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July 2008, Week 4 Marketing Archives

Friday, July 25, 2008

Hey Cheapskate, Pony Up for the Expensive Phone

I hate buying a new mobile phone.

It's like a trip to the dentist and doctor wrapped up in a nice leaf of crap. The phones are always way to expensive, the rebates never show up without several follow up calls and I'm never sure exactly which pricing plan is the one that I want.

It confuses and angers me and I'm paid to keep up with all of this stuff. But every three or four years, I invest in another phone. I always do. And that's a good thing, according to Computer World's Mike Elgan.

He's right, too. It's better to pony up the cash for a phone that does what you want than save money on a phone that doesn't because we live in an increasingly wireless world. The best phones offer data services, video services, GPS, pictures, email connectivity -- and in my case, a travel alarm.

Scrimping won't do anything but hamstring you in the long run.

For someone who travels, the new applications are -- necessary is probably the wrong word -- a wonderful stress reliever. Next week, I'm off to New York City. I haven't been in years and I have no idea how to get around. Using HopStop, I can get up-to-the-second information on how to navigate the city.

So make a list of life's little conveniences and find the phone that matches those needs. Then, turn the price tag upside down.

Hey Cheapskate, Pony Up for the Expensive Phone By Brad at 04:11 PM
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AOL Begins Shuttering Services, Focuses on Ads

The end is nigh for America Online, once the premier Internet Service Provider in the country (notwithstanding the great connection outage of 1997).

The company announced the shuttering of three services on Friday as it moves away from the ISP business and into the advertising network business. The move is just the beginning of a "de-investment" in several properties -- including some of its instant messenger and streaming services -- as the company attempts to cut spending.

The move to streamline its services -- always a nice way to say some of what we do is crap and now we realize that -- is made more intriguing by the ever-present rumors about a potential acquisition by Yahoo or Microsoft, which can't seem to choke out the "I dos" in regards to their own merger.

Lest we jump the gun about the death of AOL, though, it should be noted that company's Platform-A is still the largest online advertising network, which in the current marketplace is worth far more than an ISP network or disparate user-generated publishing and communication applications (that's dork speak for IM, blogging and streaming platforms).

That alone makes AOL a yummy appetizer for the companies looking to build an online revenue stream into its business.

AOL Begins Shuttering Services, Focuses on Ads By Brad at 03:59 PM
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China's web users top US

One of the rising superpowers in the world just got an extra boost.

According to China's government data, the country saw a 56% increase in web use from June 2007 to June 2008, with almost as many users (approximately 253 million) as the US' entire population (approximately 305 million).

When you consider the disparity between the populations (1.3 billion to 305 million), the report doesn't seem like much of a surprise , but keep in-mind that the Chinese government restricts citizen use to any anti-Chinese sites, sexual sites,human rights groups and oocasionaly even Youtube, which was blocked during the tibet tensions in march.

What were some of the main reasons for the surge? Music, news and instant messaging, with 29% of the users coming from mobile phones.

China's growth potential is staggering, since 80% of the population hasn't been tapped, yet the nation saw 48% growth in internet revenue from 2006-07. According ,the total number of users should near 490 million by 2012. That's almost 200 million more than US

So where does China come into the big picture? For companies such as Google, China could represent the ultimate future goldmine ,especially once 3G technology is expanded across the nation. The restrictive government is the main obstacle to China's potential  to become the internet giant. Until the infamous "great firewall of China" is knocked down, its growth will be blocked.

China's web users top US By Matt O'Hern at 08:23 AM
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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yahoo Music Shuts Down, Your Music is Kaput

I started covering the convergence of digital music, technology and society in 1999 while in graduate school at Berkeley.

I wrote hundreds of stories on the subject during my tenure at Wired magazine and Wired News, but the underlying theme was always the same: the recording industry wanted to make sure that you never owned your music.

Odd, huh.

The real fallout from the Napster file-trading legal wrangling is simple, the courts codified into law this simple fact: no matter what form you buy your music -- listening on the radio, buying tapes or CDs, purchasing digital files -- the reality is that you are only purchasing a license to listen to that music. You don't actually own anything.

