Friday, February 27, 2009

Internet with a Side of Fail

  • If your site is down for 14 hours in middle of the day, on a Wednesday: you are fail (why).
  • If your page takes over 25 seconds to load at noon on a Friday, or your server is in Europe and your audience is in North America: you are fail (why).
  • If you promised an episode at a given time and place, and it isn't there: you are fail.

You must delight, not disappoint. All the brilliant content and marketing in the world will never save you if you're building internet with a side of fail.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

IAB Needs Platform Independent Video Ads

TV Week covers the IAB's efforts to standardize ads in and near online video, and mentions the size of the current online video market:

The IAB's latest initiative reflects the growth in online video viewing. According to comScore, Internet users in the United States are watching more than 14 billion videos each month. TV series are a relatively small portion of that total, but they command the bulk of online ad dollars. Research firm eMarketer predicts online video advertising will grow 45% this year to $850 million

(emphasis added).

Among those standards, "companion" ads should not be sold. (Companion Ads: Commonly text, display ads, rich media, or skins that wrap around the video experience... typically run alongside or surrounding the video player [from the IAB PDF on video ad format standards]). Companion ads, or synced ads, have no equivalent on mobile devices or TVs. Many sites (like studio and network sites) only sell video ads with these companion ads; this makes no financial incentive to embrace other platforms like mobile devices and internet video on TV.

Companion ads bundled with video ads mean lost audience (all non-web-browser viewers). A viewer may want to watch a TV show or other online video on a portable player (e.g., an iPhone) while commuting by train, or waiting to pick up children from school. Right now, audience often can't view videos because the ad impressions guaranteed by major providers (studios, networks, etc.) include these companion ads. Since companion ads can't be viewed on anything that isn't a web browser on a desktop/laptop computer, there is no incentive for the major ad space providers to reach that viewer (and build the systems to support bringing content to the non-web-browser viewers).

The IAB must also go further than uncoupling the companion ad from the video ad sale; the standards for video ads must be platform independent. True that an ad viewed on different devices (platforms) seems different since ads on a computer in a web browser might mean different viewer demographics or ad effectiveness than on an iPhone or on Tivo, but the audience wants to watch what they want, where they want, when they want.

Millennials will be biggest audience by 2010 and they know how to use technology better than many of the decision makers at major content providers (studios, television networks, etc.). Whether legal or otherwise, people will find a way to view what they want on the device on which they want to view it. Since the audience now has the technology to watch video where and how they wish, the IAB standards must allow platform independence to be financially viable for the providers too.

Major providers must make advertising guarantees that can be filled on any platform. If a content provider does not, the audience is left to seek out either a pirate or non-entertainment / media company (like YouTube, which is currently the most platform diverse video provider). Not only is YouTube not primarily a content creator (yet), but they are not an entertainment or media company (yet). Failing to support every platform leaves traditional media and entertainment companies out of the equation, both financially now and building audience habits for the future.

YouTube can control all non-browser views if they continue to be the only ones to significantly support so many platforms for online video. The IAB cannot continue to build platform dependence into their standards. According to the IAB, their members are [currently] responsible for selling 86% of online advertising in the United States, but that number will shrink unless IAB standards become platform independent.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hollywood ASST (flash)

Assistants in Hollywood made this rap video (rated R).

Making of 3D Street Art (flash)

For this year's Festival of World Cultures renowned German artist Edgar Müller transformed a huge slice of the East Pier into a dramatic ice age scene (rated PG).

Monday, February 23, 2009

Rise and Fall of the Nazi Dinosaurs (flash)

Good silliness produced in five days, with $20 (rated PG-13).

Making Mistakes (flash)

HaIeybop's original song (rated PG).

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Call of Duty (flash)

The video game as live action (rated R).

Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes (flash)

Richard St. John condenses years of interviews into an unmissable 3-minute slideshow on the real secrets of success (rated PG).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Escape From City 17 part 1 (flash)

Short film series is an adaptation based on the Half Life computer game; shot for less than $500 (rated R).

