Think CMYK, in RGB, but in B&W.

Jan 05

The First 30 Days with Twitter Paid Promotions

Here we are, one month and nearly $9,000 into a Twitter campaign… time to share.

In my first post – where I talked about the first 24 hours – I came to the conclusion that Twitter advertising was Pricey, Painless, and Productive. Now that I’ve got some experience under my rodeo belt buckle I’ve come up with some new Twitter fodder.

Twitter’s analytics are very basic. Too basic in my opinion. The “Followers” statistics consist of a line chart indicating growth in the number of followers. Snazzy, but useless. They also break down users by interest, location gender and who our followers also follow. In our particular situation, none of that is very useful, though others may find that information necessary to a campaign.

Of particular interest is the “Your Followers Also Follow” category. Twitter shows the top 10 accounts that our followers also follow. For our mobile web development conference (@BDConf) Twitter points out that 2% of our followers (about 100 people) also follow @drinklessnow and @saddleonline. So web developers are either; 1. A bunch of horseback-riding alcoholics, 2. Twitter has a major #fail going on in tracking them, or 3. I’m paying for followers that have nothing to do with mobile web or even development at all. To figure it out I’d have to peruse our 4,100 followers and look for profiles mentioning AA meetings or comfortable saddles. I’ll pass, thanks, I have drinking to do and my horse needs brushing.

On the good side of Twitterlytics they provide an awesome Timeline Activity tab that supplies useful analytics as related to your posts – number of clicks on links, favorites, retweets, and replies. This is by far the most useful tool for us to determine what our followers find useful and interesting. To me, this analytic would be a cool tool for all Twitter users. Not just the elitist advertisers like us. For now, you poor underlings can only wish.

When our campaign started, the suggested cost of obtaining a follower based on our keywords, profiles etc. was about $2-$4. At that time I called that “pricey”. Little did I know… that cost has now skyrocketed to just over $12 on the high end. Keep in mind you “name your own price” but of course performance and impressions are very much in tune with how much you’re willing to lay down.

I’ve toyed with the amounts I’m willing to pay for a follower and priced it at below Twitter’s recommendations, squarely in the middle of, and at the top end. The results change only in that followers either accrue more or less quickly. At the low end we naturally got fewer followers per day, and more at the high end. What didn’t change was the quality. Currently I’d estimate that about 15-25% of our paid followers are completely unrelated to the account in which they are following. As a result, it’s my opinion to keep your cost per follower low. No reason to pay $12 for a follow from a Justin Bieber fan, recovering alcoholic, or horse saddle aficionado. Your followers will accrue at a slower pace, but it will result in more followers for your budget.

We have similar campaigns going on the magazine publishing side of our business and recognize the same trends in cost per follower. Unfortunately the amount of unrelated followers seems substantially higher than that of our tech-crowd-related mobile web conference. I’d estimate maybe as high as 40-50% bogus follows on the publishing side. Oh well.

Overall the Twitter experience has been very worthwhile for the @BDConf account. I am satisfied with the results and fear that when our campaign is up I’ll be looking around for another Twitter fix like an alcoholic in search of booze. Perhaps I should consider following @drinklessnow before our campaign ends.

For more on @BDConf visit http://bdconf.com, for more of me follow @ThreeLakesWI. Giddyup.

Dec 07

The First 24 Hours With Twitter Paid Promotions

Yesterday afternoon we started a corporate marketing initiative with Twitter via promoted tweets and accounts. It’s a hush-hush, keep it quiet, you’re really special, kind of campaign. Twitter account reps swear you to secrecy and confidentiality, threatening a giant whale will come and swallow you up like plankton if you leak any vitals. Then later that night I see the “confidential” twitter advertising e-mail leaked all over my RSS feed. So, well, shit, there goes the secret. It wasn’t me Twitter, I swear.

