Paid Content And Your Content Strategy

A few years back, I wrote a post titled Top 5 Things I’ll Pay for on the Web. (Still brilliant, I know.)

By this point, I would have expected that the pay model for content would have changed, but for the most part, it has not. The web remains mostly free and will probably remain that way for quite some time.

There has been, however, an interesting shift in the tablet world. First the Kindle and then the iPad have nudged people along to pay for content. It’s not a mass movement, but it is a step in the direction where content creators can eventually charge something for their content. As such, content strategy will need to evolve to reflect this slow evolution back toward paid content.

Back when I got my first Kindle, there was a small, but growing library of ebooks. Many were free, some were as inexpensive as 99 cents, and others were around $9.99. It wasn’t a bad price for content, especially for those 99 cent books. Downloading and payment was easy, so the barrier to purchasing new content was low. Continue reading

Nook Upgraded & the 5 P’s of Marketing

Nook Color ereader

Nook Color ebook ereader now supports Android Apps

And just like that, the Nook matters again. Yes, in the war to win the hearts and eyeballs of readers continues to rage on, and Barnes & Nobles has just proved that it’s not out of the fight.

In 30 seconds or less, the Nook was upgraded from being a humble ebook reader with an attractive color screen, a market where Amazon dominates. A software patch pushed the Nook into the crowded space of tablets, where Apple dominates.

Soon the Nook will have full access to the Android Marketplace, which includes the kinds of games and apps that makes the iPad so popular.

Here are five reasons why this matters to you as it relates to the Five P’s of Marketing (loosely interpreted, of course):

  • Product
  • Price
  • Place (distribution)
  • Promotion
  • People

1.PRICE: Nook competes on price and features. Everyone from the media to the average buyer is enamored with tablets. The venerable iPad 2 is one of the most coveted gadgets on the marketplace, but with prices starting at $499, it’s not exactly within reach of all buyers. For a while, the Amazon Kindle was the device to beat, but it’s still a black and white technology in a color world. At $250, the Nook offers a sharp, full color display. It may not be as full featured or sensitive as the iPad, but it suddenly feels light years ahead of the Kindle, but with a very attractive price point. Continue reading

Apple TV vs Roku – UX + UI For Senior Citizens

Apple TV streaming device.

I have a Roku and I love it. But for my father, the only web-enabled device he needed was the the Apple TV.

Here’s why.

Several years ago, my dad (a senior citizen) wanted a computer. I knew I should get him a Mac, but he became convinced that he needed a PC. A trusted family member  (an IT professional) stressed that a Windows PC was the best option. Plus, it was cheaper than the iMac I was hawking. So we bought an IBM-brand PC (before it became Lenovo), loaded it with RAM, and connected him to the Internet.

For about a year, it was a great little machine. And then it started being a PC. It got fussy and occasionally crashed. It would do odd, PC-type things. I’d come over every couple of weeks to fix it up with new patches, defrag, and perform other minor maintenance. It was a lousy user experience (UX) and user interface (UI).

After a few years of frustrations, my dad broke down and bought a new computer. This time, a shiny new iMac. Two years later, I’ve only had to go to his house to download a few patches and install some games. That’s it. No crashing, no quirky personality traits. Just a computer that he uses to connect to the Internet and play his games. Nice UX and UI.

Apple TV vs. Roku
Flash forward to now. I’ve had my Roku for a month or more. My father is impressed and wants one. I show him how easy it is to use. He nods and says, “I heard that Apple makes one.”

I tell him that in my online research, Roku is getting better reviews. It is more flexible and open and may eventually be one of the online leaders.

And although the Roku has a USB port for pictures and videos, he wants something easier. The Apple TV does something that the others currently do not, which is connect with his iMac.

Yes there’s WiFi and of course he can use NetFlix on both of them, but my father wanted something much more utilitarian. He wants to show photos from his iMac on his television. He wants it to be easy and instant. No USB keys, no file transfers, and no wires. And if you’re already a Mac user, you want Apple’s ease-of-use. It’s all about UX.

Roku views pictures, but only if you tap into streaming Facebook. That Roku Facebook channel is fine for the pictures that you’ve uploaded, but we have too many family photos to upload for that to be practical.

Tapping directly into iPhoto is something that only Apple TV can do right out of the box. There’s no need to run cables or copy files to a USB. Apple’s closed ecosystem makes a lot of sense, particularly when the user is a senior citizen who just wants to use his stuff. Apple’s walled-garden approach offers a level of comfort, consistency, and compatibility that you cannot always achieve buying components.

For me, the flexibility and scalability of the Roku is perfect. It’s exactly what I need, since my primary interest is NetFlix and web-video streaming. I am a digital power user who blogs, tweets, uses TV apps, and reads ebooks.

