Monday, June 30, 2008

Recovering Journalist issues Rx for the newspaper industry

Back in February I posted about some of the problems plaguing newspapers and offered up a few ideas on what the industry can do about it. Yesterday, a friend sent me a link to a post on Recovering Journalist that reflects some of my opinions, only more eloquently and with much more depth than I did. A sample:

1. Make the Web the primary product. Stop pasting the newspaper onto a screen. Reorganize the newsroom so that its work appears online as quickly as possible. Breaking news, enterprise and feature stories should be put on the Web as soon as they're ready. Period. The printed paper should be a snapshot of what's online at 11 pm, and that's about it. Publishing on the Web should drive priorities, not publishing in print. And embrace the technology: news Web sites should be full of Web 2.0 goodness like interactive maps, social networking tools, RSS feeds, distribution to mobile devices, etc. Use the medium to its fullest.
I disagree with one of the ideas in the post, however: RJ's call for the end of the editorial page. (I think the Journal Gazette opinion page is one of the best things about the paper, and it offers exactly the kind of hyperlocal coverage that RJ advocates for elsewhere in his post.) For the most part, though, RJ's Rx is just what the doctor ordered.

Breakthrough ad ideas from Toxel.com

At some point, someone probably said no to all the ideas shown in this post from Toxel.com. The finance guy said they were too expensive to execute. The media buyer said they didn't fit into the plan. And the lawyers--well, they said no before you even finished explaining what you were trying to do.

But here's the thing: someone eventually said yes. And when you have a good, breakthrough idea, all you need is for the right people to say yes, regardless of how many people say no. It's a little harder than doing the same thing as everyone else, but in today's communication environment, can you really afford to do the
same thing as everyone else?

Sunday, June 29, 2008

L.A. Times picks up TwitLit story

Sunday is the slowest-traffic day at SBB, so it's a good day to indulge in some shameless self-promotion: when I was on vacation, a friend e-mailed me this Los Angeles Times story on Copyblogger's TwitLit contest, including a mention of my second-place entry. It's definitely the most mileage I've ever gotten out of 140 characters, although I still haven't done much with Twitter. But there was a time when I didn't understand why anyone would start a blog, either. And if I hadn't started a blog, I probably never would have read Copyblogger or participated in the contest. So you never know.

An Emphasis on productivity

Thanks to Nicole Wilkins, my post on "Productivity tips for every hour of the day" was reprinted in the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce's Emphasis publication on Friday. Nicole was a participant in the YLNI Leadership Institute session that I facilitated, and she's a contributor to the Chamber's blog, The Daily Dose*.

One thing I wanted to mention based on some good-natured comments I've received since Friday: no, I don't always take my own advice. There are plenty of days when I eat lunch at my desk, stay well past five, put off the tough tasks, and waste time. But I still think it's important to do what you can, when you can--which is the main idea behind the post. Even if you don't start your day the right way, you still can be productive. You just need to pick your spots, and do what works for you. So don't try to do it all--just do as much as you can, and you'll get more done and have more time to do the things you really want to do.


*Which was just picked up for national syndication by Amazon.com and Newstex. So, congrats, Nicole, and everyone else at The Daily Dose.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The best way to be more productive

Want to find more hours in the day? Watch less TV. Seriously.

If you can't go cold turkey, watch your favorite shows when on
Hulu instead. You'll sit through fewer ads, and you can watch on your schedule, not the networks'.

Who's who in Fort Wayne print publications

Similar names, ownership changes, and other factors have made for a lot of confusion about who's who in Fort Wayne print publications. In an attempt to clear up some of the confusion, here's a quick rundown of the major players:

- Fort Wayne Newspapers is the parent group of the two dailies, the
Journal Gazette and the News-Sentinel. The JG publishes every day, the NS every day but Sunday. The JG is independently/privately owned; the NS is owned by Ogden Newspapers

- FWN also publishes a monthly lifestyle magazine, titled--appropriately enough--Fort Wayne Monthly

- Business People is a monthly glossy magazine from Michiana Business Publications, which also publishes a quarterly lifestyle mag, Fort Wayne Living

- The KPC Media Group publishes a weekly business tabloid, the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, and a free monthly lifestyle magazine, Greater Fort Wayne Family. KPC also owns the Times Community Publications--five free shoppers delivered by mail: Aboite & About, the Dupont Valley Times, the East Allen County Times, the Georgetown Times, and the St. Joe Times, (KPC also publishes several northeast Indiana newspapers)

