Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

The opportunity in B2B social media

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Coming off the recession, B2B marketing is poised to grow significantly in 2010. To get specific, according to a recent report from AMR International “B2B Online Marketing in the United States: assessment and forecast to 2013,” annual growth in U.S. B2B online marketing spend is forecast at 8% in 2010 and is set to reach 14% by 2012.

It’s good to see growth projected again, but more interesting is to take a look at exactly where that growth is going to be happening. The following are the three areas that are poised to grow the fastest, and their annualized growth rates:

- Social media: 21%

- Lead generation: 17%

- Online marketing services: 15%

B2B social media growth

Here’s why I think this is interesting. B2B marketers are planning on growing their social media spend dramatically, but the channels that they are going to have to use are seriously underdeveloped. Social media of all kinds is where to buy discounted viagra, lavitra & cialis definitely maturing, as are the ways that marketers can use it to reach consumer audiences. But in the business-to-business markets, there are not a ton of social media channels to reach viable audiences.

B2B audiences don’t currently have a home when it comes to social media. LinkedIn is a nice professional network, certainly a viable tool for people who are looking to network in B2B markets, but it’s not a place where B2B audiences live, not a spot for marketers to increase their spending 17%. The B2B publishers, who have served the B2B audiences well over the years, haven’t yet launched viable social networks or communities to support those audiences.

So other than experimenting with Facebook and Twitter and YouTube – which I suspect will prove to be a moderate success for some small percentage of marketers – where are marketers going to spend their B2B social media dollars? This is a huge opportunity.

My review of Animoto

Friday, October 30th, 2009

My verdict: I love this tool.

I love it so much, that I wanted to tell you right away, up at the top, so that you know immediately that if you are considering making a video, slideshow-type presentation, you should give Animoto a whirl.

Animoto logoI used Animoto to make a 1st birthday slideshow for my niece Willow. I take a lot of pictures, and it’s gotten even worse since Willow was born. My family jokes that Willow doesn’t recognize me without a camera up to my face. They exaggerate, but it is true that I have a ton of pictures. I also have a number of short videos, both from my camera and from my iPhone. So when I was planning to make this video, I wanted to find a tool that allowed me to use both still photos and videos and would combine them into one fabulous video set to music.

Animoto was definitely the right tool for the job. A few highlights/comments about what I liked and didn’t like, and the various things that I did with Animoto:

- It is possible to make a free video – Animoto lets you create a 30-second slideshow for free. To do so, they recommend using about 12 photos. That length was laughable since I have hundreds if not thousands of photos, so I opted to upgrade. The two upgrade options were an unlimited video creation license for $30, or a one full-length video credit for $3. I opted for the one-time credit since I didn’t have any previous experience with the tool and wanted to try it out before buying a more expensive license.

- Uploading the photos and videos to use was simple. It also was very easy to move the images around so that they appeared in different orders, and removing images was also simple. I liked the way that Animoto displays an estimated length for your overall video based on the number of pictures and clips uploaded. That was helpful as I was trying to get the video down to a doable length.

- You can use up to 7 seconds from any one video clip, and the tool that they have set up for you to be able to choose and preview that clip works really well. If you want to use more than 7 seconds from any video, you can duplicate that video file and pick another clip. I didn’t have to do that, and I found that 7 seconds was really just the right amount of time for any given video clip – any longer and I would probably have been including unnecessary footage most of the time.

- Animoto does give you the option to either include the sound from the video clip, or not. This was actually one of my only issues with the tool because there were a couple of clips that I included where the sound was very important. When you choose to have the sound in your video instead of the background music, Animoto dims the background music (which is very cool) but I wish there was a way that you could boost the sound on your video if it needed it – some of my video clips has sound tracks that were just a little too hard to hear. Others were perfect, though, so I’m sure that it depends on the quality of the video that you’re using.

