Archive for October, 2007

Long Tail and

Posted in Uncategorized on October 31, 2007 by southborough

ANYONE TRYING TO STAY CURRENT with pop culture tastes should take a trip to one of the local fly-by-night Halloween stores. Quickly erected in un-rented mall and shopping plaza retail space, they are indexes not only of the trends in popular media but also the sheer range of tastes. The Jasons, Michael Myers, Freddies and such are to be expected, of course. And what would Halloween be without low-level political satire (this year’s Hillary and Rumsfeld masks). But it does my heart good to know that somewhere out there people remember the ’50s pin-up Bettie Page, who seems to have her own line of costumes now. There are minor Marvel comics villains who get aired out every year. And Lord knows Elvira needs to make a living, doesn’t she? Dig deep and you’ll still find a giant Venus Fly Trap from “Little Shop of Horrors,” bit players from “The Simpsons” and the original Desperate Housewife, Betty Rubble.

By piling on the high-margin, low value crap inventory, somehow these temporary Halloween stores manage to bring the long tail into retail, if only for a month a year. I remember when shopping for Halloween with my 4-year-old daughter was really a matter of which Disney Princess costume to buy. We still have pictures of her at pre-school holiday bashes lined up with seven Princess Jasmines. One look at the current Halloween store rack, or even the kids who come to your door this year, and you will know that America is so over mass culture now. I am a confirmed pop culture slut, but even I gave up ID-ing the trick-or-treaters a few years ago. Who can keep up with all those Anime characters? The second-string crewman on all those Sci-Fi channel series. Even when I ask them, “Who are you supposed to be?” the answer eludes me. Garga-Linga? Oh, from which planetary system?

The long tail is everywhere as niche tastes proliferate. Even in mobile content, where the limited interface would seem to encourage limited menus, we are seeing users gravitate to highly select content choices. For instance, go to the mobile conten t aggregator and check out the most popular streaming media feeds to which its users subscribe.

The Top 10 for this week are

Wall Street Journal Tech News
BBC – World News Bulletin
MTV News: Daily Headlines
Weather – Atlanta, GA
790 The Zone – Atlanta
Weather – Boston, MA
Boston Globe Daily
Boston Globe Soxcast
NYTimes Front Page
WCBS – New York Yankees Radio

While major brands surely are represented in this list, it really is a mosh pit of regions and news content types. Much of the BuzzWire material draws from familiar audio and video podcasts available in RSS feeds. You pick what you want at the main site or on the WAP browser interface and pretty much get an iTunes-like experience on the phone. What is interesting is just how broad the tastes run.

And when you dip beneath the shallow surface of the most popular mobile subscription the long tail really stretches out, says BuzzWire CEO Andrew MacFarlane. A high number of people in his system are subscribing to unique feeds. “If I bookmark an item it is a ‘unique save,’ if no one else bookmarks that item,” he explains. “Over 60% of our catalog is [composed of] unique saves.”

That is a long, long tail, even if users dip into it only briefly. MacFarlane says frequency is quite high, typically every other day, but they tend to come in a grab a couple of minutes of content at a time. The split between audio and video content is 64%/36% respectively. And even he was surprised that 15% of the streams are of live radio.

Those stats may hold their own long tail of lessons for us. First, they suggest that given the tools, users are eager for highly personalized content experiences on their phone. Whether the usage patterns among BuzzWire’s early adopters remain consistent as services like these scale into broader audiences is anyone’s guess. But it is interesting that users are cherry-picking the content they already like and taking the option t o send it to their phone.

Second, the content providers who can master brevity will be at an advantage. Drill into BuzzWire’s top ten and you will see that except for the long-winded BBC, every one of those clips is well under 8 minutes — and most are 3 or 4 minutes long. Five minutes is the new half hour.

And finally, discovery is going to be everything here. For early adopters of something like BuzzWire, the Web-to-phone link is sensible. I am guessing that most of these people are bringing their podcast tastes to mobile. They already discovered the content they like on the more flexible Web medium. But there are also a lot of younger users who rely almost wholly on their phone as their portable PC. If we want to leverage the need for personalized and custom content then we have to marry that with a better ability to find it. On the phone, BuzzWire uses a familiar menu of filters: most popular, recommended (by your registered friends), highly rated. But the most interesting choice is “Local,” which parses the available channels according to my region. There were only three choices in my Philadelphia market, but I was very likely to subscribe to one of them because the relevance was so high.

We need more content filtering like that on the phone that incorporates either my locale or my demonstrated tastes. A taste for niche content on a personal device is natural and expected. The hard job is discovery – finding our own long tail.


