NY Times biting themselves in the patooty?

The New York Times will start charging for content on a metered scale starting in 2011. That means you can access a certain number of articles for free, and then they’ll start charging when you reach a predetermined quota.

That means they’re treating their website much like they treat their hard copy newspaper. You can read a few articles for free if you go to your local library, but you might not get the most up-to-date issue, and you probably won’t have time to read it cover to cover. If you want all that, you have to subscribe or purchase your own copy from your favorite newspaper vendor.

The same concept, applied to their website means you can read a few things, but then either pay up or – what I think is more likely – search for the same content on another news outlet. With the decline of newspaper and magazine subscriptions, I’ve been wondering when this would happen, but I’m afraid it’s following the wrong logic.

Old logic says charge the advertisers, charge the readers. That’s the logic that reigned prior to the digital age. As the media landscape changes the logic behind business models has to change too.

Paid content means fewer readers/visitors. Less activity means less return for advertisers. And since the bulk of revenue likely comes from ads, less returns will significantly impact turnover.

So what? How are dailies and monthlies to get their readers to pay for content, or at least generate another income stream in addition to advertising? What about subscription-based apps? Subscription-based RSS feeds? Let’s say I want to know anytime media in the US runs a story about corruption in Moldova. I’d be willing to pay $0.02/article, or so. For the convenience of delivery to my mobile phone – I’d pay for that. But content on the website when I want to read about the day’s events? Not a chance. I’ll take my business elsewhere – and chances are, so will most. When it comes down to it, I’m likely to get so used to not using sites that have metered rates for content that they’ll lose my participation altogether. I’ll go from being a regular user to an infrequent user, to abandoning it completely.

Update 1/21/10: TechDirt posted a nice article along the same lines, noting that NY Times is going to be caught in a dispute between 2 competing business models.

NPR Does it Right!

NPR recently did a listener survey about social media. Honestly? I didn’t know about it until it was finished – I believe they did it on their weekend edition, and I’m purely a Monday-Friday listener. Still. Over 7,000 listeners participated and volunteered valuable information about how they use social media.

According to the article at NPR’s site, NPR learned that their listeners are becoming more social media savvy, they enjoy the ‘behind the scenes’ look at their favorite broadcasters, and that even the newbies in social media are enthusiastic about the returns.

Want to know what else they learned (and why we like their approach)? They learned where to engage their audience, and how. They learned to engage online and offline in a cooperative relationship. They grew their number of followers on social media – probably by thousands. And they most likely gained some valuable information that will contribute to their next drive for support. So, one survey online did all this:

  1. Brought a greater following of interactive fans
  2. Taught NPR what their fans value in social media engagement
  3. Helped their broadcasting personalities connect with fans directly
  4. Provided stimulus for a funds campaign
  5. Increased awareness of their social media strategy
  6. Gave fans what they most want – voice.

We have to give NPR a virtual high-five on this one. And one more thing. Right before writing this article we became following fans of several NPR broadcasters. Success.

P.S. – Hey NPR, Robert Siegel and Michele Norris from All Things Considered? They need Twitter accounts. Thanks for listening.

Why your business MUST be on Facebook

This morning Social Media Examiner posted 11 reasons your business must be on Facebook. Go. Read it. I’ll wait.

Read it? Back now? Thanks.

What we thought was really intuitive about this post was not just the tips for making Facebook pages more effective (like, by adding video and photos; making it useful to fans). It was the customized news feed and the real-time search. Do you realize that these things are game-changers in the way we interact online?

Customized news feed means that Faceb0ok is effectively analyzing what I (or you, or your target customer) reads and likes, and – not unlike Aunt Maddie – targets what they show them. If Facebook thinks I like fair trade coffee (I’d have to say, it’d be right on there), it’s likely to show me things related to that. Fair trade tea, aluminum thermos, news about Nicaraguan coffee farmers. Wow. Now, if it would just stop showing me Cousin Betsy’s Farmville progress.

What’s more? This is really exciting. I googled my favorite salsa the other day and do you know what came up? The typical list of links, but woven into that list were some subsections – related blogs and social media postings. That’s huge. That means that when someone googles my business they might get reactions (good or bad) from clients, former clients, blog posts about us – and the same goes for someone googling any of our clients. The picture below is from search results on Google for “Haiti.” Do you see the scroll bar on the side? That’s because it’s a hot trending topic and as I spent mere seconds on the search page that field was constantly updated with Twitter results, blogs, news, and yes – Facebook status updates.

