Marketing, Minneapolis, Music & More

Posterity and Writing

A few weeks ago someone sent me an email asking me to update a link.  The link was for a top blogs post I had made six years ago.

Six years.  That is a LONG time.  I’d forgotten about that post a long time ago, honestly.  When I go back and look at my writing that far back, it doesn’t necessarily fit my voice now.  Some of it seems a little foreign and definitely less informed.  In fact, the back story on this site really needs to be updated–I’m not in my 20’s any more and my life has changed so drastically that it should probably cover off on new stuff.  Maybe over the new year I’ll rewrite it.

The fact that you can reach back that far and pull up someone’s ideas and writing is powerful.  From a personal standpoint, I love being able to review what I’ve written on multiple ideas.  Curious about influence and Cialdini–search it. Want to read a review on Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance or maybe A Confederacy of Dunces?  All in the Book Reviews tag.  And more will be written, on family and life in general.  It’s a great way to catalog thoughts and happenings over time.  It’s a lot of fun to look back and to build a long term repository of thoughts, opinions, ideas and personal information.

But there’s also the chance that your writing of many years ago doesn’t necessarily reflect your stance now.  I don’t have specific examples of things written previously that don’t vibe with my current outlook, but believe there must be dozens of examples over time.  This is an important concept–it actually drives people to NOT say anything at all due to the potential that their view is used against them in some way.

It’s much easier to say nothing at all, or speak in platitudes that no one can disagree with, than actually being honest and stating your opinion.  Yet organizations and people suffer from a lack of willingness to communicate and learn.  Stating your opinion stirs the figurative pot that allows for growth long term–it’s wholly necessary if progress is at stake.

The ability to change your opinion based on interaction and input from others or additional data is what separates people as leaders–as does the propensity to not use people’s opinions or thoughts as ad hominem fodder re figurative discourse.

All this is to say that writing and putting forth your opinions, having a take, is value add and shouldn’t be shied away from.   It takes bravery to put your ideas and thoughts out in a public forum, especially one that is “forever”–but we do this every day when we ship a product, sell a service, launch a website or send an email to the CEO.  It’s all relative.  Put your best out there.

Sonos Hardware In House Research

A few weeks back a company reached out to me to do some research.  The reason they’d found me was that I’d been tweeting about Sonos and they could geographically tag where I was.  It happened to be proximal to their area.

I find ethnography and different market research very interesting and agreed immediately.  Being part of this kind of research shows me how other marketers go about their craft.  They also gave me a gift card for $100 for the exercise, which is a nice bonus.

The crew showed up at about 6pm took a few pictures of the Sonos equipment in my living room.  They asked a lot of questions about set ups and how we use the equipment.  They asked where we would potentially put new hardware as well.  Unfortunately for them I don’t necessarily plan to add more hardware–what we have now is fine and to be honest the hassle associated with Sonos has made me leery of adding more.  It’s the software, it bugs out and can’t access my music library.  This is very likely due to latency, but other wifi set ups I have like Chromecast very rarely have issues.  If Sonos was similarly reliable I’d consider adding more.

It took roughly one hour to answer their questions and show them where everything was located.  At the end of the interview, they revealed that they were actually a company that made accessories for Sonos equipment.  It made a lot of sense afterward because so many of the questions were geared toward where I’d put additional pieces or how I’d mount the hardware.  They actually had some suggestions about how I could mount things which hadn’t occurred to me and did sound like good ideas.

Many people are VERY hesitant to answer surveys or work with companies when they reach out to you, but my general finding is that it’s a positive experience.  If you’re a marketer, being part of these types of exercises can only help you in terms of experience with and understanding of qualitative interviewing.

First Father’s Day – and the 32nd

Woke up today thinking about Dad.  My father is 68 as of a few days back, truthfully I struggle to remember his age and have to ask near every year.  I wonder if he knows mine?!  :-)  It may be just a personality flaw, I do not remember dates, numbers and the like easily.  Some stuff sticks, others doesn’t.  Recalling what people say, and words of all sorts has always come easier.

Today is Father’s Day.  My first as a Dad and my 32nd as a son.  We are going to celebrate by going for a hike this morning at Murphy Hanrehan Park.  The best things in life involve family and tradition, IMO.  Today we start a new one.  It’s a beautiful day and hopefully we can beat the heat as Juniper shouldn’t be out too long.  It’s also tick season according to Teresa and the dogs haven’t gotten their Frontline yet, so we won’t be taking the pups.

