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Archive for the ‘Web 2.0’ Category

Is the Internet outdated?

Posted by the markITeer on October 3, 2007

Larry RobertsTwo days after the Internet TV platform Joost went public, The Wall Street Journal publishes an article on two of the Internet’s pioneers, calling the technology powering the Internet ‘outdated’. 69 Year old Larry Roberts, project owner of ARPAnet (which was the very first version of the Internet), and Len Bosack, 55 and founder of the networking giant CISCO are both looking for a solution.

The Internet wasn’t designed for people to watch television. I know because I designed it.” Dixit Mr. Roberts.

It’s a simple fact that much of the building blocks of the present-day Internet are pretty close to retirement indeed. Think for instance email : the protocol used for sending email (the SMTP protocol) still dates from the very early days of the Internet and was never designed to support sending zillions of emails every day. As was it never designed to support authentication … which is the real problem in fighting spam. But also IP addresses are running out, resulting in a difficult roll-out of a new IP address format (known as IPv6) and access lines get clogged by the massive amounts of data resulting in Google hiring a submarine cable negotiator.

And why not -in the process of redesigning- try to lower the energy consumption of the Internet?

Let’s hope mr. Roberts and mr. Bosack can work their magic once again…

Read the full Wall Street Journal article

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Email and/or RSS?

Posted by the markITeer on July 12, 2007

Since a couple of months I’m systematically unsubscribing myself from email newsletters and subscribing to the RSS feed equivalent. I just couldn’t handle the massive amount of newsletters any more. It cluttered my inbox, drowned the important messages. My ideal scenario? Using e-mail for personal messages and RSS for all the rest.

However, being an email marketeer myself since quite some years, I was kind of shocked by my own actions. Could it be that RSS is replacing email after all? Is email marketing dead?

It’s in fact a very old discussion on the net. Back in 2004, at the dawn of RSS, RSS believers where quick to bury email alive, waving the spam-flag to prove their point. Email defenders answered with the email’s ease of use and personalization possibilities. It was an endless yes/no game stuck in the same arguments over and over again. Luckily the discussion faded and RSS and email believers alike came to believe that both technologies can peacefully co-exist and complement each-other in the marketing mix.

It took however till the wide-spread adoption of web 2.0 in 2006 for RSS to become a real mature medium of content delivery. Google launched its online RSS reader, blogs made the number of feeds sky-rocket and widgets offered all new possibilities.

So where are we now? Can RSS and email peacefully co-exist? Or is RSS becoming an email killer after-all?

Starting from the great comparison table between email and RSS Alex Barnett put together back in 2004, I created a new, up-to-date, version showing both mediums’ strengths and weaknesses from a marketeer’s and customer’s point of view, and added some remarks:

Remarks

(1) Email has proven a to be great tool for creating a personalized, 1-to-1 feel in mass communication, going from simple personalized salutation to Amazon-like delivery of personalized content. RSS on the other hand is currently mostly used for non-personalized content delivery. With RSS, you can choose the feeds you want to subscribe too, but that’s as far as it goes. The upside for the consumer is that because content isn’t personalized, and because RSS doesn’t require you to give any personal information to subscribe (as opposed to the email address for email marketing), the consumer can see the content without giving away any sensitive data. As soon as the content has to be personalized, the consumer would have to reveal himself. Strangely enough, this is an option that is almost never considered: You could offer the RSS feed subscriber the option to receive personalized content via RSS if he makes himself known. In that case the subscriber would receive a personal RSS feed URL with personalized content, and would he be able to get the best of both worlds.

(2) The viral effect of email has enormous potential. It is very easy for a recipient to add some comments and forward the email. The viral effect of RSS on the other hand was long time a problem. Web 2.0 did however solve this by embracing RSS as a means of content sharing between different social networks like digg.com or del.icio.us. People can comment on stories they received via RSS, add them to their online bookmarks which in their turn can be shared with other people and so on. Feedburner (Google-owned) is one of the big players in this field. It allows you to easily offer your feeds in RSS format and to have your stories submitted to a number of social networking sites. Interesting is that it also allows you to receive new content via email (e.g. the email subscribe link on the right)!

(3) Email marketeers can rely on a set of tools to track the behavior of the email recipients. Click-through, opened and bounce ratios, opt-ins and opt-outs, ROI, … they can all be measured because the consumer has had to make himself known in order to receive the content: he had to give his email address. And this allows the email sender to track all actions back to you, the recipient. Because with RSS the consumer doesn’t have to give any personal information, statistics are less detailed. Unless of course you could convince the consumer to subscribe to a personalized feed (see (1))…

(4) This is one of the major draw-backs of RSS content gathering. Email is much easier to search and archive. Most RSS readers only allow archiving of entire feeds, and for example Google (how strange sounds this?) doesn’t offer a search functionality to search all your subscriptions in its RSS reader (although there is a workaround available).

(5) This is however changing rapidly.

Conclusion

What was true in 2004 looks to be truer still. RSS and email have become two full-blown communication channels that can (and must) exist next to each other. It’s up to the marketeers to adapt to this reality and figure out how they can integrate both channels in their marketing mix.

