In the competition between digital natives – Gen Y, which has grown up with online technology and digital immigrants – those of us who can remember typewriters and phones with cords attached – for primacy online, it seems that the digital natives have gained the upper hand.
Think Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook, and a billion dollar online empire by the time he reached his mid-20s) vs. Rupert Murdoch (MySpace, phone hacking scandals, declining dead tree media empire). Or Natalie Tran (24-year old Australian vlogger with 156,000 Twitter followers, more than 400 million YouTube views and a cozy career in the making) against say, Tony Abbott (50-something Australian politician with 56,000 Twitter followers but no YouTube channel).
If you read the media reports on what’s hot on the web, there appears to be a strong relationship between a lack of history and Internet success.
But it’s not that simple.
It can be useful to have a long-term view of the online world, which only a seasoned digital immigrant can have. If you can combine that with knowledge of traditional, pre-Internet business principles, you can look past current fads and build a business model that’s sustainable.
For example, the current obsession with whatever is the latest online application exploding in the public consciousness ignores the fragile nature of web success.
With all the current talk of community-building and developing personal relationships, you’d think the concept was invented by Facebook. Digital natives may be too young to remember, but digital immigrants will recall that when MySpace burst on the scene, it was seen as the long-term future of social media. That is, until Facebook came along.
Early digital immigrants can go back even further and remember GeoCities, an online community where people could create personal pages and create a following of fans, which was all the buzz way back in the 20th century.
And consider the power and ubiquity of the Google empire. It may be hard for digital natives to fathom a time pre-Google, but digital immigrants can remember when Yahoo! was seen as the impregnable leader in search (As an aside, it used its cash reserves to buy GeoCities back in 1999), a crown it took from the equally-invulnerable Alta Vista.
In an interview with Zazoo published this week on the HotHouse blog, Econsultancy vice president Rebecca Lieb observed that the Internet is bringing about a fundamental shift in power within companies from advertising to marketing.
She says that “not only has online search technology made it simple for customers to connect with businesses, the evidence shows that most searchers are going straight to a company’s website for more information about their products. In other words, it’s not advertising driving people to your business online, it’s search.”
Companies, she says, need to shift their thinking from an emphasis on advertising to an emphasis on marketing and content creation. That means there’s “lots more media to play with. And it’s free – but that doesn’t mean you can mess with it.”
In the digital age, she says, you need a long-term perpetual strategy. To be able to successfully develop and execute a perpetual strategy, according to Rebecca, “You need to think like an editor.”
“Brands are not just businesses,” Rebecca says, they’re now media companies.”
An excerpt from the story:
“…traditional media based their business model on a (mostly) clear separation between advertising and content. What happens when the ‘advertiser’ is also the content provider?
“In the digital context, according to Rebecca Lieb, ‘Being authoritative is more important than being objective – though transparency and disclosure are incredibly important.
“’If, for example, you’re a sporting goods company and you publish information on your site about mountain climbing. That information can be entertaining. The information is not invalid, as long as you know where it’s coming from.’
“Rebecca concludes: ‘The rules aren’t different; it’s the channels that are shifting.’”
Are you ready to act like a publisher with your website and social media program?
Zazoo was asked to put together a workshop article for NETT magazine on how to promote your business online using video. The article has been published in this month’s issue (see a PDF version here).
Here are a couple of excerpts:
“Online video is no longer a nice-to-have addition to your marketing mix: it’s becoming an essential tool for small businesses trying to stand out in a crowded market. Yet, often the biggest challenge for SMEs interested in creating online video is taking that first step. Your dream may be to create something that goes viral, but where do you start? How do you make it interesting enough to get people to watch – and then spread the message? The good news is, creating online video is getting cheaper and easier to do.
“….The biggest challenge for businesses, especially SMEs, is taking the first step. Video can confound people who are only familiar with traditional marketing. Developing an interesting concept is the next challenge. Viewers have been conditioned by years of television watching to expect video to be entertaining as well as informational, so that talking head presentation from your MD is an online video no-no.
“….Each video and each campaign is different, so work out ways you candetermine the success of your video in meeting your goals.How can you tell whether increased sales are due to your video? You do things like link from the video to a particular landing page on your site instead of the home page. Measure hits to this page and add a call-to-action…. As you produce more videos, you can see what type of content gives you the most business impact.”
Keep on the lookout for future articles in NETT and other publications.
