Web Meets Living Room: Sofa Wars Introduction

Not long ago, the New York Times began the series “The Sofa Wars,” which chronicles the real-time battle to bring Internet — particularly video services — into the home. This may seem like a head-scratcher for many people, since most Americans already have this service. It’s just called something different: television.

Photo credit: dee from morguefile.com

Over the years, television has struggled to maintain viewership. The growing number of distractions provided by the Internet has causes dramatic declines in broadcast viewership. There are fewer people watching TV on their regular television sets and more staring into computer monitors. The content and experience have traditionally been different, but this is all changing.

Sites like Hulu have become web-based, go-to destinations for TV shows. But there are only so many shows you can watch, and although I love my TiVo, there’s only so many you can record. So Hulu has become my back-up source for catching up on television shows. The content has been strictly limited by certain networks, but Hulu Plus (a paid premium service) promises to provide more consistent television programming.

Certain cable companies are also promising to help bring television to the Net, including Verizon with their pending Verizon iPad application. This seems particularly promising, since Apple’s limitations have meant that you cannot watch Flash-based video on Hulu.com directly on your iPad (built to be HTML5 friendly). If Verizon provides this kind of app, it will clearly give many people a reason to stay with their cable service. After all, Hulu’s premium service provides a pretty compelling reason for dropping cable television, but Verizon’s service may add more overall value for iPad users. We’ll see.

The battle for the sofa (as the New York Times calls it) is just beginning to get truly interesting. For content creators, it means a distribution channel that previously did not exist. Specifically, Internet based entertainment will be available to people watching web videos in their living room. Sure, they can watch videos on their computer, but that experience is not quite the same as a nice, big HDTV. Familiar set top devices like the TiVo, game consoles, and the BluRay player offer direct connections from the Internet. Plus, new players like the Apple TV, Google TV, Boxee, Roku, are all trying to elbow their way into the living room.

It took me a long time to get here, so if you’re still here, thanks. If you create content or manage content marketing campaigns, it is important to understand how all of these channels work. They represent powerful new pull-marketing channels that will help you connect your content with your target audience. It is less about interruption marketing and more about putting the right content in the optimal format, so that your audience can access it when they are ready.

For example, if I am in the market to purchase a car, I am going to research my top choices online. I will almost certainly read reviews, watch videos, and explore bit of information I can find before I go to the dealership. I will happily pull your marketing messages, including iPad apps and promotional videos, if it helps me to better understand the value proposition of your product.

But after I make my purchase, I don’t want you to keep pushing messages at me. It doesn’t help me, so I am going to tune it out, which wastes your marketing dollars.

We’re in the early days of this return-to-the-living-room technological revolution. It pays to start thinking about how you can reformat your message so that it’s viable for these new channels, which will include both the big screen (TV), the computer screen, and the mobile screen. If you don’t, there’s no shortage of content creators — including competing marketers — who are actively looking to satisfy the pull-content desires of consumers.

Also check out:

Kid Gives Good PowerPoint

If you work in corporate America, particularly in marketing, you probably build decks and presentations. For the most part, these presentations are built in PowerPoint. And suck.

Seriously, I sit through countless presentations, and the vast majority aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. (A little joke there. Hah.)

Well, apparently Scott McCloud knows how to make a really good presentation. And if you watch the embedded video (go full screen), you’ll see his 13-year old daughter Sky McCloud does too.

Sky McCloud Presentation from Duarte Design on Vimeo.

Ask yourself: Is your client presentation or pitch deck as good as the one delivered by this 13-year old?

Hot Tub Networking Machine

Based on the title, I had no interest in seeing “Hot Tub Time Machine.” Granted, I typically like John Cusack and Craig Robinson, but this one just looked lame. Then, when the reviews came out, and predictably the movie got some uninspiring reviews.

Then something social network-ish happened. My friend Mike Fasolo called me and told me, “ignore the reviewers. Go see this movie.”

Now, before I go any further, it’s worth noting that people trust their social network. Content is king, but context is what make the content personally relevant. They certainly do not trust the mainstream media.

I ignored the critics, hopped in my car, and caught an early showing of Hot Tub Time Machine. Know what? Mike was right. It was very funny, and I’ve recommended it to other people who have memories of the 1980s.

