Archive for the ‘Audience development’ Category

Quiz: What tech entrepreneur are you most like?

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I’m a start-up founder just like many of you, and there are days when I wonder if I’m the only one who feels, acts and thinks the way I do. But there are others that have gone before, and you might be surprised to see which tech founder you are most like. Take our quiz and find out your answer to the question: What tech entrepreneur are you most like?

Click here to take the quiz

(UPDATE: I’m going to ask you for an email address at the end of the process. I wanted to warn you up front so that I don’t catch you off guard!)

——————————————————————

Quiz Sauce logoOne erectile dysfunction viagra of the things that we’re working on at Pure Incubation is launching a variety of software tools for publishers aimed at helping them solve their most crucial business issues. (If you want to know more about those publishing problem areas, read this post.) We’re doing this through our Sauce Technology business unit, and today I want to introduce you to a specific application – Quiz Sauce.

The quiz above was built using the application – give it a whirl and let me know what you think. Here’s the link to take the quiz in case you missed it above – What tech entrepreneur are you most like?

Long live the media brand

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

I just posted my latest article on The Industry StandardWhat The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and CNN are doing wrong.

It has already been well-documented that online media is eating away at print revenue. Take The New York Times for example. According to Scott Karp, from “May 2006 to May 2007, print ad revenue for the News Media Group decline $19.2 million or 14.4%, dwarfing the $2.8 million increase in online ad revenue.”

Broadcast revenue is also on the decline. According to Nielsen Media Research, although National Cable TV and Spanish-Language TV were up slightly, Network TV and Spot TV Markets were down significantly in 2007.

The good news for print and TV is that they’ve moved to the Web. Now they just have to figure out how to do it right.

Print and television brands are some of the most well-known in the world. Just think of the names – The New York Times. CNN. The Washington Post. NBC. It would be difficult to find someone who doesn’t recognize at least one of those companies. And the audiences have followed the brands online. According to the data (see chart, below), many mainstream print and TV outlets have huge – and growing – online audiences.

Compete data for print media sites online

In my opinion, building an audience is the biggest challenge to overcome online. The second is producing content that anyone cares about. So these companies are more than half-way there. If they can just get their business models figured out, they just might have a shot at not only surviving, but thriving.

Twitter's business model & my two Twitter accounts

Monday, July 14th, 2008

I just posted a new article on The Industry Standard10 ways that Twitter could make money quickly. Please go have a read!

Twitter account
I have written quite a bit about Twitter in the past, ranging from the basic (What is Twitter?) to the dubious (I like Twitter, but it has a big problem), to analysis (The multiple personalities of Twitter). This new article takes a look at the company’s business model (more specifically, it’s lack of a business model) and discusses the ways that the company could make money quickly. The bottom line is that Twitter has a quickly growing and dedicated audience, and because of this one fact, I think that the company will ultimately be successful, no matter what business model it chooses.

The other thing that is happening for Twitter – at least for me – is that the most that I use Twitter, the more I like it and want to use it, and the more that I am discovering new ways to make it work for me. Today, I realized that I am spending too much time going to specific individual’s Twitter pages (for example, mine is here), trying to keep up on what they are doing because I am following so many people I can’t be sure to catch all of the people who I really REALLY want to follow. So I opened a second Twitter account that I don’t post to, and I just use to follow the individuals from which I don’t want to miss a single post.

Before you scoff at me because you think that it’s crazy to have one Twitter account, let alone two, take a look at this article. Apparently, I’m not alone.

Follow me on Twitter at @mchang16.

10 tips for building a killer Facebook app

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

I just finished writing an article about Facebook applications that gave me the opportunity to test a large number of the less-used apps on the platform. This broad view left me with some new insights into what makes a good Facebook application (as opposed to a mediocre or crappy one, and believe me, there are a lot of those).

10If you’re thinking about building a Facebook app, here are 10 things you can do to make sure that yours stands out from the crowd:

1) Make it fun. Whether you’re building a game or a tool, always keep in mind that the people who are using Facebook are usually doing so on their free time. Most of them are under 35. Most of them are using Facebook for entertainment. So keep things fun. FedEx did a great job of this when they built Launch a Package, which lets users send each other packages – using a springy slingshot. Sending a package via a slingshot that bounces around is a whole lot more fun than sending something with the click of a button.

