Monthly Archives: September 2011

Tear down this paywall Mr. Zuckerburg!

Bird Scarer

The Internet is built on information, and often the information that is time-sensitive gathers the most traffic, i.e. news. Back in the day, AOL and their keyword ivory tower tried to keep users in their “portal” for as long as possible to keep the targeted advertising in their face while raking in the results. One little glitch though, the Internet grew beyond the walls which AOL had built and they would fall into history remembered for “you’ve got mail,” that annoying AOL Instant Messenger icon with sound and, last but not least, they would be known for littering the planet and landfills with millions of mostly useless CDs.

Fast forward to today and we see Facebook following some of the very same footprints which AOL laid, made some cash and then fell extinct. In March 2011, Allfacebook.com, the unofficial facebook resource, covered a story depicting how the New York Times handles inbound links to their content from social sources versus search engine traffic. The key difference was the inbound traffic from social sources would receive unlimited reading on the NYT site, while search engine driven inbound traffic would receive a cap of five free visits per day. Any Facebook user has probably experienced someone in their network sharing content from a major news outlet, but wouldn’t it improve the user experience if the news source pushed their content directly into a social platform like Facebook?

Why yes, it would, and the Wall Street Journal announced last week the availability of WSJ Social, which lets users share content directly through Facebook. The service is free for now, but with financial partners like Dell and Intel, one can only wait so long for the paywall to be erected around that content.  Yes, paywall in a social network, you are not suffering from double vision. As news media history can reinforce, news organizations have no idea how to properly price their product in a digital market. News companies are used to the model where they controlled the distribution of their content with little outside intervention, except for a few strategic partners. Now, they have to negotiate getting a vehicle in the right market which carries an optimized form of the news content to the receiving device or online platform. Not only has it complicated the distribution channels, but it has also introduced significant technology learning curves which even the largest organizations in both news media and magazines have yet to truly understand. Communication-minded professionals learn technology mostly by experience and not by discipline, where technology-minded professionals are taught from the ground up how to build a platform and market that platform. Both parties need one another as a complement to either side of the brain if nothing else, but failure in the digital market backed by the speed at which content is shared on the social web, can make or break any marketing communication effort.

Facebook and a paywall model for organizations requiring that level of division is a natural step for the mega-social site, but will it improve the social web? A better solution would be to build a split advertising model where both the social platform and the news service get paid for clicks and views to their ad content. Any online effort that puts a barrier of any kind between a user and their desired content will eventually be made extinct by a more creative method to attain that same desired content. The wild west entrepreneurial spirit of the net, made innovations like Netflix, Groupon, and Craigslist. Competition to the social web behemoths like Facebook from the likes of say Google+, will push the platforms to innovate and maybe bring better features to the users. Either way, as communication professional in any field, remember that every barrier erected between you and your desired reader/audience/customer/client make the communication less effective. Share content in the social world to gain visibility and expand your brand presence, but don’t muddy the waters with convoluted revenue mechanisms which separate the haves from the have-nots.

Author: John Carew
Photo Credit: Jonathan Baker-Bates

Adforum’s Top 5 Commercials for This Week

Check out Adforum’s top five commercials for this week. We had a hard time choosing this week’s fave. At the end of the day, we went with Toyota’s “People Person.” The art direction is absolutely phenomenal––brilliantly creative. Cast your vote and post!

 

1. Big Wednesday – “Wednesday/Thursday” – DDB New Zealand

 

 

2. DnB NOR – “Finally Married” – Try Reklamebryrå

 

 

3. Toyota – “People Person” – Saatchi & Saatchi Los Angeles

 

 

4. Weetabix – “Dancer” – Bartle Bogle Hegarty

 

 

5. Poland Spring Sparkling – “The Raid” – McCann Erickson New York

 

 

Author: Eric Swenson

Postmaster General Outlines New Reality for USP

Last Wednesday the United States Postmaster General and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Donahoe addressed an audience of 8,000 regarding the new reality that the United States Post Office is facing. He touted cutting costs by over $12 billion and reducing staff by more than 110,000 positions over the past four years but still recognizes that he has lots of work ahead of him. It is estimated that the USPS will need to reduce its annual costs by $20 billion by 2015 to become profitable. Donahoe praised USPS employees for helping the USPS to save $12 billion and blamed the entire situation on an overly restrictive business model, not the devaluation of mail.

