Creators to Social Media Platforms: We Were On A Break!

Everyone needs some time off now and again.

Social media influencers, it seems, are increasingly deciding to log off for a bit, burnt out by the time and effort needed to keep up with the schedules they’ve established for publishing new material. They know that doing so is filled with risks, as whatever success they’ve achieved has depended greatly on constantly pushing out new content and staying at the top of people’s minds. If they are seen as no longer relevant they could start to lose subscribers/followers, which could then lead to fewer sponsorship/revenue opportunities, and once lost it could be hard to regain their previous position.

The story reminds me of the conversations that used to take place in the early days of Web 2.0’s mainstream adoption. People would regularly take time off from their blogs because of work commitments or just because they needed to catch their breath a bit and recharge their creative batteries. A running joke (rooted in reality, as most things are) was that those who started podcasts – in the first wave of that format’s popularity – were likely to abandon the project before the tenth episode. If it went beyond that it might go on for years, but that seemed to be the point where burnt out set in.

I Need To Lie Down Parks And Recreation GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

In those days – now 15 or more years ago – taking a break was something that just happened. Announcing it on your blog was kind of a joke, as people had a laugh at the author for taking themselves so seriously as to think it was a Big Deal and had to be addressed publicly. You opened yourself up for comments being left on the post that tweaked you for feeling so important and essential.

For most people at that time a personal blog was either a branding mechanism – showing off your skills in the hopes it would lead to job advancement in some manner or to further writing opportunities – or simply a passion project where you let your freak flag fly on a topic you loved or were passionate about. Revenue wasn’t really a concern, so a heads-up to readers about a break was more about showing you hadn’t abandoned the blog.

Taking time off may have been important to you, but because a good amount of reading happened via RSS and links from other blogs it didn’t impact your audience much unless it extended for a significant period. Whenever you picked back up, your readers would know about it and things continued on.

That the stakes are so much higher now for taking the kind of break independent online publishers have needed from time to time for over a decade says something about the state of internet media. Social media platforms own a sizable percentage of online behavior, taken in large part from blogs. LiveJournal has shuttered, Tumblr has fallen from grace after multiple acquisitions. Medium isn’t the hot site it once was and other platforms have come and gone.

A break of some duration is understandable, then. When the stakes were much lower it made sense, especially for people who produced podcasts or held themselves to a strict, heavy publishing schedule. Now, with so much more on the line it’s even more justifiable, especially since time off might mean a producer’s content is weighted differently in the platform algorithms that determine who succeeds and who doesn’t.

While I’ve been critical of “influencer marketing” over the last several years, that’s mostly because it feels like a cheapening of the infrastructure that was built by the early online publishing pioneers. It used to take hard work and dedication to amass a substantial readership, now it takes a bit of spending on Promoted Posts and some help from the brand that hired you to make their new product introduction video.

But it is a job, and a hard one. Many of the best ones, the ones who aren’t overt Nazis or misogynists, put a lot of effort into their channels and productions and depend on the revenue generated in the same way a freelancer or other independent worker would. Many companies offer long-term employees a sabbatical of some length after X number of years to help avoid burnout, and people can use their vacation time to get away from the office (hypothetically, at least, since a big percentage never really does) and gain some perspective.

Just like what the article mentions about online influencers, those employees face some amount of risk by taking advantage of the time off available to them. They may come back and find their responsibilities have been assigned to others, or that they’ve been cut out of an important upcoming project. The boss might have a new favorite or they may receive negative feedback on their next performance review as they’re seen as not fully committed to the company and its success.

All of that is to say the problems faced by these individuals are common, felt by people in a variety of positions and circumstances and should therefore be taken seriously. Everyone needs a break now and then, as long as both parties are aware it’s happening.

https://giphy.com/gifs/friends-told-gifs-reactions-FfkOSws4yg3As

Remember To Focus on Function, Not Form With Branded Content

As has often been the case on a number of different topics, I can’t help but read this story about how branded podcasts have taken off and really resonated with listeners and not think that the content industry continues to suffer from a terminal case of platform myopia.

Branded podcasts, it seems, are the new key to gaining audience attention. The benefits, as mentioned in the Fast Company piece, include but are not limited to:

  • They engage and entertain
  • They are advertising that doesn’t feel like advertising
  • They allow brands to engage in industry thought leadership
  • They reach an educated, affluent and influential audience
  • They create a tighter audience/brand connection

If you’re finding all of that to be very, very familiar there’s a reason: They’re largely the same reasons brand blogs were such a good idea 10-15 years ago and continue to be so.

