July 29, 2005

  • Big Fish — The Story Of Suck

    Remember “Suck.com”?

    Even if you weren’t around at the turn of the century to witness Suck in all its real-time glory, you really need to head over to “Keep Going” and print off a copy of “Big Fish — The Story of Suck” as your long weekend read. What Anuff and Steadman (et al.) did was brilliant and this very lengthy article (16 full printed pages) gives reflections from many of those involved.

    Suck was an amazing precursor to the modern blog and the back-story is almost as interesting as their output. Reading Jason Calacanis’ “Walden 3” post made me think of the thrill of working at Suck and the (apparent) thrill of working for “Weblogs Inc.”. Hopefully, Jason can do a better job of watching the money than the sucksters did!

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on July 29, 2005.

July 26, 2005

  • What Can We Learn From Sears WebTV?

    On Monday “Marketing Daily” reported that Sears Canada had just launched a new “online shopping channel”:

    Sears Canada is pioneering what could be the future of shopping: an e-commerce platform that combines TV-style shopping programs and online click and pay methods. The new website, “searswebtv.ca”, features an on-demand webcast, which links highlighted products directly to online shopping on “sears.ca”. The program, still in its pilot stage, offers consumers online informercial-style videos in eight different categories, from women’s fashions to fitness equipment and electronics. The 30-minute videos are hosted by Sandra Gayle, of HGTV’s Design Challenge and include appearances by category personalities like aerobics champion Sharon Mann. While Gayle talks about the benefits of shoes and laundry machines, the products appear on the right side of the computer screen (outside the video), along with prices and details. Each product name is a link to its featured page on sears.ca. Frank Rocchetti, Sears’ senior vice-president of merchandising and marketing, calls the initiative “a key differentiator” for the mass retailer.

    I asked a few of the One Degree team a simple question: “What can we learn from Sears Web TV?”

    “Bill Sweetman” replied:

    Streaming video has gone mainstream: Wow. When a staunchly conservative establishment brand like Sears launches on online TV channel, you know that video on the Web has arrived. ‘TV’ is still a powerful medium: Most of us have grown up with television, and Sears Web TV proves that it can be a great way to convey information in an engaging way, even if it’s broadcast to one person at a time on the Web. It’s not always about ‘interactivity’: Sears Web TV is not very ‘interactive’ and, in this case, that is not a bad thing. I like the streamlined, focused approach of this. So many companies would try to jam all sorts of bells and whistles into this. Sears didn’t, and I respect that. Video for the Web has to be shot for the Web: As someone with a background in television production, I’m really impressed by the fact that these videos were shot specifically for the Web. Clearly, the producers understand the limitations of streaming video, and how to make the most of them. 99% of the video I see on the Web was not produced with this medium in mind, and it shows. This was. These videos are also an ideal length (2 minutes). Still, there’s always room for improvement. I think the running time of the videos should be identified upfront so that the viewer knows what they are getting themselves into. I’d also recommend adding a ‘send to a friend’ mechanism and an opt-in email signup mechanism so that users can find out when new videos are added to the site.

    “Tara” chimed in:

    When I started watching the RCA Portable DVD player spot, I was instantly reminded of the Canadian Tire television spots I so adore. Certainly, not all products are going to appeal to all people (I wouldn’t be caught dead in tummy control pants), but highlighting specific products in action is a good idea for inspiring customers to purchase. The only thing that I would change is to make the ‘infomercials’ a little more down-to-earth, perhaps incorporating them into day-to-day life. They could also become a little more interactive (allowing for comments on the spots to be emailed or posted — perhaps other customers have enjoyed the product). Once Sears Web TV starts offering these product spots within product categories, they should do well.

    “June” opined:

    First, I had a bit of deja-vu. I’m not sure how long Sears has been using the tagline on this site, “we’re always open”, but it’s one word less than the old chapters.ca (pre-Indigo) tagline “always open” — and in the same font! My favorite thing on the new searswebtv.ca site is the workshop. I want those cabinets. The rest? Well, I’m obviously not really the target shopper. Overall, I like getting to see live video of items when I’m shopping as it provides a more realistic idea of what it’s like over a static image, but it needs to be faster. I can’t see this site being a destination without a lot more product and more entertainment value. They need to go heavier on the home shopping network idea, include more of a demo, and interaction with another human so we’re not watching a talking head (even Rick Mercer non-stop gets a little dull). I vote A for effort and C for content.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on July 26, 2005.

  • Strip For The Gap

    “Jeff Job” just sent me word of a new viral from “the Gap” called “watchmechange”. Well, new to me. The first mention of this site seems to be about a week ago “according to Technorati” but it looks like it’s starting to pick up steam. Of course, you have to look sharp to see that it is from the GAP as their logo only appears briefly as the game loads and again in the “forward to a friend” e-mail you’re buds will receive so they can “watch you change”.