For my father, the Apple TV is ideal because it becomes part of a series of networked devices that work well for people who want it to work with the minimum of technical experience.

If you’re in the market, I hope this little story-based scenario was helpful to you. Good luck and drop me a line if you have any specific questions about what you should buy.

Aperture from App Store

It's easy to download full applications like Aperture from the Apple App Store.

This weekend, I broke down and bought a copy of Apple’s Aperture software. As a Mac user, I am typically very happy with the core software that comes with iLife, but I just needed something more powerful. And the Apple App Store has been daring me to purchase something from it.

As a published photographer with three photography books in Amazon and Barnes & Nobles, I figured that I needed something slightly more versatile for organizing images. iPhoto is okay, but it’s just not up for the task of organizing a huge library of pictures.

I’d dabbled with Adobe Bridge, which is part of the Adobe Creative Suite, but found it to be a bit slow and clunky. I’ve also tried out the Extensis Portfolio package, which was really quite good for $199. It allowed a lot of flexibility in storage and organizing. But as I moved from my old Mac G5 to my new iMac, I wanted something that would be a little more universal. That is, I’d never met another person who used Extensis Portfolio and I was concerned that, if I had a problem, I would have limited support options.

If I get a new computer, I don’t want to do what I am doing now, which is trying to upgrade multiple files and software packages.

Apple's App Store sells Mac software

Anyway, after doing entirely too much research, I downloaded Apple’s Aperture. In the stores, it costs $199. In the Apple App Store, it’s only $80. That’s the full version, not the upgrade.

The App Store was a pretty smooth and intuitive process. It just billed the purchase to my iTunes account and installed the Aperture application on my computer. I have no idea what will happen if I get a new computer, but for now, I feel pretty good about downloading software and not getting discs and a serial number.

Installing and using Aperture is a standard Apple experience. Everything works, and you feel good about your purchase. No wonder iPhones and iPads are flying off the shelves. People like a good user experience and simplicity goes a long way. Usability is important for end users, even power users and professionals.

Now comes the task of organizing and tagging 70,000 photos.

Additional links:

Apple’s 10 Billion…eBooks?

Apple iTunes Store Sells 10 Billion Songs

Ten billion. That’s how many songs have been legally downloaded from Apple’s iTunes Store.

This is what that looks like: 10,000,000,000

If it look impressive, that’s because it is. And it is significant because it may represent a small victory in the war over digital piracy. Apple has made it easy and affordable to buy music (something the record industry didn’t do themselves). As a result, people have paid money for stuff that they can easily steal.

If you own an iPod, iPhone or some other Apple device, you know that the Apple iTunes Store is really, really easy to use. Plus, they sell more than just music. You can get movies and TV shows as well.

As the iPad comes out, Apple will begin to roll out ebooks, newspapers, magazines, and other new media content. It’s going to be a broad range of materials, many of which will be purchased by the download. (Currently there is no subscription model.)

From a content perspective, this is a huge opportunity. People have grown used to getting content for free on websites. Few websites have managed to get money out of their visitors. Marvel Digital and Disney Digital have online subscription models, but those are premiere brands with highly exclusive content resources and characters.

As the iPad hits the streets, Apple is going to be working hard to get you to pay for content. Amazon already gets people to pay for ebooks and blogs on the Kindle, so there is a segment of the population prepared to pay for content.

No, don’t get me wrong. I am not looking forward to paying for stuff that I am getting free today, but that’s how it goes. Only so many websites and publishers can survive on the freemium model. Eventually someone is going to have to pay.

Sure, there will always be people who figure out a way to get stuff for free. In fact, many pirates don’t rip DVDs and MP3s because they want the media. They do it because they enjoy the challenge of cracking the code or beating the system. (And DRM doesn’t seem to work.)

With ereaders like the Kindle, Nook, and iPad, publishers are going to have to figure out a way to get people to buy digital books and magazines. Free is not a sustainable business model for most publishers. As the music industry will attest, it’s not going to be easy, but it is possible to get people to pay for media.

Price them right, make them easy to get, and maybe in a few years I’ll be blogging about how there were 10 billion ebooks sold on the Apple store.

LINKS – NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS:

iPad – Content, Marketing & Comics

Steve Jobs presents the iPad

Steve Jobs presents the iPad

If you’re a Macintosh fan or a Steve Jobs zombie (Jobzie?) today was like Christmas. Maybe even better. Today, as if you didn’t know already, Apple finally announced the long-awaited tablet device “iPad.”

