Off the Top: Marketing Entries
From an e-mail chat last week I found out that .net magazine (from the UK) is now on the shelves in the US as "Web Builder". Now that I have this knowledge I found the magazine on my local bookstore shelves with ease. Oddly, when I open the cover it is all ".net".
Rebranding and Crossbranding
In the chat last week I was told the ".net" name had a conflict with a Microsoft product and the magazine is not about the Microsoft product in the slightest, but had a good following before the MS product caught on. Not so surprisingly the ".net" magazine does not have the same confusion in the UK or Europe.
So, the magazine had a choice to not get noticed or rebrand the US version to "Web Builder" and put up with the crossbranding. This is not optimal, as it adds another layer of confusion for those of us that travel and are used to the normal name of the product and look only for that name. Optimally one magazine name would be used for the English language web design and development magazine. If this every happens it will mean breaking a well loved magazine name for the many loving fans of it in the UK and Europe
What is Special About ".net" or "Web Builder"?
Why do I care about this magazine? It is one of the few print magazines about web design and web development. Not only is it one of the few, but it flat out rocks! It takes current Web Standards best practices and makes them easy to grasp. It is explaining all of the solid web development practices and how to not only do them right, but understand if you should be doing them.
I know, you are saying, "but all of this stuff is already on the web!" Yes, this stuff is on the web, but not every web developer lives their life on the web, but most importantly, many of the bosses and managers that will approve this stuff do not read stuff on the web, they still believe in print. Saying the managers need to grow-up and change is short-sighted. One of the best progressive thinkers on technology, Doc Searls is on the web, but he also has a widely read regular column in Linux Journal. But, for me the collection of content in ".net" is some of the best stuff out there. I read it on planes and while I am waiting for a meeting or appointment.
I know the other thing many of you are saying, "but it is only content from UK writers!" Yes, so? The world is really flat and where somebody lives really makes little difference as we are all only a mouse click away from each other. We all have the same design and development problems as we are living with the same browsers and similar people using what we design and build. But, it is also amazing that a country that is a percentage the size of the US has many more killer web designers and developers than the US. There is some killer stuff going on in the UK on the web design and development front. There is great thought, consideration, and research that goes into design and development in the UK and Europe, in the US it is lets try it and see if it works or breaks (this is good too and has its place). It is out of the great thought and consideration that the teaching and guiding can flow. It also leads to killer products. Looking at the Yahoo Europe implementations of microformats rather far and wide in their products is telling, when it has happened far slower in the Yahoo US main products.
Now I am just hoping that ".net" will expand their writing to include a broader English speaking base. There is some killer talent in the US, but as my recent trip to Australia showed there is also killer talent there too. Strong writing skills in English and great talent would make for a great global magazine. It could also make it easier to find on my local bookstore shelves (hopefully for a bit cheaper too).
This past week Boeing cancelled its in plane internet connection services, called Connexion. The service has been in development for six years, but only in limited service for about 18 months. Boeing stated it did not get the acceptance and use of the service it expected. While Boeing was using satellites, which produce solid quality, its competitors are using less expansive and more fickle cellular approaches.
Acceptance Takes Consistency and Ubiquity
If I remember right it was only two or three airline carriers (Luftunsa) that had this service only on some of their planes. The people who I knew who used Boeing's services on airlines loved it, but they were never sure if the plane they were flying on would have access. This lack of consistency lowered the expectations of those who loved the service. These early adopters were reluctant to encourage others as the service may not be available. There are many people that want this type of service and to the level of bullet-proof service Boeing provided.
Air travel (like many others in the service industry) is an industry that is build around habits. Heavy travelers all have very set patterns and even well patterned alternate habits. They have certain airlines they fly (affinity programs encourage this), what airlines they use, hotels, and rental car they depend upon. The big mantra is no surprises and consistency. Packing their travel bags and gear with expectations of that they will need, with a big nod to what will not be needed so it is not packed (lighter travel is better than heavy travel). Depending on internet connection on the plane for many was not consistent and could not planned around.
How would Boeing get to the expected customer base? As a start they should take a lesson from Amazon, which puts innovative ideas in place all the time, but then lets the users catch-up to the tools. With Amazon their early adopters will use and play with their innovations (around which Amazon uses the feedback and iterates the products). Did Amazon announce their gold box? No, they put it out there and tested it and over a couple years it has become a staple that many people use as part of their regular Amazon experience. Amazon is doing similar things with tagging on their product pages and it is growing slowly.
Tagging is another area that is a slow growth. Currently there is less than .5 percent (half of one percent - comprised from Nielsen estimate of 750 Million people on the web and a compiles number of 2 to 4 million people using tagging services, not including blog categories as tagging) of people on the web tagging. Even with all of the hype tagging is still out in the long tail, and is an edge activity. Will tagging hit the next phase of innovation growth and spike in usage, the hockey stick curve, in the near future? It will take patience, consistency, iteration, and much better light bulb moments (quick a ha moments for those not using tagging).
