Are you working on an iPad app that can help content marketers – I’ll be happy to help

My “job” has changed radically over the past few years, so I understand why people have no idea what I do.

The company I started 20 years ago, now called Hammock Inc., is in the business of developing and managing different types of content and custom media for marketers who are trying to achieve specific objectives. (Objectives being a buzzword that means something you can actually measure, not something that’s important- and lofty-sounding but has no yardstick — those are called goals. We’re into yardstick stuff.)

So, yes, when publishing a magazine (what lots of people think is all we do) helps a client meet a specific objective, we do that.

But today, the objectives we work on are more like, “improving organic search results by X%,” lead generation and things having to do with stuff like “bounce-rates.”

I explain all that to say this:

If you have a great new way to help me assist clients reach customers by creating and deploying and distributing content that matters to their customers, I’m always eager to hear about it.

For example, a friend of mine asked if I would look at an iPad app he is developing. Sure, I said. One look at it and I thought of five different ways the idea could be a great early-stage iPad app a marketer would love to experiment with.

So that made me think: There must be several people out there working on ideas that would help inspire other ideas that do those things I believe are going to replace advertising in the coming years: Content (a very broad term) provided to customers in ways that customers find appealing and helpful and beneficial — and never intrusive.

So send them to me.

I promise this: I won’t blog about them until you’re ready for me to. I won’t “steal” your ideas — although I can assure you, lots of people are having “similar” ideas to yours — it’s not the idea but your execution that’s going to make it a success. (For example, any app that’s another version of reading an eBook is not exactly defensible, so it better be executed in a way that is unique to you and compelling to users.)

Don’t know where this will lead, but one never knows.

Should I care about Flash?

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[Screen grab: NYT.com with flash blocked.]

John Gruber writes a typically thought-provoking piece about Flash, the ubiquitous software platform that designers and marketers love because it enables animation and video that make a website act just like a TV or interactive game. Except, that is, when people do what I do and use things like the Firefox browser plugin Flashblock that keeps Flash from taking over my browser — unless I want it to.

Flash can be great. But more often than not, it just slows down a web page. I grew so frustrated with Flash that I installed Flashblock months ago and haven’t looked back. Developers — and excuse me, marketers, but we’re the worst — use Flash for reasons like: “Our boss likes it when the photo whisks across the window” or “The client wants the site to look more modern.”

So, for reasons of pleasing the boss and the desire to look “more modern,” a software platform that is buggy and sloppy and many times, at odds with the marketing objectives of clients (check out how I see those invisible Flash ads on the front of NYT.com), Flash is used — and it pleases bosses and clients who view their ads and websites on controlled platforms.

Gruber (echoing a post from Robert Scoble) suggests there’s a better way to accomplish video and animation and interactivity than using Flash: web standards that support video without a Flash plugin.

There are those who say that the iPad will fail because it doesn’t support Flash (however, that non-support doesn’t seem to have deterred the iPhone’s success). Perhaps, however, it will be the iPad that finally breaks the back of the Flash cartel. Developers, as Gruber suggests, must decide if they are “Flash” developers or animation/video developers.

Likewise, I’ll add, they will soon have to decide if they are iPad developers, or open apps developers.

What a great — and chaotic — time to be living.

Bonus: Dave Winer joins in the discussion.

Later: The NYT examines the Apple-Flash issue in an article in Monday’s paper.

This is a rather large cloud announcement

clouds

While they’re not saying what the total amount of file space they’ll provide each user, Google has just announced that they’re rolling out the ability to store any file of 250MB or less on Google Docs. On the Google Blog, they say it this way:

“Over the next few weeks, we’re rolling out the ability to upload all file types to the cloud through Google Docs,”

This is a rather large thing they are announcing if you consider “the cloud” is that mythical place where we all one day will be storing all of our digital data. Who becomes our primary portal to the cloud (“stairway to heaven”) is going to be our lynchpin to lots of stuff we do.

Hardcore geeks already have several such connections to the cloud. For example, a business like Hammock has its own and hosted servers for doing all sorts of back up and file transfer and web hosting activities. We also use everything from Amazon web services to RackSpace to DropBox to MobileMe for different cloud activities.

However, with Google entering the arena of file hosting for consumers (and small businesses), it places them in a space with Apple and its MobileMe service (not one of its easiest products to explain).

What this likely points to is a future where your Android powered slate computer is fully synching with your Google docs account — music, movies, the whole ball of data.

Frankly, it’s all sorta there already.

It just needs to get easier to understand for real people and not just geeks.

P.S. This also points to the knowledge by Google that Apple’s iSlate will have all sorts of cloud-synching abilities wired into the product.

Bottom line: Hang around to see if two’s a crowd on my cloud.

Update: On yet another Google Blog, The Google Docs Blog, they do go into the pricing:

“You’ll have 1 GB of free storage for files you don’t convert into one of the Google Docs formats (i.e. Google documents, spreadsheets, and presentations), and if you need more space, you can buy additional storage for $0.25 per GB per year.”

Stop trying to limit the Internet to a metaphor

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Today, I spent several hours in a conference with 300 marketers who fit into one of two categories:

1. They work at companies that are trying hard to figure out how to use something currently called “social media” to help their companies succeed (i.e., sell more stuff).

