charging, internet, IPA|ED:final - existing customers, printing

Free No More: Why The Times’ efforts to Value and add Value to their Existing Customers could herald a better future for us all


it was whilst catching up on recent media events that I ended up lying in the Sydney summer sun listening – courtesy of MediaGuardian's Podcast – to London Times Editor James Harding on how he and the newspaper intend to un-write the economics of free on the internet.  in short, the title intends to start charging for the valuable content they create but have hereto been giving away for free online.  some snippets, as reported in the Guardian:

"We created a culture of free, and we absolutely were party to that … In the last few years, we have talked with great pride – we believed advertising would sustain us – about unique users … These people were window shopping down Oxford Street – they were not coming into our shops …

"From spring of next year we will start charging for the digital edition of the Times. We're working on the exact pricing model, but we'd charge for a day's paper, for a 24-hour sign-up to the Times. We'll also establish a subscription price as well … You have to be very careful with article-only economics … you will find yourself writing a lot more about Britney Spears and a lot less about Tamils in northern Sri Lanka."

"We keep investing in journalism, we believe that's what our readers want. We're not dumbing down, we're dumbing up … We are going to rewrite the economics of the newspaper, newsgathering and delivery business … We have to do that, we are in the fight of our lives."

what's of particular interest is the call to move away from micro-charging – the economics that sustain Amazon, iTunes and the like, and instead focus on the smaller customer base but higher-per-customer return of a subscription model…  of particular interest to Mediation is Harding's comments re home delivery services and the Times+ membership and reward scheme, about which he nodded towards loyalty…

"Historically, newspapers have treated their best customers worst and their worst customers best … We give the paper away to people who could not care less and we pay little or no attention to people who love it and read it every day."

I've written quite a lot about loyalty on these pages including a essay on the subject and won't reiterate now, but in short, I believe we've come to accept as fact the supposition that the primary role for marketing communications is growth through customer acquisition.  and that in doing so we ignore both the existence of current customers and the pivotal role they play in the growth of brands…

I believe that focusing on customer retention is an acquisition strategy.  I believe that it is those brands that choose to invest in marketing communications that talk with their existing customers, that are building the most robust marketing structures for the future.

there is much to criticise about hardings plans; people simply will not pay, that the charging structures won't allow let alone facilitate browsing, that the content arguably is overvalued … but there's the possibility that in the near future we'll talk about The Times as a case study in reinventing markets around customers not consumers.  there's the possibility that The Times' efforts become a landmark in enabling us to divest ourselves of the ill-suited model of ad funding for online-distributed content and invest instead in brand-funded collateral: on things that make the world a better, more interesting, more exciting, more educational or more spontaneous place.

its strange to thing that Rupert Murdoch, of all people, could help take us to that place.  but much stranger things have happened.

applicationing, broadcasting, content creating, converging, innovating, social media-ising, television, viewing

Fulfilling its Social Potential: Why TV could very well be the comeback kid as media emerges from the recession

Watching tv - group
the established institutions of 'old' media were always going to take the hardest hits as the combined effects of a global advertising slowdown and a digitising media economy came to bear.  such seems to have been the case.  according to Warc's latest Consensus Forecast, 2009 TV revenues in the States will fall 10.9% yoy versus total global ad spend yoy decline of 10.5%.  more substantial 2009 decreases in TV are anticipated in the UK, France, Germany and Japan.

looking forward to 2010, TV could very well be the area of media that not only emerges most strongly from the recession, but charges out guns blazing leading the brigade of other media behind it.  the same Warc report suggests that marketers in two-thirds of the sample are intending to devote more revenues into TV next year, with Brazil, China and India up by more than 11%, the US by 1.8%, and France by 1.3%.

in fact whilst advertising revenues have declined throughout the recession, there seems to have been limited disruption on the quality of networks' output.  new offerings, such as the US's FlashForward or Australia's Celebrity Masterchef have emerged and more than held their own.  and whilst it could be argued that reality TV has more than shaped current TV output globally, it hasn't stopped the likes of Glee and Modern Family making their mark.