- Providence Communications publishes Upstate Indiana Business Journal--which used to be the
Fort Wayne Business Journal--and Fort Wayne Woman

- WhatzUp
is a weekly music/entertainment/nightlife tabloid

- The
Fort Wayne Reader is a weekly independent newspaper. FWR and Ink, a weekly newspaper focused on the African-American community, are owned by Diversity Media Group

-
Frost Illustrated is another weekly focused on the African-American community

Let me know if I've missed anything.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This photo worries me

(Click to enlarge) Nothing to worry about, you say, because the gadgets are pointed away from the driver? Well, it's from the UK, so guess which side the steering wheel is on?

Sometimes it's worth sacrificing some productivity in order to focus on the task at hand. Driving would be one of those times.


Photo: from the
travel-i.co.uk website.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Recommended reading: Let My People Go Surfing

Last week, I mentioned Yvon Chouinard's Let My People Go Surfing in my a post entitled "What I learned on my summer vacation." I checked the book out after reading about it on AdPulp, a blog that says a lot of things I like about advertising, marketing, and life in general. It's no surprise, then, that I enjoyed Let My People Go Surfing quite a bit. It's not for everyone, but if you're looking to make your work life more meaningful, become a better marketer, or learn more about some the most pressing environmental and political challenges we face, it's definitely worth your attention. It covers a lot of ground, and it's not your average business book. But that's what makes Let My People Go Surfing so worthwhile.

Instead of writing a review, I'm going to excerpt a few of my favorite passages. If you like what you read here, I'd encourage you to check out the rest of the book*.

----------------------------
I've been a businessman for almost 50 years. It's as difficult for me to say those words as it is for someone to admit to being an alcoholic or a lawyer.

I've never respected the profession. It's business that has to take the majority of the blame for being the enemy of nature, for destroying native cultures, for taking from the poor and giving to the rich, and for poisoning the earth with the effluent from its factories.

Yet business can produce food, cure disease, control population, employ people, and generally enrich our lives. And it can do these good things and make a profit without losing its soul. That's what this book is about.
----------------------------
Everything we personally own that's made, sold, shipped, cleaned, and ultimately thrown away does some environmental harm every step of the way, harm that we're either directly responsible for or is done on our behalf.

All the more reason, when we consider the purchase of anything, to ask ourselves, both as producers and consumers: Is this purchase necessary? Do I really need a new outfit to do yoga? Can I do well enough with something I already have? And will it do more than one thing?
----------------------------
People who aren't in the clothing business can count themselves lucky not to have the problem of fit. The way a company sizes clothes--what you call a small or a medium, whether you design for physically fit people or those who aren't--will always satisfy some customers and distress and turn away others. At Patagonia we pattern our sizes to our core consumers, who are active and in better shape than the average snowmobiler or bait fisherman. This may mean we lose potential customers in order to keep our core customers happy. So be it.
----------------------------
When I die and go to hell, the devil is going to make me the marketing director for a cola company. I'll be in charge of trying to sell a product that no one needs, is identical to its competition, and can't be sold on it merits. I'd be competing head-on in the cola wars, on price, distribution, advertising, and promotion, which would indeed be hell for me. I'd much rather design and sell products so good and unique that they have no competition.
----------------------------
I don't really believe that humans are evil; it's just that we are not very intelligent animals. No animal is so stupid and greedy as to foul its own nest--except humans.
----------------------------
It's no wonder we're no longer called citizens but consumers. A consumer is a good name for us, and our politicians and corporate leaders are reflections of whom we have become. With the average American reading at only an eighth-grade level and nearly 50 percent of Americans not believing in evolution, we have the government we deserve.

With our winner-take-all, nonproportional system of government in the United States and with all branches of federal government and major media under conservative, antienvionrmental control, a lot of citizens are left disenfranchised. Now more than ever we need to encourage civil democracy by speaking out, joining up, volunteering, or supporting these groups financially so we can still have a voice in democracy.
*If you don't, there's always Who Cut the Cheese? or Great is Good or whatever the hell they're called.

Monday, June 23, 2008

"Slap me in the face and call me had"


This 2-minute video from Current.com is great even if you don't watch
Man vs. Wild. But if you've heard Bear Grylls talk, it's even better.

