Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Sustainable Business Model?

Last week AdWeek featured an analyst report from Deutsche Bank that was positive on urban daily newspapers. Analyst Paul Ginocchio expects a return to profitability but not until 2012. Since newspapers have seemed to be an endangered species for the past several years, even that level of optimism caught my attention.

When I read it, I was even more intrigued. His prediction is based on outsourcing and continuing “to wring costs out of their operations.” Ginocchio wasn’t very sanguine about newspaper websites, pointing out that users spend just 41 minutes a month on newspaper sites.

A press release issued today by the Newspaper Association of America says that figure grew to 43 minutes per month in the 3rd quarter of 2007. They add that 59 million people, 37.1 percent of active Internet users, visited a newspaper site in that time frame, up from 56.9 in the 3rd quarter last year. Page views increased from 2.5 to 2.8.

Those stats are in line with the view that websites represent the future of newspapers, not print, no matter how many costs they wring out. But I’ll let others argue that if they wish. I’d like to report on a genuinely innovative newspaper business model that I ran across recently.

BostonNow debued in April 2007. It’s the brainchild of Russel Pergament, “a print guy” by his own admission. He’s also an expert on local print—the founder of the Brookline-Newton Tab and the founding publisher of Boston Metro. And he has a new hybrid business model in mind. He says that:

the marketplace has gotten ahead of the newspapers. All of them. That the arrival of our social media, coupled with the fragmentation of media and the personalization of media, has created something different, and the same old thing is not reaching people the way it used to. Hence our hope, our kind of struggle, to define with our reader[s’] input this new channel.

The print version, especially, represents a departure from the content of other local dailies, most of which consists of news bureau feeds. BostonNow employs real reporters and they do investigative reporting. Russel proudly shows articles like the rat one, many of which are later picked up by the two large dailies in Boston.

But it is the web version where the new model is being revealed. Looking at the top section of the home page, it’s not too different. You really begin to see the difference when you look below the fold. News items are tagged (there’s a tag cloud at the bottom of the page) and readers are invited to share their own articles post to a blog. BostonNow’s commitment to reader involvement shows clearly in their invitation to join the morning editorial conference.

Blogs are a key to reader involvement. The staff was smart enough to know that few members of the general public have their own blog, strange as that seems to many of us. But the person on the street doesn’t have a blog, hasn’t commented on a blog post and may barely know what they are. BostonNow’s Interactive Media Director Susan Kaup and her assistant visited libraries and neighborhood centers, teaching people to blog. That effort seems to have borne fruit.

Russel Pergament will tell you that the integrated business model is not yet clear in his own mind. He’s working it out with the help of his readers! That’s a real step forward for a hybrid print/Internet business model—one that may just prove to be sustainable, not only in terms of profit but also in terms of reader engagement and a valued role in the community.
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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Mass Media Master Experiments with New Media

An alert student pointed out the new P&G foray into mobile “advertainment.” It shouldn’t be a huge surprise. They’ve been producing soap operas since the early days of radio. They continue to produce television soaps—the Guiding Light since 1937 and As the World Turns since 1956.

So they have plenty of experience. The current venture is a series of 3-minute videos features Ashley trying to make her way in the big city. It’s an interesting attempt to reach younger viewers. If the reactions of some of my students and comments I saw on other blogs are a good indication, they need to add more “entertainment” to the “adv.” But they deserve congratulations for making a start.

If you’re like me and have no idea how to get this content on your mobile phone, watch the version that’s posted on the Tide website and see what you think.

Watch the ad here.

Remember, this is not video; the mobile networks won’t support long video clips yet. But someday we’ll have broadband mobile and mobile video will be in business. Marketing Charts reports a 34% increase in viewing of mobile video between January and August of this year. It’s still just 3.7% of US mobile subscribers, but their numbers are growing.

Will P&G be in a better position to take advantage of mobile video when its time really comes? Undoubtedly they will even if the current content seems lame! It’s actually not their first experiment. Looking around, I find that they tried something similar with Herbal Essence shampoo last year. Apparently that was terminated when their mobile video supplier went bust under the weight of all the pornography on the site.

There is suggestion of another mobile experiment using British mobile services supplier Flytxt. The SMS sweepstakes promotion called Irresistibility IQ Test for Crest and its associated website are still available. Note that Miss Irrestible has a MySpace page! Especially take a look at the questions; are they appealing to the SMS user? A lot of people use text messaging, but the profile is undoubtedly skewed to young to middle-aged adults. Are they looking for something more engaging?

I’ve frequently pointed out that this is a time for marketing experiments. If you are especially interested in mobile, it’s a time for following developments in Europe, Japan and the Pacific Rim, all of which are far ahead of the US in developing broadband mobile applications.

