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Seeing the world in 2D

Tendocom.com QR CodeYou probably have a digital camera in your pocket or your handbag right now.

Seriously, they’re everywhere. Try finding a cell phone without one. And this means we can all see our embarrassing photos of that Friday night float around to all our friends before we’ve hit the warm embrace of our bed that a.m.

But is that all they’re for? Just passive recorders? Hardly. Imagine if your camera phone could tell you something. How about the date of your favorite band’s next gig? Give you discounts on that new DVD? Take you to the website of the company you saw that cool ad for in the subway?

Well that’s the concept behind 2D bar codes. You’ve probably seen them before on a UPS package, and there are several types. But the ones you’ll see most of are QR codes. These little pixelated squares can contain a surprising amount of information. They’ve been huge in Japan for years now, and they’ve spread across Europe over the last two years (most notably in the ad campaign for 28 Weeks Later), but for some reason the United States has been holding out.

Not anymore.

The communications benefits are huge, be it advertising, viral marketing, or even just a neat way to put information on your business card. Almost any phone can read them with free software. That’s up to 230 million people.

So the question isn’t why use it. The question is this: How can you use it, and why aren’t you already?


April 14, 2008 Posted by | Custom Content, Mobile Content, Multimedia, Target Audience | Leave a comment

Making your content modular

Travelling this week, I finally got caught up on some reading, including EContent magazine’s annual EContent 100 issue. In it, I was struck by how many of the columnists were singing versions of the same tune:

Steve Smith: “ …one of the big stories of 2008 [will be that] everyone finally pays serious attention to content sharing, viral media, widgets, and downloadable media (Podcasts and vodcasts.) From the TV networks on down to trade magazines and B2B events, the task at hand is finding out how to fragment your own content and make it as portable as possible.”

Bob Doyle: “Now more and more content is ‘single-sourced.’ Meaning that it feeds not only the Web, but traditional print materials like advertising, market collateral, and documentation: multichannel publishing and in multiple formats.”

John Blossom: “Long gone is the era in which print, online, audio, and video media formed distinct publishing markets, as is the time when enterprise firewalls defined the boundaries of where professionals discovered professional-grade content.”

Web content creation does not live in its own silo—the walls are coming down. Content is becoming more modular and forward-thinking companies need to approach content in a new way.

One of the exciting areas we’re working on here at Tendo is the development of customized tools that allow a company to strategically manage its content assets. This is not the old “content publishing system.” It’s more than just getting stuff to appear on your website.

It’s about using collaboration tools across the enterprise to give greater visibility into content creation. You can target content toward specific business objectives and leverage it as broadly as possible. You save money and time and increase ROI. Who doesn’t want that?

Ironically, we’re talking about fragmentation as a way to do more integrated marketing. By boiling content into its most modular elements, you increase flexibility and make sure that your messaging is consistent across different communication channels.

If your Web publishing teams are working in isolation, creating content on their own, it’s time to make plans for the new reality. – John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

December 4, 2007 Posted by | Content Management Systems, Content Strategy, Custom Content, John Kovacevich, Web Content | Leave a comment

PDFs with video playback?

PDF documents aren’t just for reading anymore. With Acrobat 8, Adobe’s latest, you can enhance PDF documents with audio and video clips, animated graphics, 3D images that can be manipulated by the user, and forms that can be filled out digitally—all without a live internet connection.

This makes for some pretty cool e-brochures. But the technology isn’t quite ready for mass adoption yet: media-rich PDF files are way too big to be attached to an email, and reading them requires Adobe Reader 5 or later, which many Web users are yet to install.

There are plenty of uses for interactive PDFs in the meantime, such as downloadable catalogues, books, and presentations. Users may not be able to forward these documents, but they’ll retain the same display and print quality as you would expect from a PDF.

To learn more, check out Bob Connolly’s book, Dynamic Media. —Selena Welz, associate managing editor

October 29, 2007 Posted by | Custom Content, Multimedia, Selena Welz | 1 Comment

To comment or not to comment

I’ve noticed a change in my own Web behavior.

More and more, when I finish reading something online I click on “View Comments” to see what others have to say. (I originally typed “what they have to say about the article” but I deleted it because it seems that most of the comments are about the subject of the article and not the article itself. More on this later.)

Whether I’m checking local news on SFGate.com or reading the latest industry blogs, reading comments is an increasing part of my online experience. But do they really add value?

If you can get past the misspellings and vitriol that plague many postings, there are often one or two nuggets that are good for a laugh…but I don’t know that they really illuminate the topic or make me more loyal to that particular news source. They definitely add to the “noise” that is out there on the Web.