- I had some trouble uploading some iPhone videos. In particular, I had some videos on my iPhone that were long. I tried to get them to my laptop to upload to Animoto by emailing them to myself, then saving them to my computer and trying to upload them that way. Animoto viagra lawsuits won in court in 2010 did fine with the full length iPhone videos, but any of the videos that I emailed that had to be shortened because of length, Animoto didn’t recognize. (Apple must give them some kind of weird file format that wasn’t recognized by Animoto.) I managed to work around this by downloading some kind of app that allowed me to save the files as a recognized video file type. (I think that I might have used FLV Player, but I honestly can’t remember…sorry!)

- The other thing that I want to mention is that there is no obvious “save” button on Animoto. The “done” button serves as the “save” button, though – so click it often! I was scared of the “done” button the first time that I was using the app, I was afraid that I really had to be done to click it, and I ended up losing a bunch of my work once when my laptop crashed. So use “done” as “save” – you’ll be able to go back and edit.

- The music upload was also fairly straightforward. If you have a shorter video, Animoto will shorten your music clip to match the length of your video. If you have more photos/videos than the length of your music, Animoto will shorten your video to match the music. This was a problem for me. I wanted my video to be as long as it needed to be to fit all my pictures and videos, so I ended up having to come up with music that was almost 10 minutes long. There are no songs that are that long that worked for a 1st birthday soundtrack, so I ended up having to splice together three songs so that they were one music file. I would have loved if it Animoto did that for me, but I used a tool MP3 Cutter Joiner that worked perfectly.

- Once those steps are done, you basically finalize the video and send it to Animoto to work its magic. My video was almost 10 minutes (which is the max length that they allow, by the way) so it took some time for my video to get mixed together and finalized, so if you are doing something last-minute, keep that in mind.

- Once the video was done, I was able to watch it and go back and make edits to anything that I wanted. I liked this a lot – I ended up making 8 different versions by the end, trying to get all the music and transitions just perfect. Not everyone is that insane, but I liked the option to be able to continue to remix until it turned out just right.

- In the middle of the process, I discovered the Animoto iPhoto app, which allows you to make videos on your phone (totally easy, I tried it) and you can watch the videos on the iPhone with the app, too.

- Once my video was complete, I had the option to buy a full length video, which I did (it was around $21) – it came in the mail in about 4 days. I also have the files so that I can burn DVDs on my computer – once I figure out how to burn a DVD with an ISO file so that it plays on my TV (anyone have any tips???)

- Finally, I was able to embed the video on a Website very easily – just the same way that I would embed a YouTube video. It was a piece of cake.

I can’t say enough about this tool – it’s awesome. And if you want to see the finished product, send me an email and I’ll send you the link.

The three problems with publishing

Friday, June 19th, 2009

I’ve said it a ton of times already, as have many others in the industry – traditional publishing models are in trouble. Someone asked me this week what I think can fix publishing, and although there are some parts of the broken industry that are going to be difficult to repair, I do think that there are three major things that would help.

First, publishing is broken because media and publishing companies don’t have a way to effectively account for their audience. In one traditional publishing model, specifically in the B2B controlled circulation print publishing world, publications require subscribers to fill out a qualification form. Qualification forms are long, multi-point questionnaires that ask a series of data points that help the magazine figure out if the subscriber is a qualified recipient of the magazine. (See an example here) Basically, to qualify to receive a print magazine for free, a subscriber would fill out this long form that asked various demographic questions, as well as information about the subscriber’s budgets, number of sites that they had purchasing power over, and how many people they influenced at their job, etc. Those forms are then used to determine who qualifies to receive a free subscription of the magazine. If the subscriber has enough purchasing power, they get the magazine. The publisher is then able to use this data to provide a subscriber profile to potential advertisers, who then decide to run ads in the magazine based on the demographic profile of the subscribers who are receiving that magazine. All of which was qualified and audited based on the qualification forms.

As the online shift has happened, things have changed. Where the Internet allows for audience measurement (IAB Guidelines [PDF]) in a way that print publishing never did, it isn’t necessarily measuring the things that are going to help publishers succeed. While the Internet allows for a great deal of measurement, the measurement is in metrics such as page views, time spent, number of page views and the like. These data points are valuable to advertisers, but don’t provide any information into the specifics of the audience that is visiting that site. So a site like CleanRooms, (just as an example, not to pick on that site specifically), which is micro-targeted to people who care about contamination control technology, can show its advertisers that its website was visited x number of times in June, but can’t provide details on exactly who it was that visited the site. Advertisers know the reach of their message, but they can’t be sure of the targeting.