Can your firm do better? Should it be trying?
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Monday, October 29, 2007

Don't Just Listen - Pay Attention to the Voice of the Customer

The marketing world is all a-twitter with news of the iPod touch ad originally created by an 18-year old English college student. On his YouTube post in September Nick Haley said,

I loved the look of the new iPod Touch, found this music, and thought it was perfect for it. I made a commercial using material from and editing in Apple's Final Cut Pro.
*Sorry about the grey start, its the way YouTube deals with MPEGs*
Made on my MacBook - September 2007.
Music - CSS - Music is My Hot Hot Sex.

Apple found the 30-second ad, loved it, and brought the young man to the US to confer with their agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day. The result? His ad, with minor modifications, started airing last night on Desperate Housewives and the World Series. If you missed it, take a look.

Apple posted a higher quality video here.

And, no, apparently no one knows what kind of a deal the agency made with Nick Haley. Whatever it was, as a college freshman, he’s probably pretty happy with it. And if he wants to go into advertising, he has a great start on his portfolio!

I think the relevant words in all of this are “Apple found” it. But you also have to add, “they followed up with a smart response.”

So enjoy the ad. It’s slick, professional and thoroughly appealing. While you do, ask, “Who in my company scans communication channels for what users are saying about us?” “What do they do when they find it?” “Do we have a mechanism for dealing with the negative by opening a dialogue?” “Do we encourage employees at all levels to bring material to the attention of marketing?” “Do we have an organizational process/organizational support for bringing the positive in and taking advantage of it?”

I’ll belabor the obvious. It’s is a rich ecosystem of customer-created content out there. Marketers ignore it--good or bad--at their peril. If they’re smart, they react positively to the good stuff and use it in ways that build strong bridges to their customers. And if they get lots of positive media twitter in the process, that’s a bonus!
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Friday, October 26, 2007

Social Networks Getting Smaller?

Much has been made of the growth of the big networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. As this table from Marketing Charts shows, there’s good reason for all the attention. They have tremendous reach. It’s easy to liken them to shopping malls, with something for everyone.

So I was intrigued last week when I ran across this article in the New York Times. The idea of a social network just for your apartment building made me to search to see what was available. LifeAt is the firm referenced in the article. It’s pretty new and the application below seems to be the work of the property manager, but if the residents choose to participate it will become interesting and vital.

As I looked I realized there were numerous sites where one can set up personal networks and other sites that have local collaborative content like There are, of course, local newspapers, which are offering many kinds of user-submitted content and creating community around that.

I feel another mashup opportunity coming on. There is growing support for the creation of neighborhood or small town communities although sites like FatDoor are in their infancy. Or web-savy residents will build sites on their own, taking feeds from sites like CitySearch and Craig’s List. They’ll adding a lot of opportunities for their neighbor to provide content and they’ll not only have vibrant local social nets, they’ll also have ideal opportunities for local advertising. It won’t be a virtual community like Second Life; it may in fact, be a lot more useful and engaging—a new version of the local shopping papers, but one that’s personal and interactive.
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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Integrating New Media Into the Mix

Integrated marketing communications is one of my favorite soap boxes. An excellent article in iMedia Connection today reminded me that I hadn’t discussed it in this forum. And it’s not only really important, it continues to become more difficult. We have more media options and a lot of them are really specialized. Can the same agency handle a national TV campaign and run your advertising on MySpace or Facebook, for example? It’s a good bet it can’t. So the problem—and the core of the solution—looks like this.

The media and ad exes interviewed for the iMedia article return frequently to “the big idea.” That goes all the way back to David Ogilvy and no one has said it better. I found this on Brainy Quotes:

It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night. I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea.
David Ogilvy

If you don’t have that “big idea” (or you might prefer the Rosser Reeves phrase “Unique Selling Proposition”), you have nothing to integrate around and you won’t have a consistent message. So that’s major step one.

Step two requires executing in this world of fragmented markets, media and suppliers. Let’s make one simplifying assumption: the specialist agencies are not only experts in a particular technology (video) or application (Facebook), but they understand the market segments it reaches. If they don’t understand markets, their skills are hollow, and they are not going to do the marketing job. So hire not only for technical expertise but for the ability to use it to reach markets, often niche ones.

This requires managing execution across multiple groups inside and outside your organization. Don Buckley, SVP of Interactive Marketing at Warner Bros., talked about that a few months ago. What he says suggests they have a good handle on it in their own organization.

Click here to view video.

Listening I was reminded of the very early days of database marketing and the early days of the Internet when the “techies” were often isolated from “the suits.” Successful marketing organizations are now integrating the people as well—perhaps in work teams, perhaps the kind of frequent interaction Don Buckley talks about.

However you choose to manage the process, it starts with a big idea that can be messaged appropriately across media and it achieves its goals by consistent communication across specialist domains.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Marketer-Friendly Mashup Tool

Mashups are a great way to attract attention and create engagement among customers and non-customers alike. The Frito-Lay contest for SuperBowl08 is an example of providing some tools and allowing users to make their own videos. This spring Heinz ran a college challenge contest in which they provided content that student teams could “mash up” in their own way to make ketchup ads.