If you follow this blog, you know that I primarily talk about content, interactive media, and marketing. Oh yeah, and occasionally comic books. So let’s talk about what the iPad means for each of my favorite topics:

  • Content: Well, as I’ve said before, it all comes down to content. The best device in the world will only go so far on mediocre content. Touch screens are cool, but they need to be worth the extra cost.
    Positive: As usual, Apple fully delivers on the iPad. Right out of the gate, you’ll be able to tap into the iTunes store for eBooks, videos, games, and music. Plus there’s probably a lot more content on the way. You can buy the iPad knowing that Apple will provide plenty of content in full, brilliant multimedia and color.
    Negative: It’s hard not to compare the iPad to the Kindle when it comes to reading ebooks. At this point, it looks like Kindle’s e-ink has an advantage over the iPad’s screen. It’s just nicer to read books on a reflective surface, as opposed to an active matrix display. Sorry, color just isn’t that important for the enjoyment of text, particularly long-form prose.
  • Interactive media: We’re now in a society where we fully expect to be able to interact with a certain amount of media. And Apple doesn’t disappoint here. The iPad is packed with nifty new tech that will allow us to touch, drag, scale, and game. We are at the tip of the creative iceberg, and it’s exciting to just dream about the amazing applications that will take advantage of the iPad platform.
    Positive: What’s not to like? It’s going to revolutionize gaming and allow you to take your fun wherever you go. As a parent, I love portable movies and games. Apps are what made the iPhone special, and the same tech will work on the iPad. Nice.
    Negative: It looks like I may have to re-purchase movies that I have on DVD so they play on the iPad. Something tells me I will be buying a lot of stuff to feed my iPad.
  • Marketing: At the core, Apple is an electronics manufacturer, but somehow they have managed to position themselves miles above the rest of the industry. Their brand is huge. No other manufacturer can launch a product quite like Apple. Plus Steve Jobs knows how to give a presentation. If you’re a marketer, take a close look at your lame PowerPoint decks and ask yourself if you can somehow do better. (You can.) Apple’s marketing is a brilliant mix of art, science, and magic. This is what they should study in universities.
    Positive: Apple breaks many marketing rules, but somehow they make it work. We can all learn from them when it comes to branding and event marketing. Apple makes it look easy, even though they are probably working like mad in the days leading up to the event.
    Negative: What they do as marketers isn’t really taught in school. And try as they may, very few marketers can match their magic formula for generating excitement around product launches. But is this really a negative? Nah, it gives us marketers an achievement goal.
  • Comics: It’s hard to say how this will affect the comic book business. Comics are already being pirated and distributed through torrents. Up until now, people had to buy printed comics to get a decent experience. Sure, you could read a pirated comic on your computer monitor, but the mechanics were wrong. Monitors are horizontal, while comics are vertical. Marvel’s Digital Comics actually give a pretty good experience, but it still required you to be sitting in front of your computer. I work in front of a computer all day, so sitting at my desk to read is a bit unappealing. Printed comics are still my favorite way to read full-color comic books. But for how long?
    Positive: The iPad could make reading comics really exciting. I would love to read my monthly titles on a nice, clear tablet. I could store them on the device (as opposed to reading them in the cloud), that would free up a lot of space in my house. Set the right price, and I will pay for a digital subscription to my favorite comics. I’m ready, let’s go.
    Negative: The pirates are already killing comics the way they nearly killed music and movies. If piracy doesn’t stop, it won’t make economic sense to create comics. Easy file sharing and torrents could kill mainstream comics as we know them today. The iPad just gives the pirates a better platform for sharing files.

So that’s it. The ‘Net and the pundits are already buzzing about the iPad. I’m going to immerse myself in the excitement and optimism.

Merry Christmas, Apple fans.

I Want to Hear Your Ads…Please

Each week, I listen to approximately four to ten individual podcasts per week. If you’re not familiar with the term, a podcast is a mash up of the words “iPods” and “broadcast.”

In a previous post, I blogged about Podcasting Your Brand Message. Check it out. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Basically, podcasts are highly specialized radio shows that people subscribe to on their computers. You can listen to podcasts on an iPod, burn it to a CD for the car, or just listen on the computer. Many podcasts are highly specialized, serving a niche audience. Check out the massive variety of shows at Podcast Alley.

And yet, I am amazed at how few podcasts include any advertising. Believe it or not, I want to hear ads for products that are relevant and important to me. I actually want to know more about…

New Technology Podcast
My favorite tech podcast is CNet’s Buzz Out Loud. Although the “podcast of indeterminate length” runs a little long, it is always interesting, always educational, and…always about new technology. The people who are listening to a one hour plus podcast about cutting-edge tech are probably receptive to…I dunno…an ad for a website that sells new technology at a great price.