2) Give it some substance. The programming behind an application may be rock-solid, but without substantive content surrounding the application, it will fall flat. Every application should have at least:

  • A landing page that provides clear branding
  • Easy-to-understand instructions about how to use the application or play the game
  • Multiple options for use, such as various “rounds” or “levels”
  • Enough content to engage a user for at least 10 minutes at a given time
  • A summary/analysis area that lets the user see their history with the application

3) Make it look nice. There are currently more than 27,000 applications on Facebook. Yours will have some competition. If a user is going to choose between two applications that do similar things, they will likely pick the one that is more visually appealing. Take a look at Where I’ve Been vs. Travel Buddies. Which are you more likely to use? 

4) Include music or sound effects. Facebook is a multimedia platform – take advantage of it. All of the best applications have somehow incorporated sound effects or music. This doesn’t have to be fancy – Traveler IQ Challenge uses the sound of a ticking clock very effectively.

5) Provide a takeaway. When the user has finished using the application, they want something to show for it – either a ranking, a rating or an embeddable object. If you build a game, provide a ranking system that lets users compare themselves to each other. If you build a test, give them a score. Or if you have a graphical application, give them a downloadable picture that they can use on Facebook, but elsewhere, too. This is what Sketch Me does – it turns a profile picture into a pencil drawing that can be saved and used anywhere the user chooses.

6) Make the user want to share the app (as opposed to have to share it). Because of the social nature of Facebook, applications that are developed for the platform should all be sharable. But don’t force your users to share the app to continue using it. The best applications provide an easy way to share, but don’t force users to “send this to 8 friends NOW!” If you build a good app, people will want to share it.

7) Do something different. With thousands of applications already in existence, there is a lot of duplication. But with a little creative thinking, something that already exists can be made new again. Although there are many IQ test apps on Facebook, Who Has The Biggest Brain? stands out because of its use of “size of brain” as a ranking system, and the way that it measures the four areas of intelligence in a game show format. The idea for the application doesn’t have to be completely original, as long as there is something unique that sets it apart.

8) Use solid programming. Your application has to work, and has to work seamlessly. Take the time to understand the Facebook developer platform. If you’re not a developer, work with one who is a Facebook specialist. Make sure that the programming behind the application is solid. The time that you take to really get to know the platform will pay off – this link has some fantastic resources

9) Put ulterior motives out of your mind. Many Facebook apps are obviously trying to get the user to do something other than use the application – click an ad, download a companion application, buy something, etc. When building an application, first make something that people will want to use. Developing a great classified application will be easier than developing a great classified application that will ALSO get someone to download your shopping app. By focusing on the first objective, you’ll create something of value that will generate a large audience – to which you can later market your shopping application.

10) Do the “addiction test.” Can someone use your application once and then never again? Not good. Do they use it once and then feel compelled to immediately use it again? That’s good. Do they want to go back and use it the next day? And the next? That’s even better. Creating an application that can be used time and again is the ultimate goal for killer Facebook app development. One way you can test for this is to ask people you know to use the app. See if they mention the word “addiction.”

Photo by Suzie T

Why I'm kissing Tumblr a sad, sad good-bye

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

My company has a lot of blogs for the various businesses that I’m starting – 52 to be exact. Most of them are run on WordPress, which I really like, one is run on an old install of TypePad (which is clunky, but might be because I need to update), and one is run on Tumblr.

I love Tumblr. I love the user interface, the way that you can post quick snippets of things. Quotes, pictures, text, links…it is fun to use. And the templates are awesome. The Cara Austin blog is on Tumblr, and it’s a delight to update every day.

Sad Good ByeBut there is a fundamental problem with Tumblr that I wasn’t aware of before I started using it – the search engines don’t seem to like it. In the two months since I have been posting (every weekday starting March 13, 123 posts total), the blog has only received 17 visitors from Google. Every one of those visits, except one, had the term “Cara Austin blog” or “Cara Austin Tumblr” as the search term.

This is a major problem for a commercial blog. I have a personal Tumblr that I use for my own things, notes, things I want to remember – and I don’t care if no one ever comes to that site. But for Cara Austin, a musician who needs to get her name out there and needs to sell albums, this is a big issue.

I didn’t know this about Tumblr. I didn’t know that the pages wouldn’t be indexed well (or show up high) on Google. I knew that Tumblr doesn’t have comments. And I knew that Tumblr didn’t have a search engine built in. These things I decided to live with.

