Archive for the ‘Content’ Category

Don't sacrifice your blog in the name of productivity

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I have been working more than ever lately, but my blog posts have been scarce. This is no accident. But it is a mistake.

A couple of weeks back I wrote this post about productivity on Tuesdays. That realy got me thinking about my own productivity and what days of the week I am able to get work done. The initial inspiration for the post was this one by Penelope Trunk, which suggested, among other things, that if Tuesdays are the most productive day of the week, we should focus more on Wednesdays and Thursdays to try to make those days equally productive.

So I’ve been trying to consciously think about my productivity. And I have hit upon a great way to make myself productive. The past two weeks I have been picking one major (or difficult) item on my to-do list, and working on it the entire day until it’s done. That way, at the end of the week I will be able to cross five major items off my list. Any time that I have left in a given day, I work on the odds-and-ends that are left. Including my blog.

This strategy has worked great for getting those major projects done. (I finished four last week, one was so big that it took two days.) But the problem is, the other stuff – the everyday work – isn’t getting done. As evidenced by the sparse posts to this blog.

GrowingSo this week I am going to try a new tactic. I’m going to schedule only 3 major things to get done this week and see if I can get caught up on the rest of my stuff. Because sacrificing my blog in the name of productivity is a bad idea.

This blog may be fairly insignificant in the scheme of things, but as far as my business goes, it has been essential in ways that I couldn’t imagine.

1. I have gotten consulting jobs because of my blog. Multiple jobs. When I hand out my business card, it has my company Website and my blog URL. People usually go to both. When they read the Pure Incubation site, the first question is usually “What do you do?” Followed by the statement “I don’t get it.” This is understandable because what I’m trying to do is uncommon and unusual, and I am trying to be vague on my site until I launch some products. But people get my blog. And my blog gets me jobs.

2. I am more engaged with the business community because of my blog. I don’t live in Silicon Valley, arguably the heart of the Internet Web 2.0 world that I’m trying to play in. But by blogging, and commenting on other people’s blogs (and have them commenting on mine), I am able to get involved in the conversation in a way that I wouldn’t be able to be involved if I wasn’t saying something. This recent post about women technology start-up founders sparked conversation from lots of interesting folks, including two who I really admire: Sarah Lacy, who released her first book last week: Once You’re Lucky, Twice You’re Good: The Rebirth of Silicon Valley and the Rise of Web 2.0; and Penelope Trunk, who I mention all the time in this blog and who is really my blogging idol, if there is such a thing.

3. My family and friends read my blog. Not everyone I know reads my blog, but the people who do have a better understanding of what I’m doing. I talked to my dad last night, and he told me that he follows what I’m up to with my business through the blog. And my Aunt Mary told me that she feels like she is more connected to me because she reads what I’m up to and thinking about at work. I’m glad that my dad and aunt are reading. When I go home to visit this weekend, they won’t look at me with blank stares when I talk about my business and how things are going. I like that.

4. Blogging helps me be more creative. I love writing, I always have, so the process of coming up with a topic and writing about it helps to get all of my creativity churning. I find that the process of writing a blog post often helps me think of new things to work on for my business, and often helps me discover new business models and stuff that’s out there that I wouldn’t otherwise have found – like Gary Vaynerchuk and Wine Library TV. If you’re not watching, you should be.

5. When I write a blog post, things happen. I’ve noticed this past week that my email from random people has slowed down, my traffic stats are a bit stagnant and I feel generally down about my business. This is a normal feeling for entrepreneurs to have on occassion, but I realize now that posting to my blog helps to lessen this. Because when I blog, I reconnect with my community, get support from the other entrepreneurs out there, and things happen. And it’s that thrill of activity that keeps me going when things get hard with the business, which happens all the time.

It turns out that I learned a bigger lesson this week than just the one on productivity – I realized just how important my blog is to my business. So if you have a blog, keep writing! If you don’t have a blog, go get one today. And then check back in three months to let me know how it changed your business (or life). I know it will.

Photo by Editor B

You know about YouTube, but have you heard of Hulu or Joost?

Thursday, May 1st, 2008

My latest article just went up at The Industry StandardYouTube, Hulu & Joost: Is there room all three video sites? Go give it a read.

