Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Local Media - Online Measurement & Tracking…Notes from ILM ‘08

Delving deeper into my notes from last week’s Kelsey conference, for this post I thought I’d focus on measurement and tracking. While there were a lot of presentations that touched on the subject, I found Kelsey's "State of Interactive Local Media 4Q 2008" covered the most ground on the topic.

Matt Booth gave an interesting presentation on SMB perceptions and influences when it comes to their media activity. It’s clear that although media measurement tools have never been more accessible, small business owners continue to rely on good old-fashioned gut measurements. 91% still track by asking customers how they were referred.

The problem with asking how customers were referred is the gaping hole in funnel activity that is missed through the one-word answers. Search may have started the process but IYP may have closed the deal. Likewise, a view through from a social network may have caused a search. Sadly, the SMBs are slow to adopt true measurement into their media activity and this is clouding the perception of media effectiveness.

The revelation on gut measurements deepened with another compelling point during the presentation where Booth discussed the impact that instant gratification has on the SMB’s perception of effectiveness. Booth pointed to the following chart that shows how the lag time in media going live and results captured directly impacts the perception of the channel’s effectiveness.

I believe that there’s a recency factor that comes into play here as well. When the SMBs who are not using any measurement tools are surveyed to rank effectiveness, they may recall their most recent successes and skew the numbers in their favour.

So, it’s no wonder that when you look at the SMB’s perception on which media is driving a return on investment, those with the longest (perceived) wait time for response are ranked poorly. This is yet another reason why small businesses are not as keen on display advertising as national brands. The latency effect is lost on them and the idea of a longer-term investment on media is irrelevant. I'm (pipe) dreaming that this will change with tools and education from the media publishers to help boost value in a world of stretched inventory...

Finally, Booth closed with a lecture on Solomon Asch’s findings on a conformity experiment conducted in the 1950’s. Basically, the study showed that in groups, individuals will conform with others’ decisions even when there is hard evidence to indicate flawed judgment.

Applying the Asch principle to the SMB, Booth showed that despite the fact that 31% of small business owners claim that actual media performance will dictate spend, in reality, the majority of them will be influenced through social outlets instead (57%).

Last year I blogged about the habits of small business owners and how they are actually consumers before they are business owners. In October I covered the SMB market and shared that according to Warrillow & Co., 52% of SMBs are active participants in social networking sites (although most of them do not use them as business platforms...yet). This reiterates the untapped potential of using social media as a marketing platform to reach attractive influencers in the SMB market.

In summary, SMBs are not tracking their media effectively and there’s a great opportunity for them to do so in a way that speaks to their clear need for instant gratification and their obvious habits that lean towards (social) interaction. I’m thinking communication based tracking that goes beyond a dashboard and actually lives with the SMB outside of a login environment.

Tracking has always been hot in online media at the national level. It’s time to wrap it up and serve it attractively to the local channel so that we can all get a clearer picture on what’s working. The fact is that they want to be measuring performance but they continue to roll the dice by relying on their gut to make media investments.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Interactive Local Media...TakeAways from the KelseyGroup ILM '08 Conference

I just returned from the Kelsey Group’s Interactive Local Media Conference (ILM) in Santa Clara. The event attracted over 450 local media professionals to a series of compelling discussions on the rapid changes occurring in the local media landscape.

Here are five broad take-aways from the 3-day event:

Tracking & Accountability

During the pre-conference sales workshop sessions, a reoccurring theme was the value of analytics and that it has the power to transform a media sales rep into a media consultant that brings deeper value to the small business.

Accountability has become critical in the local space. Solutions providers like Geoffrey Infield from CallSource, were quick to point out that call tracking has come from a nice to have to a must have when competing for budgets from SMBs.

To further support this point, according to the Kelsey Group report, 31% of SMBs site media performance as the key way to make decisions on media purchases. When it comes to print, an alarming 17% of SMBs had no idea if they were getting any value from print Yellow Pages.

Call tracking came up a number of times throughout the presentations as it really holds the key to measuring hard to track media. It was also made clear that calls were at the heart of the small business owners’ expectations when it comes to measuring any media’s success.

In discussing the economic situation and the media budgets that would most likely be cut in 2009, Russ Fradin, CEO of Adify said that Mobile and Social Media budgets would probably take the biggest hit because they are difficult to measure.

Bumbling Bundles

Historically, publishers who started with traditional media properties got into an early game of bundling their products to capture market share and provide their customers with added value. This product bundling has led to serious issues in correcting the valuations of stand alone products for these publishers especially while pure play internet products have launched and been sold at prices that were based on more aggressive revenue generating business plans.

Olivier Vincent, CEO of CanPages voiced his discomfort with bundling strategies as he felt that wherever there is bundling, there is a perceived and actual devaluation of all products involved. This view was supported during the Ad Network panel on day three where it was suggested that there has not been enough effort placed in selling through individual products’ value propositions. Instead, there’s been a rush to bundle for the sake of bundling that ultimately, appears to have hurt the industry.

