Monday, March 27, 2006

Is the Future Bright or is it Dull?

Ive been asked to write a prediction of the future for an article. The following is very rough and definitely needs work in all departments but as a first attempt I'm actually quite happy (particularly considering it was written at speed due to two impending pitch deadlines). I must give a few credits to Mike Butcher, as I've nicked a couple of his gags from another predictions piece he did a few years ago, but it is mostly mine. Anyway, first draft:

In the future, the key word will be convergence. By 2011 media and the way we interact with it, will have changed significantly.

The power available to users has led to the development of hand held, combined mobile phone and computer in one, with Apple’s i-phone (launched in 2008) leading the field. These small handheld devices work with an earpiece and a small screen although trialling has already begun on a project chip inset into a special polarising lens oin a pair of glasses (referred to by Apple as the i-Lens) to provide a Heads Up Display (HUD) as large as a persons own desktop monitor. It is this product’s launch which most consumers cite as a reason why they would upgrade to Apple’s newest product the i-wrist, although the ability to hack another person computer to see their HUD without their knowledge (known as HUDJacking) remains a security concern.

All major towns, cities, roads and train lines now offer wireless broadband access for these devices, meeting the Information Everywhere marketing claims of the various service providers. A series of bolt on Bluetooth devices are also available. These include monitors and keyboards and Library Pods. Library Pods are large (500 Terabyte) disks which scan the various news and entertainment content providers for the latest programs. The then synchronise user specific content with each persons i-Phone. BitTorrent (newly listed on the NASDAQ) licenses its Peer to Peer sharing solution to all of these distributors in order to enable subscribed users to download the entertainment they want as fast as possible. All content is available as Text, Audio, Video or any combination to facilitate the needs of all users.

Access is via a subscription service with the BBC (newly merged with British Telecom) separately funded via a compulsory Airwaves License in the UK. The airwaves license provides free access to the network and also free access to communicate directly with any other user on the UK. Overseas consumers may also subscribe to BBC content and therefore enjoy reduced rates to contact UK consumers. The BBC is unique amongst content providers in that it does not advertise and is also the corner stone of the UK network. It’s ability to attract overseas subscribers has also bolstered its revenues although most overseas users consider the BBC to be too expensive. The UK consequently has the most expensive access to media of any western country.

The reason for this is that all other content providers subsidise access to their network via self profiling for advertising purposes. Users therefore choose to give as much or as little information about themselves as they wish but the more information they give, the cheaper their access to both the Content Providers content and also for access to the network. Currently only the top 10% of the population could reasonably afford not to receive adverts however over 99% have elected to follow this trend and receive specifically targeted ads during syndicated programs which they choose to listen to, watch or read. It is therefore possible to bring the cost of accessing the network down to little more than the cost of the Airwaves license itself. Ads are also permission served based on location with billboards recognising users who fit their profile and deliver highly personalised and tailored content as part of the ad. This has brought a wealth of interest from local advertisers as well as national and International brands.

The ads themselves come in many forms, from static and animated content alongside text content to fully interactive ads during syndicated video content, where the user interacts with the ad itself which closely resembles smaller versions of computer games from the previous decade. The vast majority of content is now syndicated with new content advertised during shows which have already been subscribed to. Very accurate viewing figures are now available dependent on download which together with the voluntary profiling of users has enabled highly accurate conversion metrics to be produced, many of which disprove many of the assumptions made in the past.

Two content types offer live feeds as well as syndicated content.

The first of these is provided by the various news services. In this the BBC stands as the champion of unbiased quality journalism and is one of the two largest companies in this space. The other is Fox News which champions the new, more popular form of journalism known as Viewpoint Journalism. These offer news and current affairs services which are loosely split by political stance and ideology, and provide consumers the ability to watch the same content but with a commentary position which closely matches their own based on self profiling. These are available in a user defined language and for every political viewpoint possible as well as Local, national and global content, although concern exists over availability of the far right fascist viewpoint expressed by the new Fatherland Russian News channel. This content is again interspersed with relevant ads.

The other form of content which offers this service is sport with all consumers able to watch live or syndicated matches from anywhere in the world. Ads are again displayed along with individual subscriptions. These rank among the highest subscriptions available.

Against this background is the User Content Service whereby any user can contribute their own and others commentary on current affairs or simply their own thoughts. Personal content is added in all formats such as video, text and audio this method of information delivery has grown to be a highly respected source of information. Some users built their own audiences which rival any of the main content providers and overall user content outnumbers professional content by 3 to 1. User Content was first to report the civil war in China, and the first to break the news of widespread corruption in the conservative government’s arms sales to Russia affair. Overall user content is considered the place where news stories begin and then are picked up by the professional press, and most news content providers employ a team to trawl through user content every day looking for leads.

The last of the printed press is due to disappear at the end of the year with only The Sunday Times and The Sunday Sun remaining. Most other news organisations have either been bought by the BBC or have re-launched themselves as glossy periodicals. It is suspected though that many of the user content providers are actually employees of these publications who want to bring an issue into the public eye.

Users also have the ability to splice the live content with their own entertainment and music in particular is very popular in this format. It is so popular that some shows have listeners which reach into tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands.

For a user with an audience they are also able to display ad slots which are filled automatically by the Google Advertising Network. This network is the largest in the world and displays relevant ads to match the individual users profile in the allocated slots. This is the most highly form of targeted advertising available and is often backed up by high conversion rates which earns money for the user and Google.

