"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

The Pirate’s Dilemma: To Compete, or Not To Compete

Posted: April 16th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Matt Mason, author of The Pirate’s Dilemma, gave a great talk recently at the Medeci conference. He covers a lot of the ground from his book here, with great anecdotes about how piracy affects our society, and consequently how we do business. His summary: sometimes you should sue pirates, if they’re not adding value to society, but in many cases you shouldn’t – in the cases where popular opinion is generally in favor of that brand of piracy. For example with music downloading, people know it’s wrong, but pirates still buy music from download sources such as iTunes – however noone thinks it’s right that a big music company sues a young music fan for downloading. To paraphrase Mason, “If suing your customers is your business, then you are lawyers and no longer in the music industry”.

Mason’s solution is simple, if the piracy you face is something that society wants (eg, quick music downloads for cheaper than CD) then you should give it to them – otherwise someone else will. There are three steps to this; 1) watch the pirates – let them do their stuff, remixing and re-packaging your stuff. Good piracy a) adds value to the original, b) creates innovation and, perversely, c) creates demand for new things based around your brand. 2) You have to question what your real business is… for example iTunes now sells convenience, rather than music – you could get the music for free online but it’s a bit of a hassle, iTunes is familiar, quick and comfortable to use. So sell a different experience, Hollywood had it’s biggest summer ever – $4 billion – so piracy can’t be hurting them that much. 3) Finally, the hardest step – copy the pirates to beat them, because if you don’t – your competitors will.

All good advice, with great anecdotes. You can watch Mason’s entire talk here.

Facebook vs. Your Privacy

Posted: February 29th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Privacy & Security | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Somehow I’d managed to miss the bruhaha about Facebook licencing its users’ photos to newspapers – as witnessed in this case of the shooting of a 14 year old girl in Toronto this New Year. The situation was that the newspapers needed some images of the girl, and rather than just use the ones given out by the police or from the family, they went to the ‘source’ as it were and used some from her Facebook profile.

Wow. That seems to me to be a pretty blatent disregard for your user’s data privacy, and it’s seriously making me think that Facebook is not a good place to be right now. I understand that when I upload content to a social network that I should expect my friends to see it, and everyone if I’ve set the viewing privileges that way, but I’d never expect that content to get in a newspaper. Knowing what my little sister and her friends post on Facebook I’m sure they wouldn’t want any of that out in the public! I mean, people might not know exactly how much she likes kittens.

Perhaps it’s actions like this that will cause Facebook to lose all their visitors, as seems to be the trend right now. Of course it would require people to go somewhere else, as it’s now part of our modern culture to be connected with our friends and contacts over a social network. There are no outstanding candidates for the ‘next’ Facebook right now, however much some sites might think they are it looks like, for the time being at least, that Facebook is the last of the monolithic social sithttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifes. What’s coming down the line is a mix of personal control via your own website, feeds and posting aggregate feeds from sits like Twitter, combined with niche sites where you can focus your groups of contacts together – such as LinkedIn for business, or Flickr for photo friends.

Whatever happens, Facebook’s strikes seem to be coming hard and fast now which is never a good sign. As a company like that grows they have to maintain something of what made them popular in the first place, evolving it to meet the demands of their new users – not selling their user’s commodities in a fire sale when they get a chance. Imagine if Google started selling your search results – how quickly would you find another search engine? Anyways, that’s enough for now – I have to go build the next big social network to capture all Facebook’s users when they leave the sinking ship.

10 Ways to Make a Book Popular

Posted: October 16th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Internet Marketing | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

The UK’s premier yearly book awards, the Man Booker prize, has just been won by the rank outsider Anne Enright, for her book ‘The Gathering’. The Booker prize has a habit of being un-predictable, and it certainly isn’t a popularity contest, but winning the prize is a boon to any novelist’s sales. To help the rest of us who haven’t won, the BBC offers a handy list of ten ways to make a book popular, ranging from word of mouth, TV shows like Richard & Judy or Oprah and three for two marketing offers.

Radiohead: Re-inventing Music Sales

Posted: October 9th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Internet Marketing | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

A week or so ago, Radiohead announced they were selling their new album ‘in Rainbows‘ online. Doesn’t sound like anything new, until you hear that they are asking you, the customer, to say how much you want to pay for the download. Sound too good to be true? Well it was for the website, which crashed under the volume of Radiohead fans wanting to get their hands on the latest effort.

The other day I pre-ordered the album, and today (or soon I hope) my download link will turn up, although I’d imagine the site is spreading out these emails to prevent another overload. The in Rainbows website is intense to look at, and minimal in terms of information and fields. Normal trust indicators (Verisign, PayPal and the like) are visibly absent. Instead, you get to choose between a ‘meat space’ box set at a fixed price of £40, or the download at whatever price you choose. Yes, really. You can say you want it free, or pay them up to £99.99 (plus 45 pence processing charge with credit card). One wonders why the super-rich Radiohead fans can’t pay them more than £100, but there we go – they’ll just have to order multiple downloads for their friends and family or offer to pay Radiohead to play at their birthday party or some such thing.

This is an another genius move from one of the world’s outstanding bands. Radiohead album releases have always been widely anticipated, and even without this ‘gimmick’ it would have flown off the shelves. But is it a gimmick? Radiohead recently completed their contract with their record company and now can do whatever they like with their music. So instead of doing what most other artists do, and negotiate bigger payouts for themselves, they’ve innovated in a way that only Radiohead can, in a way that I’m sure everyone in the record industry is watching with half fascination, half impending doom for their livelihood.

What would be really fascinating is to know the stats on what people paid. Surely some people have paid nothing, but I’m sure many have paid a considered, reasonable amount. In reality at a minimum you have to pay the processing fee of 45p, so they will be getting your credit card details at the very least. Also when you pay they ask for a lot of personal information, including mobile/cell phone, so there is an inherent value in that as well – which makes me wonder what deal the processing company is on. But is the distribution of prices exponentially towards 0p, tailing off towards £100? Or is it normally distributed around some value that is akin to current CD prices – baring in mind that in the UK a CD normally retails at £12+ whereas in the US it’s $12+ (or £6 at current exchange rate)? This is all fascinating, and I suspect we’ll never find out. Radiohead are innovative but are they that innovative as to give away the album, and the store?

And no, I’m not telling you how much I chose to pay – other than it was between 1p and £99.99…

Make Money from your Blog With Less Work

Posted: August 7th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Internet Marketing | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Amazon have just introduced a new feature for their Affiliate Program, it’s a script that you place at the bottom of each page on your site that looks for key terms that Amazon has products for – then it creates a link on those products wired into your affiliate program.

How this works in practice is if you write about Harry Potter, then the script looks through your text, finds that phrase, and than auto-magically adds a link to that phrase. A site visitor can then hover over the link and a popup to go buy the article at Amazon then appears. Clever.

To try it out I’ve added it to my book reviews – so go check it out. I’ve noticed it can be a little bit slow – as I think it uploads the page to Amazon, then next time someone goes to that page it has an index. So if you use it yourself you may want to visit some of your pages to trigger that indexing. Also it only picks up phrases in the body text, so any headings are unaffected.