Monday, July 28, 2014
Keeping up with technology changes and picking the winners and losers is no easy task. Twenty five years ago I created my first ad using digital illustration software and today you have movie animation software for the creative arts. I wanted to take this ad out of my portfolio to illustrate the ad’s theme for Software City, that is still appropriate today - “Cut Through the Jungle”. The names may have changed, but the jungle just got thicker. Does anybody remember Lotus 123 the leading spreadsheet software in 1990 or Ami Pro a word processing solution? It seems like a technology software brand can’t last a generation in today’s disposable technology market.

 
While we have been distracted about all the latest tech toys for the reader and all the digital delivery systems that are required. I thought it was time to look at what other technology tools that are available for publishers out there. I made the rounds with all the exhibitors of Magnet 2014 in June. Here is a roundtable of the vendors and their 100 word sales pitch for the people that did not make it to the conference this year.

After reviewing the list, each company has a unique product that I tried to describe in a few words, some overlap with each other in their approach. Before you make a decision just make sure you have measurable objectives before you embark on a technology solution to solve your business needs. Sometimes the old way is still more effective, like cold calling on the phone to personally talk with someone, but technology can help you do it better with more data at your fingertips in today’s just-in-time information society to prepare for the cold call.

I am a firm believer in technology, but I feel that there are limits on how technology can impact your company’s performance. For example, I believe technology cannot make a hockey player a better goal scorer that is a natural creative instinct. Through technology you can track the shooter’s tendencies for defensive strategies so it can help. If you can increase team goals against performance by 2% it can be the difference in winning and losing in professional sports.

There is an argument (Limits To Growth, published in 1972) that there is a limit on how much you can grow no matter how much technology you have and you can witness what is called “Overshoot,” where you have constant growth with finite resource depletion and it all crashes when the resources are depleted. The best example is the North Atlantic Cod fisheries collapse through over fishing and no sustainability strategy. Just like there are a limited number of advertisers, it its hard to grow on a straight line curve if the ad market (eco-system) is volatile or collapses for your market segment.

MagNet 2014 VENDOR ROUNDTABLE

 

Bard Business Solutions Inc.
- Magazine Manager
Product: Magazine database solution 
In dealing with today's markets, it is imperative that your company maintains accurate data on advertisers, rates, publications, contracts/insertion orders, production dockets, production scheduling, articles, subscribers and invoices. The power of this application is derived from the philosophy that you "enter data once and use it many times". The Magazine Manager is developed in FileMaker Pro and runs on both the Mac OS X 10.7 or higher and Windows 7, Windows 8 and iPad OS platforms for a multi-user environment.
Website: www.bardsolutions.com
J. Stephen Bard, info@bardsolutions.com, (416) 410-2273
________________________________________________________________________

 

EquiSoft - Publisher Elements
Product: Magazine Automation Solution
“PublishersElements is specifically designed to help publishers increase their revenues through a set of flexible and integrated web modules including digital/print subscriptions fulfillment and circulation management as well as newsletters administration, e-commerce and multi-platform digital publishing (online, mobile, tablet). PublisherElements easily connects to existing websites and email marketing solutions, so it helps increase web presence in a cost-effective way. By gathering all customer information into a single database, PublisherElements allows publishers to achieve a 360° view of their customers and thus permit to deliver them the right content at the right time. With PublisherElements and Equisoft’s publishing expertise, going digital has never been easier.” Martin Boucher, Product Manager – PublisherElements
Website: www.publisherelements.com  
Camile Diodati, camile.diodati@equisoft.com, (514) 989-3141 x 104
________________________________________________________________________
  
 

GTxcel
Product: Digital Publishing Solution
GTxcel helps thousands of Fortune Companies & Publishers monetize, discover & engage with their digital content; Desktop Web, Tablet Web, Mobile Web & Apps. Typically we work with companies who are frustrated with readability across multiple devices; concerned about the expense of software solutions that take over 40 hours for each device type, screen size and orientation; anxious to get more scale out of their publications by publishing once and getting it everywhere; desktop web, tablet web, mobile web, apps and disappointed in decreasing ad revenues with replica editions and looking to maintain replica while generating new digital revenue stream.
Website: www.gtxcel.com  
Matt McGinty, mmcginty@gtxcel.com, (508) 804-3041
________________________________________________________________________
  
 

Hallmark Data Systems
Product: Reader Behaviour Optimization Software
Engaging, acquiring and connecting the right content, audience and advertiser is Hallmark's mission.  It is Hallmark's industry-leading audience engagement platform; marketing database, digital marketing, fulfillment and more, in combination with industry expertise and rich heritage that sets us apart. With our modular, seamlessly integrated platform, your marketers are directly connected with your audience's behavior, your audience is connected to the content they crave and your advertisers are connected to their prospects. Find out why Hallmark's solutions are chosen by more media owners.  Get started at halldata.com today!
Website: www.halldata.com
Joel Besner, jbesner@halldata.com, (323) 782-6959
________________________________________________________________________

 

