Digital Marketing

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Webinar Replay - Content: The New Marketing Equation

If you missed Jeremiah and I presenting our webinar Content: Thee New Marketing Equation, based on our recently published research report, you can watch it here or on SlideShare. Please share the video, as it’s freely available as open research.

How to Rebalance for Content as Part of the New Marketing Equation with Rebecca Lieb and Jeremiah Owyang

View more videos from Altimeter Group Network on SlideShare

For those of you who were waiting for this post (several of you were kind enough to ask when it would appear), thanks for your patience. Our own technology was particularly disruptive the day of the actual webinar – the laptop recording the presentation went poof, then faded to black. The video above is, therefore, Altimeter Group’s first video “reenactment,” which is why the Q&A is missing at the end.

Cross-posted from the Altimeter Group blog

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Whose Job is Content?

Content marketing has been embraced by businesses large and small. They know there’s far less of a need to buy media when you can create it yourself. They’re aware that if you have a website, a blog, a YouTube channel, a Twitter presence, a Facebook page, or a host of other online offerings, then you’re as much (if not more) a publisher than you are an advertiser.

But strategizing, creating, assessing, disseminating, evaluating, and monetizing content doesn’t just happen by itself. Someone’s got to actually do it.

How do organizations determine who that someone is? There are certainly plenty of possible roles and responsibilities that can oversee, or play a role in, content marketing. Here are just a few of the most obvious examples:

  • Chief content officer or VP of content
  • Chief marketing officer
  • Everyone (or very nearly everyone)
  • Content or editorial director
  • Conversation or community director
  • Blogger
  • Social media guru
  • Copywriter
  • Copy editor
  • Outside consultant(s)
  • PR professional

Companies that really buy in to content marketing are increasingly taking the “everyone” approach. Or at least, they’re hiring a whole lot of people to be responsible for creating digital content because its worth has been solidly demonstrated.

Zappos is one such organization. It started testing video product demonstrations in late 2008. A year later it was producing 60-100 videos per day, with a goal of 50,000 by the end of this year. To that end, the company is upping its full time video production staff of 40, not to mention the scores of employees who appear in the vast majority of the demonstration spots.

Zappos’ content team senior manager Rico Nasol has said that the company sees conversion increase up to 30 percent on products that are accompanied by video.

Think this commitment to content is relevant only to B2C companies? Think again. Recently I spoke with Rick Short, who heads marketing for Indium. His team publishes a staggering 73 blogs on the topic, which in turn is translated into seven languages.

Seventy-three blogs on soldering supplies?

“A lot of people have same reaction you have,” Rick assured me. “They’re surprised a topic like soldering would be worthy of this kind of social media attention. Bottom line is that’s all I do. That’s my job. This isn’t arcane and weird. I’m surrounded by 600 colleagues who are really into it. We’ve dedicated our careers to it. These topics that we in our industry are consumed with are very rich, complex, and rewarding. The team is bona fide, qualified engineers. What a great marketing tool! Why would I hire anyone to rep me when the ‘me’ is better than anything out there?”

Short then said, “If I’d put someone between me and my readers it would read like another press release. We went right to authentic and real. We’ve got to get rid of the Mad Men, take them out of the equation, and go to the market one engineer to another. These guys are smart. They’re PhDs. We can’t think we’re impressing them in this old school, go-to-market style. I want you to be the one who speaks, who takes the picture, whose work is expressed in your own voice. They started seeing that I was sincere, and the customers sincerely appreciate it.”

How did Short arrive at 73 blogs? That’s the number of keywords he identified that the company’s clients searched on when looking for Indium’s products and services.

Clearly, when the job is creating lots of content, it helps to have lots of contributors. Yet putting someone at the helm of those initiatives is critical — as critical as putting an editor-in-chief in charge of everything published by a newspaper or magazine. Consistency, style, voice, adherence to mission, editorial judgment, and ethics are just a part of the role.

Joe Chernov, VP of content marketing at Eloqua, defines his responsibilities as being able to “identify content that will be share-worthy to the company’s audience, and to figure out how to procure that.”

Chernov challenges companies to ask themselves if they have “resources in-house, the skill set to collaborate with demand team, [and the ability] to distribute content through channels that make the most sense.”

