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NEW MEDIA: A Two Way Street With Customers
In my mind, the first question that needed to be asked was, What is 'New Media'? Being of an older generation I had no idea so decided to bring a group of experts in to help define New Media, and that they did. Not only defining the topic but also explaining how to use it, make it augment your marketing efforts and what to look for in the future.
The panel of experts included Jim Grinney, Partner, 90Octane; Ivy Hastings, Account Director, FusionBox; Ken Sabey, Account Representative, HostWorks; and Jerry Sexton, President, PGM Integrated. Under the leadership of Terri Maize, Resonant Research, as moderator, for a full hour they defined New Media; extolled its virtues and pitfalls and offered ways to make it part of any marketing program.
Our thanks to Fieldwork Denver, 1700 Lincoln St., Ste. 2650, for the use of their facility to bring the group together.
Following is a condensed version of their discussion. They imparted so much information we may need to save some of it for a future edition. Enjoy and learn from the experts.
What is new media?
JERRY: When you look at new media - a lot of people look at the Web. But, I've been working with the Web since 1987. So I don't really consider some of the stuff that people want to identify as being new media is new media. I think the best definition is anything that's going into a digital transition, whether it be iPhones or whether it's broadcast television, it's all going digital. And, with that, everyone is starting to look at new applications of how they can run different content in different ways.
JIM: I think a lot of people who define new media include the computer somewhere in their definition. I think it's a lot more than that. I agree with Jerry. The digital piece is the piece that is central, in my opinion, to new media. And, the focus can be anywhere from MP3's to cell phones, to even games.
IVY: And, the content is cross-platformed, so you can receive the same kind of content on your phone, on your television, on your computer, and it's mostly permission-based. So it's an on-demand world now, people go out and get the content that they want, and it's delivered to whatever option they want to use.
KEN: To me, it's just everything they said. But, it's that targeted content. It's providing content that I'm interested in instead of sitting in front of the TV with 150 channels and 2 of the channels I care about. You can go online and, you can be a part of communities, a part of a forum. You can be a content manager for a blog. It goes out to all those different mediums, and it's things that you care about. For me, new media is more like my media than anything else.
Terri: Please elaborate
IVY: A lot of people think of new media as some of the emerging technologies in the last 10 years, on the Web, and emerging ways of distributing content. Like RSS feeds and blogs. Press releases. Google only does their press releases through their site and RSS feed. They don't even distribute press releases. So it's changing the way people get their content.
JERRY: A good indicator is checking the analytics on the website. Traditionally, everybody looks at 800 X 600 resolution or, 1024 X 7068. But, now days, I'm starting to see where people are coming to my website and they're at 360 in resolution. That's telling me someone is out there with an iPhone or a cell phone and they're coming to my website. And, when you look at companies that have a consumer orientation, they're going to see that more and more. People are going to say, Hey, where is the nearest restaurant? and they're going to use their cell phone instead of calling information. They're just going to search the Web for Mexican restaurants and try and pull it up that way.
IVY: Especially with GPS being in your cell phone.
Terri: How can you act on that, if you do find that people are accessing your website and they're using iPhones and cell phones?
JERRY: I think you have to create a mobile version of your website, and you slam everything over to the smaller size and off the one site, which is your website, in order for people to end up finding them. There are so many different cell phones out there, that you have to try and say, This is a standard that we would try to apply and then try to build toward that.
KEN: I've been doing websites for 15 years and, there's been this evolution of what you see. At the beginning, it was very simple sites. Very simple HTML, maybe a couple of images. Because, that's all people could afford, or could understand. And, one had the small resolutions and the small computers. Then, we went to the dotcoms when all the new technologies came out and Flash came out. And, every site just went crazy. You would just get annoyed going to a site. Talk about media overload, it was just like, Stop, please stop. I just want to read what your company's about. Now, we're starting to see a complete swing of the pendulum back and content is king.
People are taking all that stuff and getting rid of it, and leaving it in certain areas. They use a flash presentation of a YouTube video for a product or, maybe there's a little condensed system that's showing you a virtual tour, but it's not the whole look of the site. So media, as far as websites go, it's dummied down and content is king.
