I Am Not a Terminal Blogger

Time BombIn the last 24 hours there has been a flurry of posts in reaction to an article on The New York Times, basically saying that the bloggers lifestyle is a fatal one. The article goes on to chronicle the recent deaths of a few more prominent bloggers and near misses from heart attacks mostly. In addition to the details about what it is like to be a corporate blogger and how much it is worth. They even mention a quote from Michael Arrington saying:

“This is not sustainable”

This may well be the case with the global giants such as TechCrunch, Gawker Media, ZDNet and others who are in a constant 24/7 race with each other to break the latest news. Even with a huge team and massive financial resources these guys don’t aways win. Yes it is nice when the little guy scores. Despite the fact that they will pretend that he didn’t.

Truth is that there is no point in trying to beat these blogging machines at their game. Why torture yourself? These machines have inside knowledge and get “tipped off” plus they do insane amounts of just poking to see if it moves and then speculate. Their reader numbers and influence makes people take notice regardless of the truth. A search for “rumor” on TechCrunch is a perfect example.

In addition if your a blog that has millions of page views a day and can generate a lot of traffic for companies, the fallout is that these are the blogs that are going to be sent emails about new start-ups, news or “insider information”. The “A-listers” are being used as another cog in the marketing machine. They are making money so everyone is happy.

I think that this means you can’t really have that great a relationship with your readers. Your too busy getting the next big story. Sure they might have a comments section and the “share this” plugin (or some variant) in order for you to participate in the “conversation” but they care more about you talking about them than they do about what you have to say.

In contrast I take a genuine interest in the communities around me. This for me has been the most rewarding part of blogging and podcasting. I actually allocate time and make a point of interacting with our community, especially with regards to the podcast. I have many listeners that are a part of my Skype contacts, twitter, Facebook not only as listeners but as friends. They all have something valuable to say and how much more valuable is that when they know that you have read it and responded to it. I care about them and the fact that they took the effort to say what they think.

But then I am not doing it for a living, maybe things would be different if I was. But to my thinking it is the community that follows you that matters, without them you don’t have much value. Either monetary or the satisfaction of knowing that what you are doing is appreciated. Some bloggers don’t even need this, they are happy with self contentment.

I also agree with what Steve Hodson said about the article. Steve detests the concept of the “A-listers” considers himself a realist and writes like one. Stating that there are plenty of bloggers (the majority) that are adding more value to the conversation by adding substance that the “A-lister” can’t because they are off getting the next story. And they are making a decent living doing it!

So for me the take home message is that death by blogging is not unique to blogging. There are plenty of individuals out there in many occupations that work too hard and forget about life. There are plenty that are dead as well. It is the corporate machine that applies this pressure or themselves. Sure follow the machine just don’t try and compete with it. Ignore the pressure and carve your own niche and community, make them matter and the rewards will come, if that is what you want. Add value to the conversation by providing substance, I get more by reading and hearing about reactions than I do the original story anyway.

I am going to let the machine do it’s own thing, kill em selves in the process and have an opinion about it when they do. I could even write for the New York Times one day.

New Advertising Service for Blogs

bloglinkr LogoI like this concept. Bloggers advertising their blog on other blogs with minimal outlay. Nice idea, not sure if it will take off or that it will have the returns that they say it will but it is a good idea that might be of interest to bloggers who don’t have the A-List on their side or the cash for a marketing plan.

From the looks of their soon to launch site, this service is a replacement for Adwords or similar advertising scheme. Instead of targeted advertising related to the page contents to products that may or may not interest your readers. Bloglinkr advertises blogs on your blog. Not just any blog, the advertised blogs shown in your posts are in categories that you choose. I read that to mean that they are on certain topics or themes. For instance if you had a Mac blog then you could select to show links to other Mac blogs. Great to think that you could recommend other blogs that would definitely interest your readers. You also have a much better chance at getting an income of some description. Also better than seeing that “Casino” Adsense Ad and knowing the site that is being advertised is dodgy to boot.

The next best thing is that you get paid for the click through’s. You also get paid for clicks on blogs that are referred to the service by you. I see this a a sort of commission payment, but that is good and probably a good way to build the service.