“The aperture is set kind of wide regarding what content marketing is,” Chernov said. “In some ways, I wonder if companies that have a blog could check that ‘content marketing blog’ box and move on. They’ll never do the real content marketing labor, which isn’t just tweeting out headlines that are related to your industry, but instead creating substantive, share-worthy content that gets people to talk about you and spend time on their website and gets them to engage in the things you want them to engage in.”

OK, but Eloqua is a B2B technology company, not an e-commerce player like Zappos. So how does Chernov measure the impact the content he’s creating and overseeing has on the bottom line? He admits it’s not a clear equation, but counters with a question: “How many shipwrecks did a lighthouse prevent?”

In order to assess the skill sets required in a chief content officer, Joe Pullizzi recently published a highly detailed job description template. Take a look, and adapt it to your organization’s content marketing needs.

Note: This post was adapted from a chapter in my book, Content Marketing, as well as a column in iMediaConnection.

Image: http://best-conductor.conductorss.com

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Rebecca Lieb's picture

Digital Advertising: One-Stop Shopping or á la Carte Services?

Sometimes, timing can be really fortuitous. Almost immediately upon returning from Adobe’s annual marketing summit, where I spent a week immersed in the world of advertising technology stacks, Advertising Age called and asked me to contribute a column on precisely that topic. Here’s the piece they published today on the advantages, and disadvantages, of all-in-one ad technology solutions:

Your Marketing Machine: What You Need to Know About Ad Tech ‘Stacks’

When you go shopping for groceries, do you prefer an array of local specialty stores (the butcher, the baker, the greengrocer and the fishmonger)? Or would you rather visit a full-service market for one-stop shopping? If so, are we talking a megastore such as Costco or Walmart, or something more focused, like your basic A&P?

Advertisers shopping for digital-marketing solutions face the same kind of choice. They can shop literally hundreds of individual specialty vendors, or they can go big — to companies that offer a variety of marketing services. Whatever you call these latter players — some use “stacks,” others refer to them as an operating system or a “digital-marketing provider.” Regardless of the name, more and more of these large, software-based providers are emerging.

Who are the players in this space? Some you know: IBM, Adobe, Google, AppNexus. Others are newer on the scene: Operative, IgnitionOne and MediaOcean. None of them do exactly the same thing, but in the broadest possible terms, stacks aim to consolidate the many steps of ad buying, selling, optimization, reporting, measurement, inventory management and billing into one big, integrated software suite. Depending on the package you choose, retargeting, social media, search, even offline media can become part of the service offering.

Read the rest of the column here.

Image credit: James Steinberg for Advertising Age

Rebecca Lieb's picture

How to Influence the Influencers

How do you influence the digital influencers? What is influence, anyway? And if you can rally influencers to your side, cause, brand or point of view, what’s the best way to approach the task? What can realistically be achieved? And how do you measure results.

There’s no dearth of talk about online influence, but until now there’s been precious little actionable advice. With the publication of my colleague Brian Solis‘ new research report, “The Rise of Digital Influence,” (it’s subtitled “A ‘how-to’ guide for businesses to spark desirable effects and outcomes through social media influence), marketers are provided with frameworks and action plans to get both strategic and tactical in their approach to effectively harnessing the elusive, but oh, so desirable impact a community of influencers. Brian helpfully defines digital influences as, “the ability to cause effect, change behavior, and drive measurable outcomes online.”

A feature of this research of particular interest is a long, hard look at the tools that purportedly measure influence, e.g. Klout, Kred, and PeerIndex. Based on game mechanics (and people all to ready to game the system), I’ve looked on these tools with suspicion, particularly after Klout listed me as influential on the topic of the Calgary Flames (maybe you’re aware they’re a hockey team, but I had to google it). Do these new services that capture social media scores equate to influence? No, says Brian – but that doesn’t mean they’re not useful. “The measure here…is not influence or the capacity to influence, but instead visibility with the possibility of causing effect.”

The report contains an Influence Framework as well as an Influence Action Plan to help brands and their agencies identify connected consumers and to define and measure digital influence initiatives via an included step-by-step process. Vendors in the influence metrics space are also compared, feature-by-feature, in a helpful grid.

“The Rise of Digital Influence” is a watershed in digital influence. It’s going to stop airy-fairy conversation about “influencing influencers” dead in its tracks and instead supplant vague and aspirational jargon-laced talk with substantive, strategic processes.

