Ethan McCarty

Digital strategy | Social business | People-centric biznology

Digital listening versus digital talking

One of the things rattling around in my head these days is the emerging importance of the democratization of digital listening.  Publishing (or, talking, if you’ll go with the metaphor) has been thoroughly democratized.  That is, blogs & wikis & video-sharing & podcasts etc have been made so simple that just about anyone on the planet with access to a cheap PC can do it.  Meanwhile, it seems that really sophisticated “listening” systems are still rare and/or expensive and/or delivered by a cadre of professionals who require significant training.

Somehow digital listening and analysis is still a specialized skill and therefore the business model for those who do it is intact.

But, this is going to change fast — just as self-publishing swept onto the scene (and disrupted the business models of those who owned great big expensive channels) so too will tools for digital listening sweep in and sweep out some established players.  I mean this will happen when it is relatively easy for individuals to get significant insights from crowds of publishers at low or no cost.

We’re already seeing free systems emerge for establishing who one should pay attention to (for example, Klout, which is flawed, but at least they’re giving it a go.)  And of course increasingly intelligent recommendation-engines built into feed readers like Google Reader etc are giving us better insights into what we should be paying attention to.  Meanwhile, tools like ow.ly and bit.ly built into platforms like Hootsuite etc are giving us some sense of who is listening to us (well, basic traffic reports etc.)

The integrator who comes along and combines a decent set of these capabilities with some machine-based sentiment analysis (even English-only so long as it is somewhere north of 75% accurate) is going to have a hit on their hands.

Anyway, that’s all I got before before my 9am Monday morning conference calls.  Cheers!

2 responses to “Digital listening versus digital talking

  1. jsussin September 26, 2011 at 9:18 am

    Hey Ethan –

    I hear you on some of this – but you’d actually be surprised re: the number of social analytics providers who provide the things you mention above. They come at a price of course, but they have been able to do some pretty impressive things in this area. (Not always encompassing all channels they should be looking at – but a good amount.)

    I believe you guys have access to Gartner reports there. I’d recommend looking into some of the social analytics pieces by Brian Blau and give a look at the social CRM magic quadrant which has multiple vendors with an analytics offering that they offer as stand alone components.

    Hope this helps –
    Jenny

  2. ethanmcc September 26, 2011 at 10:17 am

    Yep — I am pretty familiar with what’s out there, but there isn’t yet something I have seen that knits it all together for a non-specialized individual user. I could have been more clear in my post — at one point in the fairly recent past you needed to have a HTML-editing software, page-layout/design software and a FTP program as well as skills to operate all three and configure a server (buy space etc) in order to set up a basic webpage or blog. Sure there were a number of providers who offered these things independently, but the blogging and self-publishing boom didn’t really happen until these capabilities were integrated in a way that was easy for non-skilled peeps to use (same can be said for video- and audio-casting). I think we are sitting on the brink of a “listening boom” when the market for these applications matures to the point of integrated software suites. This will be disruptive to business models such as, ahem, market research firms reliant on hordes of clever analysts.

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