Anne Holland

The Surprising Truth About PDFs & Audio Downloads

September 12th, 2005

Fact: Ads we run for our Sherpa Guides get 23.3% more clicks, with no discernable change in conversion, when we put the word “New” in the headline.

This combined with the boffo success of the Web might make you think new things invariably perform better than old ones. Not so.

Our Web department shocked me to the core a few weeks ago when they reported that roughly 30% of all of our customers who purchase PDF-versions of reports from us *never* click on their PDF download links.

I asked Sharon Hamner who heads customer service if she had any idea why someone who just paid for a Guide wouldn’t want to open and read it. “We have PDF customers who call a few weeks later to complain they haven’t gotten their copy in the mail,” she said. “I don’t think they always understand what ordering a PDF versus printed copy means.”

PDFs may not be that new, but they are new enough that some executives in corporate America are still confused by them. So, now we’ve begun automatically shipping a printed copy with most Sherpa Guide PDF orders, even though it costs us more, to make sure customers are happy.

We asked Paul Dunay who heads marketing for a division of BearingPoint about this PDF versus print problem when we interviewed him for a Case Study on his new podcasting tactics. (See link below for that story.)

He said he noticed that PDFs of white papers don’t always get downloaded even when prospects have registered for them. So nine months ago he launched a big new marketing program: snail mailing printed copies of white papers. Reportedly prospects are delighted.

Audio downloads and podcasts seem to be in a similar situation. Some consumers embrace them wholeheartedly. But you can’t discontinue older-formats and only feature MP3s.

Example: A Case Study on WIE.org we published this summer revealed a landing page for educated 40-somethings got 59% clicks on PDF links versus 16% clicks on audio download links.

Another example: This week’s Case Study on Simply Audiobooks (see below) reveals the company’s big new launch for fall 2005 is offering cassette tapes in addition to CDs. What about audio downloads? VP Marketing Sanjay Singhal told us they’re holding off on those because study results show there’s nine times more demand for cassettes now.

How weird is that? A super-hot Internet company is launching into the cassette marketplace because it’s more profitable than audio downloads.

Reality is, newer technology doesn’t always win the ballgame.

Useful links related to this blog

MarketingSherpa’s BearingPoint Case Study on marketing via podcasts http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3070 (Open access until 9/17/2005)

MarketingSherpa’s WIE.org Case Study: http://library.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3053

ContentBiz Case Study on Simply Audiobooks: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3071 (Open access until 9/18/2005)

 

Anne Holland

MarketingSherpa's Hurricane Katrina Resources Page for Marketing, Advertising, & PR Professionals

September 8th, 2005

Yes, we’ll post new helpful items and hotlinks as we find them. Got input or info we’re missing? Please contact us immediately at feedback@marketingsherpa.com so we can update this resource page for the community. Thank you.

For Market Research Professionals
For Media Companies, Online Publishers, & Subscription Sites
For Association Marketing Executives
For Trade Show Professionals
For Hospitality & Travel Industry Marketers
For Email Marketers & Email Service Providers
For Direct Postal Mail Marketers
For Telemarketers
For PR Professionals
For Advertising Professionals Online & Offline
More resources

For Market Research Professionals

The Marketing Research Association (MRA) have launched a Researcher-to-Researcher Relief Assistance Blog. The following is straight from their site:

“Many marketing researchers located in the South have been severely affected by this tragic storm. This Blog will be used as an exchange system where all research professionals can list what they are in need of and/or what they can provide one another.

For example, some items that researchers in the affected areas may be in need of are: -Additional office space for temporary use -Computers -Phone line usage -Support on active studies or retrieving data from the Internet http://www.mra-net.org/

For Media Companies, Online Publishers, & Subscription Sites

Louisiana Public Broadcasting in Baton Rouge contacted us with a call for help, “We are housing WWL-TV Channel 4 in our studios and know that the two PBS stations in New Orleans are shut down for at least the next 6 months. All the workers at the TV stations — both commercial and public — are displaced and don’t have places to live.” They are hoping fellow media professionals will set up a jobs and housing board to help out. (If you do let us know and we’ll post a link here.)

You can also donate to the Louisiana PBS at http://www.lpb.org and contact Development Director Lisa Stansbury at (225) 767-4466.