Mash up sites have been around for awhile. There is AdCandy, which has gone through multiple iterations. Presently JetBlue and and Monster Energy Drink are running slogan contests, so they appear to be working on the mashup capabilities.

Many sites offer mashup tools. For marketers, most of these these are ugly places where they speak languages like JAVA, AJAX, Flash, ATOM, and lots of others that marketers just don’t speak. Until now, creating your own enterprise mashup--for either internal productivity or external marketing--has required some assistance, either a developer to do custom programming or an API like one of the many offered by Yahoo!’s Flickr site. Google Maps is very popular with local businesses because they can incorporate the mapping information into their listings and sites with ease.

The new web service announced by Microsoft last week at the Web 2.0 Summit last week in San Francisco may finally have made mashups a DIY activity for marketers. One of the product developers gives an interesting demo in this video.

Click here to view video.

Microsoft has further information on their Popfly site and – if you plan to call in a developer, background information on the Sliverlight site.

Now the challenge is to figure out how to use mashups effectively for marketing purposes. Contests are fine, but there must be more. Any ideas?

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Marketing and the New Media - The Analytics Challenge

One of the main attractions of the Internet for marketers is the ability to track and evaluate the effectiveness of our marketing efforts. There’s a lot of help available, but complete tracking and evaluation is still more difficult than it sounds.

In June 2005 WebTrends published the results of a study that found only 5% of marketers “very confident” in their abilities to measure web marketing efforts while 43% said they were “fairly confident.” A scary 26% admitted to “flying blind.” Has the situation improved since then? Probably; there are a lot of good web analytics programs out there and marketers of all types are increasingly cognizant of their importance.

But that begs the real question because web analytics are the easy part. Measuring the offline activities that are still an important part of the marketing mix is still harder. A recent chart caught my eye, because it highlights important issues.

Click here to view article.

Marketers still see data quality as a problem, but by far their largest problem is marketing and tracking the results in multiple (sales) channels. That is closely followed by what marketers express as “closing the loop on campaigns by merging response and transactional data.” In other words, we also have multiple communications channels. So we have multiple communications channels inciting action in multiple transactional channels. The marketer is faced with a spaghetti-like network of activity and action, and it’s hard to follow the strands from beginning to end.

The web analytics providers are doing a heroic job of integrating non-website channels like email and search into their solutions. However, it’s easy to surmise that the new media channels like blogs and social networks are going to grow (and sometimes shrink) faster than the integrated analytics solutions can incorporate their metrics.

For now, we’ll be working with individual solutions in various channels. For example:
•Blog platforms provide basic metrics for each user blog
Analytics widgets for social networks like MySpace and Facebook have become a booming industry. Some of them are purely for the gratification of the page owner but some are useful for a commercial page
•Social networks have been a focus of research for many years and the research has produced appropriate metrics
•Analytics packages like Google Analytics can be included in various social media applications.

More generally, the Web Metrics Association is encouraging the development of metrics for social media with a combination of virtual and real-world collaborative activities. The metrics are evolving but putting them together into a complete picture is a moving target.
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Friday, October 19, 2007

Internet Activity = Content Over Communications

I’ve been teaching Internet marketing from the very beginning. As any of you who teach, speak or lecture on the subject know well, it’s hard to keep up with developments. But one thing that has been a constant is that communications (primarily email) was the largest component of Internet user time. This is an important issue, and in August 2004 the Online Publishers Association launched their Internet Activity Index to track consumption of time by Internet users. Their four categories of time use are communications, content, commerce and search. Their initial data showed communications taking the largest chunk of time with content not too far behind. Marketers were probably paying more attention to commerce, which was pretty far down at less than 20% of total time.

Since then, without most of us paying a lot of attention, content kept moving up. Sometime in early 2006 content caught up with communications and by August 2007 the media buzz was the fact that content was about half of total Internet time use with communications far behind at 30%. Neither commerce nor search was showing sustained growth, again as measured by time use.

Current data from the OPA site shows the continuing dominance of content, although it is down a bit from the month before. According to OPA that was because users spent less time on social networking and children’s sites in August. On the other hand, they emailed and IM’ed more, especially from work. That looks like a clear seasonal effect. Search increased as a result of news activity, which is always true when there are major current events—in this case a hurricane, toy recalls and a bridge collapse.

Why is this important to marketers? For content and social media sites that want to monetize their content, the seemingly inexorable move away from traditional media to the Internet lets them sell more advertising for more money. For ecommerce sites it means that both online advertising and search bring users to their sites to make purchases. Large portals with vast advertising reach find it easy to sell out their inventory of advertising. But it also makes it possible to reach niche audiences cost effectively through niche sites and specialized advertising networks. Doug Weaver of iMediaConnection has an interesting take on the allocation of media $ to a more balanced online media model.

