Videos With the Personal Touch

If you aren’t familiar with Kickstarter, it is an online startup-funding site. The official description is “a funding platform for creative projects.” It’s a chance to invest in projects and products for regular folks. You don’t need a ton of dough to participate and there are some very unique opportunities. Paticipants are given a chance to showcase their project or product and are allowed a certain amount time to reach their funding target goal.

One such project is Spark. The device they are looking to manufacture provides the ability to control lights via the internet. Think turning lights on and off with your smartphone or a light flashing when you receive a text message. While I had chance to meet the founder of this company, Zach Supalla, and was immediately impressed with him, what drew me to the project was the video they made.

Think about this, your company is given a short amount of time to convince someone, most likely someone who has know idea who you are, to invest money in your project. How are you going to find a way to tell your story…convincingly…quickly.

I think Zach pulled it off by putting together a video that accomplished many things in a short amount of time:

  • He showed his enthusiasm, knowledge and sincerity without doing anything fancy. No stunts, no comedy, just him talking to the camera.
  • He created a connection with the viewer by sharing a very personal story about his deaf father and the important role light played in everyday communication.
  • He didn’t get bogged down in the tech and spent his time more in the experience.

Zach also has a compelling demo set up to serve as s next step in using his device. It started with a lighting a light in their office via Twitter and now, controlling the holiday display at his house.

The next time you do a video in hopes of convincing someone…whether it’s to invest money, buy a product, or give you a call…think about keeping it real, personal and sincere. You’ll see some great results.

Mel Reveals the “Magic”

Mel Karmazin. Mention that name to a broadcaster or business pundit and you’ll trigger a vast array of words, phrases, and emotions, many I won’t say here (mostly to avoid triggering of any parental controls on your browser). Brilliant, bastard, visionary, cheapskate, anger, respect, love, hate…are just a few of the words that might be associated with Mel. I myself arrived at CBS Radio just after Mel left and the “burn the furniture” era (supposedly) ended. The phrase that is probably the most consistent across the board would probably be “outspoken”.

In this December 30, 2009 interview with Charlie Rose, the former CEO of CBS and current CEO of XM Sirius Satellite Radio, as well as the man responsible for making Howard Stern (second only to Howard himself) insanely wealthy, commented on many issues that face the media business today. But, in his outspoken style, he also reveals the “magic” ingredient of the business model for what is now known as “traditional” media and why it no longer works.

You can see the full interview by clicking here and entering the word “Karmazin” in the search box. Sorry, but Charlie hasn’t made this video shareable as of this writing.) You can also get a copy of the transcript. [Read more…]

FTC Guidelines or Not…Check Your Ethics.

Whether you know it or not, much is being made of the updated FTC Guidelines governing endorsements and testimonial in the world of blogging and may other areas of social media. These FTC Guidelines as well as FCC rules and regulations stipulating the disclosure of “material consideration” involved have long been a part of everyday business in radio and TV. So it’s nothing new to me.

As you might expect, many that use the openness of the internet to freely express themselves fear any type of regulation. I would never fault anyone who seeks to be vigilant when it comes to any kind of control of one’s freedoms. However, I do scratch my head when some bloggers and social media types complain that something needs to be done about the many abuses of that openness, like pop-up advertising and spam, yet scream when they are asked to clearly disclose any compensation they may get for their opinions.

No matter where you fall on these guidelines, it’s really quite simple…be honest and be open. Then you won’t need worry about any of it.

With that in mind I thought I’d share this little excerpt from the BlogWell event I attended at General Mills not that long ago. Presented by the folks at GasPedal, the day long event showcased some interesting social media endeavors. It also gave Andy Sernovitz a chance to talk about ethics in the on line and interactive space.

My apologies for the audio quality. You’ll need to listen carefully, but I think it’s worth it.

Social Media: Keepin’ it Real

Every once in awhile it’s good to be reminded that our busy lives are influenced by…what’s the word I’m looking for…buzz, spin, hype, BS? It’s no different for those of us who work in media and marketing. Even I, who considers himself ‘a voice of reason’, get intrigued by the latest new and shiny theory, service, or technology that comes down the pike…and believe me there is a heap of ‘new’ that takes up every lane of that pike on a daily basis.