On one of these show’s, this morning someone listens to reports on the business news that Apple is to be relisted as an apparel company and that BitTorrent has just broken the record for an IPO. Following this is commentary by an unknown user on political developments in the Far East and Russia and this is followed by a personalised ad for a holiday abroad in Turkey where the user last went 4 years ago. Finally the traffic news relating to the specific journey the user takes is broadcast followed by a track form one of their favourite bands.

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Ship lost at sea with project brief on board

I read the following article this morning on New Media Age. Not every body is going to be able to see it because it is a subscription service but to paraphrase:

P & O Cruises has announced today the relaunch of it's redesigned website.

"A spokesman for P&O Cruises said the aim of the site was to be innovative enough to attract new customers yet simple enough for Internet novices to navigate.

The new site offers a video tour of each of the company's five luxury liners. It also has separate sections to cater for first-time cruisers and those who have holidayed with the company before."

Now I know quite a bit about this project because over the Christmas period 2003 I and 4 other agencies pitched for the business. I remember it being a very tight schedule and I worked late on Christmas Eve along with the Creative Director to get it finished.

The description above is very much like the brief I responded to. We were actually eliminated during the second round and from what I gather the winner was later told that they would not be awarded the deal either. 2 years have now gone by and as of a few minutes ago the site is not launched which means that the PR piece has gone out before the site went up.

One of the things I say time and time again to clients is that a website is interactive not just for users but also for the company. It is easy to make changes and additions to it and this actually has a benefit as customers will come back to the site to see the new features and information (obviosuly you need to tell them about it).

Taking the view that the website is like a piece of print where every last detail has to be perfect prior to launch delays the site, and in this case it seems that severe delays may have occurred. In the meantime the site is going to be launched with what looks to me like a 2+ year old brief and in the meantime other companies have come along and created a more vibrant image of a cruise company (The excellent work for Royal Caribbean done by Positive Thinking comes to mind) has placed P&O further down in customers minds than was necessary. Obviously I have issues with the website (I usually will) but the point is that the consumer's perception of what a cruise is, has been challenged and probably changed through the media communications and has been made more appealing.

To me this is a clear example of people who get it (Royal Caribbean) and people who don't (P&O). Media has moved on dramatically since the brief was given out and yet the brief has remained stagnant and in development for over two years. Agencies can only help clients who are prepared to let themsleves be helped and the rate at which media is changing the worst thing in the world anybody can do right now, is nothing.

Somehow I suspect that a company in Southampton hasn't heard this message yet.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

If Sky is doing it then It must be right

I've said in the past that digital TV in this country was ill conceived in its execution.

I saw absolutely no point in trying to create another web and the red button was never a decent way of interacting with anything. What I wanted was truly interactive content where televisions were actually computers and you could take part in the show or ad you were watching as well as providing feedback. The big problem was that programs were scheduled, and that gave the whole thing an insurmountable problem. Well just as Radio is being usurped by Podcasts, broadcast TV will be usurped by IPTV, and the most encouraging information I have yet seen has come through just now from Brand Republic, with Sky's announcement that it will launch its Broadband TV service. This means that the platform is in place, next will come the markup standard and then clever agencies and production houses can start to create their content.

Add to that an article from the register today about ITV rejecting a takeover bid and this is starting to look like a fairly imminent reality. The only thing that has surprised me is that Freeview didn't pick up on this first, as I would have thought that they were the ones ideally placed to lead the way on this.

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I've been published

Apparently I have had one of my pieces published in Marketing Magazine this week. I think its my letter relating to the River Island site launch, but I'm not sure as I haven't seen this weeks copy yet.

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First Armadillos and now Wombats... Whatever Next

I spoke last week about armadillo marketing. Well today I heard about WOMBATs. A WOMBAT is apparently a Word Of Mouth Believer and Transmitter which is very much like Sneezers who pass on a viral message.

Viral marketing is of course very much linked to the concept of Advertising 2.0 and so the concept of identifying targeting and creating a WOMBAT is something that is appealing to me greatly.

I found the term used on the UK Netmarketing list and as far as I can see it doesn't appear anywhere else.... but it definitely should.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

What is a website to do

Ive been asked to contribute for another article on the web, this time looking at design and build.

My piece is still way too long but is included below.

Its interesting going thorugh my thought process, because the aims of what a website should achieve haven't changed, just the ways to accomplish them. Anyway this is my first draft which will change. See what you think.

The commercial web in the UK took off in 1996 which is ten years ago now. Back then a few of us were talking about building relationships online and electronic commerce online but most of the actual sites were simple brochures delivered online.

A lot of companies have spent a great deal of time and money on the presentation of their site but many still lack those all important strategies which engage their audience and prompt a potential customer to begin a dialog with them.

I sat down back in 2000 with a major FMCG manufacturer and we talked about whether people were really going to buy peanut butter from their website in the future. At the time their feeling was that people were going to, and so setting up eCommerce was a good idea. I wasn't convinced and today you still can't go to their site and purchase a tub of peanut butter. Instead you can go to tesco.com or ocado.com and purchase it there. It's about looking at who your actual customers are and realising that they may not be the same as the ultimate consumer of the product. It has never been the case that a large FMCG had their own store where people purchased goods, instead they operate through a distributer who sell to large supermarkets and small shops who in turn sell to the consumer.

