— Marketing (&) Mischief

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Media

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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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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Just attended the European Vimeo Awards event in Amsterdam and got to see some of the finalists on the big screen. I’ve always respected Vimeo for their clear direction – being THE online community for filmmakers rather than trying to take on YouTube as yet another generic video sharing site. Being in Amsterdam surrounded by the Vimeo community and seeing the enthusiasm and love for the craft deepened my respect even further. Seeing how much effort and care is put into elevating the community from online to the real world via the event and the upcoming Vimeo Awards in NYC was heart-warming and inspiring at the same time.

A part of the Amsterdam event was a screening of a few selected finalists. Amazing stuff…especially considering it is all user-generated non-profit content. The event of affordable HD equipment like the Canon DSLR’s and the new HD capable mobile phones has truly changed the game. You don’t have to have a budget of millions anymore to go out and produce cutting-edge film. It’s a good time to be a film-maker.

The series that most caught my attention was the documentaries created by California is a Place, the labour of love of Drea Cooper & Zackary Canepari. Check out their blog for more information and all their work. Below is my favorite example of their exploits in bringing the hidden secrets of California alive on film.

Screw Fixies. I want a Scraper Bike. Now.

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Imagine you live in a village sometime in the end of the 19th century.

You buy your bread from the village baker every day. You know it to be good, tasty and healthy and you know he won’t overcharge you for it. Why? Because you are close to him. You know him. His reputation in the community is linked to the quality of his bread. And if he would try to make a better profit by cutting back on the quality of his ingredients and raising his prizes while still claiming that his bread is “the best in the village” the community would call his bluff immediately and he would be out of business (and out of friends).

Enter the age of mass production and mass communications. Suddenly the baker can make more bread and sell it to more people than ever before. He also realizes It’s no longer his reputation that is on the line. It’s the brand, the company that gives the promise of good quality bread to it’s customers. Not him.

The baker also realizes that in is new global village the people can’t share experiences as they did in that small village where everyone knew each other. Instead what he says in his advertisements passes for the truth.

This is when greed (some also call it human nature) takes over and the baker cuts back on the quality of his ingredients in the hope of better profit.

And so it goes that it works (really well actually) and the baker makes it big with the help of his friend mass media and an industry of creatives and artists helping him craft his new truth. This goes on for quite a while and they get really good at it. They get so good at it that everyone actually forgets what it was like to live in that little village.

But then…along comes a thing called the Internet.

At first the baker and his friends try their best to ignore it. Then they try to use it as just another means for distributing their truth. And while the baker and his merry men are busy trying to exploit the Internet the villagers start using it to connect and share the real truth about the bakers bread….just like they did back in the day.

And before the baker can say “oh shit guys, I think we’re f**ked” the village is back. And it’s back with a vengeance.

So what is the lesson of my story, you ask?

For the bakers:
It’s time to focus all your energy to listening to your villagers, being a part of your community and baking the best bread possible. You can’t fake it anymore, sorry.

For the villagers:
Make you voice heard. You have the tools and the right to do it. Don’t settle for ok.

For the bakers merry men:
Figure out how you can help your baker embrace the Village Values. Help him listen, react, learn and develop his bread. And then help him get the real truth out.

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This almost brings a tear to my eye :)

Check out this really nice recap presentation of the thinking that has been happening in and around the Nokia Digital Marketing team during the past few years. I’ve been fortunate enough to work closely with this brilliant group of thinkers and advocates of change and I gotta say I miss those days. Not to say that this is the end of the collaboration – maybe more an end of an era.

Anyhow…check it out and let me know what you think!

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This is long overdue but I finally got the collected learnings from Web 2.0 Expo 2009 on to Slideshare. Lot of great thoughts and buzz. I especially loved the way Twitter was used in the conference by the speakers and the attendees and tried to collect some of the best Tweets that I came across to the preso as well.

Thanks to @DaGood @r2r0 @anssimakela @Jussipekka for inspiration, notes, RT’s and obvously great company!

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Following (on Twitter), talking with and reading posts from smart guys in the industry (like @jussipekka, @dagood & @Britopian) has made me think really hard about the new nut we marketers are all trying to crack: marketing in Social Media. And the more I think about it I keep on coming back to the same questions: Is there such a thing? Can you really market in Social Media? Can you really approach something as profoundly revolutionary with just your marketer hat on?

My answer is that you can’t.

Let me explain.