So where does the money come from I hear you say. Well this is not a free service. Yes, you have to pay for it. However from all the signs it looks like it is aimed at bloggers and they know we are strapped for cash. They claim that for as little as $25 (I presume US) you can get started. That is not that bad and I might consider doing it myself. Although it is probably some Java script thing that is not allowed on WordPress. But that is certainly affordable to most bloggers. There are probably “premium” plans that cost more. That will become clear when the service opens.

I would question their claims that you could:

… recieve hundreds of backlinks, clicks and visitors every month.”

There is no way that they could know this when the service has not even started yet. I think they could sell the idea to bloggers without unsubstantiated claims. They may well be using data from other services but I think that is a reach. It slumps a little into the “hard sell” with statements like that.

However I think that it is a good idea with what looks to be a sound business model and has potential. There are over 55 million blogs out there. At $25 bucks minimum per blog, even if they only capture 10% of that; you do the math!

bloglinkr Screenshot

Marketing Podcasting

I was reading Don Thorson’s Blog today and he was talking about “Whole Product“. Marketing he says:

“…come[s] down to a few basic rules. They’re basically the same rules we were taught in our first marketing class.”

I am not a marketer, nor have I studied it in any great detail. I would however say that I do marketing. I have been marketing The Global Geek Podcast since it’s inception as well as this blog and the brands associated with them. So given Don’s formulae I thought that I might try to apply them to podcasting and see what I come up with.

The rules of marketing are simple enough:

  1. Does it solve a problem?
  2. Is it easy to understand?
  3. Is it easy to get?
  4. Is it easy to use?
  5. Is it easy to share?

Does Podcasting Solve a Problem?

In my opinion podcasting is an audio or content delivery system. So I would answer yes to this question. You have content that you want to share and “casting” it is a solution. Syndicating your podcast is a method that makes it available to your listeners. Although that statement is a bit of a weird one because podcasting is syndication of audio content.

Podcasting also solves the problem that radio does not always deliver the content that I want to listen to. More often than not the radio is terrible and contains content that I have no interest in at all. The radio also demands that I listen to it at a certain time in order to listen to the content that I am interested in.

I can listen to podcasts when I want to for how long I want to. So podcasts are “on demand” they do not dictate to the listener, the listener gains more control over what they listen to. That in my opinion means that podcasters need to remember that they have an audience that knows these things and that they should “target” their audience.

Is It Easy to Understand?

You say “podcast” to someone and more often than not you will get a dumb look. The dumb look is not their fault. Podcasting is a new media delivery method, it has not become mainstream. This presents a problem, does that automatically mean that it is hard to understand just because it is a new “product”? I don’t think it should be.

I try to explain podcasting as: A radio show on the Internet. That at least fits into the category of a product that can be explained in five words or less. It would probably pass the “Mum test” as well. But I do think that seriously undercuts what podcasting really is and because of stereo types causes the other person to make some inaccurate assumptions.

This is especially true when you look at the Wikipedia definition of a podcast which is 123 words long! But it does take into the account the special attributes that make podcasts very appealing.

However, John Dodds in his “Geek Marketing 101” Post makes me feel a little better in that he states that:

“Reductive marketing that simplifies ideas does not undersell your complex creation.”

In other words, just because you describe something simply does not mean that you are selling your idea short or degrading it’s potential. So maybe my very simplistic definition is a good one for people that have never heard of podcasting. The idea and the medium itself is not a difficult one to understand but the fact that it is wrapped up in “geekology” and “tech” does cause a block. They think that because it uses a computer and the Internet it is hard to understand. Which means the delivery is important.

Is It Easy to Get?

This is where I think the idea of podcasting is a failure as far as a marketing is concerned. No, I do not think it will fail but the current state of podcasting means that there are issues with accessibility, especially for the new listener.

