut across many regional markets and reconfigure traditionally specific markets for goods and services as generic customer-to-whatever ‘ecosystems’. It seems fairly obvious that the entire purpose of the platform business model is to reach a monopoly position, as this enables the respective platform to set and control the (considerably lower) standards upon which someone (preferably anyone) could become a supplier in the respective market. Instead of cutting out the middleman, digital platforms have the inherent tendency to become veritable Über-middlemen, i.e., monopolies with an unprecedented control over the markets they themselves create. In fact, calling these customer-to-whatever ecosystems “markets” often turns out to be a bit of a joke. For the clients of Uber & Co., price is not the result of the free play of supply and demand but of specific algorithms supposedly simulating the market mechanism. The effect of such algorithmic tampering with the market is demonstrated for instance by Uber’s surge pricing during periods of peak demand. It is not very difficult to see where this might be leading. Taking a cab to the hospital in, say, New York City during a snow storm might become unaffordable for some under conditions of mature platform capitalism. For those who believe this to be overly pessimistic and a bit of an exaggeration, just ask your local taxi driver what percentage of her work is already coming from one of the digital platforms.
4. Disruption and Regulation
This is not meant as an excuse to engage in the increasingly popular pastime of algorithm bashing. There is neither an algorithmic conspiracy here, nor are these companies selling out the ‘true spirit of the sharing economy’. They simply follow the logic of platform capitalism which at the moment is the logic of a digital gold rush, unhampered by any kind of government regulation. In a way, what we are seeing here is social innovation in its purest form, i.e., the creation of something that from a business perspective is even better than the so-called “blue ocean” (a competition-free market). And it is causing the famous disruption – so much so that cities like Amsterdam are raising the white flag as entire streets are turning into exclusive AirBnB zones. It should be clear that this doesn’t help an already overstrained housing market, let alone the local population’s quality of life. While taxi drivers’ protests against Uber and Lyft have been be laughed away as collateral innovation damage, the transformation of our cities into tax-free, urban versions of “Center Parcs” might be more difficult to stomach.
At the moment, platform capitalism is allowed to run wild because it is simply running too fast for politicians and regulators. Nothing expresses the political impotence in the face of this new kind of digital capitalism better than the painfully ignorant techno-gibberish frequently emitted by Neelie Kroes, outgoing EU-Commissioner for Digital Development. There are, however, also signs of a turning tide such as the recent exchange between Goolge’s Eric Schmidt and the German Minister of Economic Affairs, Sigmar Gabriel in which the latter responded to the former’s assertion that “all we do is follow the law” by saying: “I understand this as a request for regulation.” The question is, of course, whether this will to regulate is going to persist against the enormous lobbying power of platform capitalism.
Regulation is important not only in order to prevent monopolies, fund the state and keep our cities liveable for their actual inhabitants but also to insure fair treatment of those we haven’t considered yet: the suppliers and vendors who sell their products and services on the digital platforms. If we are to believe the proponents of the “sharing economy,” then the opportunities are pretty amazing. As Brian Chesky, CEO and co-founder of Airbnb, puts it in Wall Street Journal:
“I want to live in a world where people can become entrepreneurs or micro-entrepreneurs and if we can lower the friction and inspire them to do that, especially in an economy like today, this is the promise of the sharing economy.”
According to Chesky, digital platforms are simply a reflection of our contemporary entrepreneurial lifestyle and anyway, they provide people with an extra opportunity for income in these times of economic crisis. Similarly, New York Magazine sees the “sharing economy” as an answer to our current economic predicament as well but is slightly less euphoric as to the potency of the sharing antidote:
“Tools that help people trust in the kindness of strangers might be the thing pushing hesitant sharing-economy participants over the threshold to adoption. But what’s getting them to the threshold in the first place is a damaged economy, and harmful public policy that has forced millions of people to look to odd jobs for sustenance.”
So which one is it then: inspired micro-entrepreneurs or odd jobs for sustenance?
5. Revolutionizing the World’s Labour Force
At the moment, it is still difficult to reach a fair conclusion on this question as the reports from the field are only starting to come in. Their is a fairly clear tendency though. Business magazine Fast Company, a publication known for its enthusiasm for everything innovative and digital, sent one of its writers for one month into the “sharing economy” to test the waters of entrepreneurial inspiration. The conclusion of her very interesting and extensive report is rather devastating:
“For one month, I became the “micro-entrepreneur” touted by companies like TaskRabbit, Postmates, and Airbnb. Instead of the labor revolution I had been promised, all I found was hard work, low pay, and a system that puts workers at a disadvantage.”
In fact, Sarah Kessler (that’s the name of the writer turned sharing Guinea pig) never made enough to get by at all despite being young, flexible and urban, i.e., part of the social cohort that is supposed to fare particularly well in the “sharing economy.” Similar concerns have been raised by the New York Times’ rather comprehensive journalistic analysis of the phenomenon. Yes, there is freedom to be found in platform capitalism but it is the precarious freedom of what the newspaper calls the “gig economy:”
“Many gigs may seem to offer decent pay. But they may not look that great after factoring in the time spent, expenses, insurance costs and taxes on self-employment earnings. ‘If you did the calculations, many of these people would be earning less than minimum wage,’ says Dean Baker, an economist who is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington. ‘You are getting people to self-exploit in ways we have regulations in place to prevent.’”
If one adds protesting Uber drivers and the fact that on top of miserable pay and lack of safety net one also misses the the social (!) aspect of sharing one’s work experience with coworkers, there isn’t really much awesomeness left for the sharing micro-entrepreneur. TaskRabbit’s CEO Leah Busque once said that the goal of her company was to “revolutionize the world’s labor force.” Unfortunately, it looks as though Mrs. Busque and her investors could accomplish what they set out to do. One might not agree with CUNY Professor Stanley Aronowitz, who refers to the ‘gigs’ offered the by “sharing economy” as “wage slavery in which all the cards are held, mediated by technology, by the employer, whether it is the intermediary company or the customer.” What does become increasingly obvious, though, is that platform capitalism is mounting an attack on the achievements of the labour movement – which for very good reasons we consider to be a pillar of modern, democratic civilization – and a very effective one at that. And here again, it is not that the “sharing economy” has gone off the the rails, it is simply the logic of platform capitalism. As Sacha Lobo puts it succinctly:
“By controlling their ecosystems, platforms create a stage on which every economic transaction can be turned into an auction. Nothing minimizes cost better than an auction – including the cost of labour. That’s why labour is the crucial societal aspect of platform capitalism. It is exactly here that we will have to decide whether to harness the enormous advantages of platform capitalism and the sharing economy or to create a ‘dumping market’ where the exploited amateurs only have the function to push professional prices down.”
I agree. The basis for such a decision needs to be a proper understanding of the reality of platform capitalism. The anger we have seen over the last few months directed against the “sharing economy” has a lot to do with the utterly unsubstantial claims and stories that are constantly churned out by the marketing machine of platform capitalism. Take John Zimmer, co-founder of Lyft, who told Wired earlier this year that the sharing economy bestows on us the gift of a revived community spirit. Referring to his visit to the Oglala Sioux reservation, he writes: “Their sense of community, of connection to each other and to their land, made me feel more happy and alive than I’ve ever felt. We now have the opportunity to use technology to help us get there.” No question, the pompous impertinence of this comparison is truly breathtaking. And yet, neither is this kind of rhetorical gymnastics the exception in the sharing-scene nor does it come unmotivated. Noam Scheiber of the New Republic explains the rationale behind the obscenities of Zimmer (and his kind) with great lucidity:
“For-profit “sharing” represents by far the fastest-growing source of un- and under-regulated commercial activity in the country. Calling it the modern equivalent of an ancient tribal custom is a rather ingenious rationale for keeping it that way. After all, if you’re a regulator, it’s easy to crack down on the commercial use of improperly zoned and insured property. But what kind of knuckle-dragger would crack down on making friends?”
6. The Sharing Economy: A Dumb Term that Deserves to Die!
The truth of the matter, though, as Nathan Schneider writes on Al-Jazeera America, is that “the sharing sector of the conventional economy built on venture capital and exploited labor is a multibillion dollar business, while the idea of a real sharing economy based on cooperatives, worker solidarity and democratic governance remains too much of an afterthought. If the sharing movement really wants to disrupt economic injustice, these should be its first priorities.”
