Wednesday, February 28, 2007

NIN Believes The Truth Is Out There

Here is what we know:

It isn't 2007, it is -15 BA. The drug Parepin has been added to the water supply of Orlando to protect its citizens from bio-terriorism. In 2009, er...... -13 BA, the drug will be added to the water supplies of Los Angeles, and Anaheim. There is growing concern that the drug may have a sinister side-affect in that it is actually a tool for the government to control the minds of its citizens. This concern intensified with the cryptic auto-reply from

Thank you for your interest. It is now clear to me that Parepin is a completely safe and effective agent developed to protect us from bio-terrorism. The Administration is acting purely in the best interests of its citizens; to suggest otherwise was irresponsible and I deeply regret it.

I’m drinking the water. So should you.

The cocaine trade fell and was replaced with the drug Opal. Users have reported seeing The Presence while under the influence of Opal. They/we hope this is simply a drug-induced hallucination.

More sightings of The Presence. More questions about its true identity, and true intentions. Or if it even exists at all.

New information is coming in at all times, more clues, apparently someone is leaving USB drives with music and encrypted clues in random bathrooms across Europe. An online community has been created to track the locations, and share information on their findings.

If you're still with me, then you deserve to know what the hell the deal is. Fact is, I don't really know, other than this is actually one cool as shit online marketing/scavenger hunt designed to build buzz for Nine Inch Nail's next album, 'Year Zero.' YZ will be hitting stores in April, and it appears that this online game/story is building massive buzz for its release.

The whole party started when a NIN fan bought a tour shirt for the band's 2007 European tour, and realized that certain letters from the list of cities that NIN would be performing in, were bolded. He pieced them together to get iamtryingtobelieve. On a hunch, he added a .com and slipped down the rabbit hole to

From there, the auto-reply above was discovered. Next popped up the site there's a second picture. After you uncover it, then a link to more info will appear).

Now the offline element of the marketing plan comes into play. NIN is currently touring Europe, and at every stop, the marketing team behind this, 42 Entertainment (of 2 fame), is putting USB drives at some of the concert venues. These drives include songs from the Year Zero album, but also includes hints about additional sites, which of course lead to more clues to the overall story.

And of course, fans are mobilizing to help each other with the most up-to-date information. This site seems to be ground zero for discussing Year Zero, and all the madness that is unfolding (Rolling Stone also has some great background on the campaign). It has a literal up-to-the-minute account of exactly what is happening, with a special focus on breaking news about new USB drive discoveries.

A wiki has been set up. So has an IRC channel. Thinking of playing a joke and creating a hoax site made to look like it ties into the story? Don't. One such site has already been discovered, and the site's owner is said to have received 'something close to death threats.'

Want another example of how crazy this is getting? Yesterday NIN released a concert DVD entitled Beside You in Time. One NIN fan noticed that the Blue-Ray edition of the DVD had the words “Secure,” “Broadcast,” and “Informatics" on the back. He slapped a .com on the end, and discovered that, sure enough, was the latest piece of the puzzle. So far, another 'newer' website has been discovered hidden in that one. There could be more, who the hell knows.

Admittedly, I'm not a NIN fan, but this scavenger hunt/puzzle-solving/online game has got me hooked. If I suddenly stop blogging for a while, it may be because I've slipped down the rabbit-hole myself.

Maybe you should join me?

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Power of Being Second

First, congrats to me. The Viral Garden now has over 500 links.

Second, congrats to David, as Logic + Emotion passed the 500-link mark a few weeks ago.

When you read the above, what did you think? Probably something along the lines of 'Hey that's great for David, but wow Mack's full of himself today!'

Why? Because we don't want to hear people sing their own praises. Many marketers and advertisers have never figured this out.

What's the tagline to Pedigree's latest campaign? "Dogs Rule." If you're a dog owner, what do you want to hear; that dogs kick ass, or that Pedigree kicks ass?

Let's say tomorrow you need to buy dog food, and you're trying to decide between Brand A, and Pedigree. While you are trying to decide, you remember that in their ads, Brand A says that they rule, while Pedigree says in their ads that "Dogs Rule." Since you also think that Dogs Rule, and you think that Brand A is busy tootin' their own horn, you'll probably buy Pedigree.

Because Pedigree went second.

Here's what Sarah McLachlan said about the creation of the music video for her song 'World on Fire':

"I wanted a video that wasn’t about me and wasn’t preachy, but one that would help shine a light on the tragedy and turmoil in the world and also show the beauty and strength of the human spirit.”

The video wasn't about Sarah, it was about helping people around the world. And it did, the $150,000 budget was instead given to charity, and over a million people had their lives bettered, as the video detailed exactly how this happened.

And Sarah even got a Grammy nomination for a video which many people believe to be one of the best music videos ever created.

All because Sarah went second.

Kathy Sierra explains how Creating Passionate Users is in the Technorati Top 100, and how her Head First series of books sell so well:
The secret is simply this: you have a much better chance for success when your business model makes what's good for the users match what's good for the business, and vice-versa. Our books are best-sellers not because we're better authors or teachers (a meritocracy), but because they were literally labors of love.

