Monthly Archives: June 2016

You Need To Own It

Since today is something called “Social Media Day” (when is it not?), I’d be remiss if I wrote about something other than a big topic in social media. Depending on your perspective, Facebook announced something yesterday that will either have you jumping for joy or throwing your hands up in frustration. As they put it in their announcement:

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We’ve heard from our community that people are still worried about missing important updates from the friends they care about. For people with many connections this is particularly important, as there are a lot of stories for them to see each day. So we are updating News Feed over the coming weeks so that the things posted by the friends you care about are higher up in your News Feed.

Can’t get enough of those pet pictures, I know.  But if you’re a publisher who has carefully cultivated a Facebook community over the last few years, this is really bad news. It decreases the likelihood that your audience will see your posts. When Facebook has become the source of a significant portion of your traffic (research says in the 40% range for many publishers), that’s not good. As an aside, there is more good information on this here.

Of course, the cynic in me wants to remind you that one can always purchase traffic from Facebook via ads and that despite Facebook’s statements that this is only to serve users who want to see those pet photos, it’s really a move to generate more ad activity. That’s fine. Facebook is there to serve its shareholders and it’s a business.

What this should also serve to do is to remind us that we need to own the audience and the platform. We can’t rely on third parties such as Facebook or Google to keep our communities (and content) front and center.  History tells us that the rules will change and that those platforms will come and go (Friendster, MySpace). Your community isn’t a bunch of bedouins who will decamp and follow you anywhere.

I’m always amused when a client asks if they should invest less on their own website and more on building a presence on third parties. You can guess my answer: own it! Do you?

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Filed under Consulting, digital media

Snapping Up Value

The hottest platform in social media these days is Snapchat. I’ve been a user for quite some time and I’m not sure I completely get how to use it yet. I’m amazed by the stories of those who do even if I’m discouraged that they all seem to be under 15.

As with all things eyeball related, advertisers are flocking to Snapchat because FOMO. Snapchat recently surpassed Twitter in terms of average daily users and even Facebook is feeling the heat as evidenced by their development of a Snapchat-like product. When you’re hot, you’re hot! Of course, heat has nothing to do with the success of a business unless it’s translated into revenue and profit, and so the Snapchat folks are actively selling themselves to marketers.  It’s therein where lies today’s business thought.

Advertisers are complaining about both the pricing and investment level needed to gain access to the Snapchat audiences. This from the Digiday folks:

Snapchat started selling ads in late 2014, and early products — one that went to every user and disappeared within 24 hours — cost about $750,000. In 2015, Snapchat brought down the price for video ads to 2 cents a view, or $20 for 1,000 views. This year, prices were back up with premium animated lenses that could cost millions depending on how many an advertiser bought in a given day, and interactive ads, where users can swipe up for more content, cost about $55 for 1,000 views.

I’ll agree that the level of investment required here is steep, even for big brands.  Other than special events, most unit investments in various media don’t require close to a million dollar outlay.  Obviously, and perhaps by design, the pool of advertisers becomes rather limited as well. Providing an API that will let marketers serve ads through third-party technology companies with a smaller outlay makes sense.  But that’s not the business point.

Where I disagree with Snapchat’s thinking is in dropping the CPM. We can’t ever allow price and value to become confused, whether we’re selling media or anything else. This platform has tremendous value – which I measure by both reach and engagement – and to drop pricing is a mistake. It’s the same thinking we faced in my TV days when trying to sell Super Bowl ads. High CPM? You bet. Tremendous cash outlay? Uh-huh. But the value of that exposure is unlike anything else in media, and in the nearly 20 years since I sold my last Super Bowl ad the value has only gotten higher.

The cost/value equation is one everyone in business needs to learn. Have you?

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Going Backward Is Dumb. Looking Backward Isn’t.

There was a story in this morning’s paper that had me shaking my head once again. Seems as if it’s a daily occurrence, I know. This one got me thinking about the things we can take away from the subject and apply to business, which is also a daily occurrence. The story was about our shared stupidity and our general refusal to learn. Let me explain.