I hope that it has become clear over the course of this little essay that it is in no way the intention of the “sharing economy” to “disrupt economic injustice.” The “sharing economy” does not exist. Or, in the words of the business writer Matthew Yglesias: “This is a dumb term, and it deserves to die.” One of the reasons why it doesn’t is that Silicon Valley’s powerful marketing machine that drives platform capitalism is beautifully adjusted to a global network of willing volunteers; from the one size fits all TED format to more thematically specific publications and conferences. Even well-meaning activist networks such as Shareable or the P2P-Foundation play a rather questionable role in keeping the myth of the “sharing-economy” alive.
This is not to say that there are no great initiatives and indeed businesses that are trying to use the power of digital technology or simply their imagination to practice forms of exchange that could actually be called sharing. They do exist and it is wonderful that they do. However, their value in the “sharing economy” as it is currently staged by the stakeholders of platform capitalism is that of providing an illegitimate ethical charge, a fig leave for an alarming mutation of our economy. I think they deserve better! Yet, in order to even have a chance at turning this development into something that might be legitimately called “sharing economy,” we need to be absolutely clear about the fact that platform capitalism does not even remotely resemble it.
By Julia Dreher and Francesca Pick
Today’s most known representatives of the sharing economy discussed in global media are online platforms built on top of venture capital backed, hierarchically structured organizations. Francesca Pick and Julia Dreher argue that there is a fundamental misunderstanding today in the discussion of the subject: the sharing economy is built on rhizomatic network structures holding the potential for deeper societal transformation.
It’s been a long night, you’re at a pub, and you want nothing more than to get home quickly. Finding a cab this late at night in London is nearly impossible, but luckily you have the Uber app on your phone and can order a car right to the pub’s doorstep without leaving the comfort of your seat. You quickly choose between Uber Black or Uber X (the cheaper version of the Uber black car service that runs with “drivers like you and me”), tap the “request car” button, and you’re ready to go. Two minutes later a black Renault driven by a young man in his 30s pulls up. You will not even have to talk with him to pay the bill because the app takes care of that for you.
Uber, the on-demand taxi app, has been a hot topic in the media over the past months. From the regulatory issues and bans the company has recently faced in various European cities to growing criticisms of its aggressive expansion strategies and sales tactics, to protests being staged by its drivers, Uber is capturing the public’s attention. Interestingly, The Guardian, Time, Salon, der Spiegel and many other prominent media sources participating in the discussion surrounding Uber have been describing the company as one of the key representatives of the so-called “sharing economy.” This is an unfortunate misnomer.
The sharing economy is a relatively recent phenomenon that experts and academics are still trying to articulate. The term is intended to capture new, more collaborative forms of creation, production, distribution, trade and consumption of goods and services that are being enabled by new technological platforms. By focusing on Uber as the representative of “the sharing economy,” we risk confusing the public’s understanding of the sharing economy and overlooking many revolutionary enterprises that better exemplify an ethos of actual sharing.
Let’s start with the basics: one of the underlying tenets of the sharing economy is that technology should enable us to use our resources more efficiently by replacing the ownership of goods with access. As Rachel Botsman describes in her 2010 book What’s mine is yours, new apps and online platforms can unlock the “idling capacity” of houses, cars and utilities by matching people’s haves with other people’s wants. Such technologies, she argues, will help reduce overall consumption and represent an important step towards more sustainable lifestyles.
Ride-sharing is a good example of a ‘true’ sharing economy: people driving from A to B can harness the “idling capacity” of their cars by filling their seats and splitting the cost of gas with travellers going to the same destination. Uber and its competitors such as Lyft or Wundercar are particularly fond of describing themselves as real-time or on-demand ride-sharing apps. According to Wundercar’s website, the app helps you to “spontaneously find someone to give you a lift.” Likewise, Lyft drivers are described as “your friend with a car”.
Referring to these apps as “ride-sharing” services, however, is deceiving. Their drivers don’t happen to be riding through town and spontaneously decide to give somebody a ride. They are semi-professional or private individuals looking to top up their paychecks, working as informal taxi drivers. Since they are on the road because of the app, we cannot speak of “idling capacity” here. Nothing is actually being shared. For this reason, the French government recently issued Uber a €100 000 fine for mis-labeling themselves a “car-sharing” service when in fact they are a private transportation company.
But the absence of any real sense of sharing runs deeper. As a brand, Uber promotes a lifestyle that is hardly egalitarian, communitarian or conservationist: their website features images of young, well-dressed, successful-looking people that invoke an air of luxury, materialism and elitism. What’s more, recent stories in the media document Uber’s “workers’” lack of rights and the company’s unscrupulous sales tactics. At the end of the day, Uber, for all its hype, is hardly a departure from the individualism and precariousness of other capitalist enterprises.
There is no doubt that Uber is disrupting an industry that is dominated by cartels and local monopolies. Nor is there any question that it is offering an impeccable service for which there is a large market. In this, Uber at least opens the door to begin imagining a different configuration of urban transportation services. But Uber is still perfectly in line with our current economic system. This is both its strength and weakness. The fact that it is only marginally different from that which already exists makes it much easier for it to be adopted by the mainstream. But this robs it of any ability to remedy the economic, social and environmental problems that our current system faces. As recent criticisms have pointed out, Uber is in fact exacerbating many of those same problems.
So if companies like Uber provide a misleading and negative image of “the sharing economy,” what might the true sharing economy look like?
Platforms like Uber are built on top of venture-capital-backed, hierarchically structured organizations. These platforms may enable people to share their resources, skills, and time, as well as to finance and produce their goods in mildly more collaborative ways. However, at the end of the day, they facilitate little more than a transactional form of “sharing” not much different than that of conventional capitalist exchange. While the pretense of “sharing” colors the front end of the services they offer, rarely does an ethos of collaboration permeate their actual organizational structure.
Uber is a classical Weberian hierarchy, based on a vertical, linear understanding of superiority and subordination. The higher one climbs up the ladder, the more influence and power one gains. At the bottom of the company are the drivers who lack employment protection, have no official wage, and no say over their rights. Above the drivers are the founders and management who set the rules and aims of the organization and impose their decisions on the drivers. Above them are the shareholders who provide capital for the organization and force it to maximize the values of the shares through increased profits. With profit-maximisation as their ultimate, operative logic, companies like Uber, Lyft, and many others claiming to be a part of the sharing economy invariably favor efficiency over social impact, output over outcome. Such organizations put more emphasis on the question of “how” they can produce something (i.e. to maximize profit) instead of “what” they are producing (i.e. the quality of their product and its social and environmental impact).
Instead of transforming only the “front end” of the transactions and services that they offer, companies can implement the principles of sharing and collaboration in the “back end” of their enterprises. They can structure themselves in ways that distributes power and profit in less-hierarchical ways. Companies that are fully collaborative—that is, organizations that are collaborative at both front and back ends—better exemplify the ‘true’ sharing economy. Such companies are characterized by a heterarchical organizational structure.
“Heterarchy” has long been used to describe non-hierarchical or networked forms of organisation marked by flexible, horizontal structures that create greater opportunities for cooperation among actors within them. It fosters the emergence of diverse social relations. Different actors can communicate on the same level in such a way that enables anyone to take on greater or lesser responsibility according to their differing degrees of motivation, expertise, etc. The creation of such horizontal, flexible cross-connections leads to the recombination and creation of knowledge and often results in increased innovation and increased resilience. Unlike hierarchies, where encounters are foreseeable due to rigid and defined structures, heterarchies enable the emergence of and are able to cope with complexity and contingent, non-planned events.
The term heterarchy was first coined by Warren McCulloch in 1945 as a way to describe the general modeling of networks in relation to his work on central nervous systems and cybernetics. Heterarchies promote the emergence of rhizomatic structures as described by the French philosophers Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guatarri. In a rhizomatic network structure, a higher number of diverse relations are enabled through the possibility of complex interconnections that go beyond the hierarchical modalities of superiority and subordination. “The rhizome is a system of shortcuts and detours and is a place for ‘unforeseen encounters’. Within the rhizome, linear causality is replaced by a chain of contingencies.”