For a brand it is about making a decision whether you want to support your existing sales channel or compete with it. Companies that do sell direct such as Dell have a clear business model, they know their customers and so implementing eCommerce is a logical and natural step for them. Amazon proved that a direct selling brand can be built but out of the thousands of .com eCommerce companies who tried to set up not too many of them have seen it through to today. Amazon and Dell took the view of providing information and tools which customers found useful to support their buying decisions. PC World understood that whilst the web is an essential tool which consumers base a buying decisions, the actual purchase mechanism is just as likely to be offline as it is online.

That is really the key point, a website should be about an organisation's customers, and most websites forget this. Your customers will use the web to interact with you and make buying decisions, but ultimately consumers do not like to be forced to purchase in a particular way, they see this as a personal decision and so choice is important to them. Lead with your products or services and how they benefit your existing customers. Show the features and advantages of your products but always link them to the customer. The ubiquitous About Us section has a place in the site but generally visitors will be engaged more if the information they see first is about them and relevant to them. Hearing about the company's history does tend to be of lesser importance to most customers and so give it less prominence in the navigational architecture.

There should be one of two aims for every website.

a) Sell products directly to customers
b) Build relationships with customers.

The first option is obviously leaning towards eCommerce operations but it is only really suitable if your company sells directly to consumers offline, It isn't going to be applicable to every company by any stretch of the imagination. What might be however is setting up Extranets for your large customers to be able to manage their orders with you, and track their progress. Its about making you easier to do business with.

Most companies should be ensuring that their website is focused on building relationships with customers and the other important stakeholders, and this is again where a solid strategy will help. For publicly quoted companies there is a lot of value in separating your corporate site from your customer site as these audience segments are usually interested in different things. So the corporate site is aimed at investors, recruitment, press and media. The customer site is then free to concentrate on providing the relationship building mechanisms that will retain existing customers, and attract new ones.

We are also seeing a dramatic change in how media works and your website should be flexible enough to accommodate this. In days gone by you would promote your products by purchasing the widest reaching mass media method you could afford and advertise that way. Your message would then trickle down from the top to the bottom so that everyone heard of your product and went out to buy it. What we are now seeing is a fundamental change in consumer behavior where mass media is not having the same effect and is even beginning to be distrusted by consumers. We are seeing wholesale reductions in mass media revenues whilst digital viral and direct marketing are taking more of the marketing pie. This is because consumers now would rather base a buying decision on their own research or on a friends recommendation than on a TV ad, which suits the digital medium very well. Consumers today are more likely to be commenting publicly on your products than ever before with their blogs and on bulletin boards so harnessing this power is very important. Web 2.0 is upon us so every corporate site should be implementing RSS and inviting consumers to comment on their products to spread through these social and viral networks. It is important now, more than ever before, to ensure that the benefits and advantages of your products are understood, and consumers are getting very informed so they will know if you are lying to them. Transparency is therefore seen as a distinct advantage by today's consumers.

Accessibility has been a legal requirement of website design now for several years and yet the vast majority of sites fail the most basic tests. It is therefore important that companies select suppliers who do understand that accessible and usable design isn't just for people with disabilities but improves the likelihood of ordinary consumers making buying decisions. Its just financial and common sense. I therefore hope that the enormous inaccessible completely Flash based sites become a thing of the past, as they were usually a waste of money. Flash has its place, but it isn't the main tool in website development.

Many of these things are going to require a lot of courage but if you harness the power of the social networks then your products will be welcomed by the marketplace and your brand message will have the kind of penetration you used to dream of with a return on investment that will keep your shareholders very happy. The worst thing of all that brands can do right now, is nothing.

This generation of websites should not be seen as a cost center but as a profit center and so planning and setting goals is very important. I developed a methodology for digital communications called The Interactive Mix, which is centered on what a digital presence needs to achieve for the organisation in terms of the bottom line, and plans everything from this point in terms of Driving traffic to the website, Acquiring customers in order to establish relationships, Converting customers through tools that facilitate buying decisions and finally Retaining customers through regular updates and communications. And these four key aims should be the cornerstones for the websites built throughout this year.

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Monday, March 20, 2006

SEO Contribution to a Press Article

I was asked this morning for a contribution on SEO for a trade publication, which got me thinking about the ideal SEO offer to clients. This is what I came up with.

Not since the youthful days of Lester Wunderman, has the industry seen such a radically new idea as Search Engine Optimisation. Fundamentally marketing and advertising are changing. It used to be the case that building a brand was accomplished by booking space on the biggest mass media platform you could afford and wait for the message to trickle down from the top. The theory was that by scatter bombing as big an area as possible you would reach all the consumers that would be interested in buying your product. Actually the scatter bombing analogy is very accurate to what is happening. Sure you were likely to hit the key targets but you were also going to reach a lot of people who didn't care about you or your product.

Vietnam taught the US military that scatter bombing wasn't the best way of winning a war, and as a result they now offer smart bombs which apparently knock on the door and ask if the target is in before exploding, and all this is recorded for posterity on video. Search marketing offers the same kind of efficiency and the same benefits and SEO means that any buyer sees your message at exactly the time that they want to make a purchase. That's the Utopian dream of business, right? Mass media's hold on advertising budgets is loosening and Search Marketing increasingly offers a greater return on investment. It is a new technique and consequently the search market is still growing up. Currently there is much talk about what is and what isn't ethical SEO.