So what is this “overly restrictive business model”? The USPS is the only––and I mean only––organization in the world that pays out pension funds for employees who are not currently retired. Yes, you can read that again––it is correct. The union negotiated for prepayment of pensions, which guarantees that the money will be there when employees retire. The USPS agreed to these terms back when mailings were strong and profitable and has been unable to renegotiate, even with the large decline in mail over the past four to five years.

As part of its restructuring plan, the USPS has proposed that Congress pass legislation that:

  • Gives the Postal Service the authority to transition to a national five-day-per-week delivery schedule
  • Resolves the retiree health benefit prepayment requirement

The USPS also continues to make progress on the fronts listed below:

  • Studying 252 mail-processing facilities for potential consolidation
  • Reviewing 3,600 low-activity post offices for potential closure, consolidation, or contracting
  • Enhancing and expanding alternate access sites, including village post offices and usps.com
  • Modifying delivery routes and service standards
  • Making it easier to do business with the Postal Service with new, innovative products

I can sincerely say that I hope the USPS can figure out how to manage its budget and maintain some sort of acceptable service level, but given the current situation it seems unlikely. I wouldn’t mind 5-day service, or even 3-day service. But that would only work for residential delivery; commercial delivery would need to stay at 6-day service. Over the course of the next few years, we will see what the USPS will make of itself, and speaking on behalf of the industry, I wish them the best. Just don’t raise our postage prices, or we will go to UPS and FedEx!!

Author: John Mehl

What’s a Good Radio Marketing Strategy?

How effective is radio advertising? Depending on the business, radio can be a great, cost-effective way to reach a wide-ranging number of potential customers. Just like any other form of advertising––if done right––it can be a big asset to a business. Here are a few things to consider when creating a radio ad:

  • Target – Understand your audience.
  • Cost – Determine airtime and production costs.
  • Schedule – Advertise when your target audience listens.
  • Number of Words – Focus on the main idea.
  • Sound – Entertain the audience.

Writing effective radio ad copy is mandatory. It works best when there is a sense of urgency in people’s minds. Terms such as “must end soon” or “weekend only” are proven to work well in radio advertising. Media account executive Rik Ferrell offers these six steps to successful radio advertising:

1. Determine your commercial’s length.

2. Plan what you want to say.

3. Use a strong opening statement.

4. Include key attributes and your company’s personality.

5. Use effective contact information.

You can read more of his suggestions here.

In order to create a successful radio marketing strategy, it’s best if the message is simple. The commercial should:

  • Be an attention grabber (whether through humor or sound)
  • Talk about benefits (not features)
  • Emphasize value (to keep the listener interested)
  • Ask the listener to take an action (which should be easy to remember)
  • Repeat over and over (the average person will need to hear an ad 11 times before he or she actually listens to it)

Have you used radio advertising in your marketing mix? If so, tell us how.

Author: Marina Kaljaj

Facebook Updates, Google+ Pulls Back the Veil, and Why Netflix Doesn’t Matter Anymore

We all know Facebook is the biggest and often the most feature-rich of the social networking sites, but its history is riddled with issues surrounding privacy and user-interface complaints. This week, Facebook tackled one of these two issues with the launch of two new features: a Top Story dog-ear icon and the Ticker (plus an updated News Feed––think more like the new Twitter). As TechCrunch pointed out on Tuesday, Facebook got “smarter” with the release of these new features. The Ticker, aka sidebar, is a natural progression in Facebook’s user interface and should not be disruptive to the user (assuming he or she has enough screen real estate to display this new feature).

This week’s Facebook f8 developer conference may improve upon the vague nature of the Like button by adding Read, Listen, Watch, and Want buttons to better bring relevant content from your social streams to the surface.

Google also joined the tech news this week by pulling back the invitation-only veil on Google+ and opening the Facebook competitor to the world. Anyone care to start the pool on how long before we can delete our Facebook profiles?