Neal Gorenflo, founder of Shareable, the non-profit news hub on the sharing economy, points to the fact that heterarchical organizations encourage and embrace a kind of sharing that is transformational rather than the merely transactional. For Gorenflo, such heterarchical organizations need not neglect considerations of output and efficiency, but in the process they prioritize distributing power relations and creating social impact.
A particularly good example of a heterarchical organization is OuiShare. OuiShare is an international community, a think-and-do-tank whose mission is to build and nurture a collaborative society. OuiShare’s main activities are community building, incubating projects and offering support to individuals and organizations through professional services and education. Examples of OuiShare projects include OuiShare Fest, a 3-day festival about the Collaborative Economy; POC21, a 5 week accelerator program for the development of open source, sustainable products; and Sharitories, a tool kit for cities and regions wishing to implement collaborative programs such as bike and car-sharing schemes.
The OuiShare community has a core team that consists of a several dozen people who run the organization on a daily basis, but the whole network is comprised of over 1000 volunteer ‘members’ whose participation within OuiShare is based mainly on their own ostensibly altruistic motives. The most important group of highly engaged members are called ‘Connectors’; they serve as highly active nodes in the network who animate and coordinate local communities and projects. As a “do-cracy”, OuiShare allows anyone with a strong interest and high motivation to take on greater responsibility and participate in decision-making processes or lead projects. Positions with high responsibilities are not static but change over time. This flexible structure enables OuiShare to open up a wider range of possibilities for participation within the network. Control and decision making processes are dealt with in a collaborative way, enabling the strengthening and building of a commons and social capital, fostering communities, relationships and developing resilience.
Some critics have argued that the sharing economy can only ever be parasitic to capitalism because those who do not already have private property to share are by default excluded from it. Such arguments are premised on a narrow understanding of “sharing” limited to the direct exchange of goods or services of equal value. Platforms like Couchsurfing call into question such criticisms and allow us to think about sharing in a broader sense. Couchsurfing is the perfect example of a rhizomatic structure that allows users to move beyond a traditional, transactional mode of sharing. On Couchsurfing you can “surf” a couch even if you don’t have one to offer. If you can’t host, you might still offer your time to show someone around who is visiting your town. Collaboration is based on a much broader sense of exchange, tied more to notions of redistribution. Those who can offer something, offer it. Those who are in need can accept that offer but that doesn’t mean that they are obliged to give back something of the same value to the same person. Collaboration is distributed across the network and follows a rather circular logic. If you don’t have the same goods to offer back, you might offer something else to someone else. Eventually what goes around comes around and everyone is satisfied. This circular logic is essential to rhizomatic structures. Deleuze and Guatarri describe the network as a system of shortcuts and detours, which is what we can observe with Couchsurfing: rather than a “straight and direct” exchange of goods of the same value, we can see horizontal interactions between different participants of the network.
Numerous other examples of heterarchical organizations abound. CoWheels Car Club is a car sharing platform in the UK that runs as a not-for-profit social enterprise, where all surplus generated is reinvested back into the organisation to help fulfill its social mission of reducing car ownership and its negative effects on the environment. An example that takes collaboration one step further is Loconomics, a local peer-to-peer service marketplace from San Francisco, which is cooperatively owned by the freelancers who provide the services on the platform. A similar model is implemented by Guerrilla Translation, a P2P translation collective and cooperative from Spain that offers the same services as a translation agency.
Fairmondo, a German startup, offers a slightly different approach to participating in “the sharing economy”. Fairmondo is an Amazon-like online marketplace, owned and governed by its users, who are also its shareholders. An even more extreme example of such a distributed marketplace is the decentralized transportation system known as La Zooz. La Zooz eliminates ownership of the platform altogether by using an algorithm that runs by itself on the servers of each individual participant of the network. By running on the “Blockchain” (the technology underlying Bitcoin), La Zooz is able to operate as a decentralized, autonomous organization.
Many of the best-known platforms currently associated with the sharing economy, such as Uber, are only transforming one part of the equation. In so doing, they perpetuate centralized, hierarchical, capitalist systems that stymie any kind of fundamental societal transformation. It’s true that such marketplaces have been crucial for opening doors and spreading the concept of the sharing economy to the mainstream. But collaboration can mean a lot more than simply offering a platform for transactional sharing. As companies like Uber come under increasing fire from the media, we may be tempted to write off the concept of the “sharing economy” altogether. Here though, it is important to look to the countless projects that truly exemplify an ethos of sharing and collaboration to be reminded of the exciting potential of this movement.
When evaluating platforms claiming to be a part of the “sharing economy”, it is important to look at why they were set up, how they are organized, and who they are intended to benefit. Those that implement a logic of collaboration, sharing and distributed power at each of these levels, stand to offer a compelling vehicle for change and force us to take seriously the transformational power of the ‘true’ sharing economy.
 For Max Weber’s theory of bureaucracy and hierarchy, see his ground-breaking work “Economy and Society” (1922)
 See for example Der Spiegel’s “Kalifornischer Kapitalismus” or Sebastian Olma’s “Never Mind the Sharing Economy: Here’s Platform Capitalism”
Theatergoers are already using Twitter’s Periscope and Meerkat live-streaming video apps, which have launched in the past few weeks, to broadcast movies directly from cinemas — including this weekend’s blockbuster, “Furious 7.”
However, studios apparently aren’t overly concerned that box office will be hurt by the shaky, handheld live streams on Periscope and Meerkat, which may include only a few minutes of a film anyway. Other forms of piracy, including in-theater camcorders who try to sell copies of films and peer-to-peer downloaders, are a much more serious concern.
A search on Twitter revealed at least a dozen posts by users purporting to be live-streaming “Furious 7″ on Periscope, and at least one Meerkat user doing the same. Yes, that’s a drop in the bucket for the pic, which is on track to clear $150 million in its opening frame, but it’s still early days for the apps, which have become quickly popular among the technorati.
“We haven’t encountered any issues with (Periscope or Meerkat) yet,” said Patrick Corcoran, National Association of Theatre Owners VP and chief communications officer. But, he added, theaters generally do not allow patrons to use devices capable of recording video to be used in auditoriums: “The same would be true of devices that live-stream.”
Whether you’re a romantic away from your loved one for a semester overseas, or a grandparent with the little ones on an opposite coast, long-distance relationships just got easier. Brothers and former Google employees Petter and Kaspar Prinz noticed that the most written “word” via text and chat in 2014 was not a word, but the emoji of a heart.
HUG turns that emoji into a more tangible experience with the help of your phone. By placing your phone next to you, the phone’s proximity sensor picks up the length of the ‘hug’ and sends it a recipient’s phone as a vibration of equal length.
The longer you leave the phone next to your heart, the longer the vibrating ‘hug’ lasts. It doesn’t make your phone sprout arms to wrap around your friend or loved one, but it’s a long-distance connection beyond words on a screen.
read the article here : http://www.psfk.com/2015/03/remote-hug-app-peter-kaspar-prinz-google.html?
Nearly two-thirds of respondents in the 2013 "Edelman Global Entertainment Study" agree that watching and sharing entertainment online has increased their sense of global connection. The findings also highlight behavioral similarities and differences around entertainment consumption, social media interactions, overall engagement trends and distinctions between emerging and developed markets. Now in its seventh year, the study, co-commissioned with Matter, Inc., has expanded beyond the U.S. and U.K. to include Brazil, China, Germany, India, Korea and Turkey.
"This year's findings show that the need for shared entertainment experiences is truly global," said Gail Becker, chair, U.S. Western Region, Canada and Latin America, Edelman. "Now more than ever, entertainment is fuelled by mobile and multiscreen access. This concept of 'visual-tainment' breaks down barriers, which increases people's desire to share that content and experience with others – a trend that is particularly true in the emerging markets."
People want an immersive and interactive experience with entertainment
Around the world, people are eager for more ways to interact with their entertainment, with the emerging markets – Brazil, China, India, Turkey and Korea - leading the trend. Overall, seven-in-ten survey respondents (70 percent) enhance their entertainment experience by simultaneously using another device. Moreover, respondents in emerging markets were more inclined to access additional content about their entertainment, such as deleted scenes, actor bios and "making of" content (76 percent of respondents in emerging markets vs. 59 percent for the U.S., U.K. and Germany) and interact in real-time with what they are watching (75 percent of respondents in emerging markets vs. 47 percent in the U.S., U.K. and Germany).