All of those benefits have been part of the brand approach to self-publishing for over a decade. Blogs were seen as ways to offer deeper insights into a brand’s operations and persona than traditional advertising would allow. While no one (at least no one who wasn’t the marketing equivalent of an ambulance chasing charlatan) has ever recommended completely replacing media relations with blogging, the best executions utilize the advantages of both approaches: Traditional media gets some stories for X reason while the blog gets other stories for Y reason.

We shouldn’t be shocked by the rise of branded podcasts for just this reason: It’s just another content marketing execution. The best consultants and marketers (again, not the ones who go chasing after every shiny object) have long advised clients and executives that it’s not about having a “blog strategy” or “Twitter strategy.” It’s about having a “content strategy” whose framework, principles and goals can be adapted to any platform.

Those companies going all-in on a podcast strategy – and throwing serious money around while doing so – are hopefully approaching it with the mindset of building out long-term content workflows and principles that can be applied to the podcasts they’re involved with but are also able to be applied to whatever the next thing is. Without that kind of thinking, all that money has been spent with no long-term benefit.

Put it this way: I can either:

  1. Spend $100,000 of your money building out a workflow and program that might be focused on podcasts right now but whose ideas and systems can be applied to video, blogging, social media and other content forms and can be molded to meet the needs of whatever happens a year from now. While operating the program will require ongoing expenditures, you’ll see the benefits of that initial $100,000 for the next 10 years.
  2. Spend $75,000 getting you going on a podcast-specific program that will be awesome and the best in the industry, but that’s only going to get you through the next year and doesn’t account for new developments or content formats.

Option 2 might get you headlines, but Option 1 offers deeper value. It’s the difference between strip mining and organic farming. One is sustainable, the other very much not.

On top of that, there’s one issue where podcasting, as great as it is, continues to fall short of blogging and makes the investment in it questionable: Discovery. Here’s the one line from the FC story that addresses that.

Companies also have to pony up to buy ad space on other podcasts to ensure that they’re discovered, basically advertising their advertisements.

Say what you will about blogging, but at least it’s both much more friendly to discovery via search and easier to link to or reference in a way where the audience can take direct action.

If I’m an independent podcast host and I want to mention – organically, not because of an ad – that Brand X has launched a really interesting podcast you should check out, I will. But that’s it. My listeners can’t click on anything or take any other form of immediate action that’s traceable back to me. They might open up their podcast app and search for it, but what are the odds they’ll get distracted before converting? I’m guessing high.

When you have to pay for discovery, you’re playing someone else’s game. That’s been the realization everyone has awoken to regarding Facebook, which has stifled reach and encouraged publishers to buy ads if they want to reach the audience they thought they were building organically. And that’s the case with podcasts, where search and recommendation systems are less than optimal, usually focusing solely on the biggest and most high-profile brand names at the expense of smaller, independent producers.

There were certainly instances where companies with corporate blogs engaged in some search advertising to drive the audience from time to time. But those were very much supplemental efforts, not primary discovery mechanisms.

Coming at the same time as that was this Wired story about the recent rise of podcasting that makes an error that’s become all too common in the last couple years: It seems to use 2014’s “Serial” series as the creation point of the medium. While it certainly did get a great amount of mainstream attention, podcasts were common a decade prior to that and, one could argue, started gaining mass interest around 2005 when iTunes added native podcast support to its desktop app.

But making that admission would mean dismantling the idea that the podcast boom hasn’t been an overnight phenomenon, which apparently cannot be done. So those of us who have been exploring podcasts for years and years are just kind of…forgotten.

What’s being lost in the constant discussion of the podcast production powerhouses like Gimlet Media (which is heavily involved in the creation of several branded shows) is that podcasting, like blogging, is an open platform. Anyone can start a show with just a microphone and a few open source online tools.

Unlike social networks, you’re not dependent on someone else’s TOS to simply produce your show. There may be distribution roadblocks thrown at you when you fail to meet the standards of iTunes or some other platform, including Anchor, Soundcloud and others that have added easy podcast recording features. If you’re not concerned with that and want to take your message directly to the audience without that intermediary, you can.

The conversation then comes back to discovery. If, for whatever reason, you’re not welcome on the major distribution platforms or have decided you don’t want to be locked into one particular set of tools, that’s your right. But then you have to work harder to be found through web search, social media, word of mouth or other means because you won’t be included in the category directories of those platforms.

