Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Are HBO and CBS Bringing About a Cable Revolution?


"The audience wants stories. All we have to do is give it to them!" Kevin Spacey emphasized this point in his keynote address at Content Marketing World (see video highlights here from Content Marketing Institute). He also said "The audience doesn't care about the platform. They care about the content!" This was in reference to House of Cards on Netflix where customers are able to watch episodes of the show wherever, whenever and as many as they want.

In my 8 years working for Cox Communications (2002-2010), a la carte was a constant request. Customers have never wanted to pay for 150+ channels when they only watch 17. As little as 3 years ago, there were few options to get programming outside of a cable subscription. Things have changed and programming is abundant through many platforms. The customers are speaking louder than ever of how and where they want to consume programming. 

HBO and CBS are paying attention as both recently announced that they are launching stand alone online services. See more details about both by clicking: HBO and CBS. HBO specifically said there are 80 million homes that don't have HBO that they are going after. These announcements are huge and are likely to be followed by more announcements (Showtime and Viacom are heavily rumored to be next). Shortly after, you probably saw headlines about the cable industry coming to its knees and OTT and a la carte taking over. Is the cable revolution here? While the potential is there, everyone needs to slow down.

First of all, this is a new market for programmers. Neither knows what to expect. HBO has yet to announce the price for their service. They need to be careful that they don't devalue and/or cannibalize their existing cable subscribers who are paying anywhere from $9.99 - $14.99/mo. (or more). On the other end, customers can get streaming HBO shows on Amazon Prime for about $100 per year ($8.25/mo.). So, the price will need to be competitive with that...not to mention Netflix and Hulu Plus.

CBS is in a different position. They've been trying for some time to come up with a business model to stream their shows online. They're going to charge $5.99/mo. However, subscribers will still have to put up with commercials. They admit they are going after super fans as they don't want to affect their traditional business.

Another wrinkle is that this puts the actual selling directly on the programmers. Traditionally, programmers provide the support through commercials, online assets, info sheets, free previews, incentives, etc. But the sales are actually closed by the sales teams from the cable company. It could be that it's all done online, but it's a shift in messaging and new processes to ensure subscribers get access easily to the programming. Like most things, some programmers will do a better job than others. Trust me when I say that, especially these days, the programming won't just sell itself. 

There are still a lot of questions to answer, processes to put in place and data to gather. HBO and CBS will definitely push OTT services forward. We'll get to the spot that Kevin Spacey is fighting for: content when we want it where we want it. The audience is already demanding it. But it's still going to be a slow process for now.  

What do you think of these services? Will either convince you to be a cord cutter (if you're not already considering it)? What would you be willing to pay for HBO? As always, thanks for reading. If you like my posts, please comment below and share them with your friends!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

CD Reviews: Slash and Sammy Hagar (Hint: Great Christmas Gift Ideas!)

Slash and Sammy Hagar
I know...nobody is buying CD's these days. Well, if you're a rocker like me, I've got a couple of CD's that should make you reconsider. They couldn't be any more different, but they both rock in their own way. Oh, and Christmas is coming (still early, but just saying), so these would also be great gifts for the rock fan in your life!

Slash with Myles Kennedy and the Conspirators - World on Fire
Most hard rock artists tend to lose their musical edge as they age (see Aerosmith, Rolling Stones, etc.). However, nobody told Slash. His recent music has been possibly the strongest of his career...at least since Appetite for Destruction. With Apocalyptic Love (read my review of this CD here), Slash put together what is by far his strongest lineup since the original Guns 'n' Roses. With World on Fire, this band has gelled and they sound even better! Myles Kennedy, Brent Fitz and Todd Kearns combine with Slash to create one of the best hard rock CD's you'll find. This is exactly the type of CD you want to hear from Slash (and would love to hear from a band like Aerosmith...).


With 17 songs and clocking in over 78 minutes, you definitely get your money's worth. Highlights include World on Fire, 30 Years to Life, Bent to Fly, Stone Blind and The Dissident. If you compare Apocalyptic Love to Appetite for Destruction (relax, I'm only making a point here), then World on Fire is what Use Your Illusions could have been if Axl hadn't ruined those CD's with overproduction. Heavy, raw guitar-driven rock.