Click here to view video.

In the end it all adds up to the ecosystem of content that is the essence of Web2.0. The marketer’s challenge is using the right tool and the right time to reinforce the brand message with the target audience and then to be able to measure the sales results in multiple channels.
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Thursday, October 18, 2007

A Good Marketing Video--and Why It's Important

Google recently announced a new AdSense product for video. It allows the owner of a website, blog, wiki, etc. to offer video from selected video channels on either a per-impression or a PPC basis. It’s an interesting site feature given what we know about the appeal of video and the stickiness it adds to a site.

What do we know? Recent research by the Pew Internet and American Life project finds frequent consumption and sharing of online video across demographic groups. They also find users unwilling to pay for video content.

Click here to view the complete report.

Even more compelling for marketers is a recent study by that finds viewers taking action as a result of viewing videos.

Click here to view the complete presentation.

The new AdSense product and the research on the impact of video combine to place a premium on doing video well to get your share of audience attention and action. The basic rules for good marketing video can be summarized as:

• Keep it short. Viewers are more likely to watch short videos all the way through. For ads, “short” is 15 to 30 seconds, with 15 being better. For content videos you can do as much as 2 to 6 minutes, but shorter is better.

• Engaging content is key. Remember the Cadbury gorilla? Don’t count on it going viral; only a small fraction of the videos on the web do that. But keep shooting for content that the audience will love.

• Encourage viewers and customers to submit their own videos. It supplements your content (and therefore your $) and they may come up with even more engaging content.

• A reasonable level of quality in production values is necessary for commercial videos. But there may be instances where content or timeliness have priority over slick production.

• Integrate your messages across media. According to Aimee Irwin, VP of, “You must create an integrated and consistent campaign without simply duplicating the same ads across media. Each channel—TV, online video, banner ads, even search—has its own success factors.”

• You’ll need to familiarize yourself with video ad formats. The IAB is a good place to start. Then you’ll want to find an agency that is familiar with both the creative and production complexities of video.

• Ditto for an advertising network that specializes in video. For anything other than a small test you need a network who can deal with a whole host of other issues surrounding the media buy, placement and execution.

• Measure, measure, measure! We are only on the threshold of the video era, and there’s much more to learn.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Do You Have a Social Media Expert in Your Shop?

Something that Paul Martecchini said in the video I posted recently struck home with me. He mentioned that some companies have low-level, maybe non-marketing, people handling social media initiatives like MySpace or Facebook pages.

I had a similar experience recently. I’m working to start up a multi-authored blog, and it’s no small feat. More about that later. What I discovered was someone in the organization—in a totally different capacity—was ideal to get it started and keep it running smoothly. It took awhile to get the organization to ask the right questions and find the right person, but it was worth the effort.

The answer to the title question is undoubtedly, “Yes.” The young man in the mailroom has a MySpace page. One staffer is an expert blogger and another has a Facebook page from her days in college. Your secretary has a Flickr page to share photographs with family. And the list goes on and on!

These people are already in your organization. They are active in social media. Think about how you can make use of them.

You might start by having some internal focus groups. I’m not ordinarily a fan of letting people volunteer for focus groups but this is an exception. Recruit volunteers from within the firm by telling them what you are interested in and soliciting their advice. Ask them what the organization should be doing to get onboard the social media express. Ask them how to attract the target audience you want to the site. Ask them if they visit commercial pages on sites like MySpace and Facebook. Why? Why not? What do they like/expect? What turns them off?

With any luck (and trust in the motives of the organization) you may identify several people who have both skills and enthusiasm. One might be the developer of your new initiative. Others might be members of an advisory group.

Use your imagination—and reach out to people in your own organization to help you establish traction in the new media environment!
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Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Non-Profits Explore Social Media

Today constituent management firm Convio announced a major suite of applications designed to make it easier for non-profit organizations to tap the power of Web 2.0. I wrote earlier about the software that allows fund-raiser participants to create their own personal pages to solicit gifts. The new applications allow customers to create their own APIs, integrate various member/donor databases and take advantage of social networks like Facebook and Flickr.

At first glance, many of these applications are not DIY. It’s going to take some programming to turn your logo into a live connection to your website or to a landing page that registers new acquisitions. Once you have it, though, it is easy to post it—and to ask loyal members of your community to post it on their websites, blogs, and social network pages. That will work for non-profits in a way that it won’t work for corporations. And that’s DIY. Once you have the logo or another API, ask your supporters to post it and to encourage their friends to do the same. Corporations have to pay for that (the Amazon or eBay affiliate programs, for example). Non-profits will get it free from people who care about their cause.

