The world is not getting simpler. Technology was supposed to make things easier. Take Zoom for instance. It's popular because it is easy, but some people are used to the other interfaces they have been using for a long time and a new one can be non-intuitive. And some people just don't want to use it for security or other concerns. They might be using WebEx, GoToMeeting, Facetime, Google, WhatsApp, Microsoft, or Skype, among many. Not all of these work on all platforms. Therein lie the problems. For this and many other categories, we need an aggregator; one easy to use common denominator interface that works across all platforms. Not saying that the aggregator can replace the more complex features that make each of these apps unique, but the simple functions of downloading any kernels, single sign-in, and populating basic user info could be all built into the aggregator.
Rishad Tobaccowala, in his new newsletter on reinvention, talks about the need to move from Segmentation to Re-aggregation: "As media becomes digital we need to understand that people come to digital media one at a time. There is no mass media that we segment by finding channels or magazines with high proportion of the people we are marketing too. The power of Google, Facebook and soon Over the Top television is the ability of self-service tools to buy and scale individual interactions one at a time. We no longer are going from a cow of a mass audience to a steak of a segmented audience. Rather we are re-aggregating single pieces of mince into a hamburger."
I long for the days of Meebo, which billed itself as an "instant messaging and social service network provider". When I started using Meebo Messenger I was chatting with people on many platforms. Meebo facilitated messenger services from Yahoo!, MSN, AIM, ICQ, MySpaceIM, Facebook Chat, and Google Talk all through a single browser page. I could find all of my messages in one place. They had trouble with monetizing their model and sold to Google in 2012, apparently for the technology as the service quickly disappeared. Today, most people want to text me via phone on iMessenger which comes with my iPhone. But I can't use it on my desktop. I love WhatsApp, which got introduced to me by friends overseas, but not many in the U.S. are on it. Slack is used by many in the enterprise marketplace and I use it with most of the companies I advise. Others include WebEx Teams (Oracle), Microsoft Teams, Skype, Facebook Chat, and many more. People leave me chat messages on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and I'm sure a few other places that I have not discovered. I want to respond but sometimes I just plain don't see the message in all of the clutter. Again, not looking to replace the complex functions of a Slack here, but downloading necessary kernels or code, single sign-in, and populating basic user info could all be built into the aggregator, much as they did with Meebo. Frankly, I hate it when technology takes away great user features.
Another area ripe for re-aggregation is dinner reservations. It used to be that I could find any restaurant available in town through Open Table. Maybe they got greedy as I heard from too many restauranteurs that Yelp and other sources were much more affordable. Now we've got Spoon, Resy, and others. Have you ever tried to cancel a reservation on Yelp? It's hard enough to even find your reservation. And to make a reservation for many restaurants I have to go through their site to one of the engines above. This takes away the discovery that happened through Open Table. This aggregator would have all restaurants in a locale, with the capability to filter as needed for geo, cuisine, and other basic desires. It could then indicate whether they take reservations, are available in your desired window, make the reservation, and make it easy to change or cancel.
If the car services survive the Great 2020 Pandemic, Google or someone may sweep in and re-aggregate them. Google is already experimenting with this in some markets through Google Maps where price comparison and timing are easily compared. Overseas, I've used NaviGo, Grab, and others. Uber and Lyft need to pay attention to this or they could lose control of their customer base.
I think my biggest bugaboo is that big screen on the wall in my house. I know a bit about this, having been the original marketing guy for StarSight Telecast, which invented and patented the IPG (Interactive Program Guide) as a way to simplify VCR recording. The IP in the IPG survived and currently makes up a good bit of the underpinnings now owned by ROVI. If you want to allow recording from a single button pushed on screen, you have to license ROVI tech. The tech is there. As with most everyone else, at some point most evenings Karen and I look at each other to talk about what we might watch. Live TV, on-demand, streaming, etc. Sometimes we will come up with an actor or specific movie we would like to check out. The number of interfaces we need to go through is frustrating. We start with Comcast, then try Netflix, Amazon, etc. It takes far too long. I tried looking the shows up in Google, searching for "Watch the movie …" or whatever we wanted. Unfortunately, Netflix and others have bought search terms for content that don't even exist in their current catalog, figuring if they get you to their interface, maybe you will give up and try something they are suggesting. The programs are all coded, as are their carriers. We need a global on-screen search function. I would settle for actor and program name but I know that so much more could be done here such as genre, etc.
You probably have a category or two that occurs to you and I'd love to hear about it. Let's get the word out there. Maybe some enterprising entrepreneur wants to take a whack at one of these categories. I can vouch for the consumers who would appreciate it.
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The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of MediaVillage.com/MyersBizNet.