At a recent Social Media Breakfast there was great discussion highlighting many theories on managing and marketing within social media, both business to business and business to consumer. The room was filled with comments and thoughts about what this new medium is all about, how companies felt about it, the tools that we can use to participate in and monitor it, and more.

Don’t get me wrong, we need do explore “what could be”. We need to talk in big picture terms, we must look forward. We also need to get giddy about new toys that, from a perch at a coffee shop with free wifi, allow us to reach our audience. (We all have audiences whether they be customers, followers, viewers, etc.)

What this conversation sparked in me was a need to remind myself, and perhaps others that work in marketing and PR, that our job is not necessarily to set the trends, make things popular, make the service a priority…that’s what our audience does. Our job is to follow their lead, not the other way around. If we are truly marketing to, building relationships with, or communicating in general with our audience we must do it on their terms.

With that said, marketers, I thought I’d list some of what I think are  realities. Here goes…

Social Media is two different things.

Social=relations, interactions, and communication between people.
Media=the channel to carry a message…nothing more. (By the way, that’s true of all media. It’s a pipe.)

People don’t like advertising.

Hard to believe I know, but people are not attracted to media because it offers businesses the opportunity to sell something to them. People know that being exposed to an ad is the price of admission for free media. Yes, they expect advertising, they tolerate it, but they would rather live without it and will avoid it. Witness the rise of Tivo and DVR.

Social Media is not “Advertising” Media.

The rise of Facebook, Youtube, even text messaging was precipitated by people wanting to communicate with other people. Not because they needed one more place to be sold something. If we as marketers treat this medium as just another way to shill, we’re going to screw it up and drive the audience farther away. Don’t try to advertise here…be social!

You audience has precious little spare time.

How dare we think that all our audience has to do is sit around and
type, search, click, and download only to be “sold to”. Answer the
question, “What’s in it for me.”

Only Facebook and text messaging matter…right now.

It’s that “They set the trend and decide what’s popular.” thing. Yep, Twitter is growing, YouTube is huge, blogging is great, but right now, the crowd is on Facebook to socialize electronically and are more than satisfied with text messaging as a way to stay in touch. These two are the lake…hunt where the ducks are!

Portable is vital!

Notice I didn’t say mobile. That would imply, it needs to be a
phone. I don’t think it does, though if you’re looking to deliver a
message to somebody, it makes a whole lot of sense to deliver it to them via something
that already have. But, if they can wear it, carry it easily, put it in their pocket…take it with them…you’ll get
their interest.

They can talk back!

If you can’t spend time listening and responding, stay the hell away from social media. This medium is about engaging in a conversation and a relationship. Make sure you’re ready to commit to that. No one likes to be invited to a party at your house to be ignored.

Some companies/brands/people don’t want to participate.

Conversation can lead to a greater depth of knowledge about all the participants. Some companies love the thought of learning more about their customers but have absolutely no interest in letting them know more about them. In fact, some people see absolutely no reason to share their “status” or share a video clip. That’s just fine. Please do your best to help them learn about this medium. But remember, the ones that “get it” can always better at it.

There are no rules.

Perhaps the reason many mediums are struggling is because someone at some point decided that “This is how you do it!” They made the rules, decided the proper etiquette, wrote the book and became the expert. Playing it safe and playing by the rules became the strategy of choice. I love the guys that say, this is what you can and can’t do with Twitter or should or shouldn’t post on Facebook. It’s a brand new medium, let’s wait awhile before we try to make it predictable. Find what works but also spend time finding out “what else” works.

So there are some realities that I see. There are plenty more. Aren’t there? What can you offer that will help all of us “keep it real?”


Feeling Not So Free at SXSW

In the last day or two, as I began to gather my thoughts and feelings about my trip to SXSWi and my planned posts, I had a terrible nagging feeling. One nagging feeling that wasn’t allowing me to write, post video, share some stories, or generally gush about what an incredible trip this had been.

So before I can share those posts, I need to share this one…

I’ll start by saying that there are some incredibly smart, talented and creative people  in the interactive space. Many of whom were scurrying about the Convention Center and streets of Austin this past week. Seriously, if you think that it’s just a bunch of Star Wars fanatics in black t-shirts trying to get to the next level of World of Warcraft or design the next fart noise app for the iPhone, you are mistaken. OK, there are some…but in general these are people that have not only imagined miraculous systems, applications, and tools but they have built the damn things! Many have poured time, money and energy into wondrous systems and services that help you and I access information and communicate with each other in places and ways never seen before.