Some social networks are offering special services to non-profits. It’s another traffic builder and it doesn’t hurt their public image. ASPCA, with its channel on YouTube, continues to be a leader in use of these techniques. Many of their videos feature individual animals available for adoption and, looking at them, one has to believe they result in successful adoptions. They also offer informational videos and ones like the one featuring Tony LaRussa, which was originally a PSA spot.

The channel also includes entertaining user-submitted videos that are tagged “aspca” like “Charm School.”

MySpace offers “A portal to all that is good on MySpace.” There are a lot of pages on politics on MySpace, remember The Obama Girl?” That was a supporter’s offering; the campaign has its own MySpace page, as do many others. And no, I didn’t check how many “friends” each campaign has there as a measure of its appeal to young voters. I’m not going there.

For-profit marketers take note. As long as these pages are on the “free” networks, they are going to offer advertising space. That’s a useful way to target specialized audiences with ads and sponsorships that align the corporation with good causes. Is it better than having your own commercial-looking page? Time (and marketing experiments and good metrics) will tell.

In the meantime non-profits are going to continue to explore Internet frontiers, and they deserve our support.
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Monday, October 15, 2007

Time for the Super Bowl Already?

It seems that the Super Bowl hype has already begun. FritoLay has already unveiled contest plans for this year’s event; this year you can create your own song. And it doesn’t even have to be about a Frito-Lay brand.

Click here to visit contest site.

If memory serves me correctly, 2007 was the first year that user-generated ads were aired on the game. Frito-Lay seemed satisfied with the results of their 2007 contest. The public vote for first place was apparently quite close, so they ran the top two commercials at an estimated cost of $2.6 million each. That’s quite an investment, but all the media hype and user attention probably made it worthwhile.

General Motors ran a similar contest after a bad experience with a Tahoe commercial promotion earlier in 2006. It was tightly controlled and included as many as eight “webisodes” including this one chronicling the winner. The webisodes are clearly aimed at the college student audience, the target of the contest.

Those are the only three user-created commercials to actually air during the game, as nearly as I can count. If you want to relive the experience, CBS still has all the commercials posted including Doritos “Live the Flavor” (first quarter) and “Check Out Girl” (second quarter) and the Chevy "Car Wash” (second quarter). The ads can be sorted by advertiser if you are a real history buff.

And if you are ready to get out your instruments, the Doritos contest goes live on October 25. It will be fun to keep an eye on it. It will be even more fun to watch what other advertisers do in the realm of user-generated advertising and content.

Perhaps the most fun of all will be watching what users do and say. A quick search for “Super Bowl 2007” on YouTube lists 1,160 posts, including banned advertisements from GoDaddy and Budweiser.

What does all the user-generated activity mean besides the fact that watchers seem to be posting video in addition to (instead of?) watching the game? How should advertisers monitor what is being said about them, especially at peak times like this? How can they listen to the voice of the consumer in this environment?

One final note. As I write this the baseball playoffs are taking place. Go Sox!! Verizon prepared for them in Boston by beefing up wireless service in and around Fenway park. They reported that over 267,000 text messages were sent during the Friday, October 12 game. Should we read meaning into this – or just relax and enjoy the game?
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Friday, October 12, 2007

The Brave New World of Social Media

Marketers are well aware that the media and customer landscapes are changing all around them. A recent study by Accenture found that 62% of executives surveyed believed that “new platforms/new ways of delivery” would be the greatest driver of revenue growth in 2007. It was followed by “new content” at a mere 32%. But in order for this to be true, marketers have to get it right. Even Accenture didn’t get it entirely right. They have a catchy but off-target subhead in the report, “The Revolution Will Be Televised.” Not exactly. It will be caught on video, often captured by personal cell phones, as current events continue to demonstrate.

But that is the new world, and marketers have to get it right. This video featuring Paul Martecchini of PowerStar Consulting shows some examples of what works and what doesn’t.

Click here to play the video.

There’s been buzz lately about the relative success of Target and Wal-Mart on Facebook. One social networking metric is members of your group; as of today Target has 12,829 and Wal-Mart has 1,242. It’s not the theme of the respective pages, both are designed to appeal to the college market. In fact, Wal-Mart has more interactive content with their “decorate your room” application.

If you could see clearly the user-submitted pictures at the bottom of each page, you’d see the issue emerging. The pictures on the Target page are of dorm and apartments and young customers enjoying them. At the time I checked, all four of the user-submitted “pictures” on the Wal-Mart page were negative—a protester, a report cover, what looks like a website home page, and a cartoon. None favorable, which can’t be pleasing to Wal-Mart, although they say they are going to continue with the page. When you read the “wall posts” on both pages, the issue becomes even clearer. The young members of the Target group generally love Target, love shopping there, etc. It looks to me as if the average member of the Wal-Mart group signed up to express social concerns about Wal-Mart.

Two points. First if you’ve got a respected brand, your customers can—and probably will, if you do it right--help you get the word out. If your brand is not respected, submitting it to social scrutiny is going to magnify the issues. Second, do you have a Facebook and a MySpace account? Do you spend some time looking at what your competitors are doing there? If not, you may be missing something important!