Then she adds this:
Nobody cares about your company, and nobody cares about your product. Not really. They care about themselves in relation to your product. What it means to them. What it does for them. What it says about them that they use your product or believe in your company.

Remember Dove's wildly popular 'Campaign for Real Beauty' spot that became a YouTube sensation? The spot was such a huge success in great part because it put the customer first. It told women that it was ok if they weren't a supermodel, and in fact that they shouldn't try to be one. It removed the guilt. Selling their products wasn't the focus, the customer was.

But their follow-up effort for Dove Cream Oil Body Wash wasn't as well-received. For this spot, which was seeded on YouTube earlier this month, the commercial was shown on YouTube's front page, with the instruction from Grey Anatomy star Sara Ramirez to help Dove create their next ad for the Oscars.

The reaction from the YouTube community? Disgust. In fact the video got so many negative comments that Dove turned off comments on the video, which led to the angry YouTubers migrating to the Dove brand channel on the site to voice their displeasure. One commenter explained: "OK, you have money, so you bought your add[sic] on front page. But it ruins the meaning of YouTube-sharing videos and commenting [on] them."

Why the disconnect in the reaction to the first and second Dove spots? Because Dove put the customer first in the initial spot, then tried to 'capitalize' on the viral success of the first spot, by focusing on selling more product in the second spot.

We don't want to hear from companies about how they are first, that doesn't inspire us. And we don't want to be sold to. We want to buy from companies that are smart enough to realize that if they put us first, they will earn our business.

That's it. So simple, and yet so rare to actually see.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

The (New) Rules of Advertising

Here are the 'new' rules of advertising, according to Ad Age, via The Jaffe:
Cramer-Krasselt, Chicago, has resigned as CareerBuilder's agency of record after a five-year run. In an internal memo issued today, the agency's president, Peter Krivkovich, said CareerBuilder put its account up for review after the agency's Super Bowl ads failed to rank in the top 10 in USA Today's viewer poll.

Here is how agency prez Peter Krivkovich told his staff of the news via an internal memo:
"C-Kers, we have to tell you -- in our entire history, hell in the history of this crazy thing called advertising, I'm not sure there has ever been any thing as baseless or as unbelievable as that. It's so ludicrous and they are so serious about that poll it's almost funny."

So there you have it. In order for advertising to be judged as 'effective' moving forward, all it has to do is draw attention to itself. With that new 'criteria' in mind, I can only imagine what the trainwreck of Super Bowl Advertising will look like in 2008.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

New post up at Daily Fix

My latest post is up at Daily Fix, 'Company Blog, or Online Brochure?'. It looks at how a company should position its blog, and from whose point of view it should be written. There's some fascinating discussion in the comments section, so please stop by and add your take!

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 44

Here's the standings for Week 44:

1 - Seth's Blog - 5,151 (-66)(LW - 1)
2 - Creating Passionate Users - 15,614 (-175)(LW - 2)
3 - Gaping Void - 18,085 (-545)(LW - 3)
4 - Duct Tape Marketing - 18,486 (-228)(LW - 4)
5 - Marketing Shift - 32,267 (+316)(LW - 5)
6 - Daily Fix - 48,350 (-1,091)(LW - 6)
7 - Converstations - 52,229 (+799)(LW - 7)
8 - New School of Network Marketing - 67,462 (-1,572)(LW - 8)
9 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 70,022 (+6,182)(LW - 11)
10 - The Viral Garden - 72,028 (+879)(LW - 9)
11 - Influential Interactive Marketing - 73,627 (+1,016) (LW - 10)
12 - Coolzor - 90,557 (-4,942)(LW - 12)
13 - Logic + Emotion - 98,205 (+4,312)(LW - 13)
14 - Church of the Customer - 116,841 (+130)(LW - 14)
15 - What's Next - 127,067 (-929)(LW - 15)
16 - Marketing Headhunter - 141,267 (-1,443)(LW - 17)
17 - Brand Autopsy - 142,503 (-2,330)(LW - 18)
18 - Marketing Nirvana - 142,922 (+2,334)(LW - 20)
19 - Diva Marketing - 143,442 (-1,504)(LW - 19)
20 - Jaffe Juice - 145,420 (-6,593)(LW - 16)
21 - Spare Change - 175,274 (+5,342)(LW - 21)
22 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 197,510 (+2,526)(LW - 23)
23 - Pro Hip-Hip - Hip-Hop Marketing - 197,748 (-1,340)(LW- 22)
24 - Experience Curve - 211,783 (+1,042)(LW - 24)
25 - CK's Blog - 220,495 (-7,314)(LW - 25)

As many of you have probably noticed, Alexa has changed how they report traffic. They now are listing each site's traffic as a percentage of all internet traffic. The numbers are still the 'same', for example last week a site's 26 for traffic is this week listed as 0.0026.

We have a couple of logjams being created, as #8-11 is close, but #16-20 is downright airtight. Converstations has a nice rebound week, as does Logic + Emotion, which is starting to regain momentum. Spare Change and Hee-Haw Marketing may be on the verge of separating themselves from the rest of the Top 25 and moving toward the traffic jam ahead of them.