Ubiquitous Solutions

It seemed there were a lot of slides that started with “360˚...”. I thought one of the most riveting presentations on this subject was from Mike Liebhold, Senior Researcher at the Institute for the Future. Liebhold described new modes of interaction that consumers will have with local data based on the capabilities that will be made available through handheld devices.

His view was that maps would be replaced with much richer experiences that might be tied into the real-time location and user profile of the consumer. Liebhold had the crowd visualize a world that had media wrappers around physical objects and stories attached to merchandise bringing a whole new type of experience. Users would be able to by-pass manufacturer’s messages and skip straight to the messages that are relevant to the individual (ingredients that are unacceptable, unethical production, community user reviews etc.) instantaneously.

GeoRSS was the hot buzzword throughout the conference. It seemed that Geo-tagging content or at least planning to do so, was an urgent marching order given to the audience.

Taking the 360˚ concept to the physical level was the digital Out of Home panel that showed how consumers could be reached throughout the day as they are going about their daily rituals. SeeSaw, Danoo and Ripple gave some great presentations on this growing medium and its power to create ubiquitous messaging. SeeSaw’s term for the media is “Life Pattern Marketing” which refreshingly fills a gap that online media misses. As most attendees were somehow connected to the online media environment it was nice to see a panel that reminded us all about life outside the web or iPhone. It was also clear that there is no shortage for rich digital local media opportunities on the horizon.

Click “9” to Convert…

It says “Phone Calls are the next PageViews” on Voodoovox’s site and after hearing Greg Wester, Vice President of Product Strategy talk about in-call media, I’m warming up to the thought.

Voodoovox has developed a network of publishers that distribute audio messages on their hold buttons or IVR channels. The company serves relevant ads across the network and is able to monitor and report on all activity.

The local application for this type of media is enormous. With radio stations being among the largest client category, the company is laying a footprint that will undoubtedly appeal to advertisers at the local level.

I truly felt that this presentation represented a type of breakthrough this landscape has been looking for. It has national appeal across virtually all industries and its an attractive way for publishers to generate new revenue.

Symbiotically speaking... users don’t want “sticky”

I’ve left one of my favourite Keynotes for last. Mark Canon, President of New Media, Yell UK gave an engaging talk on where the industry was going and offered some intelligent suggestions for adapting to the many shifts in consumer behavior.

Canon started by telling everyone to get used to paying the taxman. By taxman he meant search engines that have clearly developed jurisdiction over the audiences that once belonged to the individual properties. By taxes he meant whatever amount of time or money it takes to get to the top of the rankings, just do it.

For a few years now, I've been trying to erase the word "sticky" from the vocabulary of professionals that use the word to define successful media strategies. Canon did this in 30 seconds when he advised the audience to get used to the fact that ownership of the user is no longer a likely scenario and that the objective should be shifted to renting as an alternative.

As content has become atomized, the focus needs to shift to context. Understanding context and using it to intersect with as many users as often as possible is the new game. To participate in the game, publishers need to format their content for easy distribution to the properties that are now representing the "federations of content" like Google and Kosmix.

Canon drove home the point that we must all learn to become good “symbiots” and that we can’t own everything so we should take the best of what we’ve got to market and rent the rest.

Other topics of interest at ILM included:
  • Local Display Ads
  • Video and its Impact on Local Media
  • iPhone Applications
  • NBC's Local Approach
I’ll be writing up more details about these and other interesting topics from the event over the next few days.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Transcontinental's Local launched last week in Canada as a new local search engine competing at a national level. The site was launched by Transcontinental Media. Transcontinental is Canada’s largest printer, one of the country’s leading publishers of consumer magazines and second-largest community newspaper publisher. The company has a history of offering its clients integrated media solutions including direct marketing, a diverse digital media network and a door-to-door advertising material distribution network.

The Transcontinental initiative breathes some new life into the Canadian local media landscape as it mobilizes its 400 local sales people to focus on their new local search engine. is also leveraging their 125 strong community newspaper business as a marketing platform to reach small businesses across Canada as well as the 4.5 million unique visitors per month they reach through their consumer magazine network.

Naturally curious, I asked Andrei Uglar,’s General Manager some questions about the site and how he plans to cut through the tough Canadian market.

