July, 2006

July 31, 2006 | Ron Lee: Read the competing newspaper, please!

Why would a newspaper editor agree to link its online viewers to a competitor’s site? For one, to keep them from going to Google or Yahoo. Additionally, it’s a way to generate more revenue. This is the latest twist in virtual newsroom management, according to an article in the July 31 New York Times, “Newspapers to use links to rivals on Web sites” (registration required).

July 31, 2006 | Greg Ness: We’re On The List: 150 Cheap Places To Live

Often the connotation of the word “cheap” implies a certain diminished less than quality that extends beyond simply lower costs, but not so in the new Forbes study on inexpensive places to live. Our company’s hometown, Fargo, was on the list (under IQ Campuses). The point of the article is in this age of the Web, what you do doesn’t necessarily define where you have to live, so why not do it where the living is easy and less expensive. Fargo has also shown up on several other impressive lists recently including:

July 31, 2006 | Greg Ness: The Web: Killer Marketing App At Work

I can’t understand why I haven’t read more about the Web’s uniqueness as a media channel to reach people at work. Many employees in offices all over the country are expected to be on the computer throughout the day. And at many offices, being on the computer means having access to broadband Internet. Not surprisingly, many workers spend a great deal of time on the Web for both work-related and personal reasons. A new comScore research report provides a revealing glimpse of where people spend their time online when they are on the job.

July 29, 2006 | Phil Leitch: Visualizing Yourself Amongst the Other 6.5 billion

Population: One claims to be in ‘beta’, though I’m not sure where they plan to go with this (could be they are merely joking about the ‘beta’). This site doesn’t really do much, in fact, you will probably spend all of a minute there and maybe never go back. You might find it as interesting and neat as I do and share it with a few friends, or you might just think I’m a bit on the loony side today by even mentioning it. All that Population: One does is use one pixel of your screen for each person in the world. It is quite stunning and helps put in perspective just how many of us there are on the planet. The first pixel is you. The rest are everybody else.

July 28, 2006 | Ron Lee: Big TiVo is Watching What You’re Not

Do TiVo users watch commercials or skip them? TiVo is forming a research division to study that very question, and by doing so, is weighing in on the debate between advertisers and the TV industry on how to measure viewership of those using digital video recorders. Find out more about how TiVo is getting granular.

July 28, 2006 | Greg Ness: The Times They Are A-Changin’

Bob Dylan’s song would make an appropriate anthem for business today. This is not the time for complacency or the status quo in marketing. Communication technologies and realities are reshaping commerce rapidly. You can either harness these changes to shape your organization’s future, or ignore the upheaval and cast your fate to the wind. I’d suggest the former. Pete Blackshaw does a great job of articulating this marketingquake and its implications in his story on ClickZ. The epicenter of this marketingquake is clearly the Web. CMOs and others in marketing would do well to take note of his observations.

July 28, 2006 | Dean Froslie: Major League Broadcasting Rights: Tradition or Revenue?

In at least two major league cities, storied radio broadcasting traditions have conflicted with the revenue realities of today’s sports world. Next week, the Minnesota Twins are expected to announce a multi-year agreement to switch their radio rights to KSTP. The move will end a long relationship with WCCO, which has broadcasted every Twins game since they arrived in 1961.

July 27, 2006 | Greg Ness: What Could Be

Surveys have shown cell phones rank right up there with the Web and the computer as the technologies most important in people’s daily lives. We’ve come a long way, but this Business Week article shows us how much further the mobile industry could go if we can balance capitalism with technological and societal potential. Paid Content summarizes it for us with this graphic from the article.

July 26, 2006 | Greg Ness: Making Old Money Look Like New Money

A bunch of people have been having fun making old corporate America look like hip new Web 2.0 startups (via John Battelle’s Searchblog).

July 26, 2006 | Phil Leitch: Feedburner Goes Beyond RSS, Acquires BlogBeat

In what should be the first of many more acquisitions to happen between startups, Feedburner has acquired blog analytics site BlogBeat. While there have been many acquisitions of startups by Yahoo (, Flickr) and Google (Writely, Measure Map), the Feedburner one marks what I think will be the beginning of mergers between companies that have been concentrating solely on doing one thing really good. Feedburner is without a doubt the premier service for enhancing and analyzing your RSS feeds (we use it as does just about everybody else). BlogBeat is one of many analytics services to sprout up in the past six months that concentrates on blog specific traffic analytics.

