Where Vonage Is Heading

Tsahi has a transcript of a really good interview with Vonage CEO Alan Masarek on his BlogGeek.me blog along with a video.

In reading the interview, it struck me that Vonage has clearly moved into the business communications market fully, following the successful integration of all of their acquisitions which included two Comunicano clients, Simple Signal and Telesphere along with the purchase of Nexmo two years ago.

Masarek's comments about microservices mimic what we hear from Dialpad's Craig Walker from his speech at IT Expo back in February. What also comes through is how consumer voice still is a significant portion of Vonage's recurring revenue base, but it seems to be being deemphasized compared to the business efforts.

Consumer VoIP was once the bastion of fierce competition with AT&T's CallVantage, Earthlink, AOL and Vonage fighting for the top spot, while other players now rolled up like Broadvoice and others wadded in like sparring partners, only to be KO'd by Vonage and big cable. Even 8x8, which carried the torch for so long with their Packet 8 monicker has pretty much moved out of consumer, leaving that to the likes of OOMA.

Two reasons..One cable with their triple play offers has made voice a commodity, making it hard for subscribers to not want what amounts to as subsidized phone service. The second reason is cord cutting. 

But, just as we have OTT television rapidly chewing into the cable companies' pockets, voice won't be able to be so subsidized and companies like Vonage and others with a consumer play offer will be in the cat bird's seat to pick off the OTT loving users who simply see the cable providers broadband pipe, as this century's "dumb pipe." And with that, there will be huge opportunity. 

Do The Blockchain Shuffle

I had to laugh in a very twisted way as I read the Wired article today entitled "The Hustlers Fueling The Cryptocurrency's Marketing Machine."

No not because in some ways with some clients past and present I could be easily cast in that lot, but more because of the similarities of what my agency, Comunicano, and I personally have done along the way in the world of Public Relations and Influencer Communications. If you Google search Andy Abramson Nokia Blogger Relations well, it all sort of comes back like Deja Vu to me.

In VoIP, mobile and collaboration boom times, I was "that guy". I was the promoter, the hype-master, the growth hacker. Our client list was legendary, and started with a company, Comgates, even before I blogged. We then added Popular Telephony and quickly after that a major VoIP platform that got widely noticed. Then came Nokia and it all exploded. There was also iotum, PhoneGnome, TalkPlus, GrandCentral, SightSpeed, HiDef Conferencing, Covad, Truphone and the list went on and on as to our client list and successes.

But the Nokia Blogger Relations program was the one that set the stage, not only for the agency and I, but for the whole influencer relations world. It was also the platform that paved the way for so many exits, something that now stands at 46, and why today I call Comunicano, a Value Creation Communications Agency.

A few years ago, I was doing an agency search for a long standing client, Truphone in Australia. One of the agency owners replied to my RFI, asking if I was the same Andy Abramson who had created "The Nokia Blogger Program" to which I replied "yes." His comment back was "that's the seminal program of all influencer relations." He may have been right, for I did create the program from scratch during a chat session with Martin Geddes who was then consulting to Nokia and one morning asked me by Skype chat how would you approach blogger for Nokia. That led to a call with a Nokia exec, and a day later a contract. It was that simple.

But unlike so much of the so called influencer relations programs that are out there today, we did our's with total transparency, and the people who also blogged about our clients, knew who we were working for, and because of our transparency, we kept winning clients, and the respect of the bloggers and eventually also the mainstream media.

So to read all about this today, brought back both memories and sadness. The reason blogger relations, or as it became known as "Influencer Relations" succeeded was due to the both the opportunity and challenge that bloggers posed to the then in death spiral members of traditional media, especially with print. Back then, real journalists had turned to blogging like pal Om Malik, as an extension of their interests in the time of a declining print media. It delivered an audience. Many others followed, and even Walt Mossberg, perhaps the most influential of product reviewers who ever lived due to his column being in the Wall Street Journal, eventually turned to the blog approach with ReCode.   Today, the bigger challenge is not guessing which media is pay for play, as little was back then, but what is NOT Pay for Play....(read the book Hitmen...all about the music industry, and you'll see nothing has really but the playing field.)

The approach of influencer relations was nothing new. Heck, my Nokia Program was a modern day reviewers program, all dressed up like an iPhone given as a present. Blogger Oliver Starr once called it "Christmas like" in the way we delivered the Nokia phones and all that came with it. So the "what's in the box" approach, all coupled with a now defunct web site for Nokia and a steady stream of activities is what made this happen...so today, as I see what's going on, I think it's time to change the game again...and at the same time make what's old, somewhat new again.

In blockchain and crypto, the shams, hype and false heat that is viewed today as PR, marketing, growth hacking, etc. will continue, but the same regulations that apply to advertising, promotion and media will rule the day. When we first launched the Nokia Blogger Relations program the concept of transparency and FTC guidelines didn't exist. But we never  asked any blogger to write and not say we supplied them with the phones. Quite the opposite, they were proud to be part of an elite group of 100 or so who over 5 years ever received a phone. And to prevent them from thinking it was "their phone" we even supplied a return FedEx receipt, and even held a "no phone without a home" return program (I think I still have some of the phones in a storage locker.)

The bottom line is just as the SEC and other regulatory bodies will regulate blockchain based currency and trading one day soon, the marketing of those services and currencies will come under the laws of where the company issuing the currency or using the blockchain is based. The ethical, honest and trusted will quickly agree to those regulations, but the scammers, well they'll be the one who scream the loudest, using their own tools to try to sway public opinion.

I'm all for influencer relations, the blockchain and cryptocurrency. I just want to be the one who does it right and honestly.