So here in summary, short of Twitter’s requested confidentiality bits & pieces, is how our campaign is going thus far in 3 simple words:

1. Painless

2. Productive

3. Pricey

Painless – Holy shit, it’s finally here. After several requests to join the secret Twitter advertising cult over the past year, I get the invite… it’s vague, cautious, but optimistic. They require a 3-month commitment… okay. Previous experience running self-serve ad campaigns… yes, go on. Willingness to provide lots of feedback… hah-haaa, funny, but okay, yes. Willingness to sign & abide by Twitter’s Insertion Orders & Contracts… well, I haven’t seen them, but sure, I’ll agree. I reply back. I’m ready for the mission, give me my orders.

A few hours later I get a reply. They feel we are ready, too, they’ve been watching us. We adequately Tweet, we have a handful of followers. What’s this? Money? Yes, we have money. But how much? Cough, yikes, wow, okay, we can swing it, I suppose. (more on this in number 3) She talks to us about goals, expectations, and really I felt like I might have been on a job interview. We apparently get the nod, and our rep says a contract will arrive shortly.

Minutes later a digital contract arrives. Far simpler than I expected. I’ve seen far longer agreements to download a new version of iTunes. Pretty straight-forward stuff – the agreed on terms, rates, and don’t tell anyone about this jargon, jargon. I sign electronically, hit submit, and wah-lah, next stop, Twitter webinar to learn about the ad process.

The webinar starts, again the moderator warns us of the confidentiality of the program. Okay, okay already, I get it, but all this talk makes it feel even more exclusive and special. Myself and 4 others in the room - wow this is an elite group. All this confidentiality talk has me thinking I might actually be working for Twitter now. It’s going to be so awesome, Biz Stone and I hangin’ like homies.

Five minutes in I realize nothing will be special. What exactly is confidential in the end? I’m not sure. Maybe the rates? Nothing revolutionary is shared, in fact, any eighth grader placing Google ads for his old-man’s used car lot could run the interface. Which is good, I guess, from a UI/UX perspective.

Before the webinar is even done, I have a campaign created and running.

Productive – Seventeen seconds after hitting save, we have our first paid follower, then we get one every thirty seconds thereafter. Oh shit. We’re fucked… and broke. What I learned in the first hour of the campaign: 1. You need to focus on the US and Canada only, or you’ll get more than you bargained for, and not in a good way. 2. Justin Bieber has a whole shitload of followers that like to click on promoted accounts, regardless of topic.

So after 24 hours we’ve picked up just short of 200 new followers on one campaign, and seven on the other. One is tech, one is not, I’m equally happy with both so far despite the disparity. Like any “keyword” style campaign there’s some tweaking and testing that needs to go on to perfect it. Although at this point, after only a day, I’m pretty comfortable with the results. I’d surmise about 75-80% of the paid followers are legitimate and worthwhile. The others are confused Bieber fans or lonely chicks from Russia.

The analytics provided are simple, but informative enough to show a return. Where they fall short of a Google campaign, or the like, is in the suggestive keyword help to support the campaign. Thus far all they offer are “here’s what yer gettin’ for clicks” type information. I’d certainly like to see more on the analytics side.

Pricey – Without spilling the confidential beans that are already all over the ‘net, I’ll just say that our Twitter campaign is costing us about 3-4 times more than a similar Google campaign. Though so far, we are seeing more engagement, better CTR, and overall just feel the campaign will produce more in the end. Time will tell, I’ll keep you posted. I just hope a giant whale doesn’t come down and cancel my account for sharing a little with you.

Nov 17

A Response to Responsive Advertising

Mark Boulton (@MarkBoulton) recently posted a get-us-thinking piece about Responsive Advertising. I read it with great interest, as this is something Tim Kadlec (@tkadlec) and I have been discussing with fierce interest recently. Although our favorite thing to do might be organizing the Breaking Development Conferences, our core business is actually magazine publishing, and hence, web publishing.

