Viral Videos Can Launch Your Brand

Karmin is having a good year. A really good year. Don’t know who they are? First, check out this video.

This is a talented young duo doing a cover version of a song by Chris Brown featuring Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes. It’s catchy, fun, and very watchable.

As of this posting, this little video has garnered over 10 million views in less than one month. That’s a lot of views for something that’s being spread word of mouth. Read more

Cross Channel Book Marketing

Creating Comics book by Buddy Scalera

My new book Creating Comics from Start to Finish is just beginning to hit stores now. And despite the fact that I do this marketing thing every day for my clients, I’ve found it to be challenging to apply the same principals at home for my own projects. Crazy, right?

There’s an old saying, “the shoemaker’s children go barefoot.” That pretty much means the stuff you do at work is not the stuff you want to do when you get home. But a book being published is a timely event, and that time will soon pass, so I need to take the opportunity to market my book while I still can.

Initially, I was spending most of my efforts on my Facebook Fan Page, which had around 700+ followers and is now over 800. This group has been supporting my photo reference books, so they were most receptive of the new book. A good start.

Then I did a little bit of content seeding. I created a video flip through of my book, which I placed on the Facebook Fan Page, YouTube, Flickr, and even Amazon. I’m monitoring all of the channels through Google Analytics to see which drives the most qualified traffic.
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iPad 2 Video Mirroring to Televisions

March 2, 2011 · Posted in Apple, Gadgets, ipad, iPhone, Marketing, NetFlix, new media, TV Apps, video, YouTube · 3 Comments 

iPad 2 with Mirroring

Apple just announced the iPad 2, which is another insanely great device. Powerful, sexy, and affordable. (Just like me.)

One of the best features has to be the Video Mirroring capability. In my line of work, we use iPads for demonstration purposes. That’s all well and good for intimate conversations, but only so many people can huddle around an iPad. Not anymore.

This Video Mirroring allows you to plug your iPad directly into the television and display the entire iPad on screen. And some initial reports suggest that this will be backwards compatible to original iPads and then others contradict that. We’ll know in the next few days. I’m sure.

Imagine how powerful Video Mirroring on iPads will be in the hands of a trained speaker in a business presentation. This is the kind of flexibility we dream about in client pitches and presentations. You want hardware that has a wow factor.

I want to present from an iPad running Keynote, rather than a Windows PC running PowerPoint. It has nothing to do with quality of presentation and everything to do with the coolness factor. iPads are cool.
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NetFlix Wins Content Deal with CBS

February 22, 2011 · Posted in content, entertainment, Gadgets, NetFlix, new media, Roku, TV Apps, video · Comment 

NetFlix appears to have scored a major win, as they now have a two-year content deal with CBS. And while this is not a stake in Hulu’s coffin, it is an indication that NetFlix is probably going to continue to gain more traction among paying subscribers.

Roku streams NetFlix, which now has programming content from the CBS and ABC networks.

To the average user, this may not mean much. But moving forward, more people are going to discover the Internet button on their new televisions. When they do, they will be hunting for quality content.

That’s not to say that the content on channels like Blip.tv and CNet isn’t good. Many of the offerings that you get free on a Roku can be quite good. As a comic geek, I love watching iFanboy on my Roku.

But sometimes you just want to watch a well-produced network television show, since the conversation around the watercooler tends to be about those shows. NetFlix now has CBS and ABC content, which makes it a bit more competitive with Hulu, which has ABC, NBC, and Fox.
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Apple TV vs Roku – UX + UI For Senior Citizens

February 21, 2011 · Posted in Apple, entertainment, Gadgets, itunes, NetFlix, new media, Roku, TV Apps, Usability, video · Comment 

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.

Roku Enables USB Port

February 1, 2011 · Posted in fun stuff, Gadgets, Roku, TV Apps, video · 2 Comments 

Roku USB Port - MainFlipped on the Roku tonight and discovered a new channel. The Roku XDS box had added a channel to enable access to the USB port.

It took a few seconds to add the channel and then another minute or so to download the required software. Plugged in a USB with some media, and that’s all it took.

Navigation is streamlined and intuitive. The Roku interface stresses simplicity over options, so it’s easy for beginners, but maybe a little dull for advanced users.

