At Google I/O, the company managed to impress on a lot of fronts, enough that its stock began to climb as investors realized that Google is keeping up with — and in some cases, staying in front of — its digital platform competitors Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft. The new developer tools and resources announced will certainly lead to better apps, be developed more quickly, and be capable of generating more revenue. And consumer experiences in mobile, Google Maps, and the browser are about to get significantly more useful and elegant.
But one announcement debuted at I/O that doesn’t move the needle for Google — at least not as much as it could have — is the Google Play Music All Access pass. Despite the convoluted moniker, the service is straightforward: Pay $9.99 a month (in the US for now, more countries to come), and you’ll have unlimited access to a cloud-based music library with intuitive features that allow elegant discovery, consumption, and sharing of music.
If it sounds familiar, it’s because it is. The service can’t differentiate on its music library because the best it can do is license the same library that Spotify and Rdio already offer. All Access also creates playlists for you based on your music tastes as expressed by you directly or learned from your listening patterns and friends. That should also sound familiar because the same value is contained to various degrees in Pandora, iTunes, and Amazon Cloud Player.
Bottom line: Despite working really hard, the best that Google can do in music is to catch up to everybody else in the field. And that’s precisely what the company has done.
YouTube finally announced this week that it would allow channels to charge monthly fees to access content on YouTube. Some have predicted that YouTube’s subscription model would undercut its ad model in an echo of the infamous pay-wall problem that has bedeviled online newspapers as they shifted from ad-supported to paid. Others have suggested that this shows that YouTube is up against an advertising wall of its own making — advertisers will only pay so much to advertise against this amateur and semi-pro content (and to be fair, I am in this camp even though I don’t think this fact is dire). And still others gleefully wait to watch as YouTube learns how hard it is to get people to pay for things online.
In fact, all three of these things are minor asides in YouTube’s decision-making, as I see it. Instead of reacting to these and other constraints, YouTube is proacting on imminent opportunity. YouTube is basically making a grab for more of everything that matters:
More business model options. TV is both ad-supported and subscription-supported, and that works just fine. It gives companies like HBO the creative flexibility to generate content that advertisers may not be ready for, and it gives companies like Scripps the freedom to promise more home-focused entertainment that home-focused advertisers care about. That flexibility is crucial to the ongoing success of those companies, and it will be crucial to YouTube as well. Although in YouTube’s case, I would be surprised if the revenue balance in the one- to two-year time frame exceeded 10% or 15% subscription to advertising.
After 20-plus years of working in publishing for brands as diverse as Inc., Fortune Small Business, Money, Martha Stewart Living, and the mother of them all, People, I recently joined Forrester as a senior analyst serving Marketing Leadership Professionals, covering monetization strategies and technologies for publishers.
Understanding publishers and how they thrive as organizations and businesses is my passion. I believe in the value of the content they create and the audiences they amass around that content. I also believe that without publishers and the content that is posted, discussed, and shared, social would be a pretty boring experience. There wouldn't be much to search if not for publishers and their content. And, if user-generated content was the only environment for digital advertising, there wouldn't be many ads bought.
But today, despite their crucial role in the communication and marketing ecosystem, publishers are struggling to stabilize their business model. Since the advent of ad tech, they’ve been struggling to keep a grasp on their businesses, searching for ways to stem the precipitous fall in CPMs, and sifting through literally hundreds of vendors that are eager to offer their services as a partner.
In the coming months, I will focus my research efforts on initiatives that can change the game for publishers. My first three areas of concentration are:
Viewability, the upcoming implementation of an industrywide standard against which ads will be paid for based on a real opportunity for ads to be seen by users. This is the basis of my first report, which I expect to publish in the second half of May. I will share the key findings with you in my next post.
Audience extension, or how publishers find look-alike audiences to extend reach for their best advertisers. This report will follow.
After hosting a Forrester webinar on April 25 about "3 Ways To Turn Content Marketing into Thought Leadership", I received some interesting questions from clients. I thought I would share the questions -- and a short response to each – since this line of inquiry points to broader question about the role of public relations (PR) in content marketing generally and thought leadership marketing specifically.
Ask CMOs what tops their challenges list, and most admit that improving marketing's accountability ranks right up there.
B2B marketing execs worry about measuring marketing performance a bit more than B2C since a direct sales force and/or channel partners are largely responsible for the last mile of the customer purchase process.
Managing marketing performance is a perennial issue all marketers face.
Unlike revenue growth or margin, there are few accepted answers to the question, "What value does the business get from your marketing investment?" Typical answers focus on pipeline, which Sales then hotly contests.