I hope you and yours have a great Father’s Day–it looks to be a great one.

Project Work Continues

Still keeping very busy on weekends, this week reorganizing the garage.

First up was building a new work bench. The previous owners (probably the owners before the previous owners) took out old cabinetry from the kitchen and used it in the garage as shelving, which was clunky. I tore it all out last weekend and burned a good deal of the wood. It’s amazing how hard it is to demolish things like that. Part of it was an indoor/outdoor doghouse, and there was insulation and all kinds of wood, with roughly a hundred nails holding it together! It took a lot more time to rip apart than I’d expected.

This weekend I built a new work bench, check it out at about 80% completed:

Workbench

I’m putting the finishing touches on this weekend with pegboard, an overhead light and organizing all my tools. Additionally I purchased a lot of shelving for other areas in the garage and will finalize everything in the next day or two. There’s a ton of saw dust and lots of work to do just to clean up, but overall there should be a LOT more room and it will be much easier to access everything.

After reflooring the upstairs with hardwood, the basement with engineered hardwood, rebuilding the garden, rebuilding the garage organization, and a few other small projects I think it’s time to call it good for the summer. We’ll pick up some more project work (shelving in the living area upstairs and potentially fireplace inserts) in the Fall.

Internet Trends 2015

My favorite annual report on digital trends has been out for a bit, but I’ve been so busy at work it’s been difficult for me to find time to review. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to see it yourself.  There are so many things to cover off on, it’s nigh impossible to really thoroughly cover all the interesting points.  

Here’s a few things that jumped out:

  • Internet users currently at 39% globally, while mobile phone users are at 73% (5.2B) – growth is bound to slow as less developed nations take longer to assimilate; however addressing global internet is something many are interested in and will likely happen in the near future.  We will live in an era where everyone is connected and can communicate on a global scale at an extremely low cost.
  • The US and China are still dominant in terms of tech firms, however the sheer size of China gives them scale advantage for product usage.  Innovation wise, it seems the US is still driving and gobbling up share from a hardware standpoint.
  • Globalization continues to be driven by technology and data driven organizations will be at the forefront.  Countries like China and India have huge potential for growth, but also have other challenges, the markets are completely different but offer big targets for tech companies, even more so than traditional CPGs.
  • The majority of tech expansion has been seen in the consumer and business spaces, whereas other areas such as education and governance have been less of a focus, likely due to the ability to monetize offerings and get implemented at scale–I’d like to think adoption of tech will increase but to be honest am not certain; my wife is a teacher and I’ve worked in government and there’s a tremendous amount of inertia in both spaces.  Not necessarily stating that folks in these groups are adverse to change, but that the systems aren’t built to reward innovation–it will be interesting to see what changes actually do happen in the near future.
  • Actual usage of the internet continues to grow despite users decelerating.  As I’ve expected for some time, more and more content continues to find it’s way to the interactive space.  Broadcast television will continue to port over.  In time, everything will be available online.  How it’s monetized is the real question, as the legacy industries will NOT give up their long term revenue streams; but the less valuable offerings and bundles we see now with cable will be culled chaff.
  • Internet advertising has caught up to the amount of time spent on the medium, Print continues to underperform relative to spent dollars, Mobile is woefully underserved which is somewhat mind boggling when you consider that so much of Facebook’s business is Mobile and it continues to grow.  There’s still a ridiculous gap there and it shows that we are no where near the long term cap.
  • Ad times are shrinking.  This means marketers are getting smarter about getting ignored.  Would you rather have a clip that they jump over after 5 seconds, or get a message conveyed in that 5 seconds?  That said, the paid model around views with the option to skip the message is still a great format for all parties.
  • Big screen home televisions have been supplemented by ease of use with mobile devices.  No surprise there.  People watch larger televisions for long term content–not 5 second cat videos.
  • Software continues to solve old issues (some of them not really recognized by the users) and add value for enteprise.  Software As A Service will continue to be a staple of profits for companies in the future and the legacy upgrade process will likely go the way of the buffalo.  There’s a reason we are often 1-2 versions of software behind–future SAAS avoids this unnecessary issue.
  • Messaging continues to evolve through a multitude of Apps.  Messaging WILL BE THE FUTURE for communication; you could argue it’s the present.  Phone calls are not going away, but the ease of communication is sought after by multiple groups.  How does messaging get monetized is the real question, if it’s just part of data usage or if there’s another wrinkle such as advertising.  Messaging is more than text of course, it’s all kinds of contextual imagery, emoticons, pictures and more.   This space is already huge and I don’t see it slowing any time soon.
  • Wearables have a toe in the water, but a company like Apple will optimize them and others will follow suit.  I know many have predicted a flop there, but I think it’s going to be common to see people with digitized watches connected online getting notifications and geographical proximal information.
  • User Generated Content continues to explode with streaming from companies like Twitch – live streams are now available via phone and Marketing may see implications with thought leadership and exclusivity intertwined for followers.  Celebrity and non celebrity personas who command attention will be HUGE in the digital space, smaller scale content based on personality and follower connection are going to lead a new era of Marketing.
  • Content will generally be curated by the crowd; less and less “chosen” by larger media groups – this favors companies like Google not only because they own Youtube, but because they understand algorithmic curation for users.
  • Ownership of assets continues to be broken down bit by bit with companies optimizing the cost of assets through distribution usage over needs.  Purveyors of information leading to optimized asset usage are huge companies.  This isn’t highlighted a lot in the report, but rental services will continue to explode by lowering the overall cost for consumers while making it easier and faster to access.  Cars are the most obvious thing to note here, but there are other markets such as professional services where breaking down offerings into smaller increments adds value for consumers.
  • Usage of drones continues to soar, something I haven’t spent a lot of time reviewing.  I will likely dig into this in more detail at a later date.
  • Services roles continue to grow while goods producing jobs decline; I’ve continued to look at this trend and try to come to understanding around implications for the future.  Automation of work will continue and the long term viability of work for uneducated remains in question.  It’s a long term going concern economically.
  • Urbanization of the populace continues it’s strong growth.  Knowledge workers versus farm hands, etc.  A great deal of this has to do with the ongoing improvement in transportation infrastructure and digitalization of information.  As automation of roles continues, the need for remote work is driven down.  The flip side of this coin is that telecommute is ever more popular, yet large MSAs continue to grow comparative to rural areas.
  • Marriage timing delaying and household sizes lowering.  Expected ages go up as well.  Is this an effect of longer term thinking or higher education levels lowering population proliferation?
  • People expect technology and connectivity at work and at home, Millenials have high expectations of employers in terms of flexibility.  The legacy idea of companies dictating employment times are going away with technological advancement.
  • Knowledge workers increasingly using online platforms as a way to garner freelance work.  I have a good friend utilizing this type of work and she seems to love it.  The big talking point most folks tauted was that people change their job 7 times in their lives.  The new age is an army of freelancers taking on project work, providing flexibility in work/life balance and lowering overall costs of work for the companies that employ them.  Regulation and policies are somewhat outdated for these types of workers, it will continue to evolve.  Mastering the output and process is a big ask of the company — but big rewards follow in operational efficiency.


Favorite EPs All Time

I haven’t written about music in some time and was thinking about EPs yesterday.  Here’s a quick run down of my favorite EPs of all time.

It should be noted that I don’t usually buy EPs that are derivative of a greater work.  Often bands will make an EP out of one or two songs on an LP and then add some B sides and two unique songs.  I do own some EPs like this but find it hard to rationalize the purchase–not due to cost, but the time it takes to listen to it and cull through redundancy.  The EPs on this list are unique offerings in that the music stands alone and isn’t included on larger projects for the most part.

arcade epTallest Man on Earth:  Sometimes the Blues is Just a Passing Bird [More of the same excellent song writing and acoustic guitar from Kristian Matsson--The Dreamer stands out here as a song strummed, however at the only live show I've seen with him he finished it by playing it on piano as his encore closer.  Fantastic.]

Arcade Fire:  Arcade Fire [Their debut showcases all of the excellence about to come in a growing form.  Screeching vocals and darker music--a rendition of "No Cars Go" quickly shows the contrast between the polish they developed for Neon Bible and this early style.  Arcade Fire is one of the best bands we've seen in the last two decades and this does not fall short of that accolade.]

Aesop Rock:  Daylight [A grimy follow up to the Labor Days LP which includes the most famous single, as well as a follow up "Night Light" playing on the same verbiage diametrically opposed to the positivity of the original.  Includes a great instrumental song and other gems of his earlier style, see Nickel Plated Pockets.]