Google's advice to Webmasters concerns the content of a site and much of it is to do with good web design practice and writing good copy (the latter of which is often overlooked by many web designers and clients during a project).

The conversation about unethical practices is long and involved, but can be encapsulated in a phrase. If a surfer enters a search term and the results lower their satisfaction then the chances are that unethical tactics have been employed. This should be avoided at all costs as the success of the whole search model relies on the user's satisfaction with the results they get.

This neatly covers the most common unethical practices such as keyword spamming, where long lists of repetitive and non relevant keywords are strung together. Another technique is hiding content which the rest of the site doesn't present to make it look more attractive to the search spiders. Google and the other search engines are getting very hot on these topics and very public removals have been made in the last few weeks. Action of this nature which at times has been over zealous is however understandable because their entire business model depends on the surfer satisfaction ratio remaining high.

The other side of SEO is about promoting your clients site on other sites and is very close to the offline offering of PR agencies. Its about ensuring that any online conversation about your client's industry includes a reference to your client and a link to their site. So industry publications, press articles and discussion boards are very useful to increase page ranking. These technique were so efficient that Google stopped including many blogs in their main search index when they created their Blog Specific index, however the value of blog specific search engines is going to grow and this avenue should not be overlooked. Spaming blogs with automatic comment programs though is unethical and this technique should be avoided on the grounds of reducing surfer satisfaction. Sending relevant bloggers information on your client and their products is ethical and many bloggers are highly receptive to approaches from companies so that they can write up their own reviews.

The ultimate penalty for infringing the SEO ethical practices is removal from the index which means that you, your products and services will be completely invisible to the Internet audience and therefore have to rely on other forms of promotion, which will invariably cost more than well executed SEO. In most cases SEO will provide benefit to clients and a return on investment. In a few cases the offer is either too weak or too complicated to define through copy or keywords or the results are needed too quickly for SEO to be suitable and in these cases there are online and offline alternatives to SEO. As with every aspect of media it is about aligning the needs of the client with the most suited solutions.

My opinion is that SEO practitioners shouldn't simply be looking at an existing site and seeing how to blast it up the rankings, they should be analysing the needs of client's customers and adjusting/adding content which is relevant, clear, complete and valuable for them with specifically targeted keywords. This should then be presented in the most efficient ways for the search spiders to find. It isn't about turning a sows ear into a silk purse, its about going to the haberdashers and getting silk and thread to create it.

SEO takes time, so the results won't be immediately obvious and clients should be aware of this. The results also should be monitored because search is not a static business. This means that SEOs should be talking to clients about ongoing relationships to monitor and update the content keywords and rankings each month. SEOs who guarantee top ten listings in hundreds of search engines with results within two weeks are either lying or they are employing unethical practices. They could also mean Search Engine Marketing which is a different, but related, kettle of fish.

For short campaigns SEO is probably not going to be quick enough to produce excellent results and alternatives should be sought but for websites and web presences with a long shelf life, SEO offers the most cost efficient way of promoting your business.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Form and function - Designing for Print and Web

I've been working with creatives recently who come from a very solid print background but don't have masses of experience with the web, and it has been a real education process for me.

I had heard of teams of creatives with their sketchpads and then creating boards based on the sketches that were then inked in, but I had never seen it before.

These people are highly creative and work in teams of a designer and a copywriter to collectively come up with the concept.

Its not usual for a producer to get involved too much with this process and it is seen very much as the creative domain. I completely see that this is an ideal way to deal with print.

The web is an interactive medium and the type of projects I usually deal with feature online applications and high levels of functionality in addition to presenting brands online, and this world isn't immediately obvious to a creative.

Where this leads to is the old form and function debate, and I am starting to see where and why the camps became so divided.

Form says that fantastic creative is what engages the user and that any functionality can be accommodated later.

Function says that there are clear objectives which the user must complete in order for the campaign to be a success and so any form should be secondary to this goal.

My view is that form and function should work hand in hand and the best web projects prove this. If one takes on more importance than the other then a balance is lost.

How then do you implement that in a traditional print creative team?

Going back to basic web principals, the first thing is to create an information architecture and a workflow of what the required user experience is (such as purchasing a product or giving up information. This will give you the elements that are required on the site, and can be placed on a loose wireframe. At this point the creative concept will be developed and the workflow elements can be made concrete so that the design adds emphasis to the aims and thus form and function will be married together.

So the task is to teach the creatives I am working with about information Architecture and wireframes.

Of course there is also Cross Browser Cross Platform compliance, understanding screen resolutions and adaptive heuristic design but this will do for starters.

I will probably be writing more about this as I start to develop presentation aids about it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Why Online Shopping Mall's are a bad idea

One of the projects that I have never been keen on and has kept raising its head on so many occasions is the idea of the online Mall.

These sites were probably most famously personified by the seemingly deceased Berkeley Square Online Shopping Mall (and nothing to do with the original companies with the same name).

Now to my mind it was a losing idea from the beginning and here is why I think that.

Back in the days before Mass media, superstores and out of town shopping cities, there was a guy who made stuff. He stood outside his shop and announced to everyone that he had stuff, and as people came into his shop he looked after them and gave them a very personal service. People travelled to his shop in particular because he had the best stuff and he remembered their names, what they bought and made good receommendations to them. He was very specialised in what he had and didn't try to make other things because someone else already had other stuff and did a very good job of selling it.