Netflix is spinning off its DVDs to Qwikster and keeping the streaming service under the mothership (and adding games). Learn from Netflix’s mistakes––keep a level of transparency in your significant changes, and maybe you’ll avoid the negative-press machine. The social web can damage your brand quickly, so proactive measures with big changes can be good, but also remember that hours are the new days on the Internet. A heartfelt apology video can only do so much. Netflix has battled for distribution rights for both DVD and streaming titles, and as the studios have gotten smarter at pricing for nontraditional distribution channels, services like Netflix must look to the future, one that does not include DVDs. Maybe what appears to be a greedy, anti-customer move will actually make the streaming function more dynamic (since the DVD albatross has flown away to an antique paradise with the likes of typewriters, BlackBerrys, and rotary/corded/cordless phones). Isn’t a tumultuous market fun? Companies keep changing their business models, and the consumer wins early on and loses after the product becomes more widely adopted. With all the cash Netflix has raked in, can someone buy Netflix CEO Reed Hastings a newer laptop than his ThinkPad circa 2004, maybe a MacBook Air?

Foursquare also hit 1 billion check-ins, a monumental increase since 200 million in July 2010. That is a big expansion in a little over a year. Sure, critics say the location-enabled social web isn’t going anywhere and the masses just don’t get how Foursquare and other location-based media really work. Our smart devices are our backstage passes to the lives of the people around us whom we care about. Each user cares about different things––from the goings-on of a Kardashian to your cousin from Hicksville––but apps like Foursquare let us see where they are when they want to share, and maybe a friend will pop up in your area and the service will help connect you. No matter how you slice it, more check-ins means more activity and maybe more users, so let’s raise a micro-brew to the next 1 billion.

By the time this is posted, Utterly Orange hopes someone has won our betting pool on where NASA’s UARS, aka a massive chunk of satellite space junk, finally makes contact with terra firma. Maybe it will just be tech Armageddon? NASA’s UARS could crash into some facility hosting [insert favorite website here]/Facebook/Foursquare/Netflix and cause online mayhem. Ok, fine––it really wouldn’t do anything, but wouldn’t that make the crash just that much more suspenseful?

And for those of you who just adore Google+ so much that you want to “circle” up your Facebook account, let me introduce you to CircleHack.

By the way, show Utterly Orange some love and click the Share buttons below for posterity. The Like button may be gone someday, and who knows about the “+1,” so go ahead and get your share on before time runs out!

 

Author: John Carew

Are You Creatively Prejudiced? Why We Want Creativity But Often Reject It

Would you recognize a creative idea if you saw it? How would you know it’s creative? Is it a feeling? Is it a clever idea that made you go “hmm”? Is it the recognition of something deep in your subconscious that for whatever reason strikes a chord with you now? Or are you such an expert that, based on your years of reviewing creative, you now have the ability to spot a good idea from a mile away and opine justifiably?

If you’re reading this blog, you almost certainly have some desire to understand creativity. And while many of us in the creative field would like to claim expert status, the truth is in the numbers.

People come with certain biases. Passions. Backgrounds. Likes and dislikes. And more often than not, we come with inherent tendencies that are out of our control. It’s the recognition of that, I think, that will set us free—but I’ll get to that later.

I once read an article about our inherent desire to be “a little bit racist” (Avenue Q reference––check it out). The study involved two groups of very young kids—somewhere between the ages of three and five (well before they could understand the depths of racial conflict).

The study had half the children wear red shirts and the other half in blue. The children interacted with each other seemingly without a care in the world. It was clear that reds didn’t hang with only reds and blues didn’t hang with just blues. At the end of the study, however, the children were asked a series of questions. When questions came up like, “Do you think red shirts, your team, are better than blue shirts?” kids often responded in favor of their own team.

My point is this: Things that are different are unsettling at best and flat-out terrifying at worst. We seem to crave creativity more than anything else, but creative ideas are often not accepted. Do we have the ability to appreciate a real creative idea? I’d argue not. And as I said, the proof is in the numbers. An article will be released soon in the journal Psychological Science detailing two studies that came to the following titillating conclusions:

  • Creative ideas are by definition novel, and novelty can trigger feelings of uncertainty that make most people uncomfortable.
  • People dismiss creative ideas in favor of ideas that are purely practical––tried and true.
  • Objective evidence shoring up the validity of a creative proposal does not motivate people to accept it.
  • Anti-creativity bias is so subtle that people are unaware of it, which can interfere with their ability to recognize a creative idea.