Hat tip: AdFreak

Ian Lurie Justifies Internet Marketing

I've been pretty critical of some Internet marketing strategies recently. And while I stand by everything I've said, I think this post from Ian Lurie's Conversation Marketing is dead on.

Rhymes with "Dork Invaders"

Not content to sit by while Barack Obama gets all the kids' votes, the McCain campaign has introduced a new Facebook app called "Pork Invaders." Maybe I'm wrong, but it may not be the best idea for the last hawk standing to remind people of his fondness for bombing the crap out of stuff.

Hat tip: AdRants

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Branding series available as a PDF

My three-part branding series for Business People is now available in one PDF. Feel free to use it however you'd like (with attribution if reprinted elsewhere, please).

She probably thinks Kim Possible is a total harlot

This from this morning's Journal Gazette, in a story about "Toll Road detractors":

Everyone seems to agree that bringing electronic tolling to Indiana was long overdue. But the advertising campaign urging Hoosiers to purchase a transponder, which saves them money on tolls, is another thing.

i-Zoom Girl is the buxom superhero mascot of the program. She was created by a South Bend advertising firm and has been on billboards and radio ads for months in the northern region of the state.

“I am mortified by the action figure I saw advertising these changes,” said Beth Williams, of Goshen, in a letter sent to Lt. Gov. Becky Skillman. “The year is 2008. How could anyone think that a large breasted, small waisted, scantily clad Barbie-type figure would be appropriate for this new venture?”

Williams says she is not a prude but found the mascot offensive and suggested instead that perhaps a race car might better fit the campaign.

A few notes:
  • Actually, Williams is a prude
  • Buxom ain't what it used to be, apparently
  • Not sure which "South Bend advertising firm" this is, but I feel your pain
Scan from the Journal Gazette, because despite my best efforts to find her online, I-Zoom Girl appears to be too sexy for the web

This is the final installment of my three-part series on branding that appeared in Business People. The other two are here and here.

Launching your brand
Tips for starting from scratch--or starting over

This is the last of my three ProSpeak columns about branding. You’ve read about what branding isn’t, and learned from the example of a few world-class brands. Now comes the most important part: putting those lessons to use with your own brand launch.

Whether you’re introducing a new brand or looking to re-energize an existing one, there are a few important steps to follow. The key is to invest in some not-so-glamorous groundwork before taking your brand public. You’ll need patience, but this approach will make the end result well worth the wait.

Here’s what it takes to make sure all systems are go for a successful launch:

1. Get real. Successful brands are authentic: they communicate a consistent message that accurately reflects the experience customers have when they interact with your product or service. This authenticity is a direct result of differentiation: great brands don’t attempt to be all things to be all people, but instead try to offer something distinctive to one specific audience. It’s crucial, therefore, to know your brand’s strengths and weaknesses. You’ll likely recognize some of these on own your own, but you also may be too biased to see things as they are.

That’s why research is a vital component of your launch. By gathering opinions from your customers, and from your competitors’ customers, you can get an objective opinion of what you do well, where you need improvement, and what points of differentiation you can authentically claim. Each market and each target audience comes with its own challenges, so it’s important to rely upon more than guesswork. Work with an established research partner who can help you determine whether a qualitative or quantitative study best fits your needs.

2. Set goals. One of the most common misconceptions about marketing is that results are hard to quantify. In reality, however, every dollar you invest should elicit a response—but you have to know what response you’re aiming for, and how you’ll measure success.

How does this translate to a brand launch? That depends on what kind of product or service you offer, of course, but it also depends upon why you’re launching your brand:

  • Are you simply trying to build awareness? If so, you’ll need baseline research to understand your customers’ existing perceptions, including perceptions about your competitors. You’ll also need to conduct follow-up research to see whether your efforts moved the needle.
  • Are you looking to generate media coverage? Then you’ll want to engage a clipping service and use technology to help you learn when you’ve been covered in the media and what dollar value you can ascribe to that coverage.
  • Maybe you want to elicit a response from interested prospects. In that case, you’ll need to track inquiries carefully, either with a phone number, business reply cards, a specific website landing page, or a combination of touch points.

No matter what your goal is, be sure that you continually measure your progress so you can adapt as needed.

