September 8, 2005
ThinData Gets Press For Doing Right Thing
If you read the Globe article “mentioned in my last post”, you’ll know that “ThinData” are undoubtedly thankful that they’ve been treating Aubrey Stork so nicely:
The Internet merchandising company he worked for in Toronto was shrinking and, as other people left the company, he had to take on their responsibilities. Mr. Stork says he tried to no avail to discuss the burden with his bosses. “It forced me to look at my long-term goals and I realized I had reached my limit and it was time to look for a new job,” Mr. Stork says. And he did. Now, four months into his new job as a production specialist at ThinData Inc., a website marketing company in Toronto, Mr. Stork says that he loves to go to work every day because he’s getting encouragement from management in the growing firm to expand his horizons and work toward his goal of becoming an account manager. “I definitely feel more appreciated,” he says.
Reason Number 34 to “do the right thing”: It might get you press in unexpected but pleasurable ways.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on September 8, 2005.
September 1, 2005
Gap.com Closed For Renovations
Unbelievable. I mean really unbelievable.
The Gap, Gap Kids, Baby Gap, Gap Maternity, Gap Body, and Old Navy web sites are offline and according to USA Today have been for a while now:
Hoping to minimize the customer inconvenience, Gap Inc. waited until after most back-to-school shopping had been finished before launching a “soup-to-nuts” overhaul of its major e-commerce sites, said company spokeswoman Kris Marubio. “We think this is going to make for a more compelling and exciting experience for shoppers,” Marubio said.
The San Francisco-based company isn’t disclosing when the sites will reopen. Instead, visitors are being asked to leave their e-mail addresses with Gap.com and Oldnavy.com so they can be informed when the sites are selling clothes again. “It’s major project for us so we know it’s going to take some time,” Marubio said. She warned the company may still have to fix some bugs even after the sites reopen.
The continuing closure of Gap.com and Oldnavy.com is likely to put another small dent in Gap Inc.’s sales, which have been sagging in recent months. The slump already has prompted management to lower its profit projections for this year. Gap.com and OldNavy.com each generated online sales of $236 million last year, accounting for 3% of Gap Inc.’s total revenue of $16.3 billion.
Oldnavy.com attracted 4.2 million visitors in July while Gap.com drew 2.6 million visitors, according to Nielsen/NetRatings, a research firm.
As Eric Peterson at Jupiter Research points out, they’re losing over a million dollars a day. And they can’t say when it will be open again! Haven’t they heard of a staging server? (Note that Banana Republic’s new site has reopened and gives a tour of new features at the site. One can only guess that similar features will be seen at the “Grand Reopening” of gap.com and oldnavy.com sometime this fall.)
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on September 1, 2005.
August 26, 2005
Embrace The Raw
E-marketer Editorial Director Ezra Palmer manages to pull together blogging, the Sex Pistols, Cicero, and Paul Gauguin in an interesting post at iMedia Connection called How Blogs Pertain to You. Here’s a quote, but read the “whole article”:
It’s probably not wise to generalize about something as amorphous as the Blogosphere, but here goes: the Blogosphere is a place for people who want a more personal relationship with various entities they deal with on a regular basis — corporate, government, media, you name it. They want to have a sense of a person behind or within the enterprise. They are looking for something or somebody real. All of which brings to mind the Sex Pistols. (Really.) John Lydon and John Simon Ritchie couldn’t sing or play musical instruments, but they took the stage names of Johnny Rotten and Sid Vicious and in 1977 their album, “Never Mind the Bollocks Here’s the Sex Pistols,” upended the music world, tapping into listeners’ desire for something real — real emotion, real anger, real energy. Tired of calculated professionalism, music fans (some of them, anyway) embraced the raw.
And further on:
Nonetheless, there is clearly a meaningful group of consumers — your consumers — who want that feeling of community, the feeling of “the real.” They don’t want corporate speak or push-button options. They actually might like to know about your personal taste in music and don’t mind if you aren’t a good speller. How many of these consumers are out there? It’s almost certainly far short of a majority. (After all, the best-selling single in 1977 was not by the Sex Pistols but Debby Boone, with “You Light Up My Life.”)