And, like all Altimeter Group research, the report is available to read and to share under Creative Commons. Thanks for passing it along if you find it helpful.

Cartoon credit: NewYorkComputerHelp.com

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Content Metrics 101

In digital channels, everything can be measured, and content marketing initiatives are no exception to that rule. Without measurement, there’s no way of knowing what’s working and what isn’t. You won’t have any information upon which you can refine or improve results, or jettison the stuff that’s less effective.

In short, you should never begin content marketing until you have an ongoing plan for measurement and analysis. Not only will it continually inform endeavors as they move forward, it also justifies the time, energy, resources, and budget required to get those endeavors underway to the people in the corner office.

Establish a measurement plan
The first step is determining what will be measured. Yet when you can measure practically everything, narrowing that list down to the essentials is a daunting but necessary task. Skip it and you put yourself at high risk for what web analytics pros call “analysis paralysis.” Confronted with mountains of web analytics data throws even the most stalwart people into deer-in-headlights mode.

So the first step in setting up a plan for measurement is establishing key performance indicators (KPIs), perhaps five or so. These are the core goals that are foundational to success. KPIs vary depending on goals. Examples might be newsletter sign-ups, white paper downloads, leads from a contact form, increased site traffic, higher search rankings, inbound phone calls, increased online orders, higher brand (or product) awareness, more inbound links, and keyword value. It’s your call, so long as KPIs are relevant to business and marketing goals and are measurable.

Let’s examine some of the top content marketing KPIs.

Web traffic and engagement
We’ve evolved well beyond the early internet era when “clicks” or “hits” were the ne plus ultra of site owner goals. It’s not just traffic that counts, it’s what the traffic does that matters — users exhibiting desired behaviors, such as downloading, sharing, commenting, signing up for a newsletter, or calling a call center. Use an analytics package to track behaviors (Goals in Google Analytics) helps to answer these questions.

Where the traffic goes is equally important to when they consume a piece of content. Do they stick with it to the end or bail off the page after only a few seconds? Are they visiting the pages or site sections you want them to?

Others use website analysis to assess that very elusive (but oh-so-desirable) goal of user engagement. To measure engagement, you have to define it (which no one really has). That’s not stopping you from developing a working definition of your own. Perhaps it’s someone who viewed three or more pages, or spent three or more minutes on the site, or a visitor who returned multiple times. Traffic is a metric that can also be applied to social media (e.g., “likes” on Facebook).

Search keywords are also a value that can be very effectively tied to traffic. What keywords are visitors using to find your content? What are the highest-converting keywords (e.g., the ones that lead visitors where you want them to go, or that make them stick around longer and consume more)? You ought to create more content for them! Keywords are worthwhile for almost any content marketer to measure.

Bottom line? Slice traffic measurement any way you want to, just so long as what you measure is in consistent, pre-defined units.

Sales
A survey conducted in 2010 by Bazaarvoice and The CMO Club shows CMOs aspire to move beyond engagement (number of fans, site traffic, etc.) to tie social media more closely into hard business metrics such as revenue and conversion.

Sometimes it’s easy to tie content directly into sales. Yet very often, no matter how effective the content, there are still secondary and often tertiary steps in the sales cycle (most often, long- or short-term cycles of lead generation and consideration).

This is where it’s important to build attribution methods into content marketing initiatives to get credit where it’s due. Online registration forms are one method (e.g., prior to downloading a white paper). Other companies assign discrete 800 numbers to different pieces of content to learn what generates calls. In some cases, definitively demonstrating content marketing shortens a sales cycle and can be an effective proof of its worth.

Qualitative customer feedback
Friends, fans, “likes,” comments, reviews, survey responses — everyone likes to be liked, and being liked does impart value. The question, of course, is how much value? A “like” on Facebook from a member with a closed profile or with only a dozen friends in their network is clearly not worth that same “like” from a member with an open profile — and thousands of friends who see that message.

Feedback serves other purposes than the network effect. Comments on content, product reviews, and tweets can lead to improvements and refinements in products, customer service, and research and development. Recommendations and becoming a fan can aid in branding and awareness, or in the perception of your company or its executives as credible thought leaders. Positive Twitter mentions serve much the same purpose.