3. Educate your staff. Branding is often seen as the marketing department’s responsibility, but marketing just oversees the effort. In reality, branding is the responsibility of everyone at your company. In fact, those who have significant customer contact are your strongest brand advocates, since the things they say and do often will determine whether you retain your customer or lose him or her to a competitor. Accordingly, then, they need to know what branding is and why it’s important to your success.

Consider working with a partner who can give your staff an overview of branding. Provide an opportunity for your staff to see how they already are branding experts, given their experience as consumers. Then shift their perspective to their position in the organization. After they buy into the power brands have over their own choices, it will require little effort to show them how their words and actions influence others’ choices. Demystifying branding will go a long way toward making them understand how important they are to your success.

4. Audit your message. If you’re relaunching an existing brand, you need to take a good look at everything you use to communicate with customers. Your website, advertising, brochures, logo, and even identity materials like your business cards and letterhead may need to change so you don’t send a mixed message. This certainly may mean you need to make a substantial investment in your new brand, but it’s worth the expense—and less costly than cannibalizing your own message and sabotaging your own brand launch.

Most importantly, this is the time to decide who you’re going to target and what messages you’ll use to communicate with them. Armed with your research findings and your goals, you should be able to pinpoint the right audience. Just remember that your target should be specific, and your message should be designed to resonate only with them.

5. Launch. Now you’re ready to get your message out to your customers and prospects. This may entail an advertising campaign, public relations efforts, or a combination of the two. The specific tools you use will depend upon what you hope to accomplish. But committing to the four preceding steps will help clarify which tactics are most likely to succeed.

As I’ve discussed throughout this series, nearly every type of organization can benefit from the development of a robust brand. There are no shortcuts, and it requires some investment on the front end, but it’s well worth the effort. By building a brand that stands out, you’ll make it easy for others to connect with your story, including the people who matter most—your customers.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Stop trying to reach "everyone"

Submissions to the News-Sentinel's Daily Rant are rarely rational or even coherent. Sometimes, they're just plain nuts. But today's entry is a useful reminder of how easy it is to be myopic about your product, service, idea, or world view:

Let’s turn the old OmniSource building into a giant quilt center! We could have festivals aplenty downtown, and it would bring an estimated $6.7 million into the community! Plus, everyone loves quilts!*
I don't love quilts. Do you love quilts?

Starting with the premise that "everyone" loves something is a sure way to fail in reaching your audience. Be vigilant about cutting as many people out of your target audience as possible. Don't aim for the masses. Shrink to grow.

*I have no idea where the $6.7 million figure comes from, but Rant ravers usually make up for their lack of facts with their enthusiasm.

You can't fake authenticity

A recently-released buyer survey on PhotoShelter.com reveals that even as stock photo sites proliferate, art directors and creative directors are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with stock photos. As important as authenticity in communication has become, this is no surprise. You can't fake authenticity, and it's hard to get a model to pose in a way that looks spontaneous.

This is definitely a case where the "Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick Two." rule applies. Stock photos are are fast and cheap. Want good? Well, you'll have to concede either fast or cheap. And you'll need to hire a photographer. (If you're looking for one, I highly recommend this guy.)

Hat tip: AdRants

Thursday, June 19, 2008

NPR's "The E-Mail Age": a must read/listen for today's communicator

Great series this week from NPR: "The E-Mail Age." Since Sunday, our public radio friends have covered everything from "nettiquette" to "e-mail bankruptcy"--when you decide to just delete everything in your inbox and start over.

A few highlights:

  • From "Make It Stop! Crushed by Too Many E-Mails": "E-mail is at risk of killing its own usefulness. Daily e-mail volume is now at 210 billion a day worldwide and increasing"
  • From "Help! Family Spam Is Crushing My Inbox!":"[E]-mail etiquette expert Judith Kallos recalls an especially contentious e-mail brawl involving a mother who became so offended that her grown daughter had asked her to stop forwarding political content that she disowned her."
  • From "E-Mail, the Workplace and the Electronic Paper Trail": "By some estimates, more than 90 percent of the cost of a lawsuit today can come from sorting through e-mails and other electronic documents to determine which ones are relevant to the case."
One big takeaway from all of this: the more e-mails we get, the more useless each individual e-mail becomes. And that's why this is becoming more likely.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I "hope" they "change" this ad



Texas's Central Kia does its part to remind all of us that most advertising is pretty lame.

