Anne Holland

Subscription Agency Fraud – Faxon, RoweCom, Divine

January 21st, 2003

According to copywriter Barbara Kaplowitz of Big Huge Ideas who specializes in newsletter subscription marketing, there’s a big
scandal brewing in the subscription agency arena that will affect all subscription publishers who accept orders from Faxon, Rowecom and their parent company Divine Information Services, or who accept orders from Web sites that partner with these companies (Rowecom was definitely partnering with a bunch of people for a while).

“Apparently, the company took subscribers’ money, and instead of purchasing subscriptions, used it for operating expenses and debt coverage. Reports from 1/18 Toronto Star say that the City of Toronto, through its libraries, is out $140,000. SUNY Buffalo’s
losses are reported at $800,000.

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Anne Holland

Instant Messaging & Future of Your Editorial Length

January 20th, 2003

Are instant messaging and blogging turning us all into short-writers/short-readers? How does/should this affect your editorial?

When high tech marketing consultant Kristin Zhivago and I got together for lunch last Friday, the first topic to come up was how IM is affecting the communication skills/habit/tactics of most people we know under 35 in the workplace. People are getting used to writing much shorter – you don’t type out a formal memo or even full sentences when your IM buddy is impatiently waiting for a live response on the other end.

In one century we’ve gone from flowery-polite long winded Edwardian business letters to telegraphic IMs. From long articles to Blogs. Aside from the cultural barbarians-at-the-gate/nobody-thinks-deeply-anymore reaction you can have about this; how does it affect your editorial as a publisher? Should you ask writers to boil stuff down to fewer words please because the only thing length does is annoy people? Should you add quick-read summaries to the tops of every story for impatient readers?

Every month or so sombody writes in asking us to do this with our stories which generally run 3-6 pages. “I don’t want to have to read the whole Case Study, just sum it up for me.” Problem is, if we only serve a paragraph or two summary then we can’t stick more than say one ad in the issue or it looks overly commercial.
You need a body of content to carry your ads; less body, fewer ads. So we write the Case Studies as tightly and entertainingly as we can to get you sucked into reading, and cross our fingers you’ll find it worth it to continue and incidentally view more ads.

Then, this Sunday for the first time in a while, I grabbed the NY Times book review to find out about the a new novel by a favorite author. When I opened it to the page, my heart plummeted. Oh god, a whole page of tiny type to read. No star-ranking to glance at, no summary, no sub-heads for sections. I would have to plow through the whole thing. I was annoyed. I didn’t want to read the no-doubt thoughtfully-written review for 10 minutes. I just wanted to know, should I buy that book? I wanted the IM, the Blogged, version.

Now I have to rethink our long Case Studies, how the heck can we as publishers provide for the new “short” reader and still have a business?

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Anne Holland

Time of Day & Your Email Campaign

January 16th, 2003

Rick Stamberger’s company SmartBrief publishes email newsletters
for more than two dozen different marketplaces, so when I got a
chance to interview him for a Case Study this week (see below), I
asked the question we’re all dying to know these days:

“Which time of day is really the best to send email?”

His answer was it depends on when your target market is most likely
to read your message. For example, he sends email to restaurateurs
just after the lunch hour rush, to grade school teachers in the
late afternoon, and to consumer packaged goods CEOs around 10am.

His average open rates are higher than 70%, so he’s got to be doing
something right, and I bet carefully considering time of day is
part of it.

Turns out, you want to be around the top of the email pile at about
the time your audience turn on their computers to check it. Which
means sending late at night is stupid because your message will be
jumbled in the midst of a lot of other emails by the time
recipients see it (unless they are late shift workers).

It also means attaching time zone info to names on your list may be
critical for your success.

It’s incremental stuff like this that adds up over time to a better
ROI.

P.S. Link to Case Study on Rick’s Company:

http://library.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.cfm?ContentID=2240

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Anne Holland

Time of Day & Your Email Campaign

January 16th, 2003

Rick Stamberger’s company SmartBrief publishes email newsletters
for more than two dozen different marketplaces, so when I got a
chance to interview him for a Case Study this week (see below), I
asked the question we’re all dying to know these days:

“Which time of day is really the best to send email?”

His answer was it depends on when your target market is most likely
to read your message. For example, he sends email to restaurateurs
just after the lunch hour rush, to grade school teachers in the
late afternoon, and to consumer packaged goods CEOs around 10am.