Here is the headline: American Drivers Regain Appetite for Gas Guzzlers. I’ve linked to the story but as you can imagine it has to do with many people giving up their fuel-efficient cars to buy gas guzzlers as the price of gas has fallen. Of course, in addition to adding a lot of room to the passenger compartment, these vehicles also add a lot of greenhouse gasses to the atmosphere, and unless you’re one of the few who are ignoring virtually every scientist on the planet, that is creating a changed climate for us all.

I’m not ranting today about the politics of this. To me, it’s not very different from what a lot of managers do in their own businesses. The higher price of gas was a crisis. Many car owners adjusted by decreasing driving, buying more efficient vehicles or using mass transit if it was available. Most good managers do the same sort of thing in a crisis. They cut spending, focus on business development, eliminate inefficient product lines, and do all of the other things one can do to continue on until the crisis has passed. What the great managers do is to continue to operate with that mindset even after the crisis is long gone under the assumption that the same problem or another one is virtually certain to rear its head at some point. That doesn’t mean they fail to invest once conditions have improved. It does mean that they learn from the crisis and adjust and they don’t go back to doing exactly what they were doing before.

I own a hybrid and my family owns two others. I can’t see going backward with respect to fuel efficiency and greenhouse emissions no matter how cheap gas becomes. I try not to go backward in business either. Going backward is dumb. Looking backward and learning isn’t. Your call.

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Filed under Consulting, Huh?

An Hour More And Less

More and less? A typo right off the bat? Nope, not a chance. That’s a statement about time, which as I think we all know is a zero-sum game. Even if you don’t sleep there are still only 24 hours in a day. Why this is of note today is a report from the Nielsen folks and the implications the findings hold for you.

The results come from Nielsen’s Q1 2016 Total Audience Report, which you can read here. There is also an excellent summary on Adweek’s site. As the latter states: 

The total media consumption across all devices and platforms jumped one hour from the first quarter of 2015, to 10 hours, 39 minutes. (A year earlier, there had only been a seven-minute year-over-year jump in daily media consumption.) That’s mostly due to smartphone use, which has soared 37 minutes, and tablet use, which has increased 12 minutes. Internet on PC jumped 10 minutes, while multimedia devices, including Apple TV and Roku, were up four minutes. Video game consoles and DVR use was flat, while DVD use dipped one minute and live TV dropped three minutes year over year. Nielsen’s data indicates that consumers aren’t pulling away from linear TV, but instead are making additional time for these new devices.

An hour more each day with media sounds wonderful if you’re in the media business. The real question this raises with me is from where are consumers getting that extra hour? Do you think they’re sleeping less? Leaving work early? Maybe they’re watching on the job (so much for productivity). No, I suspect they’re just not doing something else. Shopping, dining out as much, going to other recreational activities. All this means is that as selective as consumers were in allocating their time to your non-media business they’re going to be even more so. That reinforces the need for all of us to provide value every time we have a consumer interaction or we won’t be having as many down the road.

As an aside, I’ll remind us that most of us, even if we make package goods, are now in the media business. Social sites, home base (your website!), and content we provide to others are all media, so it’s not a lost cause. Obviously, it’s fiercely competitive out there, and the hour more each day that consumers are spending in the space doesn’t mean they’re any less frugal with the time they spend. The job for each of us is to make up for the hour less they’re outside of media where we live and capture their attention within the extra hour they’re spending inside. We can do that through great content, content which is focused on providing value and solving their problems.  Make sense?

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Filed under digital media

Take Me Away

It’s Foodie Friday and I have a little blast from the past today.  I’m a fan of the animated movie Ratatouille, the story of a rat who loves to cook.  If you’ve never seen it, take a few minutes this weekend and do so (as of this writing I see it’s available for streaming rental). The whole thing is pretty wonderful but there is one scene in particular which speaks loudly to me and I think has some business inspiration for us all. 


I’m going to risk spoiling the movie here but I need to explain the scene of which I’m thinking. It’s when France’s top restaurant critic Anton Ego, whose previous review cost the restaurant in which Remy, the rat, cooks one of its stars. Without spoiling it too much, Remy and the chefs cook Ego a dish of ratatouille which brings back an astonished Ego memories of his mother’s cooking. The graphic you see on the right is the moment when Ego takes a bite and that’s our business inspiration.