This has caused a weird content dilemma. Instead of focusing on creating the content that will serve their audience specifically, publishers have begun creating content that will attract the MOST readers, because they are measured by page views instead of audience specifics. This is the first thing that has to change online. The model that the qualified magazines used where they were able to provide specific data on exactly who is visiting their site – the audience demographics – is essential. This is particularly an issue with B2B publishing where the goal has always been to reach the right audience, not necessarily the broadest audience. (This is less of an issue in consumer publishing where the goal was to reach the largest number of possible people.)

The only way to overcome this challenge is for publishers to move this audience development model online – so that they are capturing details and data about their audience. Not only is it vital that they are able to prove exactly who their audience is, but the ability to capture their contact information and permission to continue to contact them in the future is also vital. It is with that contact data and permission, just as it was when publishers were able to send subscribers print magazines, that the publishers are going to be able to build their audience, get them to build affinity and be an effective media partner to advertisers.

The second issue is the way that advertising is being as audiences move from print to online. With the print publication, advertisers were content to know that their message was being read, reviewed or at least seen by the right audience. With the move to online, advertisers are looking for measurability. Google has changed the online media industry not only by providing a low-cost online advertising channel for marketers, and not only by allowing publishers to generate simple revenue by running advertising on their sites, but also by pioneering the idea of return-on-investment (ROI) and pay-for-performance media. No longer are advertisers satisfied to buy advertising on the same basis as they did in print, just to reach a specific audience demographic. (Remember, there’s some question as to whether online sites are reaching the same demographic that their print counterpoints were reaching.) Advertisers are now flocking to ROI-based advertising channels like search marketing and lead generation. The issue is that publishers are having a side effects of viagra difficult time figuring out how to offer these types of programs to their advertisers, but they have to figure this out or else they are going to be in deep, deep trouble.

Finally, the nature of content has changed entirely. In the traditional publishing model, media companies hired content producers who wrote fabulous content that was pushed out to subscribers via their print publications on a periodic basis. With the launch of the Internet, the publishers were able to publish to a site that the audience could come back to on their schedule – that was revolutionary at the time. But now, things have changed to an even larger degree. No longer are the media companies and publishers the sole creators of content – not by a long shot. Now there are new media companies with content producers, bloggers who are self-publishing content, and a whole host of user-generated content channels, such as social networks, reviews sites and the like. On top of that, all of the companies that relied for years on the publishers to get the message out about their products have become publishers. They have websites, but they also create and distribute content in an incredibly wide variety of formats.

Publishers who are coming from the traditional model are fighting this change. They make the argument that traditional journalism, although it’s going through a huge decline, is one of the foundations of our society and without it, we are going to suffer. It might be. And we might suffer. But the truth is that consumers of content – the subscribers of the past – want lots of different types of content (PDF), and they want to get their content from a variety of sources.

Here’s a fictional, but realistic example. A new virtualization server is being released by Dell. A consumer hears about it because there is a news story on his favorite technology Web site. He wants to know more, so he goes hunting for content. That publication only has that one article, but he doesn’t know that; he follows the links in the article to find additional information. On that publication’s site, he reads an old story about another company that has a virtualization server, then a round-up of virtualization servers, both of which were linked to in the article. He clicks on a link to a white paper (written by Dell, hosted on the publication’s web site), and reads that. But that’s not really all the information he wants – he wants more information on this new virtualization server. So he clicks the link to the press release from Dell. At the bottom of the press release is a link to the page on the Dell website that has more information – so he goes there. The Dell Website has a whole bunch of information on the server, including pictures, a video and a white paper about the benefits of virtualization in an insurance company, which happens to be the industry that the consumer is in, so he reads and watches all that content. After reading all the information available on Dell’s site, the consumer goes to Slashdot to see if anything has been written about the new server, and then goes to Google where he types “Dell virtualization reviews” and goes to five sites that feature reviews from IT pros that have used other Dell virtualization servers in the past. He then gets back to work, fairly satisfied with the information that he’s read.