No new blogs, but Make Marketing History is banging on the door, and Tell Ten Friends has been just outside the Top 25 for what seems like months.

Next update is next Wednesday.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

When PR Meets Social Media

The blogosphere is buzzing about JetBlue CEO David Neeleman using YouTube to reach out to his customers to address the difficulties the airline had last week. The overall reaction has been favorable to how Neeleman handed the situation, and I agree, JetBlue did handle the situation better than most companies have in similar situations.

I do think it's very interesting that Neeleman used YouTube to reach his customers. This is a classic case of reaching your customers using their tools in their space. But one thing that the commenters at YouTube pointed out,(along with Jackie), was that Neeleman never uttered those 2 magical words; 'I'm sorry'. Which IMO kept a good move from being a brilliant one. There were also plenty of comments about how nervous Neeleman looked, and he clearly was. But that, if anything, makes him look authentic. It made him look like any of his customers would have probably looked if they were having to make a video to be put on one of the most popular sites on the internet.

But since he couldn't couple that authenticity with the humility of an apology, a chance to make a brilliant impression is lost. Don't get me wrong, the video is a very good move and most companies would have never thought to reach out to their customers in their space, with their tools. Still, it was so close to being almost perfect.

UPDATE: Tom Biro posts the email that JetBlue sent him, which begins with "We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry." As for why that wasn't the first thing out of his mouth on the YouTube video, after introducing himself, I have no idea.

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Labels Begin Experimenting with 'Teaser' Downloads

It's really almost comical to watch the music industry slowly coming to grips with the fact that they are going to have to open their distribution channels, even if they don't want to. The latest example of their taking 2 steps forward and one back are teaser downloads. The New York Times reports that Universal Music will begin offering music video clips from some of its artists as DRM-free downloads. There are 2 catches; first, the video clip is incomplete, only showing about half the song's video, and second, you have to go to the label's website to see the full version.

Still, it is a SMALL step in the right direction. The article also talks to Nettwerk's Terry McBride, who says that this will lead to music fans seeding the clips all over file-sharing networks. “This becomes public property,” he said. “We’re not going to tell the consumer how to consume.” (BTW if there was EVER a CEO that needed to be blogging, it's Terry.)

But how big of a hit will these 'teaser' downloads be? I have my concerns, since music fans are going to see that this is a ploy by the labels to drive traffic back to their website, when most of the clips are probably available at other video-sharing sites.

Or, from the artist themselves. Recall that The Donnas offer dozens of full concerts and tv appearances in both video and audio form at, all available for free download. The fact that this site even exists is absolutely huge. I keep blogging about this because I can't think of another case of a major-label artist making so much of their material freely available, and the band even calls on its fans to add content that isn't listed. As the band's manager Molly Neuman says, it's a strategy to 'grow sales by giving the music away'.

Can anyone else think of another case of a major label artist making much of their catalog available for free download? If so I'd love to hear about it.

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Z-List 2.0

Wow. Just go here and see what Becky, Sharon and Gavin have done. Simply amazing, and they are going to start a Wikipedia page for the Z-List?!?

Another great example of their taking a long list and making it easier for it to dissolve into a blogging community. Great work guys. Go leave them a comment if for no other reason than to acknowledge how much work this must have been!

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Monday, February 19, 2007

How to Win Friends, and Monetize Online Communities!

Community-guru Jake McKee found this gem of a description for the book Smart Start-Ups: How Entrepreneurs and Corporations Can Profit by Starting Online Communities:
In Smart Start-Ups, angel capitalist David Silver explores the moneymaking opportunities to be found in the new online and mobile communities. Social networking software is more than just a way to meet new people; it’s also a business modeling opportunity that will make tens of thousands of people mega-millionaires. This book examines this new social phenomenon from an entrepreneurial standpoint. Entrepreneurs can make fortunes by creating online and mobile communities for niche and target audiences.

Now let's examine this 'new social phenomenon' from a reality standpoint. Online communities form when like-minded individuals come together to share and exchange ideas with each other. They have shared interests, and shared passions.

Hint: Helping you make money off them is NOT what excites these communities.

What excites customers is when you COMMUNICATE with them, when you EMPOWER them to SHARE control over your marketing message, thus giving them a sense of OWNERSHIP in your brand.

THAT is exciting. To the customers, of course. It scares the living hell out of most companies. Companies that have for decades aimed a one-channel marketing message at their customers, aren't too receptive to the idea of making that a two-way CONVERSATION.

If you want to create an online community that will willingly sing your praises, then you have to give your customers something more substantial than the chance to make you money. You have to give them respect, control, empowerment, and a voice. Then they'll let you know if they want to have anything to do with you.

You get what you pay for, and having a company and culture and message that excites people, costs more than $20 through Amazon.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Viral Community News

More wholesome blogging goodness from around the 'sphere...

1. - Marketing Profs. Book Club (Hosted by CK, natch), is back and installment #2 has none other than the legendary Al and Laura Ries! The 'First Family of Branding' will cover their book The Origin of Brands. Can't wait as I think that's about the only book written by either of the authors that I haven't read yet. CK also has news on an interesting freebie from Al and Laura for book club readers, so check it out!

2. - DA is up to something...