Sammy Hagar with Vic Johnson - Lite Roast
On the other side of the spectrum, usually loud, hard-rockin' Sammy Hagar offers up a mellower, acoustic CD. Accompanied by guitarist Vic Johnson, Hagar hits on a collection of his solo songs and a couple of Van Halen classics. The stripped down, bare bones versions of these songs allow Hagar to showcase the soulful side of his voice.


Don't let the fact that this is an acoustic CD fool you into thinking it's a soft, boring CD. This is Sammy Hagar after all. There's still a strong element of fun and energy. While you won't find many of his older classics like I Can't Drive 55 or Heavy Metal, the songs he performs lend themselves well to the acoustic treatment. Highlights include Dreams, Finish What Ya Started and Eagles Fly.

Overall, 2014 has been a very strong year for hard rock CD's...with the new Foo Fighters CD still to come next month! I'm sure I'll do some kind of "Best of 2014" list here as we get near the end of the year. What's been your favorite music of the year so far?  Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Maybe the Rock Hall Should NOT be in Cleveland

Every year at this time I have a Rock Hall rant, but this time it's different. I'm about to say something (or write something...) I never thought I'd say: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame should NOT be in Cleveland. I've argued that Cleveland is the Rock and Roll Capital of the World forever. Don’t get me wrong. It still is. But, the simple fact is that Cleveland Rocks! The Rock Hall does not. (Requisite disclaimer: I'm referring to the Rock Hall New York Board and nominating committee, not the Cleveland employees. See more below.)
With Positively Cleveland’s "This is Cleveland" campaign, they are pushing Cleveland's rebellious rock and roll attitude (read more here). We made our own way regardless of what anyone thought. That's not exactly what I think of when I think of the Rock Hall. A couple of examples to show what I mean. Cleveland is that Aerosmith T-shirt you got at their concert the first time you saw them live. The Rock Hall is the Aerosmith T-shirt you bought at Kaufmann's or Kohl's after seeing Steven Tyler on American Idol. Cleveland is Guns 'n' Roses Appetite for Destruction. The Rock Hall is Use Your Illusions 1 and 2. One has authenticity, heart and appreciation. The other is more about appearance, bravado and has gotten away from what made it cool in the first place. It’s not that Cleveland doesn’t represent rock and roll. It’s that THIS “rock and roll” doesn’t represent Cleveland. 
This finally hit me (or maybe I'm just finally admitting it) as I was watching the latest round of Rock Hall inductee nominations being announced. My initial reaction was the usual annoyance. This group in particular just seems to be satiating the nominating committee’s own musical tastes. Eddie Trunk said it best (as he usually does) in his article here. The Rock Hall is an elitist music snob club that is not trying to elevate actual rock bands nor looking to appeal to actual rock fans.   
Me and Eddie Trunk at his book signing in Cleveland  last year
The problem lies in the New York board and nominating committee (see my thoughts on how nominations SHOULD be done). They make the job harder for the Cleveland employees. It’s time they re-look at what it is they’re doing and who/what they’re representing. The answer is right in front of them. There is no city that is more rock and roll than Cleveland! Take what makes Cleveland great and apply it! 
I’m curious for your thoughts. What could turn around the Rock Hall into being something that actually means something for fans and the artists? I don’t want it to turn into a debate of who should or shouldn’t be in as I think it goes deeper. As always, thanks for reading and please share it with your friends!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Twitter: Another Reason Less is More


About a year ago, I'd wake up each morning and the first thing I'd do is check Twitter. I'd be on Twitter before checking email and before going on to Facebook. I found the Tweets to be much more interesting and found opportunities to join conversations. Lately, however, I've noticed that I don't rush to go on Twitter like I used to.


I'm not the only one. During his keynote presentation at Content Marketing World, Scott Stratten explained that he also changed how he was using Twitter. He called it "selfish social". His Twitter usage has gone from proactive to reactive. He was only replying to Tweets instead of "being there". That’s exactly how my usage has changed too! Other than Tweeting marketing articles that I find useful, I tend to respond or look to see who has included me in their Tweets.
So why the change? Is it a time issue? Waning interest in Twitter? It's pretty simple: I’m following too many people! I’m consistently near the limit of 2000 accounts. As I’m passionate about content marketing, I follow A LOT of fellow content marketers, many of whom Tweet links to articles. Instead of seeing conversations, they’ve gotten buried with tons of marketing links. I perpetuate the behavior as I interact less with people and tweet more links to articles as well.