JIM: I think if people are using a mobile device to find your site, another thing to think about is how they're going to, by activating their phone and finding your domain. So search is a big piece of that. And, not only looking at getting into Google but considering things like Google maps and having a real geo-targeted program, if your users are coming to your site through a mobile device instead of a desktop.
Terri: How would you use Google, now, in that case? How would you represent your clients?
JIM: First through Google maps. That's a pretty simple way to be found, locally. Within Google, they allow you to submit your company information, including pictures, phone numbers and descriptions, so within a really short period of time, you can submit your information to Google.
IVY: That's the best way to get to the top of the search engine -- showing up in the Google results. I went to a client last week, and I looked them up on Google, I found the directions coming back and it took me way too long. They were listed and I asked, Are you registered on Google Local? and, they said no. So that was the first thing that we did. Now if you search - it is a production company - and if you search Denver production companies, they come up, right at the top, based on where you are.
Terri: Search engine optimization is a really hot topic. Why is that?
IVY: That's how everyone is finding services. I said it's an on-demand world, so if you need a florist you go to Google. You need to find a French restaurant, you go to Google. So if you can be at the top of the search engines, people are going to click on you and you're going to have great traffic and you're going to win.
JERRY: You are trying to have the leads come to you and, not going out and pounding on doors yourself. You're just letting your website be your marketing tool for you. In the past, you would take out a newspaper ad, or a radio or TV ad. If you saw it 10 times, maybe you remembered the name of the company. Nowadays, when people have a specific thing they want to find, they're searching online. Then, they're going directly to them and saying, Give me a call. That's what you're looking for: it's a lead generator, it's a sales tool for you right off the bat.
JIM: The way we look at it is, it's push versus pull, where if you have banner ads or something like that, you're trying to push your message out to a specific target audience. Within the search, you have a captive audience; they're looking for you. They're that much more likely to become a lead or make a purchase on your website if they've gone into Google and done a search for a product or service that you provide.
IVY: I think investing in organic placement on Google is one of the best returns on investment that computers will ever see in terms of lead generation.
Terri: Please explain organic placement.
IVY: There are a couple of different results on Google. Organic is on the left-hand side of the area. On the right-hand side, they are paid listings. And, at the top there are paid listings, and they are local. Search engine marketers have something called the Golden Triangle. So you want to show at the top on the pay-per-click advertising in local and be the top organic. Wherever they look, you've got them. We also call them natural results. Google's trying to match the user up with the most relevant search term. If someone looks up Denver Web Design, Google wants to match that user up with the sites that are most relevant. So they'll look for content. The more content the better. The more inbound links -- other people linking to that place -- the better. And then, optimized code.
JERRY: I don't think you just focus on Google. I think Google has become very pricey in a lot of the things that people are doing. And, you can get some very big results with MSN, Yahoo and a few of the others. Google has the lion's share but people are also using other search engines in order to find the content. And, some of them are more specific to a particular vertical market, like medical healthcare. If you can rank real high with those, you can come out real well, too.
JIM: Messaging is key if you're looking at the triangle idea where you're taking up pay-per-click space and local visibility and organic visibility. People are going to click on different areas of the results page, based on their mindset and where they are in the purchase cycle. There are a lot of studies out there that talk about how people in the research phase who aren't ready to make a purchase yet are going to click on the organic listings. So in looking for direction, this could be looking across the local, or it could be looking for a map. And then, people who are ready to make a purchase, that's when they tend to look around the pay-per-click section of the results page, because they're looking for a discount or a percentage off,
IVY: And, take that even further. So the message gets with the target audience. Then, they have to come to your site and be able to get to what they're looking for. Their motivations need to be met. If you do that, you're very likely to convert that user. If the site looks good, it works well, and the user can find what they're looking for easily and quickly, then they're very likely to convert.
KEN: What I think we're going to start to see now is a big change towards these community sites. Google and all the search engines have their pros and their cons. One of their cons right now, is this thing called a link farms. So you do all that work, you just have to put in key words, and you get the first 10 sites that had nothing to do with what you're looking for. Their sites put their own little links and say, Oh no, you should click on this one. So when I was already on a search engine, why am I going to another search engine?
Terri: It's called a link farm?
