|I’ve been writing a fair amount about content marketing and related concepts, like native advertising, lately. Content marketing is the publication of material designed to promote a brand, usually through a more oblique and subtle approach than that of traditional push advertising. The essence of good content marketing is that it offers something the viewer wants, such as information or entertainment.|
The idea is that people are sick of the traditional push advertising model, in which consumers (AKA “people”) are interrupted in whatever they’re doing with an unsolicited communication of some sort, through a flyer, an email, a banner, an interstitial ad, a telemarketing call. The first reaction to these is typically annoyance, which is not likely to be conducive to attracting and retaining customers. It’s often argued that online marketing — no matter how intrusive and obnoxious — is a necessary evil, the price we pay for free content. Good content marketing offers another way.
Content marketing approaches the problem from a different angle, offering something of value as a sort of a goodwill gesture in the assumption that people are going to feel more well-disposed toward a company that seems to want to do something for them rather than one that wants to manipulate them. The history actually goes back over a hundred years:
- 1895: John Deere launched the magazine The Furrow, providing information to farmers on how to become more profitable. The magazine, considered the first custom publication, is still in circulation, reaching 1.5 million readers in 40 countries in 12 different languages.
- 1900: Michelin developed the Michelin Guide, offering drivers information on auto maintenance, accommodations, and other travel tips. 35,000 copies were distributed for free in this first edition. Although Michelin eventually began selling these books, the publication still set a precedent for both informative guides and content marketing distribution.
- 1904: Jell-O salesmen went door-to-door, distributing their cookbook for free. Touting the dessert as a versatile food, the company saw its sales rise to over $1 million by 1906. Read more
Funny thing — I was inspired to write this post by a marketing email. I was culling newsletter subscriptions and clicked on one from Xerox. Before I scrolled down to the unsubscribe link, though, I had a look. I clicked a link to a PDF on stress management and found good, useful content. They hooked me immediately by introducing a new word — eustress — meaning positive stress, and then provided a very nice guide to dealing with the other kind — distress. There were no ham-fisted references to Xerox in the copy, only a brief message and links at the very end. The newsletter also offered links to more useful business-related tips. Well done, Xerox! I’ll save the PDF, check out the other links. Odds are, if I’m in the market for any products Xerox offers, I’ll look there first.
Because I have a blog, well — here I am, posting about it. I’m going to tweet about it too. So, what do you think? Does good content marketing work?
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I was recently contacted by Donna Morton, an indigenous peoples activist and CEO of the green tech company First Power. (She was commenting on my use of the word “savage” to refer to ill-mannered behavior. You can read about that here. Short version: We had an interesting email exchange and I edited the content.)
Donna sent me a link to her TEDx Talk. Here’s a little bit about her from the introduction:
“Donna Morton, First Power, Serial Social Entrepreneur; CEO, co-founder of First Power, with a mission to put clean energy, jobs and equity in the hands of first nations and native communities globally. Recently, Donna was elected an Unreasonable Institute fellow for building one of the worlds most “unreasonable” start ups. First Power is profitable and highly impactful. She is also an Ashoka fellow for her work with the Centre for Integral Economics (CIE), both BC based. CIE promotes market-based solutions to social and environmental sustainability and put tax shifting and carbon taxes on the map across Canada.”
I love the whole idea of the Unreasonable Institute. I mean, where has being reasonable ever gotten us? Being reasonable equates to stifling our misgivings about business as usual, putting up and shutting up. And, as Donna Morton explains in her TEDx talk, that’s only led us to ecological and cultural crisis — a world “on fire.”
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A guy literally (literally literally, in fact) walked into a bear the other day because he was so engrossed in texting. Now bears, especially the ones in the half-ton range, are not particularly known for their stealth. They don’t tiptoe and — to put it bluntly — they smell. If you don’t see them coming, you’re apt to either hear them or pick up their, um, scent.
Our Californian did none of the above. What he did do, when he finally wrenched his gaze from his mobile, was run like hell. (Not advised, of course, because although not stealthy bears are surprisingly fleet of foot.)
We really need a sniglet for people roaming the streets so engaged with their cell phones that they’re oblivious to their surroundings. A sniglet is a term that isn’t in the dictionary but should be. Essentially, it’s a licence to make words up. But only when you really need to — and it has become apparent that we really need a word for this common phenomenon.
A while back, a couple of readers sent a message (which we read responsibly seated at our desks) suggesting that we needed a sniglet for this very phenomenon, not necessarily bear-related but for the common state that would make an event like this possible.
We’ve had a few suggestions: cell-outs, phoneys, cellots, cell zombies, i-blivious… but nothing that really seems to capture the phenomenon perfectly.