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Blog Transparency

One shouldn’t believe everything they read in blogs—except mine of course! But seriously, blog posts are the product of individuals and they may or may not be factually correct, complete, or unbiased. In evaluating user generated content of any kind, I think triangulation is the best approach; if two, or better three, sources agree, then you can have some credence in the content. Do you, for example, read just one product review before making up your mind to buy or not to buy? If you need a quick read on a blog, try Nielsen BuzzMetrics new blog profile tool.

What if you are blogging or participating in some other social media? How do you build trust? The operative word today is “transparency,” but what does imply about our actions? As you might guess, user generated content and its impact on information has been an important topic among journalists. Here’s a recent post that summarizes journalistic issues nicely.

I recently became aware of guidelines posted by the Ogilvy PR group that are worth the attention of all content creators. Some are relevant to people posting in a corporate environment. Companies could use them as a foundation for their own policies. Some are also relevant to the unfettered individual blogger. We should pay careful attention to the following:

• Acknowledge and Correct Mistakes Quickly. We all make them. Acknowledge them, correct them, and move on.

• Know Thy Neighbor. To make your blog authoritative you need to know who else is blogging about similar subjects. Find out who is blogging about what on search engines like Technorati, Google Blog Search and Nielsen Blog Pulse. Ogilvy suggests introducing yourself and trying to form alliances. Good idea!

• Use a Disclaimer. Make it clear where you are coming from and what your affiliations are. Even on a personal blog, you may need to separate your personal views from the official positions of your employer. Or your employer may require it. You should check.

• Conduct Quality Assurance. This is the standard advice to all writers, and we all forget it sometimes. Make your posts focus, concise, logical and don’t forget to use spell check. To my disgust, Word’s little green lines are usually correct when identifying grammatical errors.

Ogilvy has gone further and issued guidelines for its PR people when contacting bloggers. All bloggers should read and heed to avoid being used by unscrupulous publicity seekers.

Accenture has been studying trust, especially on the Internet, for some time. A good article is “The Economic Value of Trust.” Prof. John Urban has a step-by-step approach complete with case studies. Everyone makes the point that it takes sustained effort over time to build trust. It can be destroyed with one ill-advised action.

Remember the Wal-Mart blogs and the PR company behind them? The “Wal-Marting Across America” blog purportedly recounted the journey of a couple who parked their RV in Wal-Mart parking lots to shop and take pictures of happy customers and employees. It was all a fake. Wal-Mart pulled the blog and Richard Edelman, president of the PR firm, apologized publicly. Bloggers quickly labeled them "flogs."

In this age of user generated content, if you are not truthful, someone is likely to find it out quickly. And they’ll post it on the Internet.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Adding Widgets to the Advertising Mix

In your list of the tools that make marketing diy these days a useful entry is the widget. You see them all the time; the “Subscribe by email” box beside this post is a widget supplied by services firm FeedBurner.

There are two types of widgets. There are widgets like “Subscribe” that can be embedded in any web page, including this blog. There are desktop widgets. You might have downloaded the weather widget from It also gives you traffic reports, and while you’re there you can also download a widget linking you to your favorite major league baseball team. What a deal! Bringing all these visitors to does great things for their advertising rate card. Having their downloadable widget works for because it has a high awareness level, and everyone needs a weather service on their desktop, don’t they? They also need affordable air fares. Southwest Airlines booked over $100 million in fares in the first year of its Ding widget, which is customizable for the cities you favor.

Most marketers are especially interested in widgets that can be embedded in other sites and drive traffic back to the sponsoring site. These widgets can build awareness for newer businesses and generate sales, especially for well-known trusted sites.

Staying with weather for a minute a company called Nimbus has a cute weather cloud that publishers can embed on their site as a small bar, shown below expanded. It provides a lot of location-specific weather information and a link back to Nimbus to find out more. The publisher can also sell advertising on the weather widget. Enough to pay for this commercial widget, I wonder?

Sites like eBay can offer a toolbar made up of widgets. eBay also offers tools to help programmers write widgets that link to eBay. There are a number of sites that offer diy tools for widget development. One of those is MuseStorm. Personally, I’m a bit skeptical of their claim that it’s as easy as creating a PowerPoint presentation, but the tools do look easy to use.

I created one in Google Gadgets for another blog, and it was as easy as Google said it would be. It turns out, though, that you can only put Google Gadgets on Google pages, and I wanted it for a blog with another provider, so that effort didn’t work. But creating the widget was easy, and in the right situation I wouldn’t hesitate to try it again.

I added one to this blog yesterday; see Sphere below. It turned out as a link, not an icon, because I can’t figure out how to include their sphere symbol. But it works. I got the idea from the Wall Street Journal Online. Look at the bottom of their articles, for “Related Articles and Blogs.” They have a staff of expensive IT people to customize the look; I have only me—not very skilled and free. And I have the same functionality as the WSJ on my blog. Think about that!