3. - Maura has a great story about the Terra Bite Lounge in Kirkland, Washington. The restaurant offers free wifi, and free food. Everyone pays as little or as much as they want to via 'donations'. Right now they are serving 80 customers a day, that spend an average of $3 per, and they need to hit 100 customers a day at that rate to break even. Will be interesting to see how WOM affects their business in the coming weeks.

4. - Celeste picks up a post I left here weeks ago about CBS seeding content on YouTube, and runs with it.

5. - Shouty Lady has a post up for Russel Davies Post of the Month contest, so go vote for Katie!!!

6. - Chris informs us that Google has started to 'allow' FeedBurner to start tracking Google Reader users. Methinks he's right, since my number of feed readers suddenly shot up about 30% yesterday.

7. - Then over at MMM, Chris tells us why movie studios aren't about to dump DRM. Also congrats to Chris as MMM is named 'Site of the Week'.

8. - Hypebot has an interesting look at the future of major music labels. Noticed this quote:
"Only some kind of bold move can leave the major labels looking anything like they do today. Or they could rip it apart and start all over again. Gone are the private jets - yes they still use them - replaced by a cadre of young affordable staff passionate about music, versed in the digital world and viral marketing and ready to die for their bands."
I found it interesting, because when I talked to Nettwerk's Erin Kinghorn last year about the future of music, she said the 'youth movement' would dynamically shift the scope of the industry in the coming years. She said that the higher management that had been with labels since the 70s and 80s would be replaced by youngsters that grew up immersed in social-media, and that understood how to utilize it as a tool to empower fans to market with their favorite artists.

9. - Nokia's social-media expert Karl Long asks an interesting question about bloggers receiving gifts. Karl asks:
If your a blogger and you got an Nseries “multimedia computer” in the mail what would you do with it? How would you feel about it? Obligated? Bribed? Important? Valued? I know when I get a book or t-shirt in the mail I feel like a valued person, and somewhat obligated to write something.
From my view, I wouldn't feel as obligated to write something about the 'computer', as I would want to. Now having said that, I would feel the OBLIGATION to my readers to give them my ACCURATE impressions of the product. I would thank Nokia for sending me their product, but I'm going to shoot straight about my experiences with it, because at the end of the day, my readers are far more important than the product.

For example, about this time last year, Sprint told me they were going to send me a phone to use for 6 months as part of their Ambassador program. Great! I got the email notifying me, which included a link to go to their site and activate my phone and have it sent to me. When I got to the website, I filled in all my information, then found out that I was in one of the 'select markets' that Sprint had chosen to receive the phone. So I had to get excited over receiving a phone, then have the rug pulled out from under me AFTER I went to Sprint's site and jumped through their hoops, when all it would have taken was simply mentioning the 'select markets' that the program was available to, in the email I was sent. So naturally, I blogged about all of this on BMA ;)

So to answer Karl's question, yes I would blog about the phone, but the obligation I would feel would be to my readers, not Nokia. I'm sure most other bloggers would feel the same way.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

The Z-List and the Creation of Communities

As many of you are aware, the Z-List is again taking off. Since mid-December when the Z-List first started to spread, there have been certain criticisms of the list. The main complaints revolve around the fact that it IS just a list. It's hard to tell what each blog is about, and what the subject matter is.

But a few members of the Z-List have taken it upon themselves to address these issues. First, Becky decided she wanted to categorize all the blogs. Then, Gavin and Sharon decided to also write a short description for each blog. Yes I cringed just at the thought of how much work this will be!

I've visited countless blogs for the first time because of the Z-List, and left numerous comments on blogs and to bloggers that I had never previously heard of. On one of the blogs, someone left a comment in response to the Z-List saying something like 'This is just a way to get links'. I added that if that was all you wanted from the Z-List, that would likely be all you would get.

And the Z-List does give everyone on it a buncha links. But as we can tell from the actions of Sharon, Gavin and Becky, it also gives community. Bloggers that had likely never heard of each other a few weeks ago, now share a sense of ownership in something bigger than themselves, and want to see that creation grow and thrive.

I constantly hear from companies wanting to know how they can get customers excited about their products, how they can grow their communities. I hear from companies wanting to know how they can start blogging to grow their business. I always say that you have to position your marketing and communication from the customer's point of view. You have to give your customers a reason to be excited about your company, and give them reasons and the tools to share that excitement with others. When that happens, a community can start to form.

I really wish companies could see this. People WANT to believe in something bigger than themselves. They WANT to believe in each other. They want to HELP each other. But they don't want to be sold to, and they don't want to buy from companies that tell them that they only want to talk to them in order to take their money.

