Tag Archives: google

Google threat to Edtech Startups?

What happens when Edtech Startups enter Google’s Market

Last week I hosted our first EDUKWEST Live event in London with our friends and supporters at Macmillan Digital Education. We put a lot of effort in the preparation of the event and naturally I was thrilled to get such amazing feedback from the audience. If you missed it, don’t worry. Here is the recap and it won’t be the last event we will be hosting this year.

The topic of this inaugural event was tutoring, a booming vertical in the UK. And looking at the latest edtech headlines from across the pond, it also is strong in the States.

Part of the event was dedicated to a short presentation in which I focused on some general thoughts and big trends including the threat Google has become to edtech startups that are too close to Google’s core product: search. The edtech startups I see as mostly endangered are marketplaces and directories.

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Value of Privacy

What is the Value of Privacy? Study finds it is about $5

I came across an interesting study about the value of privacy via The Atlantic. Scott Savage and Donald M. Waldman of the University of Colorado at Boulder found that consumers are willing to pay some money for a mobile application when in return their privacy is respected or they are not forced to consume advertisements. In a post Snowden world always worth a read.

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Playing in Someone Else’s Sandbox Rules May Change

SandboxOne of the major topics among edupreneurs, online marketers, blogger and others relying on Facebook traffic is the recent change in what fans actually see popping up in their news stream. I wanted to title this post “Waahaa – Cry Babies want their Facebook traffic back!” but that would have been a bit unfair ;). Nevertheless, I think the issue has been blown way out of proportion.

Let’s start with the basics. When a platform is new the first priority is to get as many users as possible. Therefore the rules are pretty much beneficial for the users. It makes you use the product and hopefully get you to the point where you can’t live without it. A bit like selling crack-cocaine.

Facebook has given page owners a free ride for many years, driving the traffic away from Facebook to their own sites. Now ask yourself, is that something you would do with your blog or platform? Your goal is to keep your users on your site, not leading them away from it to other sites, right? So why on earth should Facebook do it without any benefit?

On top of that Facebook is now a publicly traded company, e.g. they have an earnings call with Wall Street analysts every couple of months. People invest in Facebook on the terms that the social network grows its revenue. Hence, it makes even less sense for them to give you free traffic.

Let’s say you are one of the people who have spent time and effort on building your brand outside of Facebook over the years you were most likely not shocked at all or even surprised as it (or something similar) happened before and will happen again. The thing is, you are constantly playing in someone else’s sandbox and surprise: it’s not you who makes the rules. Here are two examples.


If you spent time on trying to get your page ranking on Google for related search terms you might have been hit by the infamous Panda update back in early 2011. It was so bad that it took out two big players in the education space, my favorite platform TeachStreet and the just newly refocused Mahalo. And even today algorithm changes affect startups. Just read the latest New York Times article on the matter.


Like Google, YouTube is experimenting a lot with new ways to display and surface “relevant” content on the platform. I have been hit by the changes at least three times with my Deutsch Happen channel over the past years and even big YouTube stars like Mystery Guitar Man saw huge drops in audience and hence revenue.

But you know that all of the platforms offer you to get traffic in return. Google has Adwords, YouTube lets you promote videos and Facebook now lets you promote posts. Hence, if you really, really want (need) the traffic, there is an option for you.

As a long time reader of this blog you will know that I have always advocated that edupreneurs need to learn about the processes behind the scenes of technology they use. If you have at least a bit of an idea on how funding or even an IPO affects the destiny of a startup you cannot be surprised by such changes.

In August 2010 Andrew Lewis coined a phrase that is still true today:

If you are not paying for it, you’re not the customer; you’re the product being sold.

Have you ever sat down and truly asked yourself if you were willing to pay for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or any other free service you are using on a regular basis? If the answer is “No, I won’t pay” then you have to ask yourself whether the startup actually built something meaningful at all. Which leads to the next question that when you don’t see any real value in the service, why should others?

A handful of edupreneurs like André Klein, Koichi and myself have always preached that you need to invest into your own website (sandbox) as it is the only place you are truly in charge of. All the rest is nice as long as it works and if it stops working you simply move on. The goal is that you need to get your audience to come to your site on their own because they want to, not because they might see a Twitter, YouTube or Facebook update pop up in their cluttered stream.

If you want to have something that catches their attention, get them to sign up for a newsletter. This way you are directly in their inbox as long as they choose to be on the list. You want direct contact, not filtered through a middleman.

Facing the Realities

On the other hand, the new Facebook algorithm might also have some positive side effects as it clears up the news stream from all the noise.

As a side note, when I take a look at both the reach and engagement graphs of my established pages Kirsten Winkler, EDUKWEST, Deutsch Happen and Deutsch Sprechen I have not noticed any significant drop in either graph on any of the four pages mentioned. The only drops I see are the ones I am familiar with, e.g. not updating the page or usually on weak days like Saturday.

All in all the number of likes your page got never reflected the actual number of engaged fans, anyway. The same is true for Twitter followers and YouTube subscribers. It’s a vanity number, nothing more. The new actual number of people “seeing” your Facebook page update also reflects how many people really visit your page or group in the first place. Taking the Edupreneurs Club as an example we have 200+ members but each posts gets seen by 7 to a maximum of 35 members. And that’s about the engagement I noticed over the months. There are about 10 active members and some lurkers. The rest joined but never came back.

This means, if people choose to visit your page anyway on a daily or weekly basis by clicking on the link on the left side, then all is well. If they just liked your page and never returned, anyway then you didn’t lose anything at all. You just get a realistic number of how many people actually care about your stuff. And yes, sometimes reality hits you hard, bro.