but despite strong content and a return of ad revenues in 2010, viewing will surely switch online right?  well no necessarily so.  this week also saw a report from the UK's Enders Analysis arguing that the scale of the VOD market has been overplayed, and that by 2020 the overall national UK average of VoD viewing will be 5%;

"and at these levels, and after taking into account the lower tolerance of interruptive advertising in on-demand programming, non-linear VOD services are unlikely to have a significant impact on commercial spot advertising revenues during the next 10 years … the traditional linear broadcast TV model continues to work well in terms of reliability, simplicity, ease of choice and ability to deliver popular programming with mass appeal"

but all this is without taking into account the phase shift that could and should happen with TV in the year ahead.  2010 could be the year that TV genuinely goes social… as the Guardian observed in a cracking data-fueled article on Jedward's storming of the Twittersphere;

"Every Saturday and Sunday night, Twitter is exploding with real-time boos, back-pats and reactions to the show's performances. It's a re-imagining of the old-media watercooler ("Did you see The X Factor last night?") in live, online space ("Omg jedward are through!") – and it could point the way to the future of TV…"

as Gary Hayes, a former development producer for the BBC who now lives in Sydney and blogs rather awesomely here, points out:

"we now know when our attention is required, especially those inciting moments when emotion or serendipity may be possible. So with these two things happening there are a growing number of services trying to glue the two – either bringing the TV to the back-channel or layering the back-channel ‘over’ the TV" (source)

hayes has aggregated a whole host of services, either existing or in development, that are bring TV to the social space and vice-versa.  here are three of my favourites (all sourced from Hayes' original post):

EpiX has high-profile backing from the likes of Viacom, Paramount, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Lionsgate.  it's a platform for viewing content online, but specifically you can invite your mates to private screening rooms and interact with them…  ITV if you're listening, X-Factor was made for this…


another favourite (and another example of the increasing warmth between and cooperation by the Gates and Murdoch organisations) in the shape of X-Box and Sky who have teamed up to make the latter's content available on the former's entertainment console.  but the basics of the streaming aside, the really interesting bits are when the TV screen pans back and your in a room with your and your mates' avatars.  representations that you can support, deride, encourage, laugh at or ask questions of.  real social interactivity in real time with real people…

there's a full video of a presentation that Xbox product manager Jerry Johnson gave to paidContent:UK here – jump to 5 mins 40 secs to get the social bit:

finally, on the mobile front there's tvChatter, a iPhone application that allows you to connect TV content to the Twitterstream relating to that show in real time.  you can follow Tweets from everyone or just from people you follow.  and if you're not sure what to watch, you can see which shows are generating the most interest and check them out:

this is exciting stuff.  and I'm not pretending for a second that its anything new: we've been talking about, SMSing and debating TV for years.  but never have we been so connected to so many people we know in real time to do so.  never have the conversations about the TV we love been so prevalent and so accessible.  I hope then that 2010 isn't just the year that TV sees a resurgence in revenues, but also the year that TV finally gets social…  we will never look at our screens in the same way again.

advertising, cinema, pioneering

Marketing and Movies: why Avatar, for all its three-dimensionality, felt distinctly two-dimensional


so I'm lucky enough to have just seen an opening screening of Avatar.  the movie has been a long time coming and if buzz is anything to go by its set to do rather well.  actually buzz is something to go by…  research by Aegis' ævolve shows a clear correlation between the amount of buzz a movie has in advance of release and the size of its opening weekend.  Google Insights for search, as you'd expect, shows the same thing, very significant increases over the last month or so:

its a big movie for both audiences and those involved but also for Hollywood.  with revenues increasingly moving to DVD and online, maximising revenues in cinema theatres is top priority for executives of studios that are feeling the pinch of a digitised economy more than most.

