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30 posts from May 2006

Shoreviews: Content Industry Outlook 2006

Shore is a research organization with a focus on content and technology. I discovered them at the SIIA conference and immediately signed up for their ContentBlogger feed. They also provide a variety of reports, including Content Industry Outlook 2006, which I read last night. This should be required reading for anyone in the content business, period. Here are some of the more interesting excerpts:

Content is defined as information and experiences created by individuals, institutions and technologies to benefit audiences in venues that they value.

…the audience considers themselves the experts as much as any central authority when trying to find the answers to pressing needs. These new authorities may stumble a bit more along the way to their broadening successes, but when they can afford to speak to the world for little more than the cost of a bit of electricity the individuals and institutions equipped with powerful and affordable publishing technologies are going to continue to speak more and more effectively to their audiences – with or without the help of professional publishers.

(Regarding media players who have lost revenue/share/value)…the losses had less to do with categories and more to do with the aggressiveness of companies in those categories to move to a mixture of business models that could capture effectively how people use and pay for content in online venues.

…the real question for book publishers was how to package content more effectively for users that have gravitated to online markets.

Even as a proliferation of user-generated media and open archives of books and other newly digitized materials challenges the value of content produced by mainstream publishers there will be a greater investment in 2006 in ways to accommodate both open access to content and value-add levels of content that require subscriptions or other premium access schemes.

As new services such as Google Base and Alexa Web Crawl make it easier than ever to repackage the world’s content into more usable forms the repurposing of existing content into new services will move beyond user-generated “mashups” into far more sophisticated amalgams and full-blown services.

While some niches of publishing such as journals and magazines targeted to high-end business and consumer audiences will do well with print products in 2006, most sectors of the content industry will find 2006 to be a year in which the need to have Web-first strategies for product development and marketing will be inescapable.

“What business are we in?” is the big fundamental question that takes a long time to answer. When the railroad industry answered “railroads” instead of “transportation” to the question, their days were numbered.

Pew Report: Content Creators are Almost 50 Million Strong

According to a recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, “48 million Internet users have posted content.” Sure, some of this “content” is nothing more than a few photos of the family vacation, but it’s clear the web is rapidly evolving from what was primarily a read-only platform to much more of a read-write one. Other highlights from the report include:

Home broadband grew by 40% from March 2005 to March 2006, from 60 million to 84 million.

DSL is now the dominant broadband connection method, representing 50% of all home broadband connections vs. only 41% for cable. (I’ve got to dump this darned $100+/month cable habit…)

The average monthly service bill for DSL in December 2005 was $32 vs. $41 for cable. (Yet another reminder to dump cable…)

Despite all the hype, only 3% of online users say they use a VoIP service at home. The report shows awareness has gone through the roof, but it’s clear this one hasn’t “crossed the chasm” just yet. Maybe that’s why I haven’t seen so many Vonage commercials on TV in awhile…

More than half of those still using dial-up (60%) apparently are quite happy and have no intention of moving to broadband anytime soon.

While reading Joel Comm’s The AdSense Code this weekend (look for my review of the book shortly), I visited a site he recommends in a chapter on building content: I’m very impressed with the depth of content available on this site, and all of it is freely reusable on your own website/blog, provided you follow EzineArticle’s terms of service. I’m going to read some of the publishing-related articles and am likely re-post the better ones here on my blog in the future. Authors, you should visit this site too as it’s yet another vehicle you can use to broaden your platform, extend your reach, etc.

Hot Job Segment and E-Book Debate

This brief article on talks about the latest red-hot job: online ad sales rep. According to the article, six-figure salaries are the norm and competition for experienced candidates is fierce. As usual, Google appears to be one step ahead of the rest. They’re apparently hiring outside the industry, looking more in the finance and consulting arenas, rather than joining the bidding war for industry veterans. I got a chuckle from the quote attributed to Tim Armstrong, Google’s VP for Ad Sales: "There's a pool of people who are in the rotation plan within the industry, and we generally don't recruit those people proactively any more." Every industry certainly has its share of job-hoppers. I wonder how long it will take before this bubble bursts…

Last week I discovered Mark Glaser’s MediaShift blog (thanks Willem!). He recently started a dialog with a post entitled “Should books be reinvented in a digital format?” I weighed in along with several others. Mark then asked some follow-up questions and posted the results here.

“Web 2.0” Controversy at O’Reilly

Wow. Take a look at this thread over on the O’Reilly Radar blog. I wasn’t aware they are looking to claim full legal, exclusive ownership to the phrase “Web 2.0”, but clearly they are. I didn’t have enough time to read the many comments that have been added to the original post, but it sounds like the community has spoken…

Cashing In with Content, by David Meerman Scott

I first came across David Meerman Scott in the blogosphere and when I saw the title of his book, Cashing In with Content, I couldn’t resist buying it. After starting it a few weeks ago I finally carved out enough time to finish reading it last night.

David has a great writing style and this book is a must read for anyone looking to add value to their website. Don’t just think of content in the traditional sense. David has a lot of great case studies that show how product facts and figures are part of the content world and how that information can and should be used to enhance the user experience.