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 26, 2005.
Getting Real About Podcasting
Ted Schadler (“guest-guest-blogging” for Charlene Li at her blog) has a good post called Getting Real About Podcast Adoption:
Podcasting feels like the Internet first did: a whole new way of experiencing the world. But at the end of the day, radio is radio and consumers will only listen to things they find valuable. So what will podcasting adoption look like? In Apple’s view of the world, podcasting is radio reinvented — as long as it runs on an iPod. To the rising tide of podcast hosts, podcasting is better than blogging for becoming famous. To venture capitalists like Kleiner, Perkins Caufield & Byers, Charles River Ventures, and Sequoia Capital, podcasting is a bet on the next big thing. To commercial operators like Clear Channel, it’s yet another channel for selling advertisements.
The post is worth a read as it goes into the novelty factor, the fact that downloads don’t equate to listeners, and more.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 26, 2005.
August 22, 2005
What You’ll Be Talking About This Week
I guarantee that if John Markoff’s article about Google in the New York Times is correct this is what much of the blogosphere will be buzzing about this week:
On Monday, Google is planning to introduce a second-generation version of its downloadable computer search tool, Google Desktop. It will come with both personalization and software “agent” features — learning capabilities — plus an invitation for independent programmers to develop small programs to extend the capability of the system. Both capabilities are likely to be seen as further competitive threats by Microsoft, which is focusing on similar information retrieval and organization advances in its long-delayed next-generation operating system, Windows Vista. “We’re really trying to make this into a platform,” said Nikhil Bhatla, product manager for Google Desktop. As with Apple Computer’s popular Dashboard feature, the idea is that it will be simple for programmers to extend the reach of Google Desktop by adding custom applications, known as live content panels. Google executives say they plan to unveil on Wednesday a “communications tool” that is potentially a clear step beyond the company’s search-related business focus. While executives would not disclose what the new software tool might be, Google has long been expected to introduce an instant messaging service to compete with services offered by America Online, Yahoo and MSN from Microsoft.
My advice to Internet marketers? Don’t get sidetracked by reading the tea leaves about new Google products — leave that to the pundits.
As with everything Google does, it will attract incredible amounts of ink but it will take time and reflection to understand the the direct impact on how you market online. If you think about it, how have the introduction of Orkut, Gmail, Google Maps, or other recent Google roll-outs directly effected your Internet marketing strategy? Unless you are competing in these spaces, it probably hasn’t changed much.
None of this is to say that you shouldn’t pay attention to what Google and the other big players do. It’s just to point out that letting the dust settle first and then digging into the deeper impact of their strategy on your strategy is probably a smart move.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 22, 2005.
Will Feeds Kill Newsletters Within A Year?
I certainly hope so. Otherwise “this Globe & Mail article” (paid access only now) will make Chris Pirillo and me look a bit silly.
(Interestingly enough, two years later, Tessa Wegert who interviewed us for the Globe article is writing for One Degree.)
Here’s a snippet:
What does RSS mean to the content-rich e-newsletter industry?
About three months ago, Ken Schafer, president of the Toronto-based Internet consultancy Schafer Group and a founder of The Association for Internet Marketing and Sales (AIMS), simultaneously launched an e-newsletter and added an RSS feed to his company’s blog. Though it’s difficult to determine exactly how many RSS users subscribe to a feed — marketers cite this as one of the few limitations of the system — he estimates that there are about 10 times as many people viewing his feed as the e-newsletter.
Mr. Schafer credits the concept behind RSS with the popularity of the program among his subscribers. ‘[RSS] feeds give the control back to the reader.’ As Internet content publishers, both Mr. Pirillo and Mr. Schafer believe that RSS could replace the need for e-newsletters. ‘It gives us everything we wanted from e-mail newsletters, and everything spam has taken away,’ Mr. Schafer says. ‘I would be surprised if in three years there are any e-newsletters left.’
Well Chris (and the rest of you), do you think we’ll see the demise of e-mail newsletters (not all e-mail) in the near future?
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 22, 2005.