And this is why buzz marketing and social media marketing is so important. People have greater trust for the people in their personal social circle than they even do for paid professionals. Disney even recently canceled the iconic At The Movies show after 24 seasons of thumbs up, thumbs down reviews.

Hot Tub Time Machine clearly isn’t for everyone. It’s not a movie made for critics, but neither are mainstream movies like Avatar. The critics tend to like more highbrow entertainment, which makes sense.

In the end, HTTM will probably find it’s audience on DVD and BluRay, which is fine. It’s works just as well in a home theater as it does in a megaplex. Ultimately, the movie will travel organically and inexpensively through social networking channels.

Many marketers are still struggling to find that perfect social-media marketing formula, so they can tap it every time, like turning on a water faucet. But that’s exactly why social media is so effective. People trust their social network precisely because it’s not supported by advertising dollars. It’s fueled, instead, by people who just want to share with their friends. And you just cannot bottle and sell that.

3D, TV Apps, Web TV & the Jetsons

“We need to do something with 3D TV,” your clients will soon say. If you work in advertising, get ready for questions about 3D TV, TV Apps, and the next generation of Web TV devices.

The future of television is happening right now. The Jetsons TV has arrived.

Widespread adoption of new technologies is probably being slowed by the recession. In boom times, you’d see consumers with more disposable income for fun technology upgrades.

So, if you’re in marketing and advertising, this is the time to get ahead of the curve. If you wait until the client asks you about how to leverage 3D television or TV Apps from Yahoo, or Boxee, you’re going to be reacting.

You want to be educated about new technology and helping the client to make the right decision for their brand. In some cases, you may need to steer the client away from some hot new technology and into something that makes more sense for their marketing strategy.

Believe me, friends, I plan to find a way to use this television-based technology in something profitable for my clients. But it has to be the right client with the right message.

Just ‘cuz it’s snazzy and fun, doesn’t mean it will convert. We’re not here to entertain. We’re here to connect message with target audience, and motivate them to take action.

If that message works in 3D, so be it. If it’s a TV app, great. If it flows through the Boxee, terrific. If not, well, then leave the futuristic stuff to the Jetsons, and get on with delivering results to your client.

In the meantime, get one for home and watch Jetsons reruns. And let me know why we don’t have flying cars yet.

Links, Not Necessarily Endorsements:

Facebook Fan Pages Free and Fun

Facebook Fan Page Graph

The continued rise of Facebook means that all marketers — even those who have traditionally ignored social media tactics — are trying to figure out how to tap into this techno-social phenomenon.

One of the easier (and more affordable) ways to test the social waters is to set up a Facebook Fan Page. Plus, it’s free to get started.

I recently set up a fan page for my books (I’ve published three) and my CD-ROMs (again, three published). My books and CDs are resources that provide anatomy reference for comic book artists. Yeah, it’s a unique niche, I admit.

Setting up the “Photo Reference for Comic Artists Fan Page” was free and easy. If you were able to sign up for Facebook and set up a profile, you can figure out how to set up a fan page. For content, I uploaded sample photos from each of the books. It’s basically the same stuff that I have posted over in Flickr galleries and on my personal website.

Photo Reference for Comic Artists

So once you do that, you need to let people know about your page. Right now, I am promoting on the cheap. Basically, I shared the link with everyone in my Facebook Friends list who would be remotely interested in the page.

To my surprise, I got a dozen people on the first day, and then it quickly picked up from there. In less than two weeks, I had hit 200 fans. Not bad for word of mouth (WOM) promotion.

At that point, I had an audience. So I started uploading extra photos, like behind the scene shots that nobody has ever seen. As I posted pictures, people started giving it that thumbs-up “like,” which is a virtual endorsement. That resulted in more people signing up to be fans of the page. In the social marketing space, it’s all about relationships, so virtual approval is hugely important.

As a marketing channel, Facebook Fan Page is an free and easy way to begin spreading your brand message. Facebook even offers some rudimentary statistics and demographic information. It’s not very useful at this point, since my trends are just creating an initial baseline of information. At 10,000 fans you get access to more detailed analytics, but it’s unlikely that such a deep vertical like my books has that much of a broad-based appeal. But you never know.

