James Gross

James is co-founder of Percolate. James also enjoys running and wants to build the world's greatest technology company and surf team. Find him on Twitter and Google+.


Marketing’s Moment of Invention

This Wednesday, July 16 at the TimesCenter, Percolate is bringing together marketers, inventors, and entrepreneurs at our first industry conference: Transition. Join us in a conversation about how invention is reshaping the industry, the enterprise, and the world.

Peter Thiel, the widely respected entrepreneur and investor, is out with a book called Zero to One, based on a series of lectures he gave at Stanford University. In the book Thiel argues that not all progress is the same and you can break down progress into invention (0 to 1) and globalization (1 to n). Here is a chart that describes the two types of progress.   (more…)

See how Percolate has developed marketing technology that goes from zero to one.

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


Forrester’s Google Plus Advice Reveals Where SMMS Fails

Nate Elliott is out with a new Forrester report on The Case for Google Plus. It is a solid report that captures a lot of the trends that we are seeing here at Percolate. For all the criticism that Google+ has received, one thing is clear: it is a massive platform with global reach and a green field of opportunity for brands.

Google Plus now has over 300M people around the world that use it monthly. That makes it one of the largest media platforms in the world and gives it greater reach than almost any TV or traditional digital media opportunity.

How did Google Plus create such a large platform in the face of the criticism it has received? Because it took advantage of the three major shifts that all media are undergoing. (more…)

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.

Content Marketing

2014: The New Marketer

The below presentation, The Content Marketing Revolution, kicked off our event at Social Media Week, a track of programming that was developed to explain how social and mobile have forever changed content marketing. Our ability to understand what happens next revolves around studying how technology not only changes media but also how it changes marketing and the marketer.

SMW_Content.Marketing.Revolution (Final).001

I realize calling anything a revolution can sound a bit silly. What I want to do is back up the statement with the changes in technology we are now living through and how the last 3 years have really changed media, marketing and marketers.

SMW_Content.Marketing.Revolution (Final).002

So let’s get started. First and foremost, we are Percolate. We are a company of about 100 people and growing based right here in NYC. We are 3 years old and if I could use one word to summarize us I would say, ambitious.

SMW_Content.Marketing.Revolution (Final).004

We have a vision to redefine marketing through technology and a goal to be the content marketing platform of record for every marketing department. (more…)

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


The 3rd Phase of Marketing Technology

When I started my career in digital marketing 10 years ago we were living through the first phase of marketing technology. This was a world of banners, microsites, search and email. As a digital marketer you didn’t work with much technology but if you did, it most likely revolved around a category called advertising technology with DoubleClick or Aquantive for banners, marketing automation for email, or analytics like Omniture for your website. This phase of digital can be thought of as the web phase of digital. A snapshot of this phase can be seen here:

1st Phase:  Web

Largest internet media companies in 2005 by market cap: Google ($100B), Yahoo ($15B), AOL (~$1B)

During the first phase Google established itself as the most dominant marketing company in the world by owning search and they also made big acquisitions with marketing technology like DoubleClick.

The challenge for the first phase is advertising technology breaks down as the PC becomes less relevant. Almost all advertising technology, outside of email, revolves around web browsers and banners. This technology thrived in a browser based world that allowed for cookies to be dropped on users and retargeted through messaging that primarily came in the form of banners.

Social and more specifically mobile renders almost all this technology ineffective.  Social gathers almost all it’s data from first-party information, in other words, the data that you naturally give to a platform like Facebook , Twitter and LinkedIn. Mobile eliminated any additional space that banners once occupied and forced both platforms and publishers to think about a native offering that strikes at a more consistent user experience than what banners can offer.

If you believe, like we do, that the first phase lives and dies with the PC, then the trend doesn’t look great: 

Decline in PS sales Year over Year


This brings us to the second phase, one that started to really gain traction in 2009 as Facebook passed 300 million users. Social in this phase for marketers was still on the web (ie. in the browser) and marketers spent millions of dollars on building Facebook microsites, often called tabs. A snapshot of the second phase can be seen here:

2nd Phase: Social Web

Largest internet media companies in 2010 by market cap: Google ($140B), Yahoo ($14B), Facebook ($10B)

A new type of technology  emerged in this second phase called SMMS (Social Media Management Systems). This technology served two functions. The first was focused on helping to build out the equivalent of microsites on Facebook in the form of tabs (to be fair, at the time this was really the only marketing solution available to brands). When Mark Zuckerberg spoke in the summer of 2013 and said Facebook was a mobile company moving forward that was an official signal that Facebook tabs were over and brands needed to re-align their focus on Facebook to take advantage of their mobile marketing solution, sponsored posts.