The next time a colleague, friend, or business professional approaches you with an idea he or she finds creative, before you reject it, take a second and think about if you’re rejecting it because it’s crazy or because it’s just crazy enough to be original.

Author: Eric Swenson

The Last Dinosaur in the Forest Ate the Best! Do You Know Joe?

The last dinosaur in the forest ate the best! I graduated from the New York School of Printing Vocational High School in 1967. Those of us who were not drafted to fight in the Vietnam War became pressmen. In 1969, I ran a press in a business-forms plant. We were the largest non-direct forms manufacturer in the country at 14 million per year. We ran only snap-out and continuous custom forms. In 1972, we became high tech and merged with a pressure-sensitive label plant. I had to learn the technical world of labels. At that time, “high tech” was a label blown on a single-part continuous form, now known as an integrated label. In 1981, I became a plant representative. Vanguard Direct was my largest distributor. I had to learn to sell what I knew.

And now for my 30-year journey at Vanguard. I joined Vanguard Direct in 1988 and was a vendor for seven years prior. I sold VGD snaps, continuous forms, and labels, and the terms “cross-selling” and “up-selling” were not in my vocabulary. I only sold what my plant was able to provide. My idea of being a solutions provider was getting the order delivered on time. I have an iPhone with over 100 apps. When my Outlook is down, I am depressed. I sell technology, promo, online ordering systems, creative design, social media, and direct mail (and printing, too). I never refer to VGD as a printing company. I am a solutions provider. Not only do I sell what I don’t produce, I sell whatever my clients need to improve the work flow in their organizations. I am on Twitter and LinkedIn. I only see my five grandchildren’s pictures on Facebook. Yes, a 62-year-old printer can make the transition. I can’t take a plant tour, however, without thinking back to the old days of the multipart snap-out form and the smell of ink.

So what’s the moral to this story? I worked at the largest union snap-out forms manufacturer in the country, and where is it today? It is extinct, because it was incapable of change! In this industry, you have to be flexible and willing to change your offerings to what your clients are asking for. It doesn’t take a scientist to make these changes, either––just a driven, hardworking mentality that is open to transition.

So the question is: What are you doing today that you won’t be doing in five years?

Author: Joe Corbo

One small byte for the net, one giant leap for America with the help of a legislative choke hold!

Internets?

Last week Utterly Orange commented on how natural disasters and use of social media to distribute information can have mixed results, but we have to remember that there is still a significant portion of the population that has little or no access to the internet. With the census data released earlier this week on the nation’s poverty rates, nearly 1 in 6 Americans live in poverty. How does access to the internet stack up in their list of priorities? We know the internet is the backbone through which carries the “nerve impulses” and provide structural support for the modern commerce and communication world which we live.  As long as portions of the population continue to have limited or no access to the internet, the fragmentation between consumption and distribution channels will continue to grow.

Over the history of mass communication, new technologies always require an entrance fee, as is the case given the capitalistic economy which we live. Once radio became widespread, people had to buy receivers and the same was true with television and telephone. Eventually the components for all became so cheap that cheap “low functioning” versions of the radio, television and phone can be found in all sorts of common items.

Every step we take toward a more wired world means our dependency on these technologies continues, but for the third time in the history of mass communication we have toll collectors who don’t want to play fairly. Whether they throttle data pipes or have regional monopolies on high speed service, the companies who provide internet service to many areas of the US have the deck stacked in their favor.

Case in point with the recent announcement by Comcast to offer $10 internet and $150 laptop coupon to those who qualify for the program aimed largely at those with low income levels. Don’t get all warm and fuzzy just yet, this deal only comes as a stipulation from the Comcast and NBC Universal merger so intentions may not be as clear and friendly as the press makes the gesture out to be.

Companies claim that they are reluctant to enter the social and digital arenas since those channels may not reach their target audience. That sentiment cannot be argued with and the Comcast deal will lessen he divide, but as the market gets more competitive (and less competitive at the same time with upcoming T-Mobile/AT&T deal) consumers options become harder. We need wide spread adoption of internet and availability to all in order to expand the penetration and adoption of online services which can provide incredible services to the full gamut of users. As marketers, technologists and citizens, remember that while profits are often the goal, we must remember to focus on providing services and methods of consumption which can increase the availability of the internet in the homes of every person in this country which will ultimately give us more data and a superior conduit to each person.