The Roku doesn’t come with an internal hard drive, so many of the other manufacturers including Western Digital have played up that feature. I’d seen the Boxee and was impressed with the external-media capabilities. So far, for me, that hasn’t really been an issue. I mainly stream NetFlix and a few select channels, but that’s about it.

Even though I doubt I will use the USB port to stream movie files, I wanted to give it a try. The Roku easily displayed the MP4 files, but seemed to choke on the WMV files. Photos saved as JPEGs displayed with no problem, although Roku struggled with the thumbnails.

Roku USB Port - MoviesIn the end, it was a good user experience. Although, I must admit, I had low expectations, since I planned to use the Roku primarily for streaming. I don’t own many downloaded video assets. But new features — especially ones that don’t cost extra — are always welcome.

On a side note, a new channel for the Adam Carolla ACE podcast network also became available on the Roku. I like the podcast for my iPod Touch, but didn’t see the need to add it to my television because it’s only audio.

NetFlix Ideas – Improving a Streaming Experience

January 25, 2011 · Posted in content, Gadgets, Marketing, NetFlix, new media, Roku, technology, TV Apps, video · 2 Comments 

NetFlix LogoYou have to be impressed with NetFlix. Seriously. It’s a terrific service, particularly the instant streaming on the Roku XDS. Excellent picture quality, crisp sound, and a solid catalogue of ever-changing content. At CES, several companies announced that they would include a dedicated NetFlix button on their remote controls. This is a company that is getting it right.

That said, here are a few of the features I would like to see NetFlix introduce:

More flexible parental controls. Right now, NetFlix has some basic parental control settings. You can set it so that videos under a certain rating — like PG — are unavailable to your NetFlix enabled devices. But that’s sort of a problem, since it blocks both you and your kids. So after the kids go to bed, forget streaming Rated PG-13 and R movies through your Roku. It’s locked. Even the Wii has a setting where you can block certain games. Allow parents to set profiles so that you can limit access based on user profiles.

Better control of the Instant Queue. This ties back to the parental controls. If you watch a regular R-rated movie, your kids can just click the “resume” button and pick up where you left off. And even if they don’t, they may think that a movie like “The Human Centipede” is a nature flick from the Discovery Channel. (It’s not.) It would be nice to be able to block kids from even seeing certain movie boxes, while allowing you to surf what you want with a pass code.

Spoiler alerts. It’s interesting to skim reviews when deciding if you want to add something to your Instant Queue. Too many people include critical spoilers in their write ups. It would be nice to give the authors (and the community) a little button that notes that the review includes spoilers. Heck, maybe you can even allow people to highlight the spoiler section, so that it just comes up with the section blocked out. That would allow reviewers to self-censor sections without deleting their entire reviews. And then, after the movie, you could decide if you wanted to go back and read those sections. There are actually some interesting discussions in there that you can read after you’ve seen the movie.

Social sharing. It’s really surprising that they haven’t incorporated any social features into the NetFlix site. I mean, most people want to know what their friends think of a particular movie. If our taste matches their tastes, we may be more likely to trust their movie recommendations. Even the Apple iTunes store has a service like Apple’s Ping. I want to find my friends and share reviews and recommendations with them. They already have a sizable following on Facebook and on Twitter.

Marketing Perspecitive

Not only are these features well within reach of NetFlix, they would derive clear benefits from exploring them. Now, I put on my marketer’s hat and offer a few suggestions.

First off, they already crowdsourced their recommendations engine. This famous NetFlix contest raised awareness…and created a fantastic resource for their service. People suddenly became interested in NetFlix and for good reason. NetFlix showed that they cared about their core service and did something creative to improve it. They could steal a page from their own book and crowd source the development of certain features. If done properly, they could continue to innovate, provide improved service, and incentivize and reward innovation.

Second, they could add parent-friendly features and earn crucial support from DVD-exhausted parents. Ever try to organize a massive collection of Disney and Pixar DVDs only to discover that some of them are either lost or scratched? Heck, you’d have me sold just by telling me that the movies start instantly. And that my kids won’t get bombarded by trailers and commercials. Rolling out parent-friendly features — and promoting it aggressively where parents go for information — would get people to explore the affordable streaming-only option. If you have the right content (and at this point they do), parents would be comfortable about streaming content into their homes.