Next month, I’ll try Facebook’s built-in advertising network to drive more awareness of the fan page. But for now, I am content recruiting fans organically, as they discover my page through their actual social network.

The next few weeks will be focused on posting new information and photos to get people engaged with the fan page. I’ll try running contest, just to see if people will participate. It will be at least six months before I get information about book sales, so I won’t know if this actually helps my long-term goal of selling books.

Stay tuned. More to come. Oh, and don’t forget to become a fan!

LINKS – NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS:

TV Apps Kickoff – 3 Things You Need to Know

TV Guide TV app available through YahooThe 2010 Superbowl officially kicked off the Age of TV Apps. The technology has been around for a few years and is already available to many people. But Vizio’s TV app Superbowl commercial was the kickoff heard ’round the world.

So what are TV apps? In a most basic sense, TV apps are like the applications you download for your iPhone. Small, limited-use software that allows you to personalize your hardware.

New stuff that was once only available for your computer — and then for your iPhone — is now available for your television. If you have Direct TV or Verizon FiOS, some of this is already baked into your cable box. Obviously you can get TV apps on the Vizio TV, but also on many Samsung and Sony televisions as well.

You can already use things like Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook on your TV.

Here are three things you should know about TV Apps

1. The technical field is relatively open.
Sure, there are some key players like Yahoo who have already set themselves as leaders, but that can change.  Currently, Yahoo controls the application and administers the software development kit (SDK). Note: From our personal experience, Yahoo was somewhat slow in distributing the SDKs to developers. That’s unfortunate because that could irritate programmers who could create an open-source system that could render Yahoo’s TV Apps technology obsolete. If you have the desire to create apps (or even a completely new OS), the time is now. The tech is in place for you to build the next great widget, gadget, social network, or living room app.

2. TV apps will present design challenges.

Weather TV app available through DirectTV

TV apps will face several user interface challenges. The most notable is that most people don’t have a keyboard on their television remote control. Sure, you can pull one up on the screen, but as you can imagine, typing with a little remote-control button is a pretty poor user experience. If you’ve used a Wii remote to create a Mii character, you know how tedious it can be to type out a long name. Designers will clearly make the difference between apps that succeed or fail. The old design rules will need to evolve to take advantage and address the limitations of a 10-foot interface.

3. Content & marketing opportunities will need to evolve.
The iPhone and other smart phones forced content developers and marketers to rethink the way we package messages. Long-form had to give way to shorter, more relevant messages. If not for mobile communications limitations, Twitter would have never gained a foothold in society. Face it, a 140 character message fits better on a cell phone screen than, say, a PowerPoint presentation. People who mastered the Twitter format (including URL shorteners) emerged pretty quickly as masters of the medium. And the marketers quickly caught on with brand messages. That’s a long way of saying that the new language of TV apps is still in flux. If you want to create content or marketing messages for TV apps, try to figure out what works with this new interface.

If you’re already exploring TV apps, congratulations. You’re probably going to have a head start on this unique and exciting new communications channel. I look forward to seeing what you create.

LINKS, NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS:

Blog Traffic Tip #2: Know Your Stats

Blog-Traffic-TipsToday’s tip is about knowing your site statistics. But don’t panic, you don’t need to be good with numbers to understand this blog post.

Many people blog for professional reasons. Maybe they want to be considered a thought leader in their field. This kind of self-marketing, personal branding effort is sometimes referred to as Brand You.

If you’re blogging to build a base for Brand You, then you’re going to want to drive enough traffic to make it worth your time and energy. And how can you tell this? Site stats, of course.

Most blog platforms (I use WordPress) come with some sort of free analytics package that allows you to get basic information on visitors to your blog. Click a few buttons, and software will immediately start to track what people are doing on your blog. Neat and easy.

Here are a few things you should be looking for:

  • How are people getting to your blog? Is it search engine traffic? Other blogs?
  • If you are posting your blog and then tweeting it on Twitter, are people clicking that link?
  • What words are people typing into Google and Yahoo to get to your blog?
  • What day of the week are they visiting your blog? Time of day?