Hat Tip: AdPulp

Really simple video on RSS feeds



I'm a big fan of RSS feeds because of the way they simplify my time online. I subscribe to feeds from about 50 blogs, as well as everything from daily news from Journal Gazette and the latest entries on the Snopes.com Urban Legends site. With a quick browse through Google Reader, I cover a lot of ground in just a few minutes. If I had to visit these same pages individually to see when they were updated, I'd never keep up.

I'm such a big believer in RSS that last night I planned to find a video explaining how it works so I could post it here. Well lo and behold, The Good City has beat me to it, posting about Common Craft's "RSS in Plain English" video earlier today. In just three minutes, you'll learn how to save yourself hours a month.

So, how did I find out about the Good City post? An RSS feed to Google Reader, of course.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

SlideRocket: ready for launch



If you've read Seth Godin's "Really Bad PowerPoint" e-book*, you're well aware of some of the limitations of presentation software. Now, however, there's an alternative that promises to take presentation design into a whole different stratosphere: Slide Rocket. One of the key advantages of SlideRocket is that it's web based, which allows you to access presentations remotely and seamlessly search for and embed files from sources like Flickr and YouTube. It may be good enough to make PowerPoint...well, pointless. Check out product demos and blog or sign up for the beta at sliderocket.com.

*And if you haven't read it, you really should.

Hat tip: Brandswag

Monday, June 16, 2008

Cuban on YouTube vs. Hulu

I'm a big Hulu fan, so it's no surprise that I liked Mark Cuban's latest post. The whole thing is worth a read, but here's a decent summary:

[B]y next year, not only will Hulu have more monetizable traffic than Youtube, but it will have more total revenues than Youtube as well. It wouldn't suprise me if they are already at a higher annual run rate than Youtube.
Hulu's kind of new, so this is a bold statement. But I'm willing to bet that Cuban is exactly right.

Philly.com says fake online campaign kicks butt


Philly.com has a message for people like me who are a little skeptical about the effectiveness of online advertising: "kiss my derrière."

Last week,
Philadelphia Media Holdings ran ads on the web and in the Inquirer and the Daily News for Derrie-Air, "the world's only carbon-neutral luxury airline." The ads clicked through to a landing page that described Derrie-Air's unique pricing strategy:

The magic comes from our one of a kind "Sliding Scale"—the more you weigh, the more you'll pay. After all, it takes more fuel—more energy—to get more weight from point A to point B. So we will charge passengers based on how much mass they add to the plane. The heavier you and your luggage are, the more trees we'll plant to make up for the trouble of flying you from place to place.
Prices were listed by the pound--$1.40/lb. from Philadelphia to Chicago, for example--and customers were offered amentities ranging from "spacious private washrooms outfitted with porcelain fixtures and gilded faucets" to "loofah scrubs." For anyone who still didn't get the joke, this disclaimer appeared at the bottom of the page:
The Derrie-Air campaign is a fictitious advertising campaign created by Philadelphia Media Holdings to test the results of advertising in our print and online products and to stimulate discussion on a timely environmental topic of interest to all citizens. All names, identities, characters, persons, whether living or dead, companies, situations, offers, products, services, and other information appearing in this campaign and the associated website are fictitious. Any resemblance to real or fictitious names, identities, characters, persons, whether living or dead, companies, situations, offers, products, services, or other information, is purely coincidental and unintentional. In other words, smile, we're pulling your leg.
So what were the results of the "test"? According to SmartBrief.com, the campaign garnered a 1.25% click rate, "well above the U.S. industry average 0.05%*."

Now, I don't want to seem like the fun police, and I give Philly.com credit for having a sense of humor. But I also think the campaign outperformed most online ads mainly due to referrals from:
  • People who got the joke and wanted to share it
  • People who were curious and wanted to check things out more closely (in other words, people who were tricked into clicking)
  • People in the ad industry who heard about the campaign
  • People at Philly.com who were proud of their own work
So was the Derrie-Air campaign representative of how online advertising truly performs? No. But it does reveal something that's true of all advertising efforts: create a remarkable product that seems too good to be true, and you'll get attention. Of course, that attention only matters if your product really exists.

*A rep recently gave me an industry average of 0.02%. Sounds like Derrie-Air's pricing isn't the only thing with a "sliding scale."