Bon Iver:  Bloodbank [A brief escape from "For Emma" and the then coming self titled work of 2011--Blood Bank mixes earlier lyrical stylings with more stylized vocals that preluded "Bon Iver" - it's darker and but everything works well.  If you like any of his other work, including Volcano Choir, this is a good pick up.]

Spoon & Bright Eyes:  HOME Split [The only artist to show up twice is Bright Eyes, but both are on splits.  It would be very interesting to see these groups put together a full album.  The whole album is fun and good rock and roll, but the last song - Let the Distance Bring Us Together Again showcases Britt's voice and a great piano accompaniment]

babylonMountain Goats:  Babylon Springs
[The only EP of Darnielle's I own currently, it's an excellent grouping of songs that are fun, introspective, concerning and use different musical stylings than you'd seen from him up to this point.  The entire work is fantastic, Alibi and Sometimes I Still Feel the Bruise stand out.]

Bright Eyes & Neva Dinova:  One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels [The second Bright Eyes appearance, this time with Neva Dinova.  This split is mostly Neva Dinova.  It was originally intended as a complete split of songs, but in the last track you can hear Conor Oberst tell Jake Bellows to "sing it all," with good reason.  He sounds fantastic.  The lyrics and song structures on this offering transfixed me for some time.  It is not a happy EP, it follows a lot of the music that was coming from these bands at the time, but the song writing and overall mood are engrossing.]

NOFX:  The Decline [A punk masterwork, The Decline is an 18 minute song that spans the catalog of NOFX from a musical perspective, starting with the late 90's guitars and general political dissent.  It retroactively uses some of the stylings of albums like Heavy Petting Zoo and ends in a long form march along including an amazing trombone/guitar riff.  It's a journey and easily the most remarkable songs/works on this list--writing it alone is impressive.  It has been performed live, although I've only seen the ending (which is awesome!) melded in at the end of a show after Theme From a NOFX Album.  Bottom line, if you like guitars and the punk genre at all, this is a must own.]

Tokyo Police Club:  A Lesson In Crime [A fast paced rock and roll EP with short songs that hook you fast.  Some albums and artists keep you listening over and over, this is one of those offerings.  I bought this and Elephant Shell, their debut LP, at the same time and listened to both over and over and over.  Since that time it seems to me the EP is the better offering of the two, which unfortunately showcases a disturbing trend.  TPC is becoming more and more subdued as they develop their music, from the original offerings to Champ and to the new Forcefield.  For a taste, listen to "Citizens of Tomorrow."]

headshotsAtmosphere:  Headshots Se7en Series [This is cheating.  I actually purchased the reissue of the Headshots series released in 1999.  It's technically a conglomerate of separate EPs put out at one time--but it fits here still.  This is Slug's early work and it's audacious, funny and genuinely enjoyable hip hop.  There are so many songs that showcase his ability to write and rap uniquely by melding the realities of life with basic beats.  I still love Atmosphere, they will always be heroic in MPLS, but when people say Slug changed the game, I think it's because of the way he deviated from traditional writing to include blue collar lives and tell stories of growing up in Southside.  He's a fantastic writer, but also a fun and engaging MC--bound to be one of Minnesota's long term celebrities like Dylan, Prince and the Replacements.

Automation of Work and Implications for the Future

I’ve always loved great writing.  Many of the most interesting books for me were centered around considerations of large shifts in society.  My last post considered farming and gardening–Animal Farm by George Orwell is a symbolic look at communism (though as I’ve written before I think it can be expanded to multiple types of governance.)  Farhenheit 451, A Brave New World and others also fall into this category.  It is in my nature to look forward, and these books do well to paint a picture of what society could look like given certain circumstances.

Recently on Reddit, posts on Basic Income have come up fairly often.  Basic Income is an idea that every citizen should be provided a livable amount of currency to afford basic necessities of life; there are varying thoughts on how much this should be.  This concept is interesting today for the simple reason that the middle class is disappearing despite unprecedented growth in wealth creation.

Below find a graph that illustrates this.  Productivity continues to grow along with GDP, whereas employment and median income have stagnated.

Decoupling

In realistic terms this means it’s going to be harder and harder for your average kid growing up to find work.  And the work they do find is going to be, on average, paying less on an inflation based measure of currency.  This will vary in local economies but be steadily true long term.