The simplist way to listen to a podcast is a flash player on a website where a podcast calls home. Any podcast should have one for this reason. Vist the page and hit play, it could not get any simpler right. But, this type of listener is not taking advantage of podcasting especially if you are applying the strict definition where according to Wikipedia:

“Though podcasters’ web sites may also offer direct download or streaming of their content, a podcast is distinguished from other digital audio formats by its ability to be downloaded automatically using software capable of reading feed formats such as RSS or Atom.”

So someone listening off the web page is not listening to a podcast, they are listening to streaming media that calls itself a podcast. Strange but true according to the definition.

For a listener to subscribe to a podcast via an RSS reader or aggregator that supports enclosures is; in my opinion is one of the biggest failures of podcasting. Podcasts or any feed for that matter are not easy to understand or subscribe to. This needs to be simplified in a big way for podcasts to “take off”.

I have managed to get one friend that I know of to understand how to subscribe to feeds and podcasts and use it regularly. He is a fairly smart person and computer literate, even then on more than one occasion I had to assist him to subscribe to a feed or understand something about RSS feeds, or his aggregator. What hope is there for the person that just uses their computer to email and look at a few [add interest here] sites? Or the person that has no help at all, who I can almost guarantee will give up soon after clicking a feed button and they see the raw RSS feed and write it off, who wouldn’t?:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<rss version="2.0">
  <channel>
    <title>Liftoff News</title>
    <link>http://liftoff.msfc.nasa.gov/</link>
    <description>Liftoff to Space Exploration.</description>
    <language>en-us</language>
    <pubDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 04:00:00 GMT</pubDate>
    <lastBuildDate>Tue, 10 Jun 2003 09:41:01 GMT</lastBuildDate>
    <docs>http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/tech/rss</docs>
    <generator>Weblog Editor 2.0</generator>
    <managingEditor>editor@example.com</managingEditor>
    <webMaster>webmaster@example.com</webMaster>

etc…

Once a user has got this far they need to either listen to the media on their computer or transfer the file to an MP3 player. This for some people is put in the “too hard basket”. Listening to it on the computer negates the “on demand” concept I talked about earlier in so much as they are restricted to listening to it when they are on their computer. It also makes a podcast a less attractive product.

There are moves however that are dealing with the complexities of subscribing to content. As much as I loathe iTunes I think part of it’s success has to do with the fact that it makes this process easy. Subscribing, downloading, transferring to a portable player – it is all done seamlessly. I am sure that some iTunes users have no idea they are subscribed to an RSS feed. You can get up in the morning, the iPod is charged with new content and off you go.

Firefox 2 that launched this week is also a step closer to making RSS feeds more accessible, one click subscribing to an RSS feed with the aggregator of your choice. At least when users click on the RSS feed link they get a note at the top of the screen explaining what it is and what they can do about it. IE 7 also has better RSS management as of the latest release. This makes podcasts that much easier to get. Although Windows Media Player is yet to see the light, which is poor to say the least and little wonder Apple has the market wrapped up, at present anyway.

Podcasts and RSS feed subscription has to become seamless and invisible for it to hit mainstream. Otherwise podcasts and feeds will just remain a neat geek technology trick.

Is It Easy to Use?

I think most people can play a music file now, or an .mp3 file. Here is one of the powerful aspects of podcast marketing, if you can double-click or press play then you can listen to a podcast. The fact that even a basic install of a computer recognises file types and associates the appropreate application to play it with. From a listener’s perspective once you can get your hands on the file it is easy and accessible. Even vidcasts would fit into the easy to use category.

Don says that at Apple they had a rule:

“”1 minute after they start to use it , they feel like calling their friends”. ……” You will not believe what I just got””

I am sure that given insight into the powerful medium, a listener would see the advantages of the medium. That is of course assuming they have downloaded a quality podcast and not something that has awful production and content. Podcasters, you are ambassadors for podcasting and it’s future, indeed your own future as a podcaster. I am sure there is a marketing rule that says something like: “make sure that you have a product that people will want”. If I have described a listeners first experience of a podcast and that is you, please just try again there is some great, great content out there of any topic you care to name. There is a pile of rubbish as well, like anything.

Is It Easy to Share?

