Video of the Week: Efficiency, Bangkok Style

Efficiency defined: Productive without waste or the use of space in a Bangkok, Thailand market.

Link for the feed readers:


New Apple Nano - Most Significant New Product

A few weeks ago Apple released a new series of products. The major headlines seemed to go to either the new iPod Touch and the price reduction in the iPhone. Though this news may have overshadowed the update/name change about the iPod Classic, the new iPod Nano, and iPod Shuffle colors (which was hardly news, but still...), I think we will look back at this product release and see that the most significant announcement was new Nano.

The new Nano now plays video and the prices are at a level that lowers the barriers to entry so virtually anyone to get a personalized video player. Apple clearly dominates the MP3 market and the new Nano solidifies them in personal video players. Sure, the screen is small (2 inches) and the Nano moniker seems a little less applicable with this short and stocky version, but it doesn't matter. For $150 (4 GB) or $200 (8 GB) you get a video iPod.

So who should care about this? Well, video content creators to start. By January there will be loads of new and eager new Nano owners looking for good video content to fill their iPods. If you were ever thinking about starting a video blog/video podcast, now is the time more than ever. If you create video of any form and don't allow people to subscribe to it, you're about to miss out on a new wave of potentially interested people. Get some RSS feeds tied into your existing video and register with iTunes so people can subscribe.

If you have video that you sell, start promoting the heck out of it this fall. If you can bust up your video so it can be sold off in smaller parts, give that some consideration as well. Again, there's going to be a new group of consumers for your content.

If your business is trying to find a new way to regularly engage existing clients, consider this option: this Christmas send your clients a Nano and start a weekly five minute video podcast from your organization. Have the first video podcast ready for subscription by the time the clients receive their gift and you'll be giving them something with a high perceived value but also be handing them the vehicle to further you ability to connect with them. After all, now there's a little video for everyone.


Don't Pay for Blog Comments: The Deer Now Have Guns

A few weeks ago I was speaking with a publisher about how they can work with bloggers to get more exposure for some upcoming books. The publisher quickly dismissed the idea of using bloggers because "they tried that once before and all our authors got was a lot of bad feedback from the bloggers because they were accused of being spammers." When I inquired as to what they actually did I was told that the publisher hired a company which has a staff to post comments on blogs that may fit the book topics. Instead of the positive feedback and awareness, the authors were hammered with negative feedback that they were spamming these blogs. Those authors in turn hammered the publisher and the publisher has been wary of bloggers ever since.

What happened here is that the publisher had no idea what it was paying for. In essence they were duped into thinking that comments on blogs through any means necessary are a good thing. They had no idea how their vendor's strategy fits (or actually doesn't fit) into blog culture. The end result was a disaster where the authors got blamed and the publisher lost major credibility with some of their top authors.

I first realized that comment spam is an issue back in February but didn't dream that it could go to the level of paying a company to post comments on blogs. That simply shows both a lack of awareness of blog culture and a pressure that companies now feel to be using new media in their marketing strategies without a proper understanding. This publisher's vendor is preying on the sense of urgency companies have to "just be doing something" in new media. You must have a proper understanding of new media before you launch into a marketing strategy with new media elements. You cannot carry over the same old mindset, methodology, and cultural approach of traditional marketing. If your organization views bloggers like deer and you're just going out to hunt for the biggest one, you're missing a very crucial shift in the hunt: the deer now have guns too...


Tech Review: SketchCast - online whiteboard

I took a little different route today on a tech review and decided to use the actual tool for the review itself. This new tool is called Sketchcast and is an online whiteboard with an optional audio recording feature. I've embedded my review below or you can click the link to check it out.

Link for the feed readers:


Video of the Week: The Kanye West/Rainn Wilson - The Great Rap Challenge

I didn't see this when it originally aired but it's very funny. Rainn Wilson is one of my favorite actors on The Office so pretty much anything with him in it is going to get me hooked...

Link for the feed readers:


Doing online video? Keep it under three minutes.

A recent report by the New York Times says the average online video duration is 2.7 minutes. The report also said that 75% of Internet users watch an average of three hours of online video a month and that YouTube had 2.4 billion video views in the month of July. Yes, billion. That's a lot of video viewing. So what are the takeaways from this?