Now here’s the thing…we’re asking them to not charge us for it? “Thanks for quitting your job, mortgaging the house and living on Ramen noodles. I’ll use the heck out of this (insert web service or app here) to better my business/life. What? It’s going to cost me $10 a year? Oh. Never mind.”

Such is the model of the business of free. This nagging feeling, this little rain cloud on the horizon of this new
world that I’ve fallen in love with, was precipitated by the final
keynote session featuring entrepreneur and marketer Guy Kawasaki and
Wired editor Chris Anderson, author of the forthcoming book “Free”. The
fire was further stoked by a post forwarded to me by my Minnov8
colleague, Graeme Thickins.

[Read more…]

Nielsen to Provide (Same?) Radio Ratings

Nielsen, by way of the announcement of a deal with Cumulus Media, entered the radio ratings fray. They seem to have girded their loins to take on Arbitron, the undisputed king of radio ratings services. My question is: What will they offer that is different from what Arbitron is providing? What is needed is actual use, not the reliance on memory, to make the case to advertisers

At first blush, other than different names for the same services…we can’t seem to get past the pencil.* OK, I’m guessing they are offering to do it cheaper. Price is clearly the driving force behind most broadcast media decisions. But, beyond that, according to the rather brief New York Times article, ‘Nielsen will produce ratings by collecting diaries from respondents.’ This is the same methodology that has been provided by Arbitron forever. The Times goes on to point out, ‘Arbitron’s effort to gradually replace diaries with an electronic form of measurement, personal people meters, has led some station owners to complain.’

So let’s recap…a radio company is going to reinvest in questionable recall, diary (read pencil and paper) methodology because the new electronic technology, which is in it’s very infancy, isn’t giving them the results they want (and, BTW, is also much more spendy than said diaries.).

To be fair the pitch from Nielsen talks about all sorts of cool stuff to make data collection more, as they say, robust. Their ‘addressed based sampling’ (ABS) is promising access to “the 34% of U.S. households that are not covered by current sampling methods”. Other nifty commitments include;

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Filling the “White Spaces”

 I found the phrase “white spaces” interesting when it was announced yesterday that the FCC has allowed conditional unlicensed use of “white spacestelevision spectrum. In an attempt to avoid getting bogged down in tech speak. This is the radio spectrum that is now available as a result of TV’s switch to digital.

Once the FCC found that the issue of interference with existing radio signals could be overcome through technology that shuts down any device using the “white space” once it senses another signal, granting access was a slam dunk.

Companies like Google and Microsoft herald the decision as a way to allow widespread mobile adoption. On the other hand, broadcast companies (seeing yet another reason to claim “everybody is out to get us”) and the likes of Verizon (already hot to charge more for services) are less than thrilled.

As I have said previously, I personally am thrilled with anything that allows the growth and spread of mobile access if it leads us closer to parity with other countries (Luxembourg for God’s sake) in services offered wirelessly. I am also concerned as a radio fan. This magic sensing thing-a-ma-bob that prevents interference with existing frequencies sure better work. The last thing any “channel” needs is a return to the “party line” annoyance of too many on a channel. Ick!

“White spaces”  also triggered in me another use of that term. A use that I see benefitting many media channels. As of late yesterday the flood of political advertising stopped…I’ll pause as you jump up and down with joy and do a couple of Tiger Woods arm pumps…done? This sudden loss of “content” in itself reveals a whole lot of “white space”.

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Now…Another Music-Free Commercial Sweep

This was always a running gag for us in music radio. The battle between art (us) and commerce (them) raged endlessly. The challenge of balancing the wants and needs of both of our customers, listeners who want more music and clients who want more ad space, was the topic of 95% of management disagreements.

This argument is one that rages on in all forms of advertiser supported media. I dare say it comes up in the halls at PBS or NPR as well…though in a much more civilized fashion (He says with tongue planted firmly in cheek.).

Just look at TV. There’s what, 20 minutes of “show” in a 30 minute program? And the newspaper, well just take a look at the before and after pictures of our local Sunday paper once the circulars are pulled out….