MAGwizard
Product: Ad sales management software
MagWizard automates the administrative tasks associated with print and digital advertising. The web-based software allows you to easily collect and organize ad insertion orders (I/Os), ad materials, and payments, eliminating the busywork your team hates and leaving them more time for sales. The thing that sets MagWizard apart from the other publishing software, is our focus on automation. While most software is designed to help you keep track of your daily tasks, Magwizard is designed to automate those tasks. The goal of MagWizard is not just help you track the ad sales process but to do the administrative tasks for you so that you can focus on more important things.
Website: www.magwizard.com
David Averbach, david@magwizard.com, (641) 209-3959 
________________________________________________________________________

 

Marketwired
Product: Social Media Metrics Tracking solution
Partnering with companies of all sizes – from start-ups to Fortune 500 enterprises – Marketwired is an innovative communications company offering best-in-class global news distribution and reporting. Powered by social intelligence engine Sysomos, Marketwired products also provide state-of-the-art social media monitoring and analytics. This critical business intelligence delivers instant and unlimited access to all social media conversations, allowing brands to see what’s happening, why it’s happening, and who’s driving the conversations. Serving more than 15,000 clients worldwide through 20 offices on four continents, we help our clients find better ways to create and distribute content, influence the people who matter most, and open up new opportunities. Follow us at @Marketwired 
Website: www.marketwired.com
Tara Tomulka, ttomulka@marketwired.com, (416) 814.2535
________________________________________________________________________

 
MediaRadar
Product: Ad Sales Data Mining solution
MediaRadar helps websites, magazines and newspapers dramatically improve ad sales and client management. The company provides detailed analysis on over 1.9 million brands, with advertising, editorial, and social media insights from more than 8,000 media properties. MediaRadar will give you a competitive advantage by placing the best prospects and most relevant pitching advice onto the desktop of every member of the sales team. “Raw” data is good; information you can use right now is better. MediaRadar makes it happen.
Website: www.mediaradar.com
Paulette Moir, paulette@mediaradar.com, (646) 439-4007
________________________________________________________________________

 

Mirabel Technologies - Magazine Manager
Product: Production workflow automation software
The Magazine Manager® is the only web-based software integrating your entire publishing workflow from: CRM, Ad/Order Entry, Production, and invoicing to Online Pagination and Digital &Tablet Edition creation. It’s the industry’s first and most mature web-based platform.  Ideal for companies with multiple offices, offsite employees, and companies wanting to reduce their IT infrastructure costs.  Used by over 10,000 magazines, newspapers, websites and events worldwide. For every fifteen licenses of The Magazine Manager®, you can expect to save an average of 43,000 CAD annually.  
Watch our Video.
Website: www.magazinemanager.com
Andy Balch, mabalch@magazinemanager.com, (954) 519-2023  
________________________________________________________________________

 

The LoweMartin Group
Product: Print Production Technologies
In keeping with its vision of helping customers improve the quality of their communications and reduce their overall cost of doing business, the Lowe-Martin Group has focused on introducing technology which makes the printer an extension of the magazine’s production team. Advances in secure file transfer, online proofing and electronic scheduling reduce the lead time in production. Proforma pricing tools allow the magazine’s publishers to calculate costs in real time as they decide on page counts, run lengths and stock selections. Real-time pricing also let the magazine’s sales team calculate costs for advertisers without delay.
Website: www.lmgroup.com
Pamela Falkner, Pam.Falkner@LMGroup.com, (613)741-0962 x3433
Thursday, June 26, 2014
This June 4, I was invited to speak at Magnet 2014 in Toronto by Mara Gulens and Daniella Girgenti from the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) that put on on seminar on email newsletters before an audience of 80 people. I describe email newsletters as the Yin of the Yin-Yang relationship with the web site the Yang, as without each other there will not be any online success. I use this description as email newsletters are a “Push”  strategy and the web site is the “PULL” strategy for online content. Two polar opposites of each other just like Yin and Yang in Chinese philosophy.

Why are email newsletters so important? Email newsletters are the number 1 driver of traffic to your web site (sometimes up to 80%). That’s right it is not social media or SEO that drives the majority of traffic to your web site it is email newsletters. I have worked with magazine publishers in the launch of  email newsletters, digital editions and web sites so I saw this first hand. The claims of social media and SEO are over hyped by some of the media out there trying to get noticed or companies making misleading advertising claims that should be banished.

On July 1, 2014 the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) in Canada goes in effect. After looking over the Act it is like closing the door after the horses have left the barn as I feel it will be ineffective with spammers and phishing threats (identity theft artists). It will cost companies money for compliance and this looks like a lawyer gravy train for the uninitiated. Just like security software the bandits will always be 2 steps ahead as they have no ethics or care about laws as they are criminals trying to steal from you. So you can lock the door, but they can still break in. The best deterrent is education ie: digital street smarts not digital book smarts.

This underground economy of spammers have been part of the internet fabric forever. My innocence and naivety of the internet was broken when I talked to a security software expert that says you can hire spammers to do a denial of service attack on your competitor’s web site by them hijacking somebody’s computer and using it as an email server and flooding the target web site with requests and thus crashing the site. This legislation is not going to be effective with this crowd as their servers are most likely in a jurisdiction outside of the reach Canadian lawmakers anyhow and they have been doing this since 2003 or before the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 in the United States was introduced.

