Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spreading the News: Evangelism

What's worth reading?

While John Mayer might be "Waiting on the world to change" Guy Kawasaki writes on "How to change the world." Nice set of interviews and 10 questions with .... series.

"Statistics aren't inherently helpful"

Quick, is 10,000 good or bad?

As always the answer depends on the context. In the book "Made to Stick" Chip and Dan Heath make this point several times using a variety of examples like movie popcorn.

Usually I'd consider these fighting words, but they are in fact very true. Without providing both context and scale people can't understand a number or statistic. Successful communication of quantitative information depends on relating with the audience in their terms.

Ways to improve understanding:
What was it then and what is it now? "before the ...." or "in the age of ....."
How does it compare to a common task? "faster than a speeding bullet"
What does it mean in everyday terms? "more fat content than 3 hamburgers"

1. Never report numbers without their context.
2. Put data on a scale the audience relates two; usually personal and human.
3. Keep it Simple and Jargon Free

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Using Key Words to Build Barriers

How do you turn a competitive field into silos?

Utah is still at the "forefront" of Internet legislation by creating yet another repository of protected things within the state's borders that need to be checked. This time it focuses on keywords, you know those terms used to link consumer searches with relevant offers, even comparative ones.

It seems that the legislature thinks giving consumers choice is a bad thing. It's unclear who can register terms but local companies like Overstock and 1-800-Contacts are in the mix. From the article:
"...if you type into Google's search engine, you will get sponsored links to, and Under the new law, Overstock could sue the search engine and the competitor if such ads show up in Utah-based Internet searches. "

For a legal review see Eric Goldman's comments.

If this prevails, are tags next?

Monday, April 09, 2007

News Coverage

Why are we so isolated?

In a post on "Notes from the Digital Frontier" Naomi discusses how news differs around the world. Well, it really just differs in the US.

I lived in England in the mid-90s and was just as shocked as Naomi appears to be today. So, while a lot of digital, content, 'death of distance' has occurred since 1995 it appears that the ratings chase for marketing dollars and bragging rights still rules the decision process on what to air.

What a shame.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Importance of "Why"

Do we always need to know why?

Today's 'optimost' newsletter compares multi-variate testing first to American Idol and then NCAA 'March Madness'. It argues that the second comparison is more appropriate because of transparency and the wealth of information available about why Florida won its second straight national championship. American Idol is shrouded in mystery, although DialIdol and others make it more interesting.

From a testing perspective, March Madness is clearly champion-challenger or A/B testing. Two teams play, winner advances.

When it comes to peoples' tastes, prediction is difficult at best. In a study by Columbia University on teen downloading it was harder to predict the 'success' of a new song when the people could see the download rankings. Seems that there are a lot of interactions and some sort of gestalt that make books, movies, bands, etc. successful. Marketing is about leveraging and building momentum, not necessarily decomposing things into a billion parts.

Testing, and I highly recommend it, is not quite the same as measuring success. It is about improvement and validating decisions (assumptions.)

There are times when 'why' is important and there are times when it isn't.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Ad Generation

What exactly is brand advertising?

Alexis Lloyd produced an interesting tool for generating ads --- he took real corporate slogans, mixed them up and added an image from Flickr to create imaginative ads that look, feel, and seem to be real. The project illustrates
'how the language of advertising is both deeply meaningful, in that it represents real cultural values and desires, and yet utterly meaningless in that these ideas have no relationship to the products being sold. '

The ad generator is interesting way to spark thinking, particularly about linking values with products.