Thursday, November 20, 2008

3600 shots to the groin later: YouTube goes realtime

On Saturday, 11/22/08, YouTube will go live.

Say what?

After nearly a year of promises, YouTube, the video sharing site that brings you--among other things--more than 3560 videos of people being hit in the groin, will broadcast a live show beginning at 5pm PST.

The live event will include popular entertainers (many of whom have had their work incorporated into fan-created videos and parodies) such as hip-hop icon Akon, dance sergeant Souljaboy and even real-life guitar hero Joe Satriani.

Most importantly is the participation of real-life YouTube community stars such as:
  • variety videographer LisaNova (whose YouTube channel has been visited more than 9 Million times.)
  • Blender-maker Blendtec and their 'Will it blend' series (YouTube channel visits more than 2 million)
  • Teen, "I have anger management issues" Fred Figglehorn (More than 9 million channel views)
So what?

Google, YouTube's owner, spent more than $1B for YouTube. And though YouTube's traffic is ginormous, revenues are not. The live event portends two things in my mind:

1. It moves YouTube into the domain of the traditional broadcast networks. Though user-generated videos have certainly captured the timeshares of many timeshifted television viewers, the networks have still dominated live video events...YouTube would seem to be attacking this last bastion of broadcast network advantage.

2. It focusses advertisers on the possiblities of YouTube as a legitimate advertising vehicle by highlighting the YouTube channel offering. Advertisers can treat YouTube as a custom broadcaster for their material...with their own channel...whether it's short form videos, 120 second infomercials or even creative testing, YouTube channels gives advertisers an equal footing with the individual YouTube producer. Integrated with automated subscriptions, feeds and Google's search terms, the YouTube channel highlights the ease of use, doityourself YouTube Channel toolset

YouTube live, it seems, is just the latest step in forcing the definition of a stupid network back to its smart roots (see here and here for a couple of example posts on defining the network).

Who needs an iPhone?

For those who would like their mobile devices to be a little more, um, human, there is Handsolo:

The best part is that this parody is brought to you by those who have an actual stake in the future of mobile devices: Qualcomm.

The call to action leads to a discussion of the wireless future at the Qualcomm site,

And though the gratuitous video of Marketing VP Dan Novak is worth skipping, the scenario-based narratives after the intro do a fine job of explaining innovation so close you might already recognize its presence. Handsolo uses humor and absurdity to engage your attention and then bring you just a step back from the fantastic to the possible.

My favorite is the boxer.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Confirmation bias in market research: The circular references

If you've ever implemented a formula in a spreadsheet like Excel, you've probably experienced the Circular Reference Warning at some time or another. That's the one that tells you your formula relies on the value of itself to calculate itself...a self-referencing system of sorts.

I was reminded of the self-referencing nature of some market research when participating in an online survey panel recently. The survey contained many questions with four-box response options. For example:

How likely would you be to invest in a company whose reputation is environmentally friendly?

1. Highly unlikely
2. Somewhat unlikely
3. Somewhat likely
4. Highly likely

Overlooking the construct of the question itself, the challenge with this response format is that it forces the respondent to have an opinion..What if I am neither? Certainly a four box response provides a neat and tidy interpretation for the ambiguity, no fence sitting. But does it capture any truth?

What's wrong with discovering that your survey audience has no opinion? Isn't that an opportunity for marketing? Or would we rather that the survey force the issue? Requiring that the audience declare themselves as conforming to one side or the other of a binary world view?

If the opposite of love is apathy how does a four-box, love-hate response provide a reference point we don't already possess?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Flat is the new up: outrunning the ad bear

There's well worn camper's humor about being able to outrun a bear in the wild. If you and your fellow campers encounter a bear, you don't have to outrun the only have to outrun the other campers.

Beyond the official decrees of economists, there are some data points in online ad revenue that may indicate that the ad bear is in the campground. The guys at TechCrunch have, well, crunched the data and it's soft: 3rd quarter revenue at the big four online ad companies (Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL) is up just 6 tenths of a percentage over the second quarter (see the chart below):

(chart via TechCrunch)

So what?

