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Archive for October, 2006

Marketing is all about demographics. They group, slice/dice into categories, social groups, gender and determine trends. These are “target segments”. Simplistically it involves age bands (as teenagers don’t purchase denture fixant), social class bands (the rich may want different products than middle/poorer classes and be willing to pay more) and gender (partially b/c different physical attributes require different hygiene and clothing products and partially due to male/female mindsets).

Not only does the demographic determine function/features, but also when and where advertising should be placed to get the most coverage for the $$ I’m spending to promote my product — an ad. In addition, demographics serve the purpose of me not seeing what doesn’t apply.

So, my day job routed me to look in the online social networking space. I’ve blogged about socialization with current leaders Facebook and Myspace etc.,.

The niche social networks are not new, but seem to be a thriving and have very viable businesses. Millions of us want to participate in social networks, and most prefer networks set up for people they can relate. Like minded interests so’s to speak. In my brief analysis an entire category jumped out.

Niche sites for Men who….uhmm like Men. I’m not pretending to speak for men who like…, but I was taken back on the quality and level of business sophistication behind the various sites.

From posh and pretentious to the happily hedonistic….there is something for everyone it seems. Here are a few I looked at:

  • BigJock.com – coming out party on November 5th. Will have a “hot-or-not” rating component.
  • Jake – calls itself the world’s largest gay professional community. Very British. 30K members.
  • Manjam – most widely discussed of all these sites.
  • Ohlalaguys – another rebranded manjam site from JuxMedia, LTD. Similar to Bentlads.
  • Lovetastic – bringing together “husbands”. Was originally called Scene404.
  • Connexion – LGBT site.
  • Outeverywhere – UK based that emphasizes real world events.
  • Dlist – straight forward site with blogs; ad supported. Video at DudeTube.
  • I’m sure there are a number of sites I’ve missed, but you get the idea. Niche sites have hit internet mainstream and multi-national corporations are laser focused on marketing campaigns to appeal or hawk their wares to all demographics.

    My education reminds me that marketing is a function that attempts to create, expand and maintain a collection of customers.

    I want to thank those same marketing people who blast me with ads, because the above site demographics mean that they don’t apply to me. I’m a customer that is quite okay thank-you with being left out…

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    The Microsoft Zune™ digital media player and online service will be available to consumers in the U.S. on Nov. 14, 2006.

    Microsoft (MSFT) claims to be putting the social back into digital music. Translated: they hope it’s an iPod killer and iTunes replacement for Christmas ’06. The device retails for $249.99 U.S. and the marketing hype states it will create new ways for entertainment fans to connect and share media experiences device-to-device through use of wireless technology. The device requires a Zune Pass subscription at $14.99/month to open up that new market of “social” music connectivity as well as access “millions” of songs. It’s that wireless element that has caused debate.

    Why is Microsoft interested? Apple (AAPL)has sold ~65 million iPod’s and according to Sam Bhavnani, iTunes has ~100 million users — mainstream users who use, are educated, and accustom to the Apple music/video download model and user interface. And, they recently announced their one-billionth download on iTunes. Yep, the iPod is in Microsoft’s sights.

    Microsoft’s creative strategy to include a social community with the device is very cool. I’ve blogged on social communities and how online social networking has become an incredible phenomenon. A typical social networking site, say like Facebook or MySpace, you create an individual profile detailing your age, location, whether you are in a relationship, plus your general interests, favorite music, movies and books etc.,. You might upload photographs of yourself and write daily journal entries. You build up a set of online friends, each of whom will have their own set of friends, and so on.

    It’s not clear what set of features/functions the Zune device will incorporate at launch in it’s social network, but in a recent interview with Apple CEO, Jobs was ask if the iPod competitor has him worried?

    In a word, no. I’ve seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you’ve gone through all that, the girl’s got up and left! You’re much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you’re connected with about two feet of headphone cable.

    Besides being a clever sound bite, the point is spot on in that technology can often lose sight of the simple and/or obvious. “Social” is just that. It’s about interaction and conversations between people and not an exercise in “mental calisthenics” to waste time working with technology. It’s about getting what you want done. Time will tell if the Zune social community will evolve to an integral part of everyone’s daily life. Microsoft surely hopes it will. People participate in social networks and often prefer networks set up for other people they can relate too.

    Sharing your music library while connected by two feet of headphone cable is a simple social network.