August 20, 2005
Really Long URLs for Slim-Fast Promo
Marketing Magazine’s August 15th issue has an article called “The Spot’s Next Shot” that gives details on a new cross-channel campaign from Slim-Fast:
“I’m not sure whether it is the way to the future, but it’s definitely a breakthrough for the category that we operate in,” says Sinem Uner, brand manager of Slim-Fast at Unilever in Toronto. “I think it’s a much better way to intrigue consumers.” In Slim-Fast’s case, the decision to use short spots on HGTV, Life, Showcase and the Food Network to drive consumers to the Web made sense when research found Slim-Fast’s target market of women 25 to 54 often uses the Internet as an information source.
What’s more, psychographic data found Slim-Fast’s target group is comprised of often-frustrated dieters who are bombarded with messages on health and weight loss from various media. “When they hear about these things, they’re more likely to surf the Web,” Uner says. Enter dietingsucks.ca, a lighthearted domain name “that taps into our consumer insight and empathy.”
Along with a minisite at dietingsucks.ca, the campaign featured some of the longest domain names I’ve ever seen used in a consumer campaign, namely ibarelyhavetimetopeeletalonediet.ca and iworkouthardsowhyismybuttsoft.ca.
While the URLS are clever and probably pique the audience’s interest, I’m sure they had significant drop off in web traffic from people not being able to recall the domains. I couldn’t remember them in the time it took me to open a new browser window after reading the Marketing article so I can imagine lots of people where left playing a guessing game when they got to their computers minutes, hours, or days after seeing the commercial.
On the other hand, dietingsucks.ca is a great domain for this campaign. One of the nice things about Canadian campaigns is that short useful domains like that are still to be had.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 20, 2005.
August 19, 2005
I still on occasion run into people who laugh at the idea that “the Internet changes everything”. On most occasions I just smile, secure in the knowledge that it does and that someday the last few hold-outs will find something that causes even them to say, “whoa — that changes everything”.
Sometimes, when feeling generous and up for a debate, I’ll pull out a host of examples of radical change in culture and business. Today I think I may have found a new one to add to the list — CBC Unplugged.
CBCunplugged.com is a place for listeners to re-connect with their favourite personalities and shows, by way of podcasts that locked-out producers are making. It is not affiliated with the CBC. We all hope to be back at our jobs soon and put your programming on the radio.
Think about that for a moment. What happens when the CBC decides to lock-out workers? The staff route around the corporation and start putting shows online via podcasts. Brilliant. Kudos to Tod Maffin for shaking things up. I wonder if Dave Winer could have imagined a national broadcaster being disintermediated by that little white on orange rectangle?
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 19, 2005.
August 15, 2005
Should Marketers Use Subscriber Auto-Reply Info?
Let me pose an interesting question to your our ever-faithful One Degree readers:
- If someone on your permission-based e-mail marketing list configures their old e-mail address which is on your list to auto-reply with a message that includes a new e-mail address you wouldn’t otherwise know, can you as a marketer safely update your list with this information?
- Would the subscriber expect you to?
- Would you be on solid legal ground in terms of having permission to use this address?
- What might you do to ensure that your subscriber is happy?
- What have you, or would you, personally do in this situation?
By the way, this comes from a real situation a reader sent me. If you run into particularly sticky issues you are struggling with, let us know and we might put your question to the One Degree readership to see if they can help you out. (No promises though)
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 15, 2005.
August 12, 2005
Target OwNz The New Yorker
This is a bit off topic, but the “New York Times has an article” saying:
The Aug. 22 issue of “The New Yorker”, due out Monday, will carry 17 or 18 advertising pages, all brought to you by the “Target” discount store chain owned by the Target Corporation. The Target ads will even supplant the mini-ads from mail-order marketers that typically fill small spaces in the back of the magazine. The Target ads, in the form of illustrations by more than two dozen artists like Milton Glaser, Robert Risko, and Ruben Toledo, are to run only the one time in the issue. They are intended to salute New York City and the people who live — and shop — there. Many mainstream magazines like Time and Life have published what are known as single-sponsor issues, carrying ads only from marketers like Kraft Foods and Progressive insurance. Target has been a sole sponsor before of issues of magazines, among them People. The goal of a single-sponsor issue is the same as it is when an advertiser buys all the commercial time in an episode of a television series: attract attention by uncluttering the ad environment.
