Thursday, April 16, 2009

The risk of mass customization and Time Inc's "mine"

The reason mass customization is so valuable is that the consequences of error creates a high risk situation. See the snippets below about "mine" magazine.

Free advice for HP, Oce, Ricoh/IBM, Screen
Big decisions are driven by fear, not greed. When you do the presentations, less talk about ROI, more talk about the safety and accuracy of your solution. Once you get that out of the way, you can then talk about new revenue streams, ROT, ROI and TCO.

Don't screw it up
About 8 years ago, I advised a startup that did school reporting at scale. The issue was not technology, although the tech was pretty cool, mostly Open Source. The real issue was risk management. Sending the wrong kid's score to the wrong kid's parents would get on the radar of the State Education Department. That would be bad.

We didn't screw it up since the startup was purchased by an 800 lb gorilla.

An under appreciated problem is that high stakes printing has to have 99.99% accuracy and even that .01% can require damage control. The normal accuracy rate of normal OPMs is not close to that high.

Even for low stakes mass customization, it has to be just right, every time. "mine" is an amazing advance in mass customization, but here's what two bloggers had to say about it. Be forewarned it's not pretty.

Is “Mine” Just a Stunt?
@The Scholarly Kitchen:
Print distribution for customized content seems like an idea whose time (about 15 minutes in 1998) has come and gone. But as a PR effort in support of an advertiser, this one has clever written all over it. Sorry, I meant, “Clever, don’t you agree, [insert name]?”

. . . yesterday, I received an email letting me know that my “Mine” is off to a rocky start:

We want to let you know that a computer error may have affected the first issue you received this week. It’s possible that this issue did not contain the combination of magazine content you selected."
The irony is that the "computer problem" was probably not in the OPM's power. My bet is that the time honored "Blame the Printer" rule will come into play.

Meanwhile over at Harvard,
Last month, Time Inc. announced a new “customized magazine” project it’s calling Mine. The idea is that you tell Time Inc. which of its magazines you like, and it’ll send you a customized set of issues combining content from each. I was on the record as skeptical, since I think customization is something the Internet will always be able to do better than a printed magazine can — and I don’t think that customization is, fundamentally, what people want when they read a magazine. They want someone else’s vision of what is important or interesting or enthralling . . .
I would add that he's correct about that the real purpose of a magazine is to see someone else's vision of what is important or interesting or enthralling. To just do a technically easier thing, pulling canned stuff out of a database is NOT going to scale. It needs that human editor to get the collection of stuff all high quality.

It's the same problem that plagued the industry with Purl's and VDP (yeech!). The tech without human intelligence is just tech. Print does tech. That's the correct job for an OPM. The job of a VAR is to find the right stuff. Time, Inc did not do their job.

No comments:

Post a Comment