Reaching an audience versus engendering loyalty

The news that The New York Times would be distributing all of its daily content to the Flipboard iPad app has rightly been pegged as a big deal in the media world. It is, after all, The Times and involves their paid-access model being translated to an off-network tool. So it has raised once again all sorts of issues around paying for news, content wrappers and so on.

But what strikes me the most is that The Times here has essentially decided that reaching an audience is more important than building an audience that’s loyal to the New York Times brand.

The analogy that comes to mind here is Sears. Looking for new ways to make money as store sales fall Sears decided a couple years ago to begin selling its Craftsman tools – until then exclusively available in Sears stores – at Ace Hardware locations. While that certainly provided more people an opportunity to buy Craftsman tools it also took away a strong reason for people to visit those Sears stores. It was a trade-off.

Likewise here the NYT has decided it’s more important to get people reading than to force them to come to or use one of its self-created mobile/tablet apps. So while that’s great, it turns the high-quality stories and columns being produced by Times writers and editors into just another offering in a bigger package. Even if that doesn’t devalue those stories and columns on their own it means that Times content is simply one more option for people to choose from, without a strong reason for them to do so.

It’s worth noting that about the same time The New York Times was going all-in on Flipboard distribution two other publications, Wired and The New Yorker, were pulling back. Both signalled they would be providing less content to Flipboard, opting to use it as a tease that points people to either their websites or their unique mobile apps for the full experience.

Ordinarily I’m all about content producers sending material as far and wide as possible to reach a broad audience. But increasingly content owners are able to take more control over how what they’re producing gets distributed, offering their own (fill in the blank) on their own apps, sites or channels.

So what’s the difference? Why am I coming down on the side opposite of where I usually find myself?

Because a good chunk of what magazines and newspapers still have going for them (outside of the often fantastic writing you can find there) is their brand name. People don’t subscribe to “Magazine” the same way they subscribe to “Cable” as a means to have what’s produced delivered to them. They still make a choice that *this* newspaper is what they want to read. That *this* magazine is aligned with their interests and worth their time and attention.

And that’s what these sort of single-point-of-reading apps and tools are, as cool as they might be, is. They’re the equivalent of “Magazine,” wrapping the stories that are sent there in a single package that cuts out much of that brand affiliation that is so valuable.

Facebook users, marketers differ on why customers connect with brands on Facebook

If I’m reading the results of this Colloquy study correctly, it’s not social media that the survey focused on when it asked consumers how brands could best engender their loyalty. Instead it was more general and looking at brand behavior overall, though most of the tactics that come back as good ideas – exceptional customer service, a rewards program of some sort and more – that have definite applications in the social media world. Meaning good customer service on social media isn’t all that different from good customer service offline.

More immediately relevant is the CMO Council survey that’s shared after that and which shows the gaps that exist between marketer’s perceptions and beliefs about why people connect with them on social media and why people actually do. The biggest disparity exists around content, with 57% of marketers believing that’s a big reason for customers to follow them – we like to think every word we produce is golden – compared to just 30% of customers who said that’s an important reason they’ve done so.

In a close second, though, is the idea of someone being a “Loyal Customer.” But there the disconnect goes in the opposite direction, with more Facebook users saying that’s an important reason than marketers who see it being a deciding factor.

New DMB album coming this September


Expanding media, contracting audience interaction

There’s been a ton of coverage of the new feature rolled out by Twitter last week that allows for photos and videos from partner media sites to be viewable in-stream when you “expand” an update. Much of that coverage has been more than a little overblown.

No, it’s not a lifeline to the content industry since while it does mean more people may view the photo or video that’s shared the speed at which things get co-opted on Twitter means a fraction of the audience will actually attribute it to the original creator. There are certainly great things about it but unless you can turn those casual video watchers into engaged fans who are visiting the source website on a regular basis this is a pretty flimsy lifeline. And that’s part of why it’s unlikely the new features will help publishers monetize their material in any new or substantive way.

But while this is certainly cool functionality and a great idea for publishers since media almost always is more engaging, it’s easier to argue that Twitter is simply looking to be the new platform publishers pay more attention to. And, like other platforms, it’s actually looking to take audience attention away from the sites that originally publish content.

That’s not a malicious intent. Twitter conversations would soon become very dry if there were no more New York Times or other newspapers or magazines to link to. But it’s just that point that’s at the heart of this change: Instead of the main action that a reader on Twitter can take being to click a link and go read the story, watch the video or some such this is all now contained within the Twitter experience.

Granted this is still less of a power grab than some other social networks have instituted. But publishers of any stripe need to be sure they’re tracking how audience behaviors are changing in the wake of new features introduced by Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or any other platform where they’re looking to engage with the audience, distribute their own material and otherwise interact.

Good enough competitive curation

Last week everyone was tuned in to the Apple developer’s conference and the multiple updates to iOS and the Macbook Pro line that were announced there. One of the big themes of the resulting coverage each year in the wake of this event is an analysis of which companies/apps Apple is effectively squeezing out of the market. The notion being that if Apple is doing it (and likely making it a default app) then many people won’t go looking for another option.

