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Native advertising doesn’t need to be rocket science

The Guardian

With all the hot air being blown around native advertising, you’d think people would have done their research. But the fact that the video of Fred Wilson first presenting the “native” concept to New York’s advertising community has only had nine Facebook likes, 21 tweets and six Google +1s since it was uploaded suggests that while there are many waxing lyrical about “native”, few have really tried to find out what the man who coined the term was actually talking about, and far fewer have shared the video through social media to demonstrate that their ad strategies fulfil the original definition of “native”.

The premise in the presentation was that the digital media landscape is now so fragmented that to achieve scale marketers must be prepared to place ads that are “native” – effectively bespoke – to each digital environment. Marketers “need to be operating like [they're] in the Nasa control room.” Sure, native advertising offers improved performance, but far from encouraging marketers to jump for joy at the native prospect, Mr Wilson really just made native advertising sound like a lot of work.

The cynical may say that his presentation was simply an opportunity for him to promote the non-cohesive ad services offered by the variety of companies that his venture capital company had invested in – Twitter, which had launched Promoted Tweets a year earlierFoursquare and the Clickable service. In fact he covered quite a number of formats, but rather than giving all his examples of “native placements”, it’s worth crystallising the qualities that he said made an ad “native”.

First, he says that native is “not putting banners up on the right side [of web pages]. This is the opposite of that.” So whilst some ad providers are saying that they are providing standard banners “with native elements”, the very placement of the ads – around the content rather than within the content – is what relegates these formats outside of Wilson’s original definition of native. At the core of the “orthodox” definition of native is that the ad unit must appear within the focus of consumers’ attention, not the periphery.

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Measuring Sales and Marketing based on Customer Outcomes

IDC PMS4colorversion 1 Measuring Sales and Marketing based on Customer Outcomes

Have you ever used Uber X, the freelance taxi service? Half the cost of a cab and twice the level of service. The cars are immaculate. The drivers are almost overwhelmingly nice. They care deeply about your experience. Not because they want a tip. They want your 5-star feedback. That’s so important to their success that they will do almost anything to make sure you are happy. It is a customer first model that works because customers have the ability to give feedback that has direct business impact. It’s the eBay model applied to real world human interaction.
Think of your salespeople as Uber drivers, they interact with customers every day. Your marketing is like the car – is it in the right place at the right time and taking the customer where they want to go? These things matter tremendously to customers and yet we have no means to empower them to drive the behavior of marketing and sales at the moment of engagement. We have customer satisfaction surveys. They are important but lack immediacy and context for sales and marketing.
I recently came across two articles that may be the proverbial starting gun for measuring customer focus. The first from the HBR blog, “Bonuses Should be Based on Customer Value not Sales Targets,” profiles how GlaxoSmithKline no longer calculates sales bonuses based on prescription drug sales but on a basket of metrics related to patient outcomes. The second on the Forbes blog, “The 5-Star Employee, Why we need a Yelp for Business” presents a provocative picture of why employee ratings should be standard practice.
Clearly there are cultural and generational issues at stake and a lot of education needed to make these transformations acceptable and actionable in a way that improves outcomes for everyone. As customer facing technology coalesces around the CX Cloud model, marketers should think about how to get customer feedback more frequently. It will require innovation born of experimentation. Of course, no one wants to rate every piece of collateral. But maybe every third touch or at specific points in the nurturing process. Companies that figure it out will have the great advantage of being able to monitor customer experience and course correct in flight as opposed to relying on satisfaction surveys that are too little too late. Best of all, customers will feel the power of the relationship, something they won’t get from traditional models. Uber X is not better just because it costs less, it delivers more at the same time.

This Megabyte Is Brought to You By: Consumers Ready For Sponsored Data?

MediaPost

The quest for sponsor-underwritten calling and data plans has been with us as long as have outrageous cellular bills and especially cash-strapped youth. There have been three or four schemes I have covered over the year that sought to trade ad views for minutes and megabytes. Some even more ambitious projects like the early 3G, video-centric MVNO Ampd had advertising baked into the model. And arguably we have already seen the ad-supported communications model flourish in VoIP services and the messaging apps.

But as 4G networks get many of us addicted to rich media and speed, the text message or email about nearing your data limit has become all too familiar to many of us. In a survey of 1,000 U.S. smartphone users by Wakefield Research on behalf of Citrix, 82% say they are aware of and fear that their app usage impacts the monthly data limit and have avoided using an app because of this. iPhone owners are even more concerned than Android owners.