Once again, this may be an area essential to your own KPIs, but it requires analysis and refinement before deployment.

Sales lead quality
Content-oriented marketing initiatives crafted to engage and educate a target audience are the most effective at driving “high value leads most likely to convert to sales” (Lenskold Group/emedia Lead Generation Marketing ROI study, 2010).

Yet to implement sales lead quality as a metric, you must first define a “quality lead.” Perhaps it’s by job title (e.g., parsing out VP and above titles from the average site visitor). Bear in mind, however, this depends on the type of offering and sales cycle. It’s hard to define a quality lead for toothpaste because everyone buys it. In large enterprises, a VP may not be as important a qualifier as someone from procurement. Alternately, a high quality lead may be someone who watched an online demo and downloaded a white paper prior to getting in touch. (My recently published research report on content marketing, available as a free download, contains a full case study of this example.)

By all means, measure sales lead quality. First, ensure you can define and identify it!

Search (and social media) ranking (and visibility)
Increased search awareness is often the primary goal of content marketing. It’s not just getting the company or product name to rank high in organic search results; it’s also ranking for the relevant keywords and phrases searchers use to find what you’re offering — at all stages of the sales and lead development cycle. Web analytics help gauge this. So do services such as Alexa.com and Compete.com, which benchmark search terms for you as well as competitors.

Boosting SEO ranking is more than mere visibility, however. Judiciously optimizing for the right keywords helps connect with the right visitors who are most likely to engage with content, and ultimately convert.

Similarly, social media visibility boosts search rankings and can also increase awareness, buzz, branding, and other key metrics around a brand, product, or service.

Conclusion
An attractive aspect of content marketing is that it’s a highly creative, right-brain discipline. Content marketers tell stories, use images, produce videos, and are wordsmiths. Yet all that creativity must be governed by discipline, measurement, and a strong degree of precision. Choosing what metrics matter, why, and how to actually measure them is just as critical as the creative element of content marketing.

Image: Medicalengineer.co.uk

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Content Marketing. Content Strategy. What's the Difference?

So content is the new black (and some 270,000 exact-match results for that phrase on Google suggest it's at least a deep, deep indigo). Inevitably, that's meant an escalated level of chatter, talk, and pontificating about content's role in the digital mix.

As more and more marketers consider how content can work for them in the digital mix, a certain degree of confusion is beginning to obfuscate discussions and debates. Two very distinct disciplines, content strategy and content marketing, are beginning to blur. And if they're not blurring, too many people are too carelessly using the terms interchangeably.

As with many marketing-related terms, it's tough to nail down precise, etched-in-stone definitions for either term. But it's nonetheless clear that content marketing and content strategy are not interchangeable concepts, nor do they refer to the same thing. There is, as we'll soon see, a huge degree of interdependence.

Let's throw some existing definitions out there for considerations, shall we?

Content strategy

  • Content strategy has been described as "the practice of planning for content creation, delivery, and governance" and "a repeatable system that defines the entire editorial content development process for a website development project." And also "achieving business goals by maximizing the impact of content." (Wikipedia)
  • "Using 'words and data to create unambiguous content that supports meaningful, interactive experiences.'" (Rachel Lovinger, "Content Strategy: The Philosophy of Data")
  • "Content strategy plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content... The content strategist must work to define not only which content will be published, but why we're publishing it in the first place. Otherwise, content strategy isn't strategy at all: it's just a glorified production line for content nobody really needs or wants. Content strategy is also -- surprise -- a key deliverable for which the content strategist is responsible. Its development is necessarily preceded by a detailed audit and analysis of existing content." -- Kristina Halvorson

Content marketing

  • "Content marketing is an umbrella term encompassing all marketing formats that involve the creation or sharing of content for the purpose of engaging current and potential consumer bases. Content marketing subscribes to the notion that delivering high-quality, relevant, and valuable information to prospects and customers drives profitable consumer action. Content marketing has benefits in terms of retaining reader attention and improving brand loyalty." (Wikipedia)
  • "Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience -- with the objective of driving profitable customer action." -- Joe Pulizzi

Content strategy is what makes content marketing effective. I like Ahava Leibtag's take on the issue. She says content strategies are about repeatable frameworks, and content marketing is about building relationships. Marketers, she says, don't necessarily create content strategies, but rather implement them.