How can I prove such an outrageous lie, you ask? Yahoo Music announced it would shutter its service anymore, which means that songs you purchased will -- at some point -- stop working because Yahoo won't have servers running that verify that you actually own the music.

Lest you think this is the first time this controversial "licensing scheme" has hit customers, check out this story from Cnet that chronicles Microsoft's headaches with the exact same issue.

In fact, you can't even purchase a CD ("but I own it") and legally make a digital back up of that work. Why? Because you only purchased the license to play to music, not anything else.

But, you know, keep on rockin' in the free world.

Yahoo Music Shuts Down, Your Music is Kaput By Brad at 03:31 PM
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Digital NASA Archives, or The Importance of the Past

The most unsettling for me is the last one, though, because the slow erosion comes from knowing what you knew to be true yesterday is now wiped clean today. There are only so many days you can question your own sanity before it slips away.

Now with that big build up, you'd think I was about to tell you that the government banned all digital deletions. Now exactly. Instead, NASA partnered with the Internet Archive to create one large repository of archival pictures the organization.

In this day and age (says the old guy), it's more important than ever to create a sustainable -- and searchable -- index of what happened yesterday. The Internet Archive, a non-profit organization tasked with doing that, is just one of the many groups seeking out ways to keep a digital record of what was once written.

Sounds a little goofy, I know, but the reality is that people are constantly trying to scrub the past: change a quote here, touch up a photo there and shift this thought a little more to the left (or right).

It's a slippery slope, though. If you alter enough little ideas and thoughts, eventually you have one giant boondoggle on your hand and nobody knows what to believe anymore. (Is it real or is it Memorex?)

Which brings it back to NASA and the Internet Archive. The more companies and agencies embrace this digital Library of Alexandria, the better off we will be because we can "trust" the screen better if we know that what we see and read today will still be there tomorrow.

Digital NASA Archives, or The Importance of the Past By Brad at 03:18 PM
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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hot Wheels: The Investment in a Future Customer

I'm not a car guy. At all. I drive a 2006 Pontiac Vibe, which I affectionately refer to as the "Old Man Car."

Despite that I have fond memories of play with my Hot Wheels when I was younger. I had a nice, blue case that had a separate compartment for each car (and these days, I make fun of my girlfriend for having a closet that has -- wait for it -- a separate container for each set of shoes). All my friends had these. And we'd get them out and play -- something, I have no idea what we'd play. But we'd do it for hours.

You may recognize that story. The folks at Wired Magazine did. That article prompted Bob Gilbreath to write an interesting post about marketing and the life span of an investment in kids, which is, you know, only slightly creepy and absolutely true.

The point: If you invest in creating a community around your brand, that brand becomes a part of the lifestyle people grow into. Can you measure that? Not really. But with social media today, if you think long term, you can create a compelling reason for people to not only use, but also love your product.

Even better if you invite them to play as the folks at World Without Oil did, an Alternate Reality Game that was trying to figure out what a world looked like that reached Peak Oil, which is the time when our capacity to drill for oil is no longer going up.

These days you can create rich communities around the lifestyle you want and develop a brand identity that lasts far beyond a commercial, a print ad or a radio spot.

Hot Wheels: The Investment in a Future Customer By Brad at 03:57 PM
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Wikipedia Gets Competition from Google, Doctors

I love Wikipedia, but I've been trusting it less lately because I've been reading what's been going on behind the scenes.

It's never been a definitive source for me. I've always used other sources for back-up verification unless I'm watching Battlestar Galactica (the re-envisioned series, NOT the original) and wanted to know who might be the Fifth Cylon (if you don't understand that last part, just Wiki it).

Not everyone is enamored with the collaborative encyclopedia though, which prompted two competitors in the space.

Google launched an expert-driven site, which will not allow anonymous contributions, that it hopes will be Wikipedia 2.0. Ironically, you can read all about the project here at Wikipedia.

The project was announced at the end of last year with at least one goal: make a more definitive human encyclopedia that sidestepped some of the personal grudge-match fights that go on behind the scenes at Wikipedia.