Come on — stop texting and playing Angry Birds for long enough to send us a sniglet!
We get letters! OK, mostly spam and overdue homework assignments, but we do get letters. And some of them are interesting and helpful.
Such was the case with the following note. Valerie Cox wrote us to explain a problem with our definition of CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black):
‘CMYK is a scheme for combining primary pigments. The C stands for cyan (aqua), M stands for magenta (pink), Y is yellow, and K stands for black.’
The K does not stand for “black,” it stands for “Key.” The key color in today’s printing world is black, but it has not always been this way. During the early days of printing, the colors used for Key have been brown, blue, or black, whichever was the cheapest ink to acquire for the times.”
We should have guessed there was more to that story… we’ve read our alphabet books and we do understand how initialisms work: A is for Apple, K is for… something that starts with K.
Read more about acronyms and initialisms. (It’s interesting. I promise.)
Thanks to Ms. Cox for making us look just that little bit smarter today than we did yesterday!
“The check is in the mail.“
|Although artificial intelligence has always evoked fears of robots becoming altogether too intelligent and getting the upper hand, we’ve always at least expected our tin friends to do it in an open, well, robotic kind of a way. You know, they lumber in like mechanical zombies and proclaim in a tinny monotone: “We. Have. Come. To. Destroy. You.”
Fair enough, you think, all the cards are on the table and you know what you’re dealing with. Prepare to think again. One day, there could be a knock on the door and, in response to your query as to who’s there, you hear: “Candygram.” And THEN, instead of the delicious candy you expect to enjoy, you get robot Armageddon.
|Be afraid: Robots have learned to lie|
Not only that, they’ve got the ability to pick gullible targets to maximize the effectiveness of their deceit. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a program that allows a robot to discern whether another robot is gullible and then take advantage of its naivety through lies and deception. (See the story here.)
This isn’t the first time that robots have lied — just the first time they were programmed to do so. In 2007, robots that were programmed to learn from experience evolved the ability to lie. Which is all the scarier, isn’t it? Just imagine the nefarious plots they may have been hatching since then…
Sure — NOW they vacuum and scrub the floor — but what happens when they wise up? The following could be required information when the robots take over. How much do you know about our artificially intelligent friends?
1. The word “robot” was coined in 1920. Is the term:
a. an abbreviation of “row” and “boat,” for an early version that did just that?
b. derived from a Czech word meaning “forced labor?”
c. named for the creator of the first robot, Robert Botsworth?
Answer (Scroll to the end of the definition.)
2. One of the earliest known working robots was da Vinci’s self-propelled car, circa 1478. Was it run by steam pressure or springs?
3. What’s the term for a robot that is designed to resemble a human?
4. Which of the following is NOT one of Issac Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics:
a. Robots must not meet in secret.
b. Robots must never harm human beings.
c. Robots must protect themselves without violating the other rules.
5. If the shape-shifting chembot is developed, it could travel over considerable distances carrying an embedded payload, change shape and size as required, and then reconstitute to its original form. What organization recently put out an RFP for its design?
6. Used with satellites, space probes, and mobile robots, this term describes is the wireless transmission and reception of measured quantities for the purpose of remotely monitoring environmental conditions or equipment parameters. What is it?
7. Which sense does the field of haptics replicate for the user?
8. Based on a Greek word meaning “steersman” or “governor,” this is the science or study of control or regulation mechanisms in human and machine systems. What is it?
9. DARPA’s early cyborg insect experiment using wasps was ill-fated. Why?
Answer (Scroll to the end of the definition.)
10. If self-replicating robots ever take over, the resulting situation is sometimes referred to as a gray goo scenario. In this context, what are self-replicating humans sometimes called?
Answer (Scroll to the list at the end of the definition.)
How many could you guess correctly? Let us know!
Although there was much hoopla last year proclaiming September 2 as the Internet’s 40th, Leonard Kleinrock begs to differ. The real birthday of the Internet is not until October 29. On Oct. 29, 1969, Kleinrock’s team transmitted a message from their computer at UCLA to Douglas Engelbart’s Stanford Research lab in Menlo Park, Calif.
The first word transmitted on the Internet was “lo.” This seems portentous and prescient, echoing the biblical “lo,” as in “lo and behold.” The funny thing, though, is that the transmission of “lo” was a serendipitous accident.
On his blog, Kleinrock provides the record from his log and explains how the transmission came about:
I was supervising the student/programmer Charley Kline (CSK) and we set up a message transmission to go from the UCLA SDS Sigma 7 Host computer to the SRI SDS 940 Host computer. The transmission itself was simply to “login” to SRI from UCLA. We succeeded in transmitting the “l” and the “o” and then the system crashed! Hence, the first message on the Internet was “lo”! We were able to do the full login about an hour later.