Evolution, on both sides

Back in the day, content strategy was primarily relegated to the user experience and website development processes. Small wonder. In the Web 1.0 era, your own site was pretty much the only thing online you could control or influence, content wise. Content strategy has blown beyond the walled garden and expanded to embrace auditing, analyzing, creating, disseminating, and governing content in a myriad of channels, ranging from more dynamic websites to the entire scope of Web 2.0 options out there in the wild (and often, how those same rules and processes should be applied to offline channels, as well).

Content strategy underpins content marketing. Without examining the competitive landscape, current assets, gaps, resources, the market, and plenty of other aspects, content marketing barely has a leg to stand on. Without a strategy, content marketing turns into one of those classic, eye-rolling imperatives all too familiar to digital marketers: "We need a Facebook page!" or "We ought to be blogging!" or "How come we're not on Twitter?"

The obvious answer, of course, is because we don't have a strategy. Content marketing is all very well and good, but the reason to do it isn't because all the cool kids are doing it. Without a strategic foundation, a structure, an analysis of resources and needs, and a system in place to measure results, all you're doing is Facebooking. Or blogging. Or tweeting.

More of both
Interruption-based marketing will never go away, but it's receding -- quickly. Research I published yesterday, for which we interviewed over 56 marketing leaders, found literally all of them are increasing their investment in content marketing and content strategy alike. Moreover, they're investing in increasing more complex and technologically difficult content channels, which makes a strategic framework all the more essential.

If not today, then soon -- very soon -- your marketing spend will shift away from advertising and direct response campaigns and into content initiatives that strengthen ties and deepen relationships with customers and prospects.

The best way to prepare is to start developing content marketing initiatives. And the only way to do that is to first do the research and the homework by developing a solid content strategy framework around these content marketing efforts.

This post was adapted from a column that originally appeared on iMedia Connection

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Rebalancing for Content - The New Marketing Equation

There's been a rash of news stories recently with headlines so misleading it's hard to believe they passed editorial muster. Yet a quick search of Google News reveals no less than five articles with ledes very much like this one: "P&G to cut 1600 staff after CEO discovers digital media is free".

Any serious marketer knows "free" is nonsense. As with SEO, content marketing shakes marketers loose from the expense of the media buy. But budgets, staffing, skill sets, education, agency relationships, investments in technology and shifting strategy to align content with other marketing initiatives (yes, even advertising) all require substantial investment, and require marketers to rebalance both strategies and tactics.

That's what Content: The New Marketing Equation examines. Following on the heels of my book on content marketing, which looks at why content marketing matters, this research report examines how organizations are adapting to the challenges it presents: the need to think like a publisher rather than an advertiser; moving from episodic campaigns to sustained content initiatives; and creating a genuine culture of content throughout the organization because stories don't reside in the marketing department.

The report identifies the five stages of maturity an organization can achieve as it becomes more proficient at content marketing, including a self-assessment tool to score your own level of content proficiency. We also look at the content channels marketers are using now, and those they say they will in the future. As they move away from text-based channels, e.g. articles and blogging, into more technologically sophisticated areas such as video, mobile and image-based information, it's clear "free" does not enter into the equation.

For the report, we conducted 56 interviews with subject matter experts and companies as diverse as Coca-Cola, American Express, GE, IBM, Adobe, Ford Motor Company, Wells Fargo, and Intel. Below, the questions we asked each interview subject.