His average open rates are higher than 70%, so he’s got to be doing
something right, and I bet carefully considering time of day is
part of it.

Turns out, you want to be around the top of the email pile at about
the time your audience turn on their computers to check it. Which
means sending late at night is stupid because your message will be
jumbled in the midst of a lot of other emails by the time
recipients see it (unless they are late shift workers).

It also means attaching time zone info to names on your list may be
critical for your success.

It’s incremental stuff like this that adds up over time to a better
ROI.

P.S. Link to Case Study on Rick’s Company:

http://library.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.cfm?ContentID=2240

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Anne Holland

Should You Charge Extra for Daily Updates?

January 16th, 2003

A reader just wrote in, “My client [a print business publishing company] is planning to add an email update to their subscription service for both their weekly and monthly newsletters. Both titles deal in very time sensitive info, so the expectation is that e-updates will be a real value to subscribers. This question is, can this service be positioned as premium feature commanding a premium price, or is the better strategy to simply implement the e-updates as an added benefit without an added subscription fee?”

My answer was, “I’m not a consultant, just a lowly journalist, but in my opinion news is well, news. And no matter what niche you are in, news is considered lower-value content. People don’t pay for news anymore. So I would use the email version as a marketing tool to sell pass-along email readers on the value of a paid print subscription, and to sell ancillary products to current subscribers. That’s where the money is.”

It’s very, very, very smart to be able to offer something that helps you collect email addresses from your marketplace and gives you a valid reason to contact them frequently.

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Anne Holland

Debate: Content to Desktop Stupid or Brilliant?

January 14th, 2003

Wow. Unusually high feedback on my comments about SNAP, Weatherbug and putting content on the desktop. Here are quotes from two letters, one pro and one con:

>From Tom Baker, Founder WSJ.com, CEO Open Field Partners:

“Anyone remember Pointcast? Backweb? Plus a few other “push” companies I can’t even remember? I have scars from the painful investments of time and energy I put into those back when I did such deals. Yes, they were piggy and clunky applications. But the real issue was that people didn’t need what they did, and wouldn’t even use it for free, much less pay for it.

Let’s just say I’m a little skeptical. E-mail’s great, and there’s little consumer dissatisfaction. And adoption of odd clients and plugins is doubtful. (How many have apps not shipped with your Windows install have succeeded, besides the Real player, Acrobat, Napster/Kazaa, and the Google toolbar?)

Now, if you could push some high-value alerts to my phone or my PDA, where an e-mail client doesn’t rule the environment, maybe I’d be a little curious. But desktop push? Harumph.”

>From Harris Turner of the Frequent Travel Marketing Association:

“I agree that SNAP should have paid attention to current market offerings and as a result of their naivetŽ, their path will indeed be difficult. However, your assertion that people are reticent to download applications is just plain wrong. You surprise me in mentioning WeatherBug but not having done the homework to know that over 17 million have now downloaded that particular product. SideStep has over 2 million users. MilePro has tens of thousands. The New York Times utilizes NewsStand Scheduler and delivers their online product to the desktop of thousands via a downloaded application. And there are others too numerous to mention!

The idea of pre-loaded Internet parsing and retrieval agents is worthy of attention, but I don’t know of a single pre-loaded application that was integrated until it had already gained widespread acceptance. And these agents do a variety of tasks, so it will be challenging for computer manufacturers to determine which one(s) are primary to the majority of people.

Today’s Internet user is all about saving time, and it’s only a matter of time before the majority of people realize that for the repetitive use of dynamic information, browsers are totally inefficient. Give me products like WeatherBug, MilePro (that delivers all my frequent flyer programs via a simple desktop menu), or SideStep (that checks 100s of travel fares simultaneously), and I’ll keep my browser for Google searches.”

Me again: OK, I’m lining up an interview with the folks at Weatherbug right now to do a Case Study on this and find out what we can all learn from them. Look for it in a few weeks in ContentBiz! :-) Link to my original Blog about SNAP

http://contentbiz.blogspot.com/2003_01_12_contentbiz_archive.html#90179463

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Anne Holland

Seth Godin *Not* Releasing Electronic Copies

January 13th, 2003

I had the weirdest conversation with Seth Godin on Friday. He called up to see if SherpaStore might be interested in carrying his new book Purple Cow which apparently is being featured on the cover of Fast Company magazine this week and also being sold via an offer email to Fast Company readers (you have to love that deal).