"More than ever, people are seeking out immersive experiences through entertainment," said Jon Hargreaves, managing director, Technology, Edelman Europe. "Developing countries are leading the way in creating great content and building the infrastructure to provide people with access that allows them to interact whenever and wherever they want. The popularity of PSY's 'Gangnam Style' is a great example."
Online entertainment creates a global link
Online videos and social media have helped create a global connection, according to survey respondents. When asked if people felt more connected because of the content they have watched, two-thirds of respondents in all countries agreed that it did (67 percent agree). In the past year, respondents were also more open to watching online videos from far-flung places than they were a year ago (63 percent) and the majority of respondents in the emerging markets had watched or listened to entertainment in a language they do not speak (60 percent of respondents in emerging markets vs. 41 percent in the U.S., U.K. and Germany).
Entertainment is as powerful a social media driver as personal content
Edelman's sports, entertainment and experiential marketing unit, Matter, Inc., also looked into how people share entertainment and found that the majority of respondents are eager to share details about entertainment via their social networks. Globally, people who use social media are as likely to share information about entertainment as they are about their own personal lives or about their friends (76 percent share entertainment; 75 percent share about their own lives; 76 percent share about their friends). The trend is more pronounced in the emerging markets with more than 80 percent of respondents in those markets sharing comments, points of view and recommendations about entertainment.
People are also five times more likely to share a positive entertainment experience than a negative one (20 percent of people globally use social media to share "joy/satisfaction" vs. 4 percent who "warn others not to watch").
Also of note, brands are as influential as professional critics in driving entertainment spending: 56 percent of respondents say they consume entertainment based on recommendations from a brand or product they like, the same percentage as those who based it on a positive review from a professional critic.
"Traditional paid advertising is no longer enough for today's brands," said Andy Marks, managing director, Matter, Inc. "This data underscores what we increasingly see: brands that align with entertainment content, or create their own, connect and engage more deeply with fans. When you add social media sharing to the mix, you create powerful shared experiences that enable brands to leverage their audiences' passions at a meaningful scale."
TV still top entertainment device
In the majority of countries surveyed, television is still the device of choice for watching entertainment, but laptops and mobile are gaining ground. The U.S., U.K., India, Brazil and Germany mirrored each other, with television ranking as the most turned-to device for entertainment, followed by laptops at No. 2. In China and Korea, mobile phones were the No. 1 choice.
Additional study highlights include:
About the Global Entertainment Study
Now in its seventh year, the annual Edelman Global Entertainment Study explores consumer attitudes towards the entertainment industry. It examines consumer perceptions and behaviors as they relate to consumption habits, purchase recommendations and sharing.
The Global Entertainment Study is commissioned by Edelman and Matter, Inc. and conducted by research firm Edelman Berland. The survey was conducted online April 1-12, 2013 among 18 to 54-year-old consumers in Brazil, China, India, Germany, Korea, Turkey, the U.K. and the U.S.. The sample comprised 6,500 respondents: 1,000 each in the U.S., U.K., India, Brazil and China; 500 each in Germany, Turkey, and Korea. Global data is weighted so that no one country is overrepresented. The margin of error for global data is plus or minus 1.2 percentage points in 95 out of 100 cases. The margin of error for individual countries with 1,000 interviews is 3.1 percentage points in 95 out of 100 cases. The margin of error for countries with 500 interviews is 4.4 percentage points in 95 out of 100 cases.
Edelman is the world's largest public relations firm, with 67 offices and more than 4,800 employees worldwide, as well as affiliates in more than 30 cities. Edelman was named Advertising Age's top-ranked PR firm of the decade in 2009 and one of its "A-List Agencies" in both 2010 and 2011; Adweek's "2011 PR Agency of the Year;" PRWeek's "2011 Large PR Agency of the Year;" and The Holmes Report's "2011 Global Agency of the Year" and its 2012 "Digital Agency of the Year." Edelman was named one of the "Best Places to Work" by Advertising Age in 2010 and 2012 and among Glassdoor's top ten "Best Places to Work" in 2011 and 2012. Edelman owns specialty firms Edelman Berland (research), Blue (advertising), BioScience Communications (medical communications), and agencies Edelman Significa (Brazil), and Pegasus (China). Visit http://www.edelman.com for more information.
About MATTER, Inc.
MATTER® is the sports, entertainment and experiential marketing unit of the Daniel J. Edelman family of companies serving clients globally who are looking for a unique, deep and sustained audience connection. MATTER's expertise across sponsorship, branded entertainment, brand experiences, communications and full-service creative helps forge powerful bonds between brands and audiences by harnessing people's passion for shared experiences. MATTER has more than 80 employees with offices in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and representatives in Austin, Portland, Seattle and Sao Paulo. For more information about MATTER, please visit www.MATTER-INC.com.
About Edelman Berland
Edelman Berland is a global, full-service market research firm that provides corporate, non-profit and government clients with strategic intelligence to make their communications and engagements with stakeholders the smartest they can be. The firm specializes in qualitative and quantitative research, measurement, tracking and analysis in reputation, branding and communications. Edelman Berland has more than 100 employees in offices around the world. For more information, please visit http://www.edelmanberland.com/. Edelman Berland: Intelligent Engagement.
Netflix Inc. NFLX +24.44% reported stronger-than-expected U.S. streaming-subscriber growth for the first quarter and said it is getting more selective about the content it acquires in an increasingly competitive TV-programming market.
Shares of Netflix soared 24% in after-hours trading. The company also reported a small profit compared with a loss a year earlier, as well as a strong reception for "House of Cards," its high-profile original series which debuted in the quarter.
Netflix now is nearly on par with Time Warner Inc.'s TWX +0.35% HBO premium cable channel in terms of paying customers. HBO had 28.7 million paid U.S. subscribers at the end of the year, according to SNL Kagan, while Netflix's paid streaming subscribers at the end of March totaled 27.91 million. The company ended the quarter with 29.2 million U.S. streaming video subscribers, including those with free promotions, beating Wall Street's expectations.
Profit for the quarter totaled $2.7 million, or five cents a share, compared with a loss of $4.6 million, or eight cents a share, in the year-earlier period. Revenue grew 18% to $1.02 billion. Operating profit margin in the U.S. streaming business widened to 20.6% from 19.2%.
Netflix, which sells $7.99 monthly subscriptions, had negative free cash flow of $42 million in the quarter, a slight improvement over the fourth quarter, largely because of high content-acquisition costs. That situation underscores the problem of rising content costs.
Netflix has $5.7 billion in long-term content commitments. Helping fuel content costs is the company's plunge into original programming, highlighted by "House of Cards," a Washington political drama that debuted in February. Netflix will spend about $100 million on the show, including a second, yet-to-be-aired season. The company didn't disclose viewership statistics for the show, but in its quarterly letter to shareholders said the launch "provided a halo effect on our entire service."
Some analysts had said there was a risk that users could sign up for Netflix's free monthly trial, watch "House of Cards," and then cancel their services. But the company said fewer than 8,000 people engaged in that "free-trial gaming" out of the millions of free trials in the quarter.
It wasn't clear precisely how much credit "House of Cards" deserves for the brisk subscriber additions. "What we've seen with House of Cards is a nice impact but a gentle impact," Netflix Chief Executive Reed Hastings said on a conference call Monday evening.
In an interview later, Mr. Hastings said there wasn't an "overnight spike" in users from 'House of Cards' but rather a gradual impact. "It's a nice long-term tailwind," he said
Netflix hopes such original content will lure in subscribers and further differentiate it from competitors, including Amazon Inc. AMZN +2.03% and Hulu, as well as premium TV channels like HBO and Showtime. Another original series, supernatural thriller "Hemlock Grove," launched Friday. And a new season of cult comedy hit "Arrested Development" will be released next month.
Still, Amazon, in particular, has become more aggressive at licensing shows from Hollywood studios and in developing its own original series. Mr. Hastings told analysts that aggressive bidding for programming rights by Amazon and Hulu in the past year has driven up the cost of content licensing deals.
"That's made content providers happier and the prices higher than they would otherwise be," he said.