But I didn’t know that Tumblr had a search engine optimization (SEO) problem.

I could no longer ignore the fact after I launched another new blog on WordPress on April 23, put up a few posts, and that blog starting receiving more traffic, from a wider variety of search terms, in a much shorter time period.

Here’s a little chart to illustrate:

Tumblr SEO chart

And so I’m leaving Tumblr. I’m leaving with a tear in my eye, but I’m leaving nonetheless.

Photo by Jaye_Elle

I like Twitter, but it has a big problem

Friday, April 11th, 2008

Really, I’m sure that Twitter has more than a single problem – most companies/concepts/new technologies do. But I think that the main issue with Twitter is that it will never gain mainstream adoption until there is an easier way to get new people understanding and using the technology – a quick and easy way.

Twitter logoHere are the issues that I think make Twitter so difficult to start using:

1) It’s hard to explain. I have been in a number of business meetings in the past month where the topic of Twitter came up. In one meeting (about social media) the person doing the presentation hadn’t heard of Twitter and everyone in the room looked at me like I had two heads when I brought it up. In another meeting, the president of a content creation company told me that his company “Looked into Twitter, didn’t get it, and figured that it would never have mainstream adoption.” I tried to tell these people why they should care about Twitter, why people telling each other “what they’re doing” in 140 characters or less was important, but they just didn’t get it. And I’m sure that was my fault because I did a terrible job explaining. There MUST be a better way to explain. I think this video was awesome and helpful, but what about when I don’t have a video handy?

2) There is no “key selling proposition.” Lovers of Twitter will tell me that I am crazy, that Twitter is so great because it does so many things for so many people. But I would tell you that to get mainstream adoption, it needs a key selling proposition. How do I get people to use Facebook? I tell them that it’s a low-key way to connect with friends I’ve lost touch with (and I give examples). How do I get people to use Tumblr? I explain how I can link to things and pictures and stories and all the stuff that I find interesting on the Web and that I can set it up in about 1 minute.

I don’t have ONE good way to get people to start using Twitter. Some people say that they get immediate and great input on restaurants when they are traveling. Twitter birdOthers say that they use it when they’re lost or to get answers to questions. But I haven’t effectively used Twitter in any of those ways (although I’ve tried). I am not sure if that is because you have to have a certain number of people following you, a certain level of celebrity within the group that is following you, or if you actually need to know the people in your Twitter network, but those uses clearly don’t work for everyone. I am left without a great way to convince everyone that I know that they should use Twitter (and people I know using Twitter would be the one way that the service would actually begin to be extremely useful to me).

3) People sign up and then leave. This almost happened to me. I started using Twitter, had a bad experience, left, came back and managed to stick with it (although I’m hardly a Twitter power-user.) Here’s my embarrassing story:

I started using Twitter on October 18, 2007, with this Tweet: “Joining twitter, trying to figure out how it works” 

My fourth Tweet was this: “There’s never been a better time to do a startup http://www.scribemedia.org/…” Followed quickly by my fifth Tweet: “I should get a tatoo”

Of course, I meant for my fifth post to be connected to the fourth post, but I got tripped up by the 140 character limit. So I quickly went in to try to delete the fifth post and couldn’t – there’s no delete. So then I was horrified because I was trying to establish my professional Internet presence and not only did my Tweet say “I should get a tatoo” but I didn’t even spell tattoo correctly. I quickly made a couple of other posts in hopes of covering up the embarrassing post, and then bailed.

I came back again on January 4, 2008, with this message: “Trying Twitter again. I wish I could get into it.”

My next Tweet: “about to throw twitter out the window. just tried to send a direct message, dont think it worked. grrrr ”

Thank God for @tylerwillis who quickly replied “it worked if it was the one to me.” He might have saved my Twitter life. I kept going.

Everyone was writing about Twitter. I knew that I had to figure out how to use it, but I was struggling. I personally knew only one person who used Twitter. My friends (mostly non-techies) and business colleagues (behind in Web 2.0) weren’t using it. So I started “following” people, just in an attempt to see how Twitter worked. I currently follow 585 people, most of whom I started following on January 4th or 5th.

Then I started getting input from people about how I shouldn’t follow so many people and how I was incorrectly using Twitter. This is a gem that I received that day (via email):

“Saw you follow me on twitter, and you seem really interesting but.. can I respectfully refer you to this document http://www.caroline-middlebrook.com/blog/twitter-guide/ . ( i.e #3). Sorry just telling it like it is :-(

I had no idea what this guy (who I didn’t know) was talking about. I went to the link and this is what the link said:

Twitter Guide Part #3: Using Twitter Properly

So I figured that I made a mistake, that I broke some “Twitetiquette” but I had no idea what. So I wrote my new email buddy back to ask what my issue was. This is what he told me in reply:

“I know from your blogs that you are a top person. intelligent and info source. When I looked at your twitter follow I checked it out and simply you were not someone I would want to follow. … Bottom line, would you want to read and follow your own twitter posts? Maybe you would? …

With twitter you get flooded with feeds and if feeds are pointless crap, then people don’t have the time to follow them, unless they already know and are interested in the pointless crap of that person….

I can only tell you that when I looked at your twitters, you offered me “nothing” of interest.”

OUCH. I was a brand-new Twitter user being shown the door for writing “pointless crap” on Twitter.

I clearly am someone of outstanding stubbornness (or stupidity) because I stuck with Twitter. And I still use it, although not as much as some people. But I have a feeling that this experience that I had, this barrier to entry that was almost impossible to overcome, is probably holding people back from adoption.

When I went through the phase (lasting 2 days) of trying to add a lot of people at once, I had some strategies. One of those was to add all the people named “Melissa.” I typed the name into the search box and found that most people named Melissa have quit on Twitter after joining. Here’s the “Recently” timeframes of the first 19 Melissa’s that show up:

2 days ago
about 1 year ago
7 months ago
11 months ago
about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago
protected
3 months ago
15 hours ago
11 months ago
protected
9 months ago
10 months ago
protected
21 days ago
9 months ago
9 months ago
4 months ago
13 hours ago

If I consider “current” Twitter users as anyone who has sent a message in the past month, and I eliminate the Melissa’s who have protected updates, only 3 out of 16 (19%) are still current users of Twitter. I thought this might be an issue between female/male users of Twitter, so I did the same thing with my husband’s name (Christopher). I found this:

about 1 year ago
5 months ago
3 days ago
8 months ago
10 months ago
19 days ago
protected
2 days ago
20 days ago
about 1 year ago
7 months ago
2 hours ago
about 1 year ago
protected
about 1 year ago
11 months ago
10 months ago
10 months ago
protected

The results were a little better – 5 out of 16 (31%) were recent Twitter users. But in my unscientific study, there is clearly a huge drop off from the number of people who sign up to Twitter compared to the number of people who continue to use the service.

4) The people who don’t use Twitter don’t understand the language of it. Anyone who reads this post who doesn’t use Twitter will not know the following terms and what they mean to Twitter or how to use them:

@mchang16 (the @ symbol is the biggest because it’s all over Twitter, and not intuitive)
Follow
Tweet
Twitetiquette
Recently

Something needs to be done to make it easier to get people to use Twitter, and to get them to stick around to learn how to use (and keep using) it after signing up. If that doesn’t happen, there will be no widespread future for the service.

Follow me on Twitter (if you dare!) @mchang16.

(As a footnote to this story, my email buddy and I became Facebook friends, although he still doesn’t follow me on Twitter.)

4 reasons media companies are so far behind in social media

Tuesday, March 25th, 2008

I just got done reading this interesting article “Media execs are asleep at their own wheel” over on the Go Big Always blog written by Sam Lawrence. Sam’s observations about how the long-time tech media companies are way behind in adopting social media – and in the way that they adopt social media once they make the decision to do so – are right on. To quote the post:

“Yes, I get their business model: serve as many pages as possible so they can have enough media “inventory” to sell lots of ads. And then there is subscription. That’s when you collect names through registration forms so you can market the lists and/or prove your readership demographics to advertisers. This is basically the old print media model online. And it, like other old-fart models, is stuck a decade behind.”

I completely agree with Sam – traditional tech publishing companies don’t get it and haven’t adjusted to the online business models. But although I agree with Sam, I actually have a bit more tolerance for their slow transition because I understand what motivates them and what’s holding them back.

The number fourHere are four reasons why I think that traditional media companies are so far behind in adopting social media:

1) They are still trying to support a print circulation model. Historically, in the tech trade publication world of IDG, what was formerly CMP Media, and Ziff Davis Enterprise, it has been all about getting a qualified audience to support a print magazine. The subscribers to these companies’ various print titles don’t pay to receive copies of the print publications, instead, they trade detailed demographic data to prove that they are worthy of receiving the magazine. The publications, in turn, provide the demographic data to advertisers to demonstrate that they have the “qualified audience” to warrant the vendor spending $50k+ on print advertisements.

