Saturday, July 28, 2007

Web 2.0 ROI - Monetizing RSS Feeds

Forrester Research studied how businesses are using Web 2.0 technologies. Not surprisingly, they found that IT decision-makers were unable to quantify the ROI.

Here is a direct quote: "rather than point to hard facts, such as support center calls offset by a self-service rich Internet application or Web site traffic from an RSS feed, respondents more often pointed to softer benefits, such as business efficiency and competitive advantage as the true value of Web 2.0 in their companies."

As a result of this absence of meaningful metrics, Forrester Research concludes Web 2.0 adoption in the business world will be slow.

Here is a RSS feed application that offers obvious and easy to track metrics....

The problem with the standard RSS feed is that you have to click on the link in your aggregator to be taken to the web site. But what if instead of a headline and a link, you saw an actual window (a widget or a cog) that showed the actual content from the site?

How would you get such a window? The content provider would have the cog (the window or widget) available on its site. And if you are interested in the content, you can click a simple button and have that cog appear on your own web site. Now your site has the window and it is getting the exact same content that appears in the window of the content provider's site.

If this makes sense so far,then you are ready for the payoff...

Whatever is in that cog is exactly what is going to be seen every time that cog is embedded in a new web site. So, if a banner ad is included then that banner ad is going to be seen in every cog.

If 100 websites take a content provider's cog and put it on their own page, then the content provider gets the credit not just for the impressions on its own website, but also the impressions on 100 other websites on which the cog appears.

A corporation can make its RSS content available through these cogs and create its own advertising revenue streams. Or a trade magazine that already has the sponsorship infrastructure can take the corporation's RSS feed, display it in a cog on its website and invite others interested in the information to replicate the cog.

How hard would it be to measure the ROI of that model?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Behavioral Targeting

AOL announced its purchase of Tacoda, an online behavioral targeting advertising network.

According to the press release, Tacoda "employs advanced technology that enables advertisers to serve highly relevant ads based on consumers' online behaviors."

In other words, they track the sites you visit, build a profile, and push advertisements that should be attractive to the profile.

Very Orwellian.

There is no more profound behavior than self-selection when it comes to understanding a potential consumer's preferences. A webinar with a compelling message that is tailored to a desired audience will deliver the most accurate and definitive behavioral targeting data possible: they will register and watch.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Corporate Culture - Do You Have The Culture You Want?

Corporate Culture is defined as that which "...comprises the attitudes, experiences, beliefs and values of an organization.

Certainly organizations try to create, nurture, and manage a corporate culture. A simple "mission statement" is not going to have a lasting impression. To paraphrase Gandhi, an organization must be the culture it is trying to create.

Webcasting is an elegant and cost-effective way to deliver a specific message to a far flung enterprise. Jim Collins talks about 6 things one needs to align an organization with a vision, and number three is consistent communication. This makes sense. A corporation addresses its shareholders and the financial community at least once a quarter with a formal discussion of the strategy and the results; why would the same corporation not address its own employees at least as frequently?

Corporate Town Halls using webcasting technology are gaining in popularity. It is only a matter of time before they are as ubiquitous as the investor conference.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Magnet Content to Specific Audiences

JumpTV, an online video service that specializes in online broadcasting of international ethnic television content from countries like Australia, Egypt and Hong Kong, purchased a US college broadband network.

JumpTV's model is subscription based; expatriates access programming from their home countries. Now they are appealing to sports fans.

There is a definable audience, too narrow for traditional broadcast media, and a relevant message. This is the recipe for successful internet broadcasting.

Every corporation out there has a message to deliver and very specific target audiences of potential consumers. I believe it is inevitable that webcasting will become an integral part of any corporate communications strategy.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Know Your Audience

Dan Rayburn has written two seemingly unrelated entries in his "The Business of Online Video" blog over the last few days. But taken together, I believe they illuminate an important point.

In the first, he discusses how it is still unprofitable to webcast large entertainment events. In the second, he discusses his disdain for the use of bad user generated content in television commercials.

Between these two discussions, the quality of the content runs the gamut from television quality rock concert productions to amateur web cam. But content quality is only small albeit important part of a successful webcast.

The success of webcasting has been its ability to deliver specific, impactful messages to specific target audiences in an economical fashion. It's great advantage is it allows the content provider to communicate directly with the desired listeners and track the ROI of the webcast precisely.