July 25, 2006 | Greg Ness: Google’s Impressive Growth

Google continues to widen its lead in the search wars, although Yahoo is still making it a two-horse race. According to the latest June figures from Nielsen/NetRatings, Google now owns an almost 50 percent share of the U.S. search market. Yahoo was a distant second at 23 percent, and MSN slipped to a 10 percent share. However, the telling statistic is the year-over-year (YOY) growth. Google is up 31 percent YOY, Yahoo up 29 percent, and MSN is giving up more ground with only 3 percent YOY growth.

July 24, 2006 | Dean Froslie: Understanding and Applying the New Tools

An earlier post encourages marketing professionals to take reconnaissance missions as a way to explore emerging marketing tools and technologies. These fact-finding missions – typically done on your own – help you understand how each tactic works and how it might be applied within your organization. Depending on your familiarity and bravery, your mission might include setting up an RSS reader, contributing to a wiki, starting up a blog or subscribing to podcasts.

July 24, 2006 | Ron Lee: Online supply and demand

Think gas prices are getting expensive? Online advertising prices could be rising too, thanks to increasing demand for online ad vehicles, which could surpass supply in the short term. This prediction comes from research conducted by McKinsey & Company and profiled in The McKinsey Quarterly (2006 Number 3) article, “A reality check for online advertising” (free registration). Find out more about what the researchers discovered.

July 24, 2006 | Phil Leitch: Jeff Bezos Invests in 37signals

37signals, the darlings of Web2.0 development, have taken a minority investment from Bezos Expeditions. The creators of online apps such as Basecamp, Backpack and Campfire along with the popular Ruby on Rails development framework, were not interested in money, saying they have plenty of that. Rather they wanted access to Mr. Bezos himself, as Jason Fried writes on their blog, “Someone who sees things a little differently and makes us feel right at home. Someone with a long term outlook, not a build-to-flip mentality. We found a perfect match in Jeff. Jeff is our kinda guy.”

July 24, 2006 | Greg Ness: Muskie Fishing

I went fishing for muskies this weekend. If you’re not famiiar with muskies, think of a freshwater fish that is similar to a barracuda and you won’t be far off. These guys are big, powerful fish and they always look like they’re havin’ a bad day. I’m not much of a fisherman, so I don’t have any “Greg and [insert muskie here]” photos to show you, but we did see one that looked to be about a 30-40 pounder.

July 21, 2006 | Jeff Fellman: Chinese Culture Can Be A Hurdle for Advertisers

Advertising in China is progressing rapidly.  Companies are trying to break away from standard advertising tactics and are starting to use more creativity in their ad campaigns.  However, sometimes that creativity can backfire.  Recently, KFC suffered a blow to its brand image in China due to some of its advertising.  KFC caught heat from some Chinese consumers for a new commercial depicting historical Taoist leader, Fu Qing Zhu, grasping a KFC chicken sandwich and proclaiming it to be a masterpiece.  The scene in the commercial is based on the Chinese movie, Seven Swords.

July 20, 2006 | Greg Ness: Is It Sex Sells or Controversy Sells?

Via Neville Hobson in Amsterdam comes this post titled, “Sex Sells.” It is about a calendar in Australia promoting the IT profession for women. It stirs the age-old debate about whether sex sells or whether it is appropriate to use content like this for marketing purposes.

July 19, 2006 | Dean Froslie: Take a Marketing Reconnaissance Mission

In the August issue of Runner’s World, writer John Hanc offers suggestions on how to enjoy a relaxing vacation while maintaining your training plan. One solution: become a “Reconnaissance Runner.” As your family sleeps in or relaxes, you use training runs to explore your surroundings and gather site-seeing intelligence. Marketing professionals who bravely venture into the new world of social media and technology may feel like they are on similar reconnaissance missions.

July 19, 2006 | Greg Ness: Marketing To A Fragmented, Time-Starved Consumer

No more old days in advertising—a time when a few commercials on broadcast television or an ad in a major magazine could reach the masses quickly and easily. In the old days, almost all the creative energy of marketing and advertising could be spent on crafting a message to the audience.