KEN: Link farm, portals, or whatever. Google says they are working on figuring out an algorithm to stop that. So what we're seeing are more of these community-based sites. And, the advertising, again, it's the idea of targeted, relevant content with targeted relevant advertising going along with it. There's a site called the Thrillest. Thrillest.com is for the guys. It's very macho and geared towards the stuff that we like. And, it's like you're using an online magazine. But, you can have email sent to you and, you can create a demographic of yourself, where you're at and what you'd like to see. They're very good at putting advertising in there and making it look like content, which it is. But, it really is an Absolute Vodka ad. Companies are looking at these community-based sites and saying, Hey, we've got a targeted group of people that aren't just going out to a search engine and putting in all kinds of key words. We know exactly what they're interested in. They have blogs on here and they have forums where they're throwing out ideas. Let's throw our ads in and mix them in there so they don't think you're just blatantly advertising.
IVY: And, they're very contextual too. We can know the content that someone's looking at and then provide advertising that's relevant to the text on that page. We're also using social media in marketing, which is going out on blogs and social media sites and creating a presence, and then driving users back to sites. It's also good for search engine ranking.
Terri: How about an example of that?
IVY: One of our clients is in natural healing. There's a social network called Zazz, and it's for people who are into the new consciousness, social responsibility and environment. We created a presence for that company on this social network, so viewers can find that company on that network. And, they're more likely to be interested in something like that, because they're part of the Zazz community. It's relevant to them. It also creates an inbound link to the client's site and the user goes directly to that site. And, you're also creating higher search engine rankings because you're creating a link, an inbound link.
Terri: Other examples?
KEN: We built a site for the Democratic Convention. It's a site in this area and we make sure it gets marketed well and gets found, so when people are coming in to Denver and want to find restaurants they come to the site. Or, they want to look at blogs from people that are local. We have 12 people on their blog. One's a new voter, one's been voting for 50 years. One's very right, one's very left. There are links to all of the politicians' websites. There's everything about Denver you want to find. We want them to come there, add their site as a resource to the Democratic Convention, as opposed to their going to Google and trying to find out where you're going to stay or what this politician is saying, or what's going to happen on Saturday in Denver. Again, it's that community where all the content they want should be in that one place. And, it's there because we have multiple people putting content in, it's a community of people distributing it.
Terri: So what about people who are promoting on that site?
KEN: Of course, we're running advertising on there that is geared towards that and there are interactive maps. So if I'm trying to find a Chinese restaurant, we tie it in with Google and use this mapping system where it actually displays all their company information and address. Google's about to launch a thing where it shows a street view. Literally, a video where you can look at the street, in this direction and that direction, so when you walk out of your hotel, Oh, yeah, I recognize that lamppost from this Democratic Convention site.
JERRY: Take it away from the Web and go to broadcast media and look at a lot of the things that On Demand is doing. On Demand is setting up sites so if you want to go and see music videos, there is music videos you can click on and see all the different music videos, or real estate for sale, or where are the various hotels up in the mountains. As everything becomes more digital, even on the broadcast network, they're trying to provide interactive communities that are oriented toward different interests.
JIM: I think with new media, the rules - the basic rules don't change. Marketing 101 - the right person, the right place, the right message, the right time. But, what new media does is it allows you to laser focus what you're doing. You also have opportunities to put a specific message in front of someone who is within a certain geography or at certain levels of interest that are very, very specific to a product or service that you provide.
IVY: And then, you can choose what distribution you want. We did a site recently that's events. And, you can set alerts. I want to know what music events are coming up within 10 miles of 80204. And then, you can set it with, I want an email, I want a text message to my phone. Or, I want a voicemail. It all happens digitally so you can have all those options. Tracking is the thing that pulls it all together.
Terri: Let's go there.
IVY: Right person, right time, right message, all of that. And then, once a user is driven to a site, it must be usable. You can track all of that and you can track conversions. You know where people are in the world who are coming to your site. You know what search engine terms they've used. You know how many pages they visited, where they exited a site, where they came in, and how long they stayed. Everything is very trackable.
Terri: How is it used?
IVY: I can give you an example of how we use our Google Analytics. That's what we use; it's free, and it's great to use. We used Google Analytics when we sent out an RFP response to California. We were watching our analytics. Two weeks after we sent that proposal, we saw they were on our site. So, we called and followed up right when they were thinking about us. That's one way to use those results.