I bring this to your attention because, if you look around One Degree, you’ll realize that this is pretty much what we want to do. Our contention is that online clutter kills branding opportunities and for highly-targeted sites like One Degree you need to give sponsors lots of space to get their message across. And as readers, we hate the noise that kills the user experience on most ad-supported sites so we’re happy to stand up and show there is another way. If you have examples of sites that you think are doing a great job of integrating ad messages into the overall experience, I’d love to hear about them. Post your examples below or “contact me” directly.
(Oh, and the title is a Friday afternoon test on whether you’re hip to “leet speak”, but of course you already knew that!)
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 12, 2005.
August 10, 2005
Did Tucows Get Off Easy?
I’ve been thinking about our “Liberty Village Renamed Toronto’s Porn Alley”.
Is it just me or did Tucows get off really easy here? In the MSNBC version of the Dateline NBC story, it says (emphasis mine):
We arrive at the address. It’s a postal drop — just a little mailbox. It seems like a dead end. But when we go back to our computer we find there’s another Toronto company affiliated with “Spunkfarm.” This one is called “Python,” and there’s even an address. Maybe the porn mailer is there. We go to the location, not a mail drop. But it certainly doesn’t look like an office. The space was going to be a Middle Eastern restaurant. Another dead end.
There is one place in Toronto that might help us: It’s called Tucows. That’s the place that registers those Web site names. It’s what led us to Toronto to begin with. The receptionist is happy to look up the name “Spunkfarm” for us. We get another address — this one very nearby.
My reading of this story is that Dateline didn’t know what to do after looking at the WHOIS for the site in the story. But when they went to Tucows, the receptionist gave them the real address of the people involved. If Tucows hadn’t handed over the information to an undercover reporter this story may never have surfaced. It seems that Joey’s post nicely deflected the privacy issue by picking on the sensationalistic aspects of the story (which there certainly were). And Tucows CEO’ blog is silent on this (and has been silent all year for that matter). Had Steve Rubel picked this up like it was a Kryptonite lock they might not be off the hook so fast. Joey is clearly a nice guy, a smart blogger, and well-loved by most in the blogosphere. It seems that his post diffused what might have been an issue had he not been there. Maybe Joey is a valuable resource for Tucows much as Scoble is for Microsoft in that they both serve as lightning rods for the blogosphere — taking the hit to leave the corporate message intact. And because they were out there ahead of controversy they are more likely not be jumped on like a blogless Kryptonite or clueless Dell.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 10, 2005.
August 6, 2005
Liberty Village Renamed “Toronto’s Porn Alley”
Last night Dateline NBC ran a piece on tracking down porn spammers.
If you missed the piece, you’ll definitely want to check out the MSNBC version of the show— everyone is going to be talking about this around the water cooler Monday.
The feature (which long-time anti-spam activist Ray Everett Church points out was shot six months ago) starts when a Texas housewife gets zoo-sex spam and calls John Hockenberry instead of hitting delete. Hockenberry takes up the case and near the end of the second page we find out that:
Sadly, no owners are listed on the Web site itself, but Web sites have to be registered, kind of like a car has to be registered. And we found the place that keeps those registrations. We were told that “Spunkfarm” was associated with a company in Toronto, Canada.
Whoever sent Julie those pictures is in a nice place like Toronto?
There is one place in Toronto that might help us: It’s called Tucows. That’s the place that registers those Web site names. It’s what led us to Toronto to begin with. The receptionist is happy to look up the name “Spunkfarm” for us. We get another address — this one very nearby. We discover that down these dingy alleys of old industrial buildings, and a man on the street tells us that the whole area here is all dot-coms. “Mostly, mostly porn though,” he adds. We’re at Toronto’s Internet porn district. The man takes us around back to the freight elevator and gives an idea what goes on inside this building. There are more companies that seem to see porn within the building. At this point, no one knows we are with “Dateline” or that we’re wearing hidden cameras. We find the building and start asking questions…
I’m sure Tucows isn’t going to be too happy with being called “the place that registers those Web site names” but I think they might also have to do some spin doctoring on why they’re giving out customer addresses to anyone who stops by reception. I won’t recap the rest of the article, but I will tell you that they do in fact find the spammers and not only are they in Liberty Village but in Montreal.