Following are some highlights from the discussion on how is attempting to differentiate itself (with my notes of course):
  • Andrei cited the feet on the street as the number one competitive advantage over similar sites in Canada. (cool)
  • The site has implemented social networking from launch where users are able to create “neighbours” in order to swap favourite listing information at the local level. (very cool)
  • Professional services are provided to advertisers when they subscribe to the directory. (standard and quite effective for a number of reasons)
  • A strong focus on SEO is where Andrei feels the site will captivate market share. Through a tagging strategy, they’re allowing advertisers to create better opportunities to be found. (standard but have seen it fail)
  • Wiki listings - allowing businesses to correct their information and add new data. (will need moderation)
  • Leveraging their offline media properties to promote the site amongst consumers. This includes a broad range of magazines as well as their regional and local newspapers. (very cool)
  • Reviews will come from three sources - users, crawled aggregation and relevant editorial (where available) added to the business profiles. (quite cool)
  • Easy Pricing - $199 subscription fee + $89 per month period. (solid)
I think one of the strongest advantages next to its sales force and cross-promotional opportunities will be funding. Transcontinental reported $2.3 billion in revenue last year and digital is high on the agenda.

A couple of rough patches to watch out for in their first year:
  • Their tagging strategy and how it will impact the user experience. I blogged about this issue last year and I still believe it can kill a site.
  • The wiki-dependence to correct, enhance and add new listings. This will need some serious moderating.
  • Launching with rich fields but flat data...The silence in non-populated listings is deafening and users are fickle. Sometimes it makes sense to hold some of the cards back so that population strategies can be implemented.
  • Rate of adoption as yet another social network-type site.

Listening to their roll out strategy, I think they've got a fair shot at the market. Their plans for procurement seem solid and I do believe they'll settle into the space one way or another.

Andrei and his team are in for a wild ride - as the saying goes..."the more the merrier".

Side Note

One reoccurring theme in the local space in Canada is that no one (aside from YPG) seems to have the whole country nailed down. It seems that there's always a focus on Quebec and Ontario but very little coverage across the other provinces. There's a great opportunity to connect the dots in this country but it seems to be taking a while...

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nintendo's Brainy Media Strategies...

Last week at the CMA Digital Conference Ron Bertram, Vice President, General Manager of Nintendo Canada gave a keynote presentation on how Nintendo completely changed their marketing strategy to create an incredible lift in brand awareness and market share in the highly competitive video game landscape.

Bertram explained that Nintendo had historically targeted males 12-25 but that things changed in 2006 when Nintendo’s CEO, Satoru Iwata decided on a loftier goal to market to ages 5-95. To accomplish this, the company released “Brain Age”, a game designed to keep the brain sharp through mental exercises. Once launched, Nintendo quickly realized that the best way to penetrate the 5-95 market was to market to women as they tend to control entertainment and family activity choices within the household.

Henderson Bas was charged with building a web site for Nintendo targeting women and focusing on video games. “Get up and Play” was designed to showcase health benefits and other positive aspects of the system and the look and feel was created to match familiarity to other trusted parenting sites frequented by the audience. The project was originally developed as a three month test.

The results have been fantastic. Bertram said that although the site does not get a lot of media budget to drive traffic, since its launch, Nintendo has increased its database by 85% and it has doubled its female database.

Bertram closed his presentation by stating that a longer term commitment was necessary when targeting new demographics. "A 3-month test was simply not enough to gain real insight into results and had we shut down the test at the 3 month mark, we would have missed out on the great success the project was bound to bring us".

The great take-away from the presentation was that the online channel really is the most cost effective way to reach new and unfamiliar audiences. It affords marketers quick learning, flexibility and laser targeting. For Nintendo the channel has proven extremely successful in their extreme demographic gear shifting initiatives.

Defying the Death of Television…

Today at Marketing Week’s Excellence Day in Toronto, Lauren Richards, CEO of Starcom MediaVest added to Nintendo’s marketing buzz by presenting a great cross media case study. The study clearly demonstrated that Media Directors today are charged with innovating the media landscape itself and that traditional media channels are ready to play ball.

Richards talked about a partnership that had been developed in 2007 with CanWest Media. CanWest was in the early stages of producing the Canadian version of “Are you Smarter than a 5th Grader”, a game show that had shown great success in the US. Fortunate timing and proactive probing on the agency's part, allowed Starcom to negotiate a significant stake in the production of the show as a result, created a synergistic campaign for Nintendo’s Big Brain Academy product.

The media deal included serious product placement:
  • Big Brain Academy was presenting sponsor to the show
  • Wii Consoles were installed in the green rooms for the kids to “warm-up” by playing Brain Academy (with significant air time)
  • Prize Purse was labeled “Brain Age”
  • Contestants had Wii avatars (Miis) created for their name displays
  • The look and feel of the show integrated the Wii interface and experience to deliver seamless content
The show aired on Global TV and following were the results:
  • 4x return on investment
  • 66% lift in brand awareness
  • 35% sales lift
Nintendo is clearly having some fun in this fragmented landscape. With sharp partners at their side, they have been able to cease two opportunities that big brands are striving for in today's attention-strapped media world:
  1. Solid online strategy & consistent targeting.
  2. Deep integration that defies the myth that traditional media is dead.