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Social and downloadable media at Ad Tech ‘08

Ad Tech ’08 took place in San Francisco last week and I managed to make a few sessions and wander the exhibition hall. Ad Tech is a digital marketing conference for media, publishing, marketing, and technology professionals. Basically, anyone who’s interested in the tools, strategy, and opportunities of online marketing. Here are some observations and data points that may help inform your customer engagement efforts.

Session: “Social media marketingthe value proposition”

Panel featuring MySpace, Target, Electronic Arts
• eMarketer magazine reported that $1.6b will be spent on social media marketing this year, and $2.4b by 2010
• MySpace had 73 million unique visitors in March, an increase of 7%
• Facebook saw 35 million unique visitors in March, an increase of 9%
• EA and Target say they’re beyond the experimental phase and plan bigger social media marketing investments (details on Target’s successful ’07 Facebook back to school campaign can be found in my April Tendo View article)

My take:
• The early adopter marketers have learned “what works”
• Social media audiences will embrace a campaign, if it’s done right
• Social media networks are growing in size and audience demographics
• Companies should investigate social media

Session: “Marketing with downloadable media” (podcasts)

Panel featuring Jim Louderback, former editor of PC magazine, now CEO of Revision3; Kin Robles, a producer at National Podcasting System; Mark McCrery of Podtrac, a podcast ad-serving network; and Roxanne Darling, host of “Beachwalks with Rox,” a popular daily podcast in which she ruminates on anything and everything while walking her black Labrador on the beaches of Hawaii.

My take on podcasts:
• The time is right to investigate
• They can help you engage a hard-to-reach, highly desirable audience
• They present a low-cost way to reach a broad audience with viral content
• Their popularity reflects the rise in user-controlled “on demand” media

Here are some stats from a recently released Edison Media research report, “The Podcast Consumer Revealed: An Exclusive Early Look at the Growing Podcast Audience.”

• Podcast listeners are generally more affluent, well-educated, and spend more money online
• Podcast listeners represent a 50/50 split among men and women and demonstrate high levels of avoidance behaviorthey know how to evade marketing
• 40% increase in consumption of audio podcasts between ’07 and ‘08
• 21% of Americans (54 million) have watched or listened to downloadable media
• Ad recall rates from podcasts are 47% higher than traditional ad spotsa highly engaged audience!
• 75% of podcasts are accessed through iTunes
• The most viewed/listened to iTunes shows get between 160,000 and 250,000 views/listens per episode

—Bill Golden, managing editor

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April 23, 2008 Posted by | Bill Golden, Multimedia, Web Content | 1 Comment

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

I want my online TV

For once in my life, I’m an early adopter. Like a growing number of people, I consume much of my television via my laptop computer, rather than my television set.

Sure, the image quality’s a little less crisp than real TV, my connection is sometimes slow, causing the viewer to skip or freeze, and I can’t fast-forward through the commercials as with a DVR. But still—instant, free access to stuff I want to watch whenever I want to watch it is pretty nice.

I can say definitively that I now watch more TV and regularly keep up with more shows than I ever did before. And that’s saying a lot since I rarely watched TV at all before I could access it online. My TV consuming habits have changed significantly based on now available technology. My case is probably more dramatic than most, but I don’t think this trend is going away.

Will the TV networks take advantage of this change in the wind? Or will they stubbornly resist it and try to snuff out the freedom the new technology allows, like the music industry did? Based on the current state of CD sales, which the music industry still depends on to measure success, I’d hope TV networks would choose the former option. The old way of doing things isn’t going to work here. Continue reading

March 11, 2008 Posted by | Content Strategy, Content Syndication, Multimedia, Selena Welz, Web Content | Leave a comment

Is the podcast dead?

Is the podcast dead? And what is a podcast anyway? Back in 2005, the New Oxford American Dictionary hailed it as the Word of the Year and described it as a “digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the Internet for downloading to a personal audio player.” That definition has morphed, however, and now plenty of people view a podcast as both audio and video. It can either be a show with regular episodes, or a lecture or some other one-off event that is downloadable. But the question is, how many people are doing the downloading??

Wizzard Media proclaims podcasting to be “one of the fastest growing and widest distribution mechanisms in the history of media.” Of course, they have a vested interested in saying this, and we’ve heard it before. In March 2006 eMarketer said the “audience for podcasts has shown meteoric growth, particularly in the U.S. It is variously projected to reach between 20 million and 80 million by 2010.” Way to pin down that prediction, eh? A month later, Forrester predicted growth “from 700,000 households in the United States in 2006 to 12.3 million households in the United States by 2010.” That’s a big difference: 12.3 million vs. 80 million. The most trustworthy source, Pew Internet & American Life Project, reported in November 2006 that only 1% of Internet users report downloading a podcast on a typical day.

My quick Web search didn’t yield a lot of stats or reports on podcasting in 2007—perhaps the hype was dying down at this point? But a February 2006 eMarketer report estimated that the total U.S. podcast audience reached 18.5 million in 2007.

I’m pretty skeptical about a lot of these numbers and projections. But I am sure of one thing: Podcasting is still an inexpensive way for a company to get its message out, and the medium can help a company establish a personal, human connection to its clients and customers. And don’t forget that you can also post transcripts of podcasts. At Tendo, we often preach the idea of “write once, use many.” In this case, “record once, use many” is true, too. Julie Jares, managing editor

February 29, 2008 Posted by | blog, Julie Jares, Mobile Content, Multimedia | Leave a comment

A sure way to make customers cringe

I was reminded recently of a Web site faux pas that’s possibly one of the worst. A colleague sitting across from me suddenly cringed, crumpled in her chair, and then angrily tore off her headphones. Not knowing the cause, I was a bit startled. But no sooner was she cursing the computer screen, than the culprit was revealed. That obnoxious auto volume feature.