Terri: Jim, how about some examples from your world in terms of new media and usage.
JIM: We just put together a trade show booth for a client. It was within a virtual environment. So users would go online, they'd attend this trade show and they could visit different booths from their desktop. It allowed for a lot more flexibility. Attendance, I think, was a lot greater because people didn't have to fly to a certain location, get a hotel room, stay there for a few nights, and spend a couple days at a trade show figuring out exactly what they wanted to attend, and what they wanted to skip. It was interesting, because there are a number of different things that you could put in front of prospects within this trade show. There were things like online chat, so as you visited the booth you could automatically chat with a person who's tending the booth, and they could put you in contact with a client rep if need be. When you signed up for the trade show, you also got a virtual suitcase. As you went from booth to booth, you could select whether or not you wanted the brochure, or the data sheet, or something along those lines, put it in your virtual suitcase and be on your way. I think that's an example of one of the newer media things that we've done. It was pretty successful.
JERRY: In the past, everybody did advertising media buys based upon cost per thousands. Now, what people are looking at on the Web is cost per lead. Companies like Hewlett-Packard, and Agilent can't now afford to have a sales engineer make on-the-road sales. So now, they're looking for ways of still educating the client on the benefits and the uses and the features, and the power of the Web to be able to go and do that. The lead is generated directly into a sale, because people are doing shopping carts online and executing the sale online. A lot of companies are still in the, We have a brochure website stage. Others are starting to do transactions. I think the third level is having a community. If you can generate a community website that is geared toward your own virtual community, not just for your products, you can be the leader. What that starts to do is give you market research: what people are looking for in the next generation of products. And it starts to show them what the problems are with their products because people will sit there and bitch online.
Terri: What would be an example of a website transforming into a community?
JERRY: There are a few that are coming up in the medical community. I've always liked avid.com. They are website-oriented toward non-linear video editing. They break it down to a community of people who are in post production. And then all the blogs and bulletin boards are oriented towards that particular community. They even have one for the military and, they have one for people in the medical field. So people who are in the medical field who are doing video editing, who are having problems with HIPAA requirements and everything else, they're able to discuss those issues, how they resolved it and how they got around it. The website is sitting out there and everybody thinks it's a community website and they don't really realize that those little ads popping up on the side are being served by the company that owns it.
Terri: You've used the phrases, in-bound, permission-based. What about out-bound use of media?
IVY: There are people who still use email marketing. I'm not a very big proponent of it. Every company thinks they need an email newsletter. But, when's the last time you read an email newsletter? They pile up in your inbox and you don't read them.
KEN: I have to counter that. I read the ones I'm interested in.
IVY: True. And, a lot of people are getting the news that they want from RSS feeds. So I can pick exactly what feeds I want and get only those. And again, that's permission-based.
KEN: It's all about that opting-in. Most of these newsletters now are just giving you a little blurb to entice you to go to the site where the rest of the articles are. That's great, I can read that in 30 seconds and decide if I want to go there or not. We did the Colorado Lottery. The Colorado Lottery does almost a million emails a month and that's because people go in and say, You know what, I want to be alerted when the jackpot gets this high. I want to know when the winning numbers go out. I want to know what they are. I want to know when you have a new scratch game coming out. I want to know when you have a new second-chance drawing about to go on. So there are all these things that they say, I want, I want, I want, and as long as we get it to them on a reliable basis, the list just keeps growing and growing and growing exponentially.
JERRY: I do email marketing for my company. And, I can look at the analytics of the email afterwards and see that, probably, 25% logged on and looked at what we were writing about. To me, if I do a postcard campaign, I'm looking at 1 to 2%. But, the beauty of the email marketing is, I see the 25% who went to see the article and, I also know exactly what they clicked on, where they went to and what they were doing there. I can give them a call and say, I saw you were looking at this article on DVD. Are you interested in DVD production? The thing that amazes clients is the analytics on the backend of an email marketing campaign. The fact that they can see whether people read it, who read it, where did they go, what were they looking at. And, that's the power of it.
