Conversations and Dialogue

You know how ideas sometimes seem to appear in two different places at the same time?

I noticed a case of parallel spontaneous idea creation today when my RSS reader included an entries from John Battelle and Seth Godin.

Battelle is doing a form of liveblogging (or web-enhanced writing as he calls it), where he’s adding to the entry throughout the day as a way to watch him think out loud. Today, he posted the third part of a series on Conversational Media & Conversational Marketing (part 1, part 2, part 3). This third post adds a new term: The Conversational Economy. To summarize:

There are two major forms of media these days. There is Packaged Goods Media, in which “content” is produced and packaged, then sent through traditional distribution channels like cable, newsstand, mail, and even the Internet.

The second major form of media, is far newer, and far less established. I’ve come to call it Conversational Media, though I also like to call it Performance Media. This is the kind of media that has been labeled, somewhat hastily and often derisively, as “User Generated Content,” “Social Media,” or “Consumer Content.”

Godin, on the other hand, posted a short but eerily similar thought:

Tony pointed out a neat idea to me. Some organizations are good at listening. Some are good at talking. A few are even good at both.

But having a dialogue is different. It’s about engaging in (sometimes) uncomfortable conversations that enable both sides to grow and change.

Two marketing minds having the same idea in two different places at the same time. Parallel spontaneous idea creation rocks!

Free Coffee! Well, Almost

Terra Bite LoungeFree coffee! Free coffee! But only if you don’t mind the guilt of not giving a donation, you cheapskate.

Steven Levitt, one of the authors of Freakonomics, posted an article last week about an interesting new coffee shop in Seattle, WA: The Terra Byte Lounge — “an upscale voluntary payment cafe/deli.”

The Seattle Times calls the founder, Ervin Peretz, the “Robin Hood of the Starbucks set.”

Terra Bite Lounge looks like any other coffee shop – until you get to the menu. There are no prices listed. Terra Bite doesn’t have them.

You read that right: No prices. Customers pay what and when they like, or not at all – it makes no difference to the cafe employees, who are instructed not to peek when people put money in the metal lock box.

And there’s the rub. The coffee is essentially free and customers have the option of contributing however much they want – a “voluntary-payment” system, as the Kirkland Weblog calls it.

Quite an interesting social experiment in trust and honesty, eh? Are customers really paying? Yes, at an average of $3 per transaction. Some even pay more than they would at Starbucks (SBUX).

It’s because the social pressures of contributing are strong. One commenter on the Freakonomics Blog added that, “peer pressure & guilt is only part of it. There’s also an element of the reciprocity impulse, and darn it, just plain old decency.” Another commenter offered a counter argument, however:

I live right around the corner from Terra Bite in Kirkland. This business model makes me feel uncomfortable when I’m there – did I put enough in the box? Did I put too much? I really like having a fixed price to pay.

I’m uncomfortable with tipping too, for the same reason.

Will this business model work? We’ll see. Another Starbucks cafe just opened in the same neighborhood. The competition will be fierce. But if it does work out, Peretz has hinted that he’d be interested in expansion.

Hmmm. Think free coffee will work in San Francisco?

A Woman’s New Best Friend

Yellow Diamond Ring You know what’s insane? De Beers’ stranglehold on the diamond industry and their deliberate pricing strategies.

What’s the rule for an engagement ring? That it should cost about two months’ salary? I see peers in Sillicon Valley spending more like three to six months’ salary sometimes. Insane!

So it fills me with joy when I hear that manufactured diamonds are becoming as good as mined diamonds. The benefits are endless:

…environmentally friendly (no open-pit mines), sociopolitically neutral (no blood diamonds), and monopoly-free (not controlled by De Beers).

Not to mention, hopefully, much more affordable too. Unfortunately, due to technical constraints, they haven’t been able to manufacture clear diamonds yet – only yellow diamonds (which happen to be very rare in the wild).

But before you run out and buy one, you’ve got to ask yourself: “Will your sweetie mind a manufactured diamond?” Has De Beers’ apparent monopoly also brainwashed her into believing that only mined diamonds = true love? (And if so, do you really want to go through with this? Just sayin’.)

P.S. Here’s a handy guide of manufactured diamond producers.

Reality TV as Advertising?

My Super Sweet 16 Who’d have thunk that MTV (VIA) could spawn a niche market? In last December’s issue of Entrepreneur magazine, there was an article entitled: “Party Planning for Teens“. It opened with:

Blame MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 for showing teens nationwide the extremes the super-wealthy go to for a child’s coming-of-age soiree. American teens, who number more than 70 million, want what’s hot at their parties–from bar and bat mitzvahs to sweet 16s, quinceaƱeras and other coming-of-age rites.

That got me thinking. If My Super Sweet 16 could start a new niche market, could similar reality TV shows also start (or jump-start) other markets? What if an advertiser created a reality TV show just to increase the demand for their product or service?

That could be a stupid idea. TV as an advertising medium is losing its luster. More and more kids are on the Internet. They don’t care about TV. Or do they?

Another Entrepreneur article, “Whip Up a Hot Kids’ Cooking Business“, cites a growing interest in cooking classes among today’s youth.

Americans’ interest in cooking has drizzled down to the nation’s kids. From cooking classes and kits to full-fledged cooking parties, this still-hot category even includes kids’ cookbooks in the recipe for success.

It doesn’t point to Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen, or even the Food Network as influences. But it makes me wonder. Also: has American Idol increased the sales of karaoke machines or customers to karaoke bars?

Goodbye 30-second commercial spot, hello 60-minute TV show!

Don’t Believe Everything You See

I used to be a pre-press operator. I digitally touched-up photographs and artwork for a national magazine. This included preflighting, color correcting, retouching, positioning, and raster image processing.

Back then, doing all of this work required a Scitex machine, which costed about a quarter of a million dollars. Today, all of that can be done on a MacBook Pro.

But that’s not the scary part. The scary part was what I manipulated.

I airbrushed the wrinkles off of Oprah Winfrey’s face. And Hilliary Clinton’s face. I straightened out their hair, deepened their lipstick, and even shaved off a few pounds. All digitally.

Not scared? Okay, I understand. You never trusted magazine photos anyways, right? How about on TV?

Via: MediaBlog