Canadian publishers have already lead the way in honest and ethical behaviour for email newsletters since the 2003 CAN-SPAM Act was passed in the United States that required email newsletters be opt-in and have the ability to unsubscribe. And if you use a USA vendor for email services they have protocols to ensure spam laws compliance. For companies this is another matter as they most likely have a list that needs to cleaned up as it very unlikely that their list are opt-in, which explains the flood of emails I am receiving from companies the past two weeks that I have already sent to the junk folder and forgot about. The CASL is also forcing companies to have consent to install computer software on your computer like they do in Europe for cookies that track your online habits. This is a major victory for privacy advocates.

The seminar portion put on by Mara and Daniella talked about their journey in launching an email newsletter  for their organization. They had to clean up their list first and have the people on the list opt-in . Once this was done they saw the open rates of the email newsletter increase. Here is there checklist that they shared with the audience on their learning.

 


The metrics for email newsletters are open and click through rates (CTR) in addition to list size and reach of the desired target market. Open rates depend on the quality of the list and good writing in the subject header. Open rates I have experienced range between 20-65% depending on the message and time of year. CTRs can range form a low of  0 up to 10%, depending on the message or offer. Open rates are underreported as through my experience technology does not always works as I have had responses from people , but in my report the email was not opened.

Email newsletters are an important part of the marketing mix for advertising as it provides the same quality audience as a magazine subscriber. The question publishers have to deal with is how many emails do they send out before they irritate their readers and they will unsubscribe. In my opinion anything more than once a week is disrespectful and it should have personal salutation to that person. No one like online stalkers that send you emails everyday.  I believe we should go beyond the SPAM requirement and treat your reader with the utmost respect and transparency as it is just good business. The new spam laws will make email list rentals or sponsorships obsolete as I do not think people will ever opt-in for 3rd party emails and when the person signed up to receive the newsletter it is implied that it will be an editorial message not a sales pitch that will only have them unsubscribe from your list and that is bad for business.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Sometimes it is good to get out of your sandbox for a change of scenery, so I thought I would take a look at how other traditional media are adapting to the new digital media landscape. Before we do that lets have a look at the media universe according to the 2013 Media Digest published by Marketing and the Canadian Media Directors Council (CMDC).

The media consumption habits of Canadians shows that traditional media still captures over 80% of a person’s attention. The chart below also shows the share of advertising dollars vs media consumption share. Magazines are doing very well in this analysis as it shows magazines have less than 1% of media consumption share but have a 4.5% of ad dollars share with an industry index of 555.

 


 
This great infographic gives you a good birds eye view of what is happening in the Canadian media universe and the choices a media planner has at their disposal. You you can drill down to see more stats. http://www.cmdc.ca/useful-links.html

Canada’s major media companies now offer a suite of solutions that may include TV, radio, web, newspaper, magazines and out of home.  The chart below on cross media ownership in Canada from the  2013 Media digest outlines the relative offerings and competitive positioning.

 

One of the digital leaders in Canada is TSN, a tv station, and they were the keynote at the ClickZ digital marketing conference in Toronto on May 15. Mark Silver, the Head of Digital at TSN, talked about the changes TSN is undergoing in the bridging of TV to digital for their audience and advertisers by offering a multi-platform experience. He revealed that TSN will be growing from 2 channels to 5 and will be unveiling a new web site this fall, plus new apps.

Their planned digital offerings will include native apps such as TSN Go (a TV  companion app for paid cable subscribers) plus free specialized content apps, TSN Hockey and TSN Golf. They currently have a free TSN mobile app available that gets high usage on smartphones. The TSN offerings also include Sports AM radio stations with local broadcast rights of NHL games.  The appetite for sports content will be tested with Sportnet’s bold moves that includes TV, radio, magazine and online as part of the brand’s offerings and Rogers ownership of pro sports franchises as content.

Radio has not died but has maintained it position as the #2 most used medium and there has been some interesting usage habits. The #2 ranking is no surprise as smartphones are banned in cars and 51% of radio usage is in cars. Another fact 30% of radio usage is online. This trend is supported by the launch of Indie 88.1 a FM radio station in Toronto that was launched this past September 2013. In February 2014, it had 230,000 visitors per month with 50,000 listening to the station online for 1 hour a day 6 times a month and 11,000 daily. Typically, a 30 second radio spot will reach 10 - 20,000 people in the Toronto market through traditional methods. The station is actively selling display ads on their web site in addition to 30 seconds spots that reach both traditional and online audiences.

The media offerings from TV and radio stations, perhaps, spur or fine tune an idea to help give your media brand a competitive edge in today’s hyper-cluttered media landscape. The question I ask? Do advertisers really care how the message is sent as long as the target market is delivered with enough frequency that will generate the expected marketing outcome. In some cases digital will not work in the car as  media planner use radio or OOH to reach this audience.
Thursday, April 24, 2014
Today’s media environment is a world with no borders. Traditional boundaries between mediums like print, TV and radio have become blurred in the digital universe. The best example is how media brands no longer exist in a single platform, like a TV station. Now they are offering website ads and a magazine (print and digital), or a radio station with both radio and internet listeners plus a website. We have companies launching their own media brand as part of their content marketing strategy. There is also a strong underground economy on the internet that causes publishers and advertisers a lot of pain.