  • How much of your/your clients' content creation is outsourced vs created in house? (rough % question)
  • Have you run into any problems with outsourcing content creation to agencies?  Have they been able to effectively align the content they create with your brand ?
  • Can – and should - content marketing initiatives be reconciled and integrated with advertising?
  • What are the most effective types of content you've used to promote your brand?
  • How should organizations rebalance? How should internal and external resources be aligned? How do they integrate silos for more effective messaging and spend?
  • Have you needed to hire new employees or create new teams?  How many did you have to bring on?  Which teams did you have to create?  What drove you to the conclusion that this rebalancing was necessary?
  • Where are these new resources coming from? Should they be assigned to the same agency that handles advertising? Outsourced to PR firms, digital consultancies – or staffed in-house? Can they – and should they – be integrated with or otherwise reconciled with “classic” advertising?
  • How are internal staffing needs changing? How much content creation can realistically be outsourced – does this lead to a “clueless handler” situation?
  • How are determinations being made regarding when it’s better to buy vs. create or earn media?  Who ultimately makes that decision?
  • How do you determine the optimal mix between bought vs earned media?
  • What types of agencies (advertising, PR or new breed) can walk the walk and support content marketing initiatives? (Lord knows, everyone and their brother is talking the talk.)
  • What qualities do you look for when evaluating these agencies?
  • What are the most common 'red flags' you look for when deciding to work with an agency?
  • How do you get management buy-in and measure content marketing initiatives?
  • What new types of content do you anticipate adding to your arsenal in the next year?  Three years out?
  • Which types of content do you plan to phase out or found ineffective?
  • How is your organization adapting its structure to accommodate content marketing?
  • Are there any questions that you wish we had asked you/we should have asked? And who else do you think we should speak to for this research report?

Many thanks to the numerous people who tirelessly contributed their time, knowledge and expertise to making this research happen. We'd be delighted to hear your reactions and to provide direction or guidance on your own content marketing or strategy needs.

Cross-posted from the Altimeter Group blog

Thanks to the media and bloggers discussing this research:

Rebecca Lieb's picture

What’s Facebook Going to Do with All That Money?

Many of us grew up with Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. For the past few years the refrain has been Google, Google, Google. But this past week, it’s been all Facebook, all the time.

As we wait for the biggest IPO in tech history to shake out, the question I’m being asked most by clients and especially the mainstream media is, by far, “what’s Facebook going to do with all that money?”

I’d love it if “One Buck Zuck” would send me a check. Barring that, some reasonable conjectures can be drawn.

  1. Mobile Facebook’s S-1 filing contained all the usual risk disclaimers: changing market conditions, loss of key executives, that stuff. But there was one zinger in the boilerplate – Facebook’s statement that mobile is growing fast, and that the company can’t yet monetize it. It’s not too much of a leap from there to the conclusion that multiple millions of dollars can be applied to figuring this one out. An article published the day after the filing suggests we’ll see the first Facebook mobile ads in March. Yet mobile means different things to different users, fast as the channel is growing. Smartphones, tablets…when it comes to mobile advertising, Facebook will require more than one solution. And that’s to say nothing of Facebook Credits and other commerce opportunities on mobile platforms. There’s plenty of R&D opportunity for Facebook across the mobile spectrum.
  2. Data Data is Facebook’s core product. Not only do they have more of it every day on their users, that data is getting increasingly complex. In addition to basic demographic data, there’s friends and friends-of-friends. Groups they’re a part of, companies worked at, Likes, and soon, Actions, what they’re reading, listening to, eating and buying are only the beginning. Managing this data, parsing it, and making it useful and actionable to advertisers and marketers in ways that can help increase user engagement, create newer and more premium advertising products, extract deeper meaning and clarity from stores of data so complex it very nearly qualifies as big data is challenging, to say the least. It’s also critical to Facebook’s future. Data is what Facebook sells.
  3. Platform What’s next for Facebook’s platform? It’s currently central to a vital Facebook economy. Without that platform, companies ranging from Zynga to Buddy Media would hardly exist as we know them today. Media companies from the Wall Street Journal to Spotfiy wouldn’t be able to reach and interact with Facebook users. It’s critical to keep that platform open and to continually expand upon its scope. Is social commerce the next comer? Features that link Facebook more deeply into the real world? Without the platform, Facebook doesn’t have the data, so watch for new developments in this arena, too.
  4. Acquisitions Remember when Google was just a search engine? That was years ago, before YouTube, Blogger, Analytics and a host of other features that now seem integral to the company, but once upon a time were acquisitions. Google has largely become a roll-up, and Facebook could begin to follow that path as well (maybe by buying a search engine and finally incorporating real search into its platform?). Sure, Facebook’s made some small acquisitions in the past, but these are broadly viewed as more a bid to acquire talent, not technology. With a mind-boggling bank balance, that may well change.
  5. 5). Talent Silicon Valley engineers are high in demand, and you have to find a way to bring them to your company. In Facebook’s case, it’s not longer possible to do this with the lure of pre-IPO stock options. Facebook will soon be forced to pay a premium for new talent, particularly as some of an estimated 500 to 1,000 newly minted millionaires cash out. Sure, some will buy houses and cars. But others will yearn to get back to start-up culture. They’ll start new ventures, or even finance them. Facebook will pay more for talent in the long run, but their IPO will help to spark Silicon Valley’s economy, and that can only mean good things for innovation.
Rebecca Lieb's picture

What the Decline of Print Means for Digital

Plenty of sobering news about the print industry has been released over the past week.

