Oprah Winfrey: Podcaster

Not that Oprah needs OUR help in promoting what she’s up to, but it did not escape our notice that her podcast has hit number one on the iTunes charts. For those of you who didn’t know (and I count myself among them), here’s the skinny.

At the beginning of March, The Oprah Book Club began a 10-week online class with author Eckhart Tolle. If you miss it on Mondays, they’re available for download in iTunes the next day.

So since this is a blog about online media, let’s check the score:

Online class with over 500,000 viewers* logged in the first week- Check.
Effective use of Skype video- Check.
Effective use of the "long tail" via podcast- Check.

This whole effort has been somewhat under the radar. Or, as under the radar as Oprah Winfrey can be, given her place on the media scene. But she, more than almost anyone else I can think of, has the ability to bring podcasting into the mainstream of understanding and usage. And who knows? I’ll bet you the content ain’t all bad either…

While we’re on the topic of inspiration- this video is one of the more inspiring things I have seen in quite some time. I think it may be due in equal parts to the message as well as the messenger. Brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor suffered a stroke about 7 years ago. She took note of everything that was happening to her as it was occurring. I don’t want to give anything away, but the last 2 minutes or so are both cathartic and revelatory. If you have some free time over the weekend, it’s worth a watch. (If it won’t play here on our page, here is the link back to the TED Talks website.)

*Breaking the previous record of 240,000 simultaneous download streams.

Elvis lives…no, really.

I recently came across an incredibly well done 10-part podcast called “Elvis Costello- The First Ten Years.” No secret as to the subject matter, right? You get to hear from Elvis as he talks about the makings of his first albums, from 1977’s  “My Aim is True” all they way up to his 1986 release  “King of America.” Great anecdotes about the production process, Nick Lowe, The Attractions, coming to America, etc. Admittedly, my high school and college years were dominated by The Police, The Pretenders, Joe Jackson and Elvis Costello, so this hit me a bit harder than it might have hit someone who didn’t worship these guys in my teens. But that is completely the point.

I’ll save the hagiographies for some other post and keep this one focused on my analysis of the excellent use of new media to reconnect with old audiences, find new ones and drive sales for some new (old) product.

In addition to providing first hand insights into a seminal and transformative era in rock music in the 70s from bands like Crosby, Stills and Nash to New Wave pioneers like Elvis, the podcast is beautifully produced offering snippets of referenced songs that are just long enough to make you want to run back to your CDs (or vinyl in my case) and listen to them again.

The whole thrust of the series is to reintroduce Elvis to older fans like me and to let us know that a bunch of those albums are being reissued as deluxe editions or remastered versions. He is also on tour and he has a new website. My only criticism is that there is no place to channel the enthusiasm of die hards like me. If you go to elviscostello.com, there is no blog or place to talk back, build a community or leave comments. The website was created by his label (Verve), but that is no excuse for letting the most important component of this campaign slip by.

Nevertheless, the recently released part 11 of the 10-part series (?) features wonderful analysis and personal reflections from author Bill Flanagan in time for  the March 4 release of the Deluxe Edition of “This Year’s Model.”

Missed opportunity to community build- FAIL. All in all, however, I would give them an A- for this effort. Intelligent, well-produced content. Great sales strategy. Enhanced content that adds value to the consumer.

It’s great to be back in high school again. Thanks, Declan.

A roadmap for success

Frenchman Loic LeMeur has been referred to most often as a "serial entrepreneur." While that sounds vaguely sinister or ADD, he does have quite a track record.

I know I am somewhat late to the party in coming across these rules of the game, but in these times of economic uncertainty, they seemed especially apt. These are his 10 Rules for Startup Success:

1- Don’t wait for a revolutionary idea. It will never happen. Just focus on a simple, exciting, empty space and execute as fast as possible.

2- Share your idea. The more you share, the more you get advice and the more you learn. Meet and talk to your competitors. (This was my favorite rule. On its face, it seems counter intuitve but it really isn’t.)

3- Build a community. Use blogging and social software to make sure people hear about you.

4- Listen to your community. Answer questions and build your product with their feedback.

5- Gather a great team. Select those with very different skills from you. Look for people who are better than you.

6- Be the first to recognize a problem. Everyone makes mistakes. Address the issue in public, learn about and correct it.

7- Don’t spend time on market research. Launch test versions as early as possible. Keep improving the product in the open.

8- Don’t obsess over spreadsheet business plans. They are not going to turn out as you predict anyway.

9- Don’t plan a big marketing effort. It’s much more important and powerful that your community loves the product.

10- Don’t focus on getting rich. Focus on your users. Money is a consequence of success, not a goal.

How change happens

I recently read someone characterize their shift to digital as a series of "mundane circumstances." It began with them falling behind on reading the NY Times, either due to a lack of free time or because someone would steal it from the lobby downstairs. They still read the Times- they just went to their website to do it. Then it began happening with the photography magazines she subscribed to and later the cooking ones. Recipe clipping was just as easy, if not easier, using del.icio.us rather than looking for scissors and having your kitchen fill up with bits of paper.

The point is, this is how massive changes take place- via a series of mundane circumstances.

We recently opined that the writers’ strike might lead people to make the internet a permanent part of their entertainment mix and that when the strike concluded (which it seems to have done, thank goodness) those who migrated away might not necessarily return. Well, looky here…nearly 30% of respondents to a recent poll said that they were spending more than two hours a day online since the strike began. Of interest to online marketers: 41% said their online spending had increased during this period. Once you lose someone, it’s much harder to get them back.

