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How much is your content worth?

There’s a terrific piece in the March issue of EContent Magazine by Ron Miller called “How Much is Your Content Worth? – Measuring Website Content ROI”

(I’d love to include a link to the article…but it doesn’t exist on their website. For a publication that has such good content on this topic, it’s ironic that their own web experience can be a little frustrating.)

The piece talks about how many companies still generate web content with little concern for how effective it is. There’s a great quote from Phil Kemelor, VP of strategic consulting at Semphonic:

“I think companies are still only just getting the message that web analytics are the key to controlling costs in web development and analyzing and marketing your content. It seems companies have been comfortable spending money on developing content and they don’t know if it’s being read or not and if it’s really contributing to their bottom line.”

I found myself nodding in agreement, having had versions of this same conversation with most of our clients over the years. On the web, if you’re not clear about what you want them to do and how you’re going to measure success, don’t do it.

But I disagree with one quote in the piece (not from Miller or Kemelor): “I don’t think content matters. You have to distill it down to the business objective. What they are trying to do: save time, make money and so on.”

The point is valid—web content must be in service of some larger business objective and you need to be crystal clear what that is. But to say that “content doesn’t matter” is silly. The right content moves your target closer to that business objective; the wrong content is an obstacle.

Content isn’t just a bump on the road to your business objective—it’s the critical element that motivates the desired action you want from your customers. In that sense, the right content is worth a lot. John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

February 28, 2008 Posted by | blog, Content Strategy, John Kovacevich, Metrics/Web Analytics, Web Content | 2 Comments

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

Is news more interesting if your friends are reading it?

The Wall Street Journal thinks so. It just added SeenThis? to its online articles, which allows Facebook users to share WSJ articles they find interesting and see what articles their Facebook friends like.

This isn’t groundbreaking; it’s just a personalized version of the article-ranking systems many online newspapers already have. But it’s more public than the super personalized “email this” feature that allows you to send an article to an individual email account.

Will it boost WSJ online readership? Possibly. I like to scan the “Most Popular” articles listed on some of my favorite newspapers. I’m always curious about what other readers are engaging with, and sometimes I spot headlines I find interesting. (The selections tend to be more fun than useful, but so what?) I think it’s fair to say that this increases the amount of time I spend on the site—and that I can be influenced by the reading habits of others.

The user-review method of boosting sales has certainly worked for Amazon. The ultimate test for WSJ will be whether or not the new article-sharing feature will translate into more paid online subscriptions. People might be persuaded to sign up if they see that highly respected or influential “friends” are reading the WSJ.

What about you? Do the preferences of your peers influence your reading habits? Enough to cough up some cash for a special subscription? Selena Welz, associate managing editor

January 31, 2008 Posted by | Content Syndication, In the News, Selena Welz | 1 Comment

Keys to viral marketing success

Brian Morrissey has a good piece in ADWEEK’s January 7 issue called “The Rules of Viral Web Success, at Least for Now.”

He says it’s all about the three S’s: simple, self-expression, sharable.

Recent successful viral Web campaigns, such as Burger King’s “Simpsonize Me” and OfficeMax’s “Elf Yourself” took these guideline to heart.

It doesn’t need to be complicated or even use the latest technology. If it’s fun and you can customize it and share it, you’ve got a winner.

Don’t be afraid of the simple idea. Think of all the things you received in YOUR inbox over the last year. What did you spend more than a minute with? Did you pass anything on? If so, why? John Kovacevich, VP, marketing services

January 18, 2008 Posted by | Content Strategy, John Kovacevich, Web Content | Leave a comment

A whopper about the Whopper

You’ve probably seen the ads: Burger King employees tell customers that the Whopper is no more. What?? The home of the Whopper has discontinued the Whopper?? Customers freak out, and Burger King eats up—and films—every minute of it.

One blogger says the ads are “breaking all the rules.” I’m not so sure. I thought the ad was clever when I first saw it, but then I gave it more thought. Burger King has been the home of the Whopper for 50 years, so of course customers would be shocked to hear that the company discontinued it. You’d get the same reaction if McDonald’s pulled the plug on the Big Mac, or if Starbucks stopped selling Frappuccinos.

According to a recent marketing newsletter, the ads are “using a negative situation to highlight the popularity of the Whopper.” True? It seems like a given that someone standing at the Burger King counter would be bummed to learn of the Whopper’s demise. But if you went into a McDonald’s and filmed reactions to the same statement, you might not think the Whopper was very popular (and for the record, I’ll take the Western Bacon Cheeseburger from Carl’s Jr. over a Big Mac or the Whopper any day).

So back to the point: Is the ad “breaking all the rules” by lying to customers and then recording their reactions? Is Burger King clever for jumping on the YouTube/viral marketing bandwagon? Maybe. But I’m wondering if the ad campaign is just preaching to the converted.

What do you think? Julie Jares, managing editor

January 14, 2008 Posted by | Brand Marketing, Julie Jares, Web Content | 4 Comments

Leave the writing to the pros

It’s true: when you take something away, its value becomes more apparent. I once smashed my thumb in a car door, which debilitated my right hand for several weeks but left me with a much stronger appreciation for my opposable digits.

I’m hoping a similar effect will result from the ongoing Writers Guild of America strike, and a higher value is placed on professional writing skills. The latest effect of writers ditching Hollywood is the canceling of the Golden Globe Awards ceremony, producing some kvetching from those involved with the awards. The Daily Show returned to the air sans writers this week and has managed to pull off two decent episodes, but one wonders how long Stewart and Co. can rely on navel-gazing jokes about the absence of writers on the show. It’s clear that the entertainment industry depends on good writing for its success.

Developing successful content for a website is no different, yet many organizations cheap out when it comes to the writing. The prevalence of bad writing on the Web attests to this. Sure, it might seem to make sense for Jerry the Marketing Guy to develop your Web content, and Jerry might even be great at his marketing job, but that doesn’t mean he’s a writer. (No offense, Jerry.) Relevant professional experience is just as important in writing as it is in any other job category. A car salesman may know a lot about cars, but that doesn’t mean he can fix your transmission.

Quality Web content does translate into monetary value for your organization, so it’s worthwhile to invest in developing your content the right way. If you want a website that will produce results and help advance your organization’s goals, let the professional writers and editors do their jobs. —Selena Welz, associate managing editor

January 9, 2008 Posted by | Selena Welz, Web Content | 3 Comments

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

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

Are you inducing content coma?

I love Thanksgiving. It’s not so much the gathering and appreciating our lives together that makes me love it, although that does play a role. It’s because I’m a classic glutton. I love to pile my plate way too high (extra gravy) and eat my way into a happily self-induced food coma. I trust I’m not alone here.

I’ve been invited to indulge my gluttony at a huge Thanksgiving feast hosted by some dear friends. Rather than the traditional, run-of-the-mill dishes, they’ve decided on a Latin-themed menu: Yucatan style turkey with achiote, orange and pineapple marinade; cranberry, jalapeño, and tequila relish; pearl barley and levain stuffing with corn, dried cherries, and cilantro; roasted garlic and Yukon gold mashed potatoes…I could go on, but I don’t want to brag (well, maybe just a little).

This is an exciting twist on the traditional Thanksgiving menu. Sure, the typical roasted turkey with giblet gravy would match my expectations, but that wouldn’t excite me like this menu does. This menu surprises me. It’s memorable. I can visualize it. All of the expected components are there—turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing—but they are presented in an original way.

Is your website copy serving up the same tired menu? Are you blindly following tradition because it’s what you think your guests are expecting? Much website copy is woven with the typically meaningless marketing speak that proliferates all over the Web. And why? Well, because that’s how it’s done. That’s what makes it sound “professional.” But that’s what also makes it sound bland, generic, and completely unmemorable. That’s not the kind of coma you want to treat your guests to.

Maybe it’s time to spice up your menu a bit. Consider the messages that you need to deliver, and find a unique way of presenting them. Give your visitors a reason to pick your dinner invitation over the many others. Serve them something memorable.

On that note, enjoy your holiday feasting! —Selena Welz, associate managing editor

November 21, 2007 Posted by | Content Strategy, Selena Welz, Web Content | Leave a comment

Three takes on customer engagement on the Web

Yesterday, two colleagues and I started the day at BtoB Magazine’s NetMarketing breakfast down the street here in San Francisco.

The event featured three high-tech marketing executives who spoke about how they’re engaging customers on the Web. Aside from a sponsor’s painfully long pitch at the outset, which ironically led to quite a few people suddenly spreading out their free copies of the New York Times, the well-attended event was worth checking out.

Speakers included Scott Anderson, VP of customer communications at HP (our very own client and by far the most impressive); Martyn Etherington, VP of worldwide field marketing, Tektronix; and Stephanie Dillard, global media manager, integrated marketing group, Intel. While they didn’t have time to outline their entire Web marketing strategy, it was interesting to see the differences in each company’s approach. They each shared more than a few nuggets of good information. Continue reading

November 19, 2007 Posted by | Bill Golden, Content Strategy, Customer Care, Web Content | Leave a comment