Author: John Carew
Photo Credit: Jeremy Noble “UBERCULTURE

Vanguard Direct Ranks Highly in PSDA Top Distributors 2011 List

The August 2011 issue of Print Solutions magazine, published by the Print Services Distribution Association (PSDA), contained a list of the year’s top distributors. Vanguard Direct placed highly in several categories, including Top Distributors of the Year.

 

Vanguard has been an active member of the PSDA, with President Bob O’Connell serving as PSDA Board President in 2008. Over the years, Vanguard has consistently ranked highly in this annual list, and 2011 was no different.

 

Among the Top 50 PSDA Member Distributors, Vanguard Direct placed 4th overall. Vanguard also ranked 4th in the list of Top Sellers of Marketing Services, which is an indication of our ever-increasing presence outside the print realm.

 

Other rankings included 4th place for Top Sellers of Commercial Print, 5th place for Plastic Products, and 9th place for Promotional Products.

 

Author: Dustin Hill

Best Practices in Design – Creating PDFs

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the past 10 years or so, you’ve probably read, produced, or come into contact with a PDF. The PDF, or Portable Document Format, is a file format created by Adobe Systems in 1993 and is used for outputting documents in a manner independent of application software, hardware, and operating systems. Each PDF file encapsulates a complete description of a fixed-layout document, including the text, fonts, graphics, and other information needed to display it.

The PDF was originally used to send clients view-only layouts that they could review and approve before the final files were sent out to be printed. With the improvements made to the PDF format over the years, Adobe made it possible to create high-resolution, print-ready files, thus eliminating the need to package print-ready files via their native applications. Today, designers and production artists are expected to have a thorough knowledge of PDF creation.

When making a PDF, it is important to know its end use. That will determine the kind of PDF you need to produce. For example, if you were showing the client some changes made to a layout, you would send a “view-only” PDF. The view-only PDF would be low in resolution but easy to send in an email because of its small file size. Crop marks would not be necessary. If you were creating a print-ready PDF, however, you would need to ensure the PDF contained crops, bleed, and full-resolution images—in most cases, such PDFs might be too large to send over email.

For Print-Ready PDFs made from InDesign:
First, go to File > Export (Command-E). Select Adobe PDF as the format and choose the destination for the PDF and hit Save. A new dialog box will open. You can select a preset like High Quality Print (for print) or Smallest File Size (for web) as a starting point and modify the settings further if you wish. Pay special attention to the sections in the left-hand window of the options box: General, Compression, Marks and Bleed, and Output.

General – If the job is going to print in spreads, make sure this box is checked under Pages.

Compression – For high-quality color and grayscale images, Bicubic Downsampling should be set to 300dpi for images over that size and the Image Quality set to maximum. You can lower the dpi if the PDF is view-only to be sent via email.

Marks and Bleeds – If you are including crop marks, make sure the box is checked and add the bleed amount underneath.

Output – Make sure Color Conversion is set to No Color Conversion.

One trick that can be useful is to create your own custom settings. Once you have adjusted all the settings in the Export Adobe PDF dialog box, you can click Save Preset in the bottom left corner. You will give the preset a name, and once you hit OK, it will be included as an option under Adobe PDF Preset.

For Print-Ready PDFs made from Quark Xpress:
Go to File > Export > Layout as PDF (Command-Option-P). When the dialog box opens, click the Options button (or you can select a preset like Press – High Quality or Screen – Low Quality as a starting point and modify the settings further if you wish). The PDF Export Options dialog box will open with all the settings. Pay special attention to the sections in the left-hand window of the options box: Pages, Compression, Color, Marks and Bleed.

Pages If the job is going to print in spreads, make sure this box is checked.

Compression For color and grayscale images, Compression should be set to None and Resolution set to Keep Resolution (assuming your images are already 300dpi).

Color – If it is a four-color job, the Setup should be set to Composite CMYK. If a Pantone color is included, the Setup should be set to Composite CMYK and Spot.

Marks – If you are including crop marks, have the mode set to Centered (otherwise it can be set to Off).

Bleed – If there is bleed, have the Bleed Type set to Symmetric with the Amount as you wish.

Once again, you can create your own custom settings. Once you have adjusted all the settings in the PDF Export Options dialog box, you can go to PDF Style at the top and scroll down to New PDF Output Style. You will give the output style a name, and once you hit OK, it will included as an option under PDF Style.