JIM: No matter what you're doing, I think it all comes back to a well-thought-out strategy. To be honest, sending out an email broadcast is pretty easy. So I think a lot of people think, Oh wow, I can send my email out to a million people and even if a low percentage of people open it and click through, that's still better than 100 people through another channel. But, if you sit back and think about it and think, What's my offer, who am I talking to - are they going to get it in their Outlook or their Gmail? What is the subject line going to say? What other spam is coming through that I'm going to be competing with? If you think through all that, you're going to have results like what Jerry mentioned, where, yeah, you're putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time and, it's relevant.
Terri: You mentioned RSS feeds. Please explain what that is.
IVY: RSS feeds are data and they can be of anything. They can be news, they can be images, they can be any content that you would like to receive, that you can sign up for. For us, we have an RSS feed of our news items so people who like to keep up with what we're doing, they just subscribe to our news items and our press releases.
KEN: When you sign up on a site, you generally have a plug or something on our browser. So it resides on our computer, too. If you want to go look at it, you'll see the little bar. If you want to find out more you can click into it. So it's like this little widget that sits there if you want, and you can look at it when you want and click over there.
IVY: Checking for updates, so if you're watching a company and how they're doing in the stock market, you can add an RSS feed that tracks that. Weather in a certain town, or if you want to hear about what McClain-Finlon is doing you can subscribe to their RSS feed or press releases. And, that was the example of Google: Google doesn't do press releases and submit them through the traditional ways. They just give the parties who are interested in RSS feeds to their blog and to their press - the news that they have on their site.
Terri: How about some other acronyms that readers would be advised to know when it comes to new media?
KEN: I think one of the most important acronyms you'll hear in the last couple of years is called XML. XML completely revolutionized how we can transport data from one website to another. Let's say they have a website and it's got some content, but it needs to pull some data from some other database somewhere. You have to do this direct connection. You have to figure out all these ways to directly hook up to it to get that data over to the site. XML took all that away and created this little transport that's universal for everyone. So you want data from that side of the server. It takes you a couple of minutes and you've got a YouTube video on your site. It just sits there on that site but it's being pulled from a completely different server somewhere else, using this new thing called XML. Our company is just living on XML, because we're always pulling data from one site or the other.
JIM: XML has made a huge impact because a few years ago, when we went to optimize a client's website, we would have to make sure it could crawl every single page of a fairly good-sized website. Now with XML, sites like Google are accepting feed where we can develop an XML feed for a client's site, and it gets pushed directly to Google. So now, Google knows how often they should come back to this site and how important pages are, when compared to other pages within that site.
IVY: Software is online and, I think when we're talking about where things are moving, that's the direction where things are moving. Our shop does everything online. We use Google documents. We don't use Microsoft products. We use online services like Google Documents, which are just like Word or Excel, but it's available online and you can share those documents online with clients, with other people in the office. We use Web-based email. So it's all these applications where you don't need to stick something in your computer and put it on your hard drive. You can do everything on the Web.
Terri: Let's take this to the future: please comment on other trends you've seen happening, and what impact they have for your businesses?
JIM: The one we're keeping a close eye on is Google, for a number of reasons. But, right now, they're applying their methodology when it comes to pay-per-click advertising within their search engine into other channels. Down the road, I see it being very possible that Google could be the hub for all marketers where you could log into Google and you could watch what's going on with your website with analytics, you could place your pay-per-click advertising. You could bid on a TV spot in Tallahassee, Florida, running on ESPN, bid on radio placement, newspaper ads. A lot of that stuff is in Beta test right now.
JERRY: I could see it eliminate almost every media buyer out there.
IVY: And, all the marketing dashboards.
JIM: It could be the office dashboard online. It could be the marketing dashboard for everything online.
JERRY: They really seem like they're putting themselves in a position where, if later on they wanted to get into the content creation, which they say they're going to move into, I could see them eliminating all of your major ad agencies. They can go directly to a manufacturer or industry company and say, Why do you need to go to an agency? Come deal directly with us, and we'll place all your media, take care of it, and do it all online. And, we'll do it at a 10% rate cheaper than what they can, and we won't charge you the markup overhead on top of that. They've got all the positions in there, they just haven't defined that as their strategy. But, you can see it coming down the road.
Terri: Ken, you talked about trends and what it's going to mean as marketers.