3D is key to this, and despite criticisms from, well, critics that far from adding to the cinema experience, 3D distracts from the quality of viewing, its a key strategy for maximising revenues in cinemas.  of course it also makes, for the moment, the cinema experience unique.  its normal if not preferable to watch a movie in the comfort of your home with the quality that we've come to expect from a cinema.  plus no one talks behind you and you don't have to cock your head to one side to see 90% of the screen.  3D is currently a unique offering in cinemas, an offering that can be uniquely monetised in cinemas.

in many ways, the technology is the draw of this movie; yet for all its future-facing there's been no sign of the ambitious and 21st century marketing initiatives some of us have come to expect post Cloverfield, Batman Begins and the like.  in fact for all its 21st Century technology Avatar feels distinctly 20th Century in its marketing…  all the opportunities to engage a potential audience up front thru transparency were dismissed, in favour of a publish-and-be-damned approach to make a movie and sell it.

and selling it is what this movie has been all about…  marketing efforts, for all their visibility, demand that you watch this movie rather than genuinely be part of the world from which it derives.  for all its 21st century capabilities there's nothing of the Wachowski in here: no world beyond the world to discover and explore.  and this seems distinctly ironic.  for a movie that cost $500m dollars to create, we surely deserve more than 150 minutes of cinema.  this movie begged for the trans-media but got nothing of the like: in a declined economy, $500m could be easily mistaken as a metaphor for what Cameron calls 'the Unobtanium'.

advertising, branding, broadcasting, converging, printing

Things we never thought we’d see # 15: Why Google’s use of press proves that media probably never was and certainly won’t ever be simple ever again

great brands don't need to advertise.  right?  great brands generate their own publicity.  great brands grow through word of mouth.  great brands invest in innovation which gets itself talked about.  great brands activate their networks, excite their advocates and set the Twittersphere ablaze.

great brands pity lesser brands that need to resort to broadcast advertising to get their products and services in front of the masses because they haven't mastered the new media economy.  great brands don't advertise, right?  …wrong:


Emily FK kindly sent me the attached today (yesterday…) from London…  Google.  advertising.  with a cover wrap.  on the Metro.  things we really, really, never thought we'd see.

on viewing it I recalled an ancient Chinese curse that goes along the lines of "may you live in interesting times".  they didn't value change did the ancient Chinese.  boy are we collectively cursed – interesting times indeed.  one of two things is happening here, you can take your pick…

option one: the Google (money) train is faltering.  their core business of search continues, of course, to be a juggernaut that is in very good health.  but could the non-core products and services that are fueled by the juggernaut be feeling a little more heat?

its the only realistic explanation…  despite coming from the fine-tuned stable of Goggle new media marketing, Chrome has failed to get traction in the marketplace.  the very handy market share reports that Chrome's current share is hovering at 3%, compared to Firefox's 23% plus and the collective Explorers' best part of 60%…


three percent.  that's a figure that Google executives haven't seen for a while and no doubt has them spooked.  they need more than 3% and they're going to throw money at getting it, because the information about what we browse, what we do and who we are is invaluable; and in Google's hands its game-changing.

the reasons as to why traction hasn't been hit could be numerous and are almost certainly a combination of apathy, familiarity with existing browser, anti-Googleness ("they've got enough information already" kind of thing), and perhaps even awareness.  one would hope that the latter has some part to play, for I fear for the ability of a press cover wrap to make a major dent in any of the other potential barriers.

there is of course option two…  that in the evolution of media and communication, there's a need for both sides of the equation.  or indeed every side of the cube if you get what I mean.  that its not enough for a brand to be a 'broadcast' brand or a 'networked' brand.  all this could mean that there's a time and a place for one to many, as well as a time and a place for many to many.

option two could mean that there's there's no such thing as old and new media.  there is only media.  media thats owned and rented out at a negotiated CPT by big business.  media that's made by individuals with a passion and an opinion or two.  media created by brands that they can subsequently own and leverage to tell the world why they exist.  media that we respect, share, love to hate, assume credibility, trash, believe, pass on, or – indeed – read on our way to work before logging on and checking out a new browser.

Google advertising on Metro.  proof, like we needed it, that media probably never was and certainly won't ever be simple ever again.