If you publish a Web site supported in part or whole from AdSense revenues, you can join the folks at ReliefSense (not a part of Google, but yes Google has ok-ed the idea) who are pledging to donate their AdSense revenues for Sept 12th to Katrina relief efforts. More info at: http://www.reliefsense.com/

If you are a podcaster, you can get audio PSAs for podcasts below the menu bar at http://podcastdesign.com

The blogging community is gathering info for relief efforts at: http://truthlaidbear.com/katrinarelief.php

MediaSpan/FMW just announced they are offering free website hosting and FTP server access to any Gulf-area media property whose current site has been short-circuited due to the recent disaster. More info contact MediaSpan Online Services CTO Mike Gibbs at 949-369-5900 x209 or mgibbs@firstmediaworks.com.

MediaSpan/FMW are also offering radio stations nationwide a free Web application to securely send funds to the Red Cross Hurricane relief effort, while tracking and managing local donations. Get the code from Mike who’se email is in the item above.

If you are publishing via email, please see the section of this page for emailers.

If you run an ad-based Web site, see the Ad Council’s link for PSAs at the very end of this Resources page.

If you are running a subscription site, you may want to follow ASAE’s lead (see below) and automatically extend subs for members in affected areas for six months. Let’s face it, they may not be able to access or pay credit card bills for a while. You may take a short-term loss, but see a long-term gain.

If you handle circulation for a print magazine both the BPA and ABC audit bureaus have reportedly said they will not count distribution to affected areas … which means some folks will miss rate base. Sorry.

For Association Marketing Executives

A spokesperson for the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) told us they’ve taken the following three steps:

1. ASAE has automatically extended by 6 months the membership of any member in an affected area

2. ASAE staff is collecting contributions for relief and ASAE will match all contributions

3. They have sent an email to their membership containing a list of reputable organizations to whom to donate http://www.asaenet.org/

For Trade Show Professionals

The New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau issued an update September 7th stating:

“All city-wide conventions are cancelled through December 1. There will be an announcement Tuesday Sept 13 regarding the status of future meetings in December through March. Additional assessments will be made during the next two weeks when we are out of search and rescue mode. Contact the following staff in Washington and Chicago:

Donna Karl 630-357-3480 Peggy Hagaman: 847-236-0200 JoAnne Hunsicker: 703-379-2233 ”

The Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA) have set up two efforts:

#1. They’ve set up a relief fund to help individuals in the trade show industry

#2. They’ve put together a list of 19 scheduled trade shows coming up in New Orleans in Sept/Oct and will be updating as info is available as to what the organizers are doing (moving, rescheduling, etc) http://www.tsea.org

For Hospitality & Travel Industry Marketers

The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) have launched a new section in their online resource center with info for marketers in the field. Registration is required, but access will be free for the next 30 days: http://www.hsmaieconnect.org/index.html

They have also announced their next few month’s already scheduled events will do double-duty as fundraisers, and the association will kick in a $25,000 donation to relief efforts.

The American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) has launched a Hurricane Help page on its site where members in need of assistance can have their requests posted. Members who can and are willing to provide services, whatever they might be, are asked to contact ASTA with their offer and multiple contact information (phone, mobile, e-mail). http://www.astanet.com/hurricanehelp/

Also, ASTA members in need of or offering help are asked to contact ASTA at hurricanehelp@astahq.com or by calling 1-800-ASK-ASTA. Please be prepared to be specific in your request and have contact information ready. ASTA will be sending regular alerts to members with the most recent postings.

For Email Marketers & Email Service Providers

Potentially millions of email addresses have been affected by Katrina.

Email users may not have access to regular email for days or weeks. Their mailboxes may quickly fill and start sending mailers auto-bounce messages. This means emailers’ list management systems could unsubscribe those names automatically due to deliverability concerns. It also means mailers’ open and click result reports will show anomalies.

We asked if major email services such as AOL and Earthlink could create a special bounce code for those areas, but apparently that’s not possible due to their privacy policies.

If you have an integrated database, and can identify which of your email opt-ins are in the affected regions, you should use USPS zip guidelines to segment your files.

If you have opt-ins without any real-world address attached, we recommend you ask your database manager if there are IP addresses attached to each opt-in. (Any reputable ESP or email list management program should have been collecting that data.) You can then use IP addresses to segment names by geography for many names.

Once you’ve segmented out affected names, you’ll want to mail those names cautiously, and watch your reports. Some users may turn to the Internet and their email accounts as a communication lifeline. Others may not access accounts for weeks.

