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Where content meets technology

Jun 19, 2008

Web Content 2008 Notes

Flickr tag: wc08
Twitter: #wc08

I am on my way back to Massachusetts after thoroughly enjoying my time at Web Content 2008. Thank you Scott Abel, Michael Silverman, and the rest of the Duo Consulting team for putting on another great conference. The event was sold out this year. I would register early next year.

Also, it was great to meet Deane Barker and Adrian Sutton and hang out with the old crew: Scott, Lisa Welchman, John Eckman, Rahel Bailie, and
Jarrod Gingras.

What follows are my rough (and I mean rough) notes from the sessions that I attended. They are as much for my memory as for your information so feel free to skim and click through to the slides which Scott has conscientiously posted. Not all of them are up yet but I am sure that Scott will track down all the speakers and beat their slides out of them sooner or later :)

Dick Costolo - The Next Content Wave: Hypersyndication (slides)

The general theme is that the conversation is more important than the content. Commenters are creating brands for themselves without even having a website. The conversation is distributed and does not revolve around the source (FriendFeed, Twitter, Digg, Del.icio.us, etc.).

This is a major disruption in the marketplace. Evidence: the mainstream media companies and investors have been resisting it. Investors that missed out on opportunities like FeedBurner are seeing potential here.
[Seth: I still don't know how these services will monetize the value]

All media is going to be social.
What Comes After Post Modernism? is a great post. The comments (all 132 of them) are just as good. The problem is social media is that you lose authority. [Seth: is just just a temporarily as authority shifts to new sources? Will we have the capacity to recognize so many authorities or will authority become more personal?]

What does this mean for advertising? Feed originated traffic has a much lower CPM than search originating traffic [Seth: that was why I wasn't making millions in Ad Sense on my blog! This makes sense, search is more intent laden. People search because they need something. Feeds is more informational. Advertising strategies focusing on direct response marketing (rather than branding campaigns - see more detail this on my notes from Gian Fulgoni), will get better results from search traffic)]
Feed traffic demands a new strategies for monetizing content.

Get Satisfaction is a cool new concept. It allows companies to outsource their customer service. It is basically a third party hosted forum that allows vendor employees and the community to answer support questions. Whole Foods is very active with it. This could harness the power of the "professional commenter" who wants to build a brand out of his expertise. As a customer, wouldn't it be cool if your vendor and other customers competed with each other to give you the best answer to your question?

Darren Barefoot - The Many-Armed Starfish: Today and Tomorrow in Social Media (slides)

Social media has been around forever. What is new is broadcast/publishing media and that is turning out to be short lived. Mash-ups are old too. Great example of the fact that modern remakes of Elizabethan playhouses are based on a drawing made by an amateur artist visiting the original.

Darren's presentation had lots of ideas from Clay Shirky and Jay Rosen. He describes the rise of the creative class and the notion that the Internet can make you a "little bit famous." In the broadcast, 1 to many style, fame was an all or nothing type of thing.

There are 7 characteristics of social media: Conversation (2 way through comments etc.); collaboration (connects people that were not connected. like wikipedia 7million editors.); sharing; scope (web is infinite. itunes has broken our idea of what an album is); community (find affinity groups); transparency and authenticity;

Piero Tintori - Running an Efficient CMS Evaluation and Procurement Process (slides)

I wouldn't normally expect to hear good advice about software selection from the CEO of a CMS vendor but Terminal Four's Piero Tintori is such a genuine and nice guy that I had to sit in and see what he had to say.

With very little promotion of Terminal Four, Piero did a very good presentation on how to work more efficiently with CMS vendors. It has been a while since I had worked for a CMS vendor and it was a good refresher see things from the vendor perspective and think about how to make the little adjustments to make the process easier on everyone.

Some really good points worth calling out:

  • Take the time to understand your requirements to write a clear, concise and thoughtful RFP. The response is going to be 2-3 times as large as the RFP and you don't want documents that take forever to review. Leaving in irrelevant cut/paste text (like procurement questions designed for other types of products such as "is your product radio-active") or repetitive and/or contradicting requirements shows that you are not serious about your RFP and the vendor will may put less time in the response. Furthermore, showing yourself to be sloppy may make the vendor inflate the price to mitigate the risk of having to spend more resources to make you successful.

  • Be realistic about timing. Don't set an overly aggressive timetable. Everyone hates a hurry up and wait relationship and you want your vendor to take your deadlines seriously. Piero had some nice rough guidelines of 6 to 8 weeks from RFP to selection on projects less than $50,000 and 8-12 weeks for projects more than $50,000. Companies should expect 4-12 months from initial inception to selection. My experience is that there is usually some organizational hiccup that delays these projects. To make things as efficient as possible, it is best to line up and plan with people from procurement, legal, and budget holders.

  • You are looking for a product that is right for your organization [totally agree]. Piero recommends working with a software vendor that is the same size or smaller than your company [Piero would say that. Terminal Four is small. This advice would take big vendors like Oracle and IBM out of most company's short lists. On the other hand, working with really large software vendors is hard if you are little company]. You should also try working with a vendor that is excited about your project.