Authors: Will Lovell, with assistance by Eric Swenson

Lingering Vibration: Not Phantom Ringing This Time. How Did the Social Web Fare in Some Recent Real-life Tests?

Hmm, does the social web work in a crisis? Irene, Steve, Virginia, and Jason––four names one might give to a child or possibly a pet, names that over the past few weeks have left a lasting impression on the social web. Let’s examine what these events and their aftermath mean to our social web efforts.

Fail: Social Web + Mobile Service After Hurricane Irene
As someone who lives in what is technically called New England, Irene did some incredible damage not only near coastal areas but also far inland, as the media has covered along with the devastation in New York. Densely populated areas in these early Colonies developed back in the days of our first and only Revolution! Geographic barriers (rivers, mountains, etc.) often defined the boundaries of these old towns, and municipal infrastructure has been tied to existing human populations and often governed by poor, short-sighted legislation ever since. Fast-forward to Hurricane Irene and the reliance on above ground power, cable, and phone lines––thousands were without power for 14+ days. Ironically, major electrical providers like Connecticut Light & Power have advanced online systems that can give the percentage of affected customers by town, but once an over sized toothpick-to-be falls on the lines, off goes the power, phone, and––often––the Internet. The natural backup was mobile devices, which were also affected by damage from the falling trees, so the basic online functions that help people stay in touch were gone, leaving many in the dark in more ways than one. Connecticut-area Cox Media stations, including 95.9 The Fox and Star 99.9, banded together and broadcast three FM and two AM stations simultaneously, providing old-school radio information to those without Internet access. Hurricane Irene made it clear that:

  1. Many do not rely on the Internet for information.
  2. Once the Internet goes out, those who rely on it become disconnected.
  3. Traditional media sources have abandoned the core local-information food chain that made them successful in the past.
  4. Our infrastructure has no redundancy and needs an overhaul (think buried lines, faster mobile connections, and the ability for networks to bring cell service to disaster areas quickly, i.e., in hours, not weeks).

It must be stated, however, that many community officials and local news sources had outstanding hyper-local coverage after the winds subsided, with reports on closed roads, delayed school openings, and locations where people could get fresh water, charge phones, or shower. Some municipalities used robocalls or Twitter or Facebook, but that meant that users had to be connected to the social web via Twitter or Facebook (primarily). We love touting how deeply social media penetrates into the average American home, but not everyone is online and, even more important, not all have smartphones or know how to use the social web in a mobile environment. The argument can be made that the radio of the 20th century has been replaced with the smartphone of today, but the cell signal needs to be strong enough to hold the masses once they jump from one channel (landlines) to the other (mobile).

Steve: A Resignation Sends Its Own Vibrations Through the Tech World
On August 24, the media reported that Steve Jobs had resigned from his position as CEO of Apple. The vibrations were not the phantom feeling on your hip from your vibrating phone of choice––no, these vibrations were of a different sort. Analysts jumped at the news and hinted at an uncertain future for the tech giant. Former Apple COO Tim Cook has now taken the helm, and many believe that the iPhone/iPad-creating innovation machine still has two to three years of Jobs-era technology in the works. A pretend screenshot of Steve’s new schedule currently making the rounds on technology blogs jokes about his new daily task of managing Cook from afar. Regardless of the future, Apple brought innovation and put good design first with its operating systems as well as hardware. Without Jobs and his positive force, we might all still be coveting BlackBerrys with their amazing “scroll wheels” (but poor RIM’s future looks grim either way).

Farewell to the black turtleneck and jeans. Thanks for the leading Apple toward better products and forcing the rest of the market to catch up. Your efforts made the marketplace more competitive, and toddlers, fan boys, gadget lovers, and soccer moms the world over have you to thank for the delicious visual goodness that is iOS, the iPhone, and the iPad.

