Archive for the ‘strategy’ Category

8 Reasons Why Blogs are Better Than Newsletters

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

ContractsMore and more companies are replacing traditional e-newsletters with blogs. Both can be used to inform customers (and potential customers) of product updates, contests, special offers, sales, and much more. However, the benefits of a blog far outweigh the benefits of a newsletter. Don’t get wrong - I’m not saying blogs are a complete alternative to newsletters, but the possibility is worth exploring. In fact, some companies may profit from a hybrid of both. An exception to this is e-commerce companies, who can derive a lot of value from e-mail. But for the majority of companies, a blog is a much better way to go as we will see…

So, why are blogs better than newsletters?

1. Interactivity - E-mail lacks interactivity and discussion. Blogs form a powerful, 2-way conversation due to the advent of comments. 

2. Passiveness - E-mail can be invasive. Often people don’t want to be bombarded with unwanted messages. This not only creates frustration, but also wastes time.

3. Cost - Blogs are much more cost effective than newsletters. The latter requires ongoing payments to an e-mail service provider. The former simply requires man hours.

4.. Technical Knowledge - More technical knowledge is needed to publish a newsletter, including HTML and templating. Blogging barely requires word-processing skills.

5. Time - An effective newsletter takes a lot more time, effort, and planning to dispatch than a blog post.

6. Delivery - Newsletters are subject to e-mail and SPAM filters. This may prevent important information from ever reaching the intended receiver. RSS feeds are always delivered. 

7. Search Engines - Blog posts drive search traffic and bait back-links.*

8. Subscription - Ironically, people can still subscribe to blogs via e-mail! MappingTheWeb has this feature in the right sidebar.

* / Some newsletters include a link to a permanent copy online (which may include comments). I acknowledge that this contradicts my #7, but at this stage, such a tool can be classified as a blog. /

Blogs are an important form of “permission marketing” - a concept that has long been touted by Seth Godin. Newsletters follow these principles as well, but blogging take them to the next level. The benefits and advantages are clear. The ability to add a feed and access it at your leisure is a powerful thing. If this means saying goodbye to blasted e-mails and a cluttered inbox, then bring it on. Perhaps, blogs are to CDs, as newsletters are to tapes… Ya follow me?

What is your take on newsletters? Do you think blogs will replace them? Is there room in the world for both?

TechCrunch Site Redesign

Wednesday, January 9th, 2008

TechCrunch logoMost of the top technology blogs on the Internet have undergone a site redesign over the past year or so. These include Read/WriteWeb, Mashable, and GigaOM to name a few. In spite of this, arguably the most popular tech blog, TechCrunch, has yet to follow suit.

This struck me as somewhat surprisingly. Every time I return to the TechCrunch site, I expect to see a new look - but it hasn’t happened. I still think it would be a good idea to mix it up and introduce a fresh look. This would revive the look and feel of the blog.

From an opposing view, I can also see why TechCrunch would NOT want to introduce a new look. Perhaps the current design is working just fine. As they say in the old adage, ”If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. A new design might bring with it a learning curve for readers. New navigation and layout changes may create confusion. Perhaps even, TechCrunch remains focused on the content itself and other initiatives such as the Crunchies, TechCrunch 40, TechCrunch Tech President Primaries, etc… This may not leave much time for a redesign.

One last thought - maybe a redesign is underway right now and I just don’t know it. It’s a long shot but hey, I’ve surprised myself a number of times this year… 

What is a Blog? - An Essential PR Tool (PART 2)

Monday, January 7th, 2008

MegaphonePerhaps one of the most obvious uses of a corporate blog is as a PR and brand-building tool. When a company wants to let the world know about an update, bug fix, or any material change, a blog is a great place to do so. I’m not advocating against press releases - I just think there is a time and place for them.

In my opinion, press releases should only be issued in a situation of substantial change - i.e. new launch, partnership agreement, or management change, for example. Small updates and changes do not merit such treatment. In addition, press releases usually lack two-way communication, a definite downfall.

Companies can also announce special achievements, milestones, and awards on their blog. Such events don’t usually precede a press release (in most cases). What about company outings and happenings? A blog may provide an outlet to the world, informing about the inner-workings of the external facing entity. This concept of “humanizing” the company is extremely effective when it comes to building trust and loyalty. Credit goes to Robert Scoble, formerly of Microsoft, for pioneering this notion. Customers and readers are introduced to “real people” in a ”real company”. This has traditionally been condemned, as companies prefer to amplify their profile rather than diminish it. But more and more we are finding that such a strategy isn’t always the most effective.

All in all, corporate blogs (as a PR tool) are a great way to increase exposure and raise profile in a given industry. For a small investment, a company could be introducing itself to new investors, new customers, or even a potential acquisitor. Thus, it seems like a small price to pay for such huge benefits.

Do you have any stories about blogs being used as a PR tool? Have you leveraged one as such? Let us hear your stories.

NetFlix Shifts Focus From Offline to Online

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

NetFlix logoToday, NetFlix announced the launch of a new service that will limit its dependence on physical mail. The company plans to partner with numerous electronic manufacturers in a new initiative that will send movies from the Internet to your TV. An initial partnership with LG will get the ball rolling later this year. The service will be offered in HD and may include a limitation on the number of movies viewed per month.

Currently, NetFlix offers over 6,000 movies and television shows online for free, but this new service will extend beyond the PC to the TV. The company does acknowledge a threat from the video-on-demand space, but believes that such a system is incapable of reaching its full potential without the power of the web.

The company has ambitions to become the preeminent movie channel on all Internet-connected devices, including gaming systems, wireless devices, DVD players, and set top boxes.

I can understand the benefits of such a system for both the consumer and the company. It saves time, hassle, and money. I’m just not convinced that consumers will be rushing out to buy a NetFlix-enabled device. Having said that, I do think this a step in the right direction. However, the company will need to partner with as many electronic manufacturers as possible to really make this work. Furthermore, NetFlix will need to establish itself as the name in the space, as everyone from Apple to Amazon is jockeying for position.

As a side note, this looks like yet another hit to Blockbuster. The old-school video rental company has taken a butt-kicking over the past few years. The introduction of ‘no late fees’ did provide a bit of light, but only for the short term. It may only be a matter of time before…

What do you think of this move? Is it worthwhile or worthless?

10 Web Predictions for 2008

Monday, December 31st, 2007

In light of all the recent prediction posts for 2008, I present to you my list:

1. Google misses an earnings estimate; the stock drops a couple hundred bucks a share in one day.

2. An increasing number of mainstream musicians drop their record labels and sell directly online.

3. The term “web 2.0″ is outlawed.

4. The “semantic web” and start-ups in the space continue to stumble.

5. Twitter is acquired.

6. Facebook continues to set the bar and dominate the social networking space.

7. Technorati continues to suck.

8. Open ID takes off; more sites embrace the standard.

9. Google launches a job site (or acquires one… SimplyHired? Indeed?).

10. Wikipedia gains widespread credibility and acceptance.

Bonus: 37signals is acquired (long shot).

What do you think will happen in 2008? Am I on target or way off?