Tag Archives: YouTube

An Opportunity Missed: The Olympics-as-a-Platform

Article first published as An Opportunity Missed: The Olympics-as-a-Platform on Technorati. Embedded video of “Rethink Possible” added in this blog post.

The Summer Olympics are very special. Every four years, for over two weeks, people all over the world (even those who are not normally sports fans) spend hours every day engrossed in the innermost details of dozens of sports—at home, at work, at school and at play.

However, in 2012 the IOC had opportunities never seen in any prior Summer Olympics…

olympic_open_data_280pxThis year was not just the first Summer Olympics since social media, multi-media mobile phones, and smart phone (and tablet) apps have become the ubiquitous means that over a billion people use to find and share information, opinion, photos and video globally—and instantly. It was also the first Summer Olympics since the rise in use of Open Data Platforms and Apps Competitions to tap the innovation of thousands of people to create better ways to access information (without adding the cost and complexity of hiring thousands of designers, developers and testers).

The IOC could have taken advantage of this by doing four things:

If the IOC had done this they could have created the biggest, most exciting Open Data and App competition we have ever seen. Not only would this have tapped into the innovation of tens of thousands of developers, it would have harnessed competition between teams who wanted to highlight the technology strength of their countries, their love of their country’s history and culture, and their passion for the athletes representing them in their favorite sports.

Imagine what kind of Apps this global technology could have created:

  • Apps written by ex-gymnasts that combined athlete bios and explanations of events and rules with (official and fan) video of preliminary rounds and the World Championships. Apps that even let the audience score what they saw in real-time.
  • Apps combining location-based data with captured photos and video along the entire 26-mile, 385-year course of the marathon, letting you play back key parts of the race, see every part of the course at once, and cheer on runners via Facebook and Twitter
  • Fantasy Olympic Team apps that let you assemble your own dream team for events and compete with your friends—or globally in the Olympic spirit
  • Training gamification apps that let you record and visually display your running and swimming times (like Nike’s training apps) to understand in new ways the tremendous the speed, strength and endurance of Olympians


AT&T’s Rethink Possible Ad: Imagine if the swimmer did not have to write down the new record (and instead an App logged his times and showed them again every record Olympic Record—and every qualifying round—back to 1896)

Apps like these would have made these Olympics more interactive and participatory than any in history. While we did not get this in 2012, I am keeping my fingers crossed for a 2014 Sochi Winter Apps Competition, and perhaps an even 2016 Rio Summer Apps competition.

Why Groupon is worth 100x more than MySpace

groupon_morethan_myspace-200px_highMySpace—founded in 2003—was one of the “original” big social media players. Its purchase by News Corp for US $580 million in 2005 launched a social media “gold rush.” Six years, later it is on the sales block for $50 million to $200 million (even though if has more than 42 million active unique monthly visitors). Meanwhile, Groupon—launched in 2008—is already floating the idea of a US $15 billion IPO with Goldman Sachs.

How did a company like Groupon create 100x the investor value so quickly? It was not simply second-mover advantage (i.e., building a better network). Instead it focuses on social networks as a “means” to creating value, not an “end” in itself.

Moving social networks from an ‘end’ to a ‘means’ of doing business

When talking about social networking, social media, Web 2.0, etc., a lot of people fall into the trap of citing Metcalfe’s Law, that the value of the network is proportional to the square of the number of connected members. Under this assumption, a social network with 42 million active monthly users (e.g., MySpace) would be roughly 7x more valuable than one with 16 million (e.g., Groupon).

Obviously, this assumption does not hold. The reason why is simple: the value of all network connections is not the same. On the top line, a connection that drives commerce purchases generates much more revenue than one that simply increases advertising click-thrus. On the bottom line, a connection that only communicates 140 text characters costs much less to deliver than one that streams video.

Thinking about this from the start

This provides a valuable lesson when using social media to create value:

  1. Don’t just focus on the number of members (or connections between them)
  2. Instead, focus on maximizing the net value of the connection between members: not just your revenue minus cost, but also the value your members perceive of the connection vs. the effort required to maintain it
  3. If you do this, your members (and partners) will organically grow (because they value your network)

Combined, “large numbers of connections” X “large value per connection” = “large network value”.

This is why Groupon created so much value so quickly. It is also a lesson to those who will take through social media the next stage of the technology adoption life cycle: focus on using social media as a means to connect and create value, not just an end in itself.