Tag Archives: Marketing

Aggregation vs. Filtration Pt.2

Two years ago I was floundering as an online marketer for my sketch comedy group Extra Medium. Every time I posted our library of short films to a site, a new, more hip alternative arose.

I posted to Vimeo, Veoh, Dailymotion, Break, Funnyordie, MySpace, Google Video, Prelinger Archives and even made a little money from Revver‘s click-through ad system which awarded content providers per redirect.

Then YouTube rose from the muck the apparent victor, was bought by Google and cracked down on copyright violations. I had posted a digital video short which featured a snippet of a popular artist’s song and YouTube deleted my account. The hours of tagging, uploading and writing descriptions were void. Instead of blocking one video or asking me to verify my right or to remove the video myself, YouTube lost my 40 videos with thousands of hits. And I haven’t been back since.

Soon, new means of distributing feeds and rich media became mainstream. I launched the same online video as a podcast, subscribable through iTunes, RSS readers and browsers.

I was trying desperately to compete with Portland’s self-proclaimed “best” sketch comedy ensemble The 3rd Floor. They host the region’s best sketch comedy festival, have the best performance space, a long legacy, the most accomplished cast of trained, working actors, great press and great buzz. But not much online video. Web searches for sketch video were much more likely to bring up Olde English, Lonely Island or locals Cinema Queso. I thought I could flood cyberspace with one of the most sought-after commodities, funny video, and come out on top somehow. It turned out to be an awful marketing strategy. It essentially left a paper trail of dirty jokes and pixelated web-dross to my personal online identity. How am I going to explain that to a potential employer? If I’d spent just as much time blogging that Extra Medium were the best sketch comedy collective in Portland, I could have spun that into some real press and buzz. No wonder The 3rd Floor stole my girlfriend.

Too much information means all the while people are collecting more feeds, news, updates and e-letters, the more they ignore, scan and bounce. But legitimate sources of information get qualified hits. Their real estate get the right eyeballs. I liken my video proliferation campaign to flyering telephone poles. It’s throwing fistfulls of pea gravel, hoping you hit something significant. In the meantime, you’ve made a gritty mess and annoyed unintentional targets. What always drove traffic to our sketch show was word-of-mouth, friends-of-friends and being recommended as pick-of-the-week in local weeklies.

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Commerce and Culture meet, get along, but no sparks fly

I have been effectively marketed-to by a short list of bands 1) releasing an album early online-only, 2) announcing a prestige packaging / limited edition version of an album available between certain dates in brick & mortar stores or 3) giving fans on their mailing list first ability to purchase live concert tickets online.

In each case, I felt duly incentivized and clicked outside of the email ad to an external site, where I had to register all over again and navigate a checkout process, OR, better, I stepped away from the computer, left my home and bought something using my real phalanges and dirty green wallet-lining.

Each instance demonstrated the same pattern: 1) I would have bought it anyway, the email blast made we aware of its existence, and 2) they advertised things which I’d grown accustomed to purchasing elsewhere and convinced me not to put off the purchase, but compromise and but now. It didn’t feel more convenient. I like record stores and would be visiting one soon anyway. The only campaign that prompted greater revenue was one which convinced me to buy the same album twice, once as pre-release mp3, then months later on vinyl record.

If I translate that to myself as a marketer using online tools, I really need a good email list of people who voluntarily signed up for updates. Such individuals will happily open my can of spam, taste it and not complain that it’s too salty. Then they will need to feel that their relationship with me is exclusive, limited, VIP. Because they feel special, I’ll offer something in short supply, to collect and relish, to strengthen customer loyalty. Then, by strategically releasing my commodity in stages to various tier markets, each segment can feel it was uniquely addressed and supplied.

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More On (moron) Online Identity Management

I subscribe to Google alerts pertaining to my name. Apparently, it’s a common one. Primarily, I get death announcements and sports updates. There’s a Danny Norton who does extreme motocross, a boxer named Danny Norton and a character actor named Danny Norton. Meanwhile, I manage my identity as Danny Norton the stand-up comic, cofounder of a sketch ensemble, when I perform my ventriloquism karaoke act I’m Danny & Lester and in my band The Golden Greats I’m Dr. Nono, for which I manage a CD Baby identity, Portland Mercury listing, MySpace, page and Facebook profile. Then there are the pseudonyms. I use ElFrenetico here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. When I want to promote to the rockabilly and exotic Vintage Roadside target, here.

When I want to promote my DJ or music video VJ gigs, I have other online IDs than what I use to show off my illustration or photography.

Is there an impetus for a unified identity? My reputation and credentials across so many sites paint a very hodge-podge portrait, but even so, I’d like to outshine the other Danny Nortons if it gets me a job, a gig or an opportunity.

So far there are some companies offering a pricey service to round up online info and help manage it for you. It’s not an attractive option. Another would be to go delete all but key accounts and manage photos, videos, podcasts, blogs, resumes and the like from a unified site. I just found out dannynorton.com is available again.