It was only in reading some of this coverage that my thoughts around Twitter’s hashtag brand pages began to finally coalesce.

If you visit you’re taken not to a random string of search results for “#nascar” but to a slickly arranged and curated page that’s been professionally built to include a mix of updates from select drivers and other handles. The page was reportedly built by Twitter itself without input from NASCAR and may be the first of future pages that are built not for brands, it says, but around events.

While that may be true it’s easy to see this expanding as another advertising product that’s offered by Twitter to select brands who want to own a brand-specific hashtag or search term and have the resulting page be more engaging. That is, after all, the overall goal of Twitter itself when it comes to attracting new and lapsed users and has been the point of recent redesigns and reconfigurations. And if companies are looking for ways to present a more professional image on social media this would be a no-brainer.

How, then, is the news of Twitter’s new product (which, if it really was done without NASCAR’s input, raises some interesting copyright questions) related to Apple news narratives? If Twitter does take the next logical step and start offering this sort of thing as an advertising product it presents a clear threat to services such as Storify that are based around the curation of tweets and other updates.

No these are not 100% comparable in terms of purpose or functionality. Storify is meant to bring in updates from a wide variety of people into a single “Story” that shows Tweets, Flickr photos, Foursquare check-ins and more. Twitter’s hashtag pages are just Twitter updates (though they may of course include check-ins, photos and more). But while there may be some missing features Twitter’s offering is likely to be a “good enough” option that is actually more attractive because of it being an official product of Twitter and the control it would hypothetically offer. And that may be enough to pose a serious challenge to other similar applications and services.

Social sharing and its search impact

Should you stop all your SEO endeavors and just spam social and links? Probably not a good idea. Ultimately there are many reasons to embrace social media in your marketing endeavors. Most of them have little to do with SEO. Embrace it because it makes sense to your business, not because it has magical ranking powers, and you’ll make out fine.

via How Much Do Social Signals Play Into Google Rankings? – Search Engine Watch (#SEW).

An interesting read here on SEW. Like the writer there, I’m not convinced there is any impact on search that social sharing has, despite some anecdotal evidence to the contrary. Instead my guess is that there’s a non-causal correlation between the two because the articles/links that are likely to be heavily shared on status networks come from people with broad circles of influence and with sites of their own that already rank highly for search.

Hark, the movie clips sing

I was recently turned on to and have to say I’m having a blast with it.

Here’s the short version: Hark is a repository of movie audio clips, each with their own permalink so they can be shared all over the web. So if you want to find Will Ferrell’s complaining about a massively painful broken leg in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, you can do a search for “austin powers mustafa” and it will be one of the options available.

Each clip page has options to buy the movie on Amazon as well as any other official outlet that might be available and it’s my understanding that revenue from those purchases, as well as advertising income, is shared with the studios, who provide official versions of the audio so there aren’t any rights issues at play.

There are options to share each clip automatically via Facebook, email and other platforms to encourage viral spread of each clip and the site in general.

So back to my having a blast with this site.

If you know me at all you know that approximately 73% of my conversational makeup is either direct movie quotes or derivations thereof. And that’s just in person. Over email and in IM conversations I’m constantly sharing links to YouTube clips of a scene with a quote that I’m going for. But sometimes this isn’t the best way to do things.

By creating shorter clips – and more of them – and working with the rights holders the repository is exponentially greater. Yeah, there are sites that have similar deals for video clips but I’ve yet to come across one that’s as extensive as this. And quite frankly I think Hark is a lot more fun because of the fact that it’s just audio, meaning you don’t have to wait for load times and other considerations. The clip more or less just plays.

Hark’s just a blast to play with – I’ve even begun integrating it into some client programs as a more interactive and interesting component to some regular features that are run.

There’s a lot to like here and, again, because all the rights issues are clear it’s free of a lot of the guilt and other problems that creep up when we’re talking about finding some random fan-uploaded clip on YouTube or elsewhere. Check out and see for yourself.

Small, distributed storytelling

My lates post on Voce Nation takes on the dreaded topic of “curation” and says when it comes down to it this is best positioned as part of an overall storytelling strategy. It’s just the small bits that fill in the cracks in a program that has bigger chunks in the form of created blog posts, videos and the like. reorients its focus

Over on Voce Nation the other day I wrote about the redesigned and reimagined The service used to be 90% about shrinking links for use on social networks (primarily Twitter, where every character is sacred) and then providing analytics for those links. The new version emphasizes sharing more and is meant to be a Delicious-esque bookmarking service of sorts while still retaining its link-shortening functionality as well.

One thing I didn’t note in that post that’s greatly improved is the creating of link Bundles. That’s not a feature that I, at least, use a ton but the ability to take a number of links and package them all up into one is now dead simple where before it was kind of a muddled process. So for all the complaints that others have lodged about what’s changed that’s one thing the team got absolutely right.

Yeah, that really happened

The most disturbing thing I’ve read on the internet today:

Harrelson is in his 28th season as a Sox broadcaster, serving since 1982 except for 1986 when he was the team’s general manager.

via Hawk Harrelson gets an earful from Bud Selig for tirade – Chicago Sun-Times.