All of this is accessible in your stats. And — trust me here — it’s not that hard to understand.

If you really start to get into it, you can use a free software package for even more information. I recommend Google’s free Google Analytics software. It’s a bit more challenging to install, but the amount of information you can get is amazing.

Spend a little time looking at your stats. You’d be amazed at what you can learn about your readership and the basic usability of your website and/or blog. Keyword analysis may help you figure out better ways to search engine optimize your site.

Serious websites need professional analysts to understand site statistics. At work, we study the site stats to better understand what content, tools, and resources people use on our websites. This helps us build out future content and plan other digital media initiatives.

You may never want to get to that level of analysis, of course. But just having a basic grasp of your site stats will help you create a better blog experience for your readers.

Now get started. Your stats are waiting for you.

See also: Blog Traffic Tip #1 Be Controversial

iPad – Content, Marketing & Comics

Steve Jobs presents the iPad

Steve Jobs presents the iPad

If you’re a Macintosh fan or a Steve Jobs zombie (Jobzie?) today was like Christmas. Maybe even better. Today, as if you didn’t know already, Apple finally announced the long-awaited tablet device “iPad.”

If you follow this blog, you know that I primarily talk about content, interactive media, and marketing. Oh yeah, and occasionally comic books. So let’s talk about what the iPad means for each of my favorite topics:

  • Content: Well, as I’ve said before, it all comes down to content. The best device in the world will only go so far on mediocre content. Touch screens are cool, but they need to be worth the extra cost.
    Positive: As usual, Apple fully delivers on the iPad. Right out of the gate, you’ll be able to tap into the iTunes store for eBooks, videos, games, and music. Plus there’s probably a lot more content on the way. You can buy the iPad knowing that Apple will provide plenty of content in full, brilliant multimedia and color.
    Negative: It’s hard not to compare the iPad to the Kindle when it comes to reading ebooks. At this point, it looks like Kindle’s e-ink has an advantage over the iPad’s screen. It’s just nicer to read books on a reflective surface, as opposed to an active matrix display. Sorry, color just isn’t that important for the enjoyment of text, particularly long-form prose.
  • Interactive media: We’re now in a society where we fully expect to be able to interact with a certain amount of media. And Apple doesn’t disappoint here. The iPad is packed with nifty new tech that will allow us to touch, drag, scale, and game. We are at the tip of the creative iceberg, and it’s exciting to just dream about the amazing applications that will take advantage of the iPad platform.
    Positive: What’s not to like? It’s going to revolutionize gaming and allow you to take your fun wherever you go. As a parent, I love portable movies and games. Apps are what made the iPhone special, and the same tech will work on the iPad. Nice.
    Negative: It looks like I may have to re-purchase movies that I have on DVD so they play on the iPad. Something tells me I will be buying a lot of stuff to feed my iPad.
  • Marketing: At the core, Apple is an electronics manufacturer, but somehow they have managed to position themselves miles above the rest of the industry. Their brand is huge. No other manufacturer can launch a product quite like Apple. Plus Steve Jobs knows how to give a presentation. If you’re a marketer, take a close look at your lame PowerPoint decks and ask yourself if you can somehow do better. (You can.) Apple’s marketing is a brilliant mix of art, science, and magic. This is what they should study in universities.
    Positive: Apple breaks many marketing rules, but somehow they make it work. We can all learn from them when it comes to branding and event marketing. Apple makes it look easy, even though they are probably working like mad in the days leading up to the event.
    Negative: What they do as marketers isn’t really taught in school. And try as they may, very few marketers can match their magic formula for generating excitement around product launches. But is this really a negative? Nah, it gives us marketers an achievement goal.
  • Comics: It’s hard to say how this will affect the comic book business. Comics are already being pirated and distributed through torrents. Up until now, people had to buy printed comics to get a decent experience. Sure, you could read a pirated comic on your computer monitor, but the mechanics were wrong. Monitors are horizontal, while comics are vertical. Marvel’s Digital Comics actually give a pretty good experience, but it still required you to be sitting in front of your computer. I work in front of a computer all day, so sitting at my desk to read is a bit unappealing. Printed comics are still my favorite way to read full-color comic books. But for how long?
    Positive: The iPad could make reading comics really exciting. I would love to read my monthly titles on a nice, clear tablet. I could store them on the device (as opposed to reading them in the cloud), that would free up a lot of space in my house. Set the right price, and I will pay for a digital subscription to my favorite comics. I’m ready, let’s go.
    Negative: The pirates are already killing comics the way they nearly killed music and movies. If piracy doesn’t stop, it won’t make economic sense to create comics. Easy file sharing and torrents could kill mainstream comics as we know them today. The iPad just gives the pirates a better platform for sharing files.

