Why Mary Meeker’s yearly report is a blockbuster hit

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Something about Mary
By Susan Burchill, staffer. 11 July, 2019
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333 slides long and Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends Report still leaves audiences gagging for more. The gold star of blockbuster content marketing, here's what finance brands can learn from Mary.

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A venture capitalist and tech analyst from Portland Indiana, Mary Meeker was working at Morgan Stanley when in 1995, she and colleague Chris DePuy published the first Internet Trends Report. It “instantly secured her reputation as the Nostradamus of technology,” according to Wired magazine.

In 2010 she left her managing director role at Morgan Stanley to become a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, departing there in September 2018 to spin off her own investment firm Bond Capital, all the while publishing the yearly report. This year she delivered the report in her usual rapid-fire style at Code Conference.

The earned media triggered by the report is phenomenal. A Google search of the 2019 slideshow turns up close to 17 pages of results. Follow-up articles have appeared on news sites, in business and investment mags, in tech and marketing blogs, in education, and fashion and beauty blogs, no less.

From whence does the enormous power of this humble slidedeck emanate?

A Google search of the 2019 slideshow turns up close to 17 pages of results.

Mary Meeker brings expertise to the fore

In our interview with LinkedIn’s Jon Lombardo and Peter Weinberg, the pair identified Meeker’s Internet Trends Report as one of the classic content “franchises” in finance - to use an idea borrowed from Hollywood. Except where Hollywood does entertainment blockbusters, Meeker does expertise - backed by tremendous credibility.

In her early years as a Wall Street analyst, she specialised in covering the personal computer and consumer software industries – from Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Adobe, Intuit, Electronic Arts, AOL, Netscape, Yahoo!, Amazon.com and VeriSign to eBay, Google and Alibaba.

She was lead manager for the initial public offering of Netscape Communications; and in 2004, served as research analyst when Morgan Stanley was lead manager for the initial public offering of Google. Ranked #8 in “The Top 100 Venture Capitalists” in 2019, Meeker also made The Midas List: Top Tech Investors 2019 – at number 8.

Getting the picture? She’s a visionary and a committed believer in the opportunities inherent in the Internet since earliest days.

Doing one thing well

So the expertise is unparalleled, but that’s not all she’s got. Meeker has restraint.

She could go all out and present 10 different content things a year, but instead she does one amazing thing in her own way. Much like Marvel pumps out its mega-successful, high-budget superhero films a few times a year, and Disney refines and reimagines its much-loved characters and stories, Meeker publishes her Internet Report.

And it rises above the noise and breaks through, like blockbusters often do.

Packaging up insights in new ways

One thing she’s not doing is basing it on her own research. As Lombardo and Weinberg point out, most of the report is based on third-party insights. What she does is package them up in a more interesting way, in effect becoming the de facto source of those insights. She’s “popularising ideas that aren’t well known” as they put it.

Things don’t need to be new to be of value. She, in fact, adds value to existing information through her own perspectives and ability to make connections.

That’s how she makes it essential reading for Silicon Valley. And how she’s built her own brand – the myth, along the way.

Lo-fi presentation to a fault

Meeker does not mince her words. There is no slick copywriting here. She uses shortcuts and abbreviations throughout the slides and expects everyone to understand them. She incorrectly uses ‘&’ instead of ‘and’ about 1,000 times.

There is no sophisticated graphic design. In fact, a French presentation designer, Emiland De Cubber, found her slides so “rough and busy” he visually reimagined her 2014 PowerPoint. His version with its subtle colours and visual hierarchy is certainly smoother and less busy.

Come to think of it, Meeker could really go to town on her report. It could be a graphically-rich PDF, or an interactive web presentation.

But there is great authenticity in the way she does it. You get the impression that she’s a no-nonsense, no-frills kind of person, whose time is better spent reading and passing insights onto clients than prettying up her presentations. The substance here is more important than the form. And that, apparently, is of great appeal to many.

Having confidence in your readers

While the Bond logo is at the head of the report, there are no self-serving paras in the report, trying to subtly work in a plug for the firm. The closest you get to a mention is the Thanks page at the start and the Disclaimer on the last slide.

Instead, the quality of Meeker’s insights reinforces her long standing expertise (and vice versa), which in turn reflects on her brand and her firm. She has the confidence that people will make this link.

If more brands mined their expertise to publish real insights and had the confidence their audience could put two and two together, financial content marketing would be a different beast.

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When Susan was a youngster she didn't know what she wanted to be, but somehow she fell into advertising; then digital was invented so she worked on websites for a while. From there it was a small leap over to TV producing, scriptwriting, promo writing, and some copywriting.... Then when content marketing became a 'thing', she somehow fell into that. It's worked out ok so far - luckily she's always landed on soft things.