On a recent Social Pros podcast with Jay Baer and Jeff Rohrs (Listen here), they discussed with Mark Schaefer that Twitter may add algorithms similar to Facebook to limit the Tweets that are shown in our feeds. I hate that idea! I like being able to see all Tweets and deciding which I want to engage with.
So, what’s the answer? I need to follow fewer people! There’s no reason I should be following 2000 accounts. Less is more! Stratten also said that we don’t need to follow back everyone that follows us. It’s ok to picky. It’s ok to keep things manageable. We don’t need to build our followers to the point where we can’t possibly engage with them. As such, I’ve been working to greatly pare down my follows. I want to get Twitter back to the point where I enjoy spending time on the site and find value in who in who I follow. The article links are great and I appreciate them, but I also want to have the conversations. Let's take Twitter back to what we love about it!

How has your Twitter usage changed? Are you following too many people? Do you have as many conversations? What are your secrets? I'd love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading and please share this with your friends!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The New Top Selling Album of All Time – Songs of Innocence by U2


On September 10, not only did Apple present the iPhones 6 and 6 Plus, they offered in their minds what probably seemed like a slam dunk. They gave every Apple iTunes subscriber the new U2 Songs of Innocence CD for free. Not only was it free, Apple automatically downloaded it to every iTunes account, whether subscribers wanted it or not.

That’s 500 million copies of the CD sent out for a mere $100 million by Apple. With a push of a button (or signing of a check), U2’s Songs of Innocence obliterated the current #1 selling album of all time, Michael Jackson’s Thriller, by 435 million copies. They were free to subscribers, so do they count? Simply put, they were bought and paid for by Apple. That counts in my book. What about the copies that are deleted? Doesn’t matter…they’re bought. What we do with it after we get it doesn’t get Apple a refund. 

Congrats, on this “accomplishment”, U2. Enjoy it, because at the same time, you and Apple pissed off millions of people and you may have alienated yourselves from many musicians. Time Magazine’s came out with an article (read it here) about Apple and U2 working together on a new digital format that is focused on making sure bands get compensated for their art. However, with this stunt, many feel they have devalued music for all bands. It looks like they mean they should be compensated hugely for their music while they (further) ruin the industry for everyone else. 

Sharon Osbourne, never one to be shy, went on a Twitter tirade criticizing their music and political agendas. You can read her actual Tweets here. Keith Nelson, guitarist for Buckcherry, also criticized the band (read here) for devaluing music by giving it away for free. By not selling an album that has good potential to make actual sales makes things harder for newer bands. Obviously, retailers weren't happy about it as it will cost them sales. 
For Apple, they didn’t get out unscathed. According to this Vocativ article, the cost came out to $50 per album. And that's with many not wanting it. Apple also had already come under fire for privacy practices and giving the CD to customers without their consent does nothing to help solve that. They also had to send out directions of how to remove the download to customers.

Overall, I don’t think either U2 or Apple needed the additional publicity from this stunt…even if it hadn’t had such a huge backlash. The iPhone 6 is going to sell either way. U2 fans would buy the new CD…granted, they wouldn’t have made $100 million in sales. They also saw a spike in sales of the back catalog. But their reputation is taking a hit. There's definitely a trade off and you can decide if you think it was worth it.


I'm not a fan of U2, so that could be clouding my judgment. While there are a ton of U2 fans, I'm curious what the reaction would have been if they worked with Paul McCartney. I can't think of anyone that would be more popular than him. I'm sure there would still be detractors, but I wonder if he would have taken as much heat.