That, then, is the main advantage the brands working with Gimlet and other shops have, that they will be included in the listings found when someone clicks the big shiny button in Apple’s Podcasts app bearing the production company’s logo. They work with them partly because they’ve streamlined the recording and distribution process and have access to talent but also because they are the dominant force in discovery.

What will be interesting to see is what happens a couple years down the road. A recent story pointed out that more companies were bringing advertising and marketing creative in-house after farming that work out to agencies for years. The reason for that shift is that agencies were able to add expertise in niche fields faster than the companies could, making them valuable partners. As those niches became mainstream (programmatic advertising, video production etc), the economics of scaling in-house teams became more advantageous, leaving agencies hanging. It’s not unrealistic to think the same could happen with podcast production, which could leave Gimlet and others in a substantial financial lurch.

Which is why, to bring it back around to my initial point, it’s so important to spend the time and money now to establish and codify content workflows and standards. They will help you guide today’s program and, even if you’re outsourcing production now, provide the foundation for whatever is added tomorrow.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

It’s About More Than Just Podcasts

Record labels, according to this story at Billboard, have discovered that podcasts are an effective way to market and promote the artists they’ve signed. Those labels have realized they have access to scads of talent and don’t have to worry about copyright claims over music usage and so are hoping to tap into the substantial podcast audience to raise interest and revenue. They join independent artists and other enthusiasts in working to become tastemakers, only with a more clearly intentional financial interest in doing so.

That’s interesting and cool, to be sure. While the focus is narrowly on podcasts, there’s a bigger picture to place this within.

Podcasts are part of content marketing.

A universal definition of content marketing is hard to come by. They usually vary based on what the person offering the definition is trying to sell or specialize in. In general, though, it involves creating content to inform and engage the audience, mostly through unpaid channels to bypass the traditional advertising structure.

That’s what this is. The labels have simply added “podcast creation” to the content marketing tactics being utilized and executed. It joins Twitter, Facebook and whatever other channels each label has been using to bypass the media gatekeepers and take their message straight to fans.

Last year I wrote about how I was continually shocked movie studios haven’t latched on to podcasting as an effective way to promote their films. Many of the issues I raised there are exactly what record labels seem to have embraced, realizing that they enjoy access not just anyone with a microphone and an RSS feed has.

It’s not that I believe every company needs to do everything they possibly can. Every company in any industry needs to evaluate tactics and do what makes the most sense for them. It’s why some are so active on Twitter while ignoring Facebook. Or why others have let Snapchat go after a few months of experimentation didn’t pan out.

What’s important in that evaluation is assessing what particular elements can be offered to the audience. What can you do better than anyone else? What’s the unique value proposition being presented?

That’s the question at least some record labels seem to have answered as they add podcasting to their organic content marketing mix.

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist who lives in the Chicago suburbs.

Influencers, Podcasting, SimpleNote and More: Quick Takes for 8/12/16

One in Four Influencers Asked Not to Disclose Paid Promotion (AdAge, 8/10/16)

Well that’s just a bad idea. This isn’t just best practice – and it has been since the days of “blog outreach” back in 2005 – it’s a federal regulation. Agencies who are asking the people they work with to not disclose a paid relationship are actively encouraging them to break the law. These “influencers” should immediately run away from anyone who says this to them.

The (Future) Queens of Podcasting (The Ringer, 8/10/16)

A must-read. If there’s one problem I consistently have with podcasts it’s that they’re all hosted by white 30-something dudes. I’d love to expand my horizons on that front, but discovery still sucks in most podcast platforms. Anyway, the (now) low barrier to entry to podcasts mean a variety of voices from all kinds of people can be heard. Now discovery needs to improve so they can be found by a broader audience.

iOS, Android, and macOS Apps Now Open Source (SimpleNote Blog, 8/11/16)

Not a lot to say here, but I like SimpleNote and it’s great to see Automattic open source it, showing that their ethos in that regard extends to more than just WordPress.

simplenote

“A Honeypot For Assholes”: Inside Twitter’s 10-Year Failure To Stop Harassment (Buzzfeed, 8/11/16)

This has been much-discussed and I don’t have a lot to add to it. It’s worth noting Twitter’s response, though Buzzfeed staffers quickly pointed out – on Twitter, of course – that Twitter was given plenty of opportunity to comment prior to publication. It’s undisputed that the network has to do more on this front but there’s a lot…well…this is a complicated issue. Still an important story and hopefully one that spurs Twitter to action.

Snapchat ‘Anime’ Effect Is Criticized as Asian Caricature (New York Times, 8/12/16)

This is what, the third time Snapchat has come under fire for a racist filter. You’d think they’d learn by now, but this is what you get when you create a company, not to mention an entire industry, by people who are actively antisocial and don’t know how to run a business in an adult, societal-aware way.

Podcasts; They’re So Hot Right Now

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New from me on Voce:

But now it’s media brands who are vying for the attention that’s been focused to date on individual shows. Sure, This American Life and others have been big for a long while now. But the democratic nature of podcasting means that individuals with no access to significant production budgets are already movers and shakers in this world, where Vogue and other media companies are in the position of playing catchup to Marc Maron, Chris Hardwick and other, smaller players.

Source: Blogging Enabled People to Catch Up with Media. Now Media are Catching Up with Independent Podcasts « Voce Communications

Journalism 2.somethingoranothernow

Last week a report was released showing the extent to which reporters and traditional journalists felt their field was being impacted by bloggers, citizen journalists and other new media creators.

According to the survey that formed the report, 74 percent of journalists say new media outlets have “very” or “somewhat” effect on the speed of the reporting they do. So we can conclude from that, it seems, that journalists are feeling the eyeballs being trained on them and are speeding up their processes in order to make sure they get the story first.

But only 43 percent (and I say “only” lightly since that’s a pretty good-sized chunk of respondents) say that new media has had similar levels of impact on the quality of news coverage. 56 percent say little to no impact on quality has been felt.

The story ends with the author of the study saying journalists are at the very least turning to blogs for context and new ideas or angles for their own coverage, a topic I opined on before, bemoaning the fact that while they may get ideas and information on blogs, they rarely link out to or otherwise credit the bloggers.

Whatever impact journalists might feel blogs and new media in general is having, the tea leaves are aligning in such a way that it’s impossible to not see the tidal wave rolling around the bend.

(Mixed metaphor skillz: I haz dem)

Consider that political blogger James Pindell is leaving the Boston Globe for ThePoliticker, a new national network of such blogs. At the site a series of state-specific blogs will be brought together to form national coverage of the political arena.

Or that The New York Times of all papers is now openly soliciting for user-submitted photos of polling places during the primaries.

Or that magazine publishers are increasing the number of online features like social networking, games, and videos they roll out each year that not only make the sites more sticky but also allow for some creation of content by the visitor.

Or that this election cycle is featuring an incredible amount of new-media/old-media partnerships as each outlet looks to tap the other’s audience.

In an interview with New York Times “Bits” blogger Saul Hansell, he makes the case that blogging is not so very different from traditional journalism, at least not in the tools themselves. It’s the person wielding the tools and how they’re used that make some blogs – or even individual posts on a blog – what they are. Hansell acknowledges that the journalism world has changed to some extent because of the ubiquity of online publishing tools but that the worth of the outlet is determined more by the content than it is by the platform that content is published through.

Former Newsweek CEO Rick Smith, on the other hand, isn’t thrilled with how so many people with such easy access to publishing tools has devalued the news his magazine and others traffic in. Smith says that so much of the media people are now consuming is made up of opinion and not facts that the reporting is losing importance to readers – and the advertisers who want to be attached to breaking news.

I find more agreement with Hansell’s comments then I do with anything else. It’s always the content and the intent of the writer that trumps everything else. If someone puts out good stuff – be it audio, video or text – it will gain an audience and be taken seriously. If the content they’re producing is found to provide better context, be more relevant or in some other way more deeply and meaningfully connect with the audience then it will win the battle for eyeballs.

Instead of complaining over the injustice of consumer-generated content taking readers away from the reporting an established outlet does, it would be better for those editors to look at what they might not be providing to the audience and seek to address that shortcoming. Change. Adapt. Improve.

But still let your readers and other experts participate in the conversation. Allow comments on story and look to see who’s linking to you. Despite all the resources a newspaper or magazine might have (at least those resources that have survived the most recent round of budget cuts) there’s still going to be someone out there with a different take on any given story. They might live in the neighborhood you’re covering and know what their Alderman has just said on an issue. They might work in the industry and know that X was a direct result of W.

Traditional media no longer exists in a vacuum. They have to compete harder than ever for readers and advertisers. But there’s too much “Well we’re better” being proclaimed and not enough “Well we’re better” being practiced. The determination of your quality – whether it be media, consumer-packaged goods or anything else – comes from the number of people who shell out their money for what it is you’re producing.

