— Marketing (&) Mischief

The revenue model for content publishers (in this case with publishers I refer to newspapers and news outlets) is based on subscriptions and advertising and since the dawn of the World Wide Web publishers have trusted the web to drive both: Advertising revenue through banners and also more subscribers to their traditional business – printing content on paper.

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This is no longer the case. The web, and to some degree the publishers themselves, have taught us that content is free. With tablets and smartphones taking the world by storm even the common man doesn’t settle for reading yesterdays news on paper while downing their bacon and eggs. We need our news as they happen. We are also no longer content on relying on just one or two sources for our news. The (mobile) web has drastically increased the number of news sources we follow on a daily basis.

With this fundamental shift in human behaviour it’s harder and harder to build a loyal reader base and publishers are facing their ultimate nightmare: Declining ad revenues AND subscribers. We’ve already seen a number of high-profile formerly thought of as untouchable publishing houses close their doors.

So what can a publisher do?

As this change has become apparent and unavoidable publishers have started to figure out new ways of saving their business. Unfortunately the silver bullet is still to be found. The pay gate works for only the strongest brands and for some highly targeted niche players. No matter the format display ads are getting fewer and fewer clicks. Video ads have yet to fulfill their promise. Blogs and social media are stealing visitors. Google has taught advertisers that it’s all about keywords – not quality content (though with Google’s Hummingbird update this is changing back to underlining the importance of great content).

Luckily one fundamental thing hasn’t changed: We all love great content that is relevant to our lives and interests. With new technologies and gadgets we are consuming more content than ever before. So the market is there. But how to build a viable business model when everything is expected to be free?

Look at those who have gone before you

The music and film industries have been battling the same dilemma as publishing is facing now. With file sharing and torrents music, films and tv-shows are virtually free to download and consume for everyone. We want everything and we want it now. For free.

According to Jonathan Fosters, the head of Spotify Europe, the only way to fight this and teach us to pay for music is “to make finding and consuming music legally easier and more fun than pirating”. With Spotify and Netflix seeing global success with their content aggregator / subscription model that fights piracy with convenience it’s not a big leap to predict that the same model would work for publishing.

Learn, listen and adapt

Publishers have complained loudly about how Flipboard and other content aggregators leech off their content to build a business. That might be true if you think of publishing via the traditional publishing business model but as we’ve now established the world and our behaviour has changed and so must the business thinking applied to it change as well.

Instead of fighting content aggregators and the change in user behaviour publishers should accept the change (that they in part hand a hand in crafting) and work closely with Flipboard and the likes to test and build new business models based on the understanding that we want easy and convenient access to multiple sources of great content with a set price that’s closer to micro payments than magazine subscriptions. I for one would be more than happy to pay a monthly fee for Flipboard.

With the old model clearly not working it’s definitely at least worth a shot. Then again you can also just resist ’til the bitter end and see where that gets you.

All I can say is that if your content is not on Flipboard it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever read it.

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Andrew Keen @ CNN wrote a great article on social media bans at work. I wholeheartedly  agree with Vivek Wadhwa (@wadhwa) who was quoted in the article: “banning social media at work is brain dead”.

Here’s my 3 simple reasons for why you (yes you Mr/Mrs Manager/CEO) should stop being a stubborn relics and just embrace the change social media represents for your company culture.

1. You can’t stop it.

By imposing strict rules on “not wasting time on Facebook” you just show how out of touch you are and strengthen the disconnect between management and your workforce.

And no matter what you do – in the end they’ll always find a way. You haven’t hired a bunch of idiots now have you? And even if you have any modern idiot knows how to jump off the corporate WiFi and use 3G on their phones to catch up on all the essential #some gossip.

2. Transparency is the new black

NDA’s and secrecy are as important as ever when it comes to business critical information but at the same time it’s critical for businesses to step down from the ivory tower and start speaking with their audience instead of “communicating” using fabricated semi-truths (ie. traditional marketing).

Believe it or not your staff plays a key role in this.