    For certain youth demographics, it’s the ear-bud stupid! This just makes sense.

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    The internet was once just an enormous data library, but it’s migrated to a vast “conversation” in the past 3 years. Transmitting information from one person to another has never been easier. Everyone can participate. If my teenage son is any indicator, young people now communicate more through social networking websites than through email. Instead of keeping diaries, they keep blogs; instead of photo albums, they have Zooomr, or Flickr or Xanga. Rather than use a “land-locked” PC in a home office to IM they use proximity based IM services from Meetro or RadiusIM via a cell phone.

    While older adults go online to find information, the younger crowd go online to LIVE. The boundaries between private and public and between offline and online are blurred, and there is a widening generation gap between kids growing up with social technology and adults who find it a bit foreign and unsettling. Maybe this is the definition of the “MySpace demographic”?

    This has all happened very quick. The first social networking websites were launched about three years ago, aimed at providing online forums where friends could connect. Approx a year later online social networking was a fully fledged phenomenon. Today it has become the face of the internet. Social networking websites have evolved from something to visit in your spare time to an integral part of daily life that many cannot imagine living without.

    Not convinced? Take a look at the numbers:

  • Friendster, one of the pioneers of online social networking, now has more than 30 million members. In August ’06 — 1 million unique visitors and 66 million page views.
  • Bebo (mainly for teenagers), launched only last July, has 25 million members and is the number one social networking site in the UK. In August ’06 — 2.5 million unique visitors and 1.8 Billion page views.
  • Piczo, 35,000 new member registrations per day, 75% of the 13-16 year old demographic. 10 million unique visitors per month adding up to 2.5 Billion pages views per month.
  • MySpace, purchased last July by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation for $580 million, MySpace has just registered its 100 millionth member. In July ’06 ranked number one website among US internet users, receiving more hits in a one-week period than Google. In August ’06 — 56 million unique visitors and 33 Billion page views.
  • Facebook, for students – though it does have a business arm. In August ’06 — 15 million unique visitors and 6.5 Billion page views.
  • LiveJournal, where people keep online diaries for others to read. It has 10.8 million, most of them females ages 17 to 19.
  • Technorati, which monitors the blogosphere. Currently they track 51.3 million blogs worldwide, and claim that 75,000 new blogs are created every day – that’s almost one per second. The blogosphere is 100 times bigger than it was three years ago, a doubling in size roughly every six months.
  • Buzz-Oven, localized music social networking web site for Austin and Dallas, Tx teens. Approx 3000 Dallas area youth online. Coca-Cola Inc., backs the site in hope of reaching more teens on their home turf. Kids, Bands and Coca-Cola.
  • The statistics are staggering and suggest that online social networking cannot be dismissed as a passing trend. Socialization, rather than information, has emerged as a primary use of the internet.

    Still not convinced?

    If you work in the life sciences, you can chat to others in the field about everything from algal blooms to zebrafish. There’s a global community of photographers, and one for travelers and explorers. If you care about human rights and protecting the environment, you’ll find like-minded people or at Youthnoise. At Mog.com you’ll find a community of music lovers. If you are looking for a job or thinking of changing the one you have, try Linkedin or Jobster. There’s a huge online book club, described as the “MySpace for bookworms”, and another of a different kind at Bookcrossing. You could find long-lost relatives, or other mothers to talk to, or dates. You’re never too old for this: Eons is exclusively for over-50s. There is even a site if you would like to social network but aren’t sure which website to try, Socialseeker might help. It matches people with the kind of network they are looking for and gives advice to parents worried about their children’s use of these sites.

    The blogosphere (another kind of online social network) is one of the best examples of how interactive and social the internet has become. On most blogs you will find what’s called a blogroll – a list of links to other related blogs. Through these links blogs form clusters, or communities, based on shared topics and readership. Conversations develop within and between blogs as readers post comments on what others have written. A new technology called trackback has made the inter-blog network more visible by alerting bloggers every time another blogger creates a link to their site. A blog’s importance in the overall network is gauged not in terms of traffic to the site but in the number of inbound and outbound links. For instance, the political blog The Huffington Post is ranked number four by Technorati, with 63,918 links from 13,151 other blogs.

    The difference between “online” and “off-line” will fade as the internet portals go mobile. Social networking is not just a consumer trend about friends and recreation – it’s also affecting professional life.