In that article, I cite some statistics from Compete.com and point to the graphic on those stats – here it is:

 

I wasn’t really able to go into all the pros and cons of the various services in that article, but thought I would take a bit of time to break things down a bit more here. First of all, YouTube is kicking all other video services butts, and will continue to do so. It has momentum, users and let’s be honest – it’s fun (and easy) to use. Not to mention that YouTube is owned by Google so there is bound to be continuing innovation with the service, which Robert Scoble claims is in the pipeline as I write this.

Joost is in some trouble. The main issue, as far as I can tell, is that they require users to download their proprietary player in order to watch any Joost videos. I was on the site and wanted to check out an episode of MacGyver (who doesn’t?), but I didn’t because I didn’t want to take the time to download Joost to my computer. This will kill them if they don’t fix it.

I love Hulu so far. I am a sucker for a clean design and easy-to-use interface, and Hulu has both. Plus, there were a bunch of TV shows and clips on the site that I was interested in watching, and with a simple click, I was in business. It was easy to use, the video was high-quality and my experience was great. But Hulu isn’t perfect. For example, it’s not available internationally (there are licensing issues), and it has a limited number of videos available at any given time. Perhaps the weirdest thing about Hulu is that although it features embeddable videos, after a period of time those links break because the videos are pulled off the site. Weird. But even so, I really like Hulu.

In fact, here’s a clip from Hulu for your viewing pleasure (at least it will be pleasant if you like The Office). And this is another user testimony for Hulu – even though I know that this video will no longer be available one day, I like the service so much that I am willing to risk it.

I want my OpenID

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

Today I was on the AllThingsD Web site because I wanted to comment on a post from Kara Swisher’s BoomTown blog – Twitter: Where Nobody Knows Your Name.

After I got to the post…

  1. I scroll to the end of the comments, discover that I need to login. Click the “sign in here link.”
  2. Enter user name, first and last name, email address.
  3. Arrive at a page that says “Before you can use your new user name, you must first activate it. Check your inbox and click the link.”
  4. Go to my email.
  5. Open the message.
  6. The message says “To activate your user, please click the link. After you activate, you’ll receive “another email” with your login.” (The quotes around “another email” are theirs, not mine)
  7. Click the link in the email.
  8. Arrive on a page that says “Your account is now active!” My username and password are on that page. But where is the post that I was originally trying to comment on?
  9. Go to the home page and try to get back to the article on which I originally wanted to comment.
  10. Scroll to the bottom of the comments section.
  11. See that I still need to login. Realize that I didn’t copy my password before and I don’t know what it is.
  12. Go to my inbox and open the second message from AllThingsD.
  13. Login to the site & post my comment.

This was a tedious process that could be simplified, but I’m not even upset about it. I understand the reasons behind requiring registration on a Website, and I’m not opposed to giving up some data for the privilege of using a site for free. It’s what happened next that really got me thinking.

After I successfully posted my comment, I went to my passwords spreadsheet – the one that I keep on my computer (the one that is a massive security risk) to update it with my latest username and password information. I entered the information for AllThingsD - on line 49.

ConfusionThat’s when I realized that I am up to 49 separate username/ password combinations. And this is just for the sites that I track on my spreadsheet (I don’t have my Gmail account on there, for example, because I for some reason don’t think that I could ever forget my Gmail username/password). I would consider my Web usage to be on the high side, so most people probably have fewer passwords to remember; but I would say that my organizational skills are above average, so most people probably don’t keep a neat spreadsheet of all their user names and passwords in it.

If I’m having trouble managing all my combos, other people must be too.

OpenID logoOpenID, which aims to eliminate the need for multiple user names and passwords across multiple Websites, will hopefully be the answer to the password crisis, but there are still too many problems with OpenID for it to currently be a viable solution. OpenID poses some security risks, many companies that claim to have adopted it haven’t really, and OpenID doesn’t allow companies that use the system to “own” the data of each and every site visitor, which is good for the users but bad for the companies (and what’s bad for the companies, they will hesitate to implement).

But OpenID – or something like it – is desperately needed. By me.

Photo by Erik Charlton

Two sites where you can get great free images for your blog

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

People ask me all the time where I get the images that I use on my blog. There are two sources – and one tool – that I use to find and manipulate the images.

1. Flickr – This is by far my favorite site for free images because of the wide variety and types of images that are available. The community of users that upload their pictures to Flickr – from all over the world – ensures that there is a vast collection of images of varying quality (some are incredibly good). The trick with using Flickr images, however, is that you need to use images that are governed by the Creative Commons license that fits with what you’re doing.

Attribution licenseHere is a list of Flickr’s Creative Common licensing policies. Basically, the “Attribution License” is the most liberal, and allows you to use anyone’s image, manipulate it how you want to, and do most things that you would want to do with it – as long as you give the author of the image credit. My suggestion if you don’t want to get into the intricacies of Creative Commons licensing is to stick with these images. As of today, there are more than 7.5 million images with this license on Flickr, which is certainly a big pool of images to choose from.

Here’s the link to the images with that license.

Just make sure that whatever you do, you give credit back to the photographer. I use “Photo by photographer” with a link to the Flickr page at the bottom of posts. You can do that attribution any way that you want, however. (Hat tip to Skelliewag.org)

Young photographer
Photo by muha…

2. stock.xchg - This site has a database of very good free images that you can use for your blog. Just type in your search, and look to see what you can find. You will have to register to download images, and make sure that you check the “Availability” of each photo. If it says that “standard restrictions apply,” you can use the image. Sometimes, however, the photographer must be notified or approve the use of the image before you post it. So be careful to check this out.

BONUS- A great cheap tool for screenshots and minor editing of photos

If you have Photoshop or another major image editing tool, use that. But if you don’t have a great image editing tool, consider using SnagIt from TechSmith. There is a free 30-day trial and the tool is only $39.95 for a single-user license. I use this tool ALL THE TIME and it’s been really helpful. The learning curve is short and it can handle all the simple editing tasks that I do on my blog.

Do any of you have any other great free image sites that you use? If so, please post them in the comments.

Online video advertising – stats and status

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

My latest article for The Industry Standard is now up online: Three online video formats for the future. In the article, I take a look at the current state of online video advertising, and make some suggestions about where video advertising might be able to head in order to stay relevant to the medium and to move beyond traditional ad formats.

In the course of researching for the article, I came across a lot of great online video stats. These are in addition to some earlier articles about online video that I posted to this blog. Those articles are here:

Online video stats for September 07
Video is not going to kill the Internet in 2010
Some more YouTube stats

The new data covers a wide variety of information, from online video usage to online video advertising metrics. I just am going to include it here because it’s great information for anyone who is following online video. I’ll also include links to all the sources so that you can explore the information in context.

Online Publishers AssociationOnline Video Advertising, Content and Consumer Behavior (PDF)
Online publishers association logo
This report contained a great deal of useful data, particularly about audience reception to online video advertising, including the following statistics:

  • Over 40% of U.S. online video users watch online video on at least a weekly basis; over 70% at least monthly.
  • 80% of U.S. online video users have watched an advertisement in an online video. Of those people, 52% took action after watching that video; 28% looked for more information; 19% clicked a banner ad that accompanied the video; and 16% bought something as a result of the ad.
  • 56% prefer that the advertisement is related to the video content.
  • Both 15- and 30-second pre-roll ads are effective at lifting brand awareness; 30-second ads outpace 15-second ads in “likeability.”

Advertising.comBi-Annual Online Video Study: First-Half 2007 vs. Second-Half 2006 (PDF)
Advertising.com logoThis study bills itself as the “who, what, when and what works of online video consumption and advertising.” The most surprising data from this study is the age range of online video consumers.

  • 31% of 18 to 34 year olds watch streaming video; 69% stream video more than once per week
  • 69% of consumers 35 and over watch streaming video; 47% stream video more than once per week
  • 95% of those surveyed are streaming video at home (vs. 4% at the office and 1% at school); 45% of streaming takes place in the evening.
  • 42% of consumers have forwarded a video clip to a friend
  • 94% of consumers would prefer to view ads than pay to watch a video
  • 63% of consumers would prefer ads that are shorter than television ads
  • Consumers are 8% more likely to view a 15-second advertisement through to completion (vs. a 30-second advertisement)
  • The 30-second pre-roll slightly outperforms the 15- and 5-second ads when measured in terms of click-through rate

BtoBInteractive Marketing Guide

Online video advertising spending

comScoreMore than 10 billion videos viewed online in the U.S. in February (08)
comScore logoThis is the most recent data that I could find – the highlights:

  • U.S. Internet users viewed more than 10 billion videos in February; this is a 3% gain vs. January, and a 66% gain from February 2007
  • 135 million U.S. Internet users spent an average of 204 minutes watching online video in February
  • 72.8% of U.S. Internet audience viewed an online video
  • The average online video duration was 2.7 minutes
  • The average online video viewer consumed 75 videos

The video long tail gets longer

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

HP’s announcement today that it will begin creating made-to-order DVDs of some of Sony’s movies and TV shows is lengthening the long tail for video even further. By printing movies on-demand, consumers will have access to even more obscure movies and television shows that would not have been economically viable for retailers to stock.

(Thanks to Greg for the tip!)

What is Creative Commons?

Thursday, January 17th, 2008

Creative Commons logoCopyright has gotten a whole lot blurrier with the Internet. Copyright is one of those things that used to be very cut and dry – someone would write something, it would be printed (on paper) and there would be a copyright notice on it. No one else was allowed to reprint that thing without permission or quote marks and an attribution. End of story.

But on the Web, things are much more hazy.

First of all, content is much harder to control. If you write and publish something (or take a photo or a video or record a podcast), it’s out there in all its digital glory for all to see – and copy. Sometimes it’s copied with the OK of the original creator, sometimes there is an attribution, and sometimes things are just stolen – total copyright infringement, difficult to prove, harder to enforce.

For example in the earlier days of the Web (early 2000s), a company that I worked for had a network of about 40 Web sites. Overnight, all of the sites were completely de-listed from Google. The reason? Some other company had, unbeknownst to us, stolen ALL OF THE CONTENT FROM ALL OF OUR SITES, and created duplicate sites based on that content. Google saw this as “duplicate content” and a “spam island,” and we were kicked out. We eventually got back in, but not after a whole world of trouble and difficulty and pain and anguish (you get the point).

So it is with this issue, this difficulty in mind, that the Creative Commons licenses came to be. To quote exactly from the Creative Commons site, this is what the license are:

“Creative Commons defines the spectrum of possibilities between full copyright — all rights reserved — and the public domain — no rights reserved. Our licenses help you keep your copyright while inviting certain uses of your work — a “some rights reserved” copyright.”

In my words, these licenses allow content providers on the Web to allow other people to use (or not use) their content based on a clear set of guidelines.

The following are the different Creative Commons licenses and how they are used. Again, I’m taking this straight from their Web site:

Attribution Non-commercial (by-nc)
by nc cc license logoThis license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution No Derivatives (by-nd)by nd cc license
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

Attribution Share Alike (by-sa)
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even by sa cc licensefor commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

Attribution (by)
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon yoby cc licenseur work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered, in terms of what others can do with your works licensed under Attribution.

For more information on Creative Commons, here’s the Wikipedia listing. Flickr’s explanation of the licenses is here.

New music models worth checking out

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

In a recent article, I made a series of predictions about the future of the music industry – one of those predictions was that “many new online and digital services will rise and fall.” Now that I think about it a bit more, that prediction seems kind of cheap because in the course of researching that story, I came across lots of the new online and digital services that have already risen. So half of the prediction was more just reporting than prophesying.

Even so, I thought it might be helpful to include a list of the new music models that I found while doing the research. If my prediction holds, many of these will eventually fail, and most of the others will be acquired or consolidate. Staying on top of this quickly changing industry will be tough for awhile, but knowing what’s out there now is a good place to start.

This list is obviously not exhaustive, so if you know of others, or have feedback on any of those listed below, please leave a comment. Also, some of these companies have revenue models that are clear, but others were a bit less so. If you have any input, let me know.