Of course, we live in a niche-centric world these days so it's not surprising that another Wiki project -- this one from the medical field -- launched as well to give people a more accurate description of what's ailing them. The MedPedia Project aims to get the most accurate information from the best sources to give all of us a place to go to find out information about medical problems.

Underlying both projects though is the belief that Wikipedia has become untrustworthy -- at least in perception -- because of the anonymous nature of some of those who post.

Wikipedia Gets Competition from Google, Doctors By Brad at 03:38 PM
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Tivo and Amazon combine forces on new remote feature

We all remember the Saturday mornings of our childhood, when cartoons were interrupted by commercials that bombarded us with loud music and images of the newest cereal or toys related to our favorite shows. Tivo and Amazon have an easy answer for kids, or anyone, who says those three words our parents used to dread-"I want that."

The two companies unveiled their plan for a remote control feature that provides viewers with the power to buy items they see during a commercial, or even in a live talk show, I.E.- the latest book to be added to Oprah's book club. Viewers will have the option of completing the purchase or tagging it for later, so they can finish their favorite program.

Tivo's new feature illustrates its latest attempt to differentiate itself from the standard cable box, an appeal which it has totally lost as DVRs copied its format during the past eight years. Despite the feature's  appeal, it's important to remember that the expansion of DVRS limited Tivo's edge, and only four-million homes currently use the device, out of approximately 38 million homes with DVRs.

From Brad Stone's article at International Herald Tribute

TiVo's purchase feature "is a harbinger of what television ultimately should become," said Timothy Hanlon, senior vice president for Denuo, the media futures division of the Publicis Groupe. "But TiVo is only in around four million plus homes. From a national advertising perspective, if it doesn't get beyond that base it remains nothing more than a curiosity."

  According to USA Today, the interest in interactive TV ads is spreading, as a national survey showed that 43% of sellers were interested in trying interactive campaigns,and Cable Companies such as Charter have already employed similar tactics, such as Charters ad campaign for the Los Angeles Sparks, an WNBA team, which offered team brouchures with the click of a button.Major companies, such as Disney,(no surprise) have already devoted entire channels strictly desinged to offer vacation packages on-demand ,with virtual tours of their parks, with 23% of responders eventually booking a trip.

Ultimately, the success of Tivo and Amazon's is contingent on the response to its unique aspect : the live-show marketing. If shows such as "The View", "The Daily Show" and "Late Night" can engage  viewers with the guest's book or item, Amazon and Tivo may have tapped into a potential goldmine, especially if they can link actors with movie tickets. Just imagine the extra cash "Dark Knight" could have made if viewers had the chance to buy a ticket while Christian Bale was plugging the film on Leno or Letterman.

Otherwise,Tivo will be stuck in the same race with the competitors that caught up with them in the early 2000s.

Tivo and Amazon combine forces on new remote feature By Matt O'Hern at 08:23 AM
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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Reputation Management: It's a Social Thing

The Web in all its incarnations (the computer, mobile, through the television) has made the world a very, very small place.

We can now connect with people near instantaneously, which means no good deed goes unblogged and no bad deed goes unwritten about. In a world of constant communication, listening and responding to anything about your company -- or you -- has become a must-do.

For instance, I had a horrific experience with Lenscrafters last week, which I Twittered out to my 400+ followers and blogged about on MySpace. That led to a series of emails and texts from people who had similar experiences. We used the mobile Web to connect and relay our message out to thousands of others (and nary one word came back from LensCrafters).

Google has made mobile communications targeting businesses even easier.

But not responding -- as LensCrafters did -- can be better than Dell's response to negative criticism. The company sent a cease-and-desist letter to a former employee who posted unhappy musings about Dell. Of course, the letter had the opposite effect, infuriating the blogosphere and causing Dell to rescind its complaint and apologize.

That has to be a bit terrifying for companies: engage, but don't engage incorrectly.

Of course, there are some basic rules for managing a crisis, which surprisingly play out exactly like you'd think: listen, don't be pretentious, host the conversation, make changes when you can.

