I’m not sure why everyone is so shocked by news that an artist created a cover for The New Yorker using an iPhone app. Big deal. It’s a tool for creative outlet. That’s what it does and therefore we shouldn’t be all that surprised by its use for that purpose.
I have to wonder if these people, had they been around at the time, would have been quite as breathless about a news reporter using a photographic contraption to capture a scene as part of a newspaper story.
Two headlines recently appeared within minutes of each other in my Google Reader feeds.
- Barnes & Noble.com revamps home page
- Do home pages have a place in Web 2.0′s future?
I love it when things like this happen. I really do. Because it shows that at the same time one party is trying its best to adapt and improve on the old model someone else is wondering whether that model is even still valid. It’s this sort of thing that makes people question their assumptions and really drives some serious thinking.
While the first story is interesting – B&N has added a number of features like search clouds and video on the front page – the second story is the one that really stands out. Essentially, a new study from Avenue A/Razorfish shows that search is the beginning point for about 54 percent of online shopping experiences. That calls into question the importance of home pages overall, since through search people are landing right on the page for the product (or story, or whatever) they were looking for, bypassing the home page layout completely.
While the study’s authors make the excellent point that what’s increasingly important is what’s NOT happening on the site (think widgets, links and more) I still think there is a point where home pages continue to serve a vital and important role, just maybe not the one they’re serving now.
The role of the homepage should be simple: Help the visitor find what they’re looking for. The problem is that pages are getting mucked up with flashy graphics and other junk data that is getting in the way of that experience. If there’s a model for the homepage it should be the sitemap. It’s clear, uncluttered and fairly simple to navigate. When people get lost on the site they should be able to hit the “Home” tab to reboot their visit and start fresh in finding what they’re looking for.
It should also provide the tools so that the visitor never has to come back to it unless they specifically want to. That means RSS feeds, email newsletter signups and other things that will let people get the information on their time instead of needing to hit the site for it.
Homepages are important – You have to do something with that pricey .com after all. But its use should be make the site experience as elegant as possible, not as a showcase for the graphic design department. If you’re hoping people will read/watch/buy on your site then the homepage is your first opportunity to make sure that happens.
I wanted to real quick follow-up on the write-up I did of the NY:MIEG Breakfast March 28, 2007: Baseball 2007 panel Tom and I attended. The organization, via TV Mainstream, has put the entire session up online for you to watch. Go check it out.
Wednesday morning I had the pleasure of attending, along with Tom Biro, a panel entitled “Baseball 2007: How media and technology will bring fans closer to the sport.” The panel was hosted by the New York Media Information Exchange Group. After NY:MIEG founder started things off, he introduced ESPN founder Bill Rasmussen, who then introduced the panel.
On that panel, moderated by Terry Lefton, were SI Digital Media President Jeff Price, YES Network Director of Business Development Michael Spirito, ANC Sports EVP of Technology Chis Mascatello, MLBAM SVP Joe Inzerillo and Chyron CTO Bill Hendler.
The panel touched on a variety of topics and Lefton continued to return time and again to the question of, with all the ideas floated and currently in various stages of development and execution, “What’s the business model.” For some, like YES Network’s HD broadcasting initiative, there really wasn’t one. Instead Spirito said that presenting games in HD was something they were trying to find sponsorships for. Failing that, though, they were willing to eat the cost in order to build a viewer base by presenting the game in the best possible way.
Mascatello, speaking of the MLB’s various online initiatives, said that subscriptions to the site’s premium content were up with the shift of a number of games over to satellite on TV. He also said that ANC was intimately involved in the renovation of, and I quote, “mid-90′s vintage stadiums.”
I’ve been trying since the news broke to wrap my head around the $1 billion lawsuit filed by Viacom against YouTube. The nearest I can figure is that they studied all the reactions to the RIAA suing random college students for music downloading and decided that, hey, any press is good press so we’ll adopt an even more outrageous business strategy.
I say that because this lawsuit is only partly between Viacom and YouTube/Google. It’s also between Viacom and the general population, basically saying, “We don’t like you playing with out toys, so we’re suing the company that owns the playground.”