The profit model for the web side of our business relies heavily on advertising. The flexibility the Internet offers us in creating advertising channels has been one of the best sales tools in our arsenal. We have struggled to come up with a model that affords those same opportunities, yet gives us the responsive layout for content that allows us to have one site for desktop, tablet and mobile. Our idea, very much, if not identical to Mark’s, was to create advertising bundles where you purchased a package of ads that are sized and displayed according to context, or screen size if you will. However, this does still present far greater limitations than we currently contend with.

In the past we’ve been able to essentially create ads on the fly that were tailored to desktop presentation. Whether it be the gutters of widescreen monitors or just simply unused space on a content-rich page, we took advantage of the opportunities whenever we could. With a bundle-based responsive package, we are certainly providing a better overall experience not only to users across devices, but to advertisers across devices as well. Now the ad will be tailored to the context *and* device. In the past (okay, well actually presently, but we are working on that) we sell a one size-fits-all-ad. Some don’t appear at all on mobile or tablet, and some just appear awkwardly. Now, with a bundle, we have enhanced that offering, and likewise should be able to enhance the return. But wait…

Where I struggle with responsive ads is in the creativity and flexibility. To me, it has pigeonholed us back into the magazine style of thinking. Even though the ads have given us the ability to appear more favorably over all devices, we’ve lost that flexibility to create custom ads. Your sizes are predetermined much like print – full page, half page, quarter page – only in this case more like 468x60, 120x60, 88x31. We can’t go back to being confined by pixel or page limitations. So this still leaves us with the issue of ad flexibility and selling the outside-the-box advertisements that can command higher rates and provide better CPC results. For now, I surmise we can still sell those with the caveat that they simply won’t be viewable to our mobile and tablet friends. Currently about 80-85% of our traffic, although changing rapidly, is still desktop anyway. But what about tomorrow?

Looking forward I think that slider content and orientation-based ads could provide some responsive opportunities. We need not think so simply in terms of bundling only for size, but context. Perhaps the smallest package ad, like Mark suggests, might move the ad to a slider where it appears among content, rather than just a minimized version of the parent ad placed on an already minimal canvas. Maybe we organize all mobile or tablet ads in a slider-type presentation, essentially allowing users to interact with them with gestures. Dare I say almost like turning the pages in a magazine?

Although I believe we and Mark are on the right track with the bundling concept, I think we still have a long way to go, and need to encourage people to continue to share ideas and demonstrate how we can make responsive ads, images and design every bit as good, and hopefully better, than our traditional desktop minds can envision. I’ll continue to share our developments via this blog. Hope to see you all at BDConf in Orlando this April.

Nov 02

GoMo is like “Oh No!”

The initiative is correct, unfortunately the execution is not.

Google’s new HowToGoMo site drops the ball on nearly every level. It’s so unGoogle-like, I question if it’s perhaps an imposter? We only need click (if your browser and device allow, mind you) on Learn Why Mobile Sites Matter>Learn More About Mobile: “60% of users expect sites to load in three seconds or less.” Ahhh! howtogomo.com took 42 seconds on my iPhone 4s from request to full load. I’m hoping I’m an anomaly. I think I just became part of that 57% who would not recommend the business that has this poor mobile site. I even feel as though I could be one of the 23% that might curse at my phone right now.

How the hell can you design, create and test a mobile-optimized site in 30 minutes? Google says they can do it from their new Mobile, Alabama store. Get it, Mobile? So crafty, Google. Walk in, and they’ll set you up with a mobile site in the time it takes to watch an episode Seinfeld. Yes, you can watch the show about nothing, and walk out with the mobile website about nothing, all in the same amount of time.

To me, Google’s objective is now clear. Just a few days ago, Google told us we needed to “Get better at Mobile”. In that same story we learned that Google expected its mobile ad revenue to top $2.5 billion in 2012. Okay, now I’m starting to see the correlation here… more mobile sites, means more mobile ads, so the quicker we can get more mobile sites out… I love making money too, but not at the expense of producing crap. Google is now advocating 30-minute crap - Jerry Seinfeld would say “That’s a shame.”