The Web can be a frightening place if you're new to it. There are so many new technologies swirling around it's hard to keep up; however, we're finding that many of the old rules apply just the same online as they do in the real world.

Reputation Management: It's a Social Thing By Brad at 12:39 PM
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NY Times, LinkedIn Partner Up

For the past year, some of my students and I have been messing around with content management systems -- which is software that allows you to publish to the Web without really knowing what's happening -- that allow you to share information easily with your friends.

That's the fun of the Web after all. Finding, clipping and sharing stuff with the people you know.

The New York Times and LinkedIn have side-stepped the technological hurdle of using one system, though, and instead created a partnership that delivers targeted stories from the Times to LinkedIn users.

The partnership combines the 25 million users from the business networking site (LinkedIn) with the 17 million readers of the news (NY Times), which can only boost the use of both sites because it adds a targeted value for each.

Every deal between digital companies doesn't make sense. In fact, sometimes I think companies just work together to give the appearance of some movement. This, however, makes sense.

Ultimately, though, we'll get a front-row seat to see how people actual use these sites. For years, LinkedIn has been a slow-growth networking site that people visit on occasion, not regularly. This move, I would guess, is an attempt to change that usage pattern without investing money into creating content -- since it's unclear whether the site's users actually want new content.

NY Times, LinkedIn Partner Up By Brad at 12:16 PM
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NBC's next "Late Night" host will start with webcasts

The face of NBC's "Tonight Show" changes in May 2009, when Jay Leno will be replaced by current "Late Night" host Conan O'Brien. To prepare for the transition, NBC is already grooming its newest talent, Jimmy Fallon, to replace O'Brien's slot.

Starting this fall, Fallon will host nightly minisodes, 5-10 minute webcasts, where he will interview celebrities and experiment with new material. According to NBC comedy producer Lorne Michaels, who developed stars such as Mike Meyers and Will Ferrell, the minsodes were created to afford Fallon the opportunity to find his style. 

NBC isn't the only network to experiment with the idea of teaser episodes. FX's hit show "Rescue Me" is placating its fans with weekly minisodes this summer. The producers wanted to salvage any fans that may have strayed away during the 19-month gap between the fourth and fifth season. Producer and writer Peter Tolan's quote from the USA Today article: "The minisodes don't connect to the new season, but they do answer fan calls for more comedy. We miss the guys talking in the kitchen about sex, their lives, and foolishness in the (fire) house."

Currently, the main goal of  a minisode, on its surface, is  gap-filling, but the tactic also serves as a sobering reminder of the persistently shrinking attention span of Americans.As online viewership numbers continue to explode, don't be surprised to see more shows opt for the same tactic during the offseason, when viewers can be saved or lost.

NBC's next "Late Night" host will start with webcasts By Matt O'Hern at 08:56 AM
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Monday, July 21, 2008

Build a Social Network to Solve Your Problem

I'm continually amazed at how quickly a social network can spring up given the right type of problem.

I could list off any number of sites that have come into existence -- seemingly out of nowhere -- because one person decided to use software to try to solve an issue. One of those -- Help a Reporter -- is really starting to gain traction.

One issue that all journalists face is tracking down the right sources given a limited amount of time before deadline. It's a soul-crushing feeling watching the minutes tick away as you desperately try to find someone who is both knowledgeable and articulate. I would argue that a huge failing in journalism is developing that skill.

Peter Shankman's site aims to solve that in two ways: Allow journalists to post queries which can be distributed to interested parties and allow potential sources to sign up to offer their assistance.

It's for the media and there are currently 15,000 people signed up to the service. There are some rules -- no spam, don't reply to queries you can't answer -- and it will be interesting to see how those are policed as the site grows.

Is this revolutionary? Not really. It's simply using the tools that exist today to solve a very specific problem. Nothing new has been created. No new ideas have been spawned.

But that's a bit disingenuous on my part because while there is nothing new created, there has been a groundswell of activity around the site. That means something of value has been created.

In a modern world, that's the key to success. Creating "things" is -- and always will be -- important; however, creating networks to solve problems is what is sustaining.