(Afterward: I had this all written when I saw this pop-up – “How to get a job in journalism.” Lots of good stuff in there for the aspirational.)

Congdon and Baron go boom

The tech, blog and vlog worlds have been turned upside down today with news that Amanda Congdon is leaving RocketBoom. The news was apparently broken this morning by Congdon herself who left a video post on her own blog explaining that, in her words, her partner in RB Andrew Baron simply didn’t want to be her partner anymore. A good number of bloggers ran with the story based solely on that. Congdon = good and Baron = bad in most of their posts.

As with any major news story, the reality of the situation isn’t always right there on the surface, though. Soon word came from Baron that he learned of Amanda’s departure via the video and was as surprised as anyone. Matthew Ingram provides a bit of context for this side of the story. According to an email exchange he had with Baron, Congdon had been wanting to move from New York to Los Angeles for some time. He and the rest of the Rocketboom team had been working on a way to make that happen but, according to him, Congdon decided to make this move unilaterally. That leaves him and the rest of the team to figure out what to do next.

There’s plenty of speculation about what the next step for both Congdon and RocketBoom will be. Will Congdon go mainstream on TV? Will RocketBoom hire an unknown redhead as a change of pace? Thankfully both parties have Robert Scoble’s support. Speaking of Scoble, Om Malik thinks he should hire Congdon for PodTech.

Here’s my question: How many people who consider themselves big shakers in the blogosphere ran this story before trying to get a reaction from Baron or at least waiting until they found one somewhere else? That sort of context is what I thought we were supposed to be doing on blogs. That’s what set us apart – I thought – from the evil mainstream media that was simply concerned with ratings. Instead, though, it seems all we’re worried about is Technorati timestamps.

–Chris Thilk

Movie Marketing & Emerging Technologies

Movie websites have stalled. I’ve been writing my Movie Marketing Madness column for over a year now and in that time I’ve seen sites evolve not a whit. There’s no ingenuity, no free thinking and, most importantly, no adoption of emerging and new communication tools.

When people visit a movie’s website, their ultimate goal is, presumably, to gain access to information on the movie. There’s very little hidden agenda in a website visit (unless you’re a smartass writer doing research for a sub-standard column each week) and you would think this is pretty self-evident. When people visit Amazon.com, they are doing so to shop for DVDs, books or another item from the 8,000+ categories Amazon now offers. When they visit CNN.com they are looking for news.

The goal of a movies’ website seems to be a little more vague and ill-defined, though. Is the goal of the site to be sticky, keeping a person there for as much time as possible? Is it to push traffic to a shopping site of some sort? Is it to merely regurgitate material – trailers, posters and such – available offline? It has to be something greater than that. It has to be a clearing house for all that material, yes, but it also has to give the visitor something unique while also offering the personalization and portability web surfers increasingly demand.

What movie studios need to do is make the content of their websites reflect the latest trends circulating around the web. Changing with the market is the only way to survive and is something studios haven’t been doing. Here are some tips.

Blogs

Oh sure, the attacks on blogs are increasing. They’ve been labeled everything from simply the current incarnation of CB radios to mere gnats going up against the media giants. Admittedly some of the criticisms are warranted and accurate. What blogs seem to be doing is very accurately reflecting the personality (or personalities) of their operators. If the person writing it has a specific ideological bent then their blog will bear that out.

Blogs are also increasingly being used as part of larger marketing plans and this is where movie studios need to see their opportunity. A number of companies have begun what is termed “corporate blogging”; meaning corporately controlled and approved blogging. The advantage of doing this is being seen as knowing where the cutting edge of communications is and making sure you’re right there. Blogs are also an increasingly popular source of news, with some web denizens using them as their launch point into the rest of the web.

So why aren’t they used more on movie websites? Studios should assign someone close to the production to blog each day on high profile movies. It doesn’t have to be the director or the star of the movie. I can imaging Spielberg has more important things to do than write a daily blog entry encapsulating what happened on the set of his latest opus each day. Neither is a $20 million per picture thinking to him or herself, “I can’t wait to get back to my trailer and write about this for the blog.” I accept that. But is the assistant director too busy? Better yet, assign a member of the publicity staff to the production. Have that person on the set regularly, blogging on significant developments from that days shoot. I’m not necessarily saying that all the secrets of a production need to be split and I know that some sets (/cough/Lucas/couch) are closed to keep spoilers from leaking (by the way, how’s that working for you?), but there are things that could be relayed to the public by use of a blog.

