Intentional Content Delivery Disruption on Large Websites

Every penny counts when it comes to online advertising, especially as you scale.  My friend Ala sent me a link to a “Quote of the Day” page on Time.com.  It was similar to these “photo of the week” pages where your friend sends you a link to one, and you end up looking at 10-15 weeks worth of photos using the next button.

But after I had read a few interesting quotes, I noticed that one of my pages failed to load correctly.  I didn’t get the quote, or picture displayed–only the banner ad at the very top.

A lot of the web is chintzy, especially sites like MySpace that have trouble scaling and sometimes do a poor job processing requests from users.  I think a lot of people have grown used to this and have no problem reloading or “clicking again” if it looks like something isn’t working correctly.

But what if this was orchestrated.  According to Alexa, Time.com averaged 2.7 million pageviews a day over the past three months.  What if Time decided to load only a banner ad, rather than expected web content on one out of every 1000 page views. That would be 2700 displays of pure advertisement, without expected content each day.

I would guess that the CTR (click through rate) on these pages would be far higher than on pages with the expected content.  The only stats that would need to be measured is whether people left the website from pages with intentional content delivery disruption at a rate significantly higher than they do normal pages.

Enough people read the site that the scheme could be targeted only towards users who have not received     an intentional bad page load.

Politics in Business

There is as much politics in business as there is business in politics. Everyone loves a good product launch. You spend a ton of time, money and effort researching a concept, surveying a consumer space, developing your idea into something tangible, and marketing the hell out of it. In many cases all of these steps can be handled in house, or contracted out.

Anyone involved during this development portion of a product is essentially a factory line worker. The design itself may be cutting edge, unlike anything before it. This inherent value, quality or original content is sometimes seen as something that can “sell itself.”

Which is true, to some extent. We’re talking about word of mouth and traditional advertising, here. I heard from my neighbor about a cushioned magnetic toilet paper roll holder that works perfectly in his bathroom with brushed steel walls. It is an expensive and nearly custom piece of home hardware but a must-have for anyone with brushed steel bathroom walls. Eventually, word will get out that you can avoid destroying your nice walls and still place a “bathroom tissue” holder and the demand may rise to the level of manufacturing a supply of these things.

But what if you’re entering an emerging market that has burgeoning competition in your product’s space? Or what if you want to catapult your product beyond your the effectiveness of your organization. You must use personal politics as a foundation for building strategic partnerships.

Politics in business can refer to an informal friendship, such as a link off the roll of a popular blog. Or it may take the form of complicated strategic partnership where your product and another service or company bring value to each other.

It is important to remember that a strategic partnership is the result of careful politicking. You can draw a line between personal connections between business people and an increase in consumer enthusiasm for a product.

Business politics resulting in strategic partnerships is the development of the synergy between key people behind one product and another product or service that complements it. I’d like to cite a few examples of strategic partnerships that I believe (but can not substantiate) are the result of strong business politics at work:

  • The Baja Blast is a carbonated tropical fruit drink available only at Taco Bell. The drink is produced by PepsiCo, while Taco Bell is owned by Yum! Brands, which is a spinoff of Pepsico. Fast food restaurants make a killing on soft drinks, and PespsiCo created Baja Blast as a method of boosting high-margin soft drink sales at Taco Bell.
  • MusicToday, an artist’s services company recently had a majority stake acquired by Live Nation. Napster set off a trickle of suggestion that the record industry is working on a broken model, and that new services or companies would come along to fill the needs of artists. Live Nation is a spin-off of Clear Channel Entertainment. Music Today’s decision to sell out to Live Nation is without a doubt linked to this strong connection with one of the biggest forces outside the RIAA but within the hemisphere of entertainment.
  • Helio, a cell phone and portable device company headed by the guys who created the T-Mobile Sidekick (Hiptop) finagled their way into a partnership with MySpace. They were basically unheard of yet were able to get huge buy-in from the biggest website in the United States. The idea here is that MySpace can make it onto cell phones, and Helio should be the company to do it. Any of the cellular phone manufacturers or service providers would love to have the relationship Helio set up with MySpace.

Getting back to launching a product and fancy toilet paper rolls: it isn’t enough to be about word of mouth or pouring money into marketing anymore. The launch of a product or service can be exponentially more effective by careful strategic partnership choice, the best of which are the result of careful politicing.

Down With DRM Symbol of Neo-Luddism?

What is it about DRM that Apple and the rest are getting so wrong? Why have groups like Defective by Design formed? Do they symbolize an underlying desire from all consumers that all media should be free to them?

This is an easy take-away from the standpoint of businesses who have embraced DRM. Apple and soon Microsoft will be sharing the mistake of deciding for consumers how they can play and share their content.

Afterall, iTunes Music Store and the Zune Marketplace are poised to be the online wholesalers of music and they will not be turning off DRM any time soon.

What is lacking is a real way to turn a growing movement in strict opposition to DRM. I forecast a general collapse of RCA and other major record labels in the next 5-10 years as the industry re-configures itself to monetize recordings through live performances and community networking.

The truth is, Apple, Napster, Real, and Microsoft are stuck in the middle of DRM concessions to the recording industry and ever-more-intelligent consumers. These companies need alternative methods for sharing music and must confront this leading edge of consumers head on with re-tooled thinking.

The concern should not be about confusing the great majority of the public who could care less about DRM so long as they can get the new P. Diddy single but instead about dragging their heels on a fresh look at DRM.

These technology companies cross their arms and guffaw knowing they are so smart to have “beat” the recording companies at their own game, but they are about to face the exact same problems as consumers circumvent the only over-restrictive option provided to them by Apple Fairplay and Zune’s DRM.

Have a look at Down With DRM’s recent selection of video contest winners here. The creators of these videos are not neo-luddites. They will lead consumers to a music sharing solution that always circumvents DRM until they are given a fair method for sharing content in the Creative Commons.

New Ratatat? "9 Beats" Hits Hard

Ratatat 9 Beats Album Cover“9 Beats” a collection of short songs from Ratatat’s Evan Mast has been passing around recently on the web. The album seems to have broken first as a highly priced item on ebay where it sold for 26 pounds ~$47USD back in earlier this year.

Contact information for 9 Beats is provided presumed publicist Hannah Overton. According to the Wikipedia E*vax AKA Evan Mast and his brother E*Rock run the Audio Dregs record label. His first album, Parking Lot Music is from August 2004 and is known for his minimalist electronic music. Continue reading New Ratatat? "9 Beats" Hits Hard