The second technology function that SMMS served was to help manage the explosion of CRM and customer service inquiries that occurred on social. The goal of this technology was to help brands build out their monitoring and response solutions, everything from being a new 1-800-number for social to building out customer profiles to crisis management.  The Altimeter Group  put together a nice slide on how SMMS differentiates itself along these lines:

What are  the two critical elements missing from this chart as it relates to opportunity that marketing now has and the internet that we are now dealing with?

Content and Mobile. Without a vision for content or mobile, part of SMMS marketing technology is left behind as a PC-centric solution and one that Facebook no longer actively promotes. The customer service solution side of SMMS is still thriving but it doesn’t solve the most strategic opportunity platforms and marketers have. That new opportunity brings us to phase 3.

3rd Phase: Social + Mobile

Largest internet media companies by market cap: Google ($400B), Facebook ($170B), Twitter ($30B), LinkedIn ($25B)

The combination of social + mobile creates an entirely new phase of marketing technology. From a media perspective, the promise is mobile media companies have larger global audiences and more sophisticated data and targeting than we have ever seen before. This is reflected in the market caps of social + mobile companies, for the first time ever, they are the largest media companies in the world:


In all cases, the native ad unit on these social + mobile platforms is content and marketers have been forced to move from creating a few pieces of content per year, like they did in traditional media, to creating hundreds of pieces of content per day as they have the opportunity to reach global audiences at a moment’s notice.

The media opportunity is only the outward-facing effect of this third phase.

The other opportunity for the marketing department that the third phase creates is how the marketing department changes inside the enterprise in a social mobile world.

The CMO and the marketing department have the potential to touch a much larger part of the organization than they ever did before. Every employee is on social and every employee is mobile. Never before, in the history of the enterprise, was there more of a transitional time for marketing to expand their reach.

What a marketer needs now is a system of technology that manages the creation and distribution of all this content with centralized oversight. The marketer moves from someone that once only moved content to audiences, to someone that needs to move content through the whole organization. In this new world the marketer has the ability to touch sales, HR and almost any department that puts social and mobile at the center of their activities.

This is our vision at Percolate and what we are building towards every day. For the marketer, we want to create a way for them to easily touch the whole organization and the massive global audiences that social and mobile now reach. The ability to do all this with Percolate creates a new type of marketer. A marketer that moves from campaign based communication to sustained communication. A marketer that moves from buying media to building systems. A marketer that moves from an average tenure of 24 months as a CMO to being the most strategic executive in the organization after the CEO.  A marketer that puts technology at the very center of their marketing process.

This is the next phase of marketing and we are excited about building it.

Want to see how Percolate is building a solution for the 3rd phase?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


Publishers as Platforms

Jonathan Glick wrote a thoughtful piece on re/code entitled, The Rise of the Platishers. In the piece Jonathan talks about the new media companies that are developing and how they are a combination of a publisher and a platform.

What should we call a publisher — like Gawker — that provides a tech platform on which anybody, not just its staff, can create content? What should we call a tech platform — like Medium — that has a team of editors and pays some contributors to create content? It’s something in between a publisher and a platform — something that weaves together the strengths of both. A platisher.

Crazy term aside, Jonathan is noticing a very important trend. We see this at Percolate where our job is to be the content marketing platform of record for brands. Offering our technology to to help brands create and distribute content to any platform they would like.

How did this happen, why do publishers need to act like platforms?

From the image at the beginning of the post, where your content is your ad and your ad is your content, we are seeing some of the best publishers in the world follow the model that was pioneered by social platforms. The rules of the platforms are very simple – there is no traditional ad unit and the brand is treated the same as everyone else on the platform. The only advantage the brand has is they have the marketing budget to create great content and can pay to promote that great content.

Here are a few reasons why platforms and publishers smash together, and a glimpse at what is next:

  • The technology trend leading the charge is social and mobile. They are the catalyst for how brands are now are taking a content-first and platform-specific approach to all their marketing

  • Brands follow time and attention of their audiences. Some of the largest media companies by market cap in the world are now social/mobile platforms (FB, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest)

  • Publishers are innovating fast to try and catch up and are launching their own native or sponsored content models.