My favorite section of this book is the first part where he dives into seven different e-commerce sites/solutions: Crutchfield, Alloy, Design Within Reach, mediabistro, Esurance, Aerosmith (yes, Aerosmith!) and The Wall Street Journal. If you’re running an e-commerce site there’s something to be learned from each of these chapters.

The next two parts of the book cover B2B and the combination of Nonprofit, Education, Healthcare and Politics, all with the same case study approach. (Again, David’s writing style is very conversational, so don’t be scared off by the “case study” format.). The last part gets into best practices and lessons learned, a nice summary for all the earlier chapters.

Of the 12 best practices he cites towards the end, my favorites are “When launching a new site, start with a comprehensive needs analysis” and “Include interactive content and opportunities for user feedback.” The first one seems ridiculously obvious, but be honest: Can you really say you did a thorough needs analysis (from your customers’ point of view) when you build and launched your last site?

One Possible Solution for DVR Ad-Skipping?

There have been plenty of stories lately about how TiVo and other DVR’s are wreaking havoc with the network advertising industry. One possible solution is to prevent ad-skipping in future DVR products. Bad solution. You can’t solve this problem by forcing people to do something they don’t want to do. Long before DVRs hit the scene we had all grown accustomed to using “commercial breaks” to run to the bathroom, raid the kitchen, etc., so this is nothing new.

This article from cnet sheds light on a new way to attack this problem: make the ads interesting so that people don’t want to miss them. Here’s an interesting quote towards the end:

Networks and advertisers should start taking advantage of the fact that while material is fast-forwarded, consumers can perceive individual frames.

True. In fact, rather than completely missing the message by making that bathroom/kitchen run during any commercial break for the shows I DVR, I hit the fast forward button and wind up seeing bits and pieces of the ads. More often than not I can tell you what products were just featured in the ads, despite the fact that I “skipped” them…

The AdSense Code, by Joel Comm

Now here’s an author who really understands how to leverage his platform. He’s got a catchy title/cover combination, taking advantage of The DaVinci Code, of course. More importantly, take a look at his blog. He’s offering readers “over $6,900 in bonuses from top Internet success stories.”

Are the tips worth it? For a $15.72 book (discounted price on Amazon), I’d say so. It’s clear a lot of other people agree: The book was ranked #210 overall in Amazon’s book category this morning and it’s already up to #80 at noon east coast time, putting it in the #1 slot on the Computers & Internet list today. It’s too early to say whether he can sustain this sort of momentum, but I applaud the effort thus far.

An author’s platform is more important today than ever before, but it’s not just about sheer numbers and reach. If you’re an author or thinking of becoming one, what platform-related assets do you have to offer your prospective readers? Do you have access to information/material beyond what’s in your book that you could offer up via a blog/website? Could that material be used to help leverage sales of your book?

Update: It's also interesting to watch the effect Joel Comm's book has on other related titles.  For example, O'Reilly's Google Advertising Tools was ranked 8,452 yesterday and has climbed to 585 today while our own Money for Content and Your Clicks for Free jumped from 42,908 yesterday to 1,445 today.  Neither of these were on the Computer & Internet Top 100 before today and now they're both on it.  They're also both on the Amazon list of "What do customers ultimately buy after viewing items like this?" on the detail page for The AdSense Code.  Thanks Joel!

“Blue Ocean Strategy” and “Hot Property”: getAbstract Summaries

As part of my ongoing use of the getAbstract book summaries program I was able to “read” two books on a recent flight home: Blue Ocean Strategy and Hot Property.

Blue Ocean Strategy is all about “hitting ‘em where they ain’t”, in old baseball lingo. In other words, rather than competing in an overcrowded space where all participants suffer from reduced market share and profits, why not move into the “blue ocean” and build a new business where none currently exist? It sounds much simpler than it is, of course, but it still caused me to stop and think. I love this quote:

To fundamentally shift the strategy canvas of an industry, you must begin by reorienting your strategic focus from competitors to alternatives, and from customers to non-customers.

Read that again. In just about any business out there it’s accurate to say the number of non-customers far exceeds the number of customers. What can you do to convert those non-customers? What sort of new product would lure them in? Most of your non-customers don’t even know you exist, so you not only have to create a completely new, exciting product, but you’ve got to figure out how to raise awareness. If you think about great new product developments of the past I’ll bet most of them weren’t created so much to beat a competitor as they were to establish a new industry.

One final (great) quote from this one:

Non-customers tend to offer far more insight into how to unlock and grow a blue ocean than do relatively content existing customers.

Hot Property’s subtitle is The Stealing of Ideas in an Age of Globalization. It talks not only about the IP theft that’s so widespread today and how the U.S. is “the world’s most zealous intellectual property cop”, but also how the U.S. “owes its Industrial Revolution to some astonishing instances of industrial espionage.” One of the excerpts notes that “Hamilton and Congress wanted to rapidly industrialize the United States…by whatever means necessary…America thus became the world’s premier legal sanctuary for industrial pirates.” Very interesting.