In its letter to shareholders, Netflix said it is getting more selective in the shows it licenses from studios. It will not renew a licensing deal that expires at the end of May for programming from Viacom Inc.'s VIAB -1.46% networks including Nickelodeon, MTV and BET. Netflix said the companies are in discussions about a new deal that could involve particular shows. A Viacom spokesman said, "We are in discussion with several parties, including Netflix, on distribution of our content."
A more selective licensing strategy could affect major entertainment companies, which in the past couple of years have enjoyed extra revenue provided by Netflix's licensing deals. But questions have also been raised about the impact on traditional TV ratings. Viacom, in particular, has seen ratings at its Nickelodeon channel fall since Nickelodeon shows began appearing on Netflix in 2011. Viacom, though, has played down the impact of Netflix, noting that TV ratings don't reflect viewing on tablets and other mobile devices. Viacom has also noted that Nickelodeon's ratings have begun to improve.
The international-streaming unit is a source of future growth but has been a drag on profitability, with $389 million in losses last year and another $77 million in the first quarter. That is an improvement over the $103 million loss in the year-earlier period. The company added one million international streaming users in the quarter, bringing its total to 7.1 million.
Netflix said it is improving profits or reducing losses in all international markets. It didn't launch any major new markets in the first quarter and has said it doesn't plan to until at least the second half of the year.
The DVD-by-mail business continued to shrink, losing 240,000 subscribers in the quarter to 7.98 million.
Netflix raised $500 million in February through a bond offering. About $225 million of the proceeds went to refinance existing debt, with the rest going toward corporate purposes as the company expands.
Netflix also unveiled a new $11.99 per month plan in the U.S. that will allow users to simultaneously stream four videos. The company currently limits playing two video streams simultaneously. Netflix expects fewer than 1% of its subscribers to take it.
MLNP is a crowd-sourced porn site where anyone can submit an intimate video and share it with the world.
The site evolved into a global phenomenon without Gallop actually doing anything at all. Initially, the site, which started out as MakeLoveNotPorn.com received high traffic from all over the world including China, India, Pakistan, and Indonesia.
MLNP launched as a business in 2009 as MakeLoveNotPorn.com after a TED talk Gallop conducted. After extraordinary response from the .com world, MakeLoveNotPorn.tv was born.
MLNP places emphasis on real life intimacy, the funny, messy, and awkward parts that the average porn studio would never show.
Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks focus on connecting people and furthering social interactions but Gallop wants to enable people to talk about sex in the same way. "Why not take every dynamic that exists out there with social media currently, and apply them to the one area that no other social media platform has ever gone, or is ever going to go, which is sex," she said.
The MLNP Team (from L to R): Madame Curator, Sarah Beall, Co-Founder/User Experience, Oonie Chase, CEO & Founder, Cindy Gallop, and Co-Founder/CTO Corey Innis at Gallop's Apartment/Office.
MLNP participants and viewers must be 18+, users submit videos to the site and they are reviewed by "the Madam Curator," Sarah Beall, to ensure that they live up to the standards of the site. Once they've received approval, videos are posted to the site and viewers pay $5 to watch one for up to three weeks. MLNP splits the profits with viewers (aside from a few fees) and Gallop says that she pays on a 90-day cycle. Some participates have made sales in the four figures.
Videos aren't limited to couples — solo, and multiple-participant films are also accepted.
"Porn by default has become the sex education of today and in not a good way," Gallop explains.
"Porn by default has become the sex education of today and in not a good way," Gallop explains.
"I found myself encountering a number of sexual behavioral memes, if you will. I went 'whoa, I know where that behavior's coming from!' And I thought if I'm encountering this other people must be as well. And I want to do something about it."
Gallop's ultimate goal is to change how we as a society view sex. She wants to live in a world where a naked picture leak is an afterthought and no one cares because we're more comfortable with our sexuality.
Gallop's believes her site is the type of disruption that the multi-billion-dollar porn industry needs. But there are some who think that while her project is creative it may not necessarily work.
Dr. Ogi Ogas, a neuroscientist, recently published a book called "A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What The Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships" with another neuroscientist, Sai Gaddam. Ogas had never heard of MakeLoveNotPorn until we brought it to his attention but his experience in the digital porn space helped us see Gallop's site from a different perspective.
Dr. Ogas is skeptical of Gallop's view:
Men and women develop sexual interests in very different ways, are predisposed towards very different sexual interests, and respond differently towards the same sexual material. In particular, women have a more emotional and psychological response to erotic content, while men have a more visual and physical response. It's true that porn can serve as a sexual education, but a very useful education for exploring one's sexual interests and learning about one's sexual identity -- am I gay? Do I prefer to be dominant or submissive? Though women frequently voice fears that men are learning "negative messages" from watching pornography, men's sexual brains don't tend to process pornography in the same psychological way as women. Getting aroused from looking at a woman's breasts (or a man's chest), for example, is a natural and deep-rooted male response that is independent from any cultural "message."
In terms of the MLNP project itself, Ogas says:
It's highly doubtful her project will disrupt the porn industry; indeed, amateur pornography is already one of the most popular genres of pornography around the world, and "candid" pornography in particular (featuring amateur content that is surreptitiously photographed and/or uploaded) is widespread, highly diverse, and easily obtained for free. In addition, erotica that features the "funny, messy, awkward moments of sex" generally appeals to women more than men and is already found on female-targeted erotic sites, particularly lesbian sites. Even more challenging for her project, women are highly reluctant to pay for visual pornography. Having said that, I'm always in favor of creativity and innovation in erotica and certainly hope that she might find a unique niche for her material that satisfies the desires of a under-served sexual audience.
Despite Ogas not necessarily believing in the project, MLNP is already a movement. At seven months old the site has over 75,000 members and have taken in tens of thousands of dollars in revenue.
MakeLoveNotPorn.tv is scalable. Together, we can build our community and our reach to the point where, one day, your #realworldsex video could hit that YouTube holy grail of one million rentals – hey, no reason why not, this is #realworldsex we’re talking – and at $5 per rental, where you get half of what your video makes….well, you do the math.
Gallop says, "in a world where the received wisdom is 'nobody pays for porn', she counters that her users are paying for 'real world sex' and have made two revenue-sharing payouts to date. Gallop would also like to help the porn industry with what her company is doing. "What I mean by that is I would like to show the industry it is possible to create a new innovative, disruptive business model, and to leverage human sexualized entertainment in a whole different way."
The home page of the MLNP site. Everything with the exception of the videos are Safe For Work, Gallop says.
Gallop shares the story of one particular young man who wrote to her about the effects of pornography on him from a very young age:
One young guy left a comment on MLNP.com that said i'm 23, and anyone that tells you that watching porn doesn't influence people, I'm living proof that it does, he said I began watching porn at 10 or 11, and for years, I thought that sex was just this degrading thing that people did. I had no idea that it was something that had to do with affection let alone love. It's really scary.
But can Gallop's future of porn actually become a business?
Gallop believes so. "When I say that [MLNP is the future of porn], what I mean is, I bring a very particular perspective to the porn industry in general. I bring a business perspective, and that's relatively rare. The only reason it's rare is that the people with brilliant brains [particularly venture capitalists and angel investors] have no interest whatsoever in turning any of that brilliance on the adult industry and they should," she explains.
It took Gallop over two years to secure funding and set up MLNP. Normally a venture at this stage in its lifecycle would be gearing up for a Series A round of funding. Gallop and MLNP cannot do that now because she doesn't want to "bang her head against a closed door."
Instead, the company is looking for brand partners who are interested in investing in a partnership with the site. Gallop explains that she is looking for brands "whose own business growth is forever inhibited unless the societal barriers we're out to break down are broken down for them, and that's brands potentially in any area of sexual health and well-being, whatever."
We really want to find partners who believe in our mission who want to work with us to make this happen, particularly on the payments front. Which has been an enormous headache for us. Anybody who believes in what we're doing and offers a service that we could use, we would just love to hear from them.
Are tangible photographs on the way back? Polaroid seems to think so. The firm was once the king of popular photography, with its instant camera achieving iconic status, and arguably helped the rise of Instagram. While the photo app has gone onto achieve great success Polaroid is a shadow of its former self. Instagram was bought for $1bn by Facebook while Polaroid has twice gone into bankruptcy and only emerging from that in 2010 as a new business.