There are bigger points to be made, and others have made them well prior to me, but I think that any time a company gets in the way of people sharing their content it can disrupt and impede the conversation that’s going on and shut down those yet to come before they even begin. There needs to be a way that media companies can work with sites like YouTube that doesn’t stop people from uploading their own videos but also might allow for the company to act as the gateway, so to speak, for people to get to those videos.
I’m not advocating content theft at all. Companies and artists have a right to make money off of what they produce. But there’s a world of difference between downloading a pirated copy an episode of “Reno: 911″ and someone posting a 32-second clip that someone finds funny. One is theft – there’s no disputing that in my mind. The other is a way that a community can talk amongst itself and potentially promote the property to others. If they work at it, I think media companies can find ways to work with this community and not rail against it.
Unfortunately, neither Tom or I were able to make it, due to prior commitments, to the Second Life launch of crayon, the new agency founded by Joe Jaffe, Shel Holtz, Neville Hobson and CC Chapman. But that doesn’t mean others weren’t there. From the reports that Neville and Joe have put up it was quite an event.
Thankfully these guys are as good at promoting themselves through new media as they will be at promoting their clients through new media. They’ve setup an agency blog and a Flickr set documenting the launch event. They even announced the creation of crayon in a very new media friendly press release that’s complete with links, pictures to download and other goodies that make blogging the release that much easier.
The emphasis of crayon is on conversation, the reality that marketing is no longer a one way street.
Beginning Wednesday, news service Reuters is opening an official bureau within Second Life to keep residents up to speed with what’s happening in the real world and real world readers informed of Second Life news. In true community-building form, residents who click on an item that’s of interest to them will be taken to the Reuters Atrium where they can discuss the story and others with fellow residents. The bulk of the heavy lifting on this will be done by Reuters correspondent Adam Pasick, who will operate in-world as Adam Reuters. Adam will hold regular office hours in Second Life in order to actually gather news just like any other reporter.
The idea of bridging the real/virtual divide is one that is likely to get quite a bit of attention. While it’s not a new idea in and of itself, (New World Notes and Second Life Herald have been doing so for a while now) being able to stay up to date with the real world in an efficient manner will facilitate people spending more time within those environments.
Last Friday I spent an hour or so in Second Life with a dozen or so other PR and other communications professionals talking about the virtual environment and how brands can and should be integrated within that world. Kami Huyse served as moderator at the Comms Cafe (owned by Lee Hopkins) and the big man himself Jeremy Pepper was the featured speaker, fielding questions the rest of us, in avatar form were asking. It was really interesting to get together with so many people and listen to their ideas on branding and establishing a corporate presence in-world. You can see some screen-grabs and write-ups on the event from David Parmet, Kami and myself.
The reason I bring this up is yesterday’s news that adidas had entered Second Life to promote its new Microride shoe. As Tom Biro said to me yesterday, the fact that their presence is limited to just one shoe seems to indicate their just dipping a foot in the water. (I apologize for that. He said it and he’s my boss. I’m contractually obligated to find it funny. Let’s move on.)
Jeremy said something in the session that I thought was the most important take-away point there. He said the most value a brand is likely to derive from being in Second Life is by simply enabling people to use and otherwise promote. Just like people wear t-shirts by “X” company in the real world they may want to do the same in their Second Life. It’s not that the company is paying these people to be brand evangelists, it’s that the citizens of SL are simply being empowered to do there what they’re already doing here. Giving people the tools to spread the word free of other corporate interference.
It’s the same sort of approach that some marketers are taking toward bloggers who cover their company or larger industry. By making creating resources and tools which citizen journalists can draw upon that help them do their job better, the company is more accurately and fully represented in that world. That same logic can be extended to Second Life. Jeremy gave as an example a popular drink. If someone is a fan of that drink they should be able to carry it around with them in Second Life as a way to express their preference for that drink.
Marketers should explore ways they can enable and empower their existing fan community, a community that is passionate and which is moving into Second Life in droves. The key is to do so in a way that adds value to the environment instead of being obtrusive and destructive. That’s a fine line to walk and will take a lot of work, but it can be very much worth it.