Twitter #music is now out and people are abuzz about how elegant it is while also murmuring about what it means that Twitter – a company with no direct music expertise – is providing a music service. At the highest level, some are asking the question: is this the future of music?
The answer is simple. No, Twitter has not built the future of music. But that wasn’t the point. Instead, Twitter is building the future of Twitter’s customer relationship. It’s a significant difference in goals and it shows other wannabe digital disruptors some of the most important principles of digital disruption that you can follow, whether the adjacent possibility you will pursue next on behalf of your customers is in music or house cleaning or education. Here’s what to learn from Twitter’s music service:
Build a customer relationship to acquire data. In a digitally disrupted world, the most important asset you have is a digital customer relationship that connects to customers as frequently as possible and generates as much of a data trail as possible. Twitter has spent years doing this for millions of users, many of them who touch the service daily. It was only after this step was successfully completed that Twitter could look beyond it. That’s already a lesson for just about everyone else.
Monday’s The New York Times offers a defense of authors’ rights from bestselling author and head of the Authors Guild, Scott Turow. In the piece, Turow interprets a Supreme Court decision that allows the importation of books purchased abroad for resell in the US, making it seem like all of Western culture would henceforth be at risk. Later the same day, I read a brief statement from News Corp in which the company threatened to make the FOX broadcast network a premium pay channel in order to get its just compensation for its creative works ahead of the likely decision that Aereo is not illegally capturing and restreaming broadcast content.
These individuals and organizations have the right to do what they feel they must as they pass through the phase known as denial. But may I offer this one small suggestion to help them through the stages of grief yet to come: Stop pretending that the foe you face won’t eventually win because it will. That goes for all of you. Digital disruption will eliminate your structural advantages someday, too.
We’ve been through this before, dating back to the first time the music industry sued someone to prevent the future. No, it wasn’t Napster or the users of BitTorrent in the 2000s. It was actually Diamond Multimedia, makers of the new PMP300 MP3 players, and the year was 1998. The argument then was the same as it is today: We, the people who currently benefit from an artificial monopoly in either the creation or distribution of value, don’t want that monopoly to end.
Great marketing content can fuel your company's demand generation engine. It can boost your brand's visibility to key audiences and bump aside competitors. Most of all, it attracts buyers interested in the types of challenges your company can solve. Because, as successful marketing execs know, business buyers don't buy your products and services; they buy into your approach to solving their problems.
I recently was invited to attend a meeting of the National Association of Corporate Directors (NACD), a group of board-of-director members from the country’s most prestigious companies. The topic of the meeting was how to keep corporate boards relevant in the 21st century.
What promised to be a dry conversation about financials and governance turned out to be anything but that. The discussion that morning focused on the need to respond to and keep pace with the rapid change in customer behavior to stay competitive. It also addressed how current board members could keep up with the evolution of customer touchpoints to understand the new digitally-based strategies that are increasingly being shared with them.
What I found striking about the discussion after some reflection was that the realization of the critical importance of customer behavior on the future success of top companies has made it all the way to the boardroom. The age of the customer that Forrester first identified in 2011 has really arrived and goes well beyond marketing.
Why now? Corporate boards are starting to realize that to provide the strategic guidance and governance that their role requires, they need to better understand customers and how the relationship between them and the companies they direct are changing. And they need to understand it fast. The market is moving and changing too rapidly to be left behind.
After traveling 5,000 miles in three days to speak about digital disruption (I know, it's odd that my physical body has to go somewhere to talk about being more digitally disruptive), I fell asleep on a train yesterday and missed one of the most noteworthy events of the week: Amazon acquired Goodreads.
Full disclosure on this one up front: Amazon published my recent book, Digital Disruption. At the same time, I am a Goodreads member for more than five years; in fact, if you have read any of the most-liked reviews of the Twilight books on Amazon, chances are good you've read mine. That is to say that I am not exactly neutral on this one. But I'll do my best to be objective in answering all the anger being expressed on Twitter and in the trades when I point out that Goodreads was not saving itself for Amazon like some virginal tribute. It has been sitting there, all along, waiting for the right offer to come along. That's how venture capital works, people.
That's not to dismiss altogether the reactions I'm seeing, which range from Amazon wants to own the whole world (and to be fair, maybe it does) to How could Goodreads do this to us. But among all the hurt feelings and handwringing about the fall of publishing and the eventual reign of cohabitating cats and dogs (oh, I do hope you get that reference), I have an important question to ask, one that I am stealing from author Nick Harkaway (@Harkaway) who wrote this on Twitter the morning after: