In a move worthy of the biggest of kudos Skype has announced numbers of downloads and simultaneous users. So in what is a so obvious and typical Dot.Com era tactic of coattail hype building via a press release, the people from another Voice over IP company, appear to be making an Enrob/WorldCon/Andersin era style stock run up type of play, announced a number that is even bigger which gets CNET's ditz kid, Ben Charney all excited.
But what the offending company is doing is blending, not comparing, apples and oranges as the original press release which Charney worked from appears to only really talk about downloads in so many words, not people using the service. And that is a HUGE difference between Skype and the other company. If the offending company had said the number was either downloads or actual customers using the service I wouldn't be as concerned. But they didn't. And that's the rub. FWIW I did send an email to their in house PR person, but some five hours later, a reply has not been received and I really wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt or the chance to reply.
Back in my sports team days and then in my early ad agency days, we used to talk about homes passed by the cable companies and then talk about penetration levels. You see, the fact that the cable went by thousands of houses didn't mean squat. What did matter was penetration, meaning the people who actually had a cable box in their house. That's akin to saying something like "everyone with a PC capable of running the software could be our customer" and then saying everyone who "downloads it is one."
What made the differentiator about those who have cable and watched the sports channel was our true audience, and that way we could figure out what to charge the advertisers as those homes with cable, who had the sports channel were those users that were actually watching our team on cable, thus giving us the real segment of the universe from the HUT (Home Using Television) that mattered. As a matter of fact smart media buyers used to use Nielsen’s Megabase to tell just that, not listen to the salesman’s hype.
Well all this is akin to the stock market. Buy into the hype, the stock goes up. Look a little deeper and figure out the real value. It worked the same way when we were buying or selling commercials. Hype price = Rate Card. Price Paid—well, that was a different, and lower, cost per point.
What Skype has done is said basically that out of the universe of online computer users, who have downloaded the application, the following are the actual number of people using that product at any one time that are online with it. The next stat we need from them is how many people who are logged on are actually talking with it, for that's really usage. Skype is being smart, intentionally.
So, if you think how Enron used to track and then announce their bandwidth swap deals, and what they used to say about numbers you see why I have a large degree of skepticism about this other company’s manner in how they released the numbers, and the timing of the announcement, as it is looking like they chose to use publicity aikido based on Skype's media darling success and publicity savvy. Of course tehy will say what they put out is what they meant, and implied nothing else and the Ditz Kid and others inferred it....I feel bad for the Skype folks. They operated upfront and someone stole their thunder…..well White Lightning strikes harder….Thunder is a lot of noise....oh can they smell the rain...
And yes, I did leave the possibly offending company’s name out. Intentionally.