Technological advancement is a good thing, but governance and policy will need to adapt to it in one way or another.  The idea of a extremely small upper class that controls the vast majority of wealth with a monumental serfdom of folks struggling to get by is likely not healthy in the long term.  The potential for political instability becomes very high.  I am not advocating for basic income now or in the future, but consideration of alternatives to social programs can and will be at the forefront of political discussions in the future.

Automation of work is going to continue.  New jobs are created with technology, but the question is if new technology produces more jobs than it takes.  I do not believe it does, or at least will not in the future.  Yet our population continues to grow.

World Population

The confluence of increasing population and decreasing jobs eventually stresses an economy to the point of necessary change.

What will those changes be?  I’m not sure at this point.

Many people get very upset at the idea of a handout such as Basic Income, or other forms of socialism and safety nets.

I understand why.  Every successful person I’ve ever met worked their tails off for decades to achieve their current situation.  And more power to them!  Teresa and I have both worked our way through both undergrad and graduate degrees, slowly and steadily paying off loans and getting to a point of stability.  Our parents both worked at smaller local companies to provide for their families.  We’ve grown up as part of the middle class.

What’s concerning is that the opportunity to find work and provide for a family will become more and more difficult with jobs being automated.  My grandfather worked as an assembler in Brooklyn Park, MN after getting out of the navy for a long time prior to retirement.  That job simply doesn’t exist any more.  And ever increasing numbers of jobs will go away.  This is not inherently bad.  It’s just the natural progression of our species and society.

I expect to see large alterations to our social programs in the next 2-3 decades.  It will be slow but I cannot envision a future where automation does not drastically alter our existence in terms of work.

Kurt Vonnegut wrote about the automation of societal roles in Player Piano in 1952.  In the book, most every job has been automated and only a small few persons were chosen as engineers for the factories.  Out of all the novels I’ve read concerning drastic societal changes, his may be the nearest.

Planting Seeds and Gardening

A few weeks ago, I rebuilt our garden.  Nothing fancy, just new timbers for posts and chicken wire and a new door.  It didn’t take a lot of work, perhaps a total of 8 hours for tear down and rebuilding.

Gardin Fin

Gardens are one of the best allegories for life and work.  Stories reflect it, such as the Ant and the Grasshopper from Aesop’s Fables.  Idioms too, you reap what you sew.    As a species, a great deal of our history is tied to learning how to farm.  A large portion of our nomenclature relates to it, for good reason.

In short, the amount of effort you put in early will directly lead to how much you gain in the long term.

There are a great deal of people in this world who simply want to take.  They want to take the best car on the lot.  Take the best vacation.  Take market share.  Take your time to pitch you.  Take, take, take!

Marketers desperately need to grow.  They have to grow their markets, grow their relationships with customers and grow their customer base as a whole.  This is a process.  And it is ongoing–it never stops.

After spending some time studying how professional marketers spend their budgets, you’ll see the differences pretty starkly.  There are what I like to call transactional marketers, and there are farmers.

Transactional folks are normally trying to maximize return in the short term, which seems sensible at a face value–but it simply doesn’t scale.  They do this in multiple ways, but it’s a systemic issue.  When your mentality is oriented around short term gains, the long term suffers.

I work in the B2B sector.  A good example of a transactional marketer/business is one who sells a project for the first time to a new customer and fails to capitalize on it’s potential.  The costs of acquiring a new customer are usually extremely high comparatively to existing customers (7 to 1), so this is an extremely promising scenario for the business.  The customer has taken a risk to work with you over others for the first time.  The decision makers who chose you have to live with your work–and they will be judged on it.

Your ability to deliver the work well is only part of your job.  The other aspects are making certain the customer is satisfied with your work (your view of the work is not their view!), setting up a process where that customer can provide feedback, asking for referrals of others who might benefit from your trade, building a CRM system that continually maintains a relationship with that business, and so on.  Every customer is a seed and needs ongoing nurturing.  Abuse the relationships and abuse your harvest–immediately and in the long term.

Marketing at it’s core is relationship driven–it’s the process an organization uses to perpetuate their work or purpose.  Even if that relationship is only with a brand.  In my experience, relationships driven by personal interaction are typically much stronger than brands, but both are very powerful.