Broadband In Planes Doomed?
It sounds like there are other technologies that are doing similar things to what Boeing was trying, but not as solid. These technologies are less expensive to implement and lower costs for those that fly. Can a poorer technology take off? The VHS (a greatly inferior product to Betamax) took the market.
It seems there is a future for broadband for those companies that can stay for the long run and help build demand and wait for demand to catch-up to innovation.
What I really enjoyed was the apology and lighthearted story. Yes, I am quite looking forward to the next iteration or two from kGTD. But, Ethan connected with his community to keep them close and let them know he still cares about them and even apologized for his absence and lack of communication. This was rare and well done. He just won the hearts of his fans (how have not had to pay for his great contribution to our digital lives).
One things to note (if you are not familiar with kGTD as you are not interested in Getting Things Done (I am not being snarky, just you are not part of the kult) or are on a platform other than Mac) is kGTD caused the software it extends to get redesigned/reengineered to better support the tool. The kGTD fans caused a spike in purchases of OmniOutliner that they embraced many of the fan requests for product improvement. In turn the OmniOutliner had performance increases and functionality improvements that made their over all product much better than it already was. It shows what a great extension or external product layered on top of another product that is open for modifying can do for the whole ecosystem. OmniOutliner had a avid fan base, but it grew even larger and more avid with this kGTD extension. All of the Omni products are great and have deep followings.
The human, "we are just like you", approach to connect with those that use and have interest in the product helps keep it real and friendly. We connect more closely with the developer and the person. It builds a better bond. I have been deeply impressed and interest rekindled.
I have been needing to turn comments back on here in Off the Top. I get really good, er, make that great responses in e-mail to many of my posts here. There needs to be a conversation, which is what blogs are all about and it is in comments that much of this conversation takes place. But, as we all know having comments on is a large problem. Why is it a problem?
Problems Created by the Clueless
The problem with comments is the mis-marketers. No, not those mass marketing, but people with little clue about finding a good information space and bringing up products and ideas when they are coherent, which would be good marketing. Good marketing can be annoying, but it is not good marketing that has made an utter mess of blog comments. These people have not clue, they think they are on to a good idea that will make them wealthy, but like most get rich ideas they do not work. Not only do they not work in this case they create animosity toward the product and site. They are putting themselves on black-lists and lowering the value of what they are trying to inflate the value of. It is a clueless approach. They think they are marketing and creating value, but are actually doing the opposite. These mis-marketers not only have shot themself in the foot (or worse) they have ruined great tools.
I am curious if there is a convention or summit for mis-marketers? Can we get a little Cluetrain juice for them to sip?
Looking At My Options
The mis-marketers have made a mess of e-mail with SPAM, referrer logs, blog comments, and trackbacks (I know I am missing many other good communication methods). My blog is broken, I know this. I am still running my own blogging software from 2001. No, I do not have the time for upkeep. But, I keep looking at the time to convert my database to a format for MovableType or WordPress and keep the nearly 2000 entries still working for historical purposes. I do not see that time coming any time soon.
Within days the G8 Summit kicks off. This time around there is a little pressure to do things that really matter. Adam reminded me that it is well worth the effort to take an interest and to urge people to get involved with G8Reboot
Adobe buys Macromedia was not the news I wanted to wake up to this morning. My sole issue is competition, as with out these two competing there is little push to advance. This is not a huge surprise, as many rumors the last few years that Macromedia was on the block (most were expecting Microsoft to buy it and then spin out ColdFusion and the application tools to an outside buyer).
If this goes through, we have Dreamweaver/HomeSite as the dominant web development tool (it is making great strides towards standards compliant development and GoLive needs much more work), desktop publishing is Adobe only, market share of image editing and creation (Photoshop and Illustrator) go to Adobe, application development goes to Macromedia with ColdFusion, then we have the tough call with Flash and SVG. Flash is dominant, but SVG is open and Flash lite (for mobile) has really upset many developers as the player is up to the carrier and phone maker to deploy, not the content creator. This last step has really pushed many Flash developers away from Macromedia as they work to focus on mobile. Rumors that Adobe was working on a SVG mobile tool with open deployment had many developers for mobile really excited.
My hope would be for Macromedia customer service and pricing and Adobe Premium Suite with Dreamweaver and Flash thrown in for a well rounded package.
A state of the newspaper industry article in today's Washington Post tries to define what people want from newspapers and what people are doing to get information.
Me? I find that newspapers provide decent to great content. Newspapers are losing readers of their print versions, but most people I know are new reading more than one paper, but online. The solutions I see from my vantage are as follows.
The articles rarely have ads that relate to the stories, foolishly missing ad revenues. The ads that are available are distracting and make for an extremely poor experience for the reader. News sites should ban the improperly targeted inducements that rely on distracting from reading the article, which is the reason the person is on that web page. The person has an interest in the topic. There are monetary opportunities to be had if the news outlets were smart and advertisers were smart.