As time went on, the concept of the town centre develoepd where people congregated in the middle of town and brought their stuff to a market. It made sense because customers could buy more stuff in a shorter space of time and didn't have to travel from one remote shop to another to buy all the stuff they needed. Consequently all the people who made stuff could also sell more stuff at the market because that was where all their customers were. Obviosuly there were still stars of the market and they made a lot more money than people who didn't have quite so much stuff. It is after all one of the laws of competition that someone wins and someone doesn't.

Fast forward again and the winners needed bigger premesis to sell all the stuff they had, which first became the town shopping centre and most recently the out of town shopping centre. The out of town shopping centre developed because people needed somewhere to park their cars whilst they bought all the stuff they needed.

The problem was that as the shops grew bigger and sold more stuff the service got more and more impersonal, but that didn't really matter because lots of stuff was being sold.

Ok Freeze!

Now comes the web where anybody can browse at leisure over the stuff they want. They don't need a car for it, they are looking for good quality stuff at good prices, and some online stores are offering very personal buying experiences. The sites remember who they are, they remember what was bought, they suggest alternatives and give all the help a person could want. In other words they go back to the original shopkeeper who knew his customers.

All the advantages that super malls and out of town Hypermarkets had don't apply online. Instead its all about the personal service and the individual brand recognition. Why then would you first go to an online super mall brand and then choose your favourite brand to buy from? Results have proved that people won't. Instead they will go directly to Amazon, to EBay, to Ocado, and to your favourite niche brand who sells that fantastic thing you cannot do without.

The issue with Online Malls is that they are not the first page a user sees when they open the browser, and to succeed, they need to be. The first page is going to be MSN, Google, Yahoo etc.

An online Shopping Mall also just became the worst business proposal in the world now that Google have announced that they will create an eCommerce specific Search engine.

So throw away those ideas guys.... it didn't work, was never going to work, and never will now.

Edit 17th March

Ef points out that Yell.co.uk are currently running a bunch of radio ads about how you can access a 'virtual shopping mall' (my words not theirs) from their directory service 118… so not only can you find 'whatever you’re looking for in one place' but you can also buy some of it online from Yell…

Strange take on the idea that rather than having it all online you’ve actually got a 'shop itinerary' (my words again) for where to go to get stuff – is this new or just a new advertising slant on the old “how do I advertise directory services?” question.

I think there is going to be some interesting developments here as Google and others turn their attention to the concept of Local Search - "Help, I'm in Peckham and I need a plumber quickly. In that arena, Yell would seem to be well placed to answer that question, but a bigger qwuestion for them is whether they have the thinkers to come up with a remarkable solution to accomplish this before Google march in and take their marketplace. Yahoo would also do well turning their attention to this issue rather than trying to bribe users to search on their site

It can't be Thursday already

Wow! Where has the week gone.

My presentation on Monday went very well indeed, so well that I've got several briefs that have landed on my desk for actual projects. It has been burning the midnight oil and so busy that my blogging has also been a luxury I couldn't afford.

All in all I am very pleased with the response to The Interactive Mix, Advertising 2.0 and Web 2.0 ideas that I put forward with a very big nod towards Seth Godin and his books for giving me the courage to put good solutions forward instead of running with the herd.

I can't really say too much more at the moment except that in a few months time I expect to have some good newly launched projects to talk about.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Internet for everyone

This is old news from last month but I've only just seen it.

Information Week printed an article on the results of a poll which concluded that the Internet in the US is reaching a ceiling on connected households

Apparently 36 percent are not online. Of these:

4% cite Cost as the reason
31% Said they didn't need it
18% said they weren't interested in anything on the Web
8% percent said they weren't sure how to use the Web

Im actually really encouraged by these numbers because for 49% it is merely a matter of finding the right application to get these people plugged in. Whether its VOIP IPTV or something else we haven't even considered yet, if these unconnected households are sold the benefit of one application then there is nothing else in their results which would prevent them.

Education is obviously the answer to those that are not sure how to use the web which only leaves 4% of p[eople who cannot afford it due to cost. Of course that could incldue people who would change their mind if a perceived benefit was attached to it.

Overall thoguh I am veruy encouraged by these figures and would love to see simialr ones for the UK.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Presentation Day -22 Hours

I don't generally work at weekends, and resist it at all costs usually. It's important to me to keep as far as possible a healthy work/life balance, which given my normal hours Monday to Friday means I would probably go nuts very quickly if I did work most weekends.

This weekend is different though because tomorrow, I am presenting to a major retail operation who has links in their products to technology.

In my presentation, I am going to be explaining to them about the Advertising 2.0 model and how The Interactive Mix can position them for the new marketplace. My solutions are remarkable in accordance with the Purple Cow and there is every good reason why they should go for it. If we win it, it will be one of the most exciting projects I've been involved in for many years. Consequently I am very nervous. I really want this to work, and I am pretty sure that they will not have heard any of the things I'm going to say before. Obviously because of these things, there is every chance that they will be scared of what I am saying and do something else.

I'll no doubt write it up afterwards.

The Devil made me write it

So in light of all news Google at the moment where This article in Business Week was gauging the recent google gaffes, and this presentation traveled across the web at light speed, I am sat here wondering

Just how long will it be before Seth Godin gets offered the job of Google's Group Marketing Officer.

He quite obviously is the man for the job. His ideas combined with Google's ideas would be a force to be reckoned with, and could create the standard for all business to follow.

I wonder........