While digging around a bit on this I found Brian McWilliams’ Spam Kings blog for his book of the same name. Interesting insider stuff (apparently the guy in Montreal is a “chickenboner”). He’s got some great links to stuff MSNBC didn’t mention. “Republic of T” takes a different approach in “Idiots with Email” pointing out that a spam filter might be easier than calling in Dateline. In the comments there someone echoes June’s inbox license rant.
It’s interesting how this plays out — the locals find it ironic, while over at LiveJournal some are suggesting “Toronto’s porn alley” should be part of our guided tours:
“And did you know that there is a whole underground internet porn industry in this one section of the city?!?!?! There were all these old industrial buildings that now house as said before, internet porn. And when we were there WHY did we not go there?”
Maybe we should replace “Toronto Unlimited” with “Visit Toronto’s Porn Alley”.
Update: Image taken from York Heritage Properties. I hope they don’t mind.
Update 2: Apparently they do mind. Image removed.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on August 6, 2005.
July 29, 2005
Big Fish — The Story Of Suck
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.
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’?”
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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.
June 28, 2005
What Google Earth and Google Video Download Pages Tell Us About Google
Google’s on a roll. Again. Today they opened up Google Earth as a free download.
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The screenshot above is from their “Google Earth download page” and to me represents a really great focus on the non-technical user. Note how they simplified the tech requirements and put it in a context most users can understand — what kind of computer they have and how old it is. It’s worth looking at the whole page to see how they’ve set up three download buttons that do exactly the same thing. The first is “I’m good. Download GoogleEarth.exe”, the second (after more traditional system requirements) says “I’m pretty sure I’m good. Download GoogleEarth.exe”. And finally, after getting to possible conflicts with video cards says “I’m feeling lucky. Download googleearth.exe”. Very nice.
Interestingly enough, when they launched the “Google Video Viewer” yesterday they went with a fairly traditional system requirement notice on “the download page”. This shows that as Google is getting bigger all the parts aren’t lining up exactly the way they should. Shouldn’t all their downloads have consistent formats and adopt the best way to explain system requirements? Then again, when you launch at least three new features in 24 hours maybe you can be forgiven for some roughness around the edges. In addition to Google Earth and Google Video Viewer, they also announced today that Google Personalized Search “is now really personalized”.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on June 28, 2005.
May 24, 2005
Great List of Useful Web Tools
“kuro5hin.org” contributor “kpaul” has put together a “Web Apps Compendium v1.0” that provides summaries and links to just about every tool an online marketer would want in their toolbox. Well almost all. The few that are missing are now getting added in the comments.
Any favorite online tools you can’t live without?
(Thanks to One Degree co-conspirator “Neil Lee” for the head’s up)
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on May 24, 2005.
May 20, 2005
Google, The Portal
Well, we all knew this was going to have to happen someday. Google has been adding personalized services and portal-like features for a while now and it looks like they are revealing a new (optional) home page. You can make “your Google Homepage here”. Coverage will on this will be extensive. To see what people are saying right now, use “this technorati search”.
Here are some of the first stories:
- “Google Blog — A Method To Our Madness”
- “SearchEngineWatch — Google Launches Personalized Home Page”
- “Gizmodo — Breaking: Google Launching Personal Portal Page”
- “Lifehacker — Google Personalized Homepage”
- “O’Reilly Radar — New products from Google”
- “Slashdot — Google’s New Personalized Homepage”
- “John Battelle — myGoogle”
- “Jeremy Zawodny — Imitation and the Slippery Slope of Portaldom: My Google”
- “Jupiter — David Card — Google and Portals”
- “Search Engine Marketing Weblog — Personalized Google Home Page”
- “PaidContent.org — New Personalized Google Home Page”
- “Search Engine Lowdown — Personalized Google Homepage Launches”
- “Unofficial Google Blog — Personalized Google Home Page”
What we’re seeing right now is a very primitive first step on the road to integrating all the disparate Google tools and to aggregating feeds and services from other sources. I particularly like now standard Google “ajax” implementation that allows you to drag and drop the page elements to customize it just right.