A blog can also be used in place of formalized press releases or to update visitors to updates on a films website. I tried to find the time to visit each studios website and troll around their movies sites looking for updates but just can’t. There are too many and time just won’t allow. So I rely, as most bloggers do, on the established outlets to alert me to updates. If it weren’t for the sites listed on the left side of this page Movie Marketing Madness: The Blog wouldn’t exist. They have contacts established that I just don’t.

So here are the kinds of topics studios need to, at a minimum, establish a blog covering:

  1. Website updates (New wallpapers, skins, etc)
  2. Marketing updates (Trailers, posters, etc)
  3. Status of movie (pre-production, shooting and post-production)

By creating a one-stop shop of information on how a movie is moving along and what sort of collateral is now available studios could open up their content to a much broader audience and make web visitors feel more a part of the experience.

RSS Feeds

An essential second step to providing a blog is to provide an RSS feed. RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds are ways for web users to pull content automatically into one of a dozen aggregators (I use Bloglines and love it) providing them almost real-time notification of updates or changes to a website.

What an RSS feed means is that a surfer doesn’t have to actually have to bookmark a webpage and visit it each day for updates. The RSS feed will show if any updates have been made to a page since the last time the user checked their aggregator. This is part of the trend that sees the internet as being customizable. One user’s expectations of their time in cyberspace (does anyone still use that term?) are different from someone else’s. RSS aggregators allow a user to crunch their surfing time into manageable chunks. Instead of wasting time visiting bookmarked pages that haven’t updated in days you merely skip over them in your aggregator.

People interested in a movie can add an RSS feed from that movies’ blog to their aggregator of choice and be instantly notified of updates. They can then click through to the actual site and get the full weight of those updates.

Podcasting

OK, so a studio has decided to start a blog. Now it’s time to podcast.

Podcasting, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the posting of MP3 files on a blog that amount to a radio show. These files can then be loaded onto an iPod or other player for the listeners’ enjoyment on their own schedule. Again, the focus here is on content being available when the end user is ready for it, not necessarily when a company – or in this case movie studio – says then can access it.

The advantage of offering a podcast of an interview with the director or star of a movie is that it’s portable. Hosting a streaming video of an interview is all well and good and it definitely is shinier than an audio file but it requires the viewer to be in front of their computer at the time. The trend is toward “time shifting”, a term coined by the use of TiVo and other digital video recorders to “time shift” television viewing. People no longer had to be sitting down at a time determined by network executives in order to watch their favorite show. The flexibility of time (as well as the reduced hassle of setting a VCR and rewinding a tape) made this technology immensely attractive to consumers. Likewise, podcasting is more and more attractive to those who want the same sort of niche information found on blogs to come with them where they go.

Soundtracks

More and more websites for new movies are offering samples of the film’s soundtrack as some form of streaming audio. A brief snippet of a song will play under the site or there will be a completely separate site devoted to the soundtrack.

There are two problems here, again with the overarching issues being personalization and portability. Say I don’t have the time to sit in front of my computer and click on all 13 samples just to listen to some half-assed mediocre techno-rock. Instead soundtrack marketers should take a lesson from iTunes.

Occasionally iTunes will release a free “sampler” track with brief (30-second or so) snippets of the songs off an upcoming or just-released album. It’s a great way to give someone unfamiliar with an artist a taste of the record apart from the single on the radio. They have whetted an appetite and perhaps that one free track leads to the purchase of the entire album.

Soundtrack sites should do something similar. Provide a sampler of the record available for download so someone can put it on their computer or MP3 player and listen to it. If they listen to it enough and like it they will go out and buy the record. It’s as simple as that. A little taste often leads to a more expensive decision.

Ringtones

This follows a similar thread of logic as the soundtrack argument. Ringtones are making a lot of money for someone and there’s absolutely no reason movie websites shouldn’t be offering them, especially those for well known franchise movies and/or highly anticipated flicks.

Let’s take Star Wars for example. Imagine if they were to offer two or three ringtones for free, say the main theme from the score and a couple of sound effects. By enticing people to visit a dedicated ringtone section of their online store, Lucasfilm could then hook them in with even better tones available for purchase at $1.99 each.

Summary

Essentially there needs to be some evolution, some grasping and embracing of current technologies and trends in order to break out of the clutter of so much else on the web. Websites need to be interactive experiences for the end user. That’s the main thing that will bring them back again and again. These are just a few ideas to push that evolution along.