This is an exciting time in the publishing world as the old school models are no longer valid. The mission of the COPAs is to foster digital publishing excellence in Canada and reflect what is happening in the marketplace. Great content cannot survive without great ads and corporate web sites that link to them.

Competition brings out the best in both people and companies. It shows you where your weaknesses are and inspires you to do better. The Call for Entries for the 2014 COPAs begins May 1. Click here to see the 2014 rules. To help inspire you, I have two comments from last year’s judges below on how the industry can do better.

 

* * *

 
Charlene Rooke

Charlene is the group editor of the custom publishing team at the Globe and Mail. She has written about travel for various magazines and authored two books on the subject. She was a judge in the Best Online-Only Article or Series category in 2013.
 
“I enjoyed reading most of the entries in this category the same way I would enjoy reading a well-written, long-form magazine article. Yet I expect more from top-notch digital storytelling: I expect it to take advantage of the digital platform and how people consume digital content. I expect it to make the most of multimedia and programming capabilities. I expect it to be daring, in content and format, in ways that print publications would not. Most of the entrants, surprisingly, didn't realize the full potential of online content.”

 
Jean Snow

Jean is based in Tokyo and is the executive director of the Pecha Kucha organization. He runs The Magazine, a website about magazine culture.

“More than any problem with the content itself, which I found to be generally strong throughout all the entries, the biggest problem with the current crop of blogs lies in the design and layouts. For the most part, we are dealing with a basic look that has barely progressed from the early days of Blogger. Although it's a tried and tested format, as readers who are now getting used to reading all manner of magazine content in digital form (especially on tablets), blogs on the web need to compete with that and web technologies these days can certainly enable more adventurous design layouts, as well as the inclusion of various media (slideshows, audio, video, etc.). The biggest offenders tend to be the websites of print magazines. For the most part, all of these sites follow the same basic structure, and they're all indistinguishable except for the top logo.”

* * *
As we try to innovate, the latest buzzword is engagement. But what makes effective engagement for publishers and advertisers? Does it follow the traditional ladder of involvement (i.e. awareness – interest – desire – shop – buy – repeat customer)? I have seen publishers thinking that a Facebook ‘like’ is the path to success online, but where does it fit in the ladder of involvement. New metrics have been invented by technology companies that have minimal marketing value, like clicks, likes and shares, that at best contribute to awareness. The promise of shortening the customer sales cycle through technology may be an over-promise.

When I wear my media buyer’s hat all I am looking for is to reach of my target audience in a trusted media brand, and cost efficiencies. I do not see how a Facebook like or share has any impact on a media plan. Clicks are good but not as important as a brand impression. The goal of any advertising program is top share of mind at time of purchase and sales are always the best metric at the end of the day.

Saturday, March 22, 2014
Here’s the challenge: how do publishers monetize content in a market where there is a growing supply of ads and a changing model for how ads are delivered and sold? Typically, the selling of digital ads has followed a direct sales route to clients and ad agencies. Now, a distribution model that is common in the IT industry is emerging in the digital publishing world: channel marketing, where OEM manufacturers have resellers for their products in addition to their direct sales force. This strategy enables companies to reach new markets that their direct sales team doesn’t talk to.

The first developments of this channel were the remnant ad networks. The most familiar are Google Ad Sense and Casale Media. Rates in these ad networks are $3-$5 CPM for impressions, where magazine publishers in the direct sale model like to sell at $20+ CPM. The pay-per-click model pays $1.50 click on average and you need to deliver 100,000 impressions to generate 100 clicks (0.1% CTR). The problems with this model are that resellers may cannibalize the direct sales; lower pricing that the publishers cannot control; and the need for economies of scale (i.e. millions of visitors and low ROI).

“Real-Time Bidding” technology is a new ad network that addresses some of the concerns stated above. It follows the principles of a commodity exchange market modeled after the financial sector. Publishers can list their ad inventory for sale in these ad exchanges with a minimum price. There are a number of exchanges that you can choose from and this inventory can then be purchased through a dealer network—software accesses these ad exchanges and bids on the inventory based on set target market criteria and budgets.

The marketing promise is that advertisers can target a user based on in-depth criteria and create a personalized message to optimize sales opportunities in an auction market for media purchases—all in real time.


 
Real Time Bidding Technology. (via Source‪go2mobi.com) Click to view large

The Real-Time Bidding model as explained on Wikipedia: “A typical transaction begins with a user visiting a mobile website. This triggers a bid request that can include various pieces of data such as the user’s demographic information, browsing history, location, and the page being loaded. The request goes from the publisher to an ad exchange, which submits it and the accompanying data to multiple advertisers who automatically submit bids in real time to place their ads. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Real-time_bidding

“Advertisers bid on each ad impression as it is served. The impression goes to the highest bidder and their ad is served on the mobile page. This process is repeated for every ad slot on the mobile page. Real time bidding transactions typically happen within 100 milliseconds from a user visiting a website.
The bidding happens autonomously and advertisers set maximum bids and budgets for an advertising campaign. The criteria for bidding on particular types of consumers can be very complex, taking into account everything from very detailed behavioral profiles to conversion data.”