  • The challenge for brands revolves around publishers becoming another channel to create content for. This isn’t trivial given the new demands on content creation and the costs associated with it. Publishers have responded by trying to create all this content for brands through their in-house creative teams. This model can be threatening to brands and their agencies and creates a different workflow than what they have with platforms, where content creation is independent.

  • In order to scale like a platform, publishers have to let the brand create the content themselves by establishing frameworks that all content should live by.

Much like Facebook has their educational Publishing Garages, the more platforms or publishers can teach brands and their agencies how to create great content on their platform, the faster they should be able to drive adoption and revenue.

I’m excited to see where publishers go and we are deeply invested in trying to build scalable content models for our clients. We see publishers as a big part of where brands want to send their content and the more the publishers can build pipes like the platforms, the closer we can come to seeing publishers thrive like the platforms have.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


7 Trends We Are Watching

This post was originally published by our friends at Digiday.

We spend our time at Percolate living at the intersection of technology and marketing. This space is in a constant state of flux, changing at the hands of both short and long-term trends. I try to take some time at the end of each year to assess the landscape and understand how it will affect our business, as well as the broader worlds of marketing and technology.

What’s most exciting, though, is actually those trends that are affecting the world at large. In fact, the one thing that most excites me for 2014 and beyond is the fact that only 40% of the world is currently on the internet and by 2018 there is a good chance the entire world will be connected. It’s a fun time to be doing what we do.

So, with that context behind us, here are my thoughts on the seven trends to watch in 2014.

1) You won’t create content without promoting it.

The idea of creating content for your ‘followers’ will go away as the potential for the audience you would like to reach with your content becomes realized. With FB, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest all rolling out smart ad products, the promise of being able to reach the exact audience you want to is here. But, as with most things, it won’t come for free. If you want the reach, you’ve got to pay for it. This is always what advertising has been about. Now the potential is just bigger and better.

 2) Android is eating the world. You have to take a mobile-first approach to marketing.

Android, at well over 1 billion activations, will continue to grow in scale and proliferation across the enterprise and the rest of the world.  Every piece of content needs to be created first by asking the question, how will that look on a mobile device, and more specifically an Android?

3) Social platforms will focus on the rest of the world and continue to draft off mobile penetration.

The big push by the social platforms will be in wiring and getting downloads for the 60% of the world that is still not on the internet. Mobile penetration has disrupted the natural monopoly that Facebook and Twitter have had in social (see: WhatsApp, SnapChat, Instagram, etc), but mobile has also created a big enough opportunity for social that it doesn’t matter. The overall pie has grown and  2014 will be looked at as building year as Twitter and others will march towards 1B users and FB will march towards 2B.

4) Brands will start to adopt technology that moves beyond simple problems (eg. Marketing Automation/CRM/SMMS).

The trend is already out there that marketers are becoming the largest purchasers of technology. What hasn’t been seen yet is marketers becoming more sophisticated with the technology they are buying. Most marketing automation and CRM software to date is for marketers looking to fill blank boxes, route customer service inquiries, and build dashboards for reporting. While this was important, it isn’t enough in a world where your customers and your marketing strategy is mobile first and real-time.

5) Design finally matters for enterprise software. OR enterprise software that doesn’t work in mobile, doesn’t work, period.

For the most part the largest enterprise software giants in the world have largely been able to ignore user experiences in mobile. As they have cozied up to procurement and other parts of the organizations that have taken a top-down, check-the-box approach to software installation to date they have been able to tell the individual users to kick rocks when it comes to having a user experience in mobile. Those days are coming to an end, fast. If your enterprise technology solutions don’t have native Andriod and iOS end to end experiences it is time to get the RFPs out. Young, fast growing tech companies that are built for the future and out to disrupt an irrelevant user experience.

6)  Web banners will be down for the first time ever and it won’t come back.

We are starting to see this with some of the Google Adsense data. In a social and mobile world the ad is your content and your content is your ad. Banners are still important but aren’t growing like the rest of internet advertising (search + social + mobile).

7) China, not the US, is the most important country to watch as it relates to social and mobile.

To find patterns in studying what might happen next it is important to be pulling from the largest dataset you can find. China offers this with the scale and a culture that is largely mobile-first with their adoption of technology. Fast growing companies like Xiaomi are perfect examples of what to watch and also in 2014 we will most likely see a few US tech companies that are acquired by Chinese tech companies.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


Goodbye 2013. Hello 2014!