KEN: I started by saying content is king. I'm seeing all of our clients wanting control over their own content of their website. They want to provide control for other people within their site to manage their portion of the content so that everything's fresh and relevant. And, on top of that, I think they're opening it up to allow other people who are not part of that company to also contribute to that website and put their two cents in to drag even more interest in the site. So we just see a lot of people wanting control of the content. We used to just throw stuff up and forget about it. And, 7 years later they have the same website. That doesn't happen. It's like 7 days later, it better not be the same website. It better be, at least, partially, a new website.
IVY: I think Jerry made a good point about content. Advertisers know that direct marketing in traditional ways isn't working any more. So they're doing things like creating competitions and having users create videos for their brand, which is a great way to get people to touch your brand.
JIM: I think traditional media still has a pretty huge role. The iPhone, which, if you look at what it can do, is pretty amazing. If you look at how they're advertising it, it's real TV. It's your traditional media. So I think that any smart program, when it comes to marketing, is going to include traditional and new media. Obviously, it depends on the company that's doing it and the audience that they're looking to reach. I don't see TV going away. I think there's something to be said for having a magazine and taking the time to flip through it.
KEN: I saw a great example with iPhones. There's an online video to tell you how to use it in 10 minutes. I went through it before I decided to buy it for my wife. They'll use little clips of that in the TV ad. I recognized it when I saw the TV ad, and I went to the video. It was amazing. Here's this ad saying Go find out about it. I spent 10 minutes having this guy walk through all the things. I'm sold. Done. Two hours after I opened the video, I had bought an iPhone.
IVY: Traditional media is driving people to new media, usually. Check out our website, or sign up online, here. Or, like, Ken did, watch the video.
JERRY: I think, also, what you're looking at is, the changes that are coming down the road are based upon the new generation. My son comes home and he's got his wireless laptop, he's watching TV and, he's listening to music and he's cruising the Internet all at the same time. And, text messaging, and they don't even think about it.
IVY: That's the new trend of being constantly accessible, and your friends always know where you are, and they have someone micro blogging where you say, I'm sitting in a meeting, right now, talking about new media. Now, I'm off going home. I think where the Web is going - it's really community-based, community-driven thing -- there's so much community-driven content that's available. And, users become the advertisers of the past, creating video and participating in brands.
KEN: It's fluid. You want us coming out with the perfect answer about what the future is? It could be that next month it's something totally different. Some new acronym that we never even knew comes down in the pipeline. It's incredibly hard to keep up. You just have to keep your eyes and ears open.
With 12 years experience in interactive marketing, Jim Grinney is co-founder of 90octane, named a fastest-growing, private company by Denver Business Journal. His expertise has contributed to successful marketing programs for international non-profit organizations such as Heifer International to Fortune 500 companies such as Gates Corporation. Grinney may be reached at 720-904-8169 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ivy Hastings left a stifling corporate position to come to work at Fusionbox in 2003. Also a veteran of several Internet start-ups, Ivy has ten years of experience in online marketing, usability best practices, and effective user interface design. Ivy develops all the online strategies for Fusionbox's clients and translates between the geeks and the clients. Ivy holds degrees from U.C Berkeley and Radcliffe College and serves on the Board of Directors of Arts Street-- a Denver non-profit that cultivates the creative skills of underserved youth. Hastings may be reached at 303-952-7490 or by email at email@example.com.
As the Senior Sales Representative for a web development and hosting company called HostWorks, Ken Sabey provides his clients with consulting, project management and usability testing. Ken has been directly involved in the Internet industry since 1995. Sabey can be reached at 303-539-1839 ex. 149 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jerry Sexton is the President of PGM Integrated an integrated agency. The former co-owner of Digital Metropolis and a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel he has developed web applications for over 20 years and owned one of the first DVD authoring facilities in the Rocky Mountain Region. He was a key integrator of digital television broadcasting and the digitizing of all still and motion media depositories for the Department of Defense. Sexton may be reached at 720-875-2234 or by email at email@example.com.
Terri Maize, President, Resonant Research, is a facilitator of research for major corporations. Her capabilities include everything from forming and moderating focus groups to complete planning, implementing and evaluating research projects. She is an active member of the Business Marketing Association and American Marketing Association where she serves as Vice President of Volunteers.
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