What does your Blog Host say about you

This is only really a semi serious post but I would like to get it down and out into the Blogosphere.

I've noticed that the whole idea of which blog host you use, seems to be getting some kind of class system associated with it, and I am likening it to the newspaper industry.

For instance, Typepad blogs seems to me to be regarded as the broadsheet newspapers (So a Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal) with in depth analysis and quality journalism, whereas Blogger (my host) seems to be more along the lines of a Daily Mail or Daily Express. Livejournal and MySpace seem to me to be looked at more along the lines of The Sun and The Daily Mirror (with occasional accounts that are definitely more in line with The Daily Sport.)

Now when I chose my Blog host I had a look and thought to myself “hmmm Google owned, must be good.” and so set one up. I was also aware that a few people I knew also had Blogger accounts. As soon as I started reading other Blogs though, I definitely started to feel the class system at work on the Blogospere. Now naturally there are exceptions to this, but overall I am detecting a segmentation of writers, and weight put to them based on their blog host.

If correct, all this begs the question, that if someone wants to be taken more seriously with their writing, then should they swap blog hosts, and if they do, what kind of impact that has. Does a Sun Journalist have issues moving from the Sun to the Sunday Times, and does the readership take them seriously (on both sides) if they do?

So, how many people have swapped over, and what experiences have they had (if any) of doing so?

I am reminded of a phenomenon from ten years ago when the commercial web was just starting up. In those days people gathered on IRC chat rooms and just talked about things that interested them. It was an International audience and so gave the opportunity to exchange social and political ideas from different perspectives. We felt like (and probably were) pioneers, creating something new.

Way back then however there was a snobbery associated with your Internet service provider, where the cool kids were using Demon, Earthlink and Netcom accounts (Netcom in particular was cool because they enabled you to dial in to a local number whether you were in the UK or the US). If however someone was using an AOL account, and wandered in, chances were they got a hard time, because it was considered that anyone on AOL was probably stupid and had nothing to contribute to the debate.

It was probably unfair in most cases, but it did exist, and I am wondering whether the same kind of thing is happening on the Blogosphere, either consciously or unconsciously.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Armadillo Marketing

On the 6by7 blog I found an article on Armadillo Marketing. It's an absolutely fascinating read and has set me thinking.

The concept of a communication that exists for no other person other than the author is something I've seen (and been guilty of) a lot on personal blogs. When I set this blog up I wanted it to be a commentary on the industry and include my own thoughts and ideas on the industry, which I hope is therefore going to be of interest to others in the industry. I am therefore coming down on the side that this isn't an armadillo which has relieved me, but the lack of readership that I have definitely made me question whether it was.

I've kept another blog for years over on a blogging community and on it, I muse and rant about things in my life. Most of it is protected or viewable only by friends who know me well, which means that some of it is of interest to them because our personal lives cross over. I wouldn't want most of that to be public and so I seperate out my professional life from my personal life life.

There are however many people on these communities who'se posts seem only to be there for their own reference and do not have any meaning to any of their audience. I have observed that these people often follow a rant with another rant complaining that nobody cares that they have ranted. It's an interesting condition in an individual and so it should be worthy of analysis in a communication.

I am going to start to look out for Armadillo marketing pieces and those that I identify I'll link to here. Somewhere I suspect there will be a link between the armadillos and the lack of effectiveness of the communication.

An obvious example is a website. Years ago I used to think that websites had to be about the organisation, but I have come round to the idea over the years that a website needs to be very much focused on an organisations clients and customers.

Consequently a Fashion Brand needs to focus on who buys their clothing and to offer communications relevant to them. Some might call this a lifestyle brand, but maybe the success of lifestyle brands is in identifying the customer and creating communications which are about them. This then creates a direct relationship between the brand and the customer which leads to that customer becoming an ambassador for the brand and spreading the brands message.

The reason this is interesting me at the moment is that I am in the process of suggesting a very radical rethink of an agency's website. I suspect that at the moment it is in danger of becoming an armadillo and needs to radically move away from this.

Why its important to be remarkable

This has been linked to across the web and so I don't expect many people will be seeing thisa for the first time, but just in case.

Seth Godin was the author of The Purple Cow, and his latest book is 'All Marketers are Liars'.

Reading his books changed my perspective on a lot of tihngs and ensured that I became a fan.

This link is to a video recording of a presnetation he gave.

Seth's point is that most advertising and marketing sets out to fail in the new consumer marketplace, and that the way to avoide failure is to be remarkable.

Get the ehadphones out, set it going and prepare to be inspired.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It had to happen

Brand Republic's article has announced that Internet usage in the UK has overtaken TV viewing.

This is the first time that has happened in the UK and is probably a huge sign on the wall that traditional Above the Line media has changed forever. The whole point of mass media was that it well errr went out to the masses. The masses now are however jacked in, not tuned in.

Maybe now we can all pick up where 2000 left off.

Advertising planning and and how they relate to the Interactive Mix

Today I am having what I hope is one of those defining moments.

I am creating an advertising plan for a prospect and working from some predictions that they have supplied to us. Its a standard media plan which is split between Google, Banners, etc.