One can certainly argue that all growth must slow at some point: afterall, there are only so many ads that can be served to long tail attention spans limited by the 24 hours in everyone's day...but another obvious correlation is the rapid descent of overall economic growth over the last 4 quarters.

And if the most-measurable-of-results ad formats are flattening so rapidly, one might expect the electionless 1Q09 to hold dire results for more traditional forms of consumer dollars become scarcer commodities, cost-pressured marketing dollars can be expected to make their way to performance-based advertising...and if performance-based advertising is flat, it may at least outrun the slower CPM-based ad campers.

So as the ad bear approaches, marketers may do well to remember the importance of being able to measure results against their advertising...anything that looks like an assertion built upon an assumption may look like lunch for the ad bear.

Friday, November 14, 2008

You-pay-me brand marketing

I've always harbored a suspicion that the brand logo on my shirt was free marketing for the company when I wore the garment...why not pay me to wear a logo'd version of the apparel?

In the new era of consumer control, here's someone making a run at that model:

Girl inYour Shirt

For $75/day, this enterprising girl will wear your shirt (you provide the shirt). The line extensions are obvious:

Guy in your car...Mom in your movie...Dad in your bar....and a new interpretation of one's willingness to 'walk a mile in your shoes'.

Search engine secrets: 101

How do I get my website at the top of the organic (non paid) search results on Google?

Google has compiled and released a best practices starter guide sheet. Mostly it aggregates information already available and provides some detail beyond previous releases of information.

The organic results question has spawned an entire industry of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professionals who, to varying degrees, implement practices that they claim will optimize your site for top organic results. As we've previously posted, some of these SEO specialists are selling snake oil...most are legitimately trying to set the stage for success.

Google's techniques are pretty redundant for anyone whose explored this area in detail, but the techniques are a good overview for anyone new to search/web development and include narrative on:

  1. Page titles, tags and meta tags (make 'em accurate descriptions of the content)
  2. URL structure (simplifying URL's and directories to reflect words and content when possible)
  3. Navigation (employing naturally flowing hierarchies and breadcrumb navigation)
  4. Content (using language relevant to the topic and informative anchor text)
Most importantly, Google's guide reminds one of the importance of promoting sites in a manner that generates relevance: Simply building a site and expecting traffic will lead to less than optimal results...from both an organic positioning and traffic volume perspective.

SEO success according to Google it seems is in doing the the things that clearly identify your site as relevant to someone seeking something it supports. In that way, the big secret--and challenge--of SEO is simply getting the thing done.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Google's In-Flu-ence: The illness of crowds

In yet another fascinating example of Google's power (both the power of the data they have access to and their power to crunch it), they've announced the availability of Flu Trends.

The premise is simple: track where people are searching on terms associated with influenza (especially symptoms and treatments) to see if there are trends that can forecast influenza outbreaks.

Given the realtime nature of the data, combined with Google as a nearly ubiquitous starting point for information seekers online, one wonders what other wisdom might be mined from Google's data on what the crowd wants to know.

Fire ant sightings? Kudzu migration? Lindsay Lohan sightings? Of course Google trends has been on the scene for years...But predictive epidemiology data? That's where you have to have a baseline to compare the hypothesis against the experiment...and CDC data is the baseline.  Alas, Google searches do appear to be accurate predictors of flu outbreak (see chart).  

The global network becomes the hivemind...I, for one, welcome our new Google overlords' influence.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Trust me

I suppose one can point to trust as an issue in the long-building financial crisis of the day. 

To some, it was an abuse of trust that led to no-money down, no-proof-of income mortgages and other forms of cheaply financed debt. The debt that got packaged as exotic derivatives (or government bonds?) and sold down the line to trusting souls (in soulless corporations and sovereign wealth funds!) who, though they didn't understand what they were buying, nevertheless trusted the seller...or at least trusted that they could find a buyer behind them. 

And isn't that part of the culture in a reasonably free market? Buyers trust sellers--and vice versa. And what of reasonably free marketers in a reasonably free market...what obligations to trust do they hold? 