The slow drip drip drip of change continues unabated. Mundane circumstances, indeed.

More thoughts on control

We all like to think that we know what’s in store for us. That somehow we have a hand in the short and long range outcomes of our lives. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t.

We posted recently about how giving up control can help you gain control. More on that in a great anecdote from Jeff Jarvis who publishes the Buzz Machine blog. He relates a Paulo Coelho story about how the author has posted one of his own copyrighted books online and has surpassed 100 million downloads. He welcomes the "pirates" who spread his book around and even finds that his sales have increased.

But the best part for him is that before the internet, 100 million readers were an abstraction. Now he can interact with them (well, probably not ALL of them) through the social media tools that he employs in his daily life.

The cognitive disconnect of selling more books by giving away books is going to take a very long time for people to come to terms with.

Two interesting trends for 2008

One of these days "new media" will stop being new. Maybe that day is inching closer.

At the recently concluded Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Tivo announced that it was making its popular Season Pass functionality available for web video by simply subscribing to your favorite stuff via RSS. This immediately elevates internet content, making it easily available as part of the customized and personalized TV viewing experience that Tivo provides. This was a long time coming, and further validates the place that internet content occupies in consumers’ overall entertainment mix.

The second trend that we read about with great interest came from eMarketer.com and it suggests that for advertisers in this fragmented internet world where the old pattern of interruption messaging is dying out, they must make their ads into content. Once again, hitting on the topic of engagement (that we talked about here and here), CEO Geoff Ramsey averred,

"The new ad model is about creating great content and finding clever ways to embed it in the fabric of communities and content platforms where consumers are hanging out and actively participating."

Indeed, when was the last time you forwarded a banner ad to someone?


Challenges don’t build character, they reveal it

One of the major challenges we encountered in 2007 as we tried to evangelize the gospel of New Media was a combination of entrenched ways of thinking and maybe a dollop of fear of the unknown. We are, of course, undeterred. Our work is made easier by the unending raft of coverage of new media by the traditional media.

As we begin the New Year, this quote seemed particularly well-focused:

    It must be considered that there is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle, than to initiate a new order of things. For the reformer has enemies in all those who profit by the old order, and only lukewarm defenders in all those who would profit by the new order, this lukewarmness arriving partly from fear of their adversaries, who have the laws in their favor; and partly from the incredulity of mankind, who do not truly believe in anything new until they have had the actual experience of it. Thus it arises that on every opportunity for attacking the reformer, the opponents do so with the zeal of partisans, the others only defend him halfheartedly, so that between them he runs great danger."

The Prince, published 1513                                                                                 
Niccolo Machiavelli (b.1469-d.1527)

How to leverage online video for your product or service

Great piece in the Wall Street Journal online edition this week about the clever ways different individuals and businesses are using online video to drive traffic and drive sales.

One of the more interesting (although potentially Lonelygirl-ish) anecdotes was about a Chicago based artist who posts regular videos that feature her as she paints, but also as she offers her opinions and ruminations on a host of topics. She’s gotten millions of hits and, evidently, sold lots of her work this way.

The article goes on to mention several other groups and businesses that are creating compelling (usually funny) video content in order to move product. Easier and cheaper than a 30-second spot and if you can hit that viral sweet spot, the public can take over your marketing for you.

The article is a great primer and also has links to click through to watch the campaigns themselves.

Q: Who watches online video? A: Everyone!

According to a new study from Frank Magid & Associates, almost half the US population watched one online video per month. These viewers are an average age of 36 and pretty much split evenly down the middle male/female.

Funny videos lead the way, including forwarded or recommended videos, followed by news. Video search continues to improve and many newer sites like Metacafe, Brightcove, Revver and Veoh are more like TV channels and not just a massive dumping ground for video content.

It remains unclear whether or not individual video sites will clean up their acts, but they might do well to heed another key finding from this same study: the ability to search efficiently within a video site was the number one factor influencing repeat visits.

The importance of online video in your marketing plan

Search is improving everyday. Time was when video search lagged far behind keywords, but that time has past. As we have discussed before, search has overtaken communication as the main reason people use the internet. Powerful moving images will always trump words on a page when you are trying to engage and communicate with someone. That is how we all learn from the time we’re born: visual imagery, spoken word, music and visual text.

We recently discovered a great service called Tube Mogul that with the click of one button lets you upload your video content across 12 different sites and get powerful analytics. They recently posted on their company blog an example of a small business, in this case a California chiropractor, that posted a very simple video showing him adjusting a patient’s spine that generated about 10,000 organic (in other words, not paid) views and new customers.

Produce quality content, use compelling and accurate keywords so that your video gets found and promote, promote, promote.

In our own case, we can testify that by following several simple steps with the production, distribution and promotion of our own online series Gleicy Santos-Model Behavior, our search results have gone through the roof and continue to generate traffic both to our own blog as well as the myriad sites where the video is currently playing.

Online video can no longer be viewed as something your company ought to try "one of these days." As someone so aptly put it on that same TubeMogul blog post: "…when was the last time that a paid search listing or a banner ad raised your blood pressure or induced you to forward something to a friend? Get the point?"

Well, do you?