Video Ads for People without TVs

Posted in Uncategorized on October 30, 2007 by southborough

TWO MAJOR THEMES IN ANY discussion of online video are advertising and CGM (consumer-generated content, or whatever you want to call it). Some of the questions we’re asking: What kind of ads will work best in short-form content? What should these ads look like? And, how are we as marketers going to produce the many different executions necessary for all the geographic, demographic, and use-based targeting that’s just around the corner? CGM campaigns run through managed brand communities provide one coming answer.

Well-known examples of CGM ads are big splashy contests like the Superbowl Doritos spot, or failures like the Chevy Tahoe mix-your-own ad ploy. But many smart marketers today are managing (or having managed for them) communities of citizen marketers and brand loyalists, people who are interested in helping out the brands they love — and these communities are slowly being empowered with video sharing tools. Some of this activity is behind firewalls, some is in the open, and whether you want to call it “advertising” or not, it’s often enthusiastic brand content that communicates well to others.

On platforms like Ning and Kickapps, marketers are building spaces where niche audiences of brand lovers share video content about their lives, their creative endeavors, and their brands. And marketers are sharing back, releasing professionally produced insider video, setting up private events, joining the conversation and creating excitement as well as excuses for community members to post more CGM video. And unlike YouTube, marketers have control over what gets posted; though as with blogging, marketers have to have the right voice and tread lightly when it comes to censorship.

But, wait! you say. Who wants to watch a bunch of crappy home videos? Here’s where mixing CGM and pro ad content and packaging comes in. Many managed communities give marketers access to the source CGM material. Are you an auto marketer with a new model on tour? Show it off first to community members in your major markets. Encourage them to shoot video and upload it to your site. Pull out the good stuff and edit it together with a clip from the lead engineer or head designer. Do this in each market, and voila! A number of different, low-budget executions you can place wherever video advertising lives. Play the San Francisco clip in San Francisco. Play the design clip for design audiences, the engineer clip for gear-heads. Maybe you luck out and something funny happened during the tour: there’s your YouTube viral. This is do-able now.

I don’t own a TV. I couldn’t care less about the demise of high-dollar :30 spots. If I’m watching short vids on a site like BeBo or, I want to see relevant ads (brand content) that have a similar look and feel to what I’m watching. I want them to be made by people like me, in my city. I want those ads to be user-activated (“bugs” or “tickers”) because I want an experience that I can either skip entirely or that draws me in, shows me something I didn’t know about a brand. I want an invitation to go deeper, to hear from my peers, and to join the community myself. And I don’t think I’m alone.

Luxury Brands online

Posted in Uncategorized on October 26, 2007 by southborough

Pushing Print Online

Posted in Uncategorized on October 25, 2007 by southborough

MySpace series and Ford

Posted in Uncategorized on October 24, 2007 by southborough

Spell with Flickr

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2007 by southborough

Why Online Video?

Posted in Uncategorized on October 22, 2007 by southborough

Pioneering advertising agencies, both traditional and interactive, are increasingly exploring ways to leverage web-based video for their clients at different stages of the customer interaction — determining what works, what doesn’t and what they still need to learn. Whether it’s a video banner, an interactive long-format video or a web-based commercial, many agencies are being charged with building, branding and managing custom web-based video interactions for their clients. But do they truly know how to make it work?

Brand marketers know that customers live 24/7 and globally on the web, and many are already re-deploying advertising dollars from traditional media to the web. In fact, investment bank Piper Jaffray says global online ad revenue will jump to more than $80 billion in 2011 from $32 billion last year, noting that the internet is now regarded as a mainstream media outlet.

But why online video?

In the early days of web advertising, brand advertisers had little interest in web banner advertising — they considered it ineffective and a waste of advertising dollars. Traditional advertising agencies never really embraced internet advertising and lacked confidence in banner ads. And with good reason — text and graphics-based banner ads aren’t emotionally engaging or exciting in the least.

On the other hand, television commercials have proven extremely effective at selling products and establishing a strong emotional connection between brands and consumers. However, traditional television advertising has come under attack in the past few years as DVRs allow consumers to skip ads and millions of ad-free TV shows are now sold on DVD. In addition, the medium has historically raised rates even while audiences declined and audience fragmentation by cable makes it more difficult to buy spots and target the right audience.

The interactivity of the internet is being combined with the trend toward on-demand and anywhere TV viewing. This change is increasingly referred to as “Television 2.0.” Without a doubt, video is the most powerful way to tell a story, capture the imagination, argue a point and entertain and inform a population that has grown up with a preference for watching and listening over reading.

The proliferation of online video programming has opened new doors for advertisers and they are poised to jump in with both feet. Online video advertising efforts, whether to attract, engage or persuade the consumer audience, will be a significant new source of online advertising revenue as an increasing portion of the $54 billion U.S. television advertising market is spent online.

Online video has the potential to deliver far better targeting than traditional methods and provide life after the 30-second commercial. In fact, industry pundits are estimating that worldwide internet television ad revenue for 2011 will be between $5.8 and $10 billion.