Third, they could mobilize their existing fan base using social media. Allow people to interact with their peers, form groups, and personalize their NetFlix experience. It doesn’t have to be as complicated as the Facebook privacy settings, but a little bit of customization and socialization would be welcome to some folks. Plus, they could give existing NetFlix fans ways of sharing their enthusiasm with people who don’t subscribe. Yet.

NetFlix is an important service that is helping to pave the way to a world media is paid for by consumers and, back catalogues are still valuable, and distribution isn’t limited to retail stores. Between services like NetFlix, Hulu, Apple TV, Roku, Boxee and others, the streaming world is just starting to get truly interesting.

More to explore:

Roku XDS Week 1

January 17, 2011 · Posted in content, entertainment, fun stuff, NetFlix, new media, Roku, technology, video · 1 Comment 

Roku LogoWe’re a week into it with the Roku XDS. Let’s take a moment and review a few of my initial impressions of bringing Internet video into my living room.

NetFlix experience is quite good, but I find myself playing with my Instant Queue almost as much as I watch actual movies. The NetFlix recommendation engine is amazing, and it exposed me to several movies and documentaries that were right on target. Streaming NetFlix through the Roku is a pleasure.

Hulu Plus is definitely attractive, since I am a big fan of well-produced television shows. Something about a serialized story appeals to me in both comics and TV. However, adding another $7.99 monthly subscription on top of the NetFlix sub is going to get expensive fast.  At this point, NetFlix seems to have an adequate collection of TV shows, so I’ll stick with that for a while.

Adding custom channels is pretty easy, so I have updated the Roku XDS with Blip.tv and Revision3. Here the experience is rather uneven. The connection and content are fine, but some of the programming is barely a step above cable access. It’s too bad because I like the idea of watching long-tail TV shows.

That said, I am happy to watch iFanboy on Revision3 much more than I do on my laptop. Big improvement.

NetFlix LogoIt’s worth noting that this whole Roku and NetFlix upgrade traces back to the local movie theater raising prices last year. The ticket price of a first-run movie increased one week from $9 to $11. Just to be clear, I typically went to the movies on a Tuesday and the price increase was on regular 2D films. I can understand the price increase on 3D movies because there are special projectors, glasses, and good stuff like that.

It’s not like I couldn’t afford the $2, but it was kind of annoying that they skipped over $10 and went right to $11. Product pricing and perceived value is certainly a psychological game in every industry. In this case, the price jump bummed me out, and I was in the habit of seeing a new movie just about every week.

But I still need my movie fix…and good luck trying to find a local video rental store. Okay, we have a RedBox near us, but for whatever reason, I just never remember that when I am in movie mode.

So NetFlix on the Roku has filled the void left by regular movie theaters. It’s not quite the same, but the combined depth and variety of their library of movies, TV shows, and other content is truly impressive.

I’m looking forward to exploring more channels on the Roku, just to see what’s available. There are a few premium paid channels, and if the content is good and the price is right, I may give them a try.

Well, one week in and I am pretty happy with the Roku. I haven’t really explored it fully, nor have I tried plugging anything into the USB slot. Check back again for more Roku, NetFlix and other streaming reports.

More good readin’:

TV Apps Kickoff – 3 Things You Need to Know

February 13, 2010 · Posted in content, Gadgets, iPhone, Marketing, new media, TV Apps, video · 6 Comments 

TV Guide TV app available through YahooThe 2010 Superbowl officially kicked off the Age of TV Apps. The technology has been around for a few years and is already available to many people. But Vizio’s TV app Superbowl commercial was the kickoff heard ’round the world.

So what are TV apps? In a most basic sense, TV apps are like the applications you download for your iPhone. Small, limited-use software that allows you to personalize your hardware.

New stuff that was once only available for your computer — and then for your iPhone — is now available for your television. If you have Direct TV or Verizon FiOS, some of this is already baked into your cable box. Obviously you can get TV apps on the Vizio TV, but also on many Samsung and Sony televisions as well.

You can already use things like Twitter, Flickr, and Facebook on your TV.