Sorry, but your company making money isn't really that exciting to the people you are making that money off of. You'll have to give us something more to earn our excitement.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 43

Here's the standings for Week 43:

1 - Seth's Blog - 5,085 (+63)(LW - 1)
2 - Creating Passionate Users - 15,439 (+338)(LW - 2)
3 - Gaping Void - 17,540 (-234)(LW - 3)
4 - Duct Tape Marketing - 18,258 (-204)(LW - 4)
5 - Marketing Shift - 32,583 (-1,249)(LW - 5)
6 - Daily Fix - 47,259 (-687)(LW - 6)
7 - Converstations - 53,028 (-89)(LW - 7)
8 - New School of Network Marketing - 65,890 (+848)(LW - 8)
9 - The Viral Garden - 72,907 (+781)(LW - 9)
10 - Influential Interactive Marketing - 74,643 (+1,871) (LW - 10)
11 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 76,204 (+4,957)(LW - 12)
12 - Coolzor - 85,615 (-6,429)(LW - 11)
13 - Logic + Emotion - 102,517 (+3,613)(LW - 13)
14 - Church of the Customer - 116,971 (+2,898)(LW - 14)
15 - What's Next - 126,138 (-3,495)(LW - 15)
16 - Jaffe Juice - 138,827 (-2,701)(LW - 16)
17 - Marketing Headhunter - 139,824 (+1,893)(LW - 18)
18 - Brand Autopsy - 140,173 (+2,981)(LW - 19)
19 - Diva Marketing - 141,938 (-4,724)(LW - 17)
20 - Marketing Nirvana - 145,256 (+205)(LW - 20)
21 - Spare Change - 180,616 (+14,110)(LW - 21)
22 - Pro Hip-Hip - Hip-Hop Marketing - 196,408 (-1,030)(LW- 22)
23 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 200,036 (+8,560)(LW - 23)
24 - Experience Curve - 212,825 (-517)(LW - 24)
25 - CK's Blog - 213,181 (LW - UR)

Mixed week for the Top 25 as most blogs were either up or down slightly, not many big moves either way. Still, a few blogs made strong moves, such as Drew's Marketing Minute, which is close enough to the Top 10 to sniff it. L+E had a decent week and Marketing Headhunter has quietly gone on a nice winning streak. Notice the 3K logjam at #16-19.

I ragged on the bottom 5 a couple of weeks ago, but this week they were a strong group, led by Spare Change having a huge week, with Hee-Haw bullshitting up right behind.

And the lone new entry this week, none other than CK. CK becomes the 12th writer for DF to crack the Top 25.

Next update is next Wednesday.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Analyst: Podcasting to surge by 2011, thanks to Google

At least one analyst thinks that podcasting may be about to finally live up to the hype. MediaWeek is reporting that an analyst with eMarketer sees explosive growth for the podcasting arena, due to a new advertising platform that Google is yet to create.

eMarketer's James Belcher sees 500% growth in the podcasting advertising market over the next 4 years, from a base of $80 million in 2006, to $400 million by 2011. The catalyst for that growth, according to Belcher, will be Google's creation of an audio version of its AdSense advertising platform.

Steve Rubel makes the good point that most of that revenue will flow to podcasting networks and the more popular podcasters, thus missing many of the average casters. As I've said before, I think the bigger growth could come from simply making the entire creation process easier. Course when companies have the incentive to more easily monetize podcasts, they'll find ways to streamline the process and make it easier for wannabe podcasters to get started.

Another area that I think could be interesting to watch in the coming years is whether or not music labels will begin to move more or all of their catalogs into the 'podcast-safe' file. Giving podcasters the ability to promote their favorite music is of course a no-brain way to leverage social-media to empower music fans to become evangelists for their favorite artists.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

EMI Considers Embracing MP3s

Steve Jobs' plea from earlier this week for the music industry to dump the anti-piracy(distribution) measure DRM has at least one of the Big Four music labels listening.

Ars Technica reports that EMI is in talks with online music stores about moving to an all-MP3 format. Another possibility is that the label may start letting its artists sell their music on MySpace via SnoCap as MP3s.

If EMI does move to an all-MP3 format, it could be the first domino to fall, leading to the other major music labels to follow suit. The restrictive distribution of digital music has always been a marketing inconsistency that has plagued the digital music sector, and stunted growth. Music in digital form is very similar to a commodity, but the major labels are attempting to market it as if it were a luxury item, by tightly controlling distribution, and attempting to raise prices. As a result, music fans have migrated toward the services that gives them the ability to get their music as cheaply and as easily as possible. This is why Napster was so popular, and why iTunes is now the dominant player in the digital music sector.

On Wednesday, in response to Jobs' plea to end DRM, the RIAA shot back and said that the better solution would be for Apple to license its Fairplay DRM system that is attached to music sold through its iTunes music store, to ALL of Apple's competitors. This is consistent with the RIAA's previous moves of maintaining an iron-fist over how digital music is distributed. But as even Napster showed, the answer to expanding the digital music market is to open distribution, not restrict it.

Radiohead's Kid A album is the classic case-study for how exposing more people to an artists' music results in more sales. Radiohead had never enjoyed mainstream success prior to the release of Kid A. The album, which was slated for a Fall 2000 release, was leaked onto Napster several months in advance. As a result, the songs from the album were downloaded and talked about for several months leading up to Kid A's release, building enormous buzz for the band. Suddenly, an entirely new audience was exposed to Radiohead's music, and they loved it. Kid A debuted as the #1 selling album, according to Billboard. This was even though the band refused to release a single or make a video prior to the album's release.