Its latest idea is an odd one, something of an anachronism even, and seems to perfectly highlight its failure to convert its business in the digital age. It plans to open as many as ten ten Polaroid retail stores in 2013 whose sole purpose will be to print all those Polaroid looking Instagram pictures you have taken on your iPhone or Android smartphone.
Called Polaroid Fotobar stores the company says they will be “the first of their kind retail destinations designed to capitalise on the meteoric rise in people taking pictures”.
The stores will allow customers to send their favourite Facebook, Instagram or Picasa pictures wirelessly to one of the store’s workstations for quick printing.
On one level Polaroid makes a good point. While there are currently around 1.5 billion pictures taken every single day, a number that grows in tandem with the popularity and quality of camera phones, few of these pictures ever escape the camera phone with which they were taken.
That’s true, but the point is these pictures are often widely shared and widely seen. They are shared on Twitter and Facebook, passed around on camera phones, and most of them never need to be printed. Most of those Instagram photos don’t need to be turned into the modern Polaroid’s that they are ironically made to resemble.
I could well be wrong and maybe others think this is a great idea, but I do think it will struggle to gain traction. I’m just not sure how many will want to turn their pictures into “something tangible…and permanent” in a Polaroid Fotobar store.
That said they do look pretty cool in these pictures Polaroid has issued. They look like Apple stores. Another company that makes phones these pictures Polaroid is talking about are taken on.
Polaroid said it will open its first Fotobar store in Delray Beach,Florida, with future store locations to include New York,Las Vegas andBoston among others.
Digiday once considered banning buzzwords from all quotes. Then we realized we’d have very few quotes.
The industry is awash in terms that might have meant something at one point but since then have lost all meaning as they slid into jargon land. We’ve all heard them before. “Engaging,” “premium” and “inspire,” for example, are just three overused buzzwords.
Brands are top offenders. But they’re also forced to wade through buzzwords thrown around by agencies, publishers and vendors. Digiday reached out to several brand executives and asked which industry buzzwords make them sick.
George Haynes, social and digital media manager, Kia Motors
“Let’s think out of the box.” A lot of times this exercise ends up being more critical thinking and not much lateral thinking to generate anything remotely new. Instead of using this term, how about one simple word to replace it: “Why.” Let’s create a “viral” video is another. “Viral” is an outcome. And “seamless,” because most times it’s not.
Kasey Skala, digital communication manager, Great Clips
The term that’s been getting thrown around lately that bugs me is “social business.” All too often, we attach “social” to something, and we preach that it’s this new concept and thinking that businesses need to grasp. You need to be a social business. No, you need to be a smart business and adapt to the changing landscape. In order to sustain growth and remain relevant, you adapt and evolve to meet the needs of your stakeholders — both internally and externally. This isn’t a new concept that requires a fancy buzzword — it’s the basic principles of Business 101.
Carolin Probst-Iyer, manager, digital consumer insights, Chevrolet
“Social commerce,” “social programming,” “social content,” “big data,” “cloud,” “social gaming” and “gamification.” All of these are expressions for things and issues that have always been around. Those words just make them seem all new, which, in reality, they are not.
Craig Daitch, communications manager, Ford
The term “big data” has jumped the shark with muddied definition as more marketers sink their teeth into the term to impress those who don’t quite understand what it means.
Scott Gulbransen, director of social business strategy, H&R Block
Engagement, influencer, millennial and shareable. They bug me because they’re overused. A word like influencer, I know, is generic. But I think as a new marketing practice, social can’t be lazy and just use simple words to describe things that have strategic underpinnings. We need to educate and inform, and those words just lump lots of important things into short words. We need to advocate for the discipline and make sure we’re being descriptive.
Carmen D’Ascendis. director, global marketing, Jack Daniels
The most overused buzzword in 2012 was “engagement,” without doubt. The need to have “engaged” consumers is essential to grow brand advocacy. But I am afraid the word has been tainted by its association with social media and so many brands’ desire to chase fans. I’m looking for an alternative — any suggestions?
Linda Boff, executive director, global digital marketing, GE
My least favorite is curation. Brands need to create and deliver involved experiences and this goes far beyond aggregating content and slapping their name on it. The best brand activation has a point-of-view and finds a distinct way to bring the brand to life.
Brian Maynard, director of marketing, Jenn-Air
I think the one I am most sick of is Curation. It seems as though we curate everything now, including these words. Two others that may not be specific to digital are paradigm, paradigm shift and Out of the box thinking.
When I first started working in the internet industry, back in 1874, a colleague said to me that I shouldn’t be daunted by the ridiculous number of acronyms that are seemingly used on a daily basis. I’d learn them in good time, he said. There was no need for panic stations.
Sure enough, I was bombarded with seemingly random three- and four-letter acronyms, from all directions. I hunkered down and gradually learned the most important ones. I’m somewhat allergic to jargon, but sometimes there is no getting around the fact that we need to speak the right language in digital marketing circles. There is only one way to describe ‘real-time bidding’ (RTB), and no amount of Plain English is going to improve that kind of phrase.
We used to have a glossary on a much older version of Econsultancy.com, but that’s long since vanished, so I thought I’d compile a handy cut-out-and-keep guide to help newbies to get up to speed with the lingo.
So here are 100 of the most common acronyms that every digital marketer should know about. I think they cover most bases, though no doubt I have missed out a few obvious ones (by all means add them in the comments area below). Some of these are very much filed under 'marketing', whereas others lean more towards 'tech' (but are included as you are likely to cross their paths at some point). For the purposes of brevity I shan’t define each one: that’s what Google / Wikipedia is for.
Ok, here goes...
AIDA - Attention, Interest, Desire, Action
AJAX - Asynchronous Java Script
API - Application program interface
AR - Augmented reality
ASP - Application service provider
ATD - Agency trading desk
B2B - Business to business
B2C - Business to consumer
CLV - Customer lifetime value
CMS - Content management system
CPA - Cost per acquisition / action
CPC - Cost per click
CPL - Cost per lead
CPM - Cost per thousand
CPV - Cost per view (see also PPV)
CR - Conversion rate
CRM - Customer relationship management
CSS - Cascading style sheets
CTR - Click-through rate
CX - Customer experience
DM - Direct mail (or 'Direct message', in Twitter circles)
DMP - Data management platform
DNS - Domain name system
DSP - Demand-side platform
ECPM - Effective CPM
EPC - Earnings per click
EPM - Earnings per thousand
ESP - Email service provider
FB - Facebook
FBML - Facebook Markup Language
FTP - File transfer protocol
GA - Google Analytics
HIPPO - Highest paid person's opinion
HTML - HyperText Markup Language
HTTP - Hyper Text Transfer Protocol
HTTPS - Hyper Text Transfer Protocol Secure
IM - Instant Messaging
IMAP - Internet Message Access Protocol
IP - Intellectual property (or 'Internet Protocol')
IPTV - Internet protocol television
ISP - Internet service provider
KPI - Key performance indicator
LTV - Lifetime value
MoM - Month on month
MLM - Multi-level marketing
MVT - Multivariate testing
OEM - Original equipment manufacturer
OS - Operating system (sometimes this is used for 'open source')
PHP - Hypertext Preprocessor
POS - Point of sale
PPC - Pay per click
PPL - Pay per lead
PPV - Pay per view
PR - PageRank
PV - Pageviews
QA - Quality assurance
QR Code - Quick response code
RFI - Request for information
RFP - Request for proposal
ROI - Return on investment
RON - Run of network
ROR - Ruby on Rails
ROS - Run of site
RSS - Really Simple Syndication
RT - Retweet
RTB - Real time bidding
RTD - Real time data
S2S - Server to server
SaaS - Software as a service
SEM - Search engine marketing
SERP - Search engine results page
SLA - Service level agreement
SM - Social media
SME - Small / medium enterprise. (aka SMB = ‘business’)
SMM - Social media marketing
SMO - Social media optimisation
SMP - Social media platform
SMS - Short message service
SOV - Share of voice
SOW - Statement of work
SSL - Secure Sockets Layer
SSP - Supply-side platform
SWOT - Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats
TLD - Top level domain
TOS - Terms of service
UCD - User-centric design
UI - User interface
UGC - User-generated content
URL - Uniform resource locator
USP - Unique selling proposition
UV - Unique visitor
UX - User experience
VOD - Video on demand
VM - Viral marketing
WOMM - Word of mouth marketing
WSIWYG - What you see is what you get
YOY - Year on year
YTD - Year to date
XML - Extensible Markup Language
...that's 100. What others are there that are worth knowing / used often?
Going for growth was the main theme of this morning’s Esomar Annual Congress in Atlanta. For a topic that makes board directors sweat in testing times, it’s perhaps wise that these business-oriented presentations should follow a “feel good” start to the day with Gospel choirs singing hymns (and Kool & the Gang’s ‘Celebration’ for added gusto).
But once the music was over, followed by a short “world premiere” of research hailing Barack Obama as the world’s favourite to win the forthcoming US Presidential election - it was time to get serious again and identify the tools that could help fuel growth in challenging economic times.
Fred John, senior business leader at MasterCard International, kicked things off by remarking to the crowd that “growth is synonymous to progress, and research should be a key part of this”. But he cautioned: “Applying approaches that work in the West to developing countries doesn’t always work and you should approach these areas differently.”
An energy boost
So given that it is the BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China) that offer the most promise for growth right now, how should firms be researching these markets? PepsiCo was on hand to give their perspective, based on how its efforts to transform Gatorade from an energy drink into a sports nutrition umbrella brand spawning many different variants.
Ana Alvarez, consumer strategy and insight director at PepsiCo Beverages, said that despite a lack of research innovation in Latin America, Brazil’s mass takeup of social media and mobiles made it the perfect testing ground for reviewing the Gatorade brand strategy and applying the insights internationally to pursue market growth.
“Brazil is the second biggest market on Facebook and there are more mobiles used there than the actual population of the country - the opportunity for research is huge, even with people from low-income backgrounds. The problem is that market research lacks innovation in Brazil right now, there is a dearth of it, so the challenge becomes how can you relate to audiences in savvy ways that understand the local culture and can be credibly explored internationally afterwards.”
PepsiCo worked with the UK’s Mesh Planning to use these digital technologies as a way for reviewing and innovating Gatorade’s existing channel strategy, with a particular focus on experiential activities. A panel of 400 people with phones participated by pre-registering their views of the brand in an online survey, before using their devices to report when they had seen or heard of the brand while out and about (or on broadcast media). When they registered a sighting or an encounter, they would again be sent an online survey to explore their sentiments towards the brand at that moment. This included online diaries where participants could then add free text explaining the reasoning behind their expressed sentiments.
Fiona Blades, chief experience officer at Mesh Planning, said: “What emerged helped formulate the brand’s strategy in activating its transformation from being one drink to one master brand of many products. We were able to monitor touchpoints and review the spontaneous reactions. Surprisingly, experiential came out on top of broadcast and so we recommended that attention was paid most to this sort of activity.”
PepsiCo subsequently used these findings to formulate campaign priorities, placing social affirmation at the heart of the brand’s consumer approach. The approach worked. Alvarez says satisfaction metrics soared and sales also caught onto the halo effect as a result of the marketing switch. The “growth” opportunity was seized and is now being tested in Guatemala on another PepsiCo brand.
The biggest challenge to treating patients with diabetes isn’t doling out medications, it's making sure that people control their habits. Poor diet and lack of exercise generally create complications with the disease. To combat the problems, researchers in the diabetes division of Sanofi US took an unusual step for Big Pharma: they went social, jumping into online networking with a Facebook page, Twitter presence, and eventually three different engagement platforms.
“Treatment is an important aspect to blood sugar management, but it isn’t the only aspect,” says Laura Kolodjeski, Sanofi’s diabetes community manager, who has become the virtual face of the company. “There is a huge community of people already that live with diabetes and are connecting and sharing [online] to improve each other’s experience with the disease.”
Sanofi now helps direct and police those interactions online. The company won’t release total visitor numbers, but it has about 4,000 followers on Facebook and another 4,000 on Twitter, all of whom are sharing links to broader content. And for better or worse that community is going to grow: About 8 percent of Americans or roughly 26 million people have diabetes, and the Centers for Disease Control predicts that as many as one third of us could have the disease by 2050.
But the social frontier is potentially prickly for Sanofi because the FDA has not yet written the rules about how pharmaceuticals are allowed to engage with potential customers and patients. The only guidelines came out in a December 2011 advisory statement declaring that while allowing virtual comments about things like off-label uses isn't technically illegal, it's shady territory; basically, pontificate at your own risk. "We are working on the area and it's something we feel is important but we don't have a specific timeline right now," says Ernest Voyard, senior regulatory council at the FDA's Office of Prescription Drug Promotion.
For Sanofi, drawing up their own social media strategy is also a defensive move: In 2010, the company's cancer division suffered a PR nightmare after a patient, who claimed to have experienced permanent hair loss from one of their treatment drugs, posted complaints and photos on that group's unmonitored Facebook page. John Mack, the editor of Pharma Marketing News, which tracks shifts in the pharmaceutical industry, says such hits are common anytime you try to pioneer a new space. "They've had some rough times, but they are learning a lot," he adds.
We really allowed the community to help identify what might be useful to them and where they might go next
Mack considers Sanofi a leader in the category, especially compared with the offerings from other companies. Diabetes juggernaut Novo Nordisk sponsors IndyCar driver Charlie Kimball to tweet @racewithinsulin, including when he injects with their products. And Pfizer's ThinkScienceNow blog about developments and advances in research is wonky but not exactly customer friendly.
Sanofi has created a template they hope will eventually be deemed both acceptable to the FDA and cool for customers. The lessons they've learned in the last two years is a valuable addition to The Social Media Roadmap from our current issue.
When she took over as social media director, one of the first things Kolodjeski did was post a bio with a photo of herself online at DiscussDiabetes to show who was moderating. She also disclosed that she wasn’t diabetic. Why? To build trust, the kind community members might not have for a faceless company run by mostly non-diabetics. The message: “If Laura is going to work every day to solve [issues] on our behalf, then others must be doing the same,” Kolodjeski says.
To explain their business interest, Kolodjeski also interviewed Dennis Urbaniak, the head of the company’s U.S. diabetes business unit to explain what he calls the “360-degree partner” principle--an effort to inspire others to talk more and tap into that as a focus group for new ideas.
Sanofi launched their diabetes Facebook and Twitter handles in September 2010 mainly to offer news updates about the company and its offerings. On Facebook, any clinical questions were directed to a separate tab and often answered privately. On Twitter, medical concerns were covered via direct message. What was missing was a way to collect various poster’s lifestyle tips and inspirational messages all in one place. In January 2011, the company launched DiscussDiabetes to address that. They also run their own stories about successes, including highlights from A1C Champions, another company sponsored group of diabetics who have maintain the best or “A1C” target range of blood sugar levels.
By March of this year, the company took a look at the discussions that were being generated and realized that terms like A1C weren’t actually as universally understood as they once thought. To speed that learning curve, they launched Diabetepedia, which provides both simple definitions and links to other sites showing how terms are actually used in other online conversations.
The final step: After noticing how activity at Diabetepedia was spiking, Sanofi launched another site collecting lots of the content they were already linking to all in one place. The DX, which launched at the end of May, hosts daily dispatches by both Kolodjeski and stable of already popular bloggers (none of whom are paid directly) that include everything from a diabetes related comic strip to mommy blogs for parents with diabetic kids. “We really allowed the community to help identify what might be useful to them and where they might go next,” Kolodjeski says.
The medical glossary at Diabetepedia doesn’t just provide standard definitions to complex terminology, users are encouraged to submit their own entries, creating a sort of slang dictionary that makes complicated stuff more relatable to newcomers. For instance, glucoaster: that’s shorthand for “a rollercoaster of blood glucose levels, with blood sugar lows followed by blood sugar highs.” User contributions have helped the database grow by 30 percent to include more than 150 terms, all of which make it easier to users themselves to better convey thoughts in future postings.
The company also considers each media outpost an exclusive “channel,” which means there is lots of cross-posting of content from different platforms to make sure users who only tune into one place are being best served. “We certainly have people that overlap but for the most part people have selected which channel they feel represented by and communicate through,” Kolodjeski says. But at each stop, the company still tries to crowdsource bigger ideas.