Last week I interviewed Rebecca Lieb, US vice-president for the digital marketing research and publishing company Econsultancy, for a HotHouse podcast on the topics of search engine optimisation and content strategy. Her main message: Like it or not, the evolution of search on the Internet now means that every company is a publisher - people are going to come straight to your website for information about your products/services and about your category in general. As a result, you need to “think like an editor” and create fresh, engaging content for your website - constantly.
The podcast has now been published on the HotHouse blog - you can listen to it/download it here. I’ll also provide links to related articles that will be published on the HoHouse blog as soon as they’re published later this month.
Hindsight’s a wonderful thing… a couple of blogs have picked up a copy of an article printed in Newsweek back in 1995 that dismissed the Internet as a fad. I love the title: “The Internet? Bah!” Writer Clifford Stoll dropped a number of clangers in his original article. Here are a couple of examples:
“Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic. Baloney.”
“…no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.”
“…Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.”
“…the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don’t know what to ignore and what’s worth reading.”
“Computers and networks isolate us from one another. A network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee. No interactive multimedia display comes close to the excitement of a live concert. And who’d prefer cybersex to the real thing?”
“At the time, I was trying to speak against the tide of futuristic commentary on how The Internet Will Solve Our Problems.
“Gives me pause. Most of my screwups have had limited publicity: Forgetting my lines in my 4th grade play. Misidentifying a Gilbert and Sullivan song while suddenly drafted to fill in as announcer on a classical radio station. Wasting a week hunting for planets interior to Mercury’s orbit using an infrared system with a noise level so high that it couldn’t possibly detect ‘em. Heck – trying to dry my sneakers in a microwave oven (a quarter century later, there’s still a smudge on the kitchen ceiling)
“And, as I’ve laughed at others’ foibles, I think back to some of my own cringeworthy contributions. Now, whenever I think I know what’s happening, I temper my thoughts: Might be wrong, Cliff…”
At least he’s man enough to admit he got it wrong…
I sympathise with the traditional press, I really do. They are expending an enormous amount of effort trying to come up with ways of salvaging their infrastructure investments in printing presses, paper and distribution networks. Their latest tactic is jumping on the Apple iPad bandwagon, claiming that all-singing, all-dancing multimedia versions of newspapers and magazines (think Minority Report) will lead to a resurgence of traditional media publishing companies. But, as Robert Niles points out on the Online Journalism Review, the iPad will help newspapers and magazines in the short run, but will not save them in the end.
“I know that many news managers desperately want some technological innovation to come along that will turn back time and make people fall in love with printed content again. But paid circulation and readership were falling at most U.S. newspapers long before the World Wide Web made it easier for people dissatisfied with their local newspapers to find many more alternatives. The problem isn’t the Web - it’s that people have been rejecting and, in increasing numbers, continue to reject paying for the content offered by newspapers’ newsrooms, in any medium,” he writes.
He says the only ways that a new publishing platform will increase revenue for a publisher are if it: 1) replaces a previous platform; 2) expands availability of its content, allowing entry into a new customer market; or 3) provides a more suitable medium for its content, increasing desirability and demand.
“The iPad, and eReaders in general, don’t replace any other publisher platforms; they merely provide an additional option. Nor do these readers significantly expand the availability of content beyond that already established by the Internet and smart phones,” Niles writes.
“Someone will devise content that’s perfect for the iPad. It will likely take advantage of the device’s larger screen and portability and involve individual customization. (It’ll likely do much more, too.)
“But after a decade and a half of online production, most newsrooms haven’t substantially changed their print-focused production process. It’s hard for me to imagine that the iPad coming along will now force that change, when Web browsers and smart phones didn’t in the past.
“No, newsrooms that are suffering in the market need to quit looking for new revenue models and quit longing for new delivery platforms. Instead, they should focus on one thing… If you aren’t connecting with an audience and customers, you need to improve your content so that you do.”
He concludes: “Neither iPads, nor paywalls, nor government subsidies will long save a publication that too few care to read. Is your news business in trouble? Quit longing for saviors, and start producing better content.”
I am a digital immigrant who still loves to hold a newspaper in his hand, but I am also the parent of digital natives who would not pay for a newspaper if, well, if you paid them. We are in a transition period, and I sadly acknowledge that I am a member of the last generation that will regularly read newspapers. iPad or no iPad, the traditional media need to admit that they have to change their fundamental business model if they are to exist in any recognisable form in the coming decades.