This is not EMI's first foray into selling unprotected music. In December, EMI began selling tracks from some of its artists as MP3s, most notably Norah Jones. EMI spokesperson Jeanne Meyer said that "The results of those experiments were very positive, and the fan feedback has been very enthusiastic."

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Viral Community News

Plenty o stuff I want to cover, so a down the rabbit-hole we go...

1. - First, I have a new premium article up at Marketing Profs, '10 Steps to Creating a Podcast'. Also, my latest post at DF is up 'Does Blog Traffic Even Matter?'. Similar to the one I left here a few days ago, but there's an interesting discussion in the comments section about tracking traffic and feed readers.

And some of you may have noticed, but I've added one of those MyBlogLog widget-thingies to the sidebar. I've been seeing this on more and more blogs lately, but I think I first spotted it on Mike Sansone's Converstations. I've just started playing with it, but I love anything that lets me know about the 'Recent Gardeners' here. Bob has a great post on how this lil widget is already creating communities.

2. - Jaynie is exactly right on why the newest Pedigree 'shelter dogs' commercial works so well. It puts the customers' wants and needs on an even or higher level than the company. It's not about Pedigree, it's about helping dogs. And I defy you to watch it and not at least sniffle the first time you hear 'But I know I'm a good dog, and I just want to go home.'

3. - As many of you have no doubt noticed, the Z-List has come back to life. Apparently, one of the 'how to make money from your blog' bloggers picked up on it, and it's going through that group. Amy Gahran says that 'link-farms' such as the Z-List and 2000 Bloggers are wrong, because they game the system, and skew Technorati's 'Authority-Ranking' results. Yeah they do, but that was kinda the whole point, the system was wrong to begin with and needed to be skewed. Some A-Listers might not agree with me, but any site/blog etc that applies 'authority-ranking' to determine that the content I produce here is better than your content, simply because I have more links than you do, is not only wrong, but evil, and goes against everything that's right with blogging.(UPDATE: In the comments, Amy says she was referring to search engine results when she mentioned 'rankings', and not Technorati's authority rankings.)

4. - Ann has a hilarious dissection of the Wall-Street Journal's attempt to assign a 'pay-grade' to bloggers. I'm with Ann, where are these $2-10,000 a month blogging jobs at?!?

5. - Chris explains exactly why every year at the Oscars, a buncha films that no one has ever seen or heard of win, and how no one watches anymore. I have no idea why a studio hasn't snapped Chris up by now. Seriously.

6. - Jordan has a great case-study of how he built web-exposure for one of his clients.

7. - Troy tagged me as part of a new meme where you list the Top 10 songs on your iPod/Zune/other. Here's my Top 10 right now:

1 - DOA - Foo Fighters
2 - Race Car Driver - Jewel
3 - Black and White - Sarah McLachlan
4 - Who Invited You? - The Donnas
5 - Crazy - Gnarls Barkley
6 - Fall to Pieces - Velvet Revolver
7 - Easy - Barenaked Ladies
8 - Serve the Ego - Jewel
9 - Blurry - Puddle of Mudd
10 - Wait - Sarah McLachlan

And I know how many bloggers hate memes, so I won't tag anyone with this one. But I do think it's cool, so if anyone wants to leave a comment giving their top few songs on their iPods, I'd love to hear it!

UPDATE: JD has a bit of an announcement to make.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Viral Garden's Top 25 Marketing Blogs - Week 42

Here's the standings for Week 42:

1 - Seth's Blog - 5,148 (-25)(LW - 1)
2 - Creating Passionate Users - 15,777 (-196)(LW - 2)
3 - Gaping Void - 17,306 (-608)(LW - 3)
4 - Duct Tape Marketing - 18,054 (-454)(LW - 4)
5 - Marketing Shift - 31,334 (-122)(LW - 5)
6 - Daily Fix - 46,572 (-518)(LW - 6)
7 - Converstations - 52,939 (+2,986)(LW - 7)
8 - New School of Network Marketing - 66,738 (-798)(LW - 8)
9 - The Viral Garden - 73,688 (-1,359)(LW - 9)
10 - Influential Interactive Marketing - 76,514 (+650) (LW - 11)
11 - Coolzor - 79,186 (-3,657)(LW - 10)
12 - Drew's Marketing Minute - 81,161 (+7,276)(LW - 12)
13 - Logic + Emotion - 106,130 (-5,294)(LW - 13)
14 - Church of the Customer - 119,869 (+10,027)(LW - 15)
15 - What's Next - 122,643 (-6,577)(LW - 14)
16 - Jaffe Juice - 136,126 (-1,812)(LW - 16)
17 - Diva Marketing - 137,214 (-3,098)(LW - 18)
18 - Marketing Headhunter - 141,717 (+6,842)(LW - 20)
19 - Brand Autopsy - 143,154 (-4,589)(LW - 17)
20 - Marketing Nirvana - 145,461 (+2,625)(LW - 19)
21 - Spare Change - 194,726 (+1,649)(LW - 21)
22 - Pro Hip-Hip - Hip-Hop Marketing - 195,378 (+1,253)(LW- 22)
23 - Hee-Haw Marketing - 208,596 (+13,699)(LW - 24)
24 - Experience Curve - 212,308 (-9,099)(LW - 23)
25 - Beyond Madison Avenue - 223,632 (+749)(LW - 25)

I could almost use last-week's recap as the same trends are applying this time. I dunno if Mike Sansone got his invitation to the A-List party, but if not, he appears poised to crash it as Converstations is making a run at the Top 6. Other than Converstations, most of the Top 10 was down slightly.