In an article in this month’s Esquire, Chuck Klosterman offers four ways to save sports media. He suggests that networks DE-emphasize what he calls “the fan’s perspective.” In doing so, he raises a relevant issue for all of us engaged in online community building:

“It’s easy to become infatuated with working from “the fan’s perspective”: It makes it simple to come across as passionate and charming, and―for a moment―being publicly partisan seemed like a revolutionary concept. But now it’s normative, mostly uninteresting, and never useful. This is best witnessed through caller-dominated talk radio and on Web sites driven by reader comments: By dramatically increasing the amount of discourse, there’s always a decrease in its overall quality.”

As Klosterman suggests, democratizing your website via public comments may have once seemed like a revolutionary concept, but that doesn’t mean that it adds value to either your company or your website visitors.

Some suggest that comment functionality is the “gateway drug” to blogging–allowing people to dip their toe into the blogosphere. But does it add value to your site?

Before you add commenting capability to your own site, it’s worth asking the question: is it useful? Does “increasing the amount of discourse” get you closer to your business objectives?

Another quick note: The comments feature is almost never an effective tool to measure the value of the original content. As I mentioned above, comments tend to be about the subject and not the content presentation.

In other words, you can post content about Britney Spears and generate a lot of comments, but what does that have to do with your business? Would you deem that piece of content more valuable because it generated comments if that increased dialogue never led to a sale? ―John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

September 24, 2007 Posted by | Custom Content, John Kovacevich, Web Content | 2 Comments

Mindful TV

I’ll admit it: I love TV. I watch everything from network standbys to PBS specials to cable access programming. I’ll watch anything once, no matter how bad it is. I used to feel guilty about all the hours I’ve accrued to attain my couch potato status. No so anymore. These days, TV is teaching me something: how to create a better experience for Tendo’s clients.

Some of the best TV shows are leading the way in providing content-rich experiences online. Programs such as Heroes and Lost are extending their reach by creating brand-new content that adds deeper dimensions and richer context to their story lines. The key concept in that sentence is “brand-new”—the content on these sites goes beyond the simple blogs and episode synopses that most TV show websites routinely provide.

Sites like The Hanso Foundation , Oceanic Flight 815, and YamagatoFellowship.org  feature new material that extends and enhances viewers’ experience in totally new ways. Material such as maps of the island or profiles of historical “heroes” deepens viewer engagement, creating strong relationships between the show and its audience.

Of course, new content doesn’t come cheap, and I’m well aware of how much work went into creating these sites, but I think the payoff speaks for itself. —Chris Zender, VP, creative services

May 22, 2007 Posted by | Chris Zender, Custom Content, Multimedia, Web Content | Leave a comment

Outsourcing to the outer limits?

Two people sent me the same article this morning about outsourcing. Seems that a website in Pasadena, California, is outsourcing its coverage of Pasadena politics to two journalists living in—are you sitting down?—India.

In this case, the decision to outsource seems to be based solely on money. The editor and publisher, James Macpherson, estimates that he’ll pay $20,800 in salary for the two writers, who will write about 15 stories per week per person. Cheap deal. The article quotes professors at USC and UCLA bemoaning the state of American journalism, and I have to agree. In his defense, Macpherson says that Pasadena city council meetings are available on the Internet, but puhleeze. If you’re covering a city’s political scene by watching Internet video, you shouldn’t call yourself a journalist. Where’s the local color and nuance? The “man on the street” reactions? Where’s the real reporting?

That said, sometimes outsourcing makes perfect sense. Plus it isn’t always about lowering costs or about hiring someone on the other side of the globe. I “outsource” plenty of tasks in my personal life, usually because I don’t have the time (cooking), the inclination (housekeeping), or the skills (anything that requires a tool box) to achieve the results I want. I’d save some money if I kept these tasks “in-house,” but to me, the benefits outweigh the costs.

At Tendo, our clients hire us for some of the same reasons. They might be terrific at building cars or developing great technologies, but they don’t specialize in creating customer communication programs, nor do they have the manpower to take on the associated challenges. And they don’t need to: They hire us for our expertise and our outside perspective while they focus on their core business.

Tendo, in turn, sometimes outsources, too. We have a stable of freelance writers, for example, that we use when we need specific expertise in a certain subject area. You can’t always have the resident expert on high-energy nuclear physics on staff.

Outsourcing has its limitations—I don’t want writers in Seoul giving me the scoop about Gavin Newsom’s latest scandal—but it can be an efficient and logical solution to a business challenge. —Julie Jares, managing editor

May 11, 2007 Posted by | Custom Content, In the News, Julie Jares | Leave a comment