Go Joe; Why X Factor, and TV like it, holds a unique place in the affections of British culture

so I've a beer in hand, Empire of the Sun is playing in the background, and I'm sat on a balcony watching the sun descend into the haze surrounding the city of Sydney.  it's a beautiful evening and I'm about to head to Owen's birthday party where I'm sure an awesome time will had by all…  so of course, my instinct is to sit and write a blog post on X Factor.

those of you who have been following my progress in Dale's X Factor Tipping Competition will both know that I haven't fared too well at all this year.  I'm blaming a move to Australia, the fact that I can only watch the performances (and none of the extra – vote influencing – bits) on YouTube because iTVplayer blocks non-UK viewing, and the distractions of fancying then not fancying Danyl, hating then loving Jedward and the occasional celebrity come-back / breakdown on national television…  anyway my 120 points put me in joint 22nd place (I know!) and a billion miles away from the amazingness of Chris G's whopping 175 points.  kudos to him, he's set to be a worthy winner.

of course being in and amongst the debate really helps with the old tipping, and that – I think – it what has so held me back since my move to the antipodes.  the fact is that Australians just don't talk about TV in the way that people in the UK do.  I appreciate the irony that the organiser of the tipping competition is Australian but he's living in London so its a moot point.

I only now realise the extent to which TV – and it characters, events and plots – is woven into the fabric of British Culture.  I was at an awards ceremony on Thursday and was explaining that I would be surprised, if not stunned, if there was an office, backroom or group of mates who didn't in some way this week discuss the varying merits of Joe, Stacy and Olly.  its a staple of conversation and debate in the way that soaps and quality drama used to be.

I'm not entirely sure why.  I think that the weather has a lot to do with it – Britons ares simple in sheltering for the elements a lot more.  that and the fact that as nation – as Kate Fox observed in Watching the English – we are predisposed to gossip…  to talking, debating and discussing the news of others.  geography has a bit to play in this, as does our class system.  you can't help but be mindful of Britain's class heritage when you hear the explicit "Stacy that was amazing" and the implicit "…considering"

but the final reason as to why TV is so embedded in UK culture is that it has been so consistently good for so long.  its a key part of the UK's culture because it has for so long been there, entertaining, informing and inspiring us.  we owe both the BBC and commercial channels who never saw themselves – because they were advertiser funded – in lesser terms, a great deal.  they have earned Britain's trust, and we reward them by holding them at the heart of our culture in a way that other countries, and certainly Australians, just don't.

as for tonight, I'm going to hit that party…  but in the morning my alarm will be set and I'll be up and at 'em to watch the YouTube clips posted so that I can see for myself what the final performances were like.  and for the record, Joe to win.  a fellow South Shields kid whose consistenly delivered and upped his game at every stage.  he'd be a worthy winner, deserving of a place amongst the individuals who have, over time, entertained us and in return – for a time – won the affection of a nation.  go Joe…


applicationing, developing, praising

Build it [well] and they will come: three things to appluad about Stella Artois’ iPhone app

picked this up via a TrendCentral article describing how brands are leveraging the power of AR in the mobile space.  there's nothing massively groundbreaking about the above application; we've been talking about this kind of technology for a good while now.  but there are however three important things to observe…

it is done very well.  its comprehensive, simple to download and seemingly easy to use.  its one thing to develop the strategy of having a bar-finder app…  its quite another to make one happen.  and to make one happen that has clearly been developed with user-centricity (rather than brand-centricity) at its heart is to be applauded.

it was developed outside of an established silo of expertise.  specialist iPhone app building agency arossair (not an existing ad, media, or digital agency) built the application for Stella.  this is an agency build on the basis of being a specialist not a generalist; of being totally focused on doing one thing well and being famous for it.  I can't help but think that all of us in more generalist agencies will have to decide just how generalist we want to be in the future…

…the obvious model that emerges is that the generalists will evolve into central hubs of thinking and coordination, pulling in the capabilities of specialists on behalf of brands and projects as they go.  but an evolution to this role brings with it lower margins and potential revenues – especially and specifically in the area of production and execution.

finally, they did it.  enough of the talk and the thinking and the chart writing and justification and exploration and debating; and more of the doing.  as the early 21st Century witnesses an exponential increase in the things that brands could do, there is a pleasure in seeing a brand actually doing something.  'build it [well] and they will come' could well become a mantra for our times.