What are your thoughts? Did you like getting the free music? If not U2, what artist (if any) would you have been ok with? Does the privacy issue bother you? Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please share it!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Best Decision I've Made This Year: A Recap of Content Marketing World 2014

Joe Pulizzi Kicking Off CMW 2014
Last year about this time, I was doing what I'm doing right now. I was thinking back on my experience at Content Marketing World 2013 and trying to encapsulate just how awesome it was (you can read my recap of the 2013 event here). It was my first time going and all I knew was that I couldn't wait until the next one. So much so, I put it on my 2014 goals at my work. Well, they didn't cooperate the way I was hoping. I was denied! 
This Old Marketing Live Podcast
I quickly got over my disappointment as I realized that I had another option: I could go on my own. It didn't take long for me to make up my mind. I got my wife's blessing (there are a lot of things we could have done with that money...) and quickly went ahead with my registration. I couldn't pass up learning from so many great marketers that would be descending upon Cleveland, my hometown! Not to mention, seeing all the Tweeting during the event would have driven me nuts if I wasn't there! 
It was clear how much the conference has grown as you stepped into the Expo Hall. It all seemed bigger. There were many more exhibitors and in a bigger space. It really had a nice feel to it. There were a lot of common spaces where I ran into quite a few friends. I even noticed the expanded exhibit hall for the keynote addresses. It was bigger, but not overwhelming. 

Joe Pulizzi, in all his orangeness, kicked off the conference with a video explaining what to expect from the conference. It of course featured his closet of orange suits, his orange journal and lots of close-ups of him eating ribs (I can’t unsee that!). It was clear that this was not going to be a repeat of last year's message. The "Beyond Storytelling" tagline reflected the growth of content marketing over the past year. As last year focused on telling the story, this year was all about taking your stories to the next level and making them work harder for you. Strategy was a common theme throughout the conference and it began with Pulizzi explaining that successful content marketers focus first and foremost on documenting their strategy. This was the biggest aspect (but not the only - see the photo above) that separated those that are effective. 
Andrew Davis - Moments of Inspiration
The keynote speakers each had a different take on how we can market smarter and better. Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping and last year's highest rated speaker, asked if we were Ptolomy or Galileo. Do we believe that our website is the center of the Internet universe? Or do we understand that we're just a small blip revolving around the big sites (read Google) and how do we get closer? His "Moment of Inspiration" (MOI) is when we start our search for something. He used meatloaf to take us through his entertaining journey to show us the thought process and path that our customers go through until they reach the moment of purchase. Most companies are good right before the purchase stage, but the MOI is the biggest opportunity for us to send our customers on a journey. We can do that by telling stories that drive revenue.  MOI leads to ROI. He used examples like Disney that created the Nemo Effect with Finding Nemo. So many kids wanted clown fish after seeing the movie that it created a shortage. 
Julie Fleischer, Kraft Foods
Julie Fleischer, Data+Content+Media Director for Kraft Foods, took us through Kraft's evolution from "generic, lowest common denominator" marketing to "personalized, unique, smarter" marketing. They are creating memorable content across all devices that their customer relate to measuring their success. They've used their data to test, learn and improve their ROI.  She also said what might be my favorite quote from the conference: "Learn Fast and Break Things!"


Robert Rose's inspirational presentation told us what's next for marketing. Quite simply, WE are what's next as we move into the Experiences era of marketing. Marketers need to take the lead on providing valuable experiences. Customers no longer have a guided journey to make purchases. You could almost hear the choir singing in the background as he called upon us to change marketing and lead our organizations instead of being the subservient support group. His book which will cover this topic more in depth comes out later this year and will shoot quickly to the top of my must-read list.

That led right into Scott Stratten exploding onto stage to Rush because, as he explained, he's Canadian! He then went on 30 minute tirade of the things that drive him crazy with content marketing and what we should (and shouldn't) be doing. This included rants on how Delta diffused his anger after rude treatment, bad newsletters, vanity metrics, marketers that exploit tragedies for their social media or blog posts and automated posts (which he compared to sending a mannequin to a networking event). The highlight was his demonstration of the lack of logic in using QR Codes in emails. I don't know how I've not heard him speak before now, but he's easily one of my new favorites.