Build a Social Network to Solve Your Problem By Brad at 12:19 PM
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Dark Knight Sets Weekend Record; 13 Percent Bought Online

My friend and I were having dinner last night when we decided to see a movie. It was hot outside, we were tired and couldn't imagine wandering around in the 95 degree heat. Our decision was an impulse buy.

Fortunately, Fandango and Moviefone -- two of the leading online ticketing brokers for cinema -- have mobile sites (although I don't recommend Moviefone mobile, it's just awful). Within minutes of making our decision, I'd fired up Fandango's mobile site, found a theater near our location (by punching in a zip code) and rattled off a list of times.

The only thing missing in the transaction process: I couldn't buy the ticket, which concerned us since everyone went to see The Dark Knight this week -- to the tune of $155 million in sales.

We got a little nervous even though it was Sunday. Normally I purchase my tickets online so I'm not used to waiting in line. Fortunately, we went over an hour early to buy our tickets (the theater was packed for the 4:50 show); however, the days of sidling up to the ticket counter for on-demand tickets is quickly closing.

13 percent of the people who went to see The Dark Knight this weekend bought their tickets online, a staggering 15 tickets per second during peak times.

It would be foolish to equate a blockbuster release with a long-term trend. Even more foolish considering the $251 million in ticket sales this weekend was the largest ever in the history of the industry, smashing the previous record of $218 million.

Still the trending is relatively clear on this: Online sales are the way to go, particularly if you want to assure you have tickets and want to beat the long lines.

Dark Knight Sets Weekend Record; 13 Percent Bought Online By Brad at 11:45 AM
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Faltering newspapers forced to re-define their roles in media

As a former member of the print  media, I've suffered through the depressing phase that many journalists have endured during the past five years.

Today's report in the New York Times comes as no surprise to anyone who has followed the downward trend. While Newspapers have become less relevant to our daily lives, the industry continues to collapse at a free-fall speed. Payrolls have been slashed in newsrooms across America, from  the Los Angeles Times to  the Palm Beach Post. As as a result, publishers and editors have changed their overall philosophy and devoted their focus to increased coverage of local news and events.

The reason for the shift is pretty obvious (except to newspaper editors)- news junkies and regular daily readers can track all of major national and international stories online via yahoo,drudge report and online news sites such as To offer stories that can't be found anywhere else, the print media has been forced to redefine its role and dig for dirt in the local markets

Any publisher with respectable foresight should have seen this trend as early as 10 years ago, but their stubborn ways have finally caught up with them. Unfortunately, the local angle hasn't stopped the bleeding, because community papers, including my former employer, have also felt the squeeze. I survived two layoffs and jumped the sinking ship before it hit rock bottom, and it dedicated every page to local news.

If newspapers are to survive over the next decade,publishers will have to adjust on the fly, because they can't afford to continue the same methods they learned in journalism school over 20 years ago. Personally, I think they need to dig deeper for the detailed content readers can't discover in a 10-second scan through the daily headlines. Otherwise, today's readers have no reason to return to the old fishwrap.




Faltering newspapers forced to re-define their roles in media By Matt O'Hern at 08:14 AM
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« July 2008 Week 3 July 2008 Week 5 »

  • Week 1 (8 entries) July 1-5
  • Week 2 (10 entries) July 6-12
  • Week 3 (13 entries) July 13-19
  • Week 4 (14 entries) July 20-26
  • Week 5 (8 entries) July 27-31

Dark Knight Sets Weekend Record; 13 Percent Bought Online
This is James Gilks (owner of SerialKillerCalendar...
by James Gilks
Hey Cheapskate, Pony Up for the Expensive Phone
We totally agree that ponying up the extra cash to...
by Nick Stamoulis
Wikipedia Gets Competition from Google, Doctors
Hey Joe: As a matter of fact, I do know Battlesta...
by Brad King
Wikipedia Gets Competition from Google, Doctors
You might already know of this site, but you can g...
by Joe Beaudoin Jr.
Build a Social Network to Solve Your Problem
Hey Nick: I couldn't agree with you more. I ...
by Brad King

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