Every publisher wants to find better, smarter ways to engage with audiences. I’ve discovered a new programme that is so powerful it keeps its audience engaged 24 hours a day.
It even works during sleeping hours. It appears to be pretty simple, until you realise it takes 10,000 steps to get to the goal and then you need to start all over again. It’s powerfully addictive but perfectly legal. On top of all that, it is actually good for you, too.
Before I start sounding like a pitch man on a late-night infomercial (“Wait, there’s more!”), the breakthrough is a remote fitness monitor called FitBit. Think of it as a very smart digital pedometer that tracks your steps taken, flights of stairs climbed, calories burned, and levels of activity achieved.
The technology is truly amazing. The FitBit is a small, wearable Bluetooth device with a three-dimensional accelerometer to sense user movement, plus an altimeter that measures elevation gain to count floors climbed.
It can even measure sleep quality: how long it takes you to fall asleep, how often you wake up, and how long you actually sleep. The daily goal is to walk or run 10,000 steps and 10 flights of stairs, but the objective is a healthier you.
Game on. Our competitive nature is a basic instinct.
The FitBit experience is a perfect example of the power of gamification. It’s a round-the-clock game where FitBit users are highly motivated to achieve a personal fitness goal and compete with others for intrinsic rewards and bragging rights.
My wife and I both got FitBits for Christmas. We were already in a friendly competition over who could get better gas mileage when driving our Prius hybrid.
24 June 2012 · By Steve Nilan
“You’re not paranoid if you’re really being followed” is a punchline to an old joke rather than a legitimate psychiatric diagnosis. Paranoia about who’s following you is no joke when it comes to online advertising and behavioural targeting.
Do Not Track (DNT) has grabbed headlines recently in the U.S. and Europe, as debates over standards have turned into a royal battle among privacy advocates, Web browser providers, social media sites, and digital advertisers. The battle is over how to implement “Do Not Track,” a Web browser privacy button that opts a user out of receiving targeted advertising and the collection of online behavioural data. The battle is moving from the opt-out technology — which should be the easy part — to policy and regulatory issues — which are always thornier.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is working on the technology standard. (Should we be concerned that the newsmedia industry lacks a presence in the W3C?) In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission has proposed a framework for protecting consumer privacy. The White House released a Privacy Bill of Rights earlier this year that may lead to new consumer privacy laws.
In Europe, which is usually out in front on matters of privacy, the European Union passed a DNT “Cookie” law last year, with enforcement scheduled to begin May 26, 2012. Of the 27 EU states, only Denmark, Estonia, and the UK met the deadline. I’m guessing the European economic crisis may have taken precedence over matters of privacy.
22 May 2012 · By Steve Nilan
Paywalls are proliferating across the digital media landscape. Last month, the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism reported approximately 150 U.S. dailies now have some form of digital subscription service. The metered model has emerged as the clear winner.
At the recent INMA World Congress in Los Angeles, we heard Paul Smurl, vice president for paid products at The New York Times, describe how the Times’ risky paywall launch has now paid off with more than 450,000 digital subscribers in just a year. The added bonus was the satisfaction of being vindicated after the “blistering criticism” from media pundits. The Times’ breakthrough success has emboldened the company to lower the threshold of free articles and inspired others to get in the game.
Publishers around the globe have taken notice and are building their own paywalls brick-by-digital-brick. In one year, news media companies have moved from widespread skepticism to a stampeding herd.
The growing success of paywall strategies brings with it some branding baggage. The ill-conceived and widely despised term “paywall” has taken hold as the universal industry buzzword for digital subscriptions. Can’t we find a better word?! Paywall may be an accurate term, but it is about as consumer-friendly as Whizzo Chocolates’ Crunchy Frog candy.