It’s one thing to knowingly subject yourself to painful music on MySpace profiles, but another thing when a commercial Web site (that presumably wants visitors) blasts music at you without notice or permission. Think about it. It’s like the proprietor of a brick-and-mortar store blasting music in your ear just as you enter.

Using audio to engage customers online is a perfectly fine and useful feature. Just make sure it’s muted and the audio is easy to find and control. A good model for user-controlled audio is YouTube. Bill Golden, managing editor

February 22, 2008 Posted by | Bill Golden, blog, Customer Care, Multimedia | Leave a comment

The age of Internet video is finally upon us

News flash, right? Water is wet, too.

What tipped me off, you ask? Was it the fact that Google paid $1.65 billion for YouTube last year? The fact that YouTube now owns the #3 spot in Alexa’s traffic rankings? The fact that I’ve already received seven viral video emails today, and it’s just now 10 AM?

Actually, it was none of those things. It’s the fact that an English major and admitted technophobe can edit, produce, and post videos in an embedded player almost entirely on his own!

The link above points to a page we helped our client, Bishop Ranch, build to host videos from a recent forum they held. We brought a single DV camera, taped the proceedings, and output the tape to DVD with the eventual goal of posting clips of the forum on the Bishop Ranch website. Unfortunately for us, we were between interactive producers, and our new producer wasn’t due to come on board for another week or so. Which means that we had to find an in-house solution, which essentially meant “give it to the guy who edits his wife’s trapeze videos and posts them on YouTube.” Continue reading

November 21, 2007 Posted by | Ian Miller, Multimedia, Web Content | Leave a comment

Elections and MySpace

It’s Election Day in San Francisco and I forgot to vote this morning. Mayor Gavin doesn’t need me, but Measure D might. To assuage my guilt about not supporting the city’s libraries with my vote, I’m brushing up on my presidential candidates so I’m not in the same predicament next year.

I consulted the MySpace Impact “channel.” It launched in the spring and it features profiles of the presidential candidates and other info on current events and politics. Turns out that not only are MySpace and social networking important tools for companies (see John Kovacevich’s recent post), but they are also becoming increasingly important for political candidates. But how are these presidential hopefuls using MySpace? Very differently. Here are my initial thoughts:

Chris Dodd’s site could use some attention from his campaign. His “about me” section sounds canned, even as he sings the praises of two-way communication and not talking “at” people. I, for one, feel talked at. Plus the posted comments include spam—fake offers for free Coach handbags and $500 gift certificates at Macy’s—and he asks visitors to join the Dodd Squad. Puh-leeze. Pretty dated reference, especially for the MySpace crowd.

Fred Thompson hasn’t updated his MySpace blog since early September (come on!), yet he has still collected 12,344 friends (more than Dodd and Giuliani, fewer than McCain and Edwards, and way behind Obama, who had 190,120 friends at last count). Mitt Romney has more than 30,000 friends, and five of them are his photogenic sons.

Rudy’s page is approachable. His “about me” blurb is casual, and one of his campaign workers, Dan Meyers, tells us that he and his colleagues are updating the page. Nice that they don’t pretend to be Rudy. Hillary also tries to be approachable, telling us that she’s a “lousy cook,” “never did well at math,” and recently bought a Carly Simon CD.

Most candidates post only positive comments (Rudy, Hillary, McCain), but I noticed a negative comment on Bill Richardson’s page. A mistake? A deliberate decision to let every voice be heard? Probably the former.

Do you think these candidates are making good use of MySpace? Take a look at their profiles and let me know what you think. —Julie Jares, managing editor

November 6, 2007 Posted by | In the News, Julie Jares, Multimedia, Web Content | 1 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

Cinema surprises

As Chris Zender pointed out in her May 22nd blog posting, several TV shows have used innovative marketing techniques to promote their shows, including cross-media offerings like content-rich experiences online.

The marketing of films is changing, too. One tactic that has become increasingly common is the movie "Easter egg”—a scene shown after the end credits have rolled (according to Wikipedia, these post-credit scenes are also called stingers.

In the 1980s, stingers were typically funny additions at the end of comedies. Remember when Ferris tells the audience to go home at the end of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? Movies like Airplane!, Scrooged, and other funny flicks from the decade also have stingers.

More recently, the practice has evolved as marketing has become more sophisticated. While Wikipedia’s list has a disclaimer that it’s incomplete, the site lists 11 stingers for the entire 1980s, whereas it lists 16 stingers in 2006, and eight so far in 2007. Stingers are no longer limited to comedies—dramas routinely use them as well. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End has a bonus scene, if you’re patient enough to wait for the endless end credits. And franchise flicks often promote the next chapter: Matrix Reloaded had a stinger for The Matrix Revolutions. And X-Men 3: The Last Stand has a scene that reveals that a key character is still alive. Pique the interest of the audience and entice them with what’s too come. Now that’s good marketing. ―Julie Jares, managing editor

June 8, 2007 Posted by | Content Strategy, Julie Jares, Multimedia, Web Content | Leave a comment

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