Adding To The Noise

A critical view of new media, new technology and new marketing.


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Are You Ready For A Content Revolution?


I think we’re about to see a content revolution in the digital realm. We have devices like Kindle, Sony Reader, B&N eReader and iPad now being built to deliver words. People are beginning to pay for full versions of the The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. For years we have created this false expectation that everything on the Web should be free. But the paper isn’t what makes books and newspapers great–it’s the content.

The Internet has been so focused on click rates and search engine analytics, but Click Forensics reports more than 15% of SEM clicks and up to 30% of stream clicks are fake. This goes beyond quality impressions to paying for impressions that aren’t even real. What are we really getting for our obsession on clicks?

We end up with a world wide web of re-branded content. The Pew Research Center reports that 95% of previously unreported stories come from traditional news sources rather than blogs, Twitter, or local websites. As Josh Chasin from MediaPost points out, “Pull the rug out from all that traditional branded content, and you’ve really pulled the rug out from most of the Web.” Like it or not, we need the system created by traditional media to support and reward good content.

William Randolph Hearst may have helped create the sensationalism of Yellow Journalism, but he also encouraged higher salaries and bylines for journalist and he certainly knew how to make money from content. These advances all helped move journalism into a valued and respectable profession of impartiality, independence, depth and quality. Maybe there’s still hope for us yet.

Eventually the new will wear off new media and people will wake up to the fact that even the virtual world needs a real revenue plan to support real content.


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Walk A Mile In Zappos’ New Media Shoes


You can learn a lot from Zappos.com. With over $1 billion in sales, it is one of the Web’s fastest growing shopping sites and has built the majority of its brand equity online. Seventy five percent of their sales come from repeat customers, so they have very high levels of customer loyalty.

How do they do it? Over 80 percent of their customers hear about Zappos.com through either word of mouth or online advertising. Print advertising accounts for only 15 percent of their media spend.

It starts with service through their Website. “Powered by Service” means: free shipping both ways, a 365-day return policy, fast fulfillment, and fast delivery. Zappos promotes its toll-free number visibly on the home page and you can talk to someone 24/7 via phone or live chat. They also use their website for customer testimonials.

Zappos also has the Associates Program, which allows online publishers to add a simple text link to their Website advertising Zappos.com’s shoes. They in turn earn referral fees if the link results in a sale. The current referral fee is 12 percent, and the average associate makes about $12 per order. They can choose one of Zappos.com’s banners and link straight to its homepage, recommend specific shoes and add a search box to their Websites.

Zappos also uses search engine marketing (SEM). They buy both generic keywords, such as “shoes” and brand terms, such as ‘”Clarks” on Google and other search engines. Then they uses Web analytics tools to track the sales from each keyword to look at which ones are the most effective.

For retention programs, Zappos sends out e-mails to customers with information about new styles and new brands. Customers also can sign up for specific, targeted mailing lists, depending on their interests. A customer looking for a specific item that is out of stock can sign up to receive an e-mail once it is available. They also have an e-mail newsletter called Shoe Digest, which lets customers talk about shoes with other Zappos.com customers. The opt-in e-newsletter discusses different topics every time, depending on what readers are interested in.

Zappos.com also has created a corporate blog that gives an insider view to the company’s culture. This helps with search engine optimization and provides another feedback loop from customers and most recently the company has been using Twitter to build brand equity. The company has 408 employees Tweeting at anytime with 5,681 “followers” signed up to read their Twitter updates.

The really amazing thing is that Zappos does not use coupons, promotions or specials. They don’t want customers to buy from them solely on the basis of price.