Why I'm losing confidence in online advertising

Yes, my faith in mass media marketing has been slipping for a long time. But I don't think online ads are much better. Why? Well, first there are these stats from a recent campaign we did for a client:

Page views purchased: 90,000 views

Page views delivered: 117,003 views

Clicks to website 96 clicks

Yield: 0.08%*

*According to a rep from this same portal, the national average yield is 0.02%

So we did 4 times better than the national average...and still got less than 100 click throughs out of more than 100,000 impressions.

All of this is great reminder that online advertising has all of the same challenges as traditional media advertising. One of the only advantages online offers, in fact, is the ability to measure results. So if you do a online ad campaign, be sure to ask for the numbers after your campaign runs. It's a good reality check on what you're getting for your money.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

What I learned on my summer vacation

A few marketing lessons learned (or relearned) from a trip to seven states in six days:

- Word of mouth trumps everything else. I stayed at three hotels during my trip. I picked one due to great reviews in a travel book, and rejected another after reading some bad reviews online. And just about all the cities I chose to visit (and spend money in) were recommended by friends.

- Mass media is becoming increasingly irrelevant. Before I went on vacation, I posted about my media consumption habits. My increasing skepticism about the power of mass media was only reinforced by six days with no radio (listened to CDs, my MP3 player, or nothing at all the whole time), almost no TV (but I did watch about an hour of stuff on Hulu), and very little printed newspaper (skimmed the Panama City News-Herald a couple of mornings, and quickly flipped through the Savannah Morning News one day). I used the Internet a lot less, too. Do I wish I spent less time outside, on the beach, and in the water so I could consume more mass media? Nope. Does this reinforce my sense of urgency with regard to how hard it is to reach today's audiences? Yep.

- Better to do nothing than to put up a bad billboard. Billboards were the mass medium I saw the most of on my trip, but most of them were bad. If it's behind a tree, or you include 87 words on it, or three photos, or it's 200 feet from the road and you use a small font, it's a waste of money.

- But good billboards work. One of my hotel stops and most of my fast food stops were influenced by clean, simple billboards. There's nothing wrong with just using a big logo and an exit number in a really big font.

- And digital billboards are distracting. More than I originally thought, in fact. When the message changes, your eyes are attracted to the sign. Good for advertisers. Bad for drivers. This concerns me a little bit as I see digital billboards becoming more and more common.

- Your customers want you to succeed. In thinking of myself strictly as a consumer for a few days, it occurred to me that we marketers sometimes treat the customer as an adversary--but that's rarely the case. Whether I was eating, shopping, or sightseeing, I was willing to pay for good service, good products, and a good experience. It only got adversarial when promises (implicit or explicit) were not kept.

- Let My People Go Surfing is a great read. After reading this post on AdPulp, I checked out Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard's Let My People Go Surfing and took it with me on vacation. I'll post more on the book later, but it's a must read for anyone trying to find out how to make a living without compromising their beliefs.

- Want to learn what's not important? Go on vacation. This was my first vacation since last July, and it was good reminder that a lot of the stuff on my desk that seems urgent really isn't.

Photo: Bay.tv

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Your chance to Bite Back

After nearly seven months of just-about-daily blogging, I'm taking a week off from posting. So now I want to hear from you:

  • What do you like about SoundBite Back?
  • What would you change?
  • What topics would like to learn more about?
  • What else would you suggest?
Leave your ideas in the comments, or e-mail them to me at ajjuliano@gmail.com. Thanks for your input.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Is Taco Bell sportin' a Woody?


According to a recent post on Serious Eats, the new Taco Bell "Why Pay Mo'" campaign was inspired by Fort Wayne native Joe Woody's "Fast Food Freestyle" viral video. Well, if you ask some people, "inspired" is probably a little too generous. Does anyone know if Taco Bell gave Joe some dinero, or did they cross the border into plagarism?

Hat tip: A friend who is earnest even when it comes to food blogs

Marketing is the start of the conversation, not the whole conversation

If you think you have too many words in your ad, brochure, flyer or e-mail, you're probably right. Instead of trying to say everything, focus on saying the right thing at the right time, in as few words as possible. Remember, the best marketing pieces aren't monologues that replace real world conversations--they're designed to facilitate an ongoing dialogue. The less copy you write, the more likely it will be read--and that you'll be invited to have another conversation.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What do you watch, listen to, and read?