GoombahGoombah logoMusic recommendations based on your iTunes playlist and a comparison of what other people who share similar music interests are listening to. Goombah scans your iTunes library, finds other people who share your musical tastes, and then recommends songs to you based on the songs that they listen to. Revenue model: Affiliate income with potential to get into paid placement, with labels paying for their artists music to be part of the recommendations.

finetune- This site lets you type in an artist and they will createa custom playlist of songs based on that artist and others “like” them. Alternately, you can build your own playlist of up to 45 songs from 15 artists. You can then take your custom playlist and embed it on your blog or MySpace page. Revenue model: advertiser-supported

Groove Mobile - The leading music-for-your-cellphone provider,Groove Mobile logo they have mobile downloads, P2P sharing, music recommendations, streaming radio and music subscriptions. Groove Mobile also powers Orange’s Music Player (U.K.) and the Sprint Music Store. Revenue model: Subscriptions

Livewire Musician – This Web application lets bands, labels or managers book gigs and tours, Livewire Musician Logocommunicate with fans, manage radio promotions, manage the press, and track radio play. A basic account is free, and there are a la carte premium services available. Revenue model: Licensing fees

matchmine – Suggests other songs (and movies and blogs) that youmatchmine logo‘ll be interested in based on your preferences. The company is a product of The Kraft Group/New England Patriot’s interactive media and innovation team. Revenue model: Sells general user data to partners

Nextcat - Social networking for the entertainment industry, Nextcat logowhich in the entertainment industry looks more like traditional networking. Revenue model: Advertising and sponsored listings and placements

nimbit - Business management tools for the indie musician. The nimbit logocompany’s mission is “to put musical artists in complete control of their own music business and brand, enabling them to reach their full potential as quickly as possible.” They do this by providing solutions that allow artists to sell CDs and digital downloads, merchandise, and provides assistance with online ticket sales, e-mail list management, Website design and content hosting and a variety of other services. Revenue model: Paid services

OurStage - This site works kind of like a traditional “battle of the bands.” Bands upload their music, users OurStage logoof the site vote on what they like the best. Every month there are winners of cash prizes. Revenue model: The site sells the music that is uploaded to the site.

Sonicbids - Connecting bands and music promoters. The site allows musicians to put together Sonicbids logoone digital press kit (DPK) that is then distributed to promoters and helps the artists book gigs without having to send out physical press kits. Revenue model: Promoters pay a one-time fee and artists pay for submissions.

Amie Street  - This site allows indie artists to upload their Amie Street logomusic – the more popular the song, the more expensive it is to download. All songs are free to start and then move up in cost the more popular that they get. When users recommend songs to their friends, they get credit to buy more music. Revenue model: Earn 30% of every song sold

Strayform - Artists put proposals online and they are (or aren’t) funded by the fans who see Strayform logothem. According to Strayform, “Fan funded proposals let artist get paid without giving up a big cut, without blowing money on ads, and without long term restrictive contracts.” All the media is Creative Commons licenced, so fans can use everything freely on any device and share on P2P networks. Revenue model: ?

SellaBand - With this site, musicians need to find 5,000 people who “believe in them” (people prove this SellaBand logoby giving $10 to the artist) and then SellaBand takes the artist to the “best producers and studios in town.” Then the three (artist, believer and SellaBand) split the profits from sales of $.50 downloads. According to this article from TechCrunch, some artists have hit the $50,000 mark and have already headed to the studios. Revenue model: Splits revenue with the artist and users

CDBaby - Online record store that sells albums by independent musicians. They oCDBaby logonly sell music that comes direct from musicians, and pay the musicians directly, weekly. They also help to facilitate the digital distribution of music. Revenue model: They take $4 per CD sold, plus an initial $35 fee.

iTunes – This is a site that probably needs very little introduction. MP3 library, iTunes logofrom which users can download songs for $.99 per track, $9.99 per digital album. Revenue model: iTunes takes 30% of each sale.

Amazon MP3 Downloads- Works just about the same way that iTunes does, except that users don’t have to download a special player to get songs, and digital albums cost $8.99 each. Revenue model: Amazon takes a percentage of each sale

Rhapsody- Another MP3 download site, thRhapsodyis one features unlimited downloads based on various subscription deals. Revenue model: Memberships plans starting at $12.99 per month

TuneCore- This site allows artists to upload their digital tracks, and then TuneCore manages TuneCoretheir relationships with digital distributors, including iTunes, Amazon.com and Rhapsody. I wrote a more in-depth assessment of the site here. Revenue model: Charge artists a yearly fee

In compiling this list, I relied heavily on TechCrunch and Xconomy. Thanks!

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.