What is Social Media? It’s all about give love to get love. I help you and you’ll help me. We all come together to share experiences and thinking in a way never before possible (thanks to ze Interweb). It’s based on very basic human behaviour and at the same time it is very liberating and empowering. We are no longer reliant on what the powers that be (governments, media, marketers) want to feed us. We are in control of the most powerful media ever created. That changes the game and that’s why brands and marketers are worried. They can’t hide crappy products and services behind great advertising anymore. Like a very special FBI agent once said: The truth is out there.

The result of this change? Clueless and scared marketing managers turn to the equally clueless and scared advertising agencies around the world posing THE question: How do we tackle this new monster messing our well oiled screw the consumer -machine? And the answer that the (at this point scared shitless) agencies have come up with? Social Media Marketing!! Don’t worry guys. It’s just another media we can control. We’ll just create a Facebook app and a brand Twitter-account for you and you are all set. We can then push all the same messages to this new “media” and keep your campaigns nicely integrated. You know, 360.

But it does not work that way. Social Media is not a media in the traditional sense of the word. You can’t control it. It’s an environment where true, transparent and honest interaction and involvement pays off. And if you are not ready for that not just a brand but as a company then don’t bother.

So let’s stop talking about Social Media Marketing and start hammering in the idea of Social Media Ethos. Something that touches everything a company does. A new way of behaving. A set of rules by which a company conducts it’s business in a way that is truly taking into account the needs of their audience. From R&D through Comms to Sales. Everything.

I know it’s scary and I get tired of even thinking about all the headaches and frustration it will cause but THAT is the real challenge we all need to overcome.

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Just read an article on Mashup.com about how Disney has bought a stake in Hulu.com – the number one on-demand HD-site in the US. Great stuff I thought…but at the same time my old grudge popped up and I wrote a rather heated comment to the article…almost like a blog post of it’s own….hmmm…

So here goes.

The news is all nice and dandy for the viewers in the US but when will the studios and other content owners realize that they need to give up the old  revenue streams of gradually milking the non-US viewers by releasing their shows and content in phases to us poor saps? First sell to the TV-networks…then put out a DVD…a Blu-Ray and maybe if we get lucky we can at some point then view the content on-demand and in HD. And oh yeah…a few re-runs on TV just for the hell of it.

Come on guys…get your head out of…well you know…and don’t repeat the mistake the music industry made by clinging on to their “good ‘ol days” and by doing that teaching us that to get music online equals P2P. You might still have a chance if you move fast.

No wonder torrents are getting more and more popular. The mechanisms are in place (I’ve got iTunes, XBOX360 with a Live subscription and….yeah – a browser + a 100meg broadband) but for some reason there is no way for me to legally watch the HD content I want and when I want online.

It’s not that people are by nature purely evil and want everything for free (well not all of us anyways) but it’s quite simply that the powers that be at NBC, Disney, Fox, ABC, HBO, Warner (the list goes on…) are not even giving us the opportunity to do the right thing.

As I write this I’m listening to Spotify for which I’m paying 10€ / month. That’s right…streaming music and happily paying for the great service. So give me my BSG, Lost and 30 Rock in HD and I’ll pay happily (as long as you don’t try and rip me off like you are doing with Blu-Rays).

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I just attended a half-day workshop / seminar held by the Finnish Broadcasting Company (YLE) aka the “Finnish BBC”. The topic of the day was their fairly new company strategy: “YLE Enabler Strategy”. I had not really dug into what they mean when they say “enabler” before attending so it was a nice surprise to notice that it actually means what I hoped it would mean: That these guys actually get it.

I’ve been ranting and raving about how businesses need to embrace the change by engaging their audience through being more transparent and focusing on true end-user benefits and needs and here I was sitting and listening in amazement when my speech was delivered to me by Mikael Jungner, the CEO of YLE.

Hold on a minute.

The CEO of the monolithical remnant of the 50′s and 60′s talking about openness, wanting to be the enabler of new business models and being the platform for new and better ways of creating and distributing great content.

Did not see that one coming.

So what is YLE doing right?

  1. They’ve already made their sites “social media compatible”
  2. They are already sharing their content archives (limited only by the pre-historic copyright laws): Elävä Arkisto / Tehosto / Areena
  3. They see the opportunity, not the threat. And they see it high enough in the organization to really make things happen.
  4. They’ve got the right people, with the right mind-set working on their services – with the backing & blessing of the CEO
  5. They don’t claim they have all the answers: They want us / you to help them.

Lesson for everyone: If YLE can adopt this new approach then there is NO excuse for any other company / entity to not follow in their footsteps.

YLE troops: You’ve got a new fan. Thanks for a great day and keep up the great work!

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