I had to think about what sharing is within the product of podcasting. Can I easily share an .mp3 file? Yes, I could do that but but it is not really sharing the “concept” of podcasting. That is the key, podcasting is not a thing, it is a concept. How do you convince people that you have a concept that is worth having? You become a podcasting evangelist; that is how.

I talk to people when ever I can about podcasting, blogging and whatever else might be associated with it. I have found that you don’t have to sit people down and give them the Podcasting 101 talk (unless they want it, then great).

I am reminded of someone that I work with, about as much of an anti-geek as you could find. More of a “hippy” than anything geek. She has heard me talking about podcasting and she has even asked how she could listen to a show. Yes she has listened to a show. I have mentioned small things about the show or how things have been going to her. The other day she come right out of the blue and asked me how the new co-host was working out! Blew me away. No, she is not a podcasting guru now, but she knows what a podcast is and she won’t give you the “cow in the headlights look” if you said “podcast”. That in my opinion is marketing podcasting, moving it from the geek arena to the mainstream at this present time involves word of mouth education and enlightenment of everyday people to the medium.

This is not about marketing a specific show, that is a another mega post it is about podcasting and marketing the concept. Making the medium understood in the public. Understanding leads to acceptance, use and finally demand. Understanding exerts pressure on developers to overcome the “Easy to Get” problem.

“Marketing is a conversation, but most people don’t speak geek.”

– Rule Number 2 of Geek Marketing

So yes podcasting is easy to share. Do you know about podcasting and subscribe to some yourself? If you can answer yes to this then tell people about it. You might have a podcast in your iPod, people ask you what you are listening to, offer them a listen. Get them interested in wanting the content then they will want to know how. Why not assist someone to set up an aggregator to subscribe to podcasts? Once you have got someone hooked on podcasts they will want to tell others as well. Demonstrate by example how it is done. Something that I do is to wear my “The Podcast Network” T-Shirt as soon as it is washed and ironed! It is a great way to start a conversation.

This is really my take on Geek Marketing 101 Rule Number 10:

10) Marketing demystifies.

“As the conversations develop, the users comprehend your products better and you better understand their needs. With increased confidence, they utilise more and more of your geekiness and, with increased awareness, you are better able to adapt to their behaviours. They feel more warmly about geeks and you may get the chance to buy them a drink. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?”

Nope.

My conclusion is that podcasting is a marketable product or concept but there are significant blocks to it becoming a successful one. Given the rules of marketing it fails. Podcasts solve a problem, are relatively easy to understand, use and share but they are hard to get. Four out of Five is not bad for a new technology medium. But for it to be a successful whole product it has to make five out of five. The main hurdle is that software remains relatively complicated and detailed and the user requires some assistance to set up. For podcasting to be a “whole product” we need to make the process of accessability one that is seamless within the user experience. They should be able to subscribe and listen to podcasts without needing to know anything about an RSS feed or an enclosure. It should be as simple as clicking “play”.

I am not sure how I have done as a marketer in this post, but it has made me really think about podcasting and viewing it as a product. Any real marketers out there have an opinion?

CREAMaid: Word of Mouth Marketing

CREAMaid LogoCREAMaid is a new site, cue beta tag here. Companies are starting to see the marketing power of bloggers and the weight that their recommendations or reviews have on readers. CREAMaid aims to capitalize on this and generates blogging “buzz” using the service. Bloggers are requested to blog about products and services,  if their post is accepted then they are paid a royalty. Smart marketing or cash for comment? You be the judge.

There is no registration process, bloggers are invited to participate with the click of the mouse. You are presented on the right hand page a selection of topics to blog on or the “Recently Updated” list. Listed is the topic or service, with a link to the widget. The royalty that will be payed and the number of remaining posts that will be accepted in that “campaign”.