Soon we’ll get to a point where if I google (or bing, I guess) a local restaurant it’ll show me not just what ‘people’ have to say about it, but what my personal network has to say. Wow – word of mouth gone crazy!

So how about your business? Are you on Facebook?

3 Easy Steps to Productivity

I’m a work at home mom, managing 3 kids ages 1-5. Productivity comes in spurts, and when there’s time available, I have to be able to shut out all distractions and put my nose to the grind, knowing that I probably won’t have more than an hour to work in any given block. Productivity is key when the time comes. Here are my key steps:

  1. Comfy chair, clutter-free desk, in a quiet room. If I feel like I’m in an office, I’m more likely to act like I’m in an office and actually work.
  2. Turn off distractions. For me that means closing down my email application so I don’t get email notifications – I can handle those any time, distractions or not. I also turn off TweetDeck – I love following my peeps, but when I’m fighting a deadline I force myself to tune it out.
  3. Cool temps, warm drinks. Ever notice how being in a warm place makes you sleepy? Crank the temp down a bit and warm yourself from the inside with tea or coffee. Me? I like fair trade organic whole bean fresh ground coffee made in a press. I also go for fair trade white tea, but usually only after I’ve gone through 2-3 cups of coffee.

How about you? What’s your secret to productivity?

Stages of engagement

Have you ever wondered how companies make it from that first, often awkward, posting on Twitter to active, operational and customer service oriented social media networking? Digital Marketing strategist Brian Solis describes the process in an article for Mashable, and it really isn’t horribly complicated.

He describes it in a 10-step process that makes a lot of sense. The most important step, we think, and one that’s often forgotten, is listening. It can be easy to engage in a noise-creating medium, delivering white noise or random chatter. But listening actively, analyzing findings, and responding to trends is what will make or break a strategy.

Thanks, Brian, for the formula. It’s a handy tool, and enlightening for businesses.

Coworking meets childcare?

Have you heard of coworking? It’s a great new business model that engages like-minded entrepreneurs in any given geographic region. Office space is created that allows work from home professionals to rent desk space as needed and collaborate with other people with similar goals.

It’s an affordable, community-friendly way to get out of the house and into an office, boosting productivity and facilitating networking. What could be wrong with that? In our opinion, nothing. It’s green, it’s smart, it’s all kinds of fun.

In our area there’s only one coworking opportunity now, and it’s a good 40-minute drive, making it not so green, especially for what usually amounts to a 2-3 hour work block before heading off to a meeting or to pick up one kid or another from school.

Credit: Workitmom.com

And that made me think… A large number of the entrepreneurs are working from home, many of them with young children at home. There are networks for them like WAHM, MOMS club. Why not combine the interests? Start a coworking office that appeals to local small business owners and provides a space and supervision for their children? Gives whole new meaning to bring-your-child-to-work-day, doesn’t it?

You know what I’m thinking? Lots of local churches have preschool programs and drop-in mothers morning out programs for young children. They also have office space that’s unused Monday through Friday and plenty of broadband wireless internet.

You know what else I’m thinking? Local community centers (and libraries too) could do the same thing. Every local community center and local library is looking to secure sustainable funding. Why not appeal to where the market is headed? The infrastructure is there – why not use it to earn revenue? Just a thought.

Earned media

We’re seeing more and more traction from the term “earned media,” referring to fan-generated publicity at no cost to the advertiser. Sean Corcoran of Forrester developed this chart to elucidate the different types of advertising:

The role of paid advertising is rapidly changing from the forefront of company marketing strategies to the last addition, and often used to contribute to successful earned media and owned media. As the way people perceive information and make decisions changes, so must the way we reach them – true both for advertising agencies and the companies that employ them.

According to the CMO of Ford, James Farley, “You can’t just say it. You have to get the people to say it to each other.” That is the heart of earned media, of social media, and it should be at the heart of our company’s strategies for growth.

5 best ways to reach people online

According to the US Census Bureau, 3 out of 5 American households have a computer at home with internet access. A full 77% of Americans know how to use the internet and 73% use it at least daily. So the question remains, what are the best ways to reach them when they’re online? Let’s look at usage first.

58% of internet users are reading or sending email
50% are using search
38% are getting news
38% are online just to pass the time or for fun
27% are using social networking sites

It would seem from the numbers that the best way to reach people is via email, right? Well, how many of your unsolicited emails do you read? Especially if they come from a stranger? If you’re like me, very few. Let’s look at a different set of data. This is online influence on consumers for 2009 holiday purchases in the first week of December, put together by comScore:

28% were influenced by social media
21% were influenced by discounts or click-throughs on Facebook or Twitter
13% were influenced by consumer-generated reviews
12% were influenced by expert reviews

Now, if you’re trying to sell something to the 73% of Americans who are using the internet daily, what are your best bets?