Every time a customer partakes of our product or service, we have the opportunity to make a positive emotional connection. I’m sure you’ve had the sensation of recalling a memory when you experience a particular smell or taste something. We see this all the time with, for example, scented candles. There is a difference between recognizing the smell of a pine tree and experiencing the feeling of being out in a snowy woods standing among them.  We’re trying for the latter because that emotional connection binds the consumer and the product. Actors use this all the time via affective memory or sense memory.

As with many things we discuss here on the screed, it’s not an easy task. The benefits are worth the effort, though. You can see it even in something as simple as the “Calgon, Take Me Away” campaign. Maybe we’re all in the transportation business?

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Filed under food, Thinking Aloud

Out Of Your Head

I’ve come to the conclusion that many, if not most, of our ills both in business and society are caused by not listening. It’s not that we’re deaf nor that we’re often failing to pay attention. The issue is that as we “listen” we’re focusing on our own thoughts and how we’re going to respond or react rather than on what it is the speaker is saying. That makes it difficult, if not impossible, to give fair consideration to the other speaker’s concerns.

This isn’t a brand new thought, I know. Maybe you’ve heard the term “emphatic listening.” Maybe you’ve heard it labeled “empathetic listening.” This is how Stephen Covey defined it:

When I say empathic listening, I mean listening with intent to understand. I mean seeking first to understand, to really understand. It’s an entirely different paradigm. Empathic (from empathy) listening gets inside another person’s frame of reference. You look out through it, you see the world the way they see the world, you understand their paradigm, you understand how they feel.

In other words, you need to get out of your head and into theirs.  You need to be quiet and listen.  REALLY listen. Don’t fidget with your phone nor check your computer screen. Give them your undivided attention and don’t judge as they are speaking. It’s also something that is way better if you’re face to face with them so you can read their body language. You ought not to respond immediately to whatever they’re saying as you THEN form your thoughts.  When you do, it’s often helpful to confirm that you’ve really heard them by playing back what they’ve said.

I can tell you from having tried to do this that many people are often quite rattled by it.  Most of us aren’t used to having someone get out of their own heads and listen. I think you’ll be surprised how the nature of conversations change as they become true dialogs.  Let me know, won’t you? I’m listening.

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Filed under Helpful Hints, Reality checks, Thinking Aloud

Killing It At The Source

Suppose you sit down at a restaurant and look over the menu.  Seeing a few things which seemed appealing, you place your order.  How would you feel if you found out that while the main course was cooked in-house, the starters and desserts were all made across the street and brought it?  I’d feel kind of cheated.  My expectation is that when I order off a place’s menu that they’re making what I’m served. They’re certainly taking credit for it.

As it turns out, that’s exactly what’s happening in the online publishing world and I think it’s suicidal. It’s called “sourced traffic” and this is an excellent definition:

The practice of sourcing traffic is essentially any means by which digital media publishers or vendors acquire audience (visitors) through third parties.  So, this is audience being sold by the vendor which is not occurring in the traditional advertising model (by which a publisher puts out content which attracts an audience and then sells ads to reach that audience).  In other words, sourced traffic is by definition not organic traffic to the publisher’s site.

In other words, publishers are selling audiences they don’t have just to add some audience to their delivery stats. The first issue I have is much the same as I might have with the aforementioned restaurant – taking credit for something that’s not yours. My guess is that most publishers – like most buyers – are very much focused on the numbers and not at all focused on the quality of what’s being delivered. I would be quite upset if I paid for a prix fixe meal and the quality of the parts not made in-house were substantially lower.

The bigger issue brings us right back to our old friend, fraud. A White Ops and ANA study of non-human traffic from 2014 found that while a direct audience is mostly human, sourced traffic is almost 90% attributable to bots. eMarketer reported this the other day about an ANA study:

According to the data, 34% of respondents—also ANA members—said they were not at all familiar with sourced traffic. Meanwhile, 19% said they were very or extremely familiar. But perhaps more interestingly, the majority (54%) of those surveyed, said weren’t sure if any of their digital media buys included some form of traffic sourcing.

And we wonder why digital doesn’t receive as much weight in media buying as the audiences warrant?  All players – publishers, buyers, and clients – need to step up their game here and fix the sourced traffic problem.  Otherwise, who is going to want to eat in this restaurant?

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Filed under digital media, Huh?