For video consumers the caps are real, with a clear majority of those who have viewed at least one mobile stream in a month saying they have passed their monthly package. Only 36% of those who watch fewer than a clip a month have exceeded their limit. Still, that latter figure is perhaps even more revealing. If even more than a third of non-video users are being charged overages, then the issue is a greater quiet concern than many of us expect.

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A tool for predicting social trends instead of reacting to them

eMedia Vitals

How would your marketing or editorial strategy change if you could predict the future? A startup called Blab believes it has unlocked the key to forecasting highly viral trends – before they break.

Blab this week plans to introduce BlabPredicts2, a “predictive social intelligence” tool for gaining insight into trends – including non-obvious ones – that are about to go viral. The company claims that its proprietary technology can accurately predict what, where and when online conversations will gain steam as much as 72 hours in advance.

In the rapid-fire social media universe, predictive intelligence is an important step beyond social search, which tracks the topics that are trending right now.

“We don’t want to search for what we think the hot conversations are – we want to discover what they are,” Blab CEO Randy Browning said in a phone interview. “Once we discover them, we can start to create relevant content to influence and lead those conversations.”

BlabPredicts, he added, “takes analysis out of the back room and lets line managers and account planners make informed decisions about what’s going to resonate, so they can optimize their media plan and engage the conversations in their terms.”

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Consumers Favor Small Businesses Because of Their Customer Focus

eMarketer

US consumers are choosing small businesses because of the personalized experiences they provide compared with larger businesses. According to April 2014 data from AYTM Market Research, personal service was the No. 2 reason US internet users preferred small businesses vs. large companies, cited by 52.7%. This trailed supporting the local economy (56.2%), but it led all other options by at least 23 percentage points. Lower prices did not play a huge role in choosing small businesses. In fact, 61.2% of respondents said they would pay higher prices to support small businesses.

An August 2013 study by Web.com and Toluna found similar results. The factor that US consumers considered the most important when choosing small businesses over other types of businesses was customer service (86% of respondents). Personalized and intimate experiences as well as small businesses’ understanding of customers’ needs were also popular, each cited by 84%.

Web.com/Toluna found that US consumers and small-business decision-makers were relatively aligned when it came to characteristics they associated with small businesses, but the latter tended to focus more on what went into building the company. Unsurprisingly, a focus on the customer was the top characteristic cited by consumers. Meanwhile, small-business decision-makers stressed the fact that businesses of this size were owner-operated and accountable.

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What Is the Future of Proximity Marketing?

eMarketer

Embattled by stiff online competition, brick-and-mortar retailers are looking to the internet for inspiration to improve the in-store experience. Online cookies, pixels and social logins track the shopper across the web, offering insights that ecommerce sites in turn rely on to advertise and merchandise effectively. A slew of new proximity platforms offer comparable tools for brick-and-mortar retailers, according to a new eMarketer report, “Proximity Marketing in Retail: Can Ecommerce Tactics Revive Brick-and-Mortar?”

Although aspects of proximity marketing—targeted marketing with a geographic radius of roughly 100 meters—have been in place for nearly a decade, the field is still new enough to make it extremely difficult to forecast. Its uptake depends on two overarching factors: retailer interest and consumer acceptance.

Right now, the only thing that everyone agrees on is that 2014 will be filled with small-scale tests to see whether the latest generation of proximity platforms can significantly improve the shopper experience and the retailer’s bottom line. Beyond that, opinions are split. On the bullish side, some foresee a radically transformed environment in which the world is, in essence, a personalized and interactive catalog to be browsed and shopped with a smartphone or wearable device. At the other end of the spectrum are those who expect the widespread testing of proximity platforms to show them unready for scaling and hampered by fragmented services, operational complexities and consumer reservations about privacy.

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How publishers tweak content for the social Web

Digiday

There’s an optimization gap in digital publishing. While advertisers are using sophisticated targeting for ads, publishers are usually showing the same content to all readers, no matter who they are or where they came from.

Many, however, are slowly catching up. Publishers like Upworthy, BuzzFeed, and The Washington Post are realizing that success in digital publishing is a game of tiny optimizations. Most readers aren’t visiting sites via their front pages, making it key that publishers tweak reader experiences, headlines, and page layouts in an effort to make their content more palatable and sharable for specific audiences.

BuzzFeed offers a particularly good example. When a reader visits BuzzFeed via Pinterest, the site not only increases the size of the Pinterest “Pin It” button but also removes the Twitter share button entirely. That’s because only 8 percent of users who click BuzzFeed link on Pinterest end up sharing the story via Twitter. BuzzFeed also adds a “hot on Pinterest” module when readers visit the site via Pinterest. The result: Pinterest drives more referrals to BuzzFeed than Twitter.