  1. It's a great time to do online video for your organization. People are already there looking for the good stuff. It's not new anymore so you should have an easier time convincing someone that it's a good idea.
  2. Keep the videos brief because an unspoken expectation has now been established, namely that online video viewing is not a major time commitment. People are more likely to give you three minutes rather than five minutes.
  3. The online video world will become increasingly competitive. It's not enough to just do online video. It needs to be remarkable in some way to stand out from the other billion videos.


Crossway seeks bloggers to review new book

Christian book and Bible publisher, Crossway, announced last week that they are giving bloggers the opportunity to review an upcoming book (John Owen's Communion with the Triune God) through a free download. The announcement came via Justin Taylor's personal blog. Justin is an associate editor for Crossway.

The fact that Crossway is using bloggers this way is a great step for them and one that more publishers will likely pursue in the future. Crossway isn't trying to force bloggers to do anything (which indicates an understanding of blog culture) but is simply providing them with an opportunity to get something early in exchange for a review. Crossway can also look forward to the positive Google search results that will ensue. I commend Crossway for taking advantage of Justin's blog readers. It's a great (and informal) way to promote the new book to the very people who are most willing to talk about it. Justin's readers fall right in line with the types of books Crossway produces so they've got a marketing advantage that many publishers can only dream of.

As good as this idea was I think there are two things that would make Crossway's free download promotion even stronger:

  1. Seek to identify and target bloggers with larger numbers of readers. It's great to get bloggers talking about your book. It's even better to get bloggers with a lot of readers to talk about your book. If Crossway identified ten bloggers with significant numbers of readers, it will have a more immediate impact on book awareness and will lead to even more blog posts from the readers of those select blogs but don't forget there's a right way and a wrong way to pitch the idea to the bloggers too.
  2. Don't quit sending out the PDFs after October 1. I expect there's concern within Crossway that they will hurt sales by sending too many digital files of the book. Though that's an understandable concern, I don't believe it should hinder more free reviews of the book. In fact, I would recommend they give the book away as a PDF regardless of whether someone is going to review it or not. I heard Seth Godin say once that he gave a book away as a free PDF and it was downloaded over two million times. It went to #5 on the Amazon.com Best Seller list and he said he made more money on this book than his previous book that was marketed more conventionally. The hard back version was what people wanted after they read a few pages of the free download and decided it was worth the $40 price. Though it's counterintuitive to give it away, what's really being given away with a free download is the initial impression of the book not the book itself. If the reader likes the impression the book makes they'll be sure to get the real thing.


Great iGoogle Gadget: Outlook Integration

Like many people I use Outlook professionally and Gmail personally. For those of us who have adopted Gmail and the full service of Google applications, we long for more integration between our various email accounts and calendars. I know one person who goes so far as to double up her professional calendar on Lotus Notes with her personal Google calendar. I'm personally not willing to do that much double work so when I heard about the Outlook gadget for iGoogle I knew I had to check it out.

Basically, this gadget (not to be confused with a "widget" which is the same thing though Apple has cornered the verbiage on that word so companies like Microsoft and Google have adopted "gadget" to say the same thing) brings your Outlook email, calendar, tasks, and contacts right into your iGoogle page. It's really pretty handy. If there's any drawback to this gadget it's that you have to open the tab in Internet Explorer if you're a Firefox user. The instructions give you a step by step process for how to do that and it's easily done in about two minutes.

I've been using this gadget for a week now and have been happy with it for the most part. If there's anything I dislike most it's just the fact that I have a tab in Explorer and anything I click within iGoogle now opens up as a new Explorer tab. It's not a big deal most of the time but I use the Del.icio.us extension in Firefox and it's not compatible with the Explorer tabs. Like I said, it's not usually a big deal but it has been a speed bump a couple of times. All in all, the benefits have outweighed the drawbacks so I plan to stick with it.

[HT to Ray for the link with other great iGoogle gadgets.]


Video of the Week: The Jena 6

I debated as to whether or not I should use this as the video of the week since I usually do something funny or entertaining but yesterday I was driving through downtown Nashville and passed a car that said "Free the Jena 6" on the back. That's all I needed to know this would be my video this week.

The fact is, racism is very much alive in our country and I was saddened to learn that something like this is still happening even now. Though I would never condone the fight that led to the prosecution, the charge doesn't appear to fit the crime and the reason certainly seems racially motivated.

For more information you can see additional video here:

Here's some info on the upcoming march before the sentencing:

Link for the feed readers:


Is a blog successful with only a handful of readers?