At least at this stage, webcasting is ill-suited to broadcasting a mass marketing message. A commercial during a television event or an advertisement in a magazine is designed to be seen by as many eyeballs as possible. A webcast is designed to be seen by only the target market, which means that when crafting the message and inviting attendees to the event, one must adhere to the old saw: "know your audience."

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Printing Press, Part 2

A communications equipment company put out a press release last month that claimed YouTube represented "nearly 10% of all traffic on the internet."

The methodology that supported this claim was quickly challenged by some outlets, but while 10% of all internet traffic might be somewhat of an overstatement I do believe the implications of the claim cannot be ignored. With nothing more than the anecdotal evidence that almost everyone I know is familiar with the guy who did the "Evolution of Dance" video, I feel comfortable with the assertion that web-based broadcasting tools allow anyone with a compelling message to break into the national consciousness.

What that means for corporations is that messages no longer have to be crafted on Madison Avenue and traditional broadcast outlets are not the only the only means to disseminate those messages.

In short, for a few thousand dollars, organizations can use an audio or video web broadcast to cut out the middleman and communicate their message directly to the people they want to receive it. All this is needed is a well-crafted message, a target audience, and the means to make that audience aware of the broadcast - as simple as an email blast.

Keep in mind, I have nothing against Madison Avenue; creativity and production value are vital to any successful message. And I have no connection to YouTube. I mention them for two related reasons: 1) I have a fascination with their tag line: Broadcast Yourself; and 2) Since I am in the business of webcasting, I have a great deal of personal and professional interest in seeing home grown content reach a wide audience.

I compared the democratic effects of web broadcasting to the printing press in an earlier blog entry (interesting fodder for a July 4th discussion). This comparison will resonate for any organization that has a compelling story to tell, an understanding of their target audience, and the means to make the audience aware of the broadcast. It works for pharmaceutical companies coordinating clinical trials; it works for higher learning institutions recruiting students; it works for publishers who want to deliver new distribution channels and well-qualified leads to their advertisers; it works for in-house training across far-flung enterprises. It works.

And the ROI is excellent because if you have power point you have all the tools necessary to craft the message; you can reach a worldwide audience via the internet; you can track who actually viewed the webcast; and your costs are very low compared to other methods.

In short, the applications are limited only by our imaginations, and we have only scratched the surface of the potential for this medium.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Bandwidth to Spare - Build It And They Will Come

The cover of the June 25 edition of BusinessWeek touts telecom's revival from the dead. The article, written by Spencer Ante, chronicles the precipitous decline of companies like Level 3 Communications and Global Crossing that invested heavily in laying fiber-optic networks and then were unable to service their debt when the bubble burst. Global Crossing and WorldCom endured bankruptcy; Level 3's stock went from a high of $130 a share to a low of $1.98.

However, the upshot of laying
19 miles a day of fiber in 20 different time zones is an incredible network and the inevitability that the world would find a use for such a powerful tool. Mr. Ante writes that half the internet's transmission capacity was going unused in 2002, while today that capacity has almost doubled in size yet only 30% goes unused. Certainly business usage accounts for most of that, but broadband adoption amongst adults has passed the critical 50% mark.

There is still ruthless competition amongst internet backbone service providers, but those who own the transmission pipes are prospering because internet communications are a smashing success. According to studies cited in the
article, a dollar spent on communications infrastructure is a greater stimulant to economic growth and productivity than a dollar spent on roads, electricity, or even schools. The efficiencies of internet communications make it cheaper to do business, service customers, and find new customers.

Who are the users and what are the applications for all this usage? Certainly video is greatly responsible. Level 3 says video represents half of its network traffic today versus no video traffic in 2000. A
sidebar cites several sources of the growth, including greater usage of video (which requires 1,000 times more bandwidth than audio), richer media versus a more text-driven web, newsgroups, cable telephony, and online gaming.

What is exciting for those of us in web-based communications is that corporations are just starting to understand how to use interactive internet broadcasting to communicate internally and externally more effectively and efficiently. Amateur video on YouTube was prominently mentioned in the article but corporate applications for web broadcasting were not even mentioned. Corporate investment in network infrastructure is still very high and broadband connections are the norm. The brief history of backbone internet services shows us that a state of the art worldwide communications network will not go unutilized: if you build it they will come, even if they just upload wacky videos.

HDTV is cited as the next big driver of bandwidth usage, but I believe rich corporate broadcasts will certainly be worth a mention when the next history is written.