How Does CREAMaid WorkClicking a topic opens up a flash generated widget that has all the details of what the marketer is requesting of the blogger. At this time there were only four topics listed, but the site is new so that is understandable. But there other ways to find topics that are listed on CREAMaid:

 

  • In the wild: finding a blog post that is talking about the conversation
  • Virally: on another bloggers post

The one that I looked at requested that the blogger visit their page, choose a product, write about it and include pictures. Reasonable enough request, especially since fulfilling the requirements and subsequent approval will get you $5. However, for a quick easy buck I think that it could encourage people to make blog posts that are not truthful. Such as saying that they actually purchased the product and proceed to writeParticipate in CREAMaid a glowing review; really knowing nothing about the product. However, the embedded code that the blogger puts in the post places the widget from CREAMaid on their post when published. So it is obvious to the reader that it is a paid comment. I think this may in many instances erode the creditability of the blogger, regardless of who they are. A comment that is made by a blogger is respected because it is an independent opinion not based on economic gain.

Once you have written your blog post, you return to the site and the widget and lift off some HTML code that you are required to embed in your post. Currently the supported services are all the usual suspects, WordPress.com included. But also: Blogger, TypePad, MySpace, Live Journal, Windows Live Spaces, Xanga Blog, AOL Journals and all user hosted blogs to name but a few. As well as embed the HTML you are required to submit an email address via which they will inform you if you have been selected.

CREAMaid RoyaltyAs soon as your post has been selected you are sent an email. The email includes a verification code and a link you can visit to collect your royalty payment via PayPal. You are payed directly as soon as you have done this.

There are a few rules (“promises”) that must be followed in the post that is to be submitted and the suggestion is that you will more than likely be payed for your post as every effort is made to accept all posts made, as long as you follow the rules. So almost a guarantee that you will be payed. The responsibility of the payment is that of the marketer, which CREAMaid kindly refer to as the “Conversation Starter”.

The business model in this instance seems sound in that CREAMaid charge for the PayPal service and for the beta period; no more than the cost of this service provision.

“During the beta period, CREAMaid will not take any fees except for the PayPal fee (5.6%, for receiving and sending the money) required for running the Service itself. However, we plan to change this policy after the beta period is over. “

Given that fact it leaves the opportunity open for them to actually charge “Conversation Starters” a percentage of the royality offered, not that it will mean less for the blogger but rather the marketer. At this point in time that is cheap marketing.

The service that this site offers is a well thought out process but it leaves me with a sour taste in my mouth as I feel it takes advantage of the community of bloggers that review products and services for free and because they want to. This service is already available to companies. If you have a good product, bloggers will talk about it and review it honestly.

This process has creditability right now, no one is payed and if they are they make a point of saying it in the post! They avoid their readers thinking that what they are saying is “just a payed comment from X company”. Creditability for the post = zero if they find out and you don’t tell them in addition to being trashed all over the blogosphere! I know from my own experience that there are companies, coders and developers out there that believe in their product and ask me to include it in the podcast for review. They believe in the process, one that is very much survival of the fittest application or product or book etc. If the product is rubbish it will die a natural death. But I agree there are those products out there that fail to gain traction and exposure that deserve to. Would I submit my service to CREAMaid? I think a good couple of days approaching willing bloggers and podcasters with good reputations will get you further.

I say this because I think the above statements reflect the feeling of most consumers and readers of blogs, once you submit your product or service to a marketing service that makes no secret of the fact that bloggers are payed to comment, the product itself looses credibility with the post.

CREAMaid looks slick, easy to use, simple and a low cost marketing alternative. The site is very well implemented and executed. However, in my opinion it will be very difficult to make a marketing engine work on payed comments because of consumer trust and creditability. Not only that this is a system that is already in place and works well, without any cash changing hands. Although I will admit that that is not a guarantee, I would argue that at this present time a rarity.

Marketing; Thinking Big – Firefox Crop Circle

Firefox Crop Circle

I blogged about our efforts to market The Global Geek Podcast. With the blessing of the Mozilla Foundation the Oregon State Linux Users Group made a 45,000+ square foot crop circle! Wow.

Of course Mozilla agreed to it, that is great advertising and it is very cool to boot. The circle took a team of 12 more than 14 hours to complete. The stunt was in celebration of Firefox reaching 200 million downloads. Check out the whole story and the 12 weeks of planning that went into it.

Now who wants to do one for The Global Geek Podcast? Or do I have to find some aliens?