    Something for everyone it seems.

    **Stats: Comscore numbers are U.S. numbers only

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    Sacrifice – Peltier

    Groov’n to my iPod this morning I was listening to Robbie Robertson – “Contact from the Underworld Red Boy” (1998), (http://theband.hiof.no/albums/contact_from_the_underworld_of_red_boy.html) and heard a song called Sacrifice. I’ve listened to this song before, but didn’t think much about the lyrics. Today was different in that something in the song caught my attention. The song is “supposedly” narrated and you hear this telephone-squawk box element of Leonard Peltier, introduced in the song? Being curious I thought is this for-real or just a clever way to write a song?

    Who is this Robbie Robertson (http://www.ahroo.com/PIC/rrtimeline.html)? Born with the name Jaime Robert Klegerman, the wiki states – he’s the son of a Jewish father and Mohawk mother, and first brushed with music at the Six Nations Reservation. He is an accomplished musician. He composed the score to Scorsese’s movies Raging Bull, King of Comedy and The Color Of Money. He has appeared with Bob Dylan, U2, and Peter Gabriel. Most recent work was with Touchstone Pictures / Beacon Pictures’ ‘Ladder 49’ (John Travolta) and the feature track, “Shine Your Light.”

    As it turns out the song Sacrifice is indeed a ‘protest’ song which does feature Leornard Peltier — a Native American who has been imprisoned since 1976 on charges of murder many believe are fabricated — his voice is recorded from a telephone call. Peltier, a native of Grand Forks, N.D., has spent nearly half of his 59 years behind bars in maximum-security prisons, most recently in the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kan. (http://www.freepeltier.org/). Peltier was convicted for the deaths of two FBI agents who died during a 1975 shoot-out on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

    If you’re into conspiracy theories, the Wounded Knee occupation of 1973 marked the beginning of a three-year period of heightened political violence on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  Peltier was an American Indian Movement (AIM) organizer in the Northwest and was asked to go to Pine Ridge, South Dakota to support and help protect the people being targeted for violence. Peltier set up camp on a ranch owned by the Jumping Bull family and when more than 40 Native Americans participated in a gunfight, two FBI agents and one Native American were dead. The agents injured in the shoot-out, were then shot at close range. Of three people brought to trial (first two were acquitted in a federal jury in Iowa) only Peltier was convicted (in ND) and is serving two life terms. The protest song Sacrifice (lyric at: http://www.ahroo.com/pp/lyr/sacrifice.html) is very legit.

    I wonder how many other musicians have created real-people protest songs and delivered them to the unassuming public as we march through our work day unaware?!

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    From the Give me a Break Dept!

    Dateline: August 29, 2005 New Orleans, LA – The costliest ($81.2B) and one of the deadliest (1,836 lost lives) hurricanes (Katrina) in the history of the U.S., hits New Orleans and FEMA (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FEMA) officials took severe criticism over governments’ lack of reaction to the storm.

    Advance ahead a year later and…

    Dateline: October 16, 2006 Kailua Kona, Hawaii – FEMA’s (mainland) computer simulation indicates “a possibility” that as many as 170 bridges on the big Island could have suffered damage and Bob Fenton (FEMA Regional Director) immediately dispatches 50+ Federal Officials to span-out across the Big Island to “assess damage” and help begin any recovery work.This should zip-the-nay-sayers-shut who think the B-government can’t learn to become more effective and coordinated in a natural disaster.

    I’m sure the location had nothing to do with this rapid response – As you can see the Kona Brewing Company suffered NO damage and the tourists are enjoying lunch http://www.konabrewingco.com/360/360-1.html …while watching Director Bob’s crew “assess” the brewery! FEMA will also need to close pool-slide #6 to check the concrete pillars on the Hyatt bridge that connects the all-you-can-eat egg & sausage/pineapple buffet to the Mai-Tai Bar. Once done with breakfast, all the federal “official’s” will of course have swimsuits to facilitate entry into the pool for full assessment…

    Give me a break!

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    Digitized Best Buy

    Best Buy announced (http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/061005/20061005005675.html?.v=1) plans to launch a digital music store powered by RealNetworks’ Rhapsody (http://www.rhapsody.com) service. The Music Store (http://www.bestbuy.com/digitalmusicstore), which launched yesterday (Oct. 15th), features tight integration with memory card maker SanDisk’s line of Sansa Rhapsody MP3 players (http://tinyurl.com/dz44x). Anyone who purchases the $139 (2GB) or $249 (8GB) Sansa e200 Rhapsody player will be given a free two-month subscription to the service, enabling unlimited downloads to the players; after the trial period the portable downloads service will cost $14.99 per month. Users can also purchase tracks from Rhapsody a la carte for 99 cents each.