I have been reading quite a bit of late about the concept of content curation, a term coined by marketing strategist and blogger Rohit Bhargava to describe the role of “someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on a specific issue online. The most important component of this job is the word ‘continually.’… (It is s)omeone whose job it is not to create more content, but to make sense of all the content that others are creating. To find the best and most relevant content and bring it forward.”
He writes that, “In the near future, experts predict that content on the web will double every 72 hours. The detached analysis of an algorithm will no longer be enough to find what we are looking for…. The future of the social web will be driven by these Content Curators, who take it upon themselves to collect and share the best content online for others to consume and take on the role of citizen editors, publishing highly valuable compilations of content created by others. In time, these curators will bring more utility and order to the social web. In doing so, they will help to add a voice and point of view to organizations and companies that can connect them with customers - creating an entirely new dialogue based on valued content rather than just brand created marketing messages.”
Robin Good writes on the Master New Media blog, “I think, that at least for now, curating content is the one thing that Google can’t take your place in doing. When it comes to researching, selecting, picking, editing, juxtaposing, illustrating, complementing, referencing, crediting, commenting and introducing, Google can just pack its stuff and go home.
“….Unless there is a growing number of active newsmasters, content curators and editors/publishers checking, digesting, filtering, grouping and organizing information inside vertical information silos you will be either submerged by information or you will be left behind when it comes to staying on top of the information you need to operate in your field.
“Business-wise, content curators could also offer an interesting marketing opportunity and a new business model that makes a lot of sense to me.”
Meanwhile, Australian digital recruiter David Jackson writes on the Digital Ministry website, “There are already a few people performing this task for companies, and it will only grow in importance. The problem I see with content curating is that most companies find it hard to place much value on the role. Although it requires a skill set that combines the sharp mind of a research analyst with the communications flair of a journalist and the commercial nous of a marketer, curating content, like creating content, often attracts a wage more akin to a junior administrator.”
I was listening to an interview recently with the head of Razorfish, one of the world’s largest digital agencies (If you want to keep up with what’s happening in the digital media, I can recommend Susan Bratton’s Dishymix program, it’s very informative).
It was both surprising and refreshing to hear this fellow, Clark Kokich, frequently use phrases such as “none of us know anything” about digital media, “we’re actually inventing this as we go along” and “there are no experts”.
If the head of an organisation that is billing hundreds of millions a dollars a year in digital media is prepared to admit this, it’s time for all of us working in this space to come clean. This is the guilty secret of digital media “experts” all over the world: no one really knows what consistently works. There are a few principles to be applied, but unlike traditional media - be it advertising, marketing or publishing - there is no established framework that ensures a certain level of response to a program or campaign.
If someone tells you they have a fool-proof way to engage your customer base and turn ordinary customers into raving fans, guaranteeing huge exposure and profits, they’re bullshitting you. We’re all still experimenting with clients’ money.
So why on earth should customers take their money out of traditional marketing and advertising budgets and give it to online? Well, one big reason is that traditional methods are becoming less and less effective as the world’s embrace of online irrevocably changes their life habits (you can hear more about this in a Zazoo-produced podcast interview with Ad Age colunnist Bob Garfield published on the HotHouse blog this week. Be warned, this interview is not for the faint-hearted.). You need to find alternative ways to reach your customers, or else your competitors will get there before you.
Ready or not, your world is changing. Finding your way in the dark with someone who has a torch, however dim, is more effective than sitting there cursing the dark. And those torches are getting brighter all the time.
I was interviewed a few weeks ago for an article on social media marketing in NETT magazine. The article, “Not all conversations are markets“, published this week, canvasses the views of a range of communication and marketing experts about issues in social media facing businesses today. It covers areas such as:
What department should be responsible for social media? (My vote went for the marketing department)
Should you try and control what your employees do and say on social networks, particularly during work hours?
Should businesses create “trusted avatars” and “sock puppets” (unidentified company spokespeople who try and create and steer conversations on social networks)? (The overwhelming answer was ‘No’)
Should you buy lists of friends? (Again, ‘No’)
What’s the proper etiquette for joining in on conversations in social networks?
It’s worth a read (of course I would say that, wouldn’t I?).
While on the subject of self-promotion, here are other marketing/social media articles and podcasts we’ve produced recently, for the HotHouse blog:
Also from the report: “Online video watching among young adults is near-universal; nine in ten (89%) internet users ages 18-29 now
say they watch content on video sharing sites, and 36% do so on a typical day.”
