Posted on March 24th, 2005 1 comment
Since blogs have an “all about me” kind of vibe, I’m not at all ashamed to announce a whole new set of ways to subscribe to me and everything I publish on Dan’s Diner. Scroll down to the Subscribe to Me section in the right sidebar, and you will see that you can get Dan’s Diner automatically delivered to you in three ways:
- A feed in a news reader. My favorite reader so far is Thunderbird e-mail, through which you can check both e-mail and RSS feeds from any blog or news source that offers RSS.
- Links to new content on your My Yahoo page, if you have one.
- Subscribe to my “podcast” to automatically download and synch audio I publish to your iPod or MP3 player.
If all of this is greek to you, read this primer about RSS, why it’s worthwhile, and a few easy ways to set up feeds.
The most gratuitous and, frankly, useless of the three at this point is the Podcast. I only added that to see what’s involved. Like many media people, I have been intrigued by weeks and weeks of relentless hype stories about Podcasting and how cool it supposedly is. I now have iPodder on my PC with a few subscriptions set up — including NPR, Adam Curry and Indiefeed. At one point I was even getting a Podcast from a guy named “Trucker Tom” who talks from his truck. If a trucker can do this, I figured I could too.
So how difficult was it? While I wouldn’t say it was easy to set up, it was relatively straightforward for anyone who has gone as far as setting up a blog in the first place. I followed the very good instructions on a blog called Forret.com. Rather than repeat everything on this guy’s blog, if you want to know how to Podcast I suggest checking out Forrett and following the instructions there.
At this point I’m keeping my little Podcast simple. After setting myself up to publish with Audioblogger.com (a sister site to blogger.com), I simply call a number from my cell phone and blab on about random stuff (see my first audio post here). Audioblogger publishes everything for me, and Feedburner creates a Podcast-friendly feed. I do have to go back and edit a couple of things through a Web browser, which is a pain, but all in all it’s pretty simple to do.
Of course, now I need to think of good audio content to post. Karaoke, anyone?
Posted on March 24th, 2005 1 comment
And now, it’s time for something completely different — audioblogging! I just posted the following sound clip from my cell phone using audioblogger.com (thanks to Baketown for discovering this). Aside from the fact that I hate how I sound on the phone, you have to admin this is pretty cool. The next thing to find out is — do I have a Podcast now? We’ll see …
Posted on March 21st, 2005 No comments
Yesterday the news leaked that Yahoo is buying Flickr, a social networking site that’s built around public (and now private) photo sharing. Here’s the writeup on the Flickr blog. I find it interesting that this news comes just a few weeks after Amazon.com invested in a site called 43things.com. Is social networking about to grow up?
Both are a nod to slightly more established social networking sites like Tribe.net, Linkedin.com, Friendster.com and Myspace.com that use invitations to get people to join groups with shared interests and geography. Once they have you as a member, they encourage you to publish and “list” stuff that’s broadcast to other people in your area who have similar interests. Linkedin even goes so far as to publish job ads that are spidered from company web sites.
I have been following social networking closely for the last 18 months, and one thing I have noticed is that they all start out as an asterisk and then, with little to no promotion, emerge 6 months to a year later with significant reach. Just look at Myspace.com and you will see how it has taken root among young people in your area.
The most interesting thing of all is that these sites launch and grow completely off radar. In fact, just this morning I discovered a new youth-oriented networking site called Pure Volume. When you sign in, you immediately see a list of band events in your zip code, and you can click through to view the bands’ profiles and listen to their music. For an example of how “hyper-local” Pure Volume is, one of the venues for a nearby gig on my page is Clay’s House, no doubt some nearby high school kid’s basement. How did I learn about this site? From my youngest high-school-aged cousin, whose band The Iscariots can be found there. (Please give him some hits — he’ll love the attention! I think this speaks volumes about how these sites leverage their own users for promotion. If I hadn’t gotten an e-mail from him with a link to his profile, I probably wouldn’t have known about this site for another few months.
The information people share in these social networking communities is not all that different from what is or should be published in newspapers. In the case of Bakersfield, it’s very similar to what’s published on Northwestvoice.com and Bakotopia.com. For this reason, I believe social networking sites should be considered a quickly growing “mindshare” threat for every newspaper and local media company.
And for you more enlightened media companies out there (Anyone? Bueller? Anyone?), this is also a great opportunity to get ahead of the wave and tie social networking into everything you do or plan to do. For once, let’s not wait three years and play a hopeless game of catchup!
Posted on March 16th, 2005 1 comment
On April 4, I will be speaking at the New Media World track of the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association’s America East conference. The title of my presentation will be “Goodbye Classifieds, Hello Community.”
Since we changed the title of my presentation, it has raised a lot of eyebrows. One individual I talked to even chided me when I told her about it. She mockingly slapped my hand and said, “that’s terrible!” Then she went into her office and closed the door, and I can only surmise that she proceeded to bite her nails or rock back and forth nervously in her chair wondering what the future has in store. Another person in a high position told me to “be careful” about what I say because print is alive and well.
I think the title of my presentation is creating some confusion, so I just want to make it clear up front that I will not be talking about how print Classifieds are supposedly going away, which I don’t believe. Nor am I trying to create widespread fear and panic in the industry. Yes, newspapers and media in general are seeing an accelerated migration of consumers from traditional media gatekeepers to “gates wide open” online sites. Enlightened CEOs of newspaper s around the world now know this, and they are all scrambling to try to understand what this means for their businesses and what they need to do to stay relevant to consumers in the future. In my opinion, the reality of migration is now painfully obvious and I won’t be spending much time on it at all.