I said, well you gotta send a copy to our Reports Editor Alexis whose job it is to review outside reports and see if we should carry them. Then I said, since the Fast Company issue is coming out next week, you probably should email her a copy because if we decide to carry the book, we’ll sell more in conjunction with all the promo going on elsewhere.

Then he said, “No. I’ll fedex you a hard copy on Monday.”

Huh? He explained, “Well, I’m sure you guys are trustworthy, but you can never be entirely safe once your book has gotten out in electronic format.”

Which initially made sense to me, especially given that we don’t even publish our reports in PDF anymore because too many buyers blithely emailed copies to their friends and colleagues without realizing “hey this is breaking copyright.” (Now we publish in single-user-only HTML instead, and 90% of the very few people who complain admit the reason is because they were planning on sharing the PDF with others.)

It was only after I hung up the phone I suddenly thought: Hey didn’t Seth’s market his last book, The Idea Virus, by giving away electronic copies for free? Didn’t he tell me two years ago that it was the best book marketing tactic since sliced bread? Guess that biz model didn’t quite work. Old Seth Godin Case Study:

http://library.marketingsherpa.com/barrier.cfm?CID=648

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Anne Holland

Print Newsletter Publishing Back in Style

January 13th, 2003

“Print publishing is back in style,” says Charles Henderson, CEO NewsRX.com. Which is a funny quote from him because he’s always been pushing-the-tech-envelope-guy in the subscription newsletter industry. He was one of the first to have a Web site, to begin syndication sales to Web sites, to use automated engines to scoop up news from electronic/online sources and repackage as newsletters, to test selling pay-by-report sales for groups of articles, etc.

He’s still bullish on the Web. In fact last year he launched a streamed video series of coverage of health conferences (“video clips are kept to between 15 seconds and two minutes. If the video requires more than a minute or two, you’ll lose your audience”). For the first time in perhaps 5-7 years, he thinks the future, for now anyway, is still print. professionals are back subscribing to print newsletters in huge numbers.
“NewsRx is experiencing its highest renewal rates in 20 years: over 90 percent of subscribers are opting to renew print titles.”

This may have more to do with email overload and the slowing economy than anything else. I figure recipients are probably getting too much email and far less postal mail than they have in years. The little postal mail they do get, gets increased attention. Many marketers have told me in the past six months that postal direct mail response rates are up.

This isn’t a trend for forever, but it’s definitely a trend for first half 2003.

http://www.newsrx.com

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Anne Holland

Forget Email – Deliver to the Desktop Instead

January 13th, 2003

Jim Hoing over at Sourcelink says they’ve got a new service in beta right now that may help publishers get around the whole email deliverability thing. It’s called SNAP (an acronymn chosen by someone who I guess had no idea that it’s already being used by the Society of National Association Publications. Hey guys, check Google prior to picking a product name next time).

Anyway, it’s one of those desktop items where when there’s news, users get a “flashing news bar on their application”. Right now about 600,000 people get weather alerts that way.

I’ve seen pitches from several companies over the past 18 months with ideas of this ilk. Forget email, we’ll stick your announcement right on the desktop, or in one case during the desktop power-on procedure. The main problem is that invariably these require a download. Average consumers hate, hate, hate downloads. They take too long, they might be viruses, their IT team yelled at them last time they downloaded something, it breaks, whatever.

Until you get your app stuck on desktops by the PC manufacturers so they ship with it installed as a default, you probably won’t make much progress.

There’s a real idea there somewhere: Weatherbug??

http://www.bellevue.com/snap/

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Anne Holland

QPass Focuses on Wireless, Gets $10.7 Mill

January 13th, 2003

A few weeks ago I was on the phone with someone, don’t remember who, and we were saying, “Is QPass even in business anymore?”

Mystery now solved. The Company, which as you may recall used to power big content sites pay-by-the-drink sales and had hoped to power lots of other small payment stuff online, just closed tralaa, $10,700,000 in series B funding. However, their biz model is entirely different. Instead of helping the New York Times sell archived articles, QPass helps AT&T and Cingular Wireless sell
“advanced services and content” such as Wi-Fi to J2MET.

http://www.qpass.com

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