Yes, print is in steep decline. So is print advertising. It's important not only to ponder and understand why print is declining so precipitously now, but also to draw some lines into the future and understand how this trend might impact digital media going forward. The implications are big for advertisers and publishers alike.

The most stunning story is from eMarketer, predicting that online advertising will surpass print ad spend -- this year.

The firm estimates digital newspaper ad revenue in the U.S. grew 8.3 percent to $3.3 billion in 2011. Meanwhile, newspaper print ad revenue dropped 9.3 percent to $20.7 billion. Magazines fare only slightly better. In the U.S., print ad revenue is expected to rise a below-anemic 0.5 percent to $15.34 billion this year, up from $15.3 billion last year. Digital magazine ad spending grew 18.8 percent to $2.7 billion last year.

This is due not only to the internet, of course, but to a proliferation of mobile devices that decouple newspapers and magazines from dead-tree publishing. It's already happened with books; e-reader editions outsell both paperbacks and hardcover books on Amazon, and have for some time.

As e-reader devices conflate with tablets (think: Kindle Fire), readers are inevitably eschewing print in higher numbers still. Among tablet owners, according to a recent International Data Group survey, 72 percent of professionals worldwide say they're buying less since owning a tablet. Seventy percent buy fewer physical books, and 49 percent buy fewer DVDs. (And naturally, readers who can afford tablets are in a much more desirable demographic to most advertisers than those who cannot.)

Like Facebook adoption a few years ago, tablet adoption is in its hockey-stick phase. There were 64.7 million tablets in the world globally at the end of 2011, according to IHS iSuppli. By the end of 2015, that number will metastasize to 287.2 million.

What can be interpolated from all these trends -- a proliferation of tablets, content migrating to digital formats, advertising dollars accelerating their shift to digital from print -- is that not only print is changing. The ways that print adopts to digital formats is changing as well in ways that will fundamentally change the use and perception of the written word over the next few years. Writing has always been literally flat and two-dimensional. That's going to change -- and very soon.

Already, there's a growing market for enhanced ebooks, books created for digital formats that go beyond flat text into video, audio, games, and other multimedia and interactive features. As prices for tablets plummet (the Kindle Fire is priced at just over $100, and you can get a free Nook by signing up for a year of The New York Times), books will become more like apps. In fact, it will soon be hard to delineate where "book" stops and "digital platform" begins.

Before purists get all up in arms, don't worry. There will always be plain-text versions of the Bible, Shakespeare, "War and Peace," and other classics of literature. But going forward, publishers will look very closely at how they can enhance the titles in their catalogues, or turn books into a single component of transmedia storytelling.

Marketers, take note. These changes in the written word -- how it's conceived, presented, and experienced -- apply to you, too. For a soon to be published research report on content marketing, we recently interviewed 56 marketers, many of them at Fortune 500 companies, about the content channels they're using. They were asked what's important now, what channels are diminishing in effectiveness, and where they plan to place more marketing emphasis in both the short and long term future.

Overwhelmingly, these marketers say they're looking to video in the future (with mobile running a close second). "Visual information" is on the rise overall. What's on the decline? Articles. Columns. Digital PR. Long-form content. White papers.

Do you see a trend here? I do. The written word is in decline in digital channels. It won't ever vanish, but it is diminishing and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Publishers and marketers alike are compelled to start considering, now, how to add more visual and multimedia material to written pieces to make them stand out, to encourage opt-in and tune-in from target audiences, to deliver appropriate content to mobile platforms, and to make complex information easily and visually digestible -- in a hurry. (Infographics are becoming very, very popular with marketers, as are charticles with publishers.)

Now, this is not a call for hysteria (the written word is dead!) or over-reactive fiats (nothing we produce can contain words anymore, ever!). Both those statements are utterly false and nonsensical.