I’ve tried using Flock, the social networking-specialized browser which updates activity (yours and friends) across popular sites in tiles visible or collapsible at any time. I thought it was kind-of neat until it slowed my 6-year-old computer to a crawl. Then I made a wild guess at their target market based on the big buttons. Kids? Really? The Trapper Keeper motif would put me off as a kid. My eyesight and manual dexterity aren’t challenged if I’m a kid. Let’s face it, if I’m a kid I want an instrument panel, but still appreciate navigability. I want to be recognized for my mature, sophisticated grasp on technology, not spoon-fed a bunch of colorful stickers. As an adult, I wouldn’t mind being mistaken for being younger, but still not by being pandered-to with emoticons and flash, but by hip, informative links where I can resize text for my failing vision.

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Print-On-Demand can actually add perceived value

Used to be, the notion of a book with a print-run of 500 or less must be a vanity press release and thus not deserving of serious attention. The paper was inferior, the covers would eventually fall apart and the color separations left a little to be desired. Print-on-demand books were earning a bad rap, but everyone saw the potential; a great title need never go out of print, a niche market title can be sold before the physical book even exists and the cost of warehousing or returning and remaindering books might be eliminated.

Circuit Bending: Build Your Own Alien Instruments is a book on my half.com wishlist. I’m in to that sort of thing, OK? It’s list price is list price $29.99 and on Feb. 10, 2009 copies were available for between $11.04 – 40.30. What? An obscure paperback with a VERY specific audience and no critical acclaim has multiple listings from online vendors selling it ABOVE list price? Curious. Or is it?

How I Paid for College: A Novel of Sex, Theft, Friendship & Musical Theater is another title which immediately caught my attention. Portland author, pithy humor, larger audience and arguably more demand. Great reviews from credible sources, hardback first edition, 288 pages. But scarcity? The book’s list price is $19.95, but countless copies are available for $0.75. Perhaps a calculated injection into the market, in stages, or “on-demand,” you might say, would have served Broadway Publishing very well. The perceived value to the consumer plummeted. Now, thousands of copies may flow through the mail system at $0.75 apiece, making Mark Acito’s College seem a more viable entry in the annals of book business, but an interesting capitalist phenomenon called first-sale doctrine secures that Broadway will never see a dime from such book trafficking. Once a book becomes a remainder, it has been sold and subsequent resales at deep discounts cement the price customers are EVER willing to pay for that title.

Danny Norton's Facebook profile

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Evolutionary Psychology

We’ve been discussing the need for publishers to put a best foot forward with a well-designed, maintained and informative web site, even if it is not a lucrative sales portal.

When I was working in computer sales next to the trade books section of Portland State Bookstore, advance reader copies and uncorrected proofs were my lifeline to not-so-great literature. One of my favorite scores was a book called Why Beautiful People Have More Daughters. It’s authors strove, by referencing quantitative scientific data, to explain the odd reasons some people succeed against the forces of natural selection to become progenitors of the next generation. It was like Freakonomics by Darwin, with a touch of Freud.

One study suggested that children who grow up in households with well-stocked bookshelves have better chances of scholastic triumph. Another suggested that people who hang out with friends, have more sex and smile live longer.

The cruel irony of such studies is that people with a genetic predisposition for intellectual pursuits will naturally pass it on to their children. Such parents just so happen to also be fans of books. Likewise, unhealthy people need not strive for friends, sex and laughs, healthy people naturally have all three. The cause/effect relationship can be easily misconstrued.

Similarly, great companies naturally develop dynamic, useful web sites to pimp their goods. Fledgling publishing houses may polish their public image with a great site, but should not be confused with what matters most. Be a great company first. The sales may follow. Who wants bombastic sales of lousy books anyway? All the polish in the world won’t wipe the stink of a poor product line.

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Publisher’s Sell-through Equation

I used to be a bit miffed when I’d locate a great product or piece of software, only to be directed to a contact page replete with addresses, phone numbers or links to other sites. No longer. Therein lies the impetus for publisher’s sites.

The newspeak of site linkage was added to the lexicon by Google’s boolean search algorithm. Today, if I find a link to a product or service in the top three list of a search engine, and after being duly convinced by compelling content to keep clicking, I am actually relieved when directed to purchase through Amazon or even a big box store with online purchase options. The great acquisition/deregulation cycle of the 00s essentially merged digital storefronts like Target and Amazon. The same login and account information allowed me to buy a wedding present (from an online registry) for my bandmate and get a book for myself.

The neato Google phenomenon, with it’s “meaningful” linkage hierarchy and reasonably bulletproof, oft-updated maintenance to prevent fake leads made it the preferred, most-trusted, most-used search engine. Yahoo, Ask and Altavista, even though their searches were often more carefully culled by human eyes, not software. What happens when tomorrow’s search engine directs a user to a business’ own digital storefront? Or worse, directs a shopper to a poorly-designed site? The reputation is damaged.

Every business needs a good-looking site “just in case,” and building a linkage of pages ups the brand in priority in search engine results. “Radically Transparent” has an interesting anecdote about public relations in its free online sample chapter. Its lesson is simple: If you don’t write about yourself, someone else will. Building a site is useful, even if no one sees it. There is no “if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.” It must be done, and if selling isn’t the strong suit, delegate that to those who do it well. A publisher just may be best served by making pages about authors, titles, reviews and sample chapters, but directing all sales traffic to an Amazon identity.

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