Then of course those subscription cards, fold outs, scratch and sniff, and regular ads in a magazine that will drive you nuts. There are even a growing number of ads at the start of a movie at the local Superplex 28 Cinema. How about the average website? Well ya know…most aren’t too bad thanks to hyperlinks, unless of course it’s the website of one of the other media outlets mentioned above.

For traditional media, what is the right amount of ad space? What is the deciding factor on how many spots you can air or ads you can cram on the page? The answer…it depends.

It depends on the content. How compelling is it? If it’s fantastic you can run more ads, if it sucks…well…don’t give me another excuse to bail. It also depends on choice. Caution: with so many choices of media, even the best content can be dwarfed by too many ads if some other outlet has good content and fewer ads. As the battle rages on between art vs. commerce be sure and note that it’s a new, much smaller, world. There is more…allot more…choice.

So, what’s your content to ad ratio? Make sure you don’t make it too easy for your viewers, listeners, or users to choose someone else.

New Media, New Year Resolutions

This year, I will…

everything I can to make the adoption of “new media” as easy for everyone as
possible. We “early adopters” can’t forget that most folks are still digesting
the internet as a whole, much less all it has to offer. There is so much more
going on than Google, iTunes, and text messaging.


there is a difference between sending a message and conversing. Spend more time
talking face to face or on the phone with people. Text, e-mail, etc. are great
for quick thoughts but can never replace the emotion of a great conversation.

 …work to
improve the quality and the content in my writing. I write more now than I have
in years and I want my blog posts to be more than articles. I want them to inform,
inspire, and entertain all at the same time. (Okay, this one is going to take a
lot of work.)

 …work to
improve the quality of the audio online. I was listening to my son’s iPod the other
day and realized that we’ve taught people to settle for audio quality that is,
to put it politely, not so great. When we adopted the CD we sacrificed some depth
to our audio, just as we did when we started using audio tape. Now that we are
using the internet as our main source of music we have sacrificed even more or
that sound quality. I heard a record the other day and I was blown away by the
sound I had been missing. If you have some vinyl around you should do the same.
(If you have no idea what a record is, please seek one out…maybe your attic?) I
had become use to the sound of an mp3, probably downloaded a terrible bit rate.
I will do whatever I can to hear more of what the musicians and performers
worked so hard to put into their recordings.

 …work to
improve the quality of video online. The same challenge faces us with what we
see online. With the advent of HDTV the bar has been raised even higher. What I
see on my Smartphone should look just as good as what I see on cable.

advertisers that the “new media” audience is of incredibly high quality and is
worth more than a traditional media user. There are already scores of studies  highlighting the incredibly high recall rates for online
advertising (even higher with a mix of media), we need to get the advertisers to respect that and think beyond “cost per

…enjoy more
time outside the ether so that I can bring more reality into it. Pull myself
out of the screen, away from the keyboard, and off the cell phone. I need to go
outside and take a walk whenever I can. In fact, there’s a new layer of snow
and a crisp morning waiting for me right now…

Happy New Year!

This post can also be found on the Association of Downloadable Media site.

Monetizing radio….with commercials.

I found myself in a discussion the other day about radio advertising. In fact, as much time as I’ve spent talking about
monetizing new media, there is still plenty of opportunity to reach consumers,
a lot of them, with great radio…including the commercials.

In my recent discussion I found myself revisiting a lot of the same topics I have addressed
to my staffs of every station or company at which I’ve worked as a broadcaster.
In fact, the following comes directly from memos to those staffs.

Please note: This doesn’t have to be just
for my radio buddies. It can be applied to any commercial production whether it
is new or traditional media.

Radio must make every minute of an hour great. That includes the minutes in commercials.
Don’t think of it as sales gets 12 minutes of commercials and programming gets
48 minutes of music. Consider it as the listener gets a full hour. It
might be worth considering that the reason listeners tune out during
commercials is that they have been trained to do so because, frankly, the spots
are just plain bad.

What will keep listeners listening? Great radio. That means entertaining and informative
content…during music and commercials. For those that sell commercial advertising, the great thing about producing great commercials is the less talked about benefit of getting results for the clients. That means they come back and spend more money. This is a good thing.

Here are some things to remember:

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