In the old model, publishers don’t really believe that this is the way things work. They don’t believe that a consumer of content reads any information from a vendor and believes it. But the truth is, content consumers are looking for multiple angles on the same topic. They want to know what the journalist thinks and will give that information great weight, but they also want to know what the vendor says about their own product, and what their peers have to say. Just check out the graphic below, from the Enquiro Business to Business survey 2007 (registration required) – about the types of content that are involved in and influence the B2B buying process. Content from all sources isn’t only viable, it’s necessary and highly influential. Publishers, many of which have a large number of livelihoods tied up in the traditional publishing model, aren’t totally willing to let go of their long-held beliefs to embrace an online strategy that includes content from a wide array of sources. But they must if they want to retain their audience and subscribers.

These are the problems with publishing that I see – 1) the need for effective audience development methodologies; 2) the ability to support ROI-based advertising programs and; 3) the diversification of content types to solve all the needs and wants of the core audience.

Without embracing these three elements, traditional publishers are doomed. But if publishers can figure these things out, it might just save publishing.

Photo of rusty printing press by anyjazz65

Geek star + reality TV = iPhone innovation

Monday, March 9th, 2009

My lastest article was just posted to The Industry Standard: Woz: “Dancing with the Stars” victory possible with geek support.

Woz dancing with the starsYes, that’s right – Steve Wozniak (aka The Woz) is one of the contestents on this season’s Dancing with the Stars, which debuts tonight. I am rooting for him, although after watching the video embeded below, I’m not holding out a lot of hope that he’s going to crack the top 10. But GO GET ‘EM WOZ!!! It takes a whole lot more guts than I have to go on television in front of 20+ million people dancing. Seriously, that is some brave stuff. I saw video of myself dancing at my wedding. Not. Pretty. Semenax

There is one thing that I think might get missed in all the stories about Woz’s efforts to dominate the dance floor that is worth mentioning. That one thing comes from a letter that was posted to his personal Website.

“An iPhone app to vote for me should be in the iTunes store soon but it’s not there yet.”

As far as I can tell, this is the first time that a reality TV contestant has launched an iPhone application to help fans cast votes for him. But it won’t be the last.

Leave it to The Woz to innovate in a format that no one thought could ever be improved upon – Reality TV.

It's all in a day's work as the police are called to the scene…

Friday, December 12th, 2008

Too bad print publications and local newspapers are in such rough shape. This was in my local paper today and I would hate to see such wonderful tidbits lost forever.

Peabody police report
A Jennifer Lane resident reported to police at 12:17 p.m. that a man wearing black and purple knocked on his door, then ran around to the backyard. Police said the suspicious person was an employee of FedEx and was dropping off a package.

Internet radio's big flop

Friday, December 12th, 2008

We’ve been listening to Christmas tunes this week in the office, primarily tuning into a local FM radio station’s online stream (Oldies 103.3). What plays is exactly the same thing that plays on the radio station, same music, same commentary, same ads. There is also a browser window that pops up with the radio player, and that window is surrounded by ads.

For anyone that listens to music online using some of the services that were created specifically for an Internet audience (Pandora, for example), where music streams continuously, is not interrupted by advertising and allows for greater control and customization over what plays, this type of online music experience is very rudimentary. The AM and FM stations that are broadcasting over the Internet (at least the ones that I have experienced) have not done anything to adopt any Internet or performance-based revenue models. And in this, they have missed a huge opportunity.

Pandora and other Internet-only radio services are burdened by a royalty structure that, until earlier this year, AM and FM stations didn’t face. According to an article from the Washington Post:

“Royalties for Internet radio differ greatly from its satellite and terrestrial counterparts. Internet companies 0.000762 of a cent per song, per listener. Satellite radio companies pay a percentage of their revenue. Under copyright laws, land-based radio stations, traditional AM and FM radio, pay nothing.”