So that’s it. The ‘Net and the pundits are already buzzing about the iPad. I’m going to immerse myself in the excitement and optimism.

Merry Christmas, Apple fans.

10 Marketing Tech Predictions for 2010

2010-PredictionsI’m a total nut for tech predictions. Love ’em. Not only does it get me excited about the future of technology, it warms my marketer’s heart. Every new tech channel represents a new way for marketers to communicate with their target audience. And for people to discover brands and solutions that they actually want.

Since I primarily write about tech trends that affect marketers, here are my:

The Words + Pictures = Web
10 Marketing | Tech Predictions for 2010

1. Widgets and Apps Will Explode
Yes, we saw a pretty big year for Apps, thanks to the iTunes store servicing the iPhone and iTouch. But with Android and Kindle and even HP having stores, we’re going to see a big, fast expansion of useful apps. And people will want these apps to synchronize across devices and platforms.
What it means for marketers: A lot. Brands that create useful apps will see adoption rates soar. It doesn’t matter if it’s branded. If people need something, they will use it. If it happens to keep your brand top of mind, well, then good for you.

2. Web Analytics Will Improve
Every marketing initiative needs to have some sort of measurable ROI. Without a strong analytic package, you can’t tell what works and what doesn’t. The tools that we use are probably (hopefully) going to get better now that Adobe owns Omniture. Even free packages like Google Analytics are getting better, which pushes paid solutions like WebTrend and Omniture to innovate to remain competitive. Expect to see better tools for measuring Flash.
What it means for marketers: Good news for marketers who like numbers. Now, you will have even more numbers.

3. Microsoft Will Strike Back
Signs of life are bubbling up again from Redmond. Microsoft took a beating from Google, which has reinvigorated their competitive spirit. Bing is turning out to be a pretty decent search engine, which is encouraging for search marketers.
What it means for marketers: Microsoft is serious about making money in search, so they are actively courting search marketers. We’re already seeing them push Google to release new features, which is good for everyone. If you are using search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns, you can expect more options from Bing. And from Google, who will continue to maintain their lead.

4. Tech Will Move Off the Desktop
In recent years, everything has been focused on the desktop. But powerful mobile tools have changed the way we interact with websites. The traditional desktop will survive 2010, but it won’t be the only way people interact with the web.
What it means for marketers: It means that every new device — from the Kindle to the television — is now a new channel to communicate with customers. Smart marketers will be putting messages everywhere.

5. Newspapers Will Slip Further
Okay, this one is almost a little mean. Like teasing the short fat kid in school for being, well, short and fat. But newspapers are going to slip even more rapidly than they did in 2009. In the end, it’s likely that we’ll end up with a few national papers (like USA Today), a few regional papers (like New York Times), and maybe a few weekly local papers.
What it means for marketers: It’s a mixed bag. If you have a good PR team, you can get a story on the wires and have it syndicate to a lot of readers. That’s very encouraging. But with fewer reporters and papers, it’s going to get harder to get some ink. With less print out there, it will get a little more challenging to communicate with older demographics.

6. Mobile Marketing Will Get Sophisticated
We’ve been marketing to mobile devices for years now. Some agencies are quite good at it, but sadly, many more are not. Most mobile marketing is pretty lame. This year we’ll see the good agencies roll out marketing campaigns that make full use of mobile devices. Right now, mobile marketing is still rather simple. Look for more sophisticated and personalized applications.
What it means to marketers: It means that mobile content and incentives will need to be formatted for multiple screens. Don’t expect users to wait for your massive homepage to load.

