The social discovery of content

Great presentation from Simon Cross and Ben Smith at the BBC which goes in to pretty technical and extensive detail about what the BBC as a corporation does with the masses of content it has, how people find it and ending with ‘6 steps to heaven if you too want to work this way’

I liked the point they made that the best recommendation engine on the planet isn’t Bing, Google or Yahoo, it’s people. It’s all about the social discovery of content (slide 20).

It’s a very technical slide deck for the most part but it’s interesting how they talk about the social discovery of content without building yet another social network. It’s about linking users to content through activity (slide 47).

The evolution of mobile

Kyle Bean - MobilesKudos to Kyle Bean for this.

Pretty interesting really, seeing the evolution and the miniaturisation from 1985 to the present day and how the rapid innovation, technology has allowed for size to no longer be a prohibitive issue when it comes to ‘real’ portability. Size is no longer the major challenge, nor is it about packing the phone with more hardware features, such as bigger and better cameras, or music, or screens. It’s more now about how the features are being used. I’ve noticed a shift over the last year or two where it’s now all about the software and the tight, seamless application of it as proved by Apple and the App Store, Google and Android. If it was a hardware race, no one would be buying the iPhone. 2MP these days is unbelievably poor (yes I don’t have a 3GS because I’m still locked in with my ‘old’ iPhone 3G for the duration of the contract.) My even older Nokia N95 had a better camera than that at 5MP. Clearly, my purchasing decision wasn’t based on the power of the camera. I was mesmerised by the potential of the App Store. The software then.

A present day example of this for me is the Nokia N97. Hardware wise, I think it’s actually highly impressive. The fold out keyboard really feels good to use on a regular and prolonged basis which is one thing that annoys and frustrates me about the iPhone. It’s quicker for me to write something down that it is to load up the ‘Notes’ application and hammer out the letters on the on screen keyboard. What lets down the N97 is the software. It’s simply nowhere near as intuitive, logical or easy to use than what has to be the benchmark for everyone now, the iPhone. The amount of times i’ve seen new handsets come out and the term ‘iPhone Killer’ being banded about is amazing.

Talking of iPhone Killers, the HTC Hero is one to watch which I’m keeping a keen eye on..

The models which Kyle selected to highlight above are:
1985 – motorola dynaTAC
1988 – nokia mobira cityman 1320
1991 – AEG teleport
1993 – ericsson GH198
1996 – motorola micro TAC 650
1998 – siemens C10
2001 – nokia 3210
2005 – motorola razr V3
2009 – samsung tocco

Borrowing a quote from the legendary Nigel Powers in the film Goldmember, perhaps better known as Michael Caine when he said:

“It’s not the size mate, it’s how you use it.”

You could say the same for the current state of mobile.

Blurring the on and offline worlds further

From humble beginnings back in 2002, ASOS, formerly known as As Seen On Screen have become quite the powerhouse in the online fashion world. One person I spoke to about this remarked that it was like the Heat magazine of fashion, always on the pulse of celebrity culture and reasonably inexpensive. I thought ASOS was a bit bigger than Heat as an entity but it was a good analogy. They are, I believe, the largest independent online fashion and beauty retailer. It fits though with the similar type of target, aimed primarily at fashion forward 16-34 year olds, the site attracts approx 5.3 million unique visitors a month with over 2 million registered users.

Here’s a perhaps unknown fact for you, the company was started by the great-grandson of the founder of the one time major UK high street tailor chain Austin Reed. An early indication even, that it was going to be sticking around!

What got me thinking about all this was the eye catching advert in the London Paper tonight (6th July) and the transition from being strictly online only to now doing a few things offline too. The bright colours and really stand out typography meant that you literally couldn’t miss it. I wondered whether ASOS had done something like this before in print or whether it was a first? Apart from their own magazine, I don’t think I’ve seen many other offline print initiatives, granted I may have missed them!

photo

Why now? Well, it would seem that heavy high street discounting and unemployment among younger shoppers is likely to slow the meteoric growth of ASOS according to a recent Retail Week article. “Job insecurity has to be a worry and I suspect that people are holding back.” said the Chief Executive, Nick Robertson.

“Clearly much tougher comparables are being faced and there is now some evidence to suggest that the rate of growth in online sales has begun to moderate.” he continued. Is that the honey moon period over then? Looks like that dreaded R word is only now starting to bite with ASOS, impressive going.

One thing I didn’t know was that they recently secured brands such as Mango and Gap to sell online, rapidly diversifying further along with adding maternity clothes, childrenswear and limited run collections. When the chief exec said back in 2007 that he wanted ASOS to be the Amazon of the fashion world, he looks to be getting his wish and predicting the future with a consummate skill that only Mystic Meg could be proud of.

I wonder, if they ramped up their print productions and went on an assault against your weekly/monthly celeb fashion titles, would things turn full circle and start to cannibalise the Heat’s of the world? Would it even be viable? Not sure they could keep up with the changing of trends if they were to produce the magazine any more frequently.