Last week I posted a template for defending the success of a blog and I still have some thoughts on this. There is a prevailing attitude in some circles I've been in recently that a blog for business uses must establish success metrics before the blog is started. As I stated last week, the only reason I can imagine this number is even important is that the organization wants to know how and when to determine that the blog is unsuccessful. That being said, let's look at a scenario that shows why an arbitrary blog success metric just doesn't make sense.

Let's say our example company, Slug Works Incorporated, is interested in a corporate blog but wants to establish metrics of success before they get started. As with any good company, Slug Works Inc. measures all new projects from the outset to determine whether the goals are met in the end. Slug Works management creates a quarterly SWEAR (Slug Works Evaluation of Attainment Report) which is distributed throughout the silos departments to review progress.

Slug Works has decided not to put too much pressure on their blog so they have determined that there must be at least 25 readers from outside the company who are reading the blog regularly. They know they can track this through RSS feed subscriptions and some other services like Blog Flux.

After six months of blogging they decide it's time for a significant evaluation. The marketing Sluggers and performance analysis Sluggers prepare a SWEAR and conclude that the blog is unsuccessful because it hasn't achieved its goal of 25 regular readers. They see that only 12 people actually seem to be interested in the Slug Works blog regularly. They decide to shut the blog down and conclude that blogging is useless because it couldn't even reach half of their moderate goal.

What the Sluggers didn't realize, however, was that they never determined the quality of the readers. They didn't consider that reaching a quantity of readers (in this case an arbitrary quantity of 25) means less than the quality of readers (people who would add to the discussion about their company and extend positive exposure for the company.) In their case, 6 of the 12 regular readers of the Slug Works blog were bloggers themselves who would post about the company from time to time and link back to blog posts on the now defunct blog. Each of those 6 bloggers had relatively few readers of only 12 readers themselves. Though that doesn't seem like much exposure at first glance, the cumulative view reveals that the Slug Works blog had an indirect influence over an additional 72 regular readers by virtue of these other bloggers. When added to the 12 readers the Slug Works blog already had (including those 6 bloggers), the total direct and indirect regular readership is 84 people which is more than three times their original goal. Where the Sluggers saw failure they actually achieved success. Had the Sluggers realized this they might have a different perspective when they look back at the blog and SWEAR.


Template for defending the success of a blog

I was in a situation recently where I was asked to determine how we would measure success for a new blog project for one of our clients. Though the client was generally in favor of blogs there was still a bit of skepticism about their usefulness and ultimate payoff for business purposes. I was peppered with questions about:

  • establishing how much traffic the blog would generate
  • how many comments the blog would receive per post
  • how many RSS subscribers we could expect
  • how many links would be generated by other bloggers
  • how many links would be sent to the client's website
  • how much revenue could be generated with the blog

Fortunately these questions were in an email so I had some time to think about the best way to respond and I ended up with the text below. Since the blog is brand new for this client there is really no way to predict what kind of success the blog will have. I also knew that wasn't going to be a satisfactory answer. I believe statistics are very important for a business blog but my concern was that the client was going to weigh this infant blog down with expectations that would kill it before it was really up and running.

All of this got me thinking about what an unsuccessful blog would be. After all, that's what they were really asking. They really wanted to know when they should pull the plug on it and consider it a failure. I know of a few other bloggers and blog advocates in corporations who are dealing with this same issue right now so here's a template version of my response to the client should you find yourself needing to defend the development a blog in the future:
Dear [company representative]
You have asked some very important questions about determining the success of the new blog. Given the relative new nature of blogs within [company], we don't know what kind of numerical impact the blogs may have on website traffic, content distribution, or the business as a whole. We are tentative to even speculate on what the numbers might be. From a marketing perspective, blogs are another venue for [company] to provide meaningful content to [target customers] who are looking for [company's services].

Though we don't know what the numbers of success looks like yet, we do know what an unsuccessful blog will look like. An unsuccessful blog will have zero readers, no comments, no RSS feed subscribers, no posts that can be found on the first page of a Google search, no links from other bloggers, and no new awareness of [company's] attempt at positioning itself as the best [company's services] resource online. If it is unsuccessful under this definition after six to nine months, the blog should probably be closed due to inactivity and lack of interest.

Thanks for the email. Please let me know if you have any further questions.


Video of the Week: Shadow Puppetry

Sure, we've all played around with a flashlight and made shadow puppets but probably nothing quite like this...

Link for feed readers: