Over a decade ago, when I was working at an investment bank, one of the topics that kept coming up was “the multiprovider portal”. [Yes, it was that long ago, those forgotten times when investment banks still existed, when startups made no money, just “revenue”, and nobody cringed if you used the word “portal”].
The multiprovider portal was a simple concept. Let’s take an example.
At that time, it appeared that portals were built by financial services providers for financial services providers and nobody else. Customers went to the portal of the provider. Everything was very product and service and provider centric. Which was fine and dandy as long as nobody complained. But customers did complain. Customers wanted something better than that which they were being offered. If they held multiple accounts with one bank, they wanted to manage all those accounts from one place. More importantly, if they held accounts with a number of banks, they wanted to manage all those accounts from one place. As a result of this demand, people started offering account aggregation services.
At the time, we felt that companies would want something similar from their investment banks. Most large corporates had relationships with more than one investment bank. Usually at least two, sometimes more. So rather than force the customer to go to different portals for different services, we wanted to build something different. Allow the customer to use our portal to manage their relationships with investment banks other than us. Allow the customer to build a portal designed around the customer, as it were, rather than the service provider.
Imagine the scene: A customer of “our” bank using software provided by us in order to do business with other banks. Perish the thought. Well, the thought did perish. [So, too did investment banks. But that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead.]
Roll the clock forward from 1998-99 to a few years ago. I remember those early discussions with Doc Searls as he convinced me through and through about the importance of Vendor Relationship Management. At least part of the drive behind VRM was this whole thing about doing things with the perspective of the customer. Amazon, do you realise that I buy books from people other than Amazon? For Amazon read eBay, Borders, Barnes and Noble, Abebooks, <insert name of preferred bookseller here>. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could aggregate all those purchases somewhere, so that my recommendations were based on my true purchases? Wouldn’t it be nice if I could choose which purchases I wanted to include and which ones I wanted to exclude, so that I didn’t get recommendations based on books I bought my 10-year old, or books I bought as presents for others? Wouldn’t it be nice if I had the ability to switch on “private shopping”?
Doc spent time explaining to me that people weren’t “getting” this inversion, this 180 degree shift away from Customer Relationship Management to Vendor Relationship Management. Where everything was viewed from the customer’s perspective, not the provider’s.
I kept on wondering why people didn’t “get” it.
Now move the clock forward to today. When I move to the world of “social media”, hearing all the arguments about authority and power and traffic, I get slandered, libelled, I hear words I never heard in the Bible……just trying to keep my customers satisfied. Satisfied.
I must be wired differently. When I started using Facebook, and realised the value of the news feed when used properly, I used to keep my status updated regularly. Then, when Twitter came along, I did the expected thing and connected my tweets to Facebook status.
Until someone complained. Until I realised that some of my facebook friends weren’t interested in the high-frequency status change that twitter represented. So, hearing the complaints, I changed. I cut the connection between Twitter and Facebook. Now, if someone wanted to know about my status with twitter-like frequency, they came to twitter, not to Facebook.
More recently, a few days ago, I started playing in earnest with blip.fm. And I misread the small print while turning on the twitter service, thinking that only the tweets I preceded with a “!” would go to twitter. My bad. So when I started using blip, every blip I made resulted in a tweet being sent to twitter.
Until someone complained. And I realised what I’d done. And I fixed it.
2009 is going to be about big changes in this space. I guarantee it. Put whatever’s left of your house and your savings on it.
People will not come to “my” blog. They will go to “their” feed aggregator, where they can read all the people they’re interested in reading. If they see something of interest, they will dig deeper and come to my blog.
People will not come to read “my” tweets. They will go to “their” tweet aggregator, where they can read all the tweets of all the people they’re interested in following. If they see something of interest, they will follow the links provided.
People will not come to see “my” pictures in Flickr. People will not come to hear “my” music wherever.
“My” time is over.
It’s a different perspective.
Readers want everything and everyone they read aggregated; they select what to read, when to read it, how to read it. How to read it, where to read it, what device to use.
Similarly, listeners want everything they listen to and everyone they listen to aggregated for them; watchers want everything they see and everyone thet see aggregated for them.
We have had aggregation before. Past paradigm aggregation was about content owners and distribution and channels and audiences. Which allowed for words like authority and traffic. Which begat strange things like advertising.
Next paradigm aggregation is about the owner of the power to bestow attention, and to do something with that attention. The customer.
So the customer will not watch a television channel, but instead create her own, an aggregation at viewing guide level. The same with news and reviews, the same with music.
- First, the ability to aggregate a directory of services selected by the customer rather than the provider.
- Second, the ability to drill in, to dig deeper into these directories in order to do something with the particular service. Time shifted, place shifted. She will read your blog if she finds something of interest, when she wants to, how she wants to, using the device she chooses.
- Third, the ability to participate, to feed back, to comment, to rate, all these services.
- And finally, the ability to reuse all or part of the service so provided in a Creative-Commons-like way in order to produce something else, and to share that something else.