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, October 8, 2007

When Marketers Listen to the Voice of the Customer

When marketers do listen, it’s gratifying. Why do I also feel that it’s unusual? Amazon just sent me an email announcing that they not only received my suggestion, they acted on it. Now that is really unusual!

The story goes like this. In June, after 2 years of hard labor, I delivered myself of the second edition of my Internet marketing text. It was published by Thomson Custom Publishing (now Cengage), which had purchased the original publisher, Atomic Dog. Does that suggest some of the angst?

As part of their standard marketing effort, Thomson sent an announcement to Amazon containing basic information—things like the ISBN number and a brief product promo. That appeared to go up promptly—Thompson is a huge publisher and one assumes that Amazon pays attention. However, they still didn’t have a cover image up a couple of months later. I thought that made the book look like a mediocre also-ran.

All the publishers I’ve worked with seem to regard the workings of Amazon as somewhat mysterious. Maybe it's because textbook publishers are focused on their sales/college bookstore channels. But I’m an Amazon Associate, so I decided to see what I could do.

So I submitted a cover image. I had to do that in the “customer image” section, but at least there was an image on the product detail page. I was still disgruntled that there wasn’t an image on the main results page. So I signed into my Associates account and asked them to insert the image on the main page. The email went off into the black hole that swallows emails in automated systems. I assumed that would be the end of that. And checking back every few weeks seemed to confirm my pessimism.

Imagine my surprise when I received this email—on the Columbus Day holiday, no less—let’s hear it for automated email systems! Not only had they placed the image on the main results page, they reminded me I could do more.

They had already paired this Internet marketing book with a respected database marketing book. Customers had purchased it with titles on related subjects. There are publication details and the editorial material submitted by the publisher (not shown).

After the Editorial Reviews is arguably the most important section on the page. It allows any customer to tag the product. Below the tags customers can suggest searches (“include this product in searches for ‘interactive marketing,’ for example”). This requires the customer to sign in, and includes the customer name in the rationale for including the product in that keyword search. For sure, the tags direct search traffic to the product. Does activity like this also move the product up in the Amazon search algorithm?

Then there is the standard product rating function. After that they solicit customer reviews. That now includes video reviews—and they recommend a video cam you can buy to record your reviews—and your life. Good job!

Then they offer a customer discussion forum and a beta offering called Amapedia Community that looks truly collaborative. They provide relevant customer-submitted book lists – Listmania! and end with some links to related books and promotional offers.

Amazon gives customers a lot of opportunity to contribute content. In doing that, they give themselves a lot of opportunity to listen to the customer. All that content feeds into the Alexa search engine in one way or another. And I believe their description when it says the search engine has “ranking algorithms that learn from customer behavior.”

Something they are doing or something I am doing—or more likely both—is working; the book is moving up in the rankings on relevant keywords!
Sphere: Related Content

Friday, October 5, 2007

A New Entry in Wikispace?

Not long ago Martha Stewart Omnimedia announced that it’s working on a Web 2.0 site to be called “Marthapedia.” It has created a lob of buzz, but it’s clearly not up yet. When you seach for Marthapedia at present you are redirected to the current site. I took a look at their Community page and, while has lots of interactive features, it doesn’t have real collaborative features.

According to MediaPost, the new “”Marthapedia" will essentially serve as an online handbook to provide user-friendly info on topics such as home and garden, family, food and others. The entries will initially be developed by Stewart's editors, but like Wikipedia, consumers will be able to link in and suggest their own recipes or gardening tips. However, unlike Wikipedia, where consumers can freely update the content, the editors will serve as gatekeepers, determining which consumer-generated info should be added.”

I’ve always been a great admirer of the Martha Stewart Omnimedia business model. It was designed from the ground up as a multimedia company. If you follow any of the publications, on or off line, you know that they really understand the use of various media and excel at cross promotion. On the web they are good at rich media, video and interactivity. The founder and her issues aside, it is a model par excellence of multichannel communications and marketing.

I’m adding my voice to the chorus of skeptics in the blogosphere on the “wiki” aspect, though. Neither marketer-developed content nor extensive monitoring of submissions is in the open source spirit. What are the expectations when consumers submit content? Is it that all content will be used? That content will be monitored for acceptability? That only selected content will be posted? You can see examples of all these practices all over the web. It's a matter of setting expectations--and then living up to them.

Maybe we’re just being purists, objecting to the use of “wiki” in something that sounds like a glorified message board. Maybe there is a real issue here that’s going to come back to bite the brand. All branded sites have to maintain some control over posted content. It will all depend on the execution.

But just don’t call it a wiki!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

More Marketing Dollars or Smarter Marketing Dollars?