The secret is this – it’s incredibly expensive to qualify this audience. Every year, magazines lose thousands of subscribers who don’t re-qualify. So circulation managers are constantly trying to recruit new, qualified readers for their magazines. This is costly – and traditional media companies have started to use every online audience touchpoint that they can to try to continue to qualify audiences, including social media registration forms.

2) It takes a long time to make the necessary infrastructure changes. One issue that the tech publishing companies have is that they are stuck with legacy systems that were created before the term “social media” even existed. While blogs that are newcomers on the scene were built from the ground-up to support social media, the big publishers are struggling to make the smallest changes to their massive publishing systems that will allow them to play in the social media space. These companies have millions of pages of content – all stuck in ancient content management systems that they adopted in the 1990s. This digging out of legacy technology and making the transition to Web 2.0 technologies is not going to happen quickly, easily or at a low cost for these companies.

3) The leadership doesn’t even know what social media is and/or doesn’t have time to stay on top of the latest developments. There are a lot of really smart people working in big media companies – and there are also a lot of really outdated people working in these companies. Much of the leadership in the tech media industry reached the level at which they are at by mastering print readership models – very few of today’s leaders are visionaries promoted to the top because of their success online. There are of course exceptions; but if you were to discuss social media with the majority of the executives at traditional tech media companies, they would mention blogs and message boards – and that’s about it. And with the precarious state of many of the tech publishers at the moment, few have time to stay on top of the day-to-day changes and developments in social media – most are trying to just stay afloat.

4) They are afraid of social media. Although these tech media companies will talk about the “separation of church and state” – meaning the fact that their writers are in no way influenced by their advertisers – the truth is that the media companies are terrified of what will be said by users about their advertisers once the barriers are opened up. Media companies know that they will not be able to control the conversation with a heavy hand, but they still want to maintain some semblance of control so as to not completely alienate advertisers. Until media execs feel comfortable with this fine-line, they will not be able to whole-heartedly embrace social media.

(Disclosure: I was formerly an employee for IDG’s Network World and Ziff Davis Media; and am currently a consultant to Ziff Davis Enterprise.)

Photo by Cappellmeister

What's going to happen to the music industry?

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Everywhere I turn it seems that there is a story about the demise or revolution of the music industry (depending on your perspective), sparked by two huge music-related stories that broke last week.

The first was the report that music sales were down 9.5% in 2007. The bright note from that report was that the sale of digital music tracks was up 45%, but even that huge leap didn’t help the industry overall. The second was the announcement that Sony BMG will be joining the other three major labels in offering DRM-free songs.

The music industry is scrambling to deal with the impact of the Internet on its traditional business models.

Going out of Business Music WorldIn this October 2007 post, Michael Arrington of TechCrunch sums up nicely the issues that are facing the music industry, and ReadWriteWeb echoes some of the same sentiments. Basically, sales of CDs and digital downloads are not going to make huge amounts of money for anyone going forward. Both argue that the real money will be made from ticket sales for live performances, merchandising, and special limited-edition physical copies of the music.

But there is money being made from digital downloads – it’s just not of the scale that the major record labels are used to. In 2007, there were 844.2 million digital tracks sold. Radiohead’s recent experiment, in which the band released an album online for free download and asked listeners to pay what they wanted, made them more money from the digital distribution then they made from the digital distribution of all the rest of their albums combined. If this seems strange, there is a simple reason – Radiohead was released from their contract with their record label, a contract that in the past excluded them from any royalties from the digital distribution of their music (remind anyone of the current writer’s strike?) Many signed bands and musicians are currently stuck in contracts like these, the relics of an era when digital distribution didn’t really matter.

Of course, there is still money being made in the music industry, but as fewer people are buying CDs (that are costly to produce and distribute) and as more people are downloading digital music (that is practically free to reproduce and distribute), less money is being made. And, the money is being spread among more musicians. The Long Tail is in full force in the music industry, allowing more people to make money as consumers spend their dollars on a wider variety of music and musicians.