This morning, one of the first things I did was walk outside and grab the Sunday paper. It's an old habit dating back to when I was a kid living just outside of Boston. Every Sunday, with few other things competing for my attention, I'd study the Red Sox box score in the Globe and read the weekly Peter Gammons column. This usually served as a gateway read, exposing me to issues and ideas throughout the rest of the paper that I might not have heard about otherwise. This was a good thing for a kid whose thoughts usually only ranged from Hank Aaron to Paul Zuvella.

Today, of course, things are different. The
Journal Gazette is part of my Sunday morning ritual, but I spend significantly less time with the paper than I used to. That is somewhat a result of having less time, but it's also a reflection of my changing media habits. And I'd bet your habits are changing, too. All of us have more choices, which usually means less time spent with traditional media--newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio--in favor of new media.

All of this got me thinking about how it's much more difficult for advertisers to reach me these days, and much less likely that I'll be exposed to "unfiltered" information from outside my range of interests, for better or for worse. Here's a snapshot of how much time I spend with ad-supported media. How much opportunity does anyone have to reach me with an unsolicited message?

- The Internet is the big kahuna of my media consumption time. I spend at least an hour a night on the web, and as much as three hours some nights during the week. That doesn't count the time I spend on the web while at work, or the hours I'm online on the weekend, which vary from a couple to a couple dozen. However, I believe banner blindness is very real, and I can think of only about three times when I've clicked on a web ad. However, I know word of mouth (through e-mail, blogs, customer reviews, etc.) has a big effect on me, as does PR/earned media. In short, if you want to reach me, the web is where you'll find me. But it's unlikely you'll reach me with an ad.

- TV is where I most clearly divert from the norm. The only TV in my house is the one my wife has had since college (and she graduated in 1990). There is no such thing as "must see" TV in my world, and it's rare that I turn it on for anything other than occasional background noise. And while I'd like to attribute my rejection of TV to some Zen state of being or a preference for more high-brow activities, I'll steal a quote from Lev Grossman*: "I can get away with not having a TV partly because my personal life is so amazingly rich and satisfying but mostly because I have a computer." In fact, instead of upgrading my TV, I'm thinking of getting rid of it altogether.

- Radio is also a low-impact medium for me. When I'm in the car, I usually listen to a CD or I'm on the phone. I listen to a decent amount of NPR stuff on WBOI/98.1, but other than that, radio is a nonentity. And WBOI is, of course, "commercial free." So unless you're a public radio underwriter (sidenote: I don't think there's much of a distinction between advertising and underwriting), you won't get my attention.

- Newspapers and me, as mentioned above, go way back. But that's not to say that my newspaper reading habits haven't changed. In addition to Sunday, I read the paper on Saturday since its delivered as part of the ever-expanding Journal Gazette "weekend" subscription (which I think now includes everything but the third Tuesday of the month). Other than that, though, I almost never read a printed copy of the JG, and I read other papers only rarely, except when a blog post or a friend directs me to a story online. I used to go to the Fort Wayne Newspapers website just about every day, but now I have the sections I'm interested in--Local, Business, and Opinion--"delivered" to me via RSS feeds. And when Google Reader is your morning paper, guess how many ads you see? (Well, at least until next week.)

- Magazines still get some of my discretionary time. I subscribe to a few, and because they're aligned with my interests I'm sure the ads I see have some impact on me. The ones I read regularly include
Runner's World and Men's Health (although I'm almost certain to cancel my subscription soon since all they write about is food, sex, and abs exercises...I'm not sure why I subscribed to begin with), and local publications like the Greater Fort Wayne Business Weekly, Business People, and Fort Wayne Monthly. But overall, my time spent with magazines is declining. A great example is Time, which I subscribed to for more than 10 years before canceling a couple years ago. It just seemed like most of its content was old news by the time it hit my mailbox. This is where local magazines have an advantage, because it's hard to find the same information on the web and the content is potentially more relevant to my information needs.

- Outdoor is the one medium that seems to be least impacted by new media. But it's also among the media most likely to be executed in a way that makes it totally ineffective. Creating a billboard is deceptively difficult, but if you follow the rules of good design, I'll listen to what you have to say. But only for about three seconds.

As someone in marketing, I continue to use myself as a reality check when considering how to connect an audience and a message. It's not easy today, and it's not going to get any easier as technology continues to give us more choices.

How about you? What do you watch, listen to, and read? How have your media consumption habits changed during the past few years?

*Recommended reading: Lev Grossman's "
Getting Rid of My TV" at time.com