Several times recently I’ve been in involved in discussions that centered around, “Is it the time to be spending more money on marketing?” In each case I’ve patiently tried to explain that it’s probably not the right question. The question is, “How can I get more out of my marketing dollars?” I think this is the voice of sweet reason, but it’s amazing how hard it is to get C-level executives to focus on the implications of the question.

Part of the answer is straightforward. It’s the reason that Internet advertising is growing between 20 and 30% this year. It’s the reason that both email marketing and email advertising expenditures are growing by leaps and bounds around the world. The online tools reach more people more cheaply than offline media. And those are just what I call the “traditional (Web 1.0) tools.”

What about the Web 2.0 tools? Everyone has their own list. Mine is:
• Blogs
• Social Networks
• Personalized Search
• Wikis
• Podcasts
• Mash Ups
• Collaboration Tools.
What is yours?

What do these tools have in common? They all allow for the kind of “non-linear” communications Don Schultz talked about. You can find free hosting services or free software for all of them. Each allows marketers and users to communicate directly, without communications being filtered, without having to call on IT for assistance. The barriers are down!

Marketers currently spend a lot of their dollars on traditional mass media. That can be expensive. If the Web 2.0 media are essentially free, that’s a huge opportunity for saving those marketing dollars.

But wait a minute! The cost of these media is the time of people whose expertise is in short supply. In June eMarketer quoted (“E-Mail Marketing Budgets Boom,”June 22) a study of 630 marketing executives by Jupiter Research. It found that expenditures on email marketing personnel increased from an average of $169,710 in 2005 to $182,067 in 2007. Average salaries of individuals increased from $50,526 to $63,547 during that time. If you can find them, that is!

In that enewsletter David Daniels of Jupiter said, "While salaries are up, they are not up enough to support most companies' ever-burgeoning e-mail marketing efforts. E-mail marketing budgets do not match the strategic importance of actual marketing programs." And here again, we are talking about one of the established Web 1.0 tools, not the newer Web 2.0 tools.

Where is the barrier in your own firm? Is it lack of understanding of the new media? Is it inability to design and execute new media programs? And what should you be doing about that?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Video is a Driver of Online Growth

According to Marketing Charts ZenithOptimedia continues to predict robust spending growth for Internet advertising in the face of a flat growth rate for newspapers and a decline in growth of spending for television ads.

There is pretty universal agreement that video is one of the main drivers in the time users are spending on the web and consequently the dollars marketer are shifting to it. eMarketer, in their August 24 2007 newsletter, estimates current video ad spending at a mere $775 million in 2007 with an increase to $2.9 billion by 2010. In the same publication they quote an American Advertising Foundation survey of marketing executives that rates video advertising third in marketing effectiveness behind search and social networking. The Center for Media Research (free subscription required) quotes a study of streaming video by Sixty-two percent of their respondents are viewing streaming video online, most at home in the evening. Segmenting by age, 31% of 18 to 34 year olds watch streaming video; 69% of consumers 35 and over watch streaming video. That surprises me; does it surprise you? Maybe it’s because of the content they stream; the most streamed content in the second half of 2007 was news clips and the only content that had declining viewership from the first to the second half of 2007 was music videos.

You can see interesting examples of corporate videos all around you—at least if you look on YouTube. This one is a family favorite.

Techniques to make it viral are there—share (email) and embed, as I’ve done. The chart in the post from InfluxBranding shows that it did, indeed, go viral but as the author points out, didn’t maintain it for long. So it’s necessary to keep the video creativity coming!

Let your customers help you. I’ve had wonderful experiences with all my grandchildren at museums and galleries. About a year ago I was privileged to be with my youngest grandson when he had his first museum experience. His mother never leaves home without her digital camera; that may be a generational thing. On this day she took some wonderful pictures, still, not video in this case. The little guy’s face was full of awe and wonder and pure enjoyment. Sadly, the museum offered us no place to share a few pictures of an enthralled two year old. (I just checked and it still doesn’t.) How sad. Letting customers upload photos and videos can be advertising beyond price. Especially since you don’t have to pay for it; just give them opportunity to share their experiences!

Monday, October 1, 2007

Will Boomers Flock to Social Networks?

Considering the size and spending power of this demographic, it's a significant issue for marketers. TeeBeeDee came out of beta just last week with a strong management team and high expectations. In this video CEO Robin Wolaner talks about her vision for the site.

Is the optimism well founded? Does TeeBeeDee have a workable positioning? Or will the site flounder like Eons appears to be doing?
For sure, the space is crowded. A search turns up sites including Rezoom, BOOMj and Boomertowne. That's not to mention MySpace and Facebook, both of which are seeking an older demographic. And it doesn't count a multitude of parenting sites that appear to cater to a somewhat younger target.

Will advertisers hold back waiting for the inevitable shake-out? Will at least one boomer network survive? Or is social networking just for the very young? We'll all need to keep watching.