Enter a new day. In the fragmented, media-saturated environment of the present, much of the initial creativity in marketing must be focused on finding the audience and passing the relevancy test to get a few seconds of consideration. Creativity is still needed to break through the clutter, but the ever-increasing number and sources of messages, combined with a finite number of minutes in the day, have trained the consumer to be extremely judicious with their consideration of any marketing message.

July 18, 2006 | Greg Ness: New Rules and New Tools

Fortune has an interesting series of articles on the new rules of business that take an antithetical approach to the old rules as embodied by Jack Welch, the ex-CEO of GE. If you’re a Jack Welch fan—as many in business are—you may take umbrage with the conclusions in this series, but the new rules appear provocative and timely.

Part of this shift to the new rules is no doubt influenced by how technology has changed the fabric of the marketplace. The consumer, thanks to the ubiquitous and overwhelming information on the Web, is more informed and demanding than ever. Business needs to accept this shift and the new rules are about this new reality. As an example, Jack Welch espoused hiring a charismatic CEO, but the new rules suggest courage and innovation over charisma (think Steve Jobs). Or put another way: geeks are in.

July 16, 2006 | Phil Leitch: Introducing Individual Author Feeds

Today we are happy to introduce five new RSS feeds for you to subscribe to. If you enjoy reading all of our writers you can pretty much skip reading any further, because that feed is already available (the nice looking orange icon at the bottom of the page). However, there are probably some of you that like one or two of our writers more and could do without the rest of us. If that’s the case, well I might have just made your day punk.

Greg Ness
Phil Leitch
Dean Froslie
Ron Lee
Jeff Fellman

July 16, 2006 | Greg Ness: Video Programming Trends Changing

TV—at least as we’ve traditionally thought of it—is changing. I’m talking about TV we get via from the big networks via broadcast, cable or satellite. The number of people watching traditional TV just set a recent new record low for the number of viewers (via The Long Tail). As the article points out, July is usually the low point for viewers, but this set a new low even for a July.

In addition, the big networks are having a harder time selling their advertising inventory. It appears to be a buyers market, which happens when supply exceeds demand. Advertisers are paying for eyeballs and if there are fewer people watching, then the demand from advertisers is less.

July 14, 2006 | Phil Leitch: Tracking Down Cool Mac OS X Apps

First, I have to admit that it is true that I’m a bit of a geek. I enjoy downloading and installing just about any kind of application just to try it out. I probably end up keeping and using 2 out of every 10 that I install so finding a more efficient way of finding the keepers would be great. I have relied heavily on VersionTracker and a small handful of Mac blogs to get my daily download/install fix taken care of. While Version Tracker has plenty of choices, it still follows an old Web way of working and requires you to scroll through a seemingly neverending list to choose from, with little help other than the descriptions the authors provide. I Use This has taken the VersionTracker idea and combined it with the Digg concept to give you a better idea of what applications are more popular. The community of users helps to pre-filter the thousands of choices, which in theory if it worked would be great for people like me that have a slight problem with wanting to constantly try out the latest software.

July 14, 2006 | Dean Froslie: Writing Magnetic Headlines

If you’re a writer (or even if you aren’t), head over to Copyblogger for a series on writing magnetic headlines.

The opening installment makes a compelling case for why you should write headlines first. The rationale? Your headline articulates your promise to the reader, and writing it first ensures you fulfill that promise in your body copy. Writing the headline later often leads to a marginal promise.

July 14, 2006 | Greg Ness: How To Spread The Fire

Great advice on how to fan the marketing flames internally. And another example of how to do it externally—even for a product as simple as scissors.

July 13, 2006 | Greg Ness: Blogs Move Into The Fast Lane

Blogs, once the domain of the digerati, have now moved into the mainstream according to an iMedia story. Visitations to blogs have increased 56 percent in the last year with 34 percent of the total Internet audience now listed as blog readers. Blog readers tend to skew younger, ages 18 - 44, and are also from more affluent households, but interestingly, there is good blog readership across most demographic groups.

Technorati, a popular blog search engine, is currently tracking 48.1 million blogs. Here are some other illustrative statistics from Part 1 and Part 2 of David Sifry’s April 2006 State of The Blogsphere posts:

• The blogosphere is doubling in size every 6 months
• It is now over 60 times bigger than it was 3 years ago
• On average, a new weblog is created every second of every day

July 12, 2006 | Phil Leitch: Zaadz: Social Networking With a Conscience

Social networking sites make a lot of promises as far as creating a community of users, but so far it seems as if the popular ones are nothing more than a way to see how many “friends” you’re connected to with no real payback. Great, so I’ve got all these friends. Now what? If you have a band to promote, MySpace probably works for you. I know I get 5-10 invites from bands every week wanting me to be their friend. Great for the band, doesn’t do much for me though.