But the radio stations, even with this freedom, did not take advantage of the shift in media dollars to performance-based models. Now that they will also have to pay royalties for online play, I believe that they will live to regret their lack of innovation when they had the chance.

Internet radio window

Flex-time is a must-have in a start-up environment

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

I spent the morning at a doctor’s appointment with my sister-in-law Michele and my niece Willow. Michele asked if I could tag along because the appointment was far from home in an unfamiliar location and my brother couldn’t make it to help navigate. I love that my job allows me the flexibility to do things like this. Things like spending time with Willow and watching her grow up; things like taking tennis lessons during the day, which I did two mornings a week this past summer.

Granted, it’s easy to have this type of flexible schedule when your job is at the company that you own. It’s even easier when you’re the only employee and there’s no one else around. But to me, it seems like offering flex-time – especially in a start-up environment (if the business model allows for it) – is no longer a nice-to-have benefit, but an absolute requirement. What do you think?

Flex time

Photo by Ford Motor Company

Patience is a virtue that I just don't have (but I'm working on it)

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Mothers have a way of making truthful statements that bug the heck out of their kids. My mom was no exception. When I was growing up, one of her favorite things to tell me was “patience is a virtue.” Even writing the words today almost make me growl with disgust and slam the door. That’s the teenager inside of me, of course.

Patience paysI have fought a life-long battle with patience. I know that this story is not unique – very few people like to wait. But I’m writing about this now because I have enduring a trial that is requiring patience that I never thought I could muster – the patience needed to start a company.

I had heard rumors of this before. My old boss Barry, a serial entrepreneur who was the CEO of Connexus Media, the start-up company that I worked for that was sold to Ziff Davis in 2004, has told me stories of his need for patience when we started Connexus. He used to drive to work in the mornings, and instead of turning into the parking lot, he would force himself to stay on the road and go to a diner, or golfing, or to run errands, or to do anything other than going into work. He did this because he knew that he could do nothing to move things along any quicker, and he feared that being in the office would only hurt progress instead of helping it.

I have been working on Pure Incubation for almost a year. In that time, we’ve built a bunch of sites. But until this week, I had yet to launch any of the Web applications that we have been working on building for the past year. These delays rarely had to do with anything that I was working on personally. In most instances, I was just waiting for other people – application developers, designers, researchers – and they needed time to finish the work that they were doing. I should also mention that they weren’t taking a long time – they were taking a reasonable amount of time. I just had a hard time waiting when I was so eager to get going.

Over the course of the past year, I have developed a series of strategies to help myself be more patient. These are just band aids. Honestly, most of them are just distraction techniques – they aren’t solving the root of the patience problem. But these strategies have really helped me stay steadier in the midst of waiting. And my hope (and fear, if I’m being honest) is that waiting will one day teach me patience for good.

Here are some of my strategies:

Get a hobby. This summer, I started taking tennis lessons. The lessons were two times per week, 10:30am-noon. This chunk of time out of the middle of the day didn’t really take away from the amount of time that I worked – I just put in the hours later into the night – but getting away from the office helped to readjust my attitude. I was able to remind myself that if things were moving faster I wouldn’t have been able to take tennis lessons in the middle of the day. And since I enjoyed the experience, it made the waiting more tolerable, as well. Not to mention that it helped my tennis game.

Start a blog. Quick disclaimer: I didn’t start this blog to help myself be more patient. But this blog has helped with the waiting, and has also turned into a powerful tool for my business. Taking the time to think of posts and write them out has been instructive, and having the time to dedicate to my blog reminds me again that moving slowly isn’t such a bad thing. My blogging productivity seems to wane and wax depending on how busy I am, but developing the discipline of blogging has been a way to stave off impatience – while benefiting my business at the same time. 

Do consulting. If you pick the right projects – the kind that teach you something new while paying you to learn – consulting will help you be more patient about the rest of your business. Consulting will give you more work to do (filling some of the hours of waiting), and will also fill the bank account with some cash. For me, part of the difficulty with waiting was the delay in making money, so having something to do that also gave me some much-needed capital was a double win. Even though consulting can be difficult at times, it has helped me have more patience in waiting for my core business to become profitable.