Remember the classic Monty Python Crunchy Frog sketch? John Cleese as the officious food inspector is shocked that Whizzo’s proprietor is proud of his authentic Crunchy Frog recipe. “Oh, we use only the finest baby frogs, dew-picked and flown from Iraq, cleansed in the finest quality spring water, lightly killed, and sealed in a succulent, Swiss, quintuple-smooth, treble-milk chocolate envelope, and lovingly frosted with glucose!” The truth is sometimes hard to digest....[more]
29 March 2012 · By Ed Hubbard
Social media for traditional media companies is the hottest topic at industry conferences today. Social media dominated the recent INMA Innovative Advertising Seminar in Miami and is a recurring programme theme for the upcoming INMA World Congress in L.A.
It’s now a given that more community discussion is taking place through social media (primarily Facebook and Twitter, but certainly others) than on newspaper Web sites. Traditional newsmedia companies are working hard to determine how best to participate in or (better yet) lead community conversations.
Social media articles and blogs have consistently referenced “Community engagement: A practical conversation for newsrooms,” the fine work done by Joy Mayer of the Reynolds Journalism Institute. Meyer found that nine of 10 editors were discussing how to make their newsrooms more “social and participatory,” but added that the “editors aren't sure what exactly that means or how to go about it.”...[more]
05 February 2012 · By Steve Nilan
Keep your friends close and your shareholders closer.
Facebook last week filed for its long-anticipated initial public offering. The US$5 billion offering is the largest in Silicon Valley history and more than double the size of the still-legendary Google IPO from eight years ago.
This is great news for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's founder, who could more than double his US$17 billion net worth and jump up to No. 3 on the Forbes list of America's wealthy. The 27-year-old will be just behind Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.
Good for him and the other five Facebook billionaires, right? They created a valuable global enterprise and inspired an Academy Award-winning movie — all from a Harvard dorm room idea.
What does Facebook's fortune mean to you and your fellow 800 million ebook users? The naïve view might be a sense of pride in playing a small role in the biggest business story of the year. Another view is that you and your friends work for Zuckerberg and Co., in their global volunteer sales force.
The initial lure was the usual free Web service, but Facebook's social attractant was so compelling that 800 million of us gladly handed over personal and otherwise private details about ourselves. Privacy is the new currency. Facebook's projected US$100 billion valuation is built on the profiles of its friends and fans. What's fascinating is that Facebook users are not paying customers but are living, breathing assets who contribute directly to Facebook's enterprise value....[more]
27 December 2011 · By Steve Nilan
“Oh wow. Oh wow. Oh wow.” Steve Jobs’ last words were a fitting exclamation point on a remarkable life. His final utterance might also be an appropriate reaction to Time magazine’s decision to name “The Protester” as the 2011 Person of the Year. It’s a provocative choice that fired up conversations from the water cooler to the talk-show airwaves.
My money was on Steve Jobs. Apparently I wasn’t alone. He was on the short list in Time’s Reader Poll. I imagine that Time’s editors must have factored in that Jobs died just two months ago. The eulogies and accolades are still too fresh in our minds. Let’s suspend cynicism and believe that the protester won on merit, without the consideration that another Steve Jobs cover might not sell as many copies.
Jobs’ legacy is how he applied elegant technology and a strong will to reshape the world of digital media. From music (iTunes) to movies (Pixar and iMovies) to news (iPad) to software (apps) to personal communications (iPhone), Jobs has impacted global industries and the lives of millions. Some might argure his impact was not all positive. Beyond Jobs-led technology breakthroughs and elevated user experiences, he pioneered digital media business models. iTunes is the coolest US99-cent store on the planet. Despite onerous terms for publishers, the App Store has forever changed our digital consumption patterns.
18 September 2011 · By Steve Nilan
At this summer’s World Masters Athletics Championships in California, I expected to see ex-athletes trying to relive their past glory in track and field. Instead I was awestruck to see 90-year-old men and women competing with the grit and muscle of true athletes.
It was inspiring to see the competitive fire driving more than 4,800 athletes from 93 countries to world records in age groups from 35 to 101 years old. They are champions and deserve our respect yet they could not compete head-to-head with world class athletes who are in their prime. These World Masters would need a huge head start to have any chance of medaling.