Because Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus: how Reader’s Digest reminds us about an often-forgotten targeting basic


so the lovely Emily Fairhead-Keen send me the above chart courtesy of Reader's Digest, outlining the top unfulfilled ambitions for forty-plus men and women.  it makes for a wry chuckle and no doubt will reinforce those perceptions that we all knowingly or otherwise hold close to our chests: that men are generally boys that have failed to grow up and still harbor ambitions to do the extraordinary, and that women are on an eternal quest for self-improvement and fulfillment.

so far so stereotypical, but it made me think about the last time – in a planning capacity – I actively and specifically even considered let alone proceeded to target genders differently.  its not uncommon to get a brief for a male or female-orientated brand or product, so you follow the well-trodden and familiar paths of newspaper sport sections or weekly celebrity mags accordingly.

but its rare to get a brief that's not gender-specific that, as a planner, you choose to split along gender lines.  perhaps because whilst its easy to develop products (and brands) for a gender its a lot harder to exclusively target one or the other; and if you decide to plan to engage with each gender differently then you need a degree of exclusivity in how you do so.

or perhaps you don't?!  perhaps the new media economy and ecology permits more easy reaching people along gender lines…  I recall the recent work done by social media agencies in Australia for a Toyota Yaris live pitch, for which the now closed / merged Population's campaign was based around the rivalries between Sydney and Melbourne, with alternative Facebook fan pages for the two cities.


there's no reason why the same tactic couldn't be applied to gender…  for the right brand with the right brief it could be just the thing to capitalise on long-ago-formed and entrenched rivalries; because whilst the ways and means by which we reach people will become ever more sophisticated, its worth remembering the basic truth that men really are from Mars and women are from Venus.

commenting, innovating, pioneering, praising, printing, publishing

Covering a story like never before: what 56 newspapers in 45 countries can teach brands about the art of collaboration and cooperation

so the long and winding road of global climate change discussion and debate has brought us to 7th December 2009, and the Copenhagen Climate Summit.  the world's eyes and ears will converge on the gathering as political leaders meet to debate and, with luck, agree the principles of the collective action required to save us from ourselves.  an army of bloggers, Twitterers and reporters will all be there to capture – for us and for future generations – how it all went down.

the unprecedented media coverage that is no doubt to come is preceded today by a global media first orchestrated by the Guardian in London.  56 major newspapers in 45 countries have today published an identical editorial piece.  appearing in twenty different languages, the piece takes a single united message – the demanding of action – to a global audience.  Guardian editor-in-chief Alan Rusbridger noted that "Newspapers have never done anything like this before – but they have never had to cover a story like this before"


collaboration on this scale is unprecedented, and difficult.  as the Guardian puts it; "Given that newspapers are inherently rivalrous, proud and disputatious, viewing the world through very different national and political prisms, the prospect of getting a sizeable cross-section of them to sign up to a single text on such a momentous and divisive issue seemed like a long shot"  …but the long shot paid off and – with the very notable exceptions of the US and Australia aside – a united editorial piece is reaching a global audience, and its a good and powerful thing to see.

its a testament to what can be achieved when editors and publishers want to cooperate, made all the more potent at a time when much is being said about the waning power of the fourth estate.  and it begs a big question for brands…  where's the co-operation?  campaign after campaign has been rolled out to the world demonstrating commitment to reduce this or eliminate that – all inherently communicating on brands' terms rather than on the terms of the agenda against which they are developing comms…

the climate change agenda is bigger than any single brand, and some hard-fought co-opertaion could be just the thing to bring some increasingly needed credibility and scale to their – well intentioned – efforts.  and if the "rivalous, proud and disputatious" printing presses of the world can do it, then perhaps a group of enlightened, forward-thinking and pioneering brands can too.  its something I'd like very much to see.