Travel. It’s difficult to take a week away from the office when your business is busy and things are moving quickly. So taking the opportunity to travel – even if it’s a trip in which you’re working from wherever it is that you travel to – and get a change of scenery and have some fun. 

Remember that you’re part of a team. Because I work alone, and have part-time people, consultants and contractors working with me, it’s easy to begin to feel like I’m the only one that cares – which leads to a great deal of impatience. When this happens, I have to remind myself that I’m not alone, that my team is in this with me. I usually give one of them a call (preferably a team member that is supportive and will understand the up’s and down’s I’m going through). This not only helps me reconnect with my team, but it also reminds me that the people I’m waiting for are human, too. This helps increase my patience as I wait for them to get their work done.

Connect with friends, and talk over your issues with them. This is my favorite solution to impatience. I am lucky enough to have some great friends who are always willing to listen and talk through any issues that I’m having – including issues related to starting a company. And last week, when I was at my lowest, feeling the most frustrated, I got this awesome email from my friend (thanks, Moe!):

“I was feeling the need to tell you not to give up five minutes before a miracle. Once on the Today Show this woman lost her huge diamond ring in the hospital trash (she had been in the ER). A nice worker went through huge piles of garbage looking for it. It took forever, but he found it. When they asked him about it taking so long to find he said “you don’t give up five minutes before a miracle.” Cara mentioned that you’re at a very stressful time with your website. You’ll get the website up and running and it’s going to be awesome! Maybe some problems will even lead to better ideas.” (Here is a link to the story, and here is a link to the video. As a side note, at the end of the video the older woman says “they’re really nice” about her family, and reminds me of my grandma, who always used to say the same thing.)

At the end of the day, entrepreneurs need to remain dedicated to their vision and plans through all the ups and downs and changes that take place. And having a little bit of patience – OK, a lot of patience – is really important in reaching the final goal.

Photo by Geekgirly

The music industry's decline

Monday, July 28th, 2008

My latest post is now up on The Industry StandardHave reports of the music industry’s decline been greatly exaggerated?

For the article, my editor asked me to take a look at the earnings/revenue numbers that have been coming from the major music companies to see if things are really as bad as the companies are claiming. After all, it seems like the double-digit gains in digital should be contributing quite a bit of revenue, and if these companies are still generating millions (or billions) in revenue, how can the major labels and their efforts be branded as “failures.”

The bottom line is that companies are losing money on their bottom line – and anytime that happens, the word failure is tossed about liberally. Until the major music companies figure out a way to improve their margins, sell more digital products, or start working together to adjust their business models to make the digital music market work for them, the major labels are going to continue seeing bad numbers like these from the 2007 EMI Annual Report:

EMI Annual Report

In the course of researching this article, I came across a number of other facts & figures about the digital music industry that might come in handy for some of you, so I thought I would post the links here. These are almost all links to (PDF) files, so consider yourself forewarned.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) 2007 Consumer Profile

RIAA 2007 Year-end Shipment Statistics

IFPI Digital Music Report 2007

Recorded Music Sales 2007 (physical, digital & performance rights revenue)

And here are a few other graphics from that EMI Annual report:

Value of digital music market according to EMI

Digital music as part of music market according to EMI

Just spotted: TinyURL.com's cool new feature

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

Like most Twitter users, I use TinyURL.com to shorten URLs that I post to Twitter in order to help me stay below the 140 character limit. But I was always frustrated by the service because it turned my logical URLs (http://www.16thletter.com/2008/07/24/my-theory-on-twitters-latest-bomb/) into something that no one would be able to recognize (http://tinyurl.com/6a67a3).

But now, TinyURL has a new feature. It allows users to make a custom alias using any letters, numbers or dashes that the user wants to use.

TinyURL new feature

So instead of the really ugly TinyURL that I had before, I now have this one: http://tinyurl.com/twitterbomb.