What I will be talking about is how the idea of Classifieds, advertising and the entire behavior around buying and selling at a local level is changing to be more about community and social networking (concepts which did not even exist 10 years ago).
I have a unique perspective on this after an adolescence spent on old computer bulletin board systems (remember those?), followed by a decade of working in online communities at The Washington Post, AOL and elsewhere. It is this perspective that lead me to propose the youth-focused Bakotopia.com to The Bakersfield Californian (my day job). Bakotopia is off to a great start and there is more to come, and I will also talk a little about that.
I am sure that everyone in the audience at my presentation probably knows more about traditional Classifieds as a business than I do. Likewise, I understand online communities very well, and many of them do not. Because behavior that used to take place in Classifieds is moving (and in many cases has already moved) to online communities, I have some unique perspectives to offer which I hope will help Classified managers understand what they need to do in the future. That is the focus of my presentation, and I hope that it will be helpful to the people who attend.
Here is a little taste of what I will discuss …
Ever since the Internet became mainstream, people have used it for primarily four things:
- Communicating with friends and family (e-mail and IM)
- Searching for information
- Finding people of like minds, interests and goals
- Having fun!
If you look at sites like EBay and Craigslist, they excel in at least three of those areas, and I believe we will see them integrate more friends-and-family communication features in the future. You can easily search for and find things you want to buy, you can learn quite a bit about the people who are selling (through seller profiles and ratings), and you can have fun bidding for stuff. In the case of Craigslist, the fun comes in the ability to post anonymous ads that you never would dream of doing in public, and deciding which of the 30 people to respond to who have e-mailed you in the last hour to buy your coffee table or who are asking for your picture. This kind of thing has been going on in Internet chat rooms and message boards for years. EBay and Craigslist just gave it a name and brand identity.
Sites like Tribe.net, LinkedIn and Monster.com take things a step further and let you broadcast listings to friends, friends of friends and former career contacts (a play on friend-family communication). LiveDeal filters results to the local level. All of these things increase the chances that someone nearby with similar interests who has some connection to you will respond, and that results in higher value to the consumer. For something like finding a job, it mirrors the way many people find jobs in “real life.” When online products do something better online that is already happening offline, they go nuclear. Just look at music sharing as one example.
If you really look close at what’s going on in these sites and why they are stealing marketshare from print Classifieds, it’s because they offer a superior customer experience that is interesting, addictive and transformational for the people who use them. Print classifieds used to be “as good as it gets” when it came to the local marketplace, so all Classified managers had to do was tweak pricing or categories or fonts. Those days are now over. It’s not that newspapers have been doing anything wrong in the last decade, it’s that the average consumer is now expecting more. It’s time to give it to them!
Here is the bottom line. If newspapers, which typically get 30-50% of their revenue from Classified ads, want to be around in great numbers in the future, they need to understand that 30-50% of their business is at risk of moving to online community sites that offer a superior experience. If your paper is not moving aggressively on these fronts, you could very well be looking at getting rid of 1/3 – 1/2 of your employees in the decade to come.
The solution? We need to observe consumer behavior and follow the market. Does that mean ditching the print Classifieds and going completely online, with auctions, seller ratings, social networking and more? No. But in my opinion, it means keeping print but also providing a competitive online experience in one or all of those areas. In the long run, perhaps print Classifieds become an index or “best of” rollup of the online community, which is where the real marketplace will be.
Just look at the success of the Californian’s Northwest Voice product and other “citizen journalism” initiatives with printed editions, and you will see that print still has value. What’s different about the Voice is that people write their own stories about their community, which the Web makes possible. The Voice then prints the cream of the crop every two weeks and delivers it to peoples’ doors, and consumers eat it up.
At the 50,000 foot level, what is the real difference between citizen journalism and online self-serve Classifieds? It’s all about giving more power and convenience to consumers — oh yeah, and making it a lot more fun
Unfortunately, it’s also about providing more value at low or no cost. This will undoubtedly be the hardest pill for newspapers to swallow, but think of it this way. If you ran a clothing store and a Walmart opened across the street, and you knew that you could retain 60% of your revenue by cutting prices on slacks and sweaters, would you do it? Or would you make no changes and let Walmart take 100% of your business and close your shop a few years later? I think this is the reality of what we’re looking at. If we do things right, we’ll bring in a little less revenue in the short term, but keep our customers and most of
our long-term value. Maybe we can open the equivalent of a line of designer sweaters a few years later to make up what we lost.
Posted on March 15th, 2005 4 comments
One year after leaving my job as princical product manager of You’ve Got Pictures, I have discovered Flickr — and I can finally terminate my AOL account with no regrets (and with just a tad of jealousy that I didn’t product manage this cool site!)
What an amazingly simple yet powerful application. Not only does it make it dirt easy to upload pictures (especially with its drag-and-drop bulk upload tool), but it throws out those clumsy and annoying constructs of “albums” and “folders” and replaces them with tags that can be easily searched. If tags are too much for you, you can just upload as you have time and Flickr organizes everything in chronological order in a manner similar to Picasa.
But wait, there’s some yummy icing on the cake too. It also works with blogger.com, so if you have a blogger-powered site like this one you can easily publish photos to it! This is my first photo blog post from Flickr. The picture is one I took last summer of one of the Flatirons in Boulder, Colorado. What a nice, magestic tribute to a wonderful site.
Apologies to all my former AOL chronies. It’s not that I dislike AOL — I just really, REALLY like Flickr.