Thank you to our clients, partners, family and friends for an awesome 2013. We can’t wait to grow together in 2014!









Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.

Client Summit

The State of Content Marketing

Presented at Percolate’s Customer Summit on November 13th, 2013:

It was funny, when we first started Percolate we stayed away from the term content marketing. It didn’t feel big enough, it felt dated and overall, it was poorly defined. You can look no further than Wikipedia right now to see what I’m talking about:


This definition is stuck in what we call the first phase of digital marketing. That is the web phase of digital. A pre-2010 era of the web that was defined by search, banners and micro-sites.


Hopefully by the end of this presentation we can show you how much we think content marketing has been totally changed by the last two phases of digital marketing that have happened in the past 3 years. These two phases have also created a radical change in terms of what it means to be a marketer.

Social was the original catalyst for a whole new way that we create content in the modern day. Social was what got Noah and I excited when we thought about building Percolate.


We were moving from a world where our clients asked us to build out year long campaign calendars.


To a world where they couldn’t figure out what to tweet about on a daily basis. At the beginning many laughed at social and specifically Twitter as being nothing more than people talking about what they had for breakfast. But Noah and I weren’t laughing, when enough smart clients are asking you questions like, “what should I tweet about?”.


Noah and I knew the world had forever changed when marketing conversations moved in this direction. Our job was to start a company to solve these challenges and we went out in the market to make it happen.

In late 2010 though, the idea of social platforms and their businesses was still very much up in the air.


Facebook’s valuation was insane in late 2010. Employees were selling their shares for $11B!




Everyone had an opinion on Twitter and almost all of them thought they would never make money.


LinkedIn was a professional networking site with no content or newsfeed. Updates were for when you were looking for a new job and changed your profile.


Google was a search company with no play in social.


While social was important in 2010 it didn’t have the overall value we had come to find in the largest media companies. As well, there wasn’t a global play in social yet, social platforms were largely siloed by the countries they were built in.


So what changed, how did social become so big?


Social had it’s moment largely thanks to the other greatest disruptive force we have all lived through in the last 3 years, Mobile.


For marketers, mobile changed everything. Banners, gone. Flash, gone. Complicated site architectures that couldn’t translate to smaller form factors, gone. Social has been the benefactor of everything that mobile disrupted.

Most importantly, mobile consolidated us all. It taught us to swipe, capture and for social: share… Instantly. It also taught us that content would sit in the center of the experience and it would unite us all in the act of creating and sharing it together.


The growth in mobile is like nothing we have ever seen before. Android recently passed the 1B user make and iOS will pass 1B users sometime in Q1 of 2014.


And we are just getting started


The output of mobile is an entirely new social landscape.  Let’s look at 2013.


Facebook is now worth $110B, has 1.19 billion monthly active users of which 874M of those users accessed the site from a mobile device.


Twitter has gone public, with almost all of their growth and monetization centered around Mobile.


LinkedIn is primarily focused on sponsored content as the growth engine to their business.


Pinterest and Snapchat are the next up and coming platforms


Google has even come out to say that G+ is the social spine of the company.


Mobile and Social have built the biggest companies of our time. This can be well seen with this chart showing the leading social/mobile companies worth almost $1 Trillion.


So with all this value and content created, what is next?


In order to look at this brave new world, Noah has always talked about looking at these changes through the lens that Marshall McLuhan looked at Technology. McLuhan said,  “The ‘message’ of any medium or technology is the change of scale or pace or pattern that it introduces into human affairs.”


In his book “Understanding Media” he goes on to give an example: “The railway did not introduce movement or transportation or wheel or road into human society, but it accelerated and enlarged the scale of previous human functions, creating totally new kinds of cities and new kinds of work and leisure.” In other words, it realigned personal expectations and culture and expanded the definition of local.


In order to understand how social and mobile will continue to change our lives and marketing, let’s look at the future through the lens of Scale, Pace and Pattern.

For marketers, the Scale is Global


Billions of people, Not Millions


That leads to us connecting on global platforms.

Look at where we were in 2009:


To where we are now:


Twitter growth along with most maturing social platforms is international.


Pace is focused around the stream




Everything in the future is dictated by how it will perform in mobile. Where creation and consumption happens in the same stream. All content needs to be shareable.