July 12, 2006 | Greg Ness: Marketing Budgets Head Upward; Online The Big Winner

A recently updated Credit Suisse survey indicates CMOs are increasing their spending on marketing between 8 and 12 percent in 2006. Online advertising leads the growth charts with a 35 percent increase in spending over last year. Most other media categories experienced little or no growth. According to a MediaPost story,  “Survey participants revealed that Internet advertising methods proved to have the highest perceived return on investment, significantly ahead of any other category,” wrote Credit Suisse analyst William Drewry, “...with the continued growth in the use of the Internet for both utility and entertainment purposes, advertisers see the value created by shifting dollars online.”

July 12, 2006 | Jeff Fellman: China Using Internet to Promote Language, Culture

The Chinese government recently launched a new website to promote the study and use of the Chinese language. The site offers many different sections to help foster the use of the language by foreigners both in China and abroad.  Along with language help, the site also has content devoted to Chinese news and events, teacher training, experiencing China, blogs and a discussion forum.

July 12, 2006 | Dean Froslie: Dell’s Blog: Authentic or Lame?

Dell has caught the attention of several marketing thought leaders following the recent launch of one2one, its first blog. It’s a group effort with bloggers from Dell’s engineering, support, design, e-commerce and product teams. So far, entries have focused on new product features, support processes and the evolution of

July 11, 2006 | Greg Ness: Pew: 10 New Communications and Media Realities

This Pew Internet & American Life Project presentation by Lee Rainie provides a wealth of important information about 10 new communications and media realities that will profoundly change the world around us. It is interesting and relevant reading. It is a compendium of many things we have discussed on this blog in the past year.

Reality 1 is that we’re surrounded by media and communications tools and the bit-flow around us is as available as the air we breathe.
Reality 2 is that these tools are no longer place-bound. Not only does this untether Americans from their phones, it also means they can carry a lot of computing power in their pockets.

July 09, 2006 | Greg Ness: Thank You

If you are reading this blog I want to thank you. You are probably part of a minority that actually takes the time to read and become more aware. How do I know this? It’s an assumption based on alarming statistics like these at Parapublishing:

Who is reading books and who is not (from the Jensen Group)

• 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.

• 42% of college graduates never read another book.

July 09, 2006 | Greg Ness: Striking A Nerve

Apparently, yesterday’s post regarding ABC’s desire to kill the DVR fast-forward button for commercials hit a raw nerve with others in addition to me:


July 08, 2006 | Phil Leitch: activeCollab Provides Basecamp-like Project Management For Free

Ilija Studen, a developer based in Serbia, has released an open source project management tool called activeCollab that is strongly based on Basecamp from 37signals. Ilija was inspired by the post “Being 37signals for Free”, on Wisdump in April of this year, in which the author wondered why nobody had yet tried to duplicate the 37signals products and give them away for free or undercut their prices.

July 08, 2006 | Greg Ness: ABC It’s As Simple As 1-2-3

This story has been hot in blog posts and other news sites today, but I couldn’t resist commenting on it. It’s about ABC using a technology that would prevent owners of DVRs from skipping ads by disabling the fast-forward button during commercials. This is asinine for three simple reasons:

July 07, 2006 | Phil Leitch: Friendster Patents Social Networking

If MySpace was your introduction to the hugely popular social networking scene, then it’s likely you’ve never heard of Friendster. You see, Friendster was the poster child for social networking until a few bazillion kids decided they liked the ugly UI and slow servers (to be honest Friendster was getting pretty slow too) over at MySpace. The Red Herring is reporting the patent was awarded on June 27 and covers “the basic steps involved in joining a social network: entering a personal description and relationships to other users, mapping relationships and degrees of separation, and connecting to others through these friends.” Sounds quite a bit like another social networking site I know of. Honestly, it sounds like most social networking sites doesn’t it?