  • Communicate your budget. Most buyers are afraid that if they tell how much money they have to spend, the price will always be exactly that amount. However, your budget is one of your requirements and a vendor can tailor his solution better if he knows that constraint. If the product is way out of your price range, it is a waste of everyone's time to evaluate
    it. I would tend to agree with Piero here even though I understand why my clients will want to hold back this information.

  • Follow through with reference checking before you make your choice - not as a formality after it is too late.

  • Timing is important. In the U.K. vendors are really busy responding to RFP's in Feb, July, and December. I know that customers in the U.S. buying from public companies try to do deals around the fiscal quarters to get preferential pricing. If you try to work with vendors during the busy season, the good vendors (that are busy) will be rushed. The marginal vendors (who are not busy) will have an advantage. Also, I know that if you work with a large vendor, it takes them a long time to process a purchase when sales volume is high so you might miss end of the quarter pricing if you try to hold it to the wire.

Tim Yager & Jim Thaxton - Size Doesn’t Matter: How to Build and Maintain Huge CMS Projects (slides)

Tim and Jim (two developers from Duo) did a great (and funny) talk about migrating big web sites. It was a little like a midwestern millennial version of Car Talk. They had useful, down to earth advice about prototyping a solution, migrating content, gradually phasing out the old system, and applying lessons learned to future maintenance and enhancement of the system. The slides are worthwhile reading.

John Eckman - Upload, Tag, Share, Discuss: Content Management in the Age of User Participation (slides)

I think John's talk would have been an excellent keynote (future conference organizers, consider it!). He described it to me as "high concept, low information" but sometimes you need the big ideas to make sense of the little facts.

The big idea that John had was that social media is less about the tools (or containers) and more about the empty spaces within that people fill with their creative energy. We, as content management professionals, tend to focus on technology and process. We think that content management should be done by qualified professionals. Social media is changing things as it breaks down the barrier between the contributor and the reader.

Classic content management is not going away but it is starting to share the stage with community management. The rest of the talk was about ways to manage a community.

You need to establish norms and standards and socialize community. Decide what kind of community that you want. Do you want to create the stereotype of a library (strict rules, quiet behavior), the coffee house (somewhat boisterous), mardi gras (anything goes).

It is not one conversation. There are many conversations and they can happen in different environments. Behavior is a function of person and his environment. Offering different environments will encourage different behavior.

How to control communities

  • Terms of service. Avoid surprising people. The terms of service need to be readable and understandable by the community but also have the appropriate protection to satisfy the company. Wordpress.com has a good model of a legalese version and a common language version.

  • Identity: anonymity can lead to bad behavior. Make it easy for people to build a reputation. If they can build a reputation, they will try to make a good one.

  • Communities are hard to start but resist the urge to fake it by artificially seeding content. You can seed content but it has to be real. There was some follow on discussion about the relative challenge to start social media inside and outside the company. John said that there needs to be genuine executive sponsorship and real incentives. I need to follow up with him on this. We have both worked for companies that talked the talk here but were not successful.

  • Exclusivity for everyone. All these new services have private betas to create the feeling of exclusivity and establish a value of membership (in addition to controlling growth). I think that Fire Eagle is a great example. Invites have been hard to get and this has created a lot of interest around a service that is not all that useful (IMO).

  • Moderation. Fully moderated may make you liable for the content. Meta moderated (slashdot. Amazon's "Was this helpful?"). Community moderated (flag as offensive). Post moderated (let it through. check it later). The R.E.M. tour site (built with Drupal) pulls in content from flickr and twitter.

A mixture UGC/Professional content has higher CPM.

Take your content and put it in lots of different places. Interact with customers where they are.

Gian Fulgoni - Maximizing the ROI from Online Marketing

The big idea is that web marketing is too focused on click through as a measurement of value. We are attracted to click through because it is the easiest thing to measure but there is equal or greater value in delayed purchases (not-trackable) and brand awareness and recall.

Advertisers are not thinking about enough global campaigns even though the internet is growing more rapid outside of the US. 77% of global internet users are outside of us.

In a down economy, advertisers may push more of their ad dollars online because it is cheaper and they can save money. Online advertising is represents 7% of the total ad spend but there are 40% more ads on the web than on broadcast.

Direct mail is at the top of 21% [Seth: no wonder I get so much junk mail]. Broadcast is 15%. Newspaper is 14%

Search is 41% of online advertising.

60% of advertising spend is for branding campaigns. not direct response.

Search is better for direct response marketing.

The number of unique visitors reported by publishers is inflated by cookie deletion. 30% people delete cookies every month or so (usually 4x per month).

Who is clicking? Most of the clicks come from a small population of young, low income surfers (low value to advertisers).

Most purchases are buying offline. Conversion metrics are missing this.

Direct online was only 16% of buying effect. 21% purchased little later like in another browsing session. 60% bought later offline.

ROI is a lot bigger than currently thought.

Searchers are older, wealthier, and more educated. Retail is hurting brand and increasing price sensitivity through their price based marketing campaigns.

95% of google ads are not being clicked on.

16% improvement in brand association for top ad - just a text ad.

Success of craigslist shows that coupling of content and classified advertisers is less natural in the internet. when people want stuff. they don't go to the news content. they go to the classified site.