Transactional marketing loses to relationships the vast majority of the time short term and long term it’s completely dominant.  The main question that will come up in regard to this: “What about customers who are only shopping on price?”  No one shops ONLY on price, though many will pretend that’s all they care about for negotiating leverage.  If they go with the lowest bidder and quality is questionable it will be a HUGE issue.  Relationship driven organizations can charge premiums for quality and value.  They simply have to know how to structure their value prop and sales planning to place impetus on characteristics of work outside of only price.

I’ve worked for premium priced organizations and for organizations that had to be much more price driven, I’d much rather work for the premium based organization.  Selling value is always easier than racing to the bottom for price.  Racing to the bottom is the antithesis of growth, it’s actually shrinking your value as a company and your industry as a whole.

Most of what causes issues for companies in the long term is a mindset.  If everyone realizes that customer relationships drive your short and long term profitability as an organization, it becomes much easier to create an environment where every interaction has purpose for employees to excel.   Marketers are often in charge of the process and communication to make sure relationships are addressed as necessary.  It’s actually much more difficult than it sounds–the larger an organization the more difficult it is to scale systems and communication.

But it’s well worth the effort.  Every positive conversation, job well done, follow up phone call, answered question, or resolved issue is another drop of water.

Drip, drip, drip.  Every day, relationships and work see positive feedback loops.  Growth happens naturally.  You reap what you sew.

Welcome Home Juniper Mae

Well Tempo has officially arrived–and she has been named Juniper Mae.

Say hello to the world.
Juni Mae
Juniper was 6lb 8oz and 19 inches long at 3:29pm on May 23rd.  She is our first child and already too cute for her own good.  The labor started at about 3am Friday night and continued for roughly 12.5 hours.

The process of labor is somewhat surreal.  It’s so hard to see someone you love go through it–and it’s physically exhausting.  I tried to help Teresa in any way I could with breathing and being close to her so she was going through it with someone.

The night before going in, I’d been reading up on the NBA Draft (Twolves are picking #1!) and having a few adult beverages.  We did NOT think that Juniper was coming any time soon as there had been no progression in the last week between Teresa’s check ups.  As such, I’d gone to bed at about 2AM.

At 3AM, Teresa got up and knew something was happening.  She called into the hospital.  They said to wait, which we did until about 7am and at that point the contractions were close enough together that we were getting froggy about going in.  Only one problem:  they hospital was out of rooms!

We’d been planning to go to Park Nicollet Methodist.  They have a beautiful facility and Teresa really liked the midwives.  During a tour, someone asked if they are often at capacity, which was met with a prompt “It’s extremely rare and unlikely.”  Welp–it happened.

Other hospitals were certainly not something we relished the idea of, so at about 7AM we simply drove in and checked in.  I don’t know that the nurses were super happy with us at first, Teresa was still conversational at that point and weren’t sure if she was far enough along.  We stayed in Triage (an area for capacity, not nearly as nice but comfortable enough.)

By 10am, things had REALLY sped up and the midwife stated “You are rocking, let’s get you set up in a room.”  Teresa had wanted a room with a tub, which we got.  The nurses and rooms at Methodist are fantastic, they did such a fantastic job and were really helpful despite being at capacity most of our stay, I really can’t recommend them enough.  For new parents, having that security and comfort really helped.

The labor process was intense, despite the fact that it went pretty quickly for us — labor times upwards of 24  hours aren’t necessarily uncommon.  It is near indescribable.

For me, life itself is mind boggling.  The fact that we get up and talk to one another and get coffee and do every day things blows my mind in some ways.  That we can contemplate our own existence–past, present, and future is so uncommon and impressive.  The birth of a child is similarly mind boggling, but it was special compared to everything else I’ve experienced thus far.

As I stated, it was VERY hard to be there while Teresa was in such pain, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.  I remember looking at the clock just hoping it would be over by a certain time–and it didn’t necessarily happen.  It was the hardest thing I’ve done, and I didn’t do the hard part!

After 12.5 hours of difficulty and pain, Juniper arrived.  I cried.  It was the most beautiful moment of my life and I don’t think it will ever be the same.  I’m just so proud of Teresa. She was in such pain and worked so hard.  She’s still hurting today, but she did it the way she wanted to.  And now we have a baby girl to spend our lives with.

We got home yesterday and have been trying to figure everything out.  Getting things back in order, it feels good to be home.  Jasper is already very curious to see Juniper as much as possible, Stella is going to take longer but she will come around.