  1. Consumer generated reviews. Sites like amazon.com and epinion.com allow users to rate and comment on their experience with your product. Bloggers (non-sponsored and unpaid) have a great deal of clout as well. These methods work great because the 50% of Americans using the internet for searching will likely stumble onto reviews in the course of their search. Additionally, social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter can link to reviews of your product creating more clout.
  2. Expert generated reviews. Let’s face it. Some people prefer to follow what the experts do. And if someone like cnet says your product is better than competitors’ you’re likely to generate good sales. Again, that review will appear in search engines and can be linked to on social media sites, garnering even more popularity.
  3. Discount it! You don’t want to give away the farm, but we’re seeing more and more people clicking on bargain offers while trying to save some cash. When those discounts are given on social media sites returns will be amplified, reaching the 28% who are influenced by social media as well as the 21% who click through links on Facebook and Twitter.
  4. Place ads on Facebook and popular games. When people are logged in to a popular game like Mafia Wars you have a captive audience. When they’re scanning Facebook for friends’ status updates, videos, and pictures, you have the same phenomenon. Facebook also generates highly targeted ads for a very low cost. Companies are noticing that returns on Facebook ads are much better than returns on other online ads, and often much better than returns on traditional media ads.
  5. Make a video. Videos are targeted well by search engines and they play a large role in social media engagement. Upload a video to YouTube, Vimeo, or Google Video and start sharing it on Facebook and Twitter. Make it catchy, unexpected, and end it with a transaction-minded call to action. Videos can be viral, when they’re done well. Why not give it shot now?

Why businesses need blogs

Thanks to Social Media Examiner for pointing out the September study by McKinsey that polled global companies about their experience with Web2.0 (or Social media).

More than one-half of respondents (52%) said Web 2.0 tools increased marketing effectiveness, while 43% reported higher customer satisfaction and 38% reduced marketing costs.

Companies cannot simply adopt these technologies and expect their customers to use them en masse, however. Among firms reporting measurable benefits from Web 2.0, 74% said it was important to integrate the tools with other forms of customer interaction, and 52% said marketing the Web 2.0 initiatives themselves was a best practice.

Let’s take a look at how blogs, specifically, can be helpful.

  1. Internal communication with employees and staff. Blogs foster cross-functional knowledge sharing and collaboration between departments. They reinforce key company messages like vision and mission, and help the company turn its people into evangelists. The more the message is communicated, the more the staff will know how to communicate it to others.
  2. Customer-related purposes. Blogs are an ideal place to make yourself useful to customers, clients, and users. It’s a medium to share information about your product or service as well as complimentary products and services. For instance, a blog for a residential maid service might post articles on how to ensure your housekeeper is efficient, how to maintain a level of clean between service, and how to reduce clutter and organize well. It’s brilliant. Give your customers something useful and they’ll return to your site often. Any marketer knows that the more time a client spends in your store (and your website is your online real estate), the more money they’re likely to spend with you.
  3. Working with external partners/suppliers. What happens when you become known online as an authority in your industry (which is exactly what happens when you blog well)? You get attention. You get attention from resellers, industry publications, vendors, and all sorts of people and companies that you can partner with to raise your company’s brand.

The study above shows that 51% of companies polled worldwide are experiencing measurable return from their blog. We’ve just given 3 reasons why blogs are successful. In our experience we’ve seen blogs raise company websites to the number 1 link on popular search engines. We’ve seen blogs draw customer support for the brand and entice attention from industry experts. Does your company have a blog? If not, why not start one now?

Gov2.0

We posted a while back about Boston’s use of Citizens Connect iPhone app, but CNN picked up a story today as front page online, and Boston is just one of numerous cities using the technology. In New York, San Francisco, Washington, and who knows where else, citizens can contact city hall about non-urgent matters of public works upkeep.

This is more than just an inventive way of applying technology to routine tasks. This puts governance in the hands of the people. Instead of shaking our heads with downcast eyes as we pass newly painted graffiti, we now have the power to alert the correct department and reclaim the upkeep of our cities.

Local governments have posted sets of data for the use of developers, because, as CNN’s article says, “tech communities are better able to make government data useful than the governments themselves, said Peter Corbett, CEO for iStrategyLabs and organizer of a contest called “Apps for Democracy” in Washington.”

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