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May 2018

Posts from June 2018

Where Vonage Is Heading

Tsahi has a transcript of a really good interview with Vonage CEO Alan Masarek on his 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 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.

The Traditional Phone Call is Dead

Like many, I've been a Skype user forever. I also use WhatsApp, Facebook's Messenger and a host of other "calling apps." Many of my calls are scheduled, so it's UberConference or Zoom and sometimes GoToMeeting or WebEx. For some "personal" calls its a combination of Apple's FaceTime and Google's Hangouts. And as far as the idea of "dialing" a number, that's rare air territory, as I click someone's name, a number listed in an email or on a website or something found in a Google Maps listing. So, when I say the traditional phone call is dead, it really is.

Back in the day we dialed, or punched digits. The smartphone, with its integrated contact directory meant we no longer needed to "remember" someone's phone number. Then with click to call, we didn't even need to dial. The web did it for us. With WebRTC calls are being made right inside the browser or mobile app, and we really don't know (or care) if the call goes over WiFi, LTE or dials out over the carriers network. Yes, the traditional phone call is dead, we just don't know that.

Where I see all this going is someplace very much just around the corner. Already we can make calls via the Amazon Echo, and using tons of applications on our smartphones and tablets. With voice activation, imagine compiling your order with say, Amazon owned Whole Foods, and then wanting to talk to the butcher at your local store to custom order some burgers made with a bit of lamb, some pork, but mostly sirloin. You put your order in, schedule it for pick up, ask to talk to the butcher and add the special order to your digital one, and then go pick it up, or have it delivered. 

Let's go one step farther. You're doctor prescribes a medication for your upset tummy. The local pharmacy can send it over via Postmates, but you have questions on drug interactions. Inside the pharmacy app is a voice connection, you navigate through the IVR to get some help, and either a live pharmacy assistant or an AI powered voice bot provides information and answers questions.

The key to both these scenarios is the "call" goes through the app, and all the data associated with the call does too. At the end of each call, the voice AI provides you a summary. In the case of the pharmacy call, the interactions and proper usage instructions are dropped inside your in app inbox. If you want, you can, by voice, send them to your doctor or to a family member or caregiver. For people who take care of their parents or have a nanny taking care of their kids, the information helps avoid mistakes, but more importantly, if everyone has the app installed, the caregiver can call back in, and pick the language they want to hear the instructions in further avoiding complications.

In all of these scenarios, it's the App that makes the call.  

Oh, and for those who still think calling their friends happens the same way as always..think again. How many times do you text and touch to call them. Once your friends have their own "calling" service, that call will be like the old days of Burger King. You'll have it your way.