The columns supplied are as follows per campaign element:

Advertising spend
Cost per click
Number of quotes
Conversion rate
New Customers
Cost per new customer

Within this there is a straight correlation between the number of quotes achieved against the cost per click. The problem with this is that it is a huge step to take from the number of Google ads to the number of quotes, and takes no account of the usability of the system. Actually a better way of phrasing that is that it does not recognise the value of usability, the engagement factor of the ad or any of the factors that a user is greeted with once they click through. The point I am making is that the media plan does not demonstrate any value to the client of the factors which create a good user experience after the initial ad

The Interactive Mix is focused on the entire user experience, and so in my plan I have added in additional factors. The ones I've used are as follows:

Advertising spend
Cost per click
Visits
Engaged User Conversion %
Quotations attempted
Abandoned Quotes Dropout %
Number of quotes Completed
Conversion rate
New Customers
AOV
Revenue
Cost per new customer

In this the initial click through rate is gradually eroded away based on the usability of the site, and accessibility of the information, and because it is shown as a series of percentages the actual value of this can be demonstrated to the client. So if the site has high usability it will perform better, if the quotations are competitive they will convert better. I don't know how many planners and Buyers for online take this approach but I suspect it isn't a standard. It also is a fairly common charge that online advertisers don't understand the effects of usability on their business, which supports my suspicion.

For my purposes this clearly demonstrates to the client the importance of the whole experience and therefore how a budget needs to be divided up in order to achieve the results they need. I can follow the plan with a quotation for the functionality build of the system and for each push back on functionality I can feed that into the plan to show how it affects the bottom line conversion and revenue generation. With all the facts to hand, the client is then faced with some very simple choices, and the entire relationship then focuses on achieving the numbers with budgets that set themsleves.

Naturally I am very keen to hear from other planners and buyers to see whether I have made a discovery or whether I am simply following an established industry practice.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Email Tax, Charitable Resistance and Why The Web Wins

Following on From My Previous post about AOL and Yahoo's plans to introduce an Email Tax, I Found a Follow up article on Brand Republic today.

Charities seem to be the first to show their resistance to the plans and have set-up a website with an open letter to AOL expressing their dissatisfaction. AOL appear to have climbed down a bit but it is clear that this issue has a fair few miles in it yet.

My feeling is that if email becomes too expensive for the marketplace then the marketplace will invent something new. After all, neither AOL nor Yahoo invented Pop3 or SMTP, and whilst they have a massive market share of email users, the power of the web lays in its choice and in its Open standards adopted by corporations.

If Yahoo and AOL users don't like paying for sending emails or find that their inboxes dry up because people no longer email them, then an obvious conclusion is to open a Gmail account, and if everyone starts charging for sending emails, then someone will invent a new method to message.

In the pub on Friday we sat down and thought about it and came up with Permission Mail (PMail for short). In that model you have a two tier scheme of people you add who send to you directly and everybody else who is treated with some suspicion, until you say they are ok. Everything would be published as an Open Standard to enable all ISPs to adopt it if they so wished, and so that developers could create clients for it.

This is part of the reason why closing down Napster, Audio Galaxy and a whole host of other file sharing networks hasn't stopped peer to peer file sharing, quite the reverse. If something is taken away that the marketplace wants, then someone just creates a new way of doing it. Internet companies like AOL and Yahoo should have learned that by now and the fact that they haven't definitely moves them towards the 'doesn't get it' corner which is a shame.

I am not under any illusion that PMail will actually come into being as a project led by me, it won't need to, but if the marketplace decides that it needs a cheaper method of communicating than email, then this idea will rapidly form in the minds of several programmers and the problem will be solved.

It's an old adage but once again.. "The Web Wins".

But please remember, you heard it here first folks.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

A few notes on LInux Softeware

A few posts cuaght my eye that give tips on using the LInux applications I am growing to love

Using Open Office Writer with Scribus for DTP
.

CMS for Linux


Wiki software

Friday, March 03, 2006

Take 2 on RSS, Podcasting and the Radio Advertising Industry

I sat and thought a bit more about the news in my previous post and shared my thoughts with some colleagues. My second version is included below:


I’ve been banging on a bit about how Interactive media is changing the advertising game, and two articles today highlight exactly what I am talking about.

The first one is in Precision Marketing

It talks about RSS (Really Simple Syndication) and Podcasting and recognises this medium as a growing trend, which is making radio figures look very tame.

Compare this to a piece on Brand Republic today

The Radio industry is trying to arrest the decline of advertising sales for their medium and is considering offering commissions of 15% to agencies who do advertise.

This sounds more like the cart being put before the horse and then entering a chariot race to me. The whole point is that the way consumers are consuming the Radio medium has changed. They don’t want scheduled programmes, they want them to be consumed at a time which suits them. They also want it delivered digitally, which means that you could conceivably have a worldwide audience. Compare that to Capital Radio’s listening figures.

There is an irresistible change happening, and the answer is not to offer commissions to agencies because it isn’t the agencies who are driving the change, it is the consumers. If radio wakes up to the idea that they need to syndicate their content and offer it as a Podcast, then they have a chance to stay in the game (advertising for Podcasting is currently behaving as though its on steroids). If however they continue to flog their dead horse then someone else will come along and occupy their space.

The current likely contender is Last FM.

Its software creates a personalized streaming radio station based on the digital music you already listen to, shares your playlist on the Web, and suggests music from other closely related playlists. So you get all the music you like, none of the music you don’t like and you are self segmenting yourself to make yourself look very appealing to advertisers.

Think about this if you want to introduce a new band to the charts, and compare that to how promotional activity works now.