Past the Top 10, Drew's Marketing Minute again had a big week, as did Diva Marketing. And Church of the Customer continues its comeback. Notice an Alexa ranking of 150K won't make the Top 20 this week. In Week One of the Top 25 last year, I believe that the #25 blog had an Alexa score around 450K.

And the final 5 had a better week, led by Hee-Haw Marketing continuing to roll even though the Kohls affect is long gone. And Pro Hip-Hop's Kung Fu was indeed strong enough to post an up week.

Next update is next Wednesday.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

OzzFest Tour makes all tickets free

One of the biggest rock tours in the nation, is going free.

Sharon Osbourne announced today that ALL tickets to ALL shows on this year's OzzFest tour will be FREE. All bands at all shows will make whatever money they can from merchandise sales and sponsorships.

"We're reaching the same point we did years ago when kids no longer wanted to pay for overpriced CDs," compares Sharon. "As a result, they found alternative ways of getting music. That’s what’s happening with summer touring in this country, it’s out-pricing itself. We started this and we want to keep it and we want to make it bigger and bigger each year by getting bigger sponsors to be involved with the festival and underwriting the festival. That’s what it’s about."

HypeBot reports that grunge legends Alice in Chains are confirmed for the tour, and OzzFest's main site has added that Ozzy Osbourne will perform at EVERY show on the tour.

Coupled with Steve Jobs' broadside slam against DRM earlier today, this is a helluva 1-2 punch to the midsection of the music industry's model of complete control over how music is distributed and monetized.

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Breaking News: Jobs calls for end to DRM

Steve Jobs has posted on the Apple website his 'Thoughts on Music', and DRM. He has offered three alternatives for the future of DRM, with this being the most interesting:
The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

Why would the big four music companies agree to let Apple and others distribute their music without using DRM systems to protect it? The simplest answer is because DRMs haven’t worked, and may never work, to halt music piracy. Though the big four music companies require that all their music sold online be protected with DRMs, these same music companies continue to sell billions of CDs a year which contain completely unprotected music. That’s right! No DRM system was ever developed for the CD, so all the music distributed on CDs can be easily uploaded to the Internet, then (illegally) downloaded and played on any computer or player.

Amen. DRM is, and always has been a control issue for the big labels. They want to control how music is distributed, yet fail to realize that they are stunting the growth of the industry as a whole by doing so. Anything that makes music easier to distribute, leads to more sales. Jobs understands this, and with iTunes, he may have the clout to force the music industry to finally get their heads out of their asses.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

Walking with the Community Redux

I recently talked to Jaffe, and he told me he enjoyed my post on Walking with the Community I left here last year, but wasn't quite sure if he understood the point I was trying to make.

My point was, I think the idea of 'The consumer is in control, get out of the way!!!!' goes too far. The better solution is for companies to walk with their customers. By doing so, that gives us the ability to understand the path that the customer is taking, and then we have the ability to clear that path for the customer.

For example; YouTube users enjoy posting and viewing clips from their favorite shows on the popular video-sharing site. This is a big reason why users visit the site, and why it is so popular.

Still, users posting copyrighted clips on YouTube isn't popular with all media companies, and some continue to contact YouTube to have the clips removed. Others have pursued legal action against the users uploading these clips.

But users obviously aren't going to stop uploading and sharing copyrighted clips of popular shows, just as music fans didn't stop downloading music after Napster was shut down in 2001. CBS is smart enough to ACCEPT the path that their community has chosen, and is clearing a path for them. Instead of yanking clips from their shows and going after the users that post them, CBS first created a brand channel on YouTube, where it seeded clips of its popular shows, and then the network partnered with SlingBox to allow users to upload clips from CBS programming to YouTube! I talk about the CBS/Slingbox partnership on Episode 2 of Mind The Gap.

CBS accepted that YouTube users want the ability to more easily upload, view, and share clips from their shows, so they created a way for their community to more effectively engage in a behavior that they were already enjoying. They helped clear the path for their community to more easily upload, view, and share clips from their shows.

That's why I believe it's far more important for marketers to reach out to and embrace their communities, than it is to 'get out of the way'. When we walk with our community, then we can begin to accurately judge their chosen path, then our job becomes clearing that path, so that the community can get from Point A to their intended Point B as quickly and as effectively as possible.

And what about CBS? The network has seen spikes in viewership for shows that have popular clips uploaded on YouTube, and CBS finished as the most-watched network in last November's sweeps period.

Which is an example of another marketing idea I like; Satisfy your community's wants and needs directly, and they will satisfy your wants and needs indirectly.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

A bicycle, $750, and 10,000 miles of passion

Paul Sanchez is literally a man on a mission.

Paul's mission, is to bring awareness and hope to children that are dealing with Dyslexia, as Paul does. So to accomplish this, Paul jumped on his bike, and hit the road.