Kevin Spacey was the headliner for this year's event (right after Joe of course). After talking about the sales funnel, ROI and a few other buzzwords, he said, "That's right. I know your f---ing terms!" He then went on to explain the phone call he received from Joe asking him to speak at the event, using a Joe Pesci voice to mimic Pulizzi. That led to his impression of William Shatner at last year's event. When he got serious (with a few quotes from House of Cards's Frank Underwood thrown in from time to time), he talked about the Story. The three keys to great story telling are conflict, authenticity and audience. Finally, he talked about his decision to take House of Cards to Netflix. He gets that the audience doesn't care about the platform. They care about the content. Customers should be able to get content how they want it, when they want and where they want it.
Here's a quick rundown of a few more highlights and takeaways:

  • Ann Handley (one of the best sessions!) used a slide of a Simpson image that I Tweeted to her . When I met her after, she said she would have given me credit if she knew I was there...not that I wanted credit. I was just thrilled that she actually included it.
  • I got to meet Jason Miller, LinkedIn's Head of Global Content and Social Initiatives and Rock Concert Photographer (check out rocknrollcocktail.com!). His presentation incorporated a few of his photos and a plethora of rock star images. I simply loved it! 
  • Watching the live podcast, This Old Marketing with Joe and Robert which included their announcement that Content Marketing Institute will launching their own podcast network featuring talents like Todd Wheatland, Andrew Davis and Tim Washer. 
  • Content Marketing Strategy is clearly the next piece of focus for many and I expect to see it be a huge topic in the coming months.
  • Google Trends came up in multiple sessions and will be something I will be spending some time checking out.
  • I got the chance to catch up with a lot of friends and met many new friends (invaluable!) 

I could go on and on...I haven't even mentioned the parties! It's easy to see that I clearly got my money's worth, but the value goes way beyond that. Attending Content Marketing World was easily the best decision I've made this year. Bring on Content Marketing World 2015. It can't come fast enough! 
CMI's Joe Kalinowski and Cathy McPhillips and me

If you attended, or even if you just followed #CMWorld, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the show and what you thought were the biggest takeways. As always, thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Every Simpsons Ever: the Epic Marathon by FXX - But Now What?

12 days. 25 Seasons. 552 episodes. 1 movie. Every Simpsons episode ever. A huge programming stunt to promote a semi-new network (roughly a year old) and their $1 billion deal to get The Simpsons on cable. Early indications are that the increase in viewership has been successful. The first day brought in 1.01 million viewers in prime time...up 391% over their normal viewers. Of that, the 18-49 age group accounted for 623,000 viewers...up 461%! (stats gathered here) However, smartly, FXX didn't just leave it at the programming stunt. They incorporated social media and web tactics to take advantage of the marathon.

The social media aspect included a Twitter account, @EverySimpsonEver, that live-Tweeted during the entire marathon. They have just under 56,000 followers. Additionally, they created a #SimpsonsSelfie contest for viewers to post their photos of themselves watching the marathon which included collecting their email addresses (I entered! See below.). They also worked with the TVTag app on a contest for checking in on Simpsons episodes during the marathon to win giant stickers. All told, I can tell you that my Twitter feed was full of SimpsonsSelfies and overall comments from viewers watching throughout the 12 days.
I think it's safe to say that the marathon was a success for FXX, but what now? The key is to build upon the audience they've built. FXX does have some plans in place. They're building a website/app called "Simpsons World" (read more here). This portal will launch in October (and will grow in January) and will have everything a super fan could ask for. It will require you to authenticate that you have FX as part of your cable package. Features will include:

  • Access to every episode ever (Note: The Simpsons Movie will be available for limited times. They're also working on the original clips from "The Tracey Ullman Show".)
  • A search function to easily find and share your favorite jokes and scenes
  • The ability to curate your favorite episodes and scenes - and then recommend similar content
  • An exhaustive episode and character guide - including scripts that can run along with the episodes

With all of the email addresses they were able gain with the #SimpsonsSelfie promotion, hopefully, they'll use that info to push out content to promote the Simpsons World app, promotions for new Simpsons season on the Fox network, additional Simpsons mini-marathons/programming stunts, promotions for other programming on the channel (and FX), more contests or other ways to keep these viewers engaged in the channel and their shows. As long as it's relevant and interesting, I, for one, won't mind getting emails from them.
Overall, I think they were able to breathe new life into The Simpsons as a whole...whether it needed it or not. I think a lot of people have a renewed appreciation, if not just a reminder, for the brilliance of the show and Matt Groening. I'm curious to hear from you. Did you watch any of the marathon and how much? What's your favorite episode or gag? Thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends!
One last reminder (at least on my blog) that were just a week away from Content Marketing World in Cleveland! Feel free to reach out to me if you're going. I'd love to meet up and talk marketing!