How? If I am reading an article on the San Francisco Giants I would follow and may pay a little something for an ad targeted to this interest of mine. I like to buying Giants tickets, paraphernalia, a downloadable video of the week's highlights, etc. If I am reading about an airline strike a link to train tickets would be a smart option. A news article about problems in the Middle East could have links to books by the journalist on the subject, other background books or papers, links to charitable organizations that provide support in the region. The reader has shown an interest, why not offer something that will also be of interest?
We know that advertisers want placement in what they consider prime territory, the highly trafficked areas of the site. Often this is when the non-targeted ads appear. This is an opportunity to have non-targeted ads pay a premium, say five to 20 times that of targeted ads. The non-targeted ads have to follow the same non-disruptive guidelines that targeted ads follow. This is about keeping the readers around, without readers selling ads does not make any sense.
One area the news site are driving me crazy is access to the archives. The news sites that require payment to view articles in the archives are shooting themselves in the foot with this payment method and amount required to cough up to see an article that may or may not be what the person interested is seeking. The archives have the same opportunity to sell related ads, which in my non-professional view, would seem like they would have more value as the person consuming the information has even more of an interest as they are more than a casual reader. Any payment by the person consuming the information should never be more than the price for the whole print version. The articles cost next to nothing to store and the lower the price the more people will be coming across the associated advertising.
Blogging and personal sites often point to news articles. Many of us choose whom we are going to point to based on our reader's access to that information at any point in the future. We may choose a less well written article, but knowing it will be around with out having to pay extortionist rates to see it is what many of us choose. Yes, we are that smart and we are not as dumb as your advertisers are telling you. We, the personal site writers are driving potential ad revenues to you for free, if you open your articles for consumption.
Loyalty to one paper is dead, particularly when there are many options to choose to get our news from. We can choose any news source anywhere in the world. Why would we choose yours? Easy access, good writing, point of view, segment coverage (special interests - local, niche industries, etc), etc. are what drive our decisions.
I often choose to make my news selections to include sources from outside my region and even outside my country. Why? I like the educated writing style that British sources offer. I like other viewpoints that are not too close to the source to be tainted. I like well researched articles. I like non-pandering viewpoints. This is why I shell out the bucks for the Economist, as it is far better writing than any other news weekly in the U.S. and it pays attention to what is happening around the world, which eventually will have an impact to me personally at some point in the future. I don't have patience for mediocrity in journalism and the standards for many news sources have really slipped over the past few years.
News sources should offer diversity of writing style and opinion of one source will attract attention. The dumbing down of writing in the news has actually driven away many of those that are willing to pay to read the print versions. Under educated readers are not going to pay to read, even if it is dumbed down. Yes, the USA Today succeeded in that, but did you really want those readers at the loss of your loyal revenue streams?
Loyalty also requires making the content available easily across devices. Time and information consumption has changed. We may start reading an article in the print edition (even over somebody's shoulder and want to follow-up with it. We should be able to easily find that article online at our desk or from our mobile device. Integration of access across devices is a need not a nicety and it is not that difficult to provide, if some preparation is done with the systems. Many of us will pull RSS feeds from our favorite news sources and flag things for later consumption, but the news sites have not caught on how to best enable that. We may pull feeds at one location, but may have the time and focus to read them at another location, but we may not have the feeds there. Help those of us that are loyal consume your information in a pan-medium and pan-device world that we live in.
Apple is the Advertising Age Marketer of the Year. They got the kudos for their grassroots efforts. I always think of Microsoft as a great marketing company but have half-assed products. Apple had kick-ass products and goes on reputation, quality, and the marketing they can afford.
This year's award give marketing a good name for once, but they do have products that could sell themselves.
Dave Weinberger points out gross errors Information Week made when graphically comparing perceived problems with Windows and Linux. The error is that the Windows graphic uses a scale of 80 percent, while Linux uses a scale of 40 percent. When you realize this the differences in perception become huge.
Microsoft shows nearly 80 of those surveyed had concerns about their software quality and vulnerabilities, while Linux had less than 25 percent. More than 60 percent felt the cost of ownership is too high with Microsoft, while far less than 5 percent had the same concern with Linux. The Linux perceived problems revolve around a lack of complete and fully integrated software environment (40 percent), accountability if problems arise (above 35 percent), and lack of clear product road map (35 percent). Each of the Linux perceived problems, once you spend time looking into them, is not really a problem, but more of a lack of a company with a large marketing budget. I am hoping that Novel and IBM can really start making headway in this area. The quality of Linux products is far higher than Microsoft's and for nearly every product that Microsoft pushes there is at least an equal product in the Linux community.
Then again there is Apple too.
Saturday's New York Times discusses Deliotte Consulting's Bullfighter a jargon removal tool. This is used to make financial reports and business communication clearer. The application reportedly works much like spell check. The tool even works in PowerPoint, which a well known carrier is the business jargon virus.