Paul's journey on his bike is the focus of the documentary video you can play below. His journey covered over 10,000 miles, as Paul circled the perimeter of the country. Along the way, he stopped to meet 13 children with Dyslexia or learning differences, and even got to make an appearance on The Today Show, thanks to help from Katie Couric.

But now, Paul needs our help. He has several lofty goals that he wants to reach in his effort help children with Dyslexia, or his '8 wishes', which are:

1) Raise $1 million dollars
The million dollars will go into a fund earmarked to give 100 kids with dyslexia a $10,000 college scholarship. If they choose, up to $3,000 of that amount can be donated to dyslexia research.

2) 100 million views
Paul has the goal of 100 million views of the YouTube video below.

3) Be interviewed by Oprah
Paul states that: "Our dream would be to have one show dedicated to raising awareness of dyslexia and what these children can accomplish. Imagine a show that includes Paul Orfelea, Richard Branson, Charles Schawb, and the 13 children."

4) Interview Paul Orfelea
Paul has already accomplished this goal, and here's his interview with Mr. Orfelea.

5) Interview Sir. Richard Branson, who has dyslexia.

6) Interview Charles Schwab, who has dyslexia.

7) Be featured on 88 Websites/Blogs

8) All in 88 Days

Now, the deadline for Paul's 8 wishes is March 8th, 2007. Roughly a month away. Which doesn't leave us much time, but as anyone that got swept up in the Z-List meme knows, ideas can spread VERY quickly in the blogosphere! Just as the z-list had the very worthy goal of helping to raise awareness of deserving blogs, Paul's '8 wishes' are all very worthy goals, which I believe we can all do our part to help promote.

So here's what you can do to help:

1 - Watch the video below. It's from Paul and explains exactly what Paul's mission is, and Paul also lets you meet the children he met along the way.

2 - Link to Paul's website, 8 Wishes (which also helps Paul reach goal #7). If you don't have the time to write a separate post about Paul's mission, at least include a link in the 'Links of the Day' type posts that I see many of you leaving all the time.

3 - If you are a YouTube user, rate Paul's video here. The higher the rating, the more exposure, which makes all of Paul's goals more attainable.

4 - You can donate directly at the 8 Wishes blog. All money collected goes straight to the fund earmarked for the children.

Any of the above will only take a few minutes, but will help give Paul the additional exposure he needs to raise awareness for his journey, which will ultimately benefit children everywhere with dyslexia and learning differences. Not a bad way to spend a few minutes of your time, is it?

UPDATE: Another way you can help is by submitting Paul's story to Boing Boing.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

How to get bloggers to blog about your Super Bowl ad

I don't need ESPN to tell me it's Super Bowl Week, all I need is my email inbox. Because every day this week, I've gotten multiple emails, usually from a PR firm, wanting to let me know about their clients' amazing Super Bowl ad/stunt/site, and how the want me to blog about it.

Notice I haven't blogged about any yet?

First of all, I think it's VERY smart of companies and their PR firms to reach out to bloggers to help them promote their ads/campaigns/marketing ideas. And I want to encourage that.

But what I've seen lately in my emails are lazy and ineffective attempts to get me to blog about their ads. Here's why:

1 - My name is 'Mack'. It's not Mark, it's not Matt, it's not 'Blogger'. If you don't refer to me by my correct name in your email pitch, there is almost zero chance that I will ever read past the greeting. Trust me on this.

2 - Please at least read my blog before you email me. Please figure out what topics I like to talk about, then please try to find a way to somehow relate my interests, to your pitch.

3 - Please do NOT send me a canned 'form letter' email. Here's an example:

"Dear Mack,

I thought The Viral Garden's readers might enjoy hearing about the new Super Bowl ad from (company name HERE). This new ad is a very humorous spot featuring (washed up b-list celeb HERE) as she encounters many hilarious situations, before realizing that (company name HERE) will solve all her problems.

So Mack, if you would like screenshots from this funny commercial for posting on The Viral Garden, let me know!

Anonymous PR-Assistant/Flack"


4. - Please don't ask me to forward your anonymous form-letter email to my friends. I want to keep them as my friends.

When I was still regularly writing for BMA, I got these email pitches all the time, all the ad bloggers do. But out of all the pitches, from all the people, there was one woman that worked for a PR firm that actually made good pitches.

She always called me by my correct first name.

She always commented on a post I had left on BMA and gave her thoughts.

She always explained everything I needed to know about her client's ad, and included multiple screen shots for the ad.

She always invited me to ask her any questions I would have if I wanted to write a post, and if I did have an email question, she usually answered in minutes.

She understood that I was doing her a FAVOR by taking time out of my busy day to consider promoting HER client on my blog, and she made it clear to me that she respected my time.

She looked at the pitch from MY point of view. As a result, I posted about every ad she emailed me about. In fact the methods she used stood out so much from the others that I started emailing HER to ask if she had any additional client initiatives that I could promote!

So to the PR firms that are reading this, PLEASE consider your next pitch from the point of view of the blogger you are pitching to. Please give us a reason to think that we aren't simply the next name on your 'media list', even if we are.

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