Jaspy Juni

I’m going to take the next week off.  Tomorrow is the wake and funeral for my grandfather, so I’ll be driving to Paynesville during the mid point of the day and then coming back.  It’s a sad time and a happy time–life and death on Memorial Day are both present.

We are all looking forward to the next chapter with you Juniper, love Mom and Dad.

The Inevitable Evolution of Cable Television

I’ve written about this a good amount in the past, but am fascinated by the evolution of cable in the US.  Truth be told, I’m always curious about all things sociology and understanding why and how people consume information.  As Annie Dillard put it so eloquently: how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.  How people choose to access information will inherently dictate what companies do to meet their expectations, thereby shaping what the majority of the populace does on a day to day basis.  This rabbit hole keeps going.

Cable in the US is notorious for poor customer service and lack of value for consumers.  It started as an alternative to the major networks like PBS, CBS, ABC and NBC.  Historically there were a very small amount of channels available and they were sent via radio waves over air broadcast using antennas.

I grew up in the sticks of a small town and ACCESS to cable wasn’t available for us.  The infrastructure simply wasn’t built at the time and satellite television was cost prohibitive for the majority of people at that time.  Truthfully cable was cost prohibitive for us too.  Cable was and technically still is a luxury good – though many people with families will argue otherwise.  One of my former profs, Dileep Rao, stated bluntly that it was unavoidable in his family DESPITE him being one of the most pragmatic people when it comes to dollars and cents.

Over time, the expectation of having cable changed to being a standard for most people.  Channels and content proliferated – cable companies continued to boast of incredible selection:  100s of channels, 500+ channels, 1000+ channels.  Networks like ESPN and MTV drove consumer behavior, particularly in younger people.    The amount of households continued to rise.

Cable 90s

But during the 2000 period, a change happened.  Despite continuing  population growth the trend stopped.  I haven’t done enough research to assume that the advent and continuing growth of the internet spurred this change, but that’d be my kneejerk reaction.

A large question is, if that were the case, what content consumptions changes are driving the behavior?  Which particular offerings were consumable at that time online that were being cannabalized from cable?  If you recall that era, online video was not really viable.

I spent a good time online as a teenager playing videogames.  Outside of that it was mostly researching projects for school and reading websites like ESPN.  Even through college (graduating in 2005) I didn’t have my own computer and used the library.  Content online was light years from where it is now.

Things have changed.  Today most content available on network television is available online in some form or another.  The nature of content has changed from broadcast to consumable in parcels.  Entire seasons of television are released at once for certain series, much to consumers’ delight.  (As a side note, I’ve been debating this as better or worse for long term viability of content and am still torn.  We are glued to Game of Thrones every Sunday–but many other shows simply wouldn’t hold our attention as such and that makes it debatable as to whether offering all the content at once is a better strategy or not.  I think that for lower tier quality content it’s best to launch all at once and for extremely premium content it’s best to stagger the offering over time.)

Cable 2010

The decline of cable is happening–at least in terms of traditional definitions.  The ability to monetize the content is only evolving.  I’d imagine the larger network operators are already planning their long term strategies for harvesting the existing businesses and pivoting toward a more digital centric strategy through M&A or simply focusing on broadband internet services, which will only proliferate as a revenue stream as more and more content is consumed online.

When people say “cable is dead” I have to chuckle because a user base of 54M households paying $100-$150 per month is a ridiculous revenue stream, even if declining it’s a long term asset that will be an annuity for these companies.  But the returns will diminish quickly, technology advancement is exponential in this market.  I’m still astounded by being able to Facetime someone — these ideas were pop fiction when I was growing up!  More change is imminent.  Combined with a larger populace that faces a cost of living inconsistent with their take home pay, extraneous bills will get cut.

Which online services are capable of building a user base and value prop that fits current cable purchasers’ expectations?  How about folks that never had a chord?  The internet, for all purposes, has won so many industries due to providing choice.  The question stands, when do the cable companies embrace this and provide choice to consumers.  I guarantee there have been multiple pitches to try to sell this at these organizations, but the strategy taxes seem to costly.  There is an agency issue for the leaders of these companies.

I wonder if any of the cable companies will actually continue to lead video content in the future, or if they let the aggregators convert their industry while they harvest for a long winter.

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