Here are three things you should know about TV Apps

1. The technical field is relatively open.
Sure, there are some key players like Yahoo who have already set themselves as leaders, but that can change.  Currently, Yahoo controls the application and administers the software development kit (SDK). Note: From our personal experience, Yahoo was somewhat slow in distributing the SDKs to developers. That’s unfortunate because that could irritate programmers who could create an open-source system that could render Yahoo’s TV Apps technology obsolete. If you have the desire to create apps (or even a completely new OS), the time is now. The tech is in place for you to build the next great widget, gadget, social network, or living room app.

2. TV apps will present design challenges.

Weather TV app available through DirectTV

TV apps will face several user interface challenges. The most notable is that most people don’t have a keyboard on their television remote control. Sure, you can pull one up on the screen, but as you can imagine, typing with a little remote-control button is a pretty poor user experience. If you’ve used a Wii remote to create a Mii character, you know how tedious it can be to type out a long name. Designers will clearly make the difference between apps that succeed or fail. The old design rules will need to evolve to take advantage and address the limitations of a 10-foot interface.

3. Content & marketing opportunities will need to evolve.
The iPhone and other smart phones forced content developers and marketers to rethink the way we package messages. Long-form had to give way to shorter, more relevant messages. If not for mobile communications limitations, Twitter would have never gained a foothold in society. Face it, a 140 character message fits better on a cell phone screen than, say, a PowerPoint presentation. People who mastered the Twitter format (including URL shorteners) emerged pretty quickly as masters of the medium. And the marketers quickly caught on with brand messages. That’s a long way of saying that the new language of TV apps is still in flux. If you want to create content or marketing messages for TV apps, try to figure out what works with this new interface.

If you’re already exploring TV apps, congratulations. You’re probably going to have a head start on this unique and exciting new communications channel. I look forward to seeing what you create.

LINKS, NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS:

Vizio’s TV App Superbowl Fumble

February 8, 2010 · Posted in advertising, Google, Marketing, new media, Search, SEM, SEO, TV Apps, video · 3 Comments 

If you were one of the 106 million people who watched Superbowl XLIV, you may have caught the Vizio TV ad. You know the one…it showcased one of the coolest new technologies called TV Apps.

Vizio TV App Search Results - Search "Vizio TV Apps"

Google results for the Vizio TV Apps search.

Despite a terrific commercial, Vizio may have fumbled a prime opportunity to capture and convert their audience. The content was great. The message was on target. So what went wrong?

Well, they forgot both their (a) search engine marketing (SEM) campaign and (b) search engine optimization (SEO).

Like many people watching the Superbowl, I saw the commercial and wanted to know more. I didn’t catch the URL on the screen, but I trusted that if I put in “Vizio TV apps,” Google would link to their site.

Nope.

How about “Vizio apps”? No.

Um…”TV apps”? Nope.

Okay, they must be bidding on “Vizio” right? Big nope.

I’ve included a bunch of screen shots of Vizio’s Google search results on Flickr, so you can see who and what is coming up on the search engine results page (SERP) for Google. You can see tweets from people on Twitter who are interested in the Vizio commercial, but the Vizio web page appeared to be down.

Even a day after the Superbowl, there’s no SEM campaign from Vizio trying to capture the traffic and buzz generated by their commercial. And unlike other events, the Superbowl is legendary for people sharing and replaying ads. YouTube has collections of the best ads, which means people will be watching that ad long after it was aired.

In today’s always-on Internet culture, people trust Google, Yahoo, Ask, and Bing to take them to the right site. But that comes at a cost, since sites need to be properly optimized for search engines.

A well-designed SEM campaign needs to be developed and maintained, since your website may not always come up in natural search. Sure, you will come up for your own name, but you may not come up for your category. SEM helps you get your message in front of the right people at the right time. Like, for example, a few minutes after your commercial runs on the Superbowl.

Vizio did a great job of educating the Superbowl viewers about the concept of TV apps. It’s hard to say if they will be able to cement that lead without properly leveraging search traffic on Google.

What should have been a touchdown seems more like a fumble. And you have to wonder if someone else has already intercepted Vizio’s customers.

LINKS – NOT NECESSARILY ENDORSEMENTS

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