3. Get them to work for you

Instead of fighting the change and outsourcing your social media activities to agencies you should embrace your work force’s interest and turn it in to one of your biggest assets. Educate them, guide them, empower them and unleash them.

I guarantee that in no time you’ll be encouraging your staff to spend more time on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Vine and Google+ – talking about your company / brand / product. Amidst the occasional #cutecatvideo new school watercooler moment of course.

Go ahead. Click it. Take a break. We all need to once in a while :)

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Everybody wants to see their content go “viral”. Too see it spread like wildfire in the Interwebs with virtually no cost. Enabled simply by new human behaviour and the mighty social networks.

To make this happen you obviously need to start with some seriously Epic Content but you also need to make it shareable on a level that your fans/customers/users don’t almost notice they are spreading your message.

Pretty straightforward and simple. As professional marketers we know this and got it nailed, right?

Enter Amazon.

I think it’s safe to say Amazon’s got the Epic Content part of the equation nailed and you could also easily think they would be the masters of optimizing visibility and WOM for that killer content.

Think again.

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The Amazon Store on the Android Kindle app (and the Kindle app as a whole) supports sharing of books only when you have finished reading them. There’s no built in way to tell your friends about the cool new book you’ve found. It’s virtually impossible to share any content from within the app unless you flip to the end of a book and Tweet about it. Android is known for it’s built in share feature but for some reason Amazon has decided not to include it in their app. Or missed it. Or… Beats me. As far as I know the situation is the same on iOS and Kindle.

It serves as a good wake up call to realize that even Amazon has failed to make it’s content shareable in one of the most crucial touch points they have.

So go back and recheck your site/service/product and make sure you have identified and optimized the shareability factor of your content to the max. Take your time, get to know your users and their habits and you might just identify a new sharing point that unleashes your wildfire.

P.S. It also baffles me that Amazon has yet to introduce more advanced features that would turn reading into a more social and gamelike experience: Checking in to a book, sharing insights / comments with your friends and other readers, earning Amazon credits for reading more and recommending a book to friends etc. Features that would not only drive more sales for Amazon but would help fans support their favorite authors – by easily sharing the content they love. 

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Second half of 2011 was damn busy. Busy enough to not have time to blog. Well that’s not really true as I did blog A LOT but not on my own site :) This obviously then begs the question: Why have a blog of your own if you don’t have the time to update it. In truth I have no answer. I guess I just like to have some other home online than Facebook :)

Anyhow – in case you might be interested here’s some of the things I’ve been working on lately.

Sports Tracker

Working on the marketing strategy for Sports Tracker as well as developing the service and the apps, launching apps for iPhone, Android, Nokia N9 and Windows Phoneblogging, setting up online support communities, building partnerships, working with media…keeping very busy with a bunch of fantastic guys and now also one gal!

This has been my main focus lately and will be going forward. Great app – fun times :)

Music videos

This is one of the reasons I left the agency world behind – to have more time to work with things I’m passionate about – like music.

I worked as the producer on these videos for the lovely and talented Kristiina Wheeler. I also edited and did all the post production. Both videos were directed by the amazing Cristal Snow.

Viking Line NB1376

Working with Flatlight Films and Fellowland on the online strategy for promoting the world’s most environmental ferry: The Viking Line NB1376. We got the whole team that’s working on building the ferry to blog about different aspects of the project: Design, environment, technology and the experience. Check out the naming competition and suggest a name for this revolutionary ferry :)

Other stuff…

Then there’s obviously Petri and numerous projects and stuff that is not out yet in the public eye or will never be. All in all it’s been a busy and fun year. Freelancing rocks :)

 

 

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N-Gage RIPIt’s been nice to follow the recent success and hype around Finnish Game Developers.

Rovio is rockin’ the globe with Angry Birds and RedLynx is making some serious waves as well. Supercell scored 12M$ in funding from Accel Partners to develop their ground-braking browser-based MMORPG Gunshine.net. Not to mention Remedy and Housemarque. Finnish gaming is booming and I for one am loving it. Well done guys & gals!