If a name in the affected area is not opening and/or clicking for a certain period of time (depending on your frequency), we strongly suggest you put that name on hiatus for a while.

— New note: The Information Refinery is making its 6,000-record email (and 190,000 postal lists) for the area within a 500-mile radius of New Orleans available indefinitely and free of charge to all nonprofit organizations, government agencies and other humanitarian groups. The lists are selectable by type of business and include builders, remodelers, contractors, architects and engineers. Email campaigns will be sent at no cost from the Information Refinery servers on behalf of the organizations. Contact: 800-529-9020; http://www.inforefinery.com.

For Direct Postal Mail Marketers

The USPS posts a list of zip codes that all mailers should suppress against during weather-related emergencies: http://www.usps.com/communications/news/serviceupdates.htm?

Many postal list rental firms are waiving suppression charges for the Gulf Coast areas for now, including Rubin Response, 21st Century Marketing, American List Council, Datagence, and MKTG Services.

For Telemarketers

Louisiana proclamation No. 48 KBB 2005 issued Aug 26th, says no telemarketing calls can be made to Louisiana numbers until Monday Sept 26th 2005. Only exception — calls by the Red Cross.

For PR Professionals

The Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) is using its member list to work in tandem with the Red Cross in a program called Power of Two (which initially launched after 9/11). More info at: http://www.prsa.org/_News/main/katrina.asp

International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) is also hosting a blog for members to detail information about Katrina. http://www.iabc.com/

The Sonoma CA chapter of the American Red Cross has issued a call for volunteer PR pros to help them with relief-related efforts. Contact Ellen Maremont Silver, direct line (707) 577-7632.

For Advertising Professionals Online & Offline

Tha Ad Council has launched a service to get out PSAs for disaster relief. Several ad organizations are supporting this – including IAB.net for online. http://www.adcouncil.org

You can pick up Red Cross banner ads for the relief effort here: http://www.redcross.org/psa/bannerorder/all/

Search marketers from several different firms have pooled resources and budgets to create campaigns to drive traffic to charitable sites. More info at http://www.semcares.com

We’ve also called the AAAA and the AAF but they don’t have any details yet on separate programs or resources they’ll be launching.

More Resources:

Craig’s List is one of the best places for displaced folks to find free housing: http://neworleans.craigslist.org/hhh/

MarketingSherpa reader Tinu Abayomipaul is collecting and indexing all the relief resources she can find every four hours at her Blog. More info: http://freetraffictip.com/old/2005_09_01_index.php

13 Experts’ Tips on Marketing in Wartime – Copywriting, Media Buying, B-to-B , Branding & PR http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=2299

Anne Holland

How to Create a Podcast Audio Logo (Part II)

August 29th, 2005

As you may recall, MarketingSherpa’s launching a podcast for you this fall, and I’ve contracted a audio logo specialist Michael Whalen to create our intro music-snippet. (See link below to my first podcasting info column.)

If you’re considering testing a podcast, too (seems like nearly everyone in the Net cognoscenti is, although we don’t have results data quite yet on effectiveness), I’ll keep you updated here on our progress.

First step: Develop an audio logo creative brief

Just like any other campaign, you need to hand your creative team a brief that guides them on your brand identity and goal. I’ve found these are always far harder to write than one might expect. You need brand perspective to do a half-decent job, and being client-side, my perspective is perhaps warped. (Reason why market research firms and ad agencies’ services are critical in today’s world even if you’ve got a full creative team in-house.)

Anyway, here’s the creative brief questionaire form Michael asked me to fill out so he can determine what MarketingSherpa’s brand “sounds” like.

If you need an audio logo for your own podcast (or tv/radio ads) maybe you’ll find it useful, too.

1) How is your company perceived in the marketplace? (big, small, cool, traditional, fun, forward thinking, etc.)

2) How do YOU perceive your company? Is it the same as your answer to #1?

3) Do you think your audio ID should support or work against this impression(s)?

4) Who is your “typical” audience member or customer? (demographically, sense of their tastes, etc.)

5) Should the audio ID appeal to your audience’s taste or should it only support your company’s image? (see Question #1)

6) How will your podcast be formatted? (length of program, how many “chapters,” music for top, middle and end)

7) Should your audio ID be a new composition or do you want to use an existing piece of music? (Warning; existing music = $$$)

8) If you want an original composition, should the music be thematic (think 20th Century Fox logo) or environmental? (Imagine Entertainment)

9) Whom at your company will be decision makers in this process? Will your audience help (voting, etc.)?

