Innovation from Google is now almost dead.

This morning I received an infographic from Venngage depicting the highest and lowest of Google and I couldn’t resist adding my two pennies worth of wisdom.  Thanks to that useful graph you can actually take a helicopter view of the situation, demonstrating what I have been telling everyone for the last couple of years or so: innovation, at least from Google, is dead. OK I may be exaggerating a little, but if you take a look at 2008 you will see that there was an enormous buzz created by the launch of Android and the establishment of Chrome as a browser first and then a fully fledged operating system.  Yet eight years down the line all you can see is a great deal of product variants, interspersed by a number of experiments, mostly ditched.heart-cardiogram

I know that Google likes to trumpet its advances on projects like driverless cars and such likes, but we all know that these ventures will matter very little to many of us today or next year.  Who knows when driverless cars will become a reality, it could be ten or twenty years from now, but in the meantime we are still plodding on with what we have got in terms of day to day applications and our phones just continue to run out of battery even faster.

I would go even further.  Over the last three years or more we have seen a service degradation online and on mobile applications too.  Web pages have bloated, being filled by mainly junk like ads and similar, see this interesting report on the average page weight if you don’t believe me.  Big companies have gone to the nth degree to create barriers even where there weren’t any. Whenever they spotted a competitor their main concern has been to acquire them and then, almost always, shut them down.  Take Yammer, bought by Microsoft and now languishing.  Sunrise, once an excellent cross-

Sunset, not sunrise

Sunset, not sunrise

platform calendar,  has been the latest victim and it has now basically ceased to be, being ‘incorporated’ into Outlook.   Where you were once able to create some order and got apps to talk to each other you are now asked instead to download and install separate ones, all eating into your mobile’s processing power, memory and battery, and all vying for your attention without offering you very much at all in return (indeed in many case you are ‘paying’ by parting with some of your personal data used for marketing purposes).

Back to Google, I would like it very much for example if its Assistant instead of thinking of eventually running my car or even my home, understood that I was on a fast train to Edinburgh and not grossly exceeding the speed limit in my car, or that I didn’t have to leave the office at a certain hour when on holiday, simply because my work calendar can’t sync with my personal one.  It’s pretty basic stuff, but essential and therefore intrinsically boring to boffins and marketers.

So where next?  I don’t think any of the software giants out there have a great desire to offer joe public interoperability and really make life easier for all of us.  Despite the hype, once companies grow to the humongous sizes of Google or Microsoft they soon forget all the passion and vibrancy they had at the start and quickly get ruled by beancounters who adopt the same old fashioned business development and customer service models they are comfortable with.  After all a prestige project can create global buzz (Branson knows a thing or two about that…) this raises media awareness and with it the price of shares too. Why bother with tedious end users when you can simply continue to print money at will with just with a bit of glitz and glamour?

Boaty McBoatface – sailing in the choppy waters of social media

Never mind the economy, the environment, Europe, or the local elections, Boaty McBoatface stole their  thunder, providing at the very least some solace in otherwise cheerless times.  For those who missed all the fuss, the story was about the naming of the new British Polar Research ship (a ship, not a boat by the way),  which we have just learnt will now be called ‘Sir David Attenborough’ instead.  However, its submersible will be given the vox populi name, though this consolation prize doesn’t seem to have been well received by those who voted for Boaty.

With so much media attention there is no need for me to go into the details.   My question is instead a simple one.   Was this exercise a success or a failure?  I have heard praise and criticism in equal measure.   There are those who say that it has been a PR triumph, raising the profile of science and more, with detractors telling it was a waste of time and money that did nothing for science except trivialising it.   I believe there was a page where you could have learnt more about the vessel and its purpose, but I am afraid I don’t know whether driving traffic to it was the sole objective of the operation.

And here is the nub of the argument.  If the objective was as simple as getting people to land on a page or talk about the ship then I guess this exercise was successful.  But what about raising the profile of NERC and science?  I read very little of scientific concern in the countless online articles I saw.  Did the campaign reach the right audience (which one)?  I wish I knew more about the criteria used to measure its performance, but I have no clue. For this reason my mind – and I suspect that of most other digital communication geeks –  is full of these questions.  In truth, the social media ecosphere is still for many marketers a lesser known galaxy, one with its own quirky rules, where the paradigms of old sit less comfortably with those of today.   Above all, social media is an environment in which the pendulum sways very quickly from triumph to disaster.

I would like to think that SMART criteria were used as these should always define all marketing operations.  But as I have no idea what the objectives were I can’t shed any light on this point.  I sincerely hope that someone at the Research Council or elsewhere could do so soon, not just to satisfy my own idle curiosity, but because regardless of whether this  was a success or a failure there are certainly good lessons to be learnt from it.