Will be interesting to see whether this is the start of a prolonged offline campaign to try and pique waning customer spending and if it has the required impact.

Why personalisation is still key

Pitching to bloggers, it’s a necessary evil and probably loathed more than it’s loved. I find it fascinating being in the lucky (?) position to be able to experience both sides of the coin. I enjoy the therapeutic hobby of writing down my thoughts, yet at the same time, in my day job I also pitch to bloggers. I really quite enjoy receiving pitches myself because I’m always keen to see how others do it. At the same time, I always try to highlight the pitches that really took the time to research my blog, finding that little bit of information about me to show that it’s not just a blind email sent out to many others.

I thought starting off the email with Hello and their name was pretty much standard, common practice. It shows from the off that the email before them was specifically meant for them. If there was a mental tick box when I receive a pitch, that gets the first tick.

What riled me to write this post was receiving what I think is an awful attempt at ‘engagement’. That’s really what you’re looking for when pitching right? A reply gives you validation, maybe a celebratory fist punch in the air.

This isn’t however going to be a naming and shaming exercise. That’s not the point. We’re all still learning right? I’ve made mistakes along the way and will still continue to do so but seeing as we’re all in this together I’d like to address a few parts of the pitch that particularly bothered me. I also don’t wish to draw attention to the agency, client who they are contacting on behalf of or the individual making contact so I’ll use excerpts from the pitch but not explicit detail.

Here’s the first paragraph..

“I’m getting in touch with you on behalf of (removed) as I thought you would appreciate an advance look at its new UK advertising campaign. As Lit Man Live is influential within the Media sector, we’d like to take this opportunity to provide some insight into why (removed) is pursuing a new brand strategy, beginning with this (removed) (but it was a YouTube video)”

First thing: Address the recipient. Say hello and if their first name is on site somewhere, use that. Then there’s a chance that you’ll have me at hello.. It’s such a simple first step that really needs to be there, always. In this instance being addressed as Lit Man Live shows that categorically no research has been carried out, not a jot and I was actually a bit embarassed myself to receive it. I’ve been called a lot of things but that was the first time I’ve been called Lit Man Live. Personalisation is indeed key but when you get the basic fundamentals wrong, it’s shocking, not a great place to start.

Mack Collier writes:

Any pitch that doesn’t refer to me by my correct name is deleted immediately without being read.”

The whole debate about influence comes to fruition here also. Being perceived to be influential in the Media sector is complimentary but verging on laughable. Keep that in your internal notes but to me it’s signalling in the first paragraph what you want to get out of this before you’ve even asked.

Three overly long paragraphs about the history of the campaign, how it came about, who created it, who directed it and what they’ve directed before is not opt in. I didn’t read them, they’d lost me by that point. Instead of writing endless paragraphs of background info, make the email a bit more punchy and succinct and summarise the key messages in one short paragraph with an opt in at the end, something like would you like to find out more? It provides the recipient with the option and instead of metaphorically meeting them in the street and shouting your sales pitch at them, you’re going to talk with them on their level and see if they talk back.

Read the blog before you pitch to it. Show that extra level of research and mention a post that I’ve written and give me your opinion on it. Do you agree or disagree? What did you like about it and why do you think it’s relevant to what you’re pitching me with? Hint: It should be relevant.

You’ll probably be familiar with this, you can apply it to pitching too..

hugh

Final paragraph:

“The link enclosed is to an advance version of the video which we are specially making available to you. (If it was made available just to me, why does the video have 300 views?) We will be ‘killing’ this link at midnight GMT and making the video publicly available on (removed). If you would like to write about the ad and embed any video on your blog I would be grateful if you could link to the video on (removed’s) YouTube channel”.

I received the email at 4pm. They were giving me 8 hours to view the video before it was being ‘killed’. This pitch should have finished with the opt in, which requires more forward planning but may result in a more positive response. Asking me to write about it, embed the video on my blog and which link I should link to was too much. I wasn’t going to jump through hoops to write about a YouTube video.

Remember the cocktail party analogy here.

The next time you decide to solicit a blogger with the pitch of a client, imagine we are both meeting at a cocktail party. Imagine I don’t know you and we are meeting for the first time. What is the first thing you would say to me? I don’t think it would be the same words that you would have otherwise used when doing your “pray and spray” email solicitations about your client’s shiny new product or service. No, I think you would first introduce yourself and look for something in common between us. And then only if you were feeling comfortable would you try to pitch me on behalf of your client.

Finally, again, do your research. Tell me why you think what you’re pitching me is relevant. Customise each pitch. Why should I be interested? Seriously, all of the above, coupled together is the difference between talking favourably about it and highlighting it in more of a how not to pitch light.

Here’s a few useful resources to refer back to:

This is how you pitch a blogger

How to pitch a blogger

How to pitch bloggers

How to pitch a blogger

So how DO you pitch a blogger?

How not to:

How NOT to pitch a blog

How not to pitch a blogger

How NOT to pitch a blogger

How Not To Pitch A Blogger

How (Not) to pitch a blogger