10) Do you have a budget for this audio ID? (budgets can range from zilch — barter or trade — to tens of thousands)

By the way, in case you missed it, here’s my first column in this series, which includes a link to Michael’s site and info for podcasting newbies:

‘The Brave New(ish) World of Audio Logos & Podcasting’ http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3049 (Open access)

Anne Holland

Press Releases vs Blogs: 5 Ways to Catch Reporters' Attention in the Internet Age

August 22nd, 2005

Before the Internet, press releases were very important sources for the press. I knew many journalists who spent most of their days reading, reacting to (and sometimes rewriting) them.

But now that releases are available directly to the public via Net news portals (Yahoo News, Google News, etc.), I strongly suspect most journalists have stopped religiously reading PR. After all, a good reporter’s job is to dig up news and insights that the public doesn’t already have at their fingertips.

So, last week when I was in a meeting with Bob Evans, CMP Media’s Editorial Director and Senior VP, I asked him point-blank, “Do reporters read press releases anymore?”

“In some cases releases can still be helpful for short quick online news items,” he told me. “But mostly, if everyone’s got it on Google News, what’s the point? I may use a phone number or a stat for a bigger story, but press releases are not the response devices they used to be.”

How do you catch reporters’ attention in the Internet age? Here are five suggestions Bob and I discussed.

#1. Blogs

If you’re pitching a trend story (which Bob says many journalists love), try including links to several independent blogs to back up your assertions. Helps prove you didn’t invent the trend just to get your CEO quoted, and there’s some genuine audience interest in the topic. Also better than citing a direct competitor’s story (few journalists get ahead by writing me-too stuff).

You can also use an internally produced company blog to garner some press attention. Bob said, “It could function as effectively or more effectively than a press release right now. However, canned contrived, controlled messages will draw very little interest.”

Bob strongly recommends you allow and actively encourage interactive blog replies. If a reporter sees an active — non-edited — discussion attached to blog posts, they’re much more likely to respond. Best postings would be from your marketplace.

#2. Trade show meetings

Online news deadlines mean reporters don’t have time anymore for convivial dinners and hour-long briefings with your company execs at the show. Bob suggests three new tactics:

– 1/2 hour breakfast meetings before the day’s deadlines hit.

– 30-45 minute “walk the floor together” invites. Your CEO walks the show floor with the reporter (who has to anyway) pointing out trends, etc.

– Work your party (harder). Position a press greeter at your party doorway and have the greeter personally lead incoming journalists to various execs they should meet. Reporters may only have 30 minutes or less per party — don’t waste their time making them mingle on their own.

#3. Customer stories

Bob says the reason why many clients turn down “Would you let us do a case study on you?” requests is that companies aren’t marketing the idea from the client’s perspective.

His suggestion: Explain to your client how the story could help their PR efforts by positioning them as a leader. Reassure them it won’t take too much time, and no secrets will be given away that could hurt them.

Another idea: position a series of less in-depth client interviews for a trend story. Perhaps several clients are using your product or service in an unexpected way that’s not been covered in the press.

#4. New and underexposed executives

In bigger companies, the PR department is often more of a gatekeeper, the “NO” department, than a story-enabler.

Bob suggests that whenever you have to say “no” to a CEO interview, try offering a substitute. Perhaps there’s a new exec on board, or someone who’s fascinating but underexposed.

#5. Ads

Neither Bob nor I would ever suggest there should be a quid pro quo between ads and media coverage. However, reporters surf the Web just as much (or often much more) than your typical prospects. The more they are exposed to your ads, the more likely they are to keep your brand at the top of their mind. After all, they are humans.

That means increased press coverage may be one of the extra add-on benefits from an ad campaign. How can you measure it? That’s one to ask your PR department.

Anne Holland

Generational Marketing Terminology Shift: What does DM mean to you?

August 15th, 2005

What does the term “Direct Mail” mean to you? Increasingly I’ve found that if I’m talking to a marketer aged under 35, they assume it means a campaign delivered via email.

This redefinition of a very old term is so prevalent, that I’ve learned to add the word “postal” or “snail” when discussing direct mail in our research interviews.