    My guess is 90% of people create their dream-date rather than making their own avatar. I’m not sure about this one. It seems to be pretty viral and is technically clever, but you don’t get any true sense of what the clothes will look like on you. And I’m still not sure why the brand has to be so buried. “Try it out” then come back and tell us whether you’ll buy your back-to-school gear at the Gap.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on July 26, 2005.

July 18, 2005

  • Should You Pre-announce Site Changes?

    I’d like to pose a question to you, the esteemed One Degree reader:

    ”Does it make sense to send a message to your e-mail list telling them that you will be launching a new website ‘very soon’?”

    <image lost to link decay>

    If you click on the image above you’ll be able to see the e-mail I just received from “Black’s Photo”. I’m puzzled by this as the message seems to be saying “we’d like to interrupt your day to tell you not to come to our site now, but that you’ll really want to at some point in the future, we just can’t tell you quite when.”

    Am I missing something? Is there a reason to send this kind of message? Black’s isn’t alone in doing this but I’ve never understood the logic.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on July 18, 2005.

  • Dumbest Canadian Domain Mistake Ever?

    Okay, I don’t mean to pick on Black’s today but they’re making it too easy…

    Where would you find Black’s Photo online?

    If you said blacksphoto.com, you’d be… wrong.

    The official URL for Black’s Photo is “blackphoto.com”:http://www.blackphoto.com. Note the lack of an “s” in their official domain. Now you might think that this is their fallback domain because they couldn’t get the much more obvious “with s” blacksphoto.com. That’s what I thought, after “checking that site” and finding a message that said, “No web site is configured, at this address.” But “checking the WHOIS” shows that the domain is indeed owned by Black’s Photo Corporation.

    If you know anyone at Black’s Photo, please tell them read “How To: Add Spell-check To Your Domain Names” so they can fix this faux pas that must be costing them hundreds of visitors a day, if not thousands. Is this the dumbest domain name mistake made by a major Canadian firm or can you top think of a more egregious example?

    Update — Aug 3, 2005 — Looks like someone at Black’s is reading One Degree because the domain issue is now straightened out. *But*, they didn’t redirect to the correct URL which would have been the best way to approach this.

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on July 18, 2005.

July 11, 2005

  • RSS and Ad-Supported Sites

    I was a bit surprised that “John Battelle” so easily dismissed the problems that syndication will cause ad-supported sites when I asked him about it for “today’s Five Questions for…” feature. I think that “Keith Robinson” shows the confusion many publishers feel about this issue in his “How RSS Affects Content Monetization” post. We seem to be at a bit of an impasse. One contingent saying “don’t clutter my feedreader with crappy ads — I read feeds to get away from the clutter” and another equally reasonable contingent saying “don’t give me notifications and summaries that force me to go to your site to read your posts — I want everything served up right in my reader”.

    Since full, ad-free editorial posts in feeds seems to be a non-starter for ad-supported sites, how do we move forward to find something that everyone can be happy with?

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on July 11, 2005.

July 5, 2005

  • Don’t Call It A Blog

    Is this a blog? Do you know? Do you care? From my context this is a blog and I think most of our contributors consider themselves bloggers. But for you the reader these facts are largely immaterial. You’re here for the ideas -and the free chicken wings-. How those ideas are added to the site and how they are presented on the page are of little importance. And the same probably holds for most of the readers of most of the blogs out there.

    Readers generally don’t know or care that your blog is a blog. Jonathan Carson at BuzzMetrics crystallized my thinking on this in his post “Is blog going to be an industry term?”. I think it already is. “David Galbraith” came to the same conclusion saying:

    With magazines and professional websites being blog driven, blog refers to the way something is published not what. There is no more need to know what a blog is than know what an internal combustion engine is if you drive a car. This is a paradigm shift as important as the browser. Web 1.0 was about reading (browsing and searching), Web 2.0 is about publishing. For the investors that are looking to invest in blogs or RSS — that’s like investing in HTML, the big story is publishing.

    When designing One Degree we went out of our way not to call it a blog and to avoid blogging terms like “permalinks”. We failed in a few spots (“posts” and “entries” come to mind) and we’re working on cleaning that stuff up soon.

    Generally we marketers get way too close to what we do. It’s great that we sweat the details and debate various strategies, but when it comes time to speak to our audience, we need to speak their language, not ours. “GoDaddy” did a great job of this in their “Superbowl Commercials” — think what you will of the ads themselves, but they did a great job of nailing what they were from the audience’s perspective: “It’s a website where you can register dotcom names for only $8.95 a year”.

    One Degree isn’t a blog, it’s a web site. It doesn’t have posts, it has articles. Right?

    Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on July 28, 2005.