Virginia: Quake Rocks the East Coast


Sitting on the twenty-second floor in Midtown Manhattan Tuesday with two of my tech-loving colleagues, I was surprised by the shaking of my chair at 1:55 pm. While other employees leapt from their offices and cubicles, the sub-thirties jumped to social media and the mobile web. Utterly Orange contributing blogger John Mehl found mentions on Twitter that confirmed our experience as an earthquake, and I sought answers with the iPhone Quake Watch app by LateNightProjects. The intraplate earthquake situated in Mineral, Virginia, kicked off a social tidal wave (tweetquake) of content surrounding the natural event. Check the video below and coverage from Mashable. If people were watching Twitter in NYC, it is highly possible that they found earthquake posts before they felt the vibrations. The mobile web exploded with laughter shocks, and the left-coast folk were amused by the right-coast crazies as we screamed and ran from our homes and offices.

Jason: Coffee Lounge “Cyberpadlocked” on Google
Maybe it is the lingering sensation that someone or something is out to get you. Something perhaps in the social web. As reported by the New York Times, Jason Rule, owner of Coffee Rules Lounge, was the victim of a false “permanently closed” status on Google Places. As the article points out, this is an increasing trend, and the source could be competitors or angry customers/ex-employees.

The article highlights some important issues:

  1. We have no clue how to clean up personal or business online presences.
  2. Crowd-sourcing can go wrong, and preventative measures need to be in place.
  3. Businesses that aren’t on top of their online profiles can lose business.

Author: John Carew

Team Vanguard Explores NYC for the Second Annual VanScavenger Hunt

Along with the spectacular holiday party every winter, Vanguard also has a tradition of holding an excellent team-building activity during the summer. This summer saw the return of last year’s VanScavenger Hunt. On August 26, the New York and Maplewood offices converged on the streets of Manhattan to seek the answers to the clues given out.

Participants were given seven clues that led them to landmarks all over the city. A team captain with a smartphone was put in charge of group pictures in front of iconic places in Central Park, Chinatown, and the Museum of Natural History. The final clue was a QR Code that led participants to the Houndstooth Pub in Midtown for the after-party.

The winner of the 2011 VanScavenger hunt was Team X-Rays, which consisted of Joe Corbo, Gia Lam, Chris Barnes, Ron Clemente, Cori Eriksson, and Kevin Green. Video of the event is up on YouTube. Check it out below!

According to our Master of Ceremonies, Mark Dion, the VanScavenger Hunts were created with team building in mind. Fostering a sense of competition and creating new friendships among employees was an added bonus. Holding a fun, involved challenge like this helps employees to “improvise, adapt, and overcome” even when the task at hand is problematic.

What kinds of team-building activities does your organization participate in?

Author: Dustin Hill

Pitney Bowes Offers Up a Cloud-Based Transpromo Product! Will Google Play Ball?

A few months back in my post “Transpromotional Printing: Will Google Get on Board?” I predicted that Google would develop a product that would tie in its online advertising to printed statements. Transpromo advertising is a great way for marketers to vertically sell their current customer bases, but it is very hard for smaller companies to implement. Because of this growing pain, I had thought that Google would come up with a standardized solution. Since then, I have stumbled upon a few interesting things.

First, Google did investigate something like this. It ran a program called Google Print Ads. This started back in 2005 as a limited program in publications such as Maximum PC and Budget Living. The idea was to sell the less-desirable ads––such as quarter-page ads––in an auction format. Google would let the advertisers set their own pricing, similar to how AdWords works. The thought was that this would attract a larger base of online advertisers that wanted to transition easily into print advertising. Since this venture never proved to be successful, Google decided to shut down its efforts in 2009 and focus on how it could better serve the print advertising market.

Second, Pitney Bowes just started to offer a web-based, or––to use a common buzzword––cloud-based, transpromo service. The company hasn’t released many details on how this will work or what market it is targeting, but it is promising. If Pitney Bowes can build this functionality into its hardware, then it can really reach a wide array of customers.

To sum it all up, transpromo advertising is an amazing way to keep your customers engaged. Since you already communicate with them on a periodic basis, this advertising is a cheap or almost free way to get the word out. Because there is some programming and technology involved in bringing this to market, however, it hasn’t really caught on with the smaller to medium-sized companies. Therefore, the industry needs a larger company to take the reins and build a solution that is easy to implement into companies’ current hardware. Google could for sure figure out a way to do this, but I think that Pitney Bowes may be an even better candidate given that it is already so heavily established in the print and mailing markets.

If you had an easy way of incorporating transpromo into your statements, would you jump on board?