So, if I ask, “How is your direct mail program performing these days?” chances are the marketer will start talking about email. Instead I have to say, “How is your direct postal mail program performing?” And often I have to predicate that with, “Do you do any postal mail campaigns?” Sadly many marketers reply, “Oh no, only email.”

Why is it sad? Because endless reams of research show relying on a single media to reach your prospects and customers is bad marketing. The Internet and email are wonderful, grand, fine. But, I’m increasingly having to remind folks, they are not the only ball game out there.

Some prospects and customers won’t respond to email or Web campaigns. Either they’re too hard to reach that way (think email filters and rising PPC costs), or it’s just not their preferred method of receiving and/or responding to offers.

The old question in DM 101 camp used to be “How many response channels should I put on my reply cards?” (Answer: Every single one you can so you include all prospects’ fave methods of communication – mail, fax, phone, etc.)

The new question in DM 101 camp should be, “How many channels should I get my message out in?”

If you can only afford email alone for part of your list, then rely on it only for your least profitable names (plus perhaps those names that are proven repeated email responders). If a name on your house files has high potential ROI, invest in multiple media to reach them.

What should DM stand for? Direct Marketing of course, in as media agnostic a manner as possible.

Sponsor: New! Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005 ~~~~~~~~~~~~ All-new Search Benchmark has 210 charts of useful data so you can compare your campaigns to the “norm”:

– Cost per click – Average click rate – Conversion rates – How much marketers really budget for search – Optimization vs PPC results

3,271 search marketers revealed real-life results data to MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide for you: http://www.sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1150&p.cfm/2166 Or call 877-895-1717 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Holland

The Brave New(ish) World of Audio Logos & Podcasting

August 8th, 2005

Like just about every other online publisher out there, we’re considering launching a podcast. (A podcast is a sort of audio blog – an Internet radio show that listeners can tune in to from their computers or download to their iPods. Link to more info below.)

I’ve been super-itchy to launch a Sherpa podcast since last winter … but aside from our already insane schedule growing Sherpa, I’ve held back because we don’t have an audio logo yet.

An audio logo (AKA ‘sound identity’ or ‘sound logo’) is that little bit of music that you hear at the start of a TV show, or branded radio show, or even a brand jingle played in advertisements. In just a few seconds, the listener hears the personality of the brand. And, since it’s audio, your musical logo can actually have greater marketplace impact than any graphic logo ever does. Audio has more of a *gut* impact than many visuals do.

I started researching audio logo makers and discovered there are some firms who create sound identities for big consumer packaged goods companies. They run focus groups, do loads of research and you’ll end up paying tens of thousands for a tidbit of sound. But it’s higher impact than another tidbit of sound would be.

However, there wasn’t anyone out there who created tidbits for wanna-be podcasters who need an audio logo to start and end podcasts with. So I called my friends at Audible.com who are iPod sound experts and asked them to recommend a few composers.

Enter Michael Whalen. He’s an independent film score composer who’s worked a lot for PBS and National Geographic. I loved the clips on his site. So, I bugged him — would he consider starting a podcasting logo division for folks like me with reasonable (aka limited) budgets? Definitely yes! Michael has launched it. You’ll find a link to his new podcasting logos site below.

Over the next 60 days I’ll bring you notes on the whole process of how we’ll go about creating the podcast and companion audio logo. Plus you’ll get to vote on which logo you like the best.

I’m so excited!

BTW: No, I’m not getting any sort of kickback for mentioning Michael. I’m just honestly enthusiastic and thought you’d be, too.

Six useful links related to this blog

Michael Whalen’s new Podcasting Logos site: http://podcastinglogos.com

About Michael Whalen: http://www.michaelwhalen.com

Podcast inventor Adam Curry’s site for podcasting wanna-bes: http://www.ipodder.org

American Music Center’s ‘On Hold’ program inspired by famed sound logo creator Eric Siday: http://www.amc.net/grants/Siday

MarketingSherpa Article: 7 Marketing Tips for Podcasts, Blog Ads, and RSS Feeds http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3042 (Open access until Aug 11)

Anne’s second column on this topic: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3064 (Open access)

Sponsor: New! Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005 ~~~~~~~~~~~~ All-new Search Benchmark has 210 charts of useful data so you can compare your campaigns to the “norm”:

– Cost per click – Average click rate – Conversion rates – How much marketers really budget for search – Optimization vs PPC results

3,271 search marketers revealed real-life results data to MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide for you: http://www.sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1150&p.cfm/2166 Or call 877-895-1717 ~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Holland

Stop Scary Ads at the Beach: How Relevancy Can Save the World We Love

August 1st, 2005

MarketingSherpa is headquartered in Rhode Island, which makes getting to New York meetings a pain, but at least we all live near the beach.