 
The Ecosystem (via businessinsider.com)

Publishers will have to learn new tech terms, like demand-side platforms (the technology that helps the bidder connect to the ad exchanges) and supply-side platforms (which help publishers manage multiple ad networks and connect to the ad exchanges). Data intelligence, creative optimization and ad/brand security companies are part of this system according to the Business Intelligence infographic above. Trading desks, another part of the ecosystem, are being established at major ad agencies like Media Experts.

Media Experts has released “Programmatic Trading Q4 2013 year end review of the RTB market,” a comprehensive report that shows who the players are in these auction model markets. According to the report, Media Experts leverages over 400,000 websites spanning display, video, mobile and social inventory to generate $133 million in e-commerce sales for its clients in the RTB market.

A representative from SiteScout, one of the dealers (demand side) that provides the technology for these ad exchanges, says that publishers can see a range from $0.50 CPM to $40 CPM depending on the market niche delivered. Dealers take a 20% commission from the publisher, and publishers also pay the ad exchanges a listing fee.

The challenges facing this new ecosystem are: addressing the privacy issues the come up when tracking people’s web surfing habits with spyware/cookies; and the task of weeding out websites that are contributing to click and impression fraud. I had Acuity Ads, another demand-side vendor, provide me with a list of sports websites that I could bid impressions on for a media buy. I picked out five websites and learned that two of them would never be on a media plan, but the other three would if they delivered my target market of M18+, living in Toronto.

Sample Websites
tigerdroppings.com (LSU College Football)
skysports.com (UK sports website)
tvembed.eu (Sports video aggregator that does not load on my computer)
atdhe1.net (Live video sports website, that only has a home page)
si.com (Sports Illustrated)

As a media buyer, I would be concerned with where my ads show up, and with ads showing on sites that would not be brand safe, no matter what the cost. I have heard stories from another media buyer about how a site they never heard of had generated so many ad impressions and clickthroughs. One vendor at DX3, a digital trade show that was held in Toronto this March, says that click fraud may be as high as 40% of all clicks. It has been estimated that bots generate 50% of all web traffic, so buying respected media brands is still very important in online media planning.

Programmatic media buying is an application of big data based on a person’s web surfing habits, and predicting when that person is at different stages of the buying cycle to determine what ad is delivered to them. This is like predicting when a person is buying a car, just shopping, or dreaming – a form of artificial intelligence. The jury is out on if there is a technology to deliver this with mathematical certainty, or if this just another geek pipe dream.
Thursday, February 06, 2014
What is cloud computing? It is a computer model where a person can access files remotely via the internet. These files can be software applications, videos, games, photos or documents. The ‘cloud’ is a metaphor for all the data stored somewhere on servers. These are called server farms, where you may have 10,000 servers providing the computing power, data centres that can be used for credit card processing, web hosting, and university research supercomputers.

A server farm data cenre (image via acidcow.com)
A server farm - welcome to the cloud (image via acidcow.com)

Some of the established cloud software applications publishers might be familiar with are digital edition providers like GTxcel (formerly Texterity), MagazineCloner, Uberflip, Zinio, etc. Salesforce, a sales support and CRM application, was one of the first cloud software applications to become popular among the business community. All you need is a login ID and password and you are good to go to use it on any computer, tablet and smartphone.

Acer C720 Chromebook

The Google Chromebook, starting at $269, is an attempt to lower the cost of computers with cloud laptops. The laptops come with the Chrome web browser, Gmail, productivity software, online storage and the Android app store—all the tools you need for the digital world, through the internet via your web browser.

The Acer Chromebook
The Acer Chromebook

The laptop has enough power for everyday use and is powered by an Intel Celeron 1.4 GHz processor. Most laptops today come with more than 2.0 GHz, but since the Chromebook does not need to power as much software it can lose the extra processing power to keep costs down. It uses the Chrome OS, has 2 GB of RAM, a 32 GB hard drive, an 11.6” HD display and webcam. Connections include wireless, Bluetooth, ethernet, USB, HDMI and RGB. The battery has a five-hour life per charge.

My first impression was this was a major change from how I do things on a laptop. Usually all my files are on a hard drive and I can launch my software applications from there. Having to do that in the cloud made me uneasy. However, my uneasiness with the cloud dissipated as I got used to the Chromebook, and I now wonder if I can live without it. With the Google Drive app, Google’s online storage feature, I was able to store and access my files from any computer without needing a USB stick. This feature saved me from buying a $200 network drive to connect all my computers for shared storage. I then installed the Google Drive app on all my computers. Even when I am offsite I can use any computer to access Google Drive via my Gmail account login.

Microsoft’s latest pricing model for its Office 365 Home Premium software package at $99/yr. made me a proponent of using Google productivity applications. It just doesn’t make any sense over the long term to pay $99 a year to use their software, or $249 per PC for the Office Home and Business 2013 package. The Google Chromebook for $269 comes with all the software I need to write, create spreadsheets and presentations, and is a wiser alternative.

Life in the cloud has its conveniences. But to be able to access your files requires an internet connection, so the Chromebook also has drawbacks as there are limited offline capabilities. However, internet access is getting ubiquitous and is available in a lot of public places including the local hockey rink, fast food restaurants, airports etc., so that issue is not that big perhaps.

