Techvibes speaks with Mitch Joel

Who is Mitch Joel?

Where do we start?  How about when Google wanted to explain online marketing to the top brands in the world, they brought Mitch Joel to the Googleplex in Mountain View, California. Recently, Marketing Magazine dubbed him the “Rock Star of Digital Marketing” and called him, “one of North America’s leading digital visionaries.” In 2006 he was named one of the most influential authorities on Blog Marketing in the world.  mj

Mitch Joel is President of Twist Image – an award-winning Digital Marketing and Communications agency. He has been called a marketing and communications visionary, interactive expert and community leader. He is also a Blogger, Podcaster, passionate entrepreneur and speaker who connects with people worldwide by sharing his marketing insights on digital marketing and personal branding. In 2008, Mitch was named Canada’s Most Influential Male in Social Media, one of the top 100 online marketers in the world, and was awarded the highly-prestigious Canada’s Top 40 Under 40. Finally, Mitch is also the authour of the best-selling book (named after his successful blog) Six Pixels of Separation.

Later this month, Mitch will be presenting at Third Tuesday Toronto and in March he will be delivering a keynote at the prestigious “The Art of Marketing” conference also in Toronto.  We recently had the opportunity to exchange emails with this “Rock Star” and are thrilled at sharing that conversation with all of you:


Many people know of you through Twist Image and your blog Six Pixels of Separation.  People, like myself are now coming around to your unique podcast that you host called Media Hacks.  For our readers, what is Media Hacks about and how did it get started?

I was looking for ways to evolve my existing Podcast, Six Pixels of Separation, and one thought was to record (and publish) some of the many fascinating lunches I have with friends like Julien Smith, Hugh McGuire, Chris Brogan, C.C. Chapman and Christopher S. Penn (aka Ninja). That’s pretty much it. So, every two weeks instead of doing an episode of Six Pixels of Separation, I have a conversation with some friends about the new media trends and we record it. It’s actually a pretty selfish thing to do because I think I get more ideas out of it than anything else.

One of the most recent Media Hacks episodes featured a discussion on eReaders and the new iPad.  To me eReaders accomplish one task – reading.  Most devices we use do multiple tasks (like a Swiss Army knife!). Using the Kindle as an example, where do you see it going in terms of sales and usage?

It’s going to evolve and get better. I think this first-strike of ebook readers is really about getting the general public comfortable with the idea of reading digital ink. The next iterations of these devices are going to have a lot more multimedia capabilities (just look at the iPad). It’s going to be interesting to see if consumers want multiple devices (like a smartphone AND a reader AND a laptop) or if they’re going to push for one device to rule them all.  

Does Amazon have to rethink its strategy in terms of eBooks and the Kindle in light of the iPad?

Apple does an amazing job of disrupting current business models. It’s hard to say how this is going to roll out (it’s still early days), but these are interesting times. Amazon may have to shift towards more open formats enabling people to put this text wherever they want… or they just keep re-inventing Kindle. That being said, it’s never pretty when companies try to out-innovate Apple.

Can the iPad “save” the news(paper) business? (eg. Will papers like the NYT be available on the iPad on a paid subscription basis?)

I wish I had a crystal ball. Ultimately, people still want to read and consume content. We still like quoting the New York Times (even if the quote is taken from an online link) and we still have a serious need in our society to preserve the integrity of journalism. The iPad will, hopefully, re-ignite people’s interest in this type of content and in doing so (fingers crossed) the publishers will (hopefully) find some kind of sustainable and real revenue model. I call this “The Moment of Truth” – once publishers start charging for their digital content, we will then see how big of an audience there truly is.

Many tech geeks don’t seem impressed with the iPad whereas the general public seems enamoured with it.  Why is this?

I straddle between these two segments. I think us Geeks want it to be everything and a little bit more than even we could have imagined. The general public doesn’t think about Flash or whether a device has a phone or camera built in, they’re swayed by the shiny object syndrome. Ultimately, we all know how this rolls out: the first few generations of the device make a splash and then Apple keeps adding all the things us Geeks want, and by that point we’re bored of it and looking for something else. Yup, that’s sarcasm… but that’s how we roll.

If you were (maybe you already are) in a position to advise the book and newspaper publishing business what sorts of advice would you give them and why?

They need to answer two questions and then adapt their business models accordingly:

  1. Are you selling content or selling advertising?
  2. If you are selling content (which I don’t think they are – I believe publishers have always sold advertising), what will it take to publish content online that is worth paying for?

If they are selling advertising, they need evaluate how good their skills are/will be in the online advertising realm.

Finally, in the spirit of predictions, what two social media predictions would you make for 2010? Are there new things on the horizon? Do you see new uses for “older” tools?

Rather than two, here’s my general rant: Let’s get rid of the wires already, shall we? Did you see what Mr. Jobs has planned with this iPad, etc…? Mobile is no longer about what you can do on your cell phone. Mobile is all about doing more, all of the time. That’s where we’re going and this is less of a prognostication and more of a hope for it to happen sooner rather than later. Everyday, more and more people are using their mobile devices to find out information about your brands, products and services. It’s also going beyond the basic who, what, when, where and why of information. While we may not have full convergence between mobile and Web platforms, we are getting closer by the day. Anyone trying to understand the Web and what it means to their business needs to also understand the implications of a world where we are accessing information, buying stuff, and doing anything and everything we’re doing online on our mobile devices as well. We’re headed towards the great untethering of our society (and business) and it’s going to change everything we know about marketing and communications.