7. Electronic Coupons Will Become Location Aware
Everybody loves a good discount. But if you forget your coupon at home, you may wait until the next trip to the store before you make a purchase. That’s a missed opportunity for brands. Many new devices have location-based software, so more marketers will figure out how to use this for offering coupons and incentives at just the right moment….like when they’re in close proximity to a store.
What it means for marketers: More sales and happier customers. Also, brick and mortar stores will star to win back customers from online shoppers.

8. Content Marketing Will Matter Again
Traditional media is slipping fast. That doesn’t mean people don’t need content. People want to know more about the product you sell, but also about how your product compares in the category. Content marketing will mean that your content must be fresh and vital for your target. Set it and forget it? Forget that. Write more content and make sure it’s formatted properly for the channel.
What it means for marketers: Make friends with a good copywriter. Try to tap them for ideas on how to update websites and other resources, so that your are providing proactive content for your audience.

9. Social Media Marketing Will Mature
Over the last few years, social media channels have become an effective way to connect people and products. But as the audience grows and diversifies, Facebook (and other social channels) will offer more mature and measurable ways to talk to targets. Banner ads? Sure, for certain awareness campaigns. But also look for more powerful fan-page types of services that give more flexibility and power to the brand.
What it means for marketers: Social media is probably going to get more expensive, but you’ll get more for your dollars.

10. New Hardware Will Change Brand Messaging
Kindles, iPhones, and the eagerly anticipated Apple tablet will give us new and interesting ways to tell people about our brands. But as the hardware becomes more powerful, it takes longer to figure out how to truly use it effectively. Initially, we just mash up existing technologies with new technologies (look it’s video…and now it’s on an iPhone!). New hardware will give us some immediate and measurable ways to deliver messages. But this year we’re going to peel back another layer to these devices, and discover new applications and opportunities.
What it means for marketers: Figure out how your message scales to new hardware before the competition figures it out first.

So there you go. Those are some of the tech trends that I believe will affect marketers in 2010. I’m sure I’ve missed a few things, but now you know what sort of stuff I’ll be working on this year.

Did I miss anything? Let me know your thoughts.

Real-Time Collaboration Delays

When you work at a agency, you spend a lot of time collaborating. It’s relatively painless to shuttle files back and forth when everyone is using the same software, like Microsoft Office.

Today we were working on a a pretty important piece of client work with another professional agency. Despite being on the same Windows PC and Office platform, the account manager and I struggled to collaborate in real time.

Want to know why? Email.

Yup. Every time we make a change to the shared file, we had to share it back and forth. That meant emailing through each other’s corporate mail system. The collaboration went something like this:

Me: “Okay, I am adding some stuff to the Excel file and changing the graph on the PowerPoint. I’m sending it now.”

Her: “Okay. Did you send?”

Me: “Yes, you should have it in about 30 seconds.”

Her: “No, nothing. Are you sure you sent it to the right email address?”

Me: “Yup, I clicked reply to your email to me and attached it. Check again.”

Her: “Okay, let me refresh. Hmm.”

Me: “Did you get it? What do you think of the slides I changed?”

Her: “Huh? No, the ‘hmm’ was that I just got other email from people, but not from you.”

Me: “Did you check your spam catcher?

Her: “Checking now. Nope, not in there.”

Me: “I’ll send again.”

Her: “Okay, I’ll do some stuff while I wait.”

Me: “Me too.”

Her: “Do you have a website?

Me: “Yeah. Are you on it?”

Her: “Yeah.”

Me: “I think I am looking at you on Facebook.”

Her: “This is frustrating. Let me check again.”

Me: “I found you on Facebook and you found my website in under a minute. But we’re still waiting for emails to arrive. Very nice.”

About 5 minutes later.

Her: “I got it.”

Me: “All of them?”

Her: “No. Just the one with the Excel. Did you send the PowerPoint separately?”

Me: “Yeah, it was under one meg.”

Her: “Wait, I got it. Okay, let me make a quick change and email this back to you.”

Me: “Oh. Great.”

And on and on and on. We were both corporate victims of a slow email system that’s not really built for this kind of real-time collaboration.

Here’s what bums me out. There are good software solutions out there. Smart people have developed clever collaboration applications. Real-time sharing for productivity.

When can I have that on my computer?