     “Whether they want to purchase downloads or a subscription and have access to all the music, we’re giving consumers the ability to enjoy entertainment on their terms,” said Jennifer Schaidler, vice president of music for Best Buy. http://www.dmwmedia.com/news/2006/10/06/report-digital-music-sales-buoy-overall-market

    This launch aligns with the release of Rhapsody 4.0, an updated version of the digital music service that allows users to drag-and-drop songs from the service directly onto their portable players. By aligning with RealNetworks and SanDisk, Best Buy positions itself in the download music market, Rhapsody can drive more subscribers and the combination of all three mean they can compete in the end-to-end music solution space dominated by Apple. This is where Microsoft is headed with the Zune (http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2006/sep06/09-14ZuneUnveilingPR.mspx),  launch set for November.  Best Buy is the #1 retailer of MP3 players in the U.S. SanDisk is the #2 manufacturer of MP3 players in the United States, and RealNetworks is the #1 digital music subscription services provider, with >1.6 million subscribers. An interesting side note is that the most-stolen item from Best Buy stores is the MP3 player (http://blog.wired.com/music/#1568666).

    Best Buy clearly wants a larger piece of the download music sales and with a strong (DRM-ed) music service, and it might even influence customers to stop stealing?! They have significant floor space locked up in album displays and according to Nielsen SoundScan data (www.Nielsen.com), physical album sales dropped 8.3% year-to-date. At the same time more than 418 million tracks were purchased from digital music retailers, a rise of 72% over the same period last year, So, it’s easy to understand the motivation. When Digital album sales year-to-date (22.6 million, up 115% from last year) are combined with digital singles and physical sales, the overall music industry has sold 434.9 million albums, down from 439.2 million during the same period last year. http://today.reuters.com/news/articlenews.aspx?type=industryNews&storyID=2006-10-05T084239Z_01_N05410414_RTRIDST_0_INDUSTRY-INDUSTRY-DC.XML&WTmodLoc=EntNewsIndustry_C1_%5BFeed%5D-1

    Best Buy as an online digital music retailer is focused on the TAM expansion sweet spot of the market. Rhapsody adds between 30,000 and 50,000 new tracks every week, and will be at 3 million tracks by the end of the year. The MP3 players and Rhapsody service require higher performance PC’s to rip, sync, download, post and update your listening history on a blog using RSS.I’m interested to see how the music implications of this deal plays out…

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    Apple and a Smile

    I like to smile. I like iTunes. I like my iPod. I like podcasts. I like download Tuesdays. I like album artwork. I like Texas Hold ’em. I like Dennis Quaid. I like Steve Earl. I like Saturday Night Live. I like that I can play, watch and/or listen to all of this when I’m traveling or need a break from “cube cruisers”. And that makes me smile. But, I especially like music album artwork!

    My CDs are “stacked” in a way that you’d never see artwork unless it’s during my once every decade spring cleaning cycle. I’ve always been annoyed that the easiest way to get artwork imported was to re-purchase the song/album on iTunes. This doesn’t make sense given that I have 12GB/3000 songs and even though I like artwork I’m not going to re-purchase what I already own. Sure, there are various 3rd party tools with relative success in obtaining and importing the album artwork. I’ve tried a couple with limited success.

    One news items that didn’t get a lot ‘noise’ as Apple marched on in it’s path to the digital living room, was Cover Flow. Cover Flow was the work of Andrew Enright and a colleague. He came up with the idea and then put it on the Web and Apple purchased the technology and IP.

    The latest release of iTunes (7.0) and the new album-browsing technology is not perfect, but did populate ~80% of my library. Sync your iPod and now you’re groov’n with picts of your fav artists. In addition, you can visually search on artwork – nice. If you have not done so, try it. In iTunes go to “advance –> get artwork” and after a slight delay your library is now populated with album artwork.

    Yet another idea from the internet edge where helping people entertain themselves makes $$. Apple being the feature and customer focused company they are, acquired the technology and enhanced their product. That makes me smile.

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