So what’s the early verdict? Do we think this is a smart move right now? Will Google follow the path of other portals like Lycos and Excite or will this be a new approach?
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on May 20, 2005.
MyGoogle’s Hidden Messages?
Just now while checking the “Personalized Google Homepage” I set up as part of writing “last night’s post”, I noticed Google’s “word of the day” was:
presage: an omen; also, to predict.
And the “quote of the day” was:
The people I distrust most are those who want to improve our lives but have only one course of action. — Frank Herbert
It’s good to see that the folks at Google haven’t lost their sense of humor. And while we’re looking for hidden meaning, has anyone figured out why the personalized homepage is in a folder called “ig”? iGoogle? No thoughts on this from “John” or “Om” yet. Then again, Om disagrees and says “that humor is not part of the daily routine at Google HQ”.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on May 20, 2005.
May 17, 2005
Can’t Knock Knock Knock
Seth Godin’s latest ebook is called “KNOCK KNOCK, Seth Godin’s Incomplete Guide to Building a Web Site That Works”. For less than ten bucks it is most definitely the deal of the day. Go, buy it now.
In the “CMA E-marketing Certificate course” I teach here in Toronto we use Michael Porter’s Harvard Business Review article “The Internet and Strategy” as the centerpiece of our discussions around using the Internet as a business tool. While reviewing the article this semester it struck me that Michael Porter’s article and Seth’s “Purple Cow” are saying exactly the same thing in two entirely different ways. Some people will like Porter’s theory-heavy bschool way of learning this stuff and others will enjoy Seth’s no-holds-barred, over-the-top analogies and colorful metaphors. (Personally, I like both) But the essence of the message is the same — you need to be remarkable in many ways in order to have an advantage these days. The Internet can play a key part in that, but it generally is not the whole story.
With KNOCK KNOCK, Seth is taking stuff User Experience experts (“myself included”) have been saying for a long time. But he manages to boil it down into plain English directions that will make sense to those that don’t eat, sleep, and breathe all things Internet. And I commend him for that. (And yes the title of this post is what I meant to type. Think about it.)
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on May 17, 2005.
May 10, 2005
“Robert Scoble” and “Shel Israel” are writing a book on corporate blogging called “Naked Conversations”.
They’re practicing what they preach and using their “Naked Conversations” (Formerly “the Red Couch”) as a launching pad and test bed for many of the ideas and much of the content in the book. Scoble just posted “Corporate Blog Tip #8 — A link is a gift” which had some really great thoughts about the power of linking to others. I posted a reply pointing out that we don’t always want to give a gift when we link.
Here’s my comment:
Links are indeed gifts. It’s particularly nice when you find folks pointing to you that you’ve never heard of before and your circle of conversation expands once again. The big issue we face at onedegree.ca is how (or whether) to link to sites that we think are doing a poor job or are unethical. We want to talk about them and we feel it is important for readers to get reference links to help with context, but these are sites we definitely do not want to send gifts to. It would be interesting to have a conversation about “giftless links”. I guess the most obvious course of action is to use “nofollow” which resolves the search issues, but I do wonder what else people have done to provide “giftless links”.
So far at One Degree we haven’t used “nofollow” in the body of our posts (although we do use it elsewhere), but I’m thinking we might adopt this approach. It seems best to let the reader on the page see the link and follow it within the context of our post while at the same time denying nasty sites of any Googlejuice. Too bad “Textile 2” (which we use) doesn’t support nofollow yet. In any event, we’ll use nofollow very sparingly in posts as, in general, we want outbound links to be followed both by humans and machines.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on May 10, 2005.
May 9, 2005
Bell Canada Improves E-mail First Impression
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That’s a tiny little bit of my inbox you’re looking at.