But we are seeing some very real and very fast moving trends here: a shift away from paper and on to digital devices; advertisers following those eyeballs; changing consumer expectations as they consume written content on faster, cheaper, multimedia-capable devices; and marketers' need to create and deliver messaging that's experiential, compelling, engaging, and that drives the message home in an easily digestible format.

So, that white paper your department is working on? By all means publish it as a written document. But at the same time, you'd better start concocting ways to deliver its message in interactive, digital, visual, and multimedia environments.

Or risk being the sound of the proverbial dead tree falling in a very dense forest.

Cross-posted from iMediaConnection 

image: http://www.recyclingsupply.com

Rebecca Lieb's picture

Facebook’s IPO: What Does It Mean For…?

Me, visiting Facebook HQ the week before their S-1 filing

Over 800 million active users - more than half of whom log in on any given day and interact with over 900 million "objects" (pages, groups, communities, etc.). Over 250 million photos uploaded every day, over 70 languages on the site. The stats go on and on, and any way you look at them, the numbers are huge.

How can Facebook grow bigger still? That's what we're waiting so see as the tech world - heck, the world at large - holds it breath for the biggest IPO since Google went public in 2004.

There's practically consensus that Facebook will go public in June, meaning an announcement (and a prospectus) are almost imminently forthcoming. This has naturally sparked conversation among Altimeter Group analysts (notably Charlene Li, Jeremiah Owyang, Brian Solis and myself) as we discuss and debate the implications of the Big Event, and work to come up with clear answers to the many questions we're being asked by journalists working on what, outside of the presidential election, will be one of the biggest stories of 2012.

Here are some of our answers to the many "will this happen?" and "what does it mean..?" questions we've been fielding from the media regarding Facebook's IPO:

 

 

What does it mean….to Facebook employees? There will most certainly be retention issues. Some key employees will quit. They'll travel, or buy houses and cars with newfound wealth.  It will also increase the already fierce talent war with tangible value. Facebook will attract different employees, while early innovators who value a start-up culture will go elsewhere.  Expect to see a Facebook Mafia of investors begin to emerge.  Still others will spin off and form new companies. This has big implications for future innovation. Facebook may face some short term losses, but the tech industry will see an infusion of new capital and new ideas.

What does it mean….for future IPOs? Will Twitter and [fill in the blank] go public right away? If Facebook's IPO is successful, a rising tide will likely raise all boats. But Facebook has built a real business and has a solid advertising model. It's already an enormous company. Twitter (and others) is at a very different phase in its lifecycle.

How is Facebook's IPO different from Web 1.0 and the dot-come bubble? There are real business models here, with real revenues.  

How will Facebook's IPO be influenced by recent, unspectacular IPOs, such as Groupon or Zynga? Facebook is an enormous, global company,  the proverbial 900-lb. gorilla. Facebook's IPO is more analogous to Google going public and not at all comparable to smaller players in the tech space. It is, however, important to note that many, many smaller companies are part of a much larger Facebook ecosystem. This includes ad agencies, technology firms, analytics firms, mobile players, brand marketers, social commerce providers, media companies and a myriad of players (such as Zynga, itself a Facebook partner) with a business model directly coupled with Facebook's API. When looking at Facebook's revenues, it's critical investors understand the difference between advertising revenues, that flow directly into Facebook's coffers, and marketing spend that benefits the Facebook ecosystem, but not directly into Facebook itself.

What's to stop Facebook from imploding, as MySpace did? MySpace remained static. Facebook continues to innovate, and to push audience beyond where they are comfortable, often to great success. Not so long ago members had to have a .edu address to join, remember? A hue and cry was raised when Facebook opened to everyone. In a conversation today at Facebook headquarters, spokesman Brandon McCormick said the more users complain about new features, the more data reveal they're actually using those features more. "We're a social network," he said, "we have a natural feedback mechanism. People use our product to complain about our product. People hated the Newsfeed when we launched it, now it's the core of how they use the product. If we changed everything the second they started complaining, we wouldn't have the data."

Courageous -- and based on hard data.

It's never uninteresting to keep an eye on Facebook, no more so than now. We'll continue to watch and to share our thoughts on Facebook's IPO. And we're always happy to share our observations with the media. Get in touch with us at press[at]altimetergroup.com

Cross-posted from the Altimeter Group blog.

Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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