Picture by waterbridge via Morguefile


Is Twitter becoming the Exhaust Pipe of Social Media?

Over the past couple of weeks I have become increasingly frustrated with Twitter. I have the feeling that I get less value out of it than maybe 6 months ago. Clearly Twitter lost some of its appeal when Google+ launched.

Now, before I get deeper into that, let me explain the three main (and up to now only) ways I used Twitter for.

Number one has been to get first hand information, insights and personal tidbits from interesting people I followed. It rounded the profile of blogger, podcaster and CEOs I was reading / watching / interviewing. Number two was to get breaking news of the industry. And number three was to share my posts or interesting links.

Two of those reasons are completely broken, only one still works rather well.
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Khan Academy, Google and BitTorrent

A couple of days ago Khan Academy announced a partnership with BitTorrent, up to now mostly known for being the place to get illegal copies of whatever you want. Sure, the technology itself is brilliant and in combination with a project like the Khan Academy it has the potential to bring video lessons even to places with low bandwidth connections.

The problem is that today Google blacklisted the service because of its reputation being a harbor for illegal activities.

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R:ED January 2nd to January 8th 2011

  1. Why We Desperately Need a New (and Better) Google
  2. Internet Users Still Cheap, Spend Only $1 to $10 on Digital Content
  3. Chegg: Saving College Kids Money Through Textbook Rental
  4. The Case for the Virtual Classroom
  5. After the Skype Ban: China’s Changing Online Landscape
  6. Biggest Mobile Breakthrough of 2011? Survey Says: Payments.
  7. School Tech: 6 Important Lessons From Maine’s Student Laptop Program
  8. Chegg Hires Former Netflix COO To Manage Massive Textbook Warehouse
  9. Internet Surpasses Television as Main News Source for Young Adults [STUDY]
  10. Flattr rolls out direct donations, Wikileaks likely to benefit greatly
  11. Schools Across the Country Adopt the iPad
  12. Zimride: Carpooling for College Students
  13. Wikipedia Saved by Founder Jimmy Wales’ $16M Gaze, Elite Supporters
  14. Salesforce Buys Web Conferencing Platform DimDim For $31 Million In Cash
  15. Citing Facebook Effect, Salesforce.com Buys Dimdim
  16. Confirmed: Skype Buys Mobile Video Startup Qik
  17. Skype Adds Group Video Calling To Enterprise Offering
  18. Skype Is Killing It on Long Distance
  19. Ustream Is Also Coming Bundled On Verizon’s 4G Android Phones
  20. 100+ Online Resources That Are Transforming Education

Khan Academy receives $2 million USD from Google

Great news as one of my personal heroes in education, Salman Khan, will receive $2 million USD from the Google Project 10 to the 100.

And he is not the only one in education as three out of the five winners are in fact education related projects.

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Three Years and Not Ranking – SEO Anyone?

One of the 101 things when building a website that aimed to convert visitors into revenue used to be SEO (Search Engine Optimization). With the rise of Social Media SEO had been declared dead because now everything was “viral” and your service would be recommended by your visitors to their friends which was far more effective than converting traffic coming from search result.

I think, we can state by now that this was, once again, an assumption on what might happen based on some early numbers when everything around Social Media was fresh, shiny and new. But probably the truth is a bit different though, at least in our industry.

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Google CloudCourse – a Matrix for new Online Education Startups?

I got this interesting information via Stefan Wolpers, Founder of the Twittwoch – a meeting for entrepreneurs to learn about social media from / with each other – on Twitter.

If you are interested in social media, tech and entrepreneurship I highly recommend following Stefan’s tweets as they are always relevant.

But now back to Google CloudCourse.

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review:ed Episode #3.5 – Do Ads interfere with Education?

Last topic on the list for this episode of review:ed was about VoIP. Skype launched a new 5 way video calling feature in beta which will later on become a paid premium feature. The other news about Skype is that the company is considering to display ads in its free service.

Second news item is the acquisition of GIPS by Google which leads to the rumor that Google is actually planning to launch a Skype competitor based on Google Talk, soon. But as Google’s products are all somehow based on ad revenue this service might display ads during calls, too.

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Pacman or why Google rules the Internet – and Apple never will

Today Google had another surprise for its users. When you open the www.google.com page you will see the Google logo in form of the good old Pacman game, celebrating its 30th birthday.

But that’s not all, it is not only a Doodle which Google has for various events, it’s the Pacman game and you can play it. If you click insert coin you can even play it with two people.

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What is the difference between Twitter and Emails or SMS anyway?

A new “menace” for Twitter goes around. According to the NYT, TechCrunch and WSJ Google wants to add “social features” to its email service GMail.

Will this be the “Twitter Killer”? Didn’t Facebook try the same?

But what makes Twitter so special anyway?

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Google changes Communication – Star Trek Style


Do you remember watching Star Trek? Wasn’t it amazing that all the crew members could understand each other and communicate regardless of which country or even planet they came from? This was possible because they had this little universal translator built into the communicator.

Science Fiction you say? Well, they said this about the communicator before Martin Cooper turned the idea into the mobile phone. And now it seems as if Google is building the universal translator device. Beam me up, Scotty.

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It’s not about You or Why we need a new Mindset

Social Media has changed the way we interact with each other forever. We are living in a totally different world than maybe two years ago and the end of this social shift is not even at sight.

But most of us still behave as if we were living in a world without Social Media and that can be very dangerous.

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