2. They work at companies that are trying to sell services to help group #1 succeed (i.e., sell more stuff). (Disclosure: I and content marketing and custom media company, Hammock Inc., fall into this second category).

First off, I have to get something clear about where I stand on the term “social media.” First, I think it’s a quickly-falling-from-relevance-term when applied to media and marketing — right up there with the term Web 2.0, which meant about the same thing as “social media” until people got tired of that term and started calling it “social media.”

In my opinion, at best, “social” is a feature, it’s not a medium. When all media is social, there is no such thing as social media. It’s like HD TV. When only some shows are in High Definition, then maybe there’s something unique and special about saying, “this program is broadcast in High Definition.” But when everything is in High Definition, it’s sorta silly to announce “we’re the High Definition channel” — just like all the other channels.

In other words, when every page on the Internet has five different ways to forward, share, comment and embed, isn’t that enough to say, “everything is social.” When every anchorman and musician and corner cafe is on Twitter, is it really a unique “thing” called “social media.”

That, aside. I’ll agree, the technology and the capabilities and the way people use the Internet in our daily lives are way, way ahead of where marketers and media people are. Marketing people were way, way late to the table and it shows. I like that they’re trying to catch up, but I have some squeamishness when I hear them discuss with one another what social media marketing is all about.

Frankly, I think it’s the metaphors that alarm me. Marketers, for the most part, view “the web” as a tool set. Even those who, like me, want to focus on the way the Internet can solve specific business objectives, often fall into the pattern of seeing Twitter, et al, as a hammer and every problem as a nail.

For the past ten years, I have tried my best to explain to media and marketing people what many still don’t seem to understand. The web is best understood (metaphorically speaking) as “a place,” not as “a medium.” To my friends in the business-to-business media and marketing world, I have said that the best metaphor for the web is not a publication (you can thank whoever came up with the term “web page” for that metaphor) but a trade show. I’ve tried to explain (metaphorically speaking) that social media is like the conversation that takes place in the hallways and aisles of a trade show — not in the keynotes or panel sessions. It’s in those hallways that commerce takes place, where the marketplace of industries exist.

But still, marketers and media people seem to want the new stuff to fit into metaphors of the old stuff — like advertising and promotions and direct mail.

Today, I heard a speaker spend 30 minutes suggesting that some imaginary group of “tree huggers” and “hippies” exist who don’t want anything about social media to be commercialized or used in marketing. I’ve been to blogger events, South by Southwests and countless social media and geek events for over a decade, and I have no idea what he’s talking about. People have been trying to monetize and marketize social media since the day the first cavemen drew a picture on a wall.

Frankly, one of the seminal events of the movement that led to what we think of today as “social media” — at least in comprehending what a networked community of customers means to the marketplace — was the publication of the book, The Cluetrain Manifesto. And yes, there was some hippie influence in book (love you, Doc), it was not, however, anti-business or anti-marketing or anti-anything — except anti-cluelessness.

People were then, and are still now, tired of being beat over the head and spammed with crappy advertising and sub-par customer service. That’s not hippie-talk. That’s common sense. And, more importantly, customers know more about products than marketers do. So get over it.

People who pioneered this place we now call “social media” have sought to create a better way of marketing than sending out coupons, but I don’t know of any “tree huggers” who preach against it — unless, someone thinks doing something better than couponing via Twitter is preaching against coupons.

Here’s the deal: This Internet thing is way bigger than social media. It’s way bigger than marketing. It’s a place. It’s a world. It’s where we are spending a larger and larger portion of our lives. And a portion of that time we spend is focused on, yes, buying and selling stuff. But that’s just a part of that world.

Marketers can learn to live in that world, or they can spend time trying to figure out ways to spam that world. And if I’m a hippie when I say it, so be it: there are better ways to help companies succeed than teaching them new ways to distribute spam.

If you spend all of your time thinking the Internet is a tool set to replicate what you’ve done in the past — except faster — you’re not necessarily wrong, you’re just less than right.

Bottomline: Don’t be fooled by thinking the Internet can be contained in a metaphor, even mine.

Why you need to “get” QR code


N Building from Alexander Reeder on Vimeo.

In the U.S., we are just getting around to realizing that QR code can turn iPhones and whatever comes iNext into devices that tie together the physical world to the virtual world. I know I used to think QR Code was nothing more than a re-tread of the ridiculously conceived CueCat.

When I started using an iPhone, I started re-thinking the ways that print can be bridged into web content via QR Code. Then I started thinking about QR codes on clothes and all sorts of products. However, I must admit, it was not until I started looking into how the Japanese have, over the past decade, used QR Code, that I realized how someone there could be inspired to have the idea for the building above.

Quote:

(Using a mobile device app pointed at the building)…”Our proposed vision of the future is one where the facade of the building disappears, showing those inside who want to be seen. As you press on the characters their comments made on online appear in speech bubbles. You can also browse shop information, make reservations and download coupons. Rather than broadly tagging, we display information specific to the building in a manner in which the virtual (iPhone) serves to enhance the physical (N Building). Our goal is to provide an incentive to visit the space and a virtual connection to space without necessarily being present.

Welcome to the future.

(via: resourceshelf.com)