As founder of a conference where we try so hard to teach the best practices, I find it truly disappointing that Google spent what appears to be no time on research, development, design or testing on this HowToGoMo.com site that would indicate, at first glance, to have the right direction in mind. Though now after thinking it through, the motive is, perhaps, more profit-driven?

Conceivably I’m just upset, like PPK pointed out as well, that the dozens of talented names I’ve been privileged enough to meet through our own Breaking Development conferences weren’t cited as resources? Where are Stephanie Rieger, Luke Wroblewski, Brian Fling, Peter Paul Koch, Ethan Marcotte, Jason Grigsby, Scott Jehl, (need I go on, really?) mentioned? Or perhaps I’m just jealous our own Breaking Development Conference wasn’t referenced. After all, we started our entire conference on the premise of needing to learn more about “How to go mo.” But we sure as fuck can’t do it in 30 minutes.

I’m so lost. I feel like I’ll be hearing about Microsoft launching *NEW* FrontPage for Mobile by the end of the week. And then… there’s no turning back. Talk about a zombie apocalypse.

Oct 05

How Magazines Are (Not) Adapting to the Mobile Revolution

This morning my daily Zite feed served up a very interesting headline from Mashable — “How Magazines Are Adapting to the Mobile Revolution” (http://mashable.com/2011/10/04/magazines-tablets-panel/) by Lauren Indvik. I eagerly clicked on the link to see what I could learn from this article that so perfectly fit my niche. A prominent group of New York publishers including editors and creative directors from titles like The New Yorker, Popular Mechanics, Parents and others were going to share their mobile insights. Ahh, well, maybe insight is a bit of a stretch.

As large as the audience is that these brands play to, they remarkably don’t get it… at all. The most disturbing comments come from Pamela Maffei McCarthy, deputy editor at The New Yorker, “Our readers had demonstrated that they were willing to put up with much less than perfect design and functionality to access stories we produced. So we strove to replicate the look and feel of the magazine.” OMG. Really? Complete with the fake page turns, too? That is forward-thinking New Yorker, kudos!

The New Yorker has conceded that UI and UX are somehow less important than the content. Certainly on tablets, and possibly even smartphones, I’d submit that quite the opposite might be the case. The experience on a tablet device is completely different than anything we’ve ever experienced. It feeds off of user interaction through swipes, gestures, orientation changes, etc. The experience enhances the content, it doesn’t make us work for it. Perhaps Pamela should spend 15-20 minutes listening to Josh Clark (@globalmoxie) talk about design? I think she’d even be embarrassed by her own comments. Josh teaches us that gestures, or intuitive and simple ways of interaction, create the best user experiences.

Ironically another participant in this discussion was Jim Meigs, Editor in Chief at Popular Mechanics. Jim’s magazine is (in)famous for being a tablet pioneer. Never seen the tablet version of Popular Mechanics? Well first, spend 5-10 minutes reading the instructions on how to actually use the tablet version. Then, read the content, which once you get to it really is fairly decent and not all that difficult to use. But why start off the experience with a bunch of instructions? Ready-to-assemble furniture from Ikea comes with instructions, magazine apps shouldn’t need them.

The panel of publishers goes on to discuss purchasing and pricing strategies. Bemoaning the fact that these counter-intuitive apps with regurgitated magazine content are not monetizing themselves. Shocking. Are they that naive to think that all of the content they put out is the center of their readers’ universe? Web content is free, abundant, and quite honestly, fairly good in most cases. As publishers, we need to make our content different — or at the very least free, abundant and good, because that’s what we are competing with.

Finally Pamela from The New Yorker expresses her concern on an ever-growing number of devices, “the sheer number of devices is absolutely dizzying”, she says. Yes, it sure is, and won’t be getting better anytime soon. “Now we are on four devices, all of which require tweaking to make our material work at all, much less really shine.” This is really quite simple, in my opinion. Quit developing native.