Upworthy, which also gets most of its traffic through social channels, is also looking at how it can tweak user experience based on whether readers come to the site directly or through other means. The move is a sensible one considering that Upworthy is already well-known for giving its stories at least 25 possible headlines each. Extensive A/B testing is already a part of its core formula.

“We’re doing it in a way that looks at the net effect,” said Ed Urgola, Upworthy’s director of marketing. “Whether it means starting to personalize based on the source or show a new user something different from a returning one, everything is done by considering how it affects that one decision that the reader’s going to make when they’re finished reading a story.”

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Content marketing budgets increase

Warc

Senior marketers regard content marketing as the single most important channel across the marketing mix and just over half intend to increase their spend on the format in 2014, a new survey for the content industry body has suggested.

According to the Content Marketing Association, those using content marketing spend 19% of their budgets on it, more than the 15% recorded for events, 14% for TV, 11% for online marketing and 10% for print. Other channels mentioned in the survey included direct marketing (9%), outdoor (7%), social (6%) and radio (6%).

Among those who don’t use any form of content marketing, 25% used direct marketing, followed by 18% each for both TV and print.

Conducted by TMS in the last quarter of 2013, the survey covered 130 marketing practitioners and almost two-thirds (65%) of those questioned were at managerial or director level in a wide range of sectors, including retail, auto and financial services.

It found that 51% planned to increase their spending on content marketing in 2014, whether their overall marketing budgets increased or not, and a full 85% were “aware” of the channel.

Respondents said they found content marketing to be especially effective for long-term customer engagement and brand-building, but were undecided about how effective it was for customer acquisition.

They said the top three challenges facing content marketing were proving its effectiveness internally, securing enough budget allocation and creating quality content.

The last factor caused the report to observe that this could provide an opportunity for specialist agencies that offer top-quality editorial skills – a view shared by Sharon Flaherty, head of content and PR at Confused.com, the price comparison website.

“The current risk is that marketing departments do not have the right skills to practice content marketing properly,” she said. “Those with backgrounds in journalism are a must-have asset for brands engaging in content.”

Clare Hill, managing director at CMA, added: “For those using content marketing, it is the single most important channel across the full marketing mix and equates to 20% of their total budgets. As with any successful content, quality is essential.”

Infographic: How To Engage Millennials Who Visit Tech Sites

ResearchLogoBLACK no 2nd IDG Infographic: How To Engage Millennials Who Visit Tech Sites

Knowing how to engage with Millennials who visit technology sites can be tricky. IDG Research Services conducted a survey of Millennials (18-34 years old) who have an interest in technology: tech marketers, tech buyers, and consumers in both B2C and B2B. The survey reveals which tech topics Millennials are most interested in, their top reasons for visiting websites, and which sources they rely on most for tech-related information. View the Millennials infographic now…

Click to view a related infographic on this research, How Millennials Feel About Data Targeting and Online Privacy

Mills what they consume Edited Infographic: How To Engage Millennials Who Visit Tech Sites

We are drowning in data about readers and attention, but which metrics really matter? You won’t like the answer

Gigaom

Thanks to the web and real-time measurement tools, the media industry has gone from having virtually no hard data on readers and attention to an embarrassment of riches — not only can we measure what people click on, but we can measure how far down the page they got when they were reading, whether they posted a comment, which social networks they came from, and a hundred other pieces of data. The only problem is that this is very much a double-edged sword.

New York Times media writer David Carr recently looked at some examples of media companies that are rewarding their writers based on traffic statistics and other measurements, including The Oregonian — whose efforts I wrote about here. But is paying your journalists based on pageviews or other metrics a smart way to align their incentives with your goals as a business, or does it poison the well when it comes to enhancing or encouraging creativity?

This fear of well-poisoning has even led some outlets — including The Verge and MIT’s Technology Review — to deny their journalists access to the statistics about readers and attention, because they’re concerned that it might distort their judgement about which stories to cover or how much time to devote to them. But then how do writers know whether their work is reaching an audience?

Be careful what kind of incentives you use

In a piece he wrote for the American Journalism Review this week, Chartbeat CEO Tony Haile (who is also an adjunct professor of journalism at Columbia) looked at both sides of the data sword. One danger of using the wrong metrics to reward your journalists, he noted — as I also tried to point out in a recent post — is that you wind up incentivizing the wrong thing, and that can take your site far away from what its original goals were:

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