Personally, I have a couple of rules I follow when I decide whether or not to keep an email newsletter subscription:

  • If the newsletter content and RSS feed content are identical, I go for the RSS feed
  • If the newsletter is highly personalized (and I don’t mean just the salutation), I keep my newsletter subscription. If one day however the personalized version of the newsletter would be available through RSS, I might still make the switch.
  • If the content of the newsletter is highly time-sensitive, I keep the newsletter subscription. RSS feeds have a lower priority than my email inbox.
  • If the email newsletter offers extras compared to the RSS feed, I keep the newsletter subscription.
  • If the email newsletter offers a clever aggregation of website content, I sometimes keep the newsletter subscription.
  • If the email newsletter offers content that is just sporadically interesting and there is no RSS feed, I unsubscribe. I would still rather subscribe to a RSS feed that delivers only once in while an interesting post between a bunch of uninteresting stuff, than to a newsletter offering the same content.

I guess it once again comes down to delivering the right content through the right channel. And RSS turned out to be a channel indeed.

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what’s on a web’s mind?

Posted by the markITeer on July 10, 2007

In one of the first posts on this blog, I tried to unravel the web 2.0. Today I’d like to take this idea a couple of steps further by presenting you a mindmap of web 2.0 related terms, technologies and examples in an attempt to guide you through the maze that is web 2.0.

Don’t think of this as a complete, finished, never-to-be-changed sort of thing. This is merely a first draft which I’m hoping to improve and extend using your input.

So please feel free to comment by using the form below!

Ready to dive in? Then hold your breath and jump.

A little legend to get you started :

P.S. The map was created using a nice online tool called Mindomo. It’s a great example of a Rich Internet Application (R.I.A.) build using Flex (the programmer’s equivalent of Flash).

Posted in Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

The Future of Communications – A Manifesto for Integrating Social Media into Marketing

Posted by the markITeer on June 26, 2007

Social media is everywhere. Websites like MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and numerous blogging platforms attract millions of visitors from all over the world. Visitors that are not just passing by to see what’s going on, but are willing to participate in discussions, upload content and make themselves heard. Web 2.0 has given a clear voice to the people. People who might well be your customers. Or your customers-to-be. That’s why it’s important for companies and marketers to connect to social media and lay out an integrated communications strategy not based on the old monologue, but on dialog.

Brian Solis of FutureWorks PR put together a manifesto for integrating social media into marketing. He emphasizes the importance of not only diving in, but -more important- of making the mental shift. Find your audience, find the influencers, listen to them, get involved.

A few quotes:

“It’s an understanding that social media is about sociology and less about technology. It’s a mashup of new and traditional media that spans across advertising, PR, customer service, marcom, sales, and community relations.”

“The key point here is that Social Media has yet to reveal its true impact. While many are defining its future, the majority of people around the world have yet to embrace it and participate. This means that it’s only going to become more pervasive and as such, become a critical factor in the success or failure of any business.”

“Listening is marketing.
Participation is marketing.
Media is marketing.
Conversations are marketing.
Comments are marketing.”

“Everything we’re integrating into the marketing mix is aimed at sparking and cultivating not only conversations, but relationships. It’s humanizing companies and their products and services so that they matter to people.”

“In order to reach people, we have to figure out who they are and where they go for information. In the process, you’ll quickly discover that there is no magic bullet for reaching everyone – all at once”

“Remember, the future of communications introduces sociology into the marketing strategy. The technology is just that, technology. The tools will change. The networks will evolve. Mediums for distributing content will grow.”

“By listening, reading, and participating, corporate marketing will be smarter and more approachable than ever before. This is how we humanize brands, create loyalty, and earn customer’s business.”

You can read the full manifesto here and here.

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Putting your presentations online

Posted by the markITeer on June 18, 2007

Marketers create presentations. Lots of presentations. Presentations for clients, presentations for management, presentations to show a new product or to launch an idea, presentations to bundle information or presentations to convince the inconvincible. Some of these presentations are top secret, classified. But a whole lot of them are just waiting for a larger audience, waiting to bring you eternal fame and glory.

And that’s where Web 2.0 comes in: the ‘social web’ presents you with the audience whereas SaaS (‘Software as a Service’) offers you a whole bunch of online tools to rocket your presentations into cyberspace.

SlideShare, SlideBurner, AUTHORstream… there’s a whole lot of websites out there offering you the possibility to upload your presentation and show it to a community. The idea is simple: you register, you upload a presentation, the presentation is converted into a Flash file, some previous and next buttons are added and the whole thing is put on their website for everybody to view and comment on. And just like with eg YouTube, your converted presentation can also be embeded into websites and blogs using some simple code.

Having your slides available on the web this way is very nice. But something really important will still be missing: you. Slides are often just a framework for your presentation and the real convincing is in how you bring the message. That’s why Zentation came up with the brilliant idea of letting you synchronize your Powerpoint presentation with video material posted to Google video. After logging in, you upload your presentation and enter the URL of your video. You can then synchronize both by simply clicking a button next to the slide when the video reaches the point that the slide has to appear. And they too offer code so you can embed the result into your web page or blog. Check out Guy Kawasaki’s blog for an example (and a good presentation).

Here’s a small comparison table of some of the players:

As for the technical side, there are some issues with the conversion to Flash you have to take into account:

  • animations might (and mostly will) not work
  • slide transitions might (and mostly will) not work
  • exotic fonts might not be recognized
  • the appearance of bulleted lists might be altered

For those looking for something more: check out Adobe Connect, WildPresenter PRO or Articulate. These tools enable you to create fully-fletched online presentations with all the bells and whistles you want. it’s another league… with other rules regarding costs and time-to-deploy.

To round up, here’s a funny video by stand-up comedian Don McMillan on creating Powerpoints:

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