This got me thinking. Why is this happening now? How come there is so much game development talent in Finland especially in mobile gaming?

Could it be that we owe a big thank you to the most ridiculed gaming venture that’s ever come out of Finland: The Nokia N-Gage? The ill-fated platform whose life-support Nokia quietly unplugged a few months back.

It is an undeniable fact that Nokias’ trip to gaming was a huge psychedelic failure from the start. Anyone and your neighbors kid could have told the Nokia management (if they would have listened) that the sidetalkin’ take the battery out to switch games joke of a gaming phone would never fly. And I should know. I worked as the guy with the world’s most daunting task – run digital marketing for N-Gage globally. It was like climbing Everest naked. Well maybe not quite but tricky still.

That said I do think that while failing to get us gaming on those weird phones Nokia did an enormous favor to the Finnish and Global Mobile Gaming industry. During the N-Gage years Nokia published some amazing ground-braking mobile games that paved way for a lot of the innovation and gameplay we now see on iOS, Android and other mobile platforms: Pathway to Glory (first ever mobile multiplayer over GPRS-networks – by Red Lynx), High Seize (by RedLynx), Bounce (the grandfather of Angry Birds by Rovio), Asphalt (born on the N-Gage – still racing on iOS and Android by Gameloft), ONE (by Digital Legends) and Pocket Kingdom (One of the first Online MMORPG games on a mobile phone – by Nokia) just to name a few.

Have it not been for N-Gage (and essentially Nokias’ big bucks) these amazing games would not have seen the light of day and as a result Finnish game developers would not be where they are today.

So raise a glass and give thanks to where thanks are due. Rest in peace N-Gage and thanks for all the good times. I for one am a much better climber though nowadays I do tend to equip myself with the proper gear and choose my quests a bit more carefully.

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I worked (and still do) with the guys at Supercell helping them integrate their amazing browser-based MMO RPG, Gunshine.net, to social media. Main aim being to help gamers sign up and find their friends easily = have more fun…and to drive word-of-mouth about this cool ground-braking game in the process :)

I also worked on the site concept & visuals for both the game site and their corporate site. And a bit on the trailer you can see below. And on setting up their community management processes. Quite a lot actually now that I think about it. But that happens when you are having fun :)

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BranchOut is making waves in the professional networking services space by utilizing Facebook to help you network faster and easier. LinkedIn should be worried as the “Facebook Utility” approach seems like the way of the future vs. stand-alone services.

One thing bugs me though.

I like the simplicity of the BranchOut sign-up process and the way you have your profile set up in a matter of minutes. All great – exactly the way I want it. But then I start hitting the well hidden social landmines.

Before I even realize it I’ve spammed most of my friends Facebook walls with invites. Ok…hold on a sec – I want to connect with these guys but not like this.

Don’t get me wrong I’m all for integrating your service with Facebook but this is to me a clear example of an execution that crosses the “from viral to spam” line.

I’m sure BranchOut got a lot of buzz and new users by creating the spam attack most of us were subjected to when they launched but at the same time I’m willing to bet they lost of lot of potential users and harmed their brand by doing it. I for one (and I know I’m not alone) blocked the application from posting to my Wall – and thus am effectively not getting ANY networking requests from my friends that use the service. For me BranchOut is no longer an option.

In my opinion the same effect could have been achieved with direct user-to-user messages on Facebook. It may not have caused such a “bang” for launch but would have created a more sustained viral effect (and would not have shut anyone out in the process) and also kept the brand / service from getting the “annoying spammer” classification.

All in all the lesson here is this: Tread carefully when integrating your service to Facebook. The line between clever viral expansion and spam is crucial to spot and not to cross.

How to do it? It is simple really (if you just take your “marketer” hat off for a sec): Don’t exploit your users, respect their privacy and create a killer service that they want to share out of their free will. Just think how you would react when your service starts to spam your wall / inbox…and don’t piss off yourself.