This year, they asked users to help set priorities for the company’s annual Data Design Diabetes Innovation Challenge, which asks individuals, businesses and non-profits to create new initiatives for using big data to help others struggling with the disease. To help brainstorm for that, Sanofi’s social media troop was given the chance to visit a competition homepage and answer questions about what aspects of life with the disease might be consistently overlooked or ignored. Their answers were used to shape a final guideline for contestants that solutions must address the overall wellness and family life of patients, not just symptom mediation. The winner: a program created by the n4a Diabetes Care Center that matches people with certain cost or risk profiles directly to the services they might need to slow the progression or expense of the disease. Mood problems can be addressed by better disease management, hopefully cutting into the 18 percent of all diabetics who require hospitalization each year.
After realizing just how open users are to sharing and connecting, Sanofi also launched their own new product, the iBGStar, a personal blood glucose monitor that plugs directly into an iPhone or iPod Touch with an app that saves data and maps correlations between blood sugar levels and meal times, carb and sugar intake, and physical activity. Users can share results with their family or email them to health care providers. But the product, which hit the market in May 2012, wasn’t just inspired by early community actions; ensuing reviews and comments in their own forums will help refine future updates. “It’s a big hit with the online community,” Kolodjeski says. “It’s also given us a great opportunity to prove back to them that if we hear someone comment about something, we have the ability to engage in a public manner.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article said that iBGStar came on the market in 2011, it was released in May 2012.
[Image: Flickr user Ian Humes]
The faces of YungKloutGang.
Last Saturday, slightly hungover, I spent the afternoon texting with a friend about a show that we had missed the previous night. He sent me a link to a particularly gripping account of the event, Riff Raff's San Francisco debut, from someone named @BoyTweetsWorldX, whose exploits on acid were rendered entirely in all caps.
On his bio and across dozens of tweets was a strange hashtag — #YungKloutGang. Something about "Yung" paired with "Klout" made me laugh — it didn't make any sense. Why would kids care about Klout, a site that attempts to quantify the power someone has on Twitter or Facebook through a complicated algorithm that seems, frankly, useless?
So I went about untangling the #YKG web.
It turned out to be a group of eight — originally, four — friends, all in their early 20s, all into music, going out and, most especially, the Internet. In some ways, they aren't unique at all: There are thousands of kids like them on Twitter, Facebook, FormSpring and the like, revealing way more about their lives than they probably should. They're not particularly famous, nor are they promoting anything in particular, besides, generally, themselves. But there is something fascinating about how this group has seized upon a kind of niche stature that is tied to what Klout claims to measure — the amount one can influence, impact or capture an audience online. They're friends in the real world, but they don't see a distinction between social status online and off-, and they've seized on Klout to create their particular collective identity in the way that teenagers (and adults) have been doing since the beginning of civilization. It strikes me as the kind of thing that more and more kids will probably do as they grow up using the kind of tools that older people see as the domain of geeks and public figures and those with a specific personal interest in promoting themselves.
A typical night with #YungKloutGang, going to the club, casually taking acid and tweeting about it for hours.
Brittney Scott (@B666S), 20, first met Lina Abascal (@linalovesit) and Chhavi “Chippy Nonstop” Nanda (@chippy_nonstop) late last year, but she had already been introduced to them online — she started following them on Twitter a month earlier and thought they were "really funny." In fact, she thought the whole crew of seven childhood friends from San Francisco got her sensibility: hypersocial, into hip-hop and dance music and not afraid of being obnoxious.
"We're mostly like tight because of the internet," she said. "We mostly don't live near each other. But it was cool to meet people as interested in the Internet as much as I am."
And indeed, this group — who christened themselves over brunch this past spring — is really into the Internet.
"The name is kind of a joke," Scott said, before explaining that it also kind of isn't. (Abascal said that they had considered and rejected the name InsaneKloutPosse as well.) #YungKloutGang now has its own fan Tumblr, and Scott says she's been recognized out at clubs and parties thanks to her Twitter avatar. She also got her job, at an L.A. boutique, from someone who noticed her online presence. In fact, all of the #YKG derive some kind of professional frisson from being prominent on Twitter. Bradley Exum (@MPHDmusic) does marketing; Demian Becerra (@theholymountain) works as a photographer; Erin Bates (@celebates) and Abascal have degrees in journalism; and Chippy, perhaps the most well-known of the group with over 6,000 followers, raps.
"I've said publicly on Twitter that if I didn't have the Internet, i'd have no friends, no job, no boyfriend, no life," said Abascal, who was trying on clothes at American Apparel while we spoke, "I've hooked up with boys who've DM'ed me their numbers. I think it's funny."
"I am basically on the Internet all the time," Scott said, blithely. "I love the internet."
There can be drawbacks, too. Jasper Abellera, BoyTweetsWorld, working as an assistant to a stylist, almost got fired when his employer saw videos of him doing drugs online. That didn't stop him from continuing to post about drugs and alcohol, although he changed his Twitter handle (it used to be his name) and doesn't use his picture as his avatar.
The KloutGang isn't trying to sell anything — they're not trying as a group to get jobs DJing or modeling or even getting paid to be glamorous in a time-honored Lower East Side kind of way. But in general, what they're doing is a good career move. Skills in social media are highly sought after now. As Forbes notes more than 1.5% of all job postings contain the term.
Klout doesn't release specific information about their demographics, though a spokeswoman said that their user base "doesn't heavily skew toward that age spectrum," referring to 20-somethings. But still, there's something very much of this time about YungKloutGang. They were raised on computers — Scott said that her mother used to take hers away in high school because she was on it so much — and are well-versed in social media. They have been the stars of their own show for years. The progression from MySpace to FaceBook to Twitter to Tumblr and beyond (Klout) is natural. Scott dropped the word "relevant" at least four times in a 20-minute conversation: staying in the information flow obviously carries social currency.
Marketing oneself as being young, attractive, provocative and unfiltered is not a new phenomenon, of course. But in many ways, what's so appealing to me about YungKloutGang is precisely how much they feel like normal party-hopping 20-somethings. Reading through their confusing, seemingly-drunken back-and-forths, I feel kind of nostalgic but also relieved because THANK GOD no one gave me a smartphone and a Twitter account right of out of college. And unlike the previous generation of nerds who spent time interacting with a screen, #YKG are hypersocial: their use of Twitter especially doesn't replace physical interaction so much as run parallel to it.
Others have already seen that the good-looking, multi-ethnic group might be tapping into some kind of zeitgeist. An online music-and-trend website, Buzznet, got in touch with them about doing some blogging. "I had a meeting with Buzznet, to be one of their 'buzzmakers,' said Scott. "Their top people are trendy girls in L.A. but they are looking for looking for people that are relatable, so they reached out to us. It was like, 'You're relevant on the internet; you seemed to know what's popular."
Clearly, her adeptness with her online persona was a point of pride: "'She's really funny on Twitter, that's how I'm introduced alot." But Scott also admitted to social anxiety and to not having too many friends in real life, with the whole IRL concept getting fuzzier by the day. "I think it's funny — it's really a name for our friends but people do get influence from us," she said. "We're not celebrities, but we find a way into things."
A slide from a presentation Scott made on YungKloutGang for Buzznet.
And the ability to be ranked according to the specific skills that YungKloutGang has perfected is very appealing to Scott. "I think Klout is very important. Like, the concept of Klout," Scott said, noting she checks at least once a day. "It's so cool that they are able to come up with some score to pull this together. It literally connects the world."
Abascal was a bit more circumspect about her need to be ranked as an influencer than Scott: Her main concern was locking down a full-time job, probably in marketing. She said she'd be sad to lose the daily outlet of Twitter if her job barred from posting, but she already censors herself, in a way. Boring details of life get edited out in favor of the more outrageous stuff: Lately, her thing has been to make outlandish comments about her extreme attractiveness.
"The thing is, it's a fantasy but you could do it too," she said. "I'm just a normal girl. You could be literally be doing everything that I'm doing."
Besides meeting people, like the girl "fan" who Abascal thought was creepy until they started hanging out, the main perk of being young and full of Klout turned out to be food.
"Five people have sent their credit cards to order me takeout," she recalled. "Usually Thai food, although sometimes with the time difference, the only thing that's open is Dominos." Her fans, apparently, don't always live in her city and don't know about web-based food delivery services. These people are strangers who just want to connect with her. "People think that I'm giving them something in return but I'm not." So what do they get? "Nothing," she laughed, "literally nothing."