The mobile web has rapidly evolved into a very useful platform for publishers. Using tools like jQuery Mobile, Appcelerator, and Sencha you can do some pretty amazing things that are cross-platform capable. Remember that the shine comes from the experience as much as the content. If the experience is good along with the content, the audience becomes captive. A captive audience can easily become monetized. See where we are going here? Alternatively look at the Boston Globe’s new site. Utilizing responsive design, they’ve managed to create a pretty decent experience for desktop, tablet and mobile, all under one umbrella. The other cool thing? Apple isn’t taking 30% of any subscription revenue.

Per the article, Jason Revzon of Taunton Press was the only one that seemed to recognize mobile web as what lies ahead. Jason cited HTML5, the open web, and browser-based apps as an opportunity. To me it’s apparent that the little guys, like Taunton, have a clearer vision of the mobile future than those with deeper pockets. Dare I say those deep pockets are what stand between really good mobile experiences, and “less than perfect design and functionality.” Well done Jason, perhaps you should consult with the The New Yorker, they could use you.

Oct 04

Does Adobe make me look fat?

Yesterday Adobe acquired Nitobi. It’s not a partnership — they won’t be renamed Adobi or Nitobe — it’s merely an acquisition. Adobe swallowing up a darling child of the mobile world in an effort to bolster a portfolio of more than 120 products that resemble the software equivalent of big fat couch potatoes.

As soon as Adobe becomes acquainted with something it usually gets a little chubby, loses its luster, and is then dumped and never heard from again. Adobe never wants to be seen with the fat chick. But what the hell… they are usually the ones responsible for the weight gain. That’s not to say Adobe doesn’t have some really good products, but they always seem to get heavier than they need to be. Kind of like the Adele of the software world — beautiful and talented, but would get even more fanfare if they just lost 20 pounds and always remained true to their roots.

We need only look at the long laundry list of purchases over the past decade to see that Adobe doesn’t always take care of its acquisitions. Tell me who you remember from this list and what significance the corporate identities play in the role at Adobe today:


Adobe has said all the right things. “We’ll adopt you, and love you just like your real parents. Only we can give you a better life. We can offer you the best developers, marketing, and provide you opportunities you could have never had if you stay with your birth parents.” Really, mommy? Okay, if that’s what’s best for me.

I would suspect the guys over at Nitobi got a nice payday — deservedly so. I’m not a non-profit, and I can surely respect that. Hell, I can respect that more than anything. I also know that *partnerships* like these never seem to last. I hope that the creative and intelligent group that was Nitobi can move on quickly and get back to developing one of the truly cool and unique products for mobile. Good luck fellas, please encourage Adobe to keep PhoneGap skinny, pretty and filled with personality. Like it was meant to be.

As a founder of the Breaking Development Conference, perhaps I should be excited to see this type of mobile web news hitting the mainstream? Though I’m not. I was hoping that the Sencha, Appcelerator, jQuery Mobile and PhoneGap’s of the world would become the next Adobe, not be eaten by the present one. Perhaps Adobe will elevate us all into a brave new mobile world? That, if it happens, I am excited about.

Sep 28

Apparently these smartphones are kind of a big deal.

I spent the past few days at the Niche Magazine Digital Conference in Chicago, where only two days ago I gave a couple of talks for publishers on diversifying offerings and mobile web, respectively.

I encouraged the audience to consider the mobile web just as important as the desktop counterpart. Of course I had some data to support it, but the day after my talk Microsoft comes out with this — The Rise and Fall of Advertising Media (http://tag.microsoft.com/libraries/blog/rise_fall_lrg.sflb.ashx). Clearly showing that mobile is huge, and only getting huger, on its way to being the most hugest-est. No wonder I hate Microsoft, they always seem to release things slightly after they’d be really useful. Where did my Zune go? I need some creative music to blog to.