Our industry faces a similar competitive scenario. Newspapers built a big lead with a century-old brand and a dominant competitive spirit. Some would argue that we’ve squandered our head start to a generation of upstarts. Still, in most local markets, the daily newspaper maintains a market share lead over other media outlets. The market challenge remains: how can we build on our advantages and dominate?
If media competition could be compared to an Olympic event, what would it be? The marathon? The 100 meter dash? The decathlon? We have excelled at the slow but steady pace of the media marathon. After all, most dominant newspapers were founded more than 150 years ago and have enjoyed a long and profitable run. Now the rules of the game have changed forever....[more]
15 August 2011 · By Blaine Sundrud
I taught speech, film and theatre in an Arizona high school for a few years before coming full-time to the news industry. While I was teaching, I had one of the greatest compliments a teacher ever received when one of my students came to me dejectedly and declared: “Mr. Sundrud, you have ruined movies for me. I can’t watch them anymore without thinking, and I hate thinking during movies.”
It was hard for my student to realise that he was asking himself why we like something, or why something just doesn’t work for us, rather than just simply liking it.
This brings me to the recent release of the end of the Harry Potter film series. Like them or not, most people have opinions on the series as a whole. However, if you separate the books from the films, you get an interesting dichotomy.
Most people either like the books as a collective work, or they don’t (if you got past Book 3, odds are you fell under the “I liked it” category). But the films individually spanned the range of reactions from, “breathtaking,” to “abysmal,” even from fans of the Potterverse (can I use that term?).
Sean Means from The Salt Lake Tribune recently published an excellent series recap of the eight films. In the article, he not only re-grades each film as standalone art (Means forced himself to never read the books until all the films were released), but ranked the films against each other....[more]
18 July 2011 · By Steve Nilan
The reports of Mark Twain’s death may have been greatly exaggerated during his lifetime. I have a new theory: maybe those in the rumour mill just wanted to speed up the publication of his autobiography.
Twain had left strict instructions that his autobiography remain unpublished for 100 years after his death, when he would be free to speak his “whole frank mind.” He didn’t want to offend his contemporaries with some of his scalding opinions.
He also predicted, “There may be a market for that kind of wares a century from now.” Right on schedule and right on the money, 2010 marked the 100th anniversary of his death, and saw the release of the Autobiography of Mark Twain, The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Vol. 1.
It quickly became the surprise publishing hit of the year. The University of California Press had to scramble after the initial run of 7,500 was snapped up overnight as the 736-page book raced to the top of the bestseller lists. I just finished reading the 4 MB digital edition on my Kindle, which would have delighted Twain — as long as he got paid his royalties....[more]
25 April 2011 · By Steve Nilan
With the iPad 2, Steve Jobs has literally doubled-down Apple’s advantage in the tablet game. While the rest of the pack continues to scramble to keep up, the iPad 2 added just enough feature freshness to maintain its lead. If Apple’s innovation and marketing fade with a weakened Jobs, they are always ready to lawyer-up to defend their advantage. (This just in: Apple announced it is suing Samsung for patent violation and design plagiarism on the iPad and iPhone.)
Apple’s biggest business challenge is keeping up with demand. Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, told analysts this week that the company is facing the “mother of all backlogs” with the iPad 2. That’s a problem the other tablet players don’t even worry about. How many people have you heard say, “Forget the iPad, I’ve got to get a Xoom or a Galaxy!” Not many, I’ll bet. There’s no denying the seductive power of Apple’s cool factor and marketing savvy.
In the tablet race, Apple is lapping the field right now but the race is far from over. Apple’s sustainable advantage isn’t its technology (unless its lawyers successfully trip-up the competition). The real Apple core is its iTunes engine powering the AppStore. The 65,000 iPad apps and 350,000 iPhone apps dwarf the other platforms. Apple also has enjoyed a four-year head start in the app race.
This is all about to change. The reason is HTML5. It’s the great equaliser that makes it possible to create spectacular apps in a Web browser. With HTML5, apps are freed from the confines of the AppStore while providing everything Flash does — with the promise of less power consumption on mobile devices, too. Since HTML5 apps avoid the AppStore landlord’s cut, you could say that they are automatically 30% better for publishers....[more]