Author: John Mehl

Back-to-School Advertising

With the beginning of the school year comes back-to-school advertising. Kids might not like it, but advertisers love it. It’s the second-largest consumer-spending occasion in the U.S., right behind the winter holidays. So how is new technology changing consumer behavior? According to a new Yahoo! study on back-to-school shopping, four main trends were discovered:

1. Consumers are shopping earlier and spending more.
2. Mom isn’t the only one doing the shopping.
3. Shopping happens online and offline.
4. Shoppers want deals, deals, and more deals.

With that said, I wanted to share Ace Metrix’s list of this season’s Top 10 Back-to-School Ads.

What’s your favorite and why?

 

Author: Marina Kaljaj

Vanguardian Crashes Engadget NYC Reader Meetup

On Thursday, August 25, I raced from our office across town to attend tech blog Engadget’s NYC Reader Meetup. This open-to-the-public mobile communications event was scheduled for 6:30 pm at Gustavino’s, an elegant steel and glass meeting space built into the stone foundation of the Queensboro Bridge ––known to locals and 60s pop-culture fans (see Simon & Garfunkel: “Feelin’ Groovy”) as the “59th Street Bridge.”

When I arrived at 5:45, a line of mostly 20- and 30-something techies stretched around the corner onto First Avenue, under the bridge, and onto the next block. For those in line, texting and tweeting was, of course, the order of the day. Doors opened on time, and getting in was far more orderly and friendly than at the average music show or sports event.

Once inside, I found both floors dismayingly jammed—a condition that waxed to the extreme as time passed. But we’re used to crowds in New York, and I soldiered on, bellying up to various bars to ask questions about and briefly caress dozens of smartphones and tablets. Most of the major players, including AT&T, Samsung, HTC, Motorola, and RIM (BlackBerry) were in the house. Other exhibitors included: AC Gears, a Japan-based retailer of headphones and other mobile accessories; set-top media server maker Boxee; and Cadence, makers of the geek-chic 4-Bit Chrono Watch. Amidst the hubbub, two well-lit graffiti artists were for some reason creating a mural in real time, dispensing toxic paint fumes as they worked.

A tantalizing alcove into which I wandered turned out to host a popular, multi-outlet recharging station—essential with all the power-hungry devices in the house.

Steam tables and wandering, tray-bearing caterers supplied a better-than-average offering of complimentary food, including tiny “slider” burgers, chicken potpies, mac and cheese, and small squares of assorted diet transgressions. Several watering holes dispensed soda and juice. Skipping the alcohol option, whatever Engadget’s reason, helped keep the crowd just this side of surly-mob-hood.

Astute readers may be wondering: Where was the 700-pound gorilla on the mobile electronic scene, aka Apple Inc? It was absent and—sorry, fanboys and girls—not especially missed. RIM notwithstanding, this event was by and large a celebration of all things Android. I briefly wondered whether Apple’s absence might be due to lingering bad feelings over Engadget’s involvement, along with rival blog Gizmodo, in the affair of the iPhone 4 prototype left in a Redwood City bar by hapless Apple employee Gray Powell. But then I considered the balancing absence of Microsoft, together with a lack of direct presence by Google, and decided it was all good.

I’m more or less in the market for a phone to replace my one year+ ancient HTC EVO 4G, and a highlight for me among the many candidates on hand was the Motorola Photon—carried, like the EVO, by Sprint. Event swag, in my case, amounted to a couple of branded stress balls and a pair of cheap shades. But I didn’t stick around for the last two or three on-the-hour raffles and may have missed winning something that way. Apparently, the raffle did not include the way-desirable, all-electric Mini Cooper parked out front. I felt better about cutting out early after finding that out.

Everything displayed is currently available, and it occurred to me that one could try out nearly all of it in a much more relaxed milieu by visiting Best Buy, or even one’s chosen phone store, at an off-hour time of day. Admittedly, minus the “tribal gathering” vibe, many attendees no doubt enjoyed the Meetup at Gustavino’s. The product representatives didn’t seem able, or at liberty, to share any juicy factoids or prognostications that aren’t generally available. When I asked the otherwise friendly, helpful Motorola rep about a possible path forward for currently floundering Google TV via Motorola set-top boxes, he shrugged and said, “I get those kinds of rumors the same place as you … Engadget!”

Author: John Wehmeyer