So this puts the music industry in this strange position. The indie artists, who are making some money on their small but loyal audiences and the Long Tail, but often not enough money to live off of, would be psyched to get a record contract because the record companies have the marketing and distribution capabilities that they don’t have access to. The big (and already famous) bands, are trying to get out of their contracts in favor of the freedom that the indie artists enjoy. And the record companies are panicking. This is creating a weird, wild situation where everything is about to totally implode if change doesn’t happen quickly.

The really big question is: What online business model is going to work for the music industry going forward? Any successful model will have to support both the record labels and the artists who are producing music. And it will have to be one that consumers will spend their money on.

Here are my predictions:

  1. The new model will be all about the audience.In the past, bands knew how many records or songs they sold, but not the name of the individual that bought them. Digital download and distribution, as well as social networking sites like MySpace, now let musicians know much more intimately who their audience is. By collecting the name of the individual who downloads their song (whether they pay for it or get the download for free), musicians will be able to have a much more personal relationship with their audience – and they will be able to re-market to them in the future. As musicians begin to realize that having the name of their fan is worth more money than the $0.70 they get from iTunes, they will either begin  offering all their songs for free, or Apple will have to adjust their business model and begin sharing data with the artists. Radiohead may have been the first major label to try offering free downloads, but many others are following suit. Trent Reznor (of Nine Inch Nails fame), just produced a Saul Williams album and released it online the same way that Radiohead did – and he has told everyone about the data that they collected. Reznor is bemoaning the fact that only 18.3% of the people who downloaded the album paid $5 for it. He thinks that this stinks (and it might) but he is neglecting the really exciting fact that 154,449 people downloaded Williams’ album! That is an audience of 154,449 if you at least collected an email address. That is a significant fan base – and in my opinion, it is going to be the primary model of the future.
  2. Musicians will begin releasing songs more frequently, as well as more versions of each song. When digital downloads become the norm (and that day is close), there will be no need to stick with the CD format where musicians release all their fully produced songs in one giant lump. Instead, they’ll release things as they are done, there will be more live performance and acoustic versions of songs, and more interesting bits, more looks into the recording studios, more evidence that songwriters and musicians are humans and that every version that they play isn’t perfect. (UPDATE: Looks like Mark Cuban agrees with this prediction.)
  3. Record labels will try to hold onto their business models. They will succeed only until current contracts run out, but they will eventually fail. They will do this not because they don’t see the writing on the wall, but because they can’t figure out how to change.
  4. A new type of record label will emerge. The new label will serve more as a helper to the artist than an owner of the artist. This new label will assist with marketing, bookings, networking and the other promotional aspects of the music business. But instead of owning all the rights to the artist, musicians will PAY their labels for their help, and the musicians will retain their rights. The new labels that will be successful will be the ones that know how to do SEO, online marketing and social networking. These types of labels will become the norm. (And they probably wont’ be called record labels.) (UPDATE: Looks like CNET agrees with this prediction: “If we end up ridding the world of labels, we’ll only have to re-create them–in some other, probably more nimble form.”)
  5. Apple will be one of the new “record labels.”
  6. Many new online and digital services will rise and fall. In 2-3 years, we’ll be left with the winners. At least three of the winners will be companies that no one has even heard of yet.
  7. There will be new ways to buy music. Walking through Target, no longer will you head to the music section to buy music. Instead, as you hear a song piped over the airways, or walk past a TV that is playing a music video and decide you like the song, you will be able to use your phone or mp3 player to purchase and and download the song instantly.
  8. The stuff inside the CD case will still be valuable in digital format, but it will look completely different. People still buy CDs for the lyrics and the liner notes inside – as well as for the artwork and the experience of opening the case and looking through the packaging. This won’t change, there will always be a market (although a smaller one) for the special edition hardcopy CDs. And it won’t be long until someone comes up with a way to sell that stuff in digital format, as well. But although the digital information will be the same, it won’t look the same as the CDs of today. This will be a huge money-maker, much bigger than anyone expects.

UPDATE: This Music Lessons post by Seth Godin is an awesome add-on to this article. Go read it.

Photo by SqueakyMarmot

What is The Long Tail?

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

The Long Tail is a term that was coined in a 2004 article in Wired and then was turned into a book – specifically, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More, by Chris Anderson.

The Long Tail book coverThe basic premise is that because of the Internet and it’s infinitely wide and incredibly low-cost distribution capabilities, the big “hits” of popular culture (be they movies, music, books, etc.) are no longer the only things that will make money. Now, the “misses” will also be money-makers.