Pull to refresh is the most used gesture in the world.


The Pattern of media is focused around Content.


Photos shared/day: Whatsapp – 400m, Facebook – 350m, Snapchat – 350m, Instagram: 55m


New medium. New media. Chopped up media leads the way…. (Pins, Grams, Vines, Snaps, Tumbles, Tweets)


Even Search, the last great business model of the pre social/mobile world is dictated by social now.Slide-39

What this leads us to is a whole new way to think about content. This slide shows how we see content having it’s Moore’s Law moment.


Even with all the growth we are seeing with content, it continues to accelerate and we don’t see that stopping anytime soon.


Social was the catalyst for redefining Content Marketing


Mobile was the catalyst that changed the scale of social


The output of this is Social is at the center of marketing, mobile is the vehicle and content marketing is the best way into those essential spaces.


And the crazy thing about all of this is we are still in very early days.


We live in truly amazing times to be a marketer, let’s take advantage of it.



Sources: Asymco, Benedict Evans, BI Intelligence, Mary Meeker KPCB

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


Percolate’s 1st Annual Customer Summit

On November 13, we will have our first Customer Summit with a preview of a series of major developments for our company.

Percolate clients, partners and senior marketers will gather with the goal of sharing ideas, learnings, and a few drinks.

On the agenda for the day:
◦ The latest from Percolate, featuring a series of new products and a bold new look for our company
◦ Case studies from Percolate clients Procter & Gamble, Denny’s and Mastercard
◦ Presentations from our partners at Visually, Scripted, Getty Images, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Business Insider

It’s going to be great and we plan to share the videos after the event on our blog. If you would like more information about the event please get in touch via email.

Percolate Customer Summit (social)


Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.


Focus on the Frame

It is the framework itself that changes with new technology, and not just the picture within the frame.
- Marshall McLuhan

When we started Percolate two-and-a-half years ago it was because we saw social growing at exponential rates, while the process and cost model for creating the content to fill those channels, was growing just as fast. That initial excitement for a new model has only continued as we’ve seen these platforms continue to grow at even faster rates as people show an endless appetite to connect, create, and consume across social.

To help illustrate just how big this all is we’ve been sharing a few data points with clients lately:

  • There are over 25 social platforms with more than 50 million active users
  • The average large enterprise supports 178 social accounts
  • The most watched piece of media was the finals of the 2010 World Cup at 700 million people. By comparison, every day there are over 800 million daily active users of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Owned audiences are larger than ever before with brands like Coca-Cola, Wal-Mart, American Express, McDonald’s and Intel amassing over 130M Facebook Fans. As a comparison the owned audiences for the top 15 US newspapers is slightly over 11M subscribers.

All these platforms, accounts, and people ultimately drive an insane amount of content through these channels on a daily basis. To give a sense, just four platforms, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, account for over 700M photos shared per day. The challenge for brands remains how to create enough engaging and on-brand content to be relevant in this new social world.

With all that change, though, one thing hasn’t: The way content is produced in social is still primarily based on a people-and-time-intensive process designed to create TV commercials, print ads, and other stock content. As we see it, the typical content creation model looks something like this:

Content Creation Cycle

To that end, it’s no wonder that content remains the largest cost center and challenge for marketers: As the technology has evolved, the frame’s stayed the same. Instead of focusing on the medium and unique needs of social, we, as an industry, saw a photo on a Facebook page and assumed it was a print ad and should be produced the same way.

As we realized when we started the company, and have been building into our product since day one, this model just won’t scale as the world of social continues to grow at breakneck speeds. Marketing technology, and the thinking around marketing technology, needs to evolve to help brands create content, not just post it to their social channels. Our clients and some of the most senior analysts in the space, like Nate Elliott of Forrester, see the value:

The demands of social create a need for an entirely new framework. One that supports real-time messages instead of linear storytelling and one that is grounded in technology that can augment the workflow of creative human beings. That is our role at Percolate and we have the technology and a new content framework that supports our thinking:

Real-Time Content Marketing

As we continue to evolve and grow our thinking it’s been awesome to see how we’ve been able to help some of the best marketers in the world create even better social content in a more sustainable manner. All this is possible because they’ve moved beyond the picture with us and are focused on the frame.

Want to learn how Percolate can help with your content marketing?

Get in touch and we’ll show you our system in action.