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I don’t want to be the person running around preaching and trying to convert people into changing their eating habits just to justify my own choices but this trailer of the upcoming documentary Forks Over Knives just has to be forwarded and promoted. It’s striking and based on my own experiences also very true. I have been a vegan for the past 6 months and I seriously have never felt better in my life. Best decision ever. Period.

So all I’m asking is check the trailer and please do think before you eat. I know it does not seem easy but I guarantee you it’s easier than you think and the reward is so very tangible. And yeah please spread the word by forwarding the link.

p.s. By eating more veggies you not only save yourself but you are also helping save the planet. Which is kinda good too.

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EA just openly stated that making movie tie-in games is bad business. They list a few reasons:

1. The IP owners take too big a cut from the profits.

2. That leads to a smaller budget = worse game.

3. Timelines are also usually too tight = bad game.

= No sales. No point in making movie-based games.

To me it just seems weird that they are giving up instead of taking a step back and re-inventing the whole model. After all no one can deny that movies loved by millions do make a great base for a game.

I think it’s just how you approach the whole thing.

The classic model (that fails according to EA) is to take a movie and try to repeat the storyline and the experience in a game. To me that is mistake #1. I believe that what moviegoers want is to experience more – not the same. I’ve seen the movie – now give me a new adventure in that same “universe” that I’ve fallen in love with. Let me explore that world and make it my own.

There are a few great examples in which this different approach has been applied and it has worked. Remember the excellent Chronicles of Riddick -games that explored subplots in the movie and actually explained the past of the main character. Unfortunately these examples are too few and too far between. Instead the EA’s of the world churn out mediocre game-fluff like the pathetic Harry Potter games. I mean that is just sad. How can you not make a great game based on the Potter Universe?? I would give my left arm for a Harry Potter sandbox/RPG-game. Think GTA + Red Dead Redemption + Mass Effect in the world of the world’s favorite wizard. And no – I don’t even necessarily need to play as Harry. I just want more adventures in his world.

I’m not saying EA and the gaming industry are solely to blame for this. It’s apparent that the studios and IP owners don’t understand gaming and the opportunity games represent as a platform to elevate their IP’s to a new level in the minds of the fans. I’m sure more often than not the bad decisions come from the Studios. They see games as a part of marketing and capitalizing on the movie and not as a longer term investment into engaging with their audience and in the best case building a new revenue model that might even surpass the profits made from one or two movies.

To his credit (even though I’ll never forgive him for ruining the prequels with Jar Jar and…well the list is tooo long) George Lucas and LucasArts have applied this model for a while now. They have not always succeeded but they have also produced some classic games…X-Wing anyone? And obviously the fantastic Knights of the Old Republic -games. At least they get it and want to use this amazing new medium to offer their fans new experiences in a their beloved galaxy far far away.

So I would not give up on the movie games Mr. Gibeau. Just take the advice of a very very old and wise green man: “Unlearn what you have learned”. And then start again.

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May I present my two free tips for the Sanoma Corporation on how to stop Helsingin Sanomat from hemorrhaging subscribers. I just contributed to the blood loss by cancelling my Sunday paper that I for some reason still subscribed to even though I never ever read it.

1. What’s with the front page?

When I grab my fresh copy of Helsingin Sanomat I don’t get the slightest urge to open it and see what todays stories are. But when I see their biggest local rival Aamulehti I read the cover and usually dig in and end up spending time reading at least a few articles.

Why? The reason is simple and pretty self-evident. The question is – which is more imporant in the long run: advertisers or readers?

Netizens want to quickly browse and decide if a piece of content is worth their time and ads just are not interesting. At all. Period. And if you lose your readers…well you can figure it out yourself.

2. Fix the size

I won’t buy a bigger table just to be able to read news and have breakfast at the same time. Come on – get with the global trend and downsize. Now. Or I’ll keep on reading my news on my iPad while sipping my morning cup of joe.

This is a freebie also for Alma Media. You both have to get this sorted.

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