“With no shelf space to pay for and, in the case of purely digital services like iTunes, no manufacturing costs and hardly any distribution fees, a miss sold is just another sale, with the same margins as a hit. A hit and a miss are on equal economic footing, both just entries in a database called up on demand, both equally worthy of being carried. Suddenly, popularity no longer has a monopoly on profitability.”

This large volume of small purchases (selling less of more) is what Anderson calls The Long Tail.

The best way to get a grasp on this concept is by reading the original Wired article, so go read that now if you’re interested in this topic. Anderson also has a blog that provides continuing coverage and analysis. The Wikipedia entry is here.

Does audience size matter?

Monday, December 31st, 2007

I have been thinking about this post from Robert Scoble since I read it yesterday. (Go read it now.) In the post, Scoble makes three pretty strong points:

First,

“In the past few years I’ve had some success building audiences, but I found that that’s not really what’s important. It’s not what advertisers REALLY care about.”

He goes on to ask “What do they really care about?” and answers his own question by saying that advertisers care about content: that you get content that no one else does, that it causes conversations to happen, that your content gets noticed in the niche that you’re covering, and that it gets the most authoritative links back to it.

His second point:

“It’s not the size of your audience that matters. It’s WHO is in the audience that matters.”

And his third point:

“I never talk…about how large my audience will be. No, instead, we’re talking about who we want on the show for the first week. How can we make the quality better? Who is out there who is doing innovative stuff that we can learn from?…How can we take our art further? How come bloggers never obsess about THAT?”

There is a lot going on in this article, but first and foremost I have to disagree that advertisers don’t care about audience size. All you have to do is look at how advertising is sold online to know that they do, in fact, care very much about audience size. CPM (cost per thousand) is the standard measurement for online media sales. Just check out the advertising pages for CNET or PCMag.com  or CMP (all technology publishing companies). What is the first statistic that’s listed? Unique visitors per month. Second statistic? Unique page views per month.

Having worked for both Ziff Davis and IDG, two of the biggest technology publishers in the world, I know that when technology marketers are buying online advertising packages, the easiest question to ask – and the first one out of their mouths – is size of audience. They always want to know traffic stats and reach. In that market, advertisers do care about how big the audience is. And I think that this is only magnified in the consumer markets (with audiences like the one that Perez Hilton reaches), where there is no way to measure audience except by size.

And (this is still hard for me to swallow even though I’ve believed it for a long time), most advertisers do NOT care about how good the content is. I am just being honest here. Most technology marketers and advertisers do not pay attention to the content, or know how good or not good it is in and of itself. Instead, they measure content “goodness” quantitatively – by how big the audience is that is reading the content, and by who that audience is.

Which leads me to the part of Scoble’s article in which he was dead on accurate – advertisers do care about how targeted the audience is, WHO is in the audience. I believe that this is actually the statistic that matters the most to online advertisers.

Take another look at those advertising pages that I linked to earlier. There are some pretty strong arguments made by the publications that they have the specific audiences that advertisers are looking for. I believe that this trend of advertisers trying to reach the specific individual – with the right title, job function, industry and size of company – instead of reaching just a whole lot of people and hoping that the message has an impact, will continue. This desire to reach the RIGHT audience is why new models of online advertising are emerging, such as lead generation, in which a company will pay $100 PER LEAD as long as they are targeting the right person with their message. Scoble is reaching the audience that his advertisers want to reach – so the size of his audience isn’t as important. And this is why sites like Perez Hilton, which have to rely on audience size (because they are reaching a disparate consumer market) are going to have a hard time selling advertising by any measurement except audience size.

As far as content is concerned, I have already made the point that I don’t believe that advertisers care as much about quality content as Scoble claims that they do. I wish that they did, but I’ve been in this industry long enough to realize that they really just don’t. They like the latest and greatest thing – because it’s good for their brand to be associated with that innovative content – but advertisers aren’t content specialists and just really don’t have a good understanding of quality content.

HOWEVER – and this is a really big however – I think that Scoble is writing from the perspective of a content producer, not an advertiser. And his point is RIGHT ON that content producers MUST CARE MORE about their content than their audience size. Because without good, innovative, cutting-edge content, content producers will never draw the type of audience that they need to get advertisers. Scoble says that the right question is “how can we take our art further?” And I agree that is the right question for a content producer.