Twingly Team Interviews: “Blogging will become even bigger”

It’s time for another Twingly Team Interview! Today it is Anton Johansson‘s turn, the youngest member of the Twingly team who however managed to be the employee who has stayed with the company for the longest time (apart from the founders). Anton describes what’s so special about working for an Internet startup, explains why he thinks blogging will become even bigger than it is today
and reveals which web trends he currently finds particularly fascinating.

Some of the readers might know you, but please tell us who you are anyway.
I’m Anton Johansson, a happy young guy from Linköping that loves music, dark beer and to talk (which I’m pretty good at). I started my first blog in 2004 and have since then been writing continuously about trends, startups, tech & media. My Twingly journey actually started via blogging. Martin Källström emailed me and a couple of other Swedish media blogs to get some feedback on the Blogstream idea. I kind of ditched the concept (luckily he didn’t listen) but since he understood that I was living in Linköping, he asked me to come up for a cup of coffee. On that first meeting they asked me to work for them and yes, that’s what I still do 🙂

When was that?
In 2006, pre-launch, and I was the very first employee after the founders. I’ve always been the youngest guy at the office (still are!) but one of the oldest in terms of how long I’ve worked for Twingly. It’s still an amazing journey to be part of!

And you directly agreed on working for a startup?
I was still in school when Twingy hired me but I started to work per hour immediately. There aren’t too many people interested in startups, media and blogging in Linköping (not in 2006 and still not too many in 2011) and not too many startups either, so it was a great match between us. The first year I mostly worked with blogging and PR but became more and more involved in all parts of the company afterwards.

You say you ditched the idea of Blogstream. Today that’s one of Twingly’s most successful and revenue generating products.
Haha yes I was obviously wrong. This was pre-launch and Blogstream wasn’t developed, they didn’t even had a demo. As I said, luckily they didn’t listen to me. Blogstream is a great product, concept and idea.

You have been with Twingly for more than 4 years. That’s a pretty long time in today’s fast paced Internet business.
When you join a startup in such an early stage the company, the products and the brand becomes a big part of yourself. But most important are of course the people. I really love to work with the whole team. I learn a lot every single day, have a lot of fun and love our customers, products and ideas. Martin gives me a lot opportunities all the time and I really believe in the awesome products we build.

Your official title says “Product Strategist”. What is your exact role nowadays?
When people ask what I do at Twingly I usually say that I “do all the fun stuff”, which is kind of true. I’ve never really had a precise role at Twingly, I’ve been working with all parts of the company even I’ve had different focuses during different time spans. My title “Product Strategist” or “Business Developer” means that I try to come up with great ideas for new products, analyse the ones we already got and develop business models, sales channels and products. But as I said before, I’m involved in more or less everything. I also work a lot with PR, design and support. Basically, I’m doing everything except coding.

What kind of projects or tasks have you been involved in recently?
I’ve been doing wire frames and design sketches for a new product, market segmentation and PR for the updated Twingly Channels.

You mentioned “awesome” products. Which Twingly tools are you personally most enthusiastic about?
My focus right now is to find a more scalable, light-weight, easy-to-use product that we can sell via self-service or at least without the 2-3 months sales processes we’re having today. But if you look at our portfolio of products we’re very successful in the higher end of the scale, with quite heavy products for big corporations. There’s a lot of opportunity there too, especially if you look at social media enterprise products and we might focus on that in the future as well. It’s fun right now. A lot of opportunities. Great ideas. Many things to come.

That sounds as if Twingly’s enterprise products have a very high priority compared to the consumer focused ones. Is that true?
Our enterprise solutions have always been prioritized. We have some of Europe’s largest brands as customers. They need support. But it doesn’t mean we don’t work with the consumers in focus, they’re the ones using our products in the end. Blogstream, our most successful product so far, is a way to get bloggers noticed. We work closely and hard with bloggers all day long. Still, we are mainly a business-to-business company, our products are b2b oriented. That’s how it has been since the early days. But our free services is a way for us to get traction, better data, new customers and new opportunities. We don’t even have ads on Twingly.com, so the b2b products are currently our only business model.

You have been a passionate blogger back in 2006 and you probably still are. What are your thoughts on the future of blogging?
Yes, since I’ve worked closely with the blogosphere and the blogging phenomena for a long time I’ve seen a lot of trends and changes over the years. When I started it was a few hundred blogs in Sweden and nearly all of them were connected in some way. Today there are hundreds of thousands of blogs only in Sweden and blogs are a natural way of sharing thoughts. It’s pretty much mainstream and even my grandmother understands the concept and possibilities with it. But it’s also the most heavy type of social media, which means that blogging will never be for everyone. Not in the way Facebook and Twitter are for people today. On the other hand, blogging has proved to be a very valuble media type for so many different purposes. It’s open, flexible and is in some ways more of a standardized media type than social networks. You can’t block all blogs in for example #egypt, but you can block Twitter. That’s a huge difference.

I really think blogging will become even bigger than it is today, on many different levels. What comes after Tumblr, Posterous, WordPress and blog search? It’ll be a lot of innovation in the upcoming years now when blogging are mainstream and not a hype.

Name some web trends that fascinate you right now.
There are many but to name a few:

1. Filtration and assortment of contacts: How do you manage thousands of close, loose and professional contacts? What happens when you in the future have an updated contact list of friends from all way down to when you were a child? What social possibilities will it lead to, and how will the social networks handle it? This is a huge question in my generation (born in the 80’s) right now.

2. Touchscreens and all the new cool interaction design those will bring to the world

3. Realtime comments on all sites, not just Facebook and Twingly. When comments and discussions happen in realtime, it will make everything become a social object in a new way. It will create changes and new opportunities in everything from news to events.

If you would have 3 wishes for Internet-related news or innovation in 2011, what would those be?
I actually already have seen a personal Internet innovation wish coming true in 2011: Greplin, a new cool search startup, has recently launched a search for ME. Their search engine indexes my social networks, Dropbox, email etc and gives me a search tool for my own web history. That’s a great innovation in search. Two other things I also hope for are that The Beatles and AC/DC should become available on Spotify.

What would you do if you have 24 hours totally disconnected from the web?
It actually happens once in a while ; ). I love to read books, hang out with funny friends and to play badminton. But if i could choose I would probably just partying like crazy with some even crazier friends in a cool city in Europe. Right now I’m in love with London and the Ryanair prices to go there…

You can follow Anton on Twitter here.

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