July 07, 2006 | Dean Froslie: Sporting Goods Companies Battle Over Branding, Online Commerce

Start with two big-time sporting goods rivals in a competitive environment. Add a fuzzy noncompete clause, online commerce and trademark infringement allegations. It equals a legal mess, and that’s exactly what is happening between Gander Mountain and Cabela’s. A story earlier this week outlined the latest twist now taking place in U.S. District Court.

July 07, 2006 | Ron Lee: CMOs on the endangered list?

A job as a CMO can be hazardous to your career. As reported by Advertising Age (registration required) and related sources, a new survey by Spencer Stuart indicates that the brief tenure of Chief Marketing Officers has shrunk even further, to an average of 23.2 months, down from 23.6 months in 2004.  Find out what’s going on and if this is the right job for you.

July 06, 2006 | Jeff Fellman: Chinese Language Programs Expanding in Minnesota Schools

Over the last week, my brother-in-law has been visiting China with an education delegation from the state of Minnesota.  Their mission here in China was to inquire about beginning Chinese language programs in Minnesota Public Schools.  As a student of the Chinese language myself, this makes me excited for future Minnesota students, but I also have to admit it makes me jealous these same programs weren’t available to me.

Since I have been in China, the language has been coming slowly, but surely. I spent my high school and college years learning Spanish. While Spanish might be a more practical language to learn for the Midwest or U.S., I feel envious of the opportunity younger students may now have to learn Chinese—a language that may prove to be a valuable asset for them in the future.

July 06, 2006 | Greg Ness: If You Had To Pick One or The Other: TV or Internet?

Be assured to know you don’t have to make an either/or choice, but in a recent Internet and Multimedia 2006 survey conducted by Arbitron and Edison Media Research (PDF here), when given a choice of whether to keep the Internet and drop TV or vice versa, four in ten would choose to keep the Internet and eliminate television. This figure shows how far the Web has come in being part of people’s lives. Keeping the Internet over TV was only chosen by 26 percent in a similar survey five years ago. The new survey also reveals that among 12- to 34-year olds, a majority would eliminate television in favor of the Internet. This indicates where the future is headed.

Some other significant findings from the study include:

July 05, 2006 | Greg Ness: Marketing Myopia Revisited

I was sad to hear about the death last Wednesday of Theodore Levitt. Levitt was a noted author, Harvard scholar and a former editor of the Harvard Business Review (HBR). Many consider his famous essay, Marketing Myopia, and his book, Marketing Imagination, to be seminal works in raising the awareness and importance of marketing in modern business. I recently re-read Marketing Myopia and it seems, in many ways, to be just as relevant now as it was when it was first published in HBR decades ago.

July 03, 2006 | Greg Ness: Scheels: World’s Largest All Sports Store

imageI attended a pre-opening event at the new Scheels store in Fargo on Friday. It is the world’s largest all sports store. It opened to the public on Saturday, July 1. What an experience! The store has 196,000 square feet (more than four acres) of retail space with 85 sport specialty shops under its huge roof. There is even a colorful, large, operating ferris wheel at its center. If you get a chance to visit this new store—or one of the other Scheels superstores—it is great way to spend your day (and your money). The new store in Fargo has over 340 employees. Besides carrying all the best lines of sporting goods, I can speak from experience that their employees are second to none. They have a passion for what they sell and it shows.

July 03, 2006 | Phil Leitch: Link Dump - Fourth of July Edition

Remember when you needed friends or family whenever you had a question or wanted to learn how to do something? Well no longer, we have the web. You don’t need friends. Though the holidays would be pretty boring without them. So friends or not here are some good Fourth of July links.

Finally, if you can’t get out tomorrow to light your own or watch one of the many fireworks displays across the country, you can have your own fireworks show right in your browser (it’s like Missile Command without any enemies to shoot at).

July 03, 2006 | Phil Leitch: Trade CD’s For a Dollar at

I’ve found a new way to kill time and it goes by the name of LaLa takes a new approach to sharing music, you literally send your CD to the person that is looking for it. It works pretty easy, once you’ve created an account you list a few CD’s that you are willing to ‘trade’ and a list of CD’s that you would like to get. A few days after signing up you will receive your LaLa trading kit which contains five pre-paid envelopes and CD sleeves. It was only a matter of minutes that I had added a Peter Murphy CD that somebody wanted it. There is no obligation to send any CD if you can’t bear to give it up, if you do want to ship it you’re presented with the address of the person that wants it. Fill out the address portion of the envelope, stick the CD in and mail it.