Agencies who wake up to this are going to make a fortune, media owners, unless they wake up to this, are going to die, and it is all being driven by the consumer from the bottom, up. That’s a very different world from mass media where everything worked from the top, down.

Our challenge is actually quite simple. If we embrace this wholly, we are going on a climb, the likes of which the industry has never seen.

Podcasting Killed the Radio Star

The Buggles noted that Video killed the Radio Star back in the early 80s and according to Brand Republic this morning, the radio industry is working on proposals to reward advertising agencies financially for advertising with them, and commissions of 15 % are being touted.

To me this sounds very much like putting the cart before the horse and entering a race that way. The whole point is that consumers are changing the way that they consume the medium which is why the advertising industry for Radio is being hit. It is also being challenged by measurable and more effective mediums, and that isn't going to change no matter how much cash they give agencies.

An agency surely has a duty to deliver the best results to clients, and currently radio as a medium is not considered to be the best choice.

If the Radio industry really wants to arrest the decline in advertising sales they are going to have to take a very long hard look at it and work out how to evolve it quickly to provide a model which is effective for customers.

Creating radio content which is syndicated seems to me to be a good idea, and Podcasting now is more listened to than any radio show in history according to an article in Precision Marketing today.

I am watching several of the mass media owners try out absolutely futile attempts to breath life into their parrot at the moment, when what they really need to do, is bury it, and get a cat.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

The Next Net Top 25 Pop Pickers

I've found an article about the predicted winners of Web 2.0, in a The Next Net 25 series.

In the middle of last year I asked a group of people who all worked in the Web whether they knew what Web 2.0 was. With one exception, nobody did. In some ways this was a releif to me, because I hadn't sorted things out in my own head, but I had at least heard of it, and of RSS, and starterd to think about applications and technologies which would benefit media and advertising.

For that reason I didn't find too many surprises in the Social Media section and I have been a Six Apart customer for about 5 years now. Webtop was very interesting indeed, and the field of filtering looks like its going to be a battle ground worthy of watching.

Where I had some of the biggest surprises was looking at VOIP, although thats partly due to when I spoke at a conference in SF back in 99 about the Internet and every single speaker other than me was banging on about VOIP. Consequently I heard enough to last me a decade and have largely ignored the area ever since. Looks like my decade is now over because there are some very exciting things going on. Fonality and Vivox were my favourites.

Perhaps predictably there isn't a Brit company in sight, which is a great shame because we do have some fantastic thinkers here. I's commented on James Governers observations before and my own experiences in trying to raise cash haven't exactly been inspiring, so maybe the Americans are just better at it than us. Somewhere though there is a kid in a basement in New Cross, or Camden who has come up with an idea just as good as any of the ones mentioned. So how will he go into the Dragons Den and find his funding to change the world. Actually having watched the program, I'm wondering if anybody apart from Doug Richard (an American) would recognise a ground breaking idea even if it was presented to them.

I'm not sure about all the other Brits of course but personally, I hate second place, although that could always be the New Yorker in me screaming.

Edit:

Looks like my short VOIP love affair could already be over, as I had this article in the register thrust in my direction

Newest Google Cooltool

"From today, searches on Google Scholar will include links to the British Library’s document delivery service.

Search results will be matched against the Library's holdings and where a match is made, users will have the option to obtain articles held via the British Library’s online document ordering interface, British Library Direct."

Article ganked from NetImperative

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Changing the Advertising game

Once again James Cherkoff has encapsulated in a phrase something I have been trying to convey to people for a while.

His latest post makes some excellent points about how Web 2.0 will affect the advertising and marketing industry, and comes up with some interesting quotes from people who do, don't and maybe one day will 'get it'.

My favourite quote is from Richard Sambrook, a super-senior BBC newsmen,

"The increasing use of user-generated news material to a sports game in which the crowd was not only invading the field but also seeking to participate in the game, fundamentally changing the sport."

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Wednesday, March 01, 2006

No man is an island

It's not often that a site launch (unless it's one of mine) will get me animated, but the launch this morning of River Island's new all flash site has managed to get me very animated.

I hate it, and this absolute travesty of web design is a complete and utter waste of River Island's time and money (assuming they did pay for it) in my opinion.

Looking at the site, the same thing could have been achieved using HTML and graphics, so where is the compelling argument for Flash? Oh and just for fun, pull the site up in Lynx, and then say how great the functionality is. Search engines won't find the content, due to the complete lack of actual searchable content in the pages so SEO is a non starter as well. I am reminded so much of boo.com, with this. Corporate firewalls are certainly more open to Flash content than they used to be, but surely the point is to make your site viewable to as many people as possible. Limiting yourself when their is no real reason to, just doesn't make economic sense.

Now the big one. This site is completely illegal and anyone with a disability who wants to make a quick buck is more than likely on the phone with River Island already pointing out that they are being discriminated against online.

I've said for years that the best thing about web design is that anybody can do it, and the worst thing about web design is that anybody can do it. Its not just about knowing techniques to use, its about knowing which techniques are best suited and why certain techniques will not provide a good user experience... Oh and you should also know the law governing your industry.

The Disabillity Discrimination Act has yet to be tested in this country but the wording is suitably ambiguous that unless the agency informed the client that the site contravened accessibility laws then the agency could be culpable. As I say, this is not tested so I am not sure of myself, but it could happen.

If I was the designer of this site, going by the very high profile launch that it has achieved, I would be checking my insurance and looking for a good lawyer. I might also buy a book on web design ;-)

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