November 28, 2006

  • QotD: Can A Video Card Have Friends?

    A while ago Matt Williams sent me this…

    I was just downloading the latest nVidia drivers for my new GFX card and guess what? nVidia has their own MySpace page. Is this a new, serious marketing medium? I always thought of MySpace to be a social networking site, but how do you socialize with a corporation that manufactures graphics cards? Are they just out there to get people who use their cards to be “friends” to advertise the strength of their product? Are they hoping that the friends of these people will see their buddies using the nVidia cards and follow suit?

    So, let’s help Matt out here folks. What do you think of the nVidia Myspace page and the concept of companies engaging in social networks this way. Comment below and share your wisdom…

    Originally published at on November 28, 2006.

November 15, 2006

  • 6 Tips For Better Blogger Outreach

    With the rise of bloggers as key influencers, a growing number of smart marketers are looking at blogs as a way to seed products and develop word-of-mouth while building web traffic and inbound links. Most marketers approach seeding products to influential bloggers in an ad hoc manner — they’ll pick a few blogs, send them a sample and see what happens.

    Interestingly, there have been some very controversial attempts to formalize this concept be companies like PayPerPost and ReviewMe. All this had been a rather abstract concept for me until very recently when I got an email from Andrew Milligan, owner of Sumo Urban Lounge Gear, based here in Toronto.

    To: Ken Schafer

    From: Andrew Milligan Subject: Contact Form from

    Hi Ken, My name is Andrew and I have a company named Sumo which makes modern, funky and high-quality bean bag chairs. I could simply say, our Omni chair is the most comfortable chair in the world and truly enhances one’s life! I am a fan of your site and was wondering if you would be interested in taking a sample of our Omni chair and posting a review on it.

    After taking a look at the Sumo Lounge site and checking out the Omni chair he was offering, I sent back a hearty “you’re on — as long as I can blog about you asking me to blog about it”.

    Luckily Andrew accepted my challenge and sent the chair a few days later.

    Based on my experience on the receiving end of a blogger outreach campaign, here are my recommendations should you want to do something similar (Sumo scored high on every one of these):

    • Pick Your Target — Not all sites have the right audience and the right content to fit with all products. Make sure that your product is something that fits not only with the blogger’s interests but with their readership.
    • Personalize You Message — You’ll turn off bloggers pretty quickly if you send a generic form letter. Personalize your message to show that you’ve actually read the person’s blog.
    • Don’t Make Demands — Note that while Andrew did suggest a review, he didn’t demand it and he didn’t imply in any way that it should be a positive review. Saying “I’ll give you this in exchange for a good review” will likely get you more bad PR than good reviews. Be warned.
    • Follow Through — Andrew got back to me in a few hours asking for my color preference and shipping address. The beanbag (which is huge) arrived a few days later as promised. If he’d blown the follow through many bloggers would end up blogging about that instead of the product.
    • Have a Product Worth Talking About — Whatever you do — do not seed product into the market if the product is a piece of crap. Even if it’s just run-of-the-mill, don’t do it. Only remarkable, mentionable products need apply. Sumo’s stuff is comment-worthy, quirky, a “little guy” story and a ton of other things that make it a good candidate for outreach.
    • Follow Up — I’ll be honest, we started using the chair and the original version of my review sat in draft mode for _weeks_. Andrew gave a few friendly follow-ups, first asking if we got it, then asking if we liked it, and finally wondering if I’d be posting a review at some point. He never demanded anything but did gently guilt me into posting something. (Hope you like the end result Andrew!)

    Did the strategy pay off for Sumo? Not sure yet, but the rave reviews and links from a wide range of sites are a great indicator of how this kind of campaign should unfold.

    And you may ask, how great is the Sumo bean bag chair?

    Everyone in the Schafer household was WAY impressed. My tweens immediately adopted this monster as their own and gave it a rating of “seven stars”. It was used as a couch for movie night, a bed for sleepover guests later that night, and is now the official chair for all Nintendo gaming sessions.

    My wife, parenting expert Alyson Schafer didn’t understand what the fuss was about saying, “I grew up with bean bag chairs the first time around, I don’t need to try them again.” Once repeated pleas from the kids got her in the chair she spent the rest of the evening sunk into it, admitting it was nothing like what she remembered.

    Originally published at on November 15, 2006.

November 13, 2006

November 8, 2006

November 6, 2006

November 1, 2006

  • Podcasting’s Perfect Storm

    Sebastien Chorney is head of operations at Podzapper, a producer of branded digital media for the online and mobile space. Sebastien has a long background in audio and music production and is a consummate storyteller.

    One Degree: Sebastien, my guess is that humans can only absorb so many podcasts into their lives. I’ve been listening to podcasts pretty much since “Doc” and “Dave” got the ball rolling but it’s rare that a new podcast unseats the 20 or so I subscribe to in iTunes and already have trouble keeping up with. Does this give an advantage to early adopters that “latecomers” (in a two-year-old industry?!) will have a hard time overcoming or is there a way for future podcasters to unseat my current favorites?

    Sebastien: I think there’s a bit of a perfect storm going on in the podcasting or “media on demand” world right now that strongly favors the so-called latecomers. There are probably three main reasons: one having to do with content, one with distribution and the other with demand on the consumer side.

    You’re right that there’s an inherent advantage to being first to market with any new product or service, but 2006 may well be remembered as the year during which many of the poster children of podcasting faded into obscurity. It’s been nothing short of astounding to watch established media companies and other brands muscle their way into this space, particularly over the last 12 months or so.
    Up-and-comers looking to unseat your favorites would do well to align themselves with an established brand and create content that is highly differentiated, useful, relevant and/or entertaining with good production values. It seems obvious, but bears repeating!

    On the distribution end, there are so many syndication options, which makes it easier than ever for users to discover and subscribe to new “casts”. Depending on the audience, iTunes and/or RSS may not be the front door that people walk in through, so it makes sense for new podcasters to offer a variety of file formats, have an embedded Flash player and/or syndicate through email, an interface that everyone can understand. For those who publish ads, it also makes sense to drive subscriber traffic directly to your site rather than to an aggregator. YouTube, Revver and now Brightcove (current website is down) have different revenue sharing models that up-and-comers should explore.

    Finally, on the demand side, this explosion of content plays to our insatiable curiosity as consumers, and for the moment at least, the economics of producing niche content really do favor the so-called “late comers”. Aspiring podcasters looking to produce more mainstream, broadly targeted content will be held to a higher standard (both in terms of content and production values) and have a tougher road ahead of them.

    Originally published at on November 1, 2006.