Speaking of Twitter, check out how Twitter compares to online video consumption on the chart below:
According to a ComScore report, 157 million Americans watched 19.5 billion online videos in June, up from the 16.8 billion in April. The average viewer watched 124 online videos in June, up from 111 million in April. Google (read YouTube) still accounts for 40% of all videos viewed and more than half of videos viewed per user.
A report on ClickZ calls online video “the fastest growing medium in history, having gone from zero to mass market globally in three short years.” More good advice from this report: “Create ads that work as content. Create fun or arresting videos that tell a story and seamlessly integrate your brand.”
Another report from iMedia UK looks at the myths of online video and explains why it’s not as expensive, boring and unaccountable as you might think.
One of the topics getting an increasing amount of airplay is online video. It’s growth is bucking the downward spend pattern of most other forms of media. Here are just a few of the articles worth reading on this trend:
Is the Big Shift Underway? Talks about how relatively high CPMs compared with television to grab large audiences has been holding back the growth of online video. One of the comments on the story says, “We think there is another business model emerging for brands leveraging video on the Web: Brands hosting video content on their own site instead of running ads around someone else’s video at an aggregated site. Our vision is that brands will soon realize that a person watching video content on a brand’s website are easily worth 20 times the value of a viewer offsite watching an ad. We think a new metric will soon be developed. And it will define the ROI of brands creating their own engaging, fun content on their own websites that visitors want to see.”
Online Video Changes Game for Brand Marketers: “Video has expanded well beyond the media industry and into nearly every corner of the professional Web, as corporations, governments, non-profits and educational institutions look to use video as a cornerstone of how they communicate, market and inform on the Web.” Has some good case studies on the effective use of online video.
Online Video Subtitles (Duh!): Predicts that spending on online video advertising will grow by more than 50% a year for the next five years to more than US$5.8 billion by 2013. Cites research showing that adding subtitles to videos increased time spent viewing by more than 40 per cent.
Will be interesting to, um, watch what happens in Australia in this part of the online market.
A professor of the Wharton Business School in Pennsylvania has set off an incendiary bomb within the advertising industry by writing a treatise on why the Internet will spell the death of advertising. I won’t comment on this, I just encourage you to go and read his article, scroll down to read the comments, and see some of the other responses that have been published. Gotta love the Internet, blogs and Twitter for quickly whipping up passionate opinions about business and social topics!
Once you start getting involved in the digital or social media business, you tend to lose perspective. You can see all these cool things happening out there, and you’re linking up with all sorts of interesting people via Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook, and you get this feeling that, for once in your life, you’re riding the crest of a wave (forgive me if my surfing analogy is a bit skewiff, but I grew up in the land-locked American Midwest) and involved in something with enormous social and business potential.
Meanwhile, your family and friends shake their head when you tell them what you do all day and wonder what on earth is the point of linking up with people you don’t know from a bar of soap and exchanging 140-character missives on Twitter that are largely on the topic of Twitter. It’s a good reality check to engage with the ‘real’ people in your life and see that, just maybe, you’re overestimating the effect and potential, and that most people couldn’t care less about digital communication.
Well, a new report just published by NetPop Research shows that YOU SEE, I WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG - DIGITAL SOCIAL MEDIA IS EXPLODING! Yes, it’s a US report and Australia is further behind this curve, but get a load of these numbers:
More than 100 million Americans are regularly posting material to social media sites - that’s one-third of the population
Use of social media has doubled in the past two years alone
7 million people, known as ‘power users’, interact with about 250 people a week via digital social networking (yes, that’s more than 30 people a day)
See Mum, I didn’t waste that college tuition by spending my days surfing the Internet!
Aden Hepburn from Ideaworks has just published a couple of charts on the Digital Buzz blog showing how interest in Twitter has mushroomed in the past few weeks - but also keeping it in perspective comparing actual site traffic to the Facebook behemoth:
As Aden writes, “Just in the last 2 weeks (in Aus particularly) it feels like everyone is talking about Twitter like never before - and here is the proof. This chart shows the relative change in daily attention a website receives and you can actually see that it’s even out performing Facebook at almost 2:1, yet unfortunately it doesn’t hide the downward spiral of MySpace! But just to keep everyone in their chairs… the relative comparison on unique visits to show you Twitter doesn’t rule the universe, well, not just yet anyway…!”