content creating, CRM-ing, public relating, social media-ising, user-generating

Planning for a start not an end: how Skype’s Phone Box Experiment is encouraging us all to call more landlines by sending their man into the middle of nowhere

so you're Skype and you're brilliant and everyone using you loads for free internet to internet calls.  but the value ready to be unlocked in your business is in paid for calls to mobiles and landlines.  what to do?  …well in an email this morning from Skype they pointed me in the direction of their solution…  in a cool idea, Rob Cavazos has journeyed into the middle of nowhere and is awaiting our calls, whilst always staying within the frame of a camera.

the website seamlessly introduces you to the idea whilst clearly articulating the options and benefits of adding credit to your Skype account so that you make calls to non-internet destinations.

the challenge now is amplification, amplification, amplification.  Skype need to ensure they capitalise on their investment in getting Rob into the middle of nowhere and land the idea in spaces and places beyond their site.  they have a YouTube channel which is a great start, but I can't seem to track down any kind of live feed?  the project now needs to go into overdrive to create WOM and conversations in and around what's going on with their experiment…

getting their man there was one thing, I look forward to seeing if Skype can pull off the other trick of ensuring that the idea has traction and momentum so that their idea is a starting not an end point.

promoting, social media-ising, social networking

Facebook’s betrayal: why Westfield’s $10,000 promotion may come back to bite the hand it so fleetingly fed

with the dust settling on Westfield's controversial Facebook application and the weekend drawing nigh, it's perhaps time to reflect – once again – on the trials, perils and pitfalls of brands rushing in to enter the social media spaces that angels fear to tread.

to recap.  last weekend saw Westfield launch a promotion on Facebook which offered a place in a $10,000 prize draw to anyone who updated their Facebook status using the Westfield Gift Card Application.  controversy and criticism soon grew however.

rumors that the promo was a hoax, suggestions that opened your Book to spam and viruses, difficult to find T&Cs and the cluttering of many a newsfeed led to the creation of dozens of anti groups and finally yesterday to the shutting down of the promotion.  three observations…

one, mission accomplished.  if the brief was to get into and make some noise in the space owned by people rather than on-to-many media then its a job well done and M&C Saatchi and Ikon Communications should be congratulated.  we can only assume that the brief was such – any requirement to build brand credibility or improve perceptions of Westfield couldn't, or certainly shouldn't, have resulted in such a maverick solution.  which brings me to…

two, it does appear to be the most invasive of promotions.  the application essentially allows Westfield to spam peoples' Facebook friends with auto status updates saying, "All I want for Christmas is a Westfield gift card".  more than a couple of them in my news feed would have taken me to the brink.  not that it bothered University student Kristy Bell.  the Courier Mail reports that she didn't think twice about adding the application…  "I don't care that it can pull details from your profile – pretty much all Facebook applications can" she said.  a point well made Kristy, but most pretty much all applications on Facebook do so to add utility (that mantra again) to your online / social / life experience.

three, and most importantly.  digi strategist Tom Kelshaw posted that the competition appears to be breaking Facebook's rather strict terms and conditions, which state that:

4.2 In the rules of the promotion, or otherwise, you will not condition entry to the promotion upon taking any action on Facebook, for example, updating a status, posting on a profile or Page, or uploading a photo.

but in a statement earlier this week Westfield claimed that "its Christmas Gift Card promotion on Facebook is a registered promotion. Westfield worked closely with Facebook to develop the competition and Westfield has legal advice that the promotion does not breach the Spam Act."

if this statement is to be believed, Facebook actively participated in the development of an invasive and controversial application that contravened its own terms and conditions.  this is important for a whole load of reasons, not least because it undermines trust in Facebook – the media brand around which many of us choose to organise social activities, communicate with friends and share things that interest, intrigue or amuse us.

Westfield, M&C Saatchi and Ikon Communications can walk away from this with a short term hit and learnings for next time.  but a few more of these and Facebook may find its not brands but users that are walking away from the social network that sold them out for a quick buck from a brand that thought that an invasive land grab into people's personal media space was the smart let alone the right thing to do.