My daughter, the resident teen geek in the house, actually prefers using a laptop over an iPad due to her dissatisfaction with touch keyboards and the lack of Flash to play games at her favourite games site. Watching video on a laptop was also easier than with a tablet, as you did not have to hold it. Watching Netflix, we found the sound a little underpowered, but once we connected our headphones the sound quality was superb.

The Google Chromebook is a successful first attempt to lower the cost of computing. The price point is well positioned to shake things up with units starting from $269, and it is available from Acer, Samsung, HP and Lenovo, established hardware brands. The Chromebook could be a tablet killer based on price and features alone, not to mention consumer dissatisfaction with touch typing. In comparison, you can get the recently released Dell 8” Windows tablet with no keyboard for $299, or you can get a Chromebook that includes a keyboard but no touchscreen.

Rating: 4 out of 5

In 2013, the Chromebook comprised 21% of all laptop sales in the USA according to NPD, up from nothing the year before, and the next generation of Chromebooks will get even better. Following the ebb and flow of technology is like following the fashion world. What is the latest tech look, and is it a trend or just a fad? Will that look come back? Perhaps in 2014, the laptop will be back in vogue with this new facelift from Google. 

Thursday, January 09, 2014
As we enter 2014 with great hope and optimism, we reflect on what we have seen and learned. This post was inspired by seeing a mouse in my garage scurry away into a crack in the wall. This mouse was fat and looked like it could barely walk. Easy prey for my cat, Mac. What makes a mouse overeat, knowing that overeating will lead to its demise? This instinct cannot be a conscious decision.

 
Companies and people behave in this instinctive manner too. They strive for growth and wealth, which will ultimately lead to their demise through evil deeds, unethical acts or overconfidence. This instinct has been built into business schools disguised as market share (I want to have a monopoly), demand pricing models (look at how airlines raise prices 24 hours before a flight), planned product obsolescence (like the latest Windows XP fear tactics, using security threats to make you buy Windows 8. Call it FUD – Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt), or just plain trickery and deceit disguised as marketing.

The capital market is a classic example of Big Fat Mouse Syndrome in society, and this percolates down into the boardrooms of public companies and their business strategies. Why are there bear and bull markets, and how many times has the market crashed? There is always a stock scam lurking somewhere. Technology companies wishing for their product to be the next killer app will try to convince publishers that whatever they are selling will be the gateway to riches.

This type of marketing has been around forever, chronicled in the Bible as the sheep in wolf’s clothing. The best example of this is this recent look at an ad from 1913, and how a company used fear and misinformation to sell their breakfast beverage, telling parents that coffee is bad for kids.

 

The latest over hyped technology fads I see in 2014 are called content marketing, cloud computing and big data. Content marketing is just another word for advertorial with a digital spin. Companies assume readers will be fooled by stories written to attract people to a brand (some are even fake articles created by scammers). As this chart below suggests, the credibility of these articles is low. Magazine publishers have responded to this concept with sponsored content and run the risk of alienating readers with advertorial packaged as content. I expect this fad will die on the vine as companies realize that people are not fools and will go to brands they trust, such as magazine publishers who provide a neutral voice in the market.

Source: Forrester Research
Source: Forrester Research (Click to view large)

Now, cloud computing has been around for years also, it was just called something different. In the old days of computing, a company had a large mainframe computer with dummy terminals where staff could access info and software. Today it is on a consumer level that is global in scale. What the pundits don’t tell you about this model are the security risks. Buying products online (which is the cloud, btw), you run the risk of your credit card number being stolen, and we know banks are in constant battle with hackers. Cloud computing makes the thievery easier as data is transferred to the public internet. Plus, companies also use this data to monitor your habits and invade your privacy too.

This model has lead to software rental models that have people paying for lifetime usage without owning the product. I guess they took a page out of the water-heater playbook. Don’t be fooled as some companies have been using the cloud model to create a revenue model for life to appease capital markets and raise their stock price. Don’t buy into these rental models, as it is legalized scam in my opinion. Wait for companies to capitulate on this pricing model.

Another area with a lot of misinformation is big data. Circulators, as experts on database marketing, will know that this is just a smoke screen to sell you some technology services you think you might need to discover untapped riches. You can spin your wheels analyzing a lot of useless information that will not generate sales. The best example of big data’s limitations are economic and weather forecasts, which have lots of data and do not have a 100% success rate.

Here is what the big data pundits won’t tell you. I came across a fact that says website traffic is increasingly non-human (I wonder why the geniuses at Google have not found a way to monitor this in Google Analytics). This study shows that the growth of automated traffic is as high as 60% of web traffic, but the click-bots and click-fraud benefit digital ad networks, so they hide these facts from you. Big data has potential, but make sure you get the right data.

Source: Incapsula (Click to view large)
Source: Incapsula (Click to view large)

Publishers have had to deal with social media, digital editions, magazine apps and HTML5 websites to make their brands modern, but it has been a struggle to make money with these efforts. The web world has an oversupply of ad inventory now due to a gold rush mentality and no barriers to entry. The revenue potential is falling to as low as $3 CPM for display ads on consumer sites.

History has shown that when a gold rush mentality is created, the chance of finding gold is slim, but the people that supply the tools, accommodation and other services can make a lot of money as people chase their dream. So in 2014 read between the lines, dig deeper into the claims of technology vendors, and make wise technology choices. Happy New Year!
Thursday, December 05, 2013
There is still time to get that Christmas gadget this year, and the sales season has begun with Black Friday and Cyber Monday. One thing is for sure: mobile computer toys are much more affordable gifts nowadays: e-readers for less than $100; tablets from $150 in any size you want, 6”, 8”, and 10” that run Android, Apple and Microsoft software; and laptops from $250 that feature the Google Chromebook. You can even get a 32” TV for $168.

But while the choice this year is fantastic, the devices we purchase come with a lot of user restrictions. We don’t have a lot of the freedoms with digital tech that we have with other products—freedoms that we take for granted.

My Christmas Wish List is all about digital freedom: the freedom to choose the device I want and consume the content I want, in the same way I would with a toaster. I can plug a new toaster in anywhere and can use any type of bread I want from any baker. I can even bake the bread myself. Is that too much to ask?

It is ironic that a purchaser has more rights when they buy toasters than they do buying smartphones, tablets, computers, software and digital content. So this year, to promote digital freedom, I have created a Toaster Bill of Rights for Digital Freedom for my Xmas wish list.

 

Toaster Purchaser Rights


The purchaser has the right to buy a toaster that fits the purchaser’s needs and tastes. The toaster can be used with any electrical service provider offering a competitive price in any location of the purchaser’s choosing.

The purchaser can remain anonymous to the manufacturer and does need to register with the manufacturer to use the toaster during the ownership period of the toaster purchased.

The toaster manufacturer does not have the right to monitor, without consent, via any technical device, the purchaser’s use of the toaster, including what type of bread is being used, what times the toaster is used, and if the purchaser shares the toaster with a friend or family member.

The manufacturer cannot charge the purchaser for each additional person using the toaster.

If the toaster is sold with an electrical services contract, the purchaser has the right to substitute a toaster of his or her own choosing, from any vendor, if the toaster is lost, stolen or damaged.

If the toaster breaks, parts and service will be readily available at a reasonable price and the manufacturer cannot stop supplying parts for the said product. Charges for a repair cannot cost more than a new device.

The toaster manufacturer will provide a warranty to the toaster purchaser that in event of a new product being launched, bread can still be purchased for the toaster purchased.

The manufacturer gives up all rights at the time of purchase for further charges to the purchaser in the form an annual usage charge during the ownership period of the toaster.

The toaster purchaser can pay for electrical power service for the toaster based on actual consumption, as a purchase option, at a reasonable rate. In case of bulk fixed rate contracts, where there is a rotating monthly time of expiration, a credit to the account will be applied to the purchaser for any unused amounts.

* * *

I know this is a pretty big Xmas wish list. I just found it very surprising how much personal freedom we give up sometimes when buying digital content and devices. For recommendations on specific gadgets for this holiday season, check out some my blog postings from the past couple years.

Dear Santa, meet the Tesla

But secretly, what I want for Christmas this year is a 17” in-car tablet computer for my car, like you see in the Tesla Electric Car. (And a new toaster of course.) This tablet computer connects to the internet, your smartphone, and the car’s computer systems for navigation, music and dashboard diagnostic monitors. Now that would be the ultimate gadget for me this year.

Happy Holidays and Best Wishes to you this Christmas Season.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
The COPAs, now in its 5th year, is a snapshot of what is happening in Canada in digital content. The COPAs attract media players from the worlds of television, newspaper, magazine and digital, to see who is the Best in Canada. Some of the winners this year were schools and students. The UBC Graduate School of Journalism, for example, won two golds for its use of video and multimedia. The consumption of video/multimedia/interactive content on the web is growing and I thought it would be good to show where the bar is set in Canada with these COPA winners.

The PAIN project and CUT entries from the UBC students, through their creative use of video, links and animation, create a truly engaging reader experience—similar to playing an interactive video game, but still telling a strong story. The other Gold winner in the video and multimedia category was the The UC Observer for its documentary on homeless shelters. The CBC won Best Interactive Solution of the Year for an infographic used to illustrate its investigative report on offshore tax havens.
 
Let’s hear from the winners below.
 
* * *

The Pain Project - Gold - Blue category for business media

The Pain Project investigates the lack of access to morphine, the gold standard for treating pain. Teams travelled to India, Ukraine and Uganda to explore how such countries manage the pain of patients suffering from cancer and other terminal diseases. The stories of patients, caregivers and other stakeholders are featured in 13 short videos. They reveal how a combination of bureaucratic hurdles and the chilling effect of the global drug war are largely to blame, leaving humanitarians scrambling to work outside the law — or change the law — to bring relief to suffering patients all over the world.

The Pain Project (click image to view)
The Pain Project (Click images to view projects)

CUT - Gold - Green Category for news media


CUT is based on a year-long investigation into the roots of global illegal logging. Ten journalism students in UBC’s International Reporting Program conducted on-the-ground reporting in three logging hotspots—Indonesia, Russia and Cameroon. They analyzed the environmental and social costs and the role of consumers. To engage viewers, the image of an apartment filled with wood products links to the producing country. An introductory video leads users to explore illegal logging in three countries along with related stories. Throughout the site, the multimedia character of the project is enhanced through videos, text, images, GIFs and audio clips.

The UBC International Reporting Program, CUT
The UBC International Reporting Program, CUT

The UC Observer - Gold - Red category for consumer magazines

The Observer reported on Canada's Out of the Cold programs, which shelter untold thousands every winter. For this short multimedia feature, the magazine returned to Waterloo, Ont.'s First United Church and found an ongoing need. Together, the narratives reveal the underlying problems of poverty and livelihood instability, not to mention the solutions moving forward. Equally important, we aspired to and succeeded in humanizing all of the subjects in this short online documentary.

The UC Observer, Cold Comfort
The UC Observer, Cold Comfort

CBC News - Best Interactive Solution of the Year - Offshore Tax Haven infographgic

Before unveiling our massive tax-haven investigation, CBCNews.ca decided it was critical to explain how the murky offshore world works. Text alone would not convey the complexity. We opted for an interactive animation that maps the proliferation of tax havens and the ways investors use them. Users follow the same steps a tax evader would, choosing a jurisdiction, setting up a trust and opening an account. 

CBC News, Stashing Their Cash
CBC News, Stashing Their Cash

* * *
The art of digital story telling is taking a new form with these COPA winners—a convergence of sight, sound, technical wizardry and words. What was surprising was that it took a group of students to lead they way in this year’s winner’s circle. The best ideas and inventions all started out as school projects, and the hub at the UBC Graduate School of Journalism offers a look at how we may tell stories in the future.
Thursday, October 31, 2013
We are likely now at a tipping point where mobile devices have reached mass adoption (40% market adoption is considered a mass market). We have 28 million cellphone users in Canada with a smartphone and tablet in the home. And with so many devices around, it is inevitable that some will break—which is why a new industry is emerging for fixing all the phones and tablets that have been dropped and cracked, dipped in water or had their batteries fried.

I have seen my kids’ Apple iPod Touch screens crack through daily use over three years and my own Blackberry Playbook tablet cracked when I dropped it on the bathroom floor. It will cost $125-$150 to fix according Ryan Winborrows at nerds4hire.com, with the glass costing around $80.

With that in mind this month, I set out to review a tablet device that would not break when dropped, and wanted to look at the Panasonic Toughpad tablet designed for mobile workers.

Panasonic is a Japanese company that manufactures a range of electronics for consumer, business and industrial markets. It was the fourth largest TV manufacturer in the world in 2012. The Toughpad’s design is based on the company’s Toughbook line of laptop computers for the business market.

The Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1
The Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1

The Panasonic Toughpad is an industrial-strength tablet and is available in Android and Window configurations in 7” and 10” models. There is a 20” model, weighing 5 lbs., set for release in November 2013 geared for creative professionals. The Toughpad FZ-G1 is 10” machine using Windows. It is 0.8” thick and weighs 2.4 lbs. It has a stylus with a built-in cradle and is optimized for outdoor use. With an Intel 1.9 GHz processor, 128 GB solid state drive and 4G RAM, it has lots of computer power.

How do you test a tablet that claims it will not break? I took it camping to give it a whirl.

I liked the feel of the device as it was easy to hold (less slippery than others) and I did not have to baby it. I left it around the campsite, tossed it around in the tent and watched rain drip on it while reading an ebook. It also survived me dropping it on my office floor and was durable enough to pass the kid-proof test.

At the campsite, I was able to connect to the internet via wifi through my smartphone’s internet-sharing feature. The device also supports LTE 4G networks as an optional feature. Battery life is rated at eight hours and you can buy extra batteries and car adapter. It has plug covers for the USB, HDMI and power connections, so dirt and dust won’t get in, and features seven tablet buttons with two that are programmable by the user.

What I did not like was that it needed a fan to cool the processor. It was not waterproof, just water-resistant, and the Android version does not have a fan in its design.

 Panasonic Toughpad cradle

The Panasonic Toughpad FZ-G1 tablet is versatile and can convert into laptop mode, using a cradle and bluetooth connection for switching to traditional keyboard.

RATING: 4 out of 5


This tablet fits the needs of mobile workers in industries such as construction, health, engineering, mining and military, a market niche that Panasonic dominates. This quality does not come cheap as the Android 7” model is priced from $1,250, the 10” at $1,350 and the Windows 10” version from $2,250. The tablets are backed by a three-year parts and labour warranty. Based on this price point, this device will only have luxury-consumer niche appeal. Panasonic will need to create another version if it wants to go after the wider consumer market.
About Me
Martin Seto

 
Martin Seto is the principal of Reflex Media, a media consultancy practice offering media owners online publishing, ad sales and acquisition/selling brokerage services. His media services also include working with ad agencies as a media buyer/planner for tv, radio, print, outdoor and online. He has been in the advertising and media industry for 25+ years and he has been an instructor/speaker with Centennial College and at magazine conferences across Canada. He also moonlights as a pro goalie as a "rent a goalie" at mypuck.com.
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