The top e-mail came in tonight while the others came in over the last few months. As you can see, “Bell Canada” has finally fixed the “from” and gratuitous subject line personalization they’ve been using for ages. And it seems they’ve realized that not every offer they send deserves an exclamation mark! All of them are better than Bell’s early days when they would use my name — all in lowercase letters — at the beginning of the subject line — the one spot you knew had to be capitalized.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on May 9, 2005.
April 24, 2005
A Whole New Internet
Do you feel the buzz in the air? For a while, I thought it was just me, but more and more I’m seeing people getting very excited about what’s happening online these days.
There are so many really amazing things happening right now that it feels to me very much like it did ten years ago when I was floored by some new site pretty much every time I booted up. “Some” are calling this “Web 2.0” while others are saying we’re on “Web 3.0”. I’ve lost count on what iteration we’re on but (if you can’t tell), I’m really pumped about what is ahead.
“Adaptive Path’s” “Janice Fraser,” wrote a now much-linked-to post called “A Whole New Internet” that nicely summarizes much of what I’ve been thinking.
Are you feeling it? What are you seeing online that’s getting you excited?
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 24, 2005.
April 23, 2005
New to Blogs? Start Here.
Over the last four years, blogs have become a central part of my online existence (and hence my existence). This makes it hard to remember that the majority of Net users (let alone the general population) has any idea what a blog is. Apologies if I’ve been presumptuous. The important thing is that you do need to know what blogs are all about because they are absolutely changing the foundations of how we work and play right beneath our feet.
If you want to get up-to-speed on blogs and their impact on culture and business, I’d suggest you hit the newsstands and pick up the “May 2nd edition” of “Business Week”. The magazine has a great article that explains what blogging is plus sidebars with tips, a case study, etc. It’s particularly interesting that the main article is written “blog-style” (or at least a close approximation of same).
Without meaning to nitpick, the article, while written as a blog, is presented in chronological order and to me the fact that blog posts are displayed newest to oldest is crucial. Of course in print this format would have been a disaster, so the authors are forgiven.
If you are new to all this, what questions do you have about blogs and their impact on business? Do you think this is all hype or do you clearly see why this is different from what came before? My guess is you have to live in the blogosphere for a little while to see why this changes everything (yes, again).
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 23, 2005.
April 21, 2005
How To: Add Spell-check To Your Domain Names
Unless you have some policy about only selling to customers who got an A+ in spelling and can type 40 words per minute, you’ll probably want to register “typo domains”. A typo domain is exactly what it sounds like — a domain that is a common misspelling of your real domain that you register and point to the “correct” URL. I like to think of this as creating a spell-check feature in web browsers so people can find you even if they aren’t 100% sure about your web address. This raises the question of which typos are worth registering and redirecting.
There are three kinds of typos you want to check for; misheard names, keyboarding errors, and sloppy spelling.
Here is my strategy:
- Call 10 people and *tell* them your domain. Then have type your domain ten times and e-mail you the list unedited. This will provide you with common “mishearing” of your domain. For example, if your domain is “fonex” you might have people typing “phonics”. And you may also get correct guesses but with bad spelling.
- Email 10 people your domain. Then have those 10 people type your domain ten times and have them e-mail you the un-edited results as well. Having them send an unedited list helps you find *keyboard errors”. For example, many people when typing fast will reverse certain letters or hit a nearby key. You might find that people type “form” instead of “from” or friemd for friend.
- Look for patterns and register any common mistakes. Register anything that was done more than twice.
- If more than 20% of the guesses are incorrect, think about getting a new domain.
- Point all these new domains to the “correct” (official) version of the domain.
In effect, you have now created an “auto-correct” for those visitors with less-than-perfect typing skills.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 21, 2005.
April 20, 2005
Do Stuff Offline For Impact
As much as I hate to admit it, not everything has to be online all the time. Mitch Joel “offers us an interesting example” as he relates what happened when he e-mailed Kevin Roberts (of “Lovemarks” fame). Now that so much of business (and personal) communication has gone online, it seems that sending stuff the “old fashioned way” really makes it stand out.
Originally published at www.onedegree.ca on April 20, 2005.