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