Screenwriting Podcast
The absolute best podcast on screenwriting is called “On the Page.” Each week, Pilar Alessandra offers smart, actionable advice to aspiring screenwriters. As a writer, I am also an avid reader, so I would like to know if an interesting new writing book becomes available. Yes, it would be very smart to advertise a the right book on a targeted podcast, especially if the show discusses topics relevant to writers.

These are just two examples of podcasts perfect for highly targeted advertising. It’s a lot like speciality magazine advertising.

That is, when I subscribe to Popular Photography magazine, I expect to see ads for photo equipment, services, and other cool photo stuff. I spend as much time drooling at the ads as I do on the reviews. Sometimes more.

Podcasts offer you an opportunity to connect your product with people who are passionate about the category.

With tough times ahead, advertisers want unique opportunities to connect with their customers. Many niche podcasts have a small staff, but a large, dedicated following.

This means a podcaster probably doesn’t have a sales force to come and woo your ad dollars. The Internet is reversing that model, and now you are going to have to find them.

The payoff could be huge for your brand. Instead of an apathetic audience, you could be tapping into passionate, motivated audience eager to buy your product or service.

In the meantime, I’ll just be listening to ad-free podcasts…and hearing nothing about your brand.

Free Music I Paid For

Ever since the dawn of cheap, recordable tapes, you really haven’t HAD to pay for music. If you knew someone with an album, you could buy a cassette tape and make a copy.

With the ‘Net, getting free music became even easier. Every song you could ever want. Free. No strings attached. Awesome!

That is, until the musicians pointed out that the music wasn’t actually “free.” It was kinda “stolen.” But most of us didn’t feel like thieves. Paying $18.99 for a new CD? THAT feels like robbery.

When iTunes added 99-cent downloads, it became easy to “do the right thing.” Affordable. Good for the environment. You actually feel good about buying music.

I won’t say that you should pay for music (you should) because it’s the right thing to do (it is). I won’t mention that you wouldn’t want your work stolen (you wouldn’t). Even though some of these musicians are nauseatingly rich (they are).

I’ll just say this…here are my:

Top 10 Best Songs that I Paid for This Year

  1. My Apocalypse – Metallica – Seriously, the finest headbanging masterpiece in a long time. Every track on this fast, furious album makes up for their last album (awful). It’s that good.
  2. On the Radio – Regina Spektor – I discovered this on Pandora. Offbeat and quirky. Catchy too.
  3. Chicks = Trouble – Motley Crue – The title says it all. Classic Crue.
  4. Woke Up This Morning – A3 – Yeah, that song from the Sopranos. It’s much longer than the version used on the show, but has the same groove.
  5. LDN – Lily Allen – Another song discovered on Pandora. It’s got a great video on YouTube.
  6. Distractions (Live) – Sia – That amazing singer from Zero 7. Her big break was on the last episode of Six Feet Under (clip on YouTube). This song showcases her amazing and unique voice.
  7. Love Song – Sara Bareilles – A good pop tune that I heard on the radio.
  8. End of the World – Great Big Sea – A much, much faster version of the song by REM. With fiddles.
  9. Woodchipper’s Ball – Hugo Montenegro – Unlike anything else on this list. If you don’t like it, don’t be surprised.
  10. Bad Girlfriend – Theory of a Deadman – Heard it on the radio. Didn’t like their other songs, so I didn’t have to buy the whole album. Perfect.

What’s on your list of favorite songs you paid for?

Podcasting Your Brand Message

Looking for a new way to spread the word about your business or service? Look no further than your iPod.

If you have an iPod (isn’t that a requirement for living in the USA?), you have iTunes.

There’s a button for “Podcasts,” which are audio programs. Like radio shows without the radio.

I download podcasts every time I plug in my iPod. It’s a free and legal service provided by Apple.

One of my favorites is the screenwriting podcast “On The Page,” hosted by Pilar Alessandra. As an educational and motivational resource, On The Page is nearly as good as having your personal writing cheerleader. (Note: If actual cheerleaders would like to cheer for me, please send photos.)

On the podcast, Pilar would talk about her Los Angeles screenwriting classes. These sounded great, but could be a long drive for me, since I live in New Jersey.

Then…she announced a New York class. And with the speed of Mercury and the riches of Midas, I sent her $125.

I sent my money because the podcast actually proved that Pilar knew how to teach screenwriting. Think about it. I sent a total stranger $125 over the Internet. Because I listened to her podcast every week, Pilar was not really a stranger. Her podcast proved that she was what she claimed: A professional who taught the craft and business of screenwriting.

For Pilar Alessandra’s screenwriting classes, podcasting turned out to be an effective marketing tool.

Is something you’re doing worth talking about? Consider speaking about your brand message through a podcast.

Pilar ALESSANDRA & Buddy Scalera in NY

Pilar ALESSANDRA & Buddy Scalera in NY