Is the Magazine Broken?

With technology progressing at such a rapid pace, it’s difficult to envision exactly how we’ll be consuming content even 5 years from now.  The following video highlights how quickly technology is removing barriers to accessing information.  To this baby, the concept of a magazine simply doesn’t make sense.  

From a recent Penelope Trunk blog post: “I’m convinced that the biggest impact Generation Z will have on the workplace is in their schooling. They will be lifelong, self-learners, who take more personal responsibility for their ongoing education than any generation in history. I am not talking about graduate school here. I am talking about a more creative, independent way of learning that does not stop at college, but rather, picks up pace remarkably after college, when real experiential learning starts happening.”

The ease with which we can now access content is what makes independent, continual learning possible.  5 years ago I would read a book on my train ride to work.  Today, my iPad let’s me get a jump start on my work day, write my next blog post, or network with colleagues or friends.  With an hour communite from the suburbs to the city, that’s two hours a day I can spend being productive virtually any way I wish.  Productivity has never been more attainable and technology will only continue to make it easier.

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A Lesson From Taco Bell: What Makes Freebies Valuable?

Recently, Taco Bell offered it’s 6 million Facebook fans a free taco redeemable with no strings attached at any participating location.  Interestingly, only 3% of fans took up the offer.  So, what is it that makes a freebie valuable?  What made Taco Bell’s offer so unappealing to its Facebook fans?

For starters, a 99 cent taco lacks the perceived (and real) value that gets a person excited about receiving a prize.  While its great to win anything, 99 cents is easily replaced.

This blog thinks a lack of exclusitivity is what made the promotion fail.  Though it may be true that a promotion corresponding with a new product launch may have increased the perceived value of the giveaway, I do not believe it was the number one deterrant to it’s success.

So what was? 

In my opinion, it was the effort required to redeem the prize that was the biggest problem.  When you think about successful promotions like Tim Horton’s Roll Up the Rim to Win campaign, customers can redeem prizes instantly.  Taco Bell put too many barriers in place for customers to the point that, even if they wanted the free taco, it wasn’t worth the effort.  When it comes to promotions, instancy is the name of the game. 

Though the online landscape has opened doors to interaction between brands and customers online, instant access to physical products has been a barrier to the success of numerous campaigns.  Brands must figure out a new approach to these types of giveaways if they wish to make them worthwhile going forward.

Mobile Publishing: Mygazines

In an increasingly mobile world, the need for content on Smart Phones and tablet devices can’t be ignored.  But how much should companies be investing to stay on the cutting edge?   With mobile applications still in their infancy and the cost of app development seemingly unmanageable for most small companies, the search for reasonable alternatives begins.   

Mygazines offers a great option for anyone from a freelance writer to a large publishing company looking to make their content mobile-ready, at a reasonable cost.  The service has some impressive marketing functionality as well, with options for content sharing, social media integration, built in RSS feeds and video integration.  The only catch is that the services requires a browser to launch; which takes most e-readers off the market.

Today, the need for app development may be dependent on a number of factors including; industry specific requirements, the types of content being displayed and the price customers are willing to pay to get what they want.   For everyone else, there’s solutions like Mygazines to meet customer needs without breaking the bank.

Price Sensitivity

With gas prices higher than they’ve ever been (and the obvious consumer discontent associated) it got me thinking about the threshold that exists for price increases. Gas is obviously a commodity that people need to get around, but at what point do people get so frustrated with the cost that they look to alternative forms of transportation? In some cases high prices are bearable and not worth the additional effort necessary to change a daily routine. However; there has to be a threshold at which people decide enough is enough. In most cases that threshold will probably be dependent on the cost of switching to a different brand or in this example, method of transportation.

Often publishing companies that operate on a subscription model battle with the best approach to annual price increases. As a product’s readership decreases the price needs to increase to maintain consistent revenues. But at what point will the customers that purchase the product look for an alternative because the cost of the product is simply no longer worth the value they receive in return?

The Van Westendorp Price Sensitivity Meter is an approach to researching pricing that asks the following 4 key questions to set a range within which people will continue to purchase the product in question:

1) At what price do you begin to think a product is too expensive to consider?
2) At what price do you think a product is so inexpensive that you would question the quality and not consider it?
3) At what price do you think a product is getting expensive, but would still consider it?
4) At what price do you think the product is a bargain?

In the digital age, one thing publishers have struggled with is putting a value on “content”.    Most consumers expect that the cost of a book be significantly less on a tablet because there are no costs associated with a physical product.   By implementing a Van Westendorp Study, you can more effectively use customer feedback to set prices in the range that optimizes sales and keeps customers satisfied.

140 Characters

When Twitter first launched and I heard it had a character limitation I thought “how can users say ANYTHING meaningful in 140 characters?” Originally, Twitter seemed best suited to following celebrities and letting followers know what you were doing – serving a limited (not to mention easily duplicated) function at best.

Though it may have been slow to catch on, Twitter has evolved into something much bigger.

In business to business publishing, “news trackers” have become increasingly common to provide customers with relevant, timely information, with short headlines that help users filter what they do and do not want to read in greater depth. As the need for content on mobile devices has increased, limitations to the amount of content people want to view on their phones has pushed publishers to adopt a similar model to Twitter’s character limitations.

Today, even Twitter is used more as an information source than it is as a way to keep track of specific people. Rather than follow Chris Brogan to know what he had for lunch, we follow him for the the valuable knowledge and information to which he can connect us.

An evolution in the way Twitter is used has seemingly revolutionized the way that we filter information.

Web Evolution – A History of Web Design Over the Past 20 Years

Below is a graphic developed by KISSmetrics outlining the evolution of web design since the world’s first website was launched  in 1991.

In only 20 years the definition of a “web presence” has evolved to the point that today, many argue that traditional websites are becoming obsolete.  When discussing the promotion of his new book, Guy Kawasaki recently suggested that he didn’t need a website to reach his target customers, but a Facebook page instead.

Static websites are a thing of the past and concepts like collaboration and crowd sourcing are becoming web standards.  Of course, the evolution will continue and even these concepts will become old news (probably even faster than traditional web pages).  The infographic below is a great reflection of where we’ve been in such a short period of time.  One can only speculate what this chart will look like 20 years from today.

Top 5 Ways to Stay on the Cutting Edge

With the pace at which the online landscape is evolving, it’s easier than ever to become complacent and fall behind competition.  Businesses that are making the transition online need to recognize the importance of paying particular attention to factors that are likely to affect the future direction of their industry.  The following is a list of what I believe are the best ways to stay on the cutting edge and position your organization for the future.

1.  Know What Your Competition is Doing

While we’d ideally like to be ahead of our competition, knowing what they’re doing today will give pointers to where they are headed.

2.  Listen to Your Customers

They may not be able to tell you exactly what they want, but gaining insight to how they’ll use your products is essential to building irreplaceable solutions.

3.  Hire for technical expertise

Today everything is happening online.   If you don’t have the technical expertise, you’ll be left in the dust.  Even worse, the longer you wait to adapt to new technologies the harder it will be to get back into the game.  

4.  Do as an Entrepreneur Would

With the pace at which businesses and technologies are moving today, bureaucracy should be avoided at all costs.  Put decision making in the hands of people capable of making the right decisions and give your products a chance to grow.

5.  Involve Organizational Youth in Decision Making

A colleague recently told me that he heard “if you want to understand why Blackberry Messenger (BBM) is so popular, you’ll have to ask your kids”.  The youth may not have as much experience, but in many cases they’re closer to the innovations that will allow your business to flourish. Don’t forget their voice.