The data in the infographic shows that mobile marketing dollars spent from 2009-2010 increased 75%. The next closest was social media spends weighing in at 14%. Publishers take note of the print (magazine) spends rising a whopping 1%. Anyone remember my keynote where I talked about going after dollars outside of print? Hmmm, how about going after mobile, social, web and video? Ranked numbers 1 through 4 respectively.

What does this tell you? I know, I know, quick, rush out and build a mobile site, post some crap on Facebook (don’t forget Twitter and LinkedIn), then follow it up with a poorly produced video of your editor sitting at his desk talking in a monotone voice while the hand you can’t see is slowly scratching his nuts. That should do it, success, showww meeee the money!

Damn it people, you couldn’t have already forgotten what (An)Drew Davis (@TPLDrew) taught us about fractal marketing, having a hook, or realizing that creating more crap content doesn’t mean people can actually consume more crap, did you? Even more importantly, just because budget is allocated, it doesn’t mean it’s allocated for that very same crap either. Take a step back and put some thought into your content. Give it that hook, the centerfold so to speak, remember?

I can assure you I’ll be putting some thought into my centerfold. I’ll be studying every centerfold I can find. I’ll also focus on the fractal concept, and the idea that print isn’t dead, it’s evolving. I’ve heard these smartphones are kind of a big deal, maybe I’ll start with them. I think I’ll pay some extra special attention to developing a centerfold for those. I’m thinking something with a fake page-turn effect. That would be really cool.

Follow me @ThreeLakesWI

Mar 11

Print is not dead, or so I’ve read.

This week I read an article titled “Print is Not Dead”. I read it on the Internet -strange, I know. It was still in print, digital print technically, but print nonetheless. As a 30+ year old B2B magazine company we’ve been racing to keep up with social, video, the Internet, and now, mobile. How as publishers do we remain relevant with so many other available mediums?

The answer had always been relatively straightforward. If you could stay ahead of your competition with quality content, fair prices and good circulation, you were successful. That’s no longer enough. Publishers need to become retailers. Not so much in the literal inventory-sell-ship sense, but by capitalizing through existing brands and audiences.

This week we watched Rovio’s Angry Birds raise a mere $42 million based on a game where you slingshot birds at smiling green pigs. I bet the Pork Producers Association sure wished those jovial pigs were their idea. Or the Audubon Society’s birds flying through the air - was that a yellow warbler just launched? Imagine the branding and recognition they’d have received!

Why as publishers (except perhaps cost) can’t we create our own branded games? We have the most efficient means of marketing them to relevant audiences, our audiences, through Facebook, Twitter, and the pages of our very own un-dead magazines. We publish a magazine for portable restroom service companies, yes, porta-potty companies. How about a toilet tipping game, or maybe a game where you buy porta-johns with fake Facebook cash? You service them at concerts, where angry mobs complain because the lines are too long and toilet paper holder is empty - so you’re stuck buying more fake restrooms and TP with phony cash, paid for with real dollars! Sounds a lot like Farmville or Sim City, we just substituted what we know, and what our readers would find interesting and amusing.

How about some more serious applications? Perhaps a mobile web app that allows tracking of restroom locations through the integrated GPS in smart phones or tablets? You can map service routes, annotate the last service performed, scan a bar code that identifies the unit you’re dropping off, take a picture of damage or condition, bill to a credit card from the field, and even sync up all the data wirelessly back to the office. If your audience were in that business, and you could bring that application to market, would that be useful? Would you have the means to make them aware of its availability through printed pages, web, social, video, etc? I submit you would, and you can brand and market it more effectively than others.

Print may not be dead, but the competition for eyeballs to look at it has never been more fierce. Those of us who learn how to diversify, think bigger, and can bring our new and re-purposed ideas to market the fastest will certainly ensure a spot on tomorrow’s smart phones, computer monitors, and yes, even magazines.