Last Tuesday evening, I was strolling down First Beach in Newport admiring the sunset when I came upon an amazing sand sculpture of a beach-bound family in a Volkswagon Beetle. It was obviously created by an artist, which made sense because Newport sometimes sponsors art at the beach.

But, when I stepped closer to admire it, I discovered a little placard bearing VW’s logo and the slogan ‘Drivers Wanted.’ This wasn’t purely art; it was an ad.

I’m used to planes flying over the beach trailing ad banners — generally for liquor. But hadn’t seen sand ads before. I laughed, how clever! Maybe I should write about it for Sherpa….

Then, yesterday evening as I was strolling down another local beach, I saw another big sand sculpture. Even from a distance, it was quite obviously the most incredible sand castle ever. However, this time I didn’t step closer to admire it.

Instead I felt myself shuddering. I feared discovering a corporation had sponsored this “art.” I didn’t want my innocent delight in the sand, sunset, birds, and waves besmirched by commercialism. It was profoundly distasteful.

All the way home, I wondered, how can we as marketers continue working in a world where nothing is sacred. Where college students line up to have ads painted on their foreheads. Where you can’t ever get away from someone trying to sell you something.

Then it hit me — what makes ads work is highly targeted relevancy. If you send me an ad, via my preferred medium, about something I’m deeply interested in, it’s not an ad anymore. It’s a useful alert. I’m grateful and excited to get the message.

Example: sending a miniature railway enthusiast a note when the newest caboose is ready.

However, it’s easier as marketers sometimes to shout more loudly and wave our arms around in the mass market then to build and manage the database marketing systems that a truly relevant campaign requires.

Example: a simple text email offering discounted child helmets to parents who bought a new bike for their kid in the past 36 hours will work better than a singing and dancing rich media video superimposed over the world’s largest parenting Web site.

The point: without advanced targeting systems, useful CRM, and excellent database marketing, we’re stuck in a nightmarish future where ads take over the earth like cockroaches. A world where everything’s a promotion and everyone’s eyes glaze over because who wants to be bombarded with crud 24×7?

Ok, rant over.

Sponsor: New! Search Marketing Benchmark Guide 2005
~~~~~~~~~~~~
All-new Search Benchmark has 210 charts of useful data so you
can compare your campaigns to the “norm”:

– Cost per click
– Average click rate
– Conversion rates
– How much marketers really budget for search
– Optimization vs PPC results

3,271 search marketers revealed real-life results data to
MarketingSherpa’s Benchmark Guide for you:
http://www.sherpastore.com/c/a.pl?1150&p.cfm/2166
Or call 877-895-1717
~~~~~~~~~~~~

Anne Holland

Stop Scary Ads at the Beach: How Relevancy Can Save the World We Love

August 1st, 2005

MarketingSherpa is headquartered in Rhode Island, which makes getting to New York meetings a pain, but at least we all live near the beach.

Last Tuesday evening, I was strolling down First Beach in Newport admiring the sunset when I came upon an amazing sand sculpture of a beach-bound family in a Volkswagon Beetle. It was obviously created by an artist, which made sense because Newport sometimes sponsors art at the beach.

But, when I stepped closer to admire it, I discovered a little placard bearing VW’s logo and the slogan “Drivers Wanted.” This wasn’t purely art; it was an ad.

I’m used to planes flying over the beach trailing ad banners — generally for liquor. But I hadn’t seen sand ads before. I laughed, how clever! Maybe I should write about it for Sherpa.

Then, yesterday evening as I was strolling down another local beach, I saw another big sand sculpture. Even from a distance, it was quite obviously the most incredible sand castle ever. However, this time I didn’t step closer to admire it.

Instead I felt myself shuddering. I feared discovering a corporation had sponsored this “art.” I didn’t want my innocent delight in the sand, sunset, birds and waves besmirched by commercialism. It was profoundly distasteful.

All the way home, I wondered, how can we as marketers continue working in a world where nothing is sacred. Where college students line up to have ads painted on their foreheads. Where you can’t ever get away from someone trying to sell you something.

Then it hit me — what makes ads work is highly targeted relevancy. If you send me an ad, via my preferred medium, about something I’m deeply interested in, it’s not an ad anymore. It’s a useful alert. I’m grateful and excited to get the message.

Example: sending a miniature railway enthusiast a note when the newest caboose is ready.

However, it’s easier as marketers sometimes to shout more loudly and wave our arms around in the mass market then to build and manage the database marketing systems that a truly relevant campaign requires.

Example: A simple text email offering discounted child helmets to parents who bought a new bike for their kid in the past 36 hours will work better than a singing and dancing rich media video superimposed over the world’s largest parenting Web site.

The point: Without advanced targeting systems, useful CRM and excellent database marketing, we’re stuck in a nightmarish future where ads take over the earth like cockroaches. A world where everything’s a promotion and everyone’s eyes glaze over because who wants to be bombarded with crud 24×7?

OK, rant over.

Anne Holland

Blog Copyright Theft on the Rise Part II: Readers' Advice & 5 Useful Hotlinks

July 25th, 2005

I was worried that my blog last week about copyright theft (link to read it below) would spark a storm of folks posting nasty things about MarketingSherpa or my (assumed) naivete about the safety of any content on the Web.

Instead the opposite happened. Loads of you wrote (and even called) to say you had been worried about the same problem. Here’s some useful advice and hotlinks:

-> Add a formal copyright line and Terms & Conditions

At the very least, add copyright info to your published content. (See links below to copyright info for bloggers and publishers.) And don’t make the almost universal mistake of forgetting to update the year in the (c) date at the bottom of your Web pages annually.

But, don’t count on formal legal language on your site to dissuade theft. For example, I got a note from the folks at WorldWit saying their email discussion group postings appear to be routinely stolen and posted online by another site, apparently for AdSense revenue, despite WorldWit’s explicitly worded terms and conditions saying it should not be done.

-> Slim down your RSS feeds

Reader Elise Bauer of Elise.com wrote in, “Many bloggers release full-text RSS feeds, making it extremely easy for others to automatically lift their entire article. TypePad blogs, for example, release full-text RSS feeds by default, exposing their owners, often unknowingly, to bot theft.

“Who wants to spend their time trying to track down all these instances? Better to release just an excerpt in RSS. That way aggregators point back to your site, driving traffic to your site instead of stealing your content.”

-> Embed an “invisible” copyright line in articles

Reader Dave Stein of HowWinnersSell.com said he’s fed up with people stealing his articles “left and right.” He notes, “Most of the time a phone call will shake up the offender. I’ve actually made a friend or two who didn’t realize their lower-level people were stealing this content.”

He added, “One of the tricks I learned is to embed ‘(c) 2005 – Dave Stein – all rights reserved’ in white-colored font in the article. At least it’s easy to prove to an offender that they’ve pirated stuff. Plus, since I’ve keyed that string into Google Alerts, I can find out whenever someone posts it with or without permission.”

-> Ask for a hotlink

Reader Brian Cha, author of Email Marketing Resources blog, noted, “As I’m sure you already know, your page will rank higher in regards to search engine optimization when other sites link back to yours. So instead of trying to fight blog thieves, write some guidelines on how articles can be used (in regards to copyright) to help out those who legitimately want to spread the good word.”

So, perhaps we should add a note to all MarketingSherpa articles saying “If you like this article, please link to it *instead* of copying it. Thanks.”

-> Include preferred attribution lines

Reader Mary Schmidt of Schmidt & Associates notes, “Personally I’m all for people taking my content – just as long as they attribute it to me.”

So, if you are writing articles or blogs hoping to get noticed and perhaps land clients for your main line of business, then you should try putting a formal attribution and re-use line at the end of each item posted online. This might start, “Yes you may reprint this article/blog entry, as long as you include the following bit of text….”

(Of course, since MarketingSherpa is *not* a consultancy or marketing company, this would not apply to our articles. We’re solely a publishing company and our articles are our product, rather than being marketing vehicles for something else we offer. So naturally, copyright protection takes on a different urgency for us.)

-> Tell Google in writing if someone steals your copyrighted materials

As I noted last week, one reason some people steal others’ content is because they want to get Google AdSense revenue with content-rich pages without the effort of actually writing content.

To that end, many sites I’ve seen appear to be using automated bots to scrape content from other sites and then post hundreds, even thousands of pages online with AdSense listings. I’m not going to accuse any sites in particular here, suffice to say it’s a quickly increasing problem and loads of folks in the online publishing community have been noticing it.

Here’s what Barry Schnitt in Google’s PR department said in response to my query about this problem:

“Copyright violations are against our policies. We ask that the owner of the copyrighted material comply with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (the text of which can be found at the U.S. Copyright Office Web site: http://lcWeb.loc.gov/copyright/) and other applicable intellectual property laws. In this case, this means that if we receive proper notice of infringement, we will forward that notice to the responsible Web site publisher. To file a notice of infringement with us, you must provide a written communication.”

My take on this? It’s not awfully reassuring. Google seems to want to put the policing ball in the copyright owner’s corner despite the fact that few of these stolen content sites would exist if it were not for AdSense revenues.

Plus, he didn’t comment at all on my second question, which was in essence, what about policing those sites — known in the industry as “Google Spam” — that post such short snippets of scraped content that they don’t actually break copyright law. They dance around the law and usually present no real value to the visitor.

Again, these sites are a burgeoning cottage industry that appears to be wholly funded by AdSense revenue potential.

My advice: if you are investing in an AdSense ad program, watch your metrics very carefully (separately from your AdWords ROI). Also consider the brand image implications of your ad showing up on automated bot sites. Do you want to be visibly sponsoring cruddy Web pages?

Until such time as Google decides to police more rigorously the sites ads appear on, buyer beware.

-> Five useful hotlinks about copyright and blogging:

#1. US copyright law explained in fairly clear English for bloggers with common questions (Thanks to reader Alan Herrell who pointed out this link in his Raving Lunacy blog) http://www.eff.org/bloggers/lg/faq-ip.php

#2. Official copyright info site from US Federal Government http://www.copyright.gov

#3. Copyscape — Quickly see if any Web page tracked by Google search is copying content from a particular page of your site or blog: http://www.copyscape.com

#4. Example of what appears to be an automated bot site that collects snippets of content from blogs and sites without adding any additional value/commentary, for the sole purpose of Google AdSense revenue (thanks to reader Tom Hespos of Underscore Marketing for sending in this link): http://www.ad-agency.your-information-source.com/blog/

#5. Last week’s column on Blog Copyright Theft http://www.marketingsherpa.com/sample.cfm?contentID=3032

Anne Holland

Blog Copyright Theft On The Rise

July 18th, 2005

Every Friday afternoon I take a few minutes to do a quick Technorati or Feedster search for our company name. It’s the equivalent of doing a Google search on yourself, only in this case you discover what millions of bloggers are saying about you.

At first, it was a sort of guilty pleasure. There’s that tingle of excitement when you discover a favorable mention in a blog. Sometimes of course it’s criticism, which is slightly painful but always worth learning from.

But more recently I’ve begun to see an ugly trend emerging.

Bloggers have begun cutting and pasting the entire text of our articles in their blogs. Sometimes it appears as though they wrote the article, sometimes they give a little credit “from MarketingSherpa.” Either way, I have to contact them with the following little cease-and-desist note or risk losing the intellectual property that our company is built on:

“I’m glad you like MarketingSherpa, but please remove this article from your Blog. By posting an entire article, you are breaking copyright law. You are essentially a thief, stealing content it cost us hundreds of dollars to create. You can certainly write your own commentary or summary of our article and link to our site for your visitors to see. Thank you.”

I’ve noticed these thieves come in two distinct colors — the first are genuine fans. They are so psyched about an article they decide to cut and paste it under the misconception than it’s a “compliment” that a copyright owner won’t mind.

I appreciate the compliment, but just because a product is an article rather than a shirt or widget, doesn’t mean you can take it and give it away without the owner’s permission.

The second group of thieves are profit-driven bloggers who are generally seeking Google AdSense revenue. They publish as many blogs as possible populated with lifted content and sit back to collect commission checks from Google on ad clicks. Some have created automated programs that suck up content from around the Web and post it without need for a human editor.

Worried publishers are forming task forces now to begin to address this threat. Ideas include limiting bots’ site access and requiring registration. In the end, more walls go up around the Web and an atmosphere of distrust reigns. Too bad.

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