Speed Counts

I've mentioned earlier the importance of uptime and now want to draw attention to website response time. If a website loads slowly, people will leave it, often never to return. Your website must load as fast as is affordable and practical.

People have response time limits when using computers and Human perception of delays starts kicking in at under 400ms or just under 1/2 second (quote from Bwooce's Log). The closer the server hosting the site is to the user, the faster a site's data will arrive. The faster the load, the better the chances of the user enjoying the site and returning or telling their friends about it.

A video website that has been very popular say in Europe may host all of its content on servers in the Europe since it is close, and therefore fast, to do so. Such a European site will want to seriously consider redesigning their systems before a North American launch of a new site (one intended for people accessing the internet from North America). If they don't, the data will take more time to reach most North American users. The videos may not load fast enough; the audience will have the annoyance of videos stopping every few seconds. Studder-ing video will lose audience. The initial design for Europe may be great, but may not be good for a geographically different audience.

To lose viewers because a site is slow is unnecessary since many have already solved these problems; making a site faster is always an improvement is the user's experience.

If you'd like guidance on how to make a video site run quickly (without buying your own data centers) contact me directly.

Property of the Queen (flash)

Sketch with Andy Samberg and the Jonas Brothers including the line " What are you guys? Highlanders?" (rated PG-13).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Inglourious Basterds Trailer (flash)

Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Bastards is the story of a group of Jewish soldiers in Nazi occupied France, set to kill as many Nazis as possible (rated R).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Create a Great Website

No matter the type of site, certain things are consistent among all great sites. Seth Godin's list is a great starting point, and includes this gem:

Fire the committee. No great website in history has been conceived of by more than three people. Not one. This is a dealbreaker.

Broadcast Quality TV on Net

Broadcast quality TV on the Internet may reach critical mass this year (from Los Angeles Acting blog by David August). You can read more about the future of IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) as well.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Social Media is Not Broadcast

Many companies want to use social media as a channel to push marketing messages at customers, while those customers are using social media as tools to connect with and communicate with others. They have almost zero interest in receiving marketing messages via social media, so predictably, companies that try to do just that, see their efforts falter.
If you want to use social media, consider why and how your customers use social media, and align your goals for your efforts accordingly.
Remember that at the end of the day, you are wanting to reach people. Respect them and their time, and you'll be rewarded for your efforts

(emphasis added, from Why Your Community-Building and Social Media Efforts Aren't Working).

Moms' Online Habits

Some interesting data about how mothers use digital technology and social networking sites (from Razorfish and CafeMom). Their methodology isn't entirely clear, but the information may be useful.

Epic Fail: ESPN Charging ISPs, Net-Non-Neutral

ESPN is sending a telegram through a phone line, as if the failure of AOL dial-up's 1990s and early 2000s business didn't clearly show that internet-provider-exclusive-content is pure failure.

If your ISP doesn't want to pay for you to watch ESPN360, there's nothing you can do about it, short of switching to a provider that pays for it... ESPN is doggedly pursuing the same strategy online that made it a success in the TV world: licensing pipes, not people.
Free Press' Ben Scott thinks the this new internet model will ultimately be bad for providers. 'My gut reaction is that it's a terrible business model,' says Scott. 'The beauty of the internet is that you put a piece of content on your server, and it's available to anyone with a computer anywhere in the world that's connected to the internet. If you begin walling off your content and selling network operators [the right to distribute content], that defeats the whole idea of maximizing the exposure of your content.

(emphasis added, from Wired). This goes against the paradigm of the net, and tries to perpetuate the Broadcast and Cable TV model to a medium that is fundamentally different; the internet demands ubiquity of access. It would be better to charge customers directly since premium content is often monetized that way, and the audience accepts that reality.

The audience wants what they want where and when they want it. To ignore this is to ignore the audience.

Christian Bale Out (flash)

Remix of on set distemper (rated R).

Update February 9, 2009: Christian apologizes mp3

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Video Views Over Time on YouTube

In the first month on YouTube
  • 70% of videos get at least 20 views
  • 50% of videos get at least 100 views
  • Fewer than 20% of videos get more than 500 views
  • Fewer than 10% of videos get more than 1,500 views
  • 3% of videos get more than 25,000 views
  • Around 1% of videos get more than 500,000 views

(from Data Mining: Text Mining, Visualization and Social Media).

Loving Fan Mash-Ups of Your Work

Cobbling, the word a PDF presentation 'Sailing the C’s of Change' by Kate Rutter, uses for mash-ups, work arounds and adaptations, can start to be embraced with these steps:

  1. Accept that cobbling will happen. Look beyond the threats to see the opportunities.
  2. Screws, not glue. Make it easy to open [DRM-free might be the equivalent for online video and social media].
  3. Decide who has the first response: legal or marketing.
  4. Identify and participate in emerging communities about your products.

Monday, February 2, 2009

History of the Internet (flash)

An animated documentary explaining the inventions from time-sharing to filesharing, from Arpanet to Internet (rated PG).

Old, New Media Play Together

It's not that the Internet isn't enough, said Tom Guida, an entertainment attorney with Loeb & Loeb who represents new-media clients including Comcast Interactive and EQAL.
It's that every property needs to be everywhere. You can make money with a Web series if you have advertising, but to maximize the value proposition you need to put the show everywhere, he said.
That's no different from what networks must do today. Networks are releasing their shows on multiple platforms. Digital producers need to do the same.
No one gets to play in just one sandbox anymore. We all have to get in each other's sandboxes

(emphasis added, from TVWeek).

Every Audience Member/Visitor/Customer Counts

Let's suppose you own an online advertising platform and someone is running ads with a daily budget of $2.00. A week ago your systems showed this advertiser's ad to one of the advertiser's friends, even though that friend is not in the targeted group that is supposed to be shown the ad. Today your systems showed the ad to the advertiser themselves, despite both not being in the targeted group and being the person running the ad (which your systems are intimately aware of as they choose what ads to show).

Since your 'fictional' ad platform allows an advertiser to target only specific groups of people, showing the ad to people outside of the targeted group is a failure; you didn't do what you told your customer you would do, and you are charging them anyway.

What will you do to make things right with this $2-a-day customer? How quickly will you address their concerns? What's the return on investment in a quick and complete response to this customer?

You might think with the $2-a-day budget the advertiser doesn't matter to your bottom line. You would be wrong. The company the advertiser works for spends millions on online ads. Millions. Fail them, lose millions. Please them, and your return on investment is millions.

In fact the relatively small unit the advertiser works for alone spends around 3.6 million dollars a year on online ads, or about $10,000-a-day. The advertiser is evaluating your ad platform for possible future advertising for their business unit (that $3.6 million a year).

The $2-a-day spend is a test, a test you are failing since your systems aren't following the targeting rules the advertiser set up. If you don't explain yourself, and quickly, you lose not only the $2-a-day, but you'll likely see no part of the $3.6 million a year. Plus the advertiser will advise other business units in the company of your failure as well.

If you let your product look unreliable, or uncontrollable, an entire fortune 500's online ad spend is at risk. There are literally millions at risk if you fail to address why you showed ads to people this $2-a-day advertiser didn't target. Many think making your customer service effective even for the customers spending very little money with you isn't worth the money.

Turns out you can't afford not to delight every customer. Disappoint the customer who spends little with you, and best case they tell a friend, perhaps online on a blog or in a twitter for all to see when searching for you online. Worst case you lose millions.

As you may have guessed, this 'fictitious' ad platform example is not fictitious at all, it is very real and happening as I type this. Time will tell how it turns out for them.