So what happened on September 2? Kleinrock’s team had managed to transmit meaningless data over the Internet’s predecessor, ARPANET.
And the World Wide Web as we know it? It wasn’t born until 1989, when Tim Berners-Lee proposed the great hypertext project that would make it possible for all of us to connect and share information the way we do.
Whether September 2 or October 29 gets title, here we are almost 41 years after the birth of, arguably, the major technological phenomenon of the past century. The Internet has transformed the way we live.
And lo, it is good. And bad. And all the things you’d expect from giving humans the potential to connect with anyone, anywhere.
|In the New York Times, Nick Bilton reported on flexible computers.
Apparently the Flexible Display Center at Arizona State University is working with the US army on flexible, non-breakable devices that could be used in the field — even on the battlefield. These would fit the bill for fully-rugged devices, designed from the inside out to be impervious to just about any environmental threat.
The article also quotes Nicholas Negroponte of the One Laptop Per Child project. His group expects to release a sub-$100 slate computer similar to the iPad by 2012. Negroponte says the device will be plastic and unbreakable, and will have power requirements so low that it can be charged by shaking it or winding it up.
Bilton credits the $100 laptop project with influencing the development of cheap netbooks. The article suggests that, similarly, the price of e-readers is likely to drop sharply — perhaps sinking as low as $20.
You know what this could mean? I’m going to get my electronic newspaper!
Last year Chris Brogan posted about the arcane science behind increasing the number of your Twitter followers.
Brogan has approximately a gazillion followers, so when he retweeted that link today, I clicked right on through to the post.
The quick and dirty version: It’s tweet integrity. Send out information that other people will want to receive.
That’s right. In a nutshell: Make your tweets worth reading and more people will follow you on Twitter.
Other useful nuggets of advice include retweeting good tweets from other people (That’s extra sneaky, because it’s so EASY and they LIKE it!), sharing useful info and so on.
It’s positively revolutionary! It’s like — selling more product by ensuring the quality of said product! Wow.
I was pretty sure it was all about tricking people, or circumventing Google’s algorithm in some particularly devious fashion. Time to rethink that whole MO.
Seriously? I feel a bit better now. There’s this perception that any tweep worth her salt has thousands upon thousands of followers. And I guess there are ways of getting them — mostly through automatically following big, undifferentiated clumps of them — upon which people will follow you back. Even if nobody ever reads a word of anyone else’s tweets.
I’m going to sound like a cheese commercial here, I know, but…
I like to select my Tweeps the old-fashioned way. By looking at their profile pages and — yes — checking to see if what they have to say is anything I’m interested in hearing. In turn, I hope that people I follow will also see some reason for following me back and we can all get down to some actual communication.
See also Twitter and tweeting for business.
Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar.
For TechDay, Gavin Ogden reports on a recent EMC report on the ongoing explosion of digital data:
In 2010 the number of files, images, records and other digital information containers will grow by a factor of 67, a study has said.
The latest EMC-sponsored Digital Universe study has said that the amount of digital information created last year grew 62% over 2008 to 800 billion gigabytes (0.8 Zettabytes).
A zettabyte is the equivalent of:
- A million petabytes — each of which equals a million gigabytes
- A billion terabytes
- A thousand exabytes
- The total storage capacity of 75 billion 16 GB iPads
- All the information in all the academic libraries in the US — times half a million
- The output of every inhabitant of the planet tweeting, non-stop, for a century.
The vast majority of that is unstructured data. Unstructured data (data that isn’t organized into some kind of structure, such as a database) was once like the tree falling in the forest with no one to hear – the information was there but nobody was getting it. But now people are developing apps that can pull information out of all that data.
So the next question is “What comes after a zettabyte?” Turns out it’s a yottabyte. Even though I’m pretty sure they thought they were done when they got to zettabytes, because they’re named for the last letter of the alphabet. Anyway, they back-tracked to “Y” and then skipped back to “B” for “brontobyte.” I’m guessing named for the brontosaurus, which was one of the bigger dinosaurs.
Writing today about desktop supercomputers and looking back to the systems of the last century, when a teraflop used to be fast.
The first supercomputer capable of teraflop performance (able to perform a trillion floating point operations per second) was the Cray T3E-1200E, in 1998. It took desktop supercomputers about a decade longer to attain that speed. However, teraflop systems of the late 1990s couldn’t quite fit on a desktop — they had a footprint the size of a room.
Anyway, now high-performance supercomputers have broken the petaflop barrier. And people are talking about mobile phone supercomputing. Yup, we’re living in the future.