I'm not talking about fraud. I'm talking about the very human tendency toward hopeful exaggeration...the size of the fish that got away...the proximity one has to someone famous...the features, benefits or results that a product will deliver.  How will marketers build trust, let alone maintain it, in a marketing environment that demands proof of truth as a prerequisite?

It won't be built through cynicism, certainly. But neither will it be built through unverifiably optimistic promises and pablums in messages that reflect the wishes of the marketer more than the truth of the customer's experience. 

Spend without spending? Save without saving? Be more doing 

In a show-me-don't-tell-me market, friends and family are the only ones who will have continued access to low cost trust--advertisers will find that the new price of trust can't be financed through words least, not theirs. 

Who do you trust?

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Newsmagazines dis paper: Life imitates...gaming

Our Public Relations director, Deron, forwarded an article about US News and World Report's decisions to refocus from its print versions of the #3 news magazine in favor of the the process pursuing something they call Journalism 5.0 (I must have missed versions 2.0-4.9?).

Combatting the same declining readership/decreasing ad revenues as their print newspaper peers, the decision seems appropriate if not a bit overdue...though the article did not go so far as to say that USNWR will abandon print (as the Christian Science Monitor has) ti clearly appears that standing one's traditional ground is going to be more difficult.

Here's what came to mind when the article made it's way to me: Substitute the web as the weapon and it seems to me that the last print pub standing gets pwnd by the N00b.


MyAds: Banner ads reborn?

MySpace, the oft-maligned, drab older cousin to Facebook's freaky fashionability is taking the growing up seriously. Ever since their acquisition by Fox Interactive Media, they've pursued a revenue generation strategy around advertising innovation. 

And now, one month from it's launch, MySpace is generating estimated revenue of $140,000-$180,000 per day using a pay-per-click display advertising model (according to TechCrunch).

So what?

Display advertising (also referred to as banner ads) has known issues (banner blindness and CPM deflation being two among many). But the MySpace model is intriguing for what it enables:

1. Do it yourself ad creation
2. Pay per click pricing

Combined with MySpace's long tail, tribal approach to community (i.e., you associate with those whose interests are relevant to your own--like music, pet ownership or tatoos!), one might expect many community-generated banner ads to actually reflect the community's values rather than an ad agency or marketer's interpretation of those values. 

Combined with pay-per-click pricing, one might expect that these potentially more authentic ads might outperform their less relevant, intrusive messaging foils--and therefore attract more spending. In fact, IAB reports for the 3rd quarter of 2008 show that CPM-based approaches to online advertising are already showing flattening spend levels, while performance-based models continue to rise (see prior post here). MySpace would appear to be on the right road there.

But what about the 'quality' of the ads? That argument, like many subjective arguments over quality, will have to have performance data to back it up or it will be an argument of interest only to those making it. An ad created by someone within the community has alot of intrinsic advantages over an outsider with an art degree.

Online, good design is design that works. If a person with inexpensive, off-the-shelf tools  (e.g., Flash, Photoshop) can create display ads that get measurable results, those who have made a living on self-evident value judgements may have to rethink their approach...or focus on the communities that they are part of. 

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Mobile Video: an army of amateurs

Comscore has released its latest 3-month stats on mobile video use and the numbers are interesting for two reasons:

1. More than one-third of all mobile subscribers in the US have watched video on their device
2. Amateur video clips represent the most viewed type of video followed by music and comedy videos

While a single data point certainly does not equal a trend, the growing number of mobile subscribers accessing video supports the notion of anywhere, anytime, anydata connectivity becoming the expectation. 

It also speaks to the growing value that people are finding in their mobile devices, making the mobile device something most would have difficulty giving up (see here for data on wants vs. needs). 

The predominance of amateur and short form video, combined with the resistance to marketing on mobile devices, suggests marketers will have to find ways